Something is coming…

I have spent the last two years shopping for bits for Little Project.   I finally found one of the bits I need in Holland last week.    There’s life in the old girl yet.

I’ll keep you updated (probably in 2018, judging by recent experience).

The anniversary blog

Well, who would have thought it.   here we are, a year on and there is still no sign of internal combustion.

I must apologise to those who have been waiting with bated breath for a Little Project update.  I am very aware that posts have been thin and far between for the last month or so.    Shall I tell you why?

You will remember.  I have pretty much all that I need to get things running.  I am waiting for some news on bits of wiring loom and the like form up north (mentioning no names Emma) but I have all these shiny bits of engine itching to go together.   The problem is that they don’t fit together.

There’s obviously a discrepancy there.   I know that they all fit together somehow.   They just don’t seem to fit together in the way they came apart.   A very nice man called Brett provided me with a pdf of the workshop manual for a CT125 and I have the Clymer manual as well.  Between them you’d think a capable chap like me would be able to figure out how to get a few bits of metal back into a crank case and then fasten it all together.   Not a bit of it.

Clymer says assemble everything in the left hand crankcase.   The workshop manual says assemble everything in the right hand crankcase.   What’s a boy to do?     I went with Clymer (mostly because the gearbox is already assembled in the left hand side.  Everything fits peachily until we get to put the kickstart mechanism in (you may have heard this before).   In it goes and then one needs several pairs of hands to try and hold it in place whilst the cranks go together.

After around a dozen times (at least I’m not getting bloody knuckles doing this) I finally managed to get everything together and put in some of the bolts that keep everything snug.    I can go up and down through the gear changes with no problem but when I turn the crank there’s a metallic clunking noise and I’m pretty sure that there should be no such noise.   It is incredibly frustrating because I think that I’m really close to having everything reassembled but until I can crack this bit, I’m going nowhere.

Regardless.   Everybody sing Happy Birthday to Little Project.   It was 12 months ago to the day that I knocked on the door of David and he said “Take the bloody thing away”.   Things have moved on considerably since then and I am determined that one day we shall be back on the road.   I probably just need a bigger hammer.

Thank you for taking the time to visit.   All being well, the next post is going to be the Honda CT125 equivalent of the Michelin calendar.   I bet you can’t wait!

The glistening gearbox

Other than the obvious religious festival and the giving and receiving of gifts, Christmas is traditionally a time of feasting and as we all know, a good feast relies on lots of cooking.

After leaving the bearings in the fridge overnight to marinade in coldness I waited patiently until the coast was clear and whacked up the heat on the oven.   5 minutes later and with barely a sniff of Castrol permeating the kitchen and the old bearings were out and replaced by new ones.   As it is panto season I had a bit of an Aladdin moment thinking about new bits for old and then another more scary moment as I heard footsteps coming down the stairs.   “She’s behind you!” I thought but oh no she wasn’t.   It was the cat coming to see if there was any potential protein coming her way as the oven was being used at an unusual time.

I had very carefully dissembled the gearbox prior to the oven adventure.    Everything was lined up in the correct sequence, cleaned, placed in the correct place on the clean side of the sink (obviously I mean workbench there, sink is just what I call it sometimes) ready for being rebuilt.

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The way the gearbox works is there’s a big barrel with wiggly grooves in it (you may note that I am being very technical here).   There are three forks, the handles of which nestle in the wiggly grooves and the prongs nestle between the cogs of the gearbox.   When you change gear, the big barrel rotates slightly and the wiggly grooves make the forks lift or drop (depending on whether we are on an up wiggle or a down wiggle) and so the forks make different gears engage together.

I made two mistakes.

As I was carefully laying out the cleaned parts I was not quite so careful about which way round they went.   This wasn’t so bad with the cogs because it was sort of obvious (and I had a picture) but the forks are asymmetrical and I had no idea what way round they went.    I spent a jolly three hours trying them in all combinations possible until I was happy that they were correct and then carefully put everything back in the crankcase – Fellow rebuilders, do not do what the maual says and try to put it all in as a job lot.  It is impossible.   Start with the shafts and then build them up slowly from there.   It’s a bit like tetris but backwards.

This was my second mistake.   After reassembling it all and standing back to admire my clean, mouse-free, working gearbox I noticed the little white bag that contains the new oil seal for it so everything had to come out again to replace it.

In an ideal world we should be joining the cranks together this weekend.   If that happens it means that I actually managed to get my Christmas shopping completed.   Yeah, right.

Like a rolling stone

The (non beating) heart of Little Project has gone away to be treated by Dave at D & M Engineering in Newark to be tinkered with.   I have to say that Dave has been incredibly helpful and communicative on what was needed and might also need doing so as well as sending them the crank I also posted the cylinder head and the barrel.  We are going to have…

  • A crank rebuild with a new conrod and bearings plus the crank will be sand blasted to get rid of all of the bits of rust (and bits of hacksawed conrod that had fallen into it).
  • A rebore of the barrel to 1.25 o/s with shiny new pistons and rings to match.
  • New inlet and exhaust valves and a new exhaust valve guide.
  • The valve seats are going to be  re-cut.
  • The cylinder head and barrel are then going to blasted such that they look like new.

