Something of an update, both to the bike, and to the background of the bike.
A recent find by our very own Mr nevadasmith - http://www.retrobike.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=250974
- struck a chord with regards to the frame shape, and some of the little details, I studied his pictures diligently, looked at my bike, and asked a few questions, and the 3 year old mystery of what exactly my 'Merlin' was is now solved. An email to Bicycles by Design
and a response from Rob confirmed my suspicions:
Your bike is definitely one of ours and the frame was completed on 16th June 1989 - hence the frame number...
Just to clarify how we worked and named our frames: Frames bearing the "Swallow" name have only ever been as one off bespoke frames for individual customers. We always used Reynolds or Columbus tubing (we'd choose tubing to suit rider and style) quality or hand cut lugs or lugless construction plus Cinelli cast bottom bracket shells and fork crowns. Certainly while we were based in Essex 1981-91 Swallow frames were built by Peter Bird or myself. Swallow frame numbers are prefixed SW and are sequential.
Our frames with other bird names: Toucan (tandem), Giffon, Merlin, Ptarmigan, Wren, Swift, Osprey and Puffin were all what could be called semi-custom with set designs using standard tube sets, standard lugs or lugless construction, pressed steel bottom brackets, standard braze-ons (with some options at an up-charge.The frames were made to measure, rather than fully bespoke and were still made by Peter or myself, with some of the work was done by apprentices and other employees. At the time these were still very high quality frames compared to other sectors of the industry.
Fitting SA drum brakes was not an oddity as disc brakes were not available back then and the drum brake gave all weather performance, compared to basic cantilever or the useless U brakes.
Looking at the photo the bike looks all original (and in good condition) including Columbus tubing decals and the '80s smoked paint. The smoke effect was made using a candle or burning our brazing torch 'dirty' around the tubes before the final clear lacquer coat was applied.
Which is pretty cool, nice to know for sure anyway.
This provided the motivation to put some effort into 'finishing' it, so I have now more or less nailed the spec, having tracked down a Swallow designed seat post, a British made steel stem with more normal geometry and a saddle, tyres and brake lever change. I would like to track down a pump to fit the braze-on as it looks a bit lonely hanging out there, and I shall be ordering some new decals for the frame from Rob.
I shall update with some more dungeon pics in a bit.