Holy Poo! (The TekAngel Saga)
This is gonna get long. It's a fairly simple mod, but I took lots of pictures. :D
Shortly after this year's Pile 'O Poo Build-Off was posted, I found a boxful of old Montneel parts and decided to join in. I only got as far as making a new 45 frame for it, before getting tied up with other work in the shop.
Shortly thereafter, I dug out my crate of old Angel parts, managed to make one good one, and then got an idea to salvage one of the other junkers, that I thought would make a better P'OP build.
So our saga starts here, with a large boxful of old LED Angel parts (with a scattering of LCD bits) that I've collected over the years. Out of this mess, I managed to make one good, complete LED, that, despite it's age and bone-stockishness (save for one of my DynaBolts) still rocked the field the following weekend.
However, just the one was about the extent I could build using the stock parts. I had only the one battery stick (still, surprisingly enough, holding a charge) there was only one more wiring harness- and it was butchered already- I had no 2-finger frames except for old LED singles that had been cut, there was only one more ram, one more backplate, I had no more front LPR/battery caps (except for a few mismatched "volumizer" types) and so on.
On the other hand, I had two more solenoids, a binful of bolts, a dozen MiniRegs and two dozen "crack pipe" ASAs (both metric and standard thread) and a total of five bodies complete with RotaBreeches. So what to do with the other four?
I may not be able to resurrect all four (they all have various levels of wear and damage) but I think I can save at least two, especially with an idea on how to update one. After the purple one, the next best was this silver one, which I think was a Dark Angel:
I had gotten this one, in parts but more or less complete, back in about 2000-2001 or so. It was a sort of "trade in" to the KM2 guys for whom I was doing the machinework side of their Gabriel Chip upgrades and ACE installs. This one had one of their very first installs, when they were doing it themselves with little more than a drill press. When we started offering my improved installs, the owner wondered if his could be upgraded, so instead we bought it from him at then fair market value, and I think the KM2 guys gave him a free install on a replacement gun.
I then bought the old one from them (I paid some $400 for it- back when even a box of parts for an Angel was worth decent cash) and started planning what I wanted to do with it. Well, in another case of the cobbler's kids running around without shoes, I set it aside to get to "later", and one thing led to another, so here it is well over a decade later. :D
Anyway, the main problem with the gun were these- the old 3/16" holes for the old-style large breakbeam eye components.
Worse, because they were basically just using a drill press back then, thanks to the curvy milled bits of the sides of the body, the drill "wandered" and produced crooked, oversized holes. The ACE still worked, but the holes were unsightly, and also, they were, at the time, epoxying the eye elements in.
Also, the eye wires were run through two little aluminum tubes, that ran down the length of the gun right above the grip frame- and were attached at either end with itty-bitty 2-56 screws at either end.
The wires wrapped around and went in a hole drilled in the backplate- we'll see that later.
It all sounds pretty slapdash- and it was, kind of- but the KM2 guys weren't machinists, they were game coders and circuit board designers. That's why I was tasked with doing the physical side of the installs, and I was easily able to drill far more precise holes, add an eye cover instead of the epoxy, and route the wires almost entirely internally.
But I digress. :D
All that said, none of the damage is insurmountable or irreparable. It may not look the prettiest when it's done, but at the moment we'll worry about performance, and perk up the looks later.
Now, the LED Angel is old technology (it hit the shelves in 1996) but there's really nothing fundamentally wrong with it. Even back in '00-'01, we were able to push them to 20-24 BPS without any real problem. The factory MiniRegs aren't the greatest, and the old "14 way" solenoid was relatively huge and bulky, but mechanically an LED can keep up with all but a few of today's markers.
There are, however, four main drawbacks. One was the poor bolt geometry necessitated by the "RotaBreech" door system. Another is the wiring harness with it's teeny, fragile snake pit of wires, and along with it is the increasingly hard to find built-in battery. The fourth is the lack of modern eyes.
My DynaBolt takes care of the first one (and WDP themselves added similar technology to Angels starting with the G7) and this P'OP mod takes care of the rest. :D
The idea is to simply swap in a 2-finger grip frame from a more modern marker, one that has eyes and takes a common 9 volt. Getting rid of the original battery, charging plug and indicating LED would eliminate the need for the snake pit of wires, leaving us with a simple eye loom and a single solenoid connection.
I looked around for and bought a suitable grip frame that matched the need. Once it arrived I checked all the necessary specs, saw that it would work, and started cutting. While I could have redrilled the grip to fit the body, I decided to do the body to fit the grip- there'd be fewer leftover external holes, and the gun could then accept later, aftermarket versions of the grip frame.
After eyeballing all the relevant points, I found the best placement, marked, and drilled and tapped two new grip frame holes.
A quick test fit, and it looks better already!
To be continued....
Part 2: The ASA
The only real tricky part of this mod is the LED's "crack pipe" vertical ASA. The original LED had an odd arrangement where the VASA had a small pipe sticking out the back, that connected to a port in the front of the grip frame, which in turn had a small O-ring-sealed passage that met up with a port in the body, which led to the valve chamber.
