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1953 Claud Butler for Colson

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1953 Claud Butler for Colson

Old 09-03-20, 05:50 PM
  #1  
dbhouston 
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1953 Claud Butler for Colson

I came across this bike on FB Marketplace and initially thought I would pick it up for spare Sturmey Archer parts and the chance to play with a Dynohub, and maybe learn something about cleaning up a rusty frame. I went to see it, literally in a barn, and could read the Claud Butler decals, so I paid $50 and brought it home. It was filthy and rusty, as pictured, and the lack of lugs surprised me. AW and GH6 hubs on chrome steel wheels, dead tires were 26 x 1 3/8, mismatched brakes, and a replacement handlebar and pedals round out the package.

So, I gave it a good look-over and started digging around for info:
The chainguard decals say: "Made exclusively for (Colson logo) by Claud Butler of London, England"
Colson was an American bicycle maker from Ohio, but mostly kids bikes; they may have imported this model to fill out the range.
Serial number of 2144 533 would seem to indicate a 1953
The 1953 catalog doesn't show a bike that looks much like this frame, more town bike than racer
I can't see any tubing decals, but a small one at the top of the seat tube promises rust protection

I did find one other example of this bike (this one with a derailleur):
https://bikeindex.org/bikes/29899
And here's the owner showing it to a bike club:

So, with all that, I wonder how I should proceed. I've got the hubs working reasonably well and moved the metal pulley to another bike, so I got my money's worth. It's a 21" frame, too small for me, but I would enjoy the project during this summer and fall of limited activities. I've never dealt with so much rust, so that would be a whole new mess of elbow grease. A relatively gentle first cleaning makes me think the frame is structurally fine.

I'm a relative newbie, having fixed up a 1973 Raleigh Sports just for fun (it came out beautiful - always noticed at the neighborhood brewery) and a Bianchi that I parted out, so I'm open to any thoughts from folks who know better than me.

Here's what I've got:

Still wet from a first wash



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Old 09-03-20, 06:05 PM
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The way it looks wet suggests a little wax or oil (linseed??) would make it shine just dandy!

If it's really from before '58, it's before Holdsworth got ahold of the Claud Butler name, so more likely to be "real" Claud. That said, it doesn't look like anything in his catalogs. He was fond of ornate lugwork. But during the '50s it seems like he was struggling to keep the lights on. Maybe he contracted out to Colson for a time? It does appear really well-built and that counts for something!

I should also say, if it is actually Claud's work (maybe others will chime in about this), that is very cool. The man was a legend.
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Old 09-03-20, 06:13 PM
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That's pretty cool. The fenders and chainguard, AW and dynohub, EA3 wheels, all these things point to a classic English 3 speed, equivalent to a Raleigh Superbe or something. But made by Claud Butler. It's fillet brazed frame ("bronze welded") which was a Claud Butler specialty.

What are the date codes on the hubs?
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Old 09-03-20, 06:22 PM
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Hubs are both 1953. Dynohub was a gritty mess, but it's turning well now and powers a light, which made me smile! I can see using it on my Sports, which I use for errands.
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Old 09-03-20, 06:29 PM
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In case you haven't already seen these:

Here's a bit of Claud Butler history and some catalogs.
Here's the serial number decoder.

That's all I know about Claud, really. Could be the find of a lifetime if Claud actually built these himself.
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Old 09-03-20, 08:01 PM
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Cool bike! Old school US with English racer.
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Old 09-03-20, 08:11 PM
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Congratulations on this very fine find!

As written already, 1953 makes the cycle a "Claud Claud" as opposed to a Holdsworthy one.

Owned a very similar example also with a 1953 marking on its SA hub. Its frame was also lugless (what is termed "welded" in Britain) and it was finished in dark green.

Near the top of the seat tube facing forward there was a small peanut shaped Reynolds transfer. Have never encountered another like it. Reckon the three main tubes are 531 plain gauge.

Cycle was surprisingly light although it did not exhibit a single alloy fitting. Rims were Dunlop stainless. It certainly was very nicely made.

Hope you enjoy this new arrival and will look forward to following along as you work with it.

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Old 09-03-20, 09:33 PM
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Those welds would be pretty even if they were made today, though it was a bit unnerving when the rust remover started exposing the bronze. And maybe that decal on the seat tube once said Reynolds on it? I'm inclined to go with 531 as a guess, anyway, if that's what CB was using for most things. And it is noticeably lighter than the Raleigh Sports.

