From time to time, I realise that my tripod is crying out for some TLC (tender loving care). I can tell when it reaches this point as the tripod starts to protest with horrible grinding sounds as I try and tighten/loosen the legs. I’m not surprised, as I stick the poor thing into soft sand; stand it in salty sea water; drop it in soggy, muddy fields and basically abuse it as the workhorse it is. But what a workhorse! This tripod is a tough beast, it has been going for years and is still looks like new – except when the leg-locks get really dirty as they are this week.
So, it is time for that TLC and give my Gitzo 1325 a really good clean.
It is an easy job to do, but I thought I would detail how I go about cleaning the 1325 in case anyone is wondering. You can get the tripod cleaned as a service from Gitzo/Manfrotto, but the current price for this is about £40, plus postage and VAT – so it is a more economical and quicker route to do this yourself (and not sure I would like being without my tripod for 2 to 3 weeks!).
Firstly, I undo each of the leg sections by loosening the leg-locks and then continuing to unscrew the locks until the section comes apart. Once apart I carefully remove the two split plastic rings and the fibre bushing and put those to one side. When each leg section has been separated I wash the legs and leg-locks in hot water with plenty of washing-up liquid to remove all the gunk and dirt. Once washed, I leave them soaking in a fresh bowl of hot water with washing-up liquid for about 30 minutes.
Whilst the legs and locks are soaking, I will rinse the plastic rings and bushing in more hot water with washing-up liquid and then rinse in clean water. Once cleaned, these are set aside on a sheet of newspaper to dry.
After the legs and locks have been soaking for 30 minutes, I rinse in cold water and let them dry. It isn’t necessary to let them dry before the next stage, but I find it is a good time to take a break from the cleaning.
For the next stage, you will need some methylated spirits, some old rags and a hard toothbrush.
What I do is soak a rag with meths and wipe down the tripod legs. Next with a well soaked rag I tightly wrap the rag around the threads on a leg section and then twist the leg hard so it pulls out of the rag. This should help get any remaining grease and gunk out of the screw threads. Once I have done this for each section, I clean the threads within the leg-locks by soaking a rag and stuffing it into the lock and twisting hard.
I will then screw a leg-lock onto a matching leg section and check that the threads are running clean and smoothly. If not, then I will soak the toothbrush in meths and give the leg section and leg-lock threads a very hard scrubbing; chances are there is still some grease and dirt in the threads. I will then repeat screwing the leg section and lock together, if it now runs free I move on to the next section; if not I will repeat the toothbrush scrubbing until it runs smooth.
Again, I then leave the cleaning and take a break, allowing time for the meths to evaporate and dry.
The last stage of the cleaning is to grease the leg threads and reassemble the tripod. Talking to the Gitzo/Manfrotto service department, they use Castrol graphite grease, but this is very hard to obtain locally nowadays (they mentioned they have had their tub for years; you don’t use much per tripod). As I couldn’t get the graphite grease, I use Castrol LM grease which is a good all purpose grease that isn’t too thick. I did check with the service department that this was good to use and they confirmed it was perfect for the job.
One thing to note: when you reassemble it is very important not to get any grease on the fibre bushing.
When reassembling, I use a cotton-wool bud to wipe a very thin layer of grease over the leg section threads; it is important not to use too much grease as this will then just trap more dirt and bits and make a real mess (as I found out a few cleans ago). I then put the leg-lock on a matched leg section, followed by the fibre bushing, then the two plastic rings and carefully screw the leg-lock up. Once each of the top sections have been done, I repeat this for each of the bottom leg sections.
End result is a Gitzo 1325 Tripod that works as new
There will come a time when the fibre bushing will have worn and will need replacing. These six little rings are fairly expensive to replace (about £30) but can be obtained from the Gitzo/Manfrotto Service Department.