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  1. #1
    Senior Member robo's Avatar
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    New lugged frame - flaws in brazing?

    I just got a Rivendell Bleriot frame, and was a little concerned with the build quality. I could be worrying about nothing, but just thought i'd post a picture here to see what people thought.

    For example, there is a gap between the head tube and the lower head lug on the rear-left side, as shown in the photo. Also, the tongue of the top head lug over the top of the top tube looks like it is sort of bent up, and isn't fully brazed onto the tube itself (although the thick paint makes this a bit hard to know for sure)..

    Here's a picture of the head tube problem area. Am i fretting about nothing? This is the first lugged frame i've owned, so i'm not sure what is normal:
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  2. #2
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    It's hard to tell from that picture. The darkness seen there might be the result of the masking done for the paint job. If there is an actual gap there, then the brass did not fully penetrate the joint. That would be a defect, but not necessarily one that would cause any problems.

  3. #3
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    Don't hesitate to contact Rivendell. They have a reputation for high quality (so I've heard), and any gaps or poor finishing are flaws. Even if its cosmetic, they should replace the frame.

  4. #4
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    In true retro fashion, they are trying to emulate the workmanship of the '70s and '80s.

  5. #5
    Senior Member robo's Avatar
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    Well, this isn't a Rivendell custom, it's a Bleriot, which is their attempt at a cheaper Taiwanese made frame to be distributed through QBP.

    It's definitely not finished as nicely as the US and Japanese built Rivendells i've seen in photos. The paint is a little sloppy in places (the head tube panel, and around the seat tube opening), but i was mostly concerned about the integrity of the frame. I have the bike half built already, and i'd rather not go through the hassle of waiting a month for a replacement from UniversalCycles (where i ordered it from) if it's just a small cosmetic issue.

  6. #6
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    In the photo you show that tiny void will cause no structural issue at all. Lugs like this have a safety factor of 500% so a small piece like that will not cause an issue.

    I could not see the picture of the top tube lug you described.

    I think robo understands that this frame is about as dirt cheap as one could expect for a lugged frame. There are certainly going to have flaws that the 2500 Rivs don't have.

    Just to point this out. These frames cost less in real dollars today than did the Raleigh’s and other garbage from the 70's but I still think they are far better made. Standards are just that much higher.

    Ride the heck out of it don't return it, you didn't pay for flawless handcraftsmanship. It will serve you well.

    Dave Bohm
    Bohemian Bicycles

  7. #7
    Senior Member skinny's Avatar
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    These Bleriot frames are a bit rough around the edges. Take it to the dealer you bought it from and ask their advice. Maybe they will swap it. Or did you buy it mailorder? Rivendell does charge a premium for their product, so you have a right to expect premium work. While gaps in the lug work may not affect ride or longevity, they are definitely a sign of poor quality control, especially on an $800.00 frame/fork.

    And in real dollars, this frame is more than a stock Mercian King of Mercia, which would definitely not have gaps in the lugs.

  8. #8
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    Repectfully, I would say these frames are just about equal. BTW a Mercian "king of Mercia" is at todays currency conversion $848.00 which is a 100 more than the Bleriot and then you have to include the increased shipping cost.

    I personally would not call what we see in the picture a void. This can sometimes occur when during the cooling phase a slight outgassing causes a bubble or pock mark (for lack of a better term) and it almost always ends up on the edge of a fill area like that. This does not constitute a structural problem.

    It is interesting how different people see something as expensive and something as cheap. For instance, material costs for me (I am an actual framebuilder of 15 years) average around 450 dollars per frame. This is hard material costs, not including overhead, paint and the myriad of other costs involved with frame production. I think 750 is practically nothing. Heck, I can't even build myself a personal frame for 750 dollars.
    The only way to offer frames for that little is to pursue mass production of course and use cheap labor. Mercian is a screaming deal, I agree but lets also realize that although the product is 100% functional which I consider the most important thing. The finishing, lug quality, fork bend, drop out junctions and all the 100's of details that high end framebuilders fret over are sorely lacking in these frames. Hey, that is not everyones boat, but you do get what you pay for when it comes to details.

