OldMiniBikes Shop Notes

Begining in 1905, Popular Mechanics had a yearly publication called “Shop Notes”. It was a compilation of quick little one paragraph or one page mechanical tips, or tricks or “kinks” as they were once called. These books are very entertaining to read and even 100+ years later a lot of the information can still be applied to everyday mechanical problems.

Thought it would be fun to collect all the little Mini-Bike related "tricks of the trade" our members come up with and put them into one thread.

Try to limit them to quick tips…if it’s a lengthy tutorial start a new thread for it....pics are always nice.!! :thumbsup:
Needing to cut down the axle in my trike, but not wanting the job of taking it all apart….I used a ¾” shaft split collar and locked it in place . This acted as a guide for the hacksaw blade and allowed for a perfectly straight cut…..(you could actually use two collars seperated by the width of the blade)…
I finished dressing the end with a smooth file.

I like to keep a small tool kit on one of our bikes when we venture out…just the essentials: screwdriver, small pliers, spare plug, plug wrench. The problem is some bikes have no clearance above the plug for a socket and wratchet…sometimes you darn near need a box wrench to get them out.
We solved this by using one of the inexpensive plug wrenches sold in the OldMiniBikes…we cut the wrench in half which gives us a “shorty” socket for each size plug…then re-drilled the cross holes to accept the turning rod.

Surpprisingly, a lot of the old bike hardware which looks ugly, has a cadium or zinc plating on them which will easily shine up like chrome if you have a buffing wheel and some rouge...I buffed up 1/2 of this cap screw in less than 5 sec. just to show the difference. I then usually wipe with lacquer thinner or acetone and shoot a light coat of high gloss clear over it to keep it from oxidizing...

....And speaking of buffing, I have stood in front of a lot of machinery over the years that command respect if you want to keep your eyes, fingers, arms, legs…..but the buffing wheel is one that really keeps my hair standing on edge.
Innocent enough looking I have had some of my closest calls with this evil bastard….That 3700 rpm motor whips that rag wheel around and it only takes a micro second to pull the piece out of your hand and send it ricocheting off the walls, ceiling, floor….. maybe your head! Anybody who has ever done this knows what I’m talking about.

Rule number one (besides safety glasses)..is NO GLOVES . A nearby cooling bath is almost a must just because of the heat generated on some pieces. Try to never give it an edge to grab hold of….if it’s small parts like the heads of rivets or tiny screws I like to take a scrap of wood and drop the part into a snug drilled hole so only the head is exposed….nuts I jam together on a piece of threaded rod…be careful trying to hold anything with a vice grip unless you can really grab hold of it where it can’t spin out.
Here’s some CAT cable clips I wanted to polish…hard piece to hold so I clipped them over an appropriately sized piece of tubing to give myself a handle..Again, hold the part against the wheel so you don’t give it an edge to grab….

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To find the diameter of a number screw (4-40, 8-32, 10-32 etc.) multiply the number by 13 and add 60.


# 8 screw = 8 x 13 + 60 = .164
#10 screw = 10 x 13 + 60 = .190
..ever flip out and start throwing tools across the shop because you installed a cable clip and it scratced your brand spankin new paint job ??!!:censure:

Now I take one of those plastic tabs that are used for labeling folding files...cut it in two strips and keep it inside the clip as I pop it on....the strips are slick enough to pull out after it's in position...

..ever flip out and start throwing tools across the shop because you installed a cable clip and it scratced your brand spankin new paint job ??!!:censure:

Now I take one of those plastic tabs that are used for labeling folding files...cut it in two strips and keep it inside the clip as I pop it on....the strips are slick enough to pull out after it's in position...

Thanks Gerry! :thumbsup: I needed that one.
Over the years I ended up with about 100 cans of spray paint :doah:
I have about 8 or 10 shades of silver alone....it pays to take a minute and mask off a piece of scrap sheetmetal and spray a strip lof each color...on the end mark the mfg, name, paint code, etc...in case you run out. This makes it a lot easier when you're trying to match a color or see if you'll like it on a wheel, bracket, etc....just hold the "chart" up to it....:thumbsup:

I found this one over on the HAMB and thought it was really clever.....

...... My son needed to drill a hole in his motorcycle faring to mount a crash peg, but couldn't see the bolt hole because it was under the faring. He bought a cheapo laser pointer at the 99 cent store. He mounted it to a stand pointing at the bolt hole with the faring off. Then he mounted the faring without moving the bike or laser stand and the red dot pointed the exact spot to drill. Nailed it first time.
Installing the Engine Without Scratching the Paint

Lay the engine down on the recoil, prop level with wood blocks, use felt or blanket under engine to prevent scratching the engine. I suppose on some minis you might need the clutch side facing down.

Now ease the painted frame down over the engine. After slipping in the bolts, aligning the sprockets, and tightening everything up, stand the bike up.

Gleaned this from Arlen Ness (the bike builder) on the 'tube, as he laughed at the way OCC lifts the engine into the frame, scratching both paint and engine.
I found an easy way to remove the white oxidation and small scratches from plastic gas tanks based on some other member's inputs.

First, lightly sand with meduim 3M pad. It will gouge, so care must be taken not to apply any more pressure than is needed.

Once the area has been sanded to a uniform depth, wet sand with 400, 600, then 800 grit paper. I use a bit of dish soap and plenty of water to keep the particles from causing scratches.

Mothers and other vendors sell headlight restoration kits. The polish and "power ball" will work to bring the tank back to a high gloss, and remove the sanding scratches. I used it at 1500 RPM in a drill press. Keep the work moving, so as to not burn/melt any plastic. The result will be a high gloss, black tank. *This may not work so well on textured ABS.

Setting Your Lathe Cutting Bit on Center ...

This is a trick one of the old timers taught me for quickly getting your tool bit on center. It is especially helpful if you have work mounted between centers or the tailstock in play....

Take a strip of metal (I use my Starrett 6" scale) and pinch it up against the workpiece by gently bringing the tool point up against it...

Look straight down from above on the strip of metal...

If the tool bit is set too high...even slightly....the strip of metal will tilt inwards noticeably at the top..

If the tool bit is set too low...the strip of metal will tilt outwards noticeably at the top..

Adjust accordingly...when it's on center the rule will stand perfectly perpindicular to the bed....

For most machining jobs you will want to be exactly on center or just a few thousandths under center.

After few practice tries you will be able to get your tool on center in a matter of seconds.

If you are somewhat "heavy handed" and are afraid of blunting the end of your tool bit, use a strip of brass or aluminum instead of the steel rule. The length of the strip is not really important...but the longer it is the more it exagerates the error and the easier it is to "read"......:thumbsup:

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That's a good tip Gerry. :thumbsup: My instructor showed me that trick and boy does it save time.

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Here's another oldie the German showed me....

If you chuck up a piece of stock and it's running out...instead of tapping it around with a mallet for 10 minutes, use a piece of brass stock inplace of the tool bit:

Tighten the chuck up just "snug"....then run the lathe at medium speed.

Slowly bring the brass up against the work and apply some light pressure...it will make the workpiece run true.

Back the brass away..shut the lathe off.

Tighten the chuck down tight...and re-check :thumbsup:
Bit centering with a straightedge has already saved me several hours of labor. For once the turret has more than one tool in it! The knurled height adjuster on the quick-change toolpost makes sense now. Cuts are looking better around here.

Brass for centering will save untold future hours. Thank you for taking time to share these elegant techniques, its making a difference. :thumbsup: