It’s who I am

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I’m a home inspector, I’m a farmer, I’m an author and I’m a husband. I’m a parent of two boys, two girls and so far, I’m a grandparent of four grandsons. I grew up on a small ranch in central Oregon and we were poor. My dad was a cop, a carpenter and a cowboy. When something broke, he didn’t run to town and buy a new one. He first tried to fix it and if he couldn’t fix it he figure out how to make a new one. That was the beginning of my education.

Following in the footsteps of my dad, I became a D.Y.I.er, an inventor and a “Mr. fix-it”. When my wife ran the front-end loader into the back porch of the house I was building, or one of my sons crashes and wrecks a motorcycle, I don’t get mad I get busy and fix it. My first thought is always, “how am I going fix this?” When I need something I don’t go out and buy it, I see what’s out there and think, “I can make that” or “I can make that better”. That’s who I am, a Home-Grown-Engineer.

If you enjoy my blog and writing style you can also enjoy my books. Find them at http://www.amazon.com/Lance-Larson/e/B004C1SG7M.

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Skinny Mirrors for Everyone!

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This morning on the news there was a report on clothing retailers using “Skinny Mirrors” in their dressing rooms. The mirrors are designed to make you look taller and thinner and this made people buy more clothes. It reminded me of a mirror we had in a house we bought in 1985. When we bought the house there was a cheap full length mirror mounted in the hallway. Every time you entered the hall you would see yourself in this mirror. Back then I was actually taller, by one half inch, and thinner, by about, well many pounds. The thing that bothered me about the mirror was that it made me look shorter and wider. It bugged the heck out of me, because who wants to look shorter and wider. The thing that I soon discovered was that it was the only mirror that made me look that way. This made me realize that the mirror was distorting my near perfect image.
Many of you have seen the mirrors in carnivals that make you look distorted. This is accomplished by simply twisting, bending or bowing the mirrors when they are being made. What I discovered was that the mirror in the hall was had been slightly bowed when it had been mounted it to the wall. There were two mirror mounting clips at the top, two in the middle on both sides and two at the bottom of the mirror, holding the mirror to the wall. What had happened was that whoever mounted the mirror had tightened the two top and two bottom clips too tight making the center of the mirror bow out slightly.skinny mirrow This distortion made the image look shorter and wider. When I discovered the reason for the distortion I simply loosened the top and bottom clips and the mirror gave a normal reflection. However, I didn’t stop there. I discovered that if I loosened the top and bottom clips a little more and shimmed the top and bottom out ever so slightly with some folded cereal box card board I looked taller and thinner. Untitled-2And who doesn’t want to look taller and thinner? I left the cardboard in place and after that I enjoyed a more taller and thinner me.
Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Stiffen Your Hat With Wax

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There is nothing worse than a floppy cowboy hat. Steaming a cowboy hat will stiffen it for a short time, but just a short time. What I want is to steam my cowboy hats, shape them and never have to do it again, but when you spend $35 for a hat or buy one at Bi-Mart for $19.99 you can count on re-steaming on a regular basis to bring back the stiffness. I’ve tried spray starch and some formula that I got off the internet which included corn starch, but nothing really works for long and I’m back to steaming and shaping my hats again.

When I was a kid my brothers and I wore cowboy hats. Usually they were hand-me-downs from my dad or what he’d picked up at a second hand store. And usually they were too big and out of shape when we got them. To adjust for the too big size, my dad would roll up a sheet of newspaper and tuck it in behind the sweat band, adding more or less paper until it fit our tiny heads. One time, my mom sewed the crown together so the hat wouldn’t slip down over my ears.

My dad would always steam them and shape our new/used hats to our desired style and to stiffen them again, but kids are tough on hats and we would be begging him to re-steam them again for us. He too got tired of steaming and shaping hats, so using his vast ingenuity, he decided to wax our hats. I can still remember him melting the wax on the stove and painting it onto my white cow hat. When the wax cooled it was stiff as a board and as waterproof a ducks’ back! I also remember that it looked like it had a layer of wax on it, but that was okay because it was a white hat and the wax is white.

