For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

Please visit my new blog:

Monday, December 22, 2014

My apologies to Lee Valley/Veritas

I have loved every tool that I have ever purchased from Lee Valley. They make some of my favorite tools. Except for one.
I have hated on the dovetail saw and guide combo more than once.

The action shot, killing some cherry.

Like, I said some mean s%&t about that tool. Until now. I think I finally realized that it is a very handy, useful, and well made tool.
If, like me, you don't spend a lot of time cutting dovetails, your hand sawing isn't always up to snuff. I have handsaws that are sharpened and tuned to perfection. I can make some damned good cuts. But I have this problem...when I cut a dovetail, I completely forget how to use a saw. This little saw guide really helps me out. I can make clean, accurate cuts now. In the past, the problem was me, not the saw.
So, if you're a part time-wannabe-hardly-practicing woodworker like me, and you want to improve your joinery a bit...this little thing works a charm.
Apologies, Lee Valley, from you.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baker's Bench Scraper

I have made a couple of Baker's Bench Scrapers. Otherwise known as a pastry scraper. A necessary and extremely useful tool in the kitchen.
I think I have nailed down the way I want to make them, and just need to speed up my process. My goal in the upcoming months is to make these for sale, amongst other items. My timeline is getting stretched a bit due to requirements at my day job, but I'll get there.

Top left is the run of the mill mass produced one that I bought at the store several years ago. Top right is my first scraper. It has walnut handles, cherry dowels, and an 18 ga blade. Bottom is the new one. A thinner 20 ga blade, bubinga handle, and Loveless handle fasteners.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Swingarm pivot, pt 3

Finished it. Here's the final steps.

Gotta make one of these.

Swingarm Pivot, pt 2

Sunday was a good day. I made a lot of progress on the swingarm pivot. It is nearly done:

Getting started on the nut. 1.5" hex stock. I need to bore this and machine a .800"-20 thread.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Racin' Parts: Swingarm pivot

A good friend of mine road races a 500cc Triumph. He's getting his bike ready for next season and asked me to help by making a new swingarm pivot.
It's an interesting project and not the easiest thing I've ever made. I got about half way through it today:

Here's the original pivot. It consists of a shaft, washer, nut, and adjuster quadrants. The shaft is hollow, with a .800"- 20 thread. That thread is far from standard. The quadrant on the left side is welded to the shaft.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Chopperin': oil tank mounts and axle adjusters

Little more bike progress today.

I wanted my axle adjusters to be more than just hex stock. I milled a little out to break 'em up and add a bit of visual appeal.

Woodworking: prepping some new chisels

I have a couple of small woodworking projects that I would like to work on. Indirectly, I have some stuff on the drafting board that will require a small amount of woodworking as well.
As we all know, I sold off most of my wood tools. Included in those sales were my Lie-Nielsen chisels. I have a few antiques and a few new Stanley's, but nothing compares to a Lie-Nielsen chisel.
I set off into the land of internet shopping and ordered a 1/2" & 1/4" chisel. As I expected, my new chisels are super nice and I'm all in love with them and stuff.
This morning, I wanted to take care of the prep work to get them ready for use.

Here goes:

Some time ago, I made a sharpening set up based on the Lie-Nielsen design available on their web site. I'm not going to get into the construction, as it is pretty basic. You'll get the idea as we go along. I made it so that I could clamp it onto my work bench using my surface vice and a dog.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Someone mount that oil tank already!

I have a lot of bad habits. I smoke, I drink, I'm lazy, and the list goes on and on. One of my worst habits is that I will hem and haw over a decision for days, weeks, months.

They say that perfection is the enemy of good enough. I'm not a perfectionist, I can't be. But good enough isn't always good enough. What happens, is that I have an idea, then a little voice in my head will shut down my motivation and stop me from doing anything. What's really happening is that I know my initial idea isn't up to par with my vision. So, basically I will keep screwing around and circling the project until the better idea shows up.

