Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cadmium Plating

Once everything was stripped of zinc and blasted it was sent to Aeropropeller in Broomfield Colorado for cadmium plating. I wired things together so I could sort them upon their return as I understood this would work for the plating process. I was wrong and everything was returned in two Zip-lock bags. Fortunately I took a lot of pictures and sorting was not too difficult, although it took a lot of time.

The cad plating looked very good. One lesson learned is that I should have removed the old cad plating before re-plating parts. It is easy to tell which parts were not thoroughly cleaned.  Parts that were polished shiny had a shiny finish on them. Parts that were left with a frosted finish returned with one. The plater told me that cad would not stick to stainless steel. I mistakenly sent a couple of stainless Oddie studs for plating and he was correct. Although they took plating it is bunched up and can be removed with my finger nail. The bead blasted finish on stainless does not look significantly different than the cad plated finish in my view and will be the method to get the correct finish, although I have to admit I would prefer cad to blasted stainless.
I knew there would be parts I missed in this process and that I would need a “plan B” to cover for them. Cad platers have a minimum required batch size. In effect this means you cannot send out a few nuts and bolts for plating. I needed 16 pounds minimum and sent 25. I am planning to purchase a paint that is “frosted aluminum” to hit things I missed. I may also be able to send parts I missed with the batch for my next restoration.

Update - March 2016:  Aeropropeller has changed its business name to Colorado Plating, LLC.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stripping Zinc & Sandblasting Hardware

This is an area that chewed up a lot of time. Larger parts are easy to hold and clean up in a sand blaster but small parts were a challenge. All zinc must be removed before CAD plating parts or it will not stick. I have a small blasting cabined that has 50 micron glass beads in it. I tried to remove the zinc with this but it was slow going. I researched “zinc removal” on Google and found that pure lye mixed with water will dissolve zinc. The only local source of pure lye was a product sold at our Lowes hardware store called “Roebic Crystal Drain Opener”.  I purchase a small can of this and set about dissolving zinc.

When water is added to the lye the bolts will smoke under water. If this does not occur more lye must be added. They came out of the solution with a black oxide coating them. After the zinc was removed I bead blasted all parts to bare metal. The most difficult part about blasting was holding everything. I will need to come up with a better system next time. 

Caution: I assume fumes from zinc removal to be toxic. Do not breathe or do this process inside. I assume leftover solution is also toxic. I recommend disposing of it at a hazardous waste collection site. (common in the US). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Making & Fixing Bits

A couple of pieces had to be made. The brake rod was cobbled up and the header tie bracket was missing. These pieces seemed easy enough to make so I fabricated them. The brake rod was threaded on both ends using my BSF die and I tapped out the pin end of the rod clevis to accept the threads. The header tie was sheared to size and the slots will be milled. I will send it out for chrome plating with my other bits. I also fixed parts with poor threads. Some of these seemed beyond repair but they cleaned up alright. I purchased some odd ball taps and dies for this task. I now own 5/8-18, 5/8-20 & 9/16-20 taps and dies. 

Some of the threaded bits made or fixed before plating.

I also decided to make a few of the valve cover studs as they are rather expensive. I started with long grade 5 UNC bolts and cut out the unthreaded portion to use as stock. I threaded them with my dies to the appropriate length. I did not know if my “India dies” were up to the challenge but they held up without issue. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Finding and Making Hardware

Much of the hardware on the Hornet had been bunged up or replaced with coarse thread UNC nuts and bolts. Anything that was still in original form was heavily rusted. I set out to find replacement hardware with minimal success.  I had some luck on the internet by discovering “British Tools and Fasteners”.  They stock a substantial inventory of Whitworth fasteners. In 1967 BSA’s had mostly dome headed bolts which I could not seem to find. I was also not able to locate a source for new Pozi-drive screws I needed for the engine cases. I have used Allen head bolts in the past as replacements but do not like the look of them. I found a few odds and ends on eBay and one person who had a coffee can full of used Pozi-drive screws left over from his dealer days. He sent me ones that were good enough to clean up and re-plate. I was also not able to locate the correct diameter flat washers, although I was able to find British style lock washers and star washers.

Sorting hardware with a spares manual to figure out what I had.

