First a little background. I like untying other people's shoes. However, it's very conspicuous when you start to bend down to grab their shoelace(s). It gives them a chance to move their shoes away before the laces are undone. You have to be fast, and even then you don't always get them.
As I like to carry around an umbrella (lots of rain where I go to school), I tried to use the end of it to untie shoes. I attempted this by putting the tip in the loop of the knot and pulling away from the shoe. It didn't work.
So... I got to thinking. I realized that the only way I was going to be able to use a functional umbrella to untie shoes was by having some sort of grabber built into the umbrella... something like an umbrella grapple!
"Why would I want to make something that unties shoelaces?" Well, it doesn't just work with shoelaces, you can pick up other stuff too. But shoelaces are much more fun.
Hook Handle Umbrella (This one has a nice hollow shaft)
Flexible pick-up tool (Others would probably work, but I haven't used any others)
Epoxy - Keep epoxy around, it great for all sorts of stuff!
Superglue - This type is easy to apply
Besides the basic tools, you will need the following:
- A Dremel, small grinding stone attachment, and cutting wheel
- Utility knife and extra blades
- A vise is helpful but not necessary.
- You may need a drill and drill bits if the holes in the parts print a little too small.
You will also need access to a 3D printer or know someone who can print stuff for you.
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Step 1: Time to Shave
The first thing you'll need to do after you've got the supplies is shave off some stuff.
The umbrella comes with a nice wooden handle and it works well for it's intended purpose, but is unsuitable for this project. Cut it away. Throw it out. Make it into something else. If you have a vice this is when you'll need it.
I have found that it is easier if you cut off the curved portion of the handle before trying to remove the entire thing. It makes it easier to maneuver in the vice and/or your hands. You could use a scroll saw (I did) or just a hand saw. The shaft extends about 2.5" into the handle, so I cut off the handle about 3" from the end. (See photos)
Using a utility knife blade, carefully cut away the wood on the portion of the handle that is straight. This will take a while... Work your way down slowly, you don't want to accidentally cut the fiberglass shaft.
There is likely a small hollow place between the end of the shaft and the handle. Work your way from the surface of the handle down to the shaft, then work your way towards the hollow place. At this point, you are just trying to find how far the shaft extends into the handle, once you find out start cutting away the rest of the wood.
You should end up with an umbrella with no handle and lots of wood shavings.
Step 2: More Shaving, and Other Stuff
After you've dealt with the handle, you've got to deal with the grapple mechanism.
Cut off the plastic stuff on the flexible grabber and remove the spring. I used channel locks to smush the part at the end so it was easier to take off. You'll end up with a flexible springy tube thing and a piece inside that moves. Oh, and a grabber at the other end.
Just a slight problem though, it's too big to fit in the umbrella, and it doesn't move freely enough.
But... you have a Dremel and cutting wheel. ---- Oh! You'll probably want the vice again.
Take the grabber and put the non-grabbing end in the vice. That metal sleeve thingy is in the way. Using the cutting wheel, cut off the sleeve and the springy part that's being held by it. Cut along it, not across it. If you cut across it then it's not a grabber anymore; it's scrap metal. Be careful not to cut anything besides the springy part and the sleeve, you do not want to cut the wire inside. After you've successfully cut off the sleeve put the other end of the grabber in the vice.
You'll want to cut off a bit of the springy part at this end. How much? Well, that depends. To decide how much, you'll need to finish preparing the umbrella for the grabber.
Put the umbrella tip in the vice (pad it with an old shirt or sock) and then use the Dremel grinding bit to wear away at the center of the tip until it breaks through. Doing this will heat up the tip of the umbrella and it will get hot enough to soften the glue holding it in. Take it out carefully and continue to make a nice hole in the tip. When the hole is as wide as the sidewalls use a punch to smooth the inside, as there will be sharp pieces.
Now test to see if the large end of the grabber will fit on the inside of the tip. If it doesn't fit snugly cut away a loop or two of the springy part at a time.
The two parts should fit together tightly at the end.
Step 3: 3D Printing
This part is probably the least hard on your fingers. All you have to do is print the provided files.
- The Umbrella handle should be printed in the orientation shown with 100% infill and support at overhangs greater than 45 degrees.
- The HHS file should be printed at a slower speed and with support at overhangs greater than 45 degrees.
You will need one umbrella handle, one slider, and either one of the thumb parts or the HHS. The thumb parts and HHS all make the grabber work, so pick which one you like best.
The files were created using SolidWorks. Thanks to my cousin for teaching me how to use the program.
Step 4: Assembly
Run the grabber through the interior of the umbrella shaft. Work it in from front to back so that you end up with the grabbing end and tip at the correct end. Using your super glue, glue the slider to the shaft that is sticking out the handle end of the umbrella. If the hole is too small, make it bigger using a drill.
Now for epoxy.
Run the handle end into the handle. Orient the handle so that it is parallel with the pushbutton on the shaft. (Or if you want to customize it go ahead). Then using epoxy (or hot glue) secure the handle to the umbrella. If you end up using hot glue be aware that it will not stick for very long. My first attempt at making this used hot glue and it isn't very secure. (But it works!) Make sure the grabber can move freely in both directions and go completely inside the tip. Let it cure for however long the instructions specify.
Once it's cured, get a knife, fork, pencil or nail and push the slider towards the tip of the umbrella. When the grabber is out, twist it with your fingers until the hole in the slider is pretty much aligned with the slot. Then place the nub of one of the thumb pieces or the HHS in the hole. You can glue it if you want, but I like being able to disarm the umbrella in case someone tries to use it without permission.
Step 5: Shoes...
Now you can "inconspicuously" untie other people's shoes, pick up things, startle people, walk in the rain, etc.
To use it, you make sure that the end cap is off and that there is a thumb piece or HHS connected. Then you walk up to someone and enter into conversation with them. While talking, you slowly move the grapple end towards the shoelaces. Stick out the claw by pushing the moving parts with your thumb. Grab the aglet (the shoelace end) by pulling back with your thumb, then pull back with the umbrella to untie the shoe. If you do this slowly, they may not even notice. *It takes practice to get where you can grab the aglet without having to stare down at the shoe.
Note: If the shoelaces are double-knotted, you probably won't be able to easily untie them with the umbrella.
The end cap will prevent water from getting inside the grapple mechanism when it's raining. You may need to modify it a little so that it stays on properly.
I welcome questions, comments, and suggestions. Thanks for reading!
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