Leatherballs XII: Shop tips

In the interest of keeping it light and at least somewhat entertaining this past weekend, and seeing how it WAS the weekend and all, with plenty of folks embarking on maintenance and repair projects of various types, I though I’d sit down and put together a list of Leatherballs’ Iron Garage/Shop Laws. These laws are derived from my years of tinkering around with shit that I really ought to be leaving alone, and a few years experience as a Harley mechanic. They are all dead accurate and incontrovertible, but this list is by no means all-inclusive:

1) Murphy’s Law is omnipresent, reliable, infallible, and immutable.

2) Be sure your workspace is clean and organized. The odds of successfully completing your project are directly proportional to how clean and well-set-up your shop is.

3) If the project requires a certain specialized tool, go buy it now. Don’t wait until you’re halfway through and realize you need it immediately. Go get it, and spend whatever you have to. This is closely related to…

Corollary A: Expensive, well-made tools are worth their weight in whatever precious commodity you care to use as an analogy here. Cheap, shoddy tools are not worth borrowing from a despised neighbor for the sole purpose of throwing at his head. They suck. They don’t work as advertised. They break at the most inopportune and even dangerous times. They break the thing you’re working on. They can seriously injure you. Pep Boys or Autozone or Wal-Mart is no place to buy tools. Real mechanics take great pleasure in going to places like this and snickering at the tools there, as well as the poor hopeful saps buying them.
If you don’t have access to a Snap-On truck, go to Sears and buy their top-line Craftsman Professional stuff. It’s not as good as Snap-On, but it’s good enough for most people. Good tools are expensive and worth every dime you may have to shell out. Avoid any tool stamped with “Made in China.” This is not a racist statement. Their steel sucks.

Corollary B: If your task requires a specialized tool and you try to improvise with a half-assed substitute, you will break the tool, whatever you’re working on, and something else completely unrelated to whatever you’re working on, which will have to be replaced before you can go back to what you were originally working on. When you fling the piece of shit across the shop in a blind rage, it will hit something even more expensive and break that too. All this will add up to a greater expense than buying the specialized tool your cheap dumb ass should have bought in the first place would have been.

4) If you’re working on something for a friend or relative, say their car, they will describe the problem in the most hilarious and wildly inaccurate terms imaginable. Example: “It’s making this kind of clacking sound, like this…” at which point they will proceed to make a whooshing sound or something resembling the noises emanating from various bodily orifices in their sleep last night, none of which will in any way resemble a “clack”.

Corollary C: The person in question will not, no way in hell, never, ever, EVER be able to replicate the problem in your presence. it will happen again immediately after you go back in the house or they pull out of your driveway. Zen Buddhists have been pondering this one for years without coming to any useful conclusions. It has driven at least four of them completely batshit insane. Which, if you know anything about Zen Buddhists, is really saying something.

5) Super Glue does not work. Never has, never will. Don’t argue, don’t try to convince yourself that this time it’ll do the trick. If anybody tells you that it worked on their sister’s cat’s grandmother’s old Toyota, who had exactly the same problem, firmly ask this person to leave immediately and never come back. The only thing Super Glue has ever been good for is glueing your fingers together, which it does quite well.
You don’t even have to open the tube for it to accomplish this – just wave your hands around in the general vicinity of some and see what happens. It also works very well at sealing serious cuts that you probably should get stitches for but don’t feel like messing with, and I enthusiastically recommend it for that. But absolutely nothing else.

6) If a problem with a device or mechanism is not immediately manifesting itself or affecting your ability to operate said device or mechanism, do not attempt a spurious and superfluous repair. I.E., if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, shitferbrains.

7) A manual will not help you at all, and will probably only confuse you, unless it was put out by the original equipment manufacturer and sometimes not even then. This goes double for any Haynes manuals you may have. Use them to light your bong with, or to train your puppy – anything else, you’re on your own. It’s not that they have no useful information in them, or that they’re inaccurate; it’s just that whatever it is you’re trying to do is going to get at most a casual, hit-and-run, by-the-way sort of mention, with no pictures and no details. I think maybe they might have figured out a way to somehow remotely change ‘em overnight and automagically delete whatever it is you’re looking for, which will then reappear once you give up and put the thing away. So, for instance, if you’re looking for info regarding setting the timing, you’ll find one terse sentence saying something like “setting the timing is important; make sure you do it,” and then once you walk away from it in disgust, the seven lavishly illustrated and gloriously detailed chapters demonstrating not only the proper way to use a timing light, where to buy one, and how much to pay, but explaining the concept behind advance curves and how to write the software that runs an electronic ignition come back into existence again.

8) If you aren’t an experienced auto mechanic, carburetor is French for “Leave it the fuck alone.”

Corollary D: If you aren’t at least a somewhat-skilled painter, don’t. Just don’t. This applies to any project other than simple house-painting. You will NOT be happy with the results, and neither will anybody else who has to look at the damn thing. This does not necessarily apply to flat paint jobs on street rods and rat bikes, which almost always look cool no matter what.

9) When (if) you successfully complete your task, clean your hands thoroughly, but leave some grease under your fingernails. It will horrify any snooty yuppies who wander into the bar by mistake, and chicks dig the aura of rugged masculinity it imparts. Well, a certain kind of chick does, anyway. The good kind, I mean (see last issue’s Tough Chicks piece for more on them).

