Tagged: Refurbish

Viscount “President International” – Colour Change

Everyone loves yellow right?! I know I do.

The last post was really just an introduction to the Viscount. I wasn’t really in bad shape; the stickers and frame had scuffs and there were spots of rust on the frame but the main issue were the rims. The old rims had been painted to hide the rust and pitting ,a cheap and nasty fix, so I decided to strip the wheels down and buy new rims. I’m yet to build the wheels up so here’s what’s new.

I decided to bite the bullet and get the whole frameset powder coated the gorgeous Signal Yellow. It’s a risky choice, in terms of profit, but when it comes to quality vs a rattle can spray job it’s a million times better. The components were all dropped off on Monday morning and I picked them up on Wednesday, along with another build…

The finish is beautiful. Smooth and solid all over. In fact, the only imperfection is my attempt at knocking out the dent on the rear mudguard.

I’ve cracked on with reassembling the frame this weekend and it’s looking good. The bottom bracket and crankset went on first. I don’t think there’s a spot of rust on them now and after cleaning out the remnants of the sand blasting the bearings are spinning smoothly. The cranks are stamped Nicklin, which brings me to something I found interesting. Nicklin, are the company that bought Williams, which would make sense seeing as this chain ring closely resembles a Williams model. This makes me think Viscount chose some good quality parts for their bikes.

The headset is another good quality item, made by TDC and after clearing out all the old dirt and grease I found it was almost perfect. New bearings and new grease and the bike was ready for it’s bars. After looking over the original bars I decided to swap them out for a spare set I had which had better chrome. I borrowed a set of brake levers from my spares pile too as the original ones were mismatched and with the finish so far, everything needs to be top quality.

I stripped the calipers down and polished up each part before assembling and fitting the mudguards. My Dremel really came in useful here, so much so, I’ve ordered more polishing compounds to use it on my other projects. It seemed a shame to put the old rusted bolts back on the bike so I’ve used some brand new stainless bolts – I hope whoever buys the finished item appreciates these little details!

Refitting the seat post and seat is about as much as I can do at the moment. I’m waiting on a few more parts to arrive before fitting all the cables and building the wheels. How’s it looking so far?


Two Bikes Fit For The Scrap?

Call me mad, but I’ve bought another two bikes and these two aren’t in the best of shape… As usual I’m always browsing eBay and looking for old bikes. I saw these two pop up a week ago and despite being described as very very rusty I saw potential so decided to watch them. They were a fair distance away from me so I had expectations of leaving the auction to run without my input, however on the day the auction was due to end they still only had one bid. The fifteen minute warning popped up on my phone and they were still sitting there with one bid. This was the moment I considered buying them. I figured the opening bidder might have put their max bid on so with 10 seconds left I put a mid range tester bid on to try and figure out how much they’d bid. I was outbid. So with three seconds remaining I stuck in my maximum and won.


I picked the bikes up today.

The first is a Raleigh Scorpio. I haven’t properly dated it yet and I haven’t found any specific catalgoue for it but from what I have found I feel pretty confident saying it’s late 70s. It’s a 21″ frame with all it’s original 5 speed gear. The leather seat is the thing that caught my eye, knowing full well they are easily worth the £30 I paid. I thought it might be a Brooks saddle and I was almost right. The saddle is stamped “Wrights” and after a quick Google it turns out they are a company owned by Brooks. Instead of sharing the same quality of saddle with their parent brand, Wrights saddle use a slightly lower quality leather but in effect, are still a Brooks production. It does show signs of wear but compared to the saddle on my Trent Sports it’s in brilliant condition!

Overall the bike isn’t too bad. The chain was rusted solid and chucked straight away and the bearings are all rather rough but I really do think most of the components will clean up. The worst part looks to be the stem where the rust has bubbled up under the chrome to a point where a polish won’t really work. Shame, it’s a really nice stem!

For now, this bike will go into storage until a few of the others I’m working on are finished and with the tear down hopefully I can dig up some more information about the Scorpio.

The second bike is a mess. It’s 100% the worst condition bike I’ve ever bought. It’s covered in rust, battered and broken. This bike was not loved.