I have a brown cowboy hat that I wear around the farm when it’s cold and rainy. It keeps my head warm and the rain off my spectacles. But it does get beat up and out of shape fairly quickly. I don’t really care how it looks as long as it works, but I do reshape it occasionally. I also have a black cowboy hat that I wear at work when it’s cold and raining. It gets tossed around in the truck and before long it needs to be re-stiffened, re-shaped and occasionally, waterproofed. In the back of my mind, I kept remembering my dad waxing my hat and how nice and stiff it was, so I decided to give it a try.

The first thing I needed was some paraffin wax. You would think it would be easy enough to buy paraffin wax, but unless it’s canning season, it can be hard to come by. I finally settled on a white, unscented candle. I chose unscented because scented candles put out too much soot when they burn, and I didn’t want my hats to smell like a flower.20160228_172120

I thought I’d melt the candle with the old griddle that I have in my shop for heating things, but that was too slow, so I fired up my Harbor Freight heat gun, which melted the candle much faster. With the wax melted, I used a small paint brush to paint the wax onto the underside of the brim and the inside of the crown. I painted the inside and underside because if there was a waxy residue, it would be less noticeable on the inside/underside.20160228_172259 There was a waxy residue when I got done, because the felt didn’t absorb much of the wax. Now this is where my dad stopped, he just painted the hot wax on and let the hat felt absorb as much as it would, which is fine on a kid’s white hat, because who cares how a kids hat looks, right? Well, as I mentioned, my hats are brown and black and I’m not a kid. So, to get the wax to melt into the felt I used my heat gun and heated the wax on the hat. To my delight and surprise, the wax melted and was absorbed into the felt almost completely. What didn’t absorb, I brushed with a stiff bristle brush, removing what wax I could, and then heated the wax again until it was all absorbed into the hat.20160228_172821

When the hat cooled, it was stiff and waterproof. The process worked so well that I also waxed my black hat. I’ve been wearing my hats for about a week now and I am very pleased. I may have put a little too much wax on the inside of the crown of the black hat because there is a slight white waxy residue. However, no one but me knows it’s there and I don’t care.20160228_172918 Would I recommend that you wax your $200 Stetson? No! But if you have an old hat that just won’t hold its form anymore and you are going to toss it, give waxing a try and it just might become your favorite kick-around- in- hat.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Biker Sport Coat

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DRESS YOUR BEST WITH THIS VEST

My shop is organized like a home improvement center. I have a hardware section, a plumbing, an electrical, a tool, an automotive and a woodworking section. I have collected over the years some unusual tools from my father, father-in-law and yard sales. One tool that I value and use more than you would think is an old Kenmore sewing machine.    20160203_085925_resized

That’s right, I drive a Kenmore. I like the old Kenmore, because unlike most new machines, it has metal gears, not plastic and even though it’s probably not designed to sew through heavy duty material, it will.

Mostly, I use my Kenmore to make motorcycle bags, pouches and repair my motorcycle gear, but on occasion, I get a wild hair and make or tailor clothing. That’s right, I can sew. I’m self-taught, not very good and I don’t care that I’m not very good.

Some people would probably consider me to be creative. If you read the rest of my blog you may also draw that conclusion. Maybe not. I find life more exciting and interesting if I do most of my thinking outside the box. Some of my ideas are original and some are just an improvement on something I’ve seen. As in the case of this project, sometimes I think I see something and it turns out that it’s not what I thought it was at all. But then I think, still, that would be pretty cool, so I make one. That’s how the Biker Sport Coat was born. I was watching a TV show and thought I saw a sleeveless sport coat, but it wasn’t and then I thought, “why not?”

Some people may call it a Redneck Sport Coat, some may call it a Sport Coat Vest and some may call it idiotic, but I prefer Biker Sport Coat because spend as much time as possible straddling a motorbike. I like vests because they give me more pockets to carry my stuff and hide things from view.

I like shopping at Goodwill or other thrift stores because I know that if I buy something used, then I have just saved the environment a little. I figured the easiest way to make a Biker Sport Coat is to start with a sport coat and cut off the sleeves. This is how I make the first vest. I found a sport coat at Goodwill that fit me and paid the $12.99. I took it out to the shop, cut off the sleeves, trimmed the sleeves with car trunk felt, added some felt on the pocket flaps and the Biker Sport Coat was born. 20160213_15441520160213_154308

 

Surprisingly, it turned out okay. I put it on and wore it into the house. My wife, who is my biggest clothes critic, was working in the kitchen. I approached her and asked if she liked my new vest, not telling her that I had just made it. She was amazingly thrilled by it, very complimentary and thought I had bought it. That evening we went out with my two daughters and their spouses and a couple other people. I wore the vest and they liked it too. No one suspected that I had made it.

