[CR]A word from the prime offender

(Example: Framebuilding)

From: <"brianbaylis@juno.com">
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 08:31:51 GMT
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Subject: [CR]A word from the prime offender

Dear Listmembers:

Again my apoligies to the list for stepping in dog poop and stinking up tyhe list. But let me say this about that...

Clearly there is a difference in deffinitions of what a "Vintage style" frame is. I say a vintage style frame is a frame made at least "in the true spirit" of the vintage frame; but hopefully of actual period vintage parts. So what IS the "spirit" of the vintage frame. Craftsmanship, of course. Some distinct lug stylings, well attended to sizing and design, exciting paint and graphics, and many other subtle touches a builder could work into a frame. It seems logical to make the "cutoff" period for the "real vintage" frame at the point when investment cast lugs begin to appear. There are some quality pressed steel lugs that I would still consider vintage, like the Hayden blanks that end up as the handcut lugs from England. Quality pressed lug to start with, require lots of filing and some tasteful cutouts to make real sweet. I even consider IC lugs in the spirit of the vintage lug if you have to cut them up and you go ahead and file them to a nice even thickness and as gentle a transition as possible. This also requires a lot of filing. Speaking of filing, I've got a funny story.

On the far too few times I've had in recent years, while standing at my vice and filing some lugs, or a fork crown, or some sort of dropout junction; I often wonder exactly how many file strokes it takes to make one of these semi complex "old school" frames? Including the delicate, precise, and ever so gentle needle file stroke as one finishes off a perfectly placed, exactly perportioned minuiture spade in a Nervex Professional lug, with say a slighly lengthened point extending onto the top tube (which allows the cutouts in the lugs to be slightly larger, which is nice). So many times I've thought it would be FANTASTIC to have someone stand there and count every file stroke on the frame from start to finish. Each and every stroke taken with a file chosen to do the job perfectly, through years of experience. Not a stroke out of place! Imagine THAT. There have to be hunfreds of thousands, if not millions of file strokes on a project of the order I just described. Every single one, and not a single one more; each one purposeful and perfect. Don't forget to count the strokes with the 80 grit emory cloth. There a boatload of those as well. Suppose one were going to polish these lugs, fork crown, seat stay caps and dropout faces. WOW!! Now that's a lotta RUBBIN'. First pass on the lugs once brazed on frame and edges scraped perfectly square and 90 degrees to the tube for a precise crisp edge, is with the basdard file. Anything from a 12" half round bastard to a 4" bastard file, could be round, H.R., square, or pippin. That's the initial rough thinning pass and gets the lug edge even thickness and the body of the lug to blend and contour effeciently and gracefully. I do most of my initial thinning on a typical Nervex lug with a 6" H.R. Bastard and a 6" round bastard.

Second pass is generally with a smooth file, if it's going to be plated. If it gets painted then a pass with a swiss pattern pippin file is next. Finish with the pippin after the smooth if it's to be plated. That's three times over with the files on everything that gets plated, except dropout faces, of course. Once thinned and refined from filing, the blending and perfecting of the shape and crispness of the lug is carried on through from 80, 120, 240, a sisal buffing, 600 then 800 grit wet and dry sandpaper with oil, muslin buff to finish. All while not smearing a single edge, dipping into a cutout, or filing through a lug. How many strokes is that now? Probably quite a few. Lots of filing and polishing on a typical "spirit of the vintage" frame.

Anyway, just for starters, those hundreds of thousands of purely intentional and loveingly guided file strokes are the difference. The classics have those file strokes and those vintage lugs. Naturally there is leeway and we're not trying to make restrictive rules; but the spirit of what makes a classic a classic should be respected, in my opinion. I know how I interpret the terms. But others have differing perspectives. OK with me. I work within my deffinition; I don't really care what anyone else is doing. I know I fill a peghole somewhere; regardless of how awkwardly shaped it may be.

My personal feeling is that the most expression can be had by making each frame individual and with a certain "theme" in the design. It keeps the craft interesting and expanding for me. That's part of why vintage frames are interesting. There was much more variety in frame treatments and most of them quite attractive, as compared to modern classics. You can't just cast individuality and personality into a lug. It generally requires at least some handwork.

Here's an interesting observation. There are some framebuilders, who if they built a "replica" of one of their own frames from say the 70's some time; it would look almost identical to their frames of today. Made from the same tubing and lugs, but with 30 years or so of experience under their belt. Perfect example, one Mr. Peter Johnson. His most recent work looks very much like a frame he would have built in 1976 or so. But subtly more refined and a work of a very high number of file strokes and passes with emory cloth, not to mention the magnificent application of brass fillets over the lugs and other bits. File work so deliciate and perfect at the dropouts, your jaw does DROP! No Frenchie EVER made this style look so perfect and sweet; and God knows they tried. I've seen some breathtaking Herses and whatnot, but nothing like this. Peter is also the MASTER of simplicity. And it was just a pile of plain jane Prugnaut lugs, some 1010 dropouts, a Fischer Cinelli version sand cast BB shell, and a IC Italian style box crown, before Peter laid his can of Whoop Ass on this stuff.

In all honesty, you have to classify stuff like this differently than the type of bikes that were the topic of the original discussion. BE honest now. If you had to give the lable of a classic style frame to one of those two; you have to go with the labourisly individual completely vintage material frame, do you not? So what is the actual correct name for the frames in question? If we were to take the liturature literally, we are led to believe that the version under discussion is some sort of close relative to the real vintage frame, as we defined it earlier. So where is the line? I suppose it all depends on who is drawing it.

Bottom line. Dale's line probably runs along the lines of his personal collection. I know mine does. Dale only made the factual observations; and based on his vast personal, professional, and framebuilderly, experience; he opined that his line is in a different place. No harm ment to anyone. No actual judgement passed on any particular frame; primarily an objection the the advertizing. Artists hate advertizing, business men love it. It's a fact that we all must fact and accept on the list. There's two kinds of people; us and them. But we're all still friends in spite of that, right? Of course we are!

Some of us just love the file marks (or lack of them in spite of having been filed) and there is no way to substitute for it. You just gotta love a beautifully handmade pair of seat stay caps, or a sweet modification to a common fork crown. The charm of the classics is in the file strokes and the marvelous shapes they yeild. File strokes, that when skillfully and artiscically applied, impart real personality that refelcts on both the builder AND the owner. The graceful addition to a perfectly fitted and designed frame. A sure sign that the builder truely loves the craft.

To delve into this any deeper would probably get personal or complicated, which I will avoid.

My apologies for the blooper. But please don't diminish the work that goes into these low volume high craft vintage style frames. Have some respect. Let's put the line in the logical place. Truth and honesty isn't a crime, either. Sometimes it stands in the way of some good advertising hype. But you have to expect if you make outlandish claims that someone is going to take pot shots at you. It's kinda the way the world works. Might as well get used to it.

OK, aew we all good now? I certainly hope so, for crying out loud.

Brian Baylis La Mesa, CA Foot in mouth, sitting in the corner, dunce cap on. Should I wash my mouth out with soap now, or have I suffered enough?