Let me introduce a 1954 (dated from the Sturmey Archer hub) Claud Butler. I love the designs on the bike. Despite it’s appearance I love the old worn transfers, the chrome plating on the frame under the paint and the beautiful stem. It’s going to test my patience and be a massive challenge but I want to restore the bike to original.

I’ve had a quick search around on the Veterans Cycle Club Library but unfortunately all the catalogues around that times only list “road” or “race” bikes. I’m going to have to look into the history of the bike a lot more to find out about its production and original equipment. As it stands, it isn’t pretty.

I think almost all the bearings are either completely gunked up or seized. The seat post is alloy and I know from experience removing an alloy seatpost from a steel frame can be a massive fight. The rear wheel is locked in place and speaking of wheels, the rims are rusted, missing spokes and bent. The Bluemel mudguards are smashed out of shape and will need a lot of careful loving to persuade them back into shape. It really is fit for the tip but looking at all the details on the frame I feel I have to save it.

So what do you think? Am I mad for thinking these bikes can be saved?

(Apologies for the poor quality phone pictures)

Wheel building and the France Sport

Building my own wheels is not something I really thought about before this France Sport build. Wheels have always been readily available for me to buy and use. This build threw up some problems with that idea though. There are no three speed wheels available, finding a three speed freewheel is rare and the size of rim I need is long gone. It’s forced me to patch together parts from other bikes to make up a wheel set that will work but there’s one thing I need first. Introducing my new wheel building / truing stand:

With the idea of building my own wheels set in my head I had a look around on eBay for some of these stands. The search threw up the usual Park stands along with other brands but they were all well over £100 for a substantial bit of kit. I found this gem hiding in among all the other adverts. It cost me £50 and it’s designed and built by the chap selling them. Every part is laser cut steel and it’s fully adjustable to fit a range of axle sizes and lengths. I think it’s a beautiful bit of kit and it’s coming in handy!

I started by trying out my truing “skills” on a few of the wheel sets I already have. It’s pretty simple to understand and get your head round. A little tighter here, a little looser there… I managed to pull a spare 26″ x 1 3/8″ wheel back to perfectly straight without much effort. The practice did however highlight the rear wheel in my “good” 27″ wheelset was beyond repair. I could true it and make it spin without any side to side wobble but looking from the side I found the rim had multiple flat spots. Nothing much I can do about that but fortunately my 3 speed freewheel fits on the hub so I’ve stripped that wheel down to pinch the hub for the France Sport.

That leaves me with a clean front wheel fitted with a new Continental World tour tyre, a shiny new chain and all the parts (minus the spokes) for a rear wheel build.

The 26″ x 1 3/8″ rims I’m going to be using probably aren’t the original size for the bike. Diameter wise they’re spot on but this size tended to be used on the “town” style bikes. After looking for some advice about sizing on a Facebook group it was suggested the bike probably had a slightly narrower 1 1/4″ rim but the possibility of finding an original replacement for that size is extremely low. The slightly wider rims will do for now!

The next step is to collect all the measurements to work out the ideal spoke length and shorten the OLD spacing slightly so I can build the final piece of the puzzle. Wish me luck.

France Sport – Bringing the 40’s back to life.

I’m super stoked to bring you the progress with this bike. I really hope it makes my Granddad proud.

After the fiasco with the “cheap” powder coating company and another bike I decided to spend a bit more and go elsewhere. I’d been speaking to Paul from Central Wheel Components via email and after answering every question I had and checking out their previous work I took the bike over to them. This was Tuesday morning last week, and after initially being informed I’d have a 2-3 day wait I was really impressed when Wednesday morning I had voicemail saying the bike was done. At lunch I collected it and comparing it to the other company… well, there is no comparison. The quality is spot on, you can tell it’s been thoroughly cleaned and the vital parts protected. The colour is even and glossy; it’s beautiful. It cost £70 for the frame and forks, which is pricey but you pay for quality. I’d recommend them!

