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Thread: Rebuilding the Q-ship; a 1964 Harley Davidson Sportster

  1. #51
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    The next thing we needed to get prepped was the rear hub. We demounted the tire, loosened the spokes and removed the rim. If you don’t want to keep the spokes for some reason – or they are in particularly poor condition – you can simply cut them and speed the whole process up.

    With the spokes out of the way, we can give the hub a good once over. This one is in very good condition and we simply pressed out the bearings and cleaned it up. In a future segment we will go over how to check and true the hub with the brake drum to give the best run-out possible.

    Chuck also stripped the front hub in preparation for sending it out to be dechromed. There are many different ways to get chrome off alloy parts, from media blasting to acid. In this case, the cost of DIY removal is going to be about the same as sending the parts out for deplating when you factor in time and mess. As a result, we elected to send the parts out vs. doing it in the shop. While more expensive, the time savings can be put into other aspects of the project. With only so many weekends to spare . .. even having one extra Saturday can be the difference between getting in the wind this summer and “waiting till next year.”

    Finally, we took the time to measure a few items like the rear shock mounts for custom spacers.

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    These are minor details, but having spacers ready to go when you start assembling the bike makes things so much easier. Similarly, because we sourced replacement hardware, not every nut and bolt was exactly the right length, etc. Chuck went ahead and marked the excessive lengths on several bolts. Over the winter, the bolts will be shortened so they fit neatly.

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    During the disassembly, just be sure to properly bag all your new hardware and note its location on the bike. Again, this will save much time and frustration during final assembly.

    Finally, as boring as it is – it is often a good idea to take a couple of hours to sort any loose fasteners and place them in bins by size/thread. When you can just walk up to a bin and grab what you need in seconds . . .it makes you smile. When you have to sort through a coffee can of miscellaneous bolts . . . well, that can turn into an afternoon of creative cursing.

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  2. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry May View Post
    I paid 2100 for my 68 xlch, running and riding, only incorrect part is 21 front wheel w/ disc brake, but org front end came with it
    That's a great deal, Larry.

    Finding a pre-70 sporty that is running and riding but isn't hacked up is already a challenge. Snagging them for less than 4k is even better. I have three different friends that have all snagged riders with clean titles and few needs for $3-4K . . .yet another nail in the "one piece at a time is cheaper" mythology. The little parts add up so very fast :-)

  3. #53
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    Hi Chuck and Will - nice work on the "Member Build." Tell me about removal of case plating. To remove back to plain aluminum do you send it to a plater for the reverse treatment? Is there a DIY process such as electro-plating in reverse? I acquired 77 XLH with a give away complete 83 XLH but with a disassembled motor and it has chromed cases that look like crap.

    I think I mentioned to you that I am going to use this as the next Member Build promo that I send to new Forum members asa welcome. So I will be using photos and quotes from your commentary and give them just enough detail to the story so we get get people interested in a specific feature as new members.

    Thanks again for the contribution to the forum.

    Mike Love

  4. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by ihrescue View Post
    Hi Chuck and Will - nice work on the "Member Build." Tell me about removal of case plating. To remove back to plain aluminum do you send it to a plater for the reverse treatment? Is there a DIY process such as electro-plating in reverse? I acquired 77 XLH with a give away complete 83 XLH but with a disassembled motor and it has chromed cases that look like crap.

    I think I mentioned to you that I am going to use this as the next Member Build promo that I send to new Forum members asa welcome. So I will be using photos and quotes from your commentary and give them just enough detail to the story so we get get people interested in a specific feature as new members.

    Thanks again for the contribution to the forum.

    Mike Love
    Hi, Mike

    Thanks for the kind words. We learned there aren't always good, or even any reference sources when you're thinking about a project. And, so we wanted to share with the intention of sparking excellent questions like this one.

    In particular, thank you for listing your year and model. It will help inform the reply as there are some key differences between what I'm staring at and what you have in your hands. And, there's a couple of different ways alloy can be plated. So,different techniques may be necessary.

    As it so happens, I cleaned up all the crusty plated alloy from the q ship yesterday. So, I will shoot some additional pictures and post a visual reply early in the week. The easy answer to your question is, yes. I've done several diy and I've sent them. I haven't done cases, plenty of covers, but not whole cases.

    Any ways, we will talk briefly about why some techniques seem to work better than others.

