I recently acquired an early 50’s wishbone panhead frame from my friend Eric for my winter’s shovelhead build. He set me up with a solid deal on it as it needed some work to bring back to life. At some point in its colorful past a few passionate drinkers and drug users decided to make it cool with a 45 degree rake. They really put the neck and seat post through hell with torches and the likes, but nothing that isn’t beyond repair. Plus it gives me an opportunity to go my own direction without sweating the fact that I’d be hacking a pristine frame.
The TC Good Time’s Emporium is a community shop on the fringe between St. Paul and Minneapolis, housing bros like Brian from Speed Club, Eric and Charlie along with a couple others. They’re good builders and have sparks flying over beer cans most nights of the week.
Charlie de-raked his swingarm shovel last week and did a fantastic job on it so I coaxed him into helping me do mine. They’re just motorcycles and you can’t over-think the whole thing so we confidently went at it with the home-garage resources we had. Here’s a poorly photographed spread with details on how it went down:
To begin, we setup a little jig off the floor to hold the frame in place. Charlie used this piece of steel on his own neck and I set my frame in it and bolted & welded it into place. Nuts were welded to the four corners of the table and bolts inserted through to level the frame off of the concrete floor. A standard Bosch laser did the job of ensuring that the rear axle was perpendicular to the seat post, which fortunately was the case. We adjusted the four corners until the laser ran perfectly up the frame so it was level.
We brought the laser to the front end of the bike then and set it up square off of the seat post and frame before inserting the 1″ rod through the neck to leverage the upcoming de-rake. Here it was pretty obvious that the previous builders didn’t sweat the small stuff like checking angles and applying interest. With the forks kicked that far off center line and raked out Charlie mentioned that the front tire was for sure in another lane than the bike when running it down the road. Regardless though, stuff like this rocked through the ages and it doesn’t look like it ever crashed.
This is a brutal photo, but next came the pie cut. I used a protractor to copy the 45 degree line of the neck in the right cut and then my second line I hung for the 28 degrees that I wanted it to be at… everything in between was removed. This process sucked. I torched a lot of blades and wheels on the heat-hardened/annealed steel which was from the torching and welding that occurred in the previous raking process. I also notched the top of the neck to reduce fatigue during bending, which is less visible in the photo.
After a couple of hours into the entire process we were ready to throw some heat on the neck. This is a job best suited for three human beings. One to hold the rear axle, one to torch and one to bend. I was executing more blurry photos here while manning the bending position. This was by far the most romantic part. The torch hissed softly on the steel, the lights were out and red lasers were everywhere. I felt like I was in a gay discotec after hours. We slowly heated it and I applied a smooth, continuous force when it was red-hot… the cuts worked out perfectly and it stopped at exactly 28 degrees.
Here it sits with the tack welds on the bottom. The crowd that raked it originally removed the inner bracing all together and replaced it with plates welded on either side. That took a handful of hours to clean up before doing this process. Now I’m going to cut up a lower brace on the Bridgeport and leave a cavity in the center for the window pane look like Charlie’s above.