Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Show & Tell: Sturmey-Archer AW turns 80

Alas, the first post of 2016. I did not intend to be absent for so long, but this semester of school has been particularly grueling.

Sturmey-Archer has been producing the AW 3-speed internal gear hub continuously since 1936. To be more accurate, the company, now owned by Sun-Race, modified the design in the '80s to get rid of the neutral space between 2nd and 3rd gear but for all intents and purposes, the hub is still very similar. The AW was the most commonly-used 3-speed hub up through the 1990s which is a true testament to its bulletproof design. It wasn't until recently that Shimano, a long time competitor, finally exceeded Sturmey-Archer in the frequency of 3-speed hubs used on new bikes. 

For a little while now, I have been collecting (hoarding, rather) 3-speed hubs, parts, and other trim for projects, future usage, and spares. I did not intend to collect just for the sake of collecting; most of these parts will probably be used at some point. My bikes cover countless hard miles on a daily basis so it's nice to have replacement parts if needed. My collection is not large, but according to certain folks, "once you have at least three, you have a collection" so therefore I must have a collection. 


You know you've gotten deep into your hobby when you have stuff like this just lying around on the floor. Pictured above is a rather hard-to-use 1968 28-hole shell containing the internals of my sister's fried 1972 hub. This particular hub was cleaned up for display and play. The shell came in a lot of 3: the photo above this one contains a 1954 alloy shell and another '68 28h shell. The very usable '72 36h shell from my sister's bike. 

One more lot of shells: a bunch of single-speed coasters, most of which are New Departure Model Ds. At one point, I had more than twenty that were purchased in one lot but I have sold most of them. The four in the right photo will be turned into shot glasses. Also pictured here on the left are a '78 Sturmey-Archer S3C shell with enlarged holes, an '64 TCW III shell (the TCW, S3C, and AWC 1 shells are interchangeable), and one of the 28h shells from the first photo. I must admit the ones in these two photos will likely not see the road again but instead be used for other things. The right photo shows the abundance of 18-tooth cogs (of which I have about ten) that came standard on 3-speed hubs and broken indicator chains. 

Here is a 1956 Sturmey-Archer FG (Dyno-Four) shell, a '56 AW, and a nameless single-speed coaster that I used all of last semester as paper weights for construction drawings. At a certain point in time, somebody removed the dynamo from the FG and welded the left side pawl ring in place. He or she probably wanted to reduce weight. I would not like to re-use this hub shell on a bike. Why they got rid of the bolts, I don't know. 


Carrying on, we see something else peeking out ... the FG's internals sitting in a vise?

I am currently investigating whether I can cut the welds from the shell, remove the left side pawl ring, and weld them to an AW hub shell. Something slightly inconvenient is that Sturmey-Archer decided to use different left-side pawls on the FG than the FW (non-Dynohub Four). Pictured above is the 1956 FG. The holes in the face of the pawl carrier would house sprung rods, which function as pawls, that nestle into the holes in the hub shell to the right. The FW used the same standard pawls and ring that the AW used, which means the two shells are interchangeable. My thought is that they did this to make the hub internals narrower, allowing room for the Dynohub magnet. Anyway, some day, I plan to retrofit an AW hub shell for use with the FG internals. It may have to be an older one with a threaded left pawl ring. I'm worried that welding may warp the shell and ring. We'll see how that goes down. 

Actually, what I was trying to get at earlier was the box peeking out from under my tool cart. My Box-O-Hubs, the contents of which shall follow. 

Let's start with the unlikely ones. Pictured here are two Shimano Nexus Inter-3 hubs, freewheel and coaster brake. I got these for cheap, nearly new, and I'm still not sure what they'll be used on. I'm not familiar with Shimano hubs, only that the old ones were weak and the new ones are quite good. The model numbers here are SG-3R40 and SG-3C41. "C" probably stands for "coaster" but I am not sure how many other versions or iterations of the Nexus hub exist. 


Moving on, we have a 1940s New Departure Model D single speed coaster, this time complete, and a 1963 Bendix red band. I first planned to buy parts and make one of my empty Model D shells roadworthy but I soon realized that while the parts were available, it was more cost-effective just to buy a complete one. I still bought the bearings, pictured on the right, because they were so beautifully made. Frankly speaking, they are probably over-engineered because they don not seem to roll any smoother than the standard style cages (though they are less easily deformed when removed for service) but they are definitely of very high quality. New Departure, the name of which is etched around the inner edge of the bearing cage, was a division of General Motors and produced bearings for cars as well. Both of these coaster hubs have reputations of being very tough and effective pieces of machinery. Again, I'm not sure what I'll use these for and they both need to be overhauled, but I'm thinking one of them will end up driving a Bowden Spacelander that a friend and I plan to replicate. 

