Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Town's Motorcycle History - The Flanders Motorcycle Company


Recently, I've been involved with a project to bring a Flanders motorcycle back to Chelsea, Michigan where it was built and donate it to the local Historical Society.

Every winter, a few of us local motorcycle folks get together once a month in a local pub to eat, drink, and talk motorcycles.  These occasions were named Barley Therapy by the gent that started it all and felt we all needed a little therapy during the months we couldn't ride motorcycles.  Things like the history of the Flanders come up for discussion.



The Flanders motorcycle was built in Chelsea from 1911 through 1913.  It was intended to be a motorcycle for everyman and was sold for $175.  At the time, the advertising propaganda claimed that Flanders had the largest motorcycle factory in the country, but that is probably stretching things a bit.  The pictures above are historical pictures of the building where the motorcycles were built.  Note the line of bikes being assembled and the engines sitting on the floor across the isle.  The factory is empty, but still stands.  It is part of a larger factory complex that is now in use as retail and office space.  A test track used to be behind the assembly building.


One of our number, Elliott Andrews, spent part of his winter in California and found a 1911 Flanders motorcycle in a private museum.  A long story short, with donations from local businesses and residents, we were able to raise most of the money to buy the Flanders.  Some additional funds were lent to the project to complete the sale and we now have the motorcycle at home, where it was built.


For now, we are learning everything we can about the bike, raising money to complete the purchase and for the changes needed to make it safe to ride.  We are also showing the bike in the area.  The pictures and video are from an antique motorcycle meet at Wauseon, Ohio.
 
These engines are very interesting.  It is a 4 stroke, 500 cc single that makes 4 Hp.  It has what is known as an atmospheric intake which means that the intake valve isn't operated mechanically.  The intake valve opens when the pressure in the cylinder is low enough to compress the valve spring.  There is a cam to operate the exhaust valve, but the valve and spring are visible on the outside of the engine.


The big U shape thing on the front of the engine is the magneto.  The right side twist grip controls the ignition timing, while the left controls the throttle.

The engine is started by having the rear wheel up on a stand.  The rider turns the pedals which turn the rear wheel.  The big leather belt on the left side of the rear wheel connects the engine to the rear wheel.  No kick start, no electric starter, just pedal like mad and hope the engine starts.

The only brake is a bicycle style, coaster brake.  Better plan your stopping well in advance.

It's Alive!

The YouTube video is the first engine start, complete with oil smoke.  We definitely need to get control of the oiling system.  Lubrication is by a total loss oil system.  You have to set the oil flow out of the tank at 15 drops per minute. Too much oil and it builds up inside the engine, robbing horsepower.  Too little oil and you are stuck on the side of the road with a broken engine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8QjoBrvUM0&feature=youtu.be

 I hope you enjoy our little project and the idea of bringing an important chapter in the history of our town back to our little museum.  Naturally, we would be grateful if anyone feels moved to donate, although we don't expect anything.  Those so moved should send donations to the Chelsea, Michigan Historical Society, specifically the 1911 Flanders motorcycle fund.  I'm sure I can find more detailed information if someone is interested.


My little joke - "The Flanders on an IV"
In reality, the 100+ year old gas tank is made of copper and has a leak or two at present.  The plastic bottle feeding the carb is very much like a hospital IV.






Monday, July 4, 2016

Fireworks and a Drone

For the last several years, I've been lucky with a very convenient fireworks display.  Folks at the little lake that is about 3/4 mile north of me have been putting on a nice fireworks display and I can see most of it by just looking out the 2nd story windows on the front of my house.  I miss some of the low fireworks, but most are well above the trees and make a nice free show.

This year, something different.  While I was watching, I noticed a small light fly in above the trees from the right, then hover there as if watching the fireworks too.  Out of curiosity, I got my binoculars.  I couldn't see any shape, but I could see 1 red light and two white lights on whatever was hovering.

