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  1. #1
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    United Bicycle Institute Worthwhile?

    I have some limited resources for bicycle frame building, a bit of tooling and plenty of access to metal working tools including MIG TIG and OCY/ACET> My question: I wonder if taking a 3000 class UBI has been worthwhile for anyone who has gone there with similar access to their own setups? (Or without any access). I have never made a serious frame, and would like to build a jig and to build several in the future. I'd like to do it well. Toot, toot, but I must say that as a carpenter/sculptor and avid cycle-junkie/mechanic, I generally teach myself how to make things with success, and I imagine there are many who use this forum who are similarly handy. If I can avoid going to school, I will.
    If you haven't gone to UBI, any advice for getting into building custom on a small scale? Other class options at a lower cost?
    Thanks much.

  2. #2
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    One thing you might consider before enrolling in the UBI framebulding course (which, by all accounts is excellent) is to purchase the Paterek Manual ($75.00) and/or lugged framebuilding DVDs ($89.95).

    I bought both the book and the lugged framebuilding DVD set, and between the two it's like having a personal mentor show you all the ropes.
    - Stan

  3. #3
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    Right at the moment you can get an older version of the P manual for free from Paternek as a download, though I couldn't open the file in my version of Adobe. It's there to stop people downloading the manual off a Russian site.

    There is also a paternek brazing DVD. I would get both videos myself since one takes a hand tool approach, and the other a machinist approach. Then take more of your budget to buy some frame prep tools. 500-1K or more depending on whether you want to make any of it yourself, or buy retail at various levels.

    There is this place, and the more righteous FrameForum, for online help. Also lots of vids on Youtube.

    Really, the only special skill required other than some basic hand skills is brazing or welding. So at the very least, if you have all the gear, you could buy some cheap aircraft tubing and see how it goes. Between frame prep tools, vids, and brazing or welding skills that is all you need. Oh, you need to know what you want to build. I should add that pipefitting was regarded as a highly skilled trade in itself, but between hole saw jigs/mills, or tube mitering programs (free online), anyone can be an expert for what is required in a bike.

    Coming from basically your position that is what I did. I'm sure it would be worthwhile to take a vacation to frame school also, but for the already do it yourself enamored the challenge of figuring it out is half the fun. Going to a school is uplifting (lots of other motivated people) and usually a shortcut, so you have to choose your preferred experience.
    Last edited by NoReg; 10-28-08 at 07:21 PM.

  4. #4
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    UBI is worth it!! I took the steel brazing course with no brazing or welding experience and basically came out with a completely safe bike frame. The cost is a bit steep, but if you're buying a handmade custom frame you will spend at least a grand anyways. They use top notch parts and tooling.

    There were a couple of guys who had already built frames from a book and those guys learned more than they had expected. The good thing about UBI is that you learn both hand mitering and machine mitering plus different aspects of frame building as well as the business end of it.

  5. #5
    karma is my higher power w00die's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    Right at the moment you can get an older version of the P manual for free from Paternek as a download, though I couldn't open the file in my version of Adobe. It's there to stop people downloading the manual off a Russian site.


    Could you provide the link to download that? I tried to find it off the site but didn't see it. I likely looked in the wrong place or missed it.

    Thanks.

  6. #6
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by w00die View Post
    Could you provide the link to download that? I tried to find it off the site but didn't see it. I likely looked in the wrong place or missed it.

    Thanks.
    LINK
    - Stan

  7. #7
    karma is my higher power w00die's Avatar
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    Thank you sir.

  8. #8
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    I'm glad this is being discussed, I was going to ask the same question. I'm thinking of taking the Steel Brazing course this spring, but want to make sure my investment is worthwhile.

    Numb Yummey, do you think you learned the material well enough to, if you had your own equipment, make frames without help? It sounds like the material is covered pretty thoroughly.

    Would anyone suggest trying to build a frame from a book/DVD/youtube before taking the class, and then polishing my techniques during the course?
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  9. #9
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    "Would anyone suggest trying to build a frame from a book/DVD/youtube before taking the class, and then polishing my techniques during the course?"

