Things I did not do in Summer

Summer has been a busy time.  There are several birthdays (mine included) and a wedding anniversary to remember.  It has been a busy time over here in general.   Below is a non-exhaustive list of things that I have not done.

  • I did not perform with the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury
  • I did not participate in the British and Irish Lions getting their first series victory in many years
  • I did not win the Wimbledon Mens Championship
  • I did not qualify for pole position in the MotoGP at Assen
  • I did not open the batting in any of the Ashes tests
  • I did not manage to get Little Project running

Admittedly, none of the above were likely but you’d have thought at least one of them may have been attainable.

I went back and read some earlier blogs.   It seems there was a time when it was too cold to work in the shed.  Shed is constructed in a similar fashion to one of those Swedish sauna rooms.   The temperature here touched 30 on many days (I know that’s probably not overly hot in some parts of the world but it is pretty impressive for Twickenham).   Shed takes this heat and amplifies it so that within a minute of going in there are rivulets of perspiration dripping from all over.    It is possibly a good weight loss system but my goodness it gets uncomfortable after a while.    This leads to either working naked or working in the garden.   I tried the former but one of the neighbours screamed so I decamped to the bit of land around the trampoline that resembles the lawn of a house in Death Valley.

There’s a tree in the garden (there are several, but this tree knows who I’m talking about).   It’s an evergreen.  Sort of christmas tree shaped.  It might be a Leylandii, then again it may not.   Whatever, it had a double split low crown (or something like that) that meant very early on in life it had decided to be two trees rather than one.   Sort of a conjoined tree.   A nice man called Tom came and lopped off one of the limbs leaving me with the perfect shady place to work on Little Project engine.   Mostly it is perfect because the floor beneath the limb that held the branches that held the leaves that leaked some acid on the grass (it’s a bit like the court of King Caractacus) is dry and bare and makes a comfortable sitting place for Twickenhams top CT125 engine repair man to sit and tinker, overalls left slightly agape to  reveal Twickenhams top pigeon chest.

All was good with my tinkering.  I fitted some new clutch plates and cleaned all of the oily sludge that had been hanging around in the engine since time immemorial.  I scrubbed off the red paint (REL3020)  that (who knows how, can’t have been me during a spraying frenzy) had somehow managed to get all over the engine and then thought that a refreshing glass of something would be appropriate before starting the re-assembly.

We all know that one refreshing glass leads to another.  A short while later I returned to the nice, clean, opened up and ready to be re-assembled engine and realised there had been a slight flaw in my plan.

The tree, whilst having been carefully but radically pruned by Tom had kept a store of sawdust in wait ready to wreak revenge on whoever authorised its dismemberment.   A maelstrom of tiny bits of wood had descended from above, not quite filling the nice, clean open to the elements engine.

I have decided to have another go at the weekend.   There will be a three hour slot when nobody but me is in the house.   The kitchen table can be covered with some plastic sheeting.   Nobody will ever know.   Surely nothing can go wrong with this plan…

I’ve just remembered the hairdryer problems.  Here’s hoping that was a one off.

I do hope that everyone made the most of Little Project day at the start of the week.   As long as their is no trace of oil in the kitchen I shall report on a rebuilt engine at the weekend.

Thank you for visiting.

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Among the garbage and the flowers

Leonard Cohen.  Perhaps not the most obvious of choices to be playing on the shed Juke Box but it works really well for assisting in the removal of grime.  The above comes from Suzanne and it occurred as I heard it that Little Project had sort of been found between the garbage and the flowers and the song is set on a river and, well, I’m not too far from a big river.   Suzanne is my favourite.  It started off as a poem and didn’t grow into a song until some time later.

I’d forgotten.   Maybe it had just been blanked from my memory.  Before you can fit a new gasket you have to remove the old ones.   I spent the morning dithering because there was something nagging at the back of my mind and I couldn’t work out what it was.  Sure that it would come back to me later I pressed on with doing the right thing.

Pressed on also describes  what happens to old gaskets and brought forward the nagging memory from the back of my brain.   Gasket Goo.   As a very young man when taking engines apart was just something we all did every day, we’d apply some potion to gaskets to make sure that they didn’t leak.   We always referred to it as Gasket Goo but that wasn’t it’s real name.   Gasket Goo does however make a formidable bond between the gasket and the bit of metal it is mated with.

