Introduction: Drift Trike From 16 Gauge Steel Sheet

I have access to a CNC waterjet via The Foundery, a community makerspace in Baltimore MD, so I thought it'd be awesome to design some kind of go-cart that uses the waterjet to cut all the parts from a single sheet of 16 gage steel. I used the waterjet to cut perforation lines in the steel so that the whole frame could be folded up to create the chassis like a pizza box using just a couple adjustable wrenches.

Parts List with costs:

  1. 4'x8' 16 gauge steel sheet ($60) King's Architectural Metals
  2. Rear Axle kit ($284)
  3. Head Tube Bearing Kit ($13)
  4. Front Fork ($50)
  5. Twist Throttle ($33)
  6. 26" x 4" front mountain bike wheel
  7. Front Hangle Bar ($20)
  8. Handlebar stem ($8)
  9. Hydraulic Brake Kit ($35)
  10. 6.5 hp engine ($119)

Step 1: Drink Some Coffee and Put on Some Music

Picture of Drink Some Coffee and Put on Some Music

It's like Thomas Edison once said "anything worth doing, starts with caffeine and Beastie Boys". As much as I love the Beasties, there are a few music options that are close in work performance facilitating, which include but are not limited to:

  • Dropkick Murphy's
  • The Dirty Heads
  • Sublime
  • Flogging Molly
  • Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" (the only song worth listening to by Mr. Nugent...but it's super long and will almost get you through this entire build.

*Thomas Edison may or may not have been the originator of that may have actually just come from myself.

Step 2: Cut Out the 4 Frame Components

OK, this is it! This is the most important section of this instructable. All my hours spent designing this trike frame, free for anyone to build their own!

Using either a CNC plasma cutter, waterjet or laser; cut each of these 4 parts out of the steel sheet. You could break these up and cut all the parts from two 4'x4' sheets of 16 gage steel.

Once you cut them out, clean all the parts with acetone or alcohol. DO NOT clean the parts with brake cleaner! In case you did not know, welding steel parts that have been cleaned in brake cleaner or any thing chlorinated creates a phosgene gas (a very toxic gas) that can kill you at very low levels of exposure! You're welcome ;)

Step 3: Bend Up the Frame Parts!

Picture of Bend Up the Frame Parts!

Bend up the frame components as shown. Be careful to bend them in the correct direction, if you bend them wrong and bend them back you'll most likely fatigue the parts and split the seam.

Step 4: Assemble and Weld the Trike Frame Components

Picture of Assemble and Weld the Trike Frame Components

Now you're getting to the fun parts! The parts should fit together like the birds and bees!...I think that's how that analogy works ;)

The two largest parts fit together to create the main chassis while the smaller parts form the neck. Once the two sub-assemblies are welded the neck tube can be welded upright. make sure the base of the neck tube is flush and parallel with the chassis' bottom surface.

When welding, you can stitch weld 1" on, 1" off to create more than enough shear strength to hold everything together. I used a millermatic 211 MIG welder set to voltage level 4 and a wire feed of 40. Wear a respirator even if you're welding in a well ventilated area. Don't change any health risks.

Step 5: Weld on the Head Tube

Picture of Weld on the Head Tube

I turned my head tube from a piece of 1.5" round tubing to create the right inside diameter from my neck bearing kit. You can buy 8" neck tubes already for welding on to your frame from a local bike shop for online stores that sell parts for building your own bicycles.

Step 6: Paint Your Frame

Picture of Paint Your Frame

The Foundery has a powder coating station, so I'm spoiled. Spray painting the frame will be just as good. Take your time here, because after assembly things will be very difficult to touch up.

Step 7: Assemble the Trike!

Picture of Assemble the Trike!

Assembling the trike was my favorite part of the build. My son, Aidan, helped me assemble it and it was awesome. Things went together pretty smooth. Here's the order at witch i assembled it:

  1. Front fork and wheel
  2. Front brakes
  3. Rear axle
  4. Engine and centrifugal clutch
  5. Rear wheels/tires
  6. Handle bars
  7. Twist Throttle

Step 8: Take It for a Spin!

Picture of Take It for a Spin!

OK, I lied...and I feel bad about that. Taking the trike for it's first ride was definitely my favorite part of this project. This thing had me grinning from ear-to-ear. It's just a blast to ride!

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable! Let me know if you have any questions.



cleokarts (author)2017-11-18


I would like to make this drift trike with the plans. But for the front wheel, I have an old dirt bike fork with a 21-inch wheel. Will this wheel work with the frame?



DelB2 (author)2017-11-15

Works great. Thanks Corey!

DelB2 (author)2017-11-13

The vector files you uploaded (dwf & dxf) are still not downloadable. The pdf is downloadable but it is not complete when you download it. It covers about half the document. I tried this on 2 different browsers with no luck. Perhaps I'm missing something? This project is really cool. I'd like to give it a go on my plasma table.

cfleis1 (author)DelB22017-11-14

try my newest uploaded zip-folder with the vector files.


scrat2008 (author)cfleis12017-11-15

Thanks Corey. Zip file is fine.

famfilho (author)2017-11-13

Sorry my friend, but it is impossible to download the trike files dwg/dxf. And trike.pdf it1s not correct.

