Be still my beating heart

Four weeks.  That’s how long it took.   When Jim, Selena and Mark were on the run in 28 Days Later, all they had to deal with was a few zombies.    Danny Boyle would have been far better served getting his film crew down to the shed and filming the many attempts of me trying to get the flywheel off the stator.    Whoever invented assembly oil and then made it get spilled onto bits of Little Project has a lot to answer for.

I whiled away the time between my frenzied pulling sessions (I mean that in the nicest possible way) by trying to clear up the rest of the oil slick.    As I may have mentioned, assembly oil is incredibly sticky and oily.   I tried spraying the workbench with gunk and leaving it to soak in for a day or two, it didn’t help much.   I ended up painting the bench (it is made of marine ply and before I started has about 100 coats of lacquer on it) with some of the sludge from the bottom of the rust removal bath.    This took off most of the oil and several coats of varnish as well.   If only I could remember the exact constitution of the rust removal bath it would be more popular than medicinal compound (if you aren’t the same age as me, or live outside the UK, you will have to google “Scaffold Lilly The Pink”,  My, you are in for a treat).

I am probably the only motorcycle restorer in the world to get splinters whilst building an engine.

I’ve built an engine!   Would you like to see it?   I shouldn’t ask rhetorical questions, if you are reading then you’re going to see it whether you like it or not.

I made this

I think it only right and proper to point out that this is pretty much the same engine on the outside as the grubby little thing in the first ever picture of Little Project.  The only part that you can see that has come from elsewhere is the barrel.    The old barrel is now (possibly) on its way to “Ripley’s believe it or not”  (tickets £14.00) in Leicester Square.   Following that it will be (probably) touring the mid West of the United States with Mr Dark  and his sinister carnival.

So I’ve assembled the engine.   I have set the timing and checked it twice, I’ve set the gap on the points.   I’ve checked the valve clearances and I’ve made sure that everything (very gently) turns just as it should do.   I’ve also put it back in the frame.

back in the frame

Which makes me very nervous because there isn’t a lot left to do now before I try to start it.

What is left to do is to make sure that the clutch is clutching before I put some oil in.   Work out where the little cable that comes from the coil goes to, work out where the little cable that comes from the points goes to.   Put the exhaust on, put some oil in, attach the kick starter and gear change and then hopefully the shed will be filled with the roaring noise of Little Project working.   I plan to jump on the kick start on Easter Sunday.   There’s a nice little feeling of resurrection about it.

The only thing that I can think of that will stop me is the electrics (of course).   I need to work out how I can be sure that the engine is switched on as there are no lights or anything connected to it yet.   Still, a quick read of the multimeter manual might shed some light on how I can test this.

Wish me luck.   The next post will either be of a grown man in tears or a small video of a smoky motor.

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.

HOAP springs eternal

There is a pub about ten minutes away from here called Pope’s Grotto.   Named after the slightly famous garden and tunnel built by Alexander Pope in the 1720’s.   I secretly harboured a wish that it referred to nefarious behaviour by a long gone Pontiff but you can’t have everything.    It was Alexander Pope who came up with “Hope springs eternal”, to quote him fully it is “Hope springs eternal in the human breast;Man never Is, but always To be blest:The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,Rests and expatiates in a life to come“.

The observant amongst you will have noted the mis-spelling of HOAP in the title.   Even the unobservant can’t have missed that is all capitalised.   More on that later…

As Little Project is now stripped to the bare essentials, I should be considering the condition of the paint work on the frame and swing arm.  I did mess around with spraying an unseen bit of swing arm (I believe that Honda decided that the colour should be “Electric Orange” or some such similar), but it is still too cold in the shed to contemplate any serious paint work.   Also, I’m rubbish at spraying things so I need to read “A Dummy’s guide to painting your motorbike” before committing too much expense and time into this.  The colour match isn’t too bad though, the unseen bit of the swing arm looks like this…


It may be a bit too electric orange.  Regardless, I shall wait for warmer weather before moving on with paint.  I decided instead to take a look at Little Project’s engine.

This is yet another “old lady who swallowed a spider” type problem.   To remove the barrel I have to remove the head and to remove the head I have to disconnect the cam chain and to disconnect the cam chain I have to remove the cam sprocket and to remove the cam sprocket I have to undo to the two screws and to undo the two screws I have to remove the base that holds the points on and to do this I have to remove the points and to remove the points I have to remove the points cover.

When it comes to the clutch I will hold a lottery on which bit is rusted, rounded or sheared.  At least then I may be able to claw some cash back to help pay for the repairs.   I got stuck at “Remove the base that holds the points on”.  The lower screw was seized solid.  After three months of thinking to myself “How the bloody hell will I get that out” I am now a bit blasé (off subject, I couldn’t find the bit of my keyboard that copes with accents so I had to cut and paste blasé from Wikipedia.  Twice) about these things so out came the ultrasonic plutonium tipped drills, in went the double-triple-quadruple hardened stud extractor and kaboom! The stud extractor snapped in half, inside the head, which I have to remove to remove the da de da de da de da.

“Oh flip” I cried (The neighbours children were in the garden).  Not even diamond tipped hacksaw could compete with the stud extractor.   The only solution was to saw through the casing and fetch the base off with a big hammer.   Add a “base that holds the points on” to the list of things that need to be purchased.

The head came off sweetly after this although I was confused briefly by some of the residue on the valves.  The confusion was quickly eradicated by a glance into the barrel.   I’ve mentioned before that these bits should be shiny and clean.  They should also possibly be coated by a fine layer of oil to keep things moving smoothly.  In the barrel of Little Project was the remains of a mouse  (the furry type, not the computer type).  Truly.   Very decomposed but definitely mus musculus or one of his very close relatives.    There was a lot of other stuff as well.   After removing Mickey the inside of the barrel look like this.

A Barrel of laughs

A Barrel of laughs

This barrel is not coming off.   There has been some chemical transition involving oil, petrol, water and mouse juice that means the piston is welded solidly to the barrel.   The barrel moves up and down as far as the con-rod will let it and that is it.  Buggeration, as we say where I come from.

This is where HOAP comes in.   I know I need a new engine.   Ebay has one for sale.  £200 for a seized one with no guarantee it will work.

There’s a question that I would like to ask of you.   How many pages forward do you go in a google search before giving up?  I was up to page 6 before I found HOAP.   Dave in Gateshead (5 hours from me) has a little project of his own that he has had enough of.  It’s not a 1983 Honda CT125, it is a 1975 Honda XL125 including just about every bit of the bike and three, yes! Three! Engines.   Dave didn’t want to sell off one of the engines, he wants “the whole bloody lot off my hands”, so after some careful negotiations and a bit of give and take I’ve bought the whole lot.

This means that Honda On A Pallet (HOAP, right?) is being delivered sometime next week.   It also means that I’ve two bikes to put together now.   From Dave’s (somewhat sketchy) description, HOAP “is all there, may need a couple of bits but most of it is good and it has been looked after” so in my slightly bemused state I expect to stick HOAP together in a morning and use the rest of the bits to make Little Project a road legal wonder. There is a small chance that the next post may bring news of another little project being undertaken by somebody else.  In the meantime, thank you for your attention.