Ships and tar

We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

So spake Prospero in The Tempest.  He’s rattling on about a performance that he’s arranged for his daughters wedding that he’s decided to abandon part way through because he’s better things to do.    Of course, I have nothing better to do than fiddle around with Little Project but sometimes the demands of life do cause a halt in proceedings.

A bit like Prospero and the wedding, I was considering the joining together of two halves to make one.   The left side (which contains the gearbox) and the right side (containing the kick start).    They just wouldn’t go together properly so I needed a plan…

I had a plan.  When you come to build your own Little Project engine, you may borrow this plan.   You need some bits of wood.

I made an open ended frame.   Deep enough that any spindles, kick starts, gear changes etc that hang out of the engine will fix together.   Like this.

Make a frame

I know that it looks suspiciously like the remains of a dining table screwed together with a piece of 2×1, trust me, it’s a frame.

Then I placed  left side of the engine onto the frame so that it was waving all of its coggy bits in the air and carefully lowered right side on top of it.   Then I turned it all over and this happened. (note the not-pristine overall legs that have strayed into the picture).

Left Side

Everything sort of fell into place.  Oh gosh.   Who’d have thought it.   I moved the kick starter mechanism into it’s rightful place (it’s the round bit with a lump on it in the bottom of the picture) and put the left hand side back on.   Look!   This happened!


So the crankcases are wed together.   Finally.   I know it’s hard to believe but there you go.      I didn’t take it any further because there are a couple of spaces or similar that slide down those long poles that you can see and hold the barrel in position.   Mine were a bit battered so I’ve ordered some new ones for the princely sum of £1.95 each, it seems pointless to spoil the whole thing for something so tiny and cheap.   They should be here for next weekend.

I did start putting the clutch back together.    I vaguely remembered how it all went but there was one part that I knew was clutch related and I couldn’t work out where it fitted.   It looks like this.

The thing

It’s around four inches long.   I remembered it as pushing in something to make the clutch work but I just couldn’t see how it attached.   Several hours of head scratching (with horribly oily fingers, my hair is such a mess) and I still couldn’t work it out so I retired for the weekend.

Four am in the morning I awoke with a ridiculous thought.   I think that this part is from one of the CB125 engines that I tinkered with.   That means that a) I don’t need to find a place for it to go and b) One of the CB engines has a bit missing from it.

Do I care?   Do I fret and fuss?    No, I shall get on next weekend and (allowing for the inevitability of the shed being blown away by a storm) should have a complete engine by Sunday night.

If you believe that then you’ll believe anything.

Thanks for taking the time to pop by.  Come back soon.

Everything but the kitchen sink

There is a Japanese concept (or maybe a philosophy, or maybe just an interesting take on life) called Wabi-sabi.

It’s a bit difficult to describe and it doesn’t translate too well but it can very roughly be imagined as seeing (or maybe feeling) the beauty of imperfection.  The concept comes originally from the Bhudist teachings of the three marks of existence and is most closely associated with Anicca – everything is in a state of impermanence – The other two marks of existence are Dukkha (Nothing physical can bring lasting satisfaction) and Anatta (The illusion of self).

Curiously, the word “sabi” (to quote from Wikipedia) implies “beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs“.   In spoken Japanese it also means rust (the kanji characters are different but the sound is the same) so in many and different (but satisfyingly pleasing) ways I think we can say that Little Project fits perfectly in with the concept of Wabi-sabi.

Don’ t tell anybody, keep it under your hat.   I had access to the (warm) kitchen again this weekend rather than the (cold) shed.   I thought I would continue cleaning up the scuzzy bits of engine that haven’t seen daylight for many a year.    Here are (obviously darling if YOU are reading this, photo-shopped) a couple of pictures of what might have happened if I had been brave enough to try and remove 30 years of grime in what should be the cleanest and most sterile room in the house…

sink Dirty

I did a really good job of clearing up and putting everything back where it should be, I even remembered to wipe the spots of oil and roadkill off the back of the sink.   The only flaw in my plan was forgetting to put the bottle of Gunk away and so was questioned “Why is this bottle of Gunk next to the sink?”.     Failed.

