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Finishing a fillet brazed frame... maybe copper plate?

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Finishing a fillet brazed frame... maybe copper plate?

Old 06-18-16, 09:21 AM
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Finishing a fillet brazed frame... maybe copper plate?

This is a two part question.

Several months ago I took the rash step of ordering a custom frame. For purely aesthetic reasons, I didn't want a TIG welded frame, but the builder offered to do fillet brazing and let me finish it myself. So now, next Friday to be precise, I'm picking up a bare steel frame and fork. I will have to sand the fillets myself, and then put a finish on it.

1. So, I welcome advice about filing and sanding the fillets &c. I don't want to take off too much brass, or any steel. No doubt the builder will tell me what to do, but I'm a terrible listener, so I figure the more advice I get, the better. Any tips? Thanks in advance....

2. And then, I'm thinking, copper plate. Thoughts?
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Old 06-18-16, 10:59 AM
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If you don't have any metal working experience, this is a probably a bad idea. Finishing fillets is a very labor and time intensive process and it takes a good feel for when you are filing brass vs. steel. I made the mistake of letting a friend file some fillets on a frame I built for him. He had filed halfway through the wall of the seat tube before I stopped him.

As for advice, get some round files and work your way around the joint. Don't focus too much on getting one spot perfect before moving on. Get the general shape right and then go back and address any low spots. Use a very fine file to blend the edges. You will need some riffler files for getting into some of the tight spots. Save the emery cloth for final finishing. I use 120 grit for a final polish prior to painting or powder coating.

Plating a frame means you have to have everything perfect and all scratches polished out. Any scratches will show in the plating, it doesn't fill imperfections like paint or powder.
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Old 06-18-16, 06:13 PM
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Filing fillets is a lot about only filing the filler. Such a simple statement, but very hard to keep to in real life.

I've commented about this idea, of the customer finish filing and "painting" a frame done by a pro builder, before. To the customer I say be very careful, don't drink or smoke prior or during your finishing work and be willing to step away and collect your focus when needed. To the builder I say why are you letting some one of unknown skills and motivation define your reputation? Are you that hard up for work that you are willing to accept the public scrutiny of a frame that you didn't finish? As far as plating goes dsaul makes some very true points. There's reasons that many builders won't offer plated frames. Few customers understand and are willing to pay for the significant time it takes for the right prep, before plating, that it takes to look good. And why copper? Do you like the patina of tarnish?

I've only built as a pro for a couple short periods but have hobby built for decades. Long ago I sought the Grail of a low cost paint job that looked good. It took working with one of the most experienced painters in NA before I understood the value of your frame looking as good as the build quality. "Book by it's cover" and all. Andy.
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Old 06-19-16, 07:23 AM
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I agree with everything that Andy said. Managing liability is a big part of building frames in the U.S. nowadays, this arrangement just doesn't seem like a good idea. And just from the fact that I hate filing, I certainly wouldn't want to agree to file a frame someone else had built. I have practiced quite a bit to lay down fillets that are easy to file. From what I see online, that's not the case with a lot of builders. My idea with my first fillet frame was that if I put on extra brass, I could make a good looking fillet. That worked for a while, then I got really tired of it. It was a tandem, so there are lots of fillets. The thing that really drives me nuts is that it's easy to leave a sharp edge on the fillet. So getting rid of that without cutting the tube is really touchy.

The problem with plating is finding someone that knows what they are doing with respect to bicycles. I would just get it powder coated. There was a gold plated frame at NAHBS that looked really good, but you have to polish or it just shows right through the plating. That's not easy. Go with powder coat, it looks really good over fillets, assuming there are no pits.
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Old 06-19-16, 01:11 PM
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Thanks for all the above remarks!

To address some of the concerns...

