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  1. #1
    Señor Member 4Rings6Stars's Avatar
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    I'm interested in building a lugged steel frame. Where should I start?

    Sorry in advance if you guys get questions like this all the time...

    I read Cassave's "how to build a lugged steel frame" thread all the way through...that bike is gorgeous and I hope someday to be able to make something similar. However, I am starting at square 1. I'm in college and don't have the money for expensive tools or jigs.

    I'm not looking to get a set of 953 tubes and build a masterpiece...just looking to start messing around with a torch maybe braze on some rack fittings or canti posts or something to get a feel for the torch. I have a couple old lugged frames I could practice on that I don't care about destroying (some lower end frames, I won't be doing any cutting or brazing on my 531 frames just yet).

    My ultimate goal is to someday build myself a road frame and then a rugged 29er / cyclocross / singletrack utility frame.

    What do I need to get started practicing brazing? Just a torch? Any other thoughts or advice?
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  2. #2
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    I suppose you need a safe place to work with good ventilation, and low end chance of fire hazards, at least some part of the day or year (you can do some of this out of doors under specific circumstances. You need eye protection equal to the level of brazing or welding you will do, so not too much for silver, more for brass, sameish for gas welding, lots more for arc. There is a lot more to the safety side, and that is one thing that Paternek does cover better than anyone I have seen, in his videos.


    Next you need to decide how deep you want to get into it for your first attempts. If you decide on silver for your first work, you can do some playing around with propane or Mapp on small stuff like rack tubing. In theory you can do whole bikes with these torches, but if you intend to move on to a proper torch, then you don't learn much about handling one of those by pushing the envelope with the small torches.

  3. #3
    Señor Member 4Rings6Stars's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response.

    I like the idea of trying to build a rack for practice. Are you suggesting though that working with a Mapp or propane torch on small stuff won't actually help me when I move on to a proper torch and a frame?
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  4. #4
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    Anything you do will help, to some extent. But there is a large part of framebuilding that relates to learning heat control. I suppose anything you do in that regard is some sort of practice. But what you have to do to get the stuff to flow, when you don't have ready heat, vs. when you do is pretty different. You don't really move the stuff around, because your heat is bleeding everywhere, and the flux is scorching, and the metal is way hotter.

    With fillets when you hit the heat easily, the metal just settles into place, and everything is clean and so forth. But it's working with the chunky and lumpy when the heat isn't there.

    I found that MAPP has the right heat, sometimes, for 3/8" tubing, also the wire I use is a little thick. So just in that zone it was pretty good. There are other factors like how much of a heat sink the particular parts represent.

    So if a person was really interested in building skills they might, say, put initial money into lugs, scraps, AO torch, rather than starting with a project and burning it together by whatever means possible.

  5. #5
    Senior Member schooner's Avatar
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    Marc-Andre Chimonas has a good book and some videos on YouTube that speak to what you are talking about. He only uses a MAPP torch and some very basic tools. Good stuff from what I have seen, at least to get the basics down and decide if you want to upgrade your torch set up, build a real jig, etc.

    http://www.amazon.com/Lugged-Bicycle.../dp/145365058X

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mchimonas

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    That's cool, I didn't know he had youtube.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/mchimonas#p/u/9/u94WsKf6JRo

    He pretty forthrightly says what the limitations of the Mapp gas are in this video. Including such stuff as leaving gaps in the penetration of silver into the joint as a result of the multi step process used in using the colder torch, etc...

    The process shown wouldn't be state of the art even if the correct torch were used.

  7. #7
    tuz
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    I started with a Mapp torch and making racks with very basic tools. I got introduced to cutting mitres, setting up hoopty jigs, basic heat control and alignement.

    I think you'd want a place with a vise, files, tube blocks, and a proper oxy-fuel torch. That would a modest investement good for practising lugged ($1 practice lugs available at ceeway, $3-4/foot for cromo tubing at aircraft spruce) or fillet joints. You could even pull apart bikes I guess. But brazing is one thing, coming up with a true and up-to-specs frame is another!

    In the mean time, nothing wrong with building racks or putting braze-ons with mapp.
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    Arguably I read too much into this part of the OP's comment. "What do I need to get started practicing brazing?" And some similar comments. If you are mostly interested in making a few frames, then MAPP is one way to get 'er done. If you are mostly interested in learning core skills for frame building, then it isn't a waste of time exactly to try out MAPP. Sorta like water skiing in order to learn snow skiing.

  9. #9
    Señor Member 4Rings6Stars's Avatar
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    I need to look at ceeway again I looked late last night and I couldn't figure out how to see prices or order...

    I would like to develop the skills to someday be a competent framebuilder (no desire to do it for a living though), not looking to cut corners and build a few shabby frames and move on so core skills are what I'm after. I think for now I'll do some reading and research then try to get a hold of a torch setup, some cheap lugs and straight gauge or scrap tubing and just start practicing.

    For practice should I start with brass or silver? Or does that depend on whether im using OA or Mapp? Should I try to get brazing rod at a local weld shop or order online?

    Edit. My dad is an engineer and told me that his friends in the machine/welding shop could probably order stuff for me at cost. I'll look into what I can get from that. What should I expect to pay for brass/silver?
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  10. #10
    Randomhead
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    you have to ask Ceeway for a quote. There are a couple of on-line vendors of silver and brass. Henry James and Cycle design are two. You could check with them for prices.

    If you use MAPP, I think you'll be frustrated with steel and bronze, so in that case you should go with silver. Or maybe go with silver either way.

  11. #11
    tuz
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    If you want to build bikes in the long run, go for oxy-acet or oxy-propane. It's a bit more $$ up front (torch, hoses, tips, tanks rental), but much more versatile than air-mapp. You can do brass and small tubing with mapp (that's what I did) but with more massive joints, I think only silver works.

    You can get silver ($5/oz), generic brass ($10/lbs), low-fuming bronze or nickel-bronze ($20/lbs), at the welding shop or online. I'd add Gasflux and Ceeway to unterhausen's suggestions.

    edit: oups 56% silver is more like $25/oz. pricey!
    Last edited by tuz; 11-12-10 at 10:37 AM.
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