Last month I was at a franchise convention and I wore my vest. One of the vendors at the convention called me over to his booth and told me how much he liked my vest. When I told him that I had made it from a sport coat he was amazed and asked me if I’d make one for him. I’m not in the business of making vests, but I told him I would and I thought it would give me a chance to add this project to my blog. His is actually the third one I’ve made, first two were for me, and I’ve learned somethings since the first.  First you need a sport coat. Goodwill is a great source and you can buy them from $10-$15. Don’t worry if the sleeves are too short or too long, but it should fit well at the shoulders. Then you’ll need something to trim the vest with. I used trunk liner felt, but after the first one I broke down and bought some regular felt at a fabric store.

The first one I made, I cut the sleeves off, but that made kind of a mess and created some problems when I went to trim them. My advice is to take your time and using a sharp knife or razor, cut the stitching to remove the sleeves. 20160203_090406_resizedYou should be able to cut the stitching for the liner at the same time. After you have the sleeves removed, remove the shoulder pads and then run a stitch around the arm holes to stitch the shell and lining back together. This will save you some grief when you trim the arm holes.20160203_093837

To trim the arm holes you’ll need to measure around the arm holes and so you don’t end up short on material add 2” to the length. Now cut two strips of felt the length you measured +2” and 2” wide. Fold the strips in half the long way and iron them flat. Ironing the trim into a folded 1” strip will make it easier to pin around the arm openings, which is the next step. Start pinning the trim in the arm pit area so that the seam where the two ends of the trim comes together will be hidden under your arms.20160213_112609

Sew the trim on. Remember that you cut the trim 2” long and if by the time you get all the way around the arm hole you have extra trim, cut it off and finish sewing the trim.

To further customize your vest, you can add felt to the pocket flaps, trim the chest pocket with felt and the lapels. On two of the vests I inverted the collar. The underside of the collar was felt, so by inverting it and sewing it in half the opposite direction it gives the vest a Nehru sort of collar and it matches the trim. I also made the lapels half the original width by ironing out the original lapel and folding it in half.20160206_154609_resized20160213_141955

If you know how to sew, this is a very easy project that will draw some attention for its uniqueness. If you don’t know how to sew, learn.

Anyway, for what it’s worth…

Journey of the Cart

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This blog isn’t about making an ATV cart. It’s about a trampoline legs, a piece of ½” rebar, two 5/8” pieces of pipe, a plastic barrel, some washers, nuts and bolts, a black rubber bungee strap with one hook missing, two metal brackets, a metal bed frame, a can of primer, a can of red paint, two cotter pins, an used 1×12” pine board, two scraps of 2×2” fir and a rusty piece of 1x3x24” iron.

Our camping spot up in the woods is kind of river front property. River front if you don’t count the 200 yards of green way and the small creek you have to cross on the way to the river. The distance becomes somewhat of a journey if you want to spend the afternoon at the river and you have to carry all your stuff that distance. My oldest daughter, her husband and their friends like to camp at the place and have resorted to strapping as much as they can to their ATV and making a trip or two to the river with said stuff. When I saw what they were up to I thought it would be nice to have a cart to load up and haul their stuff to the river. Being a loving and caring father and probaby even more true, I do like to make things and if you have read any of my blogs, you will know I like to make things out of stuff I already have. Except the two tires, which I bought on Amazon for $11. each, I rounded up all the other items from around the farm and in my shop.

I think it’s called making things from scratch. The fun of making something from scratch is that you only know what your end product will be, but how you get there is a journey.

This journey, the Journey of the Cart, started with a frame made from two bottom supports for the legs of a 12’ trampoline. I love trampoline frames because the pipes are so versatile. There are pre-bent pipes, tapered ends of the pipe will slide into the other ends of pipe and some are both bent and have tapered ends. I started the frame with two bottom leg supports. Both ends of the supports are tapered, so I had to cut two 6” pieces of pipe to slide the two ends into to make a rectangular frame that was about 20” wide and 5’ long.

