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.

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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.

 

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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MAKING ROOM FOR THE WIFE

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When my wife committed to joining me on our riding groups’ annual adventure to Baker City Oregon, I realized that our bike was not set up or rated to carry us and all the personal items that would be required to keep us in clean clothes and beautified for a week.

Our Suzuki Volusia 800cc has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, GVWR, of about 950 lbs. The bike alone weights 590lbs. This means that my wife and our luggage, tools and miscellaneous items would have to weight 90 lbs. My wife alone weighs close to 90lbs. (You’re welcome babe). I weigh…do the math. Well you get the idea, we would be way over the GVWR. We got out our “Motorcycle Trip Packing List” (see my blog, “Motorcycle Packing List”) and started crossing things off the list that we could live without. When all was said and done we got our stack of essentials to fit into two small pieces of luggage, airplane carry-on style, and our biggest motorcycle trunk. In the past, when I used the Volusia for a trip I would just strap a bag on the passenger seat, cram a bunch of stuff in the hard shell saddlebags and be off. The problem now was that our Volusia was not set up to carry two pieces of luggage, my wife, and I. My V-strom is setup for exactly that scenario, (see my blog, “Panniers Made From Scratch”) but the V-strom isn’t nearly as comfortable as the Volusia to ride, it has Corbin seats.

For the next couple of days I scratched my head and tried to figure out how I was going remove the hard shell saddlebags and replace them with two pieces of carry-on luggage. I finally concluded that I would have to make another set of plastic panniers for the Volusia, exactly like those I made for my V-strom. That’s right, I said “exactly” like those for the V-strom. The panniers for the V-strom attach to the bike using a metal frame work that I designed and made. The Volusia didn’t have that same frame work, but it did have the saddlebag supports and the mounting studs that attach the saddlebags to the bike. Retro-fitting the panniers to the Volusia was as easy as drilling two holes in the back of the plastic panniers so they would slip onto the studs and clip in place just like the saddlebags. To make them extra secure and for added support I added a couple of straps. Now granted, it didn’t look “Harley Cool,” but it worked great.

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Showing plastic panniers on Volusia with studs showing and extra straps for support.

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Showing luggage in place in plastic panniers and covered with bright rain proof bags.

I knew that once we got to Baker City we would be removing the plastic panniers and luggage, which presented two more issues. First, with them removed, the bike is left with two large and ugly, metal ell brackets sticking out on both sides of the bike where the bags mount.

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Showing ugly metal support brackets for saddlebags

And second, the trunk wouldn’t be large enough to pack all the stuff we would need for the long day trips we would be taking from Baker City. My first thought was to pack the saddlebags full of clothes and pack the packed saddlebags in the luggage, but they were too big and too heavy.

When I first started riding dual sport I wanted some small saddle bags I could attach to my Honda XR650L to carry essentials, like tools, rain gear, water and power bars. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on brand named soft saddlebags, so I would stop by Goodwill every now and then to see if I could find pairs of backpacks, duffel bags or small soft sided luggage bags that were identical or very similar in size and appearance. Lucky enough, I was able to collect a few pairs of bags that looked alike or were exactly alike. I found two identical Goodwill bags in our motorcycle stall storage cabinet that would be a good size for day ride purposes. I could have just strapped them on the bike like saddlebags, but after modifying my plastic panniers the idea of making simple plastic supports that would attach just like the saddlebags and panniers seemed like the best plan.

I took one of the plastic barrels that I had and cut off two rectangles that were the same width as the small bags, 11.5”, and that were the same length in height + depth as the bags, 17”. Using a propane torch I heated and bent the plastic rectangles into two large ell shaped brackets. I drilled holes in the brackets to match the mounting studs on the bike so they too would slip onto the studs and clip in place.

Both bags had large open pockets on the back of them. I cut the pockets open along the bottom and reinforced the cut material with Gorilla Duct Tape, love the stuff. Next I slipped the bracket up through the open bottom of the pocket. The modified pocket held the bag to the bracket, the bag was supported by the bottom of the plastic ell and the bracket clipped easily to the motorcycle saddlebag studs.

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Showing plastic ell bracket and small bag.

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Showing ell bracket inserted through cut open back pocket.

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showing small bag mounted on the bike

The small bags were lightweight, could easily be packed with clothes and packed nicely into our luggage. They were large enough to carry what we needed for day trips and were even rain resistant. They did look a little redneck and defiantly not “Harley Cool”, but I’m not what you would call “cool.”

