Excalibur ‘09

Mr.B.

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Oct 21, 2008
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I started working on my Excalibur retro 1909 Motorcycle almost 4 years ago.

I marvel at some of you that build great things in just a few weeks-

But that’s not me! Ha!

During the time I worked on mine I had taken lots of photos and keep a regular E-mail correspondence with my friend “Bicycle Bill” so I was fortunate to have a thorough record of my build progress.

I now just finished creating a detailed retroactive blog base on those messages...

http://excalibur09.tumblr.com/page/11

Recent video- http://alturl.com/9xptf

The following posts are copied from several but not all of the blog entries, so they may seem a little out of context at times...

-Kirk
 
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Mr.B.

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5-8-08 THE BEGINNING...

I’ve finally decided to start a replica vehicle project.

When I was younger I had restored a several vintage fat tire bicycles and still have lots of frames, parts, etc... stashed away-

So the obvious choice was a retro motorcycle, it should be an easier build anyway.

Unfortunately, I will have to be extremely budget conscious as I go. But I like the challenge of solving problems inexpensively anyway.

I have spent the last couple of evenings just searching for any antique motorcycle image I can find. I’ve already got a a good sized folder full of inspirational reference, and I plan on adding more!

Today I worked on a quick mock up using a old Raleigh frame and actual period seat & acetylene lamp. I want it to look like a first generation motorcycle (1898-1905ish)- basically just a bicycle with a motor strapped on.

Here’s a couple of old photos to give an idea of what I’m talking about.
 

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Mr.B.

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7-22-08 NEW DIRECTION AND “BLUEPRINTS”

I’ve decided to go a little more modern- 1909 to be exact, That seems to have been a significant year in motorcycle development. Little things like dedicated “motorcycle” frame designs, better suspension systems, throttle cables and controls mounted on the handle bars will make things much easier to build & operate!

So I’ve dumped the Raleigh frame, too small (and I’ve found the steel to be too soft).

I have a early (teens or 20’s) Elgin boys bike in my collection and it would be a perfect donor as far as size and quality! But it’s just too complete and in too good of shape to ever be hacked and chopped.

Besides it is my favorite old bicycle!!!

So I‘ve scored a miss-matched rust bucket frame, fenders, wheels, and fork in an Ebay auction.

The fork is too narrow for 26x 2.125 tires so I’ll have to make my own truss style.

I’m a little disappointed in the quality of the original design compared to my Elgin, I imagine I’ll need to add lots of structural reenforcing along the way.

But on the other hand I’ll feel less guilty about chopping it.

Also, I finally finished a concept drawing.

Official: To be named Excalibur!

I guess it would be much easier to just copy a existing early bike, but I really want the challenge of making this my own.

Having said that, the Excalibur name is kind of a word play on the Excelsior brand that was very popular before WW1.

To get the proportions right I’ll have to stretch the frame a few inches and add some kind of drop loop to fit the engine.

Engine?

I’m looking for a older Briggs 3.5 or 5 HP’er.

I’ve blown up a blueprint drawing I found at the “Small Engine Warehouse” website to full size to help with the mock up.
 

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Mr.B.

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10-18-08 BIG OLD ENGINE

I checked out a garage sale ad this morning and scored a circa 1950’s:confused: Wisconsin engine. It turned out to be a guy I used to work with and got along with quite well.

It came off a old log splitter.

He said he had it running the day before, but just now when I tried it at home the carburetor is leaking so badly I quickly give up.

I did get it to pop off for a few seconds and see that it’s very loud and throaty (Harley like).

But I don’t think it will work for the Excalibur project, besides it’s just
too large- 55 lbs & probably 8 hp’s:confused:, I haven’t found a match on the net
yet to see what I have exactly.

It has a orange cylinder head, I suspect that’s a replacement.

It has 2 sets of 2 flywheel fan blades broken off 180 degrees opposite of each other, I reckon 2 were broken accidentally and the other 2 deliberately to keep the things balanced.

