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Time to construct a Frame

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Time to construct a Frame

Old 07-05-19, 04:57 AM
  #1  
trainman999
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Time to construct a Frame

How many hours does it take an experienced frame builder to go from a box of tubes to a completed frame? How much clean up time till paint prep?
I am trying to figure out how long it would take the Wastyn's to make a Schwinn Paramount frame in the 30's,40's. and 50's.
Thanks for your thoughts on this
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Old 07-05-19, 05:41 AM
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Read that Ron Cooper, since deceased, of London worked in a 8 foot square room. He could complete a frame in 8 hours.
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Old 07-05-19, 06:24 AM
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It really depends on how much of the task was done by hand. If you are mostly making the same few frames over and over again, it can be done pretty quickly. Especially if cutting and mitering tubing is done with a machine. Or even just done in batches. I'm sure in the '60s and '70s they were putting out multiple parmounts per day per worker.

Nowadays I'm only doing things I have never done before, which takes longer because some experimentation is required. But I always figured if I wanted to build something that I have done before, I could get a frame done in a day, even with my low level of automation. But the quickest I have built one in recent years is 5 days, partially because I was making tooling and partially because it was really, really cold in my shop.
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Old 07-05-19, 09:44 AM
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I use to log hours worked but gave that up a long time ago. My first few frames took around 25+ hours but the more skilled I got the longer it took! I stopped logging time when I was heading north of 40 hours. I figured that as I got better I took more time to get things righter. These days I likely put in 60+ hours each. This is for a ready to paint condition, all finishing and chase/face work done.

You can read various builders who say a frame a day but I have also noted that not all "built frame" claims included finishing, painting or thread/face prep let alone the communication and office work. So when people say this or that many hours ask them what they are including. Andy
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Old 07-05-19, 10:02 AM
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It takes me in the ballpark of 40 hours to make a carbon frame, assuming I don't screw anything up.
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Old 07-05-19, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
You can read various builders who say a frame a day but I have also noted that not all "built frame" claims included finishing, painting or thread/face prep let alone the communication and office work. So when people say this or that many hours ask them what they are including. Andy
Of course, I usually take forever to build a frame nowadays because I hit a snag or just don't feel like it. But that's not how it works at a factory where constant forward progress is the way to keep money flowing in. My post was mostly thinking about what they were doing for Paramounts. Everything was standard, they didn't have to worry about getting parts, they just went to the shelf and pulled the parts. I consider painting to be separate, although my 5 days included driving to and from the powder coater.

My guess is that coordinating everything with a customer, finding parts, and dealing with overhead tasks probably takes more time for a custom builder than the construction itself. But in the time frame the OP is talking about, a Paramount had no braze ons, and the parts were ordered in bulk. I don't know if the builders actually talked to customers at all. Certainly later on they didn't.

When I was at Trek, the painter would do many frames per day. And that was in the insane days where most frames were a custom color -- no extra charge. Of course, that was with no clear, just a single coat. When the paint supplier showed up, it was pretty impressive. I recall they charged employees $18 per frame for paint. I have thought a lot about how many labor hours Trek had in a frame back in the '70s. All the operations do add up. Those of us that were doing the brazing probably put out 10 frames/forks a day. But it's hard to put an exact time on it because lots of operations were done by a different person. I would try to do most of a frame myself, but it really depended on who was idle when a task showed up as to who would do the next step. And none of us really wanted to build 300 frames, that tubing was heavy.

I assume that they had a painter at Schwinn or they would take a day to paint multiple frames. Of course, they were not using clear either. Can't imagine them building a frame from parts to paint to prep in one go. If they even bothered to prep. It has been a long time since I painted a frame, but it always took most of a day.

Last edited by unterhausen; 07-05-19 at 11:19 AM.
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Old 07-05-19, 11:43 AM
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My guess is that a company like Schwinn had a mix of skilled and unskilled/semiskilled workers building the Paramounts.

So, cutting, mitering, crude filing, etc, is all done by the unskilled workers.

