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Tools and other strange stuff

Tools I have known and loved...

By Matt Cuddy

If you’ve been around motorcycles for any extended period of time, and like me, have owned the same tool box for the last forty years, parts and tools that use to have a great importance in daily life have been forgotten, cast off and shoved to the back of the drawers.

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When I was nineteen, I came across a yard sale in Glendale, California that had a 9 drawer Craftsman roll-a-way in terrible shape for the princely sum of five dollars. It did have good wheels, so at the urging of my buddy Mike Simeon, I purchased the old rusty Craftsman, and tossed it in the back of my Datsun. Little did I know this abused, bent and creaky old tool box would be my one and only for the next thirty years.
I was in the garage yesterday fixing a 1929 Briggs & Stratton’s kick-start assembly that uses a #40 chain (a Diamond chain at that) that had kicked back and snapped a link off the kick start bar. Knowing that I went through a Cushman Scooter fetish about two decades ago, I knew that somewhere in that old Craftsman box was a number forty master link that I needed to fix the chain with.

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Unfortunately, after digging around in every drawer of that old Craftsman, I found everything I never wanted to see again, except a number forty master link. I found Whitworth sockets and open end wrenches with odd sizes like XXX, strange pullers and electric gizmos, a compression release for my old DT1MX, several spokes for my old Jawa Trail 90, CZ tools (that resemble pot metal, but are strong as diamonds), more pullers, chain breakers, Triumph & BSA parts, screws, ziener diodes, and a full set of CZ points.
I also found some tools that have been with me since the stone age. My Craftsman ½ & 9/16th boxed end wrench that saw duty on every bicycle I ever owned, usually this important tool was taped to the front down tube of the bicycle. It was also long and heavy enough to ward off any dusted cholo who wanted to give you shit, and take your three speed. Leaves a nice bump.
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Then there are the Cushman pullers that are nothing but a huge piece of metal the screws on the end of the crankshaft, that you beat on with a giant hammer until the flywheel or clutch falls off. Modern technology has nothing on a Cushman engine. Still have a set, but no Cushman engines to go with them.

The tool box has a couple of small drawers in the middle that I store all my vintage spark plugs in. I’ve found that vintage engines run best with vintage spark plugs. You can get any type of plug you need new, in the box from the Brillman Company. Or you can go on ebay and bid for some NOS plugs. I’ve discovered a field effect plug called “The American Eagle” that works the best in my ancient 1920’s Briggs & Stratton resto motors. The plugs are five bucks each on ebay, I’ve got about six of ‘em.

I know that this love affair with my destroyed old Craftsman roll-a-way borders on a sickness, but I’ve had it for so long now, I can’t imagine replacing it with a new one. It’s been with me through the good times and the bad, has held tools and equipment that I needed to use almost daily when I rode a Jawa on the street, and the Whitworth stuff when I rode a BSA. My wife offered to buy me a new 15 drawer tool box from Harbor Freight for my birthday last year, and I almost went off on her. That’s what old stuff does to me, makes me crazy.

So it looks like my messy disorganized Craftsman roll-a-way is here to stay, busted drawers and all. Packed with strange tools and wrenches, that I have to dig through to find a 10mm wobbly-socket. Tools that hold a special place in my life of riding motorcycles, like old friends.
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But I wouldn’t have it any other way.