Framebuilders - Random Design Student question!
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10-10-10, 10:38 PM
I am a student Industrial/Product Designer @ A.I. PDX. I would like to focus on "GREEN" Transportation.
I want to someday build/design custom frames/components. Did I pick the wrong field of study? Or should I just cough up the $12,000 and take some classes at U.B.I.? There is always the future ahead of me. I have taken a basic wielding class at school/shop and somewhat know my way around a milling machine. I would rather do everything by hand (the old school way) files and coping saws. Please give me any insight on how you got started out in the business! I plan on building bikes in the future if only in own garage. My shop teacher says thats framebuilding is a craft thats many many takes years to perfect, what do you think? I really think about bike's in my sleep is this normal?
P.s. I moved to Portland OR because I feel like I'd have an advantage here, loads of resources.
10-11-10, 08:35 AM
Given that there are approximately 200 framebuilders in Portland, and the number grows every day, it's probably good to have a backup plan. UBI is a good first start, then use the remaining $9000 of your $12000 to build a lot of bikes that you chop up and throw away.
10-11-10, 06:13 PM
Should ask yourself what it is that primarily attracts you to this field. working with hands making stuff, in which case I would get a real job and set up a home shop. Or if you really want to earn a living with bikes. If the latter your guess is as good as mine, but I would probably put a lot of effort into meeting people who buy bikes and learning how to network and sell. I have a friend who normally sells more stuff in the first 3 days he starts in a craft, than I do in a lifetime. He just talks to everyone about what he is doing and ropes people in. While I would generally prefer my privacy.
So you need to figure out who buys high end bikes in your comunity, and how you can get in front of those people. Networking, advertising, comunity work, clubs, schools, libraries, teach a course, etc... Making frames never made anyone any money, only selling them, or better still selling the lifestyle on a T-shirt. :) It isn't just the money that you get by going in search of clients, but the interesting work. I'm not suggesting doing this before you know what you are doing, but I would suggest keeping your eye on who it is that will buy this stuff and what they want.
Take out a sheet of paper and write down the names of all the people you know who would like to buy a custom frame, and then figure out how many such frames you need to sell in a year. You won't just be selling frames, and you won't be able to make a living at first, but if you can't come up with any names, that could be a problem. Also worth considering where these people live geographically. I'm guessing possibly not Detroit. You need a place where they exist, where the economy is strong, and where competition is reasonable. A lot of other people doing the same thing can be good, but a lot of people doing it part time, and selling at unreal prices is bad.
In learning to make frames I would focus on design, joinery and tube fitting. I learn design, for at least the stuff I am interested in by just doing cad designs of existing bikes, and the bikes I wanted to build. Trying to draw stuff in real space will allow you to build up a file of components, and learn what you don't know and need to learn about how and why bikes are pt together as they are. Do lots of practice joints, for welding as many as 100. I you have never welder or brazed, then maybe you should start out on flat stock of a similar size. Tubefitting is the easy part, at least for me. You can make things easier for yourself through designs, but I never had any problem with this, and didn't have to practice it.
10-11-10, 09:49 PM
I probably should have mentioned after you chop up the $9000 worth of bikes that you would be ready to sell them. I see far too many people selling bikes too soon. Get the mechanics down before anyone rides anything, and get it really down before you sell anything. You really don't want a bike you were learning on out in the wild beyond your control.
That is doubly true with stuff that can hurt you. But even with something like guitars, there is a degree to which it can take for ever to rise above your worst work, so you never let it out there. People have had bridges come off because they used a weird glue, not even an error in craftsmanship in the conventional sense, and getting all the stuff back is one thing, but getting your reputation back is another. One will be dead and gone, with the only five guitars with the bad bridge glue all fixed, and collectors will still be talking about the guy whose bridges sometimes come off.
10-14-10, 10:12 PM
You are very right practice makes perfect! I'm beginning to think that this will end up being one of those garage hobbies once I can afford the startup costs. A Bridgeport Mill is around $15,000 Maybe I should switch to tinkering/restoring vintage mopeds.
In all I believe its the whole "craft" part of frame-building that I like. Such as lugs and components which require the same amount of skill and natural talent.
