Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Gitzo Scotch Tape Fix

Or, how to keep your old classic purring

Gitzo is the gold standard for tripods. It is the tripod against which all others are compared. I've had my Gitzo 1325 for about 10 years. It's sturdy, rigid, and lightweight. I couldn't live without it, photographically speaking. It's also the most maintenance intensive piece of gear I own. It's like a Jaguar XK-E: an amazingly beautiful, high performance machine that leaves an oil stain on the garage floor.

It's the leg joints – collet-style twist lock leg joints. They've been redesigned and newer Gitzo tripods don't have the same kind of leg joints as my old 1325. That's a good thing. The leg joints are the reason I selected the model 1325 in the first place. It has fewer of them. The 3 in the model number means each leg has three sections, two joints per leg as opposed to four sections with three joints per leg. The four section models will collapse into a smaller package, which is nice if you're a frequent flier. But I've got no use for that extra trio of joints.  The new leg joints (from what I've read – not from personal experience) solve the leg joint issues. This article is about the old-style leg joints. So, if you've had your Gitzo for a while, this may be of interest to you.

After long use, the leg joints have to be tightened down harder to lock. If you don't give them that extra bit of snugness they slip, which is really annoying. So you cinch the lower leg locks a little tighter to make sure they're snug and then you have to tighten the upper ones more, to loosen the lower ones. Then they get so tight, they're hard to loosen. And eventually, they just won't tighten enough to keep the legs from slipping. The standard way of dealing with this is to replace the fiber bushings in the leg joints. It's not a big job – routine maintenance. Easier than changing the plugs in the old Jag. When you order the replacement bushings, they come in a bag of three of each and every size that Gitzo makes. And they cost about fifty bucks – Ouch. And then you have a bag full of extra bushings that fit Gitzo legs of different diameters than the legs on your tripod.

I replaced the bushings for the first time when my 1325 was a few years old. I replaced them the second time a couple of years later. Then not too long after that, one of the legs started to slip again. For some reason, I hadn't thrown out the old bushings, so I selected a used one that seemed to be in pretty good condition, and replaced the bushing in the offending leg. That did the trick – for a while at least. A few months later when the symptoms recurred, I read about a fellow who suggested wrapping the bushings with Teflon tape, the kind made for pipe threads. I tried it and it worked - temporarily. After a few uses the leg began to slip again. The Teflon tape had disintegrated.

When I disassembled the tripod, I discovered that swapping the lower legs around didn't matter. Regardless of which lower leg section, it was the one in a particular middle section that slipped. This told me that it must be the inside of the leg into which the bushing fits that was worn, not the bushing itself. I tried putting a strip of scotch tape around the inside the leg section. Man, that is practically an impossible feat – much harder to accomplish than one might think. So I gave up on that idea and I tried putting a strip of scotch tape on the outside of the fiber bushing. That seemed to help. So I put two strips of tape, one on top of the other, around the outside of the bushing. It worked!

Yes – but surely it's a make-shift band-aid repair. It wont last any longer than the Teflon tape did. Surprisingly, that's not the case. After three months, the scotch tape fix is holding up just fine. I began getting the symptoms in another leg, so I added the scotch tape to the bushings in the lower leg joints of both remaining legs. When I did that, I inspected the scotch tape on the first bushing. It looked just as good as the day I first put it on.


  1. Thanks for this! Have exactly the problem. May I ask, are the legs still fixed?

  2. Thanks for this! Have exactly the problem. May I ask, are the legs still fixed?

    1. Short answer = Yes.

      The scotch tape fix has been working for me for about a year now. It does require occasional maintenance, to add a little more tape. If you add too much though, the leg section gets hard to slide. Adding a partial strip, not all the way around the bushing seems to work if a complete new layer is too much.