Archive for the ‘building a go kart’ Category

A horrible picture of two cheap leather belts.

We’ve all seen them…men wearing both suspenders and a belt. I’ve never quite understood it. Is it a fashion statement? Or do they each, simultaneously serve some purpose? I’m a fan of suspenders with a suit and as for belts, I like to keep my pants up as much as the next guy but why both at the same time?

As much as I was on the fence for how to create the appearance of hood straps for our go kart I decided that we could fashion some out of some good old leather belts. Not because using suspenders would be a fashion faux pa, but rather because suspenders just wouldn’t look quite the same.

As with the rest of our kart I didn’t want put too much money into this addition (no sense in spending $50+ for two belts I was going to cut up) so I took to scouring the local Goodwill and garage sale looking for two black leather belts. The challenge with hitting places like this wasn’t finding two belts, it was finding two belts that matched. Finally, on a suggestion, I paid a  visit to the local Walmart.

Measuring the length for our first strap.

Now I’m not exactly a fan of Walmart and this not-so-quick trip reminded me of why. It wasn’t finding two cheap leather belts, no that was relatively painless. It was the dreaded check out. Each of the 25 registers was being commanded by a woman no less than 100 years old. To add to my adventure each of these women had their hands full since each person in line had one, sometimes two shopping carts full to the brim with the days special “Roll Back” deals. Many of the shopping carts were full of necessities such as The Varsity Snuggie, the Magic Jack, and very large bags of Cheetos.  While waiting my wife called me and asked what was taking me so long, I mentioned “Oh, I went to Walmart.”. She simply said “Why in the world did you do that?”. I was beginning to ask myself the same question.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I was headed home with our leather belts. At only $5.00 each, it may have been worth the wait, although I guess it’s debatable.

Positioning the buckle side of the front strap. Note the notch cut on the bottom.

The belts we picked up were each 36″. This would give us plenty of length to go across the hood and attach onto both sides of the body. First thing we did was measure the length we’d need, starting with the front strap. The strap would be placed right on the edge of the grill, true to the original Bugatti Type 35. Placing the strap here would also help to hide the “imperfections” in the hood a bit.

Once I measured the total length I determined exactly where I wanted the buckle. I held the buckle end against the side and made a mark on the leather where it would butt up against the frame. With this mark I then took a utility knife and cut the belt apart. The length was good, but I also had to cut notches on the end since part of the strap would sit on the upper control arm and the other portion will reach to where the body meets the frame rails. Once this was done we now had the one side ready to secure to our kart.

Painter tape and glue. Whatever it takes...

To secure it to the body I decided to go with good old Guerrilla Glue. This stuff is strong, strong as…. well strong as a guerrilla. I spread a small bead of glue onto the back of the leather belt, placed it onto the side of the kart and applied some tape to hold it secure.

Once the glue tacked up a bit I then taped whatever I could find to hold extra pressure to it, including some track from a Thomas The Train we had sitting around. The boys panicked when they saw that but I assured them it was for a good cause and wouldn’t be permanently stuck to the kart.

While this buckle side was drying I moved onto the rear buckle. I measured, cut and applied with more glue. Because this one went over the louvers and near the exhaust we trimmed a slight curve. With this piece cut to the correct length I also applied some glue and placed it against the body. It was a bit more difficult to keep it into position so as with the front I taped a few things against the body to hold pressure against the strap.

Both vintage-looking hood straps now in place.

After an hour or so for the first two to dry, I headed to the straps on the other side. As we had with the other, I cut a notch into the front piece and also cut an inch off the end where the holes were. It was just a bit too long. Once I trimmed the length I then rounded off the ends with some sandpaper so they didn’t look like I just hacked them off which of course was exactly what we just did. Here we are with one more step of progress on our kart. Next maybe a plexi-glass windscreen?

At this rate maybe I’ll finish it by the time the boys get their driver’s licenses.

Work to date.

To this point it’s hard to believe, but we’ve been working on our kart for a full year. By this time I should either have something the boys can ride, or be prepared to face the wrath of three impatient boys. And when they get impatient it’s ugly. It’s a situation that only an Otter Pop could spare me from. So I pressed on.

We were able to get our sprocket on nice and square, so I asked Nick to take ‘er for a spin. He made it all of 30’ when what I thought was yet again a simple chain derailment. Nope this time it was much more of a challenge, this time the point where the sprocket was attached to the crank had completely broken. It didn’t actually break per se but rather the mega-strong-cotter-pin (yes that’s the technical term) simply spun in it’s hole, which meant the sprocket would now turn as well.

You can see our cotter pin was totally sheered off.

Who knows what the heck I was thinking by expecting a soft cotter pin to hold that sprocket from spinning in place. Temporary insanity? Rushed by the echoes of “Dad, is it done yet?” in my head? Not sure but no matter. What was done is done. Or what’s broken is broken.

Think…think…. how could I repair this in a way that may last an hour…. a day? Heck maybe for good or all of eternity? OK, I’d settle for a few weeks. I realized that what I needed to do, and to be honest should have done all along is to mount a small jet on the back. After thinking twice in that my wife would probably notice that addition, I thought that what I probably should do instead  was to mount the sprocket with something stronger.

Drilling a larger hole through our pipe flange. We did the same to the crank.

The idea with cotter pin was good, just that we simply needed something stronger.

I went ahead and drilled the key whole in the crank, as well as the pipe flange that the sprocket mounts to, large enough that a 1/4″ screw could fit through. This hopefully would be strong enough to withstand the sheer Herculean strength that apparently the boys now clearly posses. They weren’t that strong when we started this thing! Just what the heck have we been feeding them anyway!?

With the hole drilled through both the crank and pipe flange I realized that I would need to grind off the sides of the bolt so that we could get it into the whole in the flange. Hopefully this would hold. To put all this work in up to this point and have stuff keep breaking, well to put it nicely, sucks. But alas, such as the life of a zany Dad and go kart builder right?

We drilled the hole just large enough for our bolt. Uh oh, the whole was too close to the side of the pipe flange and I can’t get the head of the bolt past it. Improvise right? Next I needed to grind own two sides of the bolt so that it would slide into the hole of the pipe flange, and then through into the crank. Par for the course really in that it didn’t fit at first so I kept grinding, checking, grinding and checking until voila. It fit like a champ.

Our ground bolt slips through our pipe flange just fine.

Next we buttoned it all back up. I slid the sprocket assembly back onto the crank, slipped our super custom bolt through the sprocket, and through the crank hole. It fit tight enough that it didn’t even need a nut on the other side, but I’ll put one on anyway. Just for fun.

I had one of the boys ride it down the street. Lo and behold, it made it all the way back without the chain falling off AND without the sprocket breaking off again. It’s a miracle. OK, maybe not a miracle but it’s a good thing nonetheless.

For the past few weeks I’ve been looking to getting stuff done like our seat, some leather straps over the hood, a horn, heck maybe even some headlights. Yet alas, here we find ourselves repairing work that we’ve already done! Arrggg.