    I really depends on a number of things:

    1) Will you start a solo project or do you have trouble believing you could do it. Courses are a boon for people who lack the confidence to do it by themselves. On the other hand, if you are in a financial position, etc..., where UBI could be the next step, then why not try yourself, if it goes wonderfully and fills you up you are done and don't need UBI, if you get stuck UBI will be a backstop that will bail you out so you can eventually finish your home project.

    2) Do you want to buy all the gear necesarry to do a home build or already have it. One way or another you need to locate a fairly steep list's worth of stuff to make a frame. There are lower and higher tech processes, but they all require access to a fair range of stuff. Do you have a place that allows this kind of work without invalidating your home coverage etc... A course allows you to have the experience and leave all the stuff at the school.

    3) If you have stuff to braze at home, but would like to learn to TIG, then there can be a real advantage to going on the course if they can still provide you with something you don't feel you can do yourself.

    And doubtless other things. I love the challenge of teaching myself to do stuff. It's the part I like. It has never been easier with the access to info, and the cheapness of tools today. But it isn't for everyone, and it isn't the fastest way to the end result.
    Last edited by NoReg; 12-04-08 at 07:56 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    "Would anyone suggest trying to build a frame from a book/DVD/youtube before taking the class, and then polishing my techniques during the course?"

    I really depends on a number of things:

    1) Will you start a solo project or do you have trouble believing you could do it. Courses are a boon for people who lack the confidence to do it by themselves. On the other hand, if you are in a financial position, etc..., where UBI could be the next step, then why not try yourself, if it goes wonderfully and fills you up you are done and don't need UBI, if you get stuck UBI will be a backstop that will bail you out so you can eventually finish your home project.

    2) Do you want to buy all the gear necesarry to do a home build or already have it. One way or another you need to locate a fairly steep list's worth of stuff to make a frame. There are lower and higher tech processes, but they all require access to a fair range of stuff. Do you have a place that allows this kind of work without invalidating your home coverage etc... A course allows you to have the experience and leave all the stuff at the school.

    3) If you have stuff to braze at home, but would like to learn to TIG, then there can be a real advantage to going on the course if they can still provide you with something you don't feel you can do yourself.

    And doubtless other things. I love the challenge of teaching myself to do stuff. It's the part I like. It has never been easier with the access to info, and the cheapness of tools today. But it isn't for everyone, and it isn't the fastest way to the end result.
    1) No, I don't doubt that I could do it. Or that it would be safe, or anything like that. What I question is if I would be happy with the end product, and would I have as much fun trying to figure things out alone in my (freezing ass) garage rather than with other students right next to an instructor whom I can ask questions.

    2) No. I don't have much of the gear, and at the moment, none of the space. And I live in a pretty small town, so there's no chance of finding a shop with tools I could borrow or a space to work. HOWEVER, if I do get into framebuilding I plan on eventually getting the tools I need, and will have the space.

    3) I'm not sure if/when I'll get into TIG. Not right now, that's for sure. I'd like to learn how to make lugged frames and then go from there.

    One of the main things that's important to me is learning how to do something right. For something that's as complicated as framebuilding, I'd like to learn from an actual person, and be able to ask questions, and learn lots of the little things you don't figure out as quickly on your own. I taught myself bike mechanics(sans books), among a lot of other things, especially mechanical things. But I feel like framebuilding is something that I could get lost in easier. Am I wrong? Is it not quite as hard as it seems at first?
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  11. #11
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    I took the frame building class offered by The Crucible (Art of the One-Speed: Building a Bicycle Frame) and found it very worthwhile. Unfortunately, it's a 10-week class so it's geared towards people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. They require previous welding and machine shop experience. For $670, I'd say it's a bargain compared to most of the frame building classes I've seen. I'm still riding the bike I built in the class on a daily basis!

  12. #12
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    "But I feel like framebuilding is something that I could get lost in easier. Am I wrong? Is it not quite as hard as it seems at first?"

    Depends on the person really. There are lots of people who do a pretty nice job on their own. I would highly recomend the Paternek, videos. The lug video is about 6 hours long, and the fillet brazing video is shorter. They are complementary as one of them is with machinery, while the other is by hand. So they aren't as repetitive as one might imagine. Not fancy production values but they leave no stone unturned (other than welding, and some newest tech). If you simply want to know how one person does it in great depth there is little risk of missing out on any step. Tim will tell you how best to pick up a screw driver, and in the real world there often is a right and wrong way to do even fairly simple things.

