REMIX: Super Simple IKEA Desktop Hack

Youtube link

This week on Forgelock: we bolt some boards onto some other boards, Alex wears a shirt and I continue to be on the run from Maritime Law.

I’m not going to lie, it’s wood we found on the side of the road bolted onto an Ikea bookshelf laid on its side. Is that a hack? Ehhh. But does it look fantastic? You betcha.

Also, it cost a whopping total $10 (just stain and bolts) so that’s a win.

BUILD: Notebook Logo Spraypainting

Video link

Alex got me this cork notebook to match my cork desk and vinyl plotted / spray painted the Forgelock logo on it.

What a great DIY project and super easy even if you don’t have a vinyl plotter: just painter’s tape and newspaper is a great way to mask shapes off for spraying.

Also, as of 2016 we’re going to the “new video every tuesday” schedule, so in a sense this is the first build of season one!

FIX: De-derailleur


This is probably a very specific project, but it’s one that I was doing for myself anyway and I happened to take pictures.

What is this and why did you do it?

This is my bike, a 2014 Giant Defy 3, and for whatever reason ever since I bought it the front derailleur (the thing that changes the gears) has had alignment issues leading to it rubbing which makes dumb noises and is inefficient. I’ve fiddled with it myself a bunch, I took it back to the shop enough times for them to roll their eyes (that’s once, in my books) and in the end I realized I’d really never used it in the last 4000+ km of riding, so I could probably safely just get rid of it altogether. There’s a very minor weight savings, but it also cleans up the look of things if you like the more minimalist fixie style without sacrificing the gears on the back.

Things you’ll need:

Basically just hex Allen keys in both metric and american sizes, Greek yogurt (lemon Liberte is my favourite, you can use whatever you like) and I just had some chain lube because I’m going to do a nice scrub and clean afterwards. Optional tools that might be handy: pliers (regular and needlenose), a flathead screwdriver and duct tape. Also, if your chain doesn’t have a Sram Powerlink style coupling, you’ll probably want a chain break tool.



My bike has two gears on the front (also called chainrings) and I’m planning on getting rid of the smaller one. It’s pretty easy, there’s these five silver fasteners that are sort of like hollow Chicago screws and they just screw off with the hex key (mine were american sized, yours might be different). They might snap a little as they get unseized, that’s fine. Also, you need to make sure the back half isn’t rotating with the front half as you screw – mine had little slots for a flat screwdriver but I found it just as easy to use my finger to apply that friction.


Now, watch out! Your rear derailleur is designed to keep the chain in tension so you might (and I did) have the chainring slip off the crank (the pedal piece) and shoot backwards. Not so much dangerous as surprising but still, be warned. This is where I got a bit crafty: using tape of any kind, you can bring that tensioning arm up and tape it to the chainstays (that back triangle arm of the bike frame) but make sure the chain itself can still rotate freely. This’ll keep you from having to hold against the tension yourself all the time. Nice!


You can now remove the chainrings by slipping them over the crank and re-install those five screws again. I don’t know if there’s a specific torque to screw them to, but the force transfer through the crank is going in sheer through that back half of the Chicago so the front is really just there to keep it held in. As such, I really don’t think it matters, as long as they aren’t going to unscrew themselves easily. Again, flat screwdriver on the back can help you here as you hex key the front.


Now for the derailleur mechanism itself. There’s two flathead screws holding it to the frame so grab a hex key again (mine were metric) and undo those. Another hex key to release the tension cable and you should be able to pull the whole mechanism free.


“But wait” you complain “it’s trapped on the chain because of that closed silver loop” and you’re right. We’re going to have to undo the chain to free it.


Conveniently, my chain has one special link with little slots in it. This is pretty common, I think, on modern bikes so pedal yours around the full loop and see if you have one (the slot might be filled with greasy gunk as mine was, hiding it). If so, use some pliers to decouple it, if not you can use a chain break tool (or any sort of vice + small metal pin) OR, if you’re feeling destructive and don’t want the derailleur itself anymore, you can just cut the silver part with heavy snips and mangle it until it’s free. This was actually my approach until I happened to learn that my chain has that much easier unlinking option. With the chain back together, you can take the tape off the tension arm and give ‘er a whirl. Everything should be back together and working at this point.

