Where's the saddle clamps?

ditchford site 01 smallSeveral fruitless hours had been spent searching in ‘the stuff’ for a chrome saddle clamp. Not the modern cheap painted version with no washers and a nut on only one side. I knew there was a biscuit tin somewhere with a good selection of beautifully made clamps that could be polished to a sparkling finish.  Or was it a tub they were in? An ice cream tub? That kind of rings a bell. Or perhaps it contained bells? I just wasn’t sure.

ditchford site 02 smallOver the forty plus years that I’ve restored old bikes and stripped them for bits, the ever-expanding collection of parts taken off has moved with me many times without being seriously weeded, and would easily fill a garage. Often, I know very well that I have, for example, a Duraglit tin containing bulbs for Sturmey-Archer headlamps, but despondent that I’ll never be able to find them. Bicycles don’t usually reject a transplant, so I feel compelled to save things for future use.  And old bikes are cheap, because they are generally unwanted. For compact storage, collected machines are always reduced to their discrete components and gobbled up by the collection of cardboard boxes, margarine tubs, sauce jars and biscuit tins. It will all come in useful sooner or later. 

When you enjoy tinkering with old bikes, the value that even small things have makes you lavish disproportionate care and attention upon them. For instance, I hardly ever throw away bearing balls automatically. Even though you can buy all sizes new easily, I will put the old ones into degreaser, scrub them with a toothbrush, wash them in detergent and polish each individual ball with a clean cotton rag. Old British steel balls will frequently emerge with a shining mirror finish. Shame to waste ‘em.

workshop scooter 25Talking of shininess, when you have a good eye for rusty chrome, you can tell a part that is spoiled from one that can have the surface rust carefully brushed away with a brass brush and polished brilliantly with Autosol to leave only a few characterful speckles. In the old days, handlebars, cranks and rims were first plated with a layer of brass, and then chrome on top of this. Sometimes the brass becomes visible on a very heavily polished part. Reversing years of neglect to reveal a gleaming piece of sculpture like a Raleigh ‘Heron’ chain wheel is intensely rewarding. Worth all the effort.

But all these parts! Right! I’m going to have a clear out. First, a box 16” classic Moulton rims. These are very worn on the sides; they can go. Ah, but they are Dunlop rims, early ones. Alex Moulton couldn’t have got anywhere without Dunlop making excellent wheels and tyres for him. Can’t throw away a Dunlop rim. It won’t make any difference anyway; the box won’t be any smaller. What about that bucket of Dynohubs? They are heavy and I’ll probably never use them. Do not remove magnet without keeper” The classic warning. Designed for maintenance. And will power a modern LED light. Reprieve granted. Okay- that box of brakes then. Three hours later, each brake examined, scraped and polished, parts combined from different callipers to make ‘best of’ units, and I have about three rusty brakes to chuck.

Oh! I give up.ditchford site 03 small