Dave Moulton

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« Brass vs. Silver | Main | Twelve years and still going »
Monday
Nov202017

Brass Brazing Reynolds 753

When I had my frame business in Worcester, England I was only about 25 miles from the Reynolds tube factory in Birmingham. Over the years I developed a close working relationship with Reynolds.

In time I got to know the engineers and management at the factory, and we exchanged various frame design and material input. I knew about Reynolds 753 long before its introduction in 1975 and always made it clear if I couldn’t brass braze it I wasn’t interested.

Traditional brazing by European framebuilders was done with a large soft oxyacetylene flame that heated the lug and several inches of the tube uniformly which allowed the brass to flow through the joint with a minimum of distortion. This was a hangover from the days when frames were hearth brazed in a forge filled with hot coals.

I had developed my own method of brazing with a smaller much hotter flame, working quickly, and heating the tube no more than a quarter of an inch from the lug. I asked the Reynolds engineers if I could submit a test sample brass brazed in this manner to compare with a silver brazed sample.

The way Reynolds tested these samples was to measure the hardness of the 753 tubing a certain distance from the lug to see how much hardness had been lost or retained. My sample did not officially pass but they were sufficiently impressed to ask if I would build six brass brazed 753 frames to be ridden and tested by the Raleigh Team in the 1976 Tour de France.

The Reynolds Company was a part of the TI (Tube Investments.) Group of companies that included Raleigh and Carlton. When I delivered the finished but unpainted frames to the Raleigh Experimental Facility in Derbyshire where the Raleigh Team bikes were built I felt a slight animosity. Possibly because they felt 753 was their baby and I was an outsider.

However my arrangement was with Reynolds not Raleigh and the frames I built were ridden in the Tour along with the Derbyshire built frames. I never knew who rode what in the Tour but I was told that all the frames performed equally well. The result of this was I was told unofficially that I could brass braze 753 but I was asked not to advertise the fact or tell others.

My working relationship with Reynolds continued when I came to the US in 1979. They invested a considerable amount of money in providing special aerodynamic tubing for the American Team Time Trial bikes. I built these at Vic and Mike Fraysee’s shop in New Jersey with the help of Mike Melton.

When I went to work for Masi in late 1980 it was required that I take the 753 test and I did submit a silver soldered sample which passed. I never built any 753 Masi frames but over the years I did build many custom ‘dave moulton’ and Fuso frames in the material. All brass brazed.

What about my promise to Reynolds not to tell? I have been retired from framebuilding since 1993, and so too are all the management and engineers I worked with at Reynolds. 753 is no longer produced, and it is not a secret that will affect National Security.

The agreement was a verbal one, sealed with a handshake. A kind of “We won’t tell if you don’t.” Over the years I never lied to a customer if they asked me outright. I told them it was brass brazed as was every other frame I built. If they didn’t ask, I didn’t offer that information.

To coin an old phrase, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” There are many 753 frames I built still out there, between 25 and 40 years old, and I have not heard of any that have failed. Any super light frame is not going to last forever, so 40 years or more is a good lifespan.

Reynolds 753 was one of the best frame materials ever produced in my opinion. I always felt that properly done brass brazing annealed the tubing at the joint just enough to take out some of the harsh riding characteristics. And remember I was only annealing the tube a very short distance from the lug and this is the stronger butted portion of the tube.

 

 

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Reader Comments (6)

Technique is everything. I have watched guys ruin tubes with silver braze, and way too much heat input.
I work with the current Reynolds people, the ones that bought it out of the flames of the TI disaster. In the tradition they are good people that care about the product and the end use. The young process engineer just took a frame building class so that he would better understand how the products are used.

November 20, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

Thank you for proper quote, as well as your informative blog.

November 20, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterD A McKinnon

This is interesting. Right after I quit building Merz frames I moved to San Jose to work for Specialized. I don't remember how I met her, but this women rider had a LeJeune team frame that was broken. It was made from 753, but was brazed rather than assembled using silver filler. This frame came from Jock Boyer, and was clearly a real team frame. I fixed it for her, I don't even remember what was broken. I was surprised that it was made using brass. I was the first 753 certified builder in the USA. When I submitted my test sample they requested a full frame! I think the reason no one else was certified is the trouble this was! Anyway I used the specified silver, it had cadmium in it. I was very expert at silver brazing, I worked in the dental industry brazing stainless steel parts. T. A. Bill of Renyolds later told me that my test frame was the best they ever got! I did get to visit their factory, old school!

November 21, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJim Merz

So what were the differences, positive and negative, between 753 and 531 ?

November 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

Anthony,

753 is the same alloy as 531, but it is heat treated to give a much higher strength. Half again as strong as 531. This allows thinner walls. Makes a very light, but still strong enough frame. It is more flexible, but this is not so bad. Very lively ride. As Dave mentions, it is the best tubing from the old days.

November 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJim Merz

Thanks Jim. I well remember those red Raleigh bikes in the TdF with some great riders on them, for a while it was a fantastic team.

November 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony C.

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