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.

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.

Indestructable Tomato Cages

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So anyway, I think my wife might be insane. Here’s why; every year she plants tomatoes and every year she buys the cheap flimsy tomato cages for the plants to grow on and every year the plants grow up on the cages and tip them over, bending them to the ground. I believe the definition of insanity is -“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I still love her.

Last year as the tomato plants and tomatoes lay on the ground I told her I would make her tomato cages next year. Hey, I had to do something to stop the insanity. So next year is here and I made her tomato cages.

My youngest daughter and son-in-law have three sons. Myles is the middle son. My mom had three sons. I was the middle child. It’s interesting to watch Myles struggle to find his place in the family. I can relate to the struggle because I also struggled to find my place in my family. As a middle child you really do get ignored, especially if your older brother is cool and your baby brother is cute. His are. Mine were. His mom tries very hard to make Myles feel special, but when his friends come over to play they are drawn to the coolness of his older brother, the cuteness of his baby brother and Myles is mostly left out. Myles is good at passing time playing alone with his toys and is best friend, “imagination.” My mother claims that I did the same.

Myles just had a birthday and for his birthday he wanted tomato plants so he could grow his own tomatoes. He loves tomatoes. When my wife, his Nana, heard this, she decided “we” should make a raised garden and surprise him with the garden and tomato plants. He’s four.

I know it is a little odd a four year old wanting tomato plants for his birthday, but again, I can relate to that oddness. Ask anyone to describe me and they will use many different adjectives and “odd” will always be one of those adjectives. Most people will use restraint and not say it out loud, but the adjective “odd” will be top of mind and on the tip of their tongues. (“Odd”-Deviating from what is ordinary, usual, or expected; strange or peculiar.)

So I built Myles a raised garden out of 1″X6″ cedar. The garden is 2’X6’ and 11” tall or deep. 2″X6″ cedar would last a lot longer, but 1″X6″ will probably out last his interest in growing tomatoes.

I also routered out a sign that says “Myles’ Garden – Love Nana and Grandpa.” I didn’t have room to say, “Love Nana and Mr. Grandpa Larson,” which is what I insist that all my grand kids call me, so the sign just says Grandpa.

Long story short, I also made Myles tomato cages.

I made the cages out of 3/8” rebar. I figured that 3/8” would be strong , last a long time and the lumber yard was all out of ¼”. Our local lumber yard, Stayton Builders Mart, stock not only rebar, but they also have a rebar cutter. I figured that out of a 20’ piece of rebar I could cut five, 4’ piece out of the bar. Tough math. My plan was to make the cages 4’ tall, with four sides and each side would be 1’ wide, 4’X1’=4′. I bought enough rebar to make six tomato cages. Myles only needed two and my wife needs three, but she told me to make her four because someday she would retire and grow four tomato plants. Clearly she has her retirement activity all planned out, pushing her limit to four plants.

So the Builder’s Mart sold me the rebar, pointed to the cutter and said, “knock yourself out.” The chore of cutting went pretty quickly after I set up a cutting guide. I positioned the cutter 4′ from the base of the lumber rack, slide the rebar end against the rack and cut. Once I had all 45 of the 4′ pieces cut, I took them home, laid them all out in a nice flat row and using water and a wire brush I tried to remove as much rust and crud as I could

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I let the bars dry and then painted them red. My wife wanted them painted red so that it would look like we had tomatoes before the tomatoes actually tuned red. What can I say, she is, after all, insane.

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After the paint dried I marked twenty four of the bright red 4′ bars into 12″ increments. Then I clamped each bar in my bench vice and bent them into 1′ squares using a piece of pipe that I slipped over the bars for leverage. It wasn’t as much fun as it sounds and welding the squares onto the 4′ legs was even less fun. After several frustrating hours trying to hold the legs and squares together while welding them I got all six cages welded together. After I finished welding each cage, I tested my welds by tossing the completed cage out my shop door onto the gravel driveway. It wasn’t much of a test, but it made me feel better. Of course, after bending and welding the cages I had to touch up the paint.

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In the end, the cages turned out pretty well. Am I glad I spent all that time making indestructible tomato cages? Yes. Would I do It again? Probably, but I am a glutton for punishment. If you take on this project, get a friend to help you hold the parts together while you weld.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

 

Wind Guards for V-strom

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Showing my Better Motorcycle Windshield and my Wind Guards.

