Material as thin as a drinking straw and as flexible as a latex tube?

  • Thread starter SamWedge
  • Start date
11
6
Summary
I am looking for tubing that is as thin as a drinking straw and as flexible as latex tubing.
Hello,

I am an artist working on weighted cloth in my practice since 2015. Each piece I make by hand and is extremely time consuming.

I would love if someone would take a look at this and give me any thoughts you might have.

I am working on a project that requires filling thin, fabric channels with beads using tubing. I am looking for a cross between a plastic drinking straw (because it has a very thin outer wall and a large opening) and latex tubing (because it is flexible). The tube has to be wide enough so the bead can pass through, but thin enough on the outside so it can fit into the fabric channel.

Please see the image attached. It is a process photo of one of my pieces in progress.
IMG_1052.JPG
IMG_1027.JPG
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
6,408
1,917
Welcome to PF.
The problem you will find is that when a soft flexible tube is bent it tends to collapse, pinch and close the tube. That is usually overcome in vacuum specified hoses by including a helical wire in the wall. That long helical wire spring keeps the tube from collapsing while still allowing the tube to bend around tighter corners. Some combination of wire spring and flexible tube should solve the problem. You may be able to use the helical wire spring alone as a guide, without the flexible tube.

Search eBay etc to find possible solutions …
There are spiral cut plastic tubes used to wrap bundles of electrical cable, search for 'spiral wrap'.
And bigger versions used to protect hydraulic fluid lines. Search; 'Hydraulic Hose Guard'.
Try also; 'Translucent Silicone Rubber Tube'.
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
6,408
1,917
What shape and size are the weighted beads?

Rather than an external tube or guide, have you considered beads with holes, threaded onto and pushed along a piano wire to place them in the fabric, before the wire is withdrawn?
Search for; 'Stainless Steel Metal Round Spacer Beads'.
https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Stainless-Steel-Metal-Beads-3mm-4mm-5mm-6mm-8mm-10mm-Silver-Round-Loose-Spacer/153361561327?hash=item23b50fb6ef:g:-SEAAOSw3ltcVR~L&frcectupt=true
 
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What is the purpose of the beads? Are they hidden and there primarily to contribute weight? I don't see any beads in your pictures. Could you use steel or copper BBs or [lead [toxicity caution]] .177 pellets? What beads do you need the tubes to accommodate? would glass or ceramic beads work?

It's commonly known that latex can be formed into tubes that have much thinner walls that are nevertheless still quite strong, but you may not be aware that you can do such a formation yourself.

In the late '70s, my grandfather told me that during WWII he had encountered a man who had a bunch of things hanging like coat-hangers on an overhead pipe. Each of the things had a row of vertical wooden dowel projections with hemispherical ends -- the dowels were like the upper ends of broom handles. --- when my grandfather inquired as to the purpose of the devices, the man smiled, dipped one of them into a nearby bucket of latex that was still in liquid state, then hung the device on the rack to cure. The man was making condoms, for which there was a greater demand during wartime.

Perhaps for your purposes you could do something similar with latex and smooth-sanded trellis rods. or maybe more practically, search for ready-made neoprene, nitrile, or latex tubing, specifying the inside and/or outside diameters in mm, and the thickness in mm or mils.
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
6,408
1,917
I am an artist working on weighted cloth in my practice ...
More thoughts on that wider subject.
Weighted cloth needs higher density to minimise volume, so glass marbles are probably not heavy enough. Filling pleats in the cloth with a heavy mineral sand such as magnetite might be possible, but consider the dense garnet grit used for sandblasting, it is graded for size, non-toxic and cheap in bulk.

Lead fishing sinkers will produce lead oxide dust every time they rub, that will colour the cloth and contaminate the environment with toxic lead compounds. Copper is too expensive and will colour the cloth, which also rules out money, unless the coins are more expensive in a heavy silver alloy.

Tungsten metal is heavy, expensive and produces black dust, while tungsten carbide is heavy and hard, being used for machine tools. Those indexable cutting edge tools are often replaced so are available at low scrap cost, chipped or blunt. The sharp edges may cut the cloth, or the cobalt binder may somehow pose a toxic threat if they were tumbled or ground.

Iron or mild steel will also stain the cloth with rust, but stainless steel will not. Grade 304 stainless is machinable and half the cost of grade 316. Grade 316 would only be needed if the weighted cloth is used in seawater or brine. So the grade 304 beads are probably the best solution. Stainless steel bearing balls are also available but would need to be inserted through a guide tube rather than pushed along a wire.
 