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Getting All Decked Out

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About seven or eight years ago I bought a Big Tex utility trailer. We needed something to haul motorcycles, livestock, hay, firewood, lumber, well to haul stuff. After looking around for a month for a used trailer that I thought would be the right size and have a loading ramp/tailgate I decided, after asking my wife, to buy a new Big Tex trailer. I remember the salesperson telling me that wood deck was white pine and stated the fact as if it were a selling point. I didn’t want to burst his bubble, so I let the comment slide, but knew that I would have to replace the wood deck in a few years because in this area pine would decay quickly. Over the years and to try and extend the life of the wood deck, I cleaned it and sealed it with deck stain. I’m confident that my efforts helped extend the life of the wood, but ultimately the wood decayed. The first failure was when I was loading a Suzuki GS 850 onto the trailer, my second winter motorcycle project this year. (See my blog The Transformer). As we pushed it onto the trailer the back tire broke through one of the planks. And so it began. I patched the broken board with a piece of plywood and over the next four months of use the trailer deck became a patch work of pieces of plywood. The last straw was last weekend when my son-in-law, Dustin, was moving the trailer, by hand, out of the way so he could get to his camp trailer. At the time my Tex didn’t have the four foot metal tailgate/loading ramp on it and I knew the tongue would be heavy so I thought I’d help Dustin by stepping up on the back of the trailer to counterbalance the weight off the tongue. As I stepped up onto the trailer the wood deck broke through and I was standing on the ground.

Thursday evening he called me and asked if he could borrow my trailer to haul my mower up to my mountain property to mow so my daughter, his wife, will have a nicely cut meadow for her and her friends to camp on. Of course I said yes, knowing that I would have to replace the deck on the trailer before it would be safe to use again. Last night, Friday, after work I removed the most rotted boards so they wouldn’t fall out on the road and drove to Home Depot, trailer in tow, to buy some pressure treated lumber to replace the rotted deck. I could have replaced the deck with untreated Doug Fir and it would have lasted several years if I kept it clean and stained, but even if it lasted ten years I’d have to replace it again and I’d be…well old and I knew I wouldn’t want to mess with replacing the deck again. When you get to be my age you start to considering things like that. If I was thirty I would have used Doug Fir and saved $60.00, but at my age you do the math and knowing you won’t live forever and your health may not always be excellent, you make different decisions.

What is left of the original trailer decking.

What is left of the original trailer decking.

After I got the lumber home, unloaded and the old rotting deck completely removed I could see that the metal frame was suffering from metal oxidation, rust, where the wood had been sitting on the metal and holding moisture. There was also the matter of the very rusted self-tapping lag screws that had held the deck in place and were now were sticking up out of the metal frames cross members. I thought the lag screws were going to be bolts with nuts and washers and I’d be able to remove them, but no, they were not removable. Using a three pound sledge hammer, I broke the lag screws off at the metal cross member and using my angle grinder I ground the little broken nubs of the lags off smooth. For the next hour, using the grinder and my drill with a wire brush wheel, I remove as much rust as I could. After I felt like I had most or all of the loose rust removed I washed the trailer with soap and water and rinsed it with the hose garden hose. Using my leaf blower, I blew most of the water off the trailer and let it sit in the sun to dry, while I went in the house to put on my painting clothes and drink a bunch of water. Did I mention that it was ninety degrees outside?

Lately I have been using Rustoleum 2X paint on my motorcycle projects and so far I have been impressed. 2X is a paint and primer all in one and of course it also fights rust. I had picked up a quart of black 2X and a cheap paint bush when I bought the lumber. When I opened the can I thought, “great, they put dark blue paint in the can and put gloss black on the label”. But, I thought, “what the heck, I’ll have a dark blue trailer instead of a black trailer” and started painting. Well as it turns out the paint is magical. It went on blue, but turned black as it dried. I applied the paint liberally onto the areas that the wood deck would sit on and in and when I was done painting, I pushed the trailer into my shop to let it dry overnight.

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This morning I got early, while it was still cool, to put the wood deck on. In case you didn’t know this, on most trailers, both ends of the wood decking are held in place by metal channels. It’s a good design, but makes replacing the wood deck challenging. To replace the decking you have to place one end of the plank into one of the channels, angle the plank across the trailer, slip the other end of the plank into the channel at the other end and using a hammer and block of wood, drive it in place, parallel to the side of the trailer. It sound easy, but the channels were rough from years of rust and that corrosion made the diving the planks difficult. To add difficulty to the situation, there is a 2”wide metal plate that runs along both sides of the trailer, front to back. Instead of welding the plate flush to the bottom of the channels at the front and back of the trailer, they laid the plate in the channels and welded it in place. This makes the joint stronger but it also creates a lip in the channel that makes it difficult to slide the two side planks in place because the edge of the plank and the edge of the welded plate conflict.