It is apparent that the bearings in the crank case that hold the gearbox in place need replacing so I’ve ordered some replacements that may or may not arrive any day now.   Reading the manual on how to replace these bearings it suggests the easiest way to do it is to put the new bearings in the freezer for a few hours (to make them shrink) and to put the crankcase in the oven for 5 minutes at gas mark 7 (to make it expand).   Then the old bearings fall out and the new bearings slot in nicely.  I’m not quite sure how I’m going to explain that one.

The gearbox is covered in lumps of things.  Some of it is undoubtedly ex-conrod but I fear that other bits may have had a more organic origin.   I suspect that bits of dead mouse may have leaked into it at some stage.   The gears did look like this


But I’ve taken them all out now so they look like a metal version of a children’s puzzle.   Little Project lego, if you will.

On the positive side I took the advice of Seat and carefully prepared my workspace so that everything will be to hand when I come to rebuild the engine.    The rather untidy bench of last week has now been transformed into a pristine example of a motorcycle workshop with everything ready for re-assembly.


The piston is my favourite bit.   I can’t remember seeing such a diminutive piston before.   It’s all shiny and completely unsullied by small explosions.

Piston 2

One day I hope it will actually go up and down in a true piston fashion, rather than with me just waving it about and going “brmmm, brmmm” to let it know how it should be working.

I am fortunate enough to be able to spend the week trying to work out how all of the gears go back into the correct position.   I’ve got them all labelled with the exception of a couple of washers that just appeared from nowhere.   I wouldn’t normally worry about a couple of washers but the manual keeps reiterating “Don’t lose the thrust washers”.  It doesn’t add “that are going to fall from somewhere whilst you are not paying attention you idiot” but I think I might write to Mr Clymer to get this added in for the next edition.

There’s a man on Facebook that has a wiring loom for sale.    In an ideal world, it will be mine before the next full moon.   Wish me luck!   In the meantime, have an enjoyable week and try to think of ways that I can cook the engine without anybody noticing.   I’ve considered suggesting that it is an avant-garde baking tray but I’m not sure that will swing.

Thanks for taking the time to visit.

Ode to Ozymandias?

Percy Bysshe Shelley was by all accounts a bit of a lad.   He had a habit of developing an infatuation with somebody and running off with them.   His second wife penned “Frankenstein” after a session of telling ghost stories with a bunch of other poets whilst in Switzerland.  This here is the Little Project tribute to PBS (and that’s not the American television thingy).

I met a bike from an ancient time
who on two flat and airless wheels
Stood in a garden, decaying beyond repair
Half rusted, a battered frame of red
and seatless yet with wiring down
Tell of the builder well those bolts are fast
which yet survive hammered to the very end
The brake thing that mocked and the hand that bled
And in the shed these words appear:
“My name is Little Project, thing of things:
Look on my engine, Robby and despair!”
Nothing beside remains round the crankcase
Of that colossal wreck, rounded, rusted and seized,
The sound of engines running seems far away.

“Little Project,  thing of things” has been playing around my head all day and I’d 5 minutes before the dinner was cooked.

Sorry if I’ve made your ears bleed.

On the pull

You’d never have thought it.     I need a new tub of Swarfega.   I was under the impression (I don’t know why, I just assumed) that Swarfega lasted forever.   I just imagined that the tub would magically fill up again once empty but that does not appear to have happened.   This meant that after a most satisfying tinkering session I had no official method of cleaning my hands.     I’ve scooped up  some of the sludge from the bottom of the rust removal bath and used that instead.   It has remarkable cleansing properties but I don’t think it will be winning any awards as a moisturiser.   My hands are more Stirling Moss than Kate Moss as I type today.    It may be that my fingernails will also glow in the dark but hey! I’m clean!

