Category Archives: general tech

Complications in Los Angeles


Sorry for the lack of posts once again, there has been lots to do out here in the last few months! The shop space I rented turned out to be a bit of a disaster. The real estate folk I dealt with told me there would be some light construction happening across the street from the space, where the city was building a new park. What they didn’t mention was that the park was only a small portion of a greater urban landscape change that effects several blocks around my new area. Raising the road grade several feet, demolishing and rebuilding a giant bridge over the nearby LA river, and digging lots of new trenches for assorted conduits, pipes, etc. The construction even goes through my yard, starting in a few months! The fence which isolates my little haven from the walking dead outside is my only defense (and was a major reason I chose this place), and soon that will be down. Here you can see the construction site that used to be a regular street in the background…

photo-4

Since about a week after I arrived, this whole area from the hill in the background to about 10 feet behind the dodge has been a 24/7 beep, beep, beep, beep from the construction equipment, as well as a constant haze of concrete dust. Jackhammers, dump trucks, backhoes, welders, and the biggest steamshovel I have ever seen have all descended on my new “home”. Add to the fact that I cannot use my central air system because it is filled with the remnants of a rat colony that occupied the space at some point. I didn’t realize this until I repaired the AC unit and clicked it on, then the smell hit me like a ton of bricks.

So needless to say I got fucked in the beard, big time.

So as fun as it was to move thousands of pounds of motorcycles and equipment, it looks like I will be doing it again soon. With the help of my friend John, I am on the hunt once again for a new shop space in the Los Angeles area. Anything from around 2500-4000 square feet, with all the typical bike shop requirements like a garage door, big flat floor, and lack of uptight neighbors. And of course I would prefer it not to be in the bowels of East LA. I am not putting a cap on the price this time around; I want to really see what is out there. Just a warning to any future realtors/landlords, I am at my whits end here and if I get fucked again, I have a plasma cutter and I’m not afraid to use it. And by the way, when this space comes up for rent again in a few months, I don’t recommend renting it unless you plan on opening a toxic waste dump, or a pet store that specializes in rodents. 2000 North Figueroa st, los angles ca 90065. If there are any lawyers who want an easy target, feel free to contact me!

On a better note, all the riding I have been doing has had my brain working overtime. I have never ridden this much, this consistently. It has given me the opportunity to really understand the shortcomings of whatever bike I am on, in this case, my dyna based custom “Interceptor”. I am splitting hairs here really, because the Interceptor is the most reliable motorcycle I have even owned, and has faithfully carried me all over this huge country without so much as a hiccup. Of course, my engineering mind is always at work and there are several things I think I can improve upon when the time comes.

For those not familiar with the Harley “dyna” series of motorcycles, I’ll give a basic synopsis (if anyone has any insight on them, or disagrees with me, please comment). A while back Harley (with Eric Buells help) realized that the vibrations their engines produce is a major limiting factor to both the comfort and performance potential of the bikes, and the “rubbermount” Harleys were born, starting with the shovelhead powered FXR in the 80’s. Since then there wave been quite a few variations on the rubber mounted design, such as the FXR’s, the rubbermount sportsters, the baggers, the Buells, and the dynas. They all isolate the rider from the vibrations to some extent, but are all quite different in how they use the actual rubber mounts.

I could ramble on about these bikes forever, but here is an observation and a question: On every design, the rear wheel swingarm is either rubbermounted by itself or solid mounted to the rubber mounted transmission. They are never attached to the main frame in a rigid fashion. Obviously it is the motor that is producing the vibration, and so it needs to be isolated. Why “rubberize” the rear wheel as well? The negative effects of this are what companies like “tru-track” are trying to control with various heim joints and linkages. Dynas are some of the worst offenders in my opinion when it comes to the “rubber swingarm” rear-steer problem, because their drivetrains are mounted on two rubber blocks in line with each other, rather than the more triangular mounting layout of the fxr’s and baggers. When I go around a corner, the rear-steer is horrible. To make matters worse, it is not simple wagging left to right, but also twisting and moving up and down. This creates very vague and unpredictable handling.

