Bobbing Around: Building a Bespoke Harley Custom. Part 8

I know it’s been a while, but it has honestly taken me this long to finish the battery tray! Not to bore you with excuses, let’s get into it.

Battery Box – I Didn’t Just Charge In…

As with all things when fabricating custom parts, there are more ways than one to skin a cat: I have spent a long time mulling the battery tray over in my mind. This is mainly due to me having some battery issues on my Shovelhead. This led to having to feel the pain of accessing the battery at the side of the road. So for this build I want something simple yet convenient; easy access while looking good.

The Tray Coming together

I have decided to keep the original battery for now.  I have looked at a lot of smaller options, but the only one that is really tough enough to turn over all 1200cc’s of the engine is a lithium-ion one. The price of those is going through the roof, so I’ll stick with what I’ve got. Plus, if I make space for the largest battery that fits, I can always go smaller in the future. With that in mind, I start off by making a sort of sling that sits between the two rear frame rails out of chunky 5mm steel plate.

Tight, but it will go in

There is just enough room for the battery and the chain to sit side by side in the frame (don’t worry I checked before I started!), so I design the tray to hold the battery over to one side. It isn’t welded to the frame at this stage, just sat in place. This becomes important later on.

Rather than just welding it all up and hoping for the best, I employ another little trick that is useful when you have a component that needs to sits correctly in relation to another. First, I make the fixing point on the mudguard, and also bend up a little bracket that it will mount to.

CAD – Cardboard Aided Design

Then I put everything in place on the bike and create a cardboard template to cut out the adjoining piece before tack welding it in. This means that (in theory) everything should fit together as intended after I take it all apart to do final welding. Another good tip is to leave any bolt holes as tight as possible to the bolt diameter while you line everything up. Then, when you are finished drill them a little bit bigger so you have some clearance for paint and final assembly.

Packaging Check

Now with all that done, I put my chain on to see how it will sit with the mudguard, battery, and battery tray all in place. While it does clear everything, I need to do some further modification. The most obvious one is the mudguard – it needs part of it cutting out for proper chain clearance, but I expected that. The not so obvious one is the battery tray, it looks a little close so I decide to make a cut-out in it. Now I am patting myself on the back and feeling very pleased with myself that I didn’t weld it in!


Make sure it’s secure

Next I turn my attention to how I am going to stop the battery jumping ship. Again, I am thinking about road side access here and so I opt for making two straps that are held in place with wing nuts. I cut out two long strips of stainless plate, and use the old “heat it up and bend it in the vice” technique. Some mild levels of encouragement (I hammer it) are employed. To secure them to the battery tray I cut off some lengths of stainless steel thread and weld them into holes drilled in the tray to give it a nice clean finish.

Keeping my options open

And that is about it, all that is left to do is clean up the welds on the tray before final welding it into the frame. With that being said, I will probably tack it in for now, just in case…

Words and Pictures: Tom Shaw

Read the other parts in this excellent series: