33 Years Later

33 years ago in 1986 during halloween at Walnut High School, a friend shot a picture of Eric Alley riding a skate bike he was loaned by a bike store he rode for.

To quote Eric’s story:

During high school (Walnut High School, California) in 1986, I was given one of these as I raced BMX for a local bike shop. Had to give it back after a few years though. The picture is of me at 17 on halloween at school. The principal actually let me cruise around on it the whole day.

Today he sent me a photo of him recreating the old shot on his restored skate bike down to the style of bike clothing.

See how Eric restored his skate bike.

The Best Minson Skate Bike Restoration

In Aug 2019, Eric Alley of Walnut California contacted me about an old skatebike he bought and wanted to restore. For months we emailed back and forth with questions and answers. One of his biggest challenges was his bike was missing the under-seat brake handle. I sent many measurements and detailed photos. Eric bought a similar handle and a friend made a bracket to hold it on. Eric used the same skate truck as I did also replacing the stock bushing with a hard downhill one.

This week Eric sent me the finished picture and to put it mildly I was blown away. I took my restoration pretty far but Eric went the whole nine yards. This is by far the best skate bike restoration I have ever seen.

Skate Bike – Eric Alley 1986

Before

After

Parts List

Here is Eric’s list of parts he used in his restoration. His is a wonderful combination of original parts such as the seat and pedals with modern anodized cranks, brakes and chain.

  • Model: Minson Skate Bike
  • Size: 16-inch
  • Color: Candy Apple Red
  • Frame: Steel
  • Brake Lever: Sunlite Brake Lever (modified to original Skate Bike specifications)
  • Brake Caliper: Dia Compe MX 1000 Side-Pull W/Quick release
  • Crankset: LDC (Little Dude Components) 110mm CNC Machined Alloy W/Red paint inlay
  • Front Chain Ring: LDC (Little Dude Components) 36-Tooth sprocket CNC Machined Alloy W/Red paint inlay (LDC – 281 E. Chilton Dr., Chandler, AZ)
  • Chainring Bolts: Litepro CNC Machined Aluminum (Blk.)
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano (113mm) Sealed Square tapered
  • Chain: KMC (Gold)
  • Rear Cassette: DICTA 20-Tooth Sprocket
  • Pedals: 507 PVC Block (1/2”) – New Original type
  • Rear Wheel: 16”x1.75” 28-Spoke Chrome – Freewheel
  • Rear Tire: Duro 16”x2.125” Red Gum Wall
  • Saddle: Original Skate Bike Saddle W/Logo
  • Seatpost: Chrome 25mm x 280mm
  • Seatpost Clamp: 1-½ inch (35mm) 5/16” Chrome Binder Keyed Bolt
  • Front Skate Truck: Tracker – Race Track 140mm Truck (Polished)
  • Bushings: Khiro Yellow 92-A (Med. Hard Density)
  • Skate Wheels: Bones Pizzanista 60mm – 90A Density
  • Paint: Premier Bicycle Werks, 1617 W. Collins Ave, Orange, CA

A Few Answers on SkateBikes

Eric has been restoring his skatebike. Eric asked me a few questions about mine. I figured others restoring a Minson Skate Bike might find the answers helpful.

Brakes

The hand brake is one of the unique things about a Minson Skate Bike. To use it looks unusual to say the least. The Skatebike came with the hand brake setup only. My wheel was rusted badly so when I replaced it I bought a 16 inch wheel with a coaster brake. They are by far the easiest ones to find. I often wondered why the bike didn’t come with a coaster brake originally. Then I used it. The problem is the crank arms are short (100 mm). This means to work you end up skidding. I wanted to replace the arms but could not find any that short. There is about 120mm of ground clearance so a slightly longer arm may work. The sprocket is only 36 teeth so the combination of the small sprocket and short arm is hard to find. A slightly longer arm with a smaller sprocket may even work better.

The front gear originally had a cover. Eric’s still has his. I was never a fan of the cover so I removed mine.

Another Skatebiker

Skate Bike – Eric Alley 1986

Got an email yesterday from Eric Alley. It said:

I saw your site regarding the skate bike. I just purchased one off Ebay. Unfortunately, it did not include the brake system. I was wondering if you have any, or if you know of a source for one.

