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 Little Dream 07 - 'the Corporal'

1986 Honda CB125TD-C - RenovationPart 6

Detailing the Switch-Gear

The switches on the Honda CB125TD-C are wonderful bits of kit. The cases are made of metal, and they have proper balls and springs and 'stuff' inside them, that you can get at with a screw-driver, used, as designed, to undo a screw!

Not like modern stuff that's designed by Lego! All plastic, clips together, and cracks as soon as you try and open it to find out why its not working.

I'm probably a little biased, though, my first job out of university in the mid 1990's was in a factory that made automotive switches for cars. The design motivation in them days was to make switches cheaply, and cram as many functions into them as possible.

They were all made of plastic, and clipped together, and I had the job of stripping down the faulty ones to find out what was wrong with them, because it was usually something mechanical, and I'm a mechanical engineer, but because switches are deemed 'electric' they get designed by bludy 'leccies' who seem to think that mechanics is just levers and springs, and don't understand stresses and fatigue and stuff. Mind you, I have a similar opinion of 'sparks', its like Greek science, you know, varying proportions of earth, wind, fire and water, only they have varying proportions of Volts and Amps, mixed with resistance, inductance and capacitance!

Anyway, there probably wasn't much wrong with these switches to begin with, other than the cases were a bit faded and mottled, and the lettering worn off. Functionally they were OK, and I could have used them as they were..

But, old bikes tend to suffer from electrical gremlins. There's loads of ways that electrics can give hassle, but all too often its a dodgy contact in a switch, or a corroded or loose connector. And as the switches are best taken apart to paint them, worth paying a bit of attention to the workings inside and making it as good and reliable as you can.

1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation  1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation

First things first though, the switches were originally a 'passivated' metal finish, that's to say they were chemically treated, rather than painted, and there was probably a dye in the chemical treatment to tint them a sort of gun-metal grey colour.

As was, the passivation had faded to the mottled murky grey you see in the throttle assembly at the top in the first picture. Not very nice, and difficult to restore to the exact factory finish. I could have tried to find an some shade of grey anthracite to paint them or something 'close' but it wouldn't have given the same look or feel, so no point trying.

On the two silver bike's I'm doing, I'm planning to paint the switches the same silver as the body-work. I think that on a silver bike, colour-matched switches would work quite well, as will colour matching the fork sliders.

On Donna's 'Pup', we have colour matched a lot of fittings, but that's dark Purple, and in the pictures so close to black as to be almost unnoticeable! In fact, switch bottom, in the first 'photo is the finished article in 'Dark-Aubergine' purple, for 'The-Pup'! But, the Corporal's red, and painting too much in red, would be rather too much. Red's a very bold colour, so I decided to go the safe route and paint them black. Which is what Honda did on the later models, like Number-2, shown in the second picture.

Back to the top, first thing to do was prepare the cases, by carefully undoing them, and removing all the electrical gubbins.

1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation 1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation

Once stripped and cleaned they could then be primered and painted, in batch with other small parts. so far, so good....

1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation

Then the lettering could be picked out in fluorescent orange, and all they'd need then was a quick coat of lacquer, and the electrical gubbins could be all be sorted and put back in.......

Oh no, these switches didn't want to play ball! The lettering paint just didn't want to work. It went well on the large recessed lettering for the lights 'Hi' and 'lo', but everywhere else, it either wouldn't 'take' or simply bled. Back to the drawing board, or more precisely, the paint stripper and rotary wire brush.

 1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation 1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation

Attempt 2. after stripping the cases were primered white, rather than grey, and I attempted to apply the lettering detail to the recesses before applying the black.

Only, I couldn't find ANY way to practically mask it, so that it worked! I tried all-sorts. Masking tape, Vaseline, candle wax. And simply painting over and then trying to polish through. None of it worked, and I eventually decided that the lettering had to be added after. But the only way to get it to 'take' and not bleed was to etch out the rebates after painting with black, and I'd get almost ALL of them done, then I'd get a chip, or fleck or scratch, and have to start again! This was NOT a job for the feint hearted!

1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation

Anyway, EVENTUALLY I managed to get one switch set, the left-hand switch set, done and looking half reasonable. Lettering, wasn't as bright as I'd hoped, but it looked as good as the one on the Black-One, so good enough. And, I have to admit, that was ACTUALLY destined for Donna's 'Pup', but I was just about to start the right-hand, twist-grip casings, when she decided on the colour change to 'Not-Quite-Black', so that one was done in Dark-aubergine, and the one we'd spent so long trying to get it right on, was put on The-Corporal, while the Corporal's Switch cases were painted Dark-aubergine, to go on 'The-Pup'!

Then just a case of cleaning, greasing and putting the electricall gubbins back in!

1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation  1986 Honda CB125TD-C - Renovation

Three pictures and a few words is not a lot to show for all the nitty gritty effort, cleaning contacts with fine sand-paper, fiddling with horrible pingie springs & ball bearings, or using T-Cut to clean  years of grim and scratches from iddy-biddy buttons.... BUT that is where the attention to detail pays off, making the bike look like new again.

NEXT: Part 7 - Renovating the Dials

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