At last, the group of Sturmey-Archer 3-speeds. From left to right, top to bottom, pictured are a 1962 AW, 1970 AW, 1959 AW, 1958 SW that I used for parts, and a 1971 S3C (Tri-coaster). I also have a '69 AW that is still laced into its old Schwinn wheel but not attached to a bike. The '62 is being used for parts, the '70 was snatched for cheap and needs to be rebuilt because it doesn't freewheel, the '59 may be built into an alloy wheel for my Raleigh Sports, and the SW will probably just stay here just in case any more parts are needed. The S3C hub was going to be sent to Yellow Jersey to be built into a new 36-hole Westwood rim for the Raleigh Tourist to assist with braking (as the 40h coaster hubs are rare as hens' teeth) but I ultimately decided against it. 

I left the pawls with their springs and pins in place on the AW (left) to save myself some headache
Gwendolyn's 1958 SW internals pictured on the right, completely disassembled

One of the advertising points for the SW hub in 1956 was that it was lighter than the AW. It had notably fewer moving parts as well as smaller planet gears, all of which allowed for a smaller hub diameter. I lifted the hubs in comparison and the difference is similar to that between the alloy AW shell and the steel one. Looking back, this very small difference in weight seems like a very silly thing to worry about, given the type of bike that these were usually installed on. The true benefit of the alloy shell was its ability allow the spokes to bed in, and the SW's "lighter weight" was probably used more as a marketing gimmick. As I have said on a previous post, the SW proved unreliable and the AW was once again the standard hub on 3-speed bikes by 1959. 

This may not be very easy to see, but the text stampings on the 1959 and 1970 hubs have differences. for example, the triangular divisions are spaced differently and the "D" in "ENGLAND" is a different shape. Why these nearly imperceptible changes occurred, I may never know. Some time between 1959 and 1962 (I will guess 1961 because the Raleigh Sports frames, also made in Nottingham, saw several changes of minor details that year as well), the left side pawl ring was changed from being left-hand threaded with wrench flats to a smooth, round press-fit as is visible here. Visible (maybe?) in the photo before this is that the text on the older, non-lined hubs appeared right side up when viewed from the left side of the bike and the later hubs, such as the S3C, the text was to be read from the right side of the bike. Lined and non-lined hubs were produced simultaneously in the early '70s as well: my sister's '72 hub shell is smooth and has the text facing the left of the bike. Strange. 

Pictured here are a complete 40-hole 1953 FG and a 36-hole 1973 GH6 front Dynohub. I bought the FG from a guy on a Raleigh group on Facebook and the aforementioned 1956 FG was purchased for a low price on ebay to use for spare parts. The '53 hub, parted from a Raleigh Superbe Dawn Tourist, initially had difficulty turning but I found it was only a problem with spacing of the Dynohub magnet. I wanted to use the FG on my newest bike project (which is yet to be completed) but decided against it because of the sheer weight of the hub and that 6-volt 1.8-watt standlight lighting systems cannot be had easily. As for the '73 Dynohub, I also bought it for the lights (not pictured) and a wheel build that didn't happen but I may have ruined the magnet already. Dynohubs have non-permanent magnets that cannot be separated from the armature without a "keeper ring." I knew this already, but rust and debris inside the hub prevented the magnet and armature from falling out together when the hub was disassembled for re-packing. In a fit of surprise, I managed to get them back together in roughly 3 seconds but it was probably enough to kill the magnet. Upon reassembly, the notchiness of the hub was weaker. Being a 36h hub, it may be justifiably used on a future project. I read on a blog dealing purely with dynamo lighting that it is possible to modify the Sturmey-Archer Dynohub for more power so I may attempt to do this in the future. Also, you can see here that the older hub, as does the Dynohub on my '58 Sports, has an aluminum face while the newer one has a chromed steel face. I wonder what drove the decision between one material and the other. 

At last, I cannot forget the internals of the 250-mile-old Sturmey-Archer X-RD5 hub that I still have due to a slight misfortune last year. I am not sure what I will do with this but I know I will not throw it out. I could perhaps teach myself how to rebuild and properly time >3-speed hubs and learn a bit about them. 

I estimate the next few posts will follow at smaller intervals because there are several things coming up SOON that will be worth writing about. Much excitement is coursing through my veins. To conclude my first post of the year, I shall provide a silly-sounding yet sound piece of advice:

The best way to clean your nails after servicing an ancient Sturmey-Archer hub, or any other oil-lubricated machine, is to wash your hair.