Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Swingarm Busings

Here is an area that provided several learning opportunities (I am getting tired of saying this). It started with the removal of the old silent blocks which is detailed in my “Rebuilding the Swingarm” post. New bushings were pressed in with the only observation being that you should press on the large diameter of the bushings to get them in. I accomplished this on a small hydraulic press using a couple of large washers to provide clearance for the inner tube.

The washer mounted for clearing the center tube. 
One was put on the opposite end before moving to the second bushing. 

A small press was used to push in the bushings. 

My first learning opportunity was that new bushings should have been fit before painting the frame. The new bushings were a bit too long and removed some paint upon installation. Lesson learned. I filed a bit off of the silent block small diameter tubes which let them slide into place. The frame is too rigid to press apart for the assembly to slide in. (Lesson two learned).  The third lesson is that Cadmium plating adds enough thickness to the spindle diameter that it will not go in. I filed it on a lathe until it was a tight slip fit. It went together well and was tightened until the silent blocks flexed for swingarm movement and not slippage on the spindle shaft. New shocks were fit, completing the process.  Now it’s on to the steering head and tapered roller bearings.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Recovering the Seat

The seat was in pretty bad shape; torn, painted and the pan was cobbled together with course thread studs and braze. This was done with the seat assembled which wasn’t kind to the foam. The braze was removed from the pan and threaded inserts were turned and mounted to plates that cover the damaged metal. This was tig welded into place and the pan was painted with my other frame parts.  A picture of this fix is in my “Fixing Metal Parts” post. My seat edging, which keeps the pan from tearing the cover, was worn through so I purchased new edging from McMaster car. It is very close in dimension to the original.

New edging going on the pan. 

A cover was purchased from Northwest Classic Seat Covers, an ebay store. After it arrived I stretched it out over the foam and let it sit for a while to ease out the wrinkles, which were not too bad.  The cover is very well made and I found it fit the original foam and pan well. Directions were provided and marks on the cover indicated the location of the edge and trim holes. A tip of heating the vinyl was closely followed and key to good results. 

The simple fixture I made to wrap the seat. My best friend the hair dryer along side it. 

One thing I did not like was wrapping the seat with it upside down on the table. I did not get a sense of how well it was being pulled over the pan. I made a fixture which put the seat in its upright position. I found this to work well and like the final results. Pictures follow. 




Saturday, December 13, 2014

An LED Headlight Bulb - Take that Lucas!

This is a post which may fit better on my Norton page but the same mod will be done to the Hornet so I am putting it here. I am keeping the Hornet faithful to the original but blending a show bike build Vs a rider. Anything that is not original will be able to convert back to stock. Upgrades to the wiring, lighting and an aluminum tank are a few additional deviations being made.

During the past several years four people I know have been lost to car-motorcycle accidents. It rarely fails that I have to avoid “the car not seeing the motorcycle” every 2-3 years. The last time was when a car turned left in front of my Norton which I almost hit. The LED headlight and taillight (detailed on my Norton page) are attempts to stay alive on my bike. LED’s also have the attraction of drawing less power than standard bulbs. The draw for this bulb is reduced from 5 amps to .5 amps for the headlight and should eliminate the need for the headlight relay I have used in the past to keep power out of switches.

The first bulb I purchased was a “Show Chrome” brand H4 Halogen replacement for $52 USD. It had a hi-low beam capability that I thought was a good idea to have. I purchased it and hooked it up to my system and found I had high or low but not both. I also had to reverse the ground and power wires (due to the positive ground of my bike?). A negative ground system would work fine as I checked the bulb with a power supply and it worked properly using negative ground.  I decided to go ahead with high beam only as my intent was to become more visible to cars and draw less current. My night riding is very minimal. 


LED ready to fit into the Lucas reflector. 


I purchased an automotive receptacle and Lucas bullets so I would not have to cut up my stock wiring harness. The next hurdle was fitting the H4 bulb to the standard shell. I kicked around purchasing an H4 headlight but wanted to use the standard Lucas shell so I could convert back to stock when I take my bikes to local shows. Not wanting to cut up my $52 dollar bulb I purchased clones on ebay, with no low beam, for $10 each – from Hong Kong (this turned out to be a mistake - see the update below) I cut the H4 mounting plates to fit the standard bulb Lucas headlight reflector and made a compression spring to hold it in place.


The original H4 left, my custom cutup center, and stock Lucas on the right. 


The LED fit to the Lucas reflector. 


The LED from the front. It is visible but not too noticeable. 


My custom spring. 