Could you make them available to us? Or informe where we can do this downloads.

Thanks in advanced.

cfleis1 (author)famfilho2017-11-14

Just up-loaded a zip-file with the vector files. Let me know if it does/doesn't work!


scrat2008 (author)2017-11-14

perfect project. please upload "trike.dxf" or "trike.dwg" one more. this is not downloadable.


cfleis1 (author)scrat20082017-11-14

I added the a zip file with the 3 file formats. Let me know if this does/doesn't work.


wrsexton (author)2017-11-14

Excellent idea. And makes me wonder if one couldn't build a fun gokart using this same technique. wouldn't spin as much but might be fun off road.

famfilho (author)2017-11-13


This project is the best my friend, I want to congratulate you on the initiative and the detail!! Thank you very much!!

EddieH10 (author)2017-11-12

I cant get the DXF file to download for cutting. Can you Help?

cfleis1 (author)EddieH102017-11-13

I just re-uploaded 3 types of vector formats for the trike files. I hope that fixes it!


EddieH10 (author)cfleis12017-11-13

Thank you sir... I'll see what I can do with them. I hope it works

markwhitefab (author)2017-11-13

I've got the plasma table ready to cut the parts but I cant download the DXF file. What am I missing? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

cfleis1 (author)markwhitefab2017-11-13

I just re-uploaded 3 types of vector files! Let me know if that doesn't fix it!

ps don't forget to vote for this instructable in the "metals" contest!

Véronique og RasmusM (author)2017-11-12

Should we avoid acetone or brake cleaner or both? - text is ambiguous. Otherwise kudos and congrats with an awesome build!

Thanks for the catch! I fixed the text!


Use acetone - avoid brake cleaner

Survive-Pi (author)2017-11-12

Love your build. Great commentary, love your writing style. Just to clarify..."clean with acetone..." "Don't use brake clean..." "acetone toxic when welding..."...

cfleis1 (author)Survive-Pi2017-11-13

I just updated that text. Thank for catching that!

jalessi (author)2017-11-12

Is it possible to email the dxf files for some reason the download is not working

Thank you and have a most awesome day!

cfleis1 (author)jalessi2017-11-13

I re-uploaded the file formats in 3 types of vector files. Hope that fixes it. I'll email you the files as well! Don't forget to vote for this instructable in the "Metals" contest;)


batcrave (author)2017-11-12

I may be misreading something (it was hard to hear some of your typing over the volume of the Dropkicks), but I was a little confused by this statement:

"...clean all the parts with acetone or alcohol. DO NOT clean the parts
with brake cleaner! In case you did not know, welding steel parts that
have been cleaned in acetone creates a very toxic gas that can kill you
at very low levels of exposure!"

Is that second "acetone" supposed to read "...cleaned in brake cleaner creates..."? Or does it mean that welding after brake cleaner should be avoided because it does something even worse than just causing instant gassy death? (like, I don't know... shorting out the stereo? decaffeinating the coffee?)

cfleis1 (author)batcrave2017-11-13

Great catch!!! Yeah that second part should read "parts cleaned in brake cleaner give off a toxic gas when welded". I have edited and corrected my post. Thank you!

deluges (author)batcrave2017-11-13

Yeah I came here to say that as well. Acetone works just fine to clean metal, it will not react with it and if you let it evaporate before you start welding you're not adding any risk at all. Brake cleaner will contain less volatile chemicals, some of which might remain as a thin layer onto the metal and decompose into toxic gases when heated during soldering.

iverss01 (author)2017-11-13

Step 1 is definitely the most important! The right mind is needed for every project.

davidags (author)2017-11-13

Can you please email the dxf file.

deluges (author)2017-11-13

Very nice build!

DelB2 (author)2017-11-12

Great project! I’m not able to download the dxf file from the link above. Will you be making it available?

Kardolf (author)2017-11-12

What are the turquoise pieces in the rear wheels, and where did you source them?

guthrie (author)Kardolf2017-11-12

The turquoise pieces are pvc pipe. It looks like the kind used for sewer pipe. You can find it at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

EddieH10 (author)Kardolf2017-11-12

The Turquoise pieces are PVC pipe that you slide over the tires to make it a drift trike..

Pa1963 (author)Kardolf2017-11-12

They're hard plastic sleeves, used to make the rear tires very slick and easier to throw the trike into a slide. Probably preserves the tire rubber as well.

jec0435 (author)2017-11-12

You had me at step 1! ;) Great start to this amazing instructable.

AMbros Custom (author)2017-11-12

This looks to be a very crazy ride..

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2017-11-09

That looks like so much fun!

cfleis1 (author)Penolopy Bulnick2017-11-12

It's a blast!

bobbyflatscreen (author)2017-11-09

This is really cool, its a good approach other than welding together scrap frames, I just think the front tire is big but it looks cool like a chopper

cfleis1 (author)bobbyflatscreen2017-11-12

Thanks! I really didn't have much options for a good size wheel, but I agree, it does make it look a big-wheel chopper. Thanks for the comment!


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