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.


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.


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.


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…


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.


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,

Way down inside (the engine)

I’m gonna send me back to schooling.

Yah, yah yah.  Does anybody want to hear about the ten zillion daffodil and tulip bulbs that I’ve planted today?

How about the acres of vegetable patch that have been re-dug and planted with all things garlicy and oniony?

Thought as much.  I’ll get on with what is way down inside the barrel of Little Project in a moment.   First though (for anybody interested), there is a lady called Emma who has a fondness for Honda CT125’s and she has set up a facebook page to cover both the restoration of her own bike and as a place to go when lonely Honda CT125 owners need a pick-me-up after a hard day in the shed.     I’m sure that Emma won’t mind if you pop along and say hello and give her some encouragement.   The site is here

Back to business.  You’ll remember that I’d taken the momentous decision to forge ahead and get Little Project engine up and running.

You’ll all remember having a chuckle about that one I’m sure!

It appears that you can bash the top of a Honda piston with a hammer and chisel all day and not get anywhere.   I suppose they are designed to withstand (very small) explosions so maybe it is to be expected.    I can’t remember if I mentioned that I’d managed to get both sides of the engine covers off, but I have.   It’s fairly easy to see where the oil stopped and the exposed bits started when you look at it.

High Tide

When I’ve five minutes that should all come off without to many problems.   Now then,  This seized up solid piston.   I’ve bashed it and it doesn’t move.   At the start of the day it looked like this….

Start of barrel

You can see.  There’s a bit of a rust theme going on in there.  You can also see the small craters where I’ve been trying to bash it out.   I decided instead to attack it with my drill.     Sort of like a horror movie for mechanics set in a shed in the wilderness of Twickenham.   So I did this.

A little bit of drilling

There’s some little holes.  Can you see?   What doesn’t show up so well is the snapped off drill bit (it’s the hole shaped mark at 12 ‘o’ clock).   Rather surprisingly the only snapped drill of the day.

Then I drilled some more holes.    The holes went all around the piston so it looked a lot like this.

Can you see the plan

And then I drilled some bigger holes using the little holes as guidance!    I bet you’re admiring my logic there.  What could be easier than that.      It didn’t quite go to plan.    I forgot one crucial element.

There’s a hardened steel bin that holds the piston on to the conrod.   When I say hardened, I mean blimey!  It could well be made of krypronite as far as my drill is concerned.   So we now have a piston stuck in a barrel that looks a lot like this.

A conrod

You’ll notice that the conrod (the brown bit in the middle) is also looking a bit worse for wear.   It should be glistening and shiny (and ideally with a faint residue of oil on it rather than a rather overwhelming residue of rust and maybe a bit of dead mouse).

On a positive side (there’s always a positive side), this is the first sighting of the interior of Little Project engine in a decade.  Very probably that particular bit of engine hasn’t seen daylight this century and there’s a distinct possibility that the last time it was blinking at the unaccustomed light on it I was still at school.

All I need to do now is to work out how to remove the excess aluminum (don’t forget folks, it is pronounced All-you-mini-mum, not Alloom-ee-num) from around the outside and then the barrel is going to slide up and off the rest of the engine and I’m going to think “Oh crumbs, I didn’t realise there was that much swarf dropping into the engine”.

There’s just one last thing to mention.   I have a ninja finger, sort of.    If you cast your mind back to the tail end of August.   It was hot in the city.   The weather was steamy and it led to carelessness and sloppy work.   I decided to spend the day clearing the shed out and things didn’t go to plan.  Well, the fingernail that I shut in the cupboard door is developing nicely.   When I say it is a ninja, you need to give it a glancing look, with your eyes half shut.   If you can do that, there’s definitely the image of a ninja head growing on it.   I think it might be collectable in some dark world that is interested in shapes you get on your fingernail just after you’ve given it a bash.


I do hope that you all enjoy your week.