Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Abingdon Ball Head - part 2

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz.
I wonder where the birdies is?


In stark contrast to last week, Spring appears to have been switched on at last. The birdies in the above poem (incidentally not by Spike Milligan as I always thought) being magpies. We are nearly in the attack season again, I know this because I had one shout at me last weekend, next weekend he will be dive bombing me. But I digress.

This week I have made the top lock nut for the ball head, I have chosen to make the flush variant as I won't be using a lamp bracket mounted on the head. The original I am copying does have a lamp bracket as did the Percy Nix machine in the Coventry museum. This machine was used for the 24 hour race and would certainly have required a lamp for the night time part of the event.

This is a photo of the bike taken in or prior to 1931 (when it was in the Sammy Bartleet collection) 
and the lamp bracket is clearly visible. From Bartleet's Bicycle Book, 1931

The bracket has now disappeared as in this photograph I took just a few months ago of the same machine.

But this is what the flush variant looks like, neat eh? 
The Upper example is an early geared facile and the lower is a non geared model, both by Ellis & Co.

Machining the lock nut just involved simple turning and screw cutting 
plus a little indexing to get the holes in the correct place.

Now I can mount the completed neck into the head itself and establish

a) the length of the backbone to provide the correct inclination of the forks, this effects the trail of the machine and consequently how it handles.

b) the correct angle of the backbone to maintain an even gap between the wheel and the backbone. Although saying this, I have seen backbones on originals all over the place, some are very closely fitted with an even gap and some are not. Of the various originals I have now seen and measured, I have yet to see two the same, a remark echoed by other collectors that own these machines.

The angle of the forks likewise seems to vary hugely, the very early machines are more upright, something that is clear in the advertisements and literature. I've measured several from 1887 that have as little as 5 degrees inclination on the forks. This is in contrast with younger bikes that have up to 16 degrees inclination. The anomaly here is the racer from 1888 that has a full 20 degrees, this would produce a high trail value (for the period) that would be more stable at higher speeds with more rider fatigue. This is just my theory at present, I suspect it could probably be able to be ridden hands off.

As an aside I am currently reading the excellent new book on Dan Albone and Ivel cycles by Ray Miller and Lee Irvine (ISBN 978-0-9566337-4-3 available from the VCC UK). In chapter 5 Ray discusses how in 1886, Albone invented the first rear driving safety that could be ridden hands off, the discussion mentions the steering geometry being responsible but no actual mention of the trail. A friend of mine owns an 1887 Ivel safety locally (it is photographed in the book). Next time I see it, I'll measure the trail and report back. Clearly, steering geometry was beginning to be understood a little more by this time and I see no reason why Ellis & Co. wouldn't have adopted the current thinking at the time to slacken the head angle to provide more trail. I have decided to use an inclination of 16 degrees (the same as the original I am copying) which will give a moderate amount of trail.

The next job is to file the stub on the neck casting to be a very accurate fit into the backbone. I have made a little jig from part of the off cut backbone, this jig is coated with engineers blue, an evil substance that will coat everything within a 100 metre radius if children and cats are allowed into the workshop at the same time as the tube is open. The idea is that the backbone is placed into the jig and the high spots are marked by the blue, these high spots are then filed off and the process repeated. Great care being taken not to twist the casting relative to the jig. This took many hours, but the care has paid off and I now have a very well fitting backbone that should braze easily.

The jig to mark the high spots on the casting, 
shortly before engineers blue covered everything.

File off the marked high spots and repeat. Carefully.

Eventually, an accurate fit is obtained.

The backbone can now be cut to length.

A little trigonometry to ensure the forks are inclined at the correct angle before any cutting takes place. 
Ensure that both wheels are on a horizontal surface and the above chart is taped vertically 
to the wall behind the bike, then simply line up the forks with the chosen angle by line of sight.
Measure twice, cut once.

The tube has been left slightly proud of the edge to assist in the brazing process.
It will be filed flush afterwards.

The final job is to hollow out the stubs for all the reasons previously stated.

At last we can now do a dry assembly to see how it all fits together.

Still to do on the backbone is to make the step which is a simple folded piece of steel brazed to the left fork leg. I also need to drill and tap the holes in the rear fork crown to allow a mudguard to be mounted.

In other news, I have promised my lovely wife that I will build her a new deck when spring arrives. I fear that my shed fettling will have to take a back seat for a period if this good weather continues. I did try to bribe my brother to come and build it but he pretended not to hear me.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Abingdon Ball Head - Part1

We've had some weather these past few weeks. Sadly it's not been of the kind that makes cycling enjoyable. This means that my shedweeks have been slightly more inflated than usual and consequently I've been busy. There are lots of photos for those that are hard of reading.

Do you recall the patterns that I took to the foundry some time ago? I received the castings back quite a long time ago, I just didn't get around to doing anything about them. Or telling you.

Freshly cast and very hard.

