Monday, August 31, 2015

Kaw 900

Photo From Here
I got some work done on the 900 over the weekend. Started welding the pieces together for the swingarm bridge. I had already bent up the pieces to run under the arm but they needed to be cut to length and spliced together in the middle. I ordered some spools to bolt on to it so I can put it on the race stand. When those come in I'll make a couple of threaded bosses to weld to the swingarm and weld up the remaining bits so that will be complete. In the photo above the bike has a reinforced stock swingarm and the bridging runs above the chain. Mine will be under the chain in the front like the photo below. Additionally, I made my swingarm out of 1 x 1-3/4 chrome-moly tubing. I used to make a lot of those for drag racers. Because the drag bikes ran struts, most of the swing arms had an additional arm that mounted outside the frame on the chain side. Occasionally I'd make one with the arm on both sides.  

Photo From Here
If you look closely at the top photo you'll see an outboard clutch release plate. I've got a similar one for my bike but the piece that it bolts to has been damaged by a chain that broke at some point in the life of this motor. That was a pretty common occurrence back then. The chain would break and then get wadded up around the countershaft sprocket and break a big chunk out of the aluminum piece behind the sprocket. I can patch mine up with out too much difficulty. I need to get a couple of metric Allen head screws first so I can bolt everything together like it should be in order to make the missing piece properly. Might be a little tricky to find 6mm x 60mm Allen heads. Especially when you only need two.

It's going to be a busy week again. Don't know how much I'll get done on the projects but I feel good working on the 900. That was going to be the first thing I tackled when I retired. While that didn't work out quite like I figured it's showing signs of life finally. I'd like to have most of the fab work done before it gets cold. When I finish the swingarm I'll tackle the exhaust. It's got a 4 into 1 header so I just need to run a pipe from the collector back and out the side. It'll be mostly wrenchin' after that.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Welding Stuff

TIG welding on stainless pipe. Beautiful weave pattern and the heat colors make it even prettier. More photos and a short video of the "industrial worker" walking the cup here.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, school started this week. I've got a morning class and as I usually do, I cover the syllabus, equipment required, goals and objectives - all the usual  first day of class stuff - and then we take a walk around the shop. I shown them where the fire extinguishers are, the equipment they'll be using and then we talk a little safety. I've got them all in a circle around one of the welding machines and I put a couple of welding rod stubs on the floor to show them how they can act like rollers and have your feet go out from under you. About the time I bend over to pick the stubs up off the floor one of the students passes out, hits his head on the welder and then does a face plant on the floor. They hauled him out in the ambulance with a gash on his head and a chipped tooth. Then to make matters worse, one of the other students starts to black out - seems he gets that way at the sight of blood. Great way to start the new semester. Other than that, it looks like I've got a good bunch of students in both of my classes. I've got several guys who are ex-military - they always make good students. I've also got a couple of young ladies and they usually can weld rings around the guys if they put their minds to it.

I got a bunch of things done around the shack this week, took the Missus to one of the many doctors she sees, cleaned the little clown car out and took it in for service, worked a bit on the shop and got a little more done on the 900. Pretty good week in spite of the kid taking the dive the first day of classes.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Next In Line - Kaw 900

Since the Sportster's all buttoned up, I thought I'd do a little sheet metal therapy session and work on the 900.  Other than riveting in the Dzus fasteners, the sidecovers are done. I'm going to finish the ducktail & rear fender later this week. Try to finish up the swingarm after that. I want to widen the rear wheel. I think I can manage all of that on my own. It's going to be a little tricky but I've thought it through. The proof will be in the pudding, as they say. I've got the parts to add a second disc brake to the front end. It won't take much to install those but I need to get the back end put together again first. In fact, it wouldn't hurt to just stick it back together again so I can roll it around until I get the concrete finished. 

