FIX: De-derailleur

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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!

U-Haul News + Videos

Easter friday, a holiday. Naturally, I woke up at 5:30am. Turns out though, this is good because it’s dark still and no one is on the streets – I made the above video as a funny little thing about my car.

2:00pm we pick up the U-Haul; we bought some gorgeous tool chests and had to bring a workbench and miscellaneous supplies from Alex’s garage to The Forge shop.

We shot a ton of footage of the move itself so I’m hoping to put together some nice timelapses of things and share those, but for now:

DIY Vintage Distressed Subway Sign

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We’re making a subway sign! No, I’m not talking about the sandwich shop.

This project was inspired by the vintage posters that used to adorn the walls of New York City subway stations. Each line on the poster would designate a different station to help guide your way. This one, however, is a gift for my father and has several of the locations he will be visiting on a trip in the near future. Let’s get started!

This project started off with a 12” x 18” piece of 16 gauge mild steel. You may also come across sheets like this in hardware store as “weldable steel”. Low alloy steel is key for a later step when we rust the piece, we don’t want any pesky alloying like chromium messing with our patina dreams.

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Using a caliper, holes were marked in each corner of the steel. Measuring equal distance from each ledge allows for precise placement of the mounting holes. After giving swift whack with a hammer / punch all holes are marked and ready to drill.

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Using a titanium coated bit and a healthy dollop of cutting oil, each of the mounting holes were drilled out. There were a couple of burrs that decided to hang around the perimeter of the hole, but a quick spin of a countersinking bit took care of that.

Since this sign is going to be hanging on a wall, rounding the edges was decided to prevent any nasty scratches to the hanging surface. The bench grinder was used to shape a radius into each corner. A file took care of the rough edges and the basic shape of the sign was complete.

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In order to promote the black paint adhesion, 400 grit sandpaper was used to rough up the surface and remove as much oxide as possible. A wipe with a cloth and a bit of degreaser ensured that all that cutting oil from earlier was sufficiently removed.

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The entire sign was coated in about 4 light coats of black spray paint. Generally, a primer would be recommended when painting metal, however we aren’t too concerned about surface finish as the sign is intended to look old and beaten like it has been hanging in a subway for the last 60 years. The paint used was Krylon Paint and Primer in One. 2 in 1 paints are great for projects like this as purposely removing the paint does not reveal any grey primer beneath.

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While the paint dried, I booted up the computer. Using sign-making software I drew up the vector text of all the location names. After a bit of fiddling around with sizing and text position I generated the plot path and sent it to the plotter. Once the vinyl was cut, the excess was removed and transfer tape was applied to apply the vinyl to the piece.

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After the paint had dried some 2000 grit sandpaper was used to wet sand the entire surface. The wet sanding provides a smoother finish and removes any surface roughness, this is done so that the vinyl will adhere better. Any paint that has dried in the air will create a fine dust on the surface of the piece that will result in poor adhesion of the vinyl. After sufficiently cleaning the surface of any dust and contaminants the vinyl was applied.

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Well I must say that looks pretty good. This project could stop at this point, but let’s subject this thing to years of misuse and abuse in just a few minutes.

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Using some black and brown acrylic paints, the entire surface was dry brushed and speckled with paint. Special attention was paid to getting the paint onto all the edges of the letters. This is just a preliminary dirtying, the real magic comes next.

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Using a couple of wire brushes the entire piece was scuffed and scratched. Certain area received a more rigorous scrubbing to remove the paint down to the bare metal. The edges were given special attention as they are naturally most likely to be worn down over the years. Now that the sign looks sufficiently beaten, it’s time to artificially age it using SCIENCE!

PLEASE NOTE! PROPER SAFETY EQUIPMENT IS A MUST!

