Tech Wiki

Flax removal tools

What is the best tool for removing the Flax from the Stuffing Box?

May I respectfully recommend Boat/US's (and I suppose other) marine supply shops SELL these goofy looking "flax picks and pullers" for JUST this problem! Flax Pick: Item 282111, Boat/US $6.95 Flax Puller: Item 393080, Boat/US $10.95

Sam Collins, Blue Dolphin C27 #2117

I've always been successful getting it out with a very small flat-bladed screwdriver, holding the tool nearly parallel with the shaft, and scraping the stuff out as if the screwdriver were a chisel. It always came out in nearly one piece... just pulled it out and scraped a bit more to make sure the box was empty before re-stuffing it.

Norm Bernstein, Amoreena C400 #105

I use an awl, bent at the end to hook the stuff out. Cheaper than the tool at West Marine, and easier to use since the spirals on the extractor are nearly too big to fit down the side of the stuffing cap on my C30. Also I used the "green stuff" dripless packing last year from WM and it worked great.

Brian Wheeler

Get the largest fish hook you can find (preferably stainless steel, size 5/0) and straighten it out in a vice (some break, some don't. Please wear eye protection). Poke & pull as required to remove the old flax.

Charlie Pearsall

It depends on how old and badly deteriorated the flax is. Mine, like Norm's, came out no problem with a skinny long shafted electrician's screwdriver. BUT we had a guy in our yard that had several LAYERS of old flax PACKED rock solid real deep in the fitting that was "shiny" and almost IMPOSSIBLE to get a hold of. THAT'S when we went ahead and bought the $6.95 pic I mentioned in the other post with the sharp point and a curved end. Charlie Pearsall's fishhook will probably work the same way too.


I tried using a wine opener with great success, very easy and you probably have one already.

Adam Ellis

I picked up a bunch of different size and shaped dental picks at a local flea market - they cost a buck a piece, are made out of stainless steal don't rust, pretty strong and designed to work in small places - you can even put an edge on the scalers and they'll cut through the flax -

Dave, Second Wind

I had the same problem last year with VERY HARD PACKED flax. Tried everything, including: the flax extractor (it snapped off from the strain), awl with a bent tip (it only pulled up little threads of flax but couldn't get the main strip), ...a dental pick borrowed from a dentist friend (it broke), ...a small flat-blade screwdriver (couldn't get it under the flax), ... Finally used needle-nosed pliers, the kind with the tips bent at about a 70-degree angle. I was able to drive the tips into the flax and rip it out. This tool also gets the flax out without scoring the shaft!

Victor, Prudence C27, Wickford, RI

I tried one of the West flax pullers - I can't recall which one – and it bent like aluminum foil. I ended up using a 3" drywall screw, which worked well.

Jim Overend, Carrie B, C36 #769

Last fall, when we hauled, I decided to repack the stuffing box just for the hell of it (never did that before). After trying to get the old flax out several different ways, I finally gave up. In the spring I'm going to try a small dry wall screw and see if that works. If that fails, then I guess I'll break down and get one of those flax extractors that are is the catalogues. I'm sure that someone out there has a neat little trick for extracting old flax.

Bob, G.V.Black C36 MKII #1720, Rogers City,MI

As far as Packing Removal Tools? Most are too large to fit or not strong enough. I made my own out of a coat hanger. Just a thought.

Ron Hill, APACHE #788