The Etek frame, however, is largely hollow at the front, to accomodate the LPR-to-solenoid hose and the eye loom, so we can't just drill it for the same passages.
Also, the decision to use the grip spacing for the mounting bolts instead of the body spacing, put the front mounting screw actually ahead of the air port leading up into the body. This was, however, taken into account when planning the layout, and was easily worked around.
Checking the placement of the LPR body, it was clear a new port could be moved forward just over an inch:
The boxed "X" indicates where the new port will be drilled. The original port is between the two threaded holes from the right.
Drill & tap the old hole...
... And drill the new port.
Now we just need a new vertical ASA to fit the new port spacing, and to fit with the new Etek grip frame. For that, we start with a bar of 1" aluminum...
... Saw out an appropriately-sized block (I hate wasting material)
... Square it up...
... Slot the top to fit the Angel body "rail"...
... Mill and tap a standard ASA thread (none of that fine-thread metric nonsense)
... Turn the outside to 1" round using a special tool I made many years ago...
... And very carefully mill the rest of the body away, file and sand to fit.
The mounting hole has been drilled, so a quick test fit looks promising...
... And back up top, it gets counterbored for two O-rings, one for the mounting bolt, the other to the air passage.
Now, the rest of the "pipe" gets milled down to size...
... Drilled for the cross passage (from the inside, so no plug is visible from the outside)
... Plugged with a stainless 10-32 setscrew (which will be LocTited after everything's been anodized. Also note the arm's been rounded...)
... Milled slightly, for looks....
... And done!
Now the the Etek grip frame gets milled to match the shape of the "pipe". Due to the close tolerances and relatively thin sides of the grip frame, I milled it with well-radiused corners to preserve as much strength as I could.
A final test fit, with O-rings, shows everything coming together perfectly:
There's a couple thou of 'crush' on the O-rings, the grip frame screw holds it together just as the original LED frame did, and it all blends together to look almost factory.
For the sake of the P'OP Build-Off, the only cash outlay- apart from the purchase of the base gun over a decade ago :D - was the grip frame with board for $40.
To be continued...
Part 3: The Backplate
While the ASA was the most complex part of the mod, we're not done yet. :D
As I said earlier, one of the parts I'm short on are backplates- I had two for a total of five body sets. Moreover, the one that goes to this silver Dark, was drilled for the old eye mod- so in addition to the no-longer-needed charging port and LED, there'll be three superfluous holes in the plate.
So I just needed to make a new one. :D
I started with a piece cut from a sheet of 16 ga. (0.063") aluminum sheet, degreased, and covered with black marker. (It's easier to use on small parts than Dykem.) Since I already had a loose plate, all I had to do was scribe:
Unfortunately, despite taking dozens of photos of the rest of the build, I apparently got "into the zone" when working this part, and didn't get any photos between the scribing and a test-fit.
After scribing, I cut almost right up to the line using an old Adel sheet metal "nibbler"- it's a tool that cuts kind of like a paper punch, tanking a small bit of metal off at a time. The benefit is it doesn't "curl" the part like snips do, and you can do tight, detailed curves as necessary.
Once I had it trimmed right up to the line, I used a machine called a Die Filer to very carefully shape it to fit. A die filer is sort of like a jigsaw, but with a file instead of a sawblade, and it acts like a very precise- albeit somewhat slow- belt sander.
It let me file, fit, file, fit (etc.) until it was just right:
Once I was satisfied, I located, drilled and countersunk the two mounting holes:
And since all the controls, buttons and LED indicators will be down in the grip frame, there's no need for any other holes in the backplate- though it would rock to use a later Ego frame, and mount the OLED screen in the middle of it. Maybe next time. :D
And fitted. It will, of course, be polished and annoed once the build is done and tested.
Which reminds me- any suggestions on what color this badboy should be?
To be continued...
Part 4: Patching the eyes
I know voting has started, but the gun's done. This is just catching up on the details. :D
Anyway, as noted above, one of the reasons I ended up with this Angel all those years ago, was the misdrilled eye holes- the early method was just a drill press and a dab of epoxy to hold the eyes in. :D
The Dark Angel milling on the side made the drill bit wander, and will also complicate things when it comes time to make a clean patch. I'm not too worried about appearances, as I eventually plan to make a set of eye-and-wire covers similar to what was seen on later model Angels and Excaliburs and the like.
I'd considered trying to go with a single reflective eye, in which case I could have just run the wire straight down into the now-vacant battery tube, but part of the mod was to see if the off-the-shelf Etek board would run the gun, and I don't know of a way to make it use a single-element eye. (That and I'd have to put the eye on the driver's side, where it'd interfere with the detent.)
So, the first step is to clean up the misdrilled hole and make it square to the bore.
I tapped the holes to 1/4"-28 since that was the closest standard size to the original buggered holes.
