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1950's Urago

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1950's Urago

Old 02-13-20, 04:11 PM
  #1  
Shultaf
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1950's Urago

Hi all! This seems like the best possible place for advice and discussion on my new project!

Long story short(er) a couple weeks ago I asked my brother, "Are you doing anything with Dad's old road bike? If not, I'd like to take it and see if I can fix it up!" And the next day, I had an old bike in my living room. A couple days after that, I asked my father about it and it's history. Turns out it's a Urago; turns out they are super rare, and two weeks of fervent research turns up only a little information on the old thing. BUT, I am determined to return it to some of it's glory.

My father got the bike via HIS brother, sometime in the mid to late 60's. My uncle bought it new; the date they thought was possibly 1956, but given some of the research and the U-59 stamped on the rear dropout is leading me to believe (if what I understand from the research is correct) that it's actually a 1959 build? It has a Stronglight crankset, but not original. The wheels were built sometime in the 90's, but with Campagnolo record hubs that my father remembers saving up for in high school in the 60's. Rear derailleur is a Shimano crane GS, so again, not original (although, he does remember a "weird" derailleur on it previously - "something with a chain" - which leads me to believe one of those 1950's Simplex derailleurs?). Mafac brakes, also apparently not original, but older.

My first steps were some disassembly and examining parts. The bottom bracket had some brinelling on the cups, and some pitting on the spindle, so I'll have to change that. The bottom cup on the headset was also not in excellent shape, so I'll likely be tracking down a French headset as well. The pedals feel pretty rough, although I haven't pulled them apart to see if they're salvageable. Forgive me, offhand I'm not sure if the pedals are original (or, for that matter, what brand they are) - likely not, probably something replaced when he put in the crankset. When we started digging through some stuff, he also found the original Ideale saddle, which is pretty awesome. I'll be searching for a seat post though, unless he can track down another box that he's sure he's got "hidden away somewhere".

My other current problem is that (sigh) at some point my father brought the frame and fork to a chrome shop and asked to get the bottom section of the fork and the dropouts chromed. The guy ended up chroming the entire thing. Paint doesn't stick so well.. It looks like there was an attempt at sandblasting before it got painted, but none of it has ever stuck. I am thinking of bringing it into a shop to get it de-chromed before I try to proceed with deciding on the best course of action for a paint job.

I'm hoping I can share my rehab story on here and pick up some tips from anyone else who has played with one of these bikes! I'm really excited to "keep it in the family" and put some miles on it - it truly is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship.

(I'll share photos once I have enough posts to be allowed!)
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Old 02-13-20, 04:48 PM
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Welcome! I am also restoring a Urago from around this period. I look forward to seeing your photos and hearing about your progress.
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Old 02-13-20, 04:49 PM
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Welcome! Looking very much forward to pics!
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Old 02-13-20, 04:56 PM
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Rarity being relative, Urago's don't come up all that often, but there are a pretty good number of them out there, relatively speaking.

I have two of them, a high-end model and a lower-end model. I have thus far struck out finding replacement decals for the cheaper one.

Does yours have the diamond-profiled "full wrap" chainstay treatment up at the seat lug of the frame? This would indicate a top-level build likely made by Anicet Cattanéo.

My lower-tier Urago came with a lever-operated front derailer and pull-chain rear derailer. These features lasted some years past when the top models would have already had cable-operated front derailer and parallelogram rear derailer of some sort (well prior to 1960).

Your refinishing journey will require some patience and effort, but sounds like an interesting challenge sorting out all of the details.
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Old 02-13-20, 05:19 PM
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There was an article in Bicycle Quarterly a while ago about rehabbing a prewar Urago. I don't have the issue number right now.

The rear derailleur could be a Cyclo; they look "weird" to modern cyclists.
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Old 02-13-20, 07:07 PM
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-----

Welcome to the forum and thanks for posting your project.

Shall look forward to following along.

I have had Uragos from 1957, 1960 and 1969 so will be much interested to see your example.

My '57 is an entry level road model much in the spirit of the Peugeot PA10 or a Gitane Interclub. Frame is done of all NERVEX bits right down to the bridges and braze-ons. It is dark blue and nearly all original.

Forum member Verktyg has posted that some Urago frames were produced by Andre Bertin.

The forum has had a number of threads on Urago machines from near to the time of your example. You can use the search function to pull them up if you wish.

