Thursday, April 27, 2017

Short Guide: Lugged and Brazed Versus Fillet Brazed

Sometimes you hear people talk about old, steel framed bicycles as being "lugged and brazed" or "fillet brazed". What is that?

Start by remembering that the bicycle frame begins as a bunch of metal tubes. Let's say like most old bikes, we have steel tubes for a frame. This 1970-ish Raleigh Sprite has plain steel tubes. They're not any kind of exotic alloy or exotic shape - just steel tubes.

 You need some way of joining the steel tubes, so you have a couple choices - you could melt the steel itself where tubes come together (welding). Why not just do this? Well, many cheap steel department store bikes today do that. Older balloon tire bicycles did that too - they were not concerned about weight. Many basic Schwinn bikes did a special form of welding up through the early 1980s.

The problem with welding is that, for many years, it required tubes with relatively thick, heavy walls. With a nice bicycle, you want to keep the strength high while lowering the weight. Welding makes a strong frame, but you're giving up some lightness.

Another option is "brazing" the steel frame. Brazing is to take another metal, generally an alloy with a lower melting point than steel, and to join the steel tubes by melting this other metal and using it as a sort of "glue". This allows you to use thinner walled steel tubes while still building a sufficiently strong frame.

One way we could accomplishing brazing is by taking a hollow "elbow" of sorts that is bigger than the frame tubes, stick the tubes into the hollow elbow, and braze the whole thing together. When someone talks about an old, "lugged" frame, that's what he or she means.

 At left you can see a Raleigh frame. The lugs are where the tubes join each other. The lug is an elbow-like sleeve used to join two different tubes. We can get away with the lighter tubing than welding.
 At right, this Raleigh Sports has lugs at each end of the head tube. The sockets allow joining the head tube and the other tubes of the main frame section without having to resort to heavier tube walls and welding.
So do you really need sockets to braze a bicycle together, or is that the only alternative to welding? Well, you could fillet braze the bicycle together. You don't need lugs for that, and you can still use better tubing than heavy, welded steel.

In order to fillet braze you'll again be taking softer alloy with a lower melting point to use as your "glue" for the frame tubes. But this time, you'll be cutting miters or "fish mouths" into the ends of some of your tubes. The result is that the frame actually fits together without any brazing material - and if the frame is good, the fit will be very close. It's sort of like a jig saw puzzle where on tube fits directly onto the next through cut-outs.

 The Schwinn New World at left is fillet brazed. Fish mouths are cut into the top and down tubes. They fit closely to the head tube, the brazing material is melted and worked into the close joint.
 At right is the seat cluster on the same frame. This time, the seat tube is joining a fish-mouthed top tube and brazing worked into the joint.
Here's the bottom bracket. That "slag" or "blob" around the joint is the brazing material. The other joints are smoother because these blobs of brazing are filed down to be smoother.

So which is better? I can't say as either one is necessarily better. They just accomplish the same thing in different ways.

In fact, Schwinn's top-of-the line Paramount bikes were lugged rather than fillet brazed. But there are plenty of examples of well-made fillet brazed Schwinns and other bikes that survive to this day.

My suggestion is to try both, and perhaps own an example or two of both types of construction. They can each be very attractive and a lot of fun to ride.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Good and Bad

We've had quite a lot of rain here lately, and the next two days are supposed to be non-stop rain events. So I got a little time this weekend to ride this Raleigh Sprite 5-speed.

The ride is somewhere between a utility 3-speed and a 10-speed road bike, which is expected. It has the weight and geometry of a 3-speed Raleigh, but with a closer ratio transmission and 2 more gears.

It's a fun bike to ride and in excellent shape.

On the downside, people are now dumping more and more garbage in the nature area near where I ride.

There are signs and a hefty fine for littering, but people continue to dump whole bags of garbage right into the swamp. This is unacceptable, and it is sheer laziness that drives people do this sort of thing. I do hope the police catch and fine these individuals.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Copake Bike Auction - Good Stuff

Those of you familiar with the Copake Bicycle Auction probably know these auctions often bring out some very nice, and unusual bikes.

So here are a few of my favorites from this auction's lots:

Raleigh Golden Arrow (1930s with updates)

This Raleigh road bike is an early mode from the 1930s - look at the open frame geometry common to that period. The bike has gotten a few upgrades that appear to date to the 1950s or 60s.

Most prominent is the derailleur-Sturmey hybrid gearing, producing a 9-speed bike. The hub is an AW from 1937, with the later derailleur system added, but which is also a vintage item itself.

1950s Raleigh Lenton Grand Prix

Here's a nice Raleigh Lenton from the 1950s. This bike is in good shape, and I really like the dark-white combination paint scheme. This one is a later Lenton with derailleur gearing, but the condition is just so good that it's really remarkable still.

Pre-WWII Columbia/Westfield

Here's an American-made bike from before WWII, but featuring a diamond frame, 2-speed coaster brake gearing and a 21 inch, adult frame. It's very similar to the Sports Roadster bikes of the period, and I actually own a 1940 Westfield Sports Roadster a lot like this bike.

This variation seems to have gotten a balloon-tire style chain guard and a two-tone paint scheme on the head tube.It also has an earlier-style stem and handlebars. The saddle is in the style of a balloon tire or pre-balloon antique.

This and the 1930s Raleigh road bike with hybrid gearing (shown earlier) are the most "interesting" bikes, to me. This one has a really neat combination of pre-balloon, balloon, and pre-war lightweight utility bike features. This oddball really is representative of the mix of parts you might see on an American-made lightweight in the 1930s-40s.

And good luck to everyone bidding today.

Monday, April 17, 2017

1941 Schwinn New World

There's nothing quite like a nice evening for a bike ride - 70 and sunny. This 1941 Schwinn New World is still a great riding bike.

 The graphics are worn a bit, but still in pretty good shape. The iconic Schwinn cross is mostly there.
 This bicycle is deceptively light - lighter than a similarly sized Raleigh Sports bike. The ride would certainly be familiar to Raleigh riders, but it would just feel a little "zippier".
 The red paint is a bit faded and worn in spots, but the overall presentation is pretty good.

One of the surprising things is just how good the old Wald-made parts are on this bike - the handlebars and stem. Wald became known for cheaper parts in later years, but these pre-WWII Wald parts were used on the lightweights of the late 1930s and early 1940s. This stem also appeared on many balloon tire bikes of the era. They're well-made, with good plating.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

It's Easter Sunday 2017 already. But this Easter felt more like the 4th of July or Memorial Day - 92 and sunny here today. I took a ride on this 1947 Schwinn Continental.

It's a great riding bike - light, quick, and responsive.

There were plenty of people in their yards grilling for Easter, which really gave the day even more of a "summer" feel.

Happy Easter.