Motorcycle Helmet Trunk

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There have been a couple of times when I have purchased a motorcycle from a private party and the seller has thrown in an old helmet to boot. Helmets have a half life of only a few years and the older they get, the more likely they will not protect your head in a crash. So when I get an old helmet, of course, I… use them. I use them until I can purchase a new helmet.  Then comes the question of what to do with the old helmet? I have held on to a couple of full face helmets with the idea that I would convert them into a motorcycle trunk. I know what you are thinking, “a helmet isn’t going to hold enough stuff to be of any use.” There is where you are wrong. I did a “stuff-it-full” test and found that a full face helmet will hold three full sized bath towels! I estimate that a person could carry in the full face helmet trunk; a sweat shirt, a pair of gloves, some odds and end tools, water bottle, power bar and a pair of sunglasses.

Today I was working on my GS 850 Suzuki bobber project, but wanted to take some time and consider a few things I was going change, so I decided to work on my helmet trunk idea. Choosing the best one of the two useless full face helmets kicking around in “Motorcycle Stable,” I removed the inside padding and foam. The padding just snaps in and came out very easily, but I had to break the foam loose from the shell with a chisel.

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To make the helmet into a trunk I figured it would have to have a bottom plate in it so my stuff wouldn’t fall through luggage rack onto the road. There are a couple things you could use for a bottom plate, wood, metal, or plastic. I used plastic from a 55 gallon barrel. Wood would have been much easier, but I’m a plastic barrel guy. The top of the barrel is the thickest plastic, so that’s where I cut out the bottom plate. Just set the helmet on the top of the barrel and trace around it.

Most helmets taper inward at the bottom opening.  I cut the plastic slightly larger than the opening, so when I put the bottom plate into the helmet and pushed it down, it would be too large to pass through the narrower bottom opening, It took several trips to the grinder to get the bottom plate just the right size. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I pushed the plate down to the bottom of the helmet shell and stuffed the shell full of towels to hold the plate in place. Using a good epoxy glue, I secured the plate to the helmet shell from the under side and then from the inside after I removed the towels.

The top of the barrel where I cut the plate is slightly concave. When I attached the plastic plate to the helmet, I put the curve so it was bowed up into the shell. I did this because motorcycle trunks are usually secured to the luggage rack with a couple of bolts, a bracket with two holes in it and two nuts. With the bow up, when the nuts were tightened they will pull that bow down, putting constant presser on the nuts so they would be less likely to come loose.

To mount the helmet trunk to the luggage rack, drill two holes through the bottom plate about 4″ apart or so the holes with the bolts through them will fit though the luggage rack with at least two rack bars between the bolts. Drill two holes in a metal bar that match the holes in the truck bottom plate. Put the bracket with two corresponding holes under the luggage rack, drop the bolts through the plate, between the bars on the luggage rack and through the bracket holes and secure with two nuts.

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The helmet was pretty ugly and beat up, but some sanding and a coat of black spray in bed liner dressed it up. I sprayed the face shield too so no one can see my stuff in the helmet trunk. I padded the bottom of the trunk with a cut to shape piece of rubber yoga mat that I picked up at Goodwill one day. So that’s pretty much it. I now have a trunk that I can easily attach to any luggage rack, carry my stuff in and gave an old helmet a second useful life.

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Anyway… for what it’s worth.

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PANNIERS MADE FROM SCRATCH

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Luggage Racks For my V-strom

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Like most people, my life has been made easier by computers and yes, better. In my job as a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection Salem, a computer saves me time and corrects my terrible spelling. A computer provides most of our TV viewing pleasure and keeps me in touch with friends and family. I know for a fact that I would have never written a dozen books if I hadn’t had a laptop computer. Most of my life of being a do it yourselfer has been spent in trial and error. I have spent many hours and lots of money making mistakes because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it right the first time. Now I just go to my computer and Google how to do what ever it is I want to do and I can find it on Youtube. Exploring the internet with my computer has kept me learning and growing like nothing else could have done. And even though I curse them sometimes, a computer has opened the world to me and enhanced my life. God bless you mister or misses computer inventor person(s).

Next to the computer, used plastic 55 gallon barrels would have to be #2 in making my live easier.