Sometimes, this habit just makes me stressed out, and ultimately late. Other times, that little voice has stopped me from doing something that wasn't as good as it could be. In this case, something better came along, and I'm digging it. Let's take a look now, at the first stage of mounting my new oil tank into the Organ Donor.

The oil tank has three mount points. It will tie into the back bone here, and on the cross member under the seat. Drill guides help in these matters. If you ever need to center a hole through tubing, you should make one.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Taste of the Flavor to Come

While I've been relatively absent here (again), it doesn't mean that I haven't been busy. I've been helping a friend bring back to life a really cool mid-century surf board table, and that has occupied most of my home shop time. I've been baking a lot. I bake more than most people, but lately the oven has been cranking.

Baking and working in my home shop has meant that I've taken a break from bikes for just a little while. I lost my muse there for a bit. The muse is coming back, and the ideas are flowing again. Hopefully that translates into making some really cool stuff for my new Triumph.

For some time now, I've been throwing around the idea in my head of making baking/kitchen tools here at home. The only way to do it practically and not waste precious resources is to make more than I need and find a venue to sell them. My investment into making say, a single tart ring is roughly the same as if I wanted to make a dozen. To that end, I am starting to plan out a few products and test them out. First off will be a couple of simple tools. The simplest of all? The bench scraper or pastry scraper. I've heard chefs use the terms interchangeably. I have two test pieces in the works, and I'm using them as my start point.

A pair of pastry scrapers. A very useful tool in the kitchen. I have never been satisfied with the one that I have, which is why I want to make a new one. These will have wooden handles, and one will be a test for a curved edge. I already know I'll want to drop a gauge thickness.

On the bike side of things, I'm figuring out how to make some pull back fender struts. I'm not worried about carrying a load on the fender. I'm not into carrying a passenger, if you want to ride...get your own! The final piece will be stainless steel, it's just cheaper to test with mild steel first.
I need to get off my arse and stay off it! We'll see how this goes. Usually I only get lazy when I don't have a plan or materials. I have a plan now, and most of the resources required to carry it out. Off to the races.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hand Plane rant (sort of)

Not the blade in question...just there for a picture.
So, someone brings me a hand plane. They say they lent it out and it got dinged. Included in the story is "I've been using hand planes since I was a kid." This brings up a few things:

Ok...if you know how to use a hand plane, why can't you sharpen it yourself?
If you had used the plane before...why are the factory grind marks on the blade?
The plane is 15-20 years old, hasn't been all that well cared for...and you're blaming it on the guy you lent it to? I know what patina is. I can tell a paint stain from last month from one that's 10 years old.

Anywho, I take the plane apart, give it a once over. Checked for flat...not flat...flattened it. Then I took the blade and sharpened it. I could tell that this was the first time the blade had ever been sharpened. The patina is a dead giveaway that this is the original blade.
I only took the blade up to a 4000 grit edge. I could have gone to 8000, but I knew that the user would never appreciate the difference. Reassemble the plane, test shaving, cuts nice.

Here's the best part. I give the plane back to the owner. I removed the blade and showed him the edge. He looks at it disapprovingly, runs it up his arm and shaves a few hairs...frowns...and says, "I guess that'll do."

YOU GUESS??? WTF? Someone who wouldn't know a sharpening stone from a rock on the beach wants to criticize the edge I just handed him?

Needless to say, the blade nearly became a piece of evidence at the police station, but I held my temper.

The moral of the story? Admit when you don't know about something. It's ok. People won't look down on you. I have a hell of a lot more respect for someone who admits ignorance on a topic than someone who tries to fake knowing everything.

(also, if I've seen the butcher job on a knife you've sharpened, telling me you know about sharp plane irons won't work)

I just had to let that rant out.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Engine Mounting Hardware

The new frame for the Organ Donor uses later style front engine mounts. Older style mounts were integral to the frame, and motor dropped into them. Basically, just a pair of tabs welded to the frame.

The later frames had stud bosses in the frame and separate plates for the mounts. This is a better design in my mind, because it allows for easier installation of the engine. Instead of buying a set of studs and plates, I elected to make them.