  5. #55
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    Default Chrome, De-Chrome, Powder Coating and next steps

    Getting the Q Ship ready for some outside vendors


    Over the years, Chuck and Will have both done just about every DIY thing you can imagine on motorbikes, from nickel plating to painting and polishing. One trend is common to all this effort; while DIY methods can be less expensive – they are often very time consuming.

    In the case of the Q ship, Chuck – like most of us – is balancing a work schedule against family obligations and the desire to get the bike on the road for break-in throughout the summer. Strokers have a tendency to need more sorting than a stock bike, so we want extra time to really test everything before we head out west in 2021 for an AMCA National Road Run – in the mountains.

    To “keep on schedule” something had to give in terms of DIY vs. Budget. In this case, the most logical place to pick up time was in painting the chassis and dechroming parts. Typically, it takes Chuck about 20 hours of work to media blast, clean, and paint chassis parts. But, working in a shop without a paint booth means the weather has to cooperate. Being November in Chicago – the next good window for blasting/painting is likely late April or early May. Most professional painters don’t want to deal with prep on old, rusty, crusty parts. And, I have yet to meet a painter that is inexpensive if they will deal with prep on old junk.

    Enter powder coating. For many years, Chuck has been firmly “eh” about powder. The reason is that powders 10 or 15 years ago tended to be less “resilient” to impact and to react more to UV light. This wasn’t a problem for most guys – and many are very, very happy with powder. For Chuck, it was a problem. However, today, powder technology has really taken off and UV resistance is as good as you can get for a single stage system. Touch ups are still problematic – but we can live with it.

    On the Q ship, we have decided to get all the chassis parts powder coated in gloss black. This will be about $350 and take 2-3 weeks. This includes media blasting and masking off of certain areas. All Chuck did to prep the parts was to do a basic degreasing/cleaning and to get them in one location. We’ll be taking them in the next week or two to the coaters (30 minute drive) and we’ll share that process as well.

    But wait – there’s more!

    Before we could disassemble the chassis for powder, we had one more item to address. As you may recall, Chuck found an already powder coated swing arm for peanuts at the Davenport swap meet. The problem is that it is a k model swing arm and as such has its mounts arranged for a “long” chain guard. On an XLCH, use of a long chain guard more or less guarantees it will hit the bottom of the oil tank. To account for this, we removed the rear shocks and moved them up to full travel. The guard was marked accordingly.

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    We then cut and ground the guard to match.

    Now, at full compression – there is a scant 1/8th of an inch gap between the chain guard and the oil tank. As a last step, Chuck took the time to silver solder the chain guard mounts to the guard. These repo mounts are held in place by a handful of spot welds. Problem is that this is barely enough to begin with and vibration has a tendency to crack spot welds in thin, flexible materials like a chain guard. By using silver solder, we can get great capillary action, relatively low temperatures, and provide some “relaxation” to the metal by allowing it to cool slowly after soldering. This will help ward off – but not totally prevent – cracks. The final step was some light filing for the final shape.


    With that done, we made four piles of parts.

    Pile One – stuff for the powder coaters. We will take photos of each item and make up an inventory so we can deal with any missing stuff later on.

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    Pile Two – stuff for the platers. In this picture; only the fork sliders are being rechromed. Everything else is being dechromed. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

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    Pile Three – alloy stuff for polishing. This will be Chuck’s sitting in front of the TV for most of the winter project. Mrs. Chuck lets me sit in the family room and sand parts – but only if I sit on a towel and spread another on my lap. Let’s just say an off-white sofa once got a bit “smudged” with aluminum dust. Oddly, nothing seems to pull aluminum dust out of sofa fabric.

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    Pile Four – stuff to be parkerized. In a future installment; we’ll cover how to make your own manganese Parkerizing solution from stuff at the hardware store. Yes, commercial park solutions are readily available. Sometimes, we just like DIY.

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    And, we took the time to “bag and tag” all the hardware as we took the chassis back apart. At the same time we drew little arrows on the body work to indicate where to grind mounting holes a bit bigger. All of this will save us much time and aggravation when we reassemble the bike in a few months. Grinding freshly painted body work is just no fun.


    With all that out of the way – this brings us back to Mike Love’s (ihrescue) question about dechroming alloy parts. The long and short answer is that the easiest and often the most cost effective solution is to send the parts to a plater. DIY methods do work, and we’re going to go in depth on these. But, unless you already have all the supplies on hand, and lots of time, DIY is usually much more time consuming and expensive than sending the parts out.

