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So I'm making a catapult and I need all the parts of the arm joined together so when I animate it, they all move together.

Image of the front of the arm modelled

The problem is when I join up the parts of the basket and arms in the front together, the shading gets messed up because the arms are shaded smooth with auto-smoothing and the chain link has been shaded smooth without auto-smoothing isn't. Refer to images below.

The chain link sin't auto smoothed because it looks fine with just shade smooth

How do I make it so that both the chain and the arms retain their individual smoothing settings or combine them in such a way that both look good?

When I join up the parts, the arms stay nice and shaded but the chain becomes sharp again

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Solution 01
Smooth/flat shading is applied per face, not per object.
So just change it for individual faces of your mesh.

Here is an example of a chain.
It's one object, consisting of multiple meshes, like in your case.

Select only one mesh.
Click a face and then Select->Select Linked->Linked enter image description here

Apply shading only to these faces.
Mesh->Shading->Smooth faces enter image description here

You're done.
Different parts of your object are now shaded differently. enter image description here

Solution 02
Play with the Auto-smooth angle.
Auto-smooth is applied per the whole object, but you can adjust what edges are considered smooth. enter image description here

Solution 02.1
(thanks to Robin Betts)
Mark some edges as sharp. They will then be shaded flat, no matter what the angle is.
Edge->Mark Sharp. enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Also, smoothing groups can be separated by marking the edges between them 'Sharp' $\endgroup$ – Robin Betts Nov 26 '19 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the comment, I'll add it to my answer so it's all in one place :). $\endgroup$ – ᴊᴀᴄʜʏᴍ ᴍɪᴄʜᴀʟ Nov 26 '19 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the help guys, I finally got it to work! $\endgroup$ – Armaan Naveet Nov 26 '19 at 12:24

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