A Brass and Copper Motorcycle Marvel – Bike Find of the Day
Tasmanian Andrew Knott is a photographer, artist and a refined gentleman of a distinctly old-line persuasion, and as such, he found his BMW R1200 a touch too pedestrian, utilitarian and, well, modern, for his tastes.
His need for another sort of ride led him to create something more attuned to his throwback nature. So he found and old Honda and set about creating this drawing-room friendly motorcycle, Isabel.
“I figured I might just get a fixer-upper for a runabout bike, get me to the shops and back and teach me about the basics of bike mechanics,” Knott said. “I’ve really dug the retro cool vibe that has snuck in to the world over the last few years, and mostly the really-retro Victorian-inspired stuff.”
Neither a mechanic or a skilled metalworker, Knott began collecting bits to give his machine the look he was after.
Knott discovered his 1973 Honda CB250 – which just happened to include an engine from a CB350. The bike was, according to Knott, perfect fodder for his vision. It had the virtues of simplicity, commonality and offered proven reliability and a ready source of cheap parts. Though the bike didn’t run, the motor was in good condition and he only needed to rebuild the clutch to get the bike in roadworthy condition.
“I kicked off with the gauges. I wanted to get them just right for the vibe I was going for, and then basically build the bike around them,” Knott said. “I copper-plated the housings, designed the faces and got them etched out of brass, and replaced the needles with old clock hands…the bike flowed from there.”
Once he decided he needed an old carbide lamp housing for the headlight (an idea he’d seen used on a chopper build in the past) he found an early 1900s carbide lamp on Ebay, and as luck would have it, the headlight assembly from the Honda fit.
Next up, Knott has the bike’s frame copper-plated. Once he saw the gleaming, perfect result of the plating operation, Knott was not pleased as he thought it looked “way too shiny.” The application of a solution brewed from vinegar and salt solution took care of that problem and gave his frame the proper patina.
After some grinding work on the tank and fenders down to bare metal, he clear coated them and baked them in the oven.
Since the donor bike lacked a set of airbox covers, Knott crafted “saddlebag” look covers from an old leather suitcase. He then took old typewriter keys to use as control switches, added a clock key for the trip meter reset on the odometer, found brass hand grips and took some other parts for brass plating.
Searching through a variety of bike build forums, Knott saw a build which featured fuel lines made from copper tubing and, using a champagne bottle as a form, fashioned his lines from 1/8″ tubing.
As inspiration for his seat, Knott looked to the tastes of the refined old school gentleman once again. So he had his “Chesterfield” style seat, so after checking out a few Youtube videos on upholstery, he took on the task himself.
The result is a bike which would look quite at home parked in the drawing room of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’s clubhouse…
You can review Knott’s entire documentation of this fantastic bike at DoTheTon.