[CR]American custom frame development (Brian's Q)

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From: "Joe Bender-Zanoni" <velo531@hotmail.com>
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Cc: rocklube@adnc.com
Date: Wed, 16 Jan 2002 14:03:00 -0500
Subject: [CR]American custom frame development (Brian's Q)

Brian Bayliss said:

[... Albert learned from Oscar and Emil Wastyn in Chicago from what I understand,.... I would really like to see how the change from "old style" frames (lugs with floating headset bearings and clamp-type headsets) to the modern design happened. I wonder if early Eisentrauts look like Wastyn frames? Anyone have any examples, in real or in photos? Anyone have a Wastyn we can check out also? Somewhere in there a major change seems to have taken place. Anyone have the Missing Link? Is it big and hairy and leaves giant tire prints??]

I think there is more of a continuous change from the 1920s on, driven by the frame components available and the demands of racing to begin with and a growing sense of style as time went on. In each era the finest builders take the best frame components and tubing available and modify them to make custom type frames. A look at the California catalog I mentioned this morning shows the lugs, tubing and frame ends available to Oscar Wastyn and Pop Brennan. From what I have seen at the Wastyn shop the Emil Wastyn bikes are very old time with slack angles. Pop Brennan started with the 68 degree Brampton type lugs and forged them into head angles of 74 or so that were best for 6 day tracks, dating back at least to the early '20s. The lugs were highly cut away and filed from the rough sand cast originals. My personal opinion is that the Oscar Wastyn bikes and subsequent Wastyn built Schwinn Paramounts are fairly imitative of the Pop Brennans. After all, Schwinn didn't have Oscar endorse the first Paramounts, they had Pop endorse them. Post WWII there was an explosion of lugs available, particularily pressed and welded lugs that were more nearly net shape than the sand cast lugs, yet still required hand work and offered different styling opportunities.

Certainly the head lugs of a Brennan are artistic, after all he worked for Tiffany before building frames, but what is done with them is also very functional. It seems that a really refined artistic sense of framebuilding didn't take much hold in the US until the 1960's. From what little I know, the artistic side of lugwork has much earlier roots in British frames, although the British lugwork is often more showy than the quest for metalworking perfection that Eisentraut and the US builders followed from the 60's on.

I think there is a British-American connection where the Wastyn, Brennan, Drysdale functional tradition met up with all the creative British lugwork and frame styles to yield the later American style. This combination plus the change in frame components strikes me as the "major change" or "missing link" Brian is thinking about. I'll bring my Brennan to Cirque for examination by those interested.