    The one really big caveat with deplating is magnetos.
    If you have a chromed magneto and it works well – do not be tempted to have it chemically dipped or “reverse plated.” The laminations for ½ of the induction system are permanently bonded to the mag body. While you can usually chrome them with little fuss – dechroming usually causes corrosion that results in the mag giving sparking issues – and often no spark. There is no way to fix this easily . . .so, if you can, media blast vs. dipping mag bodies.

  6. #56
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    Default De-Chroming Options

    Ok, back to alloy dechroming.

    The reason we usually wind up dechroming, besides for restoration purposes, is that most chrome eventually peels or pills off alloy. This has to do with many factors, but it mostly has to do with the types of tech and prep available to the plating industry when the majority of parts were plated. Simply put, even a minor spec of junk trapped in the alloy will cause lifting issues. Worse on parts subjected to high or uneven heat loads. So, it takes some real skill to keep plating on things such as rocker boxes, engine cases, timing covers, etc. These parts often look much worse after a few decades than something like an oil tank. So, we are faced with the task of getting all that crusty chrome off so we can work with a good surface.

    The first three things you may want to ask yourself are:
    1) What types of tools, materials and work environment do I have available? If you already own a big compressor, have an air drier system, and own a substantial media blast cabinet with different types of media available, then you have different choices. If you have open spaces and are comfortable with acids – you have other choices. If you only have a basement or dining room to work in --- then pretty much all DIY methods are out.
    2) What is your end goal? Parts that were chromed will almost never have original texture when you are done deplating. They will usually be “fuzzy” and often darker than you expected. So, you have to “skin” the oxide layer if you intend to restore the surface texture – or polish it out. If you want “perfect” parts and your bike is not super rare – consider trading off the chromed part and sinking money into a better part. It is what we did for the timing cover on the Q ship. We’re still going to get the old one dechromed, but we bought a substitute for the project.
    3) How many parts and what size are they? Small parts are pretty easy to dechrome. Big parts take considerably more time and material(s).
    4) How much time/money do you have? Chuck figured it would take 20-25 hours to dechrome the Q ship pile of bits . . . and that equates to at least three full Saturday’s of work. That’s too much time lost to this one aspect of the project. To look at it another way, if we were paying ourselves $50/hour – that is roughly $1,000 to $1,250 in labor alone. Most parts cost 20-50 to deplate. At an average of $30 – we are staring at $150 to have a shop deplate; plus shipping. Our total time investment is about an hour to box and ship.

    With these questions in mind, we can explore the five common DIY methods available.

    DIY Method One: ACID baths. Make no joke – this is the most serious and the most dangerous method. Chrome itself is a very thin layer of metal that comes off readily. The challenge is getting the nickel plate off. Not to mention fumes and the fact you’re dealing with, well, acids. Anyways, three acids are commonly used and available to DIYers.
    Sulfuric (Battery) Acid. In general, a warm (room temperature to about 100 degrees F) 10-20% sulfuric acid solution will readily strip chrome from alloy. There are many caveats – the biggest of which is that it is stupidly easy to pit the alloy or dissolve it all together. Sulfuric has a tendency to just chew up ferrous bits – so all ferrous metal should come out if it is at risk (think bearing races, thread inserts, etc.). Work in the open on a warm day – and use all acid precautions including respirators.
    Hydrochloric (Muriatic) Acid. Much like sulfuric, a 20-25% muriatic acid solution will peel chrome pretty fast. It works MUCH slower on nickel however. As a result it is very, very easy to really chew up alloy. I avoid muriatic on anything but low magnesium/low silicone alloys. They hold up the best to muriatic – but can still streak and turn black easily. Really, avoid this unless you have no choice. That said, muriatic works really well on ferrous parts.
    Hydrofluoric Acid. This is the nasty stuff. Not so much because of the acidic properties, but because of what it does to your body through inhalation or skin contact. Be very, very careful. Anyways, most HF acid can be found in aluminum trailer brighteners. The most concentrated stuff we know of is Zep-a-lume. This is not “over the counter” stuff and you usually have to go searching. Don’t be fooled by regular trailer wash or even Zep professional. They are not the same as Zep-a-lume. Ebay is still a reliable source, as are some big truck stops. Zep-a-lume is a fantastic brightener and will oft eat crusty chrome right off alloy – including bronze, brass, and tin alloys. Chuck has oft used it to strip chrome off brass spoke nipples. It will, however, turn any mid-to-high magnesium content alloy pretty dark or even black in short order. Getting through that oxide skin is tough. Did I mention it will kill your pets like antifreeze? It also often takes a few applications to get all the nickel off. This is time consuming, messy, and messy.


