Go Kart Building: To Machine or Not Machine? That is the Question.

I have been working on this new product called the pedal kart (or pedal go kart) and I have been running into brick walls, or snags that have really been tripping me up.

I’ve written several articles on the go kart building mindset and the stick-to-it-ivness that is required to build a go kart. Believe you me, I have been going through hoops just to make this go kart.

My philosophy or my code of e-book writing has been to provide a product that will enable anyone without prior experience to build a go kart out of materials that are readily available.

That last statement “materials that are readily available” is the clincher. I constantly have to be checking myself and reeling myself in because I am tempted to just machine the part, or just “buy it.”

With this wood-pedal powered go kart I am putting restrictions on myself to where the guy building this go kart does not need exotic tools such as a welder.

That prompted me to talk about: When is it Proper to “Cheat” When Building a Go Kart?

Invariably my dilemma comes down to a machined part or a stock part.

For example, I have been trying to take a wheel off of a bicycle and use it on a go kart. Trouble is that to get the hub to mate up with a shaft, special adapters and couplers need to be developed.

What I do when I am try to build something is see what I have lying around. Trouble is that I have a lot of “machined scrap.” There are all sorts of bushings and bars laying around in my scrap bin. This is not the case for most people. All they have is the hardware store!

The question really is “What if the hardware store doesn’t have what you want?”

The answer lies in several possibilities:

– Go to a machine shop
– Look for a component that matches or is close to what you want and shop for it on e-bay or bearing supply houses (such as a Motion Industries…).
– Make it yourself

Sometimes making it yourself requires higher end tools, such as a welder or a lathe. Most of us don’t have that.

I often remind myself, neither did the gunsmith or the piano maker in Williamsburg back 200 plus years ago.

The key to making your own stuff is making fixtures that hold your part while using different style tools. I have for example made a fixture that held my part and then machined it using a belt sander. I had to fix my part and also fix the sander relative to the part.

The best thing to do is to make your fixture repeatable. Don’t make it some hurried together piece of nonsense.

In my ebooks (especially in the wood go karts) I try to make it so that everyday materials and tools can be used.

The tough part with the pedal kart is making that happen without giving in and grabbing from my cheat pile.

My recommendation is to get to know someone with a mill or a lathe. I promise that this pedal go kart will remain true to the premise: no special parts, no crazy expensive tools. That’s what makes this go kart a challenge, but having a welder and a machine house close by helps save tons of money.

To save tons of money search machine shop scrap bins (with their permission of course) and pick up the following things:

– Bushings that fit shafts ranging from ½” to 1” in diameter
– Bolts
– Pins
– Shafts
– Tubes (round and square)
– Plates

If a business has a metal recycling bin outside, chances are that it will have plenty of goodies. The hot spots are typically:

– Screw machine houses (places that deal in bars, shafting, rod stock and tubing)
– Fabrication Facilities

Watch where the metal trucks go, that is where you want to ask if you can sift in their trash.

Imagine being dumped on a lonely island and all you had was two bikes, plywood, 2x4s’s, some pipes and a few hand tools. Then you are expected to make a go kart out of these components. That is the challenge.

The reason why it is the challenge is because most people with plenty of time, wood and drive for a go kart are stuck in this boat.

You don’t need to be stuck with the crowd, if you take advantage of the “dumpster diving” techniques I just talked about, it will save you tons of headache and cash.

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