I am very interested in learning to build lugged steel frames. Unfortunately I have neither the budget nor the time to make a trip to UBI. Ideally I would like to find a local frame builder (Ann Arbor, MI) and work something out that is a little easier on my budget. Want an Apprentice? Need an unskilled hand around the shop? a gopher? or maybe you just don't mind someone hanging around asking questions?
That's really just a shot in the dark.
I know I would be incredibly lucky to find someone nearby willing to take me under their wing so... I've got a Paterek manual on the way and have been scouring the net for other resources planning on learning it the hard way: by teaching myself.
So, my first question is about how I should go about learning the skill and art of brazing. Should I get some thick tubes, cheap lugs, and see if I can knock out a low quality frame? Or should I not even bother trying to build a jig until I teach myself to braze adequately? I guess that's a roundabout way of asking if I'm as likely to ruin thick tubes with brass while learning as I know I would be trying to learn with higher quality tubes and silver? Also to that end: is there any source for cheap tubes and lugs that would be good for practice if not for an actual frame? Also, what should I expect to pay for tubes and lugs? There is not a lot of pricing info in the catalogs I've found on the net. Would it be worth the money I'd save to strip the paint off a crap frame and cut it up for practice tubes?
'85 Atala, 87 De Rosa Track bike, TT Funny bike (24inch front wheel), Ritchey Cross bike, K2 Razorback, Bridgestone, Atherton, Cannondale, Tsunami, Custom Ti Bike,
I would recommend going to a local community college and learning TIG welding and fillet brazing and talk to the Shop instructor on tips on how to build a jig to hold the tubes in place while joining the tubes together.
Second, after getting the hang of mitering the tubes so that it fits with your desired Heat tube, seat tube angles, go and buy the cheapest tube set at one of the framebuilder supply shops like Nova Cycles.com. They sometimes have sales on tube sets, as well as lugs. then go for it.
Sounds like you'll have a good start on things by taking that class. I taught myself to braze and it was quite the learning curve!
My two cents on the idea of finding a pro to work with: I had built two frames before I ever even approached/emailed anybody working professionally. I figured having a frame in hand would show that I was more than just some guy who read a few web pages and wanted to play with fire (not saying you are), and it worked. Plus, having already built a frame, you know more about what you don't know and what kind of questions to ask.
So, learn to braze, build a frame, and then look up a pro and make face to face contact.
You can learn a lot by practising fillets, and by brazing 4130 rings onto 4130 tubes, or just buy the practice lugs from Rivendal or Sachs and have at it.
I would get the Paternek video over the book, you can rent it from online sources.
There is an element of Paternek poison out there which is that while his videos show the small shop and machinist's approach to building frames, if you are an amateur who wants to make a few top quality frames, his methods are still overkill. This doesn't stop you from learning tons from the videos and books, they are great for that, but I have been around tons of crafts, including motorcycles and aircraft which are very similar, and bike guys make heavy sleding of the least detail of building. Do what you need to to make a profit in a production shop, but there isn't a hillbilly tech way of doing anything, or it tends to be sneared at. If anyone could have done that Paternek is the one, he is very comon sense, but then why should he dumb down what he has to teach, it's just that the effect it that people think they need a prototyping shop to nail two tubes together. Read around on the net and ask lots of questions.