This doesn’t happen very often, but in my last post I said exactly what I planned to do this weekend and that is exactly what I have done.   Right down to needing a tool that is only available in leap years when there is a full moon on the spring solstice.  I shall tell you about it…

Because I’m a bit flash with my cash I purchased not one but three 1/2 inch extensions (mostly because they were sold in sets of three, but keep that to yourself) and scurried to the shed to remove the rotor lock nut and thus (I would imagine) have an unlocked rotor and removable oil pump.

Of course the rotor turns in tune with the rest of the engine so there was no way to get any purchase on it, everything turned in time with my tugging.    I worked out that by sticking the handle of the hammer (it is rubber coated) down into the crank it locked up the engine and with a fair bit of moaning and groaning (from me, not the rotor lock nut or the hammer handle) the lock nut came loose, I stumbled backwards and planted the seat of my (not even slightly pristine) overalls in the grass collector of the (red, REL3020, mostly) lawnmower and with a somewhat surprised look the oil pump was captured and secured in a plastic bag (along with the new tool,  I’ve a feeling the 10mm fairy might have her eyes on it).

Ha.   I thought as I flipped over to the next page of the manual.   “Attempting to remove the alternator casing without using a puller will result in irrevocable engine damage” it said.

I didn’t want to point out to the manual that sawing through the conrod may also constitute irrevocable engine damage so I rummaged through the toolbox for my puller.   A puller is like a three legged spider with a threaded piece of metal in the middle.   You wrap the legs of the puller around the item that you need to pull and place the end of the threaded bit against a bit that is not going to be pulled.  Then you tighten up the threaded bit and the thing that you want to get pulled off gets pulled off.

Hells teeth.  My puller has legs too fat to fit in the gap between the alternator.

I decided to hit the crank cases with a hammer.  Just a rubber one, it’s not like it is a big and destructive hammer, I’ve just found that hitting things with a hammer occasionally makes me feel better.

The cranks started to separate.   This probably isn’t the professional way to do these things but I stuck some bits of wood in the gaps between the cranks and applied some heave-ho.  There was a clank (or two, or several) and the crank cases came apart.

The clank was bits of the gearbox falling to the shed floor.

I’ve gathered up all of the bits of gearbox and have (probably) put them back together in the correct fashion.  Whatever, there is one crankcase that now looks like this.

Gear box

The other side still had the crankshaft with the alternator attached to it.

Because I am aware that sometimes things are beyond me.   I put the crank case with the alternator jammed on to it into a plastic bag and wandered down to the local motorbike shop.   “Can you get that off there?  My puller is too fat” I said and a man whisked it away and brought it back in two pieces.   “No charge” said he, “just come back when you need to buy something”.

So CBS Whitton shall be going into the “Heroes and Villains” section of the blog (as heroes, obviously).   They don’t have a website but they are in Kneller Road, Whitton, TW2 7DX and if you need to buy anything scooter or bike related then you should visit them, even if you are in California.

So we’ve two crank cases and a crank.

 Left crank case Crank

Admittedly the crank is looking sad, but I’ve heard rumours of a man called Mike.  He mends Honda crankshafts.  I will be tracking him down and making eyes at him.  Until then I’m going to be cleaning crank cases until they are more buffed than the fireman’s calendar.

Have a good week everyone.   Next weekend in the UK is Remembrance Sunday.   Come and join my entire extended family and me at Horseguards Parade (where the beach volleyball was during the Olympics last year) at 11am (or so).  You can’t miss us, there will be about 20 of us, there won’t be a Honda CT125 in sight but one of us will have glowing fingernails, wrinkly hands and a determined look in his eyes.

Gambling is for fools

Lemmy said “If you like to gamble I tell you I’m your man.   Win some, lose some it’s all the same to me”.

