Retro, vintage, antiques and do it yourself (DIY) have become familiar words in our society and draw up connotations of past quality and fashion or our own ability to create or restore. For some it is just a rekindled spirit of their child hood memories, either their own past experience or that of their parents and grandparents life style at that time.
Take account that bicycles are no different in their time, everything was built to a budget and quality to match. Many brands and models of age does not equate it was quality at that time. There is no doubt that some of the early craftsmen of bicycle frame left a quality mark making them quite distinguishable, and today of some value. The quality of the steel tubing and style of lugs and ferrules that held the tubing is the hidden value that needs discernment if you are seeking to have a high quality item. All this aside there is a great deal of personal achievement and pleasure in restoring something old it is all in eye of the beholder.
Wanting a starting point? Learning the tricks of the trade by starting off with an old bike. It can be a valuable learning experience of little cost. Starting with a clean project unit can reveal many blemishes that can either make the task hard or promote the decision to abort the whole idea. Having the right tools can also be helpful or having access to them. Is the frame straight and not bent (are both wheels aligned in a straight line) are there any dints in the frame and not excessive amounts of rust that would reduce metal wall thickness?
All these are important base line questions before launching into a project that won’t deliver the desired end result a usable bike to ride and enjoy. Creating a work space where you can start and leave without having pack-up all the components also makes life easier. Having containers to place components in the family groupings (such as head-stem, bottom bracket, wheel axles and bearings for example) keep count of the number of ball bearings and bearing cups and size without creating too much confusion.
When starting out don’t be in a rush do your homework and ask lots of questions to get a process and plan to follow. Seek out someone who has tinkered or your local bikes shop mechanic that will have the knowledge on what works and pitfall to watch out for such as knowing what is right hand and left hand threaded components. If unsure of these types of questions and answers if there is thread available run your finger nail around the thread as this will be tightening so go the opposite to undo. It is prudent when dealing with tight threads to use a lubricant for the purpose as well as having some degreaser products for the hardened grease.
You will do well to have on hand lots of rags and a floor covering that can be disposed of later. If possible take an inventory of possible components that have perished and may need replacing that they are readily available. Be aware that chrome can be replaced but polishing aluminium that has oxidized will continue to oxidize, being an ongoing labour of love unless treated or sprayed with a clear lacquer.
Paint work is a big decision and would depend on the value of the frame and bike in total. Having a frame powder coated or re-sprayed requires the frame to be completely bare and clean (take extra care of keeping any threaded parts of the frame very clean). Decals can be reproduced and pin-striping can be sort at a price so if you are seeking to replicate an original take plenty of photos that will assist in getting the reproduction somewhere near right. When re-assembling parts lovingly use light grease and check that everything runs smoothly and freely.
Take care with new paint work and allow curing time on the advice of the painter. There can be a rush of blood and excitement to finish the project but take your time the long labour doesn’t need to be lost in a rash moment. While it is nice to try to keep things traditional things like chains were to be replaced it will make it ride like a new bike and cables that work a treat.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing