Mechanical Mustache Project

“A mustache party? By Jove I’ll be there!” I exclaimed as I dashed forth from my lab!

I few weeks ago I got wind of a party that the local hackerspace here in the greater Phoenix area was having. They decided to celebrate their one year anniversary by holding a mustache party. So I decided to live the hacker dream and build my own mustache.

Mechanical MustacheMechanical Mustache
I sketched out a few ideas of what I’d like the ‘stache to look like. I knew it needed to move and I wanted it to have an ‘old tyme’ feel to it. I first thought I could used a small diameter polypropylene tube that had been notched to let it bed. I’ve done this to make fake hands with moving fingers and it tends to work. In this case I couldn’t find a small enough tube to fit behind the device. I entire mustache is 12 cm across and 2.7 cm high (not counting the handle) I figured I’d forge ahead and solve that problem when I got closer to it.
Mechanical Mustache

I made a pattern out of an old box (we all need to recycle these days don’t we?). I’d also need it when I cut the final out of .5mm two sided copper clad board. Great stuff, I use it for everything.

Mechanical Mustache
I added some makeshift brads from some wire to let the segments move and some tiny brass tubes that I intended to use to feed the cable through. I was able to move the brass tubes around to find the best pull points. They were secured with wood glue.
Mechanical Mustache
The main parts were fabricated from the copper board and secured with brass nuts and bolts from my local Ace Hardware (can’t find this stuff at Home Depot to save your life…) I used a brass washer between each segment to reduce friction. The bolts on the round segments have been soldered in place to give a firm anchor for later on. I notched the inside edges and added small ‘L’ shaped brass bits as hard stops to keep the mustache from having an unsightly droop.
Mechanical Mustache
Front of the ‘stache, the phenolic weave of the laminated board is pretty apparent. I’ll have to do something with that.

Mechanical Mustache

Fiddling with the positions of the cable run and the stops.
Mechanical Mustache
I gave a 20cm long stick of basswood a quick coat of stain to add to that classic look.
Mechanical Mustache
I let the entire thing sitting in a bath of alcohol (90% isopropanol ) overnight to get rid of the flux. Worked quite well.
Mechanical Mustache

I solved the problem with the ends not returning to the neutral down position by feeding the cable through springs between the brass stays. This had the effect of forcing the ends down when the tension on the cable was removed. A clever little pulley that had been salvaged off from an old printer will let me pull the center cable from the side. I used more copper board and some brass tube to mount it to the circular segments. I attached the wooden handle to the device with a random length of brass tube. A thin brass tube was bent to act as a cased cable guide for the pull cable. The tube was bent mostly by hand however the largest bend was done with a bending spring.  The free end will be attached to some sort of pull ring.
Mechanical Mustache
Front view with the pull cable in place. Still need to fix that woven look, yuck.
Mechanical Mustache

Eureka! I realized that salt and vinegar ( or maybe just vinegar) will tarnish the hell out of copper and brass. What I did was pour about a half cup of a strong vinegar and salt solution in a gallon freezer bag. I then suspended the mustache in it’s vapors while it hung from one corner via a clip. Just leaving the copper in the liquid would just make it shiny and hell. I sealed it up and left it like this over night. By morning it had a great weathered look. It was a but creaky so I used light machine oil on everything that moved. Dabs of wood glue were added to the brass nuts to stop them from turning.
Mechanical Mustache
You can see the springs quite clearly in the photo. The cable ends were looped and held fast by tiny silver beads from my girlfriends jewelry making supplies. I got the cable from her as well (Thanks!). A note of the cable used. Its a steel core with a plastic overcoat.
Mechanical Mustache
The cable guide brass tube was soldered in place with silver solder for added strength. A hole was drilled through the wooden handle and the brass tube so some brass nails could be employed to hold the tube in place. The nails are held in place with more wood glue.
Mechanical Mustache
The finished product. The bright green darkened overnight to what you see in the animated image:

John shows off his mechanical mustache
(me with my mechanical mustache, photo by David)
Everyone love the mechanical moustache
My lovely GF demoing my creation.
The ‘stache was a success!I received a number of positive compliments on it at the party.

Have a look at all the photos that I took at the Heatsync Labs Mustache party over on my Flickr page.
If you would like to see all the build pictures in once place you can open the ‘Project Mechanical Mustache’ Flickr set.

Posted: October 29th, 2010
at 10:25pm by John




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