I am hoping that you’ve a wide and varied taste in music and you are now searching for a download of “Ace of Spades” to have a quick head bang to and maybe a little air guitar whilst nobody but the cat is watching.    Whilst you are enjoying doing this you are going to not notice that I’m just a little bit late (or a little bit early) with this.    I have two good reasons though.

Reason number one is I have been awaiting delivery of special Honda tool part number  07716-0020100.  I have sourced one from a (possibly) dusty and forgotten warehouse in Torquay (home of Fawlty Towers if you are a fan of 1970’s BBC comedy – If you aren’t then you should buy the box set and spend a night watching it) .   I suspect that the little old man I have previously mentioned that is kept locked away in some shops and only wheeled out for obscure or obtuse requests had a field day finding my part (don’t be smutty, you know what I mean).   The postman (a great believer in the Little Project) actually knocked on the door wanting to know what part 07716-0020100 looked like and where was I with the bike.    I must take him down to the shed one day.

Anyway, the special tool has arrived and it looks like a rook.  A chess piece rook rather than the black birds that help guard the tower of London.   In fact it looks like a double ended rook.   It can only be operated with a half inch socket drive and only then if you have an extension to your socket drive so I will be paying a visit to the incredibly tawdry car boot sale that is held locally to try to pick up a cheap extension.  Then we (or at least I) can get back to work.

Reason number two is that I spent the weekend away.   Amongst the shenanigans I had my first ever trip to a horse racing event.

I don’t understand betting.  After asking for a £5 each way bet on a nag I was asked for £10.   That’s not £5!  There was another type of wager called the tote placepot (I’m certain that I was told to ask for the tote pisspot which did make the lady behind the counter look at me strangely).    You have to guess a horse that will finish in the top three in the first six races (different horse in each race, obviously the same horse isn’t going to finish in the top three in all of the races, he’d be worn out).  The prize for guessing correctly seems to be quite substantial.

There’s a horse called Sugar Boy.   If he had stuck his tongue out then I would now be writing this from a luxury yacht in the Bahama’s (probably).    He finished fourth by a nostril (or whatever the horsy term is).   Gambling’s for fools.

The quest to get Little Project up and running has gained new momentum by finding half a dozen people who are also rebuilding CT125’s at the same time.   I’m a bit envious of the chap with three CT125 engines in his garage (I briefly debated burglary until I found out he’s in Queensland) but it is great to be able to say “Do you know what this is” and get a reply.    The bit that I said “Do you know what this is” turns out to be a ballast resistor.   It, erm, resists ballast or something like that and also makes the light bulbs not blow when you rev the engine up, (not that revving the engine up is on the cards for any time soon I fear) but at least now I know what it is I can find out how to see if it works and then if it doesn’t work I can see if I can find another one from somewhere else that does work.

This weekend the target it to have the crank completely out of the engine and packed up ready to be posted to a man who can put a new conrod in it and replace the big end bearing whilst he is at it.    There are a couple of assumptions here.   I am assuming that such a man exists and I am assuming that when I turn over the next page of the manual it doesn’t say “To remove the alternator case from the crank you need special Honda tool 1234-543231 and they are only available in leap years when there is a full moon on the spring solstice”.    You’d think this not a likely scenario but by now I know better than to rule anything out.

Assuming that this weekend goes to plan, the following weekend can be spent with the electrics (again), with applying the stickers to the tank (because I still haven’t had the courage to do so) or with tidying up the shed ready for the arrival of the newly pressed crank.   What do you think?

Albert Camus got it right

Our Albert (say it the way the French would) was a philosopher who was a key contributor to rise of the Absurdism movement during the first half of the 20th Century.    He produced an essay called “The Myth of Sisyphus” discussing man’s endless and ultimately futile search for meaning in a godless world.   The last part of the essay relates the story of Sisyphus, a mythological Greek chappy condemned to endlessly push a stone up a hill and then watch it roll down again.

Can you see where we are going with this?

