BrassCycleWorks steampunk racer build.


XS650 Enthusiast
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stroudsburg PA
In this thread I'll document my current build efforts. I promise there will be a lot of pictures ;).
The bike is an 1979 XS650 that I bought for $650 from a friend of my mine who lost interest. I'll try to make a steampunk cafe racer out of it.

Here's the bike.
I had to start somewhere. I decided to tackle the speedo and tach first. The gauges where in poor shape with dents, rust, faded faces, heat warped indicators. I took the gauges apart, then I scanned both faceplates in to the Photoshop. Then I created my own simplified designs. In the next step I've printed the files onto a backing paper from an adhesive label using an laser printer. This is done so the file can be etched to a brass plate.

This a test print and a polished brass plate.

A test brass plate after etching, painting and sanding. I wasn't happy as the smaller details didn't came out right. Back to Photoshop to make some adjustments.

Modified design,printed files and polished brass plates.

Printed designs were cut and taped to the brass plates, then I sandwich them with a piece of cardboard and put the whole assembly in to the oven at 420 so the ink can transfer from vinyl paper to the brass plates.
Trip meter reset knob was also discolored and not in great shape so it was time to make a new one.

Turning the knob shaft.

Milling the grooves

Finished knob

Last thing I did today was to test the lighting for the gauges. I considered many different options however, electroluminescent tape should work the best. It is flat (less the 1mm) so it will fit the gap between the gauge faceplate and plastic cup perfectly. It is wide at 10mm, has a adhesive backing and not expensive. Only downside is not very bright, not visible at all at daytime, at night should be OK.


I'm curious about the printer, ink and paper you're using? Etching brass is a skill I'd like to learn.
I'm fairly new to the brass etching but my process is based on many few youtube videos about pcb board etching.
My printer is a cheap one from Amazon brother laser printer HL-L2300D around $50 with a starter cartridge.
Settings are below in a picture/ you want the print as dark and intense as possible.

many of the videos call for sanding and/or scotch bright preparation of the surface. It may work for a pcb board but for a finer detail polishing brass will give you a better results. With sanding there will be voids (from sanding) where ink will not stick and etching solution may go under the ink . Polishing will yield much better detail. So I sand my brass piece with 400 grit, then 600 then polish with green compound, then sand with 1200 grid and polish with rouge compound.

I then clean the brass with acetone like 5-8 times until there's on smudges or residue left.

once the brass is prepared I print my design onto a slick paper. I have used averey label paper ( the backing paper of a label) take off the actual label and trash it, print on the shiny side. Make sure not to touch anything with you fingers, cut the paper to size of the brass then carefully position paper on the brass.


Tape the paper to the brass carefully so it will not move. I was doing two plates at the same time so I sandwiched a piece of cardboard in between

If you are just doing one piece use a scrap, then you need to apply heat to transfer ink from paper to brass. You can use laminator, cloth iron etc. I did use an toaster oven set at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. After heat cycle, ink should have transferred to the brass and should look like this. Now you are ready for etching.


An hour and a half ferric chloride batch at 85-90 degrees should give you a very good result. This is what I did, it worked for me YMMV
As others have said, EXCELLENT work! If the rest of the bike gets the attention to detail and artistry that went into the gauges, it's going to be epic!

Question: How did you index the odometer reset knob when milling the grooves? I'd have thought rotary table but it's obviously clamped in a vice.