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Classic Lightweights UK
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Jack Hearne - frame builder and enameller 

hearne-builders146 Stoke Road, Slough,
Buckinghamshire


Author Geoff Orange

                                                
Jack Hearne spent his childhood in the small village of Stoke Poges just three miles north  of Slough in Buckinghamshire. After World War II he had a newspaper delivery job with which came his own transport - a bike.               
                               
After Army National Service Jack started work in his uncle's village garage at Stoke Poges driving a taxi. There he was also introduced to cycle repairs, as most  garages after World War II also sold bicycles. Jack then attended evening classes at the London Polytechnic to learn the craft of cycle frame-building. His first shop, again in Stoke Poges, was in a converted barn next door to one of the village's public houses.  Jack started frame building indoors in the loft area above the shop. A flat table-top board with frame angles and sizes etc was used to prepare and cut the tubes to length, and to file lugs and tube ends prior to setting to the angles required. The board was also used to pin the tubes before brazing took place; jigs were not often used by the smaller frame builders at this time.       
                               
The "forge" for brazing the frame tubes was outside the shop in a canvas-covered metal framed extension. This also housed an electric oven for stove-enamelling, the painting of finished frames. Later, a larger oven, fuelled by bottled gas, was installed. This was large enough for tandem frames or several normal size frames. Jack also became involved in paint spraying and re-enamelling customers frames, often learning by trial and error the best way to achieve a good finish.   
                               
Old paint was removed from frames by burning off. A large flame was played over the frame then was rubbed quickly with a wire brush. After that there was a lengthy session with an emery cloth to polish the tubes to a shiny finish.  Many years later old paint was removed by shot-blasting and the frame was held in a cabinet.  This was time-consuming so Jack then built a complete room for shot-blasting. He had to wear a helmet complete with an air supply, similar to that of a deep sea diver, due to the dusty atmosphere in the room. Jack always did his own paint spraying, transfers and lacquering. Transfer quality was not so good in the early days and often a frame had to be re-sprayed to achieve the best finish.                       
                               
One of the London frame builders, Les "The Filer" Sylvester, often came to Stoke Poges for a day's work with Jack, as did Len Hart who worked with Gillott before joining the management at Dawes Cycles.               
                               
I started work in Jack's shop at the age of 11 years old. The first skill I acquired was mending punctures, allowed only to use tyre leavers to remove the tyre and
fingers to refit it! After a while I was shown how to polish the tubes of the newly built frame with a piece of emery cloth. Jack insisted that the grain of the polish had to run in the same direction which obviously helped to get a superb finish.       
                               
During the 1950's and 60's cycle road racing was on the up and so Jack became involved in that and also encouraged people to try it. To help financially, he ran a "club" savings account for the racers to pay in what they could afford, so that they could have a new bike straight away.  Jack's local club was The Chiltern Road Club, based at High Wycombe. He was President and Race Organiser for many years, holding races for amateurs and semi-pro's independents.  

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Jack Hearne presenting winner;s trophy to Brian Tadman winner of 1960's 'Stokes'
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Two 1970's Jack Hearne machines
ridden in the Redditch 2-up 25-mile TT
                                                      
Jack later had a custom-built shop three miles to the south of the village in Slough.  This shop had a large showroom for around 120 cycles, a workshop in the basement, and further work areas at the rear. He built his own shot-blasting room for the removal of old paint, and installed a larger paint spray unit with air extractors. The unit enabled him to give the frames a finish second to none.   
                               
During the 1960s many smaller frame building shops sponsored riders for road racing. Larger shops may have had three or four riders, with team names such as "Wally
Green Cycles", "Condor-Mackeson", "Quinn-Everyman", " Ryall-Raxar" and  "Witcombes".  These teams could be seen racing along with the bigger teams of "Viking Cycles", " Falcon Cycles", " Dawes", "Raleigh", and others. 

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Jack was a big supporter of Campagnolo components     
 
Jack was a race mechanic with the England Team on several occasions in the Tour of Britain. The team leader was Bill Bradley, a winner. Jack was awarded one of the yellow jerseys for his work on the team. He also went with a team to the Tour of Sweden and the European Tour of Youth.

Jack's village, Stoke Poges, produced a future champion cyclist, Eddie Adkins, son of the village policeman. Eddie went on to win the National 25-Mile Championships in 1977, 1978 and 1979. Eddie rode a Jack Hearne frame for many years of his racing career and Jack was very proud of Eddie's numerous race wins.

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Above:  Three machines built by Jack Hearne for Eddie Adkins. Top-left - lo-pro time-trial; top-right - road bike;
underneath - conventional fast-back time-trial   

hearne-builders 3 Left: Eddie Adkins making the most of his Jack Hearne/Campagnolo machine
He was three-times National  25-mile Time Trial Champion - 1977, 78 and 79
            
I offer my sincerest thanks to Jack for teaching me so much over the past 45 years, not least for giving me my nick-name " Jaffa "               
                               
Geoff (Jaffa) Orange   
Former Secretary of Chiltern Road Club.
June 2011
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Geoff (Jaffa) Orange, Jack Hearne and Eddie Adkins
at Jack's 80th Birthday Bash