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Project in Process: Fordite & Flame-Blued Steel Dials


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Absolutely stunning, and inspiring to boot.

I have encountered "Fordite" as a concept a while back, and thought the effect was remarkable.

It looks like very "trippy" agate, but is relatively easier to work with than agate would be.

I even toyed with the idea of producing some home made "Fordite", because I didn't realise you could actually obtain it from car manufacturers. I wonder if the local car body shops would also have a build up of this sort of material. I'll need to ask.

When I read about it initially, it reminded me of my dad's work when we were kids, as it looked like something highly complex in structure that had been very thinly sliced. 

He was a biologist and geneticists, and in the course of his lab work he would from time to time have samples of trees and other organic material prepared for examination in an SEM or for optical microscopy. One of the tools they used for this work was a microtome.  Often the samples once stained had a remarkable beauty which wasn't evident until you prepared them.

Actually there were several different types of microtome at the university, ranging from saws, similar to the one you describe, down to hand microtomes, which could prepare thin slices of pretty much anything, so long as the hardness wasn't too great.

Something similar to the very basic microtomes I have used is available on ebay for not much money, and I suspect it may be capable of dealing with Fordite.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Hand-and-Table-Microtome-with-Planoconcave-Knife-and-Table-Clamp/284067507629?hash=item4223be2dad:g:ei8AAOSwuxJfoiH3

Typically the samples they produce are smaller than a watch dial. However they produce very thin samples. In fact you can dial the thicknes down to produce slices of the order of a 0.01mm. So thin in fact, that many normally opaque objects become translucent.

There are even 3d printable microtome designs. https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2178524


You might be able to adapt this idea to your material if it isn't too far up the hardness scale for a razor to cut.

Alternatively you might look at using a plane to produce something akin to Yosegi plane shaving veneers, perhaps from stacks of fordite sticks.

As I say, your work is inspiring stuff. More pictures please.

EDIT: One other trick I remember was to "entomb" the sample in wax, epoxy, clear acrylic or some other medium before slicing it. This might apply here too, since you could prepare your dial medium almost like a stick of rock prior to slicing it. You could drill or punch holes for your accents, fill them with a contrasing material or a soft precious metal, or even lume and then slice.

Edited by AndyHull
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Please forgive the poor quality snapshot, but it all came together. I am over the moon! Here's my first completed fordite-dialed watch: I'll provide a more complete write up, better ph

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a custom dial project. I’m still not ready to show my first production examples, but the project has gotten to the point where I’m comfortable sharing my

So, I've debated sharing the proof of concept picture below, as it's with an imperfect fordite dial slice and the fordite itself hadn't been polished. It's not even a particularly compelling cut of fo

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Slightly off topic, but if you have access to a laser cutter capable of cutting thin sprung steel, you might be able to make sheets of the infamous Timex click springs. I'm sure JerseyMo would love a source of those.

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Here are my two completed fordite-dialed watches. I didn't install their second hands 'cause I wanted to show more of the dials. I've got lots more in the pipeline._DSF3227.thumb.jpg.5b362a942c39f9f1ef23847270e2e5f7.jpg

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Insanely cool. Migraine inducing but very good. I'll be following. I'm trying to remember where i've seen the fordite before....I read that you got into heat bluing hands...most excellent. 

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On 11/8/2020 at 12:01 AM, MechanicMike said:

Insanely cool. Migraine inducing but very good. I'll be following. I'm trying to remember where i've seen the fordite before....I read that you got into heat bluing hands...most excellent. 

Yeah, thanks Mike for your early encouragement!

I'm to the point in my heat bluing that I think that hands and screws are pretty straightforward. Bluing the chapter rings is a much harder task, because it's hard for me to get consistent heat over the much larger area a chapter ring requires.

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On 11/5/2020 at 4:51 PM, AndyHull said:

Slightly off topic, but if you have access to a laser cutter capable of cutting thin sprung steel, you might be able to make sheets of the infamous Timex click springs. I'm sure JerseyMo would love a source of those.

That sounds eminently feasible, and rather inexpensive. I'd say that $300-$400 in laser cutting fees would produce several hundred of those click springs, if someone can make a CAD file with their exact dimensions.

