Monday, October 24, 2016

Paracord Binoculars Neck Strap Project

This past weekend I took a long cruise on my motorcycle and ended up in La Crosse, Wisconsin which is around 100 miles from my home. The purpose of the drive was to get a few more miles on my bike since the weather was good and also to see one of my favorite scenic spots in La Crosse called Grandads Bluff.  This is a small park that sits on top of a high peak which overlooks the city.  It is quite spectacular to see and if you every get to La Crosse it is worth the time to check it out. 
  I had the forethought to remember my binoculars and so I pulled them out of my closet and opened the case they were in only to find that the neck strap for them was missing.  I looked all over my house for the strap and simple gave up on finding them.  Probably they were lost when I moved to my home a few years ago.  So to put it simply I used the binoculars without the neck strap which worked out ok and set this project in motion today to make what I needed for next time.

I did a little research online to figure out how to make the binocular neck strap using parachute cord  or paracord as it is mainly called.  I had some of this cord in one of my drawers next to my work table so I knew what the stuff was and where to get more.  After searching online for a little while I found what I was looking for in how to make a nice looking strap.  I just needed a few little items and a small jig to get started with this rather simple project.  The picture above is of just a small scrap of wood with another small block glued to both ends if it.  Sitting next to this little jig are two metal flag clips.

The flag clips are held in place using P-clamps on both ends of the jig.  I figured out that the total length of the neck strap for the binoculars needed to be 24 inches long.  The jig was 32 inches long and with the flag clips on both ends of the jig I would get the length I was looking for.

Here's what the jig looked like once both flag clip were mounted on to the P-clamps. The eyelet on the ends of the P-clamps were where I needed to tie the paracord to.

On one end of the jig I looped the paracord through the end ring of the flag clip as shown in the photo above.  You can also see that the paracord is blue as well as black in color.  I took the two colored cords and pushed them together and then put a lighter to them to join them.  This fused the two lines together.  It will make more sense why I did this as you follow along in this post.

On the opposite end of the paracord jig I looped and tied one end of the blue cord as shown above to the ring end of the other flag clip.  Then I did the same for the black end of the paracord as you can see in the last photo above.

Now the looping or weaving of the paracord to actually make the neck strap begins.  I turned the jig around to make it simpler for me to shoot this next sequence of photos.

The first step was to take the outer black cord and come over the inner black cord then slide it under the blue cord.  Simple and easy as are the following steps.

Next take the outer blue cord and go over the inner blue cord and the first black cord then underneath the outer black cord.

Then continue with the blue cord from the last step and go over the out black cord and then again under the blue cord just as I did with the first black cord.  Then you start again with the black cord as I did in the first step.  The easiest way I could remember this process was to think to move the left most outer cord over two cords, under the right most outer cord, around the right most outer cord and then under the inner cord once again.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Here's what it looked like after I had done these steps over and over again about eight times or so.  I had to keep everything as tight as I possibly could and had figured out the starting length of the paracord that was needed before I started weaving it together.  For a two foot strap I need two pieces of paracord nine feet long.  Luckily paracord is pretty inexpensive.  $3.50 for fifty feet.  I had the black already I just needed the blue to give it a good look.

Once I had finished weaving the strap and had come to the opposite end where the flag clip was at I had to finish it out.  I tied a half knot at the end to hold the two ends of the paracord in place for starters.

To finish things off I took a paper clip and fed one end of the black paracord through it like a needle.  With this then I used the paperclip to slide under four or five loops that had been already tied to feed the end under them to keep everything nice and tight and neat looking.

Here's another look at the process.  It looks a bit messy in this shot but you'll have to see how it all turned out in the next photos.

In order to get the new neck strap attached to the binoculars I simply attached two key rings to the mounts that were already on it.  The flag clips would then be able to be attached or detached from these rings when needed.

