American Modder: Computer Bike

This is the third installment of a series of articles following Russ Caslis in his pursuit of constructing the first ever "Motorcycle Mod." In the latest installment, Russ spent days fighting with the front forks trying to remove all the dents and dings in the wood, with only partial success. On a brighter note, he succeeded in finishing a lighted and windowed hard drive mod unlike any other:

American Modder: Computer BikeTime to see what progress he has made this time around.

Return of the forks When I last worked on the forks, I had just put a fresh coat of primer over one of them. It looked pretty decent to me, so after it dried, I carefully sanded it down with 600 grit sandpaper to make it extra smooth. Then I painted a slight coat of chrome paint over it. I always hate working with silver paint--it takes longer to dry and gets fingerprints too easy. But chrome is the appropriate color for front forks, so I went ahead anyway. I let the paint dry for a couple of days and looked it over closely.

There were still quite a few dents in the wood that didn't show up until it was painted. I argued with myself for a few days about whether it was bad enough to redo. Ultimately, I decided it was and sanded down the entire fork and again covered it with primer. About this time, I also realized that the screw hole above the axle wasn't needed, as I planned to glue the axle to the wheel anyway. I mixed up some Bondo auto filler and covered the screw holes.

I still needed to fill some of the smaller dents in the forks, and using the water-based filler made it impossible to clean the parts before painting. When I was in the hardware store buying the Bondo auto filler, I noticed that there was another type of Bondo called "Glazing and Spot Putty". Hmmm… spot putty… sounds good to me! And it was. While not quite as easy to spread as the water-based wood filler I was using, it was close enough. More importantly it didn't rub off when the surface was cleaned with water.

After I sanded down all the areas I'd covered with spot putty and auto filler, I sprayed both forks with primer. Of course, right after one coat of primer, it started to rain, and this ruined painting I just did. After the primer dried, I sanded it down again and painted again (on a day with better weather). After the primer was dry, I sanded the forks down again with 600 grit sandpaper and started painting with chrome paint. The results were much better. I just had to go slow so the paint wouldn't run. Even after all of this, I still have to wait for the paint to fully dry and use some clear coat to help seal the paint permanently. Continued... Well, I still haven't managed to "finish" many pieces of this mod yet. So I decided to try something completely simple--the hand grips on the handlebars. They are self-contained pieces of wood with a bolt sticking out the center. To attach them to the handlebars, I just needed to screw them on by hand.

The usual problems presented themselves--dents in the wood and an uneven coat of varnish. But at this point I had a solution to both problems, if not a quick one. I simply covered the dents in with the spot putty, and sanded the excess putty and varnish away. After cleaning, I then used a coat of primer over them.

Hand grips are almost universally black. I want this bike to be somewhat traditional, but still something special. Black paint just wouldn't cut it. I found an interesting product called "PolyShield". This is a sort of rubber coating, like found on the handles of wrenches, hammers, and other tools. It comes as both a can you can dip an item into and a spray can. I purchased both types in the color black.

Ultimately, using the spray-on type worked better on the grips, as the dipping kind tended to leave an uneven surface at the bottom. So I sprayed about 4 coats of the rubber over the hand grips, making sure to get every surface and leaving hours of drying time between each coat. The result is exactly what I was looking for. Continued... The wheels seemed like another low-tech place to continue (giving me even more time to plan the rest of the mod). To continue the computer theme of the bike, I decided I would drill multiple holes through them in a grid pattern. If I painted the center of the wheels either green or tan and used small circles of copper paint around the holes, the wheels would look like enlarged circuit boards.

So I went about printing a pattern out and taping it to the wheels. Using my hand drill, I carefully drilled holes in one of the wheels. Let this be a lesson to me and to everyone else: Always use the right tool for the job. In this case, a hand drill is not the right tool. I should have gone ahead and paid the $100 that my local home-improvement store wants for a small drill press, but I was trying to be cheap and save some money. I got what I deserved for trying to skimp.

While the holes were properly aligned in a grid on one side, the holes on the other side were slightly off center in an uneven pattern. Yes, my hand and eye were not quite good enough to allow me to drill a hole straight down through the wood. My job wasn't too far off and would have been "good enough" for some people, but not for me. Even worse, the drill bits tended to take chunks out of the wood where I started drilling the holes, leaving an uneven surface. Continued...

Okay, I messed up again. I needed a way out of this without having to buy another bike. My solution was to buy some real circuit boards and try to cover up my mistakes. I bought the largest blank circuit boards that the local electronics store had and carefully cut holes into the center of them I also shaped the outside to be round . Then I sanded the edges to make them smooth.

I still needed to fix the poor job of drilling I had done earlier, as well as fix the usual dings and dents in the wood. Simple enough: Just use more Bondo and spot putty . The front wheel had large holes already in them that needed to be filled, too. (Why the rims were different for the front and rear wheels is a mystery). Bondo would never be strong enough on it's own to fill the holes, so I cut sections of wooden dowels and placed them into the holes, then covered them in Bondo. Lots and lots of sanding later, I sanded yet again. And again. You get the idea…

There were quite a few annoyances along the way. As it turns out, the center hub of the wheels was not identical on each side. None of them was even perfectly round, although some were worse than others. I ended having to sand each section of circuit board for a specific wheel and a specific side. Oh, did I mention the sanding?

A lot of work still remains to be done here. Ultimately, I need to paint the remaining visible sections of the rims copper and the tires black. But first comes a few more coats of primer.

Tune in again This time around, my focus was on the bike parts and totally ignored the computer technology. Come back again and watch it all start to take shape. Maybe next time I'll be able to work with some electronics again…