Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

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kevinf
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Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

So I've got a 1.5" pipe plug that has a 1.125" square head. I'm wondering if a 12-point socket will just end up rounding this black iron pipe plug off? Apparently the correct tool for this is a "female pipe plug socket" but those are proving difficult to find at a reasonable price at this size. Anyone tackle something similar here? The plug is recessed, so I can't get an adjustable wrench on it.

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30west
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by 30west »

You might want to try a plumbing forum.
Small Savanna
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Small Savanna »

It's recessed, but can you grab it with Vise Grip pliers? The next question is how badly is it rusted, and how much torque will it take to get it loose.
Topic Author
kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

No way to get locking pliers on it and apply torque, and it's unknown how much torque this will take to break loose.
123
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by 123 »

Getting the old plug out could just be the first step in a series of problems and issues. I found a youtube video that talks about further potential issues https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNF8gF5LzbY

Edited to add:
If you search within youtube for "sewer cleanout" (without quotes) you'll find a bunch of other videos that deal with these kind of plugs (though not necessarily recessed). The more of them you look at the more likely you might become to call a plumber (particularly if this is a floor sewer access point that might have some pressure behind it).
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.
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kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

123 wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:37 am ...if this is a floor sewer access point that might have some pressure behind it...
This is a surface blow-off port for a new-ish (less than 10 years old) steam boiler. There won't be any pressure behind it as the boiler would be off and cool and there won't be any nasty fluids as it is above the water-line :happy

The problem is that the port is recessed into the boiler casing... which doesn't come off unless you remove ALL the parts attached to the back of the boiler (chimney duct, wet return, fill valve, safety valve, various cover plates) which is not practical. So using an adjustable wrench isn't an option here and it's too narrow an access to try to use something other than a socket.
CurlyDave
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by CurlyDave »

kevinf wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 2:15 am
123 wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:37 am ...if this is a floor sewer access point that might have some pressure behind it...
This is a surface blow-off port for a new-ish (less than 10 years old) steam boiler. There won't be any pressure behind it as the boiler would be off and cool and there won't be any nasty fluids as it is above the water-line :happy

The problem is that the port is recessed into the boiler casing... which doesn't come off unless you remove ALL the parts attached to the back of the boiler (chimney duct, wet return, fill valve, safety valve, various cover plates) which is not practical. So using an adjustable wrench isn't an option here and it's too narrow an access to try to use something other than a socket.
1. Spend the money on the right socket. It is a lot cheaper than ruining the boiler.

2. Use a liberal amount of penetrating oil and give it lots of time. The very best penetrant is a 50:50 mixture of acetone and automatic transmission fluid. spread it on with a 1" paint brush and let it soak in for a day or two. Re-apply frequently.

3. Use impact. Put the socket on a breaker bar, by hand take all of the slack out of the socket-breaker bar combination and then gather up all of your courage and deliver a very stout blow to the breaker bar with a large hammer (24 oz minimum, cross peen is better) in the direction you want the plug to turn.

Before you do any of this re-evaluate why you want to take the plug out. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Topic Author
kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

CurlyDave wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 3:16 am ...Before you do any of this re-evaluate why you want to take the plug out. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
I'll keep looking for the proper tool... so far the one I found isn't quite the right size and would be about $120 all told (pricey uncommon socket plus uncommon 3/4" drive ratchet), versus $10 for a common 12-point 1/2" drive socket. I might have to stop by a specialty plumbing parts store and ask around. Unfortunately it looks like the size that would fit best isn't common for 1/2" drive and you need to move to 3/4" drive to get it, which necessitates buying another ratchet for only a single purpose. I was also trying to find something like a crossbar style socket wrench but the sizes are iffy there too.

I want to take that plug out so I can do routine maintenance to the boiler... skimming oil, adding boiler water treatment, flushing sediment and scale out top to bottom. So... I want to take the plug out to help make sure it doesn't break so I don't have to fix it :happy

But rounding it off would be bad :shock:
lazydavid
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by lazydavid »

Just because you need a 3/4" socket, doesn't mean you need a 3/4" ratchet. A breaker bar is about $22, or you could get a socket adapter to use your existing 1/2" ratchet for less than $5.

