Sunday, September 9, 2012


 2 Weekends of work, and you end up blue...

After rebuilding the coaster brake, I set about re-building the front end with period Columbia parts I got through a parts exchange on the interwebs. The primary purpose of the internet is to find useful and interesting old junk. In this case I was able to get a 1950s Columbia front fork and front fender. The fork came from a red bike and needed repainting. The fender was the correct color but needed some shaping.

I started by taking oven cleaner and stripping off the old red paint. My bike is blue and blue is not red, unless your wife tells you it is. Since I am not yet married, blue is still blue... at least for the time being.



The oven cleaner is the usual junk you find at the store. It smells of lye and really eats at the paint. Acetone would work too but since I had the oven cleaner around, I just used that.





This is the fork after being stripped. It' sin good shape and there's no real pitting. For a 60+ year old piece of steel, it has done pretty well. The threads at the top attach to a ring that hold it in place in the frame. Ball bearings help allowed the fork to turn, and of course that's how you steer the bicycle. A straight, sound front fork is important to how the bike rides. If it's bent, the bike will veer to the side. If it breaks, you die. If you don't die, you'll wish you did when people come to visit you in the hospital and think you were stupid for trying to ride the bike. 




 After stripping the fork, I got some automotive primer to prepare it for painting. I sprayed it down with grey primer. This is not 50 shades of grey, it is one shade- automotive shade, also known as dull. If you have never painted a bicycle, or anything else with a spray, you usually want to prime so that the actual paint has a decent surface to adhere to. The primer also can be used to smooth out imperfections in the metal. The window is open to help with the fume build up. Shut the window and lose IQ points. It stays open.




While that was  drying, I prepared an old garbage can with Oxalic Acid. Oxalic acid is a chemical normally used to bleach decks. In this case I use a diluted form to remove rust. The cool thing about it is that it will not attack the paint much, if at all, but it will dissolve the rust. Here is the somewhat rusty fender on the way into the water. It has to soak for quite awhile. If you look very carefully, you can actually see that below the water line, the white stripe is quite clean. Above the water, there is still rust on the stripe.






 When you're done, the fender looks like the picture above. It's pretty clean now, but still has some surface wear. That can be smoothed out later with a little polish and filler paint. I had some matching paint made up at the hardware store in Bethesda a couple of years ago. The holes you see serve a purpose. The hole at the far right allowed the fender to mount to the front fork of the bike, above the front wheel. The two holes at the left are for a head light that mounts to the fender.




 The inside of the fender is pretty clean too. This usually is really rusty, but this one is pretty clean. Any remaining bare spots will be filled with matching blue paint. If you're thinking "there's a big fold" in the middle of the fender- you're right. These are "gothic" or "moorish" fenders with a stylized ridge in the middle of the fender. It's mainly a style thing.




The above picture is a before and after type shot. They do these in hair treatment commercials on cable TV. Our "bald before guy" is on the right whereas the "after" guy with the women and hair is on the left. The oxalic acid has done a pretty good job at removing the rust but leaving clean, original paint. The fender then was tweaked for shape, polished, and the low spots filled with matching paint. The fender is then ready for a night on the town, or just hanging out in the garage. Probably the latter. 

After the primer was dry, I ported my matching paint into a sprayer unit called a "Preval" unit. It basically is similar to one of those canned air devices from Staples, but using your choice of paint instead of just air. I filled the unit with my paint and sprayed the fork. After I could handle the fork, I placed it in the oven at low temperature to expedite drying. I did a couple oven sessions. What's that baking? It's Benjamin Moore Alkyd Enamel. I have not brought enough to share with the entire class though, just this one bike.


I then measure the off-white trim decorations on the bike and made a template in Photoshop. I printed one on oaktag and cut it with an Exacto knife. I then applied the template and sprayed the fork with matching off-white paint using a second Preval unit. In the end I was wearing as much paint as the bike parts. The fork went back into the oven for drying.



Here is the result- that red fork is now blue and white like the rest of the bike. The front fender was also mounted. As you can tell though the front end was not quite all together, but it was more or less ready for finishing. I'll detail that in a later post. I also polished the handlebars and stem, which were original. Most of the components for this bike were built in Torrington, CT in 1949. The bike was built up in Westfield, Mass. We're both northern yankees then, but it seems to do better in VA heat than I do.

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