Oh well. At least it’s now fixed. After all, it’s the journey, not the destination right? Now where was I again…

Brakes. Who needs ’em. Well, come to think of it we do…especially now that we’ve completely removed the coaster brake on our drive wheel. I know, I know, you’re thinking “Well, why did you go and do that? You had such a nice solution.“A couple of reasons.
First, as you know we needed to remount the rear wheels. The simple offset block of wood we had just wasn’t cutting it, and second was an observation I made with our coaster brake setup. You see I realized that no matter what I did, since we had move the coaster brake bracket to the opposite side of where the actual clutch mechanism for the brake itself exists, well the brake would never really work or at least work well. In fact after a few dry runs I realized that the setup we had would actually inhibit the wheel to gradually work loose each time you applied the brakes! Either that or the wheel would gradually lock up. Either way, as Luke would say “That’s bad.”.

To solve my problem with the brakes I just decided to simply gut the wheel hubs and remove the brakes altogether. By doing this I effectively made the hub a “free-wheel” (where you can pedal backwards, coasting, but engage the sprocket going forward).

After doing a fair amount of research to determine whether or not I could actually make the coaster brakes do what I wanted them to do (I even went so far as to say please) it was simply easiest to not use the coaster brake at all but rather build a hand brake system. We’ll get to actually building the brakes  on another day, first we needed to settle the wheel hubs and mount them. To solve the problem with the mounting I opted to completely eliminate the brake and axle assembly from each rear wheel. In lieu of the factory axle on each wheel we would use a single solid axle that would go through the frame, and through each wheel.

Drilling for our new rear axle.

I headed to Home Depot and picked up a 36″ length of 3/8″ steel rod. I decided I would run a single axle through the frame, and mount each wheel onto the axle. This would insure that the wheels were not only parallel but would give them that much extra strength to hold the riders weight.

First we needed to determine exactly where to put the axle. I realized after some earlier test rides that the wheels were a bit too far forward in that a heavier rider would have just enough weight behind the rear wheels that the front wheels would just barely come off the ground. Based on this I decided to move them back a good 2″. This will require we build a longer chain, but that won’t be too big of a deal.

Once we had our holes drilled we needed to determine exactly how we would hold the axle in place. I realized that the pipe floor flanges we had used earlier were perfect in that the axle would fit just right through the threaded hole.

Good ole pipe flanges. They've proven quite useful in this project.

With our axle holes drilled we positioned our pipe flanges on each side, marked the holes, and drilled mounting points.

Next with our flanges drilled and mounted we set our sights on the axle itself. We placed the rod into our bench vice and proceeded to thread approximately 5″ on one end. We used a die that was the same thread as that of our wheel axles, which will allow us to reuse all of the threaded pieces that came with the wheel. With each step I took here I constantly would ask myself “Now, why didn’t I do this to begin with ?”. The fact that I was being barraged with questions like “Dad, when is this going to be done?” and “Dad, can I ride the go kart now?” didn’t help either.

The threading process went quite smoothly with the boys chipping in here and there though they always seemed to have one ear cocked towards the street awaiting the now almost daily ice-cream-man pilgrimage.

Threading our axle to match the old ones so we can reuse the wheel hardware.

We threaded one side and slid our drive wheel into place on the axle. I intentionally only threaded the one side so that we could slide the axle into place to get a measurement of how much to cut off before we threaded the other side.

I carried the wheel and axle assembly over to our kart and slid the axle into the frame. Next I went to tighten the outer wheel nut in place and realized the outer wheel ball bearings had fallen out of the wheel somewhere during the 20′ journey I had just taken across the garage. I just had them… didn’t I? They’d turn up eventually I figured so I continued with the rough assembly to get a measurement of our axle.

Axle with one wheel mounted and one wheel hub removed.

I placed the axle into the frame, all the way through, and out the other side. We had at least 8″ of excess coming on the other side. I positioned the wheel approximately where it would be and measured how much length of axle it used. I then used that measurement on the other side and made a mark to indicate where we would cut off the excess length.

Next we pulled the axle and wheel back out of the frame and cut off the end we had just marked. With our axle now the proper length we then threaded the other side to prepare to mount this second wheel. I went ahead and repacked the wheel bearings of the second wheel since we will be assembling that wheel onto the axle next. While I was doing this I realized that my trusty assistant had disappeared into the house. I knew he had greasy hands so figured I’d try to catch him before my wife did. New couches + greasy hands =  bad news for sure.

I found him in the hall bathroom…washing the missing ball bearings in the sink. At least we found them, and now they were now clean, cleaned with hand soap no less.

Both wheels mounted with our axle through the frame.

With all of our hardware now present and accounted for we pressed on. I positioned the axle into place, reassembled the primary wheel with it’s found bearings, and attached our second wheel. The wheels looked nice and straight and strong to boot.

With the axle in place next we threaded 1/4″  bolts through each of the four holes in our pipe flanges. These not only provided a nice solid hole for the axle to go through, but also provided a bit of extra strength to hold it all in place with the four bolts. Solid wheels, solid axle, it was all looking quite good.

By this time it was about 7:00 pm. With the weather warm and longer days the boys were all playing outside. I asked one of them if he wanted to take a little test drive with the rear wheels remounted. Not only did he reply with; “Yeah!!!” but he proceeded to announce to every child on the street that their go kart was finished. Of course it wasn’t quite. I knew very well where this was headed. Within minutes a steady stream of children ranging from two to twelve were suddenly lined up in my driveway to take a spin with each screaming “I’m first! I’m first!”. Of course the chain wasn’t on yet so I found myself acting as an amusement park ride operator, pushing each child down the street only to turn around and do it again with the next in line. The smile on their faces and shouts of “This is awesome!” was well worth the lower back pain that I was later greeted with. After I was about half way through the line of children my wife opened the front door, smiled, and yelled: “Hey, is that an airplane?”.

Everyone’s a critic.

Next up our fancy new brakes…

To have reached this point has been pretty gratifying. Now that we have the paint all on, the number in place, I felt we could start putting it all back together. The front wheels went on quite easily and we also put our louvers back on. We also finally removed the last of the blue painters tape from the steering column and put the steering wheel all back in place. Now we’re cookin’ with gas as one might say.

Cutting off the end of our exhaust pipe.

Before I put the exhaust back into place I went ahead and trimmed the end that mounts into the engine compartment. If you remember back in “Chapter 13: Does an engine without an exhaust still make a noise?”, we ended up with the exhaust pipe hitting our crank pedal.
Before we had removed it I marked the spot where it would need to be trimmed with a Sharpie so all we had to do here simply was cut it. I went ahead and held it in place in a miter box (which worked surprisingly well) and cut it on the line we had drawn.

Because our exhaust is nothing but a kitchen drain pipe made of chrome plated brass it cut pretty easily. I wasn’t terribly concerned with it being a perfectly straight cut since it will be on the inside of the kart and not visible, but I tried best I could. Once the cut was through I then was sure to sand the now razor sharp edge to dull it up. Last thing I needed to do was have one of the boys slice their leg open while pedaling down the road. My wife would kill me. Once we were all done with this step it was just a matter of screwing it back onto the side of the body.

Our drive wheel mounted, showing the block that the wheel mounts to.

Onto the rear wheels. I’ve been thinking a bit about the mounting of the rear wheels. I think I’m going to go ahead and rebuild some new mounting blocks. I never had painted the original ones we had created and after putting the wheels back on I just don’t feel that they’d be strong enough or at least last very long so I don’t want to go to the effort of painting them only to have them break soon thereafter.
The alignment of blocks is also bit off, but more than that is the sheer strength. What I’ll do is rather than build a mounting block out of 1×6 as we had before, I’ll pick up a piece of 4×4 and cut it in a wedge shape to align the wheels straight, while also mounting flush to the frame. Am I really looking to rebuild these mounts to insure they’re strong enough, or am I not wanting to finish this project? Good question. I’m not sure I can answer that but probably both.