If there's not much tension on the threads, a 12-point socket will work fine. But it would surprise me quite a bit if that condition were true.
Topic Author
kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

The breaker bar could work if I can source the right socket :)

edit: apparently the proper common socket for square bolt/head is 8-point (aka double square), but 12-point would work at the risk of being easier to round off the edges.

Googling shows this question coming up fairly frequently on mechanical forums so I know I'm not alone 8-)

Unfortunately, many of the links to sockets or tools are broken. :(

Another frequent suggestion is to get a piece of square tubing... which isn't encouraging :oops:

Triple edit: Might have found a reasonably priced (1/3rd the price of the other one I saw) socket here: https://www.mcmaster.com/pipe-plug-sockets/8-point-sockets/ = $20.44
lazydavid
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by lazydavid »

kevinf wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:04 am The breaker bar could work if I can source the right socket :)
It sounded like you had already found the socket, but it was both expensive and in a drive type that you didn't have a ratchet for. I was trying to solve the second problem inexpensively. :)
kevinf wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:04 amTriple edit: Might have found a reasonably priced (1/3rd the price of the other one I saw) socket here: https://www.mcmaster.com/pipe-plug-sockets/8-point-sockets/ = $20.44
And 1/2" drive to boot, so you don't need a new tool to go with it--I think you have a winner!
Chip
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Chip »

Maybe I'm a neanderthal, but I'd just put a pipe wrench on it. Maybe a big one.
PVW
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by PVW »

I see you found the answer - an 8 point wrench is used for square nuts. Depending on your recess, an offset or crow's foot open end wrench might also work.

There is also a purpose build tool - Central Boiler part no. 5459.
Uniballer
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Uniballer »

Is the recess so steeply sloped that a 1-1/8 open-end wrench can't fit it? My local Home Depot has some in stock (or Harbor Freight if you don't mind buying a set).

There is always ebay: https://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_from=R ... =0&_sop=15
CurlyDave
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by CurlyDave »

lazydavid wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 4:53 am Just because you need a 3/4" socket, doesn't mean you need a 3/4" ratchet. A breaker bar is about $22, or you could get a socket adapter to use your existing 1/2" ratchet for less than $5.

If there's not much tension on the threads, a 12-point socket will work fine. But it would surprise me quite a bit if that condition were true.
The angle of the metal that forms the points on a 12-point socket is wrong for a square plug. Especially one that proclaims it was made in China (probably softer metal).

You may very well want 3/4" or even 1" drive and a breaker bar. Any corrosion at all and the torque requirement for this project could be amazing.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by tibbitts »

Chip wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 7:30 am Maybe I'm a neanderthal, but I'd just put a pipe wrench on it. Maybe a big one.
The OP explained that the head is recessed with no access from the side, otherwise a variety of wrenches might work - but not with the security of the proper socket.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by hicabob »

I had to attack a similar plug in an old cast iron sewer under the house. I ended up cutting it out - if you cut the square bit off a nice hole appears so you can cut towards the threads. A lot of work but better than cracking the cast iron pipe.
lazydavid
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by lazydavid »

CurlyDave wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:47 am
lazydavid wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 4:53 am Just because you need a 3/4" socket, doesn't mean you need a 3/4" ratchet. A breaker bar is about $22, or you could get a socket adapter to use your existing 1/2" ratchet for less than $5.

If there's not much tension on the threads, a 12-point socket will work fine. But it would surprise me quite a bit if that condition were true.
The angle of the metal that forms the points on a 12-point socket is wrong for a square plug. Especially one that proclaims it was made in China (probably softer metal).

You may very well want 3/4" or even 1" drive and a breaker bar. Any corrosion at all and the torque requirement for this project could be amazing.
We are in violent agreement. :sharebeer That is why I heavily qualified that part of my statement.
hnd
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by hnd »

one day in my front yard after some contractors did some work in the street i saw a 36" pipe wrench sitting there in the grass. i called the city, they said they contract that out. I didn't see the name of hte contractors so i set it on my porch so that if someone came back looking for it, they could easily see it sitting right there. They never did.

