Monday, November 29, 2010


I got the shock mounting studs tacked on the swingarm. I need to move the ones on the frame tube to give me the right length for the shocks so I figured I'd get the bottom ones welded on and then I can get an accurate measurement plus I wanted to make sure the back wheel is going to fit up right. I got a rough measurement on the axle spacers but I really need to make the axle and the adjusters before I can get an exact length. I also need to weld a tab on the swingarm for the brake stay. I'm going to make that out of 1/2" dia. aluminum that gets turned to 3/8" on the ends. One end gets right hand threads, the other left hand. A 3/8" Heim joint on each end, plus I'll machine a flat on it for a wrench so I can adjust the length. Sounds tougher than it is. At the rate I'm going, I might actually have everything ready to send out by the first of the year. That's a big ten - four.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fast Reading

With a big can of this,

Photo from here:

I could build this.

Photo from here:

The holiday dinner and get together got pushed back so I've been catching up on my reading, among other things. I've been reading Kurtis-Kraft by Gordon Eliot White. I've had the book for a couple of years and have looked at the photographs and read all the captions several times but I'm finally getting around to actually reading the thing. It's a real interesting look at Frank Kurtis, the man who defined midget and championship car racing after the war up into the '60's. I've got a couple other books by White and the guy really knows his stuff. His Offenhauser book is a dandy and mine is autographed by Johnny Pawl, who bought out Frank Kurtis' midget business, by the way.

Even though I'm knee deep in projects and the honey-do list has several loooong overdue items on it and I already have two unfinished car projects, I've been thinking about a car build. This one's actually been floating around in the dark recesses of my mind for a long while. It involves a 225 CID Slant-Six and torsion bar suspension - like they used on the old Darts and coincidently on Indy cars. Probably a mistake to read the Kurtis book.

I managed to do a little work on the Rickati swingarm yesterday. I got everything figured out for the shocks, put the swingarm back on the jig and made a couple of pieces. The original Rickman wheel actually fits in the swingarm pretty close to being on center when the chain is lined up. I just need to machine up a couple of spacer bushings and make a brake stay and the rear wheel could be done. I'd still like to have an aluminum rim but I think I'll utilize what I have for now and if everything works as planned, I can always lace up a new rim later. If it doesn't work, I'm not really out anything other than time. I also got a chance to look at the footpeg situation and I'm going to machine up a piece for the side with the kickstarter and see how it works. If all goes well, I'll make the one for the other side.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mr Fix-It

Lots of progress on things this week even though I only had to work three days. That's reason enough to give thanks. The muffler parts are for the Rickati project. I've got that pretty well wrapped up. After I get the footpegs on the bike I'll figure out what I need for a heat shield and get that on there. The shocks I want are going to take 3-5 weeks to come in. I'm looking for an alternative but I'll probably order them in. I should be able to have pretty much everything else taken care of by the time the shocks come in, so that's not really much of a setback. They are pretty much what I want - a little expensive but a lot less than buying the Greeves in the previous post.

The lathe tool is for the woodshop instructor. The chisels were loose in the handle so we put a little TIG weld on the tangs of four of them to tighten them up. I did the first one and a student finished them up. It was the first time he had TIG welded steel - good starter project. The shelf bracket is for Surly. He needed it a little stronger out on the end than what it was designed for. I also fixed a fondue pot that belongs to the boss's wife. The handles broke, so I got her fixed up. I didn't have any Bakelite in stock, so I made a couple out of oak. Plus, the parts photos were taken on top of one of the five desks the boys and I repaired this week. We also got the bench tops in the welding booths ground down, everything cleaned up real well, did a little maintenance on a couple of the machines and I got the holes in the walls patched that the little hooligans took the slag hammers to. The little hooligans who are no longer in the class, I might add.

The steam engine project is progressing. I need to do a little engineering on the valve assembly before I can do much more. I should be able to order in what I need and start machining that next week, however. I hope the thing works as planned. If not, I'm not sure where to go from here. We'll just have to wait and see on that.