With the rear wheels now mounted, albeit temporarily, we have a rolling kart again. The kids are really excited to see it all back together. I went ahead and pulled it off the stand to get some shots when one of the boys enthusiastically asked if he could take a ride. Sure, why not. I said “It’s not ready to pedal, but I could push you around a bit.” He sat in it and wrapped his hands around the wheel and just grinned ear to ear.

All rev'd up and ready to roll.

He turned the wheel back and forth a bit and off we went down the street. It really was fun to see. I pushed him down the sidewalk and told him to go ahead and turn up the neighbor’s driveway where we would turn around and head back home. I thought I may have even heard him making some engine noises, but then I quickly realized what I heard in fact was the spokes on the front wheels scraping against the lower control arms. Ahh! Abort! Abort!

We limped ‘er back to the garage and I realized that in the haste to get some pictures of it all back together I neglected to put the spacer on the front wheels that moved them towards the outside to clear the arms. I removed the wheels, put our spacers into place, and put it them back on. And also took a mental note to not to make that mistake again.

You can see where our spokes grazed our control arm.

On closer inspection I think I can repair it aesthetically, but I’m worried that a crack may have been introduced. Even if there is I think that the strength of the upper will be strong enough to support it, but I’ll just keep my eye on it. Luckily I can remove it and replace it relatively easily from the bottom of the kart. Yet another loose end that could have me working on this a bit longer.

All in all we’re looking pretty good. The louvers, the grill, the steering wheel, the exhaust, each add that bit of detail to make this a pretty cool vintage go kart. In addition to resolving our rear wheel mounts and this new wonderfulness with the front wheel I’m looking to get a seat of some sort added. Oh, and maybe some headlights. I did a bit of looking around hoping to find a discarded bar stool with a back that I could take the upholstery off of. I thought a seat like that would be perfect but no such luck finding one (still glancing at the occasional yard sale though). As a last resort I could just head over to the local fabric store and pick up some foam and pleather I suppose.

Our seat, in desperate need for some upholstery.

For the next few steps I’m going to get going on getting the rear wheels mounted permanently with new blocks and get our chain back on and in business. I may have to make it longer with our remounted rear wheels.  If I can insure the front is solid (no cracks) then heck at that point we’d have a fully functional go kart and that would just be great.

If you happen to have any leads on some reproduction Schwinn bike headlights (chrome type) drop me a line.

Until next time…

Hard to believe we started this kart on Father’s Day 2009, but as they say, getting there is half the fun. In our last weekend we were able to get the body all taped off and primered. Since then our ghost of a kart has just been taunting me from the garage. I’d walk by and think “Man is that ugly…” but luckily this stage is only temporary.

This most recent weekend I was bound and determined to get some color on our kart. My wife asked me if we had anything planned, but before I could respond she reminded me that we had cub scouts, baseball opening day, and two birthday parties to contend with. But I want to paint the go kart? I found that it was best to not let on just how much time I was willing to spend on this little project, often going so far as to pretend I forgot all about it. But I think she knows.

We needed a fluorescent lightbulb so I had the perfect excuse to find myself at Lowes. Conveniently I found myself in the paint aisle so I started looking at one color after another wondering just what we should paint our kart. Granted, the house paint aisle at the local hardware store isn’t typically where one would go to find paint for a car of sorts, what with the selection of Disney and Ralph Lauren crackle paint to choose from. As tempting as a faux leather wash would be, I just wanted to find a vintage color that was reminiscent of those vintage cars. A red, the given Bugatti blue, black, or even a vanilla or off white would look great.

I pulled out my iPhone (where I just happened to have a Bugatti picture) and realized that I just had to go with the old stand by. It was decided. I found myself leaving Lowe’s with a gallon of  Lowe’s Olympic brand paint, color A52-2 Magical Merlin, or as we would call it Bugatti Blue, semi-gloss. And of course my fluorescent lightbulb.

Think of it as a really big canvas...

We had our kart all taped up from the previous work so there really wasn’t much left to do except dig in and start painting. The paint went on as you would expect, like house paint.

Since we were covering with a fairly dark color (vs say eggshell on a wall) I was a bit surprised how much it took to cover the white primer. Not the whole gallon, but a few coats for sure. We started at the tail and worked our way down the frame and around the front.

The front upper and lower control arms were a bit tedious to get the brush into the nooks and crannies, and clearly a spray can would have done the trick just fine. But again, I just didn’t want to deal with the overspray and all that fun stuff.

One of the boys started off helping but I sensed he could recognize my apprehensiveness when he painted. I had this vision that the paint was all splashed on and was just a mess, and when he started painting in all directions I’d find myself saying “Ahhh, here let me help you…” only to stop myself from yanking brush out of his hand. I kept reminding myself, he’s having a good time here as well, so I let him continue on.

Side to side, not up and down.

We kept on with our work. After a bit Nick ran off to scatter various toys up and down the street so I was left to my own devices. The challenge was that I had a birthday party pick up for our oldest son in about an hour. I could do it.

I went around the front, covering the grill, and then down the passenger side meeting back up again with the tail where we had started. Since all the hardware was still taped off with blue 3M painters tape, and the entire kart was now blue, it was starting to resemble something a Smurf may drive around.

One of the boys came up and when it was mostly completely covered and simply said “Dad that’s a whole lotta blue.” I wanted to reply with “Whole lotta Bugatti blue…” but I just asked him what he thought. He loved it.

A go kart a Smurf would be proud of.

It does seem like one big blue blob, but you have to remember we’re going to get our chrome exhaust back on, paint some racing numbers, etc. It’s going to look great I think when we’re all set.

With the exterior of the body now painted I wondered what am I going to do with the interior? In hindsight it would have been a good idea to have painted the body on the inside as I assembled it. But live and learn. I’ll do that with the next one. The boys are each now asking for their own, with of course a motor.

I’d like to figure out if I can simply get some pleather for a seat but we’ll have to see. Next step will be to get our pieces back on, and tackle the grill I think. I have some great ideas on using window screen so stay tuned for that one.

Oh yeah, happy birthday Dad.


Is it a trunk or a boot? Who really cares, I’m talking about the back. As we did with the front portion, this step of our Bugatti kart involved trimming a sheet of galvanized steel to size and carefully wrapping it around the wooden framing we’ve previously put in place.

Using two quarter round mouldings to finish off the tail.

But, before we were able to sit down and get to business with the steel sheet I needed to consider the point or tail edge itself. You see where the left and right sides of the body meet in the tail, we ended up with an edge that was approximately one and a half inches wide.

Had I been more careful with the body and tail assembly I probably could have significantly reduced this to the point that all it needed was a bit of good filing and some elbow grease. But alas, I didn’t think that far ahead and here we are… with a bit of a challenge. Nothing insurmountable, just something else to keep me on my toes with this project.

I figured that I could probably use some simple wood moulding/trim to finish this off so I headed to my second home (Home Depot that is). I wasn’t able to find a single half-round that was the right size, so I settled on quarter round pieces that I figured we could just glue together.

Our custom moulding glued and held in place to dry.

I roughed up the pieces, applied a generous amount of wood glue, and held them together with rubber bands for a few hours.

