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Rubber tipped darts and hoppers

A description of current progress

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#1 KaneTheMediocre

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 01:41 AM

To start, a huge amount of credit goes to Ryan "Mcnumbers" 201821 for helping to make and test pretty much everything in this post. He also introduced me to the magic of silicone RTV. You too can make rubber by mixing two liquids together and waiting a couple of hours.

Also, a big thanks to all the people who want to buy foam, who I have blown off to work on darts. I'll probably continue to do that for a while, because I just think this is more important.

The Dart Progress Chart (I'll try to update this regularly)

Key:

No progress
+Progress, but not good enough
++Good enough, but there's room for improvement or more testing needed to confirm
+++Done, finished, perfect.


Goals:
++Better durability than slugs
+++Safer damaged darts than slugs
Hurts less than slugs
+Hurts less than glue domes
++Better aerodynamics than slugs
+Feeds through a hopper system reliably
+Materials Cheap
Labor Cheap


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The current rubber darts have the tips molded into a blank with a hole drilled in it. As a consequence, the texture of the cut foam creates a grip for the rubber. No adhesive was used, because no adhesive would work with those two materials. 3 variants have been made, one with a 1/2” diameter dome 3/16” tall, one with 7/16” diameter 3/16” tall, and one with 7/16” diameter 5/32” tall. The current favorite for feeding reliably is the 7/16” diameter x 3/16” tall, which weigh about 1.1g, although the 1/2” x 3/16” 1.5g darts look the best and are the easiest to produce reliably.


Probably the hardest of my criteria to satisfy is the hopper system. Rubber has a high coefficient of friction with most materials, which makes them prone to misfeeds if the dart head needs to drag along a surface to fire. We originally wanted to make our darts work reliably with the traditional pvc wye hoppers, but this seems increasingly unreasonable as it pretty much rules out rubber for the head.

The first wye modification that I tried was the cotton T-shirt cloth. Affixed with hot-glue in a tremendously awkward manual process, these were the first time that I got rubber darts to feed through a hopper every shot. For at least a couple hundred shots. The cotton served as a slightly lower friction interface than the PVC
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Soon afterward I used a thin felt pad was used in similar capacity, with about 1-2% misfeed. Ryan tried some adhesive backed Teflon tape (Don't ask how they make it, I don't know), and that seemed to work about as well as an unadulterated wye.

So, with a great deal of help from Ryan many cotton wyes were made, many prototype darts were made, and much testing was done. The cloth-wyes pooped darts sometimes, although they never jammed and very rarely failed to fire. The frequency and severity seemed to vary between wyes of the same basic make, so I assumed that the issue was a matter of quality on the cloth-wyes, which were so awkward to make. I made a bunch of wyes, and resolved to test and use the best ones and pick before APOC. My new hopper fired reliably, albeit with inconsistent power, while Ryan's older and more used hopper basically stopped working better than a regular wye. As the war progressed my hopper's performance deteriorated somewhat, so I'm guessing that the cloth/hotglue combo is not very wear resistant.

So, for now I've given up on improving the coefficient of friction, and focused on improving the structure of the hopper so that the dart seals faster and avoids most of the friction problems and bending problems.

My first approach only attempted to solve the dart seal problem, because I could do that with hardware store parts and some nylon tubes I had laying around. 5/8” OD, thin walled material of most any kind could be used to similar effect. The design was based on the semi-auto shotgun

http://nerfhaven.com...=1

feed mechanism, but reduced to one dart at a time, and downsized to improve dart seal. This required shortening the 1/2” CPVC couplers that were used to accommodate our dart length.

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This worked amazingly well the first night that we tried it, and remain the best current option for hoppering my rubber tipped darts. They require much less volume to operate consistently than the traditional wye hoppers, which allows them to fire out of blasters like the Big Bad Bow and Big Salvo without any modification to the propulsion system (Although the BBBs air restrictor kept engaging when it was hoppered, so I had to sabotage it by shoving a drill down the barrel. No way am I going to try to fish that out.)

However, we noticed some swirling a la streamlines on day 2 of testing, only out of the more powerful blasters (PAC and RBP). About 2/3 fired like lasers, and the remaining 1/3 displayed some sort of anomalous behavior in their trajectory. The most common anomaly was the tail oscillating rapidly, with little affect on the trajectory other than slowing down the dart (which still got at least 70 flat), but streamline-like magic bullets did occur as well. Normally I'd blame this sort of thing on the darts rather than the hopper, but we've been using these same darts in the cotton hoppers and in single barrels for a few weeks now, and only seen this phenomenon with these latest hoppers. So my current best guess is that the sharp bend that the darts are pushed through is responsible for either deforming or producing some stored elastic energy in the dart.

