Factory Five Racing Forum banner

21 - 29 of 29 Posts

·
FFCobra Craftsman
Joined
·
22,560 Posts
This is an interesting read for sure. All I know is that 'mag wheels' were the hot thin in the 60s and 70s. We always talked about them. But I have only ever seen them one time on some kind of formula car made across the big pond that a guy brought to our autocrosses. There must be a reason 'mag' was a big deal for only a relatively short time. The fire hazard was always my thought but who knows? I guess something that burns and can't be put out even by throwing into a pool is pretty scary.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
I was unable to read the manufacturing tags on my ladder, but looking at the welded-in rungs, one wonders how that was done. The rails and rungs would not only have needed to be bright magnesium, but so would have been the rod. Was the controlled environment nitrogen gas? Did they weld with machine or by hand through a window? How did they store the material until used? Did they apply an acid etch before welding to remove any surface oxidation?

If they used gloves reaching into the space, were they plastic lined leather? How far away was the window from the welding? When completed in this controlled chamber, did they allow some oxygen in to control surface oxidation to stabilize it when brought into the atmosphere?

The era this ladder was built must have been the 1950's or 60's. There were motorcycle parts built of it. A US bomber had some fine trailing edges that were magnesium. That must have been its hay-day.

One time when the ladder was extended vertically, the rope broke. The extension came down like a freight train, the inverted Y legs hitting every step until the tops collided, knocking off 2 small chunks of magnesium to my feet. I still have them. Didn't try to light them off with a flame. They are extremely light weight.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3 Posts
Yes, that is the only one that I've seen on line, a 40 footer, ding on the center rung.

I found an expert on magnesium who has written extensively on it, tracking its history as funded by the US government for the defense industry. The Madison, Illinois site where it was done and ended in the 1960s was also used to straighten uranium rods. After a cleanup of the superfund site it sits as a legacy piece of property, cleaned up. Want to build something on it?

The expert told how the F80, B36 and B47 used much of the material. In fact, the airframe of the B36 was entirely magnesium. A BMW motorcycle in the 1970s was of magnesium. I've left a voice message with him, probably retired, and he hasn't called me back. There are obituaries of men who worked at the Madison site as they worked for the Spectrulite Consortium.

I think there was a trial run of these ladders (as shown and what I have) to see if the civilian industry could handle costs and make a profit. It was just too expensive, so these token ladders are hanging around. The one I have is the last anyone in our family, at least, will ever see. People were satisfied with aluminum and its much cheaper cost, though heavier. If there is interest, I'll post some.

Later edit: I see there are casting companies who will provide magnesium alloys. My ladder is probably an alloy of magnesium.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
I live in Maryland. At an estate auction in 1992 I was the highest bidder on a 32' magnesium ladder. One 16' section was laying on the grass and I found the other section in the high weeds nearby and dragged it out onto the grass as well. It had no rope. To my dismay, someone else was also interested in it and I got caught up in the auction "I'm going to get this damn thing" mode and wound up paying just over $124 for it. The thing is, I didn't go there to buy a ladder to begin with.

Anyhow, the rung welds WERE NOT made by a machine. They weren't that neat and were inconsistent in size. After putting a rope on it, it wasn't the easiest thing to slide one section into the other. I did use it a couple of times until one of the springs broke in a rung clamp.

I moved to a new 8 acre property in 1995 and in 1997 used the two 16' foot sections to span a 10' wide, 5' deep ditch that an "unnamed" tributary flowed in when there were heavy rains. To complete my "bridge", I attached 4' long x 2' wide galvanized steel commercial freezer shelves, that I had salvaged from an old Turkey Farm, to the ladder sections using 6 gauge coated wire.

The bridge allowed me to "tame" an area of my property that I would otherwise have been unable to readily access. At the time, I had a Sears 42" cut riding mower that had no difficulty crossing the bridge and I was quite proud with my accomplishment.

However, over the next 4 years we had some freak downpours which caused both embankments to erode, little by little until my original 3' of ground that each section was dug into became more like just over 1'. In 2002 I bought a brand new Ferris 61" Zero Turn mower. For the first couple of mowings, as I went past the bridge, I'd stop and wonder if I could make it across because the weeds were getting higher and higher in my "tamed" area on the other side.

The neat thing about my Ferris was that it had a floorboard where I could have my Playmate filled with cans of beer and Lord knows I just loved to drink "The Beast" back then. So, early one evening after finishing up my 2nd day of mowing, I guess the last can of Milwaukee's Best made me brave enough to drive across. The rear tires overhung the shelving by about 2" on either side and I very carefully and slowly proceeded driving across. When the rear tires made it to the center of the bridge I thought for sure I'd make it.

I have no memory of the next minute or two or more, who knows?? I must've blacked out. All I know is that, when I regained consciousness, I was laying in a muddy ditch with the Ferris, still running, on an incline on the opposing bank. I felt something warm running down one side of my face which turned out to be blood coming from the area of my right temple. Evidently, I must've hit my head on a rock.

I turned the mower off and had one Helluva a time climbing out of that ditch, playmate in hand, of course. I sat there for a spell, drinking a brew, trying to figure out how in the Hell I'd ever get my Ferris out of there. Well, the fella next door had a huge JCB backhoe and the next day, after removing a massive amount of rocks and dirt, created a ramp to pull it out of there.

The magnesium ladder sections had broken into jagged halves and all twisted to boot. However, those sections never corroded.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
I see a lot of used Magnesium ladders for sale, but don't see anyone who sells them new other than Chinese wholesalers. (looking for a 32' extension ladder) Which leads me to a couple of questions:

1. If I were to go look at a used one, how can I tell if it is magnesium or aluminum?

2. Why doesn't any reputable US ladder manufacturer or retailer sell them?
My dad has 2 7' magnesium step ladders has had for years they are sturdy and extremely light less than half of a comparable aluminum ladder ..I'm not sure what else they are made of but I've tried to find my own with no luck he inherited his from an old friend of his that passed away
 

·
Senior Charter Member
Joined
·
6,095 Posts
Discussion Starter #29
If this post lived in NJ, it would be old enough to drive.
 
21 - 29 of 29 Posts
Top