Camus was also quoted as saying “The only real progress lies in learning to be wrong all alone” which sort of negates the title of this post.  I’ve spent a long time alone in the shed quite happily learning to be wrong and this weekend the personal stone that I have been metaphorically pushing up the Little Project hill is not quite rolling back down.   You might imagine it as resting against my foot and as long as I don’t move everything is just going fine.

I’ve been getting jiggy with the engine again.   You may remember that I was slowly drilling holes into the piston so that I could free it from the conrod so that I could remove the barrel so that I could make the engine work again…

I got a bit fed up with drilling holes.   There’s only so much drilling that you can do before tedium hits and so I  cast around for a plan B (once again, not the singer/director but an alternative way to approach things).    I thought perhaps it might be amusing to see if the 400 or so bolts that hold the crank cases together would come out (that’s a slight exaggeration, there’s not really 400, there just seems like there are).

They laughed at my screwdriver.  You would expect them to really, they’ve been resting under three decades of mud, sheep poo and roadkill and have no desire to budge.    I may have mentioned before that I have an impact screwdriver.   This is a great tool because although it is a proper screwdriver you can whack it with a hammer and it makes things come loose.     I cleaned away a fair bit of the mud and carefully chose the correct bit for the impact driver and then started whacking it with a mallet (I’m better off using the mallet, it has a bigger contact surface than the hammer and so I am less likely to hit my thumb or any other appendage that does not need whacking).

Well, knock me down with a feather.   They all came loose.   There was one that was defiant for a while but I poured a little bit of the contents of the rust removal bath on it and left it to ponder for a while.   It came round to my way of thinking.

With all of these removed, in theory I could split the cranks.   This means that I can replace the crankshaft if I want to rather than rub some vaselene into the existing one and hope that it works.   This also meant I could get radical with the removal of the cylinder head.   This is what I did.

Off with his head

It may not be clear at first glance but that is Little Project engine, laying on its side with a hacksaw sawing through the conrod.   Flipping ‘eck, those conrods take some sawing!    Back at school we had a big machine that you could put a piece of metal an it and go away for several hours whilst the big machine sawed the piece of metal in half.     I don’t have one of those in the shed.    I do (once again) have blooded knuckles as (being left handed) every time I moved the saw forwards i punched the engine.   I really need to learn to control my hack sawing techniques.   Eventually, this happened.

Vanquished head

What you can see is the Little Project barrel, not attached to the engine and being pinned down so that it can’t escape by the mallet.

We are moving onwards and very slightly upwards.   I’d like to say the crank is parted.   There is a sneaky little Honda trick (you tinker Soichiro) that means that 399 of the screws holding the crank together are on the left side of the engine and then there is one other one on the right hand side.    Once I’d worked this out I have made a little gap all the way around the engine.

We’ve come to a premature halt though.   Just here….


Ignore the gunk and rubbish all over the clutch.  That will all clear up.   The bit in the top right corner is the oil pump.  There are three screws holding the cover on and when you take these off there is a curious lock nut (all covered in oil if you’re working on this engine that repeatedly refuses to relinquish all of the lubrication contained within).    Should you happen across this curious lock nut then take a glance at the manual (either the correct one or one that you’ve got for later engines) and you will find that you need special Honda tool part number  07716-0020100.

Should you then go to the CMS website to see if this is really true you find this (cut and pasted – all credits to CMS)

“This is how it goes, if you have this tool then removing the rotor lock nut is simple. If you do not have this tool, then removing it will be almost impossible, and can lead to damage that goes way beyond the price of this vital Honda tool!”

So we are at a bit of an impasse.   The special tool has been ordered and hopefully will arrive shortly.  Then the crusade to get this engine can continue.

Today’s post has been encouraged by a young but energetic Glenfiddich and an absolutely stunning Malbec called Lirico from Maurico Lorca.