With no place to purchase dome head bolts I decided to make them. I purchased grade 5 fine thread UNF bolts and put a dome on them in a lathe with a form tool. Next I put them in a drill chuck and polished them with emery cloth and a rubber block. Original bolts were used as a pattern for shape and size. Standard bolt lengths did not support all of my needs either. Longer ones were re-sized on a lathe. 

Turning the dome on a lathe. 

Finished and polished.

The original nuts were crowned on one side and flat on the bottom. This was due to the manufacturing process. They were cut off from hex bar stock to length and the bottoms were left flat. Today’s hardware is stamped providing chamfers on both sides. I replicated the originals by turning off the back of the stamped nuts I had purchased. They turned out well and starting with UNF hardware was cheaper than using Whitworth hardware. Although they are not a perfect match for the originals it is hard to tell the difference. Pictures of my methods and fixtures are below. After modifications all of the hardware threads were cleaned up using a die set I purchase from India via eBay. There was also a lot of hand filing and stoning needed to clean up burrs from turning. This was a slow tedious process but I think the results are worth the effort.

Nut held on a fixture and ready to remove the radius on one side. 

Fixtures, the form tool, and the rubber polishing block. These were used for turning flats on nuts, cutting bolts to length, and for creating the correct diameter washers. 

Cleaning out threads after turning flats on the nuts. 


The kickstand fasteners were also turned to resemble the original unit. 

One thing I learned in my quest for hardware is that Pozi-drive screws require the use of Pozi-drive screw bits. I was not aware of this and have probably boogered up hardware from not using them in the past. I purchased a set of bits from “British Tools and Fasteners” and they do grip the screws significantly better then Phillips bits. Lesson learned – after 30 years. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Rough Assembly

Everything was cleaned up thoroughly when I took it apart or shortly thereafter. I built a new workshop in the fall and rolled my bike into it for the winter. I assembled all of the parts, even though they were still in rough shape. This allowed me to create a parts list and to measure for the hardware I was missing. After I was confident I knew what was lacking and how things would go back together, I took a lot of pictures.  Next I set about repairing broken parts, making what I could, and searching for what remained.

Frame cleaned up and ready for rough assembly. 

Craig's list fender and stays fit to the wheel & forks. 

Final assembly complete. Ready to start fixing and making parts. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Finding Parts

The quest for antique motorcycle parts has been greatly enhanced by the internet. When I restored my first couple of bikes all searching was done on the phone or at swap meets. I have purchased parts off of eBay, through contacts on Craig’s list, at swap meets and from contacts I have used in the past. There are also more replacement parts for the popular old bikes like BSAs, Triumphs and Nortons. Although I like to use NOS parts they are not always available or affordable. A list of suppliers I have had good luck with is in the “Parts and Services” section of my blog. I have used other sources but left them off if I would not use them again.  Good Luck!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cleaning Plastic

Cleaning plastic is something I have not tried in the past but I found it very similar to cleaning chrome. The steering damper knob was coated in gold paint overspray and oxidized.  To remove the paint I soaked it in Coke for two weeks. When it came out of the Coke I scrubbed off the softened paint with an aluminum bristle brush.  Next I put it in my polisher to clean the plastic. This process worked well. As for metals, there are buffing compounds for plastic. If I did not have a polishing machine I would try this method. 

 Heavy gold metal flake over spray & a dull finish

Finished and ready to assemble

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cleaning Chrome

Most of the chrome parts on the Hornet were rusted extensively and needed to be re-plated. Chrome plating is expensive in the US. A person must be careful or they will spend more for re-plating a part than purchasing a new one. I want to use as many of the original parts from the Hornet as possible so I will re-plate those that need it. This goes for the rims, fenders, and fender stays for sure as the rust is through the chrome.

Some of the parts, although rusted, cleaned up alright. The air cleaners, steering nut and handlebar clamps fell into this category. To clean them up I soaked them in Coca-Cola and then scrubbed them with aluminum foil shiny side to metal. When I was a kid I remember my father telling me he cleaned chrome car bumpers with Coke back in the 50’s. A couple of years ago I relearned this trick while restoring an old art-deco table and chairs. My wife found the tip on the internet and it has worked pretty well. Coke also removes paint off of chrome if you let it soak for a couple of weeks.

The fuel cap was covered in over spray. Coke removed this too. 

After cleaning in Coke. An aluminum brush was used to remove softened rust. 