You know that bit in Mary Poppins?   Just as she’s singing “a spoon full of sugar” and the Robin and she have done a duet and then she just clicks her fingers and things start to tidy up all by themselves?  Well it’s not like that getting the bits of gasket off an engine that hasn’t been opened for a while.  I tried whistling, that didn’t help.   I looked around for any passing birds in the hope that they would just come and peck off the bits of weird gaskety material glued to the metal.   No chance, so I spent what can only be described as a very relaxing couple of hours with Mr Cohen and a Stanley knife.   I’ll wager that’s not the first time the two have been mentioned in the same sentence.

Gaskets duly removed and a tin of baked beans consumed to gird my loins I set off to Halfords (again) to amuse the staff by asking if they had any gasket goo.   The old and wizened man that every shop keeps locked up just in case they have a weird question was released and he worked out that I actually needed some flange sealant.   I don’t know about you but I prefer my name for the stuff.

I thought it made sense to check that everything else was working whilst there’s no oil about.   Want to see what a Little Project clutch looks like?   I don’t care, you are going to see it anyway.

IMG_1400

I think I might change the clutch plates whilst everything is naked.   It’s no big task (famous last words – I will probably need Honda tool X123DSS or something and they are only made by hand to order in Damascus) so for the sake of another few days I shall hold off on applying the gasket goo, sorry, flange sealant.

Other than that, don’t forget that tomorrow, the last Monday in August is officially Little Project day.  Everybody please take the day off and do something that you have never done before.  Then please tell me about it in the comments section and I will have something to write about on Wednesday.   I would also like to say hello and a very big welcome to any new and recently signed up readers of the Little Project saga.   It means a lot to me that you’ve chosen to be bored by me instead of (or as well as) Piers Morgan, One Direction and Prince George.

Thanks for visiting.

The only antidote to mental suffering…

The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.

Karl Marx.   You might well have guessed that.   Anybody who can come up with the idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat whilst living it up in Berlin, Paris and London has clearly never sat in a freezing cold (or boiling hot) shed hitting a bit of metal with a large hammer – although the old Soviet flag does sort of suggest differently.

I’ve been doing the pain game again.     Some of it is fair enough.  In an attempt to tidy up the Little Project shed and make it more of a shed with Little Project in it – there is a big difference – I slammed my fingers in a cupboard door.   If you have ever been in a similar situation then you will no doubt remember gazing at your fingers with horrified glee for several days as the creeping blackness edges up your nails.   I am waiting with trepidation to see what happens when it gets to the top of the nail.

I thought I’d unscrew some things off engines instead.  A more satisfying proposition than tidying up.   Because of the numbness stretching across three fingers I couldn’t really hold the screwdriver straight so whilst trying to stabilise it I stabbed myself in the hand.

The smoke alarm was dangling from its perch on a cross member of the roof (it’s not a cross member in the sense that brings to mind an angry willy, it is a bit that holds the roof on).  I drilled a hole in it and because I was bleeding in one hand and couldn’t hold the drill properly with the other I tried to use my chest to put some weight on the drill.   This caused me to get too close to the drill bit that kindly fired a splinter of wood into my cheek.

I don’t really understand why I have a smoke alarm in the shed. It’s not like there’s anything in there that is going to be capable of combustion any time soon.

But most confusing.   Most confusing of all, I did this.

Hand

Now for all the world I don’t have a clue how I did this.   I suspect that it may involve tiny little aliens on their first visit to planet Earth practicing making crop circles and getting it wrong.  Or it may be some sort of stigmata based advertising caused by a fiendishly clever Chinese herbal remedy (to be fair, there aren’t many Chinese herbal remedy-type products pass through the door, so this is unlikely).   I just don’t know how one can get such damage on the palm of one’s hand.

I have located a new, correct, complete gasket set.   It had been delivered and is now sitting under Seat where it is nice and flat.  I can look forward to a weekend and an extra day (see below) to bodge things about and try and work out where the other two cables coming from the engine should go to.

Although Monday is a public holiday, it seems that there is nothing for it to celebrate at all other than it being the last Monday in August.   I propose that we rename it Little Project day.   Further, it should be an international public holiday that applies to every country that has visited my blog.   I believe I mentioned before that there have not been any visits from Antarctica or the ISS.   You guys will have to work on  the last Monday in August whilst the rest of us are having a party that involves bloody knuckles, oil, swarf and copious amounts of 40% proof spirits – A bit like a Friday night in Wexford.

I am inordinately pleased that you can still find time to visit the story of Little Project.   If you have nothing better to do with your time, let me know how you found me.  It will probably make a good post (unless you say “you’re my brother, thicko”).

It’s like what John Lennon said

This is more of a Wednesday post than a Sunday post.   It will be apparent why later.

Karma.