    And that is my final point. I would not consider this an issue on a 750 dollar frame. On a more expensive one? absolutely.

    Dave Bohm
    Bohemian Bicycles

    P.S. I would like to see a pic of the top tube/head tube lug as that sounded more serious.

  9. #9
    Senior Member skinny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbohemian
    Repectfully, I would say these frames are just about equal. The only way to offer frames for that little is to pursue mass production of course and use cheap labor. Mercian is a screaming deal, I agree but lets also realize that although the product is 100% functional which I consider the most important thing. The finishing, lug quality, fork bend, drop out junctions and all the 100's of details that high end framebuilders fret over are sorely lacking in these frames. Hey, that is not everyones boat, but you do get what you pay for when it comes to details.
    You are saying that a hearth brazed, hand finished Mercian purchased from Mercian with their considerable advise and available in 40+ colors is equal to a production Tiawanese frame probably brazed on a computerized carousel and available in one color through mailorder? OK.

    Could you explain the mass production techniques and cheap labor Mercian is using? Especially for the paint.

  10. #10
    Yet another vegan biker
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    I can't even build myself a personal frame for 750 dollars.
    As a complete NEWB, I'm wondering what would your minimal component list be?

    I'm trying (hard)to keep my build under 250 using Zerotre tubing, Henry James drops, and Long Shen BB & Lugs.

    I messed up and ordered some too-minimal lugs so I have to bite the cost of these:




    So a new set of lugs should only set me back about 50 for Long Shen's from Nova.

  11. #11
    Senior Member skinny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silversmith
    As a complete NEWB, I'm wondering what would your minimal component list be?

    I'm trying (hard)to keep my build under 250 using Zerotre tubing, Henry James drops, and Long Shen BB & Lugs.
    And you can be sure the tubing in the Bleriot is no better than ZeroTre and the other fixtures are no better than Long Shen, let alone the Henry James stuff. I know there is no comparison in costs of materials for the Tiawanese sourced Bleriot and a small US builder. But $450.00??? I'd be surprised if the Bleriot materials are at 1/5 of that. And I doubt there is more than 4 hours production time in the frame including paint.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by skinny
    Could you explain the mass production techniques and cheap labor Mercian is using? Especially for the paint.
    You are correct. I was just pointing out they are basically the same price. I would much rather have the Mercian than the Bleriot, if only because I knew it was made for me.

    But, realize that Mercian is a production shop who most likely builds from 3+ frames a day. Not a custom builder in the same way that some small American or Brit shops are.

    Lets take hand finishing. It's a comparison of apples to oranges. I am sure that the Bleriot has some basic hand finishing to remove flash and extra braze. Oh, probably about 30 minutes. The Mercian much more, maybe 1-3 hours depending on the frame. One of my frames? 20-30 hours. I don't like making direct comparisons like that because things are just so much different in various shops. We are selling to different customers who have different needs and wants.

    BTW. They are not hearth brazing in the traditional sense. Before WW2 bottled gases were either unavailable or in short supply. The hearth was actually a gas fired device that an entire joint would be placed into and then once up to temp, brazing material would be added. What Mercian is doing is just using fire bricks to contain some of the heat from the torch as to get a more even heating faster. There is no magic in it. A very Brit method that I have no problem with.

    In addition, carosel brazing can make for very good joints as it has been used on millions of frames. Neither of these methods compares to hand brazing with a torch but they are faster and better for production level work.

  13. #13
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    Well, first I would say...Why worry about how much materials cost. Your time is the real cost factor. Adding 50 dollars to the mix is inconsequential compared to the hours and hours you will spend, designing, building, finishing and painting.

    Just a quick breakdown for you and skinny whom seems to think I am BS'ing him.