What subcomponents did Schwinn make?

For the Varsities that they slammed together in a couple of minutes, I think they made their own tubes, and just about everything on the bikes.

For the Paramounts...
Droppouts would have been Campagnolo, I think.
Tubes would have been from Reynolds.

What about lugs? 100% inhouse?

Anyway, having a bunch of good assistants will speed up the primary craftsman, but still is time that goes into the bike.

Nonetheless, it would speed things up considerably if one could say batch 100 or so of each size/style, and then package them ready for final assembly.
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Old 07-05-19, 11:48 AM
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I am guessing Schwinn used there buyers to get the tubes and ends and lugs . I am guessing Wastyns mitered and assembled the frames and forks and did the rough clean up. My understandind is the frames went back to Schwinn for painting. I am guessing again that sSchwinn does the final clean up and paint prep. Do your time estimates include making the forks?
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Old 07-05-19, 11:56 AM
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I watched Peter Mooney work for about an hour. Very systematic, Didn't do anything fast, but he was very organized. He's pull out a file, take a fork on a rack of half finished forks, take a couple of file strokes, put it back and do the next one. And so on for all the forks for which that file was appropriate. Then the next tool, and so on. No wasted moves.

Another factor is how cleanly the brazing is done and therefor how much cleanup has to happen. Peter's work was very clean. I watched a local builder who is a master at welding do brazed lugs at a bike show and make quite a mess of it. Told me after he hadn't brazed a lug in two years and he was way off with the heat. (I have seen that same builder's brazing fillet on the inside of a fork crown. Absolutely perfect "machined" radius - except obviously no machine ever got in there; in fact until the fork blade was cut, no human eyes had ever seen it and there was the "matte" finish of untouched braze. If that were external and for show, cleanup to perfect show condition would have been very fast.)

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Old 07-06-19, 03:49 AM
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Originally Posted by trainman999 View Post
I am guessing Schwinn used there buyers to get the tubes and ends and lugs . I am guessing Wastyns mitered and assembled the frames and forks and did the rough clean up. My understandind is the frames went back to Schwinn for painting. I am guessing again that sSchwinn does the final clean up and paint prep. Do your time estimates include making the forks?
My time estimates included a fork. Forks were always part of a frame until fairly recently, and they still are for me. Back in the threaded steerer days, a fork had to be paired up with a frame, but they might have made them separately in batches. Not everyone had pristine shorelines back in those days, so cleanup might have been pretty minimal. I don't know what brazing process they used, but a good builder has very little filing to do. And it's pretty difficult to do much filing on Nervex Pro lugs that they used in the '60s and '70s.
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Old 07-06-19, 01:30 PM
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Jigs and tooling matters .. Companies Run Batch builds of a given size so a lot in a short period of time..

say 50 main triangles a day that way.. handed off to the next crew to attach the rear assembly..


watched for a shrot time .. 531 Pro race frames being built at the Gazelle company, in 1988..

Torch array jig heated several lug joints at once,





...
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Old 07-06-19, 04:02 PM
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I don't think the Paramount was a production bike in the time frame the OP was talking about, but I'm not sure. At Trek, we had to build 30 main triangles or assemble 30 rear triangles to a front triangle per day. But the tubes were already mitered and the chainstay was assembled to the seat stay. I never built any forks there, I vaguely recall Mike Appel did all of them at that time. And then the guys that did all the finishing work would bend them in big batches. Realistically, we were probably putting out 5 painted frame/forks per 8 labor hours or something like that. I wonder if they even knew that when I was there, the management was inexperienced. I always thought the best example of that was the 300 model. Exactly the same amount of labor, the tubes cost $5 less, and the bike was a lot less expensive. Probably not worth building except maybe as a loss leader.
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Old 07-06-19, 06:02 PM
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There are many shades of gray as their are frame building shop arrangements...well maybe not. But there are shops that are a one person affair and others with more workers then I have fingers. I don't think the OP was intending to ask about the semi and full production shops though. Andy
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