Since I have a lot of bicycles and that means I do a lot of bicycle maintenance. Eventually a bicycle chain wears out and I have to install a new chain. This happens more than I would like to admit so I have a plethora of worn out chains. Throw them away? I say NO ! ... reuse, recycle, re-purpose!
The holidays are approaching and I decided to make a number of gifts this year. Since only my friends and family actually read my instructables those people might want to stop reading here or risk spoiling your holiday surprise! This project is awesome because one chain produces a LOT of ornaments (I get an average of 10 ornaments per chain). It is easy to assemble, inexpensive, and it recycles what would otherwise be in the trash.
But how do you make this awesome ornament? Stay tuned I am about to instruct. This holiday project can be done very quickly so buckle up and lets go for a bicycle ride!
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Step 1: The Tools Needed for This Project
- Rubber gloves for handing the chain and the solvents
- Super glue to make the chain take on the star shape
- Chain breaker get a quality breaker if you can find one
- Hammer or pliers to reassemble the chain
- Nails (not pictured) to make a jig to hold the chain
- Wire hooks (not pictured), check the box stores in the holiday section
Step 2: Degrease Your Chains
For this project I re-purposed four (4) worn out chains. I put the chains in an empty 2 liter bottle and used a solvent to break down the grease/oil inside the bicycle chains. You can use Simple Green, mineral spirits, WD-40 or gasoline, just be careful to handle and dispose of the solvent safely.
Fill the bottle with solvent enough to cover the chains. Screw the cap tight on the bottle, and shake the bottle so the solvent gets inside the chain and washes away the oil and grease.
I left the chains to soak in the bottle for a long time and the grease settled at the bottom. When everything has settled cut the top of the bottle off and remove the chains. Wipe them with a rag to remove any grease on the outside and safely dispose of the solvent. Use gloves when handling the chains to avoid getting grease and solvent on your skin.
Step 3: Break the Chain Into Lengths of Five (5) Links
A bicycle chain has two opposite ends that fit into each other. Keep this in mind when breaking the chain. The key is to break the chain so the new end is the opposite of the original end.
Push out the link pin until the inner chain can separate, but so the pin is still held on by the outer link plate. This can be tricky, but is faster than pushing the pin all the way out and having to put the pin back in later.
You want a length of five (5) full links when done correctly. Keep breaking the chain until you use up all the chains. It is faster to keep breaking than to go back and forth with the next steps.
Be careful to get the chain breaker rod centered on each step. If the chain is not in all the way, the rod could bend or break. Remember to count out five full links before breaking the chain! Measure twice and cut once!
Step 4: Put the Links Back Together
Now that the chain is in five link sections you want to join the two ends to make a small circle.
Line up the opposite ends place on a hard surface and hammer the pin back in place to complete the circle.
Alternately you could use the wrench to push the pin back or put the other side of the chain in the chain breaker and push the pin back in. Hammering was much faster and statisfying.
Step 5: Make a Jig to Hold the Shape
The circle of bicycle chain is pretty hard to mold into the star shape without some assistance. I came up with the idea to build a jig out of scrap lumber and some finishing nails. Use five finishing nails (the ones without heads) so you can slide the chain in and out.
To make the jig put the first chain into the star pattern. Put a nail in all five corners of the star shape so it is held tightly in there. You may need to bend the nails to adjust the fit, but make sure the chain is held tight so all sides are even.
I built two more jigs to hold a total of three stars. The jig only has to be made once and will save time when making the star shape.
Step 6: Glue the Chain Links
Now that you have the chain in the star shape you want it to stay that way. I found that super glue on the interior plates of the chain works particularly well. By the time the third star is glued, the first one is likely dry so you can remove the star.
Be careful not to glue the chain to the jig or the board. You only need a little bit of super glue on the interior plates and that holds the shape very well. Add glue where necessary always on the interior links.
Step 7: Assemble!
Remove the stars from the jig when the glue is dry and repeat the cutting, joining, and gluing steps until you have made all the stars you want.
The final step is to put the wire hanger inside the chain and bend it closed. The silver wire hooks can be found at the big box stores for hanging regular ornaments. The ornament hooks are cheap and work well in this application.
I have seen other people paint the stars, that is up to you. I am giving mine as gifts to my friends who ride bicycles so I think they would prefer to see the raw chain.
If you make some of these ornaments please post comments below. I would love to see how yours turn out and if you have any improvements to the process.
One of the comments was to create alternate shapes. By adding one link for a total of six full links you can get a shape similar to the star of david. By removing one link for a total of four links you can get a different star. I also created a triangle shape with a total of three links. Check out the pictures and get creative on the shape design.
Thanks for reading, now go out and ride your bike!
Bikes can be ridden even in the winter!
Step 8: Paint the Ornaments (optional)
Here is what I used to paint the ornaments:
- Acrylic paint
- Small paint brushes
- Something to protect your table (I used tin foil)
- A plastic lid to hold some of the paint