Showing where the side plate is welded inside the channel

Showing the side plate welded inside the back channel.

To combat the roughness of the inside of the channel and the lip the plate and weld created I used axle grease to coat the inside of the channel. The grease not only allowed the planks to slide in the channel easily, it will also acts as an additional preservative to the inside of the metal channel and the ends of the planks where they sit in the channel and where moisture is most likely to be held.

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Showing me greasing the inside of the back channel.

In addition, to make it easier for the edge of the plank to slide over the edge of the plate and weld, I rounded the edge of the plank by tapping on the square edge of the plank with my hammer. With the grease in place in the channels and the edge of the plank slightly rounded, the plank drove easily into place.

 

 

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Showing how to round the edge of the board so it will easily slip over the weld and side plate.

Lying the planks at an angle, slipping both ends into the channels and driving them into place only works with the first six planks. After the first six are angle into place there isn’t enough space to angle any more planks and get both ends started. That is when it starts to get fun.

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Showing how planks can be laid at an angle to get them started into the channels.

To get the rest of the planks to insert into the channels at the front and back of the trailer you now have to bend or bow the middle of the planks up. This shortens the length of the plank and allows you to insert both ends of the plank into the channels. There are probably several methods of doing this and you can probably do this with one person, but two people make it so much easier. This how my wife and I accomplished this next step; First you insert one end of the plank into the back channel, then using a floor jack and a 12” piece of scrap 2X4 or 4X4, one person jacks the center of the plank up while the other person pushes the front end of the plank down. When the center of the plank bows high enough the plank will become short enough that the front will be lined up with the opening of the channel. While the end of the plank is held lined up to the channel the other person lowers the jack and the end of the plank will slip into the channel. The last plank fit so tightly that I had to grease the side of the plank so it would slip down into place. The whole process of decking the trailer when fairly quickly, even with my wife helping, I meant, with wife helping. Thanks Honey!

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Showing the jack in place and ready to bow the center of the plank up in the middle.

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Some other things to consider:

  1. When choosing the boards for the deck makes sure they are straight and without big knots. You don’t want to have to fight warped boards into place and when bowing the boards, large knots can cause a weak point in a board and the board may break or crack.
  2. Buy boards without cracks. Pressure treated wood is only treated into the board .44 of an inch. Cracks that go deeper will allow water into the board and the board will rot from the center out.
  3. Buy boards that are still high in moisture content. Moist boards will be easier to bend and there will be less chance that they will break.
  4. If and/or when you drill holes through the boards and frame for bolts to hold the boards in place, treat the holes with a good dose of oil or wood preservative. This will help keep the wood from rotting around the bolts.
  5. Consider not drilling bolt holes through the boards. The boards fit tightly and will not fall out of the channels even if they shrink slightly. I am going to wait and see how loose the boards get when they dry. If I need to add bolts to hold the deck boards in place I will first explore the possibility of placing the bolts between the deck boards. If a lag bolt that will slip between each the boards, a large washer at the head should hold the deck boards secure to the frame and you can avoid drilling holes in the board.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

The Transformer Motorcycle

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When I bought this 1981 Suzuki GS850 I was tempted to just polish it up, get it running well and sell. Most of the time though, I can’t leave well enough alone. After considerable contemplating I decided to make the bike a “Transformer.” Transforming from the stock bike to a bobber.

Bobber motorcycles are very popular, but to me, Bobbers are limiting. They’re cool, but limiting when it comes to riding for miles and many hours. What I wanted to do is create a bike that could go from stock to bobber with a bunch of variations in between and back to stock. When you buy a bike you pretty much get what you bought, cruiser, dual sport, café racer, bobber, crotch rocket…, but why not have a bike that can be changed to fit your need or mood.

When bike makers see this blog I’m sure they all will rush to make a Transformer bike.

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Here is what I did to make the bike into the Transformer; First I wanted to make a bobber style seat that would offer some comfort and would easily be installed and removed using the bike’s current brackets. This modification was perhaps the most time consuming. Bobber seats are pretty minimal, but I wanted something that would offer some comfort and yet look minimal. I’ve seen bobber seats that were metal farm tractor seats and though they look cool, I don’t think you’d want to ride all day on one.

I chose to make the seat out of plastic from a plastic barrel. I did this for two reasons; One, I like working with plastic barrels and second, I felt that plastic would offer some flex when sitting on it for long periods. To get the style I wanted, I cut the seat from the bottom of the barrel, leaving a couple of inches of the side of the barrel attached at the back of the seal. This would give the seat a raised back edge so it would look like just a flat board seat and the back raised edge would give the seat some flex. I covered the seat with first a layer of firm rubber yoga mat, then 1.5 inches of memory foam and covered it with black leather looking vinyl. The final product looks pretty good and is pretty butt form fitting.

