Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 11:52PM CST

Bogen/Manfrotto tripod head removal; 2/12 St. Louis snow

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Manfrotto video head removal
Manfrotto video head removal - battle scars

This post is mainly to give web searchers some reading on the problems I had removing my Manfrotto video pan heads from the tripods. During my own searches, I found many people having this problem, but no working solutions. I have two Manfrotto aluminum tripods with fluid video heads both that have been attached for about 5 years. I needed to take one of the heads off of the tripods to use on a window mount I bought for shooting video from my truck. Since the heads had been on the tripods for several years, they were pretty well fused together. The tripod baseplate has threaded holes for set screws that you can use to secure the head baseplate, but neither of my tripods were using those. Compounding the problem is that the baseplates of Bogen/Manfrotto heads are of a large diameter, and don't have anything to grab onto to unscrew the head from the tripod.

The head baseplates are only a quarter-inch high and nothing but smooth metal all around, and are much too large for even larger-sized wrenches and pliers to get around. The pan lock that keeps the head from rotating isn't strong enough to hold against the force needed to separate the baseplate from the tripod plate, so you have to find a way to grab onto that thin baseplate with enough force to turn it. With a huge pipe wrench or vise from a well-equipped shop, this would have been easy. So, if you have a friend close by who has a nice workshop, ignore the rest of this post and call him. However, for the average person with only a basic set of tools, read on.

I have a larger set of pliers that *almost* fit around the baseplate, but only partially. The smoothness of the metal kept it from getting any grip, so the first thing I did was to take a file and rough up the edge of the baseplate so that the pliers would have more friction to grab onto. Still no luck. I tried several suggestions I found posted elsewhere, like heating the tripod plate with boiling water or a stove burner. I supplimented that with cooling the head baseplate after heating the tripod plate. That didn't work. Neither did a shot of WD-40.

Finally, I decided to drill horizontally into the baseplate and put a screw into the hole, using the screw as an object to gain leverage. I hit the screw several times with a hammer trying to get the plate to move, but instead the screw broke off! Undeterred, I started hammering flathead a screwdriver into the part of the screw that was left. After several minutes of this, I could see the plate finally starting to move, millimeter by millimeter until finally I could turn it with the pliers, then finally by hand. The above picture shows the battle scars of the process.

One major point I could not confirm anywhere online is the fact that the Manfrotto head mounts are NOT reverse-threaded. They are threaded normally (counter-clockwise to unscrew). The internet didn't have an answer to this when I searched, so hopefully this post will answer someone else searching for the same thing. I didn't want to be hammering away at the plate in the wrong direction and only making the problem worse. Only because I had the new window mount was I able to determine which way the threads were set.

January 12 St. Louis snow event

Although the couple inches of snow we received on Thursday morning was enough to cause chaos around the city, I did not come away with any compelling footage even after spending 6 hours in the middle of the mayhem. Unlike my old spot back in Charleston, there is no surefire place around the metro area here in MO or IL to safely shoot icy road footage. I spent the entire morning trying to find a suitabe place to shoot, and finding none (despite passing dozens of randomly-placed accidents) I gave up and went home. The only photo I took of this storm worth posting is the "reverse tire tracks" here at home left by the wind blowing all of the surrounding snow away, leaving only the snow compacted by tires.

Reverse tire tracks in snow
Reverse tire tracks in snow

Thank you VERY much for posting about this. Helped out a ton. I can't even tell you how many hours I fussed with this issue until I went to the Internet to find help
- Posted by Joe

Joe, glad I could help! Thanks for posting!
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL

Hey Dan Im looking to remove a head from a tripod and immunable to remove it since its a moulded one , but has small screws attached to the bottom and im unable to remove it. Can u help me what to do
- Posted by Nicholas from India

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