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  1. #1
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Let's say you have $2500 for tools & fixtures...how do YOU spend it?

    Let's say you're not exactly a new framebuilder, you've got a handful of frames under your belt, but to date the tools that you've accumulated are the basics - shop consumables, basic hand tools like a hacksaw, center punch, etc., decent files, vise, bike stand, some Park frame alignment tools, and a couple of bench power tools like a drill press and a belt/disk sander. Everything else, from torch to jig, you beg or borrow. You want to become more independent and produce perhaps 6-10 frames per year. Non-framebuilding stuff like painting gets farmed out. Finally, let's say you have about $2500 to get yourself equipped. How do you spend your money?

    This is pretty much the situation I am in right now, I don't ever plan on quitting my day job, but I really enjoy framebuilding as a creative outlet.

    So far, were I to spend this amount of money, I would do it in the following way:

    * Victor torch, hoses, and two stage regulators - about $300
    * Bringheli frame jig, because it's pretty much the cheapest around - $1350
    * Bringheli fork jig - $375
    * Nova fork raking tool - $375

    Round 2, which would allow me to tap and face my frames, would include:
    * Icetoolz BB tapping and facing set - $250
    * Icetoolz headtube facer and reamer - $250
    * Icetoolz crown race cutter
    * Flexible shaft grinder & some carbide burrs

    Now, I realize that I could find a $50 O-A setup on craig's list, build a jig out of 2x4's and roofing nails, etc., but let's say I get everything via retail or mail order just to keep things simple.

    How does my list look? Anything you would change, add, or omit?

    Thanks,

    Pete
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  2. #2
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    Well since it is a hobie and you have a cap on your output, you can pretty much do what you want.

    Other than obvious stuff, I would say the following:

    1) do you own your shop etc... How free are you to acquire heavy duty stuff like a mill or a lathe? If you have a house and are staying there for the next 20 years, that is a different thing than having to store all your stuff in a few storage bins to move 5 times in the next ten years. There are great deals out there. I wanted two of the more desirable tools and paid 4K, but I could have had an equal lathe and a two headed German mill for 400. At the exact time those deals came along I had a boat in my shop and did not have the space.

    2) Given what you are taking about, the objective I would have is maximum creativity. That is tools like the lathe, the mill and the belt grinder. I'm not talking about wacky bikes, but bikes that whether they look hyper creative, or hyper conventional are 100% you. Also, with a lathe and a mill you can make a jig, but with a jig you can't make anything but a bike. If you were production oriented, making more bikes would be your objective, but with 1-2 months a bike, you can make the odd thing for your shop from stuff to make forks, to stuff like the custom fitting for my electrical panel I made yesterday.

    3) On the productivity and creativity front, I would get into CNC as soon as possible. Unlike 20 years ago, everyone today has a computer capable of doing amazing design and production work, it is a shame not to use it. You can add a lot of personality to your frames with custom dropouts or engraving.

    4) If you work with metal, even if you don't weld the bikes, it is pretty hard to justify not having a welder. I was in a welding store recently and I saw a new chinese portable stick welder, and it was 350 amp, 100% duty cycle and 200 bucks ish. They were testing it and disbelieving the specs, but it looked really nice. In a shop environment the ability to tack together fixtures, stands, tables etc... Is pretty close to priceless. I remember reading a article by guitar industrialist Bob Taylor, where he made the case that everyone should own a welder. And went on to show all the cool things they were making around the factory with theirs. There are these expensive clamps for gluing on bridges, but Taylor made their own with a 6 buck clamp and a scrap of steel.

    On your list, I would prioritize the torch. That thread we had with all the ebay torches had some pretty sweet deals in it, but getting new regs would appeal to me also. Next I would do frame prep tools. Bringhelli jig seemed to me to be a jig without the main advantages of a jig so I probably would wait until I could afford one of the premium models like the Anvil or the Groves.
    Last edited by NoReg; 12-29-10 at 12:53 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Thanks, peterpan1. I hear you on the mill and lathe being able to increase my creativity (and would all but eliminate doing miters by hand), but I have zero experience with either of those pieces of equipment, and as far as I can tell, there are not any evening machinist courses anywhere near me -- believe me, I've looked, mainly because I'd like to learn how to TIG weld. Hell, the materials shop in the school where I teach doesn't even have any welding or machining equipment, which is a disappointment, since I did some basic O-A welding in 6th grade where I went to school.
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  4. #4
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    This is always an interesting question and probably ever builder with limited resources would be wise to prioritize future equipment purchases. Of course the longer one can wait the more likely it is they will find a really good deal on something specific.

    Peterpan1 had some excellent thoughts. I mostly agree with his #1 and 2 and particularly the final paragraph. Since I also have stainless steel laser cut and etched fixtures for sale it isn't appropriate to comment more about that. You took the mill and lathe options off the table, so my suggestion for an immediate-need-to-get would be a decent sized surface plate. If I was only doing a frame or two a year I could maybe get by with just a beam or milling table but at your ambitious rate I would definitely want something close to 3' X 4'. This would not only make sure frames are straight but could also be jerry-rigged with V blocks (or something) to substitute as a fixture.

