Building The Yard Mule - Part One
Article by Radical Brad
After two years of living out in the country, I realize that many of the things that will be coming out of my workshop will be tools to help with our new way of living. Although we aren't planning to go way off the grid like "Ole Uncle Jeb", we are doing our best to be as self sustaining as possible by utilizing our land to grow food and give us firewood for heat. Wood heat alone brings up a host of tools that one will need such as a log splitter, chainsaw, and some type of vehicle to move around cut logs on your property. After a few years of doing yard work and harvesting firewood, we realize why so many country folk own ATVs, the modern day equivalent of the beast of burden. A rugged compact vehicle that can move dirt around, carry piles of firewood, drag rocks, and basically do anything that a horse could do would certainly be useful, but I can't fathom dropping eight grand on an ATV!
So in true AtomicZombie spirit, I decided to challenge myself to build something as good or better than a workhorse ATV for under five hundred bucks! What follows is part one of what will most definitely be a long build log for what I am calling "The Yard Mule", my DIY utility vehicle.
A 1980's Ford F150 Rear Differential
My need for an ATV became even more apparent when we decided to cut our own firewood from trees harvested on our property. Stacking a dump truck loads of cut and split wood is a great workout, but dropping a tree in the bush and getting the heavy 4 foot logs up to your property to season is a whole other ball game. Much of our property is cut by a road, so it wasn't too bad getting the logs back to the truck, but next year we will have to go deeper into the woods where our truck cannot follow. An ATV would be nice for dragging out logs, but like said; I ain't dropping $8000 on a vehicle that can pull one log out of the woods at a time. What I want is basically a cross between an ATV, a full sized truck, and a tank!
Sometimes ideas occur with visual cues, and this is one of those times. Here I was driving home from the dump one afternoon, and there was a burnt out truck laying on its side off in the bush. Apparently, the truck was part of a volunteer firefighting operation, so it wasn't completely roasted. As I drove by, I could see the rear differential, and thought that it would make a good base for a heavy duty vehicle for moving logs and other heavy objects around the yard. A rear differential offers a built in 5:1 gear reduction system, and is made to carry a ton of weight, so all I would need is a small engine with another gear reduction system in order to create a very slow moving yet powerful vehicle that could carry as much as a pickup truck.
So of course, I drove home and came back with a hammer and a hacksaw. I kid you not, I removed the differential using nothing but those two tools. It took almost four hours of vigorous sawing and bashing, but it eventually came out. What followed was a grueling push through the bush and then the lift onto the back of my truck. Let me tell you, a full rear end with tires and brake hardware is a heavy thing to lift!
So now I had the rear end for my Yard Mule. Cost so far... $0.00! Of course, you can also purchase a rear differential from a car yard for about $100.00 if you prefer not to harvest your own.
An Old Snowblower With a Running Motor
Last year we had to upgrade our snowblower since the old one needed some work on the transmission. A DIY freak always enjoys buying new appliances because this means the old ones end up in the garage as parts for projects, and this snowblower was perfect as the engine still ran great. This 5 horsepower side shaft engine would be a perfect power plant for the Yard Mule as it is easy to mount and would be adaptable to the rear differential hardware. My project cost was still hovering around zero, so the total cost of less than $500 seemed easily attainable now. If I had to purchase an old snowblower or tiller for the engine, I am guessing the cost would have been about $150 or so.
This 5HP Side Shaft Engine Will Power The Yard Mule
It should be fairly easy to adapt this engine to drive the rear differential since the output shaft on the engine and the input shaft on the differential gearbox are both horizontally mounted. Of course, there will need to be some type of gear reduction and drive system, but this shouldn't require much more than a few sprockets, some chain, and a few u-joints. Since the rear differential gearbox already has a 5:1 reduction, I figure another 5:1 or possibly 8:1 would bring the vehicle down to a walking speed, but with an unstoppable amount of torque. The Yard Mule only needs to move at walking speed, but with the massive amount of gear reduction, it will have amazing pulling and hauling power.
An Old Kawasaki Frame I Found At The Dump
The only thing that was missing from the Yard Mule project now was the front end. At this point, I wasn't sure if I was going to use a two wheel front end or make it into a trike. A week after yanking the differential out of the burnt out truck, I found this old Kawasaki frame at the dump, so my front end puzzle was solved, the Yard Mule will be a trike. I am glad I decided to go with the delta trike setup, since a 4 wheel vehicle would have been a lot more complex and needed some kind of suspension or swing arm in order to keep all 4 wheels on the ground over uneven terrain.
The Motorcycle Triple Tree Fork Setup
Another nice thing about using the motorcycle front end is that the entire installation requires only a single weld at the head tube, just like on a bicycle. Unlike a dual front wheel vehicle, there are no tie rods, kingpins, and complex steering linkages to worry about, just a head tube and a set of handlebars. Luckily, the front forks, wheel, and brakes were all still in good working order and would just need a little sanding and rust cleanup. Once again, thanks to the local landfill, my project costs were zero! Of course, an old bike front end like this could be had for maybe $20 at a scrap dealer. If I had to pay for all of the three main components, I would have been up around $300 by now, so the $500 max budget is still possible if you are paying for parts.
A few Idea Sketches For The Yard Mule
So now I had a rear end, front, end, and a power plant to make my DIY trike truck. Really, all that is left in the design is to join the parts together with a sturdy frame and then drop on a truck box. Well, it won't be that easy, but things are coming along nicely so far. I started doing a few sketches to figure out how to position the engine, rider, and cargo box, and came up with a design that looked like the fusion between a small truck and a motorcycle as shown in this quick sketch.