I should be able to get some work done on the 900 pretty soon as well. I've got to work on the circular stair for the new barn one of these days too. It needs one more step added and the railing needs to be straightened out some. That shouldn't be too tough though.

Like always, lots of activity.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I'm heading out today to spectate at the race I usually run on Thanksgiving Day. My chest still won't allow me to run or even walk fast without pain. Regardless, I've got a lot to be thankful for. I've got mostly good health, a job with good benefits, and I'm going to spend the day with loved ones. Not too bad, all things considered. And I can be thankful I don't have a young one between the ages of 17 -24.

According to this article, "75 percent of young Americans, between the ages of 17 to 24, are unable to enlist in the military today because they have failed to graduate from high school, have a criminal record, or are physically unfit." Three out of four of these mopes aren't capable of enlisting! Good Lord, what's happened to us? The article's main focus is on recruiting better teachers rather than recruiting soldiers but you should read the article - it's short, follow the link and read it. H/T to Kevin

Surly has some real good photos posted of the action at the Demotte Boxing Club's last fundraiser. You can check them out HERE. On page 15 there is a real good black and white shot of Bazooka Joe. He's a guy who could have gone into the military and they would have been glad to have him. Tough guy and you could say the same about his opponent, Roberto.

Happy Thanksgiving! Eat some turkey, watch some football and tell the cook thanks for the good food.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Can Cars

I saw an article on Sandy Sanderson in Rod & Kulture magazine while thumbing threw some back issues. The guy makes 1/10 scale car models out of beer and soda cans. They're just phenomenal. If you've got a lot of time on your hands, you can order plans here and build one yourself. Or he'll sell you a completed one. The prices aren't cheap but why should they be? He's also a Technology Teacher according to the article, so you know Shop Teacher Bob has to give him a thumbs up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Greeves Anglian

While wasting some of my obviously not so precious time on the internet, I came across the Greeves Anglian. These were some of the best trials machines back in the mid-sixties. Imagine my surprise to find they are still being made. I didn't have to build a vintage trials bike, I could have just bought one. They're 6,500 pounds - that would be the monetary amount, not the weight. I don't know what the exchange rate is but even if it's one to one, I can't see me parting with that much money to buy one. I do realize that most people don't have the skills to do what I'm doing with the Rickati project and you can easily experience some serious setbacks to the bank account when you have to start farming most of your work out on one of these old dogs. So maybe the smart money is to just start with a new "old" bike and spend your time riding rather than scouring the countryside for parts and waiting for your turn in line with the local Greeves, Ossa, Bultaco, etc. trials guru to get the thing fixed. Greeves is also selling a new trials bike, if you fancy a new "new" bike. It's pretty interesting to see the two of them side by side on their website.

I started on the muffler for my project and I e-mailed the guy with the shocks. I got the outside of the muffler formed up and need to make the end caps next. Not totally sure how I'm going to baffle it but when I'm done being baffled, it will be. The guy with the shocks said no go on my original specs, their trials shocks don't come in that length. I can make the shorter version work easily enough by moving the top mounts down a little and changing the gussets. I was waiting to weld on the bottom mounts anyway, so no problem there. I e-mailed him back but haven't yet received a reply. I'm hoping to get them ordered next week at the latest. I'll have the long weekend coming up next week due to the holiday, so I'm wanting to spend at least one good day taking my usual shotgun approach towards my projects. Doesn't really matter which one it is as long as I'm seeing some progress on one of them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Rickati Progress

The bike's coming together. I got the swingarm tacked together, machined the backing plate and stuck the thing under the bike to see how it looked. It looked good. The static height of the bike is just about perfect - plenty of ground clearance and nice stance. I need to check and see about the length of the shocks before I weld on the bosses for them but I'll get on that pretty much pronto. Now that I know where the shocks are going to be I can finish up the exhaust. I'm thinking just a little short muffler with a right angle bend on the outlet just ahead of the shocks should work and look good. I can also start working on the footpegs and the levers. I'm liking it. It'll be a runner this spring.

