Shaping your tank, making your buck/ Part 1
In a short series , I will walk you through the process of designing, building, and installing a handmade gas tank. Keep in mind that this is MY way of building a tank, and it is by no means the only way to go about accomplishing this task. Crafting a tank from scratch is a very time consuming process and one of the more complex fabrication jobs on a handmade bike, but nothing will set your bike apart more than a full custom tank. Throw that Sportster tank in the trash and lets be original!
But before you get your hands on a fresh sheet of metal to start pounding on, you will be building a wooden mold, known as a “buck”, to work your material over. There are a lot of different ways to make bucks, but I like using solid wood because it allows me to hammer my metal panels right on the surface of the buck.
Being able to do this makes the process of forming the sheet metal and selecting your panel shapes much easier. To build my buck I usually start with cedar, not the cheapest wood, but it is easy to carve and sand. If you can find a piece big enough to carve your entire tank out of, that is best but i usually screw several 6×6 pieces together until i have a big enough chunk.
Be sure to counter-set your screws really deep into the wood so you dont expose them once you start carving, chiseling and sanding. You will also need some kind of epoxy to coat the buck once you’ve got it fully shaped. Epoxy is a 2 part glue used in marine applications, usually in conjunction with fiberglass. You only need the glue itself, and it is available at most boating supply stores. You will use this, along with the screws, to insure your wooden buck stays together. Epoxy is toxic as hell so use gloves and a respirator. Don’t cop out and use Elmer’s glue-its just not strong enough.
Once you have your chunk screwed together, its time to start carving! Who knew woodworking was part of bike building. Anything goes here- chisels, sanders, rasps, saws, anything you want to remove a lot of wood to rough out your shape. Its best to have your bike nearby and hold the buck up on the backbone to see if you like your shape as you go.
If you expose a screw in the process, unscrew it, drill your countersink further and put it back in. take your time and make this buck absolutely perfect, as if it were the tank itself. The better the buck is the better your tank will be. Once your buck is shaped, paint the surface with more epoxy, let it dry and sand it lightly. You may need to do this a few times to get it perfectly smooth. This gives the buck a super hard surface that wont dent or chip once you start hammering on it.
Next installment I will discuss choosing your panel shapes and forming the metal.
Branford, CT 06405
203 315 9908
Image: Stephen Berner
Words: Lock Baker