When I first a held bottom bracket shell in my hand, it was a seriously crude piece of work by today’s standards. Though the areas meant for business (the pockets for the tubes and stays, the threads and faces for the bearing units) were well-machined, the task of preparation, ornamentation and finish work were left for the framebuilder to carry out. You see, back then framebuilders were also metalsmiths, artisans if you will, not simply joiners and assemblers as we have become these days. Though working with the torch was generally left to the most senior members of a framebuilding concern’s staff, the preparation and reworking of all the little fittings was carried out at the workbench of those being groomed to, one day, many years later, become competent framebuilders as well. This is how we cut our teeth in those days. The quality of even the finest components was so poor that, unless one developed the skills to reshape, file, fit, re-fit, and thin – unless one had the hands and eyes to discern the right clearance and proper aesthetics – no piece would get far enough along in the building process for the masters to be able to perform their magic.
All This By Hand