Gettin Jiggy With It – Tooling to make Handlebar Bag Racks

Posted: December 1, 2012 in Uncategorized
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We are going to be selling some handlebar bags at the Bizarre Bazaar this month, and have been sewing the panels for them. We have made some handlebar bags in the past, but I have never had a reliable way of making steel hardware to attach the bags to the bars.I finally have time to design a new bag suspension system, and just finished building the tooling to manufacture a whole batch of them.


The finished product – these bars wrap under the stem and over the handlebars to support the tops of handlebar bags.


Here is one of the panels that we’ll be making into handlebar bags. The excitement around here about ‘Tweed Rides’ got us going on using vintage fabrics mixed with leather and waxed cotton. This is leather jacket, waxed cotton tarp, and upholstery leather. My only complaint about the Tweed Riders is that they have decimated the local ‘used wool jacket’ inventory!


I decided to use a regular handlebar and stem to build a jig that we could use to bend metal rods for the racks. We have done some of these out of heavy wire, but never had a reliable way to bend heavier gauge steel rod. We will be bending/forging these at our friend Dave’s blacksmith shop, and decided to set up the jig so that it could be attached to his largest anvil, which has a 1.5″ square ‘hardie hole’ in it. Here we are using a hole saw to cut a ‘fish mouth’ notch into a piece of 1.5″ square tubing – the stem on the jig will sit atop this notch, and the tubing will slide down into the hole in the anvil.


Stem welded into the 1.5″ tube. with a 3/8″ bolt added to define the first ‘pivot point’.


The upright ‘spuds’ on the handlebars define the points where the metal bar needs to change direction. The tapped holes on the ends allow us to move these pivot points to make wider or narrower frames.


The finished jig.


I stopped by Fairview Auto Wrecking on my way home to see if I could track down some bar stock for a prototype. David runs the place that his dad opened in 1956. In the last 56 years, I doubt if they have ever thrown away a piece of iron. I asked if he had seen the online auction doing up for the metal shop across the street from his shop, and he said “you’ve got to have money for those, and a computer. There’s 4 things wrong with America: Computers, The Metric System, Obama, and Environmentalists”. This is a bender that he made and uses to make heart-shaped branding irons.




Papa Irle and the guy that ran a tire shop across Park Ave for many years.


Papa Irle remembers selling gas for $0.27/gallon. The sewing machine behind him was 25 years old when he was born.


David grew up in this place, and he knows every hubcap by name. I stopped in to ask him if he’d swap me some 1/4″ round bar. He knew where to look.


Before I got out of there, David knew all about my project, and gave me this bender, that he just made out of some scraps.


From there, it was over to a forging party at Dave Richer’s Earthen Iron. I showed up as they were heating up this piece of heavy 2″ bar to make a sculpture, and the flames were billowing out of the coal forge, smoke pouring out of the open door, and 7 people were playing with hot metal at 2 forges and three anvils. It smelled like an industrial city, and sounded like one too.


I met Brent Bailey there – he’s the one cranking the forge. He makesworld-class blacksmithing toolsin Orland. They got this bar set into a swaging block on the floor and Dave’s assistant Anthony held it upright and leaned out of the way as Dave delivered overhead blows to the top with a 20 pound sledge.


We got 30″ pieces of the 1/4″ round bar hot in the forge, and then bent them around the jig. I think that they’ll do fine.


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