After gluing the two pieces of moulding together, I then glued the entire single piece onto the back of the kart. To hold this all nice and firm against the kart I then wrapped a few lengths of painters tape around the tail which applied constant pressure to the glued surfaces.

After a few hours of drying, leaving the tape in place, I next drilled a few pilot holes through the moulding into the kart body. Since I knew I would be filing this down and generally putting some elbow grease into it, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to go anywhere.

Once the pilot holes were complete I set a few 2″ finishing nails through the moulding, attaching it securely to the kart. This piece wasn’t going anywhere that’s for sure.

Creating a template with newspaper for our sheet metal.

Now… to think about exactly how the steel sheet would mount. I knew it would be wrapped around the shape much like we had done in the front, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would finish of the very edge where we have our moulding.

After some serious consultation with the boys (“Oh yeah sure Dad, whatever you say.”) I figured I would first put a rough layout together with newspaper.

One of the challenges we had with the front was that I didn’t use a template, but rather just measured and cut it out. I shot from the hip you might say.

In doing this I did a fair amount of trimming as we were mounting it and that was something I wanted to try to avoid here if I could. The final result there was fine, but I think in retrospect I could have made it fit better had I taken a slightly different approach. Live and learn as they say. Anyway…

Our sheet cut out just sitting in place for the moment.

With the newspaper taped in place I sketched the perimeter lines with a Sharpie to indicate the final shape that I wanted our sheet metal. I then removed the newspaper and trimmed it along the lines we just placed on it thus creating my template.

With our newspaper template now complete I placed it onto the sheet metal and once again using our Sharpie, outlined the shape. I was sure to give myself an extra half inch or so all around just to be safe.

It was about this time that one of the neighborhood kids (a girl in fact) came by and said “I wish my Dad would build me one of these.” Awesome. I must be doing something right here.

Once we outlined our template I then picked up our cheap Harbor Freight cutting shears and cut it out. The shape of our panel once mounted will follow along the seat back, along the sides following the top of the tail, and will meet at the new tail piece we put in place.

Most of our screws set revealing the final gap on the end to consider.

At the top of the tail I decided to shape the steel to match that of the half-round moulding and bend the sides around to meet it. Once it was all cut, the next step we took was to place marks at 3″ intervals around the edge of our steel and drill pilot holes through the steel. Every 3″ may seem a bit extreme, but it’s mainly to keep the steel snug against the wood.

With our pilot holes in place we next set the steel into position, with the back of it sitting nice and snug onto the seat back. Once I was happy with the side to side positioning I then set this first screw into the back center.

To try to avoid the buckling we experienced with the front, I then worked outward from this center screw along the length. After setting a couple of more screws I went ahead and set the center of the rear (this is right on the moulding we mounted) to insure the steel stayed put.

Little by little the stability and strength of our sheet increased until we had all the screws set except the final two on both sides of the rear point.

Scrap piece we'll wrap around and mount over the moulding.

I had intentionally left these loose while I considered how best to get the final bit of moulding covered. I suppose I could have done it as one complete piece but the thought of cutting segments out, with the intention that they would miraculously meet perfectly in the middle was a gamble I didn’t think I’d win. I figured working with two separate pieces just be easier to deal with.

Since we had the very top of our moulding covered (we cut a slight half circle) we only had to consider wrapping around and meeting with the already set steel on the sides. No sweat right?

I secretly borrowed my wife’s sewing measuring tape (shhhh!) and wrapped it around our moulding and measured the distance from our steel on side to the steel on the other.

The final wrap piece in place and some sanding to remove the sharp edges.

The amount of scrap we had sitting around was perfect for a piece this small. It was easy to work with in that it was only roughly 6″ wide at the bottom and 3 1/2″ wide at the top.  I cut it out and was careful to hit with some 100 grit sand paper I had sitting around. This removed the sharp edges that were left behind when cutting it up.

Next I went ahead and drew a line down the center, so that I could align it with the center of our moulding. We will then carefully bend it around to meet up with the partially mounted sheet… well that’s the idea anyway.

I positioned our scrap onto the moulding and carefully bent it, sliding it underneath our already mounted piece.  This way we will end up with a relatively clean line of our steel and the larger piece will effectively clamp down our smaller piece nice and tight. It worked perfectly and didn’t look half bad.

As I mentioned before, so far we’ve had relatively little buckling which is great to see. The steel is bent to the curve of the wooden body and there aren’t anywhere near the bends and dents we ended up with on the front. With this final piece in place I think it will all be nice and tidy.

Once I had the sides of our scrap slid in place underneath the already mounted main piece, I then ran a screw through each side to hold it all together.

Close up revealing our installation with relatively little buckling. You can see where both pieces were screwed together near the tail.

Next with the corners screwed in, I then ran an additional screw about midway up our scrap piece, securing it firmly in place.  We now had the moulding completely covered, or wrapped around.

I discovered that in the top of the tail section, where the pieces met, a little tap here and there with a ball peen hammer did a world of good. These little taps just ever so slightly bent these raised points inward, towards the wood body making for a smoother overall finish.

After mounting this piece we still have just a hair of wood visible through the gap where the pieces meet, but it’s relatively little and isn’t really a big deal. Once we’re all painted I think it won’t be all that noticeable.

Our kart is resembling a Bugatti more and more all the time.

With this step we’ve completed all of our steel work for the body. I have some things in mind with regards to the grill but I think that will fall into place after we do some priming of the body and wood.

To prepare for priming the next step will be removing all of the exhaust, the wheels, and taping off anything with the steering components we don’t want painted.

Stay tuned, with Spring just around the corner I don’t expect our next step to be too far off.

Anyone who has caught pictures or video of racing events from the early 20th century is probably aware that the engines in those cars were pushed to the max. Although they weren’t fast (at least as compared to today’s cars), they were driven all out as if they were. Where cars today have computer controlled modules and the like to push the horsepower up, many of these vintage cars had motors similar to typical passenger cars. One big difference was that these cars were stripped of unnecessary weight, and the motors were pushed to their limits. And with these limits came heat…and lots of it.

The inspiration for our go kart. Note the louvered hood.

During this period it was commonplace to cut louvers into the sides of the engine compartments in these cars for ventilation. I’m not sure if it made that much of a difference but regardless, it sure looked cool, almost resembling the gills of a shark.

If you’ve been following our project here you’ll know that our kart won’t be having an engine at all, however in the interest of looking like it does we will be installing some of these ventilation louvers.

I thought quite a bit about how best to go about this step. I considered cutting a rectangle out on each side and manufacturing wooden slots, or to place a hinged piece of wood that would allow access to the steering linkage. While both of the ideas are very doable, they would just be overly complex.

You too can have instant louvers for the small price of $1.49 each.

Our plans note to use a large heating type vent that I thought sounded heavy and may just look funny. One day while out running errands I dropped by the local Lowe’s. As it turned out they had tin panels, nice and thin, with louvers cut in them. These are panels that one would use say to provide ventilation in an attic or maybe on the top of a garage wall. They’re similar to what the plans noted, but since the plans were roughly twenty years old, these were probably just an updated version of what they were suggesting. The louvers were nice and light and relatively small.

The only drawback was that these had the louvers facing down, and I would have preferred them facing back but I can live with it.  Not only did these have the look I was wanting but the price was right as well. For a whopping $1.49 each our kart was going to be all set.

