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Pilates Reformer

A hack in the fullest sense. I’m looking to bring what is normally unaffordable Pilates exercise equipment to a much needed larger audience

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Pilates is an exercise methodology developed by Joseph Pilates (born 1883)
Pilates was a “Hacker” at heart!

The goal of the Pilates exercise to combat the force of gravity on the spine by enlisting all the muscles of the core to provide vertical lift in an effort of lessening the pressure on the passive disks that keep the vertebrae of the spine separated
Joseph Pilates not only developed a physical regime but designed, patented and built apparatus to accomplish this goal!

A large obstacle to the broader acceptance of Pilates is the cost of equipment
I have designed and built a “Pilates Reformer” that replicate the traditional feel of the original Pilates Reformer, while being both more affordable to purchase, manufacture and ship! This was accomplished though the use of off the shelf components
The goal of the design is to offer people the option to purchase a Reformer in kit form, or with to build their own with provided plans.

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A conventional Reformer is on the left

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Wheel and Caster

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Spring Bar Bracket This holds the bar that the springs are attached to

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Ended up designing a purpose built metal bender for the casters

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  • 40 × Kee Klamp Pipe Fittings Speed fittings used to assemble the frame. carriage and, foot bar
  • 50 × Galvanized Pipe Roughly 50' of schedule 40 pipe used for the frame, carriage foot bar
  • 4 × Urethane Round Rod Stock For caster wheels
  • 1 × Judo Jiu Jitsu Mat Padding for carriage
  • 1 × Plywood For carriage base

  • Starting A New Carriage (Casters)

    joseph08/08/2019 at 04:07 0 comments

    Decided to build up a new Carriage 

    This is now the third one

    One by one we’ve been dropping down the pipe size each time

    There are a number of other refinements 

    Cutting the base in thirds, adding a tongue and grooves to the edges so that it can be broken down and assembled more easily

    Repositioning the wheels for greater stability

    Reworking the shoulder Blocks

    One of the casualties of switching to a narrower pipe dimension is that the strap lock will no longer work

    So we’re left revisiting alternatives

    All of this is a process and as things change we take the opportunity to make things better, if not better at least being able to resolve questions of what is scenarios is always of value! 😊 

    To another point was the idea of jobbing out the metal bending of the casters

    At this point it is easy enough to do them by hand, figuring saving a few dollars is worth it!

  • Designing For Multiple Functions

    joseph07/20/2019 at 17:30 0 comments

    What you see here are the renderings for all the major pieces of equipment in a Pilates Studio

    When a problem arises the first instinct is to attack that problem, and find a solution for it

    That is how it was regarding this project

    The Reformer is what presented it’s self as the problem, and that is where we focused

    We had worked through a number of designs and was getting to a place where things were feeling good

    But it was at this point that the realization set in, and the larger picture presented it’s self

    The problem wasn’t just the Reformer, but it was all the Pilates equipment used!

    With that we had to take a step back and look at the problem from a completely different perspective

    What followed was scrapping our original design, and start from scratch

    This time, not just looking singularly at the Reformer, but making sure that all of the solutions and elements would ripple down through every piece of Apparatus

    This was done by working through all of the individual pieces concurrently

    Design elements and solutions to problems, were tried out up and down the line, to see if they not only worked in one instance, but across the board

    It meant that there were far more balls in the air being juggled, but it was the only way we could see not to be blind sided, and then have to go back for something and start from scratch

    It also allowed a much more holistic approach to the process,  a unifying design aesthetic 

    This would have been near impossible if it weren’t for having an iPad Pro and running Shapr3D on it! 

    The combination of the two created such a powerful tool that it allowed us to keep all the balls in the air! 😊

  • Adjustable Leather Pulling Strap Lock Mechanism

    joseph07/11/2019 at 01:23 0 comments

    The Process Of Design

    Leather Pulling Strap Anchor Lock


    The Problem

    The Reformer Carriage has a leather strap attached to the bottom of it, the strap is threaded through an anchored caster wheel and on the other end is a pulling handle. On the bottom of most every “Classical” Reformer there is an “L” bracket. The bracket has a hole through it that the leather strap with a permanent D-Ring and I-Bolt attached to it is placed through the hole with locking nuts on both sides.

    This setup takes two wrenches to attach and adjust the strap as it stretches with use (it is near unanimous amongst Classical Pilates teachers that leather straps are the only ones that have the correct feel)

    An extra problem for our Reformer Design is that the shoulder blocks are adjustable, accommodating clients of average height and shorter. With the movement of the shoulder blocks there is a corresponding adjustment that needs to be made for the straps

    Maintaining the original attachment mechanism would make this on the fly adjustment impossible

    What is needed is a quick release lock for the strap

    The Solution 

    Cut two slots into the pipe for the strap to go through

    Drill and Tap a screw hole into the pipe centered to the slot

    Cut a circular retaining  notch into a thumbscrew

    Using a piece of copper pipe half the internal diameter of the frame pipe drill a hole the diameter of the reduced thumb screw notch

    Cut a slit lengthwise in the copper pipe, round off edges so the sleeve can be slid over the thumbscrew once it is threaded into the larger Carriage Frame pipe

    This creates a guillotine clamp that distributes the pressure while providing a very secure hold, all while needing no more tools or much turning pressure on the thumbscrew to provide a positive lock

    The Process

    The process is a whole other story! The process was many many thoughts in all sorts of directions. Drawing and modeling at least five different relatively good solutions. Building two rough working proof of concepts. The first proof of concept had a rounded nose bolt, threaded into the pipe that just pressed into the leather strap. This was a simple solution, and easy to execute. Unfortunately it created an indent in the leather that over time would weaken the leather. All of this is speaking to the very mechanical and linear aspect of designing and building something. The truth of the matter is that the process is one of deep thinking, tangent connections while pouring over the most abstract details of others solutions to other problems not your own. But you go through all of this process and thinking in hopes of solving your problem! And truth be told it is not just you! It is a spouse and children who look at you and repeat simple questions multiple times waiting for you to come out of that place where you dwell most of the time to produce an answer such as “coffee sounds good!” Now we’re not saying that every designer/hacker is this way, but in our house this is the way it goes. It is also because of a loving and understanding, an appreciative family that we have that unstructured time to just think and ponder these sorts of problems.

  • Assembly From Packing Tube

    joseph05/31/2019 at 21:39 0 comments

    This was the first time of packing it and then reassembling!

    Putting it together took just 45min start to finish!

  • Caster Wheels

    joseph05/23/2019 at 04:14 0 comments

    Wheels have been tricky

    All of the designing for the wheels as well as the whole project has been done using an iPad app called Shapr 3D (it has been a life saver)

    At 4" dia. they are a bit hard to cut square 

    This is of course without any real machining tools!

    Built a new jig for cutting the groove

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