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  1. #1
    The bike plague MightyLegnano's Avatar
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    What are the absolutely basic tools for frame building?

    Hello!

    Can someone who built a frameset without having a million dollar workshop tell me what are the basic tools needed for the first frame?
    Last edited by MightyLegnano; 01-12-12 at 12:47 AM.

  2. #2
    Randomhead
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    torch, vise, files, hacksaw, straightedge, 6" rule. Helps to have some axles and qr skewers. Hopefully you can find some 2x4 to make tubing holders for the vise. I have some scrap steel plate and angle iron for incidental clamping purposes.

    Not sure that a beginner would have much success with this approach, but it worked for me back when my eyes were better. I would have trouble using that method now, it's amazing how important vision is to that sort of building.

    Paterek has a relatively low cost approach. Wooden jig, that sort of thing. I suggest his book to anyone starting out that's not going to go to a school. His methods are a little weird, but they work.

  3. #3
    tuz
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    My shop fits in a small 8x8 feet shed, so I consider it to be pretty minimal. I'd add to Unter's list some reference flat surface to track alignment. That usually comes with a bunch of accessories (v-blocks, height gauge, jacks, etc.) and some cones and rod for the headtube. Also a longer 600 mm rule, a 1 m straight edge, some angle stock for tracing centrelines, reference true wheels, BB and headtube machining tools, reamers, hammer, drill, centerpunch, scriber, squares.
    homebuilt commuter, mixte, road and track (+ Ryffranck road)
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    I made my first bamboo frame with a saw and a half round file.

  5. #5
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canaboo View Post
    I made my first bamboo frame with a saw and a half round file.
    /thread

    When I mentioned straight edge, I meant a longer straight edge. I used to have a 4' straight edge which I used to build bikes, but I left it behind somewhere. We always see beginners building up a large $ collection of tools and equipment, and that takes so much effort they never build any frames. A lot of frames that people were very happy with were built with very little tooling. Looking back, I spent far too long and too much money getting tooled up when I should have just bought tubing and built frames. And then cut them into pieces small enough that nobody could have traced them back to me. So a big supply of Starrett hacksaw blades is a must.

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Steel ? Bench vise , wood blocks cut half round to hold the tubes, and a bunch of sharp files.

    and the torch and tanks.

    then you have to find someone else to do the machining, alignment and painting.

  7. #7
    The bike plague MightyLegnano's Avatar
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    Thanks for your help!

    Some questions because my limited language skills don't help in this. The "reference flat surface" is something you can buy from a hardware shop? Also whats the difference between a straightedge and a ruler? And "Starrett hacksaw blades" το cut the steel where you want? Also what is "sharp files"? Torch seems to be the absolutely essential tool, is it expensive?

    Can you do frame brazing with a chepie like this: http://www.stanleytools.gr/images/FFLA3P.jpg

    unterhausen, you are right about tooling, but without the essentials I think it's an impossible task.

    tuz,amazing blog! Very useful information there. And the homemade derailleur is incredible, I'm following you!
    Last edited by MightyLegnano; 01-12-12 at 01:52 AM.

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    Randomhead
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    I didn't notice you were in Greece. My daughter is headed there today for school, hopefully she doesn't cause too many problems

  9. #9
    The bike plague MightyLegnano's Avatar
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    uterhausen how so? Is she a teacher here? Most likely Greece will cause her problems before she does

  10. #10
    tuz
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    Yeah you can build a frame with very little, but for quality control you need a bit more stuff. You can get away with straightedges and true wheels, but I don't know of any simple way to check for headtube twist not requiring a surface plate (I'm not convinced by the method seen in the Taylors movie, i.e. sighting the ST w.r.t the HT).

    A straightedge is basically a ruler without the graduations. A flat surface can be a cast iron plate, a granite surface plate, or some piece of MDF.

    And you preferably need a oxy-fuel torch system for brazing bikes. The small plumber's torches are quite limited...
    homebuilt commuter, mixte, road and track (+ Ryffranck road)
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    Randomhead
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    for any reasonable sized frame, sighting the head tube works fine. I say this with the notion that you are going to cut the frame into pieces later

    The approach to this technique is to braze the down tube to the head tube. Braze the seat tube to the BB shell. Miter the top tube. Assemble the front triangle. Then site down the head tube as done by the Taylors. You obviously have to make sure the head tube is centered on the bb because sighting it only corrects the angle. This is where pinning can help because you can constrain parts in one degree of freedom at a time.