After that, I turned a couple of quick stubby plugs out of some 5/16" aluminum rod:
These were liberally slathered with red loctite, and torqued into place. I gave the holes a slight counterbore so the plugs would have something to seat against, but the Dark milling on the right side left some of it exposed. Not the prettiest thing, but it works.
Next, I bored the excess out of the inside using a specialty tool I made just for that sort of thing, years ago. As you can see, the fix isn't quite invisible, but it's smooth and snag free. A quick pass with a hone will finish the job.
Then it was a simple matter of drilling and counterboring for the eye elements.
I was originally going to use the Etek/Ego eyes, and bought a set of Virtue "laser" eyes to do so, but the body plugs and mounting arrangement would have made it difficult to retain them without complex eye covers.
So I got out some of the old style "mini eyes" that I had laying around from back when I used to do Morlock and MiniMorlock installs, and checked them against the Etek board to see if they'd work.
It took a bit of fiddling to check polarities and whatnot, but interestingly enough, they work, and work great.
A little heat-shrink, a couple of quick notches milled in the grip frame, a bit of deft routing, and `voila!
Not the prettiest install I've ever done, but the covers can come later. For now, it's almost ready to go. (Speaking chronologically from when the photos were taken. :D )
To be continued...
Part 5: Assembly and testing!
Time to bring it all together. And, like any good build, there were, of course, several little gremlins that cropped up along the way. :)
After all of the above was done, I cleaned all the parts and started assembling it. Ram, 14-way, valve, LPR... Oh, right. I forgot about the LPR retaining pin.
The round tube of the stock ASA leaves clearance for the head of the pin (it's a tall "top hat" shape) but my new ASA lays flat against the body. The inner air passage is too close to mill clearance for the stock pin, but I had something else in mind anyway:
A new pin, drilled and tapped for a removal screw (kind of like the LPR piston itself) that sits flush with the body.
And is then fully retained by the ASA:
The threaded hole lets me screw in a 6-32 machine screw as a "handle" to remove it. Hopefully I never forget and slip it in backwards. :D
That pretty well did it for the basic marker, so it was time to throw on a reg, barrel and some air.
However, as I mentioned over on page 2, I was having an odd issue with the LPR. First it wasn't regulating- I was getting full pressure at the LPR, and a bad leak at the solenoid.
I swapped some parts- I have a binful- thinking I had a bad O-ring (close inspection did reveal some slight tearing) and got it to regulate, but at too high a pressure. That issue I finally solved by taking one of the four Belleville washer springs out, which struck me as odd. Something wasn't right- the gun was working, finally, but the LPR thing was bugging me.
After letting it stew for a few days while I had other jobs on the docket, I came back and tried again. The problem, as it turned out, was that I was mixing-and-matching the wrong parts:
I'm not sure if those are early-and-late LED parts, or if one's an LED and the other's a LCD, or what. But I'd had the LPR body of one and the piston of another. Finally mating up the correct pieces got the LPR working perfectly again.
Well, almost. :D
As I was then testing the gun, I found the LPR couldn't keep up. At anything over about 5 shots per second, the LPR pressure would fall off (from 90 ish to 60-ish) and the cycling/firing would become erratic- if it fired at all.
Diving back into the reg yet again, I noticed the LPR body I had in it, didn't seem to have a way to let air from the valve chamber into the LPR body. I think I had an early part that fed air in from a hex-broached hole in the valve side- except the displaced metal from the broaching operation had partially blocked the passage.
The other LPR bodies I had, all had cross-drilled channels to let air directly into the reg seat area. So I swapped parts one more time, and finally had it all solved.
Okay, almost. :D
Unfortunately the gun still wouldn't cycle well- sometimes not at all.
More digging showed it had to be the 14-way solenoid, and getting into that showed I'd damaged some O-rings on the spool, likely by cycling it when it was badly overpressured. Thankfully I had a couple of spares in that size, and that, finally, was the last problem. :D
I slapped on a loader, the first air tank and rail that fell to hand, and a chunk of macro from the scraps bin. I was just about to chrony it, when I realized I'd left the eyes off, since I'd been having to keep taking the grip frame off and on each time to fix the LPR. :D
It still fed, fired and cycled just fine. That was a few days ago, and late in the day so I just snapped a pic and posted it here to make sure I had my entry in before the deadline on the 31st. I'll do some proper testing this weekend, and maybe shoot a video.
But all in all, I like it. Good balance, nice and quick, seemed pretty consistent and appeared to be very efficient on air- though again I haven't chronied it, so it might be shooting way low, too.
All in all, I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Get 'er buffed up and annoed and she'll look factory. :D
Fantastic...I've been meaning to do the same thing to an LCD I've got kicking around.
An LCD would be even easier, since it doesn't have the air passage going through the grip frame. Depending on where you want the grip (slightly forward or slightly rearward) you might have to notch it slightly for the ASA mounting pad, but that's easy to take care of.
Awesome build thread. Looking forward to more results. Cheers.
Nice job Doc, keep it coming.
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