As I said, the chaps at D & M have been incredibly helpful so far and if you do need some work doing on the nether regions of your engine I can’t recommend them highly enough.   They specialise in classic racing Honda motorcycles, so it may be that the Little Project engines come back ready to break the 50mph barrier.

Whilst the bits are away I decided to concentrate on cleaning up the rest of the engine.   There’s a bit that covers the top of the cylinder head, let’s call it the cylinder head cover for convenience.    Even allowing for the bike having been sitting outside for a decade it was in a bad state.     It has its own little community of life-forms living on it.    There was almost a miniature lawn growing on one part of it.   It looked like this.

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I know that it doesn’t look it in that photograph, but this bit of metal has lots of nooks and crannies in it.   You would never describe it as being easy to clean.   You know that stuff that people (women mostly, I think) put on their face to make the cheeks look less/more rosy?  I think it’s called foundation.    Now imagine trying to put an even layer of that stuff on Keith Richards face.

Have you imagined?   Getting into the dells and valleys of the cylinder head cover is far more difficult than that.    You’ll remember the cleaning process for al-you-min-ium parts, (I can’t put them in the rust removal tank as it has started bubbling a bit and I think it might eat them), the process is 240 wet and dry followed by 600 wet and dry followed by a severe thrashing with wire wool bathed in Solvol Autosol and finished with a gentle buffing with fresh baby seal skin (or a cherished tee shirt if the skin is not readily to hand).

My fingers are far too manly (that’s another way of describing them as plump) to access some of the deep little curves that I’ve found.    I suggested to several other (smaller) members of the family what fun it would be to spend the day cleaning bits of a 30 year old farm bike but there didn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for this, I can only assume there was no interest because it is a bit cold as what could be more fun than sitting in a freezing shed dipping your hand into cold water and then getting bloodied knuckles when you bash them against a sticky uppy bit.

Never daunted I fashioned a crude “rubbing stick” out of bits of doweling and set about some polishing.   It took quite a bit of polishing and I don’t think I’m going to get it any better than this.

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Buoyed with success I bounded up to the house to show how exciting it can be polishing stuff.   Sadly everyone had gone out so this is the first chance for anyone to say “Goodness, that’s shiny”.

Everyone had gone out.   It dawned on me.   I didn’t need to be cold to do the next bit!    I’d two hours before the house refilled.   If anybody asks you if you know why there are oily fingerprints on the kitchen door and there seems to be splashes of all sorts of muck around the sink, don’t mention this picture.

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There is still a fair amount to do on this one, but in the brief time I had in the warm it now looks like this…

polished

I know that’s a bit soft focus and carefully lit (I had to pose it such that you can’t see the unclean bits) but even so!   Even if the engine never runs again it is going to be gorgeously clean.

I’m hoping that some time next week the crank comes back.   If it doesn’t then I’ve a clutch to play with.   It is very manky and the postman has been put on alert for a delivery of clutch plates and springs.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I do hope you have an enjoyable week.   I’m off to have a large glass of gin.

The gears of war

I have been channeling Abe Lincoln this week and I really wanted to find a quote from him discussing the gearbox of a Honda CT125.  Alas, Lincoln died 30 years or so before the first recognised gearbox  was introduced (by a couple of intrepid Frenchmen in 1894) so he probably didn’t spend much time chuntering on about the benefits of synchromesh and whether paddle flaps were better than push buttons.

He did come up with some smart words though.  His opposition to slavery in the United States probably took 100 years to kick in properly and I didn’t realise until quite recently that a fair few of the lyrics of Bob Marley come directly from Lincoln – Google “You can fool some people sometime but you can’t fool all the people all the time” and see who comes out on top.

None of this helps me with this weeks Little Project challenge though.   I put the engine back into the frame.  I worked out where all the little bits went to make the exhaust pipe be an exhaust pipe and put the exhaust pipe on.   Amazingly, when the screws in the cylinder head were tightened the exhaust didn’t rattle at all and actually looked like it belonged there.

Flushed with success I thought I would put the carb on.   That would be about the last of the engine components to go on.   There was a bit of an issue with one of the little bolts that hold the carb on so I put it in the “gets rust off anything” bath (the bath now has WD40, vinegar and the ghastly green hammerite rust remover gel from an earlier post in it) for a week or so to see what happens to it.

Not to be daunted I decided to return to the electrics.   I had this little idea that the blog could feature a picture of the speedo with the neutral light brightly gleaming.   That would show that I had done something with the wires and it also indicates that the blog is sort of in charge of Little Project.

So, wires were joined and things were soldered (honest!) and the battery connected and there was no light.   Then I thought “I know, I’ll turn the ignition on”.   So I turned on the ignition and – no light.

I baffled for a minute then I checked the bulb.   Obviously it was blown, but there are four bulbs in the speedo  so I thought there might be one that was good.

It then occurred to me that for the neutral light to come on, the bike has to be in neutral.    I gave a spin of the drive sprocket and it span curiously freely.   I thought “I’ll just put it in gear to check that” and guess what.  Blooming thing won’t go into gear.   Changing gear is not an option.   I can’t believe I didn’t spot this when I had the engine on the table!    I think at that stage despondency set in.

