Lock the welder
Making stainless steel exhaust clamps. I made a simple fixture to form the flat stock to the correct diameter.
After a lot of metal finishing....
My only gauge will be cylinder head temp, which is the hottest part of the engine. Gauge itself is from an airplane.
This box got recessed into the top of the gas tank, and the other cutout is for my two mil-spec toggle switches. This is all cut out with basic hand tools and my sander.
Gas tank is mounted on three points, here are the front two mounts
The exhaust pipes are 1 3/4" OD, the common header pipe size. The problem with that is the actual exhaust port size on twin cam heads is 1 5/8". Usually there is an abrupt step where the heads meets the flange. I machined the flanges with the inside tapered to perfectly blend the two sizes. Also, they have a flat, perfectly matching taper on the outside of the flange, so there is no way the gasket material can squeeze into the exhaust flow. This happens often with aftermarket exhausts! These are machined from solid stainless steel on my manual lathe.
Here is the underside of the gas tank, with two giant mounts welded in. They are 1.5" OD flange, milled down where it goes through the tank. This distributes the load over a larger area of the floor of the tank (which is made from 1/8 chrome-moly flat stock).
Since returning form California I have been focusing entirely on the new bike, the "Iron Triangle". It will be powered by a new engine I am building, which I have nicknamed the "Mini Stroker". I will attempt to explain why I named it that: It is a hybrid of a Harley Evolution motor (built from 1984-1999) and a Harley Twin Cam motor (built 1999-present). In a nutshell, what I am taking from the Evo are the case mounting system, the bore and stroke, and the wrist pin. The Twin Cam parts are the cams, oiling system, heads, and crank assembly. The reason for this is because I feel that the Evo bore and stroke combo is superior, in many ways, to the twin cam. However, the Twin Cam is a far stronger motor (due mostly to the robust flywheel design) , and has a far more reliable oiling system. So, since a first generation Twin Cam was 88 cubic inches (3.75" bore by 4" stroke), and an stock Evo is 80 inches (3.5" bore by 4.25" stroke), that means that in a Twin Cam crankcase I have increased the stroke from stock, making it a "stroker" motor. however, due to the reduced bore it has less displacement than a stock Twin Cam- hence "Mini Stroker".
In addition to all this, I also changed the cylinders from stock cast aluminum with an iron liner to billet ductile iron. This is heavier, but also far stronger and more dimensionally stable under heat. In other words, as it gets hot it doesn't change shape as much. This means tighter tolerances all around. I also used a head/ base stud pattern for attachment to the case and heads, instead of the thru-studs an Evo or Twin cam would have had. Again, stronger. In order to make the Twin Cam heads work with my new bore and stroke combo, (as well as a copper o-ring head gasket) modifications had to be made. I wanted to reatain the stock Twin Cam combustion chamber, but it needed to be reduced to 72 cc's of volume to achieve my 10.5-1 static compression ratio. This meant decking (milling down) the heads significantly. In addition, the new flange system was milled into it to accept the o-ring gasket.
Ok, enough about all that, here are some pics:
I was lucky to have two trusted advisers here to help, my main man Alex Lerner from SL NYC in Queens, and Satya Kraus from Kraus Motor Co in northern Cali.
This is the "cam-plate", the component that supports the cam shafts, routes oiling, and holds the oil pump.
Installing the bearings on the flywheel
Checking the endplay on the left case half
Completed short block
Here is completed frame. All chromoly, all made here at Efab
closeup of front motor mount
More to come!
I got a phone call from my friend Matt Olson asking if I wanted to ride out to Born Free this year from his shop (Carls Cycle Supply) in South Dakota. We had 4 days and had to travel approx 1600 miles, and would do it on our rigid bikes. I'm not one to pass up something cool, so I was in. I arranged to have my bike (Icarus), shipped from the shop here in CT to SD, and chose AA Motorcycle Transport to do it. Mind you this was over 2 weeks before we were planning on leaving from Matts. The person on the phone assured me that despite the "remote location" Matts shop is located in, it would be there well before the departure date. I faxed in some forms, gave them the credit card, and a few days later the bike was picked up.
Mind you, anytime I ship a bike I spent over a year of my life building from scratch, with almost $35,000 invested in components and materials, I am a little nervous. This time I had reason to be.