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I had decided that I was going to us a 55 gallon plastic barrel for the bed of the cart and the 20” wide frame would allow the barrel to lay in the frame and not fall through.

I wanted to give the cart a little more ground clearance so I needed to support the axel below the frame. I scrounged around and scratched my head and scrounged around some more. I finally found two heavy brackets that I had salvaged off some farm equipment and sometime in the past. They could be bolted onto the frame with the two holes already in each of the brackets and to better accommodate the axle I notched them, giving me a place to weld the axle solidly in place. DSCF7754

The barrel, when laid in the frame, sagged through a few inches and sat on and conflicted with the axle. I solved the conflict by bowing the axle down to conform with the barrel before I welded the axle in place. DSCF7757

The wheel barrel wheels had heavy-duty bearings and the hole for the axel was 5/8”. I didn’t have any 5/8” steel rod, but I did have two short pieces of thick wall pipe that were 5/8” and 12” long. The two pipes welded together was right length. To straighten the pipe I slid a ½” piece of rebar in the middle of the pipes before I welded them together.

The wheels were easy to install with a hole through both ends of the axles, a couple of washers and a pair of cotter pins

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My first attempt at a tongue for the cart was made from pipe with a cross support make from the angle iron cut from a metal bed frame, but after I got it bolted together I wasn’t convinced that the pipe would be strong enough when the cart was carrying a heavy load. I remembered that I had come across a piece of a rusty of 1x3x24” channel iron when I was scrounging around the metal pile. It was very strong and the right length so I pulled it out of the pile and swapped out the pipe with the iron piece.

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The tongue needed a post on the underside of the front end to slip down into the receiver hitch hole on the ATV, so I welded a large bolt on the tongue that would fit. To keep the post from popping out of the receiver hole, I drilled a hole through the bolt that a pin could be inserted through, act as a stop and to the keep the bolt from popping up and out of the hole every time the ATV hit a bump in the trail. To keep the pin from getting lost I attached it to a short chain and tack welded the chain to the tongue.

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A plastic 55 gallon barrel is about 3’ tall and the frame was 5’ long, so that left 2’ of frame unused. I decided that a wood platform for a cooler would be a perfect utilization of the space. I found a piece of 1x12x48” pine board that had been used for a shelf at sometime in the past. It even had a lacquer finish on one side. I cut the board in half and ripped the boards length ways into four 4-3/4” wide boards. I attached the four smaller boards to two 2x2x18” boards. The 2x2s were spaced 18” apart so they would slide down between the cart frame in front of the barrel.

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To make it possible to put stuff in the barrel I cut about a third of the side of the barrel away, leaving the two ends full round.

I wanted to make it easy to remove and install the barrel on the cart. To secure the barrel to the frame I put two large pan head bolts through the bottom of the barrel just below the angle iron that secured the back of the tongue to the frame. The two bolts will keep the front from popping out of the frame. To secure the back, I attached a 12” long black heavy duty rubber bungee to the frame with a bolt. One of the hooks on the ends of the bungee was missing so I pushed a bolt through the hook hole and bolted the bungee to the frame. With a hole drilled in the end of the barrel, the bungee can be stretched up and hooked through the hole securing the back of the barrel down..

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After I was sure everything was going to work, I wire brushed the frame, cleaned it, primed it and painted it. I was going paint the frame black, but black metal is boring and red is a lot more fun. With the red frame, the white wheels and the blue barrel the cart is quite patriotic.

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I will admit that it takes longer to build a cart, or anything for that matter, without a well thought out plan, but for me, as I get older and have a several hundred projects under my belt, it’s much more fun, challenging and rewarding to just start with an idea and a shop full of stuff.

So back to my statement at the beginning; This blog isn’t about a ATV cart. It’s about a trampoline legs, a piece of ½” rebar, two 5/8” pieces of pipe… It’s about taking what you have and making what you want.

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Anyway…for what it’s worth.

 

Make Me Laugh!!!

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COMIC STRIPS?

One of the advantages of writing a blog is that it give me a place to express my opinion. This blog will go into my “sounding off” section. Today I am sounding off about the lack of comedy in the newspaper comics.