After I made my  “Better Motorcycle Windshield,” which worked great and eliminated the head buffing, I realized that the only other big source of wind hitting me was coming from the tank area. I knew the usual solution was to put on fork wind deflectors. But I didn’t like the idea of something attached to my forks on a bike that I rode in rough conditions like back roads, forest service roads and on occasion, a narrow trail. I felt like they would be susceptible to damage from bushes, branches and if someone else was riding it, crashes. After some thought, I decided that I wanted something that would mount on the bike nearer to my legs, offering some protection to my legs and at the same time diverting the air flow coming from below and up around my bike’s tank.

What I did was simple and works great. Using plastic from a 55 gallon plastic barrel, I cut two wind guards following a pattern that I had developed from cardboard. I patterned the cardboard to match the contour of my bike, without touching or rubbing on my bike.

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The mounting brackets were easy to make from the plastic of the barrel. I probably could have bought and used two ell brackets and two conduit clamps, but I didn’t have the right size on hand and the plastic offers more flexibility.

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My wind guards mount to my crash bars with the “U” clamps and to the fairing using the ell brackets and a screw into the wind guard. I used a factory screw that holds the bike’s fairing in place. It was located in a perfect place for my purposes.

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 I painted them with truck bed coating that you buy in a rattle can and the black matches my bike great.

They work great! With my windshield modification and the lower wind guards I ride in a very wind free environment. Now the only time I get hit with wind is if the wind is blowing in from the side.

I was afraid that the deflectors would make my bike look too redneck, but I have gotten a lot of compliments on them and most people think that they are stock.

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Anyway…for what it’s worth.

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.

Heat Your House with a Ceiling Fan!

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At yesterday’s home inspection, WIN Home Inspection Salem, I was reminded once again that most people do not understand how to use a ceiling fan. There is more to a ceiling fan than just being decorative and spinning blades. Most ceiling fans, at the very least 99%, are three speed and they are also reversible. Ceiling fans can blow air down or they can blow air up. It’s easy to understand that if we are sitting under a ceiling fan and it is blowing air down on us we feel cooler. Without going into a bunch of science, as the air blows across our skin, the moisture on our skin, sweat, evaporates. Evaporation is a cooling process. I can still remember, barely, the days when people in arid climates would hang a canvas bag of water on the bumper of their car so they would have cool water to drink when they stopped for a break. The canvas would let water slowly seep to the outside of the bag, the sun would evaporate the water and the water inside the bag would cool. Simple science, but effective. You can think of yourself as a bag of water seeping moisture though the skin. In the summer the air from the blowing fan will cool you. If the fan isn’t cooling you fast enough, mist your skin with water.

In the winter you don’t want to be cooled so you reverse the fan and blow it up against the ceiling. Blowing up causes the lower cool air to be sucked up through the fan and forces the warmer air at the ceiling to move along the ceiling, down the walls and back along the floor to the fan where it is sucked up by the fan, pushed against the ceiling…etc. This slow moving current in the room fills the room with warm air.

You are probably wondering, why not just suck the warm air off the ceiling, sit under the fan and let it warm you up as it blows down? Two reasons, you are a bag of water and the warm air blowing across your body will evaporate any moisture on your skin, cooling you. The second reason is that if you blow the warm air down it will quickly rise again and the area under the fan may be warm but the perimeter and corners of the room will be cool. Blowing the air against the ceiling, down the walls, into the corners and long the floor warms the whole room.

If you could see the warm air, you would see it coming out of your heat registers, wall heater or baseboard heaters, rise to the ceiling and stay there. If you have a well insulated ceiling the heat will eventually build up in the room, first heating your head and slowly moving down your body until the heat reaches the height of wall thermostat, about 5’ off the floor in most cases, telling the thermostat that the room is warm, shutting the heat off, leaving your lower parts cool. This is a very ineffective use of heat and energy. If your ceiling is not well insulated, it takes longer for the heat to build from the ceiling down, because a lot of heat is escaping through the ceiling, and your heater will run much longer. (see my blog, “Insulation Matters.”)

So how do you know which direction the fan is blowing? 99.9% of the time if the reversing switch is switched up, it blows up, switch down, air blows down.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

Rarely will your fan have a side to side switch, but if it does, switched to the right it blows up and left it blows down. Another easy way to tell which direction it’s blowing is if the leading edge of the blades are tipped down, it’s blowing up. Conversely, if it’s tipped up, it’s blowing down.