Spent much of the evening cleaning. I used Evapo-Rust Gel on the painted surfaces (except the seat tube, which I'll get to soon), and it seems to have done the job pretty well. Then all around with a light Meguiar's polishing compound. I love the suggestion above of boild linseed oil, and will certainly keep the de-rusted patina under something protective and subtle. My donor bike is turning into an interesting project, if the stem and seatpost stub ever finally give way.

Quick question: If I'm going to save the whole bike, I'll need several parts. Bars and grips. Brakes and levers. Pedals. Seatpost if this thing has to be damaged comign out. Any period- and budget-appropriate suggestions would be super helpful. Thanks!



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Old 09-03-20, 09:44 PM
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The frame's seat stay tops appear to be fluted; is that correct?

Cannot recall how the ones on my example were done. I took it in in 1979.

Headset looks like it might be a Brampton. You may discover it to be one of the floating u-race types which take 1/8" ball.

Coming along very nicely!

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Old 09-03-20, 10:12 PM
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Is that seat pin domed over on the top so you can't see down it? Could be a Hiduminium. They're somewhat rare, so I hope you can get it out! Of course don't risk the frame.

If you end up needing to destroy it, you'll likely find it's pretty soft and easy to grip with pliers and tear/twist/bend. A modern unbranded one from China/Ebay will get you on the road again, and even look good if you polish it up with fine sandpaper and then some Mothers mag and aluminum polish.

The original paint came off all the bronze on my Jack Taylor, as well. British paint, I guess.
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Old 09-03-20, 11:40 PM
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The seat stay tops are sort of crimped ... one deep channel down each. And I'll know more about the headset when the stem comes out.

And, yes, that seat post has a domed top on it. I wondered what it was - now anxious to see what comes out of there.

Maybe the penetrating oil will yield results in the morning. It's the summer of Covid ... I've got time to wait it out!
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Old 09-04-20, 06:21 AM
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Is the seat post aluminum? Is that the only aluminum part you've found on this bike? That would be odd. What are the brakes?

What is the handlebar; why do you think it's a replacement? What would you replace it with?

I would not be thinking of this as a donor bike. It's not the bike for everyone, but for the select few who love old English three speeds, this would be a real find.

By the way, I see there is a tab on the left seat stay, presumably for a tail light. On English market bikes, you find that on the right side. More proof that this frame was made for the American market!
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Old 09-04-20, 09:32 AM
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I'm not sure on the seatpost, though it's been suggested it may be GB Hiduminium with its domed top. The handlebar is aluminum, and quite flexy.

On the donor bike question, it's certainly beyond that now! I don't know where I'll take it, or if it's better off in the hands of one of those select few, but I do know I won't do anything irreversible to damage it further. Treating it with kid gloves, except for all that damn rust!

Nice catch on the rear light tab - that is, indeed, what I pulled off of there.
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Old 09-04-20, 11:36 AM
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Pictures from this morning. BONDERIZED for rust resistance. No visible tubing decal. Once had gold pinstriping into box shapes on all the tubes (except seat stays). Also close-ups of a few bits.





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Old 09-04-20, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by dbhouston View Post
I came across this bike on FB Marketplace and initially thought I would pick it up for spare Sturmey Archer parts and the chance to play with a Dynohub, and maybe learn something about cleaning up a rusty frame. I went to see it, literally in a barn, and could read the Claud Butler decals, so I paid $50 and brought it home. It was filthy and rusty, as pictured, and the lack of lugs surprised me. AW and GH6 hubs on chrome steel wheels, dead tires were 26 x 1 3/8, mismatched brakes, and a replacement handlebar and pedals round out the package.

So, I gave it a good look-over and started digging around for info:
The chainguard decals say: "Made exclusively for (Colson logo) by Claud Butler of London, England"
Wow!

First off, you want to clean it, very gently, saving whatever paint and decals you can. Disassemble the bike and start cleaning each component.
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Old 09-06-20, 02:57 PM
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Progress


Light coat of boiled linseed oil diluted with mineral spirits. Certainly makes the raw steel parts less noticeable, and should make a nice, reversible preservative for the time being.



Dunlop 26" x 1 3/8" front wheel. Cleaned up pretty will, though there is some rust damage to the chrome. Ordered replacement bearings for it.

The dynamo creates more resistance than I expected, but have no idea if that is right. After a good, tricky cleaning of the magnet and outer rings, there's no rubbing or grittiness, just the attraction of the magnet at each step.


