Building a Motorcycle the Hard Way – Tangeras Verksted & Stoperi T900 Project Update

T900 project computer mockup

T900 project computer mockup

When we last looked in on John Tangerås, he showed us the beginnings of his T900 project with lots of 3D printed parts for fitting and mold making plus some initial machining. He's been working steadily, but anything of this magnitude and complexity takes a lot of time. He's continuing his engine work with the intention of finishing that first instead of having half finished parts and pieces lying around while he works on something else.

Aluminum crankcase casting

Aluminum crankcase casting

This project is excellent for anyone who has ever wondered just what it takes to really, truly do it all yourself. It gives an entirely different meaning to the words "motorcycle builder" when you do, in fact, design and build everything. Besides the skill and determination, it becomes obvious the critical ingredient is time. How many could stay with a project long enough to take it from idea to running and rideable motorcycle? Not very many I imagine and I give John huge credit for the courage to put this out there so we can see the project in stages, which may be his way of holding his own feet to the fire and making sure he has an answer when someone down the road asks him how his T900 is coming along.

Machined connecting rods and caps from billet

Machined connecting rods and caps from billet

Let's hear what John has to say:

Things are advancing slowly, and I have semi finished 70% of the steel parts necessary to get the engine running. The crankshaft is ready, just needs to have the journals ground and drill oil holes. Camshafts needs finish turning and grinding. The connecting rod and caps needs threading, boring and honing. These parts have been machined from solid billet steel. The gears in the box will be 3D printed in wax, investment cast and machined. The same procedure will be applied to the clutch basket and pressure plate. Items like these are rather complex and hence time consuming to machine from billet.

Flywheel gear cutting

Flywheel gear cutting

The next major investment will be a 4th axis CNC rotary table for my machining centre. That should help immensely in gear manufacture (and other work) as I am making them manually on my mill using a dividing head.

I am putting all my effort into the engine first, as I don’t want to have too many half finished parts lying around. It is sometimes quite overwhelming the work involved, so I just take one part at the time and let the rest be, both physically and mentally.

Crankshaft flywheel and magneto

Crankshaft flywheel and magneto

I have finished the molds for the crankcases and cylinder head. I did a casting of the lower crankcase yesterday, but it didn’t come out too well. The metal was to cold and didn’t fill the sand mold completely and the hot metal reacted with the release agent from the mold and I got surface porosity. The casting was otherwise sound and porosity free. This is my first aluminum sandcasting, so it wasn’t too disappointing. It will be great for trial machining! I have done a little investment casting in steel, but sodium silicate bound sandcasting is new to me, so I need to learn from experience.

Sand cores

Sand cores

It takes a long time to make parts as I normally have to make jigs, holders, arbors and tools etc. to get it done! I am really enjoying this and I have learned a lot so far. A lot of failures and errors, but it is important to remember that the first trial will likely be unsuccessful, but the next will be better.

I make my living as a hired consultant engineer, I work for a while and save money, and when the contract is finished I work full time on the bike till I run out of money. The savings are now spent so it’s back to work! The work place is a 5 hours drive from my shop so I will only be working physically on the bike 3-4 days a month and in the holidays. In the meantime I will finish the rest of the bike CAD, CAM & CAE wise.

Molds after painting

Molds after painting

Take note, John's doing some things here, like aluminum sandcasting, for the first time. You're never fully "ready," if you don't know how or lack the experience you learn it and try it then take the resulting experience and improve. I like that. I like this whole project. Good stuff. Thanks for the update, John!

Comments

  1. Jim says

    And who said there is no god? What I’m sure John knows is that when the motor is together and started for the first time, it may catastrophically fail. But the talent and effort must be acknowledged and praised.

    Hey Discovery and Speed TV etc. You shamelessly promote frauds like the Teutuls and Jessie James, how about covering someone who is doing something far more difficult.