They're finally done with the construction in the shop so I can start catching up on some other projects. The shenanigans in my one class has come to a halt, finally. One guy got expelled and three more were removed. The boys underestimated the old man. They didn't realize that in addition to my welding skills, I can run a video camera. That's going to allow me to bring jobs in for the boys to work on again. When you have a class that gives you the opportunity to work on real jobs and get valuable experience, you'd think they would want to protect that. Should be business as usual now.

We got a couple pieces made for the steam engine today. Should be right on schedule to have it running on air by Christmas break. I'm having breakfast with my buddy and Cuzzin Ricky Saturday morning to talk a little steam. We'll see what comes out of that. I need to get Cuzzin Ricky's buggy back in the shop one of these days as well. I'm in the project mode now and I want to make a little hay. I've got lots of jobs to start on and a bunch to be finished but good things are happening now.


Fabbing Up The Swingarm

Layout of Fixture

Rickman Backing Plate
Inside View

Outside View With
Rickman Logo

I'm working on the rear swingarm for the Rickati project. It's pretty straight forward. The fixture is just a flat plate with the layout drawn on it. I drilled and reamed the threads out of a couple of 3/4" nuts and placed one on each side of the pivot tube, shimmed them up a little and then clamped them down to the plate. The axle plates are bolted to a steel spacer to hold the width and alignment. I clamped the parts on both ends down to the layout marks, double checked the alignment and dimensions, then filled in the blanks with the tubing. With something as simple as this one, I don't need any elaborate fixture. I'll just have to watch it when I'm welding it up to keep everything straight.

I'm still weighing my options on the back wheel. The Rickman wheel needs a little TLC and to make the sprocket line up, the hub will have to be relaced a with a little offset in it. That means I might as well spring for an aluminum rim and new spokes. Plus the wheel has the brake and sprocket on the same side which means the sprocket has to have a large hole to fit over the hub. It has a 56 tooth on it now and I could probably get away with a 50 tooth but no smaller. I would also have to machine up a sprocket to fit it. I checked my go-kart parts catalog and they have 40 series sprockets I could make work but I'm not sure what kind of gearing I need. I'm checking in to that.

The bottom two photos show the backing plate fitted with a quickie mandrel I made up to machine the inside boss square. The surface was screwed up so I TIG welded a little material on it. I'll chuck that in the lathe and it'll be good as new. The back wheel is going to be both a little work and a little money if I use the Rickman but I like the look of those style of hubs, plus the Rickman logo on the backing plate looks cool. Even if I can't resolve the issues with this wheel, I made the swingarm the same dimensions as a stock Ducati arm, so I'll have room to throw something else in there if need be.

Monday, November 15, 2010


HD Sprint

A couple of posts back I talked about my HD Sprint. Here's a real nice looking one. Mine was a '67 "H" model and had the same type of tank. The '67 & '68 engines had a finned cover over the valves and rockers so this one is probably a year or so older. Different seat as well, of course.

I need a job building this kind of stuff. Or I just need health insurance and then I can fix up my shop, walk out the back door and keep pounding sheets of aluminum until I can build this kind of stuff. What was it Surly posted not too long ago? Devote 10,000 hours to your craft. I better get after it if I want to master it by the time I'm 70.

Honda Bicycle?

This is the kind of crazy stuff everyone should make at least once in their life. When guys my age were little they would make push cars and coasters - whatever they could put together that had wheels under it. When you got older and developed a little skill, you made other things. This looks like one of those things. Put something together that's just plain fun. That's the real hot rod spirit right there. You can buy the Chinese knock-off version of the Honda 50/70 pretty cheap. If Surly wasn't so busy, I'd like to pair up with him and build us a little Bonneville racer with one of them.

All photos taken from here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Issues #2

The steam engine is progressing nicely and I've been able to do all the machining at school on the lathe I picked up last year. The lathe has some issues that need to be dealt with but that will happen.

I changed the color for the links that were embedded in the text. I didn't have any trouble seeing them when I was writing things up but after they were posted they were easy to miss. So there's another issue dealt with.

