Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I started on the hammerform for the Rickati gas tank. I ran a 2x8 through the planer to take the cup out of it and then a couple of my guys who are also in the wood shop, glued five pieces together for me. I'm starting with a block that is roughly 7" x 7" x 18. I drew a three view drawing of the tank shape I'm looking for and used the drawings for patterns for my layout lines.

The first problem was that the laminated block was initially too big to cut on the bandsaw. I used a combination of saws to rough it out and then switched to a block plane, rasp and sander. The idea here is to keep the left and right halves symmetric. I know this is going to be a lot of work just on the hammerform but I don't thing I can do the job justice with just a buck made from plywood. There are people who can just do it by eye. I don't think I'll live long enough to get to that level of mastery. And I'm in pretty good health! I should have been working on the sheetmetal skills a lot harder over the years. I made my 900 with the sidecar a good twenty years ago and struggled to build the tank on that one. If I would have kept after it, this tank would be a cinch. In fact, I'd be working on the aluminum fenders already.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The kid in the picture has been working on the chopper bike for a couple of months now. He is in one class and his buddy comes in right behind him in the next class. He'll work on a piece of it and then his buddy comes in and either cuts it off or welds it up the wrong way. The next day maybe the reverse happens. If they had coordinated their efforts, the thing would have been done in about a week. It's looking pretty cool, they haven't spent any money and they're having fun. So in the big picture, there's nothing wrong with that.

I made a bracket to mount the coil on the Rickati during Open Shop the other night. After I hung the thing on there it looked like I could have shortened things up a little. I'm going to see if I have enough stock to move the mounting holes. If not, I'll probably just make a new one. It'll only take a few minutes and then I'll have a little more room for the plug wire. The fancy chrome coil is supposed to be good for 40,000 Tiawanese volts. That should make the little 250 fire like that gizmo in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory.

I started on the buck/hammerform for the tank as well. Making the tank should be the only part of the bike building job that's much of a challenge. I'm going to try and get most of the rest of the bike done and, if need be, come in during spring break and work on the tank when no one is around to disturb me. We're entering 13 fighters in the Gloves this year, so I'm going to be real busy starting in about two weeks. Everything's coming together, though.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rickati Progress

I managed to start on the exhaust pipe for the Rickati project. I made the flange and welded a couple of bends together for a start. Not much maybe, but measurable progress. I think I may have the rear wheel thing taken care of as well. As soon as I get a couple of other things machined up, I'm going to start on the swingarm. I'll need a rear wheel before I can finish it, but it'll keep me going forward.

The fights on Friday night went real well. We had a nice crowd and a lot of action. Surly came down and took some photos for us. I saw them on his computer yesterday and he got some nice shots. As soon as he gets a disc burned, I'll put a few up on the gym blog.

Up date: Pictures are posted.

There's also a new post on the High Mileage blog. We're seeing some progress on that project and should have the car pretty close to being finished in about a month. It'll be awfully nice to be ahead of the game for once but I'm not counting my chickens yet.

Unk: Remember doing this on the little Harley?

From here via Ride the Machine.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tank Research

I've been reading the new book about forming up sheet metal and not surprisingly, it looks like it could be a little more work than what I had originally thought. The book shows several different methods of achieving the part shape, including using a draw ring. In theory, using a draw ring is quite simple. You have a ram or top punch made to the shape of the part, a pressure plate to hold the aluminum sheet flat while forming and the draw ring which is basically just a heavy plate with a hole cut in it to match the outline of the ram plus clearance for the metal. The ram comes down and pushes the sheet through the draw ring with the pressure plate holding the sheet down to prevent wrinkling. No bottom mold or cavity required. Pretty slick, actually. The only problem I see, regardless of the type of operation chosen, is the problem of getting it right the first time. If one goes to the trouble of building some type of press and tooling it all up, then putting some expensive aluminum sheet in it only to have it come out as wrinkled as Grandma's arse, you're not getting much of a return on your investment. I need to have a confab with Surly and see what he thinks about the whole idea. We spoke just briefly about it but in the meantime, I'm working out the shape I want and maybe I'll start on a model of some type.