  2. B50 Jim says

    Wow.
    Talk about learning as you go! At this stage it’s essentially a great high-school shop project by a highly talented and motivated student. Adding CNC to the mix elevates the project immensely. My hat’s off to you, John! You’re doing what we all would like to do if we had the time, skill and shop. When you get the CNC setup operating, you’ll have the makings of a limited-production run — you already have the patterns for casting the cases. Store your CNC programs and you’ll be able to run off the parts again and again. You’ll have the jigs for the frame and other parts. Maybe you’ll be able to sell a few complete bikes and make back some of your costs.

    And yes, I also feel like a slacker. I’m finding excuses for not taking the engine out of my BSA to fix a few minor leaks. I should be designing and casting a new head with OHC conversion to eliminate the rocker box and inevitable leak paths & gaskets.

  3. FREEMAN says

    Very impressive and inspiring. Please keep us all updated as you go. I would love to see more of this project as it progresses.

  4. GuitarSlinger says

    Not sure what I think about the design yet but as far as John’s efforts I roundly applaud the man !

    DIY taken to the Max . That takes serious stones as well as determination , and from what I’m seeing and reading here it looks like the man has the wherewithall to see it to its conclusion

    Here’s hoping KneeSlider does updates anytime John has crossed another hurdle

    I’m dying to see this one running .

  5. says

    re-read the earlier post too. “Awesome” is an over-used word these days, but this endeavor goes beyond. A lightweight, torquey, 2-cylinder, air-cooled streetbike is big fun

    Good luck and thanks for continuing the thread. Great start to the weekend.

    • Oldtimer says

      X2. A clean, functional, straight forward, elegant design…..(can’t think of any more adjectives!)
      All I can say is keep up the good work. And keep us posted!

  6. fred harmon says

    All I can say is wow, PLEASE follow up on this story, I am impressed beyond words.Talk about “From scratch,” this guy is really doing it.WOW!

  7. Robert Benedetti says

    Wished I lived closer to you. I would love to give you some free help. New Jersey USA is a bit distant to Norway. Robert

  8. John Tangerås says

    Hello all!
    Thanks for all the kind and supporting comments, very much appreciated!

  9. Jason says

    Wow. Between this and Chris Cosentio(sp?) with his Moto2 bike build… building everything from scratch? even the engine?! For the first time, not only do I want to try something like this, but I’m beginning to feel like it would actually be possible! Not easy by any means, but at least attainable. And so AWESOME! I’m beginning to see myself spending my spare time in the backyard casting, and in the garage grinding and welding. That is so much better than all the time wasted on TV. Could you imagine if every American (or any other “lazy” culture) started doing things productive in their spare time? Wow things would be different!

  10. akumabito says

    $42k sounds like a lot of money, but if you compare it to the prices in the custom chopper world, it’s not bad at all. Plus this bike is a LOT more unique AND has more custom made parts than most ‘custom’ choppers out there.

  11. rafe03 says

    This guy needs a prize! I just go from pic to pic, marveling at the way such a complex process gets put together, bit by bit. By a guy who’s learning as he goes. Magic!

    Go John! Go!

  12. Robert Jones says

    Being a machinist, and having a mill, lathe and Tig welder in the garage, I guess I’m just a lazy ass American, although I can appreciate the work involved, I’d rather be out riding.

    Good luck brother.

  13. J says

    I started to get annoyed at another useless rendering that will never get built… Until I scrolled down.

    I wish I had the time and dedication to really “build” a bike.

    Bravo.

  14. Michael W LexPk MD says

    This guy is a REAL motorcycle builder. Here is someone that will know everything about his ride by the time he is done. Even if he fails several times along the way, he will have the only actual personal build I have heard of. WAY TO GO!!! Keep us all informed as you are a real inspiration.
    Good luck and ride safe,
    Mike

  15. John Tangerås says

    Yes, CNC milled from billet 42CrMo4 steel, then turned on a manual lathe. Bearing journals to be ground.