Drawing of Urago serial and date marking -




vintage Urago head emblem -




forum discussion thread on 1952 Urago Tour de France -

1952 Urago Tour De France

forum discussion thread on mystery frame which turned out to be 1959 Urago -

Please help me identify this mystery frame

-----

Last edited by juvela; 02-13-20 at 08:50 PM. Reason: spellin'
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Old 02-14-20, 10:36 AM
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Before putting a lot into this project take the bare frame to a shop that does chrome for an evaluation. Bad chrome is easily removed with bead blasting. More concerning is that bad chrome work may have eroded the brass that holds the frame together or may have left acids inside the tubes eating away at the structure. I don't know and can't know that any of this happened. But check it off the list before going too far. Chrome is art. Bad chrome is a nightmare.

If anyone recommends de-chroming by reverse electrolysis grab your frame and run. That is the best way and there may still be two or three shops on planet who can do it w/o destroying your frame.

If it is seriously good chrome consider leaving it and getting decals. Urago did make chrome bikes.
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Old 02-14-20, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by dddd View Post
I have thus far struck out finding replacement decals for the cheaper one.
https://www.ebay.com/c/1532227678
Do you want a stinkin' badge?
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Old 02-14-20, 04:32 PM
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While we're waiting for OP to accumulate enough posts to show his pictures, wander over to Nelson Miller's album of pix of his 1955. It's really Nice! (sorry couldn't resist.)

And sometime when you have a LOT of time to spend, browse through his other albums. If you're not amazed, then you must be dead inside. (jk, C&V isn't for everyone...) He skews towards older stuff, like '50s, with an emphasis on French, but there's a little for everyone there.

Nelson is a great guy too, very generous and helpful to other enthusiasts he knows IRL, but he's not active on BF that I know of, or much at all internet-wise.

Mark B in Seattle

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Old 02-14-20, 05:26 PM
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-----

Thanks very much for this notice Mark!

Visited Nelson in 1999 when he was just getting rolling with his vintage cycle collecting.

Absolutely super fellow. Wonderful generosity of spirit. Lots of NOS componentry in the package. Carltons, Zeus, Ideor Asso - no end of terrific marques.

At the time of my visit he had made a friend of someone who worked at the receiving depot for donations to one of the major charities. This person would set things aside for him.

Nelson is an architect and designed the new public library for Langley, WA.

Before cycles he was into Porsche automobiles and involved with the enthusiast clubs for that marque.

You would know better than I how much time he has been spending in the U.S. of late as he spends much of his time in France.

Got to meet his wife during my visit and she prepared a fabulous Norwegian dinner for us all. That is her heritage. Had the opportunity to meet her father who was a civilian employee of the Navy at Pearl Harbor on the day of the attack.

-----
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Old 02-15-20, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by bulgie View Post
And sometime when you have a LOT of time to spend, browse through his other albums. If you're not amazed, then you must be dead inside.
thanks for the link
what a wonderful collection, so much to look at
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Old 02-15-20, 12:13 PM
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Wow, what a fabulous collection Nelson has.
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Old 02-15-20, 01:07 PM
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Thanks for the links, gugie.

The decal I am looking for is gold and black on a clear background, which I still have yet to come across. Perhaps I should motivate myself to contact a decal producer so as to reinvigorate my project, but I have never had to go this route before so am wary of the costs.


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Old 02-16-20, 07:40 PM
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Ambitious project! Given the opportunity of such inherent old bike, I wouldn't be over critical of bringing it back to original factory. The OPs father used it and made changes to his desire. It tells a story and now part of its history. Preserve what he intended, make it sound and rideable. Enjoy the challenge-

P.S., The link to Nelson Miller's collection is most appreciative. Super!
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Old 02-16-20, 08:06 PM
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H**Y CRAP!

I should probably just scrap all my junk after looking at that.
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Old 02-17-20, 04:57 PM
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Oh, dang.

Originally Posted by dddd View Post
Rarity being relative, Urago's don't come up all that often, but there are a pretty good number of them out there, relatively speaking.

I have two of them, a high-end model and a lower-end model. I have thus far struck out finding replacement decals for the cheaper one.

Does yours have the diamond-profiled "full wrap" chainstay treatment up at the seat lug of the frame? This would indicate a top-level build likely made by Anicet Cattanéo.

