Rebuilding hints for the Standard Vane Gear

Produced between 1970 - 1991 by the designer and manufacturer Nick Franklin.
These notes are to help owners to maintain or rebuild their Vane Gears.

It has been found on old units that the most common problem is the main vertical shaft No 63 seizing in the upper and lower bearings No 53. Corrosion builds up between the casting and the bushes, which in effect shrinks the bush onto No 63. The only solution is to remove the shaft No 59 and then take the whole Gear to pieces. The Gear must be removed from the stern; it is virtually impossible to make a good job when fitted in place. Shaft No 59 is usually corroded into the mainframe No 50 (the screws No 54 must be loosened) lay the Vane Gear down flat on a concrete surface; place hard blocks close to either side of No 59. Find the largest sledge hammer you can find and with an appropriate 'drift' give No 59 the hardest blow you can manage. Avoid light taps as this swags out the end of the shaft. We always removed these shafts like this in the factory with no problems. Alternatively ask your local engineering shop to press it out, again making sure that it is well supported. Removing No 59 is usually the worst part of the job.

Nick Franklin in the workshop. Cowes, Isle of Wight.

 The bushes No 53 can be scraped out with a scraper or a sharp knife, but they are generally best replaced with the corrosion removed. Glue them back with epoxy. The new bushes will quite a loose fit but this essential.

On earlier Gears No 63 was a stainless tube. If the rudder coupling No 68 is seized to No 63 it is usually impossible to remove it without machining or carefully sawing away the coupling and destroying it. Later Gears had hard anodised alloy shafts that were much stronger and did not seize the coupling. If you are fitting a new hard anodised No 63 then a new lower bevel gear would be required which are now stainless.

It is a good idea to fit new bushes No 58 during a rebuild. Thin packing washers No 52 are used for 'meshing' the bevel gears together - there must be free play between the teeth. When re-meshing the bevel gears the lower bevel No 49 were always assembled a tooth or so to starboard side.

When the plywood vane and the servo rudder are vertical (or in the middle of their travel) the servo rudder should be 'dead ahead.' It is very noticeable if the bevel gears are incorrectly meshed, even by one tooth.

The connecting rod No 38 is removed by pulling out the top and bottom pins No 36 (they should have serrations on their ends). Check that the swivel bolt No 45 is not seized to the bushes No 41/47. This is caused by corrosion build up similar to the bushes No 53. If the Gear is in pieces then No 45 should really be removed and cleaned out. When re-meshing make sure that all fittings and bearings have lots of free play. The block No 32 needs a bit of clearance between No 36/37. File out No 32 with a round file if in doubt.

The upper part of the Gear, or vane holder No 25 - 30 gives very little trouble and appears never to become stiff. The shaft No 30 becomes corroded in its casting No 1 but is not such a problem as No 59. Be careful over using too much force on No 1 for obvious reasons. If replacing the nylon rollers No 28 it is best to use grease to keep them nestled into bushes No 29, that way they won't keep falling out. Also please note that the bushes No 29 are epoxied into the vane holder No 25 with approximately 4mm protruding out of the casting.

With reference to the base plate No 15, and its associated ratchet fingers No 10/11. The ratchets shown on all our drawings with the separate fingers and bolts No 8/9 are of the earlier models. Later models had the ratchet fingers cast all in one piece with No 8/9 no loner needed. The early ratchets were hand built and in effect all different. There are no more spares for these. It is difficult to use and adapt the later ratchets onto earlier Gears, although some owners have managed it.

The lower shell casting No 64 were also altered about 1980. Early models have two screws No 65; later versions had four screws. If ordering please state which type you have. The hinged rudder coupling was produced during 1977 - 79 and is not shown on the accompanying drawing. It swung up sideways with a hinge plate located just below the rudder coupling No 68. After a time this unit wears, leading to excess wobble on the servo rudder and bad performance. All spares for this hinge are now completely out of stock. One solution is to remove the hinge unit and bolt the servo rudder straight onto the coupling No 68, it will actually work much better this way.

In service, keep all moving parts well oiled - if it moves oil it. Of special importance is to oil the bushes No 53, either through the holes provided just below the lower bevel gear or around the outside of the gear where it sits on the thrust washers No 52. Oil on the steering lines, which must be 8mm pre-stretched will considerably increase their life span.

Workers pictured after a mass production - 1974.

It is important that the plywood vane is not too heavy. When released by hand from full deflection it must swing up to vertical with reasonable authority. Too heavy and the Gear will oversteer. Bigger vanes do not offer any improvement in light airs, friction with the linkage is far more important. Use 6mm marine ply and varnish.

A rebuild kit is available which includes most parts described in these notes. Speak kindly to your Vane Gear. It is not just any old piece of yacht equipment. It uses the forces of the wind and water in the true spirit of voyaging under sail and assumes a personality of its own during long voyages not normally associated with a mechanical device.

Many thousands of Aries were produced in it's 21 year production run. They are still seen around the world where yachts gather. Many of the earliest ones are still giving good service and it would seem reasonable to expect a life expectancy of 40 years, given a few rebuilds and servicing.

Production on the Isle of Wight ceased in 1991 due to high raw materials cost, coupled to an increasing reluctance of owners to pay to for basic engineering products.

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