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Fun with Valves

This post is part of a series about my journey making baskets from punctured bicycle inner tubes. To see them all, click here.

Background

Upcycling can be so satisfying, especially when you take something that would otherwise be thrown away and give it a new life as something useful.

But while I love this mindset it can get you into trouble, as it becomes difficult to get rid of ANYTHING. So while I could recycle the valves as they’re brass, I really wanted to think of a way to show them off. Especially as they’re often the only part of the bicycle inner tube people see, so will help with the perpetual problem of people thinking my stuff is made from leather.

Though this sign does help.

For a very long time I tried to be subtle, but that doesn’t often work. This sign has done wonders at markets – moreso than the bicycle wheel just behind it.

But how best to use those valves?

Previous Uses

I’ve toyed around with using valves in the past, making a few cable tidies for a laugh more than anything.

But while I love them on the tidy (and have a few with me for sale at markets), I wanted something that made use of the metal in a unique way. The keychain idea is something I may want to revisit, although I’ve only been able to make one so far – all attempts since have ended with me breaking drill bits.

Thankfully around this time I was making my valet trays, and it occurred to me the valve would be a brilliant place to stack your rings.

But as well as this works, it’s only an option for a small segment of the tubes that get donated to me, as most aren’t the super chunky mountain bike tubes this product needs.

The Seed of an Idea

In my last post, I showed off a basket where I was able to feature the hole where a valve once was. Although it was a death knell for that tube’s use in a bicycle tyre, it was something to cherish and celebrate in its new life as a basket.

But it got me thinking, what if I wove with tubes where the valve was still attached?

I dismissed it for a while as being a bit too mad, but it the idea stayed itching in my brain.

Initial Stumble

Eventually that itch won and I started a mock up of a basket with a valve. This was back before I found the stacking cubes from my last post, and still using my tetrapak milk carton as a form.

As tempting as it was, even I knew a basket with a valve about as long as the basket is wide probably wouldn’t appeal to anyone, so I didn’t pursue it.

Eventually though I came up with a mockup I was happy with.

Valve Basket 1 – Companion Cube

If you’re curious about the name, I showed my sister some pictures after I’d finished it, and she said it reminded her of the cube from the video game Portal. I definitely agree – there’s something about it that’s just cute!

Stats:

  • Size: #7 Stacking Cube, about 12.5 cm each side and 11.5 cm tall
  • Tubes (estimated): I’d say less than 3 full tubes worth of material, but using at least 4 tubes (as I’ve got 4 valves). All 3-3.5 cm wide.
  • Valves: 4 valves – 2 presta, 2 schrader. All 3-3.5 long.
  • Rivets: 21 antique bronze coloured brass. None of the valves are all that shiny, so I went with a more muted colour.
  • Hand Press Presses: 46 (used a couple of washers on the back of where the label attaches)

Assembly was a little trickier than a normal basket, and I ended up drawing on my form to make sure the valves all ended up at more or less the same height. It took extra time and care to get everything to line up but it’s fab so I don’t mind.

More Detail

As there’s only one valve per tube, I had an extra join so I could put two valves on opposite sides from each other. I only did that the once because I wasn’t sure it would work. I’m glad it came together this way, I really like the asymmetric symmetry.

While my brain kept nagging me with the idea of a basket with every possible over weave featuring a valve like some kind of mad porcupine, it takes time to collect that many tubes that are about the same width and stiffness to work together to create a basket.

So my second attempt was only slightly more spiky.

Valve Basket 2 – Sputnik

Sputnik because the vast antenna array – you see more of it in the galleries below.

Stats:

  • Size: #8 stacking box, about 15.5 cm each side and 14 cm tall
  • Tubes: Material from at least 6 tubes, but probably only 3 or slightly less tubes worth of material. Softer inner tubes, all around 4 cm wide.
  • Valves: 6 valves – 4 presta (one missing a core), two schrader. Prestas vary from 4-6cm long, schraders just over 3 cm.
  • Rivets: 25
  • Hand Press Presses: 54 presses (two washers again on the back of the label)

Assembly

It took even more time to put this together than my first attempt, mostly because I didn’t plan ahead. I riveted each pair of valves across from each other without thinking of the overall design, and I got a bit panicked that it was going to look unbalanced.

There was still some rearranging I could do so I sent some pictures to my sister.

Her reply: “Wait, what’s the difference?”

I settled on the first picture above. Ideally I would’ve put a short one opposite a long one on two sides, and kept the two long ones on the other ends. But that was the arrangement I was happiest with given what was already attached.

More Angles & Notes

The big construction difference was that I hid the rivets on the horizonal bands. I kept them on the under part of the weave, as I was worried it would distract from all those valves.

As much as I love it, I do see some areas for improvement with this basket.

  • Although it’s only a difference of at most 1cm, tubes this wide start looking a little wavy with my normal construction style.

The valves are on the inside of the tubes (the hole in the donut), as is most of the writing. So I tend to make my baskets with that inside facing out. But as the tubes get bigger, the difference in diameter between the inside and outside of the tube grows, and can warp how the basket looks.

Looking back on it now, this width of tube may still be useful for baskets, but they would have to be constructed outside out. In fact, these baskets are pliable enough I can turn this inside out, and you can already see an improvement…though it starts looking like some kind of alien mouth on the inside!

The downside would be some of the writing and character might be hidden, but I could make wider baskets with lower sides to improve the chances of it being seen.

  • Another note: while this basket is larger, I’m not sure it’s large enough to balance out those massively long valves.

It might be that I just don’t use those for basketmaking, or maybe it needs to be a really massive basket?

I’m not in a rush to try another with that length of valve anytime soon. Or at least not without a lot of mocking up before I rivet things together.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love this basket, and it definitely gets attention at markets so I’ll keep offering it there…though most people tend to be amused/confused/point out it could be a health and safety hazard.

Next Steps

I’ve paused on valve baskets for the moment, until I collect up enough to play around with properly.

But in the meantime I’m still working on my normal basket weave designs, and toying around with another style of weaving- but more on that next week!

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