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This Instructable will help you turn ordinary nuts and bolts into super useful self-locking wingnuts and wingbolts.

I use these at the joints of my custom table-top camera arm. Normal wingnuts can be used by hand, but don't lock well when they are 1/4" or bigger and lock-nuts with nylon inserts are impossible to use with your bare hands, so I came up with something incorporating the best parts of each.

Note: These instructions assume that you already know how to work with Sugru so I won't go very deep into the actual forming of it and go straight to the construction of the nuts and bolts.

Step 1: Gathering Your Tools and Materials

For this project, you'll need the following materials:

  • Sugru of course (I found that one 5g packet is enough to create one 1/4" wingnut and bolt set)
  • nuts and bolts (I used a 1/4 - 20 and 3/8 - 16 here, almost any size will work)
  • 8" section of 2 x 4 (you'll need one with at least one very flat side)
  • wax paper (also referred to as parchment paper)
  • wooden dowels (the diameter should be such that you can slide the nut on and off with little effort)
  • scotch tape

You'll need these tools, if you're used to working with Sugru I'm sure you'll have a few preferrences here:

  • Sugru working supplies (although I have good results just using my bare fingers, you might find this link useful)
  • drill bits to match the diameters of your bolts (ie. 1/4" bit for 1/4" bolt, 3/8" bit for 3/8" bolt)
  • hand drill or drill press
  • widget or Exacto knife

Step 2: Prepping the Forming Tool (the 2 X 4)

Okay, so the forming tool is actually a section of 2 x 4 with some holes in it. LOL
You want to make sure you are working with the flattest side of the forming tool.

  1. Drill a hole for each part you plan top make. For example, if you're making one full set of wing fasteners (a wingnut with matching wingbolt) you will need to drill two holes. Make sure you space the holes out so that you have enough space to work on each of the parts.
  2. Once you have the holes drilled you want to wrap the forming tool in a layer of wax paper. You only need to cover the surface you will be working on, but again, cover enough area to give you space to work on the parts. You can use tape to secure the edges. The wax paper will help to keep the Sugru from adhering to the forming tool.
  3. You should still be able to see the holes through the wax paper. Push a dowel into one hole and push the bolt into the other. The dowel will fit in the hole loosely. Slide the nut all the way down onto the dowel at this point making sure the nut is in contact with the wax paper. (Before I do this step I usually rough up the surfaces of the nut and bolt head with a little sandpaper. You don't have to do this since the Sugru will stick anyway. The sanding is just for my own piece of mind.)
  4. Take a 1/2" wide strip of wax paper and wrap it around the dowel making sure it is in contact with the top of the nut and secure it with a piece of tape. Don't make the strip too long since you don't want the diameter of the dowel to grow too much. You just want enough on there to keep the Sugru from sticking to the dowel.

Step 3: Forming the Sugru

Now, the fun begins. (I used different colors here so you can follow the parts)
Note: I found that working too slow will allow the Sugru to start forming a skin a decrease the strength of the final bond. Plan your moves out a little in advance and you should have no problems.

  1. Roll some Sugru flat and cut strips of it as wide as the nut is high. I like to use a widget. I push the blade straight down on it and it works well in making cuts with nice clean edges.
  2. Use the same technique to cut some wings. Two each per nut and bolt. The size of the wings of course will differ by the size of the nut and bolt you are working with. I like to cut a section from the strip I made to wrap around the nut and bolt head.
  3. Wrap the strips you cut in step #1 around the sides of the nut and head of the bolt making sure you apply enough pressure to push the Sugru all the way down to the surface of the wax paper. Smooth out the seams on the sides where the Sugru meets applying enough pressure to make the Sugru adhere to itself.
  4. Make a small ball of Sugru and mash it on top of the bolt to cover the top of the bolt. Press the top and sides to close the Sugru together to make a fully enclosed cap around the bolt head.
  5. For the nut, you can roll out a short strip and wrap it around the dowel right on top of the nut. Press and form it, again bringing the top and side together. You should now have a cap on the nut just like the one on the bolt, but with the dowel sticking through.
  6. Go around the top of the nut and make slits in it. I find that four equally space slits work well. You can experiment with more or less for different amounts of locking force. The slits should go all the way to the dowel and all the way down to the top surface of the nut. This will allow the Sugru to open up when the bolt comes through on that side of the nut.
  7. Take the wings you cut in step #2 and press them into the Sugru covered nut and bolt head making sure to apply enough pressure to get the Sugru to stick to itself.
  8. Inspect the nut and bolt and make any adjustments you need to. You may have deformed the cap a little or closed up one of the slits you made while attaching the wings.
  9. Once you're satisfied with the way they look, let them sit for 24 hours to cure. (I know, this is the hard part. LOL)

Step 4: Removing the Finished Wingnuts and Wingbolts From the Form

TADA!

Once the Sugru is cured to full strength you should be able to pull the parts off the forming tool with a little pressure. I like to give them a little twist as if I'm screwing them out and that seems to break them from the wax paper fairly nicely. The wingnuts should slide off the dowel with minimal force as well. I find that sometimes the paper will stay when I slide the dowel out, but that is easily removed.

Step 5: Putting Your Newly Minted Parts to Work

Okay, you are now ready to secure things on your workbench. Screw the bolt into the nut as you would normally. Once you start getting a little resistance look at the slits in the wingnut to ensure that they are opening properly. If any of them are stuck you can push the blade of the widget down into it. Once you see that all the tabs are moving freely go ahead and screw the bolt the rest of the way in. You will see how the tabs apply just the right amount of pressure to keep the bolt from backing out of the nut. You will also have some of the Sugru that has move beyond the sides of the nut and bolt head. I find that these edges provide a nice non-slip surface to the parts you are securing together.

Hope you enjoy using these as much as I do. :)

<p>How much danger is there of the sugru fusing to itself after extended use?</p>
<p>Do you mean the Sugru at the slits or the Sugru at the mating surfaces of the nut and bolt. I don't think there is any danger of it fusing to itself after it's cured at either spot. It pretty much turns into rubber after 24 hours. So far the wingnuts and wingbolts are still working fine.</p>
<p>I meant at the mating surfaces. I don't know a ton about sugru, so the properties are quite fuzzy to me. It seemed a bit pricey to me and I don't know a ton about it so I haven't added a supply to my resources yet. I might have to though, this gives me some thoughts :)</p>
<p>This is exactly what I need to clamp my swing-arm lamp to my workbench. I think I'll make 3 or 4 sets of these to keep on hand. Great job!</p>
<p>What's a widget? is it one of those scraping tools with a replaceable blade?</p>
<p>It is indeed one of those scraping tools with the replaceable blade. Somehow it didn't make it into the picture with the tools. Sorry about that.</p>
Great use of Sugru.
<p>This is an excellent idea! </p><p>I've needed something like this several times, and always had to choose between locknuts or wingnuts. Nice to see a happy middle-ground sugru solution! </p><p>Nicely done!</p>

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Bio: I have always had an interest in electronics and robotics and have been tinkering ever since I can remember. I have held positions at various ... More »
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