Give Me Some Sugar - We Put the Honey Back in Honeycomb.
Our Conservation buckles represent some of our most popular products. While the Salmon and Buffalo buckles are more obvious in the species they represent, the Honeycomb buckle is more of a subtle nod to the almighty bee. We wanted to get crafty and make some cool images that would explain the Honeycomb buckle concept. Here's a behind the scenes look at how we managed to make it look like the buckle was filled with real honey.
Remember back in the day when you used to make your own Christmas ornaments at home? The ones where you would fill a little metal frame with plastic beads and put it in the oven? That's where this idea originated. We thought if little kids could make Christmas ornaments, how hard could it be to do the same thing with one of our buckles? The answer? A little harder than we thought! After figuring out the process on our own, we've decided to share it with you just in case the crafty bug should catch you this winter.
Finding the beads.
If you are familiar with crafting, you've undoubtedly heard of Pearler beads. These amazingly available bits of plastic are exactly what we weren't looking for. We wanted something that would melt completely and stay clear, or at least somewhat transparent. After a little research on the good ol' internet, we learned that what we needed were 'MakeIt and Bakit' crystals. These are surprisingly hard to find these days but we finally found them on Etsy. If you look hard enough, you can find them in just about any color that suits your fancy.
Baking the first buckle.
Once the crystals arrived in the mail we got to work. Our first thought was to place a buckle from our Classic Series under the Honeycomb buckle, fill in the holes with the crystals and get to bakin'. Sounds foolproof right?
We ran into a couple of unexpected problems. The first one being the seal around the holes. The gap between the buckles wasn't airtight, which led to plastic seeping out and making a bit of a mess. To combat the leaking plastic we tried several methods to improve the process. Though each method helped, they all still leaked. Additionally, baking the buckle at 415° (something we normally don't test for as we don't live on the planet Venus.) seemed to cause a change in the anodized coating, giving the buckle a lighter tone.
Using a heat gun instead of baking
After attempting (with marginal success) to solve the issue of the plastic leaking out of the back, we set our sights on solving the issue of discolored buckles. Back in the corner where our engineers do their mad science stuff, we found a "Wagner Heat Gun" (think blow dryer on steroids) that pumps out air heated to 1000° F. The instructions that came with the crystals require baking at 425° so we figured if 425° was good, then 1000° was better!
We used a limited edition black Honeycomb buckle for the next test to see how the heat gun effected the black anodized coating. Oddly, at 1000° it didn't discolor the buckle at all while melting the plastic. The finished product looked pretty darn good and we were quite pleased with ourselves (to say the least).
Then we flipped it over.
Going for perfection
The Black Honeycomb buckle we had made was a bit of a of a mullet. It was Tesla in the front and Pontiac Aztec in the back. It would work for the pictures, but we weren't necessarily proud of it. We knew we could do better.
The only problem left to solve was getting an airtight seal on the back of the buckle. We decided to use tinfoil on the back and push it as tightly as possible. Additionally, we needed something to apply pressure to the back while we heated the plastic so the foil seal wouldn't fail. An old towel did the trick. We put the towel between the Honeycomb and a classic buckle and clamped all three together with a vice grip.
While heating the buckle to melt the plastic, we had to be careful not to start a fire. The hand towel kept charring and came close to igniting a couple of times.
The total time it took to melt the plastic with the heat gun was about 10 minutes for the first run. We had to add a couple of beads to holes to fill them equally and melt for another 5 minutes.
When the dust settled and plastic was dry we finally had a buckle that we were proud of. This was a fun rainy day project to work on. The end product is pretty snazzy looking and will hopefully help shed some light on the fact all the honeybees are disappearing. We know a couple of you are wondering if we will ever sell something like this, and the answer is no. This was a meant to be a fun craft project.
Baking a GRIP6 buckle will discolor it.
Makit and Bakit crystals don't smell good while melting (do it outside).
Hand towels burn fairly easily.
Our buckles retain heat for a long time.
A Good Word for the Honeybees
Why make a Honeycomb buckle?
Our world needs pollinators. Without them, 30% of our produce would disappear, that's over 15 billion in U.S. crops alone. Yet, over 25% of the managed honeybee population has vanished since 1990. We can't afford to sit back and leave this to chance, especially when there are things we can all do to help. That's why GRIP6 Beltshas partnered with the Xerces Society for our Honeycomb buckle. For every belt or buckle sold, we will donate 10% of wholesale sales to fund critical research, education, and the implementation of flowering crop borders, hedgerows, and roadside vegetation. Working together we can all make a difference.
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