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Unknown Racks

Version A Version B Version C Version D Version E Version F
Version A Version B Version C Version D Version E Version F
Version G Version H Version I Version J Version K Version L
Version G Version H Version I Version J Version K Version L

Overview


Version A
(#2403)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack in 2017 as part of Bob Thrun’s collection.

This rack is 344 mm. tall, 64 mm. wide, 21 mm. thick, and weighs 664 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 32 mm. and a 14 mm. diameter welded eye. There are seven REI brake bars, secured by a hex nut. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 64 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 68 mm. for spreading the bars.

Each bar has an "REI" stamped on it.

Comments

Although seven bars are on the rack in the photo, it should be used with only six bars. For safety reasons, the bars should be filed on the unloaded side and moved to the spine of the rack.

I once wrote (Random Synapse Firings, The Nylon Highway #26, April 1988) that there might be reasons to distrust welded eye racks. I don't have concerns with high-quality commercial racks such as the SMC, but home welds are a different matter. This rack is an example of one that I don't fully trust. I do not know what type of stainless steel was used to make the frame or whether the builder followed the proper welding procedure, but a look at the weld area shows numerous hollows and signs of poor fusion.


Version B
(#2426)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack in 2017 as part of Bob Thrun’s collection.

This rack is 385 mm. tall, 64 mm. wide, 40 mm. thick, and weighs 786 g. The frame is made from 11.1 mm. steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 29 mm. and a 19 mm. diameter welded eye. There are six SMC brake bars. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 64 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 112 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack.

Comments

Many racks have 3/8 inch (9.5 mm.) frames, but this one is 7/16 inch (11.1 mm.). Standard brake bars will fit this rack, but it requires excessive filing to move them to pivot on the spine where they belong. I have not done that on this rack, and so I do not recommend using it as-is.

The eye on this rack is turned 90° and a dogleg in the frame centers the eye with the bars. This attempt to keep the rope running centered helps, but ultimately is doomed to failure by simple geometry - the distance from the eye to the side of the frame below the top bar is longer than the distance to the center.

At 50 mm., the threaded area for the nut is far too long. It should be no longer than the height of a lock nut. Someone filed the top 30 mm. of the threads on the inside of the frame so that the nut would only engage 20 mm., and the rope would not run over the threads. Shorter threads would have been a better approach.

The threads have one curious feature. The end of the frame below the threads is center drilled, indicating that the threads were chased on a lathe rather than cut by a threading die. Either method is perfectly acceptable.


Version C
(#2457)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from CarolJo Rushin-Elron in at the 2017 NSS Convention.

This rack is 460 mm. tall, 63 mm. wide, 25 mm. thick, and weighs 790 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 33 mm. and a 25 mm. diameter welded eye. There are six brake bars. The top bar is a 25 mm. SMC aluminum bar with a pre-formed guide groove. The second bar is a 19 mm. SMC tubular stainless steel bar, and the remaining four are 19 mm. SMC aluminum bars. Each of the six bars is 63 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 139 mm. for spreading the bars. A lock nut holds the bars in place.

There are no markings on this rack, but each of the bars is stamped with "SMC."

Comments

An unknown Georgia caver hand-made this rack for Carol Jo Rushin-Elron in 1983 after seeing how hard it was for her to feed rope on long drops. She doesn't know of him making any others.

This rack is fitted with SMC bars in the way that I received it. While I don't object to the choice of bars, I would have at least moved the five 19 mm. bars so that they swung on the back of the frame rather than the open end. This would greatly decrease the risk of the bars opening if the rack is bumped during descent.

Although I don't really object, I prefer angle-slotted bars, and the steel bar on this rack is straight-slotted. Some people feel that this prevents rigging the rack backwards, but I find that to be almost impossible for me to do - even when I try, my hands refuse to cooperate. It is a moot point on this rack - the rack is a bit too narrow for the angle slotted bars to engage well, and they tend to flop around anyhow.

There is an 83 mm. gap between the top of the eye and the bottom of the lock nut. This opening need only be large enough to swing the rope in and out of, so there are about 60 mm. of wasted length that could have been used to either make the rack shorter, or to extend the range of bar motion. For a heavier caver, shortening the rack would be more desirable, while for lighter cavers, extending the open end of the frame would be preferred.


Version D
(#2459)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from the eBay seller vtgtrends in 2017.