Across the top is the lower engine mounting stud. This goes below the engine and spans the frame. It is about 7" long. The two plates and three shorter studs make up the front mount.

Headlamps: LED vs Halogen

One of the most important pieces of equipment on a bike is the headlamp. Even more critical than being able to see at night, is being seen by others at all times.

The trouble with most headlamps is that they are power hogs. The new headlamp that I installed on my chopper this year is a 55/65 Watt Halogen. The alternator only puts out 180 Watts at full tilt. That means, that I am using a third of my alternator just to run the headlamp. In the past I have run LED's in the tail lamp. In that case, I can take a 15 Watt drain, and bring it down to a fraction of a Watt (about .12W). I had an LED headlamp for some time, but after many surgeries, it was no longer practical to continue messing with. Hence my new Halogen.

After a little searching, I found an LED replacement bulb for the H4 type that was in my new lamp. The only downside is that I no longer have a hi-lo. When I thought about it, it occurred to me how little I use the hi-beam. The new LED bulb consumes about 5 Watts. About 10 percent of the original.

Time for some testing, what have I got to lose besides $15 and a half hour of my time...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Triumph Axles, pt.3

While making my rear axle, I decided that I didn't like the look of the stock nuts. With the addition of the spacer and adjuster, they looked a little odd.

Spacers. I milled them to have keys that lock to the frame. This way the adjusting flat always faces forward...and they look trick too.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Triumph Axles, pt 2

Part 1 showed the front axle. Now time for the rear.

Unlike the front axle, where I could use stock that was the proper diameter for the wheel bearings, the rear had to be turned to size. This axle will be a hair over 10.5" long when done. When you're turning a piece that long, and the diameter has to be consistent over its length, it's a good idea to check your lathe. I adjusted the lathe to within .001" over 11". That's pretty good for a 50 year old Logan. The center portion of the axle is .785" and the ends will be threaded to 3/4-20.

Triumph Axles, pt 1

In the process of rebuilding the Organ Donor, she needs new axles. The old front end was a springer, and I'm switching back to a telescopic. The rear of the frame is slightly wider, and I want to switch to big-twin style adjusters. What this means is that I need a front spool axle, and an extended rear.
I don't know where to buy a spool axle, the one on LaCucaracha has been with that bike since the 70's. The one place I know to get an extended rear axle doesn't know when they will have more in stock. Time to make some new parts.

The front axle consists of three parts: the axle and two end caps. Here's all three, ready to be threaded. For those who don't know all the lingo and mumbo-jumbo in chopper land, when we are talking about "spool" front ends, it just means that the wheel and/or axle are not equipped for a brake.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Solar Power

I like gasoline. I like fossil fuels in general. The more the merrier.
Anywho, I've owned my house for five years now. In that time, I have never had electricity in my garage. It's a pain in the arse. I could have a trench cut and run power out there. That's expensive, plus I'd have to cut my nice garage floor and sidewalk that I paid good money for.
A friend of mine gave me the idea to try solar power. I don't have a large electrical requirement out there. During the summer, my Aprilia sits on a battery tender and I wanted to have a light or two inside, plus a security light outside.
Solar power seemed like a good idea. So I took the plunge. Well, not quite a plunge, more like dipping my toe in the water. I ordered a basic 100 Watt starter kit from Renogy. At under $200 it's a good way to start. I already have a small inverter and a battery, so I was able to try this out on the cheap. As a bonus, I could finally stop running that cord out to the garage. I'm sure that it's against code, and really not a good idea anyway.
This is the 100 Watt panel. The toes of my trusty size 10 Chucks ought to give you a sense of scale. If that doesn't do it, the lawn mower should give you a better idea.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


That's an "ahhhhhh" of relief. I finished my friend's '69 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. My chopper is on the road. The Aprilia is running...hmmmm, running isn't a fast enough word. That thing is like riding on a laser beam. I'll probably never use more than 10% of that bike's capability. But, hey, I look good!

