A return to the bike build.



Minimal fuel tank!

In the last installment of the bike build, which was let’s face it, too long ago and must be wrapped up soon, the exhaust was coming together. In order for me to be able to hear the results as the pipe came together a small tupperware container got a makeshift outlet fitted into its base and was then mounted to the main frame spar with a cable tie. With a bit of fuel onboard the engine could be started and run without the fuel tank in place and the exhaust listened to. The tank meanwhile was being prepped for painting.

The “silencer” that had been ordered came with an internal baffle already, if that’s what you could call it. You see these pipes everywhere on custom modified bikes so it will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever had one that internally they are rudimentary to say the least. There was a piece of glass fibre packing inside the pipe but this was as good as useless. It would have disintegrated if you’d held it behind you and broken wind, frankly. So, first job was to get some proper packing material and firmly wrap the baffle so at least some of the noise could be absorbed. It was still too loud.

After a quick discussion about exhausts with the guys who’s workshop I was borrowing it was decided that the best thing to do was make a smaller secondary baffle that would fit into the end of the main pipe. Reckoning that the area of the holes in the internal cylinder should match that of the outlet it was time to have a go with the MIG welder. Not having used one much before, a quick session on the net provided some basic guidance to supplement the rather sketchy instructions contained in the user manual.

So a few hours later we had a finished baffle piece that fitted into the end of the main one that could be secured with three self tapping screws. Easy to remove and modify if need be and pretty much hidden behind the reverse cone end cap of the silencer. A couple of coats of aerosol heat resistant paint and the job was a good ‘un. This made a real difference to the sound and would be easy to remove if greater fruitiness from the pipe was wanted.This was the last fabrication job to do before the final build. What was up next was the biggest job of all, painting the bodywork.


Before moving on to that episode here are a couple of thoughts about MIG welding. Never having done any before, the thought of using the welder was a little daunting. Welding in all its forms has always come across as a bit of a black art, a deeply skillful craft practiced by wizards of metalwork with years and years of experience. This is all true but, it is also not as scary as it would seem. They say that every journey starts with the first step and so it is with MIG welding. Taking the plunge and having a go can lead you, with patience and concentration, to a thoroughly satisfying learning experience and hopefully a new found skill, and a finished part that you can be proud of.


My own introduction to this skill took me from making a simple baffle on the first day to knocking up a small paddock stand for the bike, to use during routine maintenance as I’d seen fit to remove the centre stand as part of the weight loss program. All within a week.


As mentioned before the manual that came with the welder was a little thin and searching the internet for tips and tricks threw up some really useful information and some tips which I never would have considered in my inexperience. Here are a couple of links to the two most useful websites found. The first one was the best: Firstly Tips and tricks and the second one here. Sadly the need for welding anything in my everyday work is rare but it hasn’t stopped me from wanting to buy a welder and start making something.


Although my skills remain relatively basic I’m no longer reluctant to consider using a welder for smaller jobs. Welding bike frames is something best left to experts for now but, with a new skill in the back pocket, the options available when making more complex ancillary parts has now grown and that can only be a good thing for when the next project comes along.


The welder used was a small portable unit with up to 150W of power, switchable. It had a variable speed wire feed, a small remote gas bottle (Carbon Dioxide/Argon mix worked best) and nice hefty earthing clamp.



A change of scale.

It is most likely true that if you asked any creative person who produces stuff, if they just worked on one thing at a time, in a beautifully seamless procession of sequential order, they would likely say they did not. It seems to be in our nature to have as many things in the pipeline as we can manage, and then more. Our work spaces are doubtless littered with bits and pieces which remain unfinished, partially forgotten and “in development”. Our ability to accumulate projects is often quite astounding, and that’s before you even start talking about what’s in the brain bank, the unseen material hidden in the grey matter.

This is very much the case at Soulcraftcandy Mansions. Both the brain bank and endless pages of notebooks are filled with things that might be, one day. Sketches, doodles and diagrams all waiting patiently to be given life through some creative expression.

One such idea has been receiving such attention this week, small drawings in series. With the bigger drawings churning away nicely it was time to look at another idea for a while, to give my creativity a rest by way of a change of scale, pace and medium. Small drawings have always held my attention and this goes way back to when to being in a design studio and a winning idea would first appear in the corner of a page as a little thumbnail sketch. Of course the same thing happens these days but I’m now just as interested in the drawing as the idea it expresses.