My next move is to produce a hopper similar to the last one but with a nice gradual bend. I'm abandoning hardware store parts and reproducibility for this, and aiming for really cheap for us (Ryan and myself, aka MHA) to make so that we can just include them with every box of darts we sell. Some sort of cast plastic part is most likely the next step.

Some prototype fuzzy domes were made and did work in standard hoppers, although too few were made to confirm that they reliably fired at full power. The process for making them was basically to dip them in uncured rubber, press the tip into a cotton ball, and pick / cut away excess after it had cured. This process was difficult, unreliable, and wasteful. Also I suspected that they would deteriorate in a manner similar to slugs, so this has not been pursued further.

Edited by KaneTheMediocre, 18 August 2011 - 06:23 PM.

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#2 shmmee

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 02:00 PM

Reliable, safe (metal free) diy dart heads have been a project I've tried as well, and I'd like to start by saying how impressed I am with your initial results. The domes look fantastic.

I don't know if this may be any help, but here's my thread for gum drop dart heads.
gum drop dart heads

Posted Image

They share some similarities with your dart heads, and you may be able to benefit from the half-year Taerkitty and I spent developing them.

I totally share your pain on the lack of glue. I tried close to a dozen different glues trying to get something to stick to a silicone based material. None worked, but it looks like your addition of a tail and thinner - more penetrating silicone provides a good enough anchor.

I am curious to see how you not only mold the heads - but also integrate the tail as well. Is there any chance of shooting a video of your process? I molded mine in mass by using a divoted cutting board. It's a pretty effective process. I was able to fab up (with the help of my sister) about 300 darts for Armageddon. The polyethylene board does a great job of keeping a smooth texture on the formed pieces - and it's very easy to drill/machine.

After trying nearly a dozen glues - I couldn't find any that would stick to a silicone based material. But I did eventually learn that pressing a piece of felt onto un-cured silicone and working the liquid mixture into the fibers created a death-grip bond. Slipping a pre-cut disc into the bottom of the form tipped the head in felt (may not work with a domed tip) - and solved my hopper feed problem, but I don't know if that process would be possible to do while still keeping your tail. That's one fault of mine. Because they lack a tail they weigh only .5g. They can still go about 80'-100', but you'll probably need your tail to keep them heavy enough to fly any farther.

Any chance of seeing a pic of your form, or a vid of your process?

Edited by shmmee, 18 August 2011 - 02:02 PM.

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#3 nerf mafia

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 05:15 PM

I am really interested in these, however I'm a little lost on how you manage to drill the holes it appears you used a small spade bit maybe 1/4in? How do you keep it centered, and keep it from melting the foam too much or even pretent the various other issues that could possibly occur? Also I like the blue ands pink combo, however I am wondering if you died the silicon blue, or if it is that way on it's own, and either way can the silicon be died to another color? Thanks in advance.
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#4 atomatron

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 05:51 PM

Would it be possible to put T shirt material on the front of these darts the way that felt was attached to shmmee's?
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#5 KaneTheMediocre

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 06:30 PM

Reliable, safe (metal free) diy dart heads have been a project I've tried as well, and I'd like to start by saying how impressed I am with your initial results. The domes look fantastic.

I don't know if this may be any help, but here's my thread for gum drop dart heads.
gum drop dart heads

Posted Image

They share some similarities with your dart heads, and you may be able to benefit from the half-year Taerkitty and I spent developing them.

I totally share your pain on the lack of glue. I tried close to a dozen different glues trying to get something to stick to a silicone based material. None worked, but it looks like your addition of a tail and thinner - more penetrating silicone provides a good enough anchor.

I am curious to see how you not only mold the heads - but also integrate the tail as well. Is there any chance of shooting a video of your process? I molded mine in mass by using a divoted cutting board. It's a pretty effective process. I was able to fab up (with the help of my sister) about 300 darts for Armageddon. The polyethylene board does a great job of keeping a smooth texture on the formed pieces - and it's very easy to drill/machine.

After trying nearly a dozen glues - I couldn't find any that would stick to a silicone based material. But I did eventually learn that pressing a piece of felt onto un-cured silicone and working the liquid mixture into the fibers created a death-grip bond. Slipping a pre-cut disc into the bottom of the form tipped the head in felt (may not work with a domed tip) - and solved my hopper feed problem, but I don't know if that process would be possible to do while still keeping your tail. That's one fault of mine. Because they lack a tail they weigh only .5g. They can still go about 80'-100', but you'll probably need your tail to keep them heavy enough to fly any farther.