After I realized how much I enjoyed dual sport motorcycle riding on my Honda XR650L, I decided that I needed an adventure bike. An adventure bike is a step up from a typical dual sport in that it is comfortable enough to ride long distances on the highways, but when you see a dirt or gravel road that looks interesting, off you go. After a lot of study I decided that the Suzuki V-strom 650DR was the ideal bike for me. I couldn’t really justify the expense of an $5000-$7000 bike. Since I like to work on motorcycles I decided that if I could find a wrecked bike that was mechanically sound I could probably fix it up and make it, at the very least, interesting looking. I had just published a book, The Reincarnation of Joe Rocket. In the book the main character had fallen on hard times and his buddy, Two Stroke, bought him a V-strom that had been wrecked. He spent a couple weeks fixing it up and then rode it from Washington State to Maine. It occurred to me that if Joe Rocket could fix one up, I could too. I put an ad on Craigslist and a week later a guy emailed me saying he had a totaled V-strom that he wanted to sell. The bike was a 2010 with 4500 miles on it. Long story short, the bike looked brand new, except for a broken left front turn light and the shifter lever. There were also a few small scratches that I would have never noticed if he hadn’t pointed them out to me. The guy had been rear ended, tapped, at a stop sign and tipped the bike over. Since the bike was virtually new, he wanted everything with even a minor scratch replaced. By the time the insurance company added it all up, the bike was totaled.  I bought it for half the price of a new one and within thirty minutes I had fixed the turn signal light and shifter. So much for a fixer upper project. I love this bike.

I had sold my cruiser, 2002 Honda VTX 1800, the previous winter, so the Vee was going to be my all around bike. I would use for long weekend dual sport trips and my week long road trips. For long trips I needed some kind of  saddlebags, or for a adventure bike like the V-strom, panniers. Panniers are usually aluminum boxes that mount to each side of the back fender area. They are made of aluminum to be almost indestructible and watertight. I never liked the idea of big metal boxes mounted to the back of my motorcycle. I guess I have had too many close encounters with trees and boulders and knew I would end up tearing them off my bike or denting them beyond repair. As I searched the web for something I thought would work for me, I found nothing I liked or could afford. I kept thinking, why don’t they make a flexible plastic holder that you can just slip your luggage onto? Then I though, “Hey, I can make that!”

I needed to make a rack that would withstand crashes and that I could mount my plastic luggage holders onto. During searches on the web I had seen many different racks that would mount on my V-strom, but I felt I could do better or at least, as well. I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, found a 10’X3/4” piece of conduit in my shop, bought some 1/8”X 1” metal flat stock at ACE, got out my conduit bender, fired up the welder and went to work.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

The first thing I did was bend the conduit so it would attach to the passenger foot peg frame bracket on one side, bend around the back of the bike just under the tail light and attach to the other passenger peg frame bracket. I carefully flattened the ends of the conduit and drill holes for bolts through the flattened part. The frame brackets for the passenger foot pegs on the Vee are large and there was plenty of room to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate the conduit, bolt and nut.

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The Vee comes stock with a substantial back rack that sits over the back fender. It’s bolted on in four places, two bolts attach back rack and two more bolts forward about mid seat. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to use the factory bolts and brackets when ever possible to attach something not stock to your bike.

I cut and bent to fit, two pieces of flat metal stock that would bolt under the back rack front brackets and reach down to the conduit. For the back support, I cut and bent one piece of flat stock that ran from the conduit on once side, up and under the back rack and down to the conduit on the other side. Because of where I had to run the flat stock under the back rack, the bolts for the rack didn’t line up with the flat stock. To make the connection to the bolts I welded two small ears to the flat stock that would reach the two bolts.

Showing rack bolted under the bike's rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing rack bolted under the bike’s rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike's rear rack.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike’s rear rack.

The next step was to cut two short pieces of flat stock that would attach horizontally between the two vertical flat stock on each side and would give me something to hang my plastic luggage racks on. Once everything was cut, bent and fitted, I welded it all together and sprayed it with black spray in bed liner.

Now with the rack made and mounted, I needed to make luggage racks. After drawing some sketches of what might work, I made a pattern out of cardboard. I had in mind that I was going to use 20” carry-on luggage to fit in the luggage racks.

Now what I needed was a big flat piece of plastic. Here is something that you might not know. If you cut the top and bottom off a plastic 55 gallon barrel, then cut it down one side, heat it up with a weed burner blow torch until it is so soft it will lay flat on a shop floor and put a piece of plywood with some heavy weight on the plywood over the plastic until it cools, you will end up with a large piece of flat plastic.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

After cutting the plastic to the pattern, heating the plastic and bending it to the proper shape I riveted so it would retain the shape and make it strong. To attach the luggage rack to the metal rack, the luggage rack needed a bracket system that would easily clip onto the metal rack and wouldn’t accidentally come off over rough road. Of course I used plastic barrel to make the brackets. The bracket is a kind of  “Z” shape and the top bracket is a flat piece riveted along the top. They are just wide enough to fit between the two vertical supports on the metal rack and slip over the conduit on the bottom and the horizontal bar at the top. To keep the plastic racks from bouncing off the metal racks, I made a “L” bracket out of plastic, then cut a slot through the back of the luggage rack and “Z” bracket attached on the back. The slot was cut just below the top horizontal cross piece on the metal rack. I attached the “L” bracket with rivets to the luggage rack so that the short part of the “L” bracket will slip through the slot, under the horizontal cross-piece and though the “Z” bracket. The plastic “L” bracket is kind of spring loaded and stays through the slot until you’re ready to remove the luggage rack.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for "L" bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for “L” bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing "L" bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

Showing “L” bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

20” carry-luggage is pretty typical and I was able to find one at Goodwill for a $5. The other one I bought a matching one at Walmart for $20. I removed the wheels on the bags and they slipped perfectly into the plastic luggage racks. I added two straps on each luggage rack to hold the bags securely in the racks.