Here's the end result.  A rather spiffy looking neck strap  that clips on to my binoculars. I like the black and blue color scheme and the fact that the strap is just the right length and is comfortable around my neck.  Also the strap is very strong and should hold up well for years to come. It even fits into the carrying case the binoculars are stored in!  A win-win in my book for sure.  The strap could also be used for a DSLR camera too.  Something I will have to make again when I do spring for new photo equipment some time in the future. For now this will be an excellent replacement for the original strap that has gone missing.  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Honda Goldwing Micro Cooler Project

Only having had my Goldwing motorcycle a few weeks now already I am making plans for next summer when the weather is a lot hotter than it's been here for the past month or more.  Not that I am complaining about the fall weather we've been enjoying here in the Midwest.  Nice to see another season come before old man winter sets in.  But I digress a bit here.  Anyway to the point of this post. 

With my last motorcycle I had designed and built a custom cargo trailer for that bike.  Not so sure I want to go to that extreme again with this Goldwing so I thought I would go with something a lot simpler.  I really liked the capability of having a cooler along on either a day trip or even much longer journey.  So with this in mind I decided to design and build a custom cooler for the trunk of my bike.

The goal with this project was to design and build a simple little micro cooler that would fit into the trunk space of my Goldwing. I liked the idea of just being able to carry a few bottles of water and maybe a sandwich or two in the cooler and still have room for my helmet and a few other necessities in the trunk at the same time. I looked at using my smallest Igloo cooler I own which would have fit by itself but not with the helmet along with it.  So I came up with this odd looking shape that you see in the photo above.

I then played around with several different combinations of drinks that I could easily fit into the cooler and also allow for ice that will be needed to keep things nice and cool on the road.  The water bottles are 16 oz. and the cans of pop are 12 oz. so it gives me a good variety that can be hauled in the micro cooler.

To build the cooler I started out with standard 1" Styrofoam.  The same stuff that you find at any home and builders store. I had to work out the shape of the cooler to fit into the Goldwing trunk which took a little doing but was not terribly difficult. 

I then hot glued the lower portions of the cooler parts together and got a general shape that I thought would do the job and fit into the space that was available in the bike. At this point I was just doing some testing to see if this idea was even possible.

After putting the micro cooler into the trunk I then tried to put my helmet in as well. As you can see it looks good at this point but I was not happy how close everything was when trying to put the helmet in.  I wanted it to drop in without having to fuss with it even just a little bit so I had to make a few adjustments to the cooler to get it to where I wanted it to be.

I figured out that I only needed about a half inch more clearance to get the cooler to where I wanted it to be but I did not want to loose any volume in the process.  I looked closely at the interior of the trunk of the Goldwing and on the right hand interior there was a little step that ran along the floor of the trunk as well as another extrusion that ran vertically up the back.  The trunk also is nowhere near square at all so the little cooler needed to be kind of an odd shape to fit into the space. I trimmed the outer right face of the cooler to fit the extrusions in the trunk and this gave me an additional 1/2 inch to move the cooler more to the right of the trunk and in turn make it easier to put my helmet into the space that was available.

The back of the cooler also needed to be tipped 25 degrees toward the front and even the front face is angled to match the interior shape of the trunk.  An irregular shape to say the least. But even with this odd shape I still managed to obtain a nice volume for what I wanted to carry when I am traveling.

Next I needed to work out the lid for the micro cooler.  This again was a simple task of just tracing out the outer shape of the body of the cooler and then cutting it out using my band saw.  For the inner plug that would drop into the cooler body another piece of one inch Styrofoam that is an inch smaller all the way around was added to the first part of the lid and then hot glued into place. 

The final step in this portion of the project was to simply sand all of the edges of the container to get a nice rounded shape so that I can get it ready for fiber glassing.  This I will start working on in the next week or so as I have the hinges for the lid on order from McMaster Carr and they should be here in short order. To give you a better idea of how the cooler will look once it is completed here are a few images of it that I created in Fusion 360 when I was doing design work on this project.