The former situation would require enlarging the sketch and then investigating its potential as a design. Now the process is kind of reversed, rather than adding detail to the original sketch the process is reductive, what can be left out. The drop in scale really makes you think about what is the minimum required to get what you’re after. How do you compress all the complexity, mechanisms and complicated forms into a small space. Comic artists are consummate masters of this discipline. The hope is that it will refresh an appreciation for the details when returning to a larger format, but that might be hoping for too much.

Some might be tempted to sidestep this issue of detail by simply scaling down an already scanned drawing in Photoshop and printing it out, but that only gives you little dense balls of ink and not much else. So the idea was to draw as close to the required scale as possible to start with. Then, in the same way that we used to play with the photocopier all those years ago, it’s a question of cleaning up the image and changing the size until you’ve got something workable. Scanning, cleaning out unwanted lines, knocking back saturation levels and printing until I’m happy. Four of these images get gathered together and printed out in a 2×2 matrix on A4.

The old Epson A3 printer that’s sat here stopped doing beautiful ages ago but has a great ability for handling all manner of different kinds and weights of paper which my newer Canon is not that interested in doing.

This facility means that it’s also easy now to play with differing media on these different papers and, to play around with different colour combinations for the images. Colour crayons, inks and paints will all get a look in. So far it’s the crayons that have held my attention and the results are promising though there is certainly room for improvement. I’m using Derwent Studio crayons by Rexel Cumberland and they have a lovely soft waxiness to them, but they don’t stay sharp for long and laying on deep colour often requires you to labour them a bit. The paper too, is a bit coarse but picks up colour well so it will be a case of finding the right balance between these two attributes in order to get the desired level of intensity.

There are some liquid water colours ( Dr Ph Martin’s)sitting in a box on the shelf here. It will be interesting to see how they work on some fine surfaced water colour paper in the next experiment.

Keep your sketches.

There is an unseen conversation going on in this picture. It is a chat between man and machine.

When the original sketches for this picture were posted, my good friend Richard spotted them and sent me a mail. Although my own feelings what might be being said here leant towards the idea that either party could be asking of the other, “let’s see what you’ve got, what you’re made of?”, he likened it to ones acquaintance with a long term friend, and the continuation of a conversation. There is no questioning in his version, just a simple statement, “hello old friend, let’s go out and play”.

For me it works both ways and what lies at the core of either is the belief that one forms relationships with objects that you interact with, both on an emotional and physical level. This is true about many objects that we choose to spend time with.

Ask any motorcyclist about the bikes they own or have owned and they will fall into one of the following two categories (probably). Firstly there are those that do nothing more than give us access to their basic usefulness, provide transport for us, carry us from A to B. They are handy, but never indispensable. Appreciated but never loved. Used but never improved. The second group are different. They connect with us on an emotional level beyond the practical, we consider their good and bad points in equal measure and make improvements where we can. We clean them out of pride as much as necessity, and we like to show them off. In short we invest time in making them ours. They are often referred to as “keepers”.

To some extent it’s the same with the many sketches I produce. Again there are those whose only function seems to be to act as the expression of an idea and nothing more. Their purpose totally fulfilled purely through existence, visual jots to remind you that you had an idea. It would be easy to think that the group that sits alongside these would be those that hit the spot first time, but this would be untrue. They do occasionally appear but it’s rare. Like the bikes that turn into “keepers”, members of this other group connect with us in a different way. We see in them the potential of an idea that is yet to be fully formed. With a bit of time and effort thrown at it you know what’s lurking in there can be brought to the surface. It might mean totally redrawing it, many times over in some cases, or it may require nothing more than the addition or relocation of a few lines. The more you can see the potential emerge the more you’re inspired to tease more of it out. Before you realise it you’ve got another “keeper”, ready to work up to a finished image.

Have you ever wondered why so many of us scribblers keep so many piles of apparently jumbled and crumpled sketch sheets? Although I spend a great deal of time and energy sketching out fresh ideas, a good deal of time is also spent revisiting many older ones too. Spreading them out across the floor and having  another look for that spark always throws up something new that perhaps you didn’t see before. Finding these “sleepers” and working to turn them into “keepers” is one of the great pleasures in making these drawings. It provides a big chunk of the creative reward and always reminds me that it’s not always about the end goal, but the journey one took to reach it.