learn to play the clarinet like Acker Bilk…..

or make some vegetable soup; it’s easier and it’s part of your 5 a day.

For those unfortunate to be born too late, go to the following link to catch up.

Anyway, courgettes and lettuce are in short supply (and therefore expensive), so go for what the great British climate provides – parsnips and carrots. Peel, chop them up and throw them in a pan, after frying some onion in butter for 10 mins. Pour in a litre or so of chicken stock and this is what you get – yummy or what?


Put it on low, have a coffee and forget about it for half an hour, unless you remember to stir it halfway through (optional).

If it looks mushy, then it’s probably cooked, so throw it in a liquidiser and build up the courage to taste it but expect it to taste worse than rubbish.. Empty the cupboards until you find the one with spices and keep adding them until it tastes OK. A tablespoon of Curry powder works great (trust me) or mixed spices etc. Oh and add salt and pepper or seasoning as the professionals call it.

If you’re lucky (or unlucky as you’ll have to eat it), it’ll turn out like this.


Add water until you get the consistency of fresh wallpaper paste and that’s it. Eat it, freeze it or give it to the dog; but don’t tell the RSPCA.

Throw some bits on the top if you want, like cream or chopped tomato, or croutons (bits of toast with the crust cut off) or anything green and edible like Parsley and it’ll be as good as starter from a posh restaurant. Serve it with hot crusty bread and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

But be prepared; after a few hours you’ll be playing “Stranger on the Shore”, like a pro.

Square balls and not enough of them….

In my last blog on the Raleigh, I said the steering head felt like it had square balls in the bearing race.. and it does!


They are far from spherical as you can see! And there was 21 balls in the top race and 19 in the bottom which doesn’t sound right and it isn’t. However the bearing cups look good, so it’s an easy repair.

An old Raleigh parts list I’ve found indicates 25 x 5/32″ balls top and bottom and Simlybearings.co.uk have done a great job; ordered mid afternoon and delivered next day. The question now is what grease to use. It needs to be thick enough to ensure the balls rotate rather than slide, as it’s sliding that puts flats on the balls. Phil Woods Hub Grease is highly rated so I think I’ll try that. It’ll also do for the Cyclemaster Eadie Hub I’m rebuilding with new cones – see my other blog.

New hub cones have arrived but….

will they fit? Luckily the 2 cones on the drive sprocket side, are straightforward. But the brake cone isn’t, as the photo shows:



This cone takes the reaction of the brake (hence it’s often called the brake cone) so I need an adaptor to fit onto the flats on the reverse side of the new cone – see sketch.


Fortunately, I have a friend with a lathe and many years ago I was trained as a toolmaker (46 years ago to be exact), so it can’t be that difficult can it?

I also need a small adapter ring to fit the dust shield to the new cone as the diameter is smaller, so I figure it’s best to start by making a plastic adaptor on the lathe.. and it works out OK.

TURNED ADAPTOR                           ADAPTOR IN PLACE

Now onto the steel part. The only material I could “acquire” was EN8 which is a medium carbon steel with good tensile strength; good for this application but a little hard for an amateur like me to machine. In the end I used a TCT tool (tungsten carbide tip) and it cuts OK but needs a little polishing to improve the surface finish.

Those of you familiar with lathe work will wonder how I added the slot – WITHOUT A MILLING MACHINE?

Well, I had to get inventive. I made another adaptor to clamp the turned part in the fixed tool holder, put an 8mm slot drill into the chuck and then used the cross slide to traverse the part over the spinning slot drill. Basically, I adapted the lathe to work like a milling machine. I’m sure it’s been done before but not by me, so I was quite chuffed that it worked …and I still have ten fingers (or is it eight fingers and two thumbs?)

The finished part looks like this,

NB: You may think the original cone looks OK but I polished the seat in a drill as I was thinking of using it. However,

  1. It is soft as the case hardening has worn through and
  2. I noticed the final drive chain from the the engine had been rubbing on the wheel and I think it’s because the seat on the cone has worn back. As the cone wears the engine moves inwards with it.

So I’m hoping the new cone will solve that problem and work reliably, as I don’t want it to fail when I’m doing Lejog; do I?

Update 11 February 2017

I’ve filed the flats on the adaptor; it took a while even though I removed the bulk of metal with a hacksaw but the outcome is fine.

 Good to know I haven’t lost the metal filing skills from when I was a first year apprentice in 1970. I remember spending what seemed like days, filing the same piece of metal, to get it flat and square enough to pass my “phase test” but the techniques obviously stuck.

