Wednesday, 11 January 2012

How to build a Wooden Headlight

Wooden Headlight build

Click on the pictures for a better view

Early 2009 and life was pretty quiet in the woodturning about a year after i started to learn to turn until one day i got a message from an aquaintance from a Biker forum i belong to.

"Steve do you think you will be able to make a wooden headlight to go on my dads old bike and sidecar outfit i am restoring as a tribute to him?"

Well being a biker myself and because i love working with wood and always fancied the idea of marrying wood and metal in some form i jumped at the chance.
Could we pull it off ?
There was only one way to find out..

After a few discusions and Richard coming down to Marston from Leicester with some headlamp parts i set to work firstly finding a piece of wood big enough and woth the right look, So off i trotted to my Aladins cave called the Bedford Saw and Tool Centre ( I have a link on my Page on the right).
I found this piece of pine sitting there that was perfect for the job.

Once we had agreed the main design i started to turn the outer shape, This is were my inexperience as a turner hit me like a ton of bricks, Instead of turning the inside of the bowl out first i went straight for the outer form.
Thinking back i say "What a plank lol"

I knew i was going to be needing to cut off a rim from the front of the work as part of the design so getting the asthetics right was quite a challenge to start.

After i had sorted out how to safely mount the work on the lathe so i could turn the inside of the bowl it was pretty much plain sailing until i got to shapeing the rim to suit the headlight parts and working out how i was going to attach the rim to the main body without any joints or clues it was a 2 piece headlight. 

First job next was to shape and perfect the rim, i had to do this while still attached because once i had cut it from the main body it was going to be a while before i was going to be able to tweak it, My main concern too was to make sure that the grain on the rim lined up with the grain on the main body too, Richard had made up a fixing bracket so he could fix the light to his bike so that was good giving me a guide were to turn out the inside and make sure it was sunken into the body enough.
This was my one and only messup, The bowl flew off the lathe and broke the lipping around the edge so i was going to loose about 4mm putting the grain line up slightly out now but hey prototypes and one offs never are without a bit of risk.

This was the first fitting of all the internal workings of the lamp inside the unit making sure everything fitted, the lip was over the metal bracket, The rim would fit ok without the glass sticking out too much etc. I had been doing things bit by bit but still it was a very nerve racking time i couldnt go back at this point and try again.

Looking good at this point, the only snag after the accident earlier was to be the rim was wider than the bowl now by a couple of millimeters but that was an easy fix, just mount it on the lathe bolted all together and turn it down to match.

Looking good so far, everything fits and lets now see if the rim fits and lines up with the rest of the body and the grain matches enough to get away with it.

One concern was to find a way of hideing the join between the rim and the bowl so what i did was to cut 3 grooves in the side and have the join in the bottom edge of one of the grooves, once i had blackened the grooves the joint would be just about invisible, Cunning plan i thought.

About half an hour of sanding down and quite a few coats of laquer later to make it all weather resistant it was finally together. The grain was passable and it looked ok.
The grooves look a little rough but at least the join was invisible and the glass didnt stick out like a saw thumb.

Here is the finished bike and sidecar outfit, It was completed about 18 months after i had built the headlight and as you can see he has addaed a couple of colour co-ordinated touches to go with the light and set it off just nicely.
The Seat and rear numberplate surround. In my eyes thats the best tribute a man could possibly make to his Father.

My Sincere thanks to Richard (Richguzzi Of the Britchopper forum) for the oppertunity to make something like this.
Definatly an experience i would love to repeat again one day perhaps.

"Keep me fingers crossed hey"

1 comment:

Headlights said...

Great blog. This is very interesting and very helpful. Thanks a lot for sharing this. Hope to get some more updates.