My lower-tier Urago came with a lever-operated front derailer and pull-chain rear derailer. These features lasted some years past when the top models would have already had cable-operated front derailer and parallelogram rear derailer of some sort (well prior to 1960).

Your refinishing journey will require some patience and effort, but sounds like an interesting challenge sorting out all of the details.
Yes, "rarity" being very relative, I agree! to me, this is a one in a million though. I've never toyed with a hand-built frame, let alone something "vintage". It is mostly awesome to me that my uncle paid about $400 for her 60ish years ago, and that it has survived a move from France to him to my father and then from Los Angeles to Minnesota to Saskatchewan and then to Alberta and thankfully is ready to be taken care of and returned to the pavement

I'd LOVE some pics of your bikes..! After reading your post, mine is certainly a "low end" Urago. It has a braze-on lever operated front derailleur, and (after finding some pictures of the "full wrap" top end build around the seat lug) does not have the top end built treatment. I can't pretend I wasn't slightly disappointed, haha! Nonetheless, the quality of the build still blows the mind of one who is used to a tig welded frame with a "made in Taiwan" sticker somewhere (not to mention the family history on this old girl... maybe we can slot this one into the "sentimental value" category...)
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Old 02-17-20, 05:12 PM
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Thanks for the links!

Originally Posted by juvela View Post
-----

Welcome to the forum and thanks for posting your project.

Shall look forward to following along.

I have had Uragos from 1957, 1960 and 1969 so will be much interested to see your example.

My '57 is an entry level road model much in the spirit of the Peugeot PA10 or a Gitane Interclub. Frame is done of all NERVEX bits right down to the bridges and braze-ons. It is dark blue and nearly all original.

Forum member Verktyg has posted that some Urago frames were produced by Andre Bertin.

-----
Great information, thanks!!!! The dropout is exactly as drawn, exept that it reads "1253 (?) J SIMPLEX U59". I haven't been able to find much information on Andre Bertin either by google or this Forum, but I must admit that that may be due to my internet incompetence, haha! Is there any information on how long he worked for, and what his "signature" with Urago was? I am constantly enamored with the details and beauty of this frame, although as mentioned, that may be due to being such a "newbie" on hand-crafted bike frames!

Can anyone absolutely confirm that the "U59" means built in 1959??!

I am hoping that Dad has the head badge in one of his "boxes lying around". He feels sure of it, and luckily, he is notorious for keeping "junk", so I think that after some digging, we can find it somewhere..! what a perfect addition to this piece it would be - in whatever condition I find it in! Otherwise, I have heard that at some point someone has recreated one of these via 3D printing....?
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Old 02-17-20, 05:26 PM
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Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
Before putting a lot into this project take the bare frame to a shop that does chrome for an evaluation. Bad chrome is easily removed with bead blasting. More concerning is that bad chrome work may have eroded the brass that holds the frame together or may have left acids inside the tubes eating away at the structure. I don't know and can't know that any of this happened. But check it off the list before going too far. Chrome is art. Bad chrome is a nightmare.

If anyone recommends de-chroming by reverse electrolysis grab your frame and run. That is the best way and there may still be two or three shops on planet who can do it w/o destroying your frame.

If it is seriously good chrome consider leaving it and getting decals. Urago did make chrome bikes.
It is not good chrome.

A billion thanks though, for recommending for me to grab the frame and run; I had actually been planning to head to the only shop in my province that would do reverse electrolysis last Friday, and then work got insane and I was out of town. I don't want to wreck it! What a shame that would be! I have access to a sand/bead blaster, but have been worried about heat warping things and/or taking too much off, which was why I thought of just getting the chrome stripped with that method... What is the best medium for "scuffing" or removing the poorly done chrome? Glass? I want to be very careful with this frame. Again, thanks for the input, I may have almost made an egregious mistake. This is why such a thing takes time, patience, and a resource such as this!
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Old 02-17-20, 05:47 PM
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LA to SF

Originally Posted by crank_addict View Post
Ambitious project! Given the opportunity of such inherent old bike, I wouldn't be over critical of bringing it back to original factory. The OPs father used it and made changes to his desire. It tells a story and now part of its history. Preserve what he intended, make it sound and rideable. Enjoy the challenge
I think it only seems ambitious now that I am in it and getting advice from all of you, haha! I agree though, the family history with this bike means alot to me - the changes weren't out of anything except updates to keep my father going down the road. As he told me recently, the bike seemed to him to "sing" when it was all tuned in the way he wanted. I am obviously in a "restorer's conundrum" in that I'd love to get back to all original components, but also am of a similar height and size to my father in the time that he was riding this bike.. I'd love to go full french and do things exactly as the bike was built, but also want it to be functional for me to put as many miles as he did on it, once upon a time. (Let alone his brother who actually bought it... I have yet to have a full historical account of HIS time with it, before my father inherited it from him... when it was built, my Dad was either 3 years old or 6 years old... so there is zero chance he was riding it).