I'm finally slowing down! I can take things at my usual leisurely pace. With all of those other projects out of the way, I'm back to working on my Southbend lathe. More photos of the progress have been added to that page.
The lathe has a long to-do list. Most of the parts have been stripped and solvent cleaned and are ready for paint. I've identified the parts that require replacement, and just have to pull myself together enough to feel OK with dropping a few hundred bucks for parts. I can start machining the new cross slide while I'm working through the paint work. The bed is the only part that still needs to be stripped. So, we should start to see the lathe come together soon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Aprilia Gas Tank

The last time I worked on my Aprilia, I may have gone on a nice little rant about ethanol fuel. Ethanol fuels cause certain types of plastic and composite fuel tanks to swell. It's a little irritating when you go to put a tank back on a bike and it is longer than it is supposed to be and won't fit back on. The solution? Well, I got a used tank to run on the bike until my original one dries out and shrink back down.

With the two front mount bolts removed, the tank will pivot up. The two lines in the upper left are vents, simply disconnect them. The upper right hand line is the return. When you pull that line, if there is any gas in the tank, it will come out there. The banjo close to the center is the pressure line from the pump. A little gas will come out of there, but not a lot. The leads coming out of the bottom right go back behind the batter. They have a connector back there that simply unplugs.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Aprilia Stator (pt 2)

Going by hit count, nobody is reading here anymore. Ah well. I'm going to keep typing away into cyberspace anyway. To the three of you who read Part 1, here's the rest...

This is one of those shots that doesn't show much. Just know that the stator wires are routed through there somehow and it will all be good.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Aprilia Stator (pt1)

The last time I worked on my Aprilia, I determined that the stator needed to be replaced. Here's the teardown:

Brandy new Rick's stator, purchased from AF1 Racing. A quality unit at a fraction of the cost of OEM. An Aprilia stator is around a thousand bucks. This is about $140.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Aprilia Electric Stuff (updated)

see update at the end...

My Aprilia is a 2004 RSVR Factory. This particular vintage is known to have some issues with the alternator stator and the voltage regulator. From what I have read on these bikes, they do like to occasionally burn up one or the other. I decided yesterday to take the time to check the condition of mine.

With the side panel off of the bike, the regulator is easy to get to. The connector between the stator and the regulator is called the "brown"' stuff. It has a nasty little habit of burning up due to high resistance pins inside. The previous owner had already eliminated the brown connector from this bike, choosing to solder the leads together directly. You can see where the wires come into the left side of the regulator, the connections are under the silver insulation.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

There Are Some Repairs...

that you just don't want to do. Like fixing spark plug threads. It's one thing when an engine is apart. Replacing threads means making chips. Engines don't like chips.'s how it's done when the engine is together. On my friends '69 HD Shovel Head.

The weapon. This tap does a couple of different jobs. The end will act as an insertion tool for the threaded insert, it has a ramped cutter, and the upper section will cut the threads for the insert.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Head Lamps

Ever since I've had Kook, she's been sporting a rectangular Aris headlamp. This lamp has been through a few surgeries. It started off as a rusty pile. I had the reflector rechromed, and I powdercoated the bucket. I had to put in a new lamp socket, and on and on. A lot of work for a lamp, I know. After the last surgery, it developed a dead short. When I switched it on, the bike died. Time for a replacement.

My new 3 1/2" lamp next to the old Aris. My new mount was made to carry the look of the new oil tank mounts up to the front of the bike for a bit of balance. The round lamp is from Low Brow customs, and it's a very nice unit.

Bringin' it Home

I finally brought my Kook home from the shop. It's been two and a half years since I have experienced the joy of riding my Triumph. When building these old bikes there's a long list of things to do when you first get them running. I got through my head torques, timing checks, oil checks...basically all the non-glorious parts of chopperin'.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a freeway blast on this bike. I don't ride all that fast, but I don't need to. It makes 65 feel like warp 9. She's low to the ground, narrow, naked, and loud. I'll have to post a pic that shows the scale, but imagine this...I'm 5'9", and the handle bars are barely at my hips when I stand next to her.