I was going to have the decal made for the micro cooler but after finding out that it would cost $8.00 just for one label I scrapped that idea.  The only parts that I needed for the project so far was the hinges and they were only $6.00.  Everything else I needed I had laying around in the shop so my cost is very little at this point.  I would like to keep it that way.  I'll post more about the micro cooler when I get it all put together and do some testing on it on how well it keeps things cold.  I think it will do really well considering that it is all Styrofoam and is one of the simplest projects that I have taken on it a very long time.  It should come in handy next summer when I am doing some touring on the Goldwing.
  The dimensions of the micro cooler are 10" wide, 8" high, and 10" to 13" deep depending on what side you are measuring.  The depth difference is because of the front angle of the cooler that roughly matches the shape of the Goldwing trunk space on the right side.  No matter the shape I am looking forward to having this little cooler along with me next summer when I cruise down the road. 
  Stay tuned for more info on this project! 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A New Improved GPS Mount For My New Goldwing

After waiting four years to make it all happen, this past week to the day I received my new Honda Goldwing motorcycle that I lost back in 2012.  If you had not been reading my blog back then I had a major fire at my house on October 4th 2012.  With the fire I ended up losing my Honda Goldwing, my Mini Cooper, a custom cargo trailer for the bike, a custom built 15' kayak, tools, camping gear and damage to my house on top of it all.  So I am very tickled to finally get back what I had lost four years ago. 

Here is my latest addition to my garage.  A pretty terrific pair of vehicles to say the least.  But to the point of this post is the GPS that I have been working on installing into the Goldwing.  My original Goldwing that I lost in the fire had a GPS built into it.  It would have cost me an additional $3000 to have this same bike so I opted to saving a bunch of cash and mount an aftermarket GPS from Garmin instead.  After doing some research on what exact model GPS I wanted for the bike I then had to figure out how to get it powered and mounted properly. 
  I had found some pretty ugly installations online by other riders that were nothing like what I wanted for the mounting or the power.  Even my dealer suggested that I cut a notch into the front fairing so that the power wire could be routed underneath an access compartment door to the outside GPS.  No way was I going to start carving up a brand new Goldwing in this manner.  There had to be a better way.  So let me show you what I came up with.

Here is the GPS I choose for the Goldwing.  It is a Zumo 350LM from Garmin.  Waterproof and made specifically for a motorcycle.  I got a good price on it online so it fit the bill nicely. 

The first order of business for the bike was to figure out where to connect up power to the GPS.  In the photo above you can see a panel with a lot of buttons on the left side of the bike.  This is the audio setup for the Goldwing.  Just ahead of that is a storage compartment with an access door to get into it.  Underneath this storage compartment is a set of power connectors for accessories such as a power port that is mounted into the storage compartment or a USB port plugged into that same connector.  A lot of guys that want a GPS mount for the Goldwing plug into this internal power port and do what my dealer had suggested.  Cut a hole underneath the access door so a power wire could lead to the outside GPS.  Again I think this is a terrible idea just for looks alone much less causing actual damage to a beautiful new motorcycle.  Rather than take this drastic way of getting power to the GPS there had to be a better way.

The first thing that needed to be done was to remove the storage compartment on the bike so I could get access to the power ports underneath.  I taped off the lower edge of the body of the fairing on the left side of the bike and took a small screwdriver and pried up the "L" shaped trim that ran along the base and outer edge of the fairing.

This turned out to be the easiest part of this process as the trim popped off within 30 seconds!  Even my dealer did not know that this trim needed to be removed first to get the storage compartment out.

Next I just needed to release the push pins in each corner of the storage compartment.  In the photo above I am pointing to one of these fasteners.  There are only four holding the storage compartment in place (one at each corner).  To unlock the pins I took a paper clip and pressed down on to the center of the pin.  It clicked inward about a 1/4".  This unlocked the pin.  I did the same with the remaining three pins and I was able to easily lift out the storage box with it's attached lid.  You have to be careful with doing this so as to not pop the pins out and loose any of them.  They were needed to get the storage box locked back into the bike when it came time for reassembly.

Now with the storage box completely removed you can see the wiring that is in the left side of the fairing.  Standing out in this compartment you can easily see the red power connector that I needed.  This is where I as going to get my power from for the GPS.  Simple to connect to and right in plain view.  If this connector was not there I would have had to try and route the wiring all the way back to the battery fuse box.  Goldwings have a special port for accessories at that location to hook up things like a GPS but getting wires to it I feel would have been a total nightmare to accomplish.  Not my idea of a fun thing to try and do.

