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Engineering skills

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  • Engineering skills

    Problems finding parts is one that is shared by many bike owners, not only Greeves but other makes as well. Requests for small mechanical parts, like studs and spacers is common amongst today's owners/restorers.
    Back in the day when a lot of our industry was engineering based, a job in engineering was a common occupation, toolmaker, instrument maker etc. and if you were not in that occupation yourself you could get a mate in the tool room to make you the bits during lunch hours (or during the day if the forman was not watching, commonly referred to in the trade as a foreigner).
    I myself did a tool making apprentice ship and made many parts at work as 'foreigners'
    Today mechanical engineering apprenticeships are not common like they were, and today's youngsters are going into white collar or computor based jobs, so have never seen let alone operated a lathe or milling machine, and of course old school engineering shops are a thing of the passed, those that remain are into high tech CNC machines.
    So where does this leave the amature bike restorer? Small lathes are available reasonably cheaply, new ones for around 400 and many older used ones for less often being sold by deceased engineers families. So you then need to pick up the skills to use it, local schools and technical colleges used to offer evening classes in practical subjects like woodwork and metal work, but today you may find it difficult to find one offering these courses. The other way to obtain the knowledge is to join a local model engineering society, many of these have an on site workshop with machines that members can use. So even if you don't have your own lathe (or milling machine) you could use the clubs equipment to make parts for your bike.
    Motorcycle restoration is as we all know an expensive game, so if by making small parts like spacers, studs, brake linkage etc etc you can save considerable amounts of money.

  • #2
    I agree John, a small lathe is invaluable, even small milling jobs are feasible on one. One alternative is for those who don't have facilities or space. Colin


    • #3
      Community Sheds? There is no space to fit a community in mine! Space is the problem. I would love a lathe in mine, but I would have to get rid of at least one bike in order to fit it in. That could be a difficult decision...... I have not dismissed the idea, though.

      I do agree with what you say though, John. It is to do with cost and convenience.

      If one was to buy a lathe, what minimum features would be required, given our hobby?


      • #4
        A Myford ML7 would be ideal but they expensive even secondhand, Obviously there has to be a limit but something like a 3 ft long bed with a 6 inch dia gap between center of chuck and bed would cover a lot of jobs such as spacers shafts studs nuts bolts etc. Obviously you would need a much larger machine for truing up brake drums with wheel built up.
        A 3 jaw chick is essential but a 4 jaw would be useful for some jobs like skimming cylinder head etc.also a tail stock chuck to hold drills etc.
        The community sheds that Dogsbody is referring to are community work centres set up by volunteer organisation, not all would have machine tools, and those that have would probably have a waiting list to get onto one. Not ideal but may work for some.
        Last edited by John Wakefield; 25/09/2019, 05:26 PM.


        • #5
          You're not far off the mark John, I did a toolmaking apprenticeship as well although we didn't call them foreigners, we always used to refer to doing our homework. To be honest, I could see the writing on the wall for large scale engineering in the UK so got myself a job in sales which paid the mortgage very nicely for a number of years.

          I bought myself a little lathe with a milling attachment on it about 6 years ago for precisely the reasons you state and when I semi retired I found a 2 day a week job making metal parts for an aircraft restoration company. I now have the use of a full size lathe and milling machine with various attachments such as dividing heads and rotary tables etc. etc.

          Work doesn't feel like work most of the time these days


          • #6
            I retired 3 years from arguably the biggest engineering firm in Britain, Rolls-Royce and at the time of leaving they were doing quite a lot to encourage young people, especially girls into engineering. Unfortunately I hear that this has slowed down somewhat due to difficult trading conditions. R-R were heavily involved with the Bloodhound land sped record attempt which has since gone bust though it has been resurrected, but I'm not keen on the new 'owner'. I was always happy to have an apprentice with me during my time and kept in touch with a lot of them for some years after. Strangely i have one again, a thirteen year old lad whom I'm teaching to ride and then trial. He was lucky enough to get into the nearby JCB Acedemy as he wasn't happy at the local school. My daughter didn't get in as the selection criteria was names in a hat, 258 applications for 66 places. I started out with a table top lathe in the garage, through a model makers lathe and a Colchester Student to the Triumph 2000 I have now. Biggest problem is the electrical supply. When I sold the student it only just paid for the inverter which powers it's big brother. I'm always happy making bits for my bikes, I've just finished making a strengthened spindle clamp for the Royal Enfield forks I have fitted to my TFS (Not much of the original bike left now).




            • #7
              I, too, did a 5 year apprenticeship, with B&D, when I left school in 1960! Started out wanting to be a toolmaker but changed to an engineering one in the last 2 years. Up to that point we all had the same programme, working in every section of the plant including all areas of the machine shop, assembly and wiring shop. This set me up for a career as a manufacturing engineer, coming to Canada in 1967 and taking early retirement in 2002 with 30 years with the last company.
              When working, I was working closely with the shop personnel so they were only too happy to make the odd "government job" for me. As we had an evening shift in the shop this was an ideal time to get these done. I remember the head of the 250 Ducati I was racing at the time being twin plugged behind the cam drive.
              I have a small workshop where I prepare my 2 road racers and bought a small lathe with a vertical milling head that swings out over the headstock, Chinese of course and not very accurate but can do what I need to do if I am careful. One job was to make a special mainshaft nut for the Nova 6-speed as the original Albion part was a LH thread while the Nova shaft was RH, and several thou oversize on the pitch diameter at that.



              • #8
                When I was road racing in my twenties my local college of further education ran an evening course on workshop practice. That gave me access to good quality machine tools and expert advice. I then spent my entire working life in the manufacturing industry and although I was never anything like a craftsman I retained a rough idea of basic manufacturing processes. On retirement I looked at my local college to see if there were any similar courses. (Pause for laughter). The workshop was closed years ago, however the college does offer a course on Feng Shui.

                I guess we're all singing from the same song-sheet, but I agree with John, a good source of skills are model engineering societies, especially the forum at I recently bought and restored an old 1948 Drummond M type lathe and the first Greeves parts came off it last week.