Once the show was finished, they little lights hung there for a minute, then moved quite quickly to the right, and finally slowly descended toward the ground.  In the no so distant past, an observer would have thought "flying saucer", but these days we know that kind of behavior means a drone, probably a quadrocopter.

This morning, I went online searching to see if they put up the video of the fireworks display.  I couldn't find that specific one, but was surprised to find that many others have used drones to video fireworks, even flying into the fireworks.  To me, that is a more interesting use of a drone than spying on my neighbors or delivering packages.

The link below is to a drone fireworks video where the drone flies into the fireworks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-wnDCJ3rgU

Happy 4th to everyone.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Riding with a Smile

It seems like a long time since I got away from home, enjoyed some exploring, and some riding twisty roads.  My last attempt was a ride to the Smokies in May.  Unfortunately, my bike had other ideas.  You see, the day I left it was 35 deg F with horizontal rain.  I made it into Ohio and south of Columbus before so many things on the bike stopped working that I ended up renting a Uhaul and towing it home.  I admit that I was cold, wet, and miserable during the ride.  Apparently, so was the bike and it had sense enough to say STOP!

This trip went much better with only one minor issue to remind me that my bike is getting old.  I was trying to learn the proper way to travel when retired.  Although I could have gone interstates and gotten to the ride base hotel in about 8 hours, instead I took two and half days of nothing but back roads to get there.  I figure that I added 300 miles to a 500 mile freeway trip.


Along the way, I found little towns with interesting names and a few minor adventures.  For example, south of Arabia, Ohio, I found this sign.  My favorite caption is "Caution, Expensive Curves Ahead".

In West Virginia, after riding through the Cabwaylingo State Forest, I found that the road was following an old railroad bed and went through a railroad tunnel.  Normally, a tunnel is no big thing, but this tunnel was a very narrow lane wide, about 1 mile long, and had no lights at all.  My poor headlight did almost nothing to illuminate the black walls, ceiling, and roadbed.  In the middle, I was so far underground that my glasses and visor started to fog up.  You might say that I crawled through that tunnel, first gear, engine at idle, both feet out trying to sense the road.  Boy am I glad no one was coming from the other direction.  Somehow, riding in a car doesn't do the situation justice, but this video from YouTube gives you a small idea of the experience.


Dingess Tunnel

Along the way, I rode through little villages with funny names.  How about Wolfpit, Krypton, or Busy.  I guess it's not surprising that Cutshin is down the road from Smilax.  Along the way, I climbed a tall mountain on a little road that was sometimes paved, sometimes gravel and never wider than 10 feet.  It was an amazing view of the valley from the top, but I couldn't find a place to take a picture between the trees, so I am left with a cute little waterfall to remember the mountain by.


I have to say that I really enjoy these rides.  The coordinated action of leaning and balancing the bike through a range of corners and, frankly, riding a bit quickly, gives great satisfaction.  I recently saw a story about a guy who is 90 and still riding his motorcycle.  I get why.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Analog Distraction

I mean well.  I try to keep myself focused on the project list and do it in order.  It's just that I am easily distracted.

The phono preamp sounds so good, that I have been listening to vinyl a fair bit.  That got me curious about the differences between turntables and planning some experiments for a future DIY turntable.  The problem is that the DIY turntable is way down the list.


So, I found myself buying a 25 year old turntable that has been modified by it's first owner.  That is a step up from my 35 year old turntable I have been using.


It's an AR ES-1, a very simple manual turntable, but with good bones.  Also, in very good shape for it's age.  I did a few modifications of my own.  I added dampening material to the base and fine tuned the tonearm and suspension.


The modifications done by the previous owner included a better motor and a Merrill platter.  The platter is made from acrylic with lead glued on top for dampening.


He also made up some very interesting feet.  Kind of a layer cake of two layers of cork,  two kinds of rubber, and double sided foam tape between each layer.  Actually, they remind me of some cookies my mother used to make.  Gram crackers with frosting in between.  MMMnnn.

Now I just need to fix the motorcycle and get back to that project list.




