03 Oct HOTW 14 – A Little Bump ‘n’ Grind
There will be some bumps. There will be some grinds. Today, we’re working on the Kawasaki Vulcan’s front fender. Come check it out.
As you can tell, we’ve been covering this bike rather extensively. Reason being, we took an overabundance of pictures and started this coverage a bit on the late side, so now we’re making an effort to catch you all up. The last picture we showed you in Monday’s blog post was of Tom taping up the fender to look like a reverse bumblebee. There’s a good reason for that. Just as we widened the rear fender to match the new tire, we’re thinning out the front fender to match the new front tire setup. After all, it would look pretty awkward with a really wide fender over the wheel. As we continue taping it up, we carefully mark the area we’ll be removing from the center of the fender. Once that’s done, we’ll take it over to the table against the wall, where a cutting wheel will make quick work of it.
Now, it’s not as simple as just taking those two halves and welding them together. We have to make sure the meeting point of both halves line up with one another smoothly and at the proper angle. So we’ll take the grinder to it and shave off some additional metal in order to even out both halves. It is SIGNIFICANTLY easier to weld with a clean, prepped surface composed of straight lines.
And with that, it’s over to the welding table. We’ve said it before, and it still comes into play here; the welding needs to be done in short, controlled amounts with plenty of cooling time inbetween beads. Going too fast can cause the metal to warp, due to the heat generated by the welding process. Unlike the Chicago Marathon, slow and steady is the winner of this race.
As you can tell, that bead is a bit unsightly in relation to the rest of the fender, so we broke out the air tools once again to smooth it out and provide the contour we’re looking for.
And that’s all she wrote! Oh, wait, no it isn’t. There’s still some work to be done on this fender. Seeing as how the dimensions of the fender have changed, and so have the dimensions of the new wheel versus the stock one, we have to adjust the fender mounts so that the front fender is properly flush with the front wheel. We accomplished the first part of this (removing the old brackets) in a few steps, starting with cutting the old bracket out in a pleasant half-oval shape.
From there, we cleaned up the entirety of the fender. We’ll want to make sure everything is to the same depth and doesn’t have any awkward dimpling, and it’s much easier to see that without the high-gloss paint, so we removed it and cleaned up the cut-out area from the previous picture. It’s going to paint with the rest of the bike’s gloss black parts, so it’ll be back in fighting shape at the end of this story. But for now, she’s a little on the naked side.
With the fender prepped and cleaned, we cut out a rough template for the metal we’d need to fill in the sides of the fender. We started with a flat piece of steel, which didn’t stay flat for too long; after all, this fender is curved and contoured, so Tom will shape the new metal to fit flush with the fender, as if nothing were ever removed.
And it’s right back to the welding table! Don’t forget, slow and steady.
Just like with the weld down the middle, we rely on our trusty (not rusty) air tools to help clean up the weld beads and shape the bottom part of the fender a bit more. As long as your weld is fully penetrating, you’ll be able to clean it up and make it look like nothing were ever added to it.
Finally, we added a bit of reinforcement behind the new metal, as that’s where we’ll be mounting our custom brackets in a later post.
And with that, we’ve rested the new front fender on the tire to make sure everything matches up, and it does! With that out of the way for now, and with the mounting brackets a little ways off, it’s time to worry about the next piece of equipment we’ll be making for the bike — a completely custom two-up seat. We aren’t doing the upholstering ourselves, so we’ll have some collaborative pictures to show you very soon. It never hurts to have a custom motorcycle seat shop just two buildings away.