Picking up the frame was the kick in the ass I needed. I ordered all the replacement cables etc that evening and spent Thursday and Friday with a box of parts, polish and wire wool cleaning up everything that needed to go back on. The cleaning revealed a few things. For one, the parts are in a lot better condition than I thought and apart from the stem (which has a lot of chrome missing) they didn’t really need any re plating. The cleaning also brought out more information about the components.

The most obvious (and I don’t know how I missed this) was identifying the cranks and chain ring as BSA parts. The big B, S and A built into the chain ring was a big giveaway but I actually saw that second. Underneath all the old dirt I revealed two faint BSA logos and the tooth count (44). BSA stands for “Birmingham Small Arms Company” and as you can guess, they produced guns. They actually produced a lot of items from bikes and motorcycles to guns and buses.

The bottom bracket also cleaned up nicely to reveal Bayliss Wiley (15). There’s not much on Google about this company. They were a British company based in Birmingham founded in 1919 that built, from what I can see, bearings, hubs and bottom brackets.

Today I set about putting the bike together. I started by refitting the Stronglight headset with fresh grease and new bearings. Both this headset and the bottom bracket had two pin holes in them for a tool to tighten them. When I removed them I’d managed to clamp on some mole grips and unwind but I wasn’t sure if the same would work for assembly. It turns out my Granddad had thought ahead and when he’d given me the bike, he’d also sent me a box of spares. It had chains, random fittings and some old tools. One tool in particular had the exact pin layout I needed. Whether it’s something he’s made himself or a genuine tool I don’t know, but it worked!

The bottom bracket was next. I gave it a good clean out first to get rid of any grit but I still had problems with it. First was my own mistake of putting the axle in the wrong way around. It needed the longer side on the left so the pedal could clear the frame, it’s lucky I checked! After that, I’m not sure what happened but when I tried to refit the non drive side, the cup stopped turning half way in. It wouldn’t wind in any further and it wouldn’t undo. I tried cleaning out the pin holes for more grip but it was stuck. The mole grips came to the rescue again and after another clean I managed to get it all fitted properly. The crank arms and pedals went on straight after.

Handlebars and brake levers next. I aligned the levers so the tips sat level with the flat of the bars and then wrapped the bars with some Ritchey “Faux Leather” tape. Brown to match the Brooks saddle. It was fairly expensive tape but it was really nice to wrap with. It feels comfortable and had some stretch to it so I could get a good layer going. I loosened the levers a little to slot the tape underneath just to give a bit of a cleaner finish.

Brake wise; the calipers had a clean and grease, new cables were fitted and new brake pads were adapted. The calipers themselves went straight on, no messing there. The replacement pads were a slightly different design to the original so needed to be adapted slightly. The pads used are 40mm long and can be slipped out of the backing plate. I didn’t want to just swap them out for 35mm blocks so I ordered some replacement Shimano pads. They were more elliptical than oblong so I had to trim a small section from the end to square it up before fitting. Great fit though! In terms of the cables, I’d gone for the best my usual supplier offers, PTFE coated with the pear nipples. I bought some good quality outer cable and alloy end caps too. Cutting the cables to exactly the same size as the old ones, they went on with ease. I haven’t tensioned the cables yet due to not having wheels but they’re almost there. I also need another cable clamp for the top tube. For now I’ve taped the frame where I want the clamps (and to protect the paint) while I look for a pair. They’re super expensive for such a small part though!

What’s left… Saddle and pannier rack! I greased up the seat tube before fitting the seat post but that was still very tight. Not sure why it’s so tight after the thorough cleaning but the grease should stop it seizing again. The Brooks saddle looks amazing! After the saddle came the pannier rack. It’s just a small alloy one but I thought it might be useful to have. Again, I taped up the frame to stop the brackets damaging the paint and clamped it down for an initial alignment.

Gearing! This bike, as I think I’ve said before, has a three speed shifter. An indexed three speed shifter. I’d cleaned the shifter, derailleur and chain tensioner during the week and they came up really well. I absolutely love the copper chain tensioner. It’s beautiful. I still have the old cable on for the derailleur at the moment but don’t worry, there is a new one to go on. As for the wheel side of things I thought I’d got it right with a three speed freewheel. There were only two units on eBay that I could find so I’ve ordered one to try however after researching Bayliss Wiley I’m wondering if the bike used one of the setups I saw in a image of one of their hubs. It did look like it had three sprockets exactly the same size but I’m wondering if that was a technique used… Check it out here.