Before I dove into mounting the louvers I decided that I would make some changes to the top body panel. The plywood was plenty strong, and fit fine. The problem was rather that I realized that after raising the height of the dash (and steering wheel) there was a gap revealed where the boys could stick their hand inside.

Our shortened body top to prevent random objects from getting stuck.

I wasn’t so worried about getting a hand stuck but rather knew for sure that someone would drop a Hot Wheel, a baseball, or heck maybe a Popsicle in there and we couldn’t have that stuff stuck inside right? Although come to think of it wouldn’t be any different than my car. To this day there is a Hot Wheel that I can’t find in the back of my car that I’m reminded of every time I make a right hand turn as it rolls from one side to the other. When my boys grow up and have a family of their own I’ve secretly sworn to myself that I would hide various rolling toys in their cars as some sort of twisted revenge. When I ride with them I’ll then pretend to not hear a thing… it will be just fantastic.

To address this little issue I removed the body panel top, and cut it about 4 inches shorter, on the end closest to the grill. This now leave an open space so that anything that may happen to find it’s way up there will simply roll out the other side. I cut it down and refastened it to the body side rails with 4, 1.25″ wood screws.

With this piece now back in place the body now has the strength to stay rigid while the louver panels are screwed in. I measured back from the grill about 4″ and down from the body top about 3″ and held the louver panel into place. This left about 4″ of space between the bottom of the louvers and the frame rails. It’s in this space that I intend to mount the exhaust pipe so that should be fine.

The panels have six screw holes, each of which I marked with a pencil. I set the panels aside and drilled small pilot holes into the body.

Our engine compartment...now well ventilated.

Once the holes were all drilled I held our panels back up and ran each of the screws into place. I suppose using pop rivets would look better for mounting these, but I don’t happen to have a rivet gun. Besides using a screw would make it easier to remove them if I wanted or needed to later. In the end the screws, and louvers themselves, will all be painted so it won’t be too noticeable anyway.

There we go, some good eye candy for our kart. Next will either be our faux exhaust pipe, or the aluminum body top, I’m not sure which but probably the exhaust since having access from the top will make things a bit easier.

After the frustrating progress from Chapter 9, and while hunting down an electric motor, I decided to concentrate on something I can move forward with… the steering wheel. There wasn’t anything stopping me so I jumped in with both feet.

If you remember back in Chapter 8 we cut out the rough shape, so here I busted out my trusty Dremel and went to town. With this step I recruited my oldest son to come over and help me. In typical fashion his attention span was short lived, but it was nice to get the help.

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Jake getting some great first time experience with a Dremel.

Gradually we rounded the corners off, and carefully brought down the depth of the three spokes of the wheel. While we were working the mailman stopped by to drop off a package. He looked at the kart, looked at me, then looked back at the kart.

In somewhat broken English he asked “Is that an airplane?“.

I was tempted to say yes and tell him her maiden flight would be the next morning, but I was afraid he would believe me and call the FAA.. then we’d have a balloon boy situation on our hands. “No, it’s a go kart… for the boys.

He then said “Well, you could put wings on it!” I looked at him and thought “Are you serious? Yeah, I could also put a propeller on it, but I’m not gonna do that either!” but just asked him “Do you have a box for me?“.

So we continued on with the Dremel work for a bit more.  After some time we dug in with some 80 grit sand paper work to smooth out the rough edges. I was seriously tempted to form out some finger ridges but figured I’ve got a bit too much into this project already. The dog is getting ignored, I have a ton of things to do around the house…my wife pointed out that 4 light bulbs were out,  but alas here I am working on the go kart. Priorities I tell you!

After I finished up the rough sanding with the 80 grit we then moved onto 220 for a bit. It was really coming out nicely. At this point I realized just how soft and easy to work with Pine is. It’s really very soft, almost malleable, and is just really forgiving.

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The final result of an afternoon of a Dremel and some sanding.

With the progress pretty far along I thought I’d share it with the other boys and my wife. They were really impressed, with my wife saying that I’m quite the carpenter. I wouldn’t go quite that far but hey, I’ll take it.

My wife then held the wheel in her hand and said “Wow, ya know the boys are gonna have a nicer car than me!” Ah, c’mon … As if I could build a go kart that could compete with a ’78 Pinto wagon!

Next I masked off the perimeter, or grip, of the wheel with tape and newspaper. I will be staining this part and will paint the spokes and hub. Before I can do that though I hit the entire exposed area with some primer sealer.  This was white so the entire wheel, except the outer grip was now a flat white color.

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Our wheel all primered up.

After a day of drying I then liberally applied a coat of metallic silver to the spokes and center. I wasn’t so particular about the center, but wanted the spokes to be silver. After this dried I’ll then come back and paint the hub.

After another day of letting the now silver spokes dry, I then masked off the spokes as well as a 1/4″ line around the hub. The exposed area left I then hit with a coat of black paint. My goal here was to give the impression that the spokes were metal, and the center would be a simple black. Some nice bolts will finish it off once mounted. I’m probably putting far too much thought into this, but what the heck. If I’m going to do this I might as well give it my all right?

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With the silver paint dry, we masked off except the hub.

It was a somewhat cool day so after I shot the silver paint I brought the wheel into my home office to dry.

My wife came to ask me a question and I guess i didn’t quite realize how bad the fumes were. She opened the door and said “Whoa, what are you doing in here? I can’t even step in the fumes are so bad.” I guess I didn’t realize it was so bad. “Now that you mention it I do kinda have a headache.” I said. A friend suggested I just tell her it’s a new aromatherapy product.

After that dried I removed all of the masking. So far it looked pretty good. Not perfect but still pretty good. It almost had a “folk art” look to it…neat and detailed, but still having an obvious handmade look to it with rough bits here and there.

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With the silver dry, I hit the hub with black.

With the painted part now, well painted, I set my sights on the staining of the grip. I grabbed an old rag and a can of stain I already had and tested a spot on some scrap. The scrap looked good so I guess it’s good enough for the wheel.

At this point our black paint we applied on the hub had dried for a couple of days, so I removed all the masking revealing our bare wood grip.

Next I then applied just a bit of masking around the edge our silver spokes where it meets the grip. I did this so I wouldn’t get wood stain onto the spokes. In all likelihood the stain wouldn’t penetrate the silver paint, but better safe than sorry right?

So I wouldn’t stain my hands in the process, I put on a surgical glove, grabbed a rag, and started staining. It’s been a while since I’ve stained any wood and I had forgotten just how fast it goes.

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The grip stained and drying out.

I stained all of the outer surface and hung it up to dry. After a few days I took a very very light sand paper to it, then stained it some more. Although it looked pretty good, had I not already had this stain I probably would have preferred something a bit lighter in color, but all in all it looked pretty slick. Especially knowing that this was simply for a go kart!

After letting another few days go by  (as a side note, waiting is sometimes the hardest part of this whole project) I was ready to add a nice coat of lacquer to the stain.

Now that it was all dry to the touch, I again masked off all except the outer grip.  I then applied a coat of high gloss lacquer in a spray can and let it dry for a few days.

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Our final lacquered wheel. Ooooh, shiny!

Once dried, I hit it with some more very light sand paper, and then applied a second coat of lacquer. The end result is a really nice high gloss stained wheel reminiscent of the open wheel racers of the ’20s and ’30s.

