Category Archives: choppers

It’s all about preparation

We all do our very best to prepare for an event, whether it’s a race or a long trip, we get things ready. Holidays are no different.

Usually on Christmas we have a house full of family and friends, most of them motorcycle people. The stories are flying and the more beer we have the stories fly even higher but that is part of what makes the day special. We watch classic races (World Superbike Imola 2000, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards…the best race to watch over and over), ‘On Any Sunday’ and whatever movie somebody brings…last year we watched Big Faus and Little Halsey (or is it Big Halsey and Little Faus??? Does it matter?).

This year everyone was here and it was time to put the turkey in the BBQ (in Southern California that is the preferred method…) Instead of putting stuffing in the turkey we put some garlic into a can of good beer, put the turkey over the can and cook. It always comes out great…except this time. The turkey decided that this year the beer was going to be administered a bit differently.
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We ended up ordering pizza. Happy Holidays to all and a very Happy New Year. Now sit down and start planning your first big trip of the year. I am.
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New motorcycles and old friends

The other day MotoWorld staff photographer Heather and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Long Beach Motorcycle show. New motorcycles, (and all the hoopla that goes with them) and all the new goodies that you just have to have for your new motorcycle.  I love seeing the new motorcycles, and yes, I do my fair share of drooling on them (sorry to the people who have to keep cleaning them all day…), now I only need the bank to give me a bigger line of credit to build a bigger garage and then I could have some of those motorcycles. For me however it’s the people who really make the show worthwhile. 

Media day at the show is a circus. A Ringmaster parades us all around the show to each manufacturer where they tell us all about the new and exciting models and features but the real interest, for me, is listening in and being part of all the side conversations. Magazine editors, contributors, photographers, builders, racers and manufacturer reps.

Most of us in Moto-Journalism may only see each other a couple of times a year, if that, and when we do it’s not so much about motorcycles but our lives in general. We all read each others stories and product reviews so when we see each other it’s all personal. Some have new gig’s, some have increased their family size, moved their business or started a new one. Old contacts are renewed and new ones are made, it’s a great day to be around motorcycles and motorcycle people.

ImageThis year at the show I ran into my old friend Bill Stermer from Rider Magazine, we haven’t gone for a ride together for a couple of years so it was a good time to plan one. Next I met up with one of my favorite (and very fast) ladies, Laura Klock. Laura and I met at Bonneville back in 2009, she had just set a land speed record aboard a Victory Vision. Laura rode this fully dressed touring bike down the salt with the stereo blasting a cup of cold coffee in the cup holder to something a bit north of 150mph. This was not your average touring bike (thanks to husband Brian Klock) and Laura is not your average touring rider…by any stretch of the imagination.

My good friend Matt Capri, who happens to be the premier Triumph speed merchant/builder on the planet, and I had a wonderful conversation about his newest creation, a 350 lb (wet) 100+ hp Bonneville, and how much fun (scary fun!!) it is to ride. The thing about talking with Matt is that you can’t contain his enthusiasm. Arms flailing, face going through all kinds of contortions and he is talking so fast you only catch every third word but you heard everything.

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My friend Skratch was there painting a gas tank and we talked about how his business is growing. Skratch is a really talented painter and builder of both cars and bikes and always a lot of fun to talk with, especially while he is taping off a flame job. Actually the fun part is doing all that I can to distract him…it never works, the man is a machine.

I spent good time with my old racing friend Evans Brasfield. Evans is actually one of the people that got me into Moto-Journalism, and I’ll never forgive him for that…I mean never ‘forget’ him for that. We have raced sprint races together, endurance races, reported on World Superbike races and camped out in the rain at those races. Evans’ writing (he now writes for Motorcycle.com) and riding I have always enjoyed and seeing him again was a nice bonus to the day.

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Media Day is about the people in motorcycling that make it for me. Old friends like Nick, Bruce and Beth from Two Wheel Tuner Magazine (sadly the magazine is gone but they are still doing really well), Sandro and Robert (RobDog) from Galfer Brakes, catching up with Arlen and Cory Ness and their work with Indian motorcycles,  new friends like Alicia Elfving (the motolady.com), Cristi Farrell from Moterrific Podcast and Christa from RoadRunner magazine.