I love Sunday mornings. I relax in my Lazy Boy and read the paper and just enjoy the morning. Even when I have a motorcycle ride planned on Sundays I try to delay the start time until 9 or 10 a.m. so I can enjoy the morning with my wife. I read what interests me in the news and look at the ads, searching for something for which I have a need or look through the sporting goods and hardware ads looking for things that might make my life easier more enjoyable. Lastly, I pick up the comics section and search for something funny, something that will make me laugh or at the very least, make me smile. Rarely do I find anything humorous and almost never find anything remotely even clever or original. It seems to me that most of the time the creators of comic strips just rehash the same old story lines. Case in point; how many times do we need to know that Garfield is fat and lazy and that Sarge is a mean SOB and likes taking out his temper on Beetle?

I would never claim that I have the talent of making people laugh. My wife says that living with me is like living in a poorly written sitcom, but I do know what is funny when I hear it or see it.

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When I was in college I was listening to a talk show commentator that was discussing what is funny and what makes people laugh. He claimed that it was to say or do something that is totally unexpected. He cited Steve Martin as a comedian that had mastered this technique. He gave an example, and I want to apologize to Mr. Martin if I don’t get this completely right. Steve Martin,  “When you take hostages you have to make demands. For example, I want one hundred thousand dollars in small-unmarked bills, a get-away car and a full size elephant made of chocolate. You always need to ask for one completely crazy thing so if you get caught you can claim you were insane at the time….LOL… get-away car.” See what he did there? You thought he was going say the chocolate elephant, but unexpectedly he said get-away car. It’s funny or even more funny when you see Mr. Martin deliver the line.

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Rita Rudner was the Queen of comedy that incorporated the unexpected line. Here are some examples: “

I love to shop after a bad relationship. I don’t know. I buy a new outfit and it makes me feel better. It just does. Sometimes I see a really great outfit, I’ll break up with someone on purpose.
My husband and I are either going to buy a dog or have a child. We can’t decide whether to ruin our carpet or ruin our lives.
I had the worst birthday party ever when I was a child because my parents hired a pony to give rides. And these ponies are never in good health. But this one dropped dead. It just wasn’t much fun after that. One kid would sit on him and the rest of us would drag him around.

To write a comic strip you should be qualified and those qualification should include being funny. Have any comic strip writers ever been a stand-up comedian or at the very least, a class clown? Or were they just good drawers of cartoon characters and thought, “hey, I should be a comic-strip writer.” In and of its self, no cartoon character is funny enough to make people laugh if the character is saying something boring or if they have said it a million times before.

In all fairness, there may be some really funny comic strip writers out there and maybe our newspaper is just not willing to pay for funny comics. In the past I have enjoyed reading Calvin and Hobbes or Gary Larsen’s The Far Side, but even they did not always make me laugh or even smile.

Maybe I expect too much. Maybe the Comic Strips are not intended to make me laugh, but the definition of comic is, “causing or meant to cause laughter.” I think that if they would just change the name from Comics to, “Redundent Strip”, or “Boring Strip” or “Funny Drawings (just ignore the words) Strip, maybe I wouldn’t be so frustrated when I try to find something that will make me laugh in the Comic Strips.

 Anyway….for what it’s worth.

 

The Things I Do On Rainy Days

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When it gets cold and the rain comes there are only four things to do; look at my motorcycles, work on my motorcycles, buy more motorcycles, and eat Cheetos. The other day I was looking at my Honda XR650L and thought to myself that it looked like it needed a renovation. I love my XRL and have enjoyed many fun and adventurous miles on it. I would never want it to think that I didn’t love it the way it was, but after riding this last fall with KLRs, BMWs, KTMs, Suzuki dual spots, I realized I was riding the plainest bike of all of them.

When I first got the XRL it was too tall for me. Every time I would put my foot down and the ground sloped down and away, I fell over. It was embarrassing and kind of tough on the bike and ego. So to remedy the situation I bought a lowering kit. When you lower the back you are suppose to lower the front too. I didn’t do that. Lowering the back was enough to keep me from tipping over, but the bike still was a little tallish. As part of the renovation I finally lowered the front too and wow, what a difference. The bike is so much easier to get on and off and it doesn’t seem so top heavy.

The next thing i wanted was a little more power. A few years ago I changed the front sprocket from a 15 tooth to a 14 tooth to give me more low end grunt on the trails, but I wanted still more power and I wanted it for free. One of the things that a gas motor needs to run is oxygen. After a little study I found that some people opened up the air box by removing the top, or snorkel. I did that and the increase in power was noticeable.