Coke will clean stains off of chrome, but if it is rusted heavily pits will still be visible after cleaning. Once the bulk of the rust was off I put the smaller parts in a vibrating polisher filled with walnut media. Polishing paste was added to make it clean better. This is a setup I use for cleaning pistol and rifle brass for reloading. It brought out a nice finish on the smaller parts. Paste wax was used to protect the finish.

Chrome polish alone did not remove rust or stains very well, although I only tried the one type I had. Fine rubbing compound worked slightly better than the chrome polish.  The air cleaner backs polished up well with the process noted above but still had a brown hue to them. I used a pedestal grinder with a cloth buffing wheel and abrasive to remove the remaining stains.  

Cleaned up and ready for assembly. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Cleaning Aluminum

After soda blasting the aluminum I washed it to remove the residue. When it dried there was still baking soda coating it. I put it in the dishwasher for a heavy clean running the standard cycle with no soap. When it was finished the residue was gone but there were black streaks where the baking soda had washed out of the threaded holes. Upon researching “how to clean black streaks from aluminum” I found that truckers use “Purple Power” to clean their aluminum fuel tanks. I purchased this from my local Autozone store. They keep it behind the counter for commercial use even though it is listed on their web site. I purchased a gallon and gave it a try. It worked well, removing all of the streaking on the castings.

Next time I clean aluminum I will try soda blasting in my cabinet, although I am told this will not work well. I have also heard that walnut or plastic media blasting is a good solution for aluminum and will try them if I am not able to get the soda to function in my cabinet.  My fall back will be low pressure bead blasting or sending parts out for ultrasonic cleaning.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Soda Blasting and Cleaning

Now this is an area that I have had mixed luck with in the past. I have a hand held blaster with a top feed bin on it for aluminum oxide and glass beads. Most restorations I have seen used bead blasting to clean up the aluminum parts. The first BSA I restored was cleaned in this manner. I did not like the rough finish it left and I found it hard to keep clean. I wanted to keep the casting glaze on the aluminum so I decided to try something different. Soda blasting seemed to be the next logical step.

I put soda through my hand held unit and it worked alright, but plugged up quite a bit. The carburetors were done with this blaster. I also went through a lot of soda-blast media, which had been purchased from Harbor Freight. A friend of mine had a soda blasting unit which he loaned to me after I explained the issues I was having to him. It was a unit with no cabinet. It worked very well and I would not hesitate to use it again if I had a better place to operate it. Air pressure makes a significant difference in how well it cleans and if the work piece surface is abraded. I also found soda blasting could be used to clean up chrome. I did not do much experimentation with this, but I will in the future.

One thing I learned with soda blasting is that it kills grass and everything green it touches. I had a construction project going on in my back yard with plans to replant it so I was not too worried. With my new yard in place I no longer have a place to use this media. I will hire this out next time or try doing it in an enclosed cabinet.  Since the time I soda blasted my parts I have read about ultra-sonic cleaning. I will study this more to understand its pros & cons.  I have also purchased some walnut shell blasting media to try. Low pressure glass beading may also be a good method. More to follow.

Before and after pictures of the Monoblocs.  

The casting glaze remained if I did not set the air pressure to high. It did not clean as well as bead blasting.   

Monday, September 9, 2013

Rebuilding the Carbs

The 67 BSA Hornet came from Birmingham with Amal Monoblock carburetors on it. I was not familiar with this setup, but after studying the workshop manual they seem easy enough to understand. Taking the carburetors apart posed a problem as the slides were seized up in the bores. I soaked them with penetrating oil but could not get them loose. I finally pulled them out by using a lot of force. To clean up the bodies I cleaned them in kerosene and then soda blasted them, which worked quite well.

The bores were scored and were well worn. This was no surprise considering how rough the bike was when I started working on it. At that time I made the decision to send the bodies out for sleeves. I mailed them to Lund Machine in Snohomish, WA. Turnaround was quick and they looked very good upon their return. The bores were enlarged to clean up the surfaces and the slides were machined to accept a thin stainless steel tube. They operate very smooth with this new setup, although I have not run them on a bike.  One thing to consider when going this route is that the chokes can no longer be used. I never use chokes on my other bikes and did not consider this a problem. I am installing AMAL plugs in place of the choke cables and removing the choke slides.

All internal parts are still in production by AMAL and have been purchased for reassembly. I sent to England for these as the kits I found across the pond were more complete than the ones available in the US. Shipping was not too bad for small parts either. The last step for refinishing the carburetors is to get the screws and fittings CAD plated. I am sending them out with my other hardware hoping they will not get lost. Some of the parts are chrome plated and I will clean them up or purchase new ones as needed.