With the derailleur itself gone, all we’ve got to do is remove the cable. Bikes have a variety of cabling methods, but mine had a clamp on the underside and it leads all the way up to the handlebars. Your bike might have grip shift (where you rotate a bit in the handlebar to change gear), trigger shift (which is similar but with clicky triggers) or the road bike integrated brake style like mine here.


There’s a little metal ball on the end of the cable that holds it into a knuckle on the inside of the shift mechanism. I just pushed the cable from the other side and used some needlenose pliers to fish it out. You can either cut the end off or pull the entire cable through (note, you might have to hold the shift lever to the side to let the grabbing mechanism relax and allow cable travel). Remove any of the black tubing bits and you should be done!

Now, for the most important bit. Remember that lemon yogurt we had? Wash your greasy hands and sit back, relax and enjoy!

DIY GoPro Mount


Exciting additional to my personal camera collection and to the Forgelock shop as we ramp up to filming video tutorials: a GoPro Hero 4 Black!

Bought a few of the official GoPro mounting accessories but naturally I’m already inventing my own new stuff. The above is my bike’s headlight mount repurposed with the longer GoPro extension arm hacked up to fit. The knuckle interface has a two-pronged end and a three-pronged mate with the threaded insert to hold the camera itself – we needed that bit in the end, so I cut one of the tabs from the two-prong end off to allow that bolt to go in. Now, the hole was a little small for that center bolt so I Dremeled out a bit of material and cut a scar into the flat bottom where it has to cross over the rubber lip on the far side. This extra contact adds a bit of structure anyway, which is convenient.

It works pretty well! I just went for a quick lap in the rain and although the film is boring the mount itself lovely. It’s super sturdy as far as the camera isn’t going to fall off randomly, but that strap is sort of a rubber material and as such the footage is a little prone to vibration and shake. You can remove most of that in post with stabilization software, but realistically I’d want to build some kind of smooth gimble to do stabilization at a physical level and get super clean shots. A future tutorial idea, perhaps!

We built some rails for our miter saw last night, and here’s some 120 FPS footage from the cutting (keep in mind Instagram compresses it way down. Originally shot in lovely 1080p)

A video posted by brennan (@ltkmn) on

Metal-look Paint Tutorial


Won’t you take a ride on heavy metal?

In this tutorial we’re going to show you how to create a quick and easy finish that resembles steel with a realistic patina. There are many methods of producing a metal like finish on a non-metal thing – and we’ll definitely come back to the more advanced processes in further tutorials – but today is the day you learn to create an old and battered steel object plucked freshly from the nuclear wastes the easy way.

To begin, you’re going to need a few things. Weapons include:

  • A sandable or high-build primer
  • Silver spray paint (pick a basecoat that suits your fancy)
  • Brown, black and silver acrylic paints
  • Some medium-fine sandpaper (400 grit should do)
  • Heat gun
  • A couple of brushes


In this tutorial we are going to be painting a giant wooden wrench we made some time ago. The wrench is made mostly out of MDF (medium density fiber) which is a common prop building material. MDF is also quite difficult to achieve a very smooth surface on due to the material’s absorptive properties. To combat that nasty paint absorption, spray your piece with a couple of coats of sand-able primer. What we’re trying to do here is to create a nice, smooth finish that will lend a more metallic appearance. We recommend priming your piece regardless of the material of the prop as getting that piece nice and smooth will lend a closer appearance to metal. When you’re shopping for primer, look for something that says sand-able or high build. The solids content in these primers allow you to fill little holes, cracks and fill the pores of the MDF.


After your primer is all pretty and dry as per the manufacturer’s directions, grab yourself some fine sandpaper and smooth out all those rough and raised surfaces. You don’t have to sand too hard, just to level out anywhere the primer hasn’t left a smooth surface. After you’re all done, wipe your piece down and crack open the silver spray paint. Give your piece a few consistent coats until it looks fresh off the showroom floor and leave the piece to dry thoroughly. Make sure your prop is totally dry before moving onto the next step or you’re going to have a bad time.