Seeing all the chrome and beautiful paint, the faster than any of us can ride legally on the street motors, the bikes that want to make us cash out our 401K’s so we can ride to the tip of South America are all well and good but for me, it’s the people and their stories and their life on motorcycles that make going to the motorcycle show and my job great.

 

Wives always tell the truth…

…even when you don’t need them to!

Picture 33A while back I went to a ‘Bike Night’ hosted by a local dealership at a popular drive-in burger joint (aren’t they all?). I took a sh*tload of pictures ( thank god, and Nikon, for digital camera’s) and met a bunch of very friendly and enthusiastic riders.

There must have been at least 300 hundred bikes in the parking lot and more on the street. Cafe racers, cruisers, vintage bikes and a couple of very cool sidecar rigs. You name it, it was there. This was a time and place that being a motorcyclist was more important than what you rode or what you wore.Picture 34

As the evening went along I made friends with a couple from Ireland, they had just moved here to California and were enjoying the bike culture that we have here. He told me great stories of riding in the UK, going to the Isle of Man TT and taking part in ‘Mad Sunday’, and the cafe racer society hanging out at the Ace Cafe in London. The stories got better as the Guinness bottles lined up next to his bike.

Around 10 o’clock the parking lot was thinning out and it was time to ride home. Nial and his wife were heading the same direction as me so we left together. The minute we pulled onto the street Nial launched a huge wheelie, almost leaving his wife on the street, and then just disappeared down the road. I said my goodbye’s inside my helmet and rode casually on. It wasn’t too long after that I spotted my new friends visiting with a local policeman. I stopped behind the cop car and got just close enough to listen to the conversation.

The officer had stopped Nial for speeding and here is what I heard of the conversation…
Officer, “do you know how fast you were going sir?”
Nial, “no sir”
Officer, “you were doing 85 in a 35 mile an hour zone”
Nial.”I couldn’t have been, this bike won’t do 85 in 2nd gear?”
At this point the officer looks at Nial’s wife and asks her, “do you believe that he wasn’t doing 85 miles per hour?”
Wife, ” I never argue with him when he’s been drinking like this…”
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I ended up giving Nials wife a ride home because he did leave her on the street anyway.

Everybody has their own sense of style

I’m an open minded kind of guy, I think. I like all kinds of food (including stuff that if you really knew what it was you wouldn’t get it anywhere near your mouth), most all kinds of music (I learned to like punk because of my son but I will never accept rap as a form of music…), and even some friends choice of wives (or husbands as the case may be).

Picture 28The area that I think I am the most open minded is motorcycles. As far as I’m concerned if it has two wheels and a motor, it’s great! I like most all motorcyclists as well. Ok, I do have a bit of a problem when it comes to certain motorcycle brand owners that are too into the ‘lifestyle’ instead of actually riding their status symbol, but I’m working hard at getting over it and thousands of hours in therapy are helping. I like cafe racers, dual sports, adventure bikes, long distance tourers, stretched out choppers, bobbers, baggers, vintage English bikes, UJM’s from the 80’s, and scooters too. I love motorcycles, even the ones you wouldn’t be caught dead riding much less be in your garage.

Picture 20For some strange reason though, I have this weird affinity for the little old Honda 350. I have seen them laying in fields by the side of the road (that is where I found the first one I bought for my dad, yes I did like him), in the farthest back corner of an abandoned warehouse, in the basement of an old house in Hollywood (I did buy one there, really), a good number of them turn up at Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Swap Meets, and on ebay (generally way over valued).

Picture 23I have seen Honda’s omnipresent 350 turned into cafe racers,desert racers (I have had both), choppers and bobbers.Grocery getters and student commuters. Todd Henning is the Guru of making Honda 350 roadracers that put bigger, more modern bikes to shame on the track. I have even seen some left stock?! The Honda 350 is the one bike that you can buy without breaking the bank (or even having to ask the bank…your wife…) and turn into anything you want it to be. That’s why I love ’em.

While looking for parts for my latest SL350 Cafe’ Racer project the other day, I came upon the coolest, or at least the most unique, styling treatment I have ever seen for a Honda 350.
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I can’t imagine any high fashion woman not wanting to ride around in this classic Honda. Soichiro is probably turning over in his grave right now.

