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Help with an vintage headset removal
Please Help! I'm trying to overhaul the headset on this old English roadster (circa. 1938-45) I'm at my wits end and I just can't get either the stem or fork out.

I loosened the stems tightning bolt and gave it a tap with the hammer. The wedge becomes and loose and drops into the head tube. However the stem won't even budge.

I can loosen the locknut but there is no hope of unthreading the adjusting race.

The tightening bolt is the only think I can remove.

I don't want to start tapping this with a hammer worrying that I coud be stripping something.

Any suggestions?
Get a good penetrating oil and soak everything (tapping it gently once in a while) overnight or even a few days.Than keep working at it. Its all rusted solid. If that does do it clean off the penetrant with soap and water than try heating the frame with a torch. And than try pulling the stem. Wear gloves. This will damage paint
Machinist's Workshop magazine actually tested penetrants for break out torque on rusted nuts. Significant results! They arranged a subjective test of all the popular penetrants with the control being the torque required to remove the nut from a "scientifically rusted" environment.

Type of penetrating oil ..... Average load

None ................................ 516 pounds

WD-40 ............................ 238 pounds

PB Blaster .......................214 pounds

Liquid Wrench .............. 127 pounds

Kano Kroil .................... 106 pounds

ATF-Acetone mix......... 53 pounds

The ATF-Acetone mix was a "home brew" mix of 50 - 50 automatic
transmission fluid and acetone.
Never Give Up!!!
Thanks for the reply GeorgeET. I've made a note of your penetrants before. I've only used WD-40 (with past success) but it looks like I will need try and make my own home brew.

I was able to get the lock nut off but the adjusting race gets jammed at the top of the fork threads. I'm terrified of stipping the threads.

The torch is a great idea, I will give that a shot on the adjusting race and fork and hopefully get this stem out.
I remember a post where we all were talking of the different wedge nuts inside of a headset. I know there are two kinds, and my experience of playing with older english models is the headset wedge nut is an expander type. Ahhh found this on sheldon brown's website, scroll down to the term "wedge bolt"..... http://sheldonbrown.com/gloss_w.html
Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!
Thanks for the note Bill. I reckon from what I've experienced so far that the bike has a Expander-type stem.
Make sure there is not a washer between the first nut and the second. If there is not use channel locks as there are loose ball bearings under that nut. Yes you will have to replace them but it will come loose becareful not to chew up the nut.
Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!
There is no washer, just the lock nut and adjuster race. Still, the adjuster race will cease up at the top of the fork threads as shown in the image. I'm only using super human strength as this point.

I don't have a suitable channel lock, but will get my hands on one. I'm hesitant though as I don't want to force it, the lock nut was a bit of a grind near the top and I used a wrench. I hope I haven't damaged the threads.

The bearings have been removed (and/or fallen out.) I think my cat ate one of them.
Looks like you made progress with the threaded collar. As I understand from your first post , you were able to loosen the expender bolt and tap down the expender so now its free. The steering stem is still frozen to the fork tube.

Are the forks free , do they turn?

If so you can continue trying to separate the steering stem from the forks by soaking it for a few days or since now with the lock collar up you should be able to clean re grease and pack in new bearings leave the handlebar stem alone.

AS per the collar getting stock on the top few threads. turn it back down and work the top nut up and down on threads a few times with some oil to see if it cleans the threads, than try the lock collar again. Wrap an old tube around it and grab with channel lock pliers or pipe wrench. There are also soft strap wrenches for pvc pipes.

You can get a thread repair file from machine shop supplies stores,
Never Give Up!!!
Your doing fine! Smile. Now after you can get some channel locks the trick to getting that nut off is like tapping a hole for a screw or bolt for a new sized nut. Go until it is tight then go 1/4 turn ,back off spray with some oil then repeat this process until the nut is off the tube. Pretty simple just have to have patience. As far as the handle bars being stuck I would go with what George said 1st. With so much they will eventually have to free up.
Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!

I also wanted to add that there is another way to get the stem loose from the forks, POSSIBLY. There are a couple things to know before trying this method. Is there a hole in the bottom of the forks? Located if you turn the bike upside down you would noticed a hole where you could look into the steerer tube where the expander nut would be located, look at attached picture. My terminology may be off a little but we can refer to the picture. Now if it does that is a plus. You can spray the blaster you use down that tube with bike upside down. Leave set overnight. Now is the expander nut loose inside? If so thats good. If not then unscrew the bolt to where you can take it completely out. Then insert your straw that goes onto the blaster into that little hole and spray away, leave set for a couple hours. Grab your bolt or a metal rod that fits in the hole and set it side ways. Now tap it with a hammer a couple times at different angles. We are forcing the expander nut away from the flanges that it may be stuck in. Now this part is tricky. Get yourself a board and place it between the forks high up like very close to the hole noted in picture. Make sure your board is held in place to something to act as a stop so you can turn the handle bars back and forth with adequate pressure. Im not saying slam them into the board just turn it one way apply some light pressure then same thing back to the opposite way. If they move then awesome!! After you get em to budge even a little spray pb in the top and the bottom hole so it can work its way into the fresh open you just made.
One other question did you see rusty color come out when you sprayed pb?
Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!
Ye you are right Bill I like my first idea better too, and good idea spraying the fork tube from underneath if that has not been done.
Never Give Up!!!
Victory! I was able to twist it out this morning after soaking it heavily. There is a hole underneath the fork so I did spay in there. There was certainly rust in the juices that flowed.

I also removed the adjuster racer using a channel lock using the approach suggested.

The board idea was excellent and was going to try that next. I flipped the bike upside down, pinned the handlebars with my feet and carefully twisted the fork near the crown. Once there was a little give, it was just a matter of time.

Thanks for all the help guys! What a glorious day!
Cool parts look OK. Ye soaking works, just takes patience. You do have the expender nut not in photo?

BTW what penetrant did you use? Most will work eventually , some work better . I use Kroil and Liquid wrench, before that the universal WD40 , which has been replaced by more specific products.

Heat also works , especially on larger items.

Learned this from vintage car and motorcycle restorers.
Never Give Up!!!
Good eye GeorgeET, I don't have the expander nut in the photo.

You must understand that when I pulled the fork free it was if I was pulling the Excalibur sword out of the stone. I thrust the fork over my head in jubilation and parts were flying everywhere. I gathered the racers but have yet to find the expander nut!

As for the penetrant, I just used WD-40. Though I would still like to make my own penetrant Wink
Yeh my garage eats parts too. I am still looking for my screwdriver. :-) Keep looking the expender may be though to replace.
Never Give Up!!!
Oh I'm not too concerned about the expander nut. I'm going to replace the handlebars. I acquired a new ones of the exact style, though it uses a wedge nut.

You can sort of see it in the image that the handlebars are slightly bent in relation to the stem (it was noticeable when I got the bike.)

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