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Hopper 1st January 2009 04:08

Special tools

Originally Posted by Shadowdog500 (Post 1655080)
I cant wait till Hopper starts him homemade Harley tool thread. His homemade crank and wheel truing stands are simple yet elegant tools that anyone can build, once they see his solution.

Maybe we should just start the thread and have him add his homemade tools to that.

I bet we all made some homemade and custom tools for our bikes, it would be neat to have one thread that lists them.


Ok, well I will start the ball rolling. I figure if we all post pics/details of our special Ironhead tools, either made-up or bought, one tool per post, with the name of the tool in the title bar, we should end up with a searchable data base of every possible special tool for future reference.

Hopper 1st January 2009 04:11

Clutch compressor tool
or is it clutch compresser tool??

Anyhow, mine, the el cheapo model, is made from two pieces of timber screwed together, a piece of harware-store 1/4" UNC threaded rod cut in half, some 1/4 nuts and washers. It does not have the centre screw like the factory tool. I just tighten down the nuts on the threaded rod to compress the clutch springs.

Hopper 1st January 2009 04:20

Flywheel / crankshaft truing stand
Can also be used for balancing flywheels as well as trueing.

Here are some pics of a flywheel truing stand we made years ago and I just found it lurking in my dad's shed. It is made from a piece of 4" steel channel as a base.
Two automobile connecting rods are then bolted to holes drilled in it at the right distance apart to suit whatever flywheels are being worked on.

A threaded insert was machined up so a half-inch or so bolt could be threaded threaded through, with locknuts to hold it in position.

The ends of the bolts are machined to a point same as a lathe centre (cant remember offhand now if that is 60 or 90 degrees. 60 I think.)

Magnetic dial gauge is stuck to the base to suit job in hand.

This rig has been used to do countless numbers of 45 Flathead bottom ends, J models and big Brit singles like the Matchless wheels in the pic.

The alignment of the two centre bolts is not super critical - they just provide the two points, the flywheels and shafts the straight line between them.

And here is a pair of adaptors to swing big fat Harley flywheels in a small lathe like a 4.5" swing Myford etc.

Here is another way to true flywheels in a small Myford lathe that has only a 4.5" swing so Harley flywheels won't fit. Two offset pieces made from some flat half-inch thick bar and some half-inch round bar.

You just lokc the chuck in position with the back gear and spin the wheels between the two offset centres. Simple but effective.

Hopper 1st January 2009 04:22

Wheel truing stand
My $5 wheel trueing stand used for making wheels run true and lacing on new rims, respoking etc.

And here is the $5 wheel truing stand:

Use old worn wheel bearings, b ut not notchy, with WD40 for lube, for balancing. Nice free movement.

And to get the initial spoking nice and centred, drill a hole on the work bench for the axle, scribe a circle where the rim goes and locate it with wooden blocks screwed to the bench. Wooden shims provide correct offset.[/QUOTE]

Shadowdog500 1st January 2009 04:46

Clutch Actuator Install Tool
This tool holds the clutch actuator so that the balls dont drop out of the channels when the primary is being installed. The tool is drilled through so a screw driver can be inserted into the adjustment screw. The full adjustment can be made while the tool is still installed and holding the inner and outer plates together so that the balls dont drop out of the channels during the initial clutch adjustment. Once the clutch and cable are adjusted you simply remove the tool and tighten the locking nut, this way the assembly never gets a chance to drop.

If you have a lathe it should only take under 10 minutes to make. I made mine from a piece of scrap that I fished out of the scrap bin.

Here are some photos.
The folowing picture was taken with a camera phone so it is blurry.


Hopper 1st January 2009 04:55

Sprocket cover dowel hole repair tools
This is a bit of an obscure one but a real pain to fix, requiring several special tools so I just pasted the whole section from my rebuild thread.

When it came back from the aircraft welder it looked like the pics below.
Amazingly, there was no big blob of weld but two tiny little rings, still with the (rough) hole in the middle. His TIG welder can weld aluminum .010" thick.
I left the gearbox shafts and bearings in place during welding to help stop distortion of the cases. He pre-heated the cases gently with a torch then would put a ring of weld on, let it cool off, repeat, repeat repeat etc.
The man is a true artist. Notice how he welded around the screw next to the top hole but did not go over it. And the 1/4" threaded hole in the middle was still useable. Truly amazing.