What a difference a day makes

Last week I headed down to Venice…California, not Italy, for a Vintage BMW event. I had some extra time so I took a quick tour of the Santa Monica Mountains roads that I love which is always fun.

I was riding up Decker Canyon pushing my old BMW as hard as I could, having a great time and then the feeling came upon me…I needed a restroom. Not because I scared myself on that one particular uphill blind right hander with a Cadillac Escalade coming down the hill in my lane, it was my second cup of coffee taking its effect. Next stop,The Rock Store.

Ed and Verns place was a gas station along Mulholland Highway in the middle of nowhere many lifetimes ago. Now it’s a restaurant, convenience store and on every Sunday, a So.Cal bike show. Well known riders, custom bike builders, and everyday riders like you and I show up there.

There are two times to show up at the Rock Store on a Sunday – really early (the sportbike crowd), or if you are a “I had a really good Saturday night” type (the cruiser crowd), a little later. Either time requires good parking skills. I think a new YouTube video should be watching someone trying to park their bike in the middle of 250 other motorcycles before they have had the second cup of coffee of the morning.

If you’re riding Mulholland Highway on a Sunday morning, you share the road with a number of black and white cars or motorcycles with red and blue lights along with your “enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning on a motorcycle” brethren – a small fact of life but it’s still fun. Saturday is a little different.

I thought for a Saturday I’d pretty much have the road to myself. I was wrong. I was hustling along (well, as fast as you can hustle a 34 year old BMW) and all of a sudden (literally) in my rearview mirror was a group of riders that went by me as if I was anchored to the Malibu pier. My first thought, I need a faster bike. Second thought, I have one…it just needs new fork seals, rear brake master cylinder rebuild (yes, some of us do use the rear brake), and a current registration…all minor details which I’m sure I’ll get around to eventually.

When I got to the Rock Store I was surprised at how many motorcycles were there. It wasn’t a large number, but certainly more than I thought would be there. As I walked around I met Roy on a beautiful old BMW R27, Tashi on Royal Enfield Bullet 500, and Bill on a KZ1000 ELR, each of them enjoying the day (the weather was perfect) and the ride. The common thread among them was the enjoyment of less traffic, less law enforcement…which, can and does allow for a more spirited ride, and once at the Rock Store, easier parking.

I met a young journalist from Japan wandering through the bikes. He was working on a story about the Rock Store for a magazine back home. He thought that there would be more bikes there. I told him Sunday was the day for large numbers of all kinds of bikes. “Ah, Sunday…what day is today?” he got off the plane from Japan just a few hours earlier. It was Sunday on his body clock. The young journalist took pictures, talked with riders, shared his own stories, and for those of us that got a chance to meet him, made the day more interesting.

I headed up over the mountains to the coast to keep my appointment in Venice. I wasn’t in too much of a hurry that I still couldn’t enjoy a fast blast over a couple more canyon roads before cruising the coast south, so I put the BMW, and myself through our paces. But then…I caught up with the Black Sheep Scooters.

I didn’t need gas, but there at the Chevron station in Malibu was a gaggle of scooters, the Black Sheep Scooter Club. I had to stop. This is a loosely knit group, and I mean that in more than one way, heading off on a two day camping and riding adventure. Scooter pilots from all over Southern California somehow managed to get together, go ride, and have a great weekend. Except for this one poor guy whose Lambretta decided it had had enough fun for one day. I made my way down to Venice, hung out with the guys at Black Kat Motorwerks, checked out all the cool old vintage stuff at The Garage Company, and then spent some time with my old friend and racing partner Ted Toki at his shop in West L.A, talking about our kids, hot rods, and his latest (old) Triumph.

The ride home that evening was wonderful. A perfect late summer night over the canyons, the R90’s headlight was just bright enough to guide me over roads I can probably ride blindfolded, and all was well with the world.

We all look forward to the Sunday ride but, I found that a Saturday ride might be just as entertaining, if not a bit more.

