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.