Monday, February 10, 2020

A Silca Pump And Second Chances

The shop where I purchased this pump ended up being my first bike shop gig.
Winter means more time on my hands to get into projects that have been on the back-burner so cold that I almost forget about them. One of those projects has to do with the repair/restoration of an old Silca floor pump that I own.

This floor pump was sold at a bicycle shop that once existed in downtown Cedar Falls, Iowa, and was where I was doing my trading at the time. This would have been in the very early 1990's and back in the days when I was a jeweler. Yep! A suit wearing, diamond slinging, gold fabricating bench jeweler and salesperson.

I had purchased a Klein Attitude in 1992 and the shop owner, Tom, said I needed a floor pump. Okay then, which one? And of course, Tom being Tom, a guy that was all into the cycling tradition and anything Italian, pointed at a row of colorful Silca floor pumps and said, "One of those will do!" And of course, he said the coolest one was the celeste colored one because that was the color of Bianchi bikes, and...........

To be honest, his enthusiasm for old road bike history, while mildly interesting, was loosing me. I got the celeste colored one because he said it was 'cool'. Really. That was the only reason. I liked Tom and figured, why not? They all will get the same job done, and whatever color the pump was did not really matter to me.

So......that's the back story on how I got this pump. 

It worked really well, by the way. A great pump, but for one small, super-irritating trait. It would fall over at the least provocation at the most inconvenient times. Once, while in my "Lab", I was trying to pump something up and was getting frustrated with the short hose and the thing tipped over and...... What came next, I'm not proud of, but I grabbed that pump and launched it across the room in a fit of rage. Well, it landed in such a way that it damaged the gauge and it wouldn't work. Boy! Did I feel stupid! Now I couldn't get anything done and I had a busted pump.

The old gauge in the foreground and the pump in pieces on my bench. 
This all would have happened between my first shop gig, (ironically with Tom), and the next one. I decided to keep the old pump despite it not working because it came from a time that ended up drawing me into the bicycle business. Good thing I did, because once I got back into the bicycle business again I found out Silca had replacement parts for this pump. Basically, it could be rebuilt and used, rebuilt and used, on and on for the rest of my life. This was cool!

So, I got a new gauge, and at the time, since I was working in a shop, I didn't bother with the small parts since that shop stocked them. Now that I am in between jobs, I'll have to wait a bit, but I was able to start the restoration process and install the new gauge in the meantime. The nice thing about a product like this Silca pump is that it was designed to be serviced and it was designed with high quality parts and pieces. Originally they had hardly any plastic parts, being made mostly with steel and brass where it matters. I was told once as a little shaver that this was the difference between the European philosophy on things and the American one. Euros buy for a lifetime, Americans buy to save money. Hmm.....just what I was told then, and I have no idea if that holds any validity, but it does line up with this Silca pump's design, and it was made in Italy, so.....maybe. 

The brass bits were soaked in Muc-Off Bio-Degreaser and scrubbed with a wire brush.

I scrubbed the base with Muc-Off MO-94 and this stiff bristled pink brush.
Years of grime, gunk, and dirt were needed to be removed, so I employed a system of Muc-Off products and brushes to scrub the components with. It worked great. I ended the process with a rinse of Muc-Off MO-94, then a wipe down with a terry cloth rag. The parts and pieces were now good to be re-assembled and the new gauge was installed with a bit of plumbers tape on the threads.

The real deal.
Once I had that done and buttoned back up, I turned my attention to the pump shaft, seals, and bits which were in need of replacement. Over time, the pump lost its sealing capabilities and so I knew that internal parts were going to need to be ordered. First thing was to get inside and have a look at what was wrong. Many of these pumps feature leather cups that seal against the inner walls of the steel barrel allowing for air to be pushed into your tire. These can dry out and shrink causing the loss of any pressure generating capabilities. I figured that probably would be the only bit I needed, but when I got in there, I found something else.

Rats! A bad nylon spacer and a worn out piece of rubber instead of the good old leather.
Yeah....I had the version with the nylon spacer and rubber gasket. The spacer had cracked, and the rubber was worn too much to seal the plunger anymore.

Fortunately, Silca still offers the proper leather and washer parts that the plunger originally was designed to have and with which I can retrofit to this pump. That will be a better deal than this set up and easier to maintain.

Once that was discovered I went ahead and cleaned up the barrel of the pump with Muc-Off Silicone spray which cleans and leaves the painted surface looking shiny and "newer" than it did. It will never look "new" again since the paint has changed to a bit of a greener hue over time. That's just cool patina there, so I am not bothered by that. The main thing here is that my decal, which is not clear coated over, is still intact, so I have that nice older "Silca" brand proudly displayed on the barrel in great shape.

Once I get the bits for the plunger I'll reassemble the pump and it should be good to go for several years of use. Since the base of this pump is so minimal, and it is prone to falling over, one would think, "why bother fixing it?" Well, while it is true that the pump's base is not stable, it was made that way for a reason, which I did not know about until recently. See, apparently it was designed this way so the pump could stow away in a bag easily, making it portable, and thus it was meant to be taken to destinations where a ride might begin. Say, a race, or tour, or whatever.

So, with that in mind, I decided that once I get this one back up and running it is going in the "Truck With No Name" in a bag to protect it and it isn't coming out. That way it will be there whenever I go somewhere to ride so I can top off my tires. I'll follow up on this once I get everything to finish the job with, which, by the way, will include a new hose and pump head, since I stole those bits off this pump years ago!


Ben said...

Just thought I'd chime in to say that's pretty cool and I've never given a pump more than a few seconds of thought before! I guess mine have all been of the run of the mill plastic/aluminum/rubber variety though.

DT said...

Josh did a great job resurrecting/saving Silca, but one of his best decisions was to offer retro replacement parts ad infinitum!

S.Fuller said...

I picked up one of those for $10 a while back. It needs a new gauge, a new leather washer and it will be quite usable again. Love that these things are still supported and easy to purchase parts for.

Luns said...

Wondering if you still have your original broken gauge. I'd be interested in seeing if I could fix your original gauge if it hasn't already been thrown out. I've seem photos of others with the pointer in the same direction as your, and have a hunch is one of the gears skipping a tooth when provoked, and it may be possible to put things back in the proper place.

Guitar Ted said...

@Luns - Hmm.... I'll look and see. I cannot remember throwing it out. The project has been on hold since riding began in earnest this past Spring. I'll comment here if I find it.

Luns said...

Thanks, hope it turns up!

Meant to add before: I think what looked like a rubber cup on the end of your shaft is actually leather cup, just blackened from age. As long as it's not cracked or rotten, leather responds well to some gentle massage with fresh lube, flaring the cup out a little in the process. Some people suggest olive oil, but I think that eventually goes rancid and the acid from that degrades the leather. I use either a dab of bearing grease, or a few drops of motor oil whenever I have things open and it seems to work well.

The nylon spacer is another story though, but they often seem to still work just fine even with the crack, just as long as the locknut doesn't get cranked down too tight. As long as it doesn't fail and slip completely out of place, I would just leave it alone until it does fail, but have the metal replacements ready.

Guitar Ted said...

@Luns - Thank you for those tips. I will tackle this at some point and report back with my findings.