Chain guard and mud guards had a lot of rust, so they got a less diluted oil rub, and pretty heavy on the insides.


This little guy doesn't look particularly reflective ...


The Claud's bigger, younger brother.



The brakes that were fitted. I've made a bit of a splurge and ordered a set of 1953 GB Hiduminium brakes. Without a catalog to refer to, that seems like a good fit.
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Old 09-06-20, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by dbhouston View Post
Light coat of boiled linseed oil diluted with mineral spirits. Certainly makes the raw steel parts less noticeable, and should make a nice, reversible preservative for the time being.
Looks good! Is it sticky at all? If it goes ok for you, I might do this to my Jack Taylor!

The dynamo creates more resistance than I expected, but have no idea if that is right. After a good, tricky cleaning of the magnet and outer rings, there's no rubbing or grittiness, just the attraction of the magnet at each step.
The resistance won't likely be felt once you're on the bike. Each "notch" that it goes over provides some resistance, followed by a gentle push. So they sort of even-out.
Related, you do know never to remove the magnet from the armature, right?

I've made a bit of a splurge and ordered a set of 1953 GB Hiduminium brakes. Without a catalog to refer to, that seems like a good fit.
Nice! I was thinking they might work well and be in the spirit of the thing. I hope they have enough reach to clear the fenders. It looks like they will if that alu Weinmann thing did.
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Old 09-07-20, 01:20 PM
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I clearly didn't dilute the oil enough on the guards. They were tacky until I came back at them with the more dilute blend. The mineral spirits did what I hoped and allowed me to rub on a lighter coat. So, all of it feels pretty nice now. Wish I could tell you the ratio, but I got there by trial and error, so not sure. Probably 1/3 spirits?
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Old 09-07-20, 01:25 PM
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Cotter Pin Press!

I wasn't willing to take a hammer to this bike, so I thought I'd try adapting a Harbor Freight motorcycle chain tool, which I've read about elsewhere. Well, the HF version isn't wide enough for the pin and the other bits you need in there. Complaining over the fence led my neighbor to bring me his moto chain tool and it worked like a charm! Cranks, pins, and bolts taking a well-deserved bath in EvapoRust now.

Amazon sells the same kit.
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Old 09-08-20, 05:59 PM
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Seat pin, stem, bars

You guys are impressive! I found what y'all thought I'd find.

Seat pin and stem are liberated, much to my relief.

Broke out the bigger guns.

Stratalite Comfort England. Should polish up nicely.

Reynolds Hiduminium. You can't read it, I guess.

I'm not the first person to be pretty aggressive with this poor thing. But it seems to me it will be safe to polish up and reuse, won't it?

The quill stem is in the rust bath now, but looks a bit rough. I had to damage the bolt that holds the bars in place, but can reuse it if I dig up a suitable replacement around here.

Cranks are Brampton, 48t and about 168mm, center to center. Headset lock ring, too. Levers are unmarked.

Shiny bits.

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Old 09-08-20, 07:48 PM
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Congratulations on all of these successes.

Are the Brampton crank arms 6 1/2" in length?

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Old 09-08-20, 08:20 PM
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A Working Plan

Obviously, the rusty find I picked up for $50 to be a donor and wall decor has turned into something much more - more interesting, more fun, more satisfying, more like a break-even proposition, I hope! So, here's what I plan to do with this unusual bike that is too small to ever be my bike. The TLDR on this is simply: First, do no harm.

About the Bike: Exclusively Built for Colson by Claude Butler, London, England. That's all I have to go on except for the one other example of this bike linked in the OP. It's quite comparable to the products of several other companies making 3-speeds at the time, though lighter, maybe? My working theory is that this is basically a CB Super Arrow/Velo with a parts bill suited for the American reseller. Those models had the same geometry and were discontinued a year earlier, then this arrangement with Colson happened. Other theories will be welcome, but they should not mention QAnon.

First, do no harm. I'm going to treat it with kid gloves; stop the deterioration; get everything in good working order; and replace only those parts that need replacement. Keep anything I took off to pass on. It'll go to its next owner with history intact.