A few days after the bike was supposed to be at Matts, I began to get worried. After the runaround trying to get the right person on the phone, and giving them dozens of confirmation numbers and codes, I was told that because of the "remote location" Matts shop is in, the bike was being held at some shipping terminal in Minneapolis, and wouldn't be to Matts for another 10 days or so. No amount of pleading would motivate them to get it there in time, so Matt sent one of his friends to pick it up for me. This took her over 6 hours of driving, but got the bike safely to the shop in time for us to leave. Thank you Terresa!
Lesson learned- FUCK AA TRASPORT. Don't use them, they tell you what you want to hear, take your money, then don't deliver.
Anyway, here we are at our first fuel stop in SD. Matt is riding his mint 1936 knucklehead.
The trip across the plains of South Dakota and Nebraska are fairly boring, but amazing none the less. Doing this on a bike is an eye-opening experience- so much land. I can't imagine doing this in a covered wagon.
We didn't take much, just a few spare socks, and about 50 pounds worth of tools and spare parts. We could go about 100 miles between gas stops, thanks to both of us having about 4 gallon tank capacity.
We crossed the Rockies in CO, which is the dividing point between tons of flat grass, and tons of flat desert. A welcome change in scenery. The massive changes in elevation and temp forced us to stop often to adjust our carburetors.
There was one problem staring us right in the face- heat. The further into the desert we rode, the hotter it got. Mind you it was hot the whole way, but now it was getting really hot. Our rest breaks were getting longer, we had to stay in long sleeves to keep from getting sunburn, and our bikes were on the verge of meltdown. We had no choice though- Born Free or bust.
By the time we got to Las Vegas, it was 120 degrees. Riding into it is like riding into a hairdryer on full hot mode. We adjusted our carbs full rich to keep the motors cool enough to survive.
Any shade was a welcome sight, like this bombed out crackhouse in the middle of nowhere. It was dead silent, except for the occasional gunshot from deep in the desert.
At this point I stopped taking pics, mostly because I was beginning to see the effects of heat stroke. Once we got across the mountains outside LA, the temp dropped to a survivable 100 or so. I spent the last night before the show curled up in a hotel bathtub puking my guts out and chugging water. Hey, if it was easy everyone would do it!
more pics of the show coming....
In between various customer projects, I have slowly been making progress on my engine. The Heads are twin cam 88 originally, but have been modified. I reshaped the majority of the fins, rounding them around many of the sharp edges. Here is an overall view of the cylinder, head, and rocker box mocked up.
A typical twin cam has aluminum cylinders with an iron sleeve pressed into it. I had Randy at Hyperformance make me billet iron cylinders. The advantage being that there is no way for the iron sleeve to become loose in the aluminum cylinder, because it is all iron! These are secured by a "head and base" stud setup, much like a knuckle, pan, or shovelhead would have been. Here a set of 4 studs hold the cylinder to the crankcase, and another set of 4 hold the head to the cylinder.
An evo or twin cam, traditionally, used a set of 4 studs that ran all the way through the head, cylinder, and into the case. This is a simpler way to attach all the parts, but not as strong.
In addition to the stud conversion, I have adapted the heads to use a superior head gasket method, the metal o-ring. On a stock twin cam (or any other harley) a composite flat gasket was used, sandwiched between the head and cylinder. They work fine, but can blow out if extreme cylinder pressures are achieved. The metal o-ring setup eliminates the flat gasket, instead using a series of steps machined into both the head and cylinder, with a copper ring integrated into it. All of the mating surfaces make contact with each other at the exact same time. This requires extremely precise machining, but results in a nearly indestructible union. I can only assume, too, that heat transfer between the head and cylinder will be improved, due to the metal to metal contact.
Here is the top of the cylinder. The surface rust inside the bore will be gone when the final honing happens.
You may have noticed that there are no oil drain passages in the cylinder. This is because I have re-routed them to the outside of the head and cylinder. This is good for 2 reasons. One is it keeps the oil cooler, since it is not touching the approx 300 degree cylinder walls. The second is that there is no chance of oil weeping between the head and cylinder surfaces, since it bypasses that area completely.
I had to machine a passage through the fins of each cylinder, through the wall, and into the oil drain passage inside the head. This was then tapped for a custom made fitting. Obviously, the original hole underneath has to be plugged as well.
