|The bars on the green Mercian are wrapped with yellow tape|
and coated with amber shellac. It comes pretty close to the
honey-colored Brooks saddle.
"Really nice job on that bar wrap," the person said.
I turned around to find none other than framebuilding master Richard Sachs standing beside me.
". . . . Thanks," I replied, slightly dumbstruck.
Not to overstate my feelings about his vote of approval, but to my mind, it was something akin to being some random guy playing guitar on a street corner for tips, and Eric Clapton walks up and says, "Hey man, nice chops!" While I'm sure Richard has no memory of our meeting or that brief exchange, it pretty much made my day.
|The ends of the tape are tightly wrapped with hemp twine|
for a natural look. Shellac over the twine keeps it together.
There are plenty of articles online and even some videos on YouTube that show step-by-step how to wrap and shellac bars, so I won't go into that kind of instructive detail here (and besides, I don't think it's all that complicated). But I will give some tips and recommendations.
|My first shellac job -- on the Rivendell. 13 years|
and still going strong.
Finishing the ends. I swear, this almost takes on the importance of a religious discussion. Start at the ends and work your way up to the middle? Start at the top and work your way down? Start at the end AND the middle and work towards the brake levers? It's not life or death, and people have their preferences. As for me, I almost always start at the ends of the bars and wrap up to the top -- that way, the tape overlaps in such a way that it's almost like roof shingles, and hand pressure won't roll the edges back (of course, sealing the tape in shellac prevents that anyhow). At the top of the bars, I wrap the ends of the tape tightly with some hemp twine (usually) which is a little "coarse" and has a natural look to it that I like. The twine will also get sealed with shellac so it won't unwind. I have, on occasion, used embroidery floss which comes in a vast array of colors and shades -- if I wanted to do something a bit different with color (but I rarely do). The method of starting at the end and the center of the bars and working towards the brake levers does work well. Proponents like to point out that the ends of the tape get tucked neatly under the brake lever hoods, so no twine or other method is needed to secure the ends, and wrapping around the levers is somewhat simpler. I've done it this way -- but I'm happy enough with my usual method.
For bar ends, I like the old-style Velox rubber ends, but I have on occasion used wine corks to good effect. Because the corks don't usually cover the end of the bar tubing completely (they fit into the bar, but don't quite "cap" it) I'll wrap a bit of twine around the corks to finish them off.
Another way to go is to get shellac flakes and mix your own. The flakes come in more varieties of color, from "blonde" to "amber" to "garnet," and can be dissolved in denatured alcohol. These can be a little harder to find, as a lot of hardware and paint stores may not carry the flakes normally, but there are lots of online sources. If the flakes are in big chunks or pieces, it can be really helpful to grind them up to dissolve more easily. Some people use an old coffee grinder, though I've used a mortar and pestle to good effect. The benefit of mixing your own is that you can make a smaller amount -- just what you need -- and have less waste. Also, when I mix my own, I tend to mix it a little "thinner" than the canned variety, my thought being more coats with thinner shellac for more "control" of the shade and color.
|Brown tape and several coats of clear shellac give a rich|
|The brown tape with shellac is a good match for the antique|
brown Brooks saddle.
For applying shellac, my preference is towards cheap natural-bristle brushes -- usually about 1-in. to 1-1/2-inches wide. I've seen some bloggers suggest using foam brushes, but personally I hate those. When coating the bars, I recommend rolling the brake lever hoods back so they don't get coated (or stuck!) in the shellac. I also recommend wrapping an old towel around the top tube, head tube, and front fork in case of drips. Yes, drips can be cleaned up easily enough with a bit of denatured alcohol on a rag -- but I figure it's better not to have to clean them up at all.