I was making a new watch-strap for myself out of paracord. As I was progressing, I kept checking with my home-made jig to make sure the length of weaving before the watch was correct, and after the watch was correct, taking into account the size of the nylon side release buckle.
As I was musing, I started to consider the feasibility of a watch strap without a buckle. I don’t know why, it just bubbled into my mind, and once there I started to gnaw at it like a bone. Maybe I was considering the amount of space a buckle takes up, and therefore, if one could be made smaller, and not smack in the centre of the bracelet, maybe more of the weaving work could be visible. It struck me as a reasonable goal.
I decided, right there, that what was needed was a little clip which could be woven into one end of a paracord bracelet, to clip over the little bar which holds the watch band onto the watch. Simple enough, I thought. What was needed was to weave the bracelet onto one side of the watch, providing a permanent (for the life of the bracelet) connection between watch and bracelet. Either it would be woven directly to the watch (please see diagram ’04 watch with paracord’ ) or it could be woven around a slim armature, like a toothpick, and later connected to the watch. This is probably the simplest way.
Before properly launching into this Instructable, I wish to thank the following for some of the visual material in this Instructable. Photos of paracord bracelets, and the side-release black nylon buckle come from the Bored Paracord website, and for that I am grateful. The watch illustration used in the Instructable are from the Gallery section of public 3d objects on Tinkercad, this watch model was made by Ilkka Peltola, and I am grateful that it was made public and available for derivative illustration. (Photos 01, 02 and 03 show a typical buckle and typical bracelets. I am sure you don’t really need these pictures for enlightenment.)
Step 1: PARACORD
Regarding the paracord element, I like making paracord bracelets and watch bands. I have been making them for a number of years and I gain a lot of pleasure from the practice. I enjoy seeing the many designs which have been developed over the years, on websites such as Tying It All Together (TIAT,) Bored Paracord, Stormdrain’s Blog and Pinterest, to name but a few. I can’t say I have any sort of emergency or survival requirement from these bracelets, I just find them attractive and I like making them.
Step 2: 3D PRINTING
Regarding the 3d printing element, well, that’s a different story. The thing is, until very recently I just didn’t get it. I did not see the point. I watched YouTube videos and such, and I did a bit of casual research, but I just didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I did not see how making a £1 thingamajig on a 3d printer, at the cost of £10, made the slightest bit of sense. When I can go and buy a widget or cheapo plastic item for a few pence, why would I buy an expensive piece of kit, spend hours and hours setting it up, to replicate something at a cost factor in the thousands of percent? What’s even more fundamentally confusing is why I would go to certain websites to find these 3d models to 3d print. What on earth is it all about? Surely if a person believes they need a 3d printer, it’s to make stuff that they have designed, and can’t find made by anyone else.
Well, I have to say that the last few days have possibly changed my views, and I may well be a convert. We will have to see. However, in the mean time, I’m not going to dash out and buy a 3d printer any time soon, because I simply cant afford it, and can’t (yet) justify it.
Step 3: PROJECT CONCEPT
What I imagined in my mind was a clip which simply slid over the little bar, and was woven permanently to the bracelet by way of a rectangular hole in the clip. (Please see diagrams ’05, 06 and 07’ which are named ‘clip 3qtr 1, 2 and 3’. Along with ’08 clipthing cross section.’)
So, there I was, with the notion of a little object, which would need to have a certain amount of strength, whist also having flexible properties. It would need to be robust enough to last a good while, and survive the process of daily clipping on and off the watch. It needed to be dimensionally accurate, because the place on the watch for fitting has relatively small dimensions. It would need to be a plastic of some sort.
At this time, this project was nothing more than an intellectual exercise, with no prospect of ever being brought to fruition to make the idea demonstrably workable, or expose it as bonkers.
This is the point when I realised that although I was never going to be able to go through even the prototyping phase, in order to manufacture millions of these things by injection moulding, what was needed was a simple, quick, cheap way to make prototypes to validate the idea. And what better method for this than 3d printing?
Step 4: PROJECT REALISATION
I contacted a friend who I knew had a 3d printer, and sent him a 2d diagram I had sketched in Illustrator. He came back with an offer to re-create the model in 3d, and then print it, or he suggested that as I had some experience in illustration and some 3d packages, I should have a go with Tinkercad, to make a 3d model which he could then 3d print.
I had a quick look at Tinkercad, and although it’s extremely unsophisticated in its capabilities, one thing going for it is that it’s free, and it’s simple to learn. I created prototype 1 and sent the stl file to my friend. My friend asked a number of pointed questions, then went ahead and printed the model. When I received the output, I realised why he’d asked his pointed questions. The thing was horribly weak, and nowhere near properly designed. Prototype 2 was a better fit, and with further modifications to the dimensions and the design, prototype 3 became the working version. I have since again refined the design very slightly, but where we are now is perfect for my needs.
Diagram ’09 watch with clip’ shows the way the clip needs to be rotated before being offered up to the little bar. Diagram ’10 watch fitting clip’ is the juxtaposition of the clip and watch pin prior to fitting. Diagram ’11 watch fitting clip 2’ shows the bar slotting into the clip, and diagram ’12 watch clip fitted’ shows how the clip rotates inline with the weaving when fitting has been accomplished successfully. Photo ’13’ is a picture of the clip as fitted to my watch. I guess white would not be the first colour of choice, but this exercise is about proving a design, not aesthetics.
One small benefit of my little clip, I guess, is that if you don’t use a big side release buckle, you get to carry a few extra inches of paracord, just in case the stuff really does hit the fan.
Pictures 14, 15, 16, and 17, show the actual item, at the third level of prototype - ie, ‘final’ version. Picture 18 shows it fitted to my watch, more close up.
As an aside, I also considered the notion of weaving a little clip into both ends of a bracelet, one opposite way up to the other, such that they ‘mate,’ and form a link which can be opened and closed at will. Again, without the side release buckle, a slight bonus in cordage is achieved. Diagram ’19 bracelet clip,’ shows what I mean.
So, there it is. Not a significant discovery, not a mind blowing invention, just a little thingumabob which does exactly what I decided I required. Furthermore, it enabled me to properly evaluate the value of 3d printing, through direct personal experience, rather than relying on 3rd party opinion, or propaganda in the media.
Step 5: CONCLUSION
So, does this mean I am converted now, and convinced of the usefulness of 3d printing?? Well, I am not sure. Certainly, if a 3d printer fell into my lap I’d be delighted. I can fully understand the notion of quick and small scale prototyping, and proving of concepts, of that there is now not a shred of doubt in my mind. Would I have a use for one? Yes. Can I justify buying one? well, not right now, because I am a retired old fart on a pension, and I have to choose my toys with considerable care ;) . Thanks for showing enough interest in my little project to have got this far.