Here is the stainless drain fitting coming out of the head. It has a 6 AN fitting on the end for hose attachment...
I have also added compression releases to the heads. Compression releases are simply tiny valves that allow the cylinder pressure to be bled off as the starter motor rotates the engine. This takes a huge strain off the starter motor and battery, and they simply pop shut when the first combustion occurs, allowing the engine to start. It is unusual to see them on motors with small displacement, but there is no downside to using them. Also, my compression ratio and the resulting cylinder pressures are far higher than either a stock evo or twin cam, so despite the small displacement, the starter will still need all the help it can get.
Installing compression releases is easy with the right tools. It requires a precise hole to be drilled and tapped, which enters the combustion chamber between the exhaust valve and the spark plug hole. More to come...
After a brief hiatus I am back on the "mini stroker" chopper project. I decided that it was the right time to make handlebars. The first step, for me anyway, is to make a wire form of what I want so I can hold it up to the bike and get a visual. This is not a precise thing, rather just a basic reference. I know roughly how much rise I want, and know roughly the whith, but that still leaves a lot of room for creativity.
I am making these bars out of 304 stainless steel, 7/8" OD, .120" wall thickness, seamless tubing. I will end up using about 4 feet of it, approx $80 worth of raw materials. This is opposed to the catalog bought, .049" wall, recycled mild steel, chromed Chinese bars found on most "custom bikes".
I start with the center bends and work outward. I have reference marks drawn on the tubing. This is so I can take the bars out of the bender, check them, then put them back in the exact same location for further bending. Speaking of bending, this is my bender. It consists of a typical bottle jack and various mandrels, a few of which I made specifically for tight radius handlebar bends.
For tight radius bends like these, I use two different mandrels, a gradual "starter" mandrel and a secondary tighter one.
The hardest part of making bars is keeping everything symmetrical. The exact location of the bends, the angles relative to each other, equal pullback on each side, etc. This is all done through bubble levels, angle finders, and measuring them against a flat table. There are a minimum of 6 mandrel changes, each of which entails some dis-assembly of the bender. Oh yeah, the material is springy, so I have to "overbend" each bend past the point I want, then let it spring back slightly to where I want it.
Almost done with the bending stage....
The next stage is polishing them. Sounds easy enough but keep in mind I cant just go straight to the buffer- First I have to sand them. The buffer can only take out microscopic scratches, not the deeper ones left from the manufacturer. For that I need my trust Burr King sander, set up with a slack belt, and a variety of sanding grits.
Not a great pic I know, but trying to simultaneously sand the bars and take a picture was not easy. Same for the buffing. Needless to say there were about 2 hours worth of sanding and buffing to get them to a mirror finish level.
I threw the grips on there to see how it looked. I am happy for now, but there is always the chance that they will need further modification as the bike evolves.
I'm sure I will get many comments on my "sweet chrome apes" from the local do-rag crowd. Followed by "how much for a set uh dem?". Followed by a look of disgust and confusion...
I recently returned from another trip to the legendary Carls Cycle Supply, home of Matt, Miss Brittney, And OG Carl. (pictures are all from my dirty I phone, so they aren't great)
I had previously helped Matt on his Born Free 4 winning knucklehead, so I was honored he asked me once again to come help with some fabrication on a new project. This project, unlike the knucklehead, is a type of bike I was not previously very familiar with- a 1923 Harley race bike. Though it has a similar motor to the bike Matt raced in the 2012 "Cannonball", every other part is completely different.
The bike is for his wife, the lovely Brittney, who plans to race it in a series of vintage dirt track exhibitions, along with many other period bike enthusiasts. What makes this bike especially unique is the fact that it has no transmission, and no brakes! It doesn't have a starter either, or any clutch. It is about as "chopper" as it gets really. This is the style of bike that would have been ridden on either wooden tracks (aka board track), or later in the 1920's, oval dirt tracks.
After a series of delays and layovers thanks to Delta, I made it there. First thing to make: a seat...
Now, keep something in mind here; Matts shop is a restoration shop. He and his dad have been building 10 point perfect (and I mean perfect) knuckleheads and panheads for many years. However, it is not a shop set up for heavy fabrication. This means that the tools I am used to using are not available. This includes brake, shear, bandsaw, plasmacutter, plannishing hammer, fixed dollies, and sander.
