I took a job two years ago that required me to go from occasional tie wearing to daily tie wearing. In order to keep my tie from flopping into food and generally making a nuisance of itself I picked up a tie bar. For those of you who don't know a tie bar is clip that holds your tie to your shirt. I picked mine up at a 50% off sale at a department store, but generally they run around $20 (U.S.) and as a rule are pretty inoffensive and bland. I bought a couple of vintage tie clips at a used clothing store for $5 a shot that were more interesting (and economical) but none of them really allowed me to express myself. So I decided I would modify a tie bar in such a way that I could change it at will to express myself. My solution was to incorporate magnets with the tie bar to allow me to attach whatever I feel best represents me on a particular morning. The best part is this project's possibilities are nearly limitless, cost very little, and reuse items. Here's how I made it.
(WARNING: If you have to wear an electronic identification badge on a lanyard around your neck this project isn't for you. Your badge will hang perilously close to a magnet and your human resources folks won't be amused if you destroy your badge. If you want to do this project make sure you get a belt clip for your badge.)
Also be aware that you can jostle the faces loose from the tie bar so you'll want to remove the face before you put on a jacket or keep a spare face in your pocket if you lose one.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
You'll need the following materials:
- Tie bar
- Magnet (small and strong)
- Ferrous scrap metal
Decorative piece of some sort. Some examples I used are:
- Lapel pins
- Broaches/Big Pins
- Pin on buttons
- Cuff links
- E-6000 (or your favorite adhesive)
- Clear spray paint (optional)
- Dremel (with various cutting and grinding attachments)
- Dremel Flex Shaft Stand (Optional but very handy)
- Diagonal cutters
- Utility knife
- Padded clamps (small)
- Dust Collection System (Optional but highly recommended)
- Bench vise
- Bench Vise Work Piece Protectors (Optional but highly recommended)
Step 2: Preparing the Tie Bar - High Profile
The basis of this project is a tie bar with a magnet. I made two different versions to meet to different needs. The first version has a larger magnet that is higher profile (taller) to hold larger objects. The other version has a smaller chunk of magnet that is nearly flush with the surface of the tie bar to accommodate flat objects. In this step I describe how to make the high profile tie bar. The low profile tie bar will be described in the next step.
The high profile tie bar is very simple to make. It involves simply gluing a small thick magnet to the tie bar. Since I use salvaged materials as much as possible I had clean some loose paint off my magnet of choice with fine grit sand paper. With that done I placed a dab of E-6000 on the magnet and a dab on the approximate center of the tie bar. I then pressed the the two together and secured them with a small padded clamp. After the glue cured I used a utility knife to trim away the excess E-6000.
With the high profile done it is time to move on to the low profile.
Step 3: Preparing the Tie Bar - Low Profile
The low profile tie bar requires a bit more work because we need the magnet to be as close to flush with the surface of the tie bar as it is intended to hold flatter objects. You can use the high profile tie bar for flat objects, but it just looked goofy. The test objects looked like they were hovering away from my chest. This would be fine if I were a bad magician, but since I'm not I wanted a more subtle look.
So I started with a tie bar that had the makings of a good hole already and a relatively flat magnet. I used a high speed cutting bit in my Dremel inside a dust collection system to sever the two prongs that are holding the decrotive bit in the hole. I then used needle files to clean up the edges of the hole.
Once the hole was smoothed out I used it as a template to mark the magnet for cutting. With it marked I placed the magnet in my dust collection system and used my Dremel with a metal cutting disk to make a couple of gross cuts in the magnet. I then braced the magnet in a small C-clamp and used a grinding wheel to refine the magnet's shape. When it was small enough I secured it in the hole with E-6000, making sure the back of the magnet was flush with the back of the tie bar. This is to minimize the chance of the magnet snagging on my tie. This leaves the front of the magnet slightly raised on the front of the tie bar, but doesn't look like it is levitating.
With the high and low profile tie bars done it is time to move on to the intercganeable faces.
Step 4: Coins
Coins will work best with the low profile tie bar. Some are made from ferrous materials so they will stick to the magnet without modification.
For non-ferrous coins a ferrous backer will need to be added. Trim the ferrous scrap metal so it is concealed by the coin. Apply a dab of E-6000 to the side of the coin you don't want to display and the ferrous backer. Press the two together and secure with a padded clamp. Once the E-6000 has cured trim the excess away with a utility knife.
Step 5: Rocks
Rocks don't have to be precious to be decorative. I chose several from a stash of craft stones I got at the dollar store. I used my Dremel to trim the scrap metal backer down to size. I then applied E-6000 to the rock and the metal which were then clamped together. Once the E-6000 cures trim away the excess. To give it a glossy gem finish coat it with clear spray paint.
Step 6: Lapel Pins
Lapel pins are a great accessory, unless you don't where a coat with lapels. So rather than miss out on wearing a nifty pin we can make it work for our tie bar. Take off the metal pin backs and pitch into the nearest recycling bin. Use a pair of diagonal cutters to trim the pin off the back of the decorative face. Trim the pin as close the face as possible. Place the truncated pins in the dust collection system, and use your Dremel with a grinding stone to remove the pin remnants from the pin face. Once the back surface is leveled out, if the pin isn't ferrous in nature, glue a piece of scrap metal to the back of the pin face. Once the glue has cured trim away the excess.
Step 7: Big Pins/Broaches
Large decorative pins are perfect for the high profile tie clip, as they are typically concave and the magnet will fit inside the pin. The first step is to trim the pin assembly off the pin. I did this with my Dremel and cutting wheel inside the dust collection system. When that is done I used a small file to smooth down the edges of the cuts so they won't snag my tie. With that done I used E-6000 to glue a piece of scrap metal inside the pin and clamped it in place. Once the glue cures trim away the excess.
Step 8: Pin on Buttons
Pin on buttons are extremly common and the small ones can be used as whimsical tie decorations. The first step is to remove the actual pin from button. This process will vary with the type of pin. Some pin assemblies are held in by tension and be removed with a pair of pliers. Other pin assemblies are directly attached to the button and will have to be cut free, Once the assembly is removed glue a piece scrap metal inside the button. The concavity of the pins will make it necessary to use a thicker piece of scrap metal to reach the magnet of the high profile tie bar. Once the glue is cured trim away the excess.
Step 9: Cuff Links
Like lapel pins cuff links are an accessory I have no use for, but many of the older ones look really cool. In order to make use of a cuff link we'll need to cut the back off. I didn't feel comfortable doing this with the Dremel given the proximity to my fingers and my desire not to mar its appearence. Put work piece protectors into your bench vise and then secure the cuff link, Once it is firmly in place use a hacksaw to the back off the link as close to the face as possible. With the cut complete use files to smooth the surfaces of the cut and make the back of the face as flat as possible. With the back level use E-6000 to glue a piece of scrap metal to the back of the cuff link face.