Author Topic: Re-riveting Brooks saddles (B.17-specific)  (Read 7804 times)

Danneaux

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Re-riveting Brooks saddles (B.17-specific)
« on: April 21, 2013, 09:57:35 PM »
Hi All!

Some of you have written to ask me how I re-rivet my Brooks B.17 saddles. I did my first one 27 years ago because I was disappointed the plated steel rivets on my B.17 Standard had begun to rust and I had always admired the appearance of larger, hand-hammered solid copper rivets. I have done a number since, all with success. The skills really came in handy when I needed to replace my rail and cantle plate assembly after it fractured: http://thorncyclesforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=2294.msg16209#msg16209

I've photographed the process in the past, but can't find the pictures at present. The closest I've found to my procedure on the 'Net is here: http://nplus1bikes.blogspot.com/2010/09/brooks-professional-saddle-frame.html There are some exceptions to his procedure, so here are the steps I use:
1) Remove the saddle from the bike and invert the saddle on a soft cloth.
2) Turn the tensioning nut to its loosest setting -- you want minimal tension on the saddle cover (leather).
3) If the saddle has clinched plated-steel rivets (they look like little flower petals on the back side), then carefully drill them out from the inside -- again, with the inverted saddle placed on a soft towel to prevent scarring the leather. I avoid grinding out the rivets, as I don't want to go through the plating or powdercoat on the rail/cantle plate assembly. Drilling removes just the rivet. Line up the drill so it goes straight through and doesn't damage the leather.
4) Once the rear rivets are removed, you can lift the rails up and out of the cover. The nosepiece is still attached to the front and will stay with the cover.
5) The rivets in the nosepiece are difficult to remove and reset because they are located one each side and one in the top center. I have had my best luck drilling at an angle from the inside; if you go from outside, the rivets will spin and burn the leather.

Now everything is apart, it is prudent to put a small drop of machine oil on the riveted ends of the saddle rails that secure the cantle plate. This is a common source of creaks and squeaks in B.17s, and is normally covered by the leather. Wipe off any extra so it won't soak into the leather.

I have found it very helpful to apply a light coat of Proofide to the saddle at this point, leaving it in place so any stray hammer blows won't scar the leather. You can always polish off the excess later. Place a heavy. folded cotton towel under the part of the saddle you aren't hammering to prevent scarring of the leather, and be sure to vacuum or blow away any swarf (debris) from the drilled-out rivets as they can also scratch the leather.

6) Using the rivet shafts as locators, place the nosepiece into the cover. Using a hollow-pointed punch (made by drilling a chamfered hole into the end of a generously-sized drift punch), place the saddle cover and nosepiece on an anvil and press the rivet firmly through the assembly as you strike an initial blow to peen (mushroom) the end of the rivet shaft. Repeat for the other side of the nosepiece. Now, clamp the hollow-ended drift punch in a vice, place the rivet shaft onto it, and strike the rivet head to set it. It is critical you have good aim and do *not* bruise the leather or whack the nosepiece, which can initiate fractures. I have the best luck using a small double-ended peening/setting hammer with non-hardened faces placed against the rivet head and then striking the hammer with a small 1kg hand sledge. The goal is to strike the face evenly and to lightly drive the edges into the leather so they won't snag your riding shorts. It is best to do the job to complete satisfaction now, as it is extremely difficult/impossible to do touch-ups on the nosepiece of an assembled saddle.

7) Once the nosepiece is secured, it is a good idea to examine the Brooks nameplate to see if the rivets are set securely. If not, this is the perfect time to either re-clinch the existing rivets or replace them.

8 ) You can now turn your attention to securing the cover to the rear cantle plate. Use the same procedure as on the saddle nosepiece. the good news here is if you later need to hammer an edge or tighten things up, you can -- unlike the nosepiece which is inccessible after assembly. When you do your hammering, be sure to avoid hitting the leather or the cantle plate beneath -- you want to strike the rivet so it is clinched fully, check that it is driven fully into contact with the cantle plate (capturing the leather) and the edges are not exposed and sharp where they would soon catch, snag, and wear through clothing (and you!). Be especially careful to hammer only as hard as needed; the cantle plate can be fractured by a mis-aimed blow, so it is best to use an intermediate hammer and strike it with another (soft faces on all).

9) At this point, you'll have a saddle rail assembly riveted to the rear of the cover.  Flip the saddle over and insert the front tension loop into the front rail return. Fully insert the de-tensioned bolt into the loop from the front and lower the rails so the pip at the bolt end rests on the edge of the nosepiece.

10) Brooks use a hydraulic saddle stretcher to put the nosepiece on the tension bolt. Danneaux uses a tempered stainless steel butter knife as a slim wedge inserted between the tension bolt pip and the nosepiece as a ramp, then press the tension bolt end into place as I remove the wedge. Voila! Retension the saddle if needed, polish off what remains of the light Proofide coating, and you're done. A photo of the example on my rando bike below. This saddle has done ~35,000mi since new, about 25,000mi since it was first re-riveted...and about 3,000 since it was re-riveted to replace the rails that fractured in use. I'm really light on my saddles, and they never make the extreme dips I have seen with some other well-used Brooks. I put this down to my preferred 45 back angle that has my arms supporting a lot of my weight and to my fast, light cadence. I also try to select pretty firm saddles when buying and Proofide sparingly; I think these factors make the biggest difference of all.

Now, to preferences and supplies. I almost always go with a 12.5mm rivet 'cos it allows me to go oversize later if the rails need future replacement and I have to do the job again. the rivets do enlarge slightly when hammered. If you can, try to get fresh solid-copper rivets; they tend to be a bit pinkish color. In my experience, copper hardens as it ages and oxidizes and makes the job tougher to do and the end result a bit less pretty than when the copper is soft.

I got my rivets from Bill Laine at Wallingford ( http://www.wallbike.com ). His complete listing of available parts is here: http://www.wallbike.com/catalog/saddles/saddle-maintenance-and-repair-parts/saddle-parts-0 He is sometimes out of stock for a period of time, so I would advise ordering things like rivets or replacement rails and nosepieces before you need them.

There are other sources of solid-copper rivets as well. I have found near-identical 12.5mm rivets at a couple of my local hardware stores, but they proved unsatisfactorily hard to hammer. They had aged and hardened. Leather and saddle suppliers are good sources as well (for example: http://www.outfitterssupply.com/russon/leather-tools.asp ), though I prefer Brooks.

In the UK, one supplier is Bowstock: http://www.bowstock.co.uk/acatalog/Copper_rivets.html

Here are links to other online tutorials and discussions on the topic. Though all differ somewhat from my method, the results seem satisfactory:

http://livingwiththewebers.com/art/refurbishing-brooks-leather-saddle
http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=74613&start=0
http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=32670
http://forum.ctc.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=69973
http://cyclingspokane.blogspot.com/2007/02/my-weak-contribution-to-people-who-want.html

Remember, doing your own saddle repairs and modifications will void your warranty and if done incorrectly, can lead to failure of the saddle and possible injury, diminished capacity, or death (and mashed fingers during the process); do this at your own risk (compulsory disclaimer here in the land of injury lawsuits and torte claims).

Best,

Dan. (...who now concludes this riveting tale)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2017, 01:57:49 AM by Danneaux »