I stopped by my parents' place earlier today as my father just had surgery and needed some help with some snow removal, and after all was said and done he was telling me about the old sew up tubular tires and his ride from Los Angeles to San Fransisco when he was in university at UCLA in the early 70's. He remembers being on the side of the highway sewing up his tires on this same bike at least half a dozen times on that trip. I might be insane, but I'm hoping that someday I can take this bike on the same journey someday. I think I'll carry tubes and a patch kit with me though, haha!
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Old 02-17-20, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Shultaf View Post
It is not good chrome.

A billion thanks though, for recommending for me to grab the frame and run; I had actually been planning to head to the only shop in my province that would do reverse electrolysis last Friday, and then work got insane and I was out of town. I don't want to wreck it! What a shame that would be! I have access to a sand/bead blaster, but have been worried about heat warping things and/or taking too much off, which was why I thought of just getting the chrome stripped with that method... What is the best medium for "scuffing" or removing the poorly done chrome? Glass? I want to be very careful with this frame. Again, thanks for the input, I may have almost made an egregious mistake. This is why such a thing takes time, patience, and a resource such as this!
Reverse electrolysis is the best method by far. Problem is it must be done by those with experience and they must stand over the tank watching. With heavy car and truck parts no problem to walk away a few minutes. With bikes what can and does happen is the brass is removed together with the chrome. It is easy enough to get this one wrong that the old Paramount room at the Schwinn factory got it wrong more than once. Then figuring out which tube connects to which lug and where do you suppose these braze-on in bottom of tank came from?

Bead blasting fractures off little flakes of chrome until it is all gone. Usually. If the chrome is perfect and the underlying copper is thin it might not. Sanding does not work at all. Is this bike to be rechromed? If it is to be painted bead blasting is good enough even if a few spots of chrome remain. If it is to be re-chromed your choices are Jack Trumbull at Franklin Frames in Columbus, Mercian in Derby, or Robert Schmidt/Velociao in Berlin. Any of them can do the job for no more than a local shop would have to charge.

If you have a local chrome shop that badly wants the job and they say they have done it before, or the owner says he did it to his own Cinelli, and they know all about thinwall tubes held together with brass or silver - then use your own judgment. Chrome guys tend to be perfectionists. You're sure the new hire will not touch this?
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Old 02-17-20, 07:19 PM
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Chrome/unchrome/rechrome/decisions, decisions

Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
Reverse electrolysis is the best method by far. Problem is it must be done by those with experience and they must stand over the tank watching. With heavy car and truck parts no problem to walk away a few minutes. With bikes what can and does happen is the brass is removed together with the chrome. It is easy enough to get this one wrong that the old Paramount room at the Schwinn factory got it wrong more than once. Then figuring out which tube connects to which lug and where do you suppose these braze-on in bottom of tank came from?

Bead blasting fractures off little flakes of chrome until it is all gone. Usually. If the chrome is perfect and the underlying copper is thin it might not. Sanding does not work at all. Is this bike to be rechromed? If it is to be painted bead blasting is good enough even if a few spots of chrome remain. If it is to be re-chromed your choices are Jack Trumbull at Franklin Frames in Columbus, Mercian in Derby, or Robert Schmidt/Velociao in Berlin. Any of them can do the job for no more than a local shop would have to charge.

If you have a local chrome shop that badly wants the job and they say they have done it before, or the owner says he did it to his own Cinelli, and they know all about thinwall tubes held together with brass or silver - then use your own judgment. Chrome guys tend to be perfectionists. You're sure the new hire will not touch this?
The guy over the phone actually told me exactly what you are saying is the worst case scenario - he'd dunk it for half an hour and then I'd be able to come pick it up. The chroming business seems to be dying overall - but in my case, there is only one "reputable" company in the entire province (and he his a three hour drive away) and his specialty is vintage cars and trucks; specifically bumpers and rims. I don't think he has ever heard of a Cinelli. Maybe a Chevy though, haha! The chrome shops I have been able to find in town only deal with industrial equipment (hydraulic cylinders and such) and I doubt their abilities to treat this frame right even more than the "reputable" guy three hours away.