    DIY Method Two: Reverse Plating
    . This is exactly what it sounds like. Usually either a sulfuric acid (10-20% solution) or caustic soda solution and a lead rod are used. Basically, you wire up the parts to a copper bar (think, copper water pipe squished to fit snuggly over a barrel or bucket opening) strung across an open bin of acid bath that is around 100-120 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to agitate that solution – somehow. Chuck learned through the years that aquarium heaters will survive the acid, but cheap fountain pumps only last a handful of hours before they die. So, agitation can still be a challenge. Anyways, the parts go in along with a lead rod or bar that is wired to the other pole. You then use an appropriate sized lamp to create the correct “pressure” or amperage to drive the plating to the lead rod. For most parts, a 12 volt battery, battery tender, and an old 35 watt headlamp work well. The problem is that this produces a ton of acid fumes that will corrode anything they come in contact with and your set up will look like Frankenstein’s monster. To give you an idea, attached is a photo of a nickel plating bath in a small bucket.

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    It’s pretty much the same for deplating – except sulfuric acid! Oh, and it is a hot acid bath. And, you do have to pay a lot of attention to the parts – realizing that when you pull them out they will almost instantly oxidize. To get this done, Chuck has used old pickle barrels (acid resistant) cut in half. After a few times of doing it, however, he swore off ever doing it again. It’s that unpleasant in the home shop.


    DIY Method Three: Media Blasting.
    If you have a blast cabinet, a big compressor, an air drier, and lots of time on your hands, this is the safest DIY method. This is one where your success is highly dependent on playing with air pressure, media, angle of attack and the quality of the plate. Sometimes, it can take minutes to strip things in the cabinet – other times, it can take hours on hours. The challenge with media blasting is to not dig “trenches” at the edges. Also, as the nickel comes off; it has a tendency to clog media. Not to mention nickel that has been blasted looks awfully similar to blasted alloy. The temptation is to turn up the air pressure – and that often results in damaged parts. It happens in the blink of an eye . . . so think about the part before you have at it.


    DIY Method Four: “Flexible” grinding wheels. This is an option if you have loose plate, a relatively big piece, and at least a ¾ horsepower buffer with 8” or larger wheels. There are two commonly available “flexible” wheels and you can make both at home. The first is simply to take a big stack of grey or maroon 3M sanding pads. These come in 50 packs for around $60 for 6x9 pieces; more for larger sizes. https://www.mscdirect.com/industrial...-hand-pad.html If you’re stacking them for this use; either work. Simply sandwich 1-1.5 inches of pads (about 6-8 of them) and cut a hole in the middle to fit the spindle of your buffer. If you leave them as 6x9 – they will vibrate the machine quite a bit so counter weight the other shaft accordingly. If you cut them round(ish) then you have less to deal with. This is a slow method and you’ll rip through pads. But, the final surface is nearly ready for polishing. Not so good if you intend to replicate the sand casting marks.

    The other method is to buy a mixture of spiral sewn cotton or sisal polishing wheels (Caswell’s is a good supplier for DIYers https://www.caswellplating.com/buffi...g-wheel-6.html). Then, head over to the Eastwood site and buy tubes of “greaseless compound.” https://www.eastwood.com/ew-greasele...d-80-grit.html

    This is fine grit oxide suspended in a type of gooey wax. You apply it to your polishing wheels like a candle and wait for it to “dry” on the wheel a moment or two. You suddenly have a very flexible and controllable buffing wheel. This is how professional shops buff out all sorts of issues in parts. Chuck has found the 220 and 320 to cut much faster than you think. The 80 and 120 grits are OK, but you can often get as much done with 220 and frequent application. If you plan to polish the alloy after deplating – this is a good step. But it isn’t fast, cheap, or clean. It’s very messy and time consuming. Not to mention, a ¾ or 1 horsepower buffer will easily send your parts flying if you aren’t careful.

    DIY Method Five: SEND the parts out. This is the easiest – and honestly the cheapest method. It is usually 20-50 bucks a part and things come back degreased and ready for your next step.

  7. #57
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    Default Evaluating Parts for De-Chroming

    Now, we know our options and can evaluate what we want to do and what we can do given our equipment, time, and knowledge/experience. So, the next step is figuring out what types of parts we are dealing with, what they are made of, and how they may react to home DIY methods.

