Skills required to do mods, builds, and other wild stuff

Discussion in 'Some Assembly Required' started by VargasD, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. VargasD

    VargasD Novato

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    Saludos. One of the forum sections that I love to browse are the ones involving bike builds and modifications. If I'm not careful, I could spend hours following different threads.

    I've decided that I long to do such projects... but there is just one small problem: I have no skills for this :lol3.

    For me it's not a dead end. Actually, I'm thinking about enrolling in a trade school in a a motorcycle mechanics program. It will be hard to juggle my full time job as a journalist, my family and this new idea but I think I can manage.

    What other skills would you guys consider important to have? Welding, body shop skills?

    Gracias
    #1
  2. Unstable Rider

    Unstable Rider Moto Fotografist

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    Welcome brother.

    What kind of bikes do you see down there, or own, or get exposed to?

    If you get a second hand KLR650, you will get exposed to all kinds of learning. Electrical, bodywork, customizing, chopping, modding, fabricating, making panniers from stuff another guy threw away, and of course swapping out the doo hickey and eventually going "705" on the bore if you like. It's also a great foundation or platform to "build" from.... consider the price of parts, you can get a brand new factory clutch lever in the U.S. for less than six dollars direct from Kawi.

    Nothing beats practical exposure (experience) of some kind. Books and lectures never worked for me, I got to see it and try it for it to sink in. I think school of that sort, in all seriousness, would be more fun if you had a beater second hand bike you could constantly make better like the KLR. With some pointed sticks and a rock, you can instantly fab up useful KLR parts with not much talent. They like that! :deal

    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. jdrocks

    jdrocks Gravel Runner

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    an eye for design, unless your only criteria is function.

    fabrication skill is only part of the process, sometimes a relatively small part, whereas a good eye is always a large part.

    de nada
    #3
  4. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    welding is good... if you can weld you can make stuff pretty easy. that's where I would recommend starting if you really want to build things. cutting and fitting parts is mostly time consuming, though there is a learning curve. the tools are easier to figure out than welding, and once you do it, the next time is easier. after you get good at that... lathe & mill :evil

    on the other hand.... you can modify a bike by buying premade parts and kits... thats a whole different thing. that requires wench skills, but not that hard to do. getting enough skills to keep a bike running is a step up from that but not too difficult (and something a guy should do if you plan on leaving town). being an actual motorcycle mechanic is a lot more.

    as mentioned, the KLR is a good start
    #4
  5. 16VGTIDave

    16VGTIDave blame Reaver...

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    Patience. Being able to step away from the bike and look at it a 3rd or 4th time before cutting or welding is priceless! Being able to consider all the variables (like how bolts will be put in or removed) will save hours of un-welding and re-welding mounting brackets. And I'd rather not elaborate on that right now... :cry
    #5
  6. VargasD

    VargasD Novato

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    Thanks for the input. Good bits of advice here.
    #6
  7. sailah

    sailah Lampin' it

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    +100

    My first build I was rushed, I had a deadline and it was a mad dash to the finish. There was some work I wasn't especially proud of, but it works. I plan to redo it. There were many times towards the end I said to myself "Screw it, it's fine", that's when you know it isn't fine and you're just trying to fool yourself.:deal

    My second bike (the CBR) I was trying to build using mostly parts I already had. For some reason I wasn't spending money in the important places. And that is also a skill. Knowing where you can skimp vs. when you should lay down the cash, either for someone else with a specialized skill or machine or simply because you can't do it for the amount of money vs time. That bike looks like ass to me now and I'm not sure if I will rebuild it or part it out and keep the good stuff. It is stupid fun though.

    My current bike I have been trying to really slow down and work at a reasonable pace where time, money and patience are all in good supply. I have found that getting things waterjet cut is an excellent use of time and money vs trying to cut parts with that kind of accuracy, ain't happening. I constantly have to tell myself "that's fine" isn't good enough. Sometimes my progress slows to a crawl, other times I make rapid bursts.

    Depending on your skill set and tools, here's what I find most useful, from top to bottom. Obviously knowing how to use them is also key so I won't list the skills too.

    Tools:
    Metal lathe
    TIG welder
    Tubing bender
    Grinder
    Bandsaw

    Things I wish I had: (I should note that I am now teaching at Tech Shop and they have all these tools, plus a bunch more so I suspect that I will be making use of them as this project goes along)

    Mill
    Waterjet
    CNC milling machine:lol3
    More skills:deal
    #7
  8. sanjoh

    sanjoh Purveyor of Light

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    No skills required, just an attitude of willingness to try. There will be failures, it's all in how you react to them that will make or break a build.

    Some folks are into building for the process, others for the finished product, still others do it for money. Figure out why you "long" to do a build, before you start:deal
    #8
  9. victor441

    victor441 Long timer

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    One good way to get started is to makes some tools and fixtures for your shop first....in many cases these can be less than perfect and still do the job OK...like make a cart for your welder, a tire changing stand, a bead breaker, track stands, etc. Lots of ideas on how to build these things here and out on the web like at http://www.homemadetools.net/
    #9
  10. jar944

    jar944 Been here awhile

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    Step one, buy or decide on a project.
    Step two, decide what you want to modify, build, etc.
    Step three, buy tools until you can complete your project.
    Step four, repeat.