That thing (they are like 60 bucks) has opened anything i've ever needed opened including some of the narliest rusted up stuff. its a monster. it would make short work of your issue i imagine.
onmyway33
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by onmyway33 »

I found myself in a similar situation attempting to remove a rusted and seized 4" plug from the clean out port of my main cast iron sewer stack. After consulting with a plumber, I decided to leave the rusted plug in place due to fear that the metal threads on the pipe would also be badly rusted and not accept a new drain plug.
Before you begin to start yanking on the existing plug to remove it, I recommend you also establish a contingency plan if you are not able to reinsert a new plug due to rust accumulation on the pipe threads.
Good luck.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Sandtrap »

Notes:
1 Get the right size socket and breaker bar
2 Use penetrating oil and over a period of time, spray spray spray and let it seep in
3 Go easy, tight then not tight, counterclockwise, then opposite, just wiggle it loose.
(if no movement without extreme effort, go back to #2)
4 Try heating the area around it with a propane torch, not too hot, then #3, if not, #2, wait.
5 Do not use and impact wrench, if you crack the outer fitting or shear off the head, it will be very very bad
6 Do not use a cheater pipe bar on the end of the breaker bar, unless a very short one and not extreme.
7 Again, #2, repeat, be patient, maybe it will take days to wiggle it loose, back and forth. Even if it turns a little then gets tight, tighten it a little again, then back again. Soak it with rust bust and penetrating oil and wiggle it to get it soaked in the threads.
8 Goal is not only to remove the plug but to preserve the surrounding threads and not crack the outer cast material.
9 Repeat

Absolutely do not go gorilla on this nut and try to take it off all at once with brute force, especially no impact or hammering or such or you will risk cracking the outer thread and cast section.
Coax it loose, don't force it loose.

10 One resort. . . . very carefully drill small then 1/4 inch holes into the cap on the outer edge, try not to hit the outer threads but get as close as you can. Do this in about 3-4 places. I've even drilled several holes to create a slot in the plug. Repeat #2. This takes a lot of tension off the outer ring and also allows more penetrating oil and rust bust solution to soak in. Use a carbide bit and cutting oil and go slow or the bit will dull up. The plug might be pretty thick. Consider the plug sacrificial but not the outer ring.

*As stated by others, have an idea of when to stop and look for another access point or leave the thing alone if it seems like the outer thread and walls will be damaged.
I have had success with many but there were others where the outer pipe was already corroded and weak and gave way or split from the force of things. I had to excavate around and access everything and repair everything. This kind of thing can turn into a monster "can of worms".

j :D
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gwe67
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by gwe67 »

Maybe you can cut a slot in the top center with a dremel tool or angle grinder, and turn it with a screwdriver. After using penetrating oil.
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neilpilot
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by neilpilot »

https://www.amazon.com/OFFSET-WRENCH-PO ... 1728&psc=1

If necessary, add a persuader to the handle
Dontridetheindexdown
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Dontridetheindexdown »

Just weld a nut to it, with the weld on the inside of the nut.

The plug will back right out because the weld heat will also have loosened the threads.

I've been doing this for more than 50 years, on all kinds of machinery.

It works especially well on pressure vessels, just be sure to relieve the pressure before you back out the plug.

Additional professional tip: after you remove that plug, replace it with a stainless steel pipe plug.

That way it will be a lot easier to remove the next time.
Last edited by Dontridetheindexdown on Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
talzara
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by talzara »

kevinf wrote: Tue Mar 16, 2021 11:47 pm So I've got a 1.5" pipe plug that has a 1.125" square head. I'm wondering if a 12-point socket will just end up rounding this black iron pipe plug off? Apparently the correct tool for this is a "female pipe plug socket" but those are proving difficult to find at a reasonable price at this size. Anyone tackle something similar here? The plug is recessed, so I can't get an adjustable wrench on it.
What do you consider to be a reasonable price?