During high school (Walnut High School, California) in 1986, I was given one of these as I raced BMX for a local bike shop. Had to give it back after a few years though. The picture is of me at 17 on halloween at school. The principal actually let me cruise around on it the whole day.

I replied:

Brakes are easy except for the handle. Cable and brake itself are pure old school low end. The challenge is the handle.

On my system I have 2 brakes. When I replaced the wheel I put on one with a coaster brake. Those are easier to find then a wheel without a coaster brake. The challenge is it is hard to lightly apply the brakes. Tend to skid.

The handle connects to the two bars on the bottom of the seat. I live in Canada and my brake cable and wheel assembly are from Canadian Tire.

The handle is going to require some construction. Either build a new base or find a way to connect a piece of handlebar under the seat for the brake to connect to. Here is a picture I took of my brake handle.

Under-seat brake lever

Eric – Looking forward to pictures of your restoration. Be sure to take apart the cranks and clean/grease. The chain is basic old school as are the pedals. The biggest recommendation on parts is family bike store. My skateboard truck and wheels were trash. I wrote several posts on replacing them and the challenge of bushings. Just read previous posts.

Eric sent a few before pix.

Paper Mache – Distressing the Teeth

Now that I had a technique for making teeth, it was time to do some mass production. The picture above is of 28 teeth: formed, sanded, smoothed, gessoed, base coated and first layer of distressing applied. I want the teeth to look old so I have been investigating how to distress them.

I still need a few more layers to build up the antiquing look.

And this is ONLY the lower jaw. I still have another 28 to make for the top.

Paper Mache: Types of Glue – White vs Wood

When I started into paper mache I tried several types of glue but quickly choose traditional white resin glue as my favourite. I surfed for more details but one question intrigued me: white vs wood glue.

Weldbond, Wood and White glues

Weldbond, Wood and White glues

For my work I use three glues.

  1. “White glue” or “hobby and craft” – polyvinyl acetate (PVA)
  2. “Carpenter’s glue” or “wood glue” or “yellow glue” – aliphatic resin emulsion
  3. “Weldbond” – a brand of glue by FT Ross

Other than Weldbond, I tend to use generic or house brands of white and carpenter’s glue. Here are my observations of each as it pertains to paper mache.

First thing I learned is all white glues are not the same. Some are thicker and made to grab and dry faster. For paper mache you want the basic white glue. I buy it in three litre jugs and fill smaller dispensers. In the image above, the left dispenser with the crazy top is white glue, the right is carpenter glue. I found a four pack of these pictured small squeeze bottles in an art store. I drill a hole in the top then make come sort of cap. Then I fill them as needed.

The small bottle of white glue called “Craft Glue” is an example of a thicker, faster drying glue. I found it too thick for most of my work and tough to control the flow of glue when dispersing in a thin line.

Latch Bail Jar

Latch Bail Jar

For paper mache glue I use a latch bail jar. Easy to mix up a new batch (90% white glue, 10% water), quick to open and close. It is important to keep the jar closed when not using it to avoid dried chunks. I usually apply my glue with long flat brushes.

Let’s walk through the three for strengths and weaknesses.

White Glue

  • Easiest to find. Cheap.
  • Mixes with water for paper mache. I run 10-25% water depending on what I am doing. 10% water is my most common recipe.
  • Flexible when dry.
  • NOT SANDABLE. Clogs up the sand paper.
  • Will not chip. Of you have a drip or clump off of the side it is not easy to break off.
  • Softens when exposed to water.

Carpenter’s Glue

  • Easy to find.
  • Use full strength.
  • Sandable when dry.
  • NOT flexible. It cracks when bent.
  • Chips off if you have drips off to the side.
  • Resists water.
  • I use when gluing wood parts together such as a tongue depressor to a dowel. The drips out the side chip off easily and you can sand the edges of the bond.

Weldbond

  • Use full strength.
  • Great for gluing an object to paper mache. Dries fast, strong bond.
  • Closes small gaps nicely.
  • Shrinks when dried.
  • Resists water.