The key to this technique is the wash. To create a wash, grab your acrylic (or other water-based paint) ad mix up a thin solution of about 10 parts water to 1 part paint. In this example we used mostly black, with just a few little sprinkles of brown. Mix the paint up until you have a consistent, extremely thin paint. Take a big brush and just slather your wash all over the piece. Pay special attention to getting this stuff into all the nooks and crannies you’d expect dirt and grime to thrive.


Next, draw your heat gun into action and begin to apply heat to the entire piece at a distance to begin evaporating the water in the wash. As the water dries, it will leave behind an organic looking patina. Have some fun while doing this, get the heat gun in close to push some droplets around to create lines of runny grease or extra oxidized patches. Just be careful not to apply too much heat to surface or you’re going to risk ruining your paint and even your piece (especially if it’s made of foam or plastic). Re-apply the wash and repeat this step as many times as you like until you achieve the amount of age and grime you’ve been longing for.


This next step is optional if you’re happy with your dirty, weathered steel surface. If you want to apply a little bit of wear on the patina, crack out your silver acrylic paint and a stiff bristled brush. Dip your brush in the silver paint and remove most of the paint with a paper towel. Lightly dry brush your piece paying special attention to all of the hard edges and areas you’d expect to see wear in real life use. Remember, every prop is an opportunity to tell a story, emphasizing certain areas can really tell the story you’re imagining for your piece.


If you want you can throw a glossy or satin clear layer over all of this for a bit of metallic shine, but we opted not to ourselves; the matte is lovely by itself and the wash makes the reflections irregular enough to look good as you move it around in the light.



Now, just sit back and listen to some Don Felder while admiring how awesome you are.

Happy wrenching!

The Forgelock Wallpaper Explained


The good news is that we’re keeping the every tuesday schedule, the better news is that we’re finalizing a deal on an industrial bay to set up shop in and have a ton of sweet tools and cool things to set up in the coming weeks (hint: we bought a 3D printer!) buuut the bad news is that in the meantime, you get half-hearted tutorials. We are planning a lot more video stuff in the future, we are planning to have live streams and production value and an awesome workspace to do it all in, but we appreciate your patience as it’s all being set up first on our end.

Still! Enjoy a basic Photoshop tutorial:

Our very first post was one of the first things I made after we finalized our gear logo idea. People seemed to really like it, so I’m going to demystify the effect and break down the layers. We start, above, with just a basic slate texture that I use quite often. Any rock will do, you just want a big clean surface that has grit and texture without being busy and distracting.


The second layer is a film dust one, actually, and a favorite of mine. It gives some extra dust, scratches and little pixel details as well as those red scars at the bottom which are actually little lens flares or something, but work for our red fire + sparks theme. While you can sometimes get away with mixing multiple rock layers over each other to add increasing detail, quite often it becomes unrealistic in obvious or even subconscious ways. You start seeing things like rocks coming out of of each other, or sitting in impossible ways. By using layers that are physically feasible (rock texture + lens texture) we can add bonus detail without removing realism, or the realistic illusion thereof.


Forgelock Photoshop glow

Throw the logo in there, add a very slight glow to it. You’ll notice, also, that my glow has a color ramp instead of being one color. Like we did with the animated sparks, fire exists as an energy gradient that goes from white through yellow and orange into red and finally fades out to transparency. Our logo isn’t realistically “on fire” but it is white, and it is glowing with energy so we’re going to respect the fiction a little and give it that extra detailed touch. Besides, it’s almost no additional work.


I’m going to turn the logo layer off for these next few to demonstrate the fire by itself. It starts as some firepit photos that are set to screen, lighten, color dodge as necessary. Definitely play around with overlay settings – most of the good stuff is in there when creating layers of things like this is. Erase out with a soft brush any signs of non-fire details from the stock photos and you’re left with an alright plate. We can hide that awkward bottom edge with the logo shape itself. Let’s add some more:


Not bad, got the ring going nicely, it’s sparking and bursting a bit more. The goal with any still frame is to make it look alive – tell a story or give the impression of motion or at least sound. Logos, of course, are a notoriously static thing to work with, so we’re using fire which is a thing that can never be still visually and also makes that whoosh of flames or crackles of a firepit; it’s inherently more visceral than just still rock. Though, if rock or ice is the motif, cracks can suggest nice sounds as well – maybe some wind or snow is blowing past. You can always add dynamic elements to things.


