Introduction: Bicycle Chain Waxer

About: I enjoy hiking and plant foraging... but most of time I do chores!

There are many ways to apply lubricant to a bicycle. One way is to apply paraffin wax to the chain. This is typically done by taking the chain off using a chain breaker. This instructable will show you how to make a chain waxer that does not require the chain to be removed from the bicycle.

Step 1: Patterning & Forming

The hot wax container must allow the chain to go into it and come out of it. The easiest shape I could come up with was a triangle shaped trough. The pattern is shown above and should be scaled for larger or smaller sizes, depending on the size of the heating element. I got my heating element from a coffee mug warmer and it was square shaped so I made the sides of the trough slightly bigger than the heating element. The triangles pictured are 45° angles. The material is think mild steel sheet metal.

Cutting the pattern will require tin shears. Small slivers from the sheet should be cut to prevent it from bending. To cut the bendable flaps, a hacksaw is used to cut notches without warping.

Lastly, to bend the metal without warping, the bend is clamped between two pieces of thicker steel and beat with a wooden block until it forms a 90° angle.

Step 2: Tank Formation

The following shows how the melting tank is formed by bending step by step:

  1. Bend the wing-flaps
  2. Bend the bottom / base
  3. Bend the wings in
  4. Bend the top-flaps down

Step 3: Tank Soldering

Solder the tank inside and outside. To do so, clamp the tank, apply soldering flux, and solder. Use a heatgun to provide more heat while soldering as necessary. You'll probably need a high wattage soldering iron for this to succeed. I used a 40 watt soldering iron.

Step 4: Heater Post

The heater for the tank is taken from a 10-16 watt coffee mug heater. I found mine for $3 USD at a goodwill thrift shop. When taken apart, the heating element is as pictured. Only the heating element and electrical cord is required. The heating element should be insulated from the AC by some type of insulator. As pictured, my heating element uses mica as an insulator.

The following steps should be taken:

  1. Put the heating element in the middle of one side of the tank and mark with a permanent marker
  2. Score around the center mark
  3. Strip any zinc-coating on a machine screw (flat-top) using muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid)
  4. Apply solder to the center mark
  5. Apply solder to the screw head
  6. Solder the screw to the center mark
  7. File around the screw to remove excess solder
  8. Shorten the screw as necessary

Step 5: Body Holes

The following steps are taken to make screw-holes for the body:

  1. Trace the edge of one piece against another
  2. Make lines from either edge 2 times as far away as you want the screw hole
  3. Make an 'X' in the box formed
  4. Indent the center of the 'X'
  5. Drill the center of the 'X' using a drill press
  6. Tape the drilled piece to its complement
  7. Drill through the pre-drilled piece with a hand drill to make room for the screw

Step 6: Screw and Cut

In this step, screw the box together and cut excess metal off the melter:

  1. Screw holes into pre-drilled holes
  2. Apply transparent tape between the metal-to-wood junction
  3. Secure the heating tank to the metal using mounting putty
  4. Trace the excess metal with a permanent marker
  5. Cut excess off with tin snips

Step 7: Secure the Tank

In this step, secure the tank to the wood:

  1. Remove the transparent tape
  2. Align the tank to the wood using putty and trace the inside
  3. Mark and drill edge holes in metal
  4. Drill through metal to wood
  5. Enlarge the holes
  6. Screw the holes

Step 8: Top and Bottom

In this step, create the bottom:

  1. Trace a scrap piece along each edge
  2. Make center-holes on each edge
  3. Pre-drill and test-screw the base

Next, create the lid:

  1. Make center marks on the lid for plunger
  2. Pre-drill the holes the plunger
  3. Drill through the lid into the plunger piece
  4. Secure the plunger piece

Step 9: Attach Hinges

In this step, attach hinges:

  1. Secure lid to body using tape
  2. Trace hinge holes
  3. Score and drill holes (don't drill into the tank body)
  4. Shorten body screws using a grinding bit
  5. Attach the lid

Step 10: Final Woodworking

In this step, finish woodworking:

  1. Remove material in the middle using a rasp
  2. Drill holes for electrical coord
  3. Apply a finish (if desired), I used a polyurethane stain and clear coat

Step 11: Closure

In this step, close the unit:

  1. Stuff the side walls with fiberglass insulation with a piece of sheet metal
  2. Cover any exposed metal parts inside with insulation
  3. Connect the heater to cord using wire nuts
  4. Cover the wire nuts with insulation
  5. Cover the cord with bottom piece
  6. Flip the unit over and trim excess insulation

Step 12: Use

To use the heater, do the following:

  1. Place pieces of wax into the melter and plug it in
  2. Wait for pieces to melt
  3. Put some protection on the ground
  4. Close the lid over the bicycle chain
  5. Move the melter along the chain
  6. Spin the pedal to move the chain
  7. Repeat [5-6] until the whole chain has been waxed

I recommend trying to apply a thin coat of wax by moving the chain slowly. Too much wax can get between cogs and actually make shifting and skipping more likely. If possible, I think this makes a great maintenance waxer, but I think it's important to soak the chain in wax using a slow-cooker the first time around.