The finished assembly looks like this:

As the RH photos shows, the dust shield lines up well with the mating fixed part in the Hub.

New cones fitted with new bearings, spindle and grease – job done!


now I’ve got the wheels…

and they are a Raleigh Superb Dawn Tourer, of uncertain vintage, although of 50’s style.

The Hub is stamped 66, meaning 1966, so that could be the year of manufacture, or it may be a replacement, newer wheel. The frame number has the suffix “FJ” and I’ve seen reference to “FE” being 1966, so maybe it’s later. Who know’s, let’s call it 66 as that was good year, England won the World Cup, The Beatles were number one with Paperback Writer and I was 12.


It’s got a great leather seat made by “Wrights”, who were acquired by the world famous Brookes Saddles in 1960. Brookes, sold most designs of saddle under the Brooks and Wrights labels; the Brookes model allegedly using better grade leather, although this is disputed by some. Mine’s got a small split which just adds to the character in my opinion – as long as it doesn’t get bigger.

It’s really quite an advanced bike with 4 speed Sturmey Archer (that works), a dynamo in the rear hub and a big headlight that is all show with no show, if you get my drift.If it was rated in Candela, the measure would be milli Candela, it’s that bad.

There’s also a steering lock with a key which is amazing; not the steering lock (although that’s pretty good) but the fact the key hasn’t got lost in 50 years!

I say “it”, when I should be saying “he” and he’s got a name – Sir Walter. Soon to be “Sir Walter – pht, pht (reg number but read it as phut, phut) when the marriage takes place to Lady Cyclemaster of Bristol. Yes, I know, very corny.

He needs a bit of work though. The brakes worse than useless. The steering head bearings were very loose, so I adjusted them to remove the play and now it feels like the head race is fitted with square balls. And the handlebar support for the front rod brake lever is loose, so it’s either snapped or the nut has came off on the inside of the bars.

Anyway, a few fill in jobs to do, when time allows.


we have lift off….

buy not at the first attempt unfortunately.

I tried the trick of adding a little petrol down the spark plug hole and a got very short run at the second attempt, then nothing.

Then I tried trick number two and heated an old spark plug as this helps the engine to fire. But to no avail again.

So I reduced the contact breaker gap to try that… and nothing happened.

So I made the gap bigger at the recommended max of 0.018″… and again nothing happened, not a cough or a putt or even a back-fire!

So I tried raising needle in the carburetor, to increase the fuel to air ratio as it did fire with fuel down the plug. But you guessed it – still dead.

In desperation, I then lowered the needle to weaken the mixture, not expecting it to work, and it didn’t!

On the verge of giving up , I checked the spark and it was very weak. There was an intermittent spark on a plug held against the cylinder head. However, a better test is to see how far the spark will jump, as distance is proportional to voltage. A good spark will jump 3/16″ in old units or approx 4 mm. The best I could get was less than 1 mm, so the plug sparked when out of the engine, as the plug gap is 0.5 mm, but would not spark under compression pressure in the engine as the magneto output is too low. Progress, as at least I know why it won’t start; now I need to find the cause so off with the flywheel.

The only thing I noticed was the the Woodruff key was partially sheared. I figure this has happened as the flywheel is not a very good fit on the crankshaft taper and it rocks a little. The purpose of the key is to align the flywheel with the stator coils to get maximum magnetic flux at the point the contact breaker opens. The taper on the shaft is intended to do the rotational driving of the flywheel. However, on this engine, the taper is not mating correctly the key has to do the driving and it’s too weak to take it; hence the partial shear. I doubt this is the cause (wrongly) but make a new key from a suitable washer, as a temporary fix.

By now, I’m lacking confidence it will ever start, so I use my final trick of heating the cylinder head with the spark plug fitted, using a heat gun.

and the results are in the link below:

So the partially sheared Woodruff key was the root cause.

I just need to get it running better now, as I can’t rely on a heat gun to start it when doing Lejog  (Scotland doesn’t have electricity – does it?)

Oh, and I’ll explain “Lejog” another day.



almost a hen with teeth – unbelieveable but true

The amazing power of the internet (or the “herdy gerdy” as my mother calls it) has come good. That and my pig headed determination, has found the closest thing to hens teeth I’m likely ever to find – in Poland of all places.

