[CR] The Carpenter Story (how I acquired and fitted out a bike)

(Example: Framebuilding:Tubing)

From: "Ken Sanford" <kanford@verizon.net>
To: Classis Rendezvous <classicrendezvous@bikelist.org>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 18:11:41 -0400
Cc: kanford@veriaon.net
Subject: [CR] The Carpenter Story (how I acquired and fitted out a bike)

The Carpenter

The story of how I acquired it and fitted it out, etc. Thought a few folks might find this of interest. Did some things right, some wrong. Paid too much for some bits, got bargains on others.

On 10 September 2005, I solicited the CR group for a HIGH quality vintage Italian or British track bike in 23 or 23.5 inch size for British or 58-59 cm for Italian. I specified that, since my space and spousal tolerances (number of bikes) were limited, I was not looking for just any only bike but something really nice and that I would consider a frameset only or a complete bike; completely original, fully restored, or needing restoration (but restorable).

Got a few responses but the only one that turned me on was a 1960 vintage 23 inch W. B. Hurlow lugged Condor track bike, with the Fleur de Lys lug pattern. This response was from Peter Brown, a well known collector/dealer in Lincolnshire, England. He also informed me that while be owned the frame, it was presently in the hands of someone who was doing a high grade repainting job on the frameset and that the frame would not be ready for several months.

Months passed. I was kept aware of progress(slow). Christmas came and went. Finally on 13 February, Peter got the frame back and sent me images. Very nice. Most unfortunately, he had remembered incorrectly the frame size and it was not a 23 inch frame as be had recalled - but a 22 incher. (Note of course that it had not been physically in his possession all this time.) While I could ride a 22 inch frame it is really too small for me so I had to inform Peter that I had to pass. He felt major guilt.... I was clearly disappointed, but not mad, as these things happen and what good would getting mad do? I continued the search.

On 18 March 2006, I received the following email from Peter Brown:

Last week I went to see the collection of a V-CC member in North Yorkshire. He normally rides a 21" frame and most of his collection is around that size. My eyes were immediately drawn to the Carpenter which was obviously too large for him, and asked what the story was behind it. He bought the frame a few years ago from another member, simply because he was attracted to it, and thought he might just be able to ride it. He had it refinished by Cleveland Bike Spray who are recognised as one of the better re-finishers - if you can wait long enough and have a deep enough pocket. He built it up with great plans for it, but then after a few rides had to accept it was too big for him, and stripped it down again and put it on display in his collection. Knowing that there were people looking for such a frame I asked him if he wanted to sell it, and he said he would if the price was right. He has allowed me to bring it home, and take it back to him if it is not wanted.

He has never dated it, but the frame number is not very far from my Carpenter, which I know to be from 1954. I have tried to contact the Carpenter ME to ask if he can be more precise, so far without success. The frame measurements are: seat tube 23" centre to top, top tube 22" centre to centre, wheelbase will be 39½". Dropouts are 110 mm spacing, forks 100 mm, and the bottom bracket is 66 mm wide. So far as I am able to measure the seat angle is 73, and the head is 74.

The condition is almost perfect. There are marks on the ends where track nuts have been tightened and on the crown where a front brake has been fitted, but none of those will be seen when it is built up. There are 3 small chips which have been touched in, one on the left chainstay, and 2 on the top tube, all of which can be seen on the attached pics. The headset is a rechromed Brampton Microadjust as on the Condor (which is attracting a lot of interest on ebay). He has set his price at 650 GBP, and it would cost me another 80 GBP to process the payment and pack and ship the frame. I realize that is a fair sum of money (and rather more than I have ever paid for a frame), but it is very rare, and I suppose that is what you have to pay for.

There is no rush to make a decision. I start 2 weeks jury service on Monday and will be hard pressed to do anything with bikes, and the seller is in no hurry either. In the meantime I will continue to try to contact the ME regarding the date and the model name.

Regards Peter

I pondered and attempted to justify the purchase. While a lot of money, it is still considerably less that one would pay to have a modern custom frame made. It is both rare and gorgeous! I agreed to the purchase. - circa $1350

Frame arrived 5 April 2006. Stunning. Simply stunning.

The buildup went smoothly for the most part.

However, I sat down one morning to build a set of wheels and assembled all the bits:

The nice pair or Airlite hubs, the carefully calibrated spokes for 3X in the front and 4X in the rear, the shiny alum rims (matching drilled 32/40), the nipples, the thread lubricant, etc. I started lacing and about 4 spokes in it dawned on me that I was attempting to match a 32 hole rim with a 36 hole hub! DAMN, Damn, damn (and a few other words).....An appeal to the CR list quickly provided a swap for the proper hub. Below is email from John Gill, the VCC (Vintage Cycle Club) Marque specialist for Carpenter.

Frame No 5117 is a known frame - thought I recognised the number ! It,s a Mike Gambrill replica that I actually owned for a short period years ago. It should be 23" ? I sold it to David Lovegrove who must have also passed it on .It was originally Maroon and gold - I may even have some photos of it .Can you double-check that number?

If it is that frame then it's a replica of the frame built for Mike Gambrill to compete on the track with - he actually won the Essen 6hr paired race on it. I may have a copy of the article on the race in Sporting Cyclist which shows Mike on the bike. It had track bars and modern wheels. Originals would have been L/F Airlites on sprints and tubs. Brooks Swallow or Competition saddle and probably Brampton 3 eared or Williams C1000 long cranks ( Mike was 6ft 7" ). The frame was built late 1956 early 1957 .

It should be noted that Mike Gambrill's frame would have been quite a bit larger. The replicas were made in different (more common) sizes.

Parts list, sources and prices when I remembered them.

Chater Lea (CL) Chainset from Martin Coopland of Bates Cycles in Scotland $200. Excellent condition, the preferred (at least by me) model with 2 prongs, the third chainring attachment point being on the crankarm itself. NOS 23, 24, and 25T CL inch pitch chainrings at $50 each.

Ebay purchases:

Bayliss Wiley BB cups - $22

Alloy dome head 1950's seat post in 27.2 mm - $17

NOS condition Wipperman inch pitch block chain - $110

10 tooth inch pitch cog - $40

1970's NOS Arc-n-Ciel shiny alloy tubular rims (matching 32/40 hole) - $80

Airlite high flange hubset (rear double fixed) (much better than average) - $150

pair inexpensive tubular tires - $30

Chater Lea Sprint pedals - $86

modern off-topic front brake (removable) - $40

Other items:

spokes (modern) - $40

2 cotter pins - $2

TDC BB spindle - loan from Harvey Sachs

Black Brooks swallow saddle - taken off Rudge bike I bought off Ebay (estimated cost $100)

HB's and Major Taylor stem - off another bike (estimated cost $100)

I think that comes to a rough total of circa $2500, with three extra Chater Lea chainrings; 2 that are inch pitch, one that is one/half inch pitch.

The bike won award as best track bike at the annual Cirque in June 2006.

Ken Sanford - recollections as on August 2006

Pictures on Wool Jersey


I later swapped out the Major Taylor adjustable stem (cause I just don't like adjustable stems cause they don't feel as 'solid') for one of those chrome ones with the curved bend. Came from Eddie Albert (by way of Curtis and Ralph) from Via.

If you have read this far and have a nice 23 or 23.5 inch British path racer from circa 1946-1961 that needs a new home, let me know!

Ken Sanford

Kensington, MD