I think that was about the end of assembly for now. I had hoped one of the 27″ wheel sets I’d picked up would fit but they’re just too big. Fitting the 27″ wheels and looking at where the brake pads were originally aligned to I think it’s safe to say the bike had 26″ wheels originally. One more thing to look for.

So here it is. An almost fully assembled (circa 1940s) France Sport. I realise I still need to fit the head badge too… the rivets are on their way.

France Sport – The fight is over.

This bike has certainly put up a fight, holding onto it’s last part as long as it could. Today, I finally won the battle and removed the offending item so now, I guess it’s time to powder coat!


After the last post I’d left a few parts soaking in an attempt to free them from the frame so while that was going on I started to clean a few parts up. The first to get some treatment were the mudguards. They’re a little beaten in places but generally the condition was pretty good. They had a dull, dirty colour and were speckled with spots of, well, I’m not sure what, so my method of attack involved lots of super fine wire wool and metal polish. It’s going to take a little while longer to get both guards how I want them but for a first attempt I’m impressed. The wire wool didn’t appear to scratch the surface but still managed to cut through the layer of dirt that had built up. The rear guard was a bit more stubborn than the front. It had specks of corrosion (?) that has left pitting so I’m going to have another go at that one soon.


Second on my list to clean were the handlebars. They were covered with the decades old dried glue and some left over bar tape. A stanley blade managed to clear all that and after a quick polish with the super fine wire wool and metal polish I saw they were actually branded. Hidden under all that dirt was the Reynolds branding and the word Hiduminium. After a quick read on Wikipedia, it appears to be an alloy developed before WW2 for use in engines. Reynolds are also mentioned, saying that they began to use the alloy to produce high end cranks and brakes. It seems to go with the age of the bike, the WW2 era.


The stem was one of those components that was “stuck”. My normal method of removing a stem is to undo the bolt slightly and tap down to free the edge before working side to side until it’s free. Unfortunately that didn’t work so I gave it a good soaking in penetration spray. After leaving it for a day, trying again to grip the forks and move the stem, I found I still couldn’t shift it. I refitted the handlebars, grabbed one of my spare wheels and fitted that to the forks. With the wheel clamped between my thighs I could use the handlebars as extra leverage and managed to free the stem. When it was free I discovered this too was made by Reynolds, although I’m yet to find what the “B” stands for. I don’t think it’s going to be possible to revive the chrome on this stem unfortunately so I’m left with a bit of a dilemma.

The way I see it I have three options. Do nothing but try and “tart” it up. Powdercoat. Re-Chroming. I don’t really want to do nothing as it won’t look quite right against a freshly powder coated frame. Powder coating is an idea but I’d quite like to stick as original as possible. The last option, re-chroming, I know nothing about. I it can be done and isn’t too expensive I’d like to get the cranks, headset and seat post done too. That all comes down to price though…


Speaking of the head set, with the stem out and the forks freed I could remove and inspect. The bearings went everywhere when I unscrewed the lock rings. I managed to grab most of them but a few have escaped. New bearings will definitely be going in now (and hopefully the right amount). The condition of the headset itself is pretty poor. All the chrome has flaked off on the exposed parts so I’m in the same situation here as I am with the stem. Do nothing. Powder coat. Re-chrome. It all depends on money.

Seat post

This was the last part to be removed. It put up the biggest fight and was such a pain in the ass! At first I gave it the same dosing of penetration spray as the stem, and even with a few taps to the top to try and break the seal it wouldn’t budge. I gave it a few more treatments of spray from the top before breaking out the blow torch but even that didn’t make it move (I was trying to shift it with some mole grips). Flipping the bike over and taping the top up I flooded the tube with penetration spray and left it for a couple of days, before doing the same thing with some anti rust fluid. Even with heat I still couldn’t get it to move. I’ve been gradually putting more fluid around the top and letting it do it’s thing until today. Today I decided to use a pipe wrench to attack. A refilled blow torch and a pipe wrench biting in seemed to do the job. It turned. Bit by bit I managed to wind the seat post out of the tube, trying to move the wrench around and up at the same time. It wasn’t easy but at least it’s free now! Unfortunately the top is now damaged so like the others will need a new coating applied. It’ll probably need the bite marks grinding down too to make the surface smooth again. I just hope it goes back in after all the work is done!