Close up but blurry - (wouldnt guess I was a professional photographer once upon a long time ago:laugh )

Now all I had to do was remachine those two 7/16" dowel holes back where they should be, within oooh, about .001". If had split the cases I could have put them on my mate's milling machine and precision machined them. But because I was too lazy to split the cases and disturb that nice tight, factory original bottom end, I did it the hard way.

First thing was to filethe flat surfaces back on again, using the sprocket cover with bearing blue on it as a guide. Couple of hours with a pair of 10" bastard file and millsaw file did that.

Now, to drill the holes, I had to make a drill jig out of half-inch steel plate:
This is to guide the drill bits when I drill the welded up areas, and to make sure the holes come out in the right place.
I made the jig by first drilling the hole to match the blind lower dowel hole in the sprocket cover, put the dowel in place and then drilled the footpeg stud hole by putting the sprocket cover over the plate and drilling down through it. Then the same for the top hole.
I also sleeved the sprocket cover down with a steel sleeve so the hole for the footpeg stud was a tight fit and would take most of the weight in future.

Because the top hole has a 1/4 bolt running through it, and the weld was off centre, I made a special drill/cutter out of 7/16" silver steel. It had a 1/4 inch hole up the centre so it could fit over a threaded stud screwed in the hole. I cut two flutes on the end of it with an angle grinder so it is like a milling cutter, or flat-nosed drill. Finished it off on the pedestal grinder. I then flame hardened it with the oxy torch. Heated it cherry red then quenched in oil. Then tempered it to a light straw colur and quenched again.
It looked like this:

So using my electric pistol drill and proceeding very carefully - dont want to drill through to China, it came up looking like this:
And this:

In the final fit up, I made custom dowel pins and fitted them with a small file and some bearing blue so they are tight as tight and wont work loose again.
I also drilled and tapped that top stud out to 5/16 for more strength and also plan to add a steel angle bracket from the top of the sprocket cover to the two bolts on the top of the gearbox near rear mounts. SOB will not move ever again!!

I still had to strip the gearbox and replace those bearings that had been welded right next to.

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:03

Transmission countershaft needle roller bearings drift
The two needle roller bearings on the counter shaft I replaced, heating the cases and trapdoor gently with a propane torch and gently tapping them out/in with a stepped drift I turned up on a mate's lathe.

They are two different size bearings so each end of the drift is differnt. The one for the trapdoor end includes a step on it the right thickness to locate the bearing the correct amount in from the surface, as specified in the manual.
Be sure to make the drift a few thou smaller than both the inner and outer diameters of the bearing so you can get it out after tapping the bearing in.

The propane torch needs to have the big burner head to get enough heat happening. Heat cases until you can spit on them and the spit boils and sizzles - 212 degrees F - and no hotter. It will not distort the cases if done gently and you keep the torch moving in circles all the time. Do not use oxy acetylene, it is too hot and can cause warpage.
I also found an electric heat gun will do the job, just takes longer.

Like all bearings, they can be changed cold but all you are doing is tearing the hell out of the aluminium and setting it up for the bearing to spin the housing due to the resulting loose fit, specially if the job has been done once or twice before.

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:05

First gear bushing installation tool
Found out the hard way not to hand ream this bushing after fitting. Put in another one and set it up in the lathe and bored it true. Had to make a steel ring to hold the gear in the lathe because the 17 tooth gear wont sit in a three jaw chuck evenly.

And this is the rig I used to get the old bushing out and the new one in. A pair of sockets and a 3/8 bolt for extraction, a stepped collar on a 9/16 bolt to instal.

The other collar on the left is the one I used on the same rig to fit new connecting rod small-end bushes aka piston pin bushings

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:12

Piston pin bushing install and ream
Used a 9/16 UNF high tensile bolt with stepped collars turned to fit loosely in the new bush, and slightly smaller than the outside diameter and pulled the old bushes out and the new ones in. Make sure the chamfered end of the bush goes in first.

After pulling the bushings in with the above rig, this is my $1 holding jig to stop the connecting rods flopping about when I reamed them. A couple bits of timber and four bolts. Holds them nice an steady for reaming.

And two holes in a rag with some tape stops any bronze chips from the reamer getting down in the crankcase.

Used an adjustable hand reamer to carefully size the bushings. The pins slide in and out without a hitch and just barely perceptible shake. Dont want them tight or they might nip up in operation. I have heard of guys putting fine grinding paste on an old pin to lap out the last half-a-thousandth, but I dont like putting paste in my engine if I can avoid it. Those little bits of carborundum might just embed in the bronze. So brake hone it was:

Then checked the pin was parallel to the crankcase mouth by using two pieces of 3/4" precision key steel from my local bearing supply shop.[/QUOTE]

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:22

Cylinder base nut torque wrench tool
Torque up the base nuts using a torque wrench and a ground down crows foot. The base nuts take 30ft Lbs or 360 inch Lbs. With the crows foot, you torque to 335 inch Lbs to make up for the extra leverage.
Formula to work it out is here:

If you grind down the crows foot like this, it works quite well, and I have not had a cylinder base leak since.

