Oct 5, 2011
I own and regularly use my Aliens. I have no intention of retiring them. If you want to talk shit on Aliens, I'm sure you can find an ass to stick your head up. This isn't that place.
Aliens are old and aging, that means that the trigger wires will fray and break over time. I've tried many different fixes for them. Paperclips, sewing pins, Spectra fishing line, and some funny little pin looking things for jewelry making. The fishing line was the best but it would eventually snap, it just doesn't have the abrasion resistance, I also had to superglue all the knots. All the thin metal I've found was way too soft, it sometimes broke in as little as a day.
I wanted to come up with an easy, cheap, and repeatable way to fix these. I see nothing wrong with the new Totem and Fixe units but damned if I'm going to throw stuff away because of trigger wires.
The materials you'll need.
Side Cutters, preferably ones that cost more than $1.
Swaging Pliers, available online. Cam Doc or pliers should work but might make it ugly.
Needlenose Plies, again, worth more than $1. They have to do real work.
Thin Wire, this is super important. Baling wire is too soft, so are paperclips and pins etc. You need spring steel or music wire. I found 4" lengths of it at Lowes for tons of cash, don't go there. I went to a model airplane/car/train type of hobby store and they had 3' lengths of what they call piano wire for cheap. I don't know the diameter, bring a cam with you so you can eyeball it.
At the same hobby store I bought two thin tubes. The really thin one was aluminum, the thicker one (just enough to go over the thin one) was brass.
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It's a little blurry. You can see that I've cut up the brass tube and sanded the ends so it's not pinched. I used a dremel cutting wheel for this. I also heated the brass tube to red hot and let it cool slowly to make it softer and less brittle. If I had to do it again, I'd heat it after cutting. It was so soft that it was a pain in the ass to cut.
I'll be assuming that you know how to cut the broken wires off an Alien. There are many common sense instructions I've left out and left some stuff up to you. If you're totally confused, I'll add to this.
Step one. Cut a length of wire 60-65mm long.
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Step two. Using your needlenose pliers, put a little bend at the very end
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Step 3, take a short (5-7mm) piece of the aluminum tube and slide it down to the bend. Then squash it all in place. The nice part about using the swaging pliers is that you can make this almost perfectly round. The bend in the wire holds this on the end even though it's not soldered or a higher quality (and fucking tough to find) cable stop.
Step 3.5, slide the little brass tube (also 5mm or so) over the aluminum you just crimped and smash it all together. I think if you didn't use swaging pliers on this, it would be so rough that it would snag on everything.
If you don't have swaging pliers, you might want to put on your thinking hat and figure out a way to arrive with this picture.
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Step 4. This is more important than it seems. Stuff the wire into the alien to see if it fits. Often the lobe takes a little damage and deforms the hole so a new wire won't fit. Using the pliers and some twisting, I can usually get it moving through the hole. It speaks to how soft the lobe material is. It's better to clean the hole up now than later when it's really cramped inside. You don't need a picture for this.
Step 5. Using the chart at the bottom of this post, create a 90 degree bend in the wire as clean as possible. I don't own grey aliens and I broke the springs on my blue. The black alien was set using sewing pins, so it's not included. The orange-purple-clear aliens I have might not work with this stiff wire method. I'll post back later if I think it's worth including. Make sure all of the wires you're going to put in each unit are identical. Being off a mm or two could cause cockeyed units. They'd still work but would irritate the OCD in me.
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Cut the wire after the bend to 10-12 mm. 10 seems a little easier to work with than 12.
Step 6. Start working it up and through the Alien. You probably will need the pliers to control the wire through the holes. You'll probably stab your fingers and it will bleed. Once through, bend the wire down as flat as you can get it.
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When you pull the trigger, the excess stick out and would screw up your cam's function. Pull the trigger and see where you need to snip to maintain a full range of motion.
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This is where I think the $12 wire cutters shine. You need to snip really short and with the very tip. The shitty ones usually won't cut from the tip.
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You're done. Here are some photo's of some that I fixed. The work much cleaner than any fix I've done. Depending on the age of your Aliens, they might actually work better than new. Older Aliens had a cable swaged to wire running through the trigger. This usually meant straightening them before racking or with your teeth while on route. The totally independent wires make me a lot happier. Of course, if you get your length wrong while setting them, they'll be cockeyed the whole time you have them.
If you look carefully, you can also see that I haven't fixed what isn't broken. I've got about 20 or 25 aliens. I'm not about to go through the work to cut apart perfectly good cables. Eventually though, they'll all be done with the stiff wires.
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And the chart with lengths to bend at. This might be imprecise since I marked the wire to bend with a sharpie and that is wider than a mm. The little chart below has definitely worked for me though. The obvious error is that the starting wire length is 60-65mm not cm. You guys are smart, you can figure that out.
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I hope this helps some of you. I'd love to see some process changes that simplify it too. Post up if you need clarification.