Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Metal Saddle Stands Tutorial

I had a folding metal saddle stand I used for storing my Crates saddle in our once a upon a time guest room (or more accurately, the tack room), and have had an ambition to replicate it in 1:9 scale.  The first attempt turned out well, it was made of aluminum tubing by K and S Engineering found at Hobby Lobby.

After making Mark I, there where several things I wanted improved in Mark II.  I wanted it to be stronger, have a bridle hook, and I wanted it painted (colors are always fun!).

I decided this would be a great project to work on while visiting my folks, my dad's garage is the same square footage as the house.  He welds as a hobby, and has scrap metal galore.  When I was 10, he made me a brass tubing doll bunk bed, and after finding a scrap of materials in the garage this week, inspiration struck!  K and S Engineering has a display at the local hardware store, Johnson's, and I found brass tubing that was a much better scale for the project.  It's stronger than aluminum, and solders well.  I used the 3/32" for the majority of the rack, with the leg braces and bridle hook out of solid 1/16" brass.

Another gem of my dad's garage, is the machinists drill bit set.  I used a #60 for the small holes, and a #52 for the larger ones.  The bits are about $1.50 a piece.  Even if you have mad drill skills (I'm no slouch in that department), buy extras, they are so tiny and flexible they will break, I promise.  I've broken 3 making 8 racks.

Now on to making the saddle rack! First, I printed out a side view of a saddle stand, using Photoshop to make it to scale (you can use Paint, too, just add the rulers tool), then shaped the first piece using it as a guide. The general guide of steps is as follows:

1. Shape and cut frame pieces
2. Mark and then drill holes
3. Cut leg braces and bridle hook
4. Solder leg braces and bridle hook
5. Assemble, solder pins in place
6. Adjust legs
7. Paint, then add nylon straps.

Marking where we needed to cut with a permanent marker, my dad used a Dremel tool with a cutoff wheel to cut without compromising the cylindrical shape of the tubing. Then I lightly sanded any sharp edges.

The reference photo has the leg pieces at an angle, so the legs should be a bit longer than pictured.  I find the point that should be the center of the bend, place my thumbs on either side, and gently bend into a 90 degree angle.  Since it's hollow tubing, bending it around something hard will result in kinks, and we don't want that!  

I make both legs the exact same height, but one needs to "nest" inside the other where the joint is about 1/3 down, and both need to "nest" inside the top piece.  When you're lining everything else, zip ties are a huge help.  Once everything is straight, mark the places to drill with a marker.

Using an awl, I firmly press the point I want to drill, making a small indentation for the drill to grab on the smooth round surface. About 1 inch from the bottom of the legs  I drill with the #52 bit gently just until a hole is cleanly made on the inside of the leg (do not punch through to the other side!), and do that for all 4 legs. This hole will allow the 1/16" brass rod to fit snugly for the leg brace.  I also drill a hole in the same manner for the bridle hook on the top piece.  

Before adding the leg braces, all the holes need to be drilled.  For the two joints where all the pieces are hinged together, I drill using a #60 bit,  all the way through each piece after marking it with an awl. This is where things get dicey and bits are broken.

Now the leg braces can be added.  I fit the smaller tubing into the wider of the two sets of legs, and mark where it needs to be cut.  Then I cut another the same length.  One set of legs will be slightly narrower because it nests inside the other, but the leg braces should be the same size and will stretch the narrower set slightly at the base, and a also add some tension to the joints.  The smaller 1/16" tubing should fits nicely into the drilled holes, and then you can solder the insides of the joints.  Soldering is an art I'm not pretending to be amazing at, but practice provides improvement.  The key here is making sure the metal you're soldering is hot, not just the solder it's self.  You can sand it down by hand or with a Dremel afterwards, but to get a good joint the brass really needs to be hot.  Brass is super easy to solder compared to some other metals.

Now you can assemble your rack! I push steel straight pins through the hinge holes, and cut off all but about 3/32" worth.  Then solder that end onto the inside of the rack.

To give the legs more shape, I make a slight bend just below the brace, so the legs stand up straight on the ground just like the real thing. Now stand your rack on a flat surface, and slightly trim any legs that are too long with the Dremel tool to get it to stand flat.  It takes practice to get things exactly symmetrical.

Now pick a color to paint it, and seal it in a shiny finish.  This edition of saddle racks will come in "Toyota Corolla" red, and metalic purple, because that's what my folks had laying around.  I will make more colors in the future.

Add nylon ribbon on the top just like the real thing. That will keep the saddle stand from opening too far, but you can also play with adding braces and such on the bottom like the reference photo I used.

A lot of trial and error, and I'm finally happy with the end result. If this sounds like too much work, no worries.   I'm keeping a few, but I will be selling some in my Etsy store, click here.