Only got about two more weeks until the Missus gets her PET scan, then a few days after that we'll see the doctor and find out where we stand with the lymphoma. While I'm expecting good news, the waiting is starting to weigh on me. I'm trying to stay busy and get a little something done around the shack every day and a little something on one of the projects every day. I've also been trying to put my affairs in order. I've got things squared away on the life insurance and some other things but I need to get an advanced medical directive/power of attorney, written instructions for my last wishes and draw up the pirate map so Surly can find the buried treasure out behind the barn. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Old Guy Purchasing Decisions

Out with the old -

In with the new.

Buying a new pairs of shoes usually isn't much of an event, however, things change a bit when you're only weeks away from your 65th birthday and you're talking bicycling shoes. The top pair has been in Washington, both the state and the District of Columbia, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. I've got no idea how many miles I've put on them but it was time for a new pair. 

I like mountain bike shoes because they have a stiff sole for cycling but you can still walk around in them off the bike. I don't use toe clips or SPD clips or anything. My touring bike has old "rat trap" pedals and the mountain bike has a pair of Wellgo platform pedals with some nubs on them to keep your feet from sliding off. My "go-fast" road bike has some nice MKS pedals, but again, no clips of any kind. So all I really need are shoes that fit, have a stiff sole, and be able to walk around in them comfortably.

The kicker comes when you're my age and you've already had the "infarto". The chances of me taking any more 500 mile bicycling trips are pretty slim. That being the case, do I even need cycling shoes? I could probably get by with most any kind of foot wear at the mileages I'm inclined to ride at this stage of my life. I used to ride all over hell's half acre when I was a kid in my Red Ball Jets or Chuck's and it never bothered me. Hell, I didn't even know there was such a thing as bicycling specific shoes. Anyway, I went ahead and bought the new pair because one, I can, and two, because it'll probably be the last pair I ever need to buy. 

I need to make the same decision on my ice skates also. One of the blades has come loose from the boot. Do I spring for a new pair? I gave all my hockey stuff to the Goodwill, so no more of that. If I go skating twice a winter for the next ten years, it's about a toss up between the price of a cheap pair of hockey skates or renting a pair whenever I go skating. If I buy a pair at least I can be sure of them lasting a lifetime. My old pal Joey used to joke about never even buying green bananas at his age. The poor bastard croaked at 42. Funny how age changes your perspective on life.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Mayor Blair Milo

The college hosted a convocation last week. As much as I hate meetings I went, figuring I couldn't do much else with the back still not up to snuff and I might learn a bit more about the mission of the college. Things got started with opening remarks from the Chancellor. His remarks were of the expected nature. He covered the necessary things like budget, personnel and other items of business - pretty much what I expected.  He was followed by the keynote speaker, which wasn't what I expected, Blair Milo, the Mayor of LaPorte. Ms Milo is quite the young lady - only thirty-two years old, Master's Degree, Ensign in the US Navy, ran a marathon earlier this year. Obviously a real go-getter.

Mayor Milo based her remarks primarily around a graph from the book Coming Apart written by Charles Murray. The graph shows that in the last 50 years or so the percentage of wealth by the small percentage at the top has grown enormously while everyone else at or near the middle class and down, their wealth has remained the same. On the mayor's hand drawn graph, the line representing the growth at the top was like she was drawing the Matterhorn as steep as it was. For the rest of us working stiffs, a flat line. I was expecting the mayor to start with the Robin Hood thing of tax the rich and give to the poor but that wasn't the case. She's fine with the rich being rich, she's not fine with the rest of us struggling along with no improvement in sight. Her answer? Education and jobs. That's an over simplification of a very fine presentation, but that's always what it boils down to.

There were several panel discussions after the mayor's speech with people from the college and the community and again, through partnerships with business, industry, chambers of commerce, The United Way and others, the answer to improving the lives of individuals and communities is education and jobs. How do we get there?

The Chancellor, the Mayor and the panel discussions were all centered around the theme of engagement. To make a difference, everyone, at all levels, needs to be engaged to bring about positive change. (One of the things I've always maintained is that schools, especially at the lower levels, don't do near enough to get and keep students engaged in their educations. I doubt seriously Common Core is going to help matters anymore than No Child Left Behind did.You need to play to their strengths but I'll save that one for my manifesto.) The panel discussions told of just how this engagement is currently playing out and ways for all of us at the college to get involved and become more engaged.