The tank on the BSA Spitfire above or one like they put on the 441 Victor look good. Maybe make it just a little narrower in the rear. The straight edge along the bottom would make installation of the inner part real easy. The Greeves Scottish is basically the type of bike I'm trying to build. Named for and designed to compete in the Scottish Six Day Trials, it's all business and has a lovely little aluminum tank, especially nice with the Monza style filler cap. That's the tank I'd like to be able to make but everything is curved. That's why I've been considering something other than hand forming. Eventually it will come to the point of either putting this project in mothballs or just getting after it. I'm determined to see this one through to the end, however. I'm not going to start any new projects, I'm going to finish this one. I've got too many that I've started and put on hold already. I want to get after the 900 one of these days, as well. I'd be real nice if they were both done by the time school's out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Major Mechanical Malfunction

I went out to the shop yesterday and was planning on spending a few hours machining pieces and parts but the old South Bend lathe decided differently. I put the lathe in back gear and was drilling a hole when it popped out of back gear and then locked itself into direct drive. So now instead of eight speeds, I have four speeds. The problem being that the faster speeds will burn up the my big drill bits and you have to be one damn good lathe hand to thread up to a shoulder without crashing the tooling at the higher speeds. And since the job I was working on needed a large drilled hole and threads up to a shoulder, that pretty well put me out of business.

I took it apart right away and got the book out. It looks like it should come apart relatively easy - a couple of the gears are pressed on - and then I can check out what locked up behind the bull gear (the big gear on the right). The headstock was getting a little loose and the back gear needed to be checked out, anyway. The good thing is the bearing surfaces look really good. Hopefully I can get it fixed and back together again fairly quickly. I've got several projects cooking right now, all in need of some lathe work.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Bicycle? Cast Dies?

I've got a three day weekend, so other than heading to the gym this morning, I've been pissin' the day away in front of the computer. I've been thinking about the planned bicycle ride this summer and getting my gear in shape. I've been checking on some new wheels, which may require new brakes due to the switch from 27" to 700C. Rivendell has a dandy rear wheel but it's $320.00 plus a new freewheel for $40.00 plus tire and tube and shipping that would put me close to $450.00. Then of course I would need a front wheel as well. The front wheel would be much cheaper but I'm still looking at a ton of money invested in a bike I gave four bucks for. Especially if I need to swing for new brakes. Maybe the answer is just buy a new bike. A new Rivendell or Bruce Gordon is going to be roughly $3000.00 give or take, depending on how it's spec'd out. Lots of money but worth every penny. In the bicycling game you usually get what you pay for. However, there does exist another option, lower in cost, and with a somewhat reduction in component quality, but I'm thinking seriously about a Surly Long Haul Trucker.

The Long Haul Trucker has got a good heavy duty Chrome-Moly frame, comes in two different colors and enough sizes that there's bound to be one that would fit me. It's got bar end shifters, enough bosses for water cages to cross the Sahara and you can get front and rear racks that are specifically made to fit it. I usually carry panniers on the front for the long trips, so a front rack would be good. The components are not top shelf items but that's to be expected for a bike that has a list price of $1095.00. The wheels aren't going to be the quality of the Rivendell ones I was pricing, so I'm kind of comparing apples to oranges but I think it's worth looking into. The only problem is finding one. The closest Surly dealer is about 50 miles away in Chicago. The closest shop in Indiana is about 70 miles. I'm not opposed to a road trip but I am opposed to spending 10.5% tax or whatever the hell it is in Chicago now. Indiana's 7% is bad enough. I'm going to make some phone calls and see who has what in stock. There's a place that advertises in Bicycling magazine that has real good prices on new bikes. Maybe check there as well.