A cleanout plug socket kit costs $300-400 from a plumbing supply shop. There's a one-man shop in Pennsylvania that will break up the kit and sell you one socket for $25: https://www.oddshopltd.com/plumbing-specialty-tools

Your plug looks like it has a 1-1/16" head, not a 1-1/8" head. The raised head socket is 1-1/16", and the 1-1/8" is only for countersunk plugs. It's a one-man shop, so he may have sold your size already.
talzara
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by talzara »

neilpilot wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:41 pm https://www.amazon.com/OFFSET-WRENCH-PO ... 1728&psc=1

If necessary, add a persuader to the handle
That's a 1-1/8" offset wrench, and the reviews say that it's loose. It'll be even looser if the OP actually has a 1-1/16" square head.
Chip
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Chip »

tibbitts wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 10:53 am
Chip wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 7:30 am Maybe I'm a neanderthal, but I'd just put a pipe wrench on it. Maybe a big one.
The OP explained that the head is recessed with no access from the side, otherwise a variety of wrenches might work - but not with the security of the proper socket.
Sorry, missed that information in the later post.
BIGal
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by BIGal »

Penetrating oil. Use the 1 1/2 open end wrench vertical then a pipe wrench or large crescent wrench above nut on open end to turn. I’ve had same situation and worked for me.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by neilpilot »

talzara wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:11 pm
neilpilot wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:41 pm https://www.amazon.com/OFFSET-WRENCH-PO ... 1728&psc=1

If necessary, add a persuader to the handle
That's a 1-1/8" offset wrench, and the reviews say that it's loose. It'll be even looser if the OP actually has a 1-1/16" square head.
OK
https://www.amazon.com/Sunex-97734-2-In ... 179&sr=8-5
BIGal
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by BIGal »

Addition to my post. Use whatever open end fits the nut.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by PVW »

Sandtrap wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 11:53 am
2 Use penetrating oil and over a period of time, spray spray spray and let it seep in
3 Go easy, tight then not tight, counterclockwise, then opposite, just wiggle it loose.
(if no movement without extreme effort, go back to #2)
4 Try heating the area around it with a propane torch, not too hot, then #3, if not, #2, wait.
Many penetrating oils are flammable - probably not burn down the house flammable, but be prepared for some ignition and don't get too wild with the penetrating oil.
Topic Author
kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

So the big box home improvement stores were a bust, I'm going to check out a local plumbing supply store tomorrow and see if they have a proper 8-pt socket and a stainless steel pipe plug in 1.5".

If that fails for some reason, I'm down to ordering off the interwebs.
Plumber5056
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Plumber5056 »

Looks like it is behind the jacket of a Burnham boiler. Is it impossible to take the jacket of the boiler off or partially remove it? If you can do that, a pipe wrench would suffice.
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kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

Nope, the fixtures on the backside of the burner would need to be removed to get the cover off. That's not really practical.

I'm zeroing in on the tools I need, they're uncommon but once I have them it should be pretty straightforward from there.
squirm
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by squirm »

Do not take any advice for lubricants here, just go to Project Farm to find out the best lubricant to soak it with overnight, then use pipe wrench. Sounds easy to me.
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kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

squirm wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 8:25 pm Do not take any advice for lubricants here, just go to Project Farm to find out the best lubricant to soak it with overnight, then use pipe wrench. Sounds easy to me.
I have a very nice pipe wrench that will not fit into the space, as mentioned earlier :happy

I'm not going to go straight to any kind of penetrant as getting oil or other viscous fluids in the boiler water is very bad and can cause surging, foaming, and prevent proper steaming. Which then results in hours and hours of time spent skimming the boiler. I do have a hand torch I can use to work at it, but we'll see if a proper socket and breaker bar do the trick first.
Last edited by kevinf on Wed Mar 17, 2021 9:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
MindBogler
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by MindBogler »

Sandtrap wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 11:53 am Notes:
1 Get the right size socket and breaker bar
2 Use penetrating oil and over a period of time, spray spray spray and let it seep in
4 Try heating the area around it with a propane torch, not too hot, then #3, if not, #2, wait.
Truncated the list, but these 3, with patience, will free 99% of stuck metal parts. Once heated, the joint will accept a lot more penetrating oil, FYI.
Topic Author
kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

talzara wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:07 pm Your plug looks like it has a 1-1/16" head, not a 1-1/8" head. The raised head socket is 1-1/16", and the 1-1/8" is only for countersunk plugs. It's a one-man shop, so he may have sold your size already.
The head is ever so slightly larger than 1-1/16" so I went with 1-1/8". Slightly loose works better than too tight to fit, and can be shimmed to reduce slop :happy
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kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

