Cachet Racer (CX500)
EDIT: Bike is finished and being shown at an Open Studio this Saturday, Feb 9th, 6 pm - 10 pm, Lost&Foundry, 305 Center Street, Oakland
Detail shot teaser of the finished bike:
Here is more info:
"Open Studio, February 9th
Tired of having all of your art experiences online? Come to Lost & Foundry Studios open house on Saturday, February 9th from 6-10pm to see the works and workspaces of Jeremy Mayer, Nemo Gould, Alan Rorie, and Christopher Palmer.
You can find us at 305 Center Street in Oakland CA (half a block from West Oakland BART). Jeremy has just finished a portrait bust, Nemo has a few new pieces which include a custom rebuilt motorcycle, Alan's got a brilliant Kickstarter project going, and CTP is, as usual, bemusing us all with his brilliance.
Dress in your best warehouse-appropriate attire and come check out what we're up to."
A couple years ago I started talking about building a custom bike with my good friend, sculptor Nemo Gould. I have always considered him to be "the master of metal" as he works predominately in found aluminum material for his kinetic sculptures, creating amazing smooth transitions between curves of the original objects with exquisite welds.
Here's a photo of an exhibition of his work I helped him curate and install over the summer:
A number of months back, Nemo received a phone call from a motorcycle owner that he had met recently at an opening. As Nemo had previously built a "Nemomatic Scooter" out of an old honda elite, this fan of his work was wondering if he wanted to try his hand at a motorcycle. A number of conversations ensued, but the short of it was that Nemo received another phone call a little while later, saying that a 1979 Honda CX500 was parking on the side of the road here in the bay area, with radiator fluid gushing all over the place. It was Nemo's for free, if he would go collect it.
As we all know, free bikes are dangerous. They are even MORE dangerous when they are the awkward step-child from Honda in the form of the much unloved CX500. Well Nemo and I have a love for the strange, and the idea of working with the CX500 powerplant was quite tantalizing, despite warnings from our friend Charlie O'Hanlon, who described ALL of the weakness of the engine to us when we first considered the project.
Nemo had an ace in the hole and a very good reason for considering the CX500, as he has been long time friends with Wendell Jones, whose name many of you might recognize from some fairly extreme CX500 builds in the past. Armed with Wendell's help with additional CX500 bits and vast experience, and my help with geometries, design and general motorcycle functionality, Nemo embarked on a very new type of project for himself...
Initially, we popped the old CX up on the lift to take a look at what was going wrong with the radiator. We discovered the plastic fan had torn loose from its metal fittings, allowing the plastic blades to contact the radiator, destroying both elements. This was why the bike was in our hands, and why the previous owner had offered up the bike for Nemo's experimentation. Nothing we couldn't handle, as I've been wrenching on bike since I seized my first Vespa in my teens, and Nemo is an excellent machinist.
So we barreled ahead with the plans to build this into a custom bike. The challenge here was that Nemo has always made all of his work out of found objects, and I, as an architectural designer, am in the habit of designing and fabricating with the aid of computer-numerical-controlled fabrication. We knew that we didn't want to pursue either of these avenues for this project, but instead wanted to hand shape the metal. Nemo started collecting information from friends, colleagues and the interwebs in how to do this, and I took Evan Wilcox's class at the Crucible.
And so it started, with us determined to build as much as we could out of aluminum sheet...
EDIT: Image links due to server hiccup, now fixed.
Great start! :clap
Keep us posted, I love the obsure.
Great build and I'm local if you need a hand.
Thanks for the interest, and the offer of help. Honestly, much of this is already done, I'm simply slow to get around to putting the images and write up online.
So to move forward, we figured we might need to work with a fast and dirty material to start mocking up what the bike was going to look like. I mentioned that we should get our hands on some foam to do this, and Nemo called me the next day to say, "Guess what?" Here's the image he sent me a few minutes later:
Having your shop in no-man's land has it's perks! People come along and drop off some really wierd crap on the side walk. In this case it was a giant block of foam only partially stained by canine urine.
We have never worked with foam together, but I've worked with a number commercial foam cutters that can cut 12x12 blocks. I had no idea how to cut something over this size, but Nemo figured all of that out before I showed up to the shop next. In the image above you can see the big size of the foam cutter, and the image below, you see the small 'hand' size. Nemo fashioned these and wired them up to heat the wire. It doesn't make for the best smell, but it sure was a fun process!
And here we are carving out the underside of the tank. The CX500 has a pretty complex set of coils and hoses popping out under the tunnel and this proved to be a bit of a pain!
We started with an exceptionally big block as we had no idea how much we would carve away or how big would could keep the tank. (that's me, not Nemo).
While we were filling Nemo's shop with off-gases and foam scraps, we found that some members of the team were more focused taking naps rather that working. "Ingot" is Nemo's shop cat, named after the fact that his shop is a former foundry. Some of the found objects that Nemo typically works with can be seen about the table.
Here is how we ended the first day of foam. After going back and forth about what the bike wanted to be, we simply started with the fact that both Nemo and I are 6'3"-ish and the bike would be designed to fit us comfortably. Therefore we started elongating the tank from the stock length and moving the seat back to reflect our long arms and legs. Leg dents at the back of the tank were perfectly sculpted to fit our knees, a very rare thing on any stock japanese bike.
We were fairly happy with the geometries at this point. The way the tank would deflect slightly for the cylinders on either side was a real plus to us. We had also gutted the airbox, battery and all the electrics from the rear loop - underseat area, as we wanted to highlight the nice curve back here. Next we will tackle the true challenge: actually hand forming metal.
