The Search for Fuel Economy

Pages from a Designers' Notebook Readers comments

Chap. 4: Planking with Foam

It is time to begin gluing in the foam. I use cheap, often free, contractor's urethane building insulation that has been damaged. Corners knocked off, etc. Free is good. The downside is that I must peel the foil off before I glue it because the foil messes up the seam later when I will file away the foam.

Cut panels a little oversize and glue them on. Liquid nails is good. Buy a lot as a tube seems to get consumed for each piece of foam.

I just cut a rough shape with a knife. If one side needs to be square, I run it through my bandsaw. I try to leave no gap. At least an overnight is necessary before I can work on shaping.
Add planks to the bottom. I am not sure what this thing is going to look like, so I leave the blocks way oversize. All I know for sure is that the shape is controlled by the two bulkheads and the perimeter. I trust that I will be able to connect it all up with a smooth, srtreamlined shape. For sure, I will be able to fit into it comfortably.
I use a common wood saw to whack away the big chunks and then a big coarse file made for automobile work - from Eastwoods to get it closer to the shape it needs to be.
I know from previous experience to leave everything a little oversize. Things seem to change as I add the rest of the foam blocks.
Urethane foam is very dusty and makes a mess in my shop. I wear a mask and am always vacuuming the stuff up. I think about which bugs will want to eat the dust when it gets to the landfill. I suspect that there are no such bugs, which is troubling. You may be interested in reading a story about plastics I wrote for Plastics News called: Plastic Fairings, Plastic Bottles and Plastic Beetles
I just file away everything that is not part of the streamlining. I don't do this all at once. I file a little. I stand back and stare at it a little.

It "tells me" what it wants to be. All the designs of my life have been done this way.

After a while, its streamlined fishy shape begins to emerge.

I find this to be pretty satisfying work. Checking my E mails, it is clear that at least a few interested folks are following along with me. The price of used Helix scooters may be going up, too..

Streamlining: Round at the front... pointed at the rear. Always been this way... always will be this way. It is God's finest shape to slip through the air and water..
I am beginning to daydream about this new streamlined body on my Helix for a real, cross country ride this summer, maybe from California to my brother's in Illinois. There is much more to do. This is only one side and I must make the other side. Then I must figure out how I will make my fairing with this shape. The fact is, I am not sure just how I will proceed. One step at a time.
Next step: Finish planking it with foam and start on the other side
This page updated April 18, 2008
Chap. 3: Road Testing the Long Tail Mar 28, 08
Chap. 1: Streamlining Saves Fuel Feb 20, 08
Chap.2: CAD Streamlined Body Mar 8, 08
Chap. 4: Planking with Foam Apl. 5, 09
Chap. 5: More Wind Testing Apl. 7, 08
Chap. 6: The Final Shape Apl. 17, 08
Chap. 7: Decisions about Details May 10, 08
Page 8: Making the Center Bulkhead June 1, 08
Chap. 9: Rear Bulkhead and Truck bed June 8, 08
Chap. 10: Finish Rear and go for ride June 17, 08

If you have not yet watched my DVD, How they Got 470 mpg it is time to get it for the basic foundation for what we are doing here

Chap. 11: Finish the Tail June 29, 08
Chap. 12: Heading for Ohio, July 13-23, 08
Introduction to Fuel Economy
Chap. 13: Riding in the Midwest July 24, 08
Chap. 14: Vintage Days Ohio, July 25-7, 08
Chap. 15: Summary to date Aug 12, 08
Chap. 16: Adding Weight to the Front Sep. 1, 08
Chap. 17: Truth and Motorcycle Design Sep 4, 08
Chap. 18: Where should the weight be? Sep 25, 08
Chapter 19: Finishing the Streamlining Oct 14, 08
Chapter 20: Streamlining the Handlebars Nov 4, 08
Chapter 21: Unexpected Problems Nov 11, 08
Chapter 23: Getting my feet in and out Dec 19, 08
Chapter 22: Streamlining is working Nov 25, 08
Chapter 24: Streamlining is beginning to work! Jan 1, 09
Chapter 25: Tuft Testing Mar 2, 2009
Chapter 26: Starting Over April 9, 09
Chapter 27: More Ideas for Starting over April 20, 09
Chapter 28: Show time! Aug 1, 2009
Chapter 29: Getting the big parts right Dec 10, 2009
Chapter 30: First evaluation from an outsider Dec 20, 2009
Chapter 31: Visit with Allert Jacobs Dec 24, 2009
Chapter 32: Prius Headlights Jan 18, 2010
Chapter 33: New Gears Feb 17, 2010
Chapter 34: New Mileage Records April 25, 2010
Chapter 35: The Quail Gathering of Motorcycles May 9, 2010
Chapter 36: End of the line with the Helix June 19, 2010
Chapter 37: Vetter Challenge Oct. 9, 2010
Chapter 38: John Keogh helps out Dec 8, 2010
Chapter 39: Working with Keogh Dec 17, 2010
Chapter 40 and up (Work continuing in 2011)
Designing the Last Vetter Fairing

Chapters 1 thru 39 (2007-2010)

Chapters: 40 thru 51 (2011)

Chapters: 52 thru 61 (2012)

Chapters 62 thru 68 (2013)

Chapters 69-up (2014)