I have a fair amount of experience working with metal, making custom bike parts from aluminum, beating copper plumbing pipe into housings for LED headlights, hammering out copper rivets for saddles, also using brass, aluminum and steel rivets for saddles, and a lot more. I have my doubts whether this qualifies me to file fillets, but I am going to give it a try, cautiously (hence this thread).

As to what the builder is thinking, no doubt he has misgivings of his own, but I appreciate his willingness to give the customer what he wants!

I have read that Norman Taylor, who built Jack Taylor frames, did not file his fillets at all. He had of course done thousands of frames and perfected his technique, but apparently his brazing was smooth enough that no filing was needed. I don't know how true this is (and I don't mean to imply any criticism of how other builders do things). I expect to learn a lot when I get my frame.

As to the finish, I will in all likelihood have it powder coated (I'm thinking a brass color), but I have a couple weeks to explore other options. I can make up my mind when I finish my fillets etc.

What I'm wondering about copper electroplating is this: is the copper more attracted to the bare steel than to the copper that has already been deposited? I know chrome makes a vanishingly thin coating that shows all the imperfections underneath, but I have read that copper plating is initially rough and rather uneven, requiring finish sanding and polishing to look good; and this is done as a base coat for chrome. If this is the case, I imagine it takes a pretty clever plater to get an even coat on all the exposed surfaces of a frame.

The copper headlight housings on my commuter bike, ridden in all kinds of weather from 2010 to 2015, developed a beautiful patina, and if I could get a good copper plating on a while frame and fork, I would love that. But it is solid copper, not plated. I have seen a lot of copper plated steel fixtures that have rusted despite copper plating. I would not like that at all.
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Old 06-19-16, 09:58 PM
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The "classic" (and this is a over used term by those who don't have much history) chrome plating goes like this. Copper base layer. My understanding is that copper has a very strong "grip" on steel and is used to reduce the rusting potential. Nickle layer next. This tends to fill tiny imperfections and can be polished smoother then copper or chrome as well acts as a great base for... Chrome top layer. This is for show and durability. Chrome will polish very bright and has far better wear resistance then copper or nickel. Andy.
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Old 06-20-16, 08:30 AM
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I seem to remember clear over copper. Not sure how that would get a patina, it might be really interesting because it will. There are clear powder coats that are intended to go onto bare metal

I don't believe the story about the Taylors. Maybe if they also admitted using filler. You can certainly get close to not needing to file, but it's virtually impossible to get the kind of cosmetic joints you see on Taylors without filing or filler.
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Old 06-22-16, 10:44 AM
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In making stuff in the local college Jewelry lab any suspended copper in the mild acid cleaning solution Leaps on any steel put in the 'pickle',
with out even hooking up the electrodes to get a current Flow thru the solution intentionally made for electroplating.
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Old 06-23-16, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I seem to remember clear over copper. Not sure how that would get a patina, it might be really interesting because it will. There are clear powder coats that are intended to go onto bare metal

I don't believe the story about the Taylors. Maybe if they also admitted using filler. You can certainly get close to not needing to file, but it's virtually impossible to get the kind of cosmetic joints you see on Taylors without filing or filler.
Someone in the C&V forum has fond memories of his first ten speed, a Puch Bergmeister in the early 60's, clear over copper. That's the only production bike I can think of with that finish (but what do I know).

Re. Norman Taylor, and his magical touch with molten brass, a little googling revealed this:
Everyone I've spoken to who's seen Norman wield a torch has spoken with reverence concerning his ability to quickly lay a fillet of brass and leave a weld so smooth that filing would be irrelevant. This is, in many ways the basic secret of a Taylor - what Holland Jones (of Fulton Street Cyclery, and later Velo City, in San Francisco - at one time the largest customer of the Taylor shop) referred to as "magic hands" welding - the ability to cleanly weld with the absolute minimum of heat applied to the tubing, something that directly affects the ride quality of the finished frame. When I first saw Taylor frames, another aspect of this was one of the attractions - the brazed joints that were smooth enough to have been filed, but weren't. While the surface isn't neccessarily indicative of the weld's strength, it does attest to the builder's skill, hinting at what lies beneath - and while many file their welds, removing any trace of the builder's skill, these were an open book for anyone to read.
(from Jack Taylor Cycles)