    Quote Originally Posted by MightyLegnano View Post
    uterhausen how so? Is she a teacher here? Most likely Greece will cause her problems before she does
    She's a college student. She's studying at a Greek university for a semester and then coming back

  12. #12
    Administrator Allen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canaboo View Post
    I made my first bamboo frame with a saw and a half round file.
    Yep. Bamboo is going to be the least cost for a first time builder.

  13. #13
    The bike plague MightyLegnano's Avatar
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    Thanks a lot! I'd like steel instead of bamboo because of its durability. I like the idea that something can stand the ruthless time.

    Would you buy this kit? http://framebuilding.com/Tubeandpartsbundle.htm
    Last edited by MightyLegnano; 01-13-12 at 01:52 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MightyLegnano View Post
    Thanks a lot! I'd like steel instead of bamboo because of its durability. I like the idea that something can stand the ruthless time.

    Would you buy this kit? http://framebuilding.com/Tubeandpartsbundle.htm
    that's a fine kit.
    I'd recomend upgrading to the cast lugs and shell.

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    Hard to say how much more durable steel is than bamboo. Both need about the same amount of protection from the elements.
    Both can easily outlast the rider.

  16. #16
    tuz
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    for any reasonable sized frame, sighting the head tube works fine. I say this with the notion that you are going to cut the frame into pieces later
    ...
    Hehe. Yeah I think it'll tell you if the HT is way off. The headtube is quite short so a small light gap might be hard to sight, yet it'll amount to a fair amount of twist. Besides it's better to set it right before brazing, cold setting a twist is a real pain...
    homebuilt commuter, mixte, road and track (+ Ryffranck road)
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    It is certainly possible to build a lugged steel frame and fork with very little tooling. What is difficult is building a properly aligned frame using very little tooling.

    Many years ago (30) I built a couple lugged steel framesets. Both are still in operation today. I used Richard Talbot's Framebuilding book, hand tools, and built my own fixtures for the main triangle and the fork, out of wood and metal. My torch was an inexpensive MAPP gas model. I used 531 tubing in one case, and Columbus SL in the other case. EF45 brazing wire (which unfortunately had cadmium in it). Henry James investment-cast lugs, crown, and BB shell for one frameset, and HJ lugs but Cinelli BB shell and crown for the other. Campagnolo forged dropouts in both cases. The first one required about 100 hours of labor to produce. The second one, perhaps 75 hours. Then I had each one professionally painted. The second one is in the 'show us your frames' thread, fwiw.

    If I were to re-enter the frame-building biz, I would want quite a bit more fixturing and a frame table (at a minimum), plus a 'real' torch setup, but it can be done with minimal tooling expenditures. Just expect it to take a lot of time, and it won't be as straight as a 'professional' frame, most likely, so it will probably require more post-braze aligning than a pro's frame would.

    And this assumes that you can properly braze things without overheating them. That would be step one, and you can take a brazing class perhaps (I took a welding and brazing class at the University before starting my first frame, and did some practice brazing also, prior to heating up the real stuff).

    Use lots of flux!
    Last edited by 753proguy; 02-03-12 at 11:40 PM. Reason: grammar...

  18. #18
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    Fancy tools quicken the building process and perhaps minimize the alignment errors. But it is the skill of the builder that make the largest difference. I built 6 frames before I used a proper jig (and had pro instruction). Some of these were better then others but all were very rideable. All were aligned with straight edges and sighting. For greater detail read my recent posts to Considering a Build Need Some Advice . After using a jig I tried to make my own and went through a number of methods to jig tubes, axles and shells but would come back to using my straight edges, sighting and good wheels in the end. Some of this changed when I got a 2'x4' flat surface (a wonderful present from the wife) and invested in some tools for it. If I were to start over again the flat surface would be the first big tool I'd get (beyond the basic hand tools and torch). After I sold off my retail shop I got a pro jig (HJ universal) and still rely on sighting and good wheels during the alignment steps to a degree. The jig makes the set up, mitering, tacking much faster and easier but my, not so great, brazing still is the biggest factor controling the resulting alignment (prior to final aligning).