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:25

Piston ring compressor and piston holder
My favourite cylinder installing rig: a wooden spacer with slot to hold piston steady as I slide the cylinders on. And a Volkswagen "krinkle cut" ring compressor that comes apart after the cylinder is on. The crinkle cuts stop it jamming up in between the piston and cylinder. Easy peasy. Also, use plenty of oil in the rings, piston and cylinder to help it all slide on.
Thats just an old piston used to set up for pick so is way too dirty for assembly.[/QUOTE]

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:30

Primary locking tool and clutch locking tool
This is the sprag I used to jam the clutch and engine sprockets to tighten the engine mainshaft nut (120 foot pounds).

It has a divot cut out of it for the where the footpeg mount goes in a 77 model. It is right on 4" long, made from about 1/4" flat strap, wide enough to fit on all three rows of the teeth on the sprocket. It is made from a piece of scrap metal so the countersunk hole is not necessary, just part of whatever it was before it became a special tool.

It fits between the two sprockets to stop them turning. The chain pulls tight on one side and counters the forces on the sprag bar, so it works real easy without stressing the shafts or cases.
I use a long torque wrench to tighten the engine sproket nut. Using an impact gun can possibly shock your flywheels out of alignment so I prefer the old way.

Two more little pieces to jam between the inner and outer clutch drums, with the main sprag still in place. You have to be careful to keep them all in position when tightening.

And what in the sam hell is this?:

:laugh It is my jerry-rig to hook my half-inch torque wrench up to my 3/4 drive socket on the nut, via a socket that fits over the square shank of the drive. Torque to about 140 foot pounds with this contraption. (Note the irony of the advertisement on the newspaper below the contraption.)

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:37

Primary filler plug tool
I bought one of these from JP Cycles that goes on a 3/8 socket set. Wish I had one 30 years ago, before I chewed up my filler plugs using all manner of screwdrivers and things on them.

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:45

Valve guide install and removal tool
Valve guide drift, old guides and valves. (And legendary BFH, standard HD factory fix everything tool, 2LB) The drift is slightly smaller than the hole in the smaller exhaust guide and stepped up to slightly smaller than the part of the guide that fits in the head so it can knock the old guides out.

Wooden jig to hold head while working on it, changing guides etc. The valve stems and springs sit in the slot when you turn head over. Piece of wood at the end means the intake stub bears against it when knocking in the new guide and does not get banged up against hard objects.

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:47

Valve spring compressor
My homemade valve spring compressor, a G clamp and a pipe fitting with a slot hacksawed into it.

Hopper 1st January 2009 05:55

Cylinder head torque wrench - in frame
Pic: 1/2" drive torque wrench for 60 ft lbs, shown here on rear head, using universal joint and 3/8 drive socket to access head bolt. More about that little game later.

This one I bought ages ago. A 3/8 drive universal joint. It needs to be a good quality one so it is slim enough to fit the very tight space, and to take the 60ft lbs torque required on the head bolts. This is hooked to a very slim 3/8 drive 7/16AF socket, a 4-inch extension and a 3/8 to half-inch adaptor to hook it to my bigger torque wrench.

Pic: Head bolt torquing rig:

Pic, if universal joint is too fat, it might need grinding down a little bit, but mine was ok.

Pic: Universal joint in action. This is the toughest one to do, the front right stud on the rear cylinder.

Pic: Small torque wrench for initial tighten to 20, then 40 ft lbs. Dont hold your torque wrench like this if you are really using it. Hold by the proper handle bit, without thumb extended. It can affect the torque reading.

Pic: Big torque wrench for final tighten to 60ft lbs. The purists will argue that the torque reading could be put off by the angle of the universal joint etc. I tried it on the easy to get to head bolts, tightening straight and tightening crooked, and then seeing how much torque was required to loosen the bolt, and I could see no noticeable difference on a wrench like this with a dial rather than click. I am happy they are as near as dammit.

All this can take some jiggling. The universal joint works in some positions, but not others, so you have to take it off and turn it around a little. Also make sure the socket is all the way down on the bolt head before putting 60 ft lb on it. My best advice is to use top quality brand tools, they are slimmer and made of stronger steel and fit better. My favourites, but I cant always afford them are Stahlwille, German made. Thin, light, but strong.