L.A Moto Film Fest

A couple Saturday’s ago I was riding up in the Santa Monica mountains on my way to a Vintage BMW gathering down in Venice, California, and one of the required stops on that kind of ride is The Rock Store on Mulholland Highway. It’s always a good stop because you’ll see a few really cool motorcycles, (on Sundays you see hundreds…), maybe friend or two and, if you’re hungry or thirsty, good food and drink. While I was hanging around and checking out a couple of bikes, I saw a flyer tacked to the oak tree in the parking lot advertising a motorcycle film festival in L.A, cool. I took a picture of the flyer so I would have the info and headed my way down the coast.

As I was sorting through my photo’s of the day later that night, I saw the flyer and thought this is an event I really want to go to. I showed Heather, my usual passenger and wife, the flyer and she agreed, I should go. I’m a lucky man. Actually, I think she just wanted a Saturday night all to herself.

The film festival was being held at the Cretins Motorcycle Club in downtown Los Angeles. I know a couple of those guys and I’ve been wanting to interview them for my podcast program for a while, this is perfect!

Film Festival day came and the weather was looking pretty iffy for an outdoor event but I had faith it would come off no matter what. For me, I had to decide to either ride or drive. It’s a pretty long ride for me and if it does rain, the LA freeways are not where you want to be. If I drive and it doesn’t rain…what a wimp. Every now and then, style trumps practicality. I rode.

It was an easy ride to Downtown until…I got off the freeway. Google maps and downtown Los Angeles apparently don’t have a good relationship. Without going into boring beyond words yet comical details, I was lost for a good half hour. I made more U-turns, asked more people in cars at a stoplight I had been through at least five times to roll down their window and tell me where the hell Sotello St. was, (not one of them knew either..), even the guys at a gas station (that turned to be just about six blocks away) had no clue. About the time I decided these guys really are Cretins, Google maps that is, I thought I would give it one more try before heading home…I’m not letting some computer directions beat me, no way! The last try paid off. As I rode up the driveway I knew all the frustration of being lost was well worth the price of admission…six dollars by the way.

What a fantastic event. These guys, the Cretins, have it together big time. The Cretins clubhouse is on the roof of a parking structure looking right into the LA night line. Picture this, a couple hundred motorcycles with skyscrapers for a back drop…too cool. When I got off my motorcycle, I checked in with my friend, and Cretins club member Scott Fabro. After a fast visit and swapping of a few racing stories ( we used to have some epic battles in the Formula Singles class at Willow Springs ), I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough.

The Cretins are known for being a cafe racer / rat bike kind of club and it’s true. But…this event, and as it turns out, pretty much everything they do is open to all riders. On this beautiful roof top were ratty ass old Honda’s, long in the tooth BMW’s, a big Suzuki Cavalcade tourer, Harley’s with ape hangers…you name it it was there. As at any motorcycle gathering, we all walk around, look at bikes, talk to the owners, take pictures and start making wish lists.

As interesting as the bikes are, it’s the people who make any event an ‘Event’. Believe me boys and girls this was an ‘Event’. I don’t think I have seen a broader group of motorcyclists talking, telling stories and laughing in one place than I did Saturday night on a roof top in downtown Los Angeles. The Flaming Knights Motorcycle Club, The Pyrate Riderz (yez, I spelled it ryght)…I’ve never heard of these clubs but that doesn’t matter, we were all hanging out together. Couples that rode in looking like movie stars on bikes that just came out of a fashion magazine photo shoot to guys riding on bikes that made you wonder how they made up the driveway. It’s the people and their stories that are always the most interesting…and, they all came out for a good cause.

There were two reasons for putting together this event according organizer Mark Duncan. First was, in his words (sorta) “there all kinds of film festivals but none about or for motorcycles, so I decided to do one”. On top of that, he wanted to help his favorite charity, Riders for Health. The Cretins Motorcycle Club, being the good charitable guys and gals that they are, offered up their clubhouse and all their good (?) connections to help out. Mark sent out emails and built a website www.lamotofilmfest.com looking for film makers to join in.

After going through about twenty five short films he settled on fifteen for the festival. There were movies about ice racing (the true lunatics of the motorcycle racing world), traveling across Libya, learning how to race at Willow Springs, even a great comedy about Captain USA capturing Osama Bin Laden, this film had everybody laughing their asses off. Films about off road adventures and urban adventures, racing old Honda 160’s and how to travel on $54.80 a day. It was all great stuff and we were all watching these films shown on a brick wall, on a roof top, in LA. How lucky were we.

