Writing without a keyboard

Maybe its the geek in me, maybe the old codger trying to get out, but I enjoy writing.  Even if I’m not very good at it, it is still enjoyable to put pen (or pencil) to paper.  The speed at which you write forces you to slow down a bit, and consider things that you might miss while typing.  And writing has survived for centuries – who knows how long my last email will survive.  Actually, it’s probably been deleted by now.

For some reason, I’ve been somewhat fascinated with fountain pens.  I think it’s a throwback to when your writing said a lot about your education – and I do feel sorry for people that “write” with OMG, LOL, SMH, etc.  Sorry to be blunt, but that doesn’t conjure images of learned individuals.  The wonderful script that a fountain pen can produce, and the nuances of the handwriting are really something to behold.  Consider the Declaration of Independence.  We still read that document, with its precise wording, beautifully written, and beyond the document’s espoused ideals I still come back to the handwriting.  Not the writing on the wall, the writing on the parchment.  Sorry, couldn’t resist.

I will likely never be able to produce anything like that, but if I can revive my writing gene (if I ever had one) it will be an enjoyable journey nonetheless.

So, to that end, I bought a fountain pen from Goulet Pens.  A TWSBI Diamond 580 with a fine point nib.  Also picked up some Diamine ASA Blue ink.  Don’t need an eraser with this kit.

TWSBI Diamond 580

I tried a few sentences, and to my surprise, I do remember how to write in cursive.  Do they teach that in school today?  I must admit though, that I really had to think how to write a cursive capital “F”.  Do you remember?  I couldn’t remember how to write a cursive capital “Q”, so I just wrote “Q”.

A new lease on life

I really love the old American pocket watch movements.  Hamiltons are my favorite, but Waltham and Elgin movements are beautiful too.  I’ve been looking for a size 6 Waltham movement for a while now, but until a few weeks ago I didn’t see one in the condition I wanted.  Patience is the name of this game, so I waited and found a size 6 Waltham in great condition and at a fair price.  The serial number dates this movement to 1901 – that’s right – this movement is 115 years old.

Dave serviced this movement for me, and he found a cracked jewel, which he replaced.  The mainspring had been replaced at some point in the past, so it was fine.  After cleaning and adjusting, it is in the condition you see in the photo.  Many thanks to Dave for your careful work and attention to detail.

Movements from pocket watches made in the late 18th and early 19th century are negative set movements, meaning that the stem is retained in the case, not in the movement.  So the normal type of case will not work to convert this to a wristwatch – you’ll need some way to retain the stem or it will simply fall out.  There are two options.  Drill and tap the case to hold the stem, or use a case that has a crown guard that will retain the stem.  The latter is the way I’m going with this movement.

I don’t yet have a case, but I’m going to use the original dial and hands on this build.  They’re elegant and look exactly like they should for a watch more than a century old.

How many things we make will be working a century later?

The craftsmanship and the decoration are stunning.  Some of the decoration can only be seen when the movement is disassembled, which means it’s likely that only another watchmaker will ever see it.  It’s called pride of craftsmanship and sadly it’s all too rare these days.

Stay tuned for more photos as this project progresses.  It will definitely be worth the wait.

Hamilton 600 Super Compressor

The Hamilton 600 Super Compressor dual-crown dive watch with date is a 1960’s vintage dive watch with a new (for it’s time) method to waterproof a watch.

The seals and the caseback are spring loaded so that increased pressure, as the watch would encounter while diving, makes the seal tighter to prevent water incursion.  There are limits to the design, and the 600 in the model name indicates the maximum depth Hamilton was willing to advertise.

It’s not recommended that you dive with a watch of this vintage, there are newer watches with a deeper rating – but in my mind newer isn’t necessarily better.  This watch has patina on the dial and hands, the case is in excellent condition.  After a service on the movement and an unsuccessful search for another date wheel, the watch is as you see it here.

The dual crowns are pretty much a giveaway to the compressor design; the second crown is used to rotate an inner bezel for a second time zone or to time dives.  A crosshatch pattern on the crowns will seal the deal as a true super compressor design.

There aren’t many of these around, and this one is a keeper.

A new pilot watch is born…

…from an antique movement and a modern case.  The movement is a Hamilton 4992B Navigator’s watch 16s movement.  The serial number dates the production year to 1950, so it’s now 66 years old and is running perfectly.  I purchased a pilot watch case that will fit this movement and began the work of turning this pocket watch movement into a wristwatch.  I decided to use the original dial and hands for this build, mainly to show respect for the watch’s beginnings.