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Iron or mild steel will also stain the cloth with rust, but stainless steel will not.
I think that you must know that 'stainless' steels too can rust, especially if their chromium, nickel, or carbon content is not near the high end. Beads of granite or marble or other not-primarily-metallic material might serve the purpose. Brass might be a candidate; it's used on garments more than most if not all other non-precious metals; it has low toxicity and low corrosibility. Zinc might work. Its specific gravity is about 7, it resists corrosion well, its toxicity is very low.
 

jrmichler

Science Advisor
717
592
Summary: I am looking for tubing that is as thin as a drinking straw and as flexible as latex tubing.

I am looking for a cross between a plastic drinking straw (because it has a very thin outer wall and a large opening) and latex tubing (because it is flexible). The tube has to be wide enough so the bead can pass through, but thin enough on the outside so it can fit into the fabric channel.
Here is a source of plastic tubing: https://www.mcmaster.com/standard-plastic-and-rubber-tubing. They show many different types of tubing, with inside and outside diameters plus minimum bend radius. The minimum bend radius is how tight you can bend it without kinking or breaking. They are a good company to deal with and specialize in small orders.
 
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Tungsten metal is heavy, expensive and produces black dust, while tungsten carbide is heavy and hard, being used for machine tools.
I didn't know about the black dust. I knew about tungsten having almost the exact same specific gravity as gold -- some people in China, a supplier of tungsten, have exploited that fact to create specious gold bullion that has tungsten embedded inside -- is there maybe something alloyed with it to prevent the black dust issue when tungsten is being used for (trendy new (usually men's and not women's)) wedding rings?
 

JBA

1,285
312
Your answer may be a combination of a thin wall brass tubing and a flexible tubing with the I.D. required for the beads. Use a short length of the brass tubing for insertion into the end of the fabric channel and with its other end inserted into the end of a required length of the flexible tubing.
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
6,408
1,917
I think that you must know that 'stainless' steels too can rust, especially if their chromium, nickel, or carbon content is not near the high end.
Stainless steel is stainless while in contact with an oxygen atmosphere. It can quickly crumble to a black grit in high BOD anaerobic environments such as a peat bogs or the oily bilge water of a boat.
I have assumed that the ballasted clothing will remain in an environment habitable by humans. Obviously it would be foolish to wear weighted clothing while boating or when crossing marshland.
Beads of granite or marble or other not-primarily-metallic material might serve the purpose.
But granite beads have a low density, similar to glass beads or balls which will cost less.
Barite is a high density material used to seal oil wells. But it will probably be more chemically reactive than the more available mineral sands or grinding grits.
 
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Stainless steel is stainless while in contact with an oxygen atmosphere. It can quickly crumble to a black grit in high BOD anaerobic environments such as a peat bogs or the oily bilge water of a boat.
I've seen ordinary stainless steels (but not, e,g., a molybdenum high-carbon steel) partially stained rusted red due to nothing more than sitting long in high humidity.
 
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Baluncore said:
But granite beads have a low density, similar to glass beads or balls which will cost less.
We have yet to be told by the OP how dense a bead his purposes require.
.
Barite is a high density material used to seal oil wells. But it will probably be more chemically reactive than the more available mineral sands or grinding grits.
If something to be hidden that has near the weight of iron, but is less corrosible, is required, zinc might fill the bill.
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
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I've seen ordinary stainless steels (but not, e,g., a molybdenum high-carbon steel) partially stained rusted red due to nothing more than sitting long in high humidity.
The orange pigment on the surface of stainless steel usually comes from water running off other nearby corroding iron. That dissolved iron is precipitated onto, or in, the environmentally etched surface. I cannot see how that could be a problem with a stainless steel weighted fabric.
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
6,408
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If something to be hidden that has near the weight of iron, but is less corrosible, is required, zinc might fill the bill.
Zinc is a reactive metal that is protected by a layer of soft oxide. Any movement of weighted fabric containing zinc metal will result in the production of a white pigment, a fine dust of zinc oxide. Most metals such as lead, copper and brass will continuously yield an oxide dust that will stain the cloth, and may be toxic. Both aluminium and tungsten colour the hands of workers black.

Heavy lead glass was used for clear glassware and for TV CRT screens. It is hard, so it would survive in weighted fabric, but I expect it is now mostly buried in landfill.

The material requirement is for something that is environmentally stable. That is why a heavy mineral sand, such as garnet grit, is a candidate, because it is unlikely to weather or chemically react further.
 
