Lugged Frame Building Tools
I would love to get into building lugged frames for fixed gear bikes. What would be the bare minimum of tools that I would need for this?
I currently own a MAPP gas torch for plumbing work. Will this be sufficient for brazing the lugs or do I need Oxy/Acetylene?
I am on a very tight budget and probably should use money for bills. If anyone could give me an idea on what tools I need and could get by without that would be great.
if it ain't broke, fix it
I dunno about the torch, oxy/acy is easiest where I'm at, acetylene is not too expensive and from what i can tell all the builders here (in my town, portland oregon) use oxy/acy too. you can get a really nice deal if you look for used stuff. I recently seen a newer (year or two old)victor set up (bottles, cart, regs, hoses, torch handle and tips plus extras) for $200.
I plan on doing my first frame without a jig, using a full size drawing to compare the angles. a variety of hand tools are needed. aside from what you use as a torch, files and basic hand tools, a bike shop quality bike stand, a good vice, some tubing blocks made from rock maple, machinists tools such as a bevel protractor, vee-blocks, a height guage (i use a dial indicactor on a stand) and a surface plate ( I will be using a chunk of granite on a heavily reinforced table which i leveled and lapped. rather than using a frame jig, I will do each joint one at a time, starting with the down tube to head tube, and pinning them to help maintain alignment whilst i braze each one.
I believe some guys are using mapp, but i have never seen the work, If i didn't have oxy/acy set up already I think i'd look at oxy/propane cuz it's way cheaper than acetylene here.
Great Thanks white folks. I think I will just get an Oxy/Acetylene set up. I can get a brand new US Forge kit at work for $169 less the tanks. Has anyone used a US Forge torch kit? Are they worth a damn?
Also does anyone know the price on some Oxy/Acetylene tanks?
Would I need anything such as a bench grinder to get my tubes to butt correctly in the lugs? Or would I be able to just use hand tools to get the same effect?
Also what is the cheapest anyone has built a frame with all new tubes and lugs?
assuming you don't have a milling machine or metal lathe where hole saws would work, your best bet for mitering tubes is a hacksaw and files. People use grinders and belt sanders as well.
Thanks alot unterhausen.
I think I will just get a bench grinder on craigslist. I've already got a hacksaw as well.
What about facing the head tube and BB? What does that consist of? Would I be able to do that on my own, or does it require larger shop tools?
Grinder is used by some and is useful for many things, however for making miters you want files, hacksaw, and you need to download a tube mitering program. filing tubes goes very fast, you need some kind of vise to hold the tubes, hand work depends on having free hands to do it properly. Also aircraft snips are cheap, at HD, and they will make it possible to cut the majority of the metal away from the joint before you file. They work fine with standard tubing, some of the ubertubes may be too hard, I don't know on that.
Got to tinmantech, and look at the meco torch, not only is it the right size for this kind of lug work (though not the prefered model most use Smith etc...), but it will also allow you to weld tubing just like tig, even if you never weld a frame you will make a lot of stuff around the shop a lot easier if you can tack the odd fixture etc.... It's cheap, and if you need to save money you could look on craigs for tanks and regulators. Be aware that all this stuff is a major safety hazard, may not be covered under your home insurance if you burn the house down, so getting a better quality rig is a small investment in your future. This is also a reason I marginaly prefer propane/oxy, search threads on that.
You could theoretically face a head tube or BB with a file, not a biggie, but chasing the threads on the BB, or reaming the head tube is a whole other mater. You also need to ream the seat tube, there there are options, standard adjustible machinist's reamers do an ok job and oversized posts sleeved over inserts often don't distort, though that is not a likely solution for lugs. Tooling costs for frame building are high, and they really take the whole thing out of the cheap collumn, brace yourself, this is largely an expensive hobby. That is where this board excells a little, there are people who have done it on the cheaper end. If you have a good in at a bike shop they may do the frame prep free or cheaper, but it can also cost 50 bucks a proceedure. There are some shops where the owner also builds. Some want to help out, and others look at it as competition.
I've never faced a bb, depending on what you are doing you might get away with that. However, you need to chase the bb threads, maybe take it to a bike shop. I bought a Bicycle Research HT facing tool. I don't know if they still sell those, they probably aren't as cheap any more.
I've never reamed a seat tube, and the thought had not occurred to me.
Files are cheaper and safer (to both the tubes and you) than a grinder. Unless you are way better with a grinder than I am, you aren't going to be able to do a good job with it anyway.
Awesome thanks again guys.
So do you think I can get away without reaming the seat tube?
