Sunday, November 29, 2015


Both Photos From Here

Since I was still a bit under the weather, I drug a couple of my books about Indy cars out to see about a little inspiration for the torsion bar suspension design I would like to use if I ever get around to making another sidecar for my 900. Of course one thing led to another, in this case, the predictable conclusion of me looking at building a complete car someday.

I grew up listening to the Indy 500 on the radio every year starting in the late 50's. The Offy powered roadster designs of Kurtis and Watson were the cars to beat until the rear engined cars came in the mid 60's. I always thought the best looking race cars of all time were the Watson roadsters with the shark nose like the one above. From the link, it's obvious that I'm not the only one who thinks so.

I don't know what it would cost to build a street legal replica or something similar. No need to put an Offy in it, a Chrysler slant six would work just fine. A quick change rear would be nice but those aren't cheap, likewise the steering gear, torsion bars and arms would cost a few bucks. Vintage tires and wheels would probably be the real bank buster. Coker makes a Firestone half tread replica in 18" that would fit a Rocket wheel of the correct design. That would set you back about $700 per corner. With shipping, probably around $3K for tires and wheels but that set-up would be a must. Probably $10K at a minimum and that's without farming any of the work out. 

Probably should just stick with working on the bikes for now.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I've got plenty to be thankful for this year, like every year, as far as that goes. A year ago we were dealing with serious health issues with the wife - several operations to drain fluid from her lungs, cancer diagnosis and all that. Kind of hard to be thankful for what you have when all that is weighing on your mind. Things are much better this year. I went to the cardiologist the other day to get the results of my stress test and echo-cardiogram. The doc says everything is Jake, come back in a year. So health wise, we're doing pretty well. I got the hot rod version of the flu shot for those of us 65 and older about a week ago, arm was sore for two days and then I came down with something that I would swear was the flu even though they say you can't get the flu from the shot. Itchy-watery eyes, hacking cough, sore throat, low grade fever, headache. Whether it's side effects from the shot, the flu, an old fashioned kick-ass cold, regardless, I've been miserable for about four days. I was supposed to do a 5K this morning but due to the health and the rain, going to take a pass. No point in making things worse. Best to just be thankful for what I've got, which is plenty.

Photo From Here

Photo From Here

Photo From Here
The silver lining that comes with sitting around hacking and coughing, is that I can get caught up on some of my reading, both with books and magazines, as well as spend a little time sitting on my arse in front of the computer. I typed in a search for sidecar suspension designs and got quite a few things  to come up. If you combined the ideas from the top two photos, you'd have something similar to what I ran on my old sidecar. A double sided swingarm but rather than using a conventional motorcycle coil over shock, I used an air shock from a car. The advantage to the air shock was being able to level the bike out depending on the weight added from a passenger and/or cargo. Also with the swingarm, it was possible to adjust the toe-in on the wheel easily to insure better tracking.

The bottom design is both clever and simple. If you follow the link back, you can see a little more of the construction and get a better understanding of how well thought-out the whole design is. I'm still toying with the idea of using a torsion bar suspension. It would be simple enough to have the swing arm pivot off the torsion bar and likewise it would be very simple to set the preload on the torsion bar to level out the chair for various loads. I'm going to continue to pursue a design and get some sketches made up. It wouldn't take long to make the frame if everything was worked out on paper. The sheet metal might be another story depending on the design but might be a good project now that I have access to my sheet metal tools all in one spot.

Enjoy your day and give thanks for all you've got.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Joe College

From Here

I'm officially a student now. However, I wonder at the wisdom of going through with this. After all the years of jumping through bureaucratic hoops at colleges, I'm burdened with some excess baggage when it comes to dealing with any and all BS and my current employer seems to have a little bit of the Catch-22 in their DNA.

Last week there was supposed to be an express enrollment day at the college. I expected to see something set up in the commons area or the auditorium where you get in line and move through at a snail's pace but when you got to the end you were done. No such animal exists at our campus. I asked at the information desk where the express enrollment was and the main office was pointed out to me. I went inside the office, inquired about express enrollment and the nice lady told me that they didn't really do that here. I've had occasion to do business with this person before and she's an absolute sweetheart. I got a chuckle out of her when she lowered her voice, leaned across the counter and whispered: "It's a lie. Express enrollment, it's all a lie." Then she proceeded to tell me what my next step was (get a particular form signed by the instructor) and sent me on my way.

