On hearing the term “Fine Italian Steel,” what usually springs to mind are handcrafted steel frames, but in the early 1950s, Italy having made a quick recovery from the devastation of WWII, were producing some quite beautiful steel bicycle components.
There were no Campagnolo Groupos in the early 1950s, Campagnolo made quick release hubs and derailleur gears, and that was it. Pedals and cranksets were introduced in the late 50s.
The two main brands I remember were Gnutti and Magistroni, between them they made cranksets, bottom bracket bearings, hubs and headsets.
Gnutti made a really elegant cotterless crankset, (Pictured above.) that fitted onto a tapered and splined BB spindle, and was held in place with recessed Alen screws.
They also made a less expensive cottered crank, which was the one I used, pictured left.
Both Gnutti and Magistroni cranks were a three arm pattern with the same standard bolt circle diameter.
They were often used in conjunction with the French made Simplex chainrings.
Simplex had these three simple bolt-on adapter arms. (Picture below.)
Gnutti’s quick release hubs were a copy of Tulio Campagnolo’s original idea, I’m not sure if the patent had run out, or they were made under license. The hubs had a chromed steel barrel with aluminum flanges pressed and swaged into place. (Pictures below.)
Finally this Magistroni headset (Pictured below right.) intrigues me; it is quite an engineering masterpiece. How did they get the “Magistroni” name around its circumference?
It would not have been cast; a casting would not work as a bearing surface.
Stamping not possible around the complete circle. It would not have been engraved or pantographed, too costly.
Knowing a little about engineering practices of that era, I believe the lettering was rolled on.
Probably done while the bar stock was in a solid piece, before the headset cup was shaped in a lathe. The bar would be turned slowly and a rotating die with the lettering in reverse pressed into it under great pressure. If anyone else has any alternative theories let me know.
Also note the teeth machined into the top of the bearing cup, with a lock ring with matching teeth. After loosening the top nut, this would allow adjustment by hand, one notch at a time. The lock ring being keyed to the steering tube would prevent the bearing cup from turning as the top nut was re-tightened.