    My suggestion is to build with what ever you can get without significate cost. It takes a few frames to start to understand the real issues and what tools that will make a bigger difference to your situation (budget, commitment, space, skills). Then if you have to ability get the tools that make sense with your new knowlege. The best value is getting the item that you will take most advantage with, when you are ready to really need it. The worst value is to whole hog and end up with stuff that sits under used and takes budget from more effective choices (like as has been said- a bunch of tubes and practice time). Andy.

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    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
    The jig makes the set up, mitering, tacking much faster and easier but my, not so great, brazing still is the biggest factor controling the resulting alignment (prior to final aligning).
    I'm sure your brazing is fine, but this was a point I wanted to make earlier. A builder can have the straightest jig and the best fitting miters in the world, and the builder can still end up with a pretzel if their brazing technique is off. That's why I try to talk people into wasting a lot of tubing, filler and gas getting the brazing under control before they build a frame. And if they can somehow manage to get Doug Fattic to teach them brazing, so much the better.

    I sometimes say I've built frames without a jig, but I have always had a way to hold the BB shell to the seat tube. Everything after that requires sighting and measuring, usually over and over.

  20. #20
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    Eric- Funny that you use the Bb shell to tube as the issue for getting things straight. It was this exact problem that motivated me to learn better ways. I had always trusted the tube fit into the shell to hold it straight (and this was in the day of pressed and welded shells, RFG IIRC) until I built a really nice frame for touring and the shell was way crooked. So much so that my knees felt it. Ever since my awareness and focus on a well aligned bio mechanical plane has been uppermost. Andy.

  21. #21
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Does not know what a metal file is, and that it should be sharp, rather than dull.. ?

    perhaps OP needs to sort out metal working skills in general first,
    then apply them to making bike frames later.

  22. #22
    Andrew R Stewart Andrew R Stewart's Avatar
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    Fietsbob- The coworker that I'll be tutoring will be mitering his practice joints. This way he gets both torch and filing learning. Andy.

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    Beginner builder tooling up here as well...

    Files: decent brand? What kind/how many needed? Hoping to be in this long term, but limited budget at the moment, so deal on a set of files or best value for money.

    Blocks for holding tubes: I'll be making these out of wood. Starting stock dimensions, i.e. outside dimensions of blocks? What diameter tubing does everyone find themselves most using--how many blocks and what size holes to drill?

  24. #24
    Randomhead
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    Grobet used to be the way to go for files, but I've heard grumblings about them. Simonds seems to be the best now. MSC industrial has them. It turns out that it's a lot easier to file miters if you have a file that's about the same size as the tube you are joining to, so if you get the 8, 10, 12, and maybe 14" long half round bastard cut file, a 1/4", 3/8", and 1/2" round coarse file you should be good. Get handles and find a way to keep them from knocking the other files teeth off. I see they are really expensive in the larger sizes. Mine are still working pretty well after many years, if that's any consolation.


    You need to be able to hold 1" 1 1/8" 1 1/4" and possibly 1 3/8" You also want to be able to hold stays and fork blades, which require smaller holes than that, look on flickr for tube blocks.. I have 3 blocks with two sizes each. They probably need to be two layers of 6/4 hardwood. It's well worth it to buy Dave Bohm's set if he has them. Nicola also sells blocks and fork blade benders. I found the blocks to be annoying to make, and mine aren't as nice as the ones you can buy.

  25. #25
    tuz
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    It's nice if you can shop in person for the files: bring a tube block and see if the file fits. I was having trouble finding a 1.25'' dia. half-round: the 10'' bastard cut Simonds was close to 1.125'' and the 12'' was at 1.375''. I sourced a smooth cut 12'' Nicholson that has the right curve.

    I made some blocks by gluing 3/4'' thick slabs of oak. About 2'' deep, 3x3'' square. I screwed up the clamping direction w.r.t. the wood grain for a few and those split quickly, the rest have held up for 3 frames so far. I agree that the Bohm blocks are excellent quality and quite a bargain! To hold tapered stays you can cut a round profile to the second half of the block so it can rotate to follow the taper.
    homebuilt commuter, mixte, road and track (+ Ryffranck road)
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