This definitely makes me want to get into the finish work on the rest of the cart, but not so fast… I have yet to hunt down an electric motor

By this point the boys and I are getting anxious to get a test drive in, but we really need some brakes on our kart. I started this phase by first confirming exactly where to mount the crank in the frame. The challenge here is that I need to account for both 6 year olds and an 8 year old, so the length of their legs is quite different. If I placed the crank too far back my older son would hit his knees on the dash, but if I placed it too far forward my younger boys wouldn’t be able to reach it.

I had my oldest son sit in the kart and I immediately realized that, unfortunately, wherever I placed the crank he was going have trouble- you see his knees clearly were going to hit the dash. It was obviously just as much of an issue as to where the dash was placed as it was where the crank was placed. Unfortunately I already mounted the dash. Sigh. Well, I decided to remove the dash and rebuild it. Better to deal with this now rather than later.

New dash and angle cut for steering column.

New dash and angle cut for steering column.

I told my wife about this minor setback. She said that the only one that will be able to fit in the kart would be George, our medium sized mix breed Pinscher. I think she was joking because there is no way his rear paws could reach the pedals, his curly tail wouldn’t fit in the seat and I don’t think he could steer or at least not very well seeing that he has no opposable thumbs, besides that I think he has ADD so there is no way he would sit still long enough.

Anyway, I went and picked up another piece of 1×6 pine and penciled out a new dash. This time I took a slightly different approach in that I decided to make it taller (to account for space for their knees) and to also mount it higher in the body as well as a bit further forward. This higher placement would not just help with space, but also make the overall kart taller which will just look better as well. After cutting out the new dash I marked the place the steering column will come through. Like with my first pass at this step I will drill a 1″ hole through the dash for the steering column. The difference with this time is that I opted not to drill the hole square, but rather to drill it at about a 18 degree angle which will lean the steering wheel also a bit higher which will help with leg room.

Hole in frame rail to make way for the crank.

Hole in frame rail to make way for the crank.

Next I determined where the crank would be placed in the frame and I drilled a pilot hole through the frame on both sides. Now on to manufacturing the crank itself. I headed back to Home Depot and picked up one 36″ length of 1″ non-threaded steel rod. Why non threaded you may ask? I’ll get to that in moment. Here I spent some time measuring, thinking, sketching, and doing more measuring before I proceeded. As the old saying goes, “Measure twice, bend once.“.

The objective here was to bend this rod into a crank, with each section being a specific length. At first glance it may not seem like much but I also had to account for the narrowing of the frame as the rider would turn the crank through it’s full rotation. On the forward part of a rotation the frame would be almost two inches narrower than when the rider had the other foot on the back side of the rotation.

I referred to our sacrificial Spiderman bike to determine how far the reach for each pedal should be. Knowing that I only had a total length of 36″ I didn’t have much room for error here. The bicycle had 6″ of reach for each pedal, that would mean that my crank would need 24″ just for the total of the pedal lengths, plus 4” for the “pedals” themselves. Throw in needed length on the ends and I realized that I needed to reclaim some otherwise my single 36″ piece just wasn’t going to work. I decided to make the throw, or length, of each pedal only 5″ instead of 6″. Doing this gives a bit more length that I could use on the sprocket side since it needs to reach out a few inches to align with the rear sprocket on our drive wheel, as well as makes it a bit easier to pedal for the little riders.

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Bending the steel rod for our crank.

I measured out the segments on the rod and marked them with a permanent marker. I placed the rod in my bench vise and slipped a 4′ length of 3/4″ pipe over it. The boys were watching over my shoulder and Nick asked what I was going to do. I said “I’m going to bend this steel rod“. The word from his mouth simply was “Oh.“, but the look on his face said “Your yanking my chain Dad.“. I said here watch… and I proceeded to pull down on the pipe bending the first segment of 5” to 90 degrees (or thereabouts). The expression on his face was priceless. His mouth dropped open and his eyes were huge. I think from this day forward his Dad is, and always will be, the strongest man in the world.

I continued bending, measuring, and bending some more until I had something that resembled a starter handle from an old Model T Ford. One thing that I hadn’t even considered was if the pedals would sit too low to the ground!!?? Luckily that wasn’t the case. I wanted to put the crank in the frame next to get an idea of how well it would spin, etc. I slid in one side only to discover it was a hair too wide to allow me to insert the other side. I wasn’t suppose to assemble the frame around it… was I? Uggh. OK with a little elbow grease, and a big hammer, I was finally able to get it in.

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Threading the ends of the crank.

At this point you can probably see why I opted not for threaded rod. I wanted to keep the pedals smooth allowing for their feet to slide easily as it turned, and only have threads on the outside to attach it within the frame. Now that the bends are complete I can use a die and thread both ends of the rod.

Now for another tricky step in this crank assembly…the sprocket. Remember, we took the sprocket from our Spiderman bike and we’re going to use that here. In some cases the donor bike may not be able to have the sprocket removed from the crank, so your mileage may vary.

Our goal here is to mount the sprocket on the left side in alignment to the sprocket on the left rear wheel. There are so many variable angles here working against me that makes this a really tough step. We have the narrowing frame, the rear wheels mounted outward to compensate, the hand bent crank, and the holes in the frame the crank sit in, not to mention the alignment of the Moon and planets. Each of these can contribute one way or another to what will likely be a somewhat wobbly chain. I figured I had a better chance of proposing a successful public health care reform bill than getting this all in perfect alignment, but I’ll take what I can get.

The final bent rod forming our crank.

The final bent rod forming our crank.

So focusing back on the sprocket itself. The sprocket has a hole in the center that is approximately 3/4″ in diameter. It’s not simply a perfect circle, but rather has squared corners that provided a tight fit onto the crank of the bicycle. That was all fine and good for Spiderman and his BMX crime fighting escapades, but what good does that do our go kart? I needed to figure out a way to reduce the size of that hole so that we can mount the sprocket onto our crank and secure it. After a visit to my local hardware store (sorry when it comes to unique washers and fittings Home Depot just doesn’t cut it) I found what looks to be an ideal solution. I’ll have to attack it in a few steps but I think it will work out just fine.

Our loose Spiderman sprocket and the partially custom washer for it's center.

Our loose Spiderman sprocket and the partially ground down washer for it's center.

First step was to reduce the hole so that it will fit snugly. I found a 1/2″ washer that was just slightly larger than the hole in the sprocket. That is the center of the washer fit perfect over our crank, but the outside diameter was larger. I placed this washer underneath the sprocket on a flat surface and using a permanent marker I traced the shape of the hole in our sprocket onto the washer. This essentially made a template for me. I then grabbed some safety glasses, fired up my bench grinder and went to work.

From a distance the boys were watching me. As sparks bounced all over my hands and arms I could hear the boys yelling “Whoa!!!” and “Did you see those sparks!!!” followed with “That was awesome!!“. Not only am I the strongest man in the world but I can also deflect showers of sparks with my bare hands. I’m invincible! Well, at least to the boys I am, and that’s what really matters.

The sparks didn’t hurt much, but my wrist was a bit sore from bending the crank. If I’ve done anything with this project it’s show them just how willing I am to injure myself in the name of a go kart. Viva La Go Kart! I say.

The sprocket with our custom washer sitting cleanly in the center.

The sprocket with our custom washer sitting cleanly in the center.

