Classic Lightweights UK
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The Lug Cutter's Story 

Len Phipps - a master of his craft

Steve Griffith 
Len Phipps may not be a well known name amongst lightweight enthusiasts but he is responsible for many a fancy lugged frame that probably has pride of place in someone's collection.

Over the last 30 years Len has cut many of the fanciest lug designs for Bob Jackson, Condor, Flying Gate, and many others. Len had always been a keen club cyclist and long wanted a frame with fancy lugs. In the early 70's the art of fancy lugs had pretty much died out. He ordered a frame from one of the few builders still offering a fancy lugged model, Hetchins. Unfortunately, Hetchins failed to build the bike to the specification for audax and tourist trials (clearances were far too tight for what Les wanted).

He asked for and got his money back and went to Ron Cooper (ex Gillott builder) for a frame. Ron encouraged Len to cut his own lugs which he found he had a natural talent for.

Some years later in the mid 1980’s he was given the opportunity of early retirement from the Gas Board and decided to make of go of cutting lugs commercially. For many years he used Haden blank lugs which he could pretty much cut into any style. Much of his work was done with Tom Board, often making replica lugs for Ephgraves, Hetchins, etc. which were in need of restoration. Alf Hetchins gave permission for this, providing it was only a restoration.

Phipps 3
Lugs cut for 1995 Bates Volante Jubilee

Len recalls producing a number of Magnum Opus and Bonum lugs. He also recalls being asked by someone in Yorkshire to produce 50 Magnum Opus lugs, a job he unhesitatingly refused!

Some of the work for Tom Board was more prosaic, e.g. lugs for cycle couriers who at the time favoured mountain bike style frames. He also made numerous replacement rear drop-outs for Muddy Foxes which were prone to failure.

In recent years with the closure of Haden he has only been able to cut lugs supplied by customers. He produced the lugs for the 1990’s revival of Bates by Ray Etherton and continued to work on the top of the range Condors, including the Galibier. Other frames that bear his handiwork include Jack Taylor, Ron Cooper, HR Morris. The images below give a favour of the quality of his work.

Phipps 1
Drawing of lug patterns by Len

Phipps 4
Bob Jackson Legend
Phipps 5
Ron Cooper

Phipps 2
Another drawing by Len Phipps - many lug cutters were also good draughtsmen

Bryan Clarke sends details of a recent acquisition: They show LP1 the only frame constructed by Len under the guidance of Tom Board in the mid 1980s.  It is clearly a retro-style frame and I have built it up with some earlier period equipment. The lugs show the extent of Len's imagination and are unique. Repairs were carried out by Winston Vaz with paint by his brothjer Mario at Vaz Finishes. I think it was designed as an Audax bike with angles of 73 degs parallel and a 40" wheel base.

Phipps Clarke 1

Phipps Clarke 2 Phipps Clarke 3
Phipps Clarke 4 Phipps Clarke 5

Phipps Clarke 6