Cleaned up, new sleeves and ready to assemble. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

What do I have?

Once I was finished dissembling the Hornet I had to assess what was still good and what needed to be replaced. Some things, like the lower fork legs, were pretty obvious. Others, such as engine bearings and the gearbox would take more inspection. I was a tool and die maker in a past occupation and still have, and know how to use, precision measuring tools. I also work for a tier one automotive supplier where I manage their rapid prototyping systems. I have access to machine shop equipment, welders, and measuring tools in our shop. I am a list maker, which probably comes from my die making experience. A plan is needed for everything I do. It drives some people nuts, but it is the way I am wired. I made an initial list of sub assemblies to focus on so that I could keep the rebuild moving. I broke it down to the power unit, painted parts of the frame, wheels, chrome bits, tank and side covers, and hardware. I also noted things I could not do myself that had to be sent out. The tachometer fell into this category. It was sent to Joel Levine Co. in Atlanta, Georgia. Although it had broken glass and a wasp nest inside of it, he sent it back looking like new. I will use him again. I also sent the carburetors out to be bored and sleeved as they were in really bad shape.  Detail on the carburetors will follow in a later post. Engine bearing replacement and cylinder boring was also sent out, which will be in another post. 


And After.

Breaking it down & getting things cleaned up. 

Parts staged for rebuilding & refinishing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breaking it Down

The first restoration I did on my Firebird was done without much of a plan and knowledge. Since then I have learned a lot about the operation of British bikes and have a better idea of what I should do verses hiring out. As a starting point I looked for an original spares manual, but could not find one. I settled on a reprint for 1967. I purchased this from British Only in Garden City, Michigan. Shortly after purchasing this I found a set of BSA manuals on CD in PDF format. Awesome! I would recommend purchasing a set of “Kim the CD man’s” manuals. I bought mine from British Cycle Supply Company in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. They also have US operations. Although I buy parts from many sources I find these guys very good to work with. I have been buying parts from them for 25 plus years. Before taking anything apart, and while dissembling everything, I took a lot of pictures. Thank god for digital cameras. I am not sure how much value some of these pictures will be since the bike was so messed up, but at least I have a reference point to start with.

It didn’t take me long to figure out how much was wrong with the Hornet and what it would cost to get it back together correctly. Most of the hardware had been replaced with UNC course thread bolts or had been rounded off by using the wrong wrenches or screwdrivers. The front forks had been cut off, shortened, and welded back together. Why?  If you cut off your fork lowers and your damper rods are too long how do account for this? It looks like a great solution is to cut them off and use door springs to keep the forks from coming apart when you do a wheelie. I’m not making this up. Check out the picture below. I will ask the guy I bought this from why he made these changes when I run into him again. He also liked lug nuts. What do you do if the brake rod nut strips out? Weld a bolt on and use a lug nut to achieve the correct spacing. What is easier than replacing a stretched primary chain? Weld a lug nut to the adjusting bolt. No kidding. It actually works, but is not good for the long term life of the bike. Valve adjustments appear to be a waste of time too but that is for a later posting. You have to give the guy credit though, he kept it running well after most would have given up on it. At the time he made these modifications it had no collector value. 

Before breaking down the bike I had to clean it up. It had been run through clay which was baked on to everything. I tried power washing with minimal success. Simple green didn't touch anything and neither did engine de-greaser. I put on rubber gloves and scrubbed it down with gasoline. I ruined the gloves and the brush in the process, but it came out relatively clean. When all of the baked on clay was off I went back to simple green, it still didn't work, and engine cleaner, which did.  Components were cleaned off in a tub of kerosene, which worked quite well. Below are pictures from my tear down.

Baked on clay. Nothing but gas would touch this stuff.  

The guy must have painted cars where he stored this. It has traces of various colors.

Check out he lug-nut spacer for the brake.

UNC castle nut was threaded on the rear brake pedal pivot. 

Creative use of old nuts for clutch spacers. 

Who needs two of the same shocks when they are on opposite sides?

If you put on a bigger tire just cut and re-bend everything until it fits. 

The fork legs were cut off and welded back together. 

Creative use of screen door springs in place of damper rods. 

No ferrules? Electrical tape appears to work just fine.