In pretty short order I had a custom washer that fit just perfect. Next I whipped up a fresh batch of JB Weld. The ideal solution here would probably be to place a light mig weld to attach this washer to the sprocket, but since a mig welder is one tool I don’t have that’s far easier said than done. But what is JB Weld then you ask? It’s magic. Sort of. It’s a handy chemical compound (two compounds really) that when mixed together forms a bond between two pieces of steel that (in theory) is equivalent to a weld. I wouldn’t go quite that far, though I did have a friend in high school who repaired the intake manifold of a 1969 Camaro with it so it’s gotta be good enough for the go kart right?

I mixed equal parts of the JB Weld compound together and applied it to the edges where our new washer and the sprocket met. I then applied some more to two additional washers that I then placed on both sides, essentially sandwiching our custom washer in the middle.

Spiderman sprocket with our washers and castle nut JB Welded into place.

Spiderman sprocket with our washers and castle nut JB Welded into place.

Next I used a little more JB Weld to attach a castle nut onto our now custom sprocket. This nut will allow me to thread the entire sprocket onto the crank as a single unit. I waited a long 15 hours or so and carefully attached the sprocket assembly. The excitement was killing me. As it turned out the JB Weld just didn’t cut it when it came to ataching the chain. More on that below.

Now that we had the sprocket and the bent crank back in the frame I attached the sprocket onto the left side. I had the right idea with using JBWeld but unfortunately it just didn’t hold up once I attached the chain.

The force when the sprocket turned just was a bit too much. As soon as I put any kind of pressure here the castle nut would break away from the sprocket, and the sprocket would spin freely. As a result I just put a castle nut on both sides of the sprocket and cranked ‘er down with all I had. I was a bit worried I would strip the threads on the crank, but it seemed to hold.

Combning both chains to make one.

Combning both chains to make one.

Next I attacked the chain portion of this task. I took the chain from each donor bike, split them apart, and assembled one long chain to reach the back wheel. After I spent some time looking for a master link (that would have just been too simple now wouldn’t it have?) I just picked a random spot and wedged the link apart with a chisel. I reattached the ends of the chain together and voila… had a custom length chain to made order.

As they say, the devil is in the details, and these details are no different. I attached the chain and turned our pedals with the kart on the stand. I have to admit, seeing that wheel turn for the first time as a result of the hand bent crank, custom sprocket, etc. was pretty gratifying, but I have to say that the sprocket was wobbling all over the place. It was clear to me to that the chain would never stay on with that much travel.

Crank, sprocket and custom length chain in place.

Crank, sprocket and custom length chain in place.

It wasn’t the sprocket per se, but rather the bend of the crank. I removed the sprocket, removed the crank, and went back to the workbench for some more bending. I did this two or three times until I got the sprocket as close to “true” as I could. I still had a slight wobble, but not too bad, or so I thought.

Once I put the crank back into the frame, and was happy enough with the travel, I then adjusted the rear wheel to get the chain as tight as I could. I knew very well that anything I did at this point wasn’t absolutely final, but still wanted to get it as tight (not to mention safe) as I could since I wanted the boys to try it out.  Finally I got it to the point where I asked if they could take ‘er for a spin down the street.

What good is a test vehicle without test drivers? Helmet and flip flops tell me they're well prepared.

What good is a test vehicle without test drivers? Helmet and of course flip flops as any race driver can tell you are mandatory attire.

I’m not sure quite what I was expecting, but I know the boys and I were thrilled to see it reaching this point.  I had people driving by stopping to check it out and a couple of people ask me if I sold them… “Let me get this one done first and I’ll get back to you” I said.

Off they went. As I feared, the boys were able to pedal for about 15 feet when our chain would derail. The crank was still a bit too wobbly. This combined with the effort I put in to readjust the dash and pedal length, to see it’s just still too unwieldy for my oldest son made me a bit cranky.  I do think that if he could simply ride with his legs in front of him straight (as if pushing a gas/brake pedal) it would be just fine.

I’m afraid my wife was right that it was still too small, though I still don’t think George could drive it.

Although getting beyond my last update has taken 4+ weeks and I didn’t quite end up where I wanted to, I did make some good progress. I’ve realized that I don’t think I’m going to proceed with pedals but rather go straight to a motor of some sort.  That makes this somewhat of a frustrating step, but not a complete loss. I haven’t done anything to this point I can’t back out of, so a motor (even a small one) will be where I’m headed. Eliminating pedals will save quite a headache not to mention make dealing with alignment of the rear wheel a bit easier.

I think I’ll try hitting the flea market and garage sales to find a used electric scooter. A gas motor sounds great and all, but I think the uniqueness of having this electric would just make it… well more unique. Although I was anticipating jumping into finishing work and getting our aluminum flashing in place by now, I’m hesitant to go too far since I’ll need to drill some access holes into the boat tail for a motor.

I’m hoping to get something soon so stay tuned. And, if you or anyone you know has something like a Razor electric scooter sitting around and wants to get rid of it drop me a note from the contact page!

When I was kid, as millions of others, I had a Radio Flyer wagon. Because this wagon had four wheels, I could sit on it (sometimes daringly even with a passenger), and it was somewhat steerable, it was essentially my go kart.

I say somewhat steerable because anyone who has ever ridden on a wagon, and has used the handle as a steering wheel can tell you that it is incredibly unstable. The slightest turn at even low speed would spell disaster and result in more Band Aids than you can shake a can of Bactine at.

Although I can’t guarantee there won’t be any injuries with our kart, I can say for certain it will be more stable to steer than that old wagon was.

Pieces of pipe that will make our steering column.

Pieces of pipe that will make our steering column.

Unlike a single pivoting front axle on my old wagon, here we’ll have a solid, secure, steering column that turns each wheel on their own axis. As with our spindles, the steering column will be based on galvanized pipe components. The pieces we’ll be using here include 24″ of straight 1/2″ pipe, a T fitting, a floor flange, as well as a coupling, extension and a cap.

The first thing I did was lay all the pieces out to get a clear idea of how it would all fit together. As with many steps in this project I’ve been piecing it together in my mind over and over and over, so I was happy to see it was more less as I imagined it.

Now that I have a good picture of what I’m doing I then drilled out a 1″ hole into the mark we made on the bottom of the grill in Chapter 7. This mark was made earlier with the aid of our PVC pipe. I drilled the hole about 20% through into the back of the grill. I then drilled a 1/4″ hole through the center of this hole, but making this smaller hole go entirely through the grill. We’ll be using this hole to attach the column in place.

Hole in lower backside of grill to hold steering column in place.

Hole in lower backside of grill to hold steering column in place.

On one end of the pipe I then attached the T fitting. Next I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the center of our pipe cap. Once that was done I then ran the 1/4″ bolt into the hole, from the inside of the cap, with the threads sticking out through the top of the cap.

On the threaded side I placed a nut on and ran it tight against the pipe cap, securing the bolt in place in the cap. Next I placed the cap onto the bottom of the T fitting we had attached to the 24″ piece of pipe.

I then turned my attention to the other end of the pipe.  The pipe turns out was the perfect length to fit up to the dash, and through the hole we had drilled through earlier.  I inserted the pipe through the hole, and on the other side I threaded on the coupler (basically an extension).

I added this coupler so that I could position the steering wheel a bit further away from the dash. If I didn’t have this spacing it would be really easy to hit your knuckles against the dash. Afterall, as you find yourself barreling through a corkscrew the last thing you would want to do is accidentally change the radio station!