After getting the form signed a couple of days later, I returned the form to the office and was promptly handed another form the instructor needed to sign. Got that taken care of and returned to the office and was told that the lady in charge of processing the forms wasn't currently in her office but the lady at the desk said she'd see that it got signed and processed and returned to me. And she did. Even brought the paperwork out to me in the lab. Then I had to see the lady in the other section of the building to hand in my fee remission form who told me she'd send it off to another local campus, and they'd send it to another campus and then it would go who knows where, I lost track after about the fourth stop, and eventually it would come back to me. I'm real glad all these people are so pleasant and helpful. No way I'd go through all of this otherwise.

The total tuition for the class is right at $600.00. That includes the tuition fee, technology fee, materials fee, and the NIMS certification fee. I don't know how much I'll end up having to pay out of pocket but the tuition is two-thirds of the cost, so the max would be $200.00. The NIMS certification would look good on my resume if I ever were to send one out again. At this stage of my career, probably a better chance of it looking good in my obituary, but that's OK. So come Spring semester, I'll be a college student again learning CNC set-up and operations and, hopefully, making some motorcycle parts.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Winter's Here

The last I had heard the forecast was just for a couple of inches our way, north of here was to get the big snow. I'd say they missed it by about half. We probably got 5"-6" all together. It was right at freezing when some of it was coming down yesterday, so it was melting rather than accumulating. About 4:00 it started coming down hard and the temperature started falling. Woke up to temperatures about 6 degrees and a really pretty snow cover on everything with the sun shining brightly. Not a bad day if you don't have to be out in it for long or drive anywhere. Local roads have a layer of ice cover making for some difficult driving but things will be better come April. In the meantime, look for temperatures to be anywhere from 50 above to 20 below with rain, sleet and snow in the mix. Just can't beat winter in Indiana.

Friday, November 20, 2015

More Woodworking

I'm still trying to put the woodshop in order. The photo shows a Milwaukee orbital sander that's probably at least thirty years old. I got it from the Career Center I used to work at after the students dropped it on the floor and broke the handle off. I offered to weld it up but the instructor said he was just going to trash it because the pad on the bottom was shot and it already had quite a few miles on it. I grabbed it up, welded the handle back together and brought it home. I only used it a couple of times because most all of my woodworking was done at the Career Center and later at the high school. Since I no longer have the luxury of doing all my work on company time, I took a hard look at the sander the other day and decided I'd try and see if I could come up with a new felt pad for the bottom of it. If so, I'd keep the sander. If not, out she goes. 

Of course the sander is old enough that there was no parts listing for it but I did find a pad that I thought I might be able to make work. Since they don't list the dimensions in the parts list, it was a shot in the dark ordering the larger replacement pad but I got lucky and the bolt pattern is the same, I just had to trim it down from a half sheet sander to a third sheet. I've got a little quarter sheet sander also that's out of commission. I think the wires are broken in the cord right as it leaves the sander body. I figured if I can fix the Milwaukee, I'd just toss the little one but I'll probably take it apart and see if I can patch it up - just too cheap to throw things away that are relatively easy to repair.

The photo shows a couple of pieces being glued up to make a drawer for my woodworking bench. Nothing fancy or elaborate. No finger joints or dovetails. Just something utilitarian to store a few things. One of these days I would like to try my hand at cutting some dovetails. We had a jig for that in the high school woodshop that worked really well. If I was planning on doing some serious wood working I might invest in one. Be nice if I was good enough to cut them by hand. Like everything else, you can be good enough with a little instruction and a lot of practice. Don't see that happening with all the other things I've got going on.

Looks like the nice weather is done for the season. Looking at some snow coming our way tomorrow maybe. That's going to limit what I work on but I'm happy with what I've gotten done lately. With the wife getting better and getting the floor in the back of the shop poured, I've been a happy camper. Barring any unforeseen disasters, I'm hoping for a very productive winter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I made up the little bracket to hold the Sprint tank down. Initially I figured I'd make it out of stainless but went with aluminum primarily for the ease of fabrication. I used the hacksaw to rough cut the part to shape since I don't have a blade for my bandsaw yet. I drilled a hole on each end of the slot and then used a jeweler's saw to connect the holes - rarely have need for that little saw but it was the perfect tool for this job. I think the spring that connects the bracket to the frame is in the box of parts. If not, not hard to find a spring.

