04 October 2012

Had to take the scooter again

The other day I was headed to work. Just like before, I got to the entrance of my neighborhood and the ninja died. I fiddled with it and made sure I wasn't out of gas. It seemed to me that it was flooding badly. There was a little puddle of gas on the ground! So again I pushed the ninja home and took the scooter to work.
After work I pulled the carbs off (easier thanks to the battery box mod!) and found a little bit of black rubber was holding one of the bowl float valves open! Funny story how that got in there actually! I decided I would put an inline fuel filter on the ninja, as it has no fuel filter now (might be a strainer on the pickup in the tank?). Anyway, sounded like a good idea. So I cut the fuel line and installed a little filter. I think a little bit of the cut fuel line fell into the hose after the filter! So if I hadn't installed the filter to block junk, everything would have been fine!

10 September 2012

Bought a motorcycle

I've been watching Craigslist for over a year for Ninja (or any similar style) motorcycle in the 250 size. I want something efficient and sporty looking. Well, all the stars aligned and I finally bought one. I found a 1998 red Ninja (would have preferred blue or green) with 16k miles for a lower asking price than most of the others I've seen.
  Now a funny story: I bought the Ninja on Thursday. Friday morning I tried to ride it to work. I was unfamiliar with the engine and especially with a manual choke. I managed to keep it running all through my neighborhood, but it died at the neighborhood entrance/exit. I got it started again but it would die under load. I fiddled with the choke for a bit but traffic was building up. Then it died and wouldnt start. I pushed it off to the side of the road while I fiddled with it. After 10 minutes I was late for work and realized I had shutoff the fuel valve the night before. But now the battery was too low to crank it and get it going again. I pushed my new bike home and took my trusty scooter to work! The Ninja started right up when I got home from work.

Doing a detailed inspection I found it was missing both rear engine mount nuts. I replaced both and cleaned the really gunky chain. Took it for a long (at 15 miles it was for me) ride on Saturday to get myself used to the 3 new things that scooters dont worry about: shifting, choke, and foot controls. I also decided I want the foot pegs lowered maybe 1-2" and the seat leveled out a little so I can slide back. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to position myself to be relaxed and reduce strain on my arms/hands.

Muffler silencer

Not quite being happy with a louder than stock exhaust I put together my own silencer. I happen to have a 6"x1.75" bit of brass drain down pipe I bought on sale. After cutting a close fit hole in a plate of aluminum I drilled some 30 1/4" holes in the pipe and smashed the end closed. I had calculated that with the number and size of holes I drilled it has the same surface area as the pipe itself, so it wont restrict flow much. I matched up the mounting holes in the aluminum so it can be sandwiched between the header and the muffler. To finish it off I crimped the aluminum around the brass tube.
It works quite well! Not as quiet as a stock muffler, but not loud enough to be annoying. I am unsure how well the aluminum and brass will stand up to the exhaust gases. Time will tell!

06 August 2012

New Jug

Since I had an oil leak on my scooter I came up with a few options:
  • Ignore it and deal with the dripping and mess.
  • Replace the cylinder base gasket. Requires pulling the engine. Cost about $10.
  • Replace the entire cylinder and piston with an overbore. Also gets the gaskets and requires pulling the engine. Cost about $100.
I decided it would be fun to do a big block kit since I dont like the messy oil and I have to pull the engine either way and it's not very spendy. Now I can pull or replace the engine from my scooter in under an hour. It took me maybe 2 hours to replace the jug. It was mostly fun. I made timelapse videos of much of the process.
Since I had the engine out and I was cleaning everything, my rear brake had gotten oil on it and was not effective anymore. I had new pads for it so I really cleaned up the caliper and painted it red. Looks great and took me forever to bleed the air out. I ended up getting brake fluid everywhere.
The original piston/jug had a bunch of carbon buildup. I think this is normal though. I thought it was interesting that the original crosshatching was visible on the old cylinder wall even after 9,000 miles. Not sure if that's normal?
The other interesting thing I discovered was the cylinder outer diameters. The old one had a diameter of 60.5mm. The new one has an OD of 62mm. When I placed the new jug on the engine without a piston or alignment pins it had lots of wiggle room in the case. I forgot to measure the case inner diameter, and really wish I had. Now I wonder if I could have put in a 63mm jug with its 65mm OD and not needed to bore the case.

Unfortunately I still have the same oil leak. Now I think it must be the head. I don't want to replace it but I'm pretty unhappy about the leak.