    Of course I would get the O/A equipment first with the prep tools not far behind. Having tried many over the years (I've got Campy, Var, Park) my favorite for the money is Cyclus.

    I could also never be without a lug vise.

    Good luck with your personal efforts to improve the American economy.

  5. #5
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    I'm not a builder ok? But i have seen a few (not here in the US, the beauty about the US is that many tools are cheap or are easy to find), and all the builders i have seen, all of them have a table or a piece of stone to work with the frames and the O/A equipment together with the campy box or with other brands frame prep tools. As for the lug vise, a piece of tube to hold the lug is more than enough. Many home made tools like home/cut wood blocks and stuff.

    In a matter of fact you can build a fork jig for cheap also to save some money but so far looks like some stuff is not even that necessary like for example a frame jig because u can build w/it.

    I envy becaue you have the funds to start something, I been short of funds since forever and now with kids i have no time even for taking a darn nap hehehe, good luck

  6. #6
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Actually, I rigged myself up a pretty swank lug vise made from an old steel MTB stem and a couple of split shims made from frame tubing scraps.
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  7. #7
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    Did you ever get a surface plate? Seems like there are some around right now.

  8. #8
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    Did you ever get a surface plate? Seems like there are some around right now.
    No, I didn't...none that fit my needs have come up on Philly, Reading, or Allentown Craig's List. With that said, practical considerations would limit the size of a surface plate for me. My workshop is in my (finished) basement; I have a walk-out, but grass hills on either side of the house (hence the walk-out). Any transfer of a large piece of granite would be via beer and pizza fueled humans, so weight would need to be limited to 300 pounds or so for anything that needed to be carried down. I think a slotted steel plate (a solid one would work) would be really ideal, but they are impossible to find, and the same weight issues apply.

    I'm wondering if a single piece of "C" channel steel, about 4' long, 6" wide, and 2" deep, ground on the flat side and milled to take a tapered BB shaft holder thingy wouldn't work pretty well as a jig...

    Pete
    Last edited by mudboy; 12-30-10 at 07:17 AM.
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  9. #9
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    A lot of my framebuilding class students have the same issues with getting something heavy into their shop area. And they may not yet have a permanent location so moving 1000+ lbs. of cast iron or granite is out of the question now or in the future. A reasonable solution I found is aluminum cast table made by the Wolverine Bronze Company near Detroit. The one they have on file for framebuilders is 34” X 48”. They also bore the hole for the bb post. The top is something like ” thick and where the webbing is, it’s a bit more than 3.5”. They make legs that bolt directly to ground pads on the underside of the table so it is very easy to set up. The weight of the tabletop itself is 175lbs. It has an accuracy of 10 thousandths of an inch over the entire surface. Aluminum is not as tough as cast iron so it has to be handled with greater care but it is not delicate. Students are 100 times harder on equipment than I am (100 being an exaggeration) and it has held up well under several years of use. The bad news is that the top costs $1500 and the legs another $100 each. I don’t know if you went to the Philly show at Halloween but I showed mine there underneath my fixture.

    What some people do with limited space is put a cover on the top of their alignment table so it can double as their regular workbench. A bench vise can be C clamped on to it so it is easy to remove when it is time for alignment.

    Another interesting idea - that I have absolutely no personal experience with – is using an epoxy pour over a less-than-flat-accurate stable foundation plate like aluminum or concrete or whatever. It flows out and hardens very flat. Apparently this process is used in racing car shops. A Rick posted this idea on the Phred framebuilder's list about a week ago. It was under the title of "Getting lucky in Norway". This was in response to a post Truls made about finding a better surface plate in Denmark and as a bonus getting a Bike Machinery Hydra fixture from the same place. This idea might be promising for hobby or beginning part time builders. Besides the link to more information in his Phred post he also included another source of cnczone in a private email to me. He said a lot of people contacted him off-list about it but it had little traffic on the list.

  10. #10
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    Bringheli has an alignment system that involves a flattened c-channel. You aren't going to get it machined cheaper than what he sells it for. It's hardly ideal, but if that's all you have then it's got to do.

  11. #11
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    You can learn lathe work from the Darrel vids on smartflix. It's like driving a car. Google up some safety tips. It will save you so much time and money from using it 10 minutes a week solving problems, doing little add-ons. You don't want to be on it all week because nobody will pay you to do machining on a 1937 lathe, but it will pay you back many times.

    I would get a mill table, if you can find one. You can do your accuracy checks, fixture, etc... They are hard to find, but then so can granite tables be. I sorta feel granite is oversold. I have seen some pretty terrible things done to it by frame builders. Accuracy is a pyramid thing, if you went into a machine shop where they were working for real to thous, they wouldn't all be using a granite table, there are test departments for that. You don't need a table that probably isn't any longer accurate to measure something with a feeler gauge that doesn't hold those tolerances. If you come across one at the right price, and have the space, why not.

