Custom Chopper Dashboard

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Introduction: Custom Chopper Dashboard

About: I'm a professional sound and light engineer that does a bit of electronics and programming on the side. I'm trying to improve my metalworking and welding. Besides being an avid biker I'm also a scout and a vol…

I recently bought my first motorbike, Yamaha Virago 535. Since the winter is too wet and cold to drive it and I can't really keep away, I decided to do a little upgrade.

The idea came from a friend who already did a similar project on his motorcycle. I decided to build a custom dashboard to house the speedometer, a marine radio, 12V socket, a switch tor the extra headlights and all the indicator lights.

DISCLAIMER:

I accept no responsibility whatsoever for any damage, injury or fine that might occur while making or using the custom add-ons. Always use your best judgment when operating power tools, using chemicals and disassembling potentially vital parts of your motorcycle. Make sure DIY modifications are street-legal in your area.

Step 1: Tools, Materials and Supplies...

Here is a short list of things that I used:

Tools:

  • Various screwdrivers
  • Ratchet and sockets set
  • Various wrenches
  • A set of Allen (hex) keys
  • A torque wrench
  • Sharpie
  • Ruler
  • Craft knife
  • Sanding paper
  • Putty blade

Materials:

  • Cardboard
  • Duct tape
  • Styrodur insulation panels
  • Epoxy resin
  • Fiberglass mate
  • Putty
  • Mold separation wax/ light grease
  • 5mm (1/4") plywood
  • Plywood nuts
  • PVA glue

Other supplies (electronics):

Step 2: Disassembly and Measurements

First of all I had to remove the original speedometer and make room for my new dashboard.

To do that, in my case, I first had to remove the windshield, disassemble the main headlight, disconnect all the wiring and then remove the headlight housing. I also removed extra headlights as I will be replacing them with LEDs.

I took a lot of photos and measurements in this stage so I could sketch various versions of the dashboard. At first I taught I would model the whole thing in FreeCAD but it took me too much time so I proceeded with cardboard model.

Your particular motorcycle might be different, so if in doubt consult a service guide (I strongly recommend Haynes or Clymer)

When disconnecting the wiring (in my case in the main headlight) I used different colored cable ties to indicate which wires go together and to keep them kind of tidy. I suggest taking some photos so you can put all the wires and cables back to where they were originally.

Make sure to clearly mark/note everything so you are not left with a stray wire when putting things back together. If it does happen consult one of the service guides mentioned above.

Use torque wrench to tighten screws up to specification (see service guide).

If you are removing the handlebar (like I did) make sure to mark its original position and be careful not to damage any cords/lines.

Step 3: Cardboard Model

As I was not very used to the CAD software at the time I decided to model my dashboard out of cardboard.

I first made just a rough draft to make sure everything fits size-wise and to get a feel for what it might look like. No fancy curves, just rough corners.

Once I was sure everything will fit I started the second, more refined model (with some hints of the curvature I wanted on the top). I still only approximated the end shape but decided to do the final smoothing and shaping on the styrodur model in the next step.

At this point I also started thinking about fastening the dashboard to the handlebars and made several mental notes to use later.

Step 4: Styrodur Model/mold

Just before I started making the Styrodur model I decided to make some in situ design changes so that the dashboard lines will follow the shape of the handlebar. I used both the cardboard model to determine the position and the paper stencils to find the right angles.

When I was happy with the shape I transferred it to the Styrodur panel and started cutting. As I didn't prepare separate stencils for each cross-section I cut three identical pieces and then transferred on the final shape I wanted.

I Used an exacto knife to do the rouggh trimming of each segment and then glued and screwed all three togehter. PVA wood glue turns out to be great for this purpouse.

Before I started sanding down the styrodur, I prepared several paper stencils so I could assure the symmetry and check for my final shape. Worth noting at this point is that I made the model about 5mm (1/4") smaller as I was going to use it as an internal mold and I had to account for the epoxy & fiberglass thickness.

I did the sanding with a vibration sander with a relatively fine grain paper (60 - 80) as the material sands very fast. While sanding I kept checking the shape with my stencils.

After I achieved the final shape I covered the whole thing in car-repair fiberglass filler, making sure I filled all the lines where the model was glued together and some small sanding crimes.

I did several passes of filler and sanding before I was satisfied and ready to move on to the next step.

Notes:

I used 4cm - 1.5" styrodur panels as I had some left over from a previous project, but working with thinner (2cm - 3/4") material would be much easier and more precise.

Step 5: Epoxy & Fiberglass, Finishing, Brackets

With the model completed it's time to make the real thing.

I first coated the entire model with PVA glue and some light grease as release agent. I know there are commercial solutions out there but I anted to keep it simple. Also I wasn't really concerned with the finnish on the inside.

I mounted a plywood flange to the top face of the model so that I had somewhere to mount the front panel later.

I coated everything with the epoxy resin and then added several layers of fiberglass matte and more epoxy. I was aiming for about 5mm (1/4") thickness. I made sure the flange was well seated in the epoxy.

After it dried I I took out the model but I ended up pretty much cutting and scraping it out as my DIY release agent didn't really work too well.

I trimmed the edges about 5mm above the flange and covered everything in a few coatings of fiberglass filler.

I alse made some cardboard models for the mounting brackets based on the real thing this time. I decided not to drill any holes in the housing yet just to have some flexibility when actually mounting it.

I did drill the two bigger holes for all the cables in the bottom.

For the paintjob I went to a local car paint shop together with another painted part of the motorcycle for color reference. They charged me about 20€ and did a great job in matching the color and painting my housing.

While I was waiting for the paintjob I made the mounting brackets out of some 3mm (1/8") stainless steel sheet based on the cardboard models.

Step 6: Front Panel

Once I had the housing pinted and mounted I transferred the exact front panel shape to a piece of paper and glued it onto a 5mm (1/4") plywood sheet. I went through several versions of the layout beforehand and transfered the chosen one on the same paper. I then cut the plywood to shape with a jigsaw and drilled all the holes.

After some test fittings and final corrections I painted the panel black and mounted in all the instruments.

As I moved the spedometer, I had to buy a slightly longer speedo cable as the original one was just a bit too short.

Step 7: Electrics

There were quite a lot of work still with the electrical retrofitting.

Here's what I wanted:

  • separate left and right turn signal indicator lights (originally I had only one),
  • emergency blinkers switch (not equipped originally),
  • swithces for extra figh and low beam lights,
  • all extra gadgets (radio, 12V plug) should be wired through a separate fuse and a relay preventing unwanted battery drainage

I started with adding 4 relays with integrated fuses under the seat near the battery. I then wired one of them to the key switch so that it shuts off all the extras when I turn the motorcycle off. I used another one of the relays for the extra high beam lights and another one for the horn.

I had to add several additional cables running from under the seat to the dashboard.

I wanted to preserve as much of the original wiring as possible so In most cases I simply made "extenders" between the original connectors and tapped off where needed from those.

Step 8: Ride and Enjoy!

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