10) JB Weld is some fine, fine stuff, and can certainly save your ass in the right places, at the right times. Repairing a cracked head or a broken connecting rod aren’t either of those things. Ever. It’s just asking too much of something that is essentially hard plastic. Don’t listen to the guy mentioned in number five above, who will tell you he once heard of a guy who knew a guy whose sister’s cat’s grandmother once did it, and it “worked perfect, man!” In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this person is NOT your friend.

11) Maybe the most crucial one of all: if you don’t think you can do it, you probably can’t, and you probably shouldn’t try. And by this, I don’t necessarily mean what you might think I do.

The most important thing in wrenching, as in so many other things in life, is to believe in yourself. Confidence isn’t just the key thing, it’s sometimes the only thing. Don’t be afraid to jump in and give something a try, even if it’s intimidating. It’s how you learn, how we all learn, and if you prepare yourself and your workspace properly beforehand, you can  do it.

Learn all you can about your project beforehand. Read up on any reliable related material you can find. If you have a mechanic friend, or a non-mechanic friend who’s successfully attempted a similar project, ask him questions about it. Hang around your nearest friendly bike shop and strike up a conversation at the parts counter; soak up all the information you can, from anyplace you can get it.

I remember the first time my boss told me, first thing in the morning, that today I was gonna build my first bottom end. I was literally shaking, which is not a desirable thing when you’re doing something that requires a steady hand and a cool, calm eye for detail. He walked off and left me to it, only checking in on me occasionally, or when I asked for specific help (which was a bit more than occasionally), and, well…I got it done. The motor ran great, for a good long while.

Fear not; you CAN do it. Along the way, you’ll learn more about not just your bike but yourself than you ever dreamed. And that first ride of the season will be all the sweeter for it.

CF Archives


Comments policy

NOTE: In order to comment, you must be registered and approved as a CF user. Since so many user-registrations are attempted by spam-bots for their own nefarious purposes, YOUR REGISTRATION MAY BE ERRONEOUSLY DENIED.

If you are in fact a legit hooman bean desirous of registering yourself a CF user name so as to be able to comment only to find yourself caught up as collateral damage in one of my irregularly (un)scheduled sweeps for hinky registration attempts, please shoot me a kite at the email addy over in the right sidebar and let me know so’s I can get ya fixed up manually.

ALSO NOTE: You MUST use a valid, legit email address in order to successfully register, the new anti-spam software I installed last night requires it. My thanks to Barry for all his help sorting this mess out last night.

Comments appear entirely at the whim of the guy who pays the bills for this site and may be deleted, ridiculed, maliciously edited for purposes of mockery, or otherwise pissed over as he in his capricious fancy sees fit. The CF comments section is pretty free-form and rough and tumble; tolerance level for rowdiness and misbehavior is fairly high here, but is NOT without limit.

Management is under no obligation whatever to allow the comments section to be taken over and ruined by trolls, Leftists, and/or other oxygen thieves, and will take any measures deemed necessary to prevent such. Conduct yourself with the merest modicum of decorum, courtesy, and respect and you'll be fine. Pick pointless squabbles with other commenters, fling provocative personal insults, issue threats, or annoy the host (me) won't.

Should you find yourself sanctioned after running afoul of the CF comments policy as stated and feel you have been wronged, please download and complete the Butthurt Report form below in quadruplicate; retain one copy for your personal records and send the others to the email address posted in the right sidebar.

Please refrain from whining, sniveling, and/or bursting into tears and waving your chubby fists around in frustrated rage, lest you suffer an aneurysm or stroke unnecessarily. Your completed form will be reviewed and your complaint addressed whenever management feels like getting around to it. Thank you.

"Mike Hendrix is, without a doubt, the greatest one-legged blogger in the world." ‐Henry Chinaski

Subscribe to CF!

Support options

Shameless begging

If you enjoy the site, please consider donating:

Become a CF member!


Email addy: mike-at-this-url dot etc
All e-mails assumed to be legitimate fodder for publication, scorn, ridicule, or other public mockery unless specified as private by the sender

Allied territory

Alternatives to shitlib social media: A few people worth following on Gab:

Fuck you

Kill one for mommy today! Click to embiggen

Notable Quotes

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards."
Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

Claire's Cabal—The Freedom Forums


"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
Daniel Webster

“When I was young I was depressed all the time. But suicide no longer seemed a possibility in my life. At my age there was very little left to kill.”
Charles Bukowski

“A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him.”
Ezra Pound

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.”
Frank Zappa

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.”
John Adams

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves."
Bertrand de Jouvenel

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged."
GK Chesterton

"I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free."
Donald Surber

"The only way to live free is to live unobserved."
Etienne de la Boiete

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid."
Dwight D. Eisenhower

"To put it simply, the Left is the stupid and the insane, led by the evil. You can’t persuade the stupid or the insane and you had damn well better fight the evil."

"There is no better way to stamp your power on people than through the dead hand of bureaucracy. You cannot reason with paperwork."
David Black, from Turn Left For Gibraltar

"If the laws of God and men, are therefore of no effect, when the magistracy is left at liberty to break them; and if the lusts of those who are too strong for the tribunals of justice, cannot be otherwise restrained than by sedition, tumults and war, those seditions, tumults and wars, are justified by the laws of God and man."
John Adams

"The limits of tyranny are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
Frederick Douglass

"Give me the media and I will make of any nation a herd of swine."
Joseph Goebbels

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”
Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it."
NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in."
Bill Whittle

Best of the best

Finest hosting service

Image swiped from The Last Refuge

2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

RSS feed

RSS - entries - Entries
RSS - entries - Comments

Boycott the New York Times -- Read the Real News at Larwyn's Linx

Copyright © 2024