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The tricycle project: a colorful custom flag made with Big Blue Saw

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My son, Orion, loves to ride his tricycle. Occasionally he rides with us on family walks around the neighborhood. He's pretty low to the ground when he's on pedaling on his own, though, and naturally I'm nervous that some careless driver won't see him until it's too late.

So I came up with the idea of putting a flag on his tricycle to make it not only safer, but more festive as well.

I started designing with a pen, paper, and some markers. Orion told me that he wanted a flag with a blue flower with "straight petals". He also thought an orange background would look good too (as a bonus, it's highly visible to cars as well). This is the sketch he approved.

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The next step was to fire up Inkscape and get the ideas into the computer. I added a rectangular area on the left of the flag with 7 holes large enough to fit a #6 machine screw. (See the downloads section below for links to all of the files used in this project.)

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The next step was to split the design into 3 separate files, 1 for each color used in the flag: orange for the background, blue for the stem and petals, and black for the center of the flower. These files were then used to laser cut orange, blue, and black polyester twill pieces. Laser cutting seals the edges of the twill so that the edges won't fray, even without hemming.

Big Blue Saw's polyester twill has an adhesive back with a peel-off protective layer. I peeled the protective backing off and stuck the parts together.

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Our polyester twill has an even nicer property: when you apply heat and pressure, the twill will form a permanent, washable bond with nearly any fabric. I applied a hot iron for about 30 seconds with medium pressure on top of all of the flag layers. When I was done, I had a good looking permanently bonded flag.

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I needed a flagpole, so I cut one from two pieces of 1/8" black acetal. These acetal pieces were placed on either side of the flag, and the whole thing was held together with decorative #6 brass machine screws and nuts.

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Here's Orion waving the completed flag.

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Now that the flag and flagpole were assembled, it was time to attach the whole assembly to the tricycle. I was able to create a base for the flagpole by putting a permanent 90 degree bend near the bottom of each flagpole piece. This was done by heating plastic part with a heat gun, then bending it with pliers. I then screwed the flagpole to the rear wooden deck of the tricycle with some random wood screws that were around the house.

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Here's the completed flag and tricycle. Orion loves it, and it helps keep him safe, too.

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By the way, at our current prices (June 2010), $43 would get you one set of laser cut polyester pieces for the flag, with prices coming down to less than $10 per set if you order in quantity. One set of the flagpole parts is $31.60, with the quantity price dropping below $26.

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Waterjet and Laser Cut Custom Parts.
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