I had to stay home from the gym's fundraising show due to another attack of whateveritisIgotitis but the Missus managed to get the Dr. on the hotline and phone in the order for the big guns. Last time I had this, I could actually feel myself getting better after taking the first pill. Hopefully this issue is dealt with.

I tried walking the other day to see if I could make the Thanksgiving Day 5k but had to throw in the towel on that one. Even walking briskly - not racewalking, mind you - had my chest hurting after about a 1/4 mile. However, I built the Missus a recumbent bike a couple of years ago and I might just be able to ride that puppy without the chest pain. Even if I can't run or race walk, if I can get out on a bike and get a little taste of the beautiful weather we've been having, I know my spirits will improve. As soon as the big pill kicks in, I'm going to give it a try. It might not be the complete solution but if I can do something while my chest is healing up, issue solved.

The heat is hooked up and running in the shop at school finally. That means I'll be able to bring something into the shop to work on and put all the work benches back in place. That probably has been the biggest issue I've been dealing with for the last six months.


Seems like ever since coming home from the bicycle trip, I've been dealing with some kind of issue or another. First I come down with some kind of strange disease, then I screw up my chest muscles and now I've got some kind of kidney infection. All I want to do is be left alone and do some running and cycling and I'll be happy. Really. That's about all it takes to keep me happy because everything else seems like it's always pretty good. Good marriage - we have a cross word every five years or so, just enough to keep us on our toes but really a good marriage - good family, good friends. The job sure isn't what it used to be or could be, but the insurance is great and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm healthy enough to tinker on my projects and I still go to the gym and get a little workout but I just like cycling and running especially in the Fall. So compared to a lot of people, I'm pretty well blessed. No doubt about it.

So that's the set-up for this: Matt Long, firefighter, Ironman, businessman. Gets run over by a bus. Writes a book. I read the book. I feel like such a pansy ass to even think about complaining.

Read it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Thanks to all who have served.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I don't usually get too actively involved in politics. I try to make informed decisions when it's time to vote and I always vote, as we all should have, a week ago. My politics tend to be along the lines of let's follow the example of the framers of the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment. Going along with that, I received the Hillsdale College Imprimis today and the featured article is The Presidency and the Constitution by Mike Pence, U. S. Representative from Indiana's 6th Congressional District. If you have a few minutes, I urge you to read it regardless of your politics.

You can also check out the Imprimis archives and if you are interested, sign up for a free subscription.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Aermacchi Racer

H-D Sprint/Aermacchi road racer.

Whenever airplane factories start making motorcycles, you can expect to see some pretty nice machinery - Aermacchi, Moto Guzzi - or maybe it's just an Italian thing. For a little pushrod single, these things were competitive for quite a while and affordable. A lot of big name racers competed on the Sprints in this country, both on dirt and pavement. Cal Rayborn, Bart Markel, Mert Lawwill, George Roeder - Roeder even set a land speed record with a 250cc streamliner of 176 mph, if memory serves. Bronson even rode one when the off road going got too rough for his Sportster in the old TV show. They'd show him doing some big jump and if you looked close you could see it was a Sprint that was painted to match his Sporty. I bought one April 1st, 1968. It was my pride and joy. I liked to froze to death riding it home but I wasn't going to let 30 degree temperatures stand between me and my new motorcycle. I had it almost one year exactly until some SOB stole it. Probably changed the whole course of my life. Oh well, one door closes and another door opens.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Motorbikes and Steam Engines

Cylinder and connecting
rod for steam engine.

Honda Superhawk

'65 Monza

I got a few more things machined up for the steam engine project. The cylinders need the intake pipes, pistons and "U" bolts to hold the guides in place but that should be done next week. I need to make a trip to the hardware store but I'm not sure what I need exactly. The plans are a little unclear. The included photos in the plans are from a couple of different engines so the detail shots don't necessarily jibe with the assembly shot. I'll get it figured out and then it will be on to the valve mechanism. That looks to be the only real machining challenge. It starts with a 4 way 3/8" pipe junction and then has the center bored out and bushed with a stainless bar in the center with some reliefs cut in it to divert the steam from one cylinder to the next. I'm sure you have a hard time visualizing that but I'll post photos as it happens. First I have to find one. I don't recall ever seeing a brass 4 way at the hardware store in that size. I'll probably have to see the guy I got the copper cylinders from. I'm building him a speed bag platform, so we're swapping a little parts for labor deal. I'll have him throw in the 4 way and we'll both be happy.