When we next returned to the shop, we found that we weren't as keen on the foam geometries we were when we had left it previously. The one idea that we had tried to implement with the foam that we still liked was the attempt to keeping a level, flat line across the bottom of the gastank and the seat. The fall of the frame towards the rear loop slowly emerges from the gastank/seat combo, and we thought we could capitalize on this.
So we changed tasks from trying to figure out the geometries of the overall tank, to trying to figure out the bottom of the tank. We figured the hardest part of this was going to be creating our flat 'shelf' which would be our guide line for this horizontal line across the new features. We templated our cuts with pieces of chipboard.
We then set upon cutting out these templated pieces out of our sheet metal aluminum. Here's Nemo cutting out the back piece of the tank bottom. You can see the foam pieces from our previous mock up scattered about the middle of the shop.
Nemo annealing the aluminum prior to shaping.
We cut out all the chipboard pieces in aluminum, annealed them, and used either a break or a hand vises to bend the pieces into shape. The result was that we had changed our chipboard armadillo into a aluminum armadillo.
You can also see that we've stripped off a lot of what makes the CX500 offensive. Fenders, tank, seat, headlight, headlight nacelle, bars, radiator shroud, side covers, battery, air box, and tailight. Much of that is in the pile on the rolling table of the photo above. If anyone on here is a CX lover and needs any of those parts, shoot me an email. Most are in decent shape (other than the seat cover) and will probably go up on evilbay in the near future.
Here's Nemo setting the 'dillo's armour on properly, a test fit prior to welding. You can also see our "horizontal line datum" a metal frame (shelving support scraps) created to keep our level line.
We continued to template the top of the tank with chipboard. The relationship to the foam work now comes into question. Was that foam work at all useful? Are we going to just kick it to the curb? Are we going to dig out more foam to try again?
Nemo and I talked about this again over bourbons the other night. I believe we both found the foam work to be fun and useful. It allow us to work through many geometries extremely quickly and to come to a rough agreement about general form and shape. It also allowed us to see things physically. This was a huge change for me, as I'm used to working either digitally, or in scale models. There is rarely a chance to work in 1 to 1 in the architectural process. End result? Glad we did the foam, we learned a lot, but it's in the scrap bin and we are improving on this first and crude design. I'm glad we aren't laying fiberglass, as we might have simply built it as the foam was....
Neat way to visualize forms by using foam.
I just finished making a fiberglass gas tank and now I want to make a metal one. :rofl
I hate grinding fiberglass....
Looking forward to the continuing saga :ear
:lurk x 2
Jag, I've been a fan of Evan Wilcox's work since I first saw his work in the 90's. Here is a shot my friend Paul took of Evan's Ducati 250/350 on the last Moto Melee here in California. Evan has devoted a lot of love and practice to the art of making tanks out of aluminum...
It's Evan's work that lead me away from fiberglass in the first place. I've got a ton of experience casting elements (although not all lay-in like glass), but the idea of riding around on an all aluminum ride is SO much more appealing to me! I took Evan's at the Crucible here in Oakland last year, but Nemo just started practicing. So I'd say get a hammer and a bag and a metal surface for flattening (like a trailer hitch or a dolly) and you should be all set. Nemo collected all his tools from salvage yards, dumps and flea markets for cheap, so it doesn't have to be an expensive hobby, if you don't make it one!
I thought maybe y'all would appreciate an image of the damage to the radiator that we discovered very early in the project
Also a shots of that templating process, how we worked first with the easily manipulated chipboard, then moved into the stiffer and more permanent aluminum.
The last update, I left with with a blurry picture of the new base going onto the bike. I left the shop shortly after that was accomplished, and the next time I showed up Nemo had done a LOT of TIG welding.
He had also knocked out the top of the tank as well. He had done a lot of work with shrinkers and stretchers as well as the hammer and bag. Each half of the tank as it sits in this photo is made from a single piece of aluminum, with a simple weld down the top center.
The base wasn't yet trimmed to new tank top.
He even finished the knee dents and tacked them into place.
And so here it sat, all mocked up as the tank. Nemo had some high quality foam for the seat, and he bent up a high density plastic to serve as the seat pan for now. You can also see a first stab at a potential rear loop out of flat bar.
Hopefully, y'all of the same option as I was when I saw all this progress for the first time, as I was super impressed. It was the first time we had talked about building something like this and Nemo just knocked out the majority of the work while I was away for a few days. It was fairly close to the original foam mock up, but as we started looking Nemo pointed out a number of points he was unhappy about. This mainly boiled down to the fact that by forming it all out of a single sheet, it all had a similar amount of curvature across the continuous surfaces. As we discussed more and more and looked closer and closer at it we began to agree that the tank wasn't quite what we hoped. Nemo actually went as far as to draw a similarity between the tank and the burritos we were eating, calling the current state of the bike "the flying burrito". So despite all the effort, the tank ended up in the recycling heap, along with the tinfoil wraps from our lunch.
I think we learned a ton to influence the second iteration...
So I'm going through something similar right now and would LOOOOVEEE to see pics of the actual build process. Can you give me more specific info as to what tools you are using? How thick is the aluminum and what alloy? I'm using 20g 5052, which I'm betting is a lot stiffer than what you guys are using... Also would love to know what TIG welder you're using and what you have it set to. I have no idea what I'm doing. Can you tell?
Sorry, hijack off... I just really wish there was a school around here to show me how to do this stuff! Build looks incredible so far!
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