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The original seat clips under two brackets at the front by the tank and lockded into another bracket at the back over the back fender. I wanted to use those same brackets for the new seat so I made a base for the seat, out of plastic.This gave me a base of attach the seat to.

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To attach the new seat to the bike I wanted to make it attach just like the original seat. At the front of the plastic base I welded together a bracket similar to the one on the original seat and attached it to the front of the plastic base with screws.

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The back latch was a little more complicated, but simple in nature. I made a slot in the seat base that would slip over the back metal bracket on the bike. So the plastic base would be secured down, I made a spring loaded latch, out of more plastic, a spring and small screw driver that I removed the handle from and bent the end so it would be easy to grab. This picture shows the base clipped to the bike’s bracket with the spring loaded screw driver. The other piece of plastic is the top piece, shown upside down, that holds the spring and screw driver in place.

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To install the seat base on the bike you simply slip the front into the front bracket, pull back the spring loaded latch, slip the slotted base onto the back bracket, release the spring loaded screw driver and lock it in place. The seat is bolted to the base using two small bolts. To make sure the seat unit doesn’t flex too far down, I installed a 2” x 8” plastic pipe across the frame of the bike under the seat. The pipe keeps the seat off the battery and wiring and adds to the flexing and comfort of the seat.

With the new seat on, the bike was starting to take on a bobber appearance, but I felt like if the back was lowered a little it would look better. Some bobber builders remove the back shocks and replace them with metal pipes that are shorter than the shocks. This lowers the bike, but offers no suspension. They call this a “Hard-tail,” because it’s hard, no suspension. I call it a “butt buster” or “back breaker.” I wanted to keep the shocks so the bike could be ridden with more comfort. If you’ve read any of my past motorcycle blogs you know I’m all about a comfortable ride.

The tops of the springs are attached to a threaded post, one on each side of the back fender, that are welded to the bike’s frame. The shocks slip onto the posts and are secured with a nut. To lower the back and keep the shocks I added two more threaded posts, one on each side, but I moved them up on the frame 1.5” and back slightly. To add the new posts I drilled a hole through the bike’s tubular frame, one on each side. I bought two bolts that would fit through the tops of the springs, cut the heads off the bolts and slipped them through the holes. I then welded the bolts in place on both sides of the tubular frame. Because the shocks are still installed the bike is called a “Soft-tail.” I call it “Heavenly.”

With the new bobber style seat and with the back lowered, the bike looked a little more bobberish, but not bobbered enough. Most bobbers have a raised gas tank. Some even have very small tanks that are almost head height. I decided the bike would look more “bobber” if the tank was raised up at the front. To accomplish this I again wanted to keep the original tank and attachment brackets. The front of the tank attaches to the bike with two slotted brackets on the under side of the tank that slip onto two “ears” attached to the bikes tubular frame. I raise the front of the tank by duplicating the two ears and welded them to a bracket that would straddle the bike’s tubular frame and slip onto the original “ears.” That worked and raises the front of the tank 2”.

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The signal lights on the bike are very large and kind of ugly. The lights, one on each side of the front and one on each side of the back, are attached to the bike on short tubes that stick out from the bike. I thought about replacing them with smaller L.E.D. lights, but I’ve ridden with guys that have converted to smaller lights and I find them hard to see. It’s my opinion that when riding a motorcycle you don’t want any light on the bike that is hard to see. I scratched my head for a while and decided to keep the signal light, but droop them by cutting the base of the of the tubes, where they attach to the bike, at an angle so the lights sloped slightly down giving them a drooped look.

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The stock tail light is huge. The light itself is large and square and the metal base that the light is attached to is kind of massive and not in keeping with the bobber simple look. I decided that when the bike is transformed into the bobber style, a round tail light with a small bracket would look better. You can buy many different sizes from your local automotive store. I chose one that I thought would be easy to see and look right for a bobber. (The white towel is to hide the license plate for whatever reason people do that.)

The handlebars that came with the bike may not have been stock. They were the style that raise up and swoop back and down. They were kind of funky looking and hurt my wrists after about five minutes of riding. I prefer something shorter and wider with only a sight pull back. The bars seemed useless to me so I cut them up and welded them back together in a more suitable style for my purpose. The result was handlebars that are more comfortable and better looking.

