Friday, May 9, 2008

Building a Custom Seat Pan from a Shovel

I recently built my first chopper and I got creative with it. For example, I made my seat pan from a shovel. Yeah, you heard right. A shovel. A garden implement. Here's how:

After I removed the wood handle I used the band saw to cut the handle attachment part from the scoop.

I made a cut longitudinally along the top of the scoop’s center hump so I could hammer it flat. The steel in the scoop proved to be very spring like.

The center hump failed to yield to the force of my hammer. I had to heat the hump area with a torch to get it to hammer flat. As I hammered, the material of the hump began to over lap at the cut.

Several applications of heat were needed before the center of the scoop was flat enough. Once the center of the scoop was as flat as I could get it with the double thickness of material in the center, I made a second saw cut down the center of the over lapped part of the scoop.

This effectively removed two flaps of excess material and left me with what appeared to be a scoop with no hump or handle attachment point. Using the band saw again, I cut the basic shape of the seat pan. I placed the seat pan on my frame to help me judge the final size and shape.

After I decided on a finished shape, I slowly welded the saw cut using a Hobart MIG welder, making sure that everything was straight and even as I went. I wanted the seat to have the contour of an old bicycle type solo so I rounded the sides down. To do this I secured a piece of 2” steel tubing in a vice and hammered the front edges over it. The shape I ended up with was almost exactly what I was looking for.

I sanded the edges of the seat pan and used an angle grinder to smooth the welded seam. I welded a hinge to the front of the seat pan and painted the whole thing with a thick coat of black appliance paint. I painted the seat pan in an attempt to protect the steel from any moisture that might get through the seat cover.

I cut a piece of ¼ inch thick, high density, blue foam to shape so I would have some padding. My friend John Smith glued the foam to the seat pan and covered the whole thing with thick, natural colored skirting leather. John hand stitched the entire seat. I wanted to keep the leather natural, so no oils or dyes have been used on this seat. (Sorry. I didn’t get any photos of John covering the seat.)

Although the seat hinges up to allow for access to the battery box in the oil tank, it is mounted with out the use of springs. In other words, this seat is rigid. This bike hasn’t been assigned a vin number yet so I only have about one hundred miles worth of ass time on this seat. I’ll have to wait to see how it holds up after a few thousand miles.