    The skills will come.
    #10
  11. Dirigo

    Dirigo Curious

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    Thanks for the link Victor. Lots of good project ideas there!
    #11
  12. chollo9

    chollo9 Screwed the Pooch

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    Make a friend. An older person with skills would be perfect.
    #12
  13. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    you know after thinking about this for a while, I think for you a good way to start is to buy something that is in pretty bad repair, but fairly complete. something that really needs work but parts are reasonably available, and reasonably priced. fixing up a beater will develop those mechanic skills pretty quickly. a project like this can be had for very little money and if you screw something up you aren't out much. I've had project bikes that I could have sold in parts and made more money than the price I paid.

    the key is to find the right one. something where the engine runs (or needs very little) would be good for a first timer. I would only try some smaller, easier modifications at first... the first challenge is to make a reliable runner out of the pile.

    look at a "bobber" for instance... that style developed from guys taking off stuff that probably had a tendency to fall off anyway. fenders got bobbed because the were bent & who wants to buy another . not saying you should build one, just sayin thats a philosophy that resulted in a style. an ADV bike for instance... you lose some delicate parts & add some tougher ones, probably more parts than the bike came with. anyway, first thing is to learn how to take things apart and put them back together so they work... just a thought
    #13
  14. Ricardo Kuhn

    Ricardo Kuhn a.k.a. Mr Rico Suave

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    I'm afraid I have been a hack my whole life and by now I realize I never be any better with my hands, drawing and thinking about design is a different story but at making the stuff I suck..

    For a long time I did not have the tools to make things right, but now that I have most of what I need and the space to make things happen is evident is not a problem of "equipment" but attention to detail I just do not posses..
    #14
  15. clintnz

    clintnz Trans-Global Chook Chaser

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    I am still aspiring to building up a custom bike but am well on the way to getting the tools & ability to do so. As has been said above there are 3 sets of skills you need to work on: Design, Fabrication & Mechanical.

    One way I'd recommend to get into making stuff with minimal outlay is to get a bunch of scrap aluminium & make some things like a GPS mount, carrier rack, brackets for whatever. With a vice, a drill, a hacksaw, a bunch of files & some patience you can make cool stuff while learning key metalwork basics. Add a power jigsaw & a few taps for threading holes to go to the next level.

    If you have the money & the space for some serious tools Sailah is dead right when he rates the lathe & the TIG as the top 2. It may seem like overkill to have machines like that from the start but learn the basic skills on them & you can make a lot of tools or items you might otherwise have to buy.

    Cheers
    Clint
    #15
  16. FR700

    FR700 Banned

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    Wench you say ... 'splains why I don't see more updates on that outstanding project of yours ... too busy chasing women :lol3


    .
    #16
  17. flemsmith

    flemsmith lurk

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    ...and the attitude that you keep taking something apart til you get it to fit properly without forcing it. I've always said that I have to be willing to do something at least three times without getting mad. Most of my learning problems were because I was trying to fit something without disassembling enough peripheral stuff to make it easy to get to (and see, and have room to modify) whatever it is I'm working on. Another rule is that nothing aftermarket ever fits exactly right without a little modification/persuasion. And if you have to use a lot of force on something, stop and figure out what is wrong before you break it.

    roy
    #17
  18. Beezer

    Beezer Long timer

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    yes.... still working on my "wench" skills... they could use some improvement :rofl

    as for the Ambulator.... it's coming along. I will finish the wiring today. then it's final assembly time. and finish the windshield is half done... thats the last crucial bit
    #18
  19. FR700

    FR700 Banned

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    Coming up with the original inspiration to build the Ambulator is in itself noteworthy. Your execution of it is outstanding :thumb


    Personally I was mesmerized by your detail work on the mufflers.
    #19
  20. gatorgrizz27

    gatorgrizz27 Been here awhile

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    IMO, motorcycle mechanic schools are a waste, even if your plan is to become a motorcycle mechanic as a full time career. You will learn much more from hands on experience and the Internet provides so much information that there is little need for schooling besides something like a mentor/apprenticeship.

    While a lathe and tig are indispensable for some of the more technical projects, it makes little sense to spend $5,000 on 2 machines that require extensive skill to use properly when you are starting out. I would start by looking for a basic mig welding class at a local trade school or community college. If you enjoy it, get a 110v mig welder like a Hobart or Lincoln, both which cost around $500. Get a couple of angle grinders for cutting wheels, grinding wheels, and flap discs, and an oxy-acetelyne torch set. You will be able to do just about anything besides making custom bushings to fit wheels or forks, and weld stainless exhausts or aluminum with those tools.

    Keep in mind that while mechanic and fabrication skills are both used building custom motorcycles, they really are 2 completely different skill sets. The best welder in the world may not be able to diagnose something as simple as a plugged pilot jet, and vise versa.
    #20