While having some pizza and moving a trash barrel, I had a good visit with Mark Duncan; Willow Springs racer, creator of the event and, film maker in his own right www.nckfilms.com. This guy was so stoked as to how the evening was going, you couldn’t have wiped the smile off his face with a blown motor. It only took Mark two months to pull this all together but he’s already planning the 2nd annual film fest. The Motoworld interview with Mark is at www.themotoworld.com it’s short but really great.

I can’t say enough about how great the 1st Annual Los Angeles Motorcycle Film Festival was, the Cretins Motorcycle Club as hosts and, all the people who came to support the film makers and the Riders for Health organization www.riders.org

A full photo album of the gathering is on the website www.themotoworld.com this is an event that you really don’t want to miss. I have a feeling that with the success of this years film fest, the Cretins club house is going to be way too small next year

Cool now, illegal soon…maybe

That cool sound that you paid hundreds of dollars for emanating from the back of your motorcycle may wind up costing you more than the retail price. A while back I mentioned in one of my Motoworld podcasts www.themotoworld.com that a state legislator from Southern California, Fran Pavely (Dem, Santa Monica) in 2009 was working hard to get her bill, SB435, through the legislature. That piece of legislature, SB435, was targeted at motorcyclists who changed or modified their exhaust systems. The bill was aimed at two fronts, one was excess noise and the other air pollution. Citing information from the California Air Resources Board (carb), motorcycles account for less than 1% of vehicle travel miles, yet produce 10% of the smog producing emissions. Ms. Pavely’s point at the time was that modified exhaust systems were not only too loud, they created too much smog. Under the original version SB435, motorcycles would have to be smog tested every two years just like cars. Can you just imagine what a nightmare that would be not only for we motorcyclists but for the smog check stations as well. Think of all the new equipment they would have to buy, the added insurance and the headaches….it’s a good thing the bill didn’t pass.

The bill not passing was only a minor setback to Ms. Pavely’s agenda, she has brought it, SB435, back again…you just can’t keep a good piece of legislation down now can you. This time around it is a bit watered down. It still goes after loud motorcycles yes, but, the smog testing of motorcycles is gone. Does that mean that he possibility of smog testing motorcycles is forgotten? Oh no. The new version of SB435 has passed both the State Assembly and the Senate and is heading for Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk for signing.

There are some things I need to mention here in fairness. Nearly thirty years ago, twenty-seven I believe, the Anti Tampering Act was passed aimed at motorcyclists modifying their exhaust systems to be louder. Well, as we can all attest to, it has never really been enforced, SB435 basically brings it back to life and puts some teeth in it…teeth that will sink right into your wallet. If you are cited by an officer for your motorcycle being too loud…and by the way, what is too loud??? The bill targets a sound level of 80dbs. I wonder if my old BMW with stock pipes is that quiet? Back to being ticketed, the first offense could bring a fine of $50-$100 and future offenses $100-$250. The citation would be a fix it ticket, which means you will have to put your stock exhaust back on, get it tested and then if you wanted to risk another ticket, put your ‘other’ exhaust on. This new law will affect motorcycles built from 1985 but won’t take effect until 2013…at least that’s how I read it.
The bill has been heavily opposed by the Motorcycle Industry Council ( www.mic.org ) needless to say, because it will affect the motorcycle industry in a big way, and that will affect you and your choices too.

You’re reading this thinking to yourself, hey, too bad for bikers in California but that will never happen here in Texas. You’re wrong. Once this snowball starts rolling it’s going to pick up enough speed to roll right through states. Think about this for a moment, if law enforcement agencies start enforcing the noise ordinances and handing out tickets, that’s good revenue for the state and nowadays…money talks and your rights walk. What can you do now, if you’re here in California contact Arnie today http://gov.ca.gov/interact#contact even if you don’t live here in the Golden State, contact Arnie. Join the AMA www.ama-cycle.org and write to them for help with this issue. It’s bigger than it looks. I don’t mean to be ‘chicken little ‘ here but right now the government is working on taking away land from off-roaders, a federal agency is giving grants to five states to set up checkpoints to target motorcyclists, what’s next?
For more information about california SB435 there is a good article in the LA Times,http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2010/08/motorcycle-noise.htmlgive it a read and get involved in protecting your rights.

