Reading the Lugs: Gram Pettitfog and Robert Pineapple explicate some fine ornate lugs

Author:Rupert Smedeley, esq Peer Reviewed by Perci Crockaphoni

Robert Pineapple, who is starting an old cycle wiki called Pedalpaedia and Gram Pettitfog, who likely knows more about ornate lugs than anyone on earth, have forwarded me some information about an ornate lug Pineapple picked up. It is intriguingly crude and I’m very impressed with the amount of information they were able to glean from it. It is also pretty rare to find an ornate lug in the wild.

The ornate lug is likely the most important technological development in the history of steel framed randonneuse construction since the use of it helps to define the boundary between the “temporary” or “event” randonneuse and more permanent and timelessly pleasing randonneuse of classic manufacture.

“Event” randonneuse are characterized by lack of fenders, luggage, integrated lighting, and supple qualities. “Event” randonneuse are also commonly formed from plastic (carbon) or tig welded frames – how uncouth! “Event” randonneuse are also commonly converted to a fixie-townie by the addition of upright bars, a basket, some twine, and the reduction of the gears to a single fixed 52×15 combination. Color matched wheels are also a rather gauche and common addition to these shameful contraptions. Event randonneuse are generally purchased and owned by ‘event’ randonneurs.

Oh muse within! What song shall be sung by your beauty and grace! Pass the posset please.

Oh muse within! What song shall be sung by your beauty and grace! Pass the posset please.

Pineapple writes:

“Meandering through one of our smaller but higher-end cycle swap markets (the one at Hyde and Turk in San Francisco) today, I found another ornate lug. Some notable aspects: fleur de lies angled 45 degrees to the sole, non-captive reverse ogee curves (and appears to never have been brazed, though I am uncertain), and a handmade bladed scroll detail which is viewed from the top of the lug. All of the fittings are steel and executed quite badly but I believe I can get this on the road and moving again. The curves and the scrolling aren’t quite aligned properly to please the eye. The curves are just cast in, not filed and reflect poorly against the shoreline and have little to recommend them other than the cost. Once the constructeur assembled everything he should have put a couple of brads alongside the curves to keep the lug from rotating. The two drill holes must be recent additions and are ideally located if one was to use picture frame wire to hang the ornate lug on a wall. Nothing really compares to the lugs of Singer from the 70’s; in fact, no cycle compares to the 70’s Singer, as has been proven repeatedly.”

Pettitfog responds:

“This lug is very interesting. Everything there looks perfectly good, though the amount of simplicity might be the killer as to usability and value. Looks to me like it is French or European, possibly older than the ones I have seen (the bit of decoration around the edges says “older” to me) or made by a non-constructeur to a constructeur’s orders copying a French Herse cycle.

The lug edge is the standard French type, but turned around so that you can see the ornate beauty without slicing yourself up in a tumble. I think it has just been turned around by someone who took it apart and didn’t know the standard way. IMHO The standard French orientation with the fleur de lies is stupid, it’s bad design, but that’s the way they are done. Turning around the flourish might be enough reason by itself for the beauty to be off kilter; also, there might have been distraction from lug footed mites pestering the artiste when it was turned around. I find myself scratching a lot too from the little buggers.

I wonder if the screw hole in the rear was originally metric or Whitworth or whatever? That might answer some questions. I find that the screws are often ambiguous metric-or-inch, and lugs that were beyond reasonable doubt made in one may still measure as if they were in the other. But the metal screw should be diagnostic, if any of the original threads are undamaged.

The slot along the cheek would work over a supple 7/4/7 tube with refreshing snugness. This is very typical of French ornate lugs, but not of English and American ornate lugs (which usually are a bit generously proportioned [super-sized] for the American Frame) or German-Dutch-Scandinavian (which might work against, not around, a single recurved lug edge). There are also variants where the lug is grooved for a reverse curve on the ornate lug. This one has the normal French set-up.

The reverse curve ogees are very shallow, which means that you can’t take off a big width of margin in an extra flourish; also, you can’t reshape the base of the ornate lug many times before your knuckles start to drag on the fleur de lies. On the other hand the bead around the base suggests that not much has been lost to amateur shaping yet. That might suggest a lug in the hands of an amateur. On the other hand, the end finial of the big fleur de lies looks old and professionally made to me, 19th rather than 20th century.

The diagonally-set reverse curve pointillations are very interesting. I’ve never seen anything like them, in ornate lugs, lug sets, or in fine poster illustrations. Square reverse curve pointillations are common enough, especially on older and European lug sets and ornate lugs, but the diagonal mounting is unique. On thinking about it, I can see how it might appear to have expansion-and-contraction and wedging advantages, but I think the advantage is specious. The square-section reverse curve pointillations I have examined in sufficient detail were wedged with vertical slits, so that the wedging action pushed along the grain of the lug shoreline, not  horizontally which would mean across it with a splitting action. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

Its very odd indeed for the fleur de lies to be sticking out on the side away from the reverse curve pointillations. Usually they are all three on one side, and the simple curve is on the other side. As set up it looks to me like the reverse curves would get in the way of use of campangolo record down tube shifters. However, that does (as far as I can tell from the photos) appear to be the way it was done originally.

It is surprising the hole is apparently non-captive/collared; a similar arrangement, but with smooth edges, is found on Italian lug sets; this is an arrangement I have seen with bamboo and carbon cycles, though I don’t think it is a good one. Just ride steel. Just Ride, fer crisssakes!

I have been trying to figure out what the new-looking angle brackets were for. They don’t even make sense for mounting it in a display. They certainly don’t make sense in any use of the ornate lug that I can think of. Ride on, Dude.”

Pineapple adds:

“My only additional thoughts (just from looking at the image) FWIW are that the guide curves and fleur de lies were turned around because something broke. The unstained areas look like they could have been welded into this or another lug set. This would also be in keeping with the fleur de lies being reversed to get a little more cutting room for the thickness of the tubes. Possibly this lugset was assembled from a number of parts from different damaged ornate lugs? Could the lack of staining on the inside of the reverse curve ogees be an indication that an earlier thicker lug was cut in two?  I checked with Ricardo Suchs and Gram Pettitfog, and the ornate lugs illustrated are non-captive according to these experts. I received no response from that wippersnapper, Kirkland Pazooties (poseur!). The fixed fleur de lies attachment they illustrate, however is more like an English and American 19th and 20th century ornate lugs.”

Wow thanks Robert and Gram! That will take us and our readers a while to digest.  Cheers.

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