Deca Spades
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Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Deca Spades on 03/17/2014 16:46:24 MDT Print View

What if you really want a lightweight new trowel, but your shiny red Deuce of Spaces won’t show up for months? Then you’re stuck between a rock and an outhouse, aren’t you?

Unless you decide to MYOG your own, while waiting for your new UL toy. This one’s called “Deck of Spades” (because there’s 10 holes in it…ten is deca … get it?) It weighs 0.8 ounces and is 6.5” in length. Yeah, it’s heaver than your Deuce will be, by 0.2 ounces, and is narrower. Bummer. On the other hand, it’s thicker, the handle will be comfier, you can own one for $1,*** and you can have it in your hand in 1 hour or less, because that’s how long it takes to make.

You can cut the aluminum with a coping saw. Drill 3/8” holes every .6 inches. Sharpen the tip with a file, sand the edges, and go dig yourself a fine cathole in the back yard. Frighten the wits out of your wife, who's afraid you'll use it for its intended purpose.

But you really wanted the cool colors? Buy a Sharpie of your favorite color and faux-anodize it.

.Deca Spades

***More precisely: you'll have to buy 3 feet of 1” x 1/16" angle aluminum for $5, and that will make you 5 Deca Spades, so, $1 on average. I like the aluminum sold by Lowe's better than that sold at Home Depot. I purchased both and tested for stiffness. Then I noticed the Lowe's aluminum was advertised as USA made, and the HD aluminum was Hecho. Note that neither of these types of aluminum are the quality that the Deuce of Spades is made of. If you wanted a better quality trowel, 6061 and 6063 is readily available at most metal warehouses, not sure about 7075. I'm not sure the higher grade aluminum is absolutely necessary, though, when the aluminum is a full 1/16" thick. Doesn't feel bendy at all, and digs like a sooper dooper pooper scooper trooper.

Edited by Bolster on 03/22/2014 08:59:44 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Deca Spades on 03/17/2014 17:01:45 MDT Print View

"faux-anodize it"

It has a certain amount of hassle, but you can do a real anodizing process on it. It takes a good car battery charger, some battery acid, and some chemicals, but it can be done.

--B.G.--

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Anodizing. on 03/17/2014 17:17:28 MDT Print View

How much you charge me to anodize it, Bob? I wouldn't want to spend much more than double the cost it was to make it, so hopefully your prices are reasonable.

Kidding aside, you can get pretty much any aluminum anodized as a one-off job. Usually they'll charge you less, if you're willing to use whatever batch color they're doing next. The real advantage to anodization isn't so much the color, as the hardening process. It's a little like case hardening for steel.

Edited by Bolster on 03/17/2014 17:27:17 MDT.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Deca Spades on 03/17/2014 17:33:15 MDT Print View

Have tent stakes become so light that we now need to supplement their multi use purpose? Are trail runners so soft that we now need a tool to replace the heel of a good boot? Did replacing that long handled Ti spoon with a lighter Dairy Queen spoon remove yet another multi purpose implement? Are our knives too tiny and weak to cut up a good digger stick?

More tools? I don't think this is what they mean by "Less Is More".

Oh, neat idea on the MYOG shovel though :)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Anodizing. on 03/17/2014 18:01:18 MDT Print View

"The real advantage to anodization isn't so much the color, as the hardening process."

That is correct, unless your power and acid get away from you and it eats the aluminum. Don't ask me how I know this.

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
QiWiz Titanium Trowel on 03/17/2014 18:09:26 MDT Print View

Happy with my original QiWiz. 10 grams (.35 ounces). Usually in stock and shipped/delivered in a couple days.

http://www.qiwiz.net/trowels.html

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: QiWiz Titanium Trowel on 03/17/2014 18:12:55 MDT Print View

Hmmm. I thought that one was 0.4 ounces. Have you got helium balloons tied onto it?

--B.G.--

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: QiWiz Titanium Trowel on 03/17/2014 18:24:21 MDT Print View

I measured in grams; trying to be modern. Converts to 0.35274 ounces, which does round up to .4 ounces.

So where does all the weight go when rounding up? Is it like a Batman movie where someone is stealing all the fractions of 1 cents?

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Too Much and Too Little. on 03/17/2014 18:43:33 MDT Print View

So the Deca Spades is...

...too specialized for Glenn, who would prefer we dig holes with heavier duty tent stakes, boot heels, or our (ick) spoons.

...not specialized enough for Nick, who prefers titanium at 29-39 times the cost, which saves up to 0.4 ounce.

I'll have to go with Nick on this one. If I can go lighter by carrying more specialized tools, then my inclination is to go lighter. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm ready to pay $30 to drop 0.4 ounces. Yet. It's a progressive disease, of course. And think of the bragging rights--to dig poo holes with titanium! Wow. Hard to beat.

For me, I'll be un-friending my 2 ounce, much softer, orange plastic trowel, and in that context, it's not so bad.

Edited by Bolster on 03/18/2014 11:16:37 MDT.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Too Much and Too Little. on 03/17/2014 19:03:25 MDT Print View

Well, I was being a bit tongue in cheek there lol. But to be fair, I was referring to using the handle of the spoon. For some reason, My mind always goes to that when I see the V-shape of these little trowels.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Too Much and Too Little. on 03/17/2014 19:40:53 MDT Print View

"For me, I'll be un-friending my 2 ounce, much softer, orange plastic trowel, and in that context, it's not so bad."

The orange plastic trowels don't get any respect. I went to a Yosemite permit station to get a permit, and they were giving away free orange trowels.

