Philosophy and Motorcycles

Philosophy and motorcycles are two of my favorite things in life. This blog will be bits of wisdom gleaned from a misspent youth and an adventurous dotage. People who like/love wisdom or motorcycles, classic or modern versions of either, are welcome to visit and comment.

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Location: Wisconsin, United States

I have been married to the same lovely woman for decades. We have one son, two cats, and live in rural Wisconsin, USA. I ride and rebuild motorcycles, and I am semi-retired. Favorite bikes are Yamaha XS650, FJ1200 and Ducati 900SS. My wife is a home care nurse. I am a Myers-Briggs INTP. She is ESFJ. Our son works at the Apple store in downtown SF and is teaching English as a second language in San Francisco, no grandchildren.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Out of the chaos

It's been more than a month since my last post.  That tells a bit about my schedule.  This weekend there was a blues festival scheduled near here.  It rained all day and the temperature didn't get above 60 F.  Rather than endure that I went to the shop and started cleaning.  

I know there are people who keep everything orderly, throw away things they don't need, organize and categorize.  I am not one of them.  I tend to continue going from one project to the next with little regard for cleaning or organization other than wiping off tools or cleaning paint guns.  Periodically I must stop everything and clean.  It's always a big job.  

Yes I realize that it wouldn't seem a big job if I stayed on top of it.  It would still be a big job but broken into small sections.  My best friend, mentor and member of the Thursday herf is always organized.  I like him anyway.  Yesterday and today I was methodical about my cleaning.  I started in one area and worked my way slowly around the shop.  It is beginning to look good again.  Part of what makes it difficult is that I have 30x40 feet of gravel floor storage and 30x30 of concrete floor shop space with a roll-up door between them.  In this space there is a sport car and 20 motorcycles plus enough parts to build several more.  It's a half century collection of "good stuff."  Most of it was acquired in the past 20 years.

I still have items like a drive shaft knuckle spreader for a 1936 Chevrolet and a collection of some 30 shaped hammers from my metal fabrication/restoration shop.  I haven't worked on an antique car for a long time but can't part with the tools.  Some of them come in handy working on cycles.  I am now fabricating a seat pan for a Moto Guzzi police bike, single seat.  I have a very rusty bit and fairly good foam for a pattern.  Hammering out a pan from an old Ford quarter panel is a fun job.  It takes time but the result is wonderful.  When done I will have a solo seat for my T3.  

Just as I find motorcycle parts in the plumbing department I use tools for purposes for which they were not designed.  I am very old fashioned in that I have almost no power tools.  I still do much of my welding with a torch.  I hammer metal and use body solder.  I do this not because it produces a better product although my work is good.  I certainly don't do it because it is quicker.  It isn't.  I do it because I like the process.  I dislike the noise of machine tools.  I have been forming metal this way for more than 50 years and I am comfortable with this process.

There is, in work, a quality of accomplishment that is all but lost in our era.  It may be that as people become more basic and simplified by the necessity of economic downturn that more of them will discover real work.  Whether it is a garden or a seat pan for a motorcycle the process of work can be tedium equal to peonage or a highly spiritual experience of transforming labor into material goods.  Much has been written about human work efficiency.  Most of it is drivel to justify profits for those who do not do the work.  

The philosopher's stone was proposed to be a magic item that would turn base metal into precious metal.  Is this not what happens when an old piece of sheet metal from a car becomes a new seat for a classic motorcycle?  When base materials become precious objects this is a form of magic.  It ennobles both the material and the worker in ways unknown in most factory settings or commercial shops.  Great music, good coffee and fine cigars also help.


Blogger Scott said...

I really like this post as I am the same way with my space at work and because I get a lot of satisfaction from auto repair because of the craft aspect.

4:54 PM  

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