The strap is a closed loop design, which allows the watch to fit your wrist or to be worn on the outside of a flight jacket without changing the strap.  Since the strap is a loop, once you put your hand through the loop you can’t drop the watch while fastening the buckle – dropping mechanical watches will cause them to be exactly right twice a day – except for this watch, which will be exactly right once a day.  Not nearly as useful as you might think.

This is a 24-hour watch – meaning that the hour hand makes one revolution every 24 hours rather then the far more common once every 12 hours.  It does take some getting used to, because at first glance it may look like 6pm, but it’s actually noon.  When it looks like 9am, it’s actually 6pm, and when it looks like 3pm it’s actually 6am.  Once you’ve worn it for a while your mind makes the adjustment but it does take a little while.

This movement is a hacking movement, meaning that when you pull out the crown to set the time, the second hand stops.  This allows you to synchronize the watch to a known standard time source.

This movement is probably the finest movement ever made in America, and I know I will get comments that disagree with me.  The Hamilton 992B movement (the same kind as in my Grandfather’s railroad pocket watch) and this movement (4992B) are very closely related.  The differences are the 12 vs 24 hour display, the hacking addition on the 4992B, and the center second hand on the 4992B.  The 992B has a sub second hand.  Both of these movements are literally the finest examples of American watchmaking.

On to the photos.  In one of the photos on my wrist, the watch is showing 11:30 pm.  In the other wrist photo, the watch is showing about 6:20 pm.

Watches – an old interest of mine

I’ve always been fascinated by watches.  Not the electronic ones, but the mechanical ones.  The little mechanisms inside them are a wonder and the skill and craftsmanship it takes to build one is a rare talent.

I am fortunate to have my grandfather’s railroad pocket watch.  He was an engineer on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and used this watch every day.  The requirements for accuracy are obvious, and this watch has dual hour hands so that it does not need to be reset when traveling between time zones.  In fact, this watch is lever set, meaning that the crystal must be removed and a small lever pulled out to allow the watch to be set – this prevents accidental changes to the setting while winding the watch.  Railroad engineers can’t afford for their watches to be wrong – disaster could be the result and sadly this has happened more than once.

I’ve begun the restoration process on this watch, and all that remains at this point is to have the movement itself cleaned, oiled, and adjusted.  A family heirloom if there ever was one.

Dave will service this movement for me, and I will personally deliver the watch into his hands.  I can’t bring myself to ship it, because no amount of insurance would ever replace this watch if it were lost – there isn’t another one like it in the world.  This one was my Grandfather’s watch.

I met Dave and picked up the watch, and it is keeping perfect time – serviced and ready for the next century.

Here are some photos for you.

More parts for the IGH build

I ordered Velocity Synapse 650B polished silver rims, in 36 hole drilling from yellowjersey.org.  I thought they were a little pricey, but they will work and I can use the tire width I wanted for this build.  I’ve also ordered spokes from Colorado Cyclist – they are DT Swiss Competition DB spokes in silver.  So once they get here, I can lace up the wheels.  I still need to order tubes and tires, but I haven’t done that yet.

I also ordered a Sunlite 2-bolt quill stem in polished silver.  I don’t understand why more quill stems aren’t available in a 2-bolt design.  With it, you can remove the handlebars without having to remove the bar wrap and brake/shifter lever (at least on one side).  Maybe the manufacturing process is more complex for this type of stem, I’m not sure about that.  They’re not very common, or at least I haven’t seen many.

The handlebars are by Soma Fab, the alloy 3-speed moustache bars.  I plan to mount them so the center is higher to get a bit of drop.  Once the bike is assembled I’ll be able to adjust the stem depth and decide wchich way the handlebars need to be mounted to get the best riding position.  My plan for grips is lace-on elkhide from VO.  This is why I wanted the 2-bolt stem – I don’t want to have to unlace the grips to remove the handlebars.

I decided a build like this needed a bell.  I found a really nice one, made in the UK, and ordered it in brass finish.  The bell will be engraved with “Evan Cycles” to match the frame decals.  Since the only handlebar control is the bar-end shifter on the right, the bell will mount on the left side just above the elkhide grip.

I hope it turns out well, I’m going for retro-simple on this build.