To determine if the steering wheel position was going to work out I again asked one of the boys to come over to check it out. Jake sat inside and pretended to be holding a steering wheel at the end of the pipe. This position seemed like it would be just about right. While he was sitting there he seemed to be really thinking about something. I could really see the wheels turning.

He said “Dad, when this go kart is finished, and I’m a teenager, I’m going to sneak out at night, and I’m going to drive it and I’m going to go get tacos.”.

I didn’t know whether to be angry for something he didn’t (and likely never would) do, or be happy to hear he was looking forward to driving his kart.

I just said “I’m glad you’re looking forward to driving it… but rather than sneak out, why don’t we go together? I like tacos too!”.

He thought about it for a minute and said “Yeah, you’re right. But could we go to Sonic instead?”. Ahhh to be seven years old again I thought to myself.

Assembled column all in place.

Assembled column all in place.

At this point we’ve got the basics of our steering column all assembled (albeit loosely) and in place. So far we’re lookin’ good. Now to connect it up to our pivoting spindles that we mounted earlier.

Next I turned my attention to a couple of pieces of hardware that I didn’t get from my local Home Depot. In all likelihood I could have probably managed to make some crazy concoction of eye hooks to work here, but I opted to order some specific connectors that are ideally suited to go karts and the like.  I went ahead and ordered a couple of tie-rods from MfgSupply.com.

To this point I’ve been quite happy at the availability of all the parts to build the kart. In this case however I wanted to be able to easily adjust the toe-in of the wheels and these adjustable tie-rods are ideal for doing just that. They have a bit of give in all directions which also helps account for any slight measurement differences from one side to the other. They were delivered in a couple of days and at the time I purchased them were less than $10.00 plus shipping, so to save yourself some headache I recommend them or something similar.

Tie rod end and the threaded rod to connect them both.

Tie rod end and the threaded rod to connect them both.

The tie-rod kit I purchased came with a single threaded rod, and the two tie-rod ends themselves. This would be ideal I thought, but then I discovered that the rod itself was too short. Easy, I’ll just go to Home Depot and buy a longer rod right? Wrong. This rod was 5/16″ fine thread, whereas all I could find was course threaded rod at Home Depot.

After driving to a few different places I realized the solution was to buy that course threaded rod afterall, and tap out the tie-rod ends to fit. To be honest I was bit frustrated with myself that I ordered what I thought would be ideal pieces that would work as is, only to find I had to re-thread them. In hindsight it wasn’t a big deal. So I’d recommend either buying a longer rod with your tie-rods, or be prepared to customize them to suit your needs.

Once I threaded the tie-rod ends, and bought and cut the threaded rod to length, I was ready to get the rest of the steering into place.

Lower portion of steering, connected to the tie rods.

Lower portion of steering, connected to the tie rods.

Before I attached the tie-rods to the threaded rod, I needed to attach the center piece that will provide the steering column to move the threaded rod (and effectively the wheels) from left to right.

I threaded a bolt onto the rod to just left of the halfway point. I then slid on a piece of bendable metal that I bent into the shape of  U. The ends of this U shaped metal had two holes allowing the rod to slide through.

It’s worth mentioning here that I didn’t have much luck finding the ideal bracket or metal at Home Depot, but was happy to discover that one of the pieces from our donated Spiderman bike would work perfectly. I was able to repurpose the bracket that holds the coaster brake against the frame.  You really have to love reusing as much as you can in cases like this.

Once I slide our bracket into place on the rod, I then threaded our tie-rod ends into place. The tapping out process went flawlessly and they threaded onto the new rod with ease. Next I attached each tie-rod end onto the spindles via a 2″ 1/4″ bolt.  Once both ends of the rod where attached to the spindles securely I could move one spindle and the other would turn. It was great to see it all turn so smoothly, so I sat back opened a soda, and admired my progress so far.

With both tie-rod ends attached to the spindles, I then attached the center of the steering column to the metal bracket I mentioned. This bracket will give the column the ability to convert what is essentially a circular motion (rotating approximately 180 degrees or so) to a side to side motion that enables the threaded rod to move back and forth. It’s elegantly simple. We’ll have to see how durable it turns out to be, but for the moment it looks just fine.

Left tie rod end and center column visible.

Left tie rod end and center column bracket visible.

With a bolt and washers attached to the bracket to hold it in place I could now actually see the turning of the pipe translate into turning the wheels. As with other points in this project I was thrilled to see the result. I told my wife “You have to come see this work of art!”. OK, maybe that was an exaggeration and I can’t really blame the lackluster response she gave (she was on the phone afterall) but I was happy nonetheless.

At this point the only thing remaining to be done with our steering system was the steering wheel itself. Earlier I had sketched out the general shape of the wheel onto some scrap 1″ pine wood stock. The plan notes to use 1/2″ but I opted for the thicker wood so I could focus on finishing it out smoothly, rounding it off, etc.

Outline for wheel drawn out and ready to cut.

Outline for wheel drawn out and ready to cut.

After sketching out the wheel I then drilled holes in the corners as starter spots for the jig saw.  The wheel will be a half-wheel mainly to give plenty of room for the rider’s knees. Also, since the wheel won’t turn a complete 360 degrees there wouldn’t be much benefit in having a big wheel anyway.

I dug into the wood with the jig saw and cut the perimeter, and then cut the center sections away.  The outer portion really just felt too thick, but again I’ll be gradually narrowing it down with a Dremel, filing, sand paper, etc. later. Remember this is just the rough cut.

Cut out wheel ready to be finished and mounted.

Cut out wheel ready to be finished and mounted.

I’m already thinking in my mind the way the wheel will end up looking when I get to the point of the finishing work (painting, etc) with the kart. How many times have you glanced in a car, say a classic car, and you think “Wow, look at that steering wheel.” Now the wheel could be huge, at which point you may think it would be akin to driving a bus, or the wheel could be incredibly advanced and full of gadgets, say like the Ferrari 458 steering wheel.

The steering wheel is one of the many points of a vehicle that provide that initial first impression, and once we get to the details this is definitely one part of the kart that won’t disappoint.

With the steering wheel cut out in rough form, I then took our floor flange and marked four spots on the wheel I needed to drill through. These will be our mounting points.

Wheel and steering column all mounted up.

Wheel and steering column all mounted up.

For the moment I just grabbed some extra 1/4″ bolts to mount it temporarily. I’m sure I can find some nice flush mount allen heads to finish it off nice and clean.

Once I mounted the wheel I secured the steering column a bit more tightly, albeit still temporarily, so I could see really how much effort will be required to turn the wheels in one direction or another.

I was surprised to see just how easily the wheels turned, considering the tires were still flat! Once I get the components all mounted permanently and the tires filled up it should be just fine.

A big smile is always the best test result.

A big smile is always the best test result.

To finish off our progress Luke insisted he get to sit in the kart. In fact at this point the boys were tripping all over one another and fighting to sit in it. It’s never good to see them shoving each other, but I have to be honest it was somewhat gratifying.  They are truly looking forward to this getting finished.

Luke asked if he could take it for a test drive. I said “Well there aren’t any brakes yet, and the tires are flat.” He smartly said “Oh yeah, that would be bad.”.

Over the next few days I’ll be getting the steering permanently attached with the use of cotter pins at points where we don’t want anything to come loose. As Luke would say “…that would be bad.”.

After that we’ll dive into the crank and drive chain which should be really fun.