This rack is 371 mm. tall, 63 mm. wide, 20 mm. thick, and weighs 687 g. The frame is made from 11.1 mm. alloy steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 33 mm. and a 14 mm. diameter eye. The rack came with the orange REI bar. I added two more REI bars and then three SMC bars (two with beveled ends, one without). All bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 63 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 25 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack, but the bars are stamped "REI" or "SMC," respectively.

Comments

The eBay listing identified this as an REI rack, but I have my doubts. I do not recall REI selling rappel racks, and certainly not allow steel racks with this older style of eye. This is probably an old BlueWater rack, but I am not sure about this, as I don't have definitive one to compare. For now, I'll just call it "Unknown."


Version E
(#2469)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from Bill Hartman in 2017.

This rack is 358 mm. tall, 71 mm. wide, 22 mm. thick, and weighs 702 g. The frame is made from 11.1 mm. steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 33 mm. and a 26 mm. diameter eye. The rack came with an unknown top bar (possibly a BlueWater), 2 SMC bars, and an REI bar. I added the Ed Seaman’s design (The Nylon Highway #9) bar (probably made for Speleoshoppe) in the second place and an Eiger in third, bringing the total to six. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 79 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack, but four bars are stamped "EIGER USA," "REI," or "SMC," as appropriate.

Comments

Like Version D, this is probably an old BlueWater rack. I am not sure about this, as I don't have a definitive one to compare. For now, I'll just call it "Unknown."


Version F
(#2483)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from Andrew Colaninno in 2018.

This rack is 374 mm. tall, 65 mm. wide, 19 mm. thick, and weighs 776 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 34 mm. and a 21 mm. diameter coiled 90° eye. There are seven Eiger brake bars. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 65 mm.  mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 158 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack, but each bar is stamped "EIGER USA."

Comments

The seller described this as a shop-built rack. The frame appears to be stainless steel, but I don't know what type. It is slightly magnetic except at the eye. The eye was heated prior to coiling. This is a safe practice for some stainless steels but dangerous for others. Not knowing for sure, I choose not to trust.

I do not use 90°-eye racks because they are not the most appropriate for the harnesses that I prefer, and they do not pack as well as a flat rack, but 90°-eye racks have an advantage in providing maximum room for spreading bars. too many racks (such as Version C on this page) have wasted length that cannot be used for spreading bars. This rack does not. Lighter users may appreciate the difference.


Version G
(#2493)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from Premiere Consignment, LLC in 2018.

This rack is 363 mm. tall, 72 mm. wide, 21 mm. thick, and weighs 720 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 35 mm. and a 25 mm. diameter hot-bent coiled eye. There are six brake bars. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 72 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 85 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack, but a previous owner engraved "TUCKER" on each bar.

Comments

This is a basic rack of the standard classic design. I believe that it was home-made, primarily because of the hot-bent eye and the sharp corners on the inside of the brake bar slots. The frame appears to be stainless steel, but I don't know what type. It is non-magnetic. The eye was heated prior to coiling. This is a safe practice for some stainless steels but dangerous for others. Not knowing for sure, I choose not to trust this rack.


Version H
(#2497)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from On Rope 1 at the 2018 Old Timer’s Reunion.

This rack is 302 mm. tall, 71 mm. wide, 22 mm. thick, and weighs 524 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel, hot bent into shape, with an internal width of 33 mm. and a 17 mm. diameter welded eye. There are four brake bars. The top three bars are 19  mm. in diameter and 71 mm. long. The bottom bar is 15.9 mm high, 22 mm. wide and 70 mm. long. Its top, bottom, and unloaded side are flat. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 56 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack.

Comments

This is clearly a non-commercial rack. The workmanship on the frame is fair at best. The frame appears to be non-magnetic stainless steel, but I don't know what type. The frame and eye were heated prior to bending. This is a safe practice for some stainless steels but dangerous for others. Not knowing for sure, I choose not to trust. The eye weld is crude.

I do not use 90°-eye racks because they are not the most appropriate for the harnesses that I prefer, and they do not pack as well as a flat rack. The attempt to center the eye fails because of basic geometry - the rope will run to the side of the top bar regardless of where the eye is placed.

There are wear marks on the underside of the top of the frame, indicating that a previous user incorrectly rigged the rope to run across the frame.

This rack has only four bars, so its friction capabilities are limited. It is too short to effectively add additional bars.

To summarize, I dislike this rack for may reasons.


Version I
(#3059)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from cptnamerica2003 in 2021.

