The Aermacchi Project, Part 3: Moving a Head and Making Tools 101


Bench grinder and wrenches
Wrenches modified on the bench grinder to aid in removing the Aermacchi’s cylinder head nuts. Photos by Margie Siegal.

This is the third installment of an ongoing series detailing Margie Siegal's restoration of a 1973 Harley-Davidson 350 Sprint. You can read the Part 1 here.

I looked at the nuts holding the Aermacchi head down. They looked back at me. The two on the right side were recessed into little caves in the fins. There was no way a normal wrench was going to fit here, let alone a socket wrench.

I re-read the service manual. It said to take the four nuts off, and then the head was supposed to slide right off the head bolts, unimpeded by a head gasket. It also said that you needed a “thin bladed wrench” to get the right side nuts off. Off to find the right wrench. It doesn’t exist. Next step: MAKE the right wrench by grinding down an existing wrench to fit. This will be A Learning Experience. I do have a grinder, but have never used it.

A visit to a swap meet resulted in three open-end wrenches that had originally been part of a Honda tool kit, for the sum of $5. A visit to O’Reilly’s garnered a nice long wrench with both open and closed ends for $10. My volunteer mentor, Dave Kafton, suggested that the closed-end wrench might be the best solution. He also said that if I was going to grind the wrenches down to fit, I needed to have a pot of water near the grinder so I could dunk the wrench I was working on every so often. “That way, you maintain the temper.”

I found a nice, heavy-duty shop apron and a pair of work gloves. Home Depot has face shields that will guard against flying metal and not fog up. I turned on the shop fan, put on my safety gear and went to it. The old grinder went through my cheap wrenches quickly. I tried to round off rough edges as I went, dousing the wrench in water every five minutes. When a reasonable amount of metal had been taken off, I started checking the wrench against the bolt caves.

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