Getting Lined Up

Welding the hardtail section of a rigid frame motorcycle might be the most important part of a build.  You don't want to be winding out the throttle on the highway and have a weld fail on you.  As a matter of fact, there is no good time to have your frame break into two!  In my experience, as a hobbyist, a weld can seem strong but snap off at the worst time.  As if it was held together with nothing more then some Elmer's.  Needless to say I would prefer if this old xs would stay in one piece. never hurts to have another set of eyes checking my work.

I had intentions of doing all of the welding on this bike myself.  After my struggle with tacking the rear section, I started to doubt if that was a good idea.  I know the biggest problem I had when tacking was my fault.  I was rushing and getting frustrated, but that was enough to get into my head.  I was worried that the Yammy would be wildly crooked.  I started having visions of cracking the throttle open on a back road and reenacting a scene from some low budget sci-fi movie.  Shacking and rattling while hearing pieces falling off as if I was breaking up on re-entry.  I decided maybe I should give Fab-Jerry a call for some assistance on this one. 

...there is no good time to have your frame brake into two!

Luckily for me, Fab-Jerry had some time free and told me to come by with the frame.  Working in his shop is a hell of a lot different than working in my garage shop.  He drew out a straight line on his workbench and we threw the frame on it.  He started by aligning the frame on the straight line and then went about meticulously measuring everything.  Every piece of the frame was measured and checked against the marked outline.  When I thought that he had already spent more than twice as much time checking it as I would have, I realized he was just getting started.  

I'm happy to learn from others as I go.

He came to the conclusion that the hardtail section had been tacked in the right spot.  Almost everything was lined up and good to go. Other then the bottom of the seat post, it was slightly askew.  I know I hadn't checked that at all on my final tack so that made sense.  It took all of five seconds to put back in the correct place.  Once everything was square and where it should be, Jerry was satisfied and got to welding.

As he worked around the frame, stacking dimes, I was happy that I had decided to ask for his help.  I am much more confident in his welds then my own.  I also appreciated the time he took to make sure the entire frame was lined up correctly.  It emphasized the point that I had rushed that step.  In general, it never hurts to have another set of eyes checking my work.  Once the frame was all welded we had a beer and talked about what my next steps were.  He suggested that I bring the frame back once I blend the welds so he could fill any low spots. if I was breaking up on re-entry.

As always, I appreciate the help.  Sure, it would be nice to say that I single-handedly did every part of this build on my own.  But that sense of pride would be short-lived if the finished product looks like crap, or even worse, falls apart!  I'm happy to learn from others as I go.  Whether that comes from people at the store just hanging out telling me about their build experience.  Or if it's someone letting me come into their shop with frame in hand asking for some assistance.  There is lots to learn and I'm happy to soak it all up. 

Author: Perth County Moto - Jeff O'Neill @perthmotojeff


  • Jeff

    I have read that book. A friend of mine gave it to me a while back. Great book.

    Josh I have sent you a message

  • Guy Morden

    Alan is right about that book. Excellent read. Much like Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance, it uses working on bikes as a metaphore for larger things.

  • josh

    Who is the welder who was used. I’m the the process of my own xs650 project and am in the same boat as far as not being 100% confident in my welds.

  • Alan Thwaits

    Sounds like a good experience on many levels. Glad the project is going well.

    Reading your post makes me think a book I’m reading right now. You’ve probably read it. If you haven’t, I think you might enjoy. It’s “Shop Class as Soulcraft,” by Matthew B. Crawford. He has a PhD in political philosophy, once ran a think tank, and now owns and operates Shockoe Moto, an independent motorcycle repair shop that specializes in vintage. Highly recommended.

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