It’s a Buddhist thing. Very roughly we are talking about cause and effect.   You do this and that happens.  I think that the best way of describing it in modern language is to say “What goes around comes around”.

Karma.

Back in the depths of time (well, January 2013) David said “It’s been there for years, you can have it if you want it” and I said “Cheers mate”  and eventually a rusty Little Project showed up in the shed.   A motor bike.  I’ve mentioned several times that I grew up with them.   I’m looking forward to taking Little Project on a trip to somewhere.   I don’t really care where, just riding a bike again (even if it is only at 50mph top speed) and getting to a destination. The destination isn’t really the point.   There is a Taoist saying that says something along the lines of “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”.   I am looking forward to the single step that will start the journey.

Karma.

A few weeks ago I did a blog about what I was up to in 1983.  Mostly the blog was an antidote to the previous one that included a pretentious attempt at replicating some Edgar Alan Poe poetry that went horribly wrong.   What really surprised me was a comment from a long lost friend that said hello.  I don’t think that I had heard from this long lost friend for 30 years and it made me realise that the story of Little Project wasn’t just the tale of a little Honda that has big ideas anymore.   People actually read my little blog.   Crikey!

Karma.

Ah shut up with the existentialism Robby and get on with what you’ve been up to with on the bike for goodness sake.

You know what?  Karma!

I ordered a new gasket set.  Gaskets (for those that don’t know) make a seal between two bits of metal.   They’re like a little cushion that allows imperfections between the metal casings to glue together and keep oil inside the engine.   Many years ago my father used to make them out of cornflake packets.   Soaked in oil (and possibly boiled in oil as well), wintertime was invariably welcomed by intricate shapes cut out of cardboard and hanging from various bits of the kitchen.

I can’t make the gaskets, mostly because I don’t know what they should look like and I have no templates to follow.  I ordered a set from eBay.   I was convinced that upon their arrival I would be able to re-assemble a full engine made from several other engines and be off on my way before you could blink.   The gaskets arrived and were held at the local post office depot for me (too big to go through the letter box and too precious to bend).

A brief distraction – The postie has taken Little Project to heart.  He notices the items that are important and takes great care of them.   He too is restoring a little motor bike of his own and after a discussion with him about the challenges of finding parts I was touched beyond belief to find a little envelope pushed through the door with his list of contacts for making up hard to come by bits.

Back to the gaskets.  It’s my own fault, I ordered the wrong ones.   I was almost overcome with excitement as I unwrapped them on Saturday only to find that they just didn’t fit my bike.   There was a glum face in the shed all weekend as I looked at all of the bits ready to be assembled that just had to sit there for another week waiting for the correct parts to arrive.

On a positive note, somebody kindly explained to me what a rectifier was.   It turns AC electrics (from the generator) into DC electrics that go into the battery.   This is obviously important to the battery although I don’t really understand why.   There should be one somewhere on Little Project.   I can spend the week working out where it is and that will sort out one of the cables from the generator.   Only two more cables to work out!

Thank you for your time.  There will definitely be more gossip on Wednesday.

Send for Spock

I suppose the daydreaming had to stop somewhere.   On the positive side, I have lots more to do and my dearly beloved will be pleased as punch that I will be spending more time in the shed.    Sit down, grab yourself a drink (Hendricks for me please) and let me tell you the problem.    I know you like it when there is a Little Project problem.

First though, some very nice people.

There is a very nice man at ioconltd (that’s their name, no spaces or anything).   I did not get his name but after receiving my “confused about carbs” email he took the time out to tell me everything that I needed to know about 1970’s/80’s Honda carburettors including which one I should purchase and how I should re-jet it depending on the exhaust pipe/air box that I am using.   In the unlikely chance that you need to purchase a replacement carburettor for an old Honda and want to buy it off eBay.   He’s definitely your man.

There is also a very nice man called Nick at Molesey Metal Works who made me a special little spacer for the price of a pint.  He was a bit confused when I pointed out that a pint of mild in Smethwick Working Men’s Club is £1.64 for members but was relieved when I paid him in London beer prices.   The spacer is perfect in every way.

We all knew that “sticking in an engine” wasn’t going to be that simple.   I put the shiny engine into the frame because it was, well, clean (we shall come back to that “was” later).

First thing I noticed as I was putting the carb on was that the carb would not go on.   A review of the available parts revealed that one of the studs was heading South and one was heading North.    This was easily resolved by taking a stud from less shiny engine.

Next point of resistance was putting the exhaust pipe on.   No bloomin’ studs at all!   Worse, one of the holes had been threaded.    I took a stud off less shiny engine and then re-tapped the other hole to take a bigger bolt.   A considerably bigger bolt if we are honest.

