Tuesday 9 June 2020

In the News – Why Punctuation Matters

The town of Ludlow in England put up these signs.

There is already a parking restriction. For non-Brits the double yellow lines at the kerb mean “no waiting”. The sign was just to warn motorists that the restriction was being enforced. However a missing full stop between PARKING and ENFORCEMENT gave the sign the completely opposite meaning.

On the subject of road signs I spotting this one on a farm access in Lanarkshire.

Sunday 24 May 2020

A Sketch from the Past

Since there was a good going storm here yesterday I decided to tidy up my study. In the course of which I found a sketch I’d made many years ago.

Lots of washers!

This is the contact breakers on my first bike – Yamaha CS5E 200cc two stroke twin. So I would have made the sketch in 1975. 

Those of you younger than late middle age may not know what contact breakers are. And for that you should be thankful. Contact breakers were part of the ignition system. They switch the power to the ignition coil on and off as the engine turns. This causes the coil to produce a high voltage that provides the spark that ignites the fuel.

Contact breakers required maintenance. Wear in the fibre follower means that the ignition timing can go out and make the bike badly. In addition, because there is sometimes a spark as the point separate, the faces of the contact surfaces can become pitted. Replacement points should then be fitted. 

A contact breaker. The fibre follower is at the bottom and the points on the left

Back in the day points for Japanese bikes were expensive. Unlike cars bikes did not use distributors so there were a set of points for each cylinder. What I guess I was doing when I made the sketch was taking the breaker assembly apart to file the points smooth.

Points on a Suzuki GT750 - one set for each of three cylinders. Much fun adjusting these

By the late 1970’s points had been replaced with electronic ignition which requires no maintenance.

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Garden Tour

In these days of lockdown we are lucky to have a nice garden to sit in and work on. The weather has been warm & sunny so the flowers are well in bloom.

We managed to trim these shubs into some kind of shape

It's Scotland - there must be heather

Lots of flowers on the apple tress - this hopefully means a good crop

Rosemary is good for flavouring chicken


I'm growing a lot of flowers from seed

The plum tree is dead....or dying

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Lockdown - Tales from the Recycling Bin - Ich Dien

In these times of lockdown I have no "Tales from the Road" or much from the garage either. So I looked at some pieces I wrote but did not post on this blog.

In September 2018 I took a run to Angus. In Friockheim I found a gunshop bearing the heraldic badge of the Prince of Wales. It is fairly common, in this country, to see such royal warrants displayed by suppliers to the Royals.   

The badge had the motto "Ich Dien" which I assumed meant something in the Welsh language but it turns out to be German, "I serve". So why is a royal badge in German?

Note that the Prince of Wales is the title held by the hier to the British (previously English) throne. 

The story goes like this. The Battle of Crécy was fought in northern France in 1346. An English army defeated the French and their allies. Amongst the allies was King John the Blind of Bohemia. When it became apparent that the battle was lost the king's aides suggested that he retreated to safely. John is said to have replied that the King of Bohemia would not run away and asked to be led to the heart of the battle for a glorious (but pointless) death. 

UK 2 pence coin

After the battle Edward, Prince of Wales, known as the Black Prince is said to have found John's body and been impressed by the ostrich feathers on his helmet so took them as his badge and John's motto as his own. An important factor in the English victory at Crécy were Welsh archers and they are said to have liked the motto because "Ich Dien" sound the same as "Eich Dyn" meaning "Your Man" in Welsh.

Of course most of the above is in doubt. Historians think that the symbol and motto came from a royal marriage to the aristocracy of the Low Countries or Luxembourg - but that isn't such a good story. 

John's tomb in the crypt of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Luxembourg City

John's lands. Luxembourg, Bohemia (mostly in the Czech Republic), a bit of Poland and Northern Italy.

The Regent Bar in Govanhill displays the badge. It's a "Rangers pub" - ie decorated in the style of, and frequented by fans of, the football club.   

Ok, history lesson over.

Monday 13 April 2020


The UK has completed its third week of lockdown because of the Covid-19 epidemic. This has been hard on me. After a long, damp winter the weather has improved and I was looking forward to getting out on the bikes but….  

Well, I'm still on the road (legitimately, I think) I make a weekly shopping trip to Lidl and I go to visit my elderly father to do cooking, shopping etc. This is only a short journey so I'm using the CBF250 rather than my bigger bikes. 
The CBF on the back roads

The SV & FJ have been cleaned and polished to within an inch of their lives

We are luck to have a large garden (by suburban British standards) and we have been spending time here when it's sunny.

A drink and a fire

I'm growing flowers. I got a lots of packets of seeds from my father. They come free with his gardening magazine.

Something's growing.

Saturday 4 April 2020

Fixing (two) Mini Drills

Here I'm trying to keep busy during the lockdown.

I've got a couple of mini drills. These are very useful for grinding small items especially where access is tricky. The problem is that both are broken.

Firstly a Minicraft. This is a corded tool that has operates at 12v through a transformer. I'm sure that my brother gave this to me as a Christmas present many years ago. I've used it on lots of projects. 

The drill uses a keyless check that consists of a ring to hold the spindle while the chuck is turned to tighten on the drill bit etc. This isn't a great design. It's not possible to get enough force using your fingers to tighten this sufficiently. I usually have to use two pairs of pliers.

The chuck has fallen apart with the ring detaching itself.   

When sourcing a replacement the first thing to do is establish the thread holding the chuck. I measured the diameter at 8mm. The thread pitch was more tricky. I don't have a set of thread gauges so I took a macro photograph with the thread against a ruler. The pitch looks like 0.75mm.   

The standard ISO metric thread in 8mm comes in 0.75mm pitch so this seems ok.    

The new chuck

An issue is that there is no way to tighten the chuck. This chuck lacks the ring the original had. Some drills have a spindle lock to allow tightening but the Minicraft doesn't. It might seem rough but I filed two flats in the spindle to allow it to be held with a 7mm scanner.  

And it all works fine!
The next drill is a cordless one from Lidl under the Parkside name. It uses a collet rather than a chuck. The nut is aluminium and the thread has stripped. A chuck might be more useful so I looked for one of these.    

According to a YouTube video the Parkside tool uses the same thread as Dremel ie 9/32" x 40 ME (Model Engineer) I measured the thread pitch it does seem to be 40 tpi (thread per inch) 
"A commercial use of this standard does not exist" - you think?

Will it fit? Will it work? - I'll know then the chuck wings its way to me from China.

Thursday 26 March 2020

Down Along the Border - Part#2

From last Saturday, before my wings were clipped.
Riddings Railway Station on the old Carlisle to Edinburgh railway line. Now a private house. The "Speed and Comfort by Rail" sign (just about) remains.

Entering Scotland on the A7 Carlisle to Edinburgh road

This post has many stickers from passing scooter clubs

Firewood for sale with an honesty box in Canonbie. Ah, country folk.

I don't associate this area with coal mining but this old winding gear commemorates a man killed in the pit.

Liddel Water forms the border at Penton Bridge
Liddel Water at Kershopefoot 

Just south of the border is Stonegarthside Hall. It dates from 1682 but might be based on a 13th century tower house. It has been described as ‘arguably the most remote country house in England’.

"Keep Scotland Bonnie"