Thursday 19 November 2015

The Birth of FrankenMotor

    "Don't have a clue what I am in for...."
                                 -Stitched Up Heart

   Here's the scene:
   It's mid-October, I am feeding my browsing addiction, checking the Kijiji and Craigslist traplines, killing time that would be better spent tapping out another brilliant blog post.

   Before falling any further down this rabbit hole,  let's get some semantics dealt with-  the difference between "shopping" and "browsing"

    Shopping is an act with a purpose- to acquire something, singular or plural, that you need or want.

    Shopping is focused-  it's hunting and gathering for a consumerist society.  Find it, buy it, go.  One STARTS shopping with an end goal in mind... like, oh, a pair of shoes.  I don't understand anyone who answer's a salesclerk's "Can I help you?"  with, "No, I'm just browsing."

   No, you damn well aren't.

  You want a pair of shoes, size 9, triple E, brown, casual with good arch support.  You have a goal.

   Browsing is simply seeing what is for sale.  You don't need or want anything in particular, you're just....


  I spy an ad online- dude is looking to trade his Tanaka 3hp outboard for an electric trolling motor, and some cash, either way.

  Which, I had.
  Well, the trolling motor, if not necessarily the cash, either way.

  Now, I didn't need a Tanaka 3 hp outboard.

   But I didn't need an electric trolling motor either.

   I bounced it off SWMBO, who gave me the nod, providing the new motor was running...

   (Apparently, the saga of the Trio of Dead Mopeds is not going to be lost to history anytime soon around Stately Jones Manor.)

 ... "Dude says it does."...

......  and I didn't "spend any more on it than that old trolling motor cost."

   In other words, I couldn't spend more than $25 on this motor.

   In other, other words, as the premier of Ontario puts it, this project had to be revenue neutral.

   So, after a flurry of email negotiations, and after I added an old battery box to the package to sweeten the deal, we made the trade straight across, no cash either way.

   ...and then I brought home my new acquisition and surveyed what I had.
   You've never heard of Tanaka?  You're not alone.

From Tanaka's corporate site:

     'In 1918, the Tanaka business was started in Japan by Takashi Tanaka who created “Tanaka Iron Works” near Tokyo, Japan. In 1941 the manufacturing plant near Narashino (approximately 25 miles SE of Tokyo) was built and in 1948, Tanaka began research and development of compact internal combustion engines. In 1950, the company name was changed to Tanaka Kogyo Co., Ltd. The word “Kogyo” (pronounced “Koh-gyoh”) means industries in Japanese. ....

   (lots of boring irrelevant stuff here...)

... in 1974, introduced a 2.5 hp outboard motor that would eventually be private label for Sears. ...
In 1978, Tanaka Kogyo (USA) Co., Ltd. was established in Kent, WA to pursue and support North American sales. In 1984, Tanaka acquired a small mail order company, Aquabug International, expanded its product offering and renamed it Sporting Edge.
In 1985, Tanaka relocated its entire operation to a new 70,000 sq. ft. facility in Bothell, WA. In 1987, the Tanaka Kogyo (USA) Co., Ltd/Sporting Edge assets were purchased from Tanaka Japan by an investment group led by Bill Thomson. The company, while now separate from Tanaka Japan, retained the identity of Tanaka Kogyo (USA) Co., Ltd and the exclusive marketing rights for Tanaka North, Central and South America.
In 1989, Tanaka’s USA assets and marketing rights were purchased by the Ariens Co. of Brillion, Wisconsin. Soon after, a new subsidiary company of Ariens, Tanaka Ltd., was established to continue marketing and support of Tanaka products. In 1990, a new line of Ariens brand 2-cycle handheld products (made by Tanaka) was introduced for Ariens Distributors and Dealers. In 1992, Ariens discontinued its relationship with Tanaka and ISM was established by a five long-time Tanaka employees....'

   So, lot's of history, of which Tanaka's illustrious line of outboard motors gets... half a sentence.