Just to amuse myself (and to make sure everything had not seized up since last I did it) I thought I would gently turn over the engine…

There was a bit of a leak from the left side of  the crank case and what can possibly – without too much exaggeration, – be described as an eruption from the other.   Curiously (for me) the eruption came out horizontally from a previously unnoticed little grub screw.   What was definite was that shiny engine now had a liquid carbon hue to many parts.

I took a look at Little Project engine.   No grub screw there.    Took a look at the XL125 engine that is still sitting on the engine shelf.   No grub screw there either.   Less shiny engine has one though – Obviously a feature only available to CB125 owners.

I decided that I would use less shiny engine instead, but it has a broken bit on the engine cover that has the grub screw.   Not a crippling broken bit but one that you can see if you look for it.   There is only one solution.   We need the Little Project equivalent of a Vulcan Mind-Meld.

I did briefly look at the original Little Project engine again before starting the above, but it is beyond any hope.    I could only undo one screw on the engine block so I think eventually it will go to the tip.

The Little Project engine-meld is going to involve the body of less shiny engine and the exterior of shiny engine.   This means we will have sturdy insides and an attractive outside.   A bit like Jessica Ennis although probably not as fast.  This is where I have reached so far.

more engines

(Apologies about the picture quality, I had to cut and paste it from Instagram because my phone is not talking to my laptop).

What you can see is less shiny engine on the table, Shiny engine in middle background and Little Project engine in the foreground.  Little Project engine just wanted to get in on the picture, it isn’t going to be doing anything else.

The grub screw, so it appears, allows some sort of adjustment to the clutch.    When I took shiny cover off there were bits of clutch very keen to vacate the room.  I’m not sure if this is normal or not but one of the bits trying to escape was a little O ring that should instead have been keeping oil inside shiny engine.

Yo can look forward to a rant next week about how the cylinder head will not come off shiny engine.   I know this because I looked at it today and tapped it briefly with my rubber hammer  before deciding that I would be better off watching the cricket.

If I ever finally finish Little Project I am going to write a concept album about it.   There will be long thrashy guitar solo’s where I couldn’t get the bit out of the frame and a slow pulsating drum beat will portray the rubbing down of  the petrol tank.

That’s all folks.   See you in the week.

1983 and all that

Can you remember 1983?  Obviously one of the most earth shaking events of the year was Little Project being registered and used on the roads for the first time, although this seems to have been missed by most of the internet (my blog is putting that right).

In the UK (if you were of an age) were were in full “New Romantic” mode.  Amongst others, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club had hit singles and the album that most people purchased was Thriller by Michael Jackson.   Real trendsetters will have been buying their music on Compact Disc as these went on sale for the first time in March.

If you chose to take your date to the cinema, depending on how romantic you were feeling you would be sharing popcorn whilst watching Return Of The Jedi or perhaps Tootsie.  We also had both Sean Connery and Roger Moore vying to be James Bond (In Never Say Never Again and Octopussy respectively).

The world welcomed Amy Winehouse and said goodbye to David Niven.   The United States invaded the British Commonwealth by sending troops to Granada and installing cruise missiles at Greenham Common.  Mrs Thatcher secured her second term as PM with a huge majority despite only taking 42% of the vote and the country was in the grip of a frightening terrorist campaign with Irish republicans bombing London towards the end of the year.

Everybody knows (or can find out) that lot though.  The internet has opened up the world and ensured that even knowledge stored in the dustiest corners is available to all – As an aside, a colleague asked today how I would have got on with Little Project without the internet.  I really don’t think it would have been possible to locate Seat and all of those other little bits.

I was working as a shop assistant in the Jewellery quarter of Birmingham.   Trade started at 5am and by 3pm everyone had gone home for the day.   I purchased my first brand new bike – a Cagiva WSXT125 Aletta Rossa – from a dealer on Smethwick High Street – The name of the dealer escapes me but the bike doesn’t.  Here it is.

cagiva-aletta-rossa-06

My understanding is that it is currently residing in a barn in Shropshire somewhere.  Waiting for somebody to look at it and go “hmmm, that looks like an interesting little project”.

I had a girlfriend!   My first long term relationship.   I can still remember her phone number (565 0351) but I believe the house has changed hands several times since last I was there.   You have to wonder what on earth she was thinking, going out with me.   I looked a lot like this.

me in '83

Frequently described as a face perfect for radio.   I was just about at the end of an inglorious attempt to become a world famous 400 metre runner.   My PB of 50.00 was never quite good enough to make national standard so I discovered “going to the pub” instead.