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The carry-on’s looked pretty good, but they weren’t waterproof or dust proof. We had acquired some bright yellow material that school crossing flags are made out of when we owned a screen printing business and I had some left over. Using that and some water resistant material I bought at a fabric store, I sewed together some slip on covers for the bags (see top picture). That’s right, I sewed. Gentlemen, if a sewing machine is not part of your power tool assortment, your assortment is not complete.

I have used the racks and panniers for three years now and they have worked great. They are light weight, durable, flexible, inexpensive and not too bad looking. I never remove the metal racks. They act as rear-end crash bars and have saved my bike from damage more than once.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Making a Hawaiian Sling

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For the Love of Snorkeling.

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I was fortunate to spend the last two and half years of my college experience in Hawaii. (That’s right, I have a college degree, a BS in Vocational Management.) I loved Hawaii. I loved the ocean, the weather, the beaches and I love to snorkel. Back then I could hold my breath for three minutes and free dive down to forty feet. I feel at home in the water and sometime I wonder if I wasn’t a sea snail in a previous life. Or fish, I could have been a fish.

In Hawaii I had roommates that were Hawaiian, Tongan, Chinese, Nigerian, Australian, and Japanese. It was my Japanese roommates that taught me to night dive. Night diving is snorkeling at night with a waterproof flashlight and a Hawaiian Sling. A Hawaiian Sling is a five-foot, three pronged spear with a loop of surgical tubing on the end. To use the sling you hook the rubber tubing over your thumb on an outstretched arm, you grab the shaft by your other hand and pull it back toward your chest, stretching the tubing. With the hand that has the rubber tube hooked around the thumb, you grip the shaft tightly. When you are ready to shoot the spear you let go of the shaft and the spear rockets forward, powered by the stretched out rubber tubing. It’s simple, but deadly.

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Around midnight at least once a week, my diving buddies and I would drive to a stretch of beach that had a coral reef about fifty yards off shore. I still remember the feeling of fear and exhilaration when I would walk up to the rocky shoreline, look down at the black water and wonder what the hell was I thinking, turn on my light and dive in.

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We would fish for an hour or two, diving down to the coral caves and spearing fish that were napping for the night. On our nighttime forays we would collect fish, eel, squid and lobster.

When I left Hawaii, I left night diving and spear fishing behind. I still snorkel every chance I got, but on the mainland it’s illegal to spear fish in rivers and lakes.

A couple of years ago we were invited to vacation with some good friends and their family in Mexico. We had vacationed in Mexico several times in the past, but always at a commercial resort. On this vacation we stepped out of our comfort zone and stayed at a private home in a little town, El Cardinal, on the Sea of Cortez.

The home was a beautiful, custom built, Spanish style home with a swimming pool and very large covered patio. The estate sat on about two elevated acres that overlooked the sea below.

As a big fan of snorkeling, I was in heaven. A reef ran from the beach out into the sea. It was some of the best snorkeling I have ever experienced. On one swim I snorkeled over a school of fish that was so large and so layered that I could not see the sea floor. After that encounter the grounds keeper offered to lend me his Hawaiian Sling, or Mexican Sling, whatever the case may be. Unfortunately, when I snorkeled with his spear I didn’t see any fish that were edible.

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After that vacation I decided that I needed to own another Hawaiian Sling. I wanted one that would break down into three pieces so that it would fit in my suitcase, so I started shopping on line. What I found was that they are pretty proud of slings that come apart. So, as usual, being a cheap guy, I decided that I could make my own.

I realized that I needed some kind of rod that would screw together so that it would come apart, but it had to be strong and flexible. My college Hawaiian Sling was a one-piece fiberglass rod, so that’s where my mind went first. I remembered from my fifteen years working as a retail manager in a home improvement center that we use to sell three-foot rods for cleaning chimneys. The rods screwed together to form a single rod long enough to shove a brush down a chimney to clean the creosote out of the flue.

I decided that I would need two of those fiberglass rods, a 3’X1/6” round steel rod to make the three prong end and two feet of heavy duty rubber tubing. Once I procured the items at Ace I was ready to make my spear.

