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Stuffed French Frame...WTF?

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Stuffed French Frame...WTF?

Old 11-06-22, 12:33 PM
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Stuffed French Frame...WTF?

OK, I've been working on bikes for more than five minutes. I know I have a lot to learn and I'm only a weekend wrencher... but I thought I'd seen a thing or three.

Then this. I was doing a bottom bracket rebuild on a friend's gorgeous 70s Dardenne road bike as my last bike thing in Paris. I got it apart and found that it had likely never been serviced. The grease was still fluid in the bearing tracks, but only just. Moving away from the bearings though it quickly became dark brown sludge and then black, chalky goop that needed a screwdriver to scrape off.




Note the TA axle with the lateral grooves machined (I assume) on the tapers to retain more grease and prevent seizure. They came off like butter. Smart design and I've never seen that as these are my first TAs I've disassembled.

Move to the bearing races... I at first thought "huh, those aren't very nicely machined." I'd expected to see the kind of smooth races one sees on Campy Record, but these seemed almost rough in comparison. Not to the feel (a thumbnail felt no ridges) but I could see what seemed to be a machined surface, not a glass-smooth one. It hit me that perhaps this was a direct engineering choice to retain more grease in the bearing surface. If so it worked; this was the least maintained yet still unpitted BB sets I've encountered. Both the axle and cups were in perfect shape once I scraped off the years of gack. And I mean scaped, with a screwdriver, the back waxy gunk was very hard to remove even after soaking a good while in WD-40. But that's not the weird...
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Old 11-06-22, 12:46 PM
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After cleaning the BB set and finding it in perfect shape, I greased it all up and put the bearings in place. Then I turned to the BB shell. Thus began the weird...

I noticed while brushing out the 50 years of accumulated detritus that there seems to be something in the chainstays...I shined a light in and saw them packed with a fibrous substance. I used pliers to pull out what turned out to be cotton fiber, covered in rust dust and filth...and stankness. Gross, although dry to the touch it seemed to have held moisture against the inner surface of the stays and caused plenty of surface rust.



Then I turned to the down tube which also had about three inches of the nasty stuff packed in there. Lastly the seat tube....the horror! That was packed top to bottom and demanded almost 45 mins of cleaning with a coathanger then flushing w WD 40 to remove all the gack.

This was the pile of what came out of this poor frame:

That was the third pile during the operation, so there was a metric asston of fiber in there.

In the end it went back together great, it feels like butter now with cranks that turn as if being turned by the hand of an angel. But my question to all of you is...what the ever-lovin' ...I mean.... in the name of Sheldon Brown who and why would anyone do such a thing? I don't know if the builder did it, or a well-meaning wrench at some point, but jeez...

What say the group? Anyone ever encounter this on a bike before?
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Old 11-06-22, 01:33 PM
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The "packing material", no.
the overstuffed grease? Yes.
petrified? Yes.
TA cups were back in that period not machined very well, or I should say ground.
they appeared only machined.

why I went from that to a Phil Wood BB in 1973.

then, different bike, a 1972 full Campagnolo LeJeune in 1974.
still have that bike. In fact just finished rebuilding the bottom bracket. This one will soon need a second refinish.
I went powdercoat in 1993, I need now to reference how to remove that coating.
"aircraft" paint stripper is no longer a California sold product, methylene chloride... the element that works and is not "Prop 65" safe.
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Old 11-06-22, 01:40 PM
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@poprad

Sounds like they were lucky to have gotten it to you, maybe ask Mr. Csuka about the "stuffing", may have been a "thing" at one time.

That being said and would also be a good ? for Mr. Csuka, WD-40 is a water/moisture displacement snake oil and as such technically has no place as a bearing cleaning agent.

Despite that, many use it as such on bikes and since the actual load and speed are negligible it seems mostly moot.

Would have been interesting to see how these bearings would have done if WD had been deployed way back when.

However, it goes very far into the surface of bearings, beyond microscopic and stays there, insulating them from true, long term lubrication from proper grease.

They should be well cleaned after WD with alcohol, brake or carb clean etc, then greased.

It is an absolute no, no on auto bearings as they generate magnitudes more load heat and friction.

Just my 2+cents.
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Old 11-06-22, 01:53 PM
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Media blasting best route for getting powder coating off

Originally Posted by repechage
The "packing material", no.
the overstuffed grease? Yes.
petrified? Yes.
TA cups were back in that period not machined very well, or I should say ground.
they appeared only machined.

why I went from that to a Phil Wood BB in 1973.

then, different bike, a 1972 full Campagnolo LeJeune in 1974.
still have that bike. In fact just finished rebuilding the bottom bracket. This one will soon need a second refinish.
I went powdercoat in 1993, I need now to reference how to remove that coating.
"aircraft" paint stripper is no longer a California sold product, methylene chloride... the element that works and is not "Prop 65" safe.
You can usually get the media blasting of a frame done by a powder coat business for a fairly inexpensive cost. My local business does it for about $65.
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Old 11-06-22, 02:03 PM
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Sound advice, and when I'm on a shop I don't use WD 40 for cleaning parts, but when in Paris do what ya gotta. WD is easily found and other stuff less so. It also works really well to soften old grease...not as well as kerosene but good enough for bike work. I'm too lazy to final clean with alcohol, but I get the theory and don't disagree.

But the packing fiber in the frame...man that has me puzzled. I am definitely going to ask Olivier next I see him.
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Old 11-06-22, 02:17 PM
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I have found quite a few interesting things inside of frames - particularly French ones - from the '60s and earlier. I theorize that people put things in the frame to stop ingress of water to the bottom bracket bearings, before the widespread adoption of those plastic shielding things that come in later bottom brackets. Often it's soaked in oil to further waterproof things. Sometimes it's paper, and has neat things on it!

