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Story of learning Aluminium Gas welding & Building Aluminium Tanks

I wanted to make the tank out of Aluminium so it can never get the rust as well as I also took it as an opportunity to build my first aluminium tank and experience the process which can help improvise my skills of shaping aluminium.

It was early 2018 when I was working on the Royal Enfield Cafe Racer kit. My initial idea was to build all the parts from Aluminium, something which I had never tried before. I had just shifted to my new workshop and it was going to be a difficult task to work on aluminium. I lacked both the equipment and skill set for working on aluminium. I could not even experiment as the TIG I had bought earlier was not AC/DC. When I inquired for the machine capable to do Aluminium welding, it was very costly, almost around 50k so there was no chance I was going to buy it. So only option left was Gas welding setup as it was cheaper compared to the TIG welding.

So, I setup everything as per YouTube videos and with the help of some information available on internet. As we all know, things look much easier on YouTube but they never turn out to be when we actually get down to doing it.

I started wasting a lot of aluminium during this. I practiced for a week and learned some basics with which I could experiment on actual parts. I had wasted almost 4x4ft 1.5mm aluminium sheet but it was all worthy.

Then I took the risk of trying my new welding skills on actual part which was fuel tank, I somehow managed to weld the pieces but the welding line were very rough and I faced a lot of difficulties during the final finishing, as I wanted to keep the bare metal finish.

Sadly, after wasting two weeks, I decided to switch to Mild steel for completing the kit on time. As in business there is always a time limit which you cannot cross. The project turned out great and I got busy with other things.

After a year I got the opportunity to restore A Mini Bullet 200cc. All the original parts of bike were in good condition expect the tank. It was totally rusted and in a bad shape.

I decided to the take help of my denter who was a master at building tanks. I had experience of building new tanks but had never tried my hand at restoration. In addition, I was helping out with the family business so time constraints were keeping me at bay from experimenting.

The denter collected the tank from shop and I instructed him to restore the tank and surprisingly he came back after 3 days with a new tank. It was a replica of an old tank, When I asked him why he made a new tank instead of restoring the old tank he said that the original tank was in bad shape and could not be fixed. So, I asked him what he’ll charge for the new tank he had made and he told me that he’ll let me know.

Next day I fitted the tank on the bike, as all the work on the engine, carb etc was done. When I saw the complete bike for the first time, I didn’t like the overall design coming out mostly because of the tank shape.

"When I explored bike’s original pictures in the beginning for the very first time , that time also I didn’t like the shape of tank but restoration means keeping things original in shape and stance."

I sent the pictures to the bike owner, he was pleased with what he saw and felt that it looked just like the original. However, I was not happy with the tank and wanted to make sure that it had excellent design and stance, reflective of the other bikes that I had worked on.

I got busy with other work and after few days the denter came back to check if I have fitted the tank. I asked him again what’s he going to charge for the tank as I had some experienced with him before charging much higher than what its worth. After thinking for 10mins in front of me he said minimum 12k for sure!

At first, I really thought he is joking but he said it twice and I was shocked! A tank smaller than Enfield tank, should not cost this much! Despite being handmade I felt he was charging too much. So, I told him that I can only pay him 6k but not more than that for sure, I also inquired about how much other denters were charging for similar jobs. Few of them told me they could do it for around 2k. I tried to negotiate a appropriate cost for the tank but he was not budging from the initial 12k. Eventually he told me that he had a client ready to buy this tank for 12k.

I was surprised to hear this, I really wanted to meet that person who was willing to pay 12k for this small tank, I immediately removed the tank from bike, gave it back to him and asked him to leave.

For the next few days I was thinking of what to do next and called the owner of the bike if he would allow me to change the design of the tank and he said do whatever you want to do as he got some genuine recommendation of my work from someone close to him. So, I started thinking about the shape of tank and how to build one etc.

It was the time of March and just few months back in November I was in Goa for Rider Mania and visited Enfield Garage cafe where they have fully restored old Interceptor in red.

I fell in love with that motorcycle very first time I saw it. I wanted similar retro stance, styling for the Enfield 200. I also wanted to make the tank out of Aluminium, to avoid rusting. I also took it as an opportunity to build my first aluminium tank and experience first-hand the process which could help me improve my metal shaping skills.

I got back to the shop full time with new projects and started experimenting with aluminium welding again so I could build the Mini Bullet tank. It took me around 15 days to practice and improvise my skills of aluminium welding. Wasted good amount of aluminium scrap this time as well.

But due to previous experience during cafe racer kit development I figured out errors and got them corrected. Eventually I started getting good welding joints and lines. Now it was the time to start building the aluminium tank.

"As I never had built the aluminium tank before, I was bit nervous and excited as well."

I traced out the material to cut from original tank as wanted to keep the same dimensions as the original one and started shaping the tank, you can see the whole process here -

The final Tank in GT/Interceptor RED Paint

You can check detailed pictures of the projects in the Motorcycle section - Mini Bullet

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