If you’re not convinced, take this challenge. Turn on your heat, let the room warm up until the thermostat shuts the heat off. Quickly take a temperature reading at the ceiling and then one at the floor level. I promise you will be surprised at the temperature difference. The next time the heat kicks on, start blowing your ceiling fan against the ceiling. When the heat kicks off take the temperature at the ceiling and floor again.  I did this test in my own home. With the fan off the difference was ten degrees. With the fan on, the difference was one degree. I can honestly tell you that in our home the ceiling fan blows against the ceiling day and night, all winter long.

The cost of running a ceiling fan is about 20-25 cents a day on high speed, depending on the size of the fan. If the fan keeps your home warmer and keeps your furnace or heater from kicking on only one less time a day, you have saved a lot of money.

If you don’t have ceiling fans in your home, consider installing some. If that’s not a possibility or until then, read my blog, “Leave Your Furnace Fan ON!” Using both these suggestions your home will be warmer and cost you less for energy.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Getting Organized and Clear Your Head

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My boys once called me the “Master Rattle Canner.” I do love rattle cans and have painted many things, transforming them from junk to a jewel. The good thing is that the fumes from the paint have not affected my BrA1n N0n3. Over the years my wife, my boys and I have bought hundreds of cans of spray paint for projects we have done. When I moved my stuff from our garage to our new shop we had accumulated over seventy cans of practically used spray paint. To move them to the shop, we put all the cans in two large plastic containers, moved them to the shop and in those two containers they stayed for a year and a half. The problem with having that many cans of paint is that you have to be able to organize them so that you know what you have and so you don’t keep buying more of the same colors over and over again. When I moved into the shop I wanted to organize it so that everything had a place. I put up pegboard, built a bunch of shelves, bought small boxes to organize stuff in, but the two plastic containers of spray paint had me stumped on how to organize them.

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The other day I was shopping at Goodwill, which used to be my favorite store until they raised their prices higher than regular retail, but I still shop there in hopes that I’ll find a bargain. So I was in Goodwill and found a metal rack for displaying wine in a store and I thought, “hey!”  The rack was marked $6.99 and would hold forty bottles of wine/cans of spray paint and with some minor alterations, it would hold sixty cans.

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Today I started going through the two containers of spay paint, properly disposing of six cans that were empty and cleaning the heads of the other cans that still had paint, but wouldn’t spray.

Over the years I have learned that when you are done painting something, if you really do turn the can upside down and spray until the spray is clear, the spray head will be cleaned and will work the next time you want to use the can. I now will even go as far as spraying the little spray hole with carb or brake cleaner and wiping it off with a cloth just as an extra precaution. With that said, I don’t always remember to do clear the head and it gets clogged with paint and won’t work. I hate that, having a paint can with paint in it, but won’t spray because the head is plugged with dried paint.

Out of the two containers of spray paint there were about fifteen cans that had paint in them, but would not spray, so I cleaned the heads. This is my method of cleaning a spray can head: I use brake or carb cleaner, a straight pin that is exact size or smaller to insert into the little hole the paint sprays out of, a utility knife, safety glasses and latex gloves.

First remove the head from the can by simply pulling it out of the can and spray a little carb or brake cleaner into the hole in the top of the can where the head was and let that sit while you clean the head.DSCF6949 Next, using the utility knife, scrape off any paint that has dried over the little hole.

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Sometimes that’s all it takes to clean the head, so test the head to see if it is clear by inserting the thin red tube that comes with every can of brake or carb cleaner up the neck of the of the head and being careful to point it away from my face, spray the cleaner into the neck.

CAUTION: You will need to secure the head on the tube by pinching it tightly with your fingers where the tube goes into the neck or you will shoot the head across the room and/or you will get cleaner on your face.

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If the cleaner sprays out the head’s small hole, it’s clean. If it’s plugged, take the pin and carefully push it into the small spray hole and up the neck to clear the plug.

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To make sure the head is clear, spray some cleaner in the neck again. Some plugs can be stubborn and you’ll have to repeat the process a couple of times, but this method will unplug the head. When the head is clear, point the head away from you, push it back in the top hole of the can, turn it upside down and check the spray. This cleaning method worked on all but two of the fifteen cans that I had that were clogged. As an extra precaution, I sprayed the head with cleaner and wipe the small hole with a cloth. Next time you want to use the spray paint it will be ready to use.

When you use the can of spray paint up, remove the head, clean it and save it. There have been many times I have dropped a can or knocked it off the bench, losing or breaking the head. Having a few extra heads around will allow you to still use the can of paint until it is empty.

Anyway…, for what it’s worth.