This next step involves the use of muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Muriatic acid is a dangerous and volatile compound and must be used with utmost caution. At this step I have acid-proof gloves on, am using eye protection and a 3M respirator with 6002 acid vapor cartridges. I cannot stress the importance of safety enough when dealing with these materials. For home projects I recommend using vinegar (acetic acid) instead of the much more potent muriatic acid. To cause the metal to rust, the hydrogen peroxide was applied to all the bare metal surfaces. The muriatic acid was then diluted to about 10% by volume and sprayed onto the surface after about 25 seconds. The combination of these chemicals cause for the very quick formation of iron oxide. However the iron oxide is formed in a solution – the piece could be left to dry naturally, but we want this to rust even faster!

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A small butane torch was used to accelerate the reaction and evaporate the water. The concentration of the chemicals becomes greater as the water evaporates away and heat also helps accelerate the chemical process. The metal turned a beautiful array of rusty hues in just a few seconds. After all the rust had formed and the piece was dry, the torch was used to burn a few vinyl letters to add a little extra age.

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A file and a couple of wire brushed were then used to beat up the edges a bit more, lending the appearance of more recent damage. Once I thought that the sign had been aged enough I dropped it on the ground, just for good measure.

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Well there we have it. A vintage looking subway sign with real rust. This was a bit of an experiment with the acid method. There is a wide array of techniques usable for creating surfaces that look rusted, however if steel is being used as a base material there is no excuse for just making the real thing. This technique is great for pieces that are going to be hanging on a wall but I don’t recommend handling rust as it dusts off and is structurally much weaker, alternative techniques are preferred for props and armor.

Signing off,

Blender Timelapse – Forgelock Logo Doodle

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This isn’t any sort of official video release from us (we’re filming episode one today, in fact!) but I was playing around with the screen recording setup and my doodle turned into a Forgelock related logo thing, so we might as well post it! Just under two hours in real time, sped up about 8x so it’s not too boring but also not too quick so as to be meaningless if you wanted to follow along.

Also, there’s no audio so you can continue listening to whatever you’re listening to. Or, if you want suggestions, might I recommend soundtracking your entire life with this song on loop? Yes. Yes I do.

So enjoy! It’s nothing super complex. Still setting a ton of things up. If you have questions, ask them in the youtube comments. Also, as a side note, that’s my (Brennan’s) personal account which I’m just turning into this sort of non-official miscellaneous youtube server dump. Forgelock TV will still have all the “real” episodes when they start rolling.

Introducing Soulcrafting Video

Introducing Soulcrafting from Soulcrafting on Vimeo.

These sorts of projects and communities get me so jazzed up. Forgelock may or may not ever be a local thing like this aims to be for Boulder, CO, but we can aim to be a sort of online version, a clubhouse for makers and creators and covering as many diverse mediums as we can.

Go get making, whatever your medium is!

DIY GoPro Mount

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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

Egypt’s First Maker Faire

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Something we take for granted as huge events that happen in tons of cities every year, Egypt has had their own Maker Faire and it’s awesome.

There’s not much we can personally say, but the article is full of great quotes:

Hisham Khodeir of Fab Lab Egypt wants to work with the Karakeeb Makerspace [Karakeeb means “junk” in Arabic]. He admires what they have accomplished: “It is not about resources; it is about will.”

Flying quadcopter drones are apparently illegal, which is crazy to contrast with our country that has entire stores devoted to building and maintaining them. There’s something so inspiring about that scofflaw ‘makers gonna make’ attitude. Just take things and make new things; repeat.

SKILLS over Money
BUILDING over Buying
CREATION over Consumption

People want to work together and learn together, and if they can’t do it in school, they might have to find it in a fab lab or makerspace.

Forge Tools: 3D Printer

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We’re probably halfway through setting up shop and wanted to start getting into the nitty gritty of our tools and why we chose them. First up, our new 3D printer!