On a side note, when her Honor the Mayor mentioned Charles Murray, the name rang a bell but I couldn't place it at first. Charles Murray was the co-author of The Bell Curve that came out about twenty years ago. It caused a big stink in educational circles at the time. I've never read it but I remember the uproar. I am intrigued by Coming Apart. I might tackle that one this winter.

All in all, not a bad day at the convocation. It's good to hang around with people smarter than you are once in a while.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Almost There

Here it is - does everything but run. I took it down off the work stand so I could move some things around in the front part of the shop. I need to get as much moved out of the way as possible so my buddy will be able to run the bull float when we pour the concrete in back. It was time to get it off the stand anyway. I think it's just add fluids and she'll be ready to go. I put the plugs in it and kicked it over a couple of times just to see what it's going to take to turn it over. I might be in trouble if it doesn't light off after two or three stabs on the kicker. If I'm going to keep it, might have to build a set of rollers this winter. Regardless, it looked good sitting out there in the sun yesterday. The pictures don't really do it justice. Maybe I'll see about starting it up this coming week. All depends on the schedule and the back muscles.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Photos From Here
It's been a busy week. I went to a convocation for the college, got my syllabi posted for the start of classes next week, got some work done on the concrete prep for the shop, got the gas tank on the Sportster, and a bunch of other piddly stuff along with the normal household chores. The weather has been beautiful the last couple of days. Good weather to be working on things. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


When Surly came down on Saturday he brought a ukulele that he had purchased. It's a fairly large one. Since I know next to nothing about stringed instruments in general and ukuleles in particular, I didn't realize that there were soprano, tenor, concert, bass and who knows what else ukes, including banjo ukuleles or banjoleles as they are also called. He mentioned the name Roy Smeck who I had never heard of. That's him in the video. Wizard of the Strings they called him. Boy Howdy! That boy could play.

Surly is going to be farting around with his new uke and maybe attempting a cigar box transplant on the one the boys made in the wood shop. Since hearing about the banjo ukulele, I'm thinking that's what I should try for my next musical instrument build. Looks like it would be pretty easy to build one and the cost would be reasonable. Seems to be plenty of information on websites and YouTube about building and playing them.

Here's a store bought one, and a rather expensive one at that, but a small hand drum, a neck, tuners, bridge, tailpiece, and strings could easily be put together for less than a "C" note. I checked out the prices online for 8" hand drums and there are some cheap tune-able head ones available. Looks like it doesn't take much to stick the neck on it. It'll be just the thing when I decide to lay down the tools and sit on the porch in a few years.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Some More TIG

My buddy with the Triumph TR3 that came down a few weeks back called the other day. I figured he was going to ask about the pump end plate that's in the photo. Instead, it was to tell me of the passing of his mother, God rest her soul. I only met her a couple of times but she was a nice lady and an extremely talented artist, especially in the art of Polish paper cutting. Made it all the way to 97. I went to pay my respects and took the pump part with me - he's going to have enough on his plate for awhile with out making a trip down. 

I've still got his fender to repair and a couple of other jobs for people but I figured I was up by one, at least until I went out to pick up some dinner for the Missus and ran into the lady that runs the big 5K race here. I made some sign brackets for her once before. She needs some more and has a  few that need some TLC. Nice thing about this job is that she won't need them for a year. The way I work, probably take that long.

When I got home from the visitation, Surly was hard at work moving things out of the back of the shop. He got it pretty well cleaned out. There's still a couple of cabinets that need to be emptied and moved and the wood burning stove, but it's about 95% bare. The floor is sand and it's close to being at the proper level so it won't take too much to get it leveled out and tamped down. I'll get a hold of the ex-Building Trades instructor and see what his schedule is and get this concrete thing taken care of before too much longer. On the subject of the Building Trades class, I ran over to the old high school the other day to see my replacement and he said they haven't filled the position. Apparently they hired someone for the job but they bailed out two days before school started. So if you're looking for a job like that in Northwest Indiana, let me know and I'll get you the info.