Her last day at the shop. Blue paper towel is an attempt to chase down a tricky oil leak...which I think I did. It's hard to not have at least a little leak somewhere.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Oil Tank issues

(I'm repeating myself just a little bit here...but now we get the full story)
Every now and then a cool idea just doesn't work out. The oil tank that I built for my chopper had internal plumbing and an integral oil filter. It looked cool and was sort of unique. After getting the engine fired up, I realized that it was over taxing on the oil pump. You see...(for those that don't know Triumphs)...the oil pump is a dual piston-type pump. One piston draws oil from the feed and pressurizes it through the engine. The other draws oil up from the crank case sump and returns it to the tank. The return side doesn't create much pressure, and requires free flowing lines.

Here is the tank. I think it's pretty damn cool. However, it just doesn't work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oil Tanks Can be Tricky

I built a new oil tank for LaCucaracha some time ago. Last week was the first time that the bike has actually been run, so it was the first test of the tank.
The idea was cool: integral oil filter with all internal plumbing. The return line runs up the center of the tank and flows through the filter and is returned to the tank. The problem is that it became overly restrictive on the pump. If the pump can't freely return oil to the tank, it will build up in the crank case. The crank case is dry-sump...which means it should not have more than a few ounces of oil in it.
I really like the way this tank turned out. Unfortunately it's coming off.
When excessive oil builds up in the engine it will cause issues. One problem is that it will leak a lot of that oil. It will also affect how the engine runs. This excess oil will also labor the oil pump. Since I've been a good boy with my money, I decided just to order a new oil tank (I thought about making one, but this time I'm taking the easy way out). I will have to make some mounting brackets to fit it onto the bike. I hope that I can have the new tank mounted up by the weekend...I would actually like to ride my chopper instead of just looking at it!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dashboard Lights

Not the easiest task in the world. The dashboard light sockets on my friend's 1969 Harley Davidson FLH needed to be replaced. The problem is that they are swaged in. I managed to make a swage and press them in. I think the replacement sockets could have used a little more of a flange in order to make them press in better, however they took in the end.

The dashboard. The new sockets are off to the side. Using a sander, I ground off the flanges to remove the old ones. I turned the swage from a stainless bar.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Back to action

Been inactive on here again. Basically because I haven't done anything worth shouting to the world about. A little over a week ago was the one year anniversary of wrecking the Organ Donor. I chose that day (April 7) to officially start the tear down. My plan is to bring her back to life, and make her whole again.
My bike is running again for the first time in two and a half years. I'll see if the video will upload...just a few seconds of the first time she fired off.

Believe me, you never want to do that to a gas tank. I fractured my pelvis in three places when I hit that.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Southbend Table (cont)

The paint on my Southbend table is done. The royal blue turned out rather nice. I'm going to leave it disassembled for a while to give the paint a chance to cure fully. The lathe itself will get the same color.

The idea is to let the paint sit for a good solid week or two before assembly. Though it is dry, it may not be fully cured. Like I've mentioned before, once the table is done, I will be able to build the machine right on top as I finish the parts.

Here's that repaired lug again.  Once this thing is up and running, with leveling feet, I doubt it will be noticeable.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Southbend Table

Part of fixing up my Southbend lathe is refinishing the table. It is a pair of cast iron legs with large angle cross members. For the most part, the table only needs a strip and repaint. The only real work it needed was a repair to one of the foot lugs.
I want to have the table done before the heavy work begins on the lathe. This way, as the bed and other components are finished, they can be assembled directly onto the table.

The lugs are necessary to have leveling feet. In order to properly set the lathe up when I am done, the leveling feet will be required...soooooo...time for some welding.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

'the hell is goin on?

Let's see here, looks like the last time I posted anything was on November 3rd. Have I been too busy since then? No, not really. I did have another surgery, and that took me out of commission for a few days. But really, I'm just lazy. Not that anyone is reading, but just in case. Here's an update on the radness going on around here.

Purchased a rebuild kit and manual for my 9" Southbend Lathe.

This is a casting for a T-slot cross slide for my Southbend.