I finish welded the seat bracket and sprayed it with some Rust-Oleum. The seat fits the bike well but the pan is pretty flimsy. It has a couple of bumpers on it that were designed to rest on the frame rails of the Sportster but the Sprint has nothing but air under the seat. I'll need to make a support of some kind to keep things from bending in the middle. The seat has about a 1/2" gap between it and the fender that would be a convenient place for some type of spacer or bumper. I could make something up that I can weld to the frame behind the tool boxes also. I'll see what I can come up with that won't intrude on the looks too much and still be functional.

I looked at the bracket for the jiffy stand. Looks like it's an easy enough fix to make the missing frame bracket other than I'll either have to stand on my head to weld it or turn the bike upside down. I'll get the pieces made up and I think I can tack the parts in place so they'll stay until I dismantle the bike for painting. I can get started on making the jiffy stand meanwhile.

I'm still thinking about how I want to organize the planishing hammer, English wheel and the other sheet metal stuff. I'm leaning towards just pushing them to the back of the table when I'm not using them and pull them to the front of the table and bolting them down when I need them. It would be handier to have them at the ready all the time but I'm thinking I would get more value out of the open space at the front of the table. I need to finish the TR3 fender for my buddy but he won't be back until Spring. That should give me plenty of time to work out a solution.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Education Things

A few interesting things have come across my path of late. First of all, the American Welding Society and WEMCO have honored Mike Rowe with their 2015 Excellence In Welding award. It's good to see Mr. Rowe receiving recognition for all he does to promote not only welding but vocational education and honest, hard work.

Related to this, Senator Marco Rubio stated in the presidential  debates that there needs to be some changes made to higher education, including elevating vocational education to a higher level, stating that we need more welders and fewer philosophers. I've got nothing against philosophers but in light of what's been going on lately on college campuses, I don't think they've been carrying their own weight to promote free speech and the open debate of ideas. Having practiced and taught the craft of welding for almost 50 years, I'm certainly biased towards the welding camp but I think Senator Rubio is correct. We need more welders and, more importantly, we need to hold vocational education in a higher regard. All of us in the field owe Mike Rowe a debt of gratitude for his efforts in doing just that.

Friday's Wall Street Journal had an editorial piece titled "Why Students Need to Sit Up and Pay Attention" by Eva Moskowitz. Ms. Moskowitz is the founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools. According to Ms. Moskowitz, Success Academy has a 95% pass rate on the state math test where only 20% of the regular public school students do in the neighborhoods where the Success Academy schools are located. Regardless of your feelings towards charter schools, those are numbers that are hard to ignore. To what does she attribute this high success rate? The pedagogical techniques of a Mr. Paul Fucaloro.

Mr. Fucaloro was brought in as a teacher trainer and much of the success of Success is due to his insistence that students need to sit up and pay attention in class. There is more to it, of course, and the editorial goes on to explain it in more detail but it's all pretty simple. The editorial doesn't go into what happens to students who refuse to cooperate and I think this could be a major problem at the public schools. The high school where I last worked was always overly concerned about the State's grading system. Too many suspensions or expulsions and the school's grade would be lowered. Have to keep the graduation rate up, don't you know. If that is going to be the main driving force along with the "BIG Test" how are you going to get little Johnny to stop texting his buddy, sit with his hands clasped and pay attention to the teacher and his fellow students? I went out to breakfast with some former colleagues Saturday morning and apparently during the Veterans Day convocation at the high school, not only were some of the students using their phones, but several teachers were as well. Obviously there's a problem there.

I think the pendulum is starting to swing back towards reason in education. With the efforts of people like Mike Rowe and Sen. Rubio, vocational is getting a much deserved second look and with the success of Success Academy Charter schools maybe the old fashioned tried and true teaching methods will be making a comeback as well. Definitely time for a change.