Any chance of seeing a pic of your form, or a vid of your process?


The cotton balls, and presumably felt and t-shirt as well, get the same death-grip from uncured silicone RTV that they got with silicone. Anything fibrous benefits from the purely mechanical grip that comes from the chaotic structure of scrt. The difficulty is accomplishing this in a mass production context with domed heads. Also, the cotton T-shirt material was not as nice on dart heads as loose cotton balls, because the uncured rubber tends to soak all the way through. Thicker cotton cloth might solve this, but I still need to get cotton cloth domes for that to be viable.

I haven't done much documentation of the dart making process because it's still changing a lot. The mold system we used for the APOC darts requires a minimum of 1 hour labor (usually about 2 man-hours) and a minimum of 3 hours of cure time (usually about 4), to produce 64 darts. A larger mold would be difficult to work with because the RTV we used thickens quickly, although slower curing RTVs might help that if they start at a low viscosity.
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#6 Curly

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Posted 18 August 2011 - 08:51 PM

I would look into adding a low-friction tip like shmmee did. You mentioned cotton balls, which should work well. The problem is mass-production, as each cotton ball must be pulled apart before it's suitable. T-shirt tops were a step in the path I'd take, though more complex.

If you bought large sheets of suitable tip fabric, and used a drill punch they could produce a usable tip cover. You may want to make the dart head more flat to aid with adhesion, and pool a bit more glue in the center to regain the dome shape. With a thin fabric the added cost should be minimal, and losing the tip cover adds no hazard whatsoever.

Wait, did I hear that hopper can be used by a stock BBB?!? How is it with regular darts from a more powerful blaster? My source has wyes at $2.50 each, so a hardware store replacement is welcome.

EDIT:While the lack of a wye is that hopper's biggest strength, would swapping the tee for a wye make the airflow more direct, increasing range?

Edited by Curly, 18 August 2011 - 08:53 PM.

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#7 shardbearer

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 03:38 AM

Id really like to know how you made these. Do you think theyre easier or harder than the gumdrop heads?

Have you tried 45° bell elbows as the bottom part of your hopper design?
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Edited by shardbearer, 25 August 2011 - 03:40 AM.

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#8 Ryan201821

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 02:27 PM

I am really interested in these, however I'm a little lost on how you manage to drill the holes it appears you used a small spade bit maybe 1/4in? How do you keep it centered, and keep it from melting the foam too much or even pretent the various other issues that could possibly occur? Also I like the blue ands pink combo, however I am wondering if you died the silicon blue, or if it is that way on it's own, and either way can the silicon be died to another color? Thanks in advance.

You're right on the hole size, but we didn't use a spade bit. Brad point bits seem to drill holes very well in foam. To keep the hole centered we made some simple jigs which are basically a bunch of tubes inside tubes. 1/2" polyester is on the outside, reducing all the way to some 1/4" ID stainless steel tubing. All you have to do is limit the travel of the drill bit to acquire your desired hole depth.

Posted Image

Melting isn't a problem considering we aren't melting anything, and the drill bit isn't going nearly fast enough to melt foam. The only other problem is you'll sometimes get the fuzz stuck in the hole after drilling. I've found a pair of tweezers can pull those out no problem.

We haven't tried dying the silicone at all yet. My guess is it probably won't take the color evenly, and could mess up the silicone mixture. We like the blue and pink combo anyway, so we haven't done anything with this.

Would it be possible to put T shirt material on the front of these darts the way that felt was attached to shmmee's?

Also, as Kane said, this really isn't feasible. For mass production this would be a pain in the ass. The uncured rubber also soaks through the t-shirt so it really wouldn't work well anyway.

I would look into adding a low-friction tip like shmmee did. You mentioned cotton balls, which should work well. The problem is mass-production, as each cotton ball must be pulled apart before it's suitable. T-shirt tops were a step in the path I'd take, though more complex.

If you bought large sheets of suitable tip fabric, and used a drill punch they could produce a usable tip cover. You may want to make the dart head more flat to aid with adhesion, and pool a bit more glue in the center to regain the dome shape. With a thin fabric the added cost should be minimal, and losing the tip cover adds no hazard whatsoever.

Wait, did I hear that hopper can be used by a stock BBB?!? How is it with regular darts from a more powerful blaster? My source has wyes at $2.50 each, so a hardware store replacement is welcome.

EDIT:While the lack of a wye is that hopper's biggest strength, would swapping the tee for a wye make the airflow more direct, increasing range?