I'll probably just go the hacksaw and file route instead of getting a grinder.
Use the money on a few vices instead.
I would say no. But you might get lucky, it's the cheaper of the three basic tools and the only one there is a reasonable not bike version that will save you tons of money.
So, I'm thinking I will maybe get a non bike tool to ream out the seat tube.
I wish the Head Tube reamer and facer was not so much damn money.
I guess I'll just have to find someone around town or go to a bike shop in Boulder to see if I can get the head tube and BB done.
Any suggestions on where to buy good tubing?
Also what should I go with for a lugged track frame? 4130 cromoly?
Suggestions on Lugs would be appreciated as well?
Also what are the biggest differences in Oxy/Propane as to Oxy/Acetylene?
-will the gauges of one work with the other?
Thanks for all the help everyone. I've noticed a few threads that get pretty off topic and mean. I appreciate the fact that everyone is to the point and respectful.
The Home Depot MAPP gas torch is fine for silver brazing. Not so fine for brass. I like the one with the hose between the bottle and the torch.
I have a bench grinder and rarely use it. Hacksaw -- spend the money for good quality blades -- and a handful of files will do a perfect job, once you learn how to use them. I have not used any of the mitering programs. Cut-and-try has been fine for me.
I do not use a jig. I use full-size drawings and the pinning method of frame building. I did build a few simple jigs which are invaluable. I put up a bit of a tutorial which can be viewed in the BF archive.
I did not not spend the large amount of money required for facing and chasing tools. These chores are farmed out to the local bike shop. I don't see how the home builder who does not plan on building more than one or two frames a year can justify the cost of those tools.
I prefer Henry James for tubing and lugs. The lugs especially are very easy to use and require little to no prep and finish work. Standard diameter 4130 -- like True Temper "VERUS" -- is the easiest to work with, and a lot less expensive than the latest-greatest steels. (I'd strongly consider buying the Paterek manual from him before you do anything else -- it's a huge help, and will open your eyes re. the pitfalls and details of framebuilding.)
I generally figure about $200-$400 for tubing, lugs, dropouts, and the rest. Another $75 to have the LBS do the facing and chasing, and another $100 to the powdercoaters. IOW, more than the cheapest welded steel road/track frames cost, so if a rideable frame at minimal expense is your goal, you're looking in the wrong place. And, of course, that's not counting the initial investment for all the tools...
Last edited by Six jours; 12-01-08 at 06:51 PM.
I think the free mitering program is worth the 30 seconds it takes to run a profile, particularly when cutting with files that aren't a really close fit. Everything builds on everything else, so if you have perfect and easy to set miters, it makes fixtures easier to set up, and so forth. Of course skill will get you there too as SJ does it. Also with lugs a few of the miters can simply be scribed from the lugs themselves.
"I don't see how the home builder who does not plan on building more than one or two frames a year can justify the cost of those tools."
It is certainly a tight squeeze. Though at $150 a year you are probably clear in six frames or so. There are another few things to consider.
1) Folks following Paternek will read they need to chase these parts multiple times, during the building process. That isn't always true, he gets laughed at a little for that, but it can be true in the sense that reamers like to cut in little bites and keeping up with it is probably smarter than doing it once at the end, at least until you know your process well enough. It can also be true as far as mating the parts to fixtures, as when testing on a table for alignment using the BB as the reference surface.
2) checking parts before the build, it can be a good time to ensure the parts are in good shape, also keeps one from putting the BB in backwards, which a few builders seem to do every year.
3) I don't think every shop will necesarilly want to be part of an amateur build, nor will every builder want the final machining done by the tool meister in every shop. Enough stuff goes wrong without any variables.
4) Quite a few folks building frames start with a bike shop background, and have access to tools. I don't and I don't have a local LBS that will help.
5) Then there are the builders that own an Anvil frame jig, and it is a hobby for them to do it like the big boys. Like a regular rider with a fancy bike.
Last edited by NoReg; 12-01-08 at 01:22 PM.
it definitely depends on the LBS situation. There are a couple I think I would trust my frame to locally, but you never know if the newbie mechanic that knows nothing is going to grab the repair ticket on your frame and trash it. I took one of my frames to a bike shop, it still has the repair tag on it. I don't remember what I had them do though.
I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I took my first frame to Performance for chasing and facing. I try to save face by claiming that the head mechanic talked a good talk, but...
Eventually I found a mechanic who used to build frames at the Benotto factory in Mexico, and has a Campy tool kit. He has never let me down. I can understand folks who don't have access to that kind of mechanic, though. Personally I would like to have a complete set of tools myself, but have never seen how it can be done for less than about $1000.