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Zinc is a reactive metal that is protected by a layer of soft oxide. Any movement of weighted fabric containing zinc metal will result in the production of a white pigment, a fine dust of zinc oxide. Most metals such as lead, copper and brass will continuously yield an oxide dust that will stain the cloth, and may be toxic. Both aluminium and tungsten colour the hands of workers black.
Lead is much more toxic than the other metals you mentioned -- zinc oxide is low-toxicity enough that it can be used in sunblock preparations on facial skin. I would guess that brass is the metal most commonly used for application to clothing, but I've seen old brass-buttoned garments with green stains near the buttons, presumably from the copper in the brass having become oxidized and exposed.
Heavy lead glass was used for clear glassware and for TV CRT screens. It is hard, so it would survive in weighted fabric, but I expect it is now mostly buried in landfill.
Some of the optical characteristics of those leaded crystal glasses are quite remarkable.
The material requirement is for something that is environmentally stable. That is why a heavy mineral sand, such as garnet grit, is a candidate, because it is unlikely to weather or chemically react further.
I still think that zinc could be a candidate. But maybe a good grade of stainless steel, as you suggested, would be better. The OP called for thin-walled strong flexible tubing that would isolate beads from fabric, so in the contemplated purpose, the high gloss of stainless steel might go unseen, and the dull oxide layer of zinc might long persist unabraded.
 
600
240
The orange pigment on the surface of stainless steel usually comes from water running off other nearby corroding iron. That dissolved iron is precipitated onto, or in, the environmentally etched surface. I cannot see how that could be a problem with a stainless steel weighted fabric.
That seems plausible to me, but I think rusting on normal stainless steel could arise from other causes, e.g. persistent exposure to sweat, or an un-remediated lemon juice spill into the dinnerware drawer.
 

Tom.G

Science Advisor
2,544
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Since your fabric already has "tubes", how about eliminating the extra "tubing" and select the weight diameter to match the fabric tubes.

Cheers,
Tom

p.s. that assumes of course that the sewing is uniform :nb) ... hmm maybe use gravel
 

Baluncore

Science Advisor
6,408
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I thought the OP intended to remove the guide tubes as the cross-stitching was done; so each individual bead would be locked into a discrete cell or fabric pocket.

Until @SamWedge returns to provide direction we can only continue on our random walk. At least there is now a wealth of information here for future web search hits.
 
11
6
Welcome to PF.
The problem you will find is that when a soft flexible tube is bent it tends to collapse, pinch and close the tube. That is usually overcome in vacuum specified hoses by including a helical wire in the wall. That long helical wire spring keeps the tube from collapsing while still allowing the tube to bend around tighter corners. Some combination of wire spring and flexible tube should solve the problem. You may be able to use the helical wire spring alone as a guide, without the flexible tube.

Search eBay etc to find possible solutions …
There are spiral cut plastic tubes used to wrap bundles of electrical cable, search for 'spiral wrap'.
And bigger versions used to protect hydraulic fluid lines. Search; 'Hydraulic Hose Guard'.
Try also; 'Translucent Silicone Rubber Tube'.
Interesting, thank you!
I believe the 'Translucent Silicone Rubber Tube' will work best out of the options you listed. The issue I see with the 'spiral wrap' and 'Hydraulic Hose Guard' is that they don't have closed walls, so when the beads travel down the channel they might get stuck or fall out.
 
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What shape and size are the weighted beads?

Rather than an external tube or guide, have you considered beads with holes, threaded onto and pushed along a piano wire to place them in the fabric, before the wire is withdrawn?
Search for; 'Stainless Steel Metal Round Spacer Beads'.
https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Stainless-Steel-Metal-Beads-3mm-4mm-5mm-6mm-8mm-10mm-Silver-Round-Loose-Spacer/153361561327?hash=item23b50fb6ef:g:-SEAAOSw3ltcVR~L&frcectupt=true
Definitely a good solution, but these beads also need to be able to move freely within the fabric once they are there. I use these as "beads": https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KYV6GLM/?tag=pfamazon01-20.
 

DaveC426913

Gold Member
17,936
1,567
Definitely a good solution, but these beads also need to be able to move freely within the fabric once they are there.
Won't they bunch up at the bottom, like the stuffing in an old comforter?

For the fabric to be flexible enough to wear, I suspect you won't be able to keep the chambers tight enough that the beads won't bunch up, but I may be wrong.

Al. You're a beader!
 
11
6
What is the purpose of the beads? Are they hidden and there primarily to contribute weight? I don't see any beads in your pictures. Could you use steel or copper BBs or [lead [toxicity caution]] .177 pellets? What beads do you need the tubes to accommodate? would glass or ceramic beads work?
I actually do use 4.5 mm copper coated zinc bbs, as well as fine glass beads (not together). The purpose is primarily for weight.
245013



It's commonly known that latex can be formed into tubes that have much thinner walls that are nevertheless still quite strong, but you may not be aware that you can do such a formation yourself.

