Classic Lightweights UK


Author Steve Griffith

The sheer variety and type of wingnuts - in alloy, steel,  bronze and even plastic - never ceases to amaze me. Some very practical, some quite fanciful and elaborate, often incorporating the maker's name or initials, or even an imitation wing design. Fanciful designs seem to have been a French speciality. This was clearly an area where there was never standardisation of design, although most quality wingnuts incorporated a serrated washer to ensure both a good grip and that it would still be easy to undo. Wingnuts declined in use with the rise of the modern quick release, their heyday was the 30’s to 50’s. I note from an internet search they are still made today and companies such as Pashley fit them to their ‘retro’ bikes.

Fig. 1 - Sturmey-Archer
Fig. 2 - GB lever
Fig. 3a - Constrictor wingnut top
Fig. 3b - Constrictor wingnut side

Wingnuts do add a bit of style to an older machine; however, I do recommend that you check before setting off that you can undo them. Use ones with the serrated washer and ensure it is moving freely.The Huret bronze ones are unlikely to break although they can bend. There is nothing worse than being stuck by the road side with a broken wingnut!!!

The table below seeks to summarise the fruits of my research (mainly rummaging through grubby boxes at jumbles and checking bikes on VCC runs). NB. Quite a few wingnuts have no maker's name and are difficult to identify but I am still trying…

Make Material Date Description Comments
Huret Chrome plated bronze, and bronze finishes 40s to early 80s Butterfly stamped Huret and Huret Luxe ( no real difference) Chrome plated over bronze will not break.
Different types, e.g. in the size and angles of the wings
Sova and Marcel
Plated alloy 70s/80s Butterfly Copies of the Huret design marked Sova 95. Fitted to cheaper French bikes
Brown Bros Steel (gun metal according to their catalogue) 30s to 50s Butterfly & open, chrome, nickel and black finish. Some drilled Some are marked Made in England in small letters on the arms
Alloy 60s Butterfly Imported by Ron Kitching, ref 1970 catalogue
C L B Alloy and Bronze 40s/50s Butterfly Marked CLB in small writing on  arm
Cyclo Steel and alloy 30s  to 50s Butterfly Marked Cyclo & Rosa
Sturmey-Archer Steel 30s to early 60s Butterfly and drilled; (see fig 1). Made for SA hub gear threads Sought after, but rarer are the matching front
Atax Alloy 50s to 70s Butterfly French maker of
handlebars and stems
Gripfast Steel 30s to 90s Range of all the common designs, lever model marked with Reg. No. 8705090 on short side.
Butterfly marked Gripfast England
Trademark of the Utility Company, Birmingham. Made cotter pins, seat bolts, etc. Some of the most common wingnuts (see fig. 5). Lever model became fashionable post-WWII.
G B Hiduminium 40s to 60s Lever GB also made a version to fit Sturmey - marked GB (see fig. 2)
Reynolds Hiduminium 40s / 50s Butterfly - lage size
Raleigh Steel 40s / 50s Butterfly and open model
for the RRA. Plus plainer models
Has 'R' as part of design
B S A Steel 20s to 40s Butterfly Marked B S A
Weinmann Alloy 60s
Freddie Grubb Steel 30s Butterfly Marked F H G on
Bayliss Wiley Steel 30s to 40s Butterfly and open plus
a special drilled lightened version
Not marked
British Hub Co. Steel 30s to 50s Butterfly Solite model Also made tandem vesion
Chater-Lea Steel 20s / 30s Barrel and Tommy Bar Not made post-war
Phillips  Steel 30s to 50s Butterfly and Tommy Bar Stamped Phillips on arm
Constrictor Alloy , Conloy metal 30s to 50s Butterfly Marked Constrictor in very small letters, and on some Con in larger text
See figure 3a and b
Harden Alloy 1947 - 50 Butterfly Marked Harden Made in England
Exeltoo (French) Alloy 30s Butterfly Can find no reference
Brampton Steel  20s / 30s Butterfly Also made for tandem axles - unmarked
Bell (French) Chromed  steel and alloy 40s / 50s Butterfly lever completely one-sided Very sought after especially for French bikes, e.g. Rene Herse.
All marked Bell
Simplex Alloy 40s / 50s Butterfly Marked Simplex, very rare. Huret seemed to be market leaders in France.
Shimano and Sugino Steel and alloy 70s / 80s Butterfly drilled Rare in the UK

Key to descriptions: -
Lever : one long arm the other short often with a flat surface
Butterfly : arms come out at an angle ( standard design)
Barrel : round extended central cylinder (20’s 30’s only)
Tommy bar : arms come out at 90 degrees to barrel
NB The above can also be drilled, e.g. Sturmey

Top Five Wingnuts based upon eBay prices:
1. Bell (over £200 a pair seems to be the going rate!)
2. Harden
3. GB
4. Constrictor
5. Sturmey

I am looking to compile a database of wingnuts, so any new examples please send to me, if possible with images. I know there are many more out there.

Fig. 4

Fig. 5 - Gripfast  lever type
Fig. 6 - Cyclo butterfly

Fig. 7 -  Gripfast butterfly and box

Fig. 8

Brown Bros 1933, Brown Bros 1939 p178 and 179 comprehensive range of pre WWII wingnuts


Fig 1 Sturmey Archer wing nut for their hubs (drilled butterfly type)
Fig 2 GB lever type
Fig 3a & b Constrictor butterfly
Fig 4 and 8 Brown Bros Catalogue 1939 wingnuts
Fig 5 Gripfast lever type (one of the most common)
Fig 6 Cyclo butterfly
Fig 7 Gripfast butterfly & box

Fig 1,2,3,5 and 6 thanks to Peter Underwood www.classiclightweights.co.uk

Peter Lowry has polished up his Brownie box camera and sent some images of four of his wingnuts:

Harden alloy
Huret bronze

Reynolds alloy
Peter wants to know what make this is

More wingnuts, this time from Nick Hando's collection

Raleigh chrome-steel butterfly - RRA
Raleigh chrome-steel butterfly - standard
Unbranded cut-out chrome steel butterfly
Unbranded solid chrome steel butterfly
BBL alloy butterfly with square body for spanner
Reynolds RR56 hiduminium alloy butterfly
Cyclo Benelux chrome-steel butterfly
Huret and Huret Luxe bronze butterfly

Nick's collection of wingnuts before cataloguing begins