Saturday, April 30, 2016

Phono Preamp


I know that all this electronic stuff and pictures of circuit boards is kind of boring for those of you who like cars and motorcycles.  But I like it.


The latest project is a phono preamp that uses vacuum tubes.  Why vacuum tubes you ask?  Isn't that old fashion?  Well, I'm new to it too, but the designer says that vacuum tubes have certain advantages like a wide dynamic range and, besides, he likes the way they look.  OK.  Good enough for me.


If you are curious why it's on a piece of plywood,  I hope to build a DIY turntable and stand in the future.  That may turn out to have a triangle shape.  Since the preamp should "fit" with the turntable and stand, I'm waiting until all that gets decided before designing the preamp enclosure.  What do you think, a big triangle with the points cut off?  Or maybe a trapezoid?

One of the unusual things about vacuum tubes is that they essentially need 3 power supplies and those are often in a separate enclosure to keep the tubes quiet.  In other words, there was lots to learn on this project and an extra dollop of complexity.


Tubes also take time to warm up and turn on.  Maybe 30 seconds before there is a little glow in the top of each tube.  No music comes out before that.  Kind of strange for our normal "instant on" solid state life.

Speaking of the separate power supply enclosure, I tried something a little unusual in the paint job.  I was going for "old leather", but I don't quite get there.  Oh well.  The power supply will sit in back on a bottom shelf, so no one will really see it.




The good thing is that it sounds great!  Background noise as good as a CD and a very dynamic presentation.  I guess I need to buy a few new records.


Friday, March 4, 2016

My father's version of steampunk

They say that you should always spend time with your parents and every question you can think of while they are still here.  Of course, my father passed away last year, so when I find something unusual in his stuff, I can no longer ask him what it was for or how it worked.  I guess what they say is true.


My father had a bunch of electronic projects, mostly things that he wanted to explore and made something that allowed him to do it.  Naturally, all that stuff came home with me when we cleaned out his house.  Now, he never expected or intended for anyone else to be interested it his little projects, so there is no documentation and almost no labeling.  Imagine my surprise when I open up an electronics test box and find this funky looking electro-mechanical device.



As for me, I have no idea what it was for.  I've studied it for a while and I think I can describe some of it's function, but why you would do this is a mystery.  I am open to suggestions.


In the meantime, I just love the way it looks.  I guess all the brass got me thinking steam punk.  But it's also got a combination of Rube Goldberg and something hand made early in the 19th century.


Anyway, here is what I see happening.  To start with, there is a DC motor that drives a gear reduction and a shaft mounted in oil-light bearings.  I don't have any idea where the motor is from.  The gears and shaft are likely left over from our slot car days.

Then there are two commutators mounted on the shaft with home-made brush holders on each commutator.  Don't you just love the brass tube with one end folded over as a brush holder?  One one end, the commutator makes a circuit with several resistors that seem to step down (up?) in resistance as the brush connects with each part of the commutator.  The whole thing connects to the opposite commutator in only one place.

I'm stumped.  But it does look cool!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Where did the winter go?

 This is one of those winters when I keep waiting for it to begin.  It's the end of February and it hasn't really started yet.  With a little luck, we will get a few inches of snow tomorrow, but it is too late to make up for the real winter I was hoping for.  You see, for the last 38 years of my life, I have spent the majority of winter on test trips in Arizona or California, etc.  I thought, now that I'm retired, I will get to enjoy a real, full time winter.  Not this year.


But that doesn't mean that I don't have pictures of snow to cheer me up.  Actually, this post was inspired by my friend, Doug, who is a native of the southwest ( a no snow kind of guy), but who has given winter and snow the old college try for the sake of some good friends.  So Doug, think positive thoughts.  Snow is wonderful.  Snow is beautiful.  You can always hire somebody to shovel.



My favorite breakfast restaurant.


 Anybody for hoops?


And easy parking.


Forgive me if I am reusing photos that you have already seen.  It's just that they are my favorites and make me want to get out and play.