Hopper 1st January 2009 06:49

Rocker box bolts torque wrench in frame adaptor
Torque rocker box bolts to 20 ft/lb. I made a special 3-inch extender to get in under the frame to the middle ones. It is basically a ring spanner (box wrench to you, I think) cut off to 3 inches long and a 3/8 drive socket welded on for the torque wrench to fit into. Torque with this rig to 185 inch pounds on my 10-inch wrench give 240 inch pounds (20 ft lbs) at the bolt.
Pic: Using a 3-inch torque wrench extension to tighten rocker box bolt under the top frame rail.

This is a half-inch wrench cut down and welded to a 3/8 drive socket. I used a 3/4AF socket and cut two notches in it to take the load. I also ground the wrench down a little to fit in around the bolt head. Well, actually, I used an old Triumph cylinder base nut wrench I had already ground down. :D

Pic: Wrench cut down, socket notched with my 4" angle grinder.

Pic: Torque wrench extender welded and ready to use.
I made the distance 3 inches from centre of the bolt head to centre of the torque wrench drive. This means I needed 185 inch pounds on my 10-inch wrench to get 240 inch pounds (20 ft lbs) at the bolt. Formula and handy calculator are here:

Torque rocker box bolts to 20 ft lbs. Use the abovementioned wrench cut down to 3 inches long and welded to a 3/8 drive socket to get in under the frame and torque those rocker bolts to show 185 inch pounds on my 10 inch torque wrench, to give 240 at the bolt. .
Pics: Torquing rear rocker box bolts with torque wrench extender.
Keep the extender straight out in front of the wrench. Don't let it move out of line more than a ratchet click or two, otherwise it can affect the torque reading.

FourCams 1st January 2009 06:53


Hopper 1st January 2009 07:03

Ok guys that's all i can find in my pile of pics of special tools. So please go ahead and add your own posts on special Ironhead tools you have made or bought. I am sure there are many more elegants examples than my rough budget models out there.
Eg, Shadowdog500's great little clutch actuator tool back in post #5.

Let's see more of 'em :banana

Hopper 1st January 2009 07:06


Originally Posted by FourCams (Post 1655997)

:laugh yeh that would be me where he jumps in and misses the dinghy and goes in the water. :laugh

FourCams 1st January 2009 07:11

That lathe is a thing of beauty!

I'm very envious!

Hopper 1st January 2009 07:19


Originally Posted by FourCams (Post 1656006)
That lathe is a thing of beauty!

I'm very envious!

It is my Dad's, down in his workshop in Adelaide at the other end of the 5000 mile Ironhead ride. He bought it in England when he was in the merchant marine in the early 1950s and it has been turning away ever since.
Apparently, it was used in some Limey factory during World War 2 making aircraft parts, so it must be a 1930s vintage, flat drive belt and all.
It is actually a Myford but made by the Drummond company in that era.

I am pretty sure the lathe in Bert Munro's workshop in the Worlds Fastest Indian movie is the exact same type of lathe. I think they were the standard issue throughout the empire back in those days.

Me and my brothers were all quite proficient in the use of this one by the time we were 12 years old, making bicycle axles, knife handles and working model steam engines and toy cannons - all that stuff that all boys should grow up with. :D

FourCams 1st January 2009 07:36

It's amazing how well made those things are, and how long they last. I bet the motor smells wonderful. There's just somethin about those old lathes...
Kinda like an Ironhead.. it's somethin ya can't really describe.

Hopper 1st January 2009 10:33


Originally Posted by FourCams (Post 1656034)
It's amazing how well made those things are, and how long they last. I bet the motor smells wonderful. There's just somethin about those old lathes...
Kinda like an Ironhead.. it's somethin ya can't really describe.

oh no, it has a new motor on it --- installed in the 1960s:laugh

Some of those old lathes back in pre-WW2 days were originally operated by a treadle like an old sewing machine. :wonderlan

But yeah, it is a different way of machining, much more by "feel" than a modern lathe. And like an Ironhead it does have that unique old machinery sort of smell, old oil and iron comingled for decades.

thefrenchowl 1st January 2009 12:46

Thanks Hopper,

For a very instructive thread, worth saving as a favorite page.

That's an extractor for both main engine and gearbox sprockets:

I was given this grinding wheel balancer:

and moded it with bearing assemblies to center cranks:

It also fit snugly on my Myford lathe.