Here is the big question: why does the swingarm need to be rubber mounted? The answers I have gotten so far are 1; they need it because the rear end would vibrate otherwise (huh?) and  2; the rear wheel and sprocket shaft can’t have rubber between them (this is referring to the dyna design, but of course all the other rubber mount designs have that, so- myth busted)

Any educated input is welcome! comment please

 

 

 


Efab Update 2014


I thought it may be pertinent to give everyone an update on what I am doing with Efab currently. As many of you know, I am moving to California. I am not getting rid of the shop space in CT, however, until I have tried CA and (hopefully) liked it. The shop and apartment in CT may become available for rent, dependent on my experience in CA. My friend Alfredo Izzo, who has assisted me on several projects in the last year, is moving with me.

The reason I am not out there now is because of a mix-up with a shop space we found several months ago after an exhaustive search. We had reviewed the lease, visited the spot, and were assured by the realtor and owner that everything was a go. We returned to CT and packed up the shop, and then got a call from the realtor saying the current tenants were, in fact, not leaving for another year. If anyone in the LA area gets Mr. Tim Wetzel as a real estate agent, run the other way screaming! I cant say enough bad things about our experience with him.

We are flying out to LA this week to re-start our search for a new shop space. A huge thank you to Brooke Worrel, John Sender, and Allison Casson for helping us facilitate this move.

Project update

Despite all the changes to Efab, the next project is pushing ahead full steam! As a little recap, the project is based around a 1972 Dodge Charger, code-named the Vulture mk 1 and Vulture mk 2. The mk1 is simply the car, with a few drivability and durability upgrades in order to get it the 3000 miles from CT to CA under its own power. This drive will also serve to help me understand the shortcomings of the car, beyond the obvious (inefficiency).

The Mk 2 will be the kickoff project for the new shop in CA. The parameters for the new car: ultimate all around vehicle. A broad category for sure, but one that will challenge me and actually serve a useful purpose when finished. What does this entail? So far I have come up with these guidlines:

1. Durability. It must not be fragile

2. Efficient. Must get at least 22-25 miles per gallon

3. Stable and comfortable at high speeds. Must be comfortable cruising at 80-90 mph for long distances.

4. Cargo Capacity. It is a utility vehicle to serve Efab, so it must be able to carry an acceptable amount of cargo/load such as metal, motorcycle engines, building supplies, etc.

5. Aesthetically pleasing. Duh

The Mk 1 is finished, and will make the drive out as soon as we find a new shop. This will be the one, and only long trip the car should take, assuming something unforeseen doesn’t happen. To prepare for the Mk2, I have been educating myself on all types of wheeled vehicles. Keep in mind I have very limited experience building cars. In my life so far, I have owned a few pickup trucks, a 1970 Chevelle, a (new) Mini Cooper, and a 1929 ford hotrod.

The Chevelle and the 29 Ford were both assembled and highly modified by me, but not really built. I did not try to improve the cars, apart for the motors and aesthetics. Both of them handled poorly by modern standards (obviously), and despite both having plenty of power, neither was much use for anything other than the occasional joyride. They both had poor fuel economy (which limited range), excessive vibration and noise, and limited utility.

Two things  seem very obvious to me right off the bat. The engine and the chassis. Given the technology available, the only efficient engine with both the power and fuel economy to move a 3800 pound car is a turbo-diesel. Gasoline engines, when large enough to properly motivate a car this size, are simply too inefficient.

The second problem is handling. This is a Pandoras Box situation. “Handling” is a very broad term, one that is made up of many systems all working in harmony. The steering system, braking system, suspension design, chassis design, wheel and tire choices, and driver to car ergonomics all effect it.  Solving one problem presents another. One suspension design excels at one job, but is not ideal for another. It is the biggest engineering challenge I have ever taken on, but hopefully one that will be rewarding.

This transitional phase has left me with a lot of free time, which I have filled with reading and research. One major problem I have encountered, from an educational standpoint, is that there are very limited resources available to answer basic engineering questions. For example, you can get books on “how to build a nascar”, or “how to build an off road truck”, or “how to build a rat rod”, but not many on how to build a regular car. What this means is that I have to educate myself on every type of wheeled vehicle known to man, then pick and choose which technologies I can apply to my car. Oh well, in the words of Guy Martin, “If it were easy, every man and his dog would be at it.”

