In Part 4 of my series on the making of Pocket-Safe hammer shrouds, I introduced you to my second big mistake: attempting to modify the shroud design on the cheap, using glue and sandpaper rather than CAD and 3D printers. The result was a shroud that almost worked, and that I charged ahead with despite the problems.
The next barrier I saw was cutting out the shrouds. I had been using heavy-duty shears to do the job, which is fine for proof-of-concept. But you really can’t charge someone money for plastic cut with scissors, and also, your hand and wrist would get really, really tired after a while. So I looked at using a laser cutter to do it.
I spent about a week building this jig to hold rough-cut shrouds while they were finish-cut by the laser:
I am not a master welder, nor even an apprentice welder, and it was very hard to get those little wires attached to the base. They wanted to melt away. I did it by drilling, sticking the wires through, and welding the bottom.
Having done that, I spent a LONG time figuring out what the cutout pattern should look like. Epilog laser cutters let you print directly from programs like CorelDraw, which is very handy. So I ruined a bunch of shrouds tweaking and adjusting the pattern until I thought I had one that worked. That took several weeks, and at the end of it I was thinking it was launch time. That was March 2014. I called a marketing consultant and researched packaging prices, and started thinking about picking a date. I did a small test run to see how long it took to run off a little pile of shrouds, from thermoforming to rough cut to finish cut.
Then I put the results of that test run on my personal gun and…I was uneasy. There were two problems. First, the grip on the sides of the gun, which was the point of the redesign, was shaky. There was a gap in a lot of cases. Probably less than .020”, but a gap. There was no gap in the design, only in the finished product. (I subsequently figured out why–because the hammer was forcing the pinch apart, which in turn forced the sides apart). Second, the actual function was not as secure as I would have liked. Sometimes, when drawing from the pocket, the shroud would come off and fall away. It did the job of stopping a snag, but to fall off like that, when I didn’t mean it to—it worried me. Would someone buy a package and think it wasn’t working because it fell off? And given that it wasn’t supposed to fall off, and the original didn’t fall off, what was I doing wrong? (In hindsight, it’s obvious, but at the time I was baffled).
So I bit the bullet and decided to spend the money on a proper CAD design incorporating the revolver’s shape. I sent castings of the revolver and my measurements to David at RapidMade. It was costly and it took several weeks. Then I got back my next round of master dies, and they didn’t work. So I called in revisions in, got more dies, and THEY didn’t work. A handful of these attempts are shown here, with that first nylon shroud on top and the one you can buy on the far right:
I don’t know how many times we went around (a lot more than are shown), but sometimes I said something wrong and got a perfect match for my erroneous instructions, and sometimes I got it right but they sent me something with their own errors built in. Thankfully I only had to pay for my own mistakes; they stood behind their work every time. I appreciated that! But what was really killing me was less the expense, and more the delay. I went from hoping for a March launch to midsummer, still not satisfied with the design.
And then I finally spotted that second big mistake that I had made back in February or so, and lept to the phone to ask David to correct it.