    In this case, we have several types of parts on the Q ship we can use for illustration.

    These include:
    1) Front brake hub – this is a great example of a higher magnesium content piece that was die vs. sand cast. The type of casting technology makes a difference in the alloy chosen (in most cases). It also has a steel (ferrous) insert for the brake surface.
    2) Rocker boxes – it seems every other pair of ironhead rocker boxes has been chromed. They seem to oft peel and generally look poor after a few years. These are also cast alloy and appear to be low magnesium. The magnesium content is important as some acids, especially hydrofluoric, will darken magnesium.
    3) Timing and sprocket covers – these are both sand cast alloys – with repairs! The alloy appears to be low magnesium.
    4) Fork Sliders and Oil Tank – both are steel (ferrous metal) and WAY easier to deal with than alloy.


    Let’s take a closer look at each part.

    Front Brake Hub:
    When we look at one of these brake hubs, the very first thing we want to do is check each and every spoke hole. These hubs are known to crack at the holes. Check them all and don’t be shy. In the case of this hub, you can see how the inside edges of the drum were not chromed. This was likely a cost savings. Instead, someone painted them at one time. You can see how smooth and “tight” the grain of the alloy is. This points to die casting technology. Basically, a “permanent type” mold is used and the alloy forced in under pressure. This creates a more uniform casting – but also means the alloy used must be of a different composition to “flow.” In this case, HD chose to use an alloy with a relatively high magnesium content. So, we know that acids will likely darken it. The other areas show plating that is flaking or delaminating. All of this suggests that for the DIYers – this one is best tackled in the media cabinet. Chuck would use glass beads and a lot of patience. Figure on this one taking a solid few hours to get clean – followed by washing and repolishing.


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  8. #58
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    Default more parts eval

    Rocker Boxes:
    These were a major disappointment. From 10 feet away, they look really good. Up close you can see they were not polished well before being plated. There are pits all over the place – and delamination is occurring at several pits. But, you can see how the alloy is of a “looser” grain quality. This generally means the nickel will hold on like crazy in tight areas. It just “sucks” into the spaces between the alloy molecules. It will media blast off – but it won’t go easy. It is very important if blasting to totally cover the bearing surfaces and gasket surfaces to avoid issues. Then, the parts will need to be cleaned a bunch of times before and after re-polishing. Home deplating is a good possibility – but messy. Again, media blasting will take a couple of hours per rocker box.


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  9. #59
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    Default even more parts eval

    Sprocket Cover:
    This one was also a surprising piece. We knew it needed deplating, but it wasn’t until after we ran it thorough the parts washer that we discovered it has been repaired. Look at how clean and well finished the weld is! But, it means that there is a hard spot and potentially a difference in alloy at the weld. Sometimes, but not always, you can see the weld line when you repolish. Worse, the weld line occasionally darkens after a part is stripped with acid. In this case, it looks like the repair was with an old Reynolds rod (the tight stacking and age of the part suggests it). These rods tend to polish to nearly the exact same shade as most alloys used in sand casting. So, we should be OK with any method. Notice, however, how the nickel strike isn’t all the way on the backside. This suggests, but does not confirm, electroless nickel was used to strike the part. This is different from the “traditional” copper/nickel/chrome – and really not unusual for alloy parts. Electroless nickel tends to be thinner than other types of plating – but it can be a tenacious hold.

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  10. #60
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    Default Timing Cover eval part one

    Timing Cover:
    Much like the sprocket cover, this one had a repair hiding under the grime. The repair is 95% good and we’ll finish it off when the part comes back. This part also seems to have been struck with electroless nickel first – and that layer is delaminating all over the place. You can also see the “problem” with chromed timing covers by looking at the bushes. They were plated in place. This not only messes with the tolerances, it often creates corrosion between the bush and bore, as well as the bush and the dowel pin. All bad for the future. More importantly, as the chrome flakes off the bush – it winds up in your oil. This clogs up everything. One tiny flake of chrome is enough to plug an oil hole . . . so, please, don’t chrome your timing covers. For the DIY guy, this is one of the harder pieces to deal with. This cover needs everything to be useable. It needs all new bushes, the weld to be finished off, the surfaces cleaned up and trued, and all the oil passages flushed out. That’s a lot of work when a replacement cover is but 100 bucks. Media blasting can easily embed stuff – and then we have more issues. This is a part best sent to a professional – if you want to save it. We will save it just to show readers how it can be done. We’ll also wind up selling the cover and getting a “rebate” on the work.


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