My book I ordered from Lindsay came today. Forming by Hydraulic and Crank Presses - Cast and Molded Dies, originally published in 1943 by the Bureau of Aeronautics looks like just what the Doctor ordered. Or actually, what I ordered. Just glancing at it while eating lunch was pretty darned educational. They show the set-up for die forming an aircraft belly tank, which is pretty close to the shape I'm looking to form. I've got lots to look at and study up on now. Make a die, buy a bike, machine a bunch of parts and fix whatever else comes along. Speaking of which, my tubing came yesterday for the Rickati exhaust and I fixed the Buell cylinder head one more time. The kid and his buddy managed to break off one of the new studs when they put it in the head. Tomorrow I'm planning on spending some quality time with the old South Bend lathe. Parts for the high mileage car and my own projects. Lots to do but I love doing it it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Days - Two in a Row

We've had a little weather here lately. Not really all that bad. Certainly not as bad as the East Coast but enough to call school. Didn't get anything accomplished the last couple of days other than some odds and ends but the new Wooden Boat and Garage magazines came in the mail. I've been devouring the Wooden Boat. This issue has a directory of places offering boat building classes and related maritime skill builders. The Michigan Maritime Museum has a class on building a small canoe. Their web site doesn't have all the particulars up yet but I'm ready to build something. I guess I'm always ready to build something, but I've got a plan for an adventure someplace down the line: The Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

The Northern Forest Canoe Trail runs 740 miles from northern Maine along the U.S.border, with a short section into Quebec, ending in New York. How cool would a trip like that be? Pack up the canoe you built yourself with provisions and camping gear and have at it. I suppose it sounds a little daunting to most people but if you've taken a couple of bicycle trips of 500 miles, you should be able to handle a 700 mile canoe trip.

The trouble I'm having now is finding people who want to do this kind of stuff. My bicycling partner and I travel together real well but he's pretty much a confirmed cyclist. We were planning on doing some backpacking a couple of years ago but he got cold feet. Finding someone my age - I'll be 60 this year - who's in good enough shape to tackle these kinds of trips is hard enough. Then they have to be able to get a couple of weeks off in the summer and be willing to undergo the expense. And last but certainly not least, try to find someone you can tolerate under less than ideal conditions. Of course, if I don't have a canoe or small boat, I won't need to look for anyone, now will I?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rickati Tank

I put a couple of more pictures of the Rickati project on the Flickr page. I've got the seat and fender mounts tacked on. I need to order in some bushings for the swingarm so I can get started on that. I'm still looking for a rear wheel but I think that's going to happen pretty quick. Then it will be footpegs, an exhaust pipe (tubing's on the way) and a gas tank. That, I'm afraid, is going to be the hold up.

I want to make an aluminum tank and have it all polished nicely which means it's going to have to be pretty close to flawless. I've made a lot of things out of aluminum but the flawless part nearly always escapes me. I'd like to have the skill to just dive in and make most anything I want but that takes a lot of practice and determination to get to that level. In order to short-cut the learning curve, I'm thinking about making a low buck die set to shape the tank sides. I need to do a little research yet but I think I could make something serviceable without a huge expense or big blocks of tool steel machined into male and female dies. The die making process might end up taking me as long as it would have knocking the tank out by hand but I could make more tanks if need be and recoup some of my invested time. My busy season is fast approaching with the high mileage car and the Golden Gloves, so time will be at a premium for this project, but I like the idea of an easily produced die set for low production run parts. One way or the other, the bike needs a tank. Stay tuned as I pursue this.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ducati Sebring

Here's a couple of pictures of my buddy Bob's Ducati restoration. He came down for Open Shop last week and I welded a couple of spots on the frame and the fender. The bike should look pretty good when he gets it finished. He always spends a lot of time on the cleaning and polishing.

I've been doing a lot of motorcycle work lately. That's a good thing - I enjoy it. Check out the link for Still Life With Cranston Ritchie at the right there and see Surly's new project. He'll be needing some fabricating on that one plus he's got a little Ducati project for a buddy of his that will need a little welding.

