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Homemade or poor man's bike tools?

Old 03-07-10, 08:54 PM
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Homemade or poor man's bike tools?

What home made, cheap, improvised or otherwise poor man tools do you know about that actually work?

I am not suggesting using a using a pair of channel locks to adjust spokes. I am just wondering if there are cheaper altrernatives to some of the bike specific tools out there.

Sometimes ingenuity and resourcfulness are better than deep pockets. I want to do the occasional repair or upgrade job to my bikes but I am not sure I want to or need to spend several hundred bucks on a special Park bike tool kit.

Any cost cutting tips or is the best bet just to buy the tools made for the job? Some of the specific tools I would be thinking about buying are:
Crank remover
Chain breaker
Chain cleaner tool
etc.
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Old 03-07-10, 09:08 PM
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you can make some lock ring pliers by grinding down a set of channel locks. chain cleaner tool=toothbrush. seriously though just buy the the proper tools
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Old 03-07-10, 09:09 PM
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cone wrench the 12$ a piece cone wrench are too expensive for me, i bought a set of fuller open end wrench at the harware store (size 10 to 16) for 8$

ground them down to the proper thickness and voila i have size 14 to 16 cone wrenches + normal key size 10 to 13 for 8$


theres the famous sheldon brown BB cup removal tool that works real well a 14mm nut and bolt, 4 medium matching washing and you have it

a headset tool can be made easily in the same fashion!
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Old 03-07-10, 09:10 PM
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It's pretty easy to make a chain whip. Headsets aren't much of a challenge without the right tools except for removing crown races...and you need a flat spanner for threaded ones. I had a shifter that was almost large enough for headsets and one piece crank BBs, which I made fit by filing a little bit of thread off the thumbwheel. You can crack open cassette bodies with an appropriately-sized bit of steel plate to engage the cutouts in the bearing race.

I've never had the luxury of a wheel truing stand; always just used frames and forks; a bit tedious, but you can still get great results. I'd say the bare minimum in terms of proper tools would be: allen keys, cone wrenches and headset spanner, spoke wrench, chain tool, and stuff like Hyperglide lockring, sealed BB tools etc.
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Old 03-07-10, 09:14 PM
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You can find each of the items you listed for around $10 each. There's no need to buy a whole kit or pro level tools.
Sometimes it's worth paying a few bucks for the proper tool rather than cobbling together some half-assed thing that might wreck the bike part you're working on.
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Old 03-07-10, 09:36 PM
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I only cobble together fully-arsed improvisations, myself : p

With care and diligence, no carnage needs to occur. But you need to be able to recognise a bad idea ahead of time.

Although when you get a nice, purpose-made tool after using the wrong thing for years, it's an utter joy.
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Old 03-07-10, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by sunstealth
cone wrench the 12$ a piece cone wrench are too expensive for me, i bought a set of fuller open end wrench at the harware store (size 10 to 16) for 8$

ground them down to the proper thickness and voila i have size 14 to 16 cone wrenches + normal key size 10 to 13 for 8$
Paid less than that for a Performance brand cone wrench set. 2 each 13mm - 16mm. There are lots of regular tools that can serve well but but quite often the purpose-built tools can be had pretty cheap.
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Old 03-07-10, 09:49 PM
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if i take into account the money exchange, the cheapest spanner are around 5.20$ make that 3 (for a single set) im at 15.60$ + shipping another 15$ im reaching the 30$ for 3 spanners, Ill take my ground down fuller 12$ one over that + they work as good as purpose made tools and they have a life warranty (even if ground down )
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Old 03-07-10, 09:57 PM
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..
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Old 03-07-10, 10:35 PM
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The dude's universal freewheel remover is pretty nifty : )
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Old 03-07-10, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo
The dude's universal freewheel remover is pretty nifty : )


Already done.
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Old 03-07-10, 10:45 PM
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Niftier.


/contemplates grinding up a cheap pair of vicegrips

/realises jaws would be too short
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Old 03-08-10, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo
The dude's universal freewheel remover is pretty nifty : )
Looks like it just spins the freewheel backwards. It would need to grab the notches to remove the body.
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Old 03-08-10, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Homebrew01
Looks like it just spins the freewheel backwards. It would need to grab the notches to remove the body.
I suspect it's his interpretation of a chainwhip, and that he has other tools for grabbing the splines/notches.
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Old 03-08-10, 07:32 AM
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Thanks for the great replies so far. I know I am going to have to buy certain tools because it is just not worth it to mess with some things.

I once tried to make my own spoke wrench because the bike shop charged $8.00 for the red one. I thought I could just grind once myself with my dremil. It ended up breaking. Then I tried again, it ended up stripping the nipples. Then I gave up and bought a tool from another place for $5.00.

I don't mind paying for the right tool but when I know they are charging 300% markup, it makes me look for alternatives just out of principal. I think a 50% markup is reasonable but no more. I think some bike shops jack the tool prices up so you will be more inclined to take your bike in to have them work on it.

I have a Trek 7.2 with two broken spokes that need repaired on the back wheel. I guess I need to remove the cassette to get them in and out. I need tools for that. I also want to swap some cranks so I need the crank remover tool. I have a set of tools for everyday stuff like allen wrenches, socket sets, pliers and assorted other tools and wrenches.
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Old 03-08-10, 08:38 AM
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This topic comes up frequently. Basically, most good quality bike tools aren't that expensive if you shop carefully, they are lifetime purchases and they do the job properly. Damage one expensive component by using a poorly fitted tool and the cost of the right tool suddenly seems very reasonable.

