theft-proofing your parts w/ solder (with blurry pics!)
after the recent theft of my some of my parts, i started thinking about ways to make it harder for people to steal stuff off bikes.
i knew about the ball-bearing trick, but dirtyDan suggested using solder instead, arguing that it's harder to get out than a ball-bearing, so i tried out the idea on a spare stem i had lying around, just as a basic proof-of-concept thingm and it seems to work fine.
here's my setup:
cheap-o solder iron (costs about $12.00 i think) and rosin-core solder (i think, for the way my results turned out, the rosin-core is important).
once the iron heated up, i melted a bunch of solder into the bolt, but because the bolt was cold, the solder solidified really quickly, and just sort of piled up, like this:
that didn't look so hot, so i hit it with a hammer to flatten it out
but i realized that pounding your tightened-down stem with a hammer was probably not such a good idea, so i figured i should start over and try to come up with method that would work on a stem that was installed on a bike.
i tried a bunch of ways to get the solder out (my initial idea of screwing a sheet-metal screw into it, and then grabbing the screw with pliers didn't work because the solder was too hard).
eventually i tipped the stem upside down, and stabbed the tip of the soldering iron into the solder until it melted down through it (which took awhile, because the stem is just a big heatsink at this point), and sort of pried the solder out.
as i did so, i noticed that the rosin core of the solder had formed a layer between the solder plug and thhe bolt (solder won't bond to steel) and as it got hot it helped the solder to slide out.
which gave me an idea.
i melted more solder into the bolt (this time i put the tip of the iron all the way into the bolt, melted solder around it, pulled the iron out, and filled the hole it left).
(i think if i do this on any of my bikes i'll add some solder so it protrudes above the bolt, and then CAREFULLY file it flush.)
after the solder cooled, i soldered a piece of copper wire to the plug
let it cool, grabbed the wire with a pair of pliers, and yanked it out
and it popped right out.
so, it works, and it works well. the downsides are you have mess around with solder and soldering irons, and it leaves a crust of rosin in your bolt (the rosin is easy to remove with solvent and a q-tip, and it won't get in the way of an allen wrench).
is it more secure than a super-glued ball-bearing? i have no idea. instinctively i'd say yes, because it's harder to get something between the side of the bolt and the solder, but i haven't tried the ball-bearing thing yet.
and even if it is more secure, it's more hassle and requires more gear, but it does seem to work.
Cool, it seems like it would be highly effective.
I have a few threadless stems lying around, I think I'll see how this works on a threadless setup.
that's just pretty damn smart.
a solder sucker or desoldering iron might be a little easier, but the wire seems to work out very nicely and very cleanly.
i thought about that, but it's one more piece of gear, and i think it might not be able to get all the solder out.
Originally Posted by zip22
like, really sloppy
that desoldering bulb for 3 bucks on the radio shack page would suck it out no problem.. those things kinda rule
So it goes.
If you are left with a extra solder in the bolt, it can be easily cleaned up with desoldering wick. This stuff works through capillary action and is quite awesome.
i chew straws
now what happens if you crash and you need to adjust something along the road? i wonder if an awl would loosen the solder or if it is stronger than that?
maybe solder and a ball bearing? you could suck the solder out and then roll out the ball bearing.
Last edited by stinkyonions; 10-13-05 at 07:54 PM.
Solder isn't a glue. It just seals two pieces of metal that have already been connected. Over time, I'm willing to bet that the solder in the bolt will weaken and separate. So, all I would need to do is chip it with a nail and hammer; and out it comes cleanly. Just my two cents...
If I were to theft-proof my parts, I would go the super glue ball bearing route.
the solder doesn't even bond to the bolt, in the experiment i did, it just filled the hole, with the rosin forming a weak bond between the bolt and the solder plug.
if you had a nail and hammer, you could also defeat the superglue and ball bearing. are you looking for a 100% permanent solution? it's not clear what your getting at.
Originally Posted by Jose R
keep a butane powered soldering iron in your seat bag
Solder-its are pretty small, so it's feasible.
I've found the glue and bb work well. I had to realign my stem once after a crash and it took me 15 minutes to get the damn bb out. I'm not sure a nail and hammer would work all that well. No space between the bb and the stem to jam it in. I had to work a pin in there and tweak the bb out. Now that I think about it, solder would have worked better if I'd had my solder-it with me. And I could have sparked up a big fattie to relax after the crash.
i chew straws
hot glue, instead of superglue, and a ball bearing? hot glue is easier to remove but i still don't think a thieve would bother if your holes were all filled up.
that's my feeling too, but i figured it was worth seeing if this would work.
Originally Posted by stinkyonions
neither method (bb and glue, or solder) is foolproof. it's just to make things hard enough that the thieving ****er moves on.
crotchety young dude
You're trying to fit a bottom bracket in the allen?!? Well, the main problem is that you need a Swiss threaded BB. That's the only way it'll stick.
Originally Posted by dolface
you could always just use a blow-torch to solder/de-solder it too, just heat up the bolt, and melt the solder into the hole. or heat the solder already in the hole until it runs out
Bike jocks ar still jocks
This was a warning for that soldering bulb on radioshack...
California residents: WARNING:
This product contains, or when used for soldering and similar applications produces, chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects (or other reproductive harm).
So apparently it will only kill you if your a Californian, man even the soldering bulbs are bigots.
its anything that has to do with solder, not just the bulbs. soldering in california is not a good idea
Originally Posted by zip22
i'm from california and once my cousin was soldering something and somehow some ended up on the top of my hand... not fun!
now i live in nyc and i have never had one incident!!!
yeah, probably not.
JB-Weld + ball bearing after degreasing everything very thoroughly.
Next step up is getting some heavy dooty theft proof bolts like those they use in elevators that need a screwdriver with two pins, etc., some really weird head type the average theif will never think to bring along.
Hmm, just fill the hole with J-B Weld again after a good degreasing.....
Also, silver-solder often sticks to things a lot better than rosin core, and use a torch. Even my big fat 800 degree tip I use for big ugly RF connectors won't heat a stem up enough.
Soldering in California is fine, you can get tin/lead rosin core solder all over the place here for like $3 a roll if you know where to buy it, no shortage of nasty fluxes and so on either.
Oh, here's another idea, tighten down your part, then carefully mill out the hole so it's just a round hole. Laugh yourself sore pictureing the thief trying to find the Allen wrench to fit that!
For those not wanting to do a homemade fastener modification there are products made that already do this such as those listed here: http://www.hudsonfasteners.com/security.htm
Yes the website it only sells to businesses, but there's probably ways that every "business" needs these for some reason or other. Yes most of these appear to be SAE and not Metric, but someone has to make them.....this was just a quick search.
Or you could just convert your fasteners over to torx....even with tampers.
The likelyhood that people are carrying around torx vs allens I imagine is far less.
now we have to persuade bicycle parts makers to make bolts theft-proof, how about different keys for every bike?
So I says to Mable I says
torx heads are the fscking bomb.. as is jb-weld, but that seems like a fairly permanant solution to me. I don't think you'd be able to chip that stuff out of there very easily!
This post is reminding me of fixing my car.. Torx wrenches and jb-weld all over the place.