Magically Delicious!Posted: April 17, 2011
I was hanging out with Roland Della Santa at his shop a couple years back, entertaining myself when he wasn’t telling me racing or girlfriend stories by digging through his stack of tubing. While pilfering through sets of old Reynolds 531 and Columbus SL, I ran across a full set of Columbus Star still in the box. Back in my bike shop day, I’d worked on a Colnago Master that had the crimped four-sided tubing. I remembered thinking the frame was the cat’s meow. Star was everything the Master tubing was; the only difference was that instead of four crimped channels, Star had five. “Hey, Rollie! Wanna make me a frame out of this?” He turned and looked at the tube I was holding in the air. It was obvious he was less than thrilled by my request, since the stuff is kind of a pain to work with, being unforgiving as heck for centering. “Hmmm. I don’t know,” was his response, followed by a quick change of subject back to one of his old flames.
Now, it should be noted that Rollie’s frames have always been the essence of aesthetic simplicity; they ride like the wind, but aren’t overly carved or overtly detailed. A frame made from pentagram tubing is flashy by Roland’s standards.To this day I’m still left wondering why he even had a set of the stuff. Pestering can be a very powerful tool, though and I employed it whenever I thought it might have a positive outcome. Eventually my framebuilder friend cracked under the pressure and he agreed to make me a frame out of the stuff.
Now that I had him wher I wanted him, I decided to see what else I could get away with. One day while visiting the shop I innocently asked if he’d consider making my Star frame a “Gambler’s Special”, Roland’s pet name for any bike where he carves card suits into the lugs. Not seeing the slippery slope he was on, he walked over and wrote “Gambler’s” on my work order. Ah, ha!
Next: 6 months ago Roland had started offering the option of drilled chainstays. I knew a traditional frame with narrower stays wouldn’t fit his jig though. Of course I still asked, but my stays just couldn’t be done, at least not with his current jig. The holes would be too large for the stays. Plus, his jig couldn’t hold my stays correctly, which meant that they would chatter and flex when drilled. Not wanting egg-shaped holes, I’d given up, though the idea was still in my head. While discussing the chainstay problem with machinist, friend and fellow framebuilder Ed Gresham in early 2011 the solution presented itself. Ed had made the original Ossobuco jig and understood what it would take to drill my stays. In the end, Ed ended up making a custom clamp for the stays and the holes were drilled using his mill, without the benefit of a jig.
At Rollie’s this week, I saw Star tubing in the frame jig. Close by were the custom-drilled chainstays. It’s looks like it’ll only be a matter of time before the “Lucky Charm” bike, as it is affectionally known, will be done (Hearts, Diamonds, Stars, and Circles all present). I guess I should start thinking about what color I’m going to try to talk Rollie into painting it…