I went out into the shop the other night to put the gas tank on the Sportster and imagine my surprise when I found out the petcock won't work on the tank. In the last incarnation, the bike had a big tank like off a big twin and it used a different thread. Bummer! New one is ordered though. 

Back's much better, I'm welding parts again and making forward progress. It's all good.

Friday, August 14, 2015


My buddy came down on his little Ducati to pick up the BSA case I welded up for him. Unfortunately, as they say on the Tour, he was forced to abandon. Seems the battery quit. He pulled up to a stop sign not too far from my house and the bike died.  He pushed it a few steps and it started again but when he got to my place no battery at all. Horn wouldn't honk, no lights, nothing. We rolled it out to the shop and gave it a quick look-see. Checked the obvious things - fuse, ground connection, etc. I hooked the battery charger up to it and the meter needle didn't budge at all. Turn on the lights and had about a 3 amp draw. We jumpered around a few things to make sure there wasn't a wire with a hidden break. We put a light across the terminals and not even a glimmer. Rather strange since it's a relatively new battery. Still, nice day for a bike ride but not a bad day for a couple of old farts to ride around in the pickup talking "squish band", either.

Nice looking little bike even if it is just a lawn ornament.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I used to do this every once in a while just to show off a little and keep the high school boys in their place.

Don't know if I was ever good enough to do a job as nice as this one, however. That's some first rate work.

Since the back was a little better, after I left the chiropractor yesterday I headed north to take care of some things, one of which was to stop and pick up this engine case to patch up for my buddy. It's from a BSA Bantam he's working on for someone. It's hard to tell from the crappy photo but it's just a little spot on the outside of the dowel pin. Only about five minutes work. 

The case has a lot of zinc in it - I could tell right away from the color of the arc. The more zinc the more difficult it is to get a good looking job. You have to be patient. If you overheat it the zinc will bubble up through the weld and leave holes in the finished weld. Plus it never comes out shiny bright like the pieces in the top two photos. You can usually look at the casting and have a pretty good idea of the alloy before you start. The good aluminum alloy like A-356 will be closer to white in color, where the zinc is more of a gray - or would that be grey since it's from England? The casting shape will also give you an idea. The more intricate the shape you can count on more zinc in the mix. The zinc retains the heat better while pouring to insure the material flows to all parts of the die. With sand casting, you usually see a nicer grade of aluminum, at least as far as motorcycle parts go. On some things there's a noticeable difference in weight as well, zinc being heavier. You will also run across some magnesium once in a while like on the engine side covers on the early Elsinores. They even cast a warning right into the part to let all the jack leg weldors know before attempting a repair. In all the years I've been puttering around with motorcycles, I haven't welded too many things on Brit bikes. I'm not sure if that says something about the quality of the bikes or just the people I run with. 

Last but not least, happy 65th. to the Missus. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tool Box/Ukelele/Banjo

Since I'm still not up to doing much, I was getting caught up on my time-wasting in front of the computer and checked out Dorkpunch to see what he'd been up to lately. Seems that he won a prize for his "Instructables" Portable Tool Box Project (Congratulations, by the way). I had never taken the time to check out the Instructables site but Surly and I have been kicking around some musical instrument project things so after checking out the tool box project I typed banjo in the search box and "sho nuff", they've got banjo building instructions. Next time I make a musical instrument a banjo it will be.

Surly was inspecting the cigar box uke the boys made in the woodshop a couple of years back and informed me that it was pretty much impossible to form a chord on the lower end of the neck due to the frets being so close together. One glance at the photo and it's obvious that's the case. The layout was straight out of a book I purchased on making home made instruments, so I won't take all the blame. I think he's planning on doing some "ukeleleing" in the future. Have to see what results from that. Neither one of us needs another thing to distract us from the pile of projects calling out to us, but that's never stopped either one of us before.