I don't agree with the rationale. Soaking up water isn't great because it can cause the tubes to rust. Better to let it drain, maybe the bearings get wrecked, but the frame doesn't!

Are you sure the fiber is cotton? Can it burn?
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Old 11-06-22, 02:22 PM
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It definitely feels like cotton...like if you pulled a cotton ball apart and straightened it. Yep, burns like cotton too.
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Old 11-06-22, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Sactown_Albert
You can usually get the media blasting of a frame done by a powder coat business for a fairly inexpensive cost. My local business does it for about $65.
yeah, need to see who is willing to do it locally.
most want to fold it into the price of Re coating.
want to go wet paint this time and possibly have the original half chrome fork and stays renewed. Lots of metal smoothing will be required first.
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Old 11-06-22, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by poprad
Sound advice, and when I'm on a shop I don't use WD 40 for cleaning parts, but when in Paris do what ya gotta. WD is easily found and other stuff less so. It also works really well to soften old grease...not as well as kerosene but good enough for bike work. I'm too lazy to final clean with alcohol, but I get the theory and don't disagree.

But the packing fiber in the frame...man that has me puzzled. I am definitely going to ask Olivier next I see him.
No worries, spot on as a degreaser, just not for bearings with me. It also knocks down rust substantially prior to eavaposoak after it and brake/carb clean to speed up/enhance the soak if it doesn't have to work through as much grease and rust.

I normally have several cleaners, sprays, potions, etc so hose most things down accordingly for cleaning, sussing, evaluating, etc.

Oldschool non-evaporating carb clean (getting near impossible to find) is the ticket for the impossible petrified grease, I use Motorcraft PM2.

Gumout, Gunk, Berryman all seem to have been neutered at this point.

Of course you can always go full old school and use gas if you have to......

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Old 11-06-22, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by poprad
It definitely feels like cotton...like if you pulled a cotton ball apart and straightened it. Yep, burns like cotton too.
it's insulation ... keep things quiet!
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Old 11-06-22, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by poprad
When I find those in my house it's usually a sign we've got mice living in.
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Old 11-06-22, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by repechage
I went powdercoat in 1993, I need now to reference how to remove that coating.
"aircraft" paint stripper is no longer a California sold product, methylene chloride... the element that works and is not "Prop 65" safe.
Easiest non-chemical method is probably a torch.
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Old 11-06-22, 03:25 PM
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Maybe it once had oil in it. Glad for your sake it's not asbestos! I've got to deal with asbestos on a CAR-MAXI "super tourisme" drum brake. No fun, mainly because it's scary not because I think I'll be hurt after the crazy precautions I'm taking.
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Old 11-06-22, 03:30 PM
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Cotton stuffed tubes……. new one on me! I’ve seen bad grease more than once , it coagulates and makes a wax like ball which really doesn’t lubricate well.
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Old 11-06-22, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by poprad
It definitely feels like cotton...like if you pulled a cotton ball apart and straightened it. Yep, burns like cotton too.
Good thing you didn’t step in it
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Old 11-06-22, 06:20 PM
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I would never put anything absorbent into any tube on a steel bike frame. Years ago we bought a nice vintage frame (from Seattle) for my spouse that had paper towels crammed in the seat tube below the seatpost. Obviously intended to "soak up" water that got in around the seatpost, they'd gotten and remained soaked, and rusted a hole all the way through the tube from the inside. We were able to "recover", without resort to brazing a new tube in and repainting, by epoxying a section of smaller tube (split to make its diameter a bit compressible) and then reaming the result to fit a 1" seatpost, but it should never have been necessary.
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Old 11-06-22, 06:53 PM
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Maybe there was some weld slag or something in the tubes rattling, and it was an attempt to quiet things down. I've seen that done with the modern expanding insulation foam. just the stays not the seat tube of course.

Last edited by 2manybikes; 11-06-22 at 08:45 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-06-22, 07:17 PM
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Old 11-06-22, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by non-fixie
When I find those in my house it's usually a sign we've got mice living in.
Perhaps the bicycle had been stored for some time with the seat post removed?
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Old 11-06-22, 07:48 PM
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Reminds me of the terrible idea of the cotton rim strips in old Raleigh 3-speed steel rims. It's pretty rare NOT to find one that doesn't have significant rust on the interior surface.
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Old 11-06-22, 08:47 PM
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Cotton stuffing

Originally Posted by poprad
....so there was a metric asston of fiber in there. Anyone ever encounter this on a bike before?
I did find this exact stuff in an old French frame once, but unfortunately I can't recall which one. I'm guessing it was originally soaked in oil, and for a while probably does help keep the bottom bracket clean. Eventually it seems to become a water and rust trap.
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Old 11-06-22, 08:51 PM
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You said it was fibrous; did you try smoking some of it?

For science, of course.

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Old 11-06-22, 09:02 PM
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The best way to service bottom brackets is to...

Firstly, remove the seatpost, take a tablespoon of grease (or two it has been raining) and globe it into the seat tube.

two, take a wad of cotton balls and a coat hanger doubled over and gradually shove the grease down the seat tube until it reaches the bottom bracket.

Three, mush the cotton down like you’re stuffing a musket. Remove hanger (optional) and replace the seatpost assembly.

You have protected the seatpost, frame and bottom bracket in one step.

Cotton disappears in time. If cotton is unavailable, pine straw or ivy leaves work in a pinch.
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Old 11-06-22, 09:15 PM
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Hmm, I wonder if anyone has tried filling the tubes with that spray on expanding foam insulation. Light weight, sure to protect from moisture—what could go wrong?!
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