I am not a fan of the ‘loud pipes save lives’ credo, I think, more often than not, loud pipes just piss people off and apparently one pissed off lawmaker has made it her mission to quiet things down.

A strange marriage?

A while back, we here at Motoworld Central reported on our podcast the news that Volkswagen had bought a good portion of Suzuki. At the time it was a bit of a surprise, but global companies swap dancing partners all the time. For one day it was big news in the automotive world, but today…not so much. Suzuki wanted a bigger part of the world market and VW wanted a a stronger place in the Asian market…so getting into bed with each other seemed the right thing to do. A few of us (not me of course…) have woken up in the morning wondering “what was I thinking?”

While scouring the internet the other day I found the offspring of this marriage.This photo is proof positive that some mergers really do work well and the future of motorcycling is in good hands.

Can this become that???

I love Cafe Racers. I have written about this before and talked about them on our Podcast. My good friend Erik is way into them (check out his blog at caferacers.wordpress.com). Almost any bike can be turned into a Cafe Racer. But…what is a Cafe Racer? I’m glad you asked.
A Cafe Racer is more than just a modified motorcycle, it’s also a type of motorcycle rider. The roots of a Cafe Racer go back to a British counterculture of the 1960’s. Did you ever see the movie Quadraphenia? The Mods and The Rockers. The Mods on their scooters…highly modified and stylized and The Rockers on their motorbikes…highly modified and sylized.Your basic culture clash of the 60’s. Both groups arrive at Brighton Beach, England for holiday. A brawl ensues …arrests are made, bikes and scooters destroyed. But wait, these guys were basically doing the same thing to two wheels, just a bit differently. The Mods were into modern music and style… picture The Beatles; The Rockers into classic 50’s American Rockabilly and leather jackets…picture Fonzie on the TV show Happy Days.

The origin of the Cafe Racer culture is really interesting. Post World War Two, soldiers coming home with some cash in their pockets and buying motorcycles. In Britain it started as a contest between riders sitting in a cafe drinking coffee, bragging about how fast they are…the race was on. But, this race was a bit different, it was not two riders on the road racing each other, that’s too easy.. This race was one rider racing against… the song on juke box in the cafe??! You pop your nickel into the juke box, pick a song, run out the door start your bike and ride to a designated turnaround point and back to the cafe before the song ended. Crazy indeed. Back at that time most songs were only about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes long and the roundtrip was somewhere around 3 miles. Do the math. You had to be riding really fast, usually over 100mph to make it back in time. That my friend is where the phrase ‘doing the ton’ came from. The ‘Ton’ was 100mph. Enough of Cafe Racer culture education, I want to build one.

So, how do I make a Cafe Racer? The basics are strip it of everything that is unnecessary. The lighter the better. Here in the USA that is how ‘Choppers’ got started, on The Continent (Europe) it was the Cafe Racer. I need to add here that there is ONE, count ’em, ONE American Cafe Racer and it is the only Harley Davidson I would love to own…the 1978 Harley XLCR.

I’ll start with this little old Honda SL350..why the SL?? Well, first off…it’s because I have one that runs great and no one wants to buy (it’s been on e-bay and Craigs list for a while) and because it has a double down tube frame instead of a flimsy single tube chassis, a steeper steering angle for quicker steering and it’s kick start only..very vintage and the cool factor is higher.
Drop in a CB front end so I can easily stick a better 18″ front wheel and tyre combo. Fork mods are easier on the CB as well. From there it’s simple stuff like brake shoe upgrades, better shocks, a set of clubman handlebars and a cool paint job.

My friend Erik is also going to build one out of the spare parts that I have. We’re going to make a contest out of this…looking at what he has to start with…and what his vision is…his will be cooler for sure. But I’ll be riding mine a lot sooner. Good luck Erik.

Back to the original question…can I make this out of that??? I’ll keep you posted. Should be a fun winter project.