The system works great and the bulb is bright white compared to the yellowish Lucas bulbs. (See the October update below ). This should make me more visible to those offensive four wheelers hell bent on taking me out.  The LED simulates an 80W bulb while the factory was 55W on bright. As noted before the amp draw dropped from 5 to .5. My Lucas wiring and switches will appreciate that. One final benefit is that LED’s don’t mind vibration. A stock headlight bulb lasts about fifteen hundred miles on my BSA. They usually don’t burn out but short the filaments which does nasty things to how the bike runs – backfiring or complete shutdown. I will put some miles on the modification and post how it goes. 


My Norton on the left with its Lucas bulb and the BSA on the right with its new LED. The LED is brighter and has a white light that should be more visable to cars. I think it will be a better night bike too although I may offend people with the lack of low beam.

June 2015 - Update:  While the $52 Show Chrome bulb has held up for 4 hours on the road so far. The Hong Kong knock offs gave up the ghost in the first hour and both fell apart; one on the Norton and one on the BSA. I ordered 2 more of the $52 bulbs. Lesson learned.  I will post an update if the Show Chrome bulb fails as well. One observation is that the LED's run as hot as traditional bulbs. After a half hour drive they are just about too hot to hold on to.


The Hong Kong bulb wasn't up to the challenge of the paint shaker BSA 
(or smoother Norton)

August 2016 Update:  The show chrome bulbs are still going strong. I have recently done significant Lucas Wiring trouble shooting which is detailed on my "1970 BSA Lightning" page. In this foray I have replaced my stock alternator with a high output Lucas unit. The impact on the lights is significant as they are much brighter than with the stock unit. Check out the page for more details. 

October 2016 Update: I learned a $52 lesson about LED bulbs this weekend as I burned the one up on my 1970 BSA. After consulting with the Electrical Engineer at work I learned LED's hit a threshold and fail, unlike incandescence bulbs that are more tolerant of voltage spikes and will keep burning brighter.  I had recently updated my charging system with a high output alternator and new Podtronics unit and went battery free. The battery acts like a resistor and absorbs voltage spikes. Without the battery the LED took a voltage spike and burned out. In line resistors may help with this although I am not sure how to proceed. I will add more information about resistors if  I figure it out. The Norton LED is still working fine after 2 seasons of use. 
Part of the learning process....a scorched LED. Resistors may be added to prevent this in the future. An update will be added following this winter's wiring modifications. 

June 2017 Update: This winter I completely rewired the BSA Lighting. Everything in the system was updated and it was switched to negative ground. I have approximately eight hours on the LED bulb and it has not yet failed.  Ideas for why the previous bulb failed are; the starting capacitor failure proceeding the LED failure damaged the bulb, or the LED bulbs don't like positive ground battery free systems. If the new setup fails I will provide an update. I have not figured out how to wire a resistor into the system although I am not sure I need one at this point.  

Electrical upgrades can be found at:  




Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chrome Plating

While working with my painter I inquired about chrome plating sources. He had tried nine and liked two of them. One he recommended was a thirty minute drive from my home so I decide to give them a try. Other local bike restoration folks used them which was a plus. Proctors Custom Chrome Plating in Muskegon Michigan was the source chosen and I am not disappointed with their work.

I took my parts to Proctors and when they found out I worked in automotive prototyping they gave me a tour of their facility. I found the process quite fascinating and their system very good. They had an assortment of parts in process. From antique bicycle, boat and car restoration parts to new furniture and chopper parts. They spanned a large array of customers.

They offered two grades of chrome, OEM spec and show chrome. Show chrome was about half again more than OEM. My Hornet is being taken back to its original form so I chose OEM finish. My budget is stretched to the point of not getting my money back if I sell the bike which is another reason I went this route. The show chrome was also wavy and heavily buffed distorting original features. I was not disappointed with the route I chose and will use OEM spec again.

Although the lesser spec is cheaper I found good reproduction parts less expensive than plating originals, even if you already have the part.  When I started I set out to use as many OEM parts as possible but this will be one area for me to ponder in the future. My previous post “fixing chrome parts” shows pre-chrome finishes and repairs made to parts. Pictures of the final results follow. 


Parts fixed and ready for plating. 


Finished fender and chain guard. 


A spot where a dent was removed. 


I requested that the stamping remain. The down side is that some tiny pits were not removed. The pits are barely visible but something to consider for future jobs. 


Ready to lace.....my next adventure. 