    Basically, the design brief was to build a simple, low-buck, low output 2 stroke outboard motor.

    It's essentially a weed trimmer with a prop.

                                                                                  -from the web



  If you decided to build an outboard motor with as few parts as possible, you would end up with a Tanaka 300.

   Our old 2 hp Yamaha P45 was more complicated.

   The powerhead is aircooled, with a dry exhaust that exits below the waterline.   There's a small built in fuel tank, and no provision for an auxiliary tank.  There's a choke, a fuel shutoff petcock,  a twist grip throttle on a very short tiller,a kill switch and that is the entire list of controls... and features.  There's no reverse, and no clutch- it's pull, point and shoot.

 It's light, simple and loud.... ish.  More on that in a bit.

    So, I got my new find home, gave it a once over and realized that there were some vital parts missing- like the fuel shut off petcock and fuel lines, the wiring for the kill switch, and the twist grip throttle.
   Other than that, it wasn't in bad shape.  The tank was clean, the plastic was uncracked, the engine kicked over fine and the starter cord recoil recoiled.

  Errrrm... okay, it should run, with the missing bits no longer missing. Parts are available, and fairly cheap and the manual is a point and click away online.  Whew.  As I  sat in the skunkworks  and pondered this orphan, I got thinking.

"What if," thought I, "I optimized this motor for dinghy use?"

   First things first- the tiller is too short.

   The outboards on SWMBO's Bluenose and our Walker Bay dinghy were treated to Minn Kota tiller extensions a the beginning of this season...

 and SWMBO and I both agreed that the longer reach made a world of difference in comfort and control.

 The only challenge was that a tiller extension exceeded my SWMBO-approved $25 budget.

 I pondered the pile of cast-offs that hadn't quite been cast off from the corners of the workshop yet, and discovered an old broken lawnmower handle.


  This might be better than store-bought.

  A little measuring and eyeballing and cutting and ...

...add a bicycle brake lever, a foam grip, a throttle cable from a citi moped, some zipties, a new petcock, a VW fuel filter, fuel hoses, and $23 later....


  Whuh-BAM!  Frankenmotor is born.

   Why the curved tiller?

    Sitting astride the center seat of a dinghy, a straight tiller with a twist-grip throttle is fine, in a straight line.  Start to turn, though, and as you push or pull the tiller your wrist wants to either roll off the throttle, or roll on the throttle.  It feels awkward. With nothing significant invested other than my time, I decided to try a curved tiller and a throttle lever rather than a twist grip.

  But, before schlepping Frankenmotor down the dock, I hung it from a sawhorse, added some fuel to the tank, put enough water in a bucket to cover the prop, opened the choke and gave the cord a pull.  First pull she lit up!


   True to it's weed trimmer, er, roots, it is weed trimmer loud.

   Kinda obnoxious loud.  Kinda, might-piss-off-fellow-Marina-boaters loud.

    But maybe that's just in the garage, with the exhaust above the waterline

   Well, it's the end of the season, there are few boats around, there's no better time to see how loud it really is, in the real world.

   SWMBO volunteered to be the test pilot.  we swapped out our 2.3 hp Suzuki outboard and clamped on Frankenmotor.

   SWMBO got Frankie to light up on the first pull and off she went.  With the exhaust outlet underwater, the motor was noticeably quieter.  Not as quiet as our Suzuki water-cooled outboard, but comparable to a Honda 2.3 hp aircooled outboard.



  At full throttle, according to my handheld GPS, in back-to-back sheltered flat water tests, Frankenmotor drives our porky 10' Walker Bay dinghy at a similar pace to the Suzuki-about 6 knots full out.

   That junkyard tiller and throttle?

    Success! the L shaped tiller makes for a more comfortable grip, with less wrist fatigue, and SWMBO demonstrated that a doubled up hair elastic makes a good throttle lock.

   As I mentioned, I don't need  another outboard, but now that I've got one...

  ... I should probably build a boat to fit it.

  Thanks for stopping by, and please, "Talk the Dock!"