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Heat Shrink Tubing Aglet

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Normally used to insulate electrical joins, heat shrink tubing makes a neat, though slightly flexible, aglet. It's my favourite method when shortening laces. It comes in a range of sizes and colors and is available from electronic or electrical suppliers (ie. places that supply electricians with switches, wires, circuit boards, components, etc) or from some auto parts stores. You can also buy from Amazon.com (see below) and help support Ian's Shoelace Site.

Heat Shrink Tubing Aglet picture 1 Step 1:

Choose a diameter that easily slips over the shoelace. If the fit is too snug, the tubing won't be able to shrink as much, resulting in a flimsy aglet. I generally use about 4 mm (5/32") or 5 mm (3/16"). Heat shrink tubing contracts inwards to about half its diameter or less, but doesn't contract lengthwise, so cut a short section the same length as the aglet you require (about 15 mm, or 1/2 inch).

Heat Shrink Tubing Aglet picture 2 Step 2:

Slip the tubing over the end of the shoelace; it may help to "twist" it on to avoid fraying the shoelace. If either end still has an existing aglet, it's easier to slip the tubing over that aglet before cutting it off.

Heat Shrink Tubing Aglet picture 3 Step 3:

A heat gun is normally used to shrink the tubing, but you can also hold it a little way above a flame, taking care not to burn the tubing. As suggested by Sue K, using a travel-sized hair straightening iron to gently clamp the tip for about ten seconds gave great results.

Heat Shrink Tubing Aglet picture 4 Clear Tubing:

Although red was used above (for contrast), clear heat shrink tubing produces aglets that are almost identical to the factory-made originals, albeit slightly flexible. This is actually an advantage because they don't split.

Heat Shrink Tubing Aglet picture 5 Multiple Colors:

Combining several colors, with a clear overlay for security, is a great way to display the colors of your country, school or sporting team!

Extra Security:

Heat shrink tubing is primarily meant for electrical insulation, and isn't really designed to hold securely under extreme forces. Pulling a shoelace out through a tight eyelet can therefore pull off a loosely applied heat shrink tubing aglet.

For extra security, I've found that heat shrink tubing can be taken through two stages: In the first stage, applying heat will shrink the tubing to a smaller diameter just as it was designed. Carefully applying more heat will take it to a second stage where it just starts to melt and bond to the shoelace.

It's tricky to apply just the right amount of heat, as too much will cause the heat shrink tubing to either burn or split, and if the shoelace is synthetic it could melt or deteriorate as well. With clear tubing, the ideal moment is when the underlying whiteness of air gaps starts to disappear as the tubing and shoelace begin to bond together. Otherwise, watch for the surface of the tubing starting to turn shiny. Either way, immediately remove the heat if the end starts to curl or if there is any sign of smoke.

Maximum Security:

Another alternative is heat shrink tubing with a glue layer inside (often called "Dual Wall"). You can tell this apart by gently squashing the tubing and "hearing" the tacky interior as the sides separate. This tacky layer results in a more secure aglet that is also firmer and less flexible. On the downside, the thickness of the aglet can be a problem if your shoe has very small eyelets, plus the tacky interior makes it much more difficult to slide over the end of the shoelace.

Yet another alternative is to cut some thin slivers off a hot glue stick and to feed them with the shoelace into the tubing. The slivers of glue will melt while the tubing shrinks, so watch out for hot glue being squeezed out the ends of the tubing!

You can also use a couple of drops of an "instant" cyanoacrylate glue, such as "Super Glue" or "Krazy Glue". Note that the fibers of the shoelace provide a huge surface area, which can cause this type of glue to cure too quickly. This may give off some nasty fumes, so beware!

Extra Rigidity:

As suggested by Eric A, in order to combat the slight flexibility of heat shrink tubing aglets, try inserting a piece of rigid wire into the tip of the shoelace prior to shrinking the tubing. Suitable wire includes solid brass wire (available at hobby shops), unstranded picture hanging wire, a length cut from a paper clip, even a very thin nail.

Buy Heat Shrink Tubing
Buy heat shrink tubing from Amazon.com

Buy heat shrink tubing from Amazon.com and help support Ian's Shoelace Site with a small commission. Note that each pack contains several lengths of heat shrink tubing, and each length will be cut into several shorter lengths, thus each pack produces quite a large number of aglets.

Buy pack of 10 x 3/16 inch clear heat shrink tubing from Amazon.com

Clear heat shrink tubing
Pack of 10 x 3/16" (5mm)
Around $10.00 (incl. shipping)

BUY: 3/16" Clear
Buy pack of 10 x 3/16 inch assorted colors heat shrink tubing from Amazon.com

Assorted colors tubing
Pack of 10 x 3/16" (5mm)
Around $7.50 (incl. shipping)

BUY: 3/16" Colors
Buy pack of 10 x 3/16 inch clear dual-wall heat shrink tubing from Amazon.com

Clear dual-wall tubing (glue layer)
Pack of 10 x 3/16" (5mm)
Around $10.00 (incl. shipping)

BUY: 3/16" Clear Dual-wall
Buy pack of 160 x assorted heat shrink tubing from Amazon.com

Assorted colors tubing
Pack of 160 x assorted sizes
Around $17.00 (incl. shipping)

BUY: Assorted Sizes/Colors

Related Links
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