Stay tuned….

 


Race Car Interiors


Since a complete overhaul of my 1972 charger is in order once I get set up in my new shop, I have been relentlessly researching chassis design. I have always wanted a car with a roll-cage, and this is a perfect opportunity. Do I need a roll-cage in a street driven car? not really, but I don’t really need much of anything- its all about want.

(If your already into cars, bear with me here). When you think about it, cars are attempting to attach four wheels to a hollow sheet-metal box, with maximum interior space to impress its occupants. Obviously the road surface isn’t flat, so the suspension system attempts to allow each wheel to follow its own path while keeping the rest of the car stable. However, there are limitations to how stiff car manufacturers can make the “cabin” portion without compromising the interior space that consumers deem so very important. The resulting compromise is that most cars have an inherent amount of flex that occurs throughout them. This flex robs the car of precision control.

To get rid of that flex, almost all racing vehicles have a roll cage built into them. This cage does take up some interior space, but effectively turns the car chassis into a box structure, making it resistant to flexing. By unitizing the chassis, the suspension is much more effective.

Roll cages serve another purpose as well, to better protect the occupants inside. Lets face it, if you are strapped securely inside an indestructible steel cage, not a lot can hurt you right? I tend to agree. It begs the question: what is safer? A brand new car with front and side airbags, very minimal seat belt retention, crumple zones, sub-frames that precisely collapse on impact, etc. OR: I bombproof steel cage with you strapped very securely inside.

My opinion is the cage is safer. why? because all the technology in modern cars (in regards to passenger safety), revolves around average peoples unwillingness to strap themselves in. People hate seat belts- this is obvious. I dont know if it is a disdain for the law, a feeling of claustrophobia, or the misguided belief that being able to “escape” your car in an accident will save you, but people just don’t want to wear them.

With this in mind, car manufacturers have gone to the moon trying to come up with other ways to insulate occupants from reality, essentially turning the inside of the vehicle into a rubber room, and allowing the outside of the car to disintegrate on impact to absorb energy.

But what if you weren’t opposed to strapping yourself in? I’m not- I kinda like it! What about a better seat belt design, like a “4 point”, or “5 point” style that racers use? Now combine that with a cage that is not designed to fail. Lets look at some videos to demonstrate my point….

Typical car designed for people who hate seat belts:

Now a car with a roll cage and effective seat belts (skip to 40 seconds in):

The funny part is, the second crash occurred at far higher speeds, and ran directly into a guardrail, yet the driver is clearly fine.

One last video to demonstrate why roll-cages and good seat belts are better than crumple cars and shitty seat belts. Do you think these guys would have lived if this were a driving a new Toyota Camry?

(and yes they both walked away)

Lets review, roll-cages offer better vehicle control and increased safety, while sacrificing some interior space and taking an extra 3 seconds to strap into. I think I have my mind made up! stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 


1972 Dodge Charger


Things are in a state of flux at Efab these days. I am relocating to Los Angeles CA, first seasonally, perhaps permanently. The fate of the Branford, CT shop is uncertain at this time. Without boring everyone with my reasons for moving, let me show you what I will be driving out there: my dream car!

Every once in a while I do a car project, and I have a very progressive plan for this one! Ever since I was a kid I looked at the Dodge Charger as the quintessential muscle car. Not based on any particular feature, just the overall design. In particular, the 1971-1974 years. Of course everyone wants the 1968-1970, due mostly to the fact that it has been made famous in so many great movies (bullet, fast and furious, blade, dukes of hazard, etc). I like to be different, and I like the fact that in the later years, the design got a little sleazier.

Of course, I am not going to simply buy a car and drive it stock, its just not me. Also, it doesn’t really make sense, environmentally or financially, to drive a car that gets 10 miles per gallon on a regular basis. How can I have my cake and eat it too?

What engine can I put in here that will solve all my problems? I need lots of horsepower and torque, ease of maintenance, decent fuel economy, and low emissions. How about a turbo-diesel?