I'm going to try and get a little something done today without screwing the back up anymore than it is. I was back at the chiropractor yesterday and I'm scheduled for another round of electric shock therapy and the rack tomorrow. I'm definitely going to have to start some type of regular stretching & strength training program to get and keep everything loose and functional.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Special Fasteners

Vintage special fasteners
                               Take a close look - recognize any?
Photo From Here

I managed to throw my back out Friday. Usually a trip to the chiropractor fixes me right up but this time rather than an alignment issue it seemed to stem from a muscle spasm in the lower back. So nothing going on here at the present time, other than every time I take a step it's followed with a sharp, stabbing pain in the lower back, that is. I'll be back at it in a couple of days. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Two Wheeling

I got the front brake on the Sportster taken care of yesterday. The previous owner had purchased a braided steel line, new pads, seals and piston for the caliper. I bought a grade 8 bolt for retaining the caliper and a fresh bottle of fluid. Didn't take too long to get it bled and the lever feels good. I'll see how it works once I get her rolling. I also hooked up the throttle cables and checked a couple of other things. I left the S&S carb on it. I figured it was running with it before so it should run with it now. If all goes according to plan, I can swap it out or tune it as need be later. I need to double check the timing. I didn't check it with the ignition advance opened up. I've got a buzzer to hook up to the points which will make that a little easier. Not much left to do before I try and light it off. At the rate I'm going I'll get it going and sorted about the time to mothball it for winter, however.

I've been getting out on my bicycle as well as my motorcycle. I had an appointment to check on some life insurance stuff and was able to ride the SV yesterday for that. Another beautiful day to be out, so I meandered through the country on the way home on some of the old roads I used to ride when I had my Sprint back when. I would have liked to have spent the whole day in the saddle but I needed to get home to do some chores and I wanted to finish up the brake on the Sporty. I still had time to ride the bicycle for a bit after dinner. It was definitely a day made for two wheeling.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


I took myself a vacation day yesterday. The weather forecast was just about perfect so I decided to ride the SV over to North Judson and the Kersting Motorcycle Museum. Kersting's is also a Harley dealership so I checked out a couple of bikes while I was there. I've been wanting to check out one of the Street models and they had both a 500 and a 750 on the floor. The saddle height is really low on the 750 I sat on which brought my long legs way up - closer to how I would be sitting on a curb rather than on a bike. Might not have been so bad if I hadn't just gotten off the Suzuki with a whole different set of ergonomics. 

After checking out the bikes and the showroom I went out to the museum. Five bucks to get in - cheap at twice the price as the saying goes. Lots of interesting bikes of various makes. There's also a few cars, some bicycles and some motorcycles made by outfits that made bicycles, such as Raleigh, BSA, Pugeot, and Motobecane. Lots of Harleys as you would expect at a Harley dealership but a couple of road racing Kawasaki two-strokes that were campaigned by Jim Kersting himself. I was fortunate to have a brief chat with the man while I was there.  If I remember correctly, I saw him race the little Sprint flat tracker at an event in LaPorte one time. 

The bottom photo is the grille from one of three Rolls Royces in the museum. There's some serious money invested in the place. Especially someplace that's basically in the middle of nowhere. Nice destination from my place, however. Easy ride on rural state highways. The scenery consisted of fresh cut hay, mint harvesting, corn and soybeans all under blue skies and temperatures in the 70's. I used to head over that way fairly regularly and I'd normally stop at the root beer stand at the four way as you come into town. I was tempted to break training and stop for a root beer and a pork tenderloin sandwich since I didn't go to the fair and have one. They also had a pulled pork sandwich advertised - would have been a tough decision. Probably best I kept riding.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Weekend Update

In spite of the weather this summer, and my neglect, the garden is putting out a little something. At the current grocery store prices there's almost four dollars worth of cucumbers laying there. The squash bugs are at work sawing off the vines so I won't get too many more squash but with these, a couple I've already picked and a couple more on the vine, I've recovered the cost of seed plus a bit. The tomatoes are doing fine. The little plum tomatoes are really tasty. They make a fine salad tomato. My pepper plants are finally starting to do something. I have them planted on the south side of the new barn and initially they were drowning with all the rain we were getting. Then it went from too wet to hot and dry, and with them planted so close to the barn sheet metal they receive a lot of reflected heat. Fortunately I remembered to check on them and kept them watered. 