Update: Local plumbing supply did NOT have the purpose built tool or socket required for this job. They are having a stainless steel pipe plug cross-shipped from another store however. I ordered a socket off of Amazon... it arrives Sunday and the SS pipe plug will be in on Monday.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006MPBPMO/
chemocean
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by chemocean »

Is there a Tool Library in your area that might have the tool?
Topic Author
kevinf
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

Never heard of Tool Library. I also checked Horror Fright out but they only had the typical 6 and 12 point sockets. Regardless, I've ordered what SHOULD be the correct socket off Amazon. See the link in my post above... Amazon comments have specifically noted that this socket is used on 1.5" boiler pipe plugs.
Dontridetheindexdown
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Dontridetheindexdown »

Kevin,

Sounds like you are on top of this situation.

Regardless of what stainless plug arrives on Monday, please consider a stainless plug with either male or female hex drive.

Square plugs were high-tech 100 years ago.

These days, you can order a stainless steel hex drive plug from China on Ebay for a dollar or two.

I am confident that plug will back right out with the socket you ordered.

If you need additional assistance, and/or if you are within 100 miles +/- of Fredericksburg, VA, do not hesitate to PM me.

Harry
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Luke Duke »

Dontridetheindexdown wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 12:56 pm Just weld a nut to it, with the weld on the inside of the nut.

The plug will back right out because the weld heat will also have loosened the threads.

I've been doing this for more than 50 years, on all kinds of machinery.

It works especially well on pressure vessels, just be sure to relieve the pressure before you back out the plug.

Additional professional tip: after you remove that plug, replace it with a stainless steel pipe plug.

That way it will be a lot easier to remove the next time.
I'm not sure that I would recommend that an unqualified person weld to a pressure vessel.
MathWizard
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by MathWizard »

I do almost everything DIY, but I would call a professional on this.
rustymutt
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by rustymutt »

I saw one removed with large pliers and a mallet. Spray head with lube, tap down a couple times and grip with pliers and pound loose with mullet.

That made in china scares me a bit. I don't remember anything but made in the USA.
Last edited by rustymutt on Mon Mar 29, 2021 11:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by philpill »

dial 1-80-plumbers right way! save money and have it done properly.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by mrc »

rustymutt wrote: Fri Mar 19, 2021 1:47 pm I saw one removed with large pliers and a mullet. Spray head with lube, tap down a couple times and grip with pliers and pound loose with mullet.

That made in china scares me a bit. I don't remember anything but made in the usa.
This made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that. Pliers and a 70s hairdo.
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by Yooper »

mrc wrote: Fri Mar 19, 2021 2:50 pm
rustymutt wrote: Fri Mar 19, 2021 1:47 pm I saw one removed with large pliers and a mullet. Spray head with lube, tap down a couple times and grip with pliers and pound loose with mullet.

That made in china scares me a bit. I don't remember anything but made in the usa.
This made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that. Pliers and a 70s hairdo.
Don't laugh. I have it on good authority that Gorilla Glue sprayed on hair can in fact make for a very hard surface - perhaps even hard enough to pound on a pair of pliers. It's just getting the glue out of the hair after that's a bit difficult...
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Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by oldfatguy »

kevinf wrote: Thu Mar 18, 2021 3:02 am
talzara wrote: Wed Mar 17, 2021 1:07 pm Your plug looks like it has a 1-1/16" head, not a 1-1/8" head. The raised head socket is 1-1/16", and the 1-1/8" is only for countersunk plugs. It's a one-man shop, so he may have sold your size already.
The head is ever so slightly larger than 1-1/16" so I went with 1-1/8". Slightly loose works better than too tight to fit, and can be shimmed to reduce slop :happy
Realize I am late to this thread, but if your square head measures 1-1/16 across, I don't think a 1-1/8 round socket is going to fit. You need to measure it diagonally, no?
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kevinf
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Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2019 11:35 pm

Re: Anyone with experience removing pipe plugs

Post by kevinf »

We'll find out Monday! But the amazon page had a customer review that stated that it worked on their boiler plug of the same size... so I'm fairly confident that we'll see results.
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