The rods were three foot long so when I screwed the two together they were way too long. I wanted the overall length to be about five foot. That meant each rod could be two foot and the tip could be 12”. I cut one foot and the female end off one rod and a foot of rod and the male end off the other. The female end I would use to make the spear tip, but I needed to reattach the male end back onto the other shortened rod. I cut the male end off the one foot piece of scrap rod and drilled the fiberglass out of the fitting. Using JB Weld, I epoxied the male end back on the two foot piece of rod that had a female fitting on the opposite end. JB weld is great stuff, but to make sure the glued male end wouldn’t come off I drilled a small hole through the fitting and rod and put a small nail through the hole to pin them together.

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Through the top end of the other rod I drilled a 1/8” hole and put a short piece of cord through it and a tied the rubber tubing to each end of the cord forming a loop.

I drilled the fiberglass out of the female fitting that I had cut off so I could make the three pronged tip. To make the tip I first cut the three foot steel round rod into three, one foot pieces and sharpened the ends to a point. I inserted the other ends of the three steel rods into the socket end of the female fitting and welded the fitting and steel rods together. Now I would be able to screw the spear end onto the male end that I glued and pinned back on the fiberglass rod.

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I made a carrying case for the spear out of PVC pipe with a cap glued on one end and another cap that slips on the other end and I cap the spear with a short piece of rubber hose so I don’t hurt myself when I’m not using the spear.

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I hope that with the written description and the pictures these instructions will be clear. I’m not sure how many people will want to make their own Hawaiian Sling, but anyway…for what it’s worth.

INDESTRUCTIBLE LIVE STOCK FEEDER

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IF THEY CAN BREAK IT, THEY WILL.

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Farm animals can be rough on a farm. If you could have a farm and not have farm animals, life would be so much easier. They damage stalls, kick holes through barn walls, tear apart feeders, knock over sprinklers, and destroy fences. On occasion we have made the mistake of not neutering calves. As the bulls grow from cute little calves to 1,200 pound bulls they destroy everything they can get their horns on. We had some twelve-foot tall cedar trees in the field that I had planted and nurtured along for eight years. A bull bent them over and broke them off at the ground. They’re not that smart but they are very strong. We’ve had them decide to take a walk about the neighborhood and push right through the field fencing. The last bull we had knocked one of our donkeys down and was mauling it with its head. That will be the last time any of our calves grow up to be bulls.

Bulls are not the only ones to do damage. Horses lean over fences to get to the grass on the other side, even when the grass they are standing on is better grass. Horses and donkeys also chew on wood and can chew a stall rail completely through in no time. Goats rub against fences, pushing them out and climb on fences, pulling them down. We have solved a lot of animal damage problems by installing an electric fence around the top of our field fence, but it hasn’t eliminated all of the damage.

Three years ago I built some feeders out of plastic barrels.  I cut the barrels in half the long way and used tree poles for the frames and legs. I built them to be “indestructible.” They lasted almost a year. The horse and the donkeys chewed the pole and kicked them apart. The steers and bulls, rubbed their heads and horns against them, tearing them to pieces. I repaired them several times, but in the end the only useable parts were the plastic barrels. So, through this scientific process of elimination I discovered that the only thing the animals couldn’t destroy was the plastic barrels. If you have read any other of my blogs you already know that I am a big fan or plastic barrels.

Now that I knew what the animals couldn’t destroy, I revised my feeder design. I only use plastic barrels, nylon ribbon (used by power line workers to pull heavy wires through long runs of conduit) and large screws to attach the feeders to the stall rails.

To make the new feeders, first thing I did was cut a hole in the side of the barrel, we’ll call the front side, so the animals could comfortably put their head into the barrel to eat the hay. I smoothed the cut edges down so the animals wouldn’t cut themselves when they stuck their heads through the holes.

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Livestock, especially horses and donkeys, will waste a lot of hay by shoving it around in the feeder, looking for the sweetest stems and leaves. Much of it will end up on the ground, get walked on and polluted. To solve that, most feeders will have a net or slat system that holds the hay up off the bottom of the feeder so the animals have to pull a little out of the net at a time to eat. To install the nylon slats I drilled half-inch holes in a line across the front top of the barrels and across the lower back. Then using the nylon ribbon, I wove it into the feeders from the front top holes to the lower back holes. Any nylon rope or heavy twine will work; just don’t use something edible, like hemp.

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I drilled small holes in the bottom of the barrels so when I cleaned the feeders water would drain out quickly.

The final step was to mount them in the stalls securely so they wouldn’t be torn down. I mounted the barrel feeders in the corner of the stalls using ½” lag screws and washers. Bolts would also work. Of course you have to mount the feeders at the right height, lower for small animals and taller for large animals.

We have used these feeders for two years now without any sign of failure. They have withstood donkeys, a horse and yes, even a bull.

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Anyway… for what it’s worth.