But for just $25 it had to be done!

It does have a nice glass sediment cup that will be going on the Excalibur!
 

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Mr.B.

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11-18-08 SPRINGERS & HUBS...

I’ve been thinking of modifying the narrow (Schwinn ?) fork that I got along with the donor frame into a period style springer.

Cutting the fork and welding in some shaped 1/2” square stock will give me enough width & tabs to bolt on the springs. The springs would also nicely fill in the extra height of the original 28” wheels.

Recently on Ebay I won 3 leafs from a Model T Ford that would be more than enough for the job (this kind of stuff is amazingly cheap!).

It would be a lot of work, but it would give me a nifty little actual-functioning front suspension.

A little research shows that leaf springers actually did show up on Indians & Excelsior's starting in 1909...

I scored a Schwinn (Atom Union) tandem rear drum brake with a 5 gear cluster & all but one of its heavy 11G spokes.

I also found a generic front tandem wheel and a Schwinn S7 rear tandem coaster brake wheel at a nearby small town bicycle shop. Both have heavy duty spokes.

I figure to use the drum brake (less the cluster) for the front, and the Schwinn coaster for the rear. I will have to re-lace them both to normal sized rims, as I don’t like the limited S7 tire options.
 

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Mr.B.

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11-24-08 RETHINKING THE WISCONSIN

For the first time last night I mocked up Excalibur with the big Wisconsin engine.

With a couple of compromises I believe it could work:

1: I’d need to figure out how to make the pedal crank at least 10” wide. I'm going to experiment by cutting up a photocopy of a vintage one-piece and see if it’s even possible.

2: The center line of the belt would be 2.5” to 2.75” from the outside of
the rear rim (doesn’t sound like much but looks huge). Perhaps using a wide bicycle rim for the pulley with the extra width towards the inside would help hide it a bit.

As seen in the photo, the frame is stretched 6” and is starting to get the
“tires too small for the frame” look, I think maybe pulling the fenders in tight
will help a little. Maybe some additional frame tweaks here and there will help, also.
 

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Mr.B.

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12-18-08 CARBURETOR & SPRINGER

Today I took the leaky old carb apart and will need to either make or buy some new gaskets, so I’ve haven’t finished cleaning or reassembling it yet...

I also started to fab the springer fork. I made a wooden fixture to keep things aligned for welding.
 

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Mr.B.

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1-12-09 NEW OLD SEAT

I rebuilt my old Troxel bicycle saddle today.

The original was in tough shape with a broken spring and a wooden seat pan that was badly split & splintered. Old repairs included tin can lids-Ha!

I decided to mate the leather cover with another much heavier seat frame I have (possibly from an early motorcycle).

I had to cut the thread holding the upper & lower leather and then, reusing the old holes, sew it back together around a new 11G steel pan.

Should be good for another 100 years!

Oops, Somehow I deleted the photo of the new steel pan...
 

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Mr.B.

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1-21-09 DISSENT FROM A PROFESSIONAL

I had to make a run to Milwaukee today. On the outskirts of Madison there’s a small engine shop that I’ve often wondered about while passing by. Since schedule permitted I decided to throw the Wisconsin in the back and ask them what they thought about it.

The proprietor was pretty dismissive, especially after I told him I wanted to use it to motor a bike. It’s too old, too heavy, too under powered...??? Best kept as a collector’s item & not a serious power plant.

According to him, It will for sure need to have the lifters & seats ground, points, new rings, and so many other things I can’t remember it all.

However, it never left the back of my car, his appraisal was from just looking at it.

I suspect he’s biased towards newer stuff.

Now I just have to make it work!!! Ha!
 
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Mr.B.

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2-3-09 I LIKE FARMERS!

I discovered our local farm supply store has a great selection of pulleys, bearings, pillow blocks, and weldable hubs.

Collars, gears, chains, hardened nuts & bolts, and even several different vintage looking glass sediment cups!

