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Bibliography #2: HOW TO books

April 1, 2010

Books books books.  Lots of books about how to do things… 


The first several books shown below were published in England by the same folks that published the weekly motorcycle magazines.  They typically came out with a new edition each year, with just a little bit changed.  The earliest books (they started circa 1900) have great information about how to work on primitive pioneer bikes.  Even the later books into the 1950’s show how to set up a workshop with very little money, and how to make parts with little more than a hacksaw blade and a sharp file.


Hints & Tips has a lot of umm, tips.  This edition is about 100 years old.  Sometime I might get around to typing some of the 300-400 hints or tips into this website…

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The Motorcyclist’s Workshop is by Torrens, and has a lot of useful information about how to work on your motorbike.  Click the link and get a copy for ten bucks.

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Tuning For Speed was written by Phil Irving (of Vincent and Velocette fame).  He was an accomplished engineer, and knew how to get a bit more power and reliability out of a standard motor.  This edition is a reprint from Floyd Clymer.

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The factory instruction books are invaluable when servicing your bike.   It and the parts list should be required items on your bookshelf.  I get them as reprints for around $10 from the various suppliers (sources depends on which marque of bike).  Originals are ok, but they’ll just get grubby like my reprint with use.


Nicholson’ Modern Motorcycle Mechanics!  This is an extremely useful book.  It covers a very wide variety of bikes, with timing instructions, limited rebuilding instructions, etc.  It also has a large section on parts that were common to many different manufacturers, like magnetos, carbs, clutches, etc.  The later editions cover early Japanese bikes, along with Brit and American iron. It’s a good book to get to start your library.  Kind of a one-size-fits-all, but with enough information to still be useful after you’ve read it for 15 years. 763 pages.


Radco’s The Vintage Motorcyclists’ Workshop.  Another great book.  This one was written in 1986, but is out of print now.  Check with the usual sources, as outlined in Bibliography #1.  This book includes how to info on various items, such as leatherwork on seats, carb adjustments, polishing, making pushrods, checking connection rod alignment, etc.  A good place to get a wide variety of info, crammed into 244 pages.


Another good book by Jeff Clew.  A mixture of info about old Brit bikes, and info about how to restore the bikes.  Includes good stuff on how to make cables, set up sidecars, etc.  208 pages.


These next ones are workshop books, not written specifically for bike restoration, but for anybody who is playing with metal.  The first four are from the publisher Nexus Special Interests.  They publish a very wide variety of books, mostly aimed at the armature engineer or model maker.  They are typically about 150 pages long, with lots of illustrations and cost around 7 pounds.  check their website for more info.

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How to make your own workshop from a Charcoal Briquette Foundry?  That must be Dave Gingery, the guy who wrote 7 books about how to make machine tools like a lathe, mill, drill press, etc with your hand tools and a BBQ.  It is a very interesting concept.  Book one shows how to build a foundry, so you can cast parts using old beer cans or pistons.  Those castings then can be made into parts for a lathe in book 2.  Book 3 shows how to use the foundry and the lathe to make a Shaper, then later books use the same principles to make a mill, drill, dividing head, and sheetmetal brake.  All of it is super low-buck.


Lindsay Publications has something for everybody.  I’ve shown a few of the lathe books that I’ve bought from them, but you really have to check out their site to see some of the crazy things they sell.  Coffin Making, the How To Fart Cookbook, Making Projectile Missiles for Boys book, Babbitt bearings, etc, etc.   Sign up for their catalog, and buy yourself a few of their $10 books or booklets.  Good info, and some pretty funny stuff is in there too.


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IMG_3077Lathe books shown are from 1918, 1930s and 1942, reprinted in the last 10-15 years.  Others are on the shelf, and/or available cheaply from Lindsay and lots of others. 







If you feel ambitious, you can buy some books that describe early motors, and some details about how to build replicas.  These were published in 1900 and 1910 !!!  The reprints are just a few years old, and each cost a little more than two burritos at the local Taqueria.

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Want to make a circa 1906 motorbike, from a period how-to book?  How about an entire gasolene car from 1901?  These describe how to make a primitive carburetor, how to make your own castings for frame lugs, turn a piston on the lathe, etc.  People must have been pretty industrious way back then, to make up a car in the their workshop.  Even if you don’t get around to doing it, it is nice to learn how to make smaller bits like the carb, ignition points, or the sheetmetal work.

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Once you’ve gone this far, Steam Engines are next.  You wouldn’t believe the number of books that describe esoteric valve designs, or show calculation tables (remember, this was before everybody had a solar powered calculator) for optimal displacements, pressures, piston speeds, bearing loads, etc.  If you are still reading this article, then you know how nerdy and exciting this stuff can be to a engineering fool like me.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2010 8:20 am

    Pete.. the stuff you are posting as of late is the best on the web right now. Please keep it up!

    Stephen Pate | Restoration Werks

  2. Pete Young permalink*
    April 2, 2010 10:41 pm

    Thanks Stephen! I appreciate the feedback; Glad to hear that you are reading the stuff. Close to 100 folks are reading daily now. I’ll try to be a bit less sporadic, and maybe get into a rhythm of a 2-3 posts per week. maybe… 😉

    take care

  3. May 31, 2011 5:49 am

    Here is another great reference, a reprint of a 100 year old book.

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