This rack is 350 mm. tall, 62 mm. wide, 31 mm. thick, and weighs 790 g. The frame is made from 11.1 mm. steel hot-bent into shape, with an internal width of 29 mm. and a 21 mm. diameter hot-bent eye. There are 6 SMC brake bars, one of which I added. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 62 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 64 mm. for spreading the bars. 11 mm. SS frame, 6 bars, hot-rolled frame, hex nuts

There are no markings on this rack.

Comments

This was listed as an SMC rack, but is clearly a non-commercial rack, and the non-caver eBay seller merely listed SMC because of the bars.

The workmanship on the frame is fair at best. The bend at the top and in the eye are uneven, suggesting that bending dies were not used. The eye is interesting, as it merely hocks back around the spine rather than having complete wraps like other racks.

The frame is slightly magnetic stainless steel, but I don't know what type. The frame and eye were heated prior to bending. This is a safe practice for some stainless steels but dangerous for others. Not knowing for sure, I choose not to trust.

This rack came with only five bars, so I added a sixth. Two similar racks by the same seller had four and two bars respectively, so there is no reason to believe that this was used as a mere five-bar rack.


Version J
(#3129)

Front View Rear View
Front View Rear View

Technical Details

Brian Preaux found this rack in a West Virginia pit in 1994.

This rack is 368 mm. tall, 71 mm. wide, 19 mm. thick, and weighs 640 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel, cold-bent into shape, with an internal width of 34 mm. and a 25 mm. diameter coiled eye. The tail of the eye is tapered. There are five brake bars. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 71 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 103 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack.

Comments

This rack was heavily corroded when found, and I have not tried to restore it, The frame appears to be in good shape. Dimensionally, it is close to the Speleoshoppe racks, but the pigtail has a tapered end that I have not seen on commercial American racks. The only racks in my collection are ones that my father made for me in the 1970s. We gave quite a few of these to friends. Could it be that this one came full circle? No, as this rack frame was cold bent.

The bars show severe corrosion. The ends of the bars have several flat areas that are not perpendicular to the bar axes, indicating that they might have been hand filed. The second bar has a flat area on the rope side that appears to be a hand-filed rope guide. If so, it was poorly done, as it spans the full internal width of the frame.

The bar retaining nut is not missing, but the metal portion of the nut is gone. It appears to have been a lock nut that rusted into oblivion, leaving the plastic insert behind.

I believe that this rack was probably home-made.


Version K
(#3185)

Front View Rear View Side View
Front View Rear View Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from on eBay from Bryan Beachy in 2022.

This rack is 364 mm. tall, 73 mm. wide, 22 mm. thick, and weighs 740 g. The frame is made from 9.5 mm. stainless steel, cold-bent into shape, with an internal width of 35 mm. and a 26 mm. diameter hot-coiled eye. The tail of the eye is tapered. There are six 71 mm. long brake bars. The top one is 22 mm. diameter the lower five are 19 mm. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 73 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no commercial markings on this rack, but a former owner engraved their initials and address on the frame.

Comments

This is another home-made rack of unknown origin. The hot-bent eye is distinctive. Dimensionally, the rack and lower five bars are very close to my Version C, and the two racks have nearly identical hot-bent eyes. Perhaps it is one. I gave several racks to friends back in the 1970s when I was living near Pittsburgh, and this rack came from that area. One problem with this idea is that I do not remember having open-frame racks with a 22-mm bar, and I would not have put one in that position.


Version L
(#3216)

Front View Rear View Left Side View Right Side View
Front View Rear View Left Side View Right Side View

Technical Details

I acquired this rack from Kelley Deem at the 2022 Old Timers Reunion.

This rack is 271 mm. tall, 63 mm. wide, 21 mm. thick, and weighs 548 g. The frame is made from 9.6 mm. stainless steel bent into shape, with an internal width of 34 mm. and a 25 mm. diameter hot-bent coiled eye. I received only the frame, and added five SMC brake bars that I also received from Kelley. The bars are 19 mm. in diameter and 63 mm. long. Allowing 45 mm. for the rope leaves 20 mm. for spreading the bars.

There are no markings on this rack.

Comments

This is home-made rack of unknown origin. Kelley believes that Delbert Province made this rack for him, as Delbert made some other gear for him at the same time. The hot-bent eye is distinctive. For metallurgical reasons (carbon precipitation), hot-bending is undesirable for certain common 300-series stainless steels. Not knowing the alloy, I would not trust it.