This is a great resource, and much nicer than shopping online!

Yea!
 
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Mr.B.

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2-9-09 ENGINE...?

Despite my best efforts I was unable to get the Wisconsin started this weekend. The carb is whack. I love the antiquity/classic Americana of it, but after carrying it up the stairs it I also question the weight- it’s just scary, frame-break’n heavy.

Original Schebler Marvel’s carburetors are scarce & expensive and likely already worn out- Perhaps something from a newer briggs 5hp might work...?

I am still making progress though: I’ve figured out a way to trap some old brass furniture leg ferrules onto the handle bars.

All the prefab is done and awaiting welding. I’ve definitely decided to just use a right side brake level for a throttle-

Keep it simple!
 
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Mr.B.

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2-14-09 FIRST CUT

The “jig” is up & I hope the gods of vintage bikes are merciful.

I’ve made a wooden fixture and have begun to cut and modify the rear triangle...

The metal in the rear stays is scary thin, I’ll have to do a lot of reinforcement along the way!

First with my trusty side grinder I tapered some flat stock and pounded it into the stays, this will add much strength and allow me to make the tight bends for the “pulley bulges” without collapsing the tubes.

I’ve left some goodly gaps so they can be loaded up with lots of weld!

The top stay has a bolt together connection so I’ll be able to install a drive belt later.
 

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Mr.B.

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2-22-09 LOGO

I spent the evening first running numbers with Bicycle Bills calculator-

Unless I want stay on the flats and go really really fast all the time I’ll need a tiny little 2” or less drive pulley- Yikes!

A jackshaft may very well be in my future.

I also worked up a period inspired logo for the gas tank.

It’s somewhat similar to the earliest Excelsior logo, with what I imagined an Edwardian designer’s period-typical romantic vision of a what a medieval sword might look like.

Actually, I was more inspired by the first Coke-a-Cola logo that was originally created in the late 1800’s.

Since I hope to finish later this year I’m officially naming it “Excalibur ‘09”!

I really love the two-tone blue color scheme of the 19-teens Thor motorcycles and plan to outright nick it-

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1914-thor.htm
 

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Mr.B.

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2-25-09 WHERE THERE’S SMOKE...

Bowahaha, It’s alive, It’s ALIVE!

Is is strong? I think so, but to be honest, with my limited old engine experience I don’t really know for sure.

Compared to my briggs powered lawn mower it runs wonderfully slow and has a beautiful deep throated thugga thugga sound!

With that long stoke I suspect this will be a really good hill climber!!! It even seems slow at max throttle.

-Vibration doesn’t seem too bad even with the the old damaged flywheel, and it really isn’t terribly loud.

-It does not blow monstrous clouds of dense smoke!

-It is percolating some oil from somewhere around the governor shaft, I’m sure that can easily be fixed with new gaskets & sealer.

-The worst problem is that the carb leaks a lot of gas under the throttle shaft. I had noticed the bores for the throttle shaft were badly worn into egg shapes during the cleaning & I had put a rubber washer there in hopes that would help. Not enough!

Also, when you gun it the acceleration is a little sluggish. I wonder if I should just try to find a newer carb that will fit?

Somehow it didn’t feel quite as heavy as I carried it back inside today. “-)
 
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Mr.B.

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2-26-09 MY TRANNY

I keep thinking there must be some easy way to make a cheap, reliable, transmission from easily found components. But little problems seem to keep it just out of grasp.

Lately I’ve been playing with the idea of spring loaded split pulley that could be spread to vary speed all the way down to the point of the belt slipping for a clutch. The draw back is keeping the belt under tension until it disengages. There must be a way!

BTW: several inexpensive variable speed pulleys are available on E-bay. I believe most are centrifugally activated, however that should be easy to modify.

As far as my sloppy throttle, I’m thinking maybe I could either fill the holes something like J B weld & redrill or perhaps just drill for sleeves. I still will keep my eye out for sump'um mo better.
 

