Restoration on the Cheap

The festive period isn't the best to find time for doing up a bike so progress has been rather slow of late. I was hoping that it might have been possible to salvage the rims on the Parkes' wheels but they're just too far gone. There's very little chrome there to speak of and I would have ended up with a dull metal finish if I'd rubbed through the rust with steel wool.

There's a recycling yard a few miles away that always seems to have lots of bikes kicking around, most of which are piled up waiting to be collected by a scrap dealer, so I popped in there to see if there might be a pair of Endrick 26x13/8 (37-590) rims going abegging.

As luck would have it, there was an old utility bike, dating from 1972 according to the Sturmey Archer AG rear dyno hub, that still had its wheels - and they were the right size. The front rim is in good condition but the rear's a bit rusty in places. Still, they're both an improvement on what's already there.

I'll probably strip the the hubs from the "new" wheels and tape the rims to the existing wheels. It's a case then of swapping the spokes over. It keeps things nice and simple. I've never built a wheel before but I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to produce something that'll do a job. I might end up replacing the rims again at some point in the future because chrome Endricks are a bit dicey in the wet. It's not so crucial with the Parkes as it has the front brake drum but alloy rims would also be a decent weight saving.

The Burlite alloy brake levers are looking OK now. They had a thick coating of crud all over them that I attacked with a good old Brillo pad. It took about 20 mins per brake but they're looking all right. If I kept at it using progressively finer steel wool and lots of polish I could get them to a near mirror finish but I can't be bothered. They'll look like they've been sitting on a well cared for bike for 70 years which was the goal all along.

The hard bit was freeing them from the seized cable nipples. Both cables were well and truly stuck in place within the body of the brake lever. I had to get a screw driver and hammer and bash them out. At the same time, I stripped the handlebar tape off to reveal a pair of Stratalite Pelissier bars. Nice!

The other thing I've done is to dig out a pair of cranks to replace the rusty originals. I've got nice Bramptons with pretty good chrome that will look great on the Parkes. I'm not exactly sure of their age but they must be within a couple of years of the frame so they're close enough for this restoration.

The seat post is a bugger, though. The frame tubes are plain gauge rather than double butted as the post required is 26.4mm instead of the 27.2mm I'd been expecting. I didn't know this until I removed one of the Sturmey cable clamps that had been obscuring the Reynolds transfer. I'd looked out a nice Strata post - a good match for the bars - and given it a bit of a polish only to discover it's too big. Have I got one that fits? Not yet. We moved house six weeks ago and my bike stuff is still in boxes piled up in a corner of the garage. There might be a post in there that will fit but I haven't found one so far. And if there is it'll probably be a steel one. Never mind. With the weight I put on over Christmas, it's maybe just as well...

I'd given the frame a good wash not long after I got it but in a good light it was obvious there was still some grimy muck around the dropouts, brake mounting holes and bottom bracket in particular. Screwfix do a 5 litre container of degreasent that's isn't too brutal so between Christmas and New Year I got to work with that and an old paint brush having first tried the solution on a small section of box lining on the chain stay to make sure it wasn't going to do any damage.

I also tried it over a small bit of transfer. It seemed OK so I bashed on, careful to wash the cleaner off when I'd finished. The lovely burgundy colour of the paintwork has been brought out but some of the shine has been lost so it'll need a good polish now.

My intention had been to clean the frame up with the components still on it and then work on the parts one at a time. Unfortunately, the grime was really just too baked on to the frame and it was proving difficult to shift it. It was that hard, thick crud that almost needs to be chipped off. So I decided just to strip everything off the frame, hang it up and start from scratch.

It was too cold to spend much time in the garage but I made a wee start, discovering in the process that what I thought was heavy rust on the chromed forks turned out to be a hard, rust-like deposit - but not rust. Rubbing it with scrunched up tin foil and water made hardly any impression. I'll have to scrape it off with a sharp blade.

The chrome underneath isn't perfect by any means but, from what I can tell, it should look quite presentable. The pic right will give you an idea of the before and after aspect of the scraping. The left fork blade has been scraped above the lamp bracket but not below. The fork crown hasn't fared as well, though. There are a few spots where the chrome has flaked clean off. Nevertheless, the forks should come out better than I'd previously thought so they're being filed under "RESULT!"

Another bit of explanatory rubbing using the Screwfix muck remover confirmed that the paintwork is quite dull. As usual, it can be seen in all its glory beneath cable clamps, etc. A quick polish helped but there was understandably a clear difference between the "fresh" paint and the oxidised stuff.

T-Cut can be quite evil but I'm going to try it in a very gentle fashion to see if I can revive the paint. Overall, though, I'm still really chuffed at the condition of this frame given that it's survived seventy cold, wet and salty Scottish winters. If I look as good as that at 70 I'll be even more chuffed.