Did you mean to say a Bridgeport is 1500? You can get all sorts for that price. I was recently looking locally, purely sport, I have a few mills. There were quite a few for 2500, bad sample. I almost bought one of 1000 at one point. Got offered a better German two head mill for zero. There are tons of horizontals for a few hundred, and horizontals are pretty useful for frame building. Less useful for general stock removal on parts and projects. Of course one doesn't need a mill at all, and many pros don't use them, but having one has made my life a lot more enjoyable. Portland is a good place to buy tools, though I have heard it said you need to jump all over the good deals. When I was collecting my stuff, I had money in the bank, and would immediately send a guy an email saying, consider it sold if it is as described, let me know when I can come with the cash. Try to massage the words so it sounds un-accusatory.
10-15-10, 09:51 PM
I wish I had the room and the money!
So its still possible to build (start-finish) a bike by hand. I would rather work with hand tools anyways, I'm betting thats the harder way? Thanks for your help Peterpan1! How long have you been building frames? Any photos? I didnt realize that it takes so long to perfect the brazing and wielding skills. I guess I was thinking that it was just a matter of cutting the tubes, mitering the ends and making them fit together with lugs. Anyways when your talking about someone riding a bike downhill at 30 mph there is a lot of forces at play, not to mention a life is in your hands if things go wrong!
10-16-10, 02:20 AM
So its still possible to build (start-finish) a bike by hand <-- a lot of people do not even have a jig, table maybe mandatory because u need to get the frame straight yes or yes but a lot of people with different methods. Just look at the web or even in some threads here, more over at u-tube.
10-16-10, 07:44 AM
I don't build frames, but I have designed products, as an engineer. I think it's valuable to know as much as possible about how to build what you want to design, and what the engineering, scientific, and craft-based issues are. If UBI is a good source for that knowledge base, maybe you should go that way.
On the other hand, some distinguished builders, such as Doug Fattic here in Michigan, offer group frame-building classes at their own shops.
Either way, you'd be on top with technical knowledge, and you'd have to tools to proceed and learn framebuilding. I doubt either knowledge base is taught in design studios. We certainly didn't get it in engineering school.
I'm not sure it is easier to do the work with machines. In fact I am sure it is harder. I'm years into the hobby end of it, and still have trouble with my milling setup. While any time I have used a file it has been easy. I built a machine to speed up rack joints, but it turned out to be still faster to file the joints with a rat tail. I have 30-40 years of woodworking behind me cabinets, guitars, boats. So my hand eye coordination is dialed in. The thing about machines is that they could be set up if enough dough, space, and iron was put into it, so that any wage monkey off the street could be making parts pretty much right away. But to turn out your first part, you would be done the bike before you had made a contact on Kijiji for a mill. It is a long haul before you get it home, get it cleaned up installed, leveled, working, and then get the fixtures for it and get it cutting reliably. And if you don't leave it all set-up so the mill is unusable for other stuff, it is a big job to get ti back dead nuts, and requires a little bit of knowledge if you aren't just a square it with a square guy. Mills are do anything machines, but it is fair to say they weren't intended for coping so there are a few bugs in that process. I'm not a framebuilder, so I do lots of other stuff on my mill, and getting the fixtures plug and play, the way I want them has been a long and expensive process relatively.
BikeFriday has a rule where everyone who works there has to make a bike so they really get what the company is all about. Their bikes involve both TIG and brazing, so it is a serious endeavor. I guess most everyone gets it done. But there is a whole mountain of difference between teaching yourself, tig welding say. And being dropped into the perfect setting and told to operate the pre-set machine under an expert's guidance. While you only need to be a one trick pony to cut a tube on a mill, you are nonetheless in mill operation taking up a whole hobby in itself. There is a whole hobby in knowing the rules for safe operation of an OA torch. This game is a lot of relatively easy hobbies, kinda stacked to the sky. The very first cope I did on a mill was perfect, but getting my mill to become fast without an indicated-in set up for every cut, has consistently frustrated my attempts to do a low cost Mcguiver. I have done so much machining for that fixture it would have carried me though a lifetime of hand filing frames as a hobby.
Here is the vid I normally post to show how it can be done jigless, at least the main triangle. Some guy who had been to their shop said they also had a lot of fancy stuff like jigs, but that they could swing either way depending on the needs of the job. Where I go wrong as a minimal production hobby builder is when I see something like the Cinelli fork bending jig in the next segment, and decide I have to make it.
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