Small parts came out great but plating was more expensive than purchasing good reproductions. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fixing Chrome Parts

My initial attempt at prepping chrome parts was to fix the fork covers, which didn't go well as the metal was thin and warped when I welded it. I wanted to use original BSA fenders and found a front and rear on Craig’s list. The front fender was dented and the rear one had extra holes in it. I used a rubber block to hold the fenders and contoured aluminum blocks to remove the dents from the inside. This worked well. The front fender had a crack that needed welding which I did with TIG. I also filled a dent over the bracket that I could not remove and ground the contour back in with a right angle grinder. While the front fender came out good I was not able to get the holes in the rear fender filled without warping the sheet metal. When I tried to take out the warp I cracked the weld. Lesson learned. I will purchase a replacement which will make a good comparison between “Made in England” reproductions and re-chromed original BSA. 



Simple tools for removing dents. 


Parts were sanded to a 120 grit finish and blasted with aluminum oxide media. 


Removing dents from the chain guard which was an eBay find. 


The chain had damaged the rear section. Dents were removed and it was re-finished. 





Monday, August 11, 2014

Tank & Side Panels

The Hornet came with two fuel tanks. The filler neck was loose on one and it was removed, cleaned up and cad plated. The fuel tap threaded inserts were loose in the second tank and adapter pipes were epoxy cemented into the tank when it was lined by the previous owner. The taps were odd looking and probably not for a motorcycle either. The first tank, without the filler neck, looked pretty good so it was taken to Precision Motorcycle Painting to see if it was worth fixing.  Upon inspection it was determined a new tank was needed due to deterioration of the fiberglass. They preferred not to put labor into paint that would peel off as this makes unhappy customers. An aluminum tank was ordered from a source in India and will be impervious to ethanol fuels which are common here in the US. I may have the fiberglass tank painted to put on the bike at shows. Although I wanted to keep the bike in original condition I also want it to be a rider. The aluminum tank should remove a major shortcoming of the Hornet’s ability to be used as such. 


The aluminum tank looks good, unlike some of the steel tanks I have seen. With that being said there are a few issues. It had a few waves that were smoothed out, lug bolts on the bottom that were removed, and the center mount hole was 3/8 of an inch rearward of the factory tank. This should not be an issue as there is adjustment in the frame mount that gets me to the correct location. The fuel tap holes were also smaller than the originals, which mean I will need different taps. This is another area of improvement over the original Ewarts cork sealed taps that are prone to leaking in my experience.

As far as issues go there were a few with the filler neck:
  • The cap hinge hole was drilled through at an angle and one side had to be enlarged to get it to fit straight. 
  • The distance across the top was also to long by about a sixteenth of an inch which I "corrected" with an aluminum punch. 
  • The sealing surface was out of flat by about .020 which was filed to correct.
  • The filler hole diameter was too small. The metal center of the cap hit when closed and not the sealing washer. I fixed this with the addition of an o-ring behind the washer. 
  • The filler neck sits higher than the glass tank by about .25 inches.   



Studs are for later model Firebird reflector mounts. The smaller holes are for later model fuel taps as well. 


The bottom edge of the catch was moved back and the corner filed enabling the cap to shut. 


The sealing surface was blackened and filed flat. 


The "Made in England" cap came with no spring and the tank did not hold it open. 


Removing a spring from an old cap and installing it on the new one. 


An o-ring added to hold out the washer, spring fitted and hold open working although the cap will fall back and hit the tank if you go to far. 



The final result looks good although the cap sits a bit high. If you are looking for a show bike tank this is not it. If you are looking to build a rider I think this is a good way to go. I am happy with the final results. 

The side panels were in surprisingly good shape. Holes were elongated slightly and there was a small chip on one but there were no cracks. They were reinforced in the back and reused. The paint was color matched to the original tank which still had finish showing through its bottom. (It looks lighter in these pictures than it actually is) Decals were applied and clear coat was used to cover everything up. The results are great. They are on the shelf and ready to assemble this winter…..ride bikes in the summer….work on them in the winter.


Finished and ready to go.....


Back sides of the panels reinforced with a thin layer of glass. 




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Painting the Frame & Parts

Painting is an area that I elected not to tackle. The finish of a vehicle makes or breaks its value. Not only do I have limited skills in this area I am not interested in investing the time and money necessary to be successful in it. I enjoy the mechanical aspects of restoration and will stick to that. Precision Motorcycle Painting in South Bend Indiana advertises with the International Norton Owners Association which I have been a member of since 1989. I have had good luck using sources that work with my fellow Norton club members and thought I would give them a try. The work on their web page looked good too.


