Life’s best adventures arrive without warning. I recently heard from a scrap metal recycler in Albany, OR that they had a strange antique bicycle machine I might be interested to see.
A few messages later and I was speeding down I-5 to Burnhams Metals, a treasure of recovered devices from many industries. Bearings from helicopters, hospital computer stations, fasteners, robotic sub assemblies, fasteners galore, tools, vises, wow.
My goal was a device Tom Barnes correctly identified as an antique rim drilling machine. “NE Cycle Supply” on one side, “Keene, NH” on the other. What era? Who can tell. Likely it was manufactured for decades after its inception. Looks as if it drilled metal rims, lacking the angle required by wood.
Opens and closes to handle any rim diameter. The hand operated drill can be tilted 90deg as well as the small angles needed for spoke offset.
Pressure to force the drill bit into the rim is supplied by an ergonomic hand grip in the center of the image above. Right hand squeezes, left hand turns the crank, the flywheel weight at the left keeps it moving.
Here, the drill is upright. At the lower left is a small foot, outside of which a rim is supported. Four of these are adjusted to capture the rim.
A central crank moves the four arms in and out at once to adjust rim diameter. To the left of the circular grill-like disk, at about 10 o’clock, is a selector from which you choose the rim’s drilling: 24, 28, 32, 36, 40. Each of the disks circumferential rings has small radial bars, spaced at the intervals needed for each spoke number. When you choose a number, the selector locates at the ring with precisely spaced bars that index the rim for perfect hole location.
In person, the machine is surprisingly small. It looks more like a sewing machine than factory tool. Do any of you know about it? Is there a New England Cycle Supply catalog from early days that lists and describes this beauty? Please offer any insights.
I scooped it up against any monetary objections. Back in Seattle, it’s now completely disassembled. In the next couple weeks I will strip and paint it in black enamel.
Can’t wait to try it on a rim and show you the finished product. What a gem. Designed to work on bicycle parts but built with the spare elegance and efficiency of a bike. Human powered, as nice to look at as to use. Indescribably lovely.