Before I go, you may remember me mentioning Led Zeppelin about a dozen times in recent posts.   A couple of the members of “Heart” did a version of “Stairway to Heaven” recently that made Robert Plant cry (in a good way).    There is a link to it on this blog.   I’m hoping that the Vancouver Sun blog that hosts the link will allow it through.   It is really worth a listen.

Thank you for taking the time to visit.

West London rain

West London rain

“Seven lonely days
And a dozen towns ago
I reached out one night
And you were gone”

That’s Elvis (Presley, not Costello) singing “Kentucky Rain”.    In the song he’s looking for somebody who walked out on him a week or so ago.  He is hitching through Kentucky and showing a photograph to everyone he meets in the hope of finding his lost love.   Although the song is obviously about a missing lover I think it could have been improved by hinting that he was actually looking for Old Shep.  That would be a great mash-up.

I woke up this morning (don’t worry, this isn’t another blues parody about handlebars) to the sound of torrential rain.   Actually, “This morning” is stretching it a bit.    I’ve woken for the last two mornings almost before yesterday has wrapped up and gone to bed.   The benefit of this has meant I’ve been able to watch the GP qualifying and race.   The downsides are that I knew who would win and I’m tired and grumpy for the rest of the day.

So after watching Herr Vettel romp to his fifth victory in a row I glanced outside to see what the world was looking like.   It looked a lot like this.


At least the bit from the upstairs window did.   Your bit of the world may have looked slightly different – If your bit of the world looks exactly like this then I’m going to phone the police.

In the background behind the trampoline you can see Shed, home of Little Project.    If you look very closely you will see draped across the roof of Shed a bough from the pear tree (should that really be capitalised?  I just don’t know).   Pear tree, in a disgruntled moment obviously brought about by me harvesting some of its potentially tasty but still quite hard fruit has decided to exact revenge by lacerating the roof of Shed during the rainiest night in West London for many months.   Stupid pear tree.

The consequences of said desecration are many-fold.   In fact, they are many-fold in the manifold!    The rain (I’m toying with getting biblical about this rain, it could have been a tropical storm, maybe even a typhoon) has streamed, poured, maybe even gushed through the roof and all over the engine that I have been diligently whacking with a hammer all week.    The post diluvian results meaning that everything is as wet as an otters pocket and there is a slick on the floor comprising of:

  • A spillage of oil from the Little Project engine (even though it assured me it was empty)
  • About 100 million tiny bits of Al You Min Ee Um from the piston that I am (still) trying to remove
  • Roughly 40 gallons of rainwater kindly delivered via pear tree
  • Some smashed up baby pears that I stomped on in a furious revenge driven attack after discovering what the pear tree had done to Shed roof (I am regretting this addition to the slick, it didn’t really help at all).

So for the rest of today (it is roughly 13:00 in Twickenham) I am either going to:

  • Mend the roof of the shed
  • Go back to bed (although then I won’t be tired tonight and thus will have to sit up at three am watching repeats of CSI:Luton or something similar)
  • Go to the pub and hope that by the time I’ve come home everything will have miraculously fixed itself

In other words, there has been very little forward movement in the removal of the packed-up piston from the rusted barrel.      I did spend some time yesterday drilling more holes in the piston in an effort to make a gap big enough to get a hacksaw in.   Then I spend some more time hitting the barrel with a big hammer in the hope that it would just somehow fly off.    Some of the cooling fins did fly off so I suppose that a last course of action could be to just keep hitting the barrel with the hammer until it has completely disappeared.     That’s an option!   I do have one final alternative of sawing through  the conrod.    This will definitely allow the cylinder head to come off but it will also mean splitting the crank so that I can put a new conrod in and I’ve looked at the screws that are holding the crank together and they don’t look like an easy option either!

Thanks for taking the time to visit.  Please come back soon!

NB: I can’t decide if “post diluvian” should be “post diluvial” – Anyone with a decent grasp of the language, please feel free to put me right,