I may be stuck with attempting the bead blasting, or, perhaps, paying the price to ship if off to one of the shops stateside that you have mentioned. I am not planning on re-chroming, although I have seen a few builds with the lower 6-8 inches chromed on the dropouts and forks, and it looks pretty good. I'm just not sure if it's worth re-chroming those sections as opposed to getting them powder coated "chrome" color. I haven't been able to definitively find anything showing what an original came like. My father seems to remember those portions chromed when he inherited the bike, but isn't 100% sure.
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Old 02-18-20, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Shultaf View Post
The guy over the phone actually told me exactly what you are saying is the worst case scenario - he'd dunk it for half an hour and then I'd be able to come pick it up. The chroming business seems to be dying overall - but in my case, there is only one "reputable" company in the entire province (and he his a three hour drive away) and his specialty is vintage cars and trucks; specifically bumpers and rims. I don't think he has ever heard of a Cinelli. Maybe a Chevy though, haha! The chrome shops I have been able to find in town only deal with industrial equipment (hydraulic cylinders and such) and I doubt their abilities to treat this frame right even more than the "reputable" guy three hours away.

I may be stuck with attempting the bead blasting, or, perhaps, paying the price to ship if off to one of the shops stateside that you have mentioned. I am not planning on re-chroming, although I have seen a few builds with the lower 6-8 inches chromed on the dropouts and forks, and it looks pretty good. I'm just not sure if it's worth re-chroming those sections as opposed to getting them powder coated "chrome" color. I haven't been able to definitively find anything showing what an original came like. My father seems to remember those portions chromed when he inherited the bike, but isn't 100% sure.
It's a shame because it is not all that hard to do if someone is set up to do it. Just looked at the posted Velociao pricelist and it is all of 20 Euro to electrolytically de-chrome either a frame or a fork. Half an hour in the tank and definitely that frame would have been just pieces.

Shipping bikes around is expensive. Of the shops I mentioned only Franklin Frames is in US. Mercian is Midlands, UK. Velociao is Berlin (everyone speaks English). There's also velocolour in Toronto but their pricing is very very high.

How much is a family heirloom worth? I spent a bunch of money having my great-grandmother's wedding quilt repaired and mounted, ten years later the old fabric kinda melted. Happens. If it turns out you love the bike and ride it a lot it would be worth it. This is not the most expensive hobby. It can be a lot of trouble.
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Old 02-18-20, 01:19 PM
  #23  
Shultaf
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Original?

Originally Posted by dddd View Post

The decal I am looking for is gold and black on a clear background, which I still have yet to come across. Perhaps I should motivate myself to contact a decal producer so as to reinvigorate my project, but I have never had to go this route before so am wary of the costs.
Is that picture you posted an original paint and decal job? I have no idea what the original decals came as and the color, too, seems uncertain; my father remembers "Kind of purplish, not quite red" and says the decals were already scuffed when he got his hands on it and can't quite remember exactly what they looked like.. Do you know if there was a set color selection that Urago had? I'm obviously a ways away from getting it painted and decaled due to the chroming conundrum, but I'm also curious about making a choice on both of those.
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Old 02-18-20, 01:27 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by merziac View Post
H**Y CRAP!

I should probably just scrap all my junk after looking at that.
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One of the strongest impressions I got as I "digested" my in-person tour of Nelson's holdings back in 1999 was the staggering "quality quotient" of his pieces.

We have all had to take in things we didn't really want in order to get the item(s) we did want...or perhaps a neighbour hears we are a cycling enthusiast and insists upon giving us their prized J.C. Penney's machine.

In Nelson's holdings there is zero chaff. All is of the quality level you see in the photo album.

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Old 02-18-20, 01:34 PM
  #25  
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Note on headplate -

in case you are unable to locate original, forum member @rhm made one last year for another forum member who was restoring an Urago. it came out beautifully and the "customer" was delighted, as we all were.

it may be that rhm did more than one at once - i do not know.

he could probably provide one you should discover it to be needed...

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