It became apparent that the real puzzle would be the placement of the engine in relationship to the rear differential since they both had to mate together. The sketch shown above places the engine ahead of the differential gearbox, which is an efficient use of space, but does introduce the need for some kind of driveshaft linkage. I tried to find a way to place the engine right next to the rear differential gearbox, but every design I tried just didn't look right, or had some type of design problem.
A Rear Engine Design Puts The Engine Close To The Differential
The rear engine design shown above does place the motor close to the gearbox, but this introduces several design issues such as a long vehicle and a cargo box that would need to be side loaded. So after many design sketches, I decided that the only way to go would be a front mounted engine with a driveshaft connecting the transmission between the power plant and the rear end.
A Front Mounted Engine Design That Works
I eventually found a layout that was both functional and looked good, keeping the roots of both the truck and motorcycle with the engine placed in the frame just as it would have been on the original motorcycle. I also moved the rear wheels up a little more to reduce the turning circle, but not so much as to allow the vehicle to tip if overloaded at the rear. The drive shaft transmission would be a bit of engineering, but by using recycled truck parts, it shouldn't be difficult to source parts. Actually, the original drive shaft is probably still laying in the bush where I pulled apart the truck, so I will have to go back and see if I can find it!
A Basic 3D Model Showing The Rear View
I took a few measurements on the key components such as the differential, front end, and the engine and then made some crude 3D models just to see how everything would fit in my design. So far, the trike looked good, and made good use of space, including a cargo box that would be 4.5 feet wide, and 5 feet in length. I would be able to carry a lot of firewood or dirt in this box, unlike that $8000 ATV that could only drag out one log from the bush at a time! Because the rear is from a half ton truck, I should be able to carry about a ton of weight since there is no vehicle weight to deal with.
A Basic 3D Model Showing The Front View
Ok, so far so good. I have a design idea, some scrap parts and haven't spent a dime! The sketch looks good, and the 3D model shows that the parts will work in the intended configuration, so the next step will be to make a more detailed model and add the framework. normally, I would just head outside with my grinder and start hacking up metal, but since it's winter and I only have a few hours on the weekends to work on this project, I decided to use my CAD software to design the frame so I could hit the ground running when the snow melts.
In the next installment of this build log, I will have a detailed 3D model made, that will show how the front mounted engine will link with the rear differential though a gear reducer and a drive shaft. See you next time!
Delta Trike Chopper By Tay and Mick
Photos Sent From AZ Krew Member Simon Wissler
Mick G. (AKA NaughtyBoy) from our Builder's Gallery sent in some photos of one of the cool choppers he made for his Junior Garage Hacker, Tay.
I like the story of how this chopper came to be, and what it represents! Basically, Tay had a DIY chopper that he was riding to school, and one of the other kids thought he would get one up on him by showing up one day on a store bought chopper. Ok, sure, Tay's original chop was getting a bit small and well used, but to try to show up a DIY chopper with a factory job?? I don't think So!
So not to be outdone, Tay and Mick got together and came up with a new larger chopper, a Delta Trike chop with a cool springer front end. Using a rear end similar to the Delta Runner Trike, they fused a mountain bike frame in between the rear end and long front Springer forks to come up with this cool looking Delta Chop.
Putting It Together On Tay and Mick's Workbench.
There are a lot of interesting parts used in this chopper. The suspension springs are taken from a trampoline, the forks are made from blow pin shafts salvaged from some fabrication equipment, and many of the other components are salvaged from different bicycles. Hey, a real chop isn't stamped out on an assembly line, it is made from what you have on hand!
Trike Assembled After Painting.
Building this trike was a family effort, with Tay doing a lot of the work, including doing some welding. Learning to weld when you are only 7 years old is awesome! If we all started that young, we would be Jedi's of the arc before we owned our first car! Great going Tay!
You Are Never Too Young To Weld!
The handlebars on this cool chop were taken from an old rotary tiller, which will have its engine used in another project at a later time. No doubt, there will be a lot of interesting projects coming from their workshop, and the AZ community looks forward to seeing the photos in the Builder's Gallery.
Making Tracks On The Chopper Trike.
One of the nice things about a trike is that it can be ridden all year round! When you are a true Chopper Pilot, no amount of cold will stop you from heading out to own the road. Thanks again to Tay and Mick for sending in these photos and for posting their cool projects in our gallery. We look forward to many more to come!
Build Your Own DIY Cone Wrench
A New Tutorial by Radical Brad
When you need to service your front or rear wheel, you will no doubt need to remove the cone nuts in order to remove the axle and get access to the bearings.
In order to remove cone nuts, you will need a special "slim" wrench designed to catch the flat faces on the cone nuts.
This special wrench is of course called, a cone wrench. You can purchase a cone wrench at most bicycle shops, but if you are a all about DIY,
then you can also make your own! Check out our new tutorial - DIY Cone Wrench
From The New Tutorial...
Using the flap disc, remove material from the box section of the wrench, keeping the disc even as you work it up and down the section to be thinned down. Even though the disc is made of nothing more than overlapping sheets of sandpaper, it can easily take down the metal, so don't push too hard on the grinder, and try to work around the entire face evenly.
From The New Tutorial...
This photo shows how the cone wrench fits between the top face of the cone nut and underneath the locking nut. The reason the cone nut has such a minimal profile is because wider axle hardware would require a wider spread on the frame tubing or front fork tubing, which would just be a waste of material.
Click Here to see the entire tutorial - DIY Cone Wrench