I grabbed one of the other engines and checked and that has a gearbox that works just fine.   This engine has a threaded hole where the carb connects to it though so I am definitely going to whip the cylinder head and barrel off the engine with a gash gearbox and put it on the one with a good gearbox and a hokey head.

Now you all know how next weekend is going to pan out.

Thanks for visiting

Are Friends Electric?

Welcome back.

Since publishing a picture showing that Little Project can stand up on its own two wheels and is beginning to resemble a motorcycle (albeit the sort that children scoot around on at the moment), I’ve been asked the same question several times.

It’s not unusual for all of the questions about the bike to be exactly the same.   The first repeater (so to speak) was “What on earth are you doing that for?” and then there was several weeks of “Any news on Seat?” – It was quite touching how people took the journey of Seat to heart.

The question on the lips of the locals is…

What are you going to do with it when it is finished?

I don’t have an answer.    Frankly, I can’t ever see it being finished but let us just imagine for a moment that it all works and passes an MOT and sits glinting in the sunlight.   The first trip will be down to see David, where Little Project used to live.   If only to get a photograph of the bike in the same position as the first photo that I took back in January.  After that though?   I was thinking that there are only two options.   Keep it or sell it.  There may be a third though.   There may be somebody who has a bigger bike that needs some love and who wants to swap for a pre-loved bike.  I just don’t know.

I have been studying the electrics again.   Mostly by hiding behind Seat and peeping through a crack in my fingers.  I have the main wiring loom.    I understand where all of the bits of this go.   I’ve found the little bits that connect to the battery (they were connected to the battery!), Where I am stuck is up by the handlebars…

The main wiring loom ends in an block with eight holes in it, there’s also another four or so wires nestling close by.   I have the mate to the eight block thingy.   This has been tidily sheared after about 12 inches.   Bear in mind there are eight wires in it.

On and around the handlebars there is (or will be) the switch with indicators/main beam/dipped beam/horn.   This has roughly ten wires.   There’s another switch that is potentially lights on/off.  This has six wires.   There’s the speedo, with four lights in it.  That’s another eight wires.    All of these have been cut.   Then we have the front brake light (two wires) the headlight (three or four wires, can’t remember) the horn (two wires) and an alleged kill switch (can’t find it but I think it should be around somewhere) another two wires.  Oh, and there’s two indicators as well.   That’s another four wires.

That’s 40 bits of cable.   Going into 8 bits of cable.   I can sort of see that the button that makes the horn go BEEP will possibly have a cable going to the horn so that sort of rules out two wires, and various other cables that are associated with the lights on the front of the bike will go to their associated lights, but blimey!   All I can think is that there was a big rats nest of connections joining all of the bits that have been cut together.  I can’t quite visualise it but I’ve vague memories of Honda’s past with a vast amount of cable stuffed into the headlight casing.

I spent an amusing few hours writing down what colour cable performed what function from each of the cut bits.   Then I looked more closely at the wiring diagram.   If you want to try and translate it for me then there is a copy on page 108 of this manual.

Actually, the wiring diagram on that manual is different to the one that I have been working on and a lot easier to follow.   I still don’t understand it though.

I’ve thrown my hands in the air and have asked for professional help.    In fact I am begging for professional help.

I shall keep you updated.

No adverts here.

No adverts here.

The 10 mill spanner fairy has paid me a visit.   Both the spanner and the socket equivalent seem to have gone walkabout.   They were definitely there when I closed the shed door so they can’t have got far.  I’ve called in the sniffer cat to search them out.   Hopefully they will be back by the weekend.

Discussing Little Project and the blog with my brother (he is part of a very fine a capella folk group called Rapsquillion, just this once you can go and read their blog and buy the stunning Geriatrica album).    We got to talking about the stats that come from our respective blogs.  Obviously such a famous band get far more hits  than I, but then there’s seven of them and only one of me and they have something tangible to promote.   I have a little red motorcycle.  The stats are interesting though.

By the time I press “Publish” on this post I will be very close to 2000 views.   That is averaging 50 views per page.   Can there really be that many people who want to read about Little Project or is it just my mum making me feel good?

There have been visitors from 33 different countries.  I’m a bit disappointed to have not yet been visited by anybody on the continent of Antarctica so if you should be happening to visit Halley research station or similar in the next few weeks then can just pop onto the blog and say hello please?   It would also be entertaining to receive a visit from the International Space Station, but you can’t have everything.

The most common search term – believe it or not – relates to how much fork oil goes into a CT125 fork.   I must remember to put that onto the useful things page when I get five minutes, the search term that amused me most was “Honda Lies”.   How that lead to the story of Little Project I don’t know.  Out of interest I tried it myself.   I reached page 15 in google before giving up.

I have been trying to sort out the paperwork for the bike.   It is taking some time and following a letter from DVLA I had to speak to David, the kind and generous provider of the bike.  His wife answered the phone and after explaining who I was she called out “It’s Rob who had that bike.  Tell him we’re not having it back!”.