My next plan of action to start the wiring for the GPS was to be able to connect to the red power outlet under the storage compartment.  The easiest way I found to get the right connector was to buy a power port that usually mounted to the inside of the storage compartment.  Since I did not plan on going this route I only needed the wiring harness from the power port so that I could easily plug it into the red power outlet underneath the storage compartment.  This gave me what I needed to accomplish this part of the project.

I took the wiring with the correct plug for the red power outlet along with the wiring that came with my Garmin GPS to my local Radio Shack.  There one of the employees helped me find the correct connectors that matched what was on the power outlet wiring.  Then added mating connectors to the Garmin GPS wiring so the two could be plugged into one another.  Now I had a wiring harness that would plug directly into the red power outlet and could be plugged directly into the GPS.  With the red power outlet power is only supplied when the bike is either turned on or turned to accessory.  This eliminated the chance that the GPS would run down the battery if the bike was turned off.

Next came the tricky part of the project......routing the wire from inside the fairing to the outside to get to the handlebar mounted GPS.  I looked closely at the inside of the fairing as well as the area underneath it and found a couple place where the wiring could be snaked through to the outside of the fairing.  To get it there I took a small stiff plastic tube that I had in my shop supplies and taped the wiring to the end of it.  This white tube was around 16 or 17 inches long.  In the photo above I started sliding the tube down inside the fairing to a opening that I could see on the bottom.  Not a lot of room but it looked doable to get the wiring through to the outside.

Here's a shot of the plastic tube again from the underside of the fairing just behind the front wheel of the bike.  On the lower right side of the picture you can see a plastic mesh covering one of the radiators for the bike.  Just above the blue tape and to the right is a black area.  This is the bottom cover just underneath the wiring that is underneath the storage compartment.  There was enough space between this black cover and the frame to get the wiring snaked through to the outside of the fairing. The area that the wire now was being fed into is an open area that surround the handlebars in the fairing.

I removed the plastic tube and the blue tape and now you can see the GPS power connector that I lit up with my flashlight to get the photo you see above.  At this point I was on the downhill slide of making this installation actually work.

I had to bring this photo back up again to explain the next step.  The wiring for the GPS now was being installed into the open area on the left hand side of the handlebars.  I routed the wire to the center of the handlebars or as close as I could to get it in a safe location to be routed through the left handlebar.  I will explain this process in a minute.  I left enough slack in the wiring in this open cavity that the handlebars move in to steer the bike so that the wiring would not get pinched or snagged on anything while I was driving.  I secured the wiring with zip ties in a couple locations and within a few minutes was happy with the routing and moved on to the next step.

On the Goldwing the handlebars are filled with wiring and hydraulic lines.  These are coved up with small plastic covers to contain and clean up the look of the motorcycle.  I pulled the cover off the left handlebar so that I could route the GPS wiring through it.  There was just enough room to accomplish this part of the assembly but the screws are a bit tricky to get back into place once they have been removed.  If you plan on doing this with your Goldwing I suggest covering up any open areas of the bike before you do this.  If you drop a screw you will be lucky to find it again as it will either drop on the floor or into the now open fairing.  I took my time and was lucky enough to get everything pulled apart and routed inside the handlebar and then buttoned back up again.  Luckily a Philips screw driver is all I needed to get the cover off or put it back on again.

Now with the GPS wiring nearly done I mounted the Ram mount next to the audio volume controls on the left handle bar.  This was very easy to do with the mounting hardware supplied with the mount.  I removed a couple of screws at this location, added the new mount with longer hardware and it was done. The mount has a rubber coated ball on the top of it for mounting everything from a GPS to a GoPro camera.   I left enough wire for the GPS so that I would not have any issues with connecting it to the unit when I needed it. This is a simple small mount that does not detract from the look of the bike when this is mounted by itself.  Note: Keep this in mind as you progress further in this post and you will understand why I am modifying this mount.

At this point I started looking at the mounting assembly for the GPS.  This model of GPS from Garmin has a quick release mount for the GPS so that it can be removed from the bike when you are stopped while on your travels.  This way you can lock the GPS away or take it with you and not have to worry about getting it stolen.  I liked that idea but found that the rest of the design for the mount was lacking in planning when putting it on or taking it completely off of the motorcycle.  In the photo above you can see the back side of the quick release mount for the GPS.  The open area that I am pointing to is where the GPS power plug is installed into the mount.  The plug gets pushed through the upper portion of the opening and then slide down and locked into the lower portion.  Next to this mount is the Ram mount that will be mounted to this quick release mount.  This is where it gets a bit ugly.

