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How To: Custom Sprocket

December 3, 2012

We’ve discussed how to renew old sprockets by adding new teeth (second article here).  And shown some information from the 1917 Reynolds chain company.  But this article is about how to make a very special customized sprocket.

Here is an advertisement from the Edward Williams company circa 1922.  They supplied sprockets and crank arms for bicycles and motorbicycles, with custom patterns.  BSA and others had their names or symbols cut into the steel chainrings.sprockets


Here is the famous Rudge “hand” logo on a chainwheel on ebay.  That symbol is known around the world as the symbol of a wheelwright.rudge chainwheel


The 1913 Veloce project bike needed a chainring, so I thought that I’d create an interesting one to fit it.  Using Solidworks, I drew a solid sprocket and then cut each letter to match the old lettering on the Velo gas/petrol tanks. 

veloce sprocket




The next step was to buy a sprocket from Martin Sprockets and Gears, via the local bearing shop.  I bought a special wide sprocket, then cut it on the lathe to have a dished section to match the old sprockets.



Sending the .DXF drawing to a friend who has a water jet machine, and hey presto! There was a sprocket in my mailbox the next week.IMG_1064


After polishing and plating, I fitted the crank arms and pedals.  Now the assembly is ready for the rest of the bike to be finished…



12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2012 10:43 pm

    Awesome! Any clue on whether Veloce had a custom sprocket, or is yours the first?

    • December 4, 2012 9:09 am

      Hi Paul. The only other 3.5hp Veloce (the Harrison Veloce) has a standard sprocket on it like a period bicycle. The very few old photos of the bikes curiously don’t show the sprocket, and the catalog from the Velo factory shows a very odd sprocket with five 3/4″ holes in it. That one might be an artist’s idea, as that type of sprocket doesn’t appear in any other manufacturers’ bikes or catalogs… So I figured that I’d just make up what I wanted! 🙂

  2. December 3, 2012 10:46 pm

    love it pete…..

  3. shaun permalink
    December 3, 2012 10:54 pm

    Very cool!

  4. Ivan T permalink
    December 3, 2012 10:59 pm

    Nice work Pete!


  5. John permalink
    December 4, 2012 3:47 am

    Nice job Pete. I enjoy your little projects for the Veloce. Where did you locate the crank arms and peddles please?


    • December 4, 2012 9:04 am

      The crank arms are old (new nickel plating though), but the pedals are brand new. I think that I found them on ebay UK from a seller of reproduction antique bicycle parts.

  6. jon szalay permalink
    December 4, 2012 7:06 am

    man,,, that is a beautiful thing!

  7. December 4, 2012 8:23 am

    Man, U connected! I’m dying to find light weight chains for my Excelsiors. JC Whitney took my request for a catalogue (Matt Smith said they had light 520 chain) but the catalogue still isn’t here. Original chains had 1/32′ side plates and almost look like bicycle stuff. Modern chains are about 1/16″ side plates and can handle modern horsepower. Not good! Heheheh. Jap chains are plain metal finish and the lightest chains I’ve seen on restored bikes seem to be anodized dark. That’s just a hint. Any help here appreciated. What you going to use on the Veloce? Thanks, Paul V Long Beach, Ca. PS Your nylock nut looks naughty and original pedals may have been the double nutted (one on each end of the treadle stud) and double end plate types. Not sure because it could have had expensive rat traps too.

    • December 4, 2012 9:15 am

      Hi Paul. I’ve found a decent variety of chains at McMaster Carr. But you might have to search some old local bicycle shops to get just the right width chain. I wasn’t worried if the side plates were thicker than original, there was plenty of room. (the chain is only for the bicycling gear used to start the motor, the Veloce is belt drive). Good eye on the nylock nut! I’ve had pedal cranks come loose before, and don’t want to fight that battle again. Also, if you buy new taper pins, be careful. Some of them at the bike shops are made in China from very weak metal, and they just deform like putty. Then they are stuck in place in the crank arm, and won’t go in or out! That was a fun exercise on the Premier a few years ago. Now I make them myself from chromemoly steel. Regarding pedals, there were a lot of types of them in the teens, especially with the variety of bicycles in the UK and US. I just picked a pair that looked right. They tend to fall off about once every few years anyway, so we’ll see how it goes! 🙂

  8. Lindsay Brooke permalink
    December 4, 2012 8:45 am

    Pete, your CAD-slinging fearlessness and workmanship are inspiring! Thanks for sharing this post.

    Lindsay Brooke
    SAE International
    Plymouth, MI

    • December 4, 2012 9:16 am

      Thanks Lindsay. I’m lucky in that I own my own CAD software and workstation and use them 40 hours a week in my day job. So the bike stuff can be knocked out pretty quickly and easily, time permitting!

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