--B.G.--

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Deca Spades V2 on 03/21/2014 10:46:33 MDT Print View

After digging numerous holes with V1, I felt V2 was needed:

. decaspadesv2c

It has a host of small refinements, and is getting tricker to make as the weight is slightly reduced. We're down to 0.7 oz now, and a more comfortable and useable shape overall. It's starting to look like a gladiator's sword! Turns out the extruded aluminum from Lowe's is reasonably good stuff: it's 6063-T5. What V1 really needed was a small purchase for the thumb or finger at the transition from handle to blade; it was too slippery. V2 locks in with authority, perhaps too much authority, and those bumps may get softened a bit more.

Edited by Bolster on 03/21/2014 13:01:18 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Deca Spades V2 on 03/21/2014 13:05:43 MDT Print View

I understand the ten holes. How did you form the oblong shape on the bottom?

I used to have a whole set of Greenlee punches, but I can't find them now.

--B.G.--

robert van putten
(Bawana) - F

Locale: Planet Bob
impressive! on 03/21/2014 13:21:00 MDT Print View

Delmar, the V2 looks pretty durn amazing. You did a wonderful job. Anodize it and I bet you could sell 'em at ten bucks + shipping. You can quit yer day job! :)

- I also want to know how you embossed the oblong shapes in the lower blade. Probably a trade secret though. -

Sadly, I'll not be among those lining up to buy 'em because I'm a dinosaur and perfectly happy with our 8" long one ounce snow stake. We do use it to nail down the front of our non-freestanding tent in loose soil now and then, so I'm gonna keep it.

Ben H.
(bzhayes) - F

Locale: So. California
Re: Re: Deca Spades V2 on 03/21/2014 14:53:58 MDT Print View

"... How did you form the oblong shape on the bottom?"

We can wait for Delmar's response but it looks like it is milled out to me.

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Yes, machined. on 03/21/2014 17:36:15 MDT Print View

Indeed, Ben's correct, the whole piece is milled. The "debossed" area shaves the aluminum down to 1/32" in that area, where strength is unnecessary. Left it full width along spine and edges.

If this version is hardy enough, I may try shaving even more on the next.

But I would like to find some harder aluminum to work with. I'm having difficulty finding either 7075-T6 or 6061-T6 in 1/16 angle extrusion.

Absolutely zero chance I'll go entrepreneurial with this--anyone who does machining knows how long this stuff takes--but if you want to make your own, I can publish the pattern I'm using.

(Although I would be tempted to barter one of these to Dan Y. for equivalency in stoves! Sadly all he needs is his heel for soft Illinois soil. I'd also barter Bob for his Greenlee punches!!)

Edited by Bolster on 03/21/2014 17:44:12 MDT.

Ben H.
(bzhayes) - F

Locale: So. California
Re: Yes, machined. on 03/21/2014 17:46:55 MDT Print View

"... I'm having difficulty finding either 7075-T6 or 6061-T6 in 1/16 angle extrusion...."

I am sure you are already aware of this, but thought I would post just in case:

http://www.mcmaster.com/#aluminum-angles/=r72dj1

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Procedures on 03/24/2014 16:09:04 MDT Print View

Answering a couple of questions here that I got in the gear forum. How to make a Deca without a mill?

You could get close to the product I posted with a jigsaw, hand drill, and file, and decent clamping. Mark out the project with a sharpie, using the pattern below, but leave the aluminum stock long so you can clamp adequately. Make sure to prick punch the center of the holes, which will help your accuracy lots. The handle holes are3/8" and they are .55 inch apart. The handle width is .80 for each side. The blade is full width of 1" stock.

If you have a drill press you might be able to duplicate the Deca very closely or even exactly. Using a drill press to mill a slot is frowned upon because a press is not designed to handle side loading. But the aluminum is soft, and with shallow passes, perhaps you could get by with it? Don't know--depends how kind you are to your equipment. I would not subject my press to side loading.

Better suited for the task than a drill press would be a wood router, which is designed for side loading, and could easily plow the debossed section. Best if the router were mounted in a table with a fence, and turned to its slowest setting. Routering aluminum is a little scary but with good eye protection, guides, and solid clamping or trapping, it can be done. Shallow cuts, obviously. You don't want a high-RPM power machine grabbing a big hunk of aluminum and flinging it. Can we all repeat: Eye Protection! Solid Clamping! And Band-aids, just in case!

Next to last step is to cut to size, which is 6.5 inches. Last step is to shape with file and sandpaper. Rub some blackboard chalk into your file before starting, so your file doesn't gum up.

For the debossed section, if you must have it, use a .5" mill bit with a flat bottom in your press, or a suitable router bit. BUT let it be known that the deboss reduced very very little weight. It turned out to be mostly a visual element. Not much functional improvement so why bother?

Several of the procedures discussed above contain an element of risk, so don't do it unless you have some experience. Particularly working aluminum on wood machinery can be hair raising. Be sure to clamp solidly and use eye and lung protection.

.deca v2

Note: I round/soften the pommel more than this drawing shows.

Edited by Bolster on 04/01/2014 13:34:19 MDT.

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Procedures on 03/24/2014 16:20:53 MDT Print View

Do we need to mention about not grinding aluminum on a regular bench grinder and plugging up the wheels?

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Deca Spades on 03/24/2014 16:40:59 MDT Print View

Delmar
on sand and snow you get more holding power if you attach the guyline about 1/3rd up from the bottom of the stake.
May be worth making a hole there for it.

Not much functional improvement so why bother?
Because it looks really nice and sometimes we like to look at nice things, even in the bush.

I just realised that the extra hole on the spine will stuff up the cosmetic part but still it might just work better...

Edited by Franco on 03/24/2014 16:42:41 MDT.