    1. Tubing 853 etc. $150
    2. BB shell lugged 35
    3. lugs 55
    4. fork crown 35
    5. fork kit 50
    6. drop outs front and rear (my design) 75
    7. silver solder 3 oz 54
    8. Consumables (sandpaper, hole saws, tool wear) 50
    9. Paint (primers, color, clears, etc) 125.00
    10. Decals 15
    11. Braze-ons full compliment 35

    Total 700.00

    Give or take a few hundred between friends. Of course this does not count in tooling, tool depreciation, insurance, rent, advertising and all the other business bula bula.

    BTW, The bikini lugs are cool. Save them for a future project. I have used them and they are very reliable even on heavy use bikes.

    Dave Bohm
    Bohemian Bicycles

    P.S. I was way off on the 450.00!! I should estimate higher
    P.S.S. even if I used the least expensive tubing and components I would save at best 2-300 dollars

  14. #14
    Senior Member skinny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbohemian
    Just a quick breakdown for you and skinny whom seems to think I am BS'ing him.

    1. Tubing 853 etc. $150
    2. BB shell lugged 35
    3. lugs 55
    4. fork crown 35
    5. fork kit 50
    6. drop outs front and rear (my design) 75
    7. silver solder 3 oz 54
    8. Consumables (sandpaper, hole saws, tool wear) 50
    9. Paint (primers, color, clears, etc) 125.00
    10. Decals 15
    11. Braze-ons full compliment 35

    Total 700.00
    Actually, you're skin seems to be thinner than the thin wall 853 tubing you're using.

    I didn't think you were bs'ing me about your costs. I think you are making an invalid comparison by equating the value of the Bleriot with your costs, which you did above. You're using the finest tubing and fixtures. The Bleriot does not(not to say the Bleriot is not a functional frame). So there really is no comparison. As I said earlier, I'd be surprised if the Bleriot has more than $90.00 in materials invested in it.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by skinny
    Actually, you're skin seems to be thinner than the thin wall 853 tubing you're using.
    Sorry, it is a bit thin when it comes to framebuilding

    Dave

  16. #16
    Yet another vegan biker
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    Dave, thanks for the rundown.

    Since I'm fortunate to be doing this for pleasure my time is all joy, my costs are purely financial.



    Of course this does not count in tooling, tool depreciation, insurance, rent, advertising and all the other business bula bula.
    No, and I certainly don't begrudge you that. I've looked at pics of your work and it is stunning! Caduceus

    I know I'll never build a bike that compares to the fine art you create. I just want something simple and sound that I made.

    I'm really thankful (and in awe) to those who've given such good advice and examples of their craft.
    Last edited by silversmith; 04-11-07 at 12:02 AM.

  17. #17
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    One coment about Mercian's hearth brazing. It is what I have heard referred to as torch brazing with a big flame. If you have pictures of how it is done, you will see that it's not quite a precise process. The heat-affected zone is rather large (which is not an issue with most of the tubesets that Mercian uses since they are not pushing the limits in wall thickness). Rather than a tight shoreline of brass around the lug, you will see brass slathered about over a large area. This isn't a quality issue, it just means that clean up and finishing will take a bit longer.

    As Dave said, there is nothing going on that will negatively affect how the frame works for the customer. It's just that their building process is fairly old tech. The finish work will not be up to the standards of high-end custom builders, but neither is the cost.

    Merican offers a great product for the money. No doubt about it. However, don't let that trick you into believing that other builders are ripping you off. In fact, most make very little. There aren't a lot of rich guys in the frame biz.

  18. #18
    Senior Member robo's Avatar
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    I actually paid about $540 for the Bleriot online, including the fork (but no headset).

    Here is a picture of the headlug tongue over the top tube:
    Attached Images Attached Images

  19. #19
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    That small uplift of the top headtube lug doesn't compromise the build. Those lugs have lots of area to secure them to the tubing even if there is a bubble or a few in the brazing.

    I collect vintage lugged frames, most have some small flaw like yours. It's nothing to fret over.

  20. #20
    Senior Member robo's Avatar
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    Great - thanks. The rest of the frame looks good, it's just the head tube area that had some 'issues'.

    It's an extremely pretty frame though

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