It's interesting to note the welding required for these projects. I TIG welded the frame and fender for Bob's stuff the other night. I could have used MIG, stick (SMAW) or gas welding. The frame was originally stick welded together and the battery box had been repaired previously with stick welding as well. Most new frame construction is done with MIG or a Pulsed MIG. Hot rods and bikes were put together back in the 40's and the 50's with nothing more than a gas torch. The old pro's could gas weld just about any darn thing, including aluminum and stainless. Not a whole lot of it being done today other than maybe hammer welding when chopping a top. I still teach it, though. A lot of the boys enjoy doing it and if you have a set of tanks and a combination torch, there isn't much you can't fix by either brazing or gas welding. Not the fastest way but still a viable way.

Bob will be sending more photos as the project progresses. Hopefully that will keep the fire lit under my boiler as well.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Riding the Rails.

When we went to New Orleans, as stated in the previous post, we went on the historic City of New Orleans. We caught the train at Union Station in Chicago and arrived in New Orleans about 21 hours later. It's scheduled to be about 19-1/2 hours but Amtrak trains are at the mercy of the track owners and often have to wait for freight traffic before proceeding. We had coach seats which meant sleeping in our seats. I can usually fall asleep about anywhere but I had a little trouble on this trip. On the return route, the guy across the aisle from me snored louder than anyone I've ever heard, with maybe the exception of my Uncle Herb. That dude was hands-down the all time champ. On the other side of the timber cutter was a lady who would eat and then proceed to belch for about fifteen minutes. Not little burbs, mind you, but the kind little kids drag up when they're having a belching contest. Didn't really make for a comfortable napping experience.

The train had a really nice lounge car with big picture windows and seats that faced out, allowing you to relax and watch the scenery go by. There was a snack bar below where you could get a drink or something to eat. A little pricey but I guess that's to be expected. The train also had a full service dining car. Food was pretty tasty and the service was good.

My biggest complaint with the trip was the people with cell phones. I realize that I'm an old guy and my take on cell phones is probably not the mainstream view but if you're going to have a phone that rings every five minutes, don'tcha think you could put the damn thing on vibrate. Since I could hear at least half of the phone conversations, it was pretty obvious that nothing was being said that couldn't wait till they got off the train, anyway. In fact, if it was never said, the earth was still going to keep on spinning. Don't get me wrong, I called home to check in with the Missus, but I went downstairs where I wouldn't bother anyone. Besides the irritation of the constant ringtones, the whole dynamic of train travel is changing. One of the pleasures of train travel was always meeting and chatting with your fellow travelers. Now people are talking on the phone instead. What used to be a rather civilized mode of transport has become another venue for inconsiderate people to jabber on like some eighth grade girl. We've no self restraint or dignity left, I'm afraid. Coincidentally, the new AARP magazine has an article addressing the role electronics is playing in killing the art of conversation. So it's not just me.

Cell phones aside, the trip was fun and I'm already trying to figure out how to get the last four states on my quest to hit all fifty.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Big Easy

Never having been to Louisiana before and trying to hit all the states in the Union before I die, New Orleans seemed like the perfect getaway destination. In order to qualify as a state you've officially been to, you have to mark your territory. First thing I did after getting off the train was to hit the Men's room and take a leak. That made 46 states. Only four more to go. California, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii.

We stayed in the Country Inn and Suites about three blocks from the French Quarter. When we get there I take a peek out the window and they're filming a commercial down below us! I think it was for Nair, which explains the girls with the nice looking legs. We also saw a famous movie and television actor, David Morse. If it wasn't, this dude was a dead ringer for him. He was just walking down the sidewalk and Rick and I both looked at each other and said: "isn't that ....?" I figured if both of us spotted him, it had to be the real deal. Of course, neither one of us could think of the guys name but we figured it out after we did a little homework on the hotel's computer.

The concierge at the hotel was extremely helpful. She got us dialed in real quick for our first night with a real good joint for supper and then some directions for seeing a few things. The night photo was taken along the river after we ate. It was a beautiful night to be out. The new camera actually has a setting for night scenes. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, it looks pretty sharp (actually, the hotel shot does to). You would think with the low light conditions that there would be no way to hand hold a shot and still have it come out sharp but it's pretty good. A tripod would have been better or maybe get the camera set up and use the self timer. The more I use the camera the better I like it.

Still got a few more things to say - stay tuned.