That doesnt mean I can't work, but it does mean I have to get a bit creative with my methods.
With a sandbag and some hand dollies, it is possible to make most basic sheetmetal shapes. This is also a good reminder to new chopper builders that you don't have to have a ton of expensive tools to make bikes, just some patience and ingenuity.
They do, however, have an awesome mill. Here I am using it to rough out a seat pivot from a block of aluminum I found..
Here is one of the inner tank panels- the easy part...
The tank design is 2 piece, hanging over the backbone of the bike on piggybacked strips, bolted directly into the tube.
The design for the tanks is very mailbox looking; square and boxy but with radiused edges. This immediately made me nervous because trying to keep thin sheetmetal panels dead flat (while curving the edges) is almost impossible! You see, flat sheetmetal is very weak and becomes warped as soon as any part of it is welded. When sheetmetal is formed into a curved shape, it gains body and becomes stronger. This time I had to keep about 80 percent of the tank panels flat, while curving and welding some areas. Did I mention This thing is going to be polished raw metal? ughh
They didn't go for my paint scheme.
Here they are welded and hand sanded to about a 100 grit level.
Now they are down to about 600 grit..
We decided, partly due to time restrictions, to paint the top and side panels of the tank the same color as the frame, and only expose the polished sides of the tank. This was a relief because it meant I could rely on a small amount of bondo to smooth the welds around the gas caps and mounting strips.
The tanks will be sealed before the final side polishing occurs. I left that in Matts capable hands.
I also made a basic sissybar out of steel round stock, and made a little oil tank, which Matt later finish welded and added fitting to.
Then I was back on a plane, headed home after another great trip!
I have been committed to a trailer fender for this bike since the gestation. I have never used one, but always thought they were cool on the right bikes. I like that before there was a huge chopper aftermarket, this was one of only a handful of options for the home builder.
I stuck with stainless steel throughout the process, polishing it as I went. Fender, struts, bolts, etc. Many people ask why I use stainless steel instead of chrome, a good question. For me, the main reason is durability. Chrome is only a paper thin coating of metal, bonded to the surface of the base metal. While extremely hard, chrome has a tendency to flake off, especially "show chrome", the type used for cars and bikes. Stainless is not a coating, so it cant flake off.
The second reason is that chrome interferes with part fitment. When two parts have to interact (bolted together), I like metal-on metal contact, which means two perfectly flat surfaces against each other. I try to never have chrome, paint, or powder-coating between two parts. The reason is obvious; as the bike flexes and vibrates, the weaker material will break down and compress, leaving you with a loose connection.
Third is because chromers are, frankly, a pain in the ass. It costs a fortune to get a bikes worth of parts plated- far more than the cost of the raw material in stainless. It is not unusual to have a frame plated for $3000, and within a year all the welded areas are rusted. And the time factor too, weeks and weeks waiting, can be very frustrating. Its another sub-contractor, and another variable, that I don't need to deal with. There are good ones out there, but they are hard to find. I'm sticking with stainless.
What I decided to do was mount the fender using a flange at the back of the toptube, and two struts per side. The fender itself is 13 gauge stainless, and combined with the 6 mounting points, should be quite secure. Here is the flange, about halfway through the process of machining. Prior to this pic I was in the lathe. This part started out as a 6" long by 4" round solid chuck of steel.
The surface you see here is slightly concave, which matches the surface of the fender perfectly.
For the fender itself, my usual routine is to make bungs or tabs that the struts can attach to. These are usually welded to the sides of the fender. I thought that if they were actually one solid piece of round stock inserted through the fender, they would be far stronger, as well as perfectly symmetrical. This bike afforded me that possibility because I wanted the fender to be mounted high above the tire. This gave me the clearance I needed. Here is one protruding out through the fender side. I have tack welded it, and will do the final weld later.
The rods were milled out for the portion under the fender to increase tire clearance and save some weight.
What is the downside to stainless? It is hard as hell to work with! It is extremely hard on tools, warps like crazy when welded, is expensive, and hates to be formed in any way. If you want it shiny, or even a consistent matte finish, I spend hours prepping it. This can involve hand sanding, bench sanding with an orbital sander, using the Burr King heavy sander, or abrasive cutting compounds on the buffing machine.