So what’s the best glue for paper mache? For me it is all of them. They each have a purpose.

Paper Mache: Trying Teeth in Pottie Mouth

Not that I had a technique for making teeth, it was time to make some and try them on the jaw.

View 2 of the Jig

Tooth Forming Jig

I created nine teeth and attached a short length of bamboo skewer to the bottom. This will serve as the root when putting them into the jar as well as a way to stand them up while painting. I took a board and just drilled a few rows of holes.

Piece of bamboo skewer inserted into the bottom of a tooth.

Piece of bamboo skewer inserted into the bottom of a tooth.

Here are front and side views of the seat with the teeth inserted in.

Front view of the jaw with nine teeth inserted

Front view of the jaw with nine teeth inserted

Side view of the jaw with nine teeth inserted

Side view of the jaw with nine teeth inserted

Lessons Learned

  1. The toilet seat needed to be sanded. The finish is designed to resist staining so it also resists paints and glue. I wish I had sanded the seat before attaching anything like the gullet. Removing 8 screws and the two parts would have been free and easier to work on.
  2. Next time I am going to drill into the base of the tooth with a drill press to make the hole centred and straight. It is hard to hand drill into them.
  3. The depressors sitting in water last about 3 days then they start to fall apart. 

Now that I see how they work, I will start on the side ones shortening them towards the back of the jaw.

This is definitely fun.

Paper Mache: Monster Tooth Maker Results

Steps to form a tooth

Two final teeth sitting on the lower jaw

Two final teeth sitting on the lower jaw

After much experimenting I have come up with the approach I am using for Pottie Mouth's teeth. As I learn more I will modify this post to reflect what I learn.

  1. Start with a $9 box of 500 unsterilized 3/4" x 6" tongue depressors
  2. Soak a few depressors overnight in water Jun 17 - I tried just boiling dry depressors and it worked fine so I no longer presoak.
  3. BOIL them in water for 5 minutes - What I do is put the depressors in a pot with water. Then I bring it to a full rolling boil and turn the burner off. Then I let it sit for 10 minutes.
    The boiling weakens the hard wood's lignin bond, which makes them pliable
  4. Return them to the jar with water.
  5. Remove one from the water and towel dry the surface.
    This prevents diluting the glue
  6. Select a cut piece of 5/8" dowel
  7. Cut off the rounded end of the depressor so that it will be flush with the dowel
  8. Cut the sides to form sharp tooth
  9. Add Wood Glue (not white glue) to the depressor where dowel will join
    Wood glue is sand-able when dry, white glue is not
  10. Place a piece of wet tongue depressor below between the clamp and the tooth. This acts as a guard against the clamp marking the tooth.
  11. Tighten host clamp over end
    By placing a piece of hose or popsicle sticks over depressor you can minimize damage from the tight clamp
  12. Place in the jig
  13. Let dry
    It needs to be bone dry. Exposing to a fan or air flow helps speed the process
  14. Remove from jig, remove clamp
  15. Sand any glue clumps or rough areas
  16. Fill in side between the depressor and dowel with a mixture of Sheetrock 20 and acrylic paint
  17. Paint balance of tooth

June 15. I love tuning a process as I work. Today I decided to use an end of wet tongue depressor to protect the tooth from the clamp.
I added step 10 to put a piece of wet depressor between the clamp and the tooth. I also predrilled the dowel so that I can arrange them on my tooth stand.

Using a piece of cut off depressor end to protect the tooth from the clamp.

Using a piece of cut off depressor end to protect the tooth from the clamp.


View 1 of the Jig

View 1 of the Jig

Dowel and tooth stand

Dowel and tooth stand


View 2 of the Jig

View 2 of the Jig

Tooth Variations

I made several variations of teeth. Here are some of them.