Like we said, we really don't want to have to go down that road. Individually adding another component to the tip of each dart would be a nightmare. If it was feasible for mass production, we'd already be doing it. As for going with a flat tip design, this is the opposite of our goals, as we'd like to keep it a dome for better accuracy and flight stability. This is why slugs suck and seem to fall out of the air in mid-flight.

Your last question I don't really understand. If you're talking about the CPVC hopper, good luck finding some CPVC wyes.

Id really like to know how you made these. Do you think theyre easier or harder than the gumdrop heads?

Have you tried 45 bell elbows as the bottom part of your hopper design?
Posted Image

I actually considering using those. The only problem is you have to drill a hole for your air input, something I don't really want to do for each hopper we need to make. You could just attach it to the bottom of an inverted wye, like Kane did for his tagger hopper. One problem that seems to be occuring with all the PVC sized hoppers, is that the air is escaping around the dart as it's being fired. I'm guessing the dart tip is getting stuck against the plastic, while the air blows around the darts, resulting in it pooping out the barrel, or misfeeding completely. However, this is basically the configuration of what we'd do for a custom molded wye, except smaller diameter than PVC to keep down on dead space and make sure no air is escaping around the dart as you're firing the blaster.

Are these easier to make than gumdrop darts? I have no fucking clue. We haven't made any and don't plan on it.
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#9 Curly

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 02:43 PM

Like we said, we really don't want to have to go down that road. Individually adding another component to the tip of each dart would be a nightmare. If it was feasible for mass production, we'd already be doing it. As for going with a flat tip design, this is the opposite of our goals, as we'd like to keep it a dome for better accuracy and flight stability. This is why slugs suck and seem to fall out of the air in mid-flight.

Your last question I don't really understand. If you're talking about the CPVC hopper, good luck finding some CPVC wyes.

I didn't say to use flat tips, I was thinking of making the silicon flat but putting glue in the middle to regain a round tip once the fabric is attached. It complicates the process, but should make them feed in anything.

I was asking if the wye-free hopper was usable on blasters that cannot fire a normal hopper, and if it improves ranges on blasters that can fire hoppers. The other comment was that you could use a wye rather than a tee to make for more direct air flow while retaining the same general layout. Think of Ice 9's RSCB that used wyes before the hopper was discovered.
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#10 Ryan201821

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 03:25 PM

I didn't say to use flat tips, I was thinking of making the silicon flat but putting glue in the middle to regain a round tip once the fabric is attached. It complicates the process, but should make them feed in anything.

I was asking if the wye-free hopper was usable on blasters that cannot fire a normal hopper, and if it improves ranges on blasters that can fire hoppers. The other comment was that you could use a wye rather than a tee to make for more direct air flow while retaining the same general layout. Think of Ice 9's RSCB that used wyes before the hopper was discovered.

I still don't really understand what you're trying to do. First of all, any type of glue won't work on silicone. If you're saying to use silicone as a glue, any thin fabric will absorb the silicone, nullifying the use for the fabric in the first place. And if the tip does fall off, then you have a non-hopper-able dart, which is just as bad in the first place. This definitely also complicates the process tremendously, so I can't see this being a remotely feasible solution.

It seems to be that way. We were able to get a Big Salvo, and a 3B to effectively use the wye-less hopper, when regular hoppers never worked. We haven't done enough testing to determine if ranges are better with the wye-less hopper, but it looks like it.

What you're suggesting has already been tested, and it didn't work for the same reason normal hopper didn't work. Airflow isn't the problem we're trying to fix. The dart gets stuck against the plastic and air consequently goes around the dart before it seals with the barrel. This is why we tested it with CPVC fittings, since the air has less chance or getting around the dart, but instead pushes it out of the barrel quickly.

I also think the CPVC hopper is causing the darts to wear down faster. The sharp bend may be causing the darts to fall apart sooner than they should. More testing needs to be done on this as well. At this point, we're looking forward to see what we can do with some custom wyes, which will hopefully be the end-all answer.
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#11 shardbearer

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 04:43 PM

I would say just make a tagger hopper clip, put a nail through the wye input to keep it from getting stuck there, and then ream the hell out of it. I dont see what your problem is besides that. With the right reaming (I would use a dremel sanding drum), you could start with a loose enough fit it would fall in then tighten it very gradually around it until you get a perfect seal on the dart.

Waait...your problem is that the pvc bell elbow isnt tight enough on your foam to get a good seal? Get some sch 80 or cpvc and bend it yourself.
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#12 Ryan201821

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 05:18 PM

...I dont see what your problem is besides that...



