The various control cables (brakes, clutch, etc) used on the AMC range of bikes were all made 'in house' in one of the roof shops.
The operations involved in making up a complete cable were basically those of cutting both the inner (wire) and outer (sheath) components to length, fixing the ferrules to each end of the sheath, adding any adjuster parts and nipples and then swaging the wire ends before soldering on the nipples to the inner cable.
Although accurate measuring and cutting of the materials was very inportant, the soldering operation itself was crucial for ensuring the safe function and long life of any cable.
Ex-works tester and ISDT rider Brian Slark recalls a visit to the Cable Shop in the '60s when all the cables were made by Peter Hales:
Peter, an immaculate little man wearing the inevitable brown coat, had a tiny shop on the roof
of the factory with a fine view of the River Thames and countless chimney stacks.
Peter was the cable man, producing every cable for production and spares.
When I wanted a cable made for an ISDT bike, I would go up on the roof, give him the measurements, and watch him make a perfect cable in seconds.
He used special punches to form a ball at the extremity of the inner wire, and would deftly dip the end of the cable with the nipple into a pot of flux, then into a pot of molten solder and back into the flux again.
He would do this with lightning dexterity, giving the cable a little flick to remove any excess solder.
His final test was to coil up the cable and pull and push the inner wire to check for free movement.
'That will give you no trouble in your Six Days,' was his final word, and we never did break a cable in those events.
Brian Slark 'Working for AMC' - Classic Bike magazine July 1988
[Although Brian refers to Peter Hales as the cable man, in reality most of the work was equally carried out by his able colleague Eileen Ward, during that period. There is also some doubt about Brian's recollection of the view from the roof shop as other ex-employees recall the windows of the cable shop facing South, away from the River Thames, of which not much was visible anyway]
Bill Cakebread also witnessed Peter Hales cable making method first hand and provided this detailed description, in answer to a reader's question on the subject of how inner cable ends were formed, in the May 2020 issue of Old Bike Mart magazine.
The cables at AMC were made in the 'roof shop' at Plumstead by Peter Hales and his assistant Eileen Ward.
Unfortunately, I don't have a photograph of the small hand-operated press that was made in the tool-room
and used by them but, from memory, the lower 'die' consisted of a small smooth jawed vice whose jaws were
machined with a vertical hole through the mating faces.
The hole was marginally smaller than the inner cable diameter and, on the top face of the jaws, the hole opened out into a 'countersink' to form the cable side of the ball end shown. The inner cable was set a specific amount above the top face of the jaws and then clamped.
The upper part (working like a small vertical press) held a concave-nosed punch that formed, and closed, the ball end when brought down on the cable end.
Removed from the vice, the inner cable was fluxed and then immersed in a bath of molten solder to fill the
ball and the process repeated with the nipple in place to finish the job.
This 'ball end' was virtually indestructible when filled with solder but Peter's proud boast, which he was happy to demonstrate, was that it was near impossible to make the nipple part from the cable, even without any solder being applied in the process! I wonder what happened to that tool?
As well as cables, the soldering facility and skills were used to assemble the valve rocker oil feed pipes used on several of the AMC models.
A special type of malleable metal tubing known as Bundy tube (or pipe), was used for these assemblies because of its ability to be hand-shaped around difficult paths and flared out at its end, high pressure capability and its good vibration withstanding properties.
Bundy tube is type of double-walled low-carbon steel tube manufactured by rolling a copper-coated steel strip through 720 degrees and resistance brazing the overlapped seam in a process called Bundywelding. It may be zinc- or terne- coated for corrosion protection.
Originally manufactured by the American Bundy Tubing Company, it had been used for automotive hydraulic brake lines in cars manufactured there since the 1930s.
The company was bought in the 1980s by what is now the British company TI Automotive.
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