We all had bikes.   As teenagers we were unrestricted as to where we could go and what we could do.   I can never remember being short of money to fill the tank but I can remember a snake of bikes touring around the Midlands and beyond.   We discovered a ruined abbey at the end of a long green lane and would spend hours there doing nothing but chattering amongst ourselves.  The downside of being a group of lads on bikes was that we lost a couple of good friends over the years but I suspect they live on in memories other than my own.

It would be good, if you’ve a couple of minutes, to share your story of 1983 (or thereabouts).  There is a comments button somewhere around, click on it and tell me what you were doing.  I would really like to know.

Thanks for visiting.

Night’s Plutonian Shore

I was pondering (weak and weary).   If there was a knock on the door and somebody said “I’ve a really knackered bike, you can have it to restore if you want” and the bike was in the same shape as Little Project, what would I say?   Glancing out of the window there was a crow who with little imagination could be seen as a Raven.

Sitting on a concrete Buddha on the decking staring yonder
Eye a glinting peering, seeking solace from the oily floor
Tho’ the bike is rusty, bent and broken – not from me a word is spoken
melted wiring, seized up bolts to make my knuckles sore
Tell me Crow should I let it through the door?
Quoth the Crow – “Nevermore“.

With a thousand apologies to Edgar Allan Poe and all who love his work.   An unsullied version of The Raven can be found here and for those unfamiliar with it, take the time to read some dark but magnificent poetry.

I examined the bag of Carburettors.  There are four (the original Little Project one has long gone to some recycling bank to be turned into cans of coke or similar) and none of them are complete.    I’m obviously going to have to purchase a new one – there’s a chap in a shed in Taiwan who knocks them out for $22 each but I don’t know which one to get.   As the cylinder heads and barrels are all the same then you’d think that it wouldn’t matter but I am unsure whether I want a CB125S one, an XL125K2 one or a CT125 one.   If somebody can just tell me then I’d be really happy.

Want to see the bike?   With an engine and things?   Okay.   Here you go.

yolo 1    yolo 2

What you can learn from the above two images is that the position of the sun on a bright day is crucial when taking pictures using your mobile phone.   Into the sun and we get the dank view from behind and with the sun behind us we get a crisp clear image.   If I was really keen I would have turned the bike round so that both images were captured from the same angle but after rolling Little Project around for a while it has become clear that there is a major issue with the front wheel.   It is not keen on rotating.  In fact it grinds like a couple of newly weds on the dance floor.

Investigation has revealed the cause but I’m not sure of the cure.    The brake plate is from HOAP.   I still have the original one from Little Project so I compared the two.   They are exactly the same.   Exactly.  Identical.   Spitting images.

Except that there’s an integral spacer that comes from the centre of the brake plate and holds the speedo gear in place (that’s the gear that makes the speedometer work, not the gear that you find in your Speedo’s).   This spacer butts against the wheel bearing and the one on the HOAP plate is 1.2mm shorter than than the original.   This means that instead of butting up against the wheel bearing, it is allowing the brake plate to rub against the hub.  I suspect that I am going to have to find a friendly machinist to make me a little padding spacer to go on top of my original one as there is no way of swapping the two over (I did try whacking the Little Project one with a hammer to see if it would come out, it doesn’t.

I do know what I’m doing with the electrics though!   It was baffling me so I made a model with bits of string from the sewing basket.   Using one colour at a time it suddenly became very apparent how everything goes together.   The green bit of string coming from the main wiring loom is the busiest as it goes to five different places and there’s a couple of other bits of string that have four different connections.   Having done this it was also easy to see which bits of string didn’t go anywhere near the main wiring loom and so (for instance) go directly from the horn button to the horn.  All I need to do now is to work out what size of electrical wire I need (my micrometer seems to have decided that it is only going to measure in imperial units so I know that the cables are 0.081 of an inch but I’m not quite sure what the metric equivalent of that is.    I’ve 16 different colours in the bit of wiring loom that I need to build so I’ve invented a new holiday – “Little Project Day” and people have to spend £2.00 on something that I need for the bike.    I’m not 100% convinced that this idea will take off but one has to try!

One final word before I am off.   Could somebody in the Birmingham area nip round to my mum’s house and put a link to the blog on the desktop of her tablet please?   Apparently it takes her ages to find it on Facebook.   You can’t miss mum, she looks like this.

mum

She is generally sober until noon so you shouldn’t have any problems with her.

Thank you for taking the time to visit.