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Mr.B.

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3-4-09 3 FORWARD, 1 BACK

Progress:

-Figured out a way to use a common off-the-shelf paper air filter that fits nicely inside the old oil bath housing (a complete intake filter housing came with the 2nd engine, minus the fiber filler material).

-Drilled & tapped the sloppy holes for the carbs throttle shaft. Cut threads on some aluminum tubing and screwed it into the holes with a generous helping of high temp silicone (if it doesn’t ware well I’ll replace later with
some stainless.

-Found a proper diameter brass rod so I could recreate the very badly worn throttle shaft.

-Worked on the frame’s engine loop with a poster board template leaving room for a jack shaft. I’ll be cutting steel soon.

“Slipped” backwards...

-While removing the governor cover to replace & seal the gasket I let the
rod fall into the block. I’ll have to remove the side cover to make it right
& this is new territory for me.

But perhaps this is a good thing as now I can just remove the governor completely...?
 

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Mr.B.

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3-5-09 HA, SCORE X2

1- With a stick magnet & inverted engine shaking I was able to retrieve the yoke through the small governor cover hole! Yea!

2- Tank top mounted tool boxes were popular from around 1910 into the mid 20’s... The early ones were just leather and later on they were made in stamped metal.

I’ve been watching these on the Bay for awhile simply for reference for my own diy replica... Originals are usually 250 to 300 dollars for one that’s in good condition.

A couple of days ago I decided to search for just an “old leather box” in hopes of finding a affordably priced convertible substitute and a $5 real mccoy pooped up.

This fellow obviously didn’t know what it was and didn’t properly list it under "antique motorcycle", on top of that he misspelled “tookl” (Fat thumbs).

So it didn’t turn up under a lot of the common search phases.

Bingo! I won another authentic period detail for excalibur!

$9.95 shipped!

Yea!
 

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Mr.B.

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3-18-09 HUBS!

Bicycle Bill contacted me today, a friend of his sold his farm and give him a pickup load of mostly inexpensive modern bicycles. Included was a set of vintage moped hubs. He passed those off to me.

The front hub has a big tough axle and a big tough drum brake with 36 holes...

Excalibur has its hubs!

I’m going to use an old heavy duty Schwinn tandem for the rear.

He also gave me a couple of pedal cranks for welding together a single wide ‘un.

He picked up a heavy old refrigerator door to use for his own gas tank. lots of metal there!
 
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Mr.B.

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5-9-09 FRAMED

Lately I’ve been helping a friend with a house restoration project and haven’t posted in awhile.

But some bike progress has been made.

I’ve started to built a more complete wooden jig for the next phase of frame fabrication.

Last night Bicycle Bill generously invited me to his shop for a welding session. The rear triangle and the fork are now finished- Yea!

I’ve found that 3/4” black gas pipe fits snugly inside of the old tubes and I’m reenforcing most of the original bike with these hardy sleeves. Heavy but strong.

A local home improvement store sells a thin walled 1” tube that’s a perfect match for the new sections.
 

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Mr.B.

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5-14-09 FAB’N

Spare time is sure scarce but I did manage to grind a little frame weld this week. As predicted some small holes have shown up due to the old tubes thinness.

I discovered the rear triangle is racked, possibly when the frame fell over in the back of my truck on the way to Bicycle Bill’s shop.

Oh well, go ahead and just say it...

La Vee.

I cut it apart , straightened it, and added long straps to the inside of the stays...

From now on I’m using clothes hanger wire and turnbuckles to keep things tight & square.

And clamps, lots and lots of clamps!

I stretched the top bar 5 inches and the lower top bar has been dropped to fit a larger gas tank. Also some square stock gussets at the ends of the tank opening

I added the drop loop after making a tight fitting slot in the bottom of my wooden fixture.

Fortunately, bending the loop was made easy by a recent 1” conduit bender find at a shabby little roadside antique store- Half-price sale was going on the day I stopped,

Just $9!
 

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