One problem that seems to be occuring with all the PVC sized hoppers, is that the air is escaping around the dart as it's being fired. I'm guessing the dart tip is getting stuck against the plastic, while the air blows around the darts, resulting in it pooping out the barrel, or misfeeding completely. However, this is basically the configuration of what we'd do for a custom molded wye, except smaller diameter than PVC to keep down on dead space and make sure no air is escaping around the dart as you're firing the blaster.

The dart gets stuck against the plastic and air consequently goes around the dart before it seals with the barrel. This is why we tested it with CPVC fittings, since the air has less chance or getting around the dart, but instead pushes it out of the barrel quickly.

While we're trying to go with the gradual bend idea, the PVC sized fittings seems to be the problem.

Waait...your problem is that the pvc bell elbow isnt tight enough on your foam to get a good seal? Get some sch 80 or cpvc and bend it yourself.

Basically, yes.

Bending something is an option, although a terrible one, and you still have to fix somewhere for the air to come in. If you did it like how Kane did his tagger hopper, the barrel is below your blaster. This makes aiming pretty difficult. Another problem with bending something is what tubing are you going to bend? CPVC would be way too tight and Sch 80 would still be too tight. You'd need something 5/8" OD that's thin-walled, which wouldn't be easy to bend without kinking the tubing.

I still think it would a lot easier to use some type of casted part, since we can do exactly what we want, and replicating it is as easy as pouring a liquid into something. It's also cheaper than any of the methods for hoppers thus far. While other people wouldn't be able to do it unless they had a mold, the wyes could be sold very cheap and included with purchase of darts.
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#13 KaneTheMediocre

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 04:09 AM

I would say just make a tagger hopper clip, put a nail through the wye input to keep it from getting stuck there, and then ream the hell out of it. I dont see what your problem is besides that. With the right reaming (I would use a dremel sanding drum), you could start with a loose enough fit it would fall in then tighten it very gradually around it until you get a perfect seal on the dart.

Waait...your problem is that the pvc bell elbow isnt tight enough on your foam to get a good seal? Get some sch 80 or cpvc and bend it yourself.



I think it's appropriate to note that for a nonstandard hopper to be acceptable, it needs to be cheap enough that we can afford to include them with the darts that we sell, and available for individual sale at no more than $5, preferably 2-3.

So, one problem with this plan is that it requires that I produce deathgas and/or give myself cancer for 3 dollars. I HAVE bent sch40 PVC pipe this way before for a chopper experiment, but that required a vastly reduced amount of toxic exposure due to it's thinner walls.

Edited by KaneTheMediocre, 04 September 2011 - 04:12 AM.

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#14 arfink

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 10:31 PM

I think it's appropriate to note that for a nonstandard hopper to be acceptable, it needs to be cheap enough that we can afford to include them with the darts that we sell, and available for individual sale at no more than $5, preferably 2-3.

So, one problem with this plan is that it requires that I produce deathgas and/or give myself cancer for 3 dollars. I HAVE bent sch40 PVC pipe this way before for a chopper experiment, but that required a vastly reduced amount of toxic exposure due to it's thinner walls.


When you start selling these darts, please inform me. I will buy a sizable quantity. :)
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#15 Ozymandias

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 11:30 PM

So, one problem with this plan is that it requires that I produce deathgas and/or give myself cancer for 3 dollars. I HAVE bent sch40 PVC pipe this way before for a chopper experiment, but that required a vastly reduced amount of toxic exposure due to it's thinner walls.


One thing to consider: SgNerf's Portable Modding "Clean Lab".

You could rig up an air-compressor or something to that to make it ventilated.
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#16 KaneTheMediocre

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 12:20 AM

One thing to consider: SgNerf's Portable Modding "Clean Lab".


That is all kinds of win for a variety of nerf-related tasks. I'll definitely try using one, but it wouldn't be a good tool for bending PVC since it contains things in a plastic box.

You could rig up an air-compressor or something to that to make it ventilated.


That would completely defeat the point of the device.
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#17 Ozymandias

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 12:30 AM

That would completely defeat the point of the device.


Good point. You would also need a huge fucking box.
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#18 shardbearer

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 02:18 AM

From your vid it looked like you pour the RTV into your darts, and make the domes seperately, and then glue them together. Is that right? And could you make the domes, fill the darts, and push the darts into the still wet RTV in the darts? Would that stick?
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#19 KaneTheMediocre

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 10:30 PM

From your vid it looked like you pour the RTV into your darts, and make the domes seperately, and then glue them together. Is that right? And could you make the domes, fill the darts, and push the darts into the still wet RTV in the darts? Would that stick?



I don't have a vid, and don't use glue. Uncured RTV sticks to cured RTV, that's the only way to fuse them.
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#20 shardbearer

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 04:45 PM

Cool. This is the video.
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