Back From The Dead – Christmas Special

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Back From The Dead is usually a feature reserved only for our Members, however, in the spirit of Christmas, we’re letting you have a sneak peek behind the paywall, so you too can create some Christmas decorations from those worn out bike bits cluttering up your shed.

I’ve decided to mix things up a bit this month from my usual repairing things that can’t be repaired to what to do with things that are past any kind of repairing. 

Bike shops create a lot of waste. 

No matter the green credentials we might tout and the fact that cycling is a zero emission pastime there’s a whole lot of stuff that goes in the bin in a bike shop. 

Don’t even get me started on the excessive packaging that many companies insist on using for their products. (I’m looking at you biggest component manufacturer on the planet with lots of blue boxes and seven pieces of A4 in every box that could have been a QR code printed on the side!). But packaging isn’t today’s rant, today’s rant isn’t even that much of a rant because it’s about recycling and I am all for recycling in any way possible. This is more about recycling on a more micro level, giving things a new life without the middlemen!

Bike parts are enormously wasteful if they’re not recycled – when a cassette is worn past the point of being a workable piece of cycling equipment it still has 99% of the material it was built with. That’s a whole big chunk of (often) steel that would take a huge amount of energy to melt down into its raw form again. So if it can be turned into something else without that energy use then that has to be a positive overall! 

We recycle everything we can at the Happy Days. Metals, cardboards and plastics are all disposed of with their relevant recyclers, usually by me or Jonny flying up and down Sowerby Bridge high street with our custom recycling wagon strapped to the back of one of our bikes! For any food waste we have Charlie the Happy Days Beagle and if he’s not there then the world famous Sowerby Bridge Geese are usually hanging around outside the workshop window and seem to eat just about anything! Even though we don’t have a regular council bin collection I’m always impressed that the non recyclable waste we generate is generally a small enough amount that it will fit in one of our home waste bins.

As essential as recycling is and even though it only takes a fraction of the energy and cost to the planet of generating new raw materials, surely if you can make use of something again before it gets sent back to the foundry then that’s even more eco friendly! Right? 

Or maybe I just enjoy making things out of trash?!

We have many, MANY worn out cassettes filling our scrap metal boxes, silently waiting for their turn to be sent to our local scrap man, who then sends it to a bigger scrap man, who then sends it to be loaded onto a ship and ferried across the ocean to a furnace in China, where it’s melted down into raw material ready to be shipped once again to a manufacturer, who then ships it to a distributor, who then ships it to a retailer who then finally sells it back to you as a shiny new product ready to be worn out again!

What if I could skip the bulk of these steps and make that scrap cassette into a shiny new product without it getting any more shipping miles on it?

What if that product had a Christmassy theme sure to generate holiday joy in even the grinchiest of hearts? 

What if I could use them to raise money for our local homeless charity (that our shop already supports)?

What if I could use it as an easy cop out way to do a Back From The Dead Christmas Special!?

What if I could use the whole project as another entry into my eventual book ‘1001 uses for a broken track pump’?

For the answer to all these questions and more read on! 

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My original design for these recycled cassette Christmas trees is from a few years back when I couldn’t afford a proper Christmas present for my mum (And obviously I wanted to give her something handmade with love to show how much I cared!).

I only decided I was going to make some trees for the shop in mid October. This is a month’s worth of worn out cassettes! I’m gonna save all the worn cassettes next year and make a whole forest of Christmas trees!

Luckily I have a few glamorous assistants to help me with the grimier aspects of the job.

Power tools also help, a lot!

Next task is to remove the pins joining the sprockets together, a quick job when you’re stripping one cassette can become a real drag when you have to do it 20 times in a row…

So on my original tree that I made for my mum I’d used a nice shimano hub as a base/tree trunk, if I was going to be ‘mass producing’ the trees I would need another solution as I don’t have an endless supply of hubs to use. I do however have a seemingly endless supply of track pump shafts from a series of broken pumps in the shop!

Just the right size to fit nicely through my various bits of cassettes!

With a judicious application of vice power a cassette lockring wedges into the end of the shaft beautifully, creating an edge for the sprockets to butt up against.

To hold the bottom of the sprocket cluster (or leaves) from falling down the pump shaft (or trunk) I blasted a quick hole through with my drill and then made a nice plug out of a scrap of gear cable with a couple of end caps.

A plan is taking shape!

Welcome to the Happy Days Cycles Custom Spray Booth! Sponsored by 1970s Blumels pumps…

Now it’s just time for lights and of course a star for on top!

I ordered the lights from everybody’s least favourite multi billionaire Lex Luthor cosplayers website, because they looked like the battery unit would fit perfectly into the cassette lockring (they do, the splines of the lockring even give the cable a perfect channel to run out from!). And so even this feelgood Christmas tale has been tainted by the filthy claws of corporate Christmas consumerism… 

As for the star on top of the tree any bike mechanic worth their salt should know that five full links of chain can be folded into a star! 

A small cable tie wrapped around the inner pins and it will hold the star in place.

Then file the end of one point of the star so it has a flat edge

Glue a button magnet onto the top of the battery pack to make a mount for the star.

Ta da! The perfect Christmas gift for anyone! Cyclist or not, it’s sure to bring years of Christmas joy and come the day when it’s finally finished with it can still be sent off to the furnace to be fully recycled anyway!

Bonus Extra Bodgecraft – Bike Chain Baubles!

Ingredients needed:

  • 5 x full links of bicycle chain (inner and outer plates).
  • 1 x traditional j bend spoke.
  • 1 x shimano 1.2mm gear cable end cap 
  • 1 x 1.8mm cable tie

Connect your 5 links of chain into a loop and fold into a star shape.

Tie the inner ring of chain pins with the cable tie 

Put a bend in the end of the spoke so the head of the spoke will tuck into the link and the shaft of the spoke will sit straight above the star.

Add hook to spoke for hanging and cut off the excess length.

Finally add the cable end to the spoke to finish it off neatly.

Shimano 1.2mm crimps fit nice and snug and look a lot neater than the basic 1.8 mm crimps. I could go off on a whole diatribe about why Shimano crimps are so much better but it’s Christmas and I’m sure you have better things to read about so just trust me they are!

So that’s that for this month, all these trees and baubles are being sold directly for the Happy Days homeless charity so hopefully we should be able to give them a nice extra wedge of cash this year right before Christmas – so far these bike trash trinkets have raised £450!

And if that doesn’t hit you in the holiday feels then there’s no hope for you! 

Happy holidays folks! 

I hope you all get all the new bike stuff you want, or new bike stuff made from old bike stuff that you might not necessarily want. Whatever! 

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  • This topic has 2 replies, 3 voices, and was last updated 1 year ago by ogri.
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  • Back From The Dead – Christmas Special
  • matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    I’m heading to the shed today, that Christmas tree cassette is awesome!

    Free Member

    Great article Dieter,when you mentioned cassettes I shuddered about the degreasing so was glad to read about your little helpers.
    Thank you.

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