The new build hiccups…

A hiccup in the new build.  The Univega frame I’m using is a very tight fit for 700C wheels.  I was hoping to use slightly wider then usual tires on this build and there’s no chance to do that with 700C wheels.  Since I’m lacing the wheels myself, I don’t have to try and find a set of 650B wheels, I just need to buy two 650B rims, measure the ERD, and order the spokes.  There are plenty of tire choices in the 650B size, and I can use the wider tire I wanted for this build.

Unfortunately, this means that the VO PBP 700C rims I bought won’t work, and the spokes I ordered won’t work either.  Maybe I’ll just build the wheelset anyway and see what frame comes along that needs those wheels.  Someone might be interested in the rims, but the spokes are length-specific to the rim, hub dimensions, and lacing pattern so they will probably be with me for a while.  That’s OK.  Maybe someone will need a replacement spoke and maybe one that I have will work.  Good karma, you know.

I’m planning a 36 hole 3-cross pattern front and rear, and because of the IGH, the DS and NDS spoke lengths are almost identical.  They should be strong wheels, and perhaps a little lighter than 700C wheels.  Not that weight really matters, the IGH isn’t a lightweight hub by any definition.  But, the IGH is pretty close to the weight of a front derailleur, rear derailleur, multiple chainrings, rear cassette, shifters, and cables.

Stay tuned, hopefully the hiccups are done for this build…

The next build begins…

The next build has started.  I’m using a Univega Super Strada frame (made by Miyata) and it’s being modified as I type this.  The existing cable guides are being repositioned, while some are being removed entirely.  There is a half-lap frame break being installed in the drive-side seat stay.  Once the metal work is finished, it’s off to be painted.  I made some custom decals for this bike, I hope they look nice once they’re on the frame.

The cable guides are being repositioned because this bike is going to have an 8-speed Shimano internal-gear hub (IGH) with an internal brake, so all I need are guides for the shifter.  With no front or rear handbrakes, the frame will be very clean and uncluttered.

The frame break is being installed as I’m considering installing a belt drive sometime in the future.  Installing the joint in the frame now just makes sense.  No reason to wait and have to repaint, with all the additional work that requires.  I may not ultimately switch to belt drive, but I will have the option.

The frame paint will be a cream color.  The decals are gold, and the lugs will be outlined in gold, and then clear over everything.  I’m planning moustache bars, with sewn-on leather grips.  I have a nice Acorn bag for the front.  The shifter is going to be the J-Tek unit; the saddle will be the Brooks C17 Cambium.

I’ve got the rims, hubs, and spokes, so I’ll be lacing up the wheels soon.  I’m going to hold off on the tires until I get the frame back from being painted – that way I can decide which tires will work best.

This will be a fun bike, the IGH should mean little maintenance, and if I go with the belt drive, no greasy bits within reach.  I’ve not ridden a bike with an IGH before, so I’ll be learning about IGH maintenance and adjustments as I go.

There will be photos after I get the frame back from the metal work, and then again after it’s painted.  Can’t wait.  Stay tuned…

The LeMond’s first real ride

Today is the day.  I’m meeting a friend, Mike, at this house at 5:30pm for a ride into town, a quick bite for dinner, and back.  From my house to his is 11 miles, and town is another 5 miles from his house.  I decided to take the LeMond.  I received the headset spacers a couple of days ago and those were the last parts I needed.  The LeMond is completely finished.

The ride to Mike’s was great.  The bike is steady hands-off, pedaling or coasting.  No issues that  I could notice.  The Reynolds 853 steel frame is nice, less jarring than the CAAD8 that I usually ride.  Braking action is good, no real difference between this bike and the CAAD8.  Both sets of rims have machined sidewalls. and both brakes are dual-pivot so the differences should be minimal.  Shifting is crisper on the LeMond, probably because I should lube (or replace) the chainstay to rear derailleur housing on the CAAD8.  It’s now got about 2500 miles on the current cables/housings with no adjustments needed in that period of time.

There are some rolling hills on the route, but nothing really noteworthy.  I was really happy with the wheels.  If you’ve not read about them, these are the first set of wheels I built – laced, trued, tensioned.  3-cross on the front wheel, 3-cross NDS / 2-cross DS on the rear wheel.  The wheels are still true!  The sunlight reflecting off the polished silver rims and glinting off the stainless spokes reminds me of an old Huffy 10-speed and bicycle adventures too many years ago to count.

There is a certain amount of pride when you’re riding a bike that you built, and this ride was definitely a special one.  32 miles isn’t a terribly long ride, but it was definitely long enough for problems to surface – and there were none.

I haven’t worked out all of the details of the next project, but look for an 5-speed IGH and drum brakes.  Hint, hint.