Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DIY Tools: Star Nut Setter

Gone are the days where people come to you first to work on their bicycles. Instead, they "watched a You Tube video" which made them an expert in 5 minutes, and now they want to buy the tools so they can do it themselves. Individual tools can be expensive and as they quickly find out, sometimes you need more than one tool to do a job (i.e., you need a cassette lock ring tool, chain whip, and an adjustable wrench just to remove a cassette). 
"Well, I could make one for less than that!" they say. 
Sure, you can, just like you made a roof rack for your car out of 2x4's and your bike fell off and hit the ground. The point is, sometimes you need to pay for the tool, or pay me to use mine (which is a better value as I have the knowledge and experience as well as the proper tools).  
As I blog this, it should be known that I do it from the pro level shop that I work for. Here, we have all the tools you could ever dream of. In my home shop, Lube-A-Chain Bicycles, I have worked hard to build up the tool chest needed to perform all levels of service from home. Yet, I fall short of having them all. Especially the rarely-used tools.
Take for instance, the simple task of setting a star-fangled nut in a steer tube. Sure, carbon forks have taken over and do not use a star nut (for the most part), and complete bikes already have them installed. But when you need to set one, the tool alone can cost $30-$60! 
Yeah, even I won't pay that. 
So, I set out to make one. It took me about 10 minutes and cost less than $20. Rather than hoard this idea for myself, I decided to share it with anyone who is willing to listen. 
Consider this your "you tube video." Only, you don't have to look at me, hear me speak or deal with shitty editing. 

Here is a list of the parts you will need:
-Two (2) 20mm headset spacers
-A long headset bolt (some are longer then others)
-A nut that threads on to the bolt
-A washer for the head of the bolt 
-A slightly larger washer for stiffness
-A headset cap (find one that matches the diameter of the headset spacers for best surface area contact)
-A brake cable
-A roll of electrical tape
-A star-fangled nut 
(You will also need a securely mounted fork trap. If you do not have one, you may damage the fork. But if you are undertaking this task on a regular basis, you should already have one)
To build the "setter," put the smaller washer under the head of the bolt, and the larger washer under that. 
Thread the nut up to them and snug them up with a 5mm allen (common for that style of bolt) and, in this case (as the nut dictates) a 10mm box wrench. 
Like so...

Then slide the top cap up to the nut and place in a vise for support. Grab the bolt from the bottom and hammer the assembly downward into the top cap. This step will secure the parts nicely. 

Then thread the star nut 3/4 of the way on to the bolt. 
That part is done. Now, to build the "sleeve" start with the two spacers and tape them together. 
(This next step may not be needed, but I believe it adds stiffness to the sleeve)
Measure and cut 10-12 peices of brake cable and tape them vertically all the way around the spacers...

To finish the sleeve, tape it generously and at the top and bottom pull hard on the tape so it curls downward leaving a smooth finish. 

(The next pictures do not show the setting process as I already set one succsessfully then took the photos) 

Slide the sleeve down on to the steer tube. 
Sit the star nut on the steer tube and
Then slide the sleeve up to the top cap
This creates a secure "tube" shape that keeps the tool from moving left to right while setting the nut (a common problem with using the traditional Park tool setter)

Hold firmly, and whack the bolt with a hammer. The first time I did this, it took in about two hammer blows. Once the lower portion of the star nut is set, unsrew the top cap a little and repeat until the nut is fully set (approx. 10mm) 
Unscrew and remove the setter
Slide the sleeve off the steer tube. 
The nut is set. Done and done. 
I must admit, I was amazed how easy it worked. I built another one today and will be making more for fun, to give away. 

The total cost:
If you work at a bike shop, these things cost almost nothing. If you are tight with a local bike shop, you can most likely get these things for almost nothing as well. If not, expect to pay retail. And be OKAY with that if it comes down to it, as bike shops need to make some money too. Regardless;

Spacers: $6 
Nut, bolt, washers: $2
Brake cable: $3 
Top cap: $5 (cheap one)
Tape: you probably have laying around. 
Star nut: comes with the headset. 

$16 dollars retail. 
My price: $4 

Will you use it much? No. But you will want to. And it only costs four dollars. 

Enjoy. I will get back to being a dick next time.