Modern diesel engines are not what they used to be. They are smooth running, reliable, quiet, have the ability to run a wide variety of fuels (bio-diesels), and make freakish amounts of power.

I am in the process of educating myself on the wide world of diesels now. I have never owned a diesel, or even seen one taken apart. I have a lot to learn before I can make an educated decision on where to begin, but for now I have another task: prep the charger for its cross country drive.

Here she is the day I bought her, coming home from Long Island on the ferry.

charger on ferry

 

As soon as it got to the shop I dove in. Anyone who has ever tried to restore an old car knows the pain I am talking about. Is it safe? what parts are about to fail? Is it going to catch on fire? how is the motor and trans? So many questions, and only one way to find out- start exploring.

One thing that was immediately obvious- the suspension was not up to par. I knew it would have to be upgraded, not only for the trip out west, but also for the heavier engine that will eventually be installed. A phone call to Firmfeel Inc (a mopar suspension specialist) got me several new key components. New heavy duty leaf springs and torsion bars, heavy duty tie rods, rebuilt heavy duty steering box,  giant sway bars,  a full poly bushing kit, and new stiff shocks. Once these components were installed, it completely changed the way the car drove. Thanks Firmfeel!

Next was the engine, and luckily I have a good friend (Ralph at Kehl Tech), who builds race engines for a living, and is dam good at it. He said the motor sounded good (its a small block 360), but suggested we rebuild the carb, which was a good guess because there was a lot of old gas residue gumming it up, as well as many mismatched parts.

Accessory belts were badly misaligned, so some new brackets had to be made as well. The coil was mounted sideways, so that was relocated too.

charger engine without carb

Next step was the wiring. As you can imagine, a lot of morons had been inside this car since it left the factory, and it seemed as if every one of them added their own special touches to the electrical system! My god, butt connectors, wires that had melted, electrical tape, stereo components that didnt work, old fuses, new fuses, wires with no fuse at all, and breakers that randomly pop. With my trusty test light I went at it, and after a week I had removed about 40ft of wire that didnt do anything, repaired several melted wires, got 3 non-functioning gauges to work, installed brighter headlights, and got all the critical running lights working. Of course all of this will get redone again when the new motor transplant happens, but it should survive the trip out now.

I cant be seen driving an orange car, and it isnt the original paint anyway, so a quicky repaint was in order. Spay bomb time!

charger being painted

 

I ripped off the old rotten vinyl roof covering, and molded the pitted metal underneath. I never liked those vinyl roofs anyway. The chromed trim and bumpers were in decent shape, but a scotch brightening session gave them a nice matte finish, similar to stainless steel.

charger in shop

I am leaving next month, so I am driving the car daily to (hopefully) bring any other problems to light before the big push west. Stay tuned for more updates, and remember, not all choppers have 2 wheels!

 


Iron Triangle Fender


The fender for my new bike (for the brooklyn invitational, then artistry in iron), has an entirely stainless steel rear fender. Recently I made the wiring conduit that leads the taillight wires from the frame backbone to the taillight location at the rear of the fender. To curve the thin walled tubing, I used a low-tech method that works well for tubing too thin to be formed in my roller- torch bending. Common thought is that using a torch to heat and bend thin tubing would result in the tube collapsing and “pinching”, but thats not the case if done right. By heating a large area of the tube to an even cherry red, and applying soft pressure, a perfect curve can be achieved!

here she is finished and installed:

fender 1

 

fender 2

 

fender 3


New Bike Update


Since returning form California I have been focusing entirely on the new bike, the “Iron Triangle”. It will be powered by a new engine I am building, which I have nicknamed the “Mini Stroker”. I will attempt to explain why I named it that: It is a hybrid of a Harley Evolution motor (built from 1984-1999) and a Harley Twin Cam motor (built 1999-present). In a nutshell, what I am taking from the Evo are the case mounting system, the bore and stroke, and the wrist pin. The Twin Cam parts are the cams, oiling system, heads, and crank assembly. The reason for this is because I feel that the Evo bore and stroke combo is superior, in many ways, to the twin cam. However, the Twin Cam is a far stronger motor (due mostly to the robust flywheel design) , and has a far more reliable oiling system.

