by Harry Keates

Nov. 15, 1961, Cycling Magazine

"The Carlton in London is known world-wide as a club for the elite. Riders of Carlton cycles are rapidly becoming a similarly elite though more numerous body.

I discovered a great many reasons why this is so when recently visiting the home of Carlton Cycles at Worksop. This home, by the way, was taken over by a new landlord in March, 1960, Raleigh Industries Ltd., and a few weeks ago it also became the future home of the club and racing type machines of the Sun range.

These moves are not changing the tailor-made policy which has long prevailed at Worksop. Managing director Kevin O'Donovan and his staff of about 60 (there were only half this number some three years ago) still aim to continue as the leading manufacturers of hand-built craftsman-made bicycles. The changes and an on-the-spot expansion of premises which is being effected soon will help them to  increase output with out in the slightest altering production techniques. From what I saw, this policy means, too, that the Sun range produced at Worksop will retain their separate identities and that the standards associated with this marque will be preserved at the Carlton factory.

In the little group of old buildings about a mile from Worksop station there was an unusual blend of the long-established family business and modern methods, a "customer first" attitude stemming from the individuality of  specifications, and the enthusiasm of experts working as a team to produce the best.

The first Carlton cycle was made by Fred Hanstock at 'Carlton, near Worksop in 1898 but it was not until 36 years later that the move into the present site was made. Kevin O'Donovan joined them two years later and his father bought the firm during World War II when the current policy of producing hand-made cycles was adopted. Hitherto, the manufacture of frames for small makers throughout the country had been one of Carlton's main objects.

Kevin O'Donovan is, of course, one of those who has been longest with Carlton Cycles. The "oldest member," however, is Will Kirk, a master craftsman in track frames, who has worked for them since 1934. Robert Keeling has been brazing for 25 years, and Slim Marshall joined them in 1937. Kevin's brother Gerald, left the R.A.F. or should I say R.A.F.C.A. ? to become works manager four years ago. Work study has been and is still being applied to improve production methods whilst retaining the best of craftsmanship. It was an easy task, therefore, to follow through the various stages - the brazing of fork ends and crowns before assembly into the frame proper, bridging, and the addition of brake and gear cable eyelets, bosses, etc. Major joints are all carefully effected by hearth brazing, minor ones by gas and air torch, with oxyacetylene welding, for the eyelets. The risk of over-heating at any stage and thus weakening the frame is reduced to a minimum. Constant checking is carried out to ensure that the frame and fork ends are completely true; the methods used are so well-tried and accurate that rejects are few and far between. Shot-blasting, filling-in and filing follow, the time taken on the last varying   from the 45 to 60 minutes spent on the cheaper range to the 2 /2  to 3 hours on the Carlton Jewel.

Head-race seatings are then fitted, the front forks are subjected to four accuracy tests alone before joining the frame, bottom bracket shells tapped and the frame prepared for the seat pillar. Engaged on this work was former B.A.O.R. military policeman, Gordon Knowles, a Clowne Wheeler with some fine "25s" to his credit.

Pickling and washing of the complete frame then precedes its phosphate bath, after which it receives first a grey then a "silver" primer, coating. Spraying of the main colour comes next. This is two coats of Epigloss, based on the, Shell Chemical Company's Epikote resin,and giving a brilliant, strong and lasting finish. Additional coloured panels precede the lining and transfers and, finally, a thin coat of clear protective lacquer. Stoving occurs, of course, after each finishing stage.

All Carlton chromium-plating, their well-known speciality, is a copper-based duplex nickel coating followed by plating to a standard well above the " severe service " red label B.S.1224:59 specification.  Bottom brackets and chainsets are fitted and the frames are carefully wrapped for protection of the finish whilst the final task of   assembling to the customer's specification  is carried out. This is a "one-man-one-machine" routine under the direct supervision of the works manager and a very important procedure in a concern which does everything possible to satisfy each and every member of the "Carlton Club."

Apart from their popularity in the U.K., Carltons have been selling well on the Continent and in South Africa, and last year about a thousand were sold in America-mostly Flyers with handlebar control Campagnolo Record equipment and Dunlop No. 5 tubulars."

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