19 July 2012

Little Garden

I've been growing a garden every year for a few years now. Up until now I've stuck with the standards: carrots, tomatoes, beans, broccoli, peppers, onions, potatoes, etc. This year I wanted to try some perennial eddibles. Something unusual, maybe difficult. I've already had my strawberries for a year and a half, but that's a pretty normal plant. After careful runner control, this year the plants are quite large and healthy. I've enjoyed several berries and my kids even more than me.
  This year I've planted four dwarf fruit trees. Dwarf types dont get very big. Like 10 feet tall max. I had a semi-dwarf apple tree when we moved in, but the fruit was sour and left a mess all over the yard. I pulled it out and now have pear, peach, red apple, and apricots. It will be a few years before I get any fruit, but when I do it will be awesome.
  I also thought I'd try asparagus and artichokes. The asparagus came up nicely and next year I'll be able to enjoy some sprouts. They take a couple years to get established, but will provide for several years after that. Artichokes have a harvest time of 180-365 days. I was not expecting to get anything this year, and frankly expected the plant to freeze over the winter. However I was very surprised to discover the other day 5 artichoke heads on my plant! I'll be eating them this season. If the plant dies this winter, I'm still happy I got one harvest, and I'll likely plant another.

Here is my perennial garden. Strawberries along the front left, artichoke at front right. apricot tree in the corner (yet to be planted), Black beans (not perennial, but it was a good spot) on the fence, and asparagus. There is a pumpkin plant, but it's not really going to get anywhere. I had garlic between the strawberries and the artichoke. They have been harvested already.
  I plan to let the strawberries take up the whole front raised area. Maybe let the asparagus spread along the inner wall a bit. Dwarf tree in the corner. Artichokes or something else in the rest of the space. Melons or cucumbers could fit.

12 July 2012

Little Engines

I realized that I don't have photos of all my engines on the web. So here they are. All the little engines I've made over the last 4 years.
 Connecting rod model. This is a single acting model to show the connecting rod mechanism. The valving is done inside the bearing with the shaft.
Here is a wobbler model. This was my first engine. Valving is done by moving the entire piston so the ports align.
 This is the largest layout so far. large 3" flywheel driven by two double acting pistons. It's not super smooth running due to defects in the valve box. I might go back some day and try again. I still need to string up the rope and belt to spin the generator at the far end, and build the governor.
 This is a model of the Scotch Yoke to convert linear to rotary motion. It works well but is not balanced. Valving is again done in the bearing with the shaft.
 I picked the Grasshopper because of all the unusual moving parts.It's actually pretty smooth and works well. single cylinder double acting with a home-cast 3" flywheel.
The latest engine. Designed to run in model boats. The  valving is on top using an oscillating rod. Hard to get port alignment clean. I have a whole post about this engine posted earlier. Very smooth runner, in fact will run on lung power which is about 3-4 PSI!

02 July 2012

New Motorcycle Computer

That little bicycle computer I have been using was a lifesaver. However it has a bad habit of resetting itself on occasion. That really throws off my efficiency calculations and I don't like it. I've also been considering adding a tachometer. Not that I need one, but I like to see data! So my bike speedo reset again recently and I was mad enough at it that I bought a TrailTech Vapor computer. It does nearly everything. Speed, tach, and engine temperature! With a backlight so I can see it in the dark! I didn't want to spend the $100 for it.. but bought it anyway mad as I was.
  Well, I received it and figured out where to mount it. Pretty much right where the bike speedo was! I like to see my gauges without having to look too far off center. It just turns out this is a good place for me. I made a mounting bracket from some scrap aluminum I had and painted it black. Looks clean!
  I had to extend the RPM pickup wire and the temperature sensor. Easy enough to solder another 12" in. I wired the power to the key switch. This make it function like you'd expect it to. The backlight comes on with the key. I don't know why they recommend to wire it always hot. I hooked up all the sensors (wheel pulse, spark plug temperature, RPM wire) and it looked great! However when I started the engine the MPH jumped all over the place. I had this same issue with the bike speedometer but thought it was because it was ungrounded or poor design. I was expecting a speedometer designed for a motorcycle to not be susceptible to electrical engine noise.
  After some tech-support and forum messaging the solution is simple: disconnect the tack pickup wire from the computer. It can still pickup the RPM from the general noise (very sensitive!) and it doesn't affect the speed. Now I'm quite happy with it and love to see my RPM and engine temperature. Now, I'm glad I did it and probably should have done it earlier!

