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Experiments In MYO T-Track #1: Metal


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Of late I've been mulling over various ways to make the ever elusive accurate T-track and have come up with several different methods worth trying. I've decided to try them all and thought I'd share them here one by one as I go.


So here's method number one - aluminum T-track that anyone can make at home with nothing but a book and a ruler!




Now I'll pre-empt this by saying all my following experiments will be based on the assumption that the screen accurate dims for T-Track are as follows:



Now, I don't claim any expert knowledge here or solid evidence. The dimensions and shape have come from research here and on the RPF and they are, to the best of my knowledge, correct but don't hold me to it - we know the T-Track is a slippery beast, and while I don't purport to have caught one this info comes from some pretty experienced fishermen...


Start by getting a roll of aluminum flashing from your local hardware store:




It comes in various thicknesses - I've chosen .3mm for the balance between ease of bending and strength.


Cut of a strip to size. I suggest going a little longer than you'll need for the finished length. I worked at about 190mm long by 38mm wide.




Next you will want to score your aluminum to make the various folds easier to manipulate and sharper in the finished job. After a lot of fiddling and paper patterning I made this diagram to show the distances between the score lines that will result in the correct finished shape:



Use a ruler and a stanley blade to score your lines according to these measurements:




This bit can be tricky and I had a lot of fails along the way. If you score too lightly the metal will not bend sharply or will bend in places other than the intended fold. If you score too heavily it will simply snap when you try to fold it. This was simply a matter of testing and practice. I ran the blade several times over each score and found that once the sliding started to feel "rough" I had about the correct amount.


I also found that it helped a lot to graduate from heavy scoring in the inner most lines outwards to lighter scoring. This is because of the order in which we want the folds to be made, and it helps the metal go naturally in that order. Here is a diagram where black represents the heaviest scoring getting lighter:



At this point my aluminum strip looked like this:




Next, I measured and marked the exact centre of the strip:




Grab an old hardcover book. The non spine edge has a nice approximation of the shape and size of the centre rail of the T-Track right down to the inverted U shape. In this case I'm using the same out of date diary I'm using as a cutting board:




Using the centre marking as a guide I bent the aluminum over the edge of the book cover. Lining this up straight was a right PITA but if you get it wrong (and I did a few times) you end up with horribly lopsided T-Track:




I simply pressed and pressed along the fold until I got it very flat. It should be almost so tight it's stuck to the book.




I also found this process was made easier by holding a metal ruler on each side of the aluminum strip and clamping with pliers. Do not apply the pliers directly to the aluminum or your T-track will end up looking like Pruneface's head...


Once that was done, I slid a ruler under the lip of the aluminum strip to keep it flat and bent it upwards. If the scoring is good the metal will naturally start to fold at the innermost score line:




I did this on both sides and then removed the strip from the book cover. I found it helps to bend this first bend too far as it will naturally bend back down as you fold the other parts down:




Then it was a matter of some simple origami to fold each section one by one to shape:





When the score lines were good this was easy - when they were bad it was a nightmare... I lost a few efforts at this point. However once I got the hang of it I was on to mass production!




Once shaped the track is surprisingly strong. Remember - the arch is one of the strongest shapes in engineering!


The good thing about using the aluminum is that with some care and strength you can use pliers to get a nice bend on the end that slips into the vent holes without heating it:



Sure - the ends are messy but they won't be visible so it doesn't matter a bit.


I'm pretty happy with the results, but this is a method that requires care and the sharp aluminum edges did my manicure no favors. It's definitely worth trying but it won't stop me continuing to experiment with other methods.


So stay tuned for method number two - here's a sneak preview:



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It's not as much work as it probably seems when you take this many photos of it! Really, once the scoring is done it's no more time consuming than some very basic origami. The whole process probably takes 10-15 minutes per track...


As to molding and casting - as I said stay tuned for #2! However I will say that each has it's benefits and problems. Firstly this method produces metal T-Track which is stronger and easier to bend to curve into the holes. Molding and casting means you need a liquid plastic that will pour fine enough to fill the mold smooth but that can be reheated later for bending the ends. That renders most casting materials useless for the task, but I do have the right liquid plastic on the way via mail so rest assured it will be tested...

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