Danny’s Yamaha XS650 Cafe Racer: Custom Tail Light

Custom Tail Light cap on the lathe

Custom Tail Light cap on the lathe

Sometimes custom bike building just takes fresh inspiration.  It may come in the form of a song, a photo, or in Danny’s case, seeing 100,000 motorcycles strewn across a field, all with their own story to tell.   After our trip to Mid-Ohio Vintage Days, Danny was inspired.  The minute we got back, work continued on the Yamaha XS 650 Cafe Racer, and a custom tail light…

Custom tail light cap and vintage lens....

Custom tail light cap and vintage lens….

Danny had always planned on making his own custom tail light, since the stock tail light would not fit the look of the custom Yamaha XS 650 Cafe Racer.  Working from raw aluminum stock, a design was developed that would better fit the new lines of the bike.  With the stock available in the garage, there was concern about wasted material, but that’s what a prototype is for.  Use what you need to, to get the piece looking great, and then work backwards from there, to determine a more efficient way of making it.

The body of the custom tail light during turning...

The body of the custom tail light during turning…

Danny began the project with 3″ round stock.  Using the lathe, the center was first bored out, from the solid piece of aluminum.  Then he made 2 distinct, internal chambers.  One would hold the light fixture, the other would be the light (bulb) chamber, where the lens cap would eventually attach.  It’s time consuming to turn down a solid piece like this, but Danny patiently worked the lathe, slowly getting the 2 chambers cut to the exact size needed.

Custom tail light cap

Custom tail light cap

The hardest part was the cap.  The internal diameter needed to be stepped to allow a ridge, which would hold the lens.  Also, the external wall of the cap would only be a few millimeters thick, so care had to be taken to get the piece perfectly aligned on the lathe.  lack of a large enough 3-jaw, self-centering chuck made alignment tedious, but Danny finally got it, and the cap turned out perfect (no pun….).

Custom tail light completed....

Custom tail light completed….

After the body and cap were cut to size, tested and retested, the 2 pieces were finally mated, and the design worked perfectly.  The bulb and it’s fixture were installed  through the back of the housing, and the cap snugly slid onto the face.  A couple holes were drilled and tapped to secure the cap, and the piece was done.

A mount was made quickly, and the light will now attach to the Yamaha XS 650 Cafe Racer under the raised rear hoop.  Perfect!

One thought on “Danny’s Yamaha XS650 Cafe Racer: Custom Tail Light

  1. Can’t wait to see the bike Danny! Hope all is well in Brooklyn and there is a good chance we will be seeing you and Scott soon. Have a good one.

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