Metal Comb Works: How it Started
- My grandfather was a cool dude. A locksmith by trade, he could fix anything. He always carried a handkerchief, a pocket knife, a pocket comb and his overstuffed (with all sorts of notes and papers) wallet in his pant pockets. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they carry with them. I was inspired to build something that was useful on a daily basis and could be handed down to future generations...something that my grandfather would be proud to carry with him every day.
- I started this project by researching pocket combs; materials, sizes and designs. I bought a wide variety of combs to measure, analyze, test and and literally put under the microscope. Today's combs are mostly made from injection molded plastic and meant to be disposable. Here are just a handful of plastic combs I bought to inspect.
- Some specialty or vintage combs are made of natural materials like bone, horn or wood. I wanted a material that would outlast its owner, be easily cleaned, hygienic and would always look great. I decided stainless steel was the way to go.
- With this information in hand I began the design process. I made some hand sketches and then converted those drawings to CAD files. I am offering several designs in this project. Thought went into every detail of the comb; spine size, tooth length, number of teeth, tooth tip radius, etc. All with an eye toward making a functional and beautiful comb. Here is the CAD file for a "skeletonized" comb which has been most popular with my friends.
- With the CAD file ready, I had a local shop cut prototype blanks. I machined final details into the combs and hand finished them using a Burr King grinder, a buffing wheel and lots of elbow grease. I now have three designs ready to go into production.
I have always had an appreciation for the esthetics of objects from the first half of the 20th century. Whether it is a steam locomotive, a suspension bridge, a table lamp, or a coin...utilitarian beauty can be found in almost everything from that bygone era. I have attempted to capture glimpses of that era in this line of simple objects; metal pocket combs.
Here are a few images of prototypes that did not make the cut. These were learning experiences and aided in the final design of the combs.
The top comb in this photo has a squared off tooth root, where the tooth meets the spine. This created a couple problems which were resolved with a rounded root as seen in the comb below. First, the teeth were bent during fabrication (notice bent teeth on top right), the sharp square edge caused drag while combing and was more difficult to deburr. All of the final designs have a rounded tooth root. These prototypes also helped me to determine comb weight by making the cutouts.
Tapered tooth design was dropped for parralell teeth with a radiused root.
Tooth count plays an important role is combing. Lots of fine teeth are great for very fine hair. Broader spacing makes for easier de-tangling and works better on coarse hair. I went with a medium range spacing for general purpose combing on all my combs. The photo below shows the final spacing left, a finer spaced trial on the right.
Surface finish is critical to comb performance. The more the comb is polished, the less likely it is to have burrs, sharp edges or imperfections which may snag hair. I tried several finishing techniques before settling on a high polish and a burnished finish. Here are three prototype finishes; burnished, polished and sandblasted. All final combs are high polish with the exception of the Mercury comb which is also offered in a burnished finished for an antique look.
Stainless Steel Construction
These combs are constructed of 13 gauge 304 stainless steel because it is durable, rust resistant and polishes up nicely. The thickness of the material is just right for this application. This is the same material used for medical products and with minimal care they should last your lifetime and beyond.
Machine and Handcrafted
All combs are blanked (laser cut) here locally at a shop near my home in San Marcos, California. I personally finish machine, grind and polish each comb by hand. I have arranged with a local jeweler to set the "Mercury" dime in the Mercury Comb. 100% made in the USA using modern machining techniques and a heavy dose of elbow grease.
Paper art has always been fascinating to me. The ingenuity involved in creating an Origami swan or a complex children's pop-up book from a flat piece of paper is amazing. I have taken some effort to create my own packaging design for each comb. I hope you will appreciate the simple but effective package when you receive your reward.
Designs / Rewards Offered
Reward #1: SKELETON COMB
The spine of the comb has been "skeletonized" to remove unnecessary material. This comb is bare bones when it comes to weight, but is full bodied functionality. The skeleton slots reduce the comb weight by about 15 grams. The comb measures just over 5 3/8" in length and has 39 teeth which are chamfered at the tip and base so it combs smoothly through your hair or whiskers.
Reward #2: HOT ROD COMB
The spine of the Hot Rod comb has holes reminiscent of the "lightening holes" in aircraft structures or race cars of the 1950's. Whether you are cruising the boulevard or setting a land-speed-record on the salt flats, you are well equipped with this comb which measures just over 5 3/8" in length.
Reward #3: MERCURY COMB
For me, the "Mercury" dime is the most beautiful US coin ever minted. The Mercury dime was introduced in 1916 and discontinued in 1945. I have incorporated a genuine silver "Mercury" dime into the spine of this comb. Not only can you see the winged-helmet image on the obverse, you can also see the olive branch and fasces through a machined window on the reverse. The spine and tooth pattern both have a sweeping curve motif. This comb is 5 3/8" long.
This comb is offered in your choice of a smooth, burnished finish (like the photos below) or a high polish.
NEW (10/31/13) Reward #4: THUNDERBIRD
This comb has a stylized wing design and is 5 3/8" long. The cut-outs reduce comb weight similar to the SKELETON design. This comb is offered in your choice of a burnished, high polish or sand blasted finish. This is a limited edition comb with only 50 pieces being offered through Kickstarter.
NEW (10/31/13) Reward #5: "GILDED" SKELETON OR HOT ROD
These combs have been coated with Titanium Nitride (TiN). It is an extremely hard and wear resistant coating in a beautiful gold color. I am offering only 50 pieces through Kickstarter. You get your choice of the Gilded Skeleton or the Gilded Hot Rod as a reward, high polish only.
Funding will be used to purchase raw materials, supplies and to build custom fixtures to final machine and polish each comb efficiently. Stainless steel, polishing compounds, grinding belts, and tooling are the main expenses. Your pledge will allow me to purchase materials in bulk to support economies of scale and keep costs down on the finished combs.
Production and Fulfillment Plan
Here is an overview of the process steps to bring this product to you! I will personally manage or perform all of the activities listed below unless otherwise noted.
- Product design: Complete. I have CAD drawings ready for the 3 comb designs. I created these drawings using a free software program called DraftSight.
- Material selection: Complete. I will use grade 304 stainless steel 13 gauge sheet. This is the material I used for the prototypes.
- Prototyping: Complete. I have manufactured several iterations of combs and settled on final designs, which are shown in the photos.
- Raw material sourcing: Vendors have been identified and quotations are secured for the 304 stainless steel sheet. Lead time is less than 3 days for this material including shipping.
- Comb "blanking" (laser cutting): Vendors have been identified and quotations are secured. Lead time is 2 to 5 working days after receipt of material. I will blank all 3 designs at the same time.
- Final machining: This will be done in my shop. Lead time will depend on which comb type is most popular but I have the capacity to build 100 combs per day including the polishing operation listed below.
- Polishing: Polishing is the most time consuming process step per comb. I have the capacity to polish more than 100 combs per day by myself and can add manpower to help with this step if necessary.
- Packaging and delivery: I will do this operation with the support of my family and friends will ship promptly. Alternatively, there is a locally owned and operated copy/print/mailing shop where I can get additional support if necessary.
- Shipping Goal: I have limited this funding effort to 30 days. With successful funding I am targeting December 15th as the ship date for all rewards. This should allow for receipt of all rewards in time for the holidays.
Thank you for your support!
Risks and challenges
This project is low risk as I have worked through many of the design and fabrication challenges already. Real prototypes are shown in the images here. The one "unknown" is the exact method I will use to securely affix the Mercury dime in in the comb spine. I am relying on a local Jeweler to help me with that. If the Jeweler can't help me, then I will use a fall back plan and press fit the coin in place.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)