While the C 37 was going through the last of the frame braze-ons, alignment checks and painting, I had finished accumulating and refurbishing the parts I intended to install once the frameset was completed. It is not my intention to exhaustively reproduce the techniques used to remove rust, polish chrome or restore aluminum to a glowing, shimmering finish. There are sites on the Web that a simple search can turn up but Bike Forums has very useful general restoration techniques here and an absolutely indispensable description here for polishing aluminum.
If you are new to restoring bikes I highly recommend these two threads and suggest printing them out and adding them to your restoration file folder along with any photos, printouts, ads and receipts that are part of your process of restoration. If you have a fully equipped bike which you have torn down to restore or have purchased a donor bike to obtain the needed parts, then you are well ahead of the game and can proceed to do all the things described in the two links I provided for you in the paragraph above. If you don’t, then you must stalk the elusive parts you need on-line and at shows which is what I ended up doing. Eventually, you will accumulate what you need but I would recommend you that you refurbish each part as soon as it is obtained.
The reasoning behind this is two-fold. First, is the part you received the part you actually need? Second, is that part in restorable, functional condition? The examples of this are multiple in my own restoration experience. In a previous restoration on my black 1960s C 37, I sought out a pair of Maillard 700 high flange hubs in French threading. Before they ended up looking like the photo, they not only needed cleaning and polishing, they needed to be replaced. The first set from France was advertised as 36 hole. Not so. The front hub was 36 hole but the rear was 40 and would not be useable with my new rims. As well, when torn down, the cones were pitted and the hubs’ races were questionable. Back to EBay for hub set number 2. Also from France, also French threaded and also advertised as being 36 hole and smooth running. Four out of five is not too bad, I suppose, as these hubs had pitted cones but useable races. A scramble ensued to locate replacement cones which ended up coming out of a pair of Shimano high flange hubs in my parts box. So remember – is it right, is it useable?
A recent example of this issue would be the MAFAC/Spidel sidepull LS2 brakes for the current 1970s C 37 restoration. The calipers came from California via EBay. I had learned something from previous experience so I was careful to get lots of photos and the measurement for the brake reach from the seller. Once the calipers arrived here in Canada, I found that they were as represented but one caliper’s quick release would not rotate within its mounting. (The left hand example in the photo below.)
So out came the penetrating oil. The disassembled caliper was soaked in it for several days and gradually began to yield to movement and finally came free. Buffing of the caliper mounting hole and polishing of the quick release barrel with emery cloth and OOOO steel wool restored the full function of the mechanism. Cleaning and polishing of the two calipers followed along with some delicate file work on the Spidel lettering and black paint to highlight the letters improved the result. (See the photo bellow for details.)
By the time the calipers were completed, the Spidel brake levers had arrived from my EBay France purchase. The lever hoods were in as poor a condition as expected from the photos on the sale site. What was a surprise was the condition of the lever blades. The satiny glowing, undamaged alloy of the auction photos turned out to be the result of someone taking a belt sander to the blades. Deep, comprehensive scratches were the result of this pre-sale “improvement” to the levers.
So out came the alloy polishing reference sheets from Bike Forums and the work began. By the time I had worked through multiple grit levels of sandpapers and compounds and the polishing was complete, the levers had a high shine and looked much better dressed up in their NOS MAFAC rubber lever hoods.
Subsequently, all the drive train was cleaned and prepared using the techniques found in the links above. The wheels were salvaged from my earlier Bertin restoration. They were repacked and upgraded bearings were added and then trued and checked by my brother the bicycle mechanic. The photo below shows the hub before cleaning and polishing.
The cleaned, trued and adjusted rear hub looks a lot better after its completed renovation. (See photo below.) There remains a slightly visible, grey discolouration in the alloy hub shell that no amount of sanding or polishing seems to be able to remove. This is equally true for the completed front wheel as seen in the accompanying photograph.
So too were the stem and handlebars, the seat post and other parts prepared for eventual installation on the restored frameset. A 40 tooth inner chainring eased the gearing on the reconditioned Stronglight 93 crankset, a used but quite serviceable Helicomatic freewheel was obtained through Via Bicycles in Philadelphia (thanks, Tim!) and all the little bits and pieces like seatpost binder bolt, bottle cage bolts, toe clip and straps and so on were sourced either from my own parts boxes or online. The wheels had Velox rim tape added, tubes and tires were ready for installation, everything was either new or renewed and waiting for the arrival of the frameset which will be the subject of the next post in the Bertin Restoration series.