I’ve found a manufacturer of hub parts that are pictorially very, very similar to the 1950’s Cyclemaster Eadie Coaster hub. My guess is they are based on the same design as the Cyclemaster hub that was originally made by BSA in Birmingham; a Polish manufacturer has just bought or “used” the design. But they only sell to Distributors and the nearest is in Slovakia!

However, I’m on a roll, as Miroslav of the Slovakian distributor is willing to send the parts I need. The only issue is whether I can be sure they will fit my Cyclemaster, based on photos only but it’s worth the risk as I can’t get the parts anywhere else.

It’s not identical, so I’ll need to make an extension piece but heh I’m an engineer – I can do anything (within reason and given time…and I’ve got plenty of that)

So it’s bank transfer and fingers crossed!



it’s in bits n pieces

and everything looks good; very good.

The beauty of such a small engine, is it’s so easy to work on but care needs to be taken as everything is smaller and more easily damaged.

The clutch housing is removed and everything looks good.

Even better, the disc valve is in really good condition. The steel disc (RH photo) is usually badly corroded on engines that have stood like this one, as they don’t run with much oil in the crankcase. So I’m now certain the engine has been re-build then never used. The disc valve was a very advanced design in the 50’s and is crucial to the (relative) excellent performance this engine. It was renown for excellent torque compared to larger capacity engines and out performed many 50cc engines.

The crankshaft is beautifully made and you can see the piston is in very good condition. It’s not unused as there is a little bit of scuffing on the piston skirt, from the barrel exhaust port, so I’ve gently smoothed it with 1200 grit paper. I’ll also add a very small radius to the top and bottom of the exhaust port with a needle file.

I’ve sanded the bore with 1200 wet and dry paper to help the rings bed in. The slightly rougher surface holds a little oil which reduces the risk of seizure whilst the rings bed in. The RH photo shows the piston support I made to hold the piston for the barrel to be fitted.

The cylinder head and barrel are so well made, that a gasket isn’t needed, just a smear of gasket cement to ensure a gas tight seal. Before fitting the cylinder, head I took the opportunity to mark TDC (top dead centre) on the flywheel (RH photo) and 7/8″ BTC (before top dead centre) which is the position where the points should just be opening, so setting the ignition timing should be easy and accurate.

Back together and read to go.

However, I can’t start it until it’s fitted to the wheel and I can’t do that as, a) the sellers weren’t able to find the missing eccentric (but they did find the drive chain) and b) when I checked the wheel hub bearings an inner cone was badly worn, so it’s still in pieces – see cone below.


The gouged groove in the centre shouldn’t be there. These parts are often just case hardened which means just the surface is hard and on this cone the hard surface has worn through, so I need a replacement. However, I’m told these parts are like the proverbial “hens teeth”, so that’s my next challenge, find a hen with teeth…

Houston, we have ignition..

But it wasn’t straightforward.

First, I checked the points and surprisingly they looked brand new with no pitting on the contact faces. Another sign the Cyclemaster has not been used since refurb. I set the correct gap of 0.015″ to 0.018″ and still no spark. No loose wires and the rotor magnets seem well magnetised. So back to basics. Draw the circuit and check the resistance of each coil and lead and see if that shows the problem.

The resistance of each coil checked out OK… but the wiring didn’t.The HT lead was soldered to the LIGHTING coil. Oops, looks like the engine has been rebuild, but not by an electrician. Let’s hope their mechanical skills were better. So now I have a spark… but it’s weak and intermittent, so I figure the capacitor (or condenser as it was called) is weak – not surprising as they suffer with age and they weren’t that good when new.

Now being an environmentally friendly person who prefers to recycle and reuse, rather than replace (i.e. a skinflint), I decided to re-core the existing brass bodied part.

Farnell supplied the 0.1µF capacitor on the left, for a very reasonable 95p.It needs to be a polyester film capacitor, with a voltage of more than 75v. Go for one with a high maximum pulse rise time (V/µs) for long term reliability. Cut the end off the old capacitor and remove the internals but keep the cardboard liner to act as an extra insulator. It also makes the new capacitor (10.5mm OD) a nice slide fit in the brass body.

Solder a lead to one end of the new cap as shown. I used adhesive lined shrink sleeving over the soldered joint to insulate it and give mechanical support. Put some 24hr epoxy resin glue into the brass pot, insert the new capacitor and solder the end to the brass body, where it exits through the small hole in the end. (LH end in RH photo above). Don’t worry about polarity, as film capacitors aren’t polarised.