There is a clich I think has a lot of truth to it: "Only a rich man can afford cheap tools."
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Old 03-08-10, 09:14 AM
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Any tool that's used o apply a lot of force on a small area is generally hard to build yourself. That includes chain tools, freewheel and crank removers, spoke wrenches. The exception to that rule is the nut-and-bolt type fixed cup remover that someone mentioned above.
OTOH workstands, truing jigs and some measurement tools are easy to improvise, and often can work as well or better than the high buck purchased version. Even pro mechanics will sometimes make their own.

em
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Old 03-08-10, 10:17 AM
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I built my own framebuilding jig - does that count ?
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Old 03-08-10, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by albanian
I don't mind paying for the right tool but when I know they are charging 300% markup, it makes me look for alternatives just out of principal. I think a 50% markup is reasonable but no more. I think some bike shops jack the tool prices up so you will be more inclined to take your bike in to have them work on it.
How do you have any clue what the markup is on a particular product at a bike shop? If you don't like the "new" prices, buy your tools used.
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Old 03-08-10, 11:24 AM
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Do it yourself truing stand.

Stool+Old fork=Truing stand. Look at unworthy1's avatar.

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Old 03-08-10, 11:35 AM
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My best home built tool... it builds wheels to tolerances you can't get with a Simple Park stand.



Have also built chain whips (which I use all the time), headset presses, cone wrenches, and fabricated the most useful tool known to man... the pokey spoke.

Machining a decent open end wrench to deal with cones is a good idea and you will then have a tool that is superior to any shop grade tool save for Sugino cone wrenches, which are my favourites.
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Old 03-08-10, 01:25 PM
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The problem with making your own tools is that it requires you to have other tools to use along with the skill to either craft the tools or to craft a jig of some sort to allow you to produce the accuracy required. Making your own spoke wrench is a good example. At first it seems like a simple job but then you run into the degree of precision that is required and the judgement needed to make it so that it won't spring open under use or to allow for some slight taper to allow it to fit snuggly so that when it does spring open it doesn't spring too far. And to use the correct alloy of metal and heat treat it correctly, and on and on and on. And all this is just for a simple spoke wrench!

Some things can be done if you have the desire to exchange some time for money and provided you have the right tools to produce them. Wheel truing stands made from old forks for the fronts and the rear of an old frame for rears is a good example. Head set presses from threaded rod, nuts and washers is another one. And more than one person has made their own headset cup removers from plastic, copper or even steel tubing. The key is to know you're own individual limits for your skills and your available tools. If you have nothing BUT a small bicycle servicing area and nothing other than the basics then you're home crafted jigs or tools should be kept simple as well.

Lets' look at the three examples in the OP's first post;
Crank remover - This will require a way to produce threads that fit the crank arms. These are not standard sizes at all and with the forces needed the metal must be a properly heat treated alloy. No this is a non starter for any but the most advanced machine shop.
Chain breaker - Another non starter due to the need for heat treated alloy steel in the frame. Not so much for the frame itself but for the narrow teeth that stick up for the chain to slip over for setting the pin back into place. The frames of the commercial breakers are smaller thanks to using heat treated steel but this can be side stepped by using a larger lump of steel. But the little teeth for the chain to slip over can't be done in regular mild steel. They'll just bend like warm cheese with the first use.
Chain cleaner tool - Those funky looking brushes with the rounded hollow with shark's teeth? The brush you can forget about but there's no reason you can't make the shark teeth part for getting down into the spaces between the cogs. You just need some suitable sheet plastic that you buy or salvage. But if you're talking about the hook on three wheel brush tool then your again on a non starter kick. There's just no suitable home method for producing the brushes. Also the tools and cost for plexiglass to make the casing would exceed the cost of buying the tool in the first place.

These are the sorts of things you need to look at. Granted it's fun to use a tool that you made yourself but you need to be honest with yourself and consider how you'll make the home made option and if it is actually doable and then if it's not just way out there in cost and time.

I've been a hobby metal worker for years and used these skills at my job more than a few times. Because I have a pretty good shop setup I've been known to make or modify a lot of my own tools. But when it comes to bicycle tools I've mostly just bought them other than the simple ones. However my cone wrenches are getting pretty worn so at some point I'll buy a cheapie set of the right size combination wrenches and hollow grind then to fit the narrow flats on the cones. By hollow grinding them the jaws will be narrow to fit but the supporting C of metal will be thicker to provide more support to avoid flexing during use.
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Old 03-08-10, 01:52 PM
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i've had it great. my best bud is a bike mechanic, and for tools i just have to ask. it started a long ago when he came over to my place and saw me trying to work on my bike with a handful of crap tools. so he asked me what i was attempting to fix and i rattled off the list of todo's. he left and came back with an toolbox with all the tools i needed to get the jobs done.

actually it's even better these days, when he sees what a mess i make with my own repairs, he just takes my bike home for a day and then returns it next day - all fixed and clean.
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Old 03-08-10, 02:07 PM
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2 cheap aluminum yardsticks, a bolt matching the rear derailleur mounting hole, some extra nuts to lock everything together. Drill hole in one yardstick close to the end. Round off the yardstick near the hole. Tape yardsticks together so they form a "T" beam (minimize flex during measurements). Bold yardstick to derailleur mount and measure distance to rim at various spots. Yeah, I had to keep unbolting it and use a large crescent wrench to actually bend the hanger but in a few min and about $6 in parts, I avoided spending over $50 for a tool that I've only needed once in 20 years of cycling.

Last edited by MD45; 03-08-10 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 03-08-10, 02:20 PM
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Best way to get tools cheap is to flip a couple of bikes and use the proceeds/profit to buy some good tools. Thats what has funded all of my tools on a tight/zero bicycle budget.
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