I've had them cast in p20 which has a similar composition to 4140 chromoly. p20 is classified as a tool steel (it's used for mouldings) and since the castings are small they have cooled quickly and become chilled. the castings were hard, too hard to machine so I took them to the heat treatment place around the corner and had them annealed. They were Rc52, they are now Rc31, still too hard for high speed steel tooling but OK with cobalt or carbide. I know this through experience after burning several HSS drills.

The first job is to make the Abingdon ball head so I can get the neck properly located in the head. This will then enable me to file the backbone stub to the correct angle so that the backbone will sit at the correct angle to the wheel.

I've been doing a little more research on the Abingdon ball head and it turns out that it was patented by Isaac Watts Boothroyd (of Ellis & Co. and later Crypto) and Philip Louis Renouf. I need to to do some more research on Renouf, his name pops up repeatedly in the 1880's. So it seems that Ellis & Co. the makers of the facile, invented the ball head and the Abingdon Cycle company then made it under license and also supplied it to other manufacturers. I have recently got hold of a copy of the American version of the patent (as stamped on the head) and when I figure out how to do it it, I'll make it available for download.

The American patent for the ball head, the text references 
the English one by number, 3294, as stamped into the head.

The original facile had all the correct pieces including the lamp bracket which mounts on the head by a lock nut on a lock nut (this will become clear). There were two options for the first lock nut, you could either have one flush as in the patent drawing or have one proud so that the lamp bracket could be mounted around it.

The original components.

As usual here is a series of photos describing the steps taken to machine all the bits.

mark the centres on either end and drill through, 
even using cobalt drills this wasn't easy, I ended up using carbide drills.

Then create the 60 degree inside cone on either end. I bought a special cobalt cutter for this, it was very expensive and I haven't told my lovely wife yet.

Next make the bearing cups that fit into either end. These each contain 10 x 5/32" balls and I needed to do some calculations on these to ensure the wall didn't become too thin.

Rough out the inner bearing surface.

Then machine and polish.

Finally, create the 60 degree cone. Part of by drilling through.

Then make the axle and the top cone, washer and lock nut.

Turn the axle between centres since it was frequently removed to check clearances.

Rough cut the thread and clean up with a die.

Mill the flats for the lock washer.

Turn and thread the cone.

Then knurl the outer edge and part off.
I hate knurling, it's a brutal, unsophisticated process.

Machining the grooves in the lock nut with a slitting saw.
Actually two slitting saws mounted side by side.

The component pieces.

The complete assembly then fits together in the same way as a pedal axle.
It takes standard ammunition...

Next week I'll make the top lock nut and file the stub to fit the backbone.

In other news, my lovely wife celebrated a significant birthday (-1) this week. In the usual manner I had asked for a concise list of potential presents well in advance. She wanted one of these, specifically the simple, non digital version that the Queen has. This is just as well since New Zealand is a simple, non digital country that the Queen has. It is possible to buy them in Australia but not here. I contacted the parent company, who have an office in Auckland, and asked if it was possible to buy the analogue version anywhere in NZ, they promptly replied that no you can't buy the analogue version in NZ because we don't have digital radio yet. I didn't reply.

I have ordered one from England and it will be arriving real soon now.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Rear Fork Ends

I would say dropouts but that would be inaccurate since the wheel won't. Drop out that is. Bicycles of this age don't have a slot for the axle to slide into, rather they have a hole in each fork end and the forks are sprung apart to remove or insert the wheel. This trend continued for some years on the front forks of the new fangled safety bicycles. Indeed in the farthest, darkest reaches of the Empire, such as here in NZ, the habit continued right into the 1920's. Now of course, thanks to those most excellent members of society known as lawyers, we are back where we started with those little 'safety' tabs (aka lawyers lips) to prevent the front wheel from dropping out of the drop outs when installed by a moron.

Actually, I'm being a little unkind to an entire profession here since I own a bicycle made in 1906 that has captive washers on the front wheel to prevent the wheel dropping out. I'm sure that this isn't the first instance of the system.

1906 Royal Enfield with a captive washer front drop out design. 
If the nut becomes loose the wheel cannot fall out.

There's nothing new when it comes to bicycles design.  But I digress.

I made the fork ends just before I went on museum leave but I didn't get around to blogging it, so here is a set of photos to remedy my slackness.

Mill a scrap 1/2" plate of mild steel to profile.

Mark out the shape of the fork ends...

...and cut them out.

Mill away as much excess as possible...

...before hand finishing with a file.
Note the the tips have been bumped over to the correct angle
with a large hammer, easy to do with mild steel.

The unbrazed rear forks nearly complete.

I still have to hollow out the stubs and also make the step to braze to the left fork leg.

In other news, I cycled to work today and nearly died from the effort. I've had an extended break off the bike, my first in years, and being of more mature years I find that my fitness disappears quicker than my friend Brian when it's his round at pub quiz. Eh Brian?