That's a good point about Paterek, BTW. I recommend the book because it is so complete, but there is a lot of advice I don't follow.
I can understand that. I have a few plumbing texts that are the same way.
Originally Posted by Six jours
One way I had hoped to save money was by buying cutters and making the tools. But at the cheaper end of the spectrum it was not substantially cheaper to do that. It is possible to get the big three tools for around 500. I forget exactly how, but it gets covered periodically on the other board. UBI seems to be the place. I think it would be possible to make the tools/cutters themselves, but I haven't figured it out. I think the HT could be reamed with a single point tool, and the bb also. this would be essentially like setting up for a cylinder boring operation, and powering it by hand. They used to rifle metal barrels by hand using wood jigs, and they got reasonably accurate barrels out of it. There are facing tools that are for sale that use insert technology and they are standard advanced milling projects, but folks with a mill...
I think the thing about Tim Paternek's processes is that he seems to do a lot of things by (what I guess is) the Machinist's Handbook, or some similar standard. He uses steps and quantities of oil, etc... that are pretty generous. I would guess he is rarely wrong, but sometimes stuff he suggests is skipable.
Maybe I will get Tim Paternek's book first and give it a good couple thorough reads.
When I started it was with the assumption that at some point I would decide it was too much trouble and quit -- which did indeed happen, several times. One of those times was after buying Paterek's book. it was overwhelming at first. The sheer number of operations and level of detail he presents is very intimidating. Despite that -- or maybe because of it -- I think it is well worth the very high price.
Get the videos. if you prefer... They are tough sleding also, but I think they build confidence.
Or someone can have the luxury of purchasing the right tool for the right job, and use it accordingly.
Originally Posted by Peterpan1
Just because you don't churn out 10-20+ frames per year for other people doesn't mean having the correct tools to increase productivity and efficiency is as poseur-ific as "a regular rider with a fancy bike". Why would I want to waste a ****load of time rigging things together when a quality tool will make it that much more efficient- especially when I have the means to purchase it? It's the money-value of time.
And it's not to "do it like the big boys," it's the ability to know that a finished product is as good (or better) than all the others.
Don't get me wrong, I like the DIY attitude of someone who is going to use drawings and lay tubes on top of that to get the correct angles, but it's not for everyone. Give me good miter lengths, a good jig, a good alignment table, and I'd be all set.
seems like a lot of money for a hobby. It also seems like something that would be good as a coop arrangement. I've built hundreds of frames with good tooling, and a few working off of very crude plans with crude tools. It's not that hard to do without the tooling.
Originally Posted by icallbullsh!t
Other than the cutting tools mentioned above, I have some wood blocks to scribe the tubes with, a scribe, a couple of half round (real name is censored by the board software -- bastage) files and a hacksaw. I also have a length of 2x2" steel square tubing with a bb holder and two clamps to hold the seat tube. I've built at least 5 frames with that equipment including a tandem. None of the frames I've built this way needed a significant amount of aligning. It's a little more stressful than with a frame jig. I have a frame jig, self designed. I started back when you couldn't buy jigs in the U.S., if they were available anywhere. I don't really like using it after using some of the other equipment I've used, so I went to the stripped down version.
I think the tooling aspect keeps people from trying their hand. I recommend most people work up to it, and do things on the cheap at first.
Last edited by unterhausen; 12-02-08 at 12:38 PM.
You may find something useful in this thread;
How to build a lugged steel frame, with pics
For whatever it's worth, I don't have anything against garage builders who splurge on top of the line tooling. In fact, I'm a bit jealous of them! Certainly, for folks who view this as a pleasurable hobby, there is no reason for them not to spend the money on tools and jigs and what have you, if that's what makes them happy. I don't view it as poseur-ish in the least. Speaking for myself, though, the whole point of learning framebuilding was that I wanted a particular style of frame and my only options were to pay a custom builder $3000, or learn how to do it myself. Obviously, it would have been slightly goofy for me to spend $3000 on tools. And as far as I am concerned, frame building is just plain hard work, which isn't what I look for in a hobby!
At any rate, the only points I'm trying to make are that A) it's not absolutely necessary to have them and still turn out good frames, and B) it's a lot of money, especially for someone who started out by telling us that he is on a "very tight budget".
You make a very good point. I will probably just get some text or videos on the subject and do alot of research. Maybe once I'm stable again spring for some nice tools.
Originally Posted by Six jours