First of all, I've been a long-time fan of Instructables and I have finally decided to pull the trigger on my first entry (finally being a contributing member of society!). That said, I only recently (yesterday) thought of actually making this thing. This is mostly due to seeing a commercially made product on the market (really cool looking, but overall too expensive for me) as well as another recent Instructable by mstyle183 in which a neat-looking 3D-printed wrist tool was shown.
Since I don't have a 3D printer readily at my disposal, I tried to figure out a way to make a comparable item with tools and materials that I had at hand. After coming up with a prototype last night using 1/4" copper tubing, I started to think it might actually be possible. This morning/afternoon, I cranked it out and have been pretty happy with the results. I wanted to get it done in time to enter in the Apocalypse Preparedness Contest as well as the Bracelet Challenge, so please consider voting for me in those (the deadline to submit is tonight, but you can vote for a few more days)!
In order to do this Instructable, you will need to know how to safely use a pipe cutter, blow torch, and wire wheel (if you choose). Of course, don't forget to safely use your brain and best judgement!
Without further ado, here's how to make a Wrist Multi-Tool of Copper and Paracord.
Step 1: Materials
Feel free to change this up as you see fit. Otherwise, this is what I used:
- 1/4" copper tubing (~18" of length)
- paracord (~3' length and ~1.5' length. This will give you plenty of extra.)
- paracord clips (I think I got mine from Walmart)
- solder flux and brush
- solder (preferably lead-free since this will be in contact with your skin)
- precision screwdriver set with 5/32" bits (I got mine from Harbor Freight a long time ago. Here's one for ~$7
Step 2: Tools
- pipe cutter (or hacksaw would be fine, but a bit more work)
- blow torch
- lighter (for fusing the paracord ends, so the torch would work for this too)
- knife and/or scissors
- sand paper (I used 220 grit, but whatever you have around to scuff up the copper)
- safety glass and welding gloves
- (optional) Philips screwdriver for de-burring the tube cuts
- (optional) center punch for opening/flaring the tube ends as needed and for dimpling the copper to clamp the tool in
- a scrap piece of wood on which to heat up the copper for "sweating" (aka, melting solder on it)
- a wire-wheel for cleaning up the copper
- (optional) combination square for measuring/marking a bunch of little lengths
Step 3: Cutting and Cleaning the Copper
Since the screwdriver bits had roughly 3/4" of a shaft before the business end, I cut all the tubing to 3/4". I found it useful to use a combination square clamped to that length and then using the corner of the ruler part to scratch where the cut needed to be (see 2nd picture). My wristband ended up using 6 "links" and each link had 4 tube pieces. So, with my amazing math skills, I figured this out to be 24 pieces in total and 18" of tubing used.
After all the pieces are cut out, they'll need to be cleaned/scuffed with the sandpaper so that they are ready for soldering. They should be nice and shiny with visible scratches in them to help with the solder capillary action (wicking).
Step 4: Flux, Clamp, Heat, and Sweat
With the pieces now cleaned, they need to be coated in flux. I'm not the most experienced or graceful when it comes to soldering copper, especially since the solder in this case will be holding the tubing side-by-side instead of one piece inside another (as you would otherwise when joining copper pipes and joints). So, I simply lathered them each up with flux.
Since there isn't a natural connection to keep the pieces together, I ended up making a simple band to wrap around them to keep them in place. For me, I had some extra copper wire (14 gauge) that I hammered into flat straps and then formed around 4 pieces at a time. It helps that this strap isn't necessarily cleaned or fluxed so that the solder doesn't want to join them to the parts.
With the fluxed parts banded together, I set them flat on a scrap piece of wood, making sure their ends are lined up and they're all flat. Although it would work on other surfaces, it would be best to pick a material that won't conduct heat well so that you don't have to heat up the entire surface before your part gets to temperature. If you use wood as I did, just keep an eye on it that you don't start a fire (or at least make sure it doesn't get out of control).
Put on your gloves and glasses!
Light up your torch and start applying heat to the parts. You'll see the flux disappear, but don't heat it to the point of charring it. You'll know it's hot enough when the solder readily melts into it. Just make sure you only heat the copper and not the solder. To check, you would remove the flame and touch the solder to the seam between the parts. Again, you may want to consult other sources for how to properly sweat copper since I'm not the best of examples in this regard! Ideally, the solder would immediately fill in the seam between each piece. This would typically happen quite fast, so don't keep the solder on the part for too long, or else you'll get too much solder and it may not look the way you want it.
Set the parts aside in a safe place to allow to cool. Although there is only a relatively small surface area that each piece is connected, the mating is surprisingly strong. I had originally thought I would need to attach the band around them for added strength (that's actually why I originally made the bands, but found it to be too much hassle to attach them when it was strong enough without them).
Step 5: (Optional) Wire Wheel Cleanup
If you want to clean up the parts since the soldering process will likely discolor it a bit, I suggest clamping the part in a pair of vise grips and clean them up with a wire wheel. I'm sure you could use sand paper or some other abrasive, but power tools speed things up a bit (that's kind of the point, isn't it?).
Be careful when doing this step so the part doesn't come loose and go flying somewhere. It would be wise to still have your glasses on, but probably not your gloves as these could get caught in the spinning wheel.
Step 6: Pressing the Bits In
Pick out your favorite screwdriver bits that will be inserted into each link. There would be 2 bits for each link, so find 12 that you think would serve you the best. I made sure to have a small and large of each of the ones I thought important (2 philips, 2 flat-head or "common", then an assortment of torx and allen--my set didn't have any square bits).