I moded the Myford to fit a frequency inverter driven motor, 3/4 HP single phase to 3 phases, all in one, that I pinched at work off a high pressure chemical dosing pump!!!


MDT 1st January 2009 14:08

Wow! This stuff is priceless! Keep it going!

thefrenchowl 1st January 2009 15:38

Hi again,

My garage's quite small, no room for an hydraulic press. Not needed for most Sporty jobs, so I bashed this "pusher", out of an hydraulic puller, to get the flywheels out of the left case:


Hopper 2nd January 2009 03:58

Frenchowl - very nice main bearing puller there. Certainly looks sturdy enough!

Shadowdog500 2nd January 2009 04:07

This stuff is priceless.

I hope others aren’t hesitant about posting a tool that is already shown. I think it is really useful to see different variations of the same tool or to see the slightly different ways people attack the same problem.


Hopper 2nd January 2009 04:14


Originally Posted by Shadowdog500 (Post 1657601)
This stuff is priceless.

I hope others aren’t hesitant about posting a tool that is already shown. I think it is really useful to see different variations of the same tool or to see the slightly different ways people attack the same problem.


Yep, the more the merrier. There are many different ways to make these tools. Also special tools you have bought that work well would be good to see too.

Hopper 2nd January 2009 04:19

Generator gear puller tool
Here is a nifty little two-leg puller from the local auto parts store that gets the gear off the generator. (Take the nut and oil slinger washer off first - this pic is just mocked up for demonstration!)

You have to be sure the puller legs have the thin hooks on the end that will get in behind the gear.

thefrenchowl 2nd January 2009 12:37

OK, here 're some more hand made tools...

52/71 dry clutch locking tool, driver/driven plates bolted/welded together (bolts are there not to hold them together, just for pulling out afterwards!!!):

72 and later wet clutch, same idea:

"Spider" to improve wet clutch parallel throw out while installed, allows individual nut adjustment:


thefrenchowl 2nd January 2009 13:50

Slotted hand grinder spanner to tighten left hand side swing arm big nut, the one hidden behind clutch:


thefrenchowl 2nd January 2009 14:00

Now, a few factory tools that are worth buying if you find them. I've put their part numbers as well if you want to google them:

Rod locking tool, fit on the cases, H-D 95952-33:

Shaft extention and inner Timken extractor, H-D 96015-56:

Tappet block extractor, needs the cams to be still in the cases, H-D 95724-57:

Dry clutch hub puller, H-D 95960-52A:


jakazz 2nd January 2009 15:49

This should def be stickied

Hopper 5th February 2009 06:52

Not home made but one of the handiest gadgets I have bought is this sport bike rear stand from the local riceburner shop. Handy for chain lube, tire changes etc as well as when you just want the bike standing up vertical and not leaning over while you work on it or change oil etc.
The two hooks that are desigened to fit over special bobbins bolted to a modern sportbike swingarm fit just perfect on to the bottom shock/footpeg mounts on the Sportster.

Hopper 5th February 2009 07:08

Clutch spring compressor tool
Fron another thread here is 72 Ironhead XLH's suggested modification to FrenchOwl's excellent clutch tool so it can be used to pull the hub too, a bit more sophisticated than my piece of wood from an old lawn chair. :D


Originally Posted by 72 Ironhead XLH (Post 1655283)
Mine is similiar but added 2 additional holes to use it on the clutch hub also,and slotted the area for the case screws

Gone 5th February 2009 19:51

WOW, i stumbled on this section, this is great.

IronMick 17th February 2009 20:11

Link to some more home-makeable tools:

Hopper 1st May 2009 10:15

Carb removal rig - without removing horn or ignition switch
I posted this an answwer to another thread, but figure it could be handy here for the record:

I am just too damn lazy to take my horn and ignition switch off, let alone my gas tank. So I came up with a simple rig that allows me to get in and unbolt the carb on my 77 without removing anything else.

It is a 3/8 ratchtet handle with a 4" extension, universal joint (the type with a spring around it to hold it straightish) and a 1/2" AF deep socket.

It will slide straight in to the top carb stud nut.
It will slide straight in to the bottom carb stud nut if you hold the horn to one side, it flexes on its rubber mounts.

The rig:

Into the top stud

Into the bottom stud.

And like Mick said, don't overtighten. You will bend the flange on the carb into a nice bow that will not seal until you file it flat again. I hold the 3/8 drive handle up close to the head for minimum leverage and just "nip" the nuts up lightly. Never had them come loose or leak.

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