So, since a first generation Twin Cam was 88 cubic inches (3.75″ bore by 4″ stroke), and an stock Evo is 80 inches (3.5″ bore by 4.25″ stroke), that means that in a Twin Cam crankcase I have increased the stroke from stock, making it a “stroker” motor. however, due to the reduced bore it has less displacement than a stock Twin Cam- hence “Mini Stroker”.

In addition to all this, I also changed the cylinders from stock cast aluminum with an iron liner to billet ductile iron. This is heavier, but also far stronger and more dimensionally stable under heat. In other words, as it gets hot it doesn’t change shape as much. This means tighter tolerances all around. I also used a head/ base stud pattern for attachment to the case and heads, instead of the thru-studs an Evo or Twin cam would have had. Again, stronger. In order to make the Twin Cam heads work with my new bore and stroke combo, (as well as a copper o-ring head gasket) modifications had to be made. I wanted to reatain the stock Twin Cam combustion chamber, but it needed to be reduced to 72 cc’s of volume to achieve my 10.5-1 static compression ratio. This meant decking (milling down) the heads significantly. In addition, the new flange system was milled into it to accept the o-ring gasket.

Ok, enough about all that, here are some pics:

I was lucky to have two trusted advisers here to help, my main man Alex Lerner from SL NYC in Queens, and Satya Kraus from Kraus Motor Co in northern Cali.

photo (27)

This is the “cam-plate”, the component that supports the cam shafts, routes oiling, and holds the oil pump.

photo (26)

Installing the bearings on the flywheel

image (7)

Checking the endplay on the left case half

image (5)

Completed short block

image (8)

Here is completed frame. All chromoly, all made here at Efab

photo (28)

closeup of front motor mount

image (9)

More to come!


Coffin Handle Bowie


This knife started out as a bar of 01 tool steel, and was shaped by sander, file, and stone. I apologize for not having pics of the beginning of the project. Here is the blade getting the final stoning before heat treatment. The heat treatment consists of heating the blade in my kiln to 1550 degrees, then quenching it in oil. This takes the steel from its relatively soft state to its max hardness. Directly after the quench it goes into the oven for 2, 2 hour 350 degrees heat cycles to temper it. People often seem confused as to the purpose of this second heating. When the blade comes out of the oil quench it is so hard that it can break- sort of like a piece of glass- super hard but brittle. The tempering reduces the hardness slightly to give it more resilience, while still retaining 90% of its post-quench hardness.

At this point, I have approx 20 hours into the blade alone. The candles are because I was doing this during the hurricane power outage!

Now on to the guard and handle. This is a paper template for the upper portion of the handle.

Here it is transferred onto the steel it will be cut from. I use a plasma cutter here.

Cut out, but rough…

Using my vintage surface grinder to remove the rust and scale from the steel, and to ensure that it is perfectly flat.

Now to the old Bridgeport mill to begin the long process of maching the rough steel to exact dimensions. This mill is all manual- no power feed or digital readouts… just my eyes!

OK, rough shape done, and approximate pin hole locations marked…

With the two halves held together, you can see what i achieved with the milling. The blade will recess down into the top of the guard, but not protrude through to the bottom.

Pin holes are drilled (and also drilled through the blade itself), and using the TIG welder to carefully weld the halves together.

Final polishing of the blade. After the heat treatment the blade is discolored and has oil stains, so this is necessary.  Of course, now the blade is rock hard so it takes even more effort to sand it!

Tapped off the blade to protect it while I continue with the handle.

Guard on but not permanently pinned, while I shape the top portion. It has to come back off to be polished.

Guard has been on and off a dozen times at this point, simply sanding, shaping, polishing, filing, fitting. It is important to note that I cannot simply lay this up on a large buffer to achieve this finish, because it will round off all my sharp edges. That means that 95% of this finish needs to be achieved by hand sanding.  This is solid steel.

Now on to the handles scales, made of stabilized amboyna wood

And all polished and blended..

file work in back of blade

finished product! If interested please contact me at easternfabrications@gmail.com

and yes it shaves hair