WHAT WE BOUGHT

This is the first generation Flashforge Creator. The ‘forge’ name is entirely coincidence, but a rather happy one. It’s made of wood (which we adore) and offers the usual Makerbot or RepRap style extrusion of PLA or ABS, which I’ll talk about a bit later. The first gen is different from the following generation in that it has two print heads instead of just one – I’m not really sure why since having two heads means you can print two colours in one build (or a support material) but we did notice the second head drags on the printing part a little bit if it’s not calibrated exactly right so it might just be a simplicity effort. We bought it gently used on eBay from a gentleman who talked (in a hand-written letter found in the box) hilariously and endearingly like a pirate. It was packaged in Mr. Clean Magic Erasers instead of bubble wrap and we received a free hot glue gun! All in all, A++ Would Buy Again. More fortunately than that, though, we bought it for less than half of the retail price so it goes to show that you can get cool toys if you’re willing to be patient and do your research.

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This is the beginning of week 3 playing around with it and it’s surprisingly accurate. The material is 1.7mm in diameter and it gets extruded through the 0.4mm nozzle to a print precision of 0.1mm and with a layer thickness between 0.1-0.5mm. We graciously recieved a small mountain of PLA and ABS spools from an industry friend and we’re still sort of figuring out the properties of each. They have a different melting point and so the temperatures we extrude them at need to be adjusted to keep the flow proper – 3D printing is an interesting balance because you need it to be hot enough that it’s melty and flowing through the nozzle but not too hot that it stays liquid very long on contact with the built part. If it’s too hot you’re printing liquid on top of semi-liquid and the whole thing just gets goopy and melted with bad results because there’s no maintained precision. Remember, the printer doesn’t actually know what’s happening with the part, it’s just extruding in the pattern the 3D model tells it to.

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These are the rough pre-calibration prints. Slightly blobbed and goopy on the top there.

WHY WE BOUGHT IT

Originally we were looking at non-extrusion methods, mostly into the UV light + pool of photosensitive resin styles because they had a much finer resolution which makes for a cleaner and smoother finished part. In the end, they’re still cost prohibitive for the hobbyist builder and we wanted to do tutorials with technology that was more widely available and, well, it’s conveniently much cheaper for us too. The grainier prints aren’t too big of a deal for prop making because we’ll likely be sanding or acetoning them smooth and finishing with primers / paints and the like anyway; the printed parts are more of a basic shape creation method to avoid the hand-cut tedium of mass foam or wood detail replication. It’s overall efficient to have a machine make cool shapes and we’re happy to spend a few hundred dollars to avoid the hundreds of hours of doing little detail things by hand. Some people enjoy that of course (and we do generally) but if prop making is a business idea for you, valuing your time at an hourly rate is essential for savvy business decisions about tools and build workflow.

Also, obviously, because it’s awesome and we’ve always wanted one. There was a big $50k machine in our design school lab and I’m pretty sure this table top machine is printing better than it did only a few years later for 1/100th the price. It’s actually crazy how fast this technology is evolving, and will continue to do so in the coming years.

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We discovered that the logo model Brennan made has a really awkward slope to those gear edges – you can see the terracing really defined because the angle of the slope is too flat, there’s not enough space between the height of the layers and the width of each flat surface to make it look smooth as a print. This’ll likely be fixed in either the model shape itself or a pass through the flat sander before painting.

Metal-look Paint Tutorial

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Happy wrenching!

The Forge Shop News!

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Many apologies for being silent last week, but we return with good news! The industrial bay shop area has been secured and we spent a good many hours with the forklift getting shelves moved around and palettes of tools put in place. It’s not quite done yet, but it’s moving forward and starting to take shape so we’re super excited.

In other news, our Flashforge Creator 3D printer arrived and we’ve been playing with that over the past few days. We bought it used and it arrived missing a nut on the back to hold one of the material spools on so naturally the first thing we printed was a replacement:

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Still getting it calibrated and playing with the material settings so the first prints are a little scratchy, but overall we’re impressed and excited to see how this’ll open up our other prop making abilities.

Alex is doing a tutorial on a quick method for metal-look painting MDF (or any material, really) so watch for that coming up and we’re hoping to dive into a bit of Blender modelling to 3D printing workflow stuff once we figure it out ourselves.


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