01 June 2012

Helmet Cam

  I've watched many of those Youtube videos taken from a helmet cam. Some are lame, some are funny, and some scary. Either way, I watched them. it got me thinking I might like to have something just in case something happens to me. Normally my ride is quite boring and uneventful. But I wear a helmet every time despite the non-excitement, why not a camera too?
  I looked around for a cheap camera I could use. I found some cool sports cams, some auto dash cams. Nothing was sticking with me though. They all had some drawback that didnt sell me. Months later I came across something mentioning this little tiny "spy" cam. I looked into it and found 3 spy sized cameras that all had very similar features. After finding a good comparison of the 3 I bought what has the nick name of gum stick camera.

  The biggest feature is the price of $12. Its specs are equally low: only 720x480 and 30fps, 8GB max, not waterproof. I bought one. It's the size of a small pack of gum. I wanted it on my helmet so it would see mostly what I was seeing. Not being waterproof I would have to put it behind the visor. I tested several locations for what kind of view they would give, how much of a distraction it would be, and how easy it would be to make a mount there.
  I ended up putting it to the left of my face in the cheek pad. I had seen another helmet cam mounted by cutting a notch in the helmet foam. This camera is so small that I didn't have to cut much out. This gives an image at my eye level. The camera is just barely in my peripheral vision. Being farther left than my eyes actually sees a bit more of the road than I do. I used a knife to cut a little slot that the camera snugly slides into.
  After using it for a week I had to adjust it slightly. It was aimed too far right and down. At first I wanted some down angle so I could see my speedometer and mirrors. Now I think I want to see more road and I can look down to capture speed. I've cut the slot a bit bigger and added some stiff foam to change its position.

  Although my drive is usually dull, I have already captured two stupid drivers. Enjoy the short clips!


23 May 2012

Two cylinder rotary valve engine done!

I finally finished the latest engine. These things seem to get simpler and easier each time. I tried to make two crankshafts at once, thinking if both of them turned out I could make a second engine. Well trying to finish the second shaft it got mangled. Oh well, I've got a working engine anyway. Cutting the valve rod was tricky, it's running on #2.
I made sure everything was very smooth and in some places just a bit loose. After a good run-in it will run on breath power, which is somewhere near 3-4 PSI max. That amazes me because none of my previous engines were free enough to run on lung power.

I was considering painting some parts of the engine but I couldn't decide which parts or what color and my wife said she likes it raw. Nothing is polished, just sanded to be smooth. I may still go back and paint the steel parts to prevent rust at least.
Overall I don't like this method of valving. it's hard to align the cut so the intake and exhaust open at the right time, and the valve gear makes the shaft unbalanced. At high speed it jumps all over the table. I'm proud that I changed the design for the cylinders from a solid block of bronze to brass tubes. i was worried they wouldn't line up well enough. Also my intake manifold looks better than the plans. I'd like to build some piping to redirect the exhaust too, but it's pretty low priority.

02 May 2012


Finally, I have a crankshaft! The 4th try is the charm, so I made two at the same time. I made two in case one of them got messed up. Well, they have both turned out (almost anyway, not quite done with the second but close).
 First I marked out both parts. This is 1"x3/8" bar. Drill a hole then bandsaw (I love my new bandaw!) the slot. Each end is center drilled in three spots one for each shaft.
 I had to use my cutoff blade to reach into the slot and turn the crank pins. Not as bad since most of the material was cut out with the saw. Continue removing the unneeded material with the bandsaw.
 Finally ready to turn the main shaft. Both crank pins are at correct dimension and the webs are cleaned up on the inside surfaces.
Using bolts and soup can shims to keep the shaft from flexing too much I can turn down the main shaft to 1/4".

I put the one finished shaft into the rest of the engine and it is a perfect fit. Spins smooth and free. I'm still working out a little binding on one of the connecting rods, and the valve gear seems to be a little bit off. Last steps will be to cut the valving and paint.

18 March 2012

a new steam engine

I've started working on another steam engine. This is a rotary valve engine from an old magazine plan. 0.625" by 0.687" throw, dual cylinder. I was planning to take all summer to build it, but it's coming together much quicker than expected. I also plan to build a Stirling engine or two.

13 February 2012

All quiet

I resolved the previous electrical issue. I replaced the battery, I think it was the original. I also got the regulator replaced. Been running great all winter! Love the HIDs in the dark evenings, plenty of light! No other mods or upgrades planned. I'm still unsure if I want to stay with the 8 pole stator or go for an 11 pole upgrade.