The Hornet was purchased from a family of very successful demolition derby car drivers. They won events all over the mid west and dominated our local fair 18 out of the 20 years in which they participated in it. The reason this is brought up is that the bike must have been in the barn where they sprayed their cars. It had a tint of many colors with gold, green and blue being the most prevalent.  I cleaned all of the oil off of the painted parts and sandblasted those that needed fixing. Most parts were still painted when taken to Precision Motorcycle Painting.  They sandblasted, primed, and then sprayed all parts with three coats of paint. Overall I am very pleased with the paint work. It looks as good as or better than new. The Hornet has matching numbers and the frame number is visible through the paint. One of the reasons I elected not to powder coat the bike was that I did not want to cover up the number as I figured this would reduce the final value of the bike. People who have gone the powder coating rout also told me it is difficult to touch up. They also said not to go the powder coating rout if you are after an authentic restoration.  Painted parts are on the shelf and ready for reassembly this fall.



Monday, June 30, 2014

Side Case Repair

I put a significant effort into repairing the dent in my primary cover. It had been broken out and welded back together. It was functional but looked very poor. I attempted to fix it and made it worse. I will document this debacle in a later post. Attempt number two was made on a slightly dented case purchased relatively cheap on ebay. The dent was about an eighth of an inch deep. I put clay in the dents and made a plaster cast of the cover. I then put the cover in the cast and used MAP gas to heat up the case. Light tapping and rubbing with a ball peen hammer removed most of the dent. The cast stopped the case from being over corrected. I was very happy with this process, especially after the poor result fixing the original case. I would not hesitate to use this process again. 
Tools for repairing the primary cover. Plater cast, ball peen hammer,
and a map gas torch. 

Dent smoothed and ready to sand out. 


Monday, May 5, 2014

Rebuilding the Primary

I have rebuilt several primary units in the past making this one pretty straight forward. One issue encountered has been torquing down the spindle nuts without spinning the rear wheel. To head this off the cylinder was left off and a steel rod was put through the connecting rod small end bearings to keep the engine from turning over. This also worked well for the transmission & timing gear assembly.  

The primary was shot on this bike. One of the inspection plugs was left out and covered, somewhat, with tape. The primary had a lot of dirt in it as a result. A used primary was purchased from the same seller on ebay that sold the transmission to me. I installed new seals, rubber buffers, and fiber plates in the clutch. An old BSA dealer told me that Emgo plates do not stick as bad as Barnette plates, which I have had issues with. Since I will not ride this bike hard I went with the Emgo plates.  The steel plates checked out flat on a surface plate and are being reused. While I had it apart I also filed the burrs off of the clutch basket. They were not very big but cleaning them up should facilitate smooth clutch plate movement. Once the pulleys were fit I checked sprocket alignment with a depth guage.


 The primary chain had also run out of adjustment. To make up for this a previous owner had welded a lug nut under the adjuster, which can be seen the photo above. The down side to this is that the chain had slapped against the case and worn groves into it. They look bad but no significant damage had been done.


Primary assembled except for the clutch springs and pressure plate. 


An Emgo fiber plate with a factory steel plate. 


The ET ignition system is going away on this hornet. While putting on the rotor I found it was mounted to a plate with location holes in it. It seems this is an adjustment for ignition advance with the ET system. I turned the spacer plate around which put the pin to the inside of the bike and then located the rotor with the key. I also put a stator from a 1970 thunderbolt on the bike. I am not sure if the ET stator would have worked with standard coils. The stator wires were cracked which was rectified this with “liquid tape”, a pointer from a friend in Idaho. Thanks!


Monday, April 28, 2014

Cadmium Plating Follow up

One issue I have been dealing with is tight threads. All of the plated screws and nuts go together very hard or will not go together at all. Taps and dies have been purchased for all the threads I have encountered on the bike; BSW, BSF, BSC and a number of odd ball threads such as 13/16 -20 & 9/16-20. These taps and dies have mostly been found on ebay. I have gotten into the habit of running a tap and die into every nut and on each bolt before putting things together. This takes off the new cad plating but leaves the original cad film in most cases. Threads work great. I have been holding all bolts and studs in a lathe and then hand tapping them while nuts go in a small aluminum jawed machinist vice.



My “plan B” for parts that missed the plating process was to paint them with a finish similar to cad. A “high temperature ceramic aluminum header paint” was found at my local “Autozone” that fits the bill. While I would much rather have cad this will work for now. When I send parts out for my next restoration they will go too if the paint does not hold up.