Matt's Awesome Stuff
Metal Octopus Cue Case
Last updated: 16Apr2012
Back in 2008, I played as an alternate in a weekly billiards league. Everyone on the team somehow developed an aquatic nickname that they started using on their scoresheets. Scott became Scottlefish, Alexis became Alcali Starfish, another was Iron Lungfish.
A friend on my team had a cheap $15 cue case covered in leather-patterned tape (like a big sheet of electrical tape), with an ugly red interior. One day I noticed 2/3 of his hinges were missing their pins, so I offered to take it home and find something to use as replacement pins. His league name was Metal Octopus (presumably because he always throws heavy metal on the jukebox).
So, on the walk home, I had an idea to do more than just fix his hinges. And this is what came of it:
I ended up re-doing almost the entire case. Worked on it for a few hours almost every day, took me about a month. All I kept was the hardboard frame, the hinges, the locks, and the handle.
Here's what it started off looking like:
First I stripped off the ugly (and peeling) black leather exterior, and then ripped out the ugly red foam and red felt interior.
I bought some black leather-print vinyl (real leather was too thick), and re-upholstered the entire exterior. Then, I bought some blue velvet and redid the interior. The interior now looks like this:
Then I started off on the exterior. I wanted to make a metal octopus spelling out Metal Octopus with its tentacles. The original plan was this:
The plates are some thin stainless sheet I recovered from an old IBM P2 350. Cut into strips about 1/4" wide with tin snips, and then one side scraped back and forth across a wood file, to rough up on edge. Then my 8" bolt cutters cut the chevron-shaped scales, one at a time. Then I held the scales between some flat pliers, and bent them about 15 degrees on the side of my vice. There's a few hundred of them.
It didn't turn out quite like I wanted, the places where the tentacles curled and showed the other side came out a bit ugly and not obvious.
The brass plates near the head/body are from some old sheet I bought originally to use as belly plates on my dragon, but which have just sat around since. Same deal with them.
Nothing wants to stick to vinyl, so to get them to stick I tested a variety of adhesives. Hot glue, GOOP, Weldbond, and JB-Weld. None held. So what I planned was to cut thin 1/8" strips of the vinyl away, where I would be laying the scales, so they could adhere to the wood/fabric instead. Then, I tapped some 1/3 pins (like normal sewing pins, but only 1/3 as long) every couple inches into the hardboard, and wrapped some 28awg stainless around each pin once, and then hammered the pins flat. Then flipped the lid over and bent them all over. That gave some better surface area for what I imagined would need to be JB-weld (a cold-weld steel epoxy) to hold the plates down.
I only did that for maybe 8 inches though, because I later discovered that hot glue sticks to metal quite well, and if applies hot, melts and fuses the vinyl surface into the glue.
Was made out of some 1/8" steel plate cut with a hacksaw. The copper body (stomach?) is from a copper pipe split down the middle, flattened, and cut with a hacksaw.
The chainmaille content is 24awg ~1/16" brass and copper alternating. About 250 rings or so.
Here's an early picture:
The eye frames are from the wavy (grippy) part at the top of brass (painted) tin canning jar lids. The eyes themselves are just chunks of copper.
Then the little suckers...
Are 22awg brass rings wrapped around 14awg copper. They're cut off and then made into rings. The copper cores I made by hacksawing a couple hundred 1mm chunks of 14awg copper, requiring a custom jig (and much cursing/annoyance). The copper slugs were then placed on my vice, a ring pushed down onto them, and then hammered into rivets with a small ball pean hammer. Then one at a time, JB-welded to the scales everywhere they're supposed to be.
The miniature cue...
... took me forever. I went through probably 100 random items around my house until I found the right shade of blue. It was from a compass out of a geometry set that my older sister got 15 years ago. Luckily, it was an appropriate size for scaling the rest of the cue around.
The maple shaft is a whittled down chopstick (a toothpick was just slightly too small).
The grip is some finishing nail with blue thread wrapped around it.
Some more pictures:
After a couple years of late night drinking, Canadian winters, and trying to shove the cue case into a backpack, it's really beat up. 20% of the plates are gone and random other pieces have snagged and fallen off. Hot glue was a poor adhesive choice. I replaced the case for him with a plain one and haven't got around to trying to fix it, so it gathers dust in my shop, unwanted and ugly.