The stock bike colors were purple, red and white. That’s right, purple. I quickly painted the purple black.

The bike comes stock with something like a 2.5 gallon tank. When you are up in the woods you like a little more range that 100 miles. I found a 5 gallon tank on Craigslist for cheap and switched tanks. The original tank comes with graphics, very cool graphics. The 5 gallon tank came with nothing. it’s just a big ol’ white plastic tank.

So I thought it was time to dress it up with some color. and when I say “color,” I mean lime green and some more black. I also added some Japanese writing. Guess what it says?

DSCF7688Anyway….for what it’s worth.

MANNY’S MUFFLER

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The Making of a Muffler

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My grandson refused to learn how to ride his bicycle. When he was two, on his second birthday, he started riding his 49cc ATV by his self, but at six he still hadn’t learned to ride a bike. He clearly had the skill and balance, but he just wouldn’t do it. One day he asked if I would buy him a motorcycle and I told him that he would have to learn to ride a bike before he could learn to ride a motorcycle. So he learned to ride his bike. I looked on craigslist and found a guy that would trade his 1997 Yamaha PW80 for my 1983 Honda XR200. My XR was a nice bike and I went over it, fixing anything I could find wrong with it before I put it up for sale or trade. The guy I bought the PW80 from,Todd, was a nice guy and so I trusted him, but I soon discovered that he wasn’t vigilant with the care and maintenance of his bike, the PW80, and I was foolish enough to believe that, just because he was a nice guy, he had been vigilant. When I got the PW up on my work bench I discovered; the air filter was deteriorated and mostly missing, the chain was caked with hardened oil that I literally had to chip off with a screw driver, the frame was bent and it didn’t have a muffler/silencer.  I’m not convinced that my judgment of Todd wasn’t misplaced, I just believe that he just didn’t have a clue about motorcycle maintenance.

So I went to work and cleaned up the bike and painted it, soaked the chain in oil after I got the solidified oil chipped off and bent the frame straight. I cleaned the carburetor, adjusted the brakes, ordered a filter and did general maintenance on the bike.

Replacing the missing muffler was a little more of a challenge, but a fun challenge. I could have bought a muffler, but that isn’t really my style. Basically, mufflers or silencers attach to the exhaust pipe or fatty and that attaches to the motor. There are three parts to a basic muffler/silencer system; outer metal case and insulation wrapped around a core pipe full of holes. The core pipe that is full of small holes attaches to the exhaust pipe. As the exhaust passes through the perforated pipe, some of the sound escapes out the holes and is muffled in the specially designed insulation that is wrapped around the pipe. The outer metal case holds it all together. Simple. So why are mufflers so expensive? Yeah, they are probably engineered for optimum air-flow so the bike run better or something like that.

The muffler for a PW80 is small, about 11” long and maybe as big around as a 1-1/2” pipe. The after market mufflers are a little larger. I had plenty ¾” pipe that I could make the core pipe out of. and I had some muffler insulation, so all I needed then was a outer case. Sometimes when I need to make something and am not sure what to make it out of I walk around my shop trying to get an idea by looking at stuff I already have. What I found was a 10” tall rattle paint can that was nearly empty. The rattle can had a cool shape at the top and was very shiny when the label is removed. With the can, I had all the basic parts I needed.

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I released the pressure out of it, drilled a ¾” hole through the top and bottom and cut the bottom off the can. After I drilled the core pipe full of small holes I wrapped it in the insulation and slipped it all into the rattle can, re-attached the bottom of the can with a pipe clamp by cutting some small slits in the bottom’s walls so it would slip over the body of the can.

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Because the new “after market” muffler was bigger than the original muffler, I used some ¾” copper pipe fittings, soldered together, to attach it to the exhaust pipe and snake it around the frame and into a good location under the back fender.

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I hung the new muffler from the frame with some metal plumbers strap and added some metal screws here and there to stabilize it. Without the muffler the two stroke motor sounded like the rapid fire of a gun, pop, pop, pop. Even with a muffler a two stroke motor is loud, but the homemade muffler cut the noise at least in half and in my humble opinion, it looks pretty cool too.

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