    Also, if you are getting into the heavy stuff, get a lift table, or an engine hoist, gantry, whatever, don't use your back. Or you will pay for it.

  12. #12
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    On the epoxy stuff, apparently it is insanely accurate. There is a 320 page thread over at CNCzone, on epoxy/granite. Not sure anyone has used it yet. Reality wise, wood is incredibly accurate. WEST dudes jig all their fancy builds on wood with rebar hardware bonded. They do stuff like make mill parts for nasa, and spheres for flight simulators that are held to insane accuracy. The only downside is when you want to whip out a bar and tweak something, those things can be soft and will dent.

  13. #13
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    So, if wood is accurate, would 3 or 4 layers of 3/4" MDF glued and screwed together make a "good enough" alignment table with a decent level of accuracy?
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  14. #14
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    It would depend if you are just measuring off it or intend to weld on it, or stick big levers in there and tweak stuff, but accuracy wise, you bet. I try to stay away from MDF for the most part, but it is exactly the material that luthiers getting 25K a guitar use to jig their guitars and there is a large accuracy component here and there with guitars (here and there is all you can say for frames, not too many people are using 3d comparators to establish all the points in the frame. That said, I know where there is a mill table for sale in NH for 50 buck, and that doesn't buy a ton of MDF.

    I actually prefer marine ply or aircraft, because it can be hand planed. I had a plan for a ply jig at one point, it was pretty clever, so I thought at the time. Solid easy to build but it would be less desirable the more adjustments one needed.

  15. #15
    Senior Member mudboy's Avatar
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    Wouldn't a mill table be a bit small...unless it's off of a monster mill, of course?
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  16. #16
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    Any views on the suitability of rect. section alu tube for a very basic allignment table (well more of a beam really) - primarily in terms of accuracy?

  17. #17
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by mudboy View Post
    Wouldn't a mill table be a bit small...unless it's off of a monster mill, of course?
    my mill table is huuuuge. Granted, my mill is large, but it's the kind of mill you find if you search for free mills on craigslist.

    Quote Originally Posted by c_booth View Post
    Any views on the suitability of rect. section alu tube for a very basic allignment table (well more of a beam really) - primarily in terms of accuracy?
    I have some aluminum c-channel that would have worked really well for that if it hadn't have been used outside for 30 years. I really haven't seen anything that thick in aluminum otherwise. Most aluminum shapes are fairly flat. Steel shapes can be fairly flat, but they vary. There are ways to check flatness with a straight edge, but it's a bit of an art.
    Last edited by unterhausen; 01-29-11 at 09:09 AM.

  18. #18
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    Standard mill table is 48 inches. But the idea even for the smaller tables like the 36 inchers would be to make a column like the Paterek that allows the the frame to swing across the table and to take measurements from the table. The mill table is way strong and it is an ideal leverage surface for setting.

  19. #19
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    I use a 12" x 42" x 2" aluminum cast tooling plate (jig plate) with Joe Bringheli's BB shell holding post for my alignment beam. Joe sells the BB holding post as an individual item for $160.
    - Stan

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    Randomhead
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    where did you get that jig plate?

  21. #21
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    where did you get that jig plate?
    Online Metal Store
    - Stan

  22. #22
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    Nice thing about a mill table, is that with the T slots, and some hold downs you don't really even need a post. Post has undeniable cool factor though.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
    I use a 12" x 42" x 2" aluminum cast tooling plate (jig plate) with Joe Bringheli's BB shell holding post for my alignment beam. Joe sells the BB holding post as an individual item for $160.

    This looks like an interesting 'compromise'. Is there enough strength in it for cold setting? Could you get away with 1" thick?

  24. #24
    Decrepit Member Scooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by c_booth View Post
    This looks like an interesting 'compromise'. Is there enough strength in it for cold setting? Could you get away with 1" thick?
    The 2" thick plate is plenty strong enough to prevent any bending while cold setting and I suspect the same is true of the 1" thick plate. My biggest concern was that the surface might get scratched or gouged with use, but that doesn't seem to be a problem. I was going to go with machined steel, but a local machine shop owner convinced me that Al jig plate would work as well and would be a little lighter and cheaper. So far, so good.

    I bought some inexpensive surface gauges for checking alignment that work great.
    - Stan

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
    The 2" thick plate is plenty strong enough to prevent any bending while cold setting and I suspect the same is true of the 1" thick plate. My biggest concern was that the surface might get scratched or gouged with use, but that doesn't seem to be a problem. I was going to go with machined steel, but a local machine shop owner convinced me that Al jig plate would work as well and would be a little lighter and cheaper. So far, so good.

    I bought some inexpensive surface gauges for checking alignment that work great.

    So just to clarify, do you cold set from the Bringheli post?

    Do you mind me asking how much you paid for the Al plate? I'm based in the uk and the equivalent sort of thing here would cost $475 (for 12 x 48 x 2") or $235 for 1" thick. Be interesting to see how it compares.

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