    So some people are if you want a friend get a dog type people, and others will love the experience of a class. I find most classes I have been to, or given, pretty uplifting events, but the long hard grind in the shop is not like a vacation in someone else's. So if the objective is learning the craft rather than having an experience, one had best prepare for the fact that one never knows everything, and one has to push on under one's own resources. If one was thinking of a career, or semi career in this field, I think the ability to push through is as good a measure as anything else. The feeling one gets coming out of a UBI type experience with an armload of tools often ends up in the UBI classifieds.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    The feeling one gets coming out of a UBI type experience with an armload of tools often ends up in the UBI classifieds.
    Where as if you go at it on your own you wouldn't end up with those same tools? Maybe you'd try and sell them on craigslist instead?

    You can order your tools at their discounted price up to a year after the course. No rush to buy an entire workeshop. Seems like an ok deal to me.

    I think my next step is to get Paternek's manual and check out the DVDs. If those are enough resources for me, then why not? Just buckle down and try it. I take it I'll need to look into jigless building, or possibly make my own jig?
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  14. #14
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weasel9 View Post
    Where as if you go at it on your own you wouldn't end up with those same tools? Maybe you'd try and sell them on craigslist instead?

    You can order your tools at their discounted price up to a year after the course. No rush to buy an entire workeshop. Seems like an ok deal to me.

    I think my next step is to get Paternek's manual and check out the DVDs. If those are enough resources for me, then why not? Just buckle down and try it. I take it I'll need to look into jigless building, or possibly make my own jig?
    I've got a major project I'm working on right now, but when it's finished (hopefully this summer), I plan to buy an oxy-acetylene torch rig, some inexpensive lugs, and some 4130 tubing from Aircraft Spruce & Specialty, and practice mitering tubing and brazing until I know how to draw the silver into the joints without any voids. After I'm satisfied with that, I plan to build my first frame.
    - Stan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Weasel9 View Post
    I'm glad this is being discussed, I was going to ask the same question. I'm thinking of taking the Steel Brazing course this spring, but want to make sure my investment is worthwhile.

    Numb Yummey, do you think you learned the material well enough to, if you had your own equipment, make frames without help? It sounds like the material is covered pretty thoroughly.

    Would anyone suggest trying to build a frame from a book/DVD/youtube before taking the class, and then polishing my techniques during the course?
    I definately learned more than I thought I would. Before the class I was sure everybody was already experienced with brazing and welding. Not the case, even the experienced welders had questions. UBI shows you hand and machine mitering which helps a lot especially like myself who has no machinery in my garage. Materials are covered in depth as well different techniques and equipment. It's 4:1 student to teacher ratio, so there is always someone available for help. I work out of my single car garage with a minimum of hand tools and so far so good.

  16. #16
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    There is also the Yamaguchi course. Anyone gone through that?

    http://www.yamaguchibike.com/content...uilding_Course

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    That is just a shot related to a thread over on FF at the moment. I think there is a chance to get in deep from a class, not that anything terrible will happen, but slow and steady with nobody pushing the Kool-aid is less likely to run off the tracks. I like to spend the money on the tools rather than the course, though both would be nice for that mater. As you say, you can sell the tools on Craigslist, which is not the case with the courses. The shop guys tend to start really small, there are people building with not much more than a torch, and a few hand tools. Since I have a well equipped shop the marginal cost for me could be pretty much zero. I spent the money on frame prep tools and am working on a Jig. I still find a way to leak cash like an idiot.

  18. #18
    Bicycle Utopian bikinpolitico's Avatar
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    You might also want to look at Doug Fattic's frame building classes. They are steel frame, brazing only, but are a little less expensive than UBI. I just finished the class and did a review here including thoughts on Doug versus UBI: http://austinbikeblog.org/2008/12/17...uilding-class/
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  19. #19
    Not a dick. Guvna's Avatar
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    I'm also considering the Yamaguchi course and would love to hear some feedback on that as well...
    I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

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