With the Ram mounted bolted to the quick release mount and the power wiring locked into the lower portion of the opening this mount now will have to be assembled and disassembled every time you want to put this part of the assembly on or take it off of the bike.  The only other choice is to leave this mounting assembly on your bike all the time even if you are not using the GPS.  Not what I wanted at all.  It looks completely ridiculous to have this mount on the handlebars when you are not using the GPS going down the road.  The ball on the Ram mount makes for quick and easy assembly or disassembly but the wiring is still tied to the setup.  Not a good idea. I want to take the complete assembly off of the bike quickly and easily when I am not using the GPS.  It's just a simple fact that no one especially me uses a GPS every time when riding a motorcycle.

To get around all of this hassle I took a look at the mounts and the wiring and came up with this solution.  I 3D printed two 3/4" spacers that will eliminate the hassle of having to take this assembly apart every time I want to remove it from the Goldwing.

With the spacer in place the Ram mount now can sit on top of the assembly and still allow access to the wiring when the assembly is dismounted from the bike.

The opening for the wiring now is free and clear so that the wire for power can be slid into place just as easily as before but will not be hampered by the Ram mount when it is in position in the assembly.

The spacer being 3/4" thick allow enough room for the end of the power wire to be fed into the opening just under the Ram mount.  Kind of like a snake running through a tunnel when the assembly is put together.  It's just big enough to get you finger in the opening of the tunnel to shove the wiring down through the opening in the GPS mounting plate and lock it into the lower position in the opening I spoke of earlier.

Here is what the GPS mounting plate looks like from the front with the power wire and it's cover in their respective locations. The power wire contacts are on the bottom to match up to the contacts that are on the back side of the GPS when it is locked into position for use.

An underside view of the GPS mount with the wiring, spacers, and Ram mount all assembled.

Here's a top view.  You can easily see the tunnel I was speaking of to allow access to the installation or removal of the power wire for the GPS.

The picture above shows the GPS mount fully assembled sitting next to the double-socket arm.  This arm easily attaches the GPS mount to the mating Ram ball mount that I installed next to the audio controls on the left handlebar of the bike.

Here the GPS assembly is mounted to the Goldwing using the Ram mount.  The double-socket arm between the two balls (one on the handlebar mount and the other on the GPS assembly) has a small knob that you turn to tighten the assembly to hold it securely in place.  This is very quick and easy to do when you want to mount or dismount the setup. Plus now with my new adapters mounted into the assembly I am able to unplug the wiring and remove the entire upper assembly in a couple of minutes.  In the photo above you can plainly see what I was saying earlier about leaving this mount on the bike when you are not using the GPS. Ugly in my eyes.    

 Then I slide the GPS unit into it's mount and it locked into place quickly and securely.  Now all I needed to do was reinstall the storage compartment with the four push pins. You take the pins and move the center section of the pin so that it stands out of it's surrounding outer sleeve about a 1/4 inch or so.  When you put the compartment back into place it's just a matter of dropping these pins into their respective locations and pushing down on the center of the pin until it clicks.  Then it is locked once again.  Then take the "L" shaped trim that I removed in the first step and click it into place starting at the upper front location and move on down to the lower horizontal location clips.  It locked right back into place and only took me 10 seconds or so to secure it where it started from. 

  Now I have a GPS that I can put on to my Goldwing or take off in a couple of minutes without tools or having to disassembly anything in the process.  When the bike does not have the GPS on it I only have the small Ram mount with the ball on the end of it mounted next to the audio controls and the power wire for the GPS.  This wire I route around to the front of the handlebar and secured it with a small twist tie to keep it out of the way until I need it again.  With the rubber cap that comes with the power wire plug it is also safe from any rain I might encounter along the way. 
  So that's it.  A nice clean installation of a GPS on a 2016 Honda Goldwing.  If you have any questions about the installation let me know I'll be more than happy to fill you in on anything I missed.  Have a good day on your motorcycle and a better day on your next project.