Frame/Forks/Guards: The finish will be kept as I found it, minus the rust. Evapo-Rust is my first step for pretty much anything old, and I've used liquid for things that fit in the bucket and gel for the rest. It dissolves rust and leaves everything else. I've just applied a second coat of quite dilute boiled linseed oil, and that'll be well set after 48 hours. With a fair amount of exposed raw steel, something has to go on there, and the oil seems like a safe, reversible finish. It really does look pretty, though obviously not super durable. The chain guard has been abused through the years, but it's the only place with the Colson logo and, thus, the history of the bike. The mud guards are pretty beat up, but can be make straight enough.

Components: There's no catalog page for this bike, so I'm a flying blind on major parts The safest thing is to keep whatever clearly belongs, and replace where needed with things that CB was using at the time. I'll be able to save the Reynolds Hiduminium seatpost and Stratalite handlebars. All the Sturmey-Archer stuff will be fine after servicing, and the Dunlop wheels should just need some time in the stand (and maybe a few spokes - I'll leave that to my LBS after I have the hubs ready). I've ordered GB Hiduminium brake calipers (dated 1953, even!), which CB was using at time. Existing, unbranded brake levers look a bit rough, but will probably go back on with a good clean and polish. The stem put up a fight coming out, and may have to be replaced - we'll see on that one. All that's left is pedals, and people sell bikes all the time sans pedals, so we'll see on that, too.

Saddle: This bike came with a springy Raleigh-labeled "mattress" saddle in place. I have a 1974 Sports that I dearly love (my beer-run/Walgreens machine) and that has a beautiful Brooks Champion on it. Seems like a fair, free trade (one that I'll regret every time I go to the brewery then break down and buy another Brooks).

So, that's the plan. I still have lots of elbow grease to apply and drivetrain service to do, but in less than a month, this old Claud Butler will be running well and ready for a new home. I'll take this discussion over to the C&V appraisals board and get some sense of its value before moving to sell it on to another, presumably better home. A couple of you have sent messages inquiring about buying it from me, which I appreciate, and will get back to you when the time comes. Thanks for the input so far! Any thoughts are welcome.
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Old 09-08-20, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by dbhouston View Post
Seat pin and stem are liberated, much to my relief.
What a fine job you have done! It looks like you were pretty gentle, to my eyes! I was worried nothing would come apart given the bike's age.

Stratalite Comfort England. Should polish up nicely.

That's the handlebars? Neat!

Reynolds Hiduminium. You can't read it, I guess.

Ha!! Well I'm pleased with myself. It will match your Hiduminium brakes.
I'm not the first person to be pretty aggressive with this poor thing. But it seems to me it will be safe to polish up and reuse, won't it?

I wouldn't think it'd be so damaged as to pose a problem. Seems structurally sound and I've definitely ridden on worse. Old alu tends to bend more before it breaks, because those older alloys were less hard and brittle.

The usual rule of thumb is to stop riding on it and look for cracks if it's making a creaking sound.

Cranks are Brampton, 48t and about 68mm. Headset lock ring, too. Levers are unmarked.
Lots of decent quality stuff on this! That's great.
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Old 09-08-20, 08:28 PM
  #24  
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Bikes: 2018 Specialized Diverge; 1987 Centurion Ironman Master; Gone but not forgotten1974 Raleigh Grand Prix; 1978 Austro-Daimler Vent Noir II;2003 Specialized Allez Comp; 1974 Raleigh Sports; 1953 Claud Butler Colson 3-Speed

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Originally Posted by juvela View Post
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Congratulations on all of these successes.

Are the Brampton crank arms 6 1/2" in length?

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Yep. My typo above made it sound like a bike for hamsters!
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Old 09-08-20, 08:57 PM
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Patience and a willingness to pour random liquids into black holes, in my experience, is usually rewarded. I was really happy to get these things out of the frame after a week, but kind of bummed I didn't get to buy a slide hammer to finish the job (see RJtheBikeGuy's video on it).

Stratalite is the handlebars and Reynolds Hiduminium is the seatpost - as you thought, SCarlson. 1950s aluminum was ridiculously soft and flexy - I assumed those bars were replacements because they give under light pressure.

I have learned from this experience that mixing steel and unfinished aluminum (aluminium to the Brits) willy-nilly is a bad idea, and one the industry gave up on pretty quickly. But I'm looking forward to riding this bike to see if that old aluminum provides a degree of suspension that modern aluminum doesn't. The bike above is my regular road/gravel bike (Specialized Diverge). The aluminum frame is super stiff, so they've incorporated elaborate tricks to soften the ride. Seems like Reynolds knew something about that decades ago.

Last edited by dbhouston; 09-08-20 at 09:10 PM.
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