I made a small brass washer for the end where the wire exits and added more epoxy glue. The finished capacitor is on the right AND I’ve now got a consistent healthy spark – job done!

But I haven’t tried starting the Cyclemaster yet as I’m unsure whether to strip the motor.

If I don’t there’s a risk the clutch won’t split when installed in a bike and I’d have to strip it anyway. It’s probably also a good idea to fit new crank seals whilst it’s open, as the motor only has 0.8HP at best and I can’t afford to loose any. So I’ve convinced myself – full strip and check, coming next.

How did I get myself into this..?

My wife’s a star and she’s brilliant aswell – particularly where cooking is concerned. She’s made Xmas diner for 40 years, without a break, always first class, never late, and never a complaint – until now…

This year (2016) she’s had enough. And it’s further compounded by the biggest group so far, of 9. Our 3 sons, their partners (2 for the first time) and Nana. So what do I do? Step in, like a knight in shining armour and say, “don’t worry dear, I’ll make it, I’ve always wanted to and now I’ve got the time”. I even sing the chorus of a song from one of the most revered engineers and handymen ever, “leave it with me” – Ted Glen star of Postman Pat.

To put this into context I did a bit of cooking, in the first year of married life and have done very little since. On one occasion, when working away from home, I even rang my wife for advice on how to make a “cup-o-soup”; embarrassing but true.

So the purpose of these blogs is to share with you, how I approached it, what went well and what didn’t. My hope is that it will help others to have a go and give their better halves a deserved change at Christmas. So why not have a go yourself in 2017?

I’ll blog on this topic with tips, over the coming weeks. However, I’ll share the first 3 with you now.


As far as cooking goes I’m base zero, so the internet was a great place to start and I’d recommend the following sites:




One conclusion I came to, was that there is no single defined way to do anything. Even yorkshire puddings can be made many, many different ways, eg 1,2 or 4 eggs for the same quantity. Many different ingredients and methods work, so just pick one that seems to fit with your diners preferences AND your level of ability and go for it.

From the research, you’ll arrive at a menu and this was mine.

This is a challenging menu for a newbie (and probablyeven an experienced cook), so that leads to the second tip.


I started by thinking I wanted to do everything myself but I soon came to my senses and delegated. I’m very fortunate to have willing and able, sons and their partners, so one couple took on the starters and one took on the sweets. This worked out really well on the day, as I was not alone in the kitchen and it was really nice for all of us to work together, without a cross word – promise!

My wife also gave lots of advice and was an invaluable help when the heat was on. She also enjoyed her day more than ever, as she could relax, have a drink of champagne and spend time with our family.


Seems obvious but as in many things, it’s the key to success. The maxim, “Failure to plan, is to plan to fail” is true. As is, “proper planning prevents p**s poor performance”.

My planning was done using the following excel spreadsheet.

You’ll see I’ve planned quantities, methods, and timing. The timing tab is incomplete as I ended up writing it out as I was changing it that much. However, on the day, the timing plan is absolutely vital. Mine worked but only just, as any xmas day cook will tell you, it gets frantic the closer you get to mealtime! You don’t have time to think, so just follow the plan and cross your fingers.

Make as much as you can before the big day. I made and froze the red cabbage a couple of weeks earlier and on Xmas eve I made the turnip, stuffing and apple sauce. I even planned which serving dish to use for each offering AND labelled them! Sad but true and effective. Remember, you can’t over plan.

Here’s a link on planning using excel spreadsheets, from Mr Chris Croft, a first class business trainer I came across several years ago.

Chris is a great guy, with a website packed with useful and interesting stuff – go to,


Got the engine – need the wheels

It’s good that Cyclemaster was sold as a powered wheel for any bicycle, as this opens up my search for a bike to basically any from the 50’s. Perfect would be a Mercury, as they were the official partner to Cyclemaster but realistically any will do, as long as it’s:

  1. a tourer
  2. has rod brakes (cable were available but rod just looks right for the period),
  3. is fitted with 26″ wheels, as that’s what the gearing is designed for,
  4. has a Brookes seat with big springs – also preferably comfortable,
  5. has period lights, particularly a large front one,
  6. oh and has mudguards, most did in the 50’s as they were more practical than style conscious,
  7. and finally, has some rust (or patina as the posh people say) but not too much

A Rudge would be great, or a Triumph, or a BSA. Or maybe a Hercules, or an Elswick, or even a Raleigh. They were the largest British cycle manufacturer and a major exporter to the USA, where they are still popular with collectors today.

Let the search commence.