In the late '70s, my grandfather told me that during WWII he had encountered a man who had a bunch of things hanging like coat-hangers on an overhead pipe. Each of the things had a row of vertical wooden dowel projections with hemispherical ends -- the dowels were like the upper ends of broom handles. --- when my grandfather inquired as to the purpose of the devices, the man smiled, dipped one of them into a nearby bucket of latex that was still in liquid state, then hung the device on the rack to cure. The man was making condoms, for which there was a greater demand during wartime.
Very interesting! What a story! I wasn't aware I could this. Making something custom might actually be my best option. My process right now also involves a plastic funnel, to help guide the balls into the tube and down into the fabric channels. Maybe I can make a funnel and tube in one piece to simplify things.

Perhaps for your purposes you could do something similar with latex and smooth-sanded trellis rods. or maybe more practically, search for ready-made neoprene, nitrile, or latex tubing, specifying the inside and/or outside diameters in mm, and the thickness in mm or mils.
I can specify the outside diameter as 6 mm, and the inner as just a little less than that- so the 4.5 mm ball can still roll freely through it.

Thank you!
 
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Baluncore said:
More thoughts on that wider subject.
Weighted cloth needs higher density to minimise volume, so glass marbles are probably not heavy enough. Filling pleats in the cloth with a heavy mineral sand such as magnetite might be possible, but consider the dense garnet grit used for sandblasting, it is graded for size, non-toxic and cheap in bulk.
The pieces that I make vary in size. The biggest piece is throw-sized: 50"x60". I do use glass beads for this one specifically because I need about 15 lbs of weight distributed across the entire blanket. Some of the pieces that I make are cotton canvas, some are silk organza (double-layered), and some are cotton velvet or silk velvet.

I have experimented with sand from Home Depot but have struggled with how dusty it is. I have never heard of garnet grit, it sounds perfect in that it's graded for size, non-toxic, AND cheap in bulk.

I also love the idea of using magnetite. These are great options.

Lead fishing sinkers will produce lead oxide dust every time they rub, that will colour the cloth and contaminate the environment with toxic lead compounds. Copper is too expensive and will colour the cloth, which also rules out money, unless the coins are more expensive in a heavy silver alloy.
Lead fishing sinkers are too heavy, unless I were just using them on corners. I do use Crosman copper-coated bbs, and have experienced staining when they get wet.
croshdpic747.jpg



Tungsten metal is heavy, expensive and produces black dust, while tungsten carbide is heavy and hard, being used for machine tools. Those indexable cutting edge tools are often replaced so are available at low scrap cost, chipped or blunt. The sharp edges may cut the cloth, or the cobalt binder may somehow pose a toxic threat if they were tumbled or ground.
You're right about the sharp edges- I need smooth corners.

Iron or mild steel will also stain the cloth with rust, but stainless steel will not. Grade 304 stainless is machinable and half the cost of grade 316. Grade 316 would only be needed if the weighted cloth is used in seawater or brine. So the grade 304 beads are probably the best solution. Stainless steel bearing balls are also available but would need to be inserted through a guide tube rather than pushed along a wire.
I also like this idea of using stainless steel for an option that will not rust or discolor (even in seawater!).

Such great options- thank you.
 
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Won't they bunch up at the bottom, like the stuffing in an old comforter?
Different pieces have different quilting/sewing patterns to encapsulate the beads, preventing them from gathering. Below is one piece with a staggered brick pattern- it is silk organza (double-layered) with copper bbs inside.
245017

I am also developing one with a triangle pattern that allows for the filling of all the beads at once, instead of having to fill one compartment at a time. The piece below is only partially filled.
245018



For the fabric to be flexible enough to wear, I suspect you won't be able to keep the chambers tight enough that the beads won't bunch up, but I may be wrong.
The beads are allowed to move freely within their chambers.

Al. You're a beader!
I guess I am.

Thanks!
 
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Here is a source of plastic tubing: https://www.mcmaster.com/standard-plastic-and-rubber-tubing. They show many different types of tubing, with inside and outside diameters plus minimum bend radius. The minimum bend radius is how tight you can bend it without kinking or breaking. They are a good company to deal with and specialize in small orders.
Thank you- I have heard of McMaster but didn't realize they specialized in small orders. I'm happy to know they are also a good company to deal with, because I will probably require assistance from them to find what I need. Thank you also for the minimum bend radius info.
 

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