Also in the photo is a bag of peaches and a couple of apples. With all that's going on around here now I'm going to skip trying to make any wine. Depending on the weather the next few days, I might see about grinding up some apples for cider, however. Seems awful early for the apples but they've probably been stressed by the weather into an early fruit drop. The Missus says she's up to making a peach pie as long as I prepare the peaches for her. 

Surly and the grandsons came down on Saturday. He gave me a hand moving some more things out of the back of the shop. I've still got a ways to go before I'm ready for concrete but there's a big empty spot in the middle of the floor now. After doing some yard work/gardening yesterday morning, I went back out later in the day after it had cooled off a bit and moved some more stuff out. I also cut out a little tab and welded it to the brake lever for the black & orange Sprint. The tab is for the brake light switch. I still need to make a couple of more parts to hook up the cable but I've at least got all the bits that I had made previously tacked together.  

We're going to be watching the boys later in the week - big step for the Missus. She still tires easily but she misses seeing the boys and there doesn't seem to be anything going around right now the boys can pass along. We're basically in limbo now waiting to see if the cancer has gone into remission. Having the grandsons around will help.

Have a good week.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Trade School

There was a letter to the editor in the Thursday Wall Street Journal from Ryan Blythe, Executive Director of the Georgia Trade School, in response to the editorial "College Aid Means Higher Tuition". Mr. Blythe's response:

Your editorial is on target and shouldn't be limited only to exposing the weaknesses of traditional four-year institutions. In the trade-school industry, priorities are often misplaced because of the level of student aid schools receive. As a result, the focus becomes on managing the government bureaucracy behemoth and not on the quality of the instruction or the student experience. Working in that kind of environment led me to a radical decision to launch a welding school that, like the widely lauded Hillsdale College, is entirely free from federal student loans. As a result, we can spend 65% of our expenses on the welding laboratory and instruction team and not on administrative bloat. This approach keeps our costs at one-third of similar programs that market financial aid services. Where else can you learn a trade for only $8,000 that will make you incredibly marketable in an economy begging for skills? In an era where the average college graduate faces $28,000 in debt as he or she begins a career, our graduates report they have earned back their educational  investment in a single quarter.

Something to think about there, now. Leave the feds out of the loop and you end up with a better product and at a lower price. I don't know how much monkey business the college where I'm employed has to deal with to satisfy the federal requirements but I know that I have to report active enrollment and a few other things in a timely fashion for the purposes of federal reporting. I also know that the college is on the hook for repaying a substantial amount of money due to students leaving school early after using up their financial aid money. That has to drive the cost of tuition up.

President Obama tossed out the idea of free community college tuition but I'm sure even he realizes that's not a workable idea during his time in office. However, when you plant the idea to a bunch of people already in debt for their education, it's probably good for a few votes down the road. Of course, people with a debt load of $28,000 really can't afford to be paying more in taxes to pay for someone else's college education, now can they? Especially when you look at some of the interest rates they're paying. You can get a car loan these days for 2.5% but you're saddled with a student loan at 7.5%? Two major economic principles at work here - opportunity cost and compound interest. Always need to keep those two in mind before signing on the dotted line.

There's a welding school out in the country that I see a sign for when I'm out that way. I should check it out while I'm on vacation. I would assume it's a private school/cash and carry deal. Must be doing something right, they've now got a second sign on another state highway.

Bottom line here? Get a job, save your money, go to trade school, get a better job, live debt free happily ever after.