That’s it for now. I’m going to have to find some money to get the frame and forks coated and then work on something for the chrome parts. I can’t wait to get it all reassembled though. It’ll be nice to see it back to its former glory!

The finished product

Here it is. All done. As promised, I got home from work and got straight to work. First a good sand by hand with some fine grade paper and then a damn good clean before applying a good layer of wax. My wax of choice was a clear Briwax (applied with an old sock) and it’s brought out the grain nicely. When the wax first goes on it creates a deep, rich colour but it does fade slightly after the wax has absorbed. I do need to tweak the hinges of the doors to get them aligned a bit better but as it stands, I’m extremely impressed with the finish. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; bare waxed timber looks 100x better than any dark varnish or painted finish.

Au Naturel

Almost done now. Had another sanding session after work tonight with the belt sander and detail sander teaming up once again. They weren’t quite the be all and end all this time though. I had to break out the sanding block and finish off a few awkward areas by hand. Getting in all the inner edges wasn’t easy at all even after taking off the back panels. I worked up an appetite tonight for sure!

Well here it is in all it’s natural glory. If it’s light when I get home from work tomorrow I’ll give it a finishing sand and start the waxing process. I really like how it looks now and it’s put me in a bit of a dilemma… I sort of want to keep it :/ (Rather than sell it on)

Woodwork – An Update With The Table

After dismantling the table in the last post I thought this was going to be a really awkward restoration but with the help of a few power tools it’s turning out to be quite a nice build. Finding out the centre post was only good enough for a bonfire but it gave me a chance to try out a few things. To replicate the original design I needed to try to shape a hexagonal column and that didn’t fill me with confidence. I managed to find a 120mm x 120mm post at work which was the perfect size to work with but as for shaping a square post into a hexagonal column, the only idea I had was to try to handsaw all the edges. Hand sawing the design shouldn’t have been too hard but after drawing out the pattern on one end I had a bit of a brain wave. At work we have a small planer / thicknesser and I could use that to plane each side to the right angle before running each side through the thicknesser to make sure each face was level. It worked a treat and I’m really happy with the finish.

While I had the planer out I thought I’d remake the top mount too. Cutting a few pieces down to size and running them through the thicknesser was dead simple. To keep in with the original design I fastened it all together with a few smooth shank nails before altering the original design slightly. On the original piece it looks like the column is just nailed to the top mount but I wanted a tight fit so chose to chisel out a recess for the column to sit in. I made it a nice tight fit, spread a little glue in the recess and fully secured it with a few more nails through the top.

After the top was secured I began work on the “mortice” part of the leg joints. I really enjoy carving out timber so it was quite a pleasant job to do. Working out the amount of timber I had to remove before carefully carving out the timber with my chisels was probably the best part of this whole job. After trying to use the abused chisels we have at work in the past I decided to buy my own set but I always make sure I have a sharpening stone with me when I use them so I can stop every now and again and give them a quick tune. It makes life so much easier!

With the base pretty much done all I’ve got left to do is shape and fix the legs. As with the original base, the original legs were too brittle to re-use. I found three pieces of timber and planed them to the right size before transferring the design onto one of the pieces. As with the column I was thinking I was going to have to hand saw the design out of the timber but a power tool saved the day again. I wasn’t sure it would be up to the thickness but my jigsaw worked perfectly in cutting round all the edges. They’re all going to need a bit of tuning with my files but it’s saved me a load of time! I haven’t quite finished the “tenon” parts of the joints yet either so when I’m tuning up the edges I’ll finish those off and get them to be a nice tight fit.

All being well, I can stay after work tomorrow and finish it all off. Once it’s all together I’ll give it a finishing sand before treating it all to a couple of coats of Briwax.