Scaffold towers - just how useful/flexible are they?

In my experience the bought ones tend to get semi-permanently allocated to teams and stay with them for a very long time - perhaps on the basis that kit like this allocated to one or two individuals will be treated better? Pretty much every joinery contractor and main contractor I've ever worked for hires-in on an ad hoc basis (and from what I've seen most other trades are much the same) because it makes more sense than tying up loads of cash in stuff you don't need all the time. The cost of storage combined with the multiple differences in requirements (different sizes, outriggers, cantilever access, stair access, etc) makes this a logical choice. As the hire company towers get older they seem to pass down from cleaner trades to dirtier ones, such as the painters (many commercial decos use airless spraying) or plasterers, but even when components are damaged they tend to be replaced piecemeal rather than the entire tower being sold off. Damaged components, being aluminium, also have a reasonable scrap value. That's probably why you don't see that many trade rated towers secondhand.
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half way up, I felt irrational fear. My legs turned to jelly,

I too have reached that point. For me it was watching the wind blow over a ladder I was about to climb. I know that it wouldn't have blown over if I was on it but, yes, I lost my bottle. My legs literally feel like they are wobbling- it is rather embarrassing. Strangely, I get a similar sensation if i see someone else cut/hurt themselves, however if I accidently cut myself the sight of my own blood doesn't bother me.

A year or two earlier I had been working on a 5 story office block in a cradle and was happy to throw the rope over itself as I lowered the cradle (letting the friction of the rope keep the cradle up). I only tied the knots once I was at the correct height.

These days, 9 times out of 10, I use scaffolding rather than working off ladders. In part because of my irrational fear of heights but also because it means I can work much faster. Trying to sand barge boards with your dust extractor dangling from a ladder is plain stoopid (and yes I have been dumb enough to do that in the past).

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