Here are a few pics of the strut making process. They have been sanded to about 500 grit in this pic, and will be sanded more, then buffed:
This part was a bitch to get symmetrical- the top section of the front struts.
Here she is now. The fender isn't fully polished, because I still have to do the final weld around the rods. The strut sections have been polished piece by piece, because there will be no way to hold the entire assembly up to the buffer. The back of the seat will be attached to the front strut assembly.
strut to frame mounting
Next post- seat pan making....
Finished the axle adjusters for the new bike. I have done many different types on my various bikes, usually trying to re-invent them in some original way, but this time I chose to do a more conventional style. That being said, I tried to make them very strong, accurate, and made of stainless steel.
The nuts are billet stainless with a self locking ring built into them. They don't wear out after repeated use like a nylock nut, and are more secure than a lockwasher.
I also made some progress on the frame. Next step is the fender mounting.
Trans is finished, except for one block off-plate I still have to make.
The front motor mount.
While I was waiting for some parts for the new bike, I visited the New England Air Museum to get some inspiration. I met up with my friend Jason who works there, and he allowed me to see the inside of their B29. There are very few of these amazing bombers left. In fact only one, named "Fifi", is still flying today. A little history on the "Superfortress": The concept for this plane was, of course, a better bomber to help the WWII effort. Requirements were more of everything: range, altitude, bomb-load and armament. Boing was given the task. Its name is a result of its predesessor, the b-17 "Flying Fortress", first flown in 1938. By 1942, this monster was having the final touches put on it.
Here are some basic stats:
Length: 99 feet
Power: 4 Wright radials, each with 18 cylinders. Turbocharged, carburated. Each producing 2,200 horsepower.
Bomb-load: 20,000 pounds
defensive armament: 12 .50 caliber machine guns, some controlled remotely, 1 20mm cannon.
crew: 10 (pilot, copilot, navigator, engineer, bombardier, radio man, 3 gunners and gun commander)
Of the 2,766 that were produced, only 22 are preserved in museums. Luckily for me the New England Air Museum is one of them. When I first saw it, I was amazed by the sheer size of it. This is one huge plane!
Inside, there are 2 main compartments, connected by a long tube that goes over the bomb bay, through which a man could crawl. This was so that the huge bomb bay could open at high altitudes, and not de-pressurize the entire plane. Imagine crawling through here when the plane was airborn- not for the claustrophobic.
Here I am in the main rearward compartment:
The confused look on my face is because the on board generator (used to start the massive main engines) is a little v twin! It looked like a panhead. Someone was ahead of Harley in the rocker box game...
This compartment also housed the remote gun stations, and access to several of the guns themselves. It also had a little toilet, a shitload of random electrical and mechanical components, and another tunnel that lead to the tailgunners compartment. Here I am at the entrance to it:
The compartment the tailgunner lived in was barely big enough for 1 man to fit in standing up. It had all he needed to defend the rear of the plane, including a little seat he would strap into, headset jacks, gun controls, and some thick bulletproof glass.
Here is one of the tailgun sub-assemblies being made back in the 40's:
The front compartment housed the navigator, pilots, bombadier, and engineer. It is arranged like a office, everyone sitting at their own little desk doing their jobs. I am sitting in one of the pilots seats here, and you can see some of the other stations in the background:
Looking forward, you have a giant glass bubble that gives both the pilots and the bombardier a clear view. The bombardier sits in front of, and below the pilots, right in the very nose of the plane. He has a high tech (for the time), bomb-sight he looks through, and a bomb release button he can hold and activate with his thumb. This is me looking through the scope, pretending the floor was a target far below..
I find many aspects of this plane amazing, but the one that ran through my head while I was on board was the sheer simplicity of it. Despite its enormous size, the controls are still cable operated, all with little pulleys and linkages running everywhere. While partially pressurized, it was still un-insulated. The walls are just paper thin aluminum, unlike the plush interiors on a modern airliner. The noise and cold must have been excruciating. This plane did everything we needed it to do and nothing else!
Here are a few more random b29 pics:
The famous "Fifi", the only b29 still flying today.
There was a lot the pilots had to keep track of, gauge wise...
A .50 caliber turret
Dropping a bomb load.
Heres a video, a little campy but has some good flying shots:
More to come!