The thing about the bobber style is that most bobbers make you sit on a lowered bike with a flat seat and with the original foot shifter and brake in the original places. If you are taller, like me, this puts your knees in a very bent position. When I was younger that knee bent position wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Now that I’m older, lets say 40ish, bending my knees at such a squatted position is a deal killer. And knee killer. To remedy this uncomfortable riding position I made a forward shifter and forward brake mechanisms called forward controls. I wanted to keep the original shifter and foot brake lever in tact, so that the bike could be converted back to the original style. I did some shopping on Ebay and found replacements for a very reasonable price, like $36. for both with free shipping. I took the Ebay levers and cut them in-two, made brackets that attach to the frame in front of the motor, added pegs, rods, more brackets, etc… and I had forward controls that allowed me to stretch my legs forward, making the ride more comfortable.

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With all these modifications the bike can be set up in about 36 different configurations. You can change the seat or not, keep the front fender, or not, change the break light, or not, use forward controls, or not… raise the tank, or not, lower the back, or not, well you get the idea.

The last step was to paint the bike. A lot of people like “blacked out” bikes. I like them, but I wanted to add some bright highlights. I chose orange to give the bike some snap, some pop, some eye catchiness. To black out the bike, I cleaned the motor and sprayed it and the exhaust with a heat resistant paint. The rest of bike I painted first with black spray on truck bed coating, added the orange highlights and then clear coated it. I’m sure everyone will have their own opinion about how the bike looks, but I’m pleased with the results.

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This bike is my second winter project this year. The idea was to buy it, fix it, sell it and make a little cash. With this bike I made so many modifications that I told my wife that “I should hold onto it for a few months and ride it to make sure all the bugs are worked out and that it’s running right,” And that’s true, but this bike is a kick in the pants to ride and that’s true too.

There is a lot of parts to this project and each part could have been a blog in it’s self. If you decide to attempt any of these customization and need more information, please feel free to email me or leave your questions in the comments.

Anyway… for what it’s worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highway Pegs for Adventure Bikes

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One of the best additions I’ve made to my V-strom is the highway or forward pegs. Having the option of stretching my legs forward and resting them on foot pegs is a real relief when I’ve been riding for hours. Making the forward pegs is also one of the more difficult additions I’ve made. In all honesty I have to admit that the project of making the pegs was made difficult by the fact that I am a cheap bastard and instead of buying square metal tubing I used what I had, round pipe. To make the forward pegs for an “Adventure Bike,” I had to make them hinged so that they would fold up and out of the way in rough riding conditions and so they could easily fold back down when riding on the highways. To make them hinge with round pipe I had to heat the ends of the pipe until it was red hot and then hammer the round pipe into perfectly square ends. It gets even more complicated and difficult when one of the… well never mind, let me just tell you how to do this the easy way.

First you have to have a skid plate on your bike. For my V-strom I bought a skid plate. I had all kinds of ideas of how to make a skid plate, but I got such a great deal on the bike that I convinced myself that I could afford to buy the plate. Without a skid plate you might be able to attach to your crash bars, but you’ll have to buy crash bars. The forward pegs are three separate pieces, a long bar that bolts across the front of the skid plate and two shorter bars that are the foot pegs. The two foot pegs attach to the long bar at both ends with a single bolt that acts as your hinge pin. For my bike the long bar is 16” and the foot pegs are 6.5”. I’ve been pretty happy with those lengths, but you may want to make adjustments for your particular bike or riding style.

To make them out of square tubing you would cut the long bar at 16″, but leave a bottom tongue on both ends sticking out about 1″. The pegs are 6.5″ with the bottom corner rounded so it will hinge up and not drag the bottom corner. Cut four 2″ ears out of flat stock and weld them to the ends of the main bar with 1″ of the ears sticking out past the main bar. The ears will be welded to the tongue and main bar, one on each side. The other option is to buy foot pegs and bolt them to the main bar, but what fun would that be?

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I bolted my long bar to my skid plate with two “U” bolts. To make the foot pegs less slippery and to dress up the pegs I used a pair of rubber handlebar grips and slid them onto the pegs. They worked pretty well, but I failed to glue them on and they had a tendency to slid outward. On a trip to Glacier I lost one outside White Salmon, so I went into a hardware store found a heavy duty black rubber hose that would slide tightly onto the pegs and I’ve use that since. In my shop I found a couple of plastic caps off some kind of aerosal spray cans, probably brake cleaner, to cap the ends of the rubber hose to make the ends of the pegs look a little more finished.

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Like I said, one of the best addition I’ve make to my V-strom. I’m not young, have a little arthritis in both knees and being able to stretch out my legs is so nice.

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Anyway…for what it’s worth.