A smoke layer. Remember how we’re adding texture using realistic / feasible sources? So now we have the rock itself, fire as an object and smoke as an atmosphere all being seen through a film / scratchy lens. These things can exist in one frame of a real photograph together, so it creates a more frictionless viewing – the human mind doesn’t have any trouble putting things together when it works on a very basic plane of knowledge about reality.


Unfortunately smoke is too light, so we’re going to vignette the frame a bit – another faked camera lens effect. This is super simple and basically a radial gradient.


We darken the entire thing with a black layer set to ‘soft light’ which will keep our whites and bright yellows dazzling. If you just adjust brightness you clip those values down unfairly, we’re really only trying to darken the medium shaded background area to force that popping contrast.

Then, you throw the logo back on.


Afternoon Project: Aluminum Tube Geometry


Based really loosely on the art of Himmeli, a Scandinavian tradition of making geometric mobiles out of straw, I wanted to make something still modernist geometric and minimalist but less patterned and more asymmetrical, like feature rocks in a zen garden or something.

A quick and easy way to build geometric shapes is using hollow aluminum or brass tubing and some armature wire. These things can be found at almost any hobby store (they’re often used for making RC airplane bodies and wings) and probably most craft stores. It’s pretty cheap, we bought 10′ of rod for a few bucks, and the spool of nearly endless wire is a few more. The kind of wire can vary quite a bit, the only thing you really need is something flexible enough that you can bend it with your hands but stiff enough that it’ll hold its own shape. You actually can use loose cable like twine or fishing line if you want, but your knots at the vertices of the shape need to be taught to hold everything together.

The basic beginning is to take the long rod and make a bunch of semi-random lengths, I happened to have a circular pipe cutter but you can use a knife or saw if you’re careful not to crush the ends of the pipe. My main strategy was to cut one main size and then build off of that based on the angles that look good – you’re essentially building a triangle and then branching off to make the 3D parts. Your shape can be as complex or simple as you want, I opted for a more minimalist thing because I was short on time and made a bunch of smaller ones rather than a single huge one. Feed the wire through the triangle and knot or solder at the end; as you add more rods just keep feeding the wire through and fastening it to the corners you desire to make the shape. Depending on the density of the junction you might have too big a knot or too many pipes vying for a dense space, so you can trim the corners of the tubes a bit to give clearance (or just tie them looser so they end away from the knot).


When you’re happy, a quick few coats of spray paint over everything


The next time I try this there’s going to be a bit more utility: wrapping a succulent plantpot or candle, or a shape with a thin platform on top to act as a shelf or something. Lights! Everything needs more LEDs, and you could hide the wires the same way as the structural wire. Make a Deus Ex table lamp, maybe. Not sure if it’s been tried yet, but it might actually work as a good way to make the basic structure for cosplay prop making – the aluminum is soft enough that you can bend it with a table edge and a bit of effort (depending on pipe thickness) and it’s light and strong enough to support a skin of whatever material you’re making the prop with. You might see this technique come back in some of our further prop tutorials.

Stay tuned!

Humble Book Bundle: Beginner’s Guides

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A lot of the titles include “for kids” but I prefer to think of it all as “for beginners” – I still enjoy reading these sorts of things, and explaining complex topics at a simple level is an art form unto itself.

If you’re looking to learn, here’s a fantastic way to get a ton of multiformat DRM-free ebooks for just $15 (that’s barely over a dollar each!) and support the writers and charity directly.

As of this post on Feb 7, 2015 there’s 11 days left but note that this link will lead to whatever deal is being presented that week so if you’re reading this from the archive, you’ve missed out on a great thing. Go forth and learn!

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