Also, you'll want to be strategic with the placement of the bits in that you'll likely want to stagger the large and small. In other words, where two links meet, it would make sense to have a large and small bit instead of 2 large ones. See the last picture to get the idea of this offset pattern. You may want to consider which side of your link looks better so that the good looking solder joints are on top. I definitely had some ugly looking solder on some of them that I kept hidden on the bottom!
Some of the holes will likely be too small for the larger bits to fit due to the way the pipe cutter pinches in. So, I used a philips screwdriver to remove this little bit of burr. However, I suggest leaving the burr on the opposite side since this will help form the tube around the bit as it is pressed in. This keeps it nice and snug.
Position the bit above the opening of the desired tube (remember, we're using the middle two tubes for the bits. The outer two will be used for the paracord). I chose to press the bits through and poke through the other side (hammering the backside of the bit) instead of hammering against the business end of each bit and stopping when the backside was just flush with the other opening. If you hammer on the business end, you will likely damage/destroy your bit. Also, the natural taper of each bit makes it easier to start a bit. However, this way you will need to make sure you have clearance under the part.
I took another scrap of wood and drill a small hole in it so the bit can peek through the hole as I hammered. Hammer the bit until the backside is flush with the hole. You may even want to use a center punch or nail to drive the bit a little deeper into the tube.
Even after the bit it pressed into the tube, it may feel a little loose. To fix this, I placed the part on its side and then dimpled the bottom of where that bit was located with the punch (see 2nd to last picture). This would clamp in the bit a little more securely. Alternatively, I think it would work if you wanted to try to solder the ends of the tubes. The solder might even wick in to fill any gaps around each bit better. Let me know if you try this! I assumed that if any of the bits ever get loose over time or start spinning in their tubes, I would try this technique to fix it.
Step 7: Threading in the Paracord
The paracord serves two purposes: it keeps the whole thing together as a wristband and the weave can be used to cover/protect each of the bit heads so they don't have the tendency to snag/scratch things. The method I chose to use was a simple 3-strand braid. Other techniques would likely work as well, but this made the most sense to me without adding a lot of bulk to the whole thing.
Start by taking the longer of the two paracord strands and folding in half. Take the loop end and thread it through the clip. With the loop open on the other side of the clip, fish the remainder of the cord ends through but don't pull too tight yet. This will give you a secure connection to the clip.
Next, thread the second strand of paracord though the loop made previously. Just have a half inch or so sticking out so there's some wiggle room for adjustments. Pull the loop tight now. You should have 3 strands sticking out the back of the clip. If you want, you can melt the short end of paracord together to secure them. I prefer to not melt them together in case I want to change things in the future.
With the three strands, perform a braid weave. I'm sure there's a lot of different ways to do this, but we ultimately want some sort of criss-cross that would cover the bit head but does not naturally untwist. Also, this weave works as a spacer to keep the links at their appropriate distances from each other. I would take the middle cord and move it to the right, the cord originally on the right and move it to the far left, and the one originally on the left goes over both and is now the new middle.
Take your first link and make sure the remaining 4 holes are open and clear. You don't want any burrs that might snag the cord and make it difficult to thread through. The paracord end should have a little taper or point to it instead of being flat. That way cord tip can fit through the hole since the tubing is barely bigger than the cord to begin with.
Now, the left and right cords will go through the left and right holes of the link, respectively. The middle cord goes over the top of the link. On the other side of the link, repeat the braid process (middle to right, right to left, left to middle) keeping in mind the order of each cord on top of each other so that the braid looks consistent.
You will then repeat this process for the remaining links. Since your wrist may be smaller than mine, you might find out that having all 6 links ends up being too long. You could either simply have 5 links or come up with a different clip/clasping method. Also, make sure you have all the previous links good and tight, while still being flexible enough to bend around the wrist.
Step 8: Finishing Up
After you've woven in all your links, finish up with one more braid before tying in the other part of the clip. Thread all 3 strands through the clip. Here, you may want to be a bit creative in how you want to end your wristband. I tied it all together with the intent on leaving the ends un-melted together so that I could potentially undo it and change things in the future. Also, the knot you do should make sure the last braid doesn't undo itself. Ultimately, this last step needs to serve the purpose of securing the end of the cord and removing the excess, but still be aesthetically pleasing to you.
I have found that after a while of wearing it, I feel some poking from the ends of the cord that I terminated on the bottom of the bracelet (so the ends would be hidden). I'll likely come up with a way of either tucking this ends in or smoothing them out.
Step 9: Final Thoughts...
Other than the paracords ends being a little poky, I've found the wristband to be very comfortable.
Although copper has been used for jewelry for quite a while, you should be aware that it may start leaving your skin green. To prevent this, you could either coat the copper with some sort of clear coat or paint (look up instructions on how to properly paint metal surfaces) or simply keep the copper clean. As a bracelet, the copper shouldn't get too gross since it is constantly moving and can air out fairly easily (as opposed to a ring that would likely turn your finger green quite quickly).
If you didn't want to use copper, I'm sure you could substitute it with a different metal, but then you wouldn't have the convenience of using the simple solder (you would need to weld or braze instead). Alternatively, I considered using rectangular tubing to secure the bits into and then tapping holes in which screws would fasten everything else.
Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated and let me know if you end up making this! Don't forget to vote for me!
If you like this, but can't/don't want to make it, I could probably be convinced to construct some more for a modest fee! Just let me know if you're interested.