The Superhawk photo is the one I welded up the sidecover for the other night for my buddy Bob and the Ducati Monza is another bike he's just finished. He does nice work, yes? Both bikes are from about the same year and it's interesting to see the differences in design. Lots of rounded shapes with the Italians and lots of straight lines with the Japanese. Single cylinder versus twin. However, a few years later, Laverda produced a bike that looked like the Superhawk on steroids and Ducati was pretty much out of business just like the British motorcycle industry. "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" was the old marketing slogan. True, only if you weren't trying to compete against them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Steam Engine's Under Way

Got started on the steam engine. Lots of machine work to be done but nothing very difficult. Lots of lathe work - drilling and threading mostly. The two copper cups are going to be the cylinders, the rods with the nuts on one end are the connecting rods which will fasten to the piece in between them in the photo. I ordered up some rod ends today to connect them together plus a couple of other little things we'll need. I want to start machining the pistons this week and the guides that the connecting rods run through. The engine was conceived by a guy who is obviously not a machinist nor a draftsman but there are plenty of photos of the individual parts. I'm changing a few things as I go to correct a couple of obvious points that may cause trouble during operation . I want to have this baby running on compressed air by Christmas break. Looks to be doable.

I welded up a couple little items for my cousin and scoped out his Harley frame. He's finally getting around to putting his sidecar rig together and the frame is going to need some work before going much farther on the project. That's where I'll come in. You'll be able to follow along at his blog A Quality Shop of Master Craftsmen. The link is on the left. I also welded up a hole in a sidecover for an old Honda Superhawk for a buddy of mine. The welding was pretty much a snap for both guy's projects and had a nice visit. Nice way to work, actually.

My buddy brought the shifter piece for the Rickati project I needed so I can figure out where to put my foot pegs. The swing arm tubing should be in today or tomorrow and I've already got the axle plates machined. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about a back wheel yet. The original Rickman wheel has some issues and it's got a small 15mm axle, most 250's run at least a 17mm. I need to make a decision real soon. I'd like to find a drum brake wheel with an aluminum rim and just be done with it. That would be easier than fixing the Rickman wheel and lacing up a new wheel - cheaper too. I'll come up with something.

Monday, November 1, 2010


The trusses for the barn arrived this week. We went with trusses for two reasons - it's a lot easier to get a decent job on a gambrel roof when they're jig built by pro's as opposed to high school kids trying to put rafters together, and they are going to be hell for strong. I'll have a clear space roughly 16' wide by 32' long with an 8' ceiling height. The bottom chord is a 2"x10" and I'm planning on 3/4" plywood flooring, so I'll have a real nice upstairs that will support my woodworking tools and it will be easy to drywall if I so desire. I'm not sure when they're scheduled to be set. He must be planning on getting them put up pretty soon or he wouldn't have ordered them.

I've got today off for Fall Break. The weather's supposed to be nice so I can finish up my last little painting job and get the one last storm window up. I did the last mowing of the year Saturday and did my running around Sunday. Hit all the big spots - Harbor Freight and Menard's. Stopped for a late lunch at the Longhorn Steakhouse with the Missus - Thanks Dave. The food was great. Came home, did a couple of quick chores and promptly fell asleep in the big chair. There's a lot to be said for a good nap.

The tubing for the Rickati project should be here this week and we're starting to machine up some parts for the steam engine. I wan't to see that running on compressed air by the end of the year. Looks like I'm not going to Brazil for Jimmy's fight. That's a pisser. He's going to be fighting locally in December instead. We've got a guy fighting next Wednesday and we're putting on a show in-house the twelfth of this month followed up by the Silver Gloves in December. As always, never a dull moment.