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Get yourself a tiny end mil, and a dividing head, and place some pocket dots around the dial you fill with lume material (perhaps of colors other than white too)

Actually, maybe you can drill through the Fordite before you glue it up, although that may complicate the alignment process..

How about some thin glove leather with branded in hour markers?

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Cool ideas Tudor.

The hardest part for me is aligning everything on these sterile dials. I would absolutely love to learn how to pad print some markers and my "brand" on these.

I'm tempted to get some of the filmless decal paper and play with it one one of these dials. Unfortunately, I really want to print black and white ... and I can only do black with my printer and decal paper.

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There are laser printers which will print white. Unfortunately I don't have access to one, but your local print shop might.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/WHITE-Toners-Drums-for-OKI-Printers-OKI-5-6-7-8-9-C-Series-Printers-UK-Reman/181771981574?var=480717594441&hash=item2a52745306:g:OcsAAOSwstxVduov

You can also get white toner, and use it in a conventional laser printer.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/4000-PAGE-SOLID-GHOST-WHITE-TONER-REFILL-FOR-HP-PRINTERS/124284721602?hash=item1ceff259c2:g:CnoAAOSw7CJZ5Dap

I haven't inspected this particular can of worms very carefully, but I suspect it would be possible to heat-transfer the toner from a substrate to the dial.

Edited by AndyHull
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Oh, right on, thanks Andy. I wasn't aware of white toner.

I'm honestly so focused on getting my first 10 "sterile" dials finished that I don't have a lot of mental bandwidth to think about the decals, but I'm filing that away for later. 🙂

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Check local print shops, if any exist. 

We had our guitar headstock decals made via custom printing sheets of dry transfer. We did black, silver and gold. We could do the black under the gold for a drop shadow look. Part of the sheet had a bunch of numbers so we could do the serial. 

Doesn’t help with alignment but...

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Here's a photo I had handy. I'm not sure where the binder went with all the photos of the guitars (and other instruments) we made went to... It's been missing for a while now.

But these are all dry transfer. The "Lucky Thirteen" logo was made from individual letters. This is serial number 013 and the only complete instrument I have. It's a 1958 strat replica- these were very popular models. Where it says lucky thirteen on this one, they normally said "1958 Model" in that location. This particular one (number 013) was originally built as a Jimmie Vaughn model, in cream paint, with the same pickups he used (Van Zandt rock model) rather than sunburst with Van Zandt "true vintage" model pickups.

The body was sold to Neil Vitullo in Rhode Island (Young Neil and the Vipers) so I built up another body for the neck, with the intention to sunburst it. I custom mixed my tints for the sunburst based on a 1958 strat, so the colors were correct. (unfortunately those tinted nitrocellulose lacquers are gone) This body is still in sanding sealer- it was never finished, but I assembled it so it's a complete instrument. My Son will probably end up with it. I may spray bomb it black at some point.

IMG_E5762.JPG

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Fantastic ideas and information! I'll definitely be looking into these. Thank you! Alignment is going to be rough, but it was always going to be rough.

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On 11/9/2020 at 2:50 PM, dpn said:

Yeah, thanks Mike for your early encouragement!

I'm to the point in my heat bluing that I think that hands and screws are pretty straightforward. Bluing the chapter rings is a much harder task, because it's hard for me to get consistent heat over the much larger area a chapter ring requires.

yes you've moved on to several levels! kudos..

what are you using as your heat source for your chap rings?

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@MechanicMike: Right now, I'm using a propane camp stove with a 6" x 6" x 1" block of aluminum to help with heat evenness.

Another shot: I'm working on improving my watch photography too!

 

 

Zzyzx_Atelier_SRPE69_Fordite.jpg

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Quick shot of my 3rd finished fordite-dialed Seiko.

IMG_1137.thumb.JPEG.bf13ad8561eded4977ab3588c05b452d.JPEG

I'm making a push to get my first production run of 10 out, and then I'll be focusing on adding the chapter rings and making some ETA 6498-compatible fordite dials.

 

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@Tudor I agree -- I need to buy an assortment of different colored seconds hands. I'm also looking for an inexpensive source of quality "high contrast" hands. I found a handset I really like (the arrows 2 photos above), but at $30/handset they're pricey.

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Maybe you can collect matching touch up paint and color the hands as you go?

Also, you may want to investigate colored lume- I’ve seen black which glows green in the dark, among other colors. 

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