Seven variations on making teeth

Seven variations on making teeth

  • 7 - This is one of the originals. Note the use of a square cut 1/2" dowel and marks on the face from the hose clamps.
  • 6, 5, 4 - These show the tooth front of variations on 7 where I tried building a transition on the back with paper mache. The problem is the paper on the front hurts the appearance of the tooth. The backs shown below aren't very appealing either.
  • 1 - This is a 5/8" dowel with a sloped cut at top. The clamp marks have been minimized with a piece of hose
  • 3 - The side is just painted. White glue was used so the extra clumps of glue could not be sanded or removed
  • 2 - The side is filled in with acrylic paint thickened up with some Sheetrock 20. Sheetrock is a sandable drywall compound. The 20 means that mixed with water it will harden in 20 minutes. You can also get 5 and 90. As most of my drying is dependant on the drying of the paint, 20 was a good compromise

This shows the issue with trying to smooth the transition on the back

This shows the issue with trying to smooth the transition on the back


Here are the final teeth in side and front view.
Final teeth in front and side views.

Final teeth in front and side views.

Paper Mache: Monster Tooth Maker

Next technique to develop is creating the teeth. In Wilburine, I worked out an approach of bending wet wood coffee stir sticks. For Pottie Mouth, I need much larger teeth. Coffee stirs would be too thin.

I decided to use 3/4" x 6" tongue depressors. A box of 500 unsterilized sticks was $9. They are hard wood, and when, soaked in water become pliable. Using nails on wood, I could bend them, but this still creates a flat tooth. I call my next idea a "Monster Tooth Maker."

Monster tooth maker from the side and head on

Monster tooth maker from the side and head on

I modified the jig setup from Wilburine. First, I used finishing nails and drilled holes just a tiny bit smaller with a drill press and then pressed in the nails. This gave me perfectly vertical nails. I put some tubing over them, as finishing nails are steel and leave a rust spot on the depressor.

As I tried making teeth, it became apparent that the end needed to be rounded. To create the round effect, I bought some 1/2" copper plumbing fittings and 1" hose clamps. Then I found some 1/2" dowel. Now instead of the copper fitting, I used a short length of dowel as the core with two host clamps. I also cut up some split vinyl tubing to use as shims to tune the bending. Be sure to towel dry the tongue depressor where you are adding glue for the dowel to avoid thinning the glue. My intent is to paper mache over the base of the tooth once formed to give a solid shape.

Once dry, the ends can be cut into a point for the tooth top. It is better to cut the bottom before drying, as the curved wood tends to split when cut curved and dry.

Vinyl hose Splints were added to increase the curve as well as a dowel at the centre of the tooth

Vinyl hose splints were added to increase the curve, as well as a dowel at the bottom of the tooth

Close-up of the dowel and clamps

Close-up of the dowel and clamps

With 1/2" dowel, the depressor is splitting

With 1/2" dowel the depressor is splitting

Cut dry tooth with wet one in the jig

Cut dry tooth with wet one in the jig


This image is of a dried tongue depressor, glued to the dowel, bent into shape and cut to form the point. The surface is raw, but a thin layer of paper towel paper mache will fill in the back, as well as smooth the surface.

The top image is of the jig with a finished tooth, including a thin layer of kraft paper towel mache to smooth out the transition.

Max size tooth sitting on the lower jaw

Max size tooth sitting on the lower jaw


This is the maximum full-sized tongue depressor sitting on the lower jaw of the toilet seat. This would be suitable for the fangs, but most will be shorter. Once I have several formed teeth, I will work on the paper mache layer.

Paper Mache: Gullet / Throat

The past two weeks have been consumed with attempting a repair on my computer, ordering a new one, waiting then rebuilding from backup and getting everything to work again. Fun wow!

Today I got back to “Pottie Mouth.” I did some cleanup on the bracing and removed the bottom seat to install the gullet. A trip to a used clothing store yielded a little girls red stretch tube top. This will be turned inside out and installed as the gullet/throat. This first required building a template to mount the top on then glue to the bottom of the seat.

The seat was removed, a tracing of the seat inside made on the cardboard and the frame cut out.

The seat was removed, a tracing of the seat inside made on the cardboard and then cut out.

The tube top was stretched over the cardboard frame then placed on the seat bottom and glued in place. I rested heavy books on it to press it in place.

The gullet (red tube top) is glued in place. The bottom will be secured to create a more direct path.

The gullet (red tube top) is glued in place. The bottom will be secured to create a more direct path.