    John

  16. Dabber says

    This is Awesome! On top of all that, This looks like a bike that is right up my Alley! I would be one of many that would give this motorcycle a shot.

  17. William "Wolfhound" Witt says

    following John’s progression brings to mind Burt Monroe making his Indian’s cylinders from steel pipe with hand tools, casting pistons in beach sand, and making
    his own ohc 8 valve heads in a garage shop…John is this era’s incarnation of that
    pinnacle of motorcycling creativity…the magnitude of his build is monumental and
    it is clear he has the dedication and capability to bring his bike from his mind to the
    road. i have no doubt he will succeed. this is simply the most impressive undertaking i have ever become aware of, and i say this from the perspective of
    having been a certified (by suzuki) mechanic at age 15, 35 years experience as
    a project engineer primarily for industrial systems design/manufacturing firms including a great deal of foundry installations…developing his own limited run
    sandcasting systems boggles my mind; the basic idea is simple but from personal
    experience i know that accomplishing precise, uniform castings is a complicated
    and exacting task…this in itself is far more of an undertaking than i’d ever be up
    for even were i “equipped” and financed …
    as a sort of ‘sidebar': methinks no-one need remind this gentleman to archive his
    CAD files and such; it’s very clear he’s well beyond that level altogether.
    please pardon the lengthy post – though it’s a trifing start of all the thoughts i have
    surrounding this project…frankly, entirely fabricating one’s own motorcycle with
    one’s own hands and resources, exclusively, is the most outstanding venture
    i know…compared the this man, this Maker, any other “solo” bike maker i’ve
    heard of would be much more properly labeled an “assembler”. and to to
    it off, though clearly state of the art techwise, the bike design is gorgeous: lean,
    svelte…with an unclutterd Classic feel that makes me wonder what a Manx
    would look like after fifty years of refinement and updating…

    Kudos and accolades, Sir Cyclesmith Tangeras, and please do carry on!

  18. Big Sven says

    That weird sound is me grinding what’s left of m’ teeth! I dream of doing stuff like this, albeit mx-bikes (70’s type). An mx-racer, I did once think of building a dream-machine consisting of the last model Greeves Griffon, with a CZ engine. Should have done it. The other option, the CZ engine needing extensive modding to be competitive and living in Sweden, was an HVA engine. But they had a weak gearbox and clutch if not babied and pandered with regular new parts. I knew an engineer who was into pressed-steel welded-up crankcases, and in my head planned slotting the HVA crank and CZ gearbox into one. John Tangerås could well save time and money by welding-up prototype cases from thick steel plate, machining only what is needed for it to function, assembling a crude test-bed engine to sort the bugs, before carefully machining a finer, lighter, version to test in a bike, to then, if double-walled pressed-steel doesn’t appeal to him, then use this knowledge to go for castings, which are terrible time-consuming and expensive to make (as he is finding out). But going by his efforts to date I’m sure he will get there, and the bike looks great!

  19. Kerwin Kerr says

    John:
    I was quite impressed. You are one bad assed motorcycle engineer! I’m a retired GE toolmaker and I struggle to put together a 91 Harley Sportster project bike out of surplus parts. I’m not fit to carry your micrometer! Keep it up!
    Kerwin Kerr

  20. bart says

    Fantastic!!! Love the design….not enough retro inspired air cooled parallel twins available as far as I’m concerned….they’re my favourite bike type/style. I’m looking forward to doing a Musket build if/when it is available.
    Best of luck with your project.

  21. thore kjellberg says

    please attach more photos of your beatiful bike. Start production AFAH,before the Nippon guy copies your design.
    mr kjellberg of Sweden
    c.u.

  22. bart says

    That is a very good looking bike and good looking engine, clean classic looking, …please keep it air cooled, do not hang a radiator on it. Parallel twin, yes!
    I would definitely have bought it rather than my T100 Bonnie.