So one of my buddies can't afford to buy a new roadie so I decided to put my engineering knowledge I've attained thus far into use and build one! The plan will be to build the frame out of 953 Reynolds tubing and to use lugs to connect the tubes (does anybody have any thoughts on this choice, also where can I get these lugs?). Does anyone have any links to any useful resources when it comes to framebuilding? Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated!
i'm not a frame builder but i'm sure many will chime in and tell you that 953 tubing is not the place to start.
i don't think that your engineering knowledge will help out that much on the frame, most of that stuff has been worked out pretty well over the years. on the other hand the more welding, brazing and fabricating skills you have will come in quite handy
also, should cost really be a big part of this, it is pretty unlikely you will save any money at all. The margin in custom frames isn't all that huge, the resale in known frames not all that bad, you are bound to spend the difference, if any, on stuff you will need to make the frame.
you can get a pretty good frame for what a set of 953, lugs, dropouts, bb shell, and the other parts that you need will cost you. It would be easy to spend $1k on this frame just for parts and paint. But the truth is, unless you are currently brazing thin-walled stainless tubing, you are not going to have success with this.
Just to expand a little more. Stainless easily overheats and forms a nasty black skin that doesn't let the sliver stick. So all the problems that beginners have with penetration and heat control are multiplied many times. Beginners should stick to cro-mo, such as the low-end Deda or True temper. Go with thicker tubing. Practice on concentric rings of 4130 until penetration is no problem. I always say that building frames is no way to save money. Sure, someone like me can build myself a frame for considerably less than what another custom builder would charge. But the money and suffering I've spent to get to this point is not insignificant.
Why is it that you defer me from 953, cost or how sensitive it is to brazing? Money isn't the number one factor, I just want to build my own frame and gift it to someone in need. Also, I am not sure how much brazing I will be specifically doing. I was thinking of out-sourcing the brazing and learning from whatever machin shop is interested.
There is always a BS factor involved with tubing, but 953 when intitially introduced was only provided to certified builders, and earliest of all to major names. Obviously anyone could learn to work it, but it is a top of the line product, and it isn't where one starts. What is more there probably won't be much difference in the end result than when using other tubings, if the product is properly represented. There is a lot more to the value proposition of custom frames than the tubing.
I wouldn't go nuts if making someone a free frame, people tend to value the frame in proportion to what they paid for it, so whether one should go overboard on such a product... Not to mention some people have said one shouldn't gift or sell any of one's first 30 frames. On the other hand, a frame with real value built into it will be treasured if the person is at all deserving. For instance, look at the mixed build up top. would have made a statement even without a tubing decal.
I think your chance of finding a non-frame builder to braze up tubing is pretty near zero. Frame builders could stand to learn stuff from machinists, or general welding gods, etc... but the reverse is also true. Most guys who braze in machine shops do stuff like cast iron repair, etc... They might be good candidates for being quick learners, but it won't be cheap or really possible. The more high tech the tubing the more the required skill level, and or fixturing, and post braze frame machining. The tools for remachining the frame are as expensive as a custom frame. There are workarounds to some extent, if you have a year or two to figure them out. There aren't work around for high end road bikes.
Everyone starts somewhere, no reason it can't be you, but your current approach requires some refining, and is full of all the newbie traps. You can't reasonably be even the general contractor for a frame project with what you know at this point. While the Paternek approach is a bit offside, I would review his online version of his book to raise the bar of your current knowledge. He tends to overcomplicate, and his book isn't current, but it's a start. Making steel bikes is a llittle like teaching an elephant to dance: Really pushing the available materials. What is in some ways an easy fabrication job, not unlike plumbing with copper, has inescapable series of complications and expences at nearly every stage. You can make a 50 foot yacht with a smaller tool kit!
Bob Brown made some great observations about brazing 953 on his blog HERE and HERE. Temperature contol using the torch is much more critical with stainless than with chromoly or manganese molybdenum, or as Bob says, "Stainless is very different to braze because it behaves the same as regular steel during the heat-up phase, but once it's up to temp it can overheat instantly if you're not careful. There's far less margin of error than with regular steel."
I'm building my second lugged chromoly frame and won't attempt building a 953 frame until I've built several more chromoly frames and get better at handling the torch to regulate the working temperature.