There are several web pages that have similar accounts of his workmanship, but they all read about the same. One provides this photo:
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...160&size=large
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Old 06-23-16, 01:33 PM
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thanks for posting that picture. That's not up to current standards for a fillet, so now I believe it. In fact, it clearly wasn't filed. If you look around the edges, there is a sharp demarcation where the bronze ends. I would feel compelled to file that. Granted, the fillets themselves are quite smooth.
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Old 06-28-16, 09:32 AM
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Last night, I saw a copper plated espresso machine in the window of a restaurant. It was beautiful. It must be super expensive.
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Old 06-29-16, 08:53 AM
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I think we pay more for plating here than they do in other countries. Since most expresso machines are chromed, copper should be cheaper
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Old 06-30-16, 08:57 AM
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I believe this is copper plated. There are several pics before and after plating.


https://www.flickr.com/photos/bellad...in/dateposted/
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Old 07-06-16, 06:50 AM
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I got my frame. On the builder's advice I am going to test build it, and make sure everything fits, before worrying about the finish. What fun!





From Squarebuilt Bikes, in Brooklyn. More later... haven't touched a file to it yet!
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Old 07-06-16, 11:30 AM
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looks nice. Wondering if the front rack mounts will work when there are brakes on there, but you should be able to attach a rack to the brake bosses anyway
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Old 07-06-16, 11:55 AM
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Thanks!

Yeah, I should have given a little more focused thought to brake / rack interference
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Old 07-06-16, 12:02 PM
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I like the look of nickel plated much more than copper, I worked for years brazing copper heat exchangers so I've seen enough of the stuff to last a lifetime. A brushed or satin finish might require less prep work and I think it forms a lovely patina over time.
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Old 07-06-16, 12:11 PM
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Looks like it'll build up into a nice looking bike however you decide to finish it. That copper someone posted is cool, but I could see how a frame slowly and randomly oxidizing to green would be just awesome.
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Old 07-06-16, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
Thanks!

Yeah, I should have given a little more focused thought to brake / rack interference

I'm glad you did it because I was thinking of adding rack mounts to one of my forks and might not have worked too hard at guaranteeing clearance. Although now that I see where the brake bosses line up wrt the crown, it seems like there is plenty of vertical between the brake bosses and the fork crown to allow adequate bracing of the rack.

Is this a 700c bike?
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Old 07-06-16, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
...
Is this a 700c bike?
No, this bike will get 26" wheels, the MTB size (559), Compass Rat Trap Pass tires.
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Old 07-06-16, 03:12 PM
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I wouldn't have guessed that.

Anyway, the brazing looks good
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Old 07-07-16, 05:29 PM
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Originally Posted by rhm View Post
Thanks!

Yeah, I should have given a little more focused thought to brake / rack interference
Seems like you could un-braze them easily enough before it's painted and either leave them off or put them back in a more logical place.
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Old 07-09-16, 03:23 PM
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I think I would take them off
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Old 07-25-16, 09:07 AM
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It turned out there was another problem with the fork; the builder neglected to account for the front fender and as a result there wasn't enough clearance there, so he built me another fork. I felt bad for him -- but hey, not my fault. I brought him the front rack I intended to use, and after much experimentation concluded the rack was a no-go. So now I have the new fork, without rack mounts; I'll be using a rack that mounts to the brake bosses.
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Old 08-25-16, 07:53 AM
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Here's a couple photos of the fillets, after I finished my work on them.


The bottom bracket was difficult!


The seat stay caps were an interesting challenge as well.


I reshaped the steel of the fork crown a bit too.

And then I had it powder coated a copper color. Better photos in a couple days-- I just picked it up yesterday.


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