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Questions from someone interested in framebuilding

Old 02-15-23, 07:42 PM
  #1  
brennie 
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Questions from someone interested in framebuilding

I've been refurbishing steel bikes for a long time and I'm now considering getting into framebuilding. I have a few questions for anyone willing to offering insight:

1) What is the material cost for a frame? For the tubes, stays, braze-ons and everything all in. I imagine this varies quite a bit by tube type.
2) How difficult is it to deconstruct an existing frame? Say I wanted to take apart my Miyata to see how it was made, how would I go about that? Or would this teach me nothing? I remember hearing stories about Yoshi Konno deconstructing frames to learn how they were made.
3) Has anyone tried reproducing a frame that they really enjoy with old blueprints? Namely, has anyone done something like looked at an old Specialized catalog to see the tube lengths and geometry of a frame and reproduced it? Or are there more necessary factors at play that can't be gleaned just from geometry pics in catalogs?
4) Has anyone built racks? I've tried to find information on Jim Merz and his process but can't find much online. I'd love to learn about rack-making if anyone has insight there.
5) What's the worst, least discussed part of framebuilding?
6) What's the best, least discussed part of framebuilding?

Any and all insight is valuable here. Thank you!
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Old 02-15-23, 08:02 PM
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Another question:

How do you decide between different tube types and width? What all goes into this planning process before starting a frame?
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Old 02-15-23, 08:09 PM
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The quickest way to get going is to take a framebuilding class. You learn a ton and you get a custom frame you made at the end of it. Here are a few names to research:

Metal Guru
Doug Fattic
Dave Bohm
Koichi Yamaguchi

If you want to look at prices of the raw materials, check out:

framebuildersupply.com
metal-guru.com
bikefabsupply.com
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Old 02-15-23, 09:12 PM
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Find a guy who knows more and hang out with them. Help them help you.

1- The least material cost (including decals and paint) was just under $50. These days for just the metal the range might be $150 to $300. Paint runs from $100 for a bottom line powder coating to a bit less than $1000 for a really nice multi color wet job. Of course all this depends on grade of materials, quantity discounts and relationships.

2-Taking a frame apart is as simple as hack sawing the joints. Not sure you'll learn much more by melting out filler and pulling tube stubs, except that you'll likely not do that again as it's smelly and dirty work. Now repairing frames can be a real education. Both in construction and estimating skills

3- There have been reproductions done before. Some more and some less to what the original was. (I just made two frames with style details from Raleigh Pros and French bikes in general). The numbers you see in spec sheets are not to be considered exactly what any one bike was done to. The later one goes back in the history of published specs the more likely they are only a close resemblance to what the bike actually is. What I like are the geometry charts that show the same fork used over a size range that has a few degrees of head tube angles... So for which size frame is that fork best on?

4- Yes, a bunch of us here and others make racks (I just picked one up from the powder coater today).

5- The lack of profit in building.

6- Riding what you made.

Andy
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Old 02-16-23, 07:35 AM
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I think for a beginner, the unmentioned secret is that you are guaranteed to have frustrations. Some of those frustrations will probably keep you from completing your frame unless you are really persistent or have help. If you can afford it, going to a school is going to help with this, they aren't going to let you fail. You may have to start over, so buy cheap. Nova is sadly going out of business, so that would be a good place to start looking for parts. For an experienced builder, I think there is almost always something that you do that isn't quite what you wanted. I always pretend I did it on purpose like the craftsman that build a flaw into their work because only god is perfect. On my last bike, it was the rack. I really need to replace it.

A lot of people build racks to start out. You can get a 5/16" ridgid tube bender off of ebay for a reasonable price and buy some tubes from Mcmaster Carr and start making racks. While you are there, get some tubing to practice with.
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Old 02-16-23, 07:43 AM
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Taking a frame building class is on my bucket list.
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Old 02-16-23, 08:44 PM
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Originally Posted by brennie
I've been refurbishing steel bikes for a long time and I'm now considering getting into framebuilding. I have a few questions for anyone willing to offering insight:

1) What is the material cost for a frame? For the tubes, stays, braze-ons and everything all in. I imagine this varies quite a bit by tube type.
2) How difficult is it to deconstruct an existing frame? Say I wanted to take apart my Miyata to see how it was made, how would I go about that? Or would this teach me nothing? I remember hearing stories about Yoshi Konno deconstructing frames to learn how they were made.
3) Has anyone tried reproducing a frame that they really enjoy with old blueprints? Namely, has anyone done something like looked at an old Specialized catalog to see the tube lengths and geometry of a frame and reproduced it? Or are there more necessary factors at play that can't be gleaned just from geometry pics in catalogs?
4) Has anyone built racks? I've tried to find information on Jim Merz and his process but can't find much online. I'd love to learn about rack-making if anyone has insight there.
5) What's the worst, least discussed part of framebuilding?
6) What's the best, least discussed part of framebuilding?

Any and all insight is valuable here. Thank you!
1. In UK about 200
2. Yes this can be quite interesting and also a good source of scrap pieces of thin-walled tubing to practice welding on.
3. Yes easily.
4. Yes racks are fun to make.
5. Well it sucks if your build doesn't go well I guess. But just try again.
6. Nothing in life exceeds the stoke of riding with your friends on frames you made
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Old 02-16-23, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by brennie
Another question:

How do you decide between different tube types and width? What all goes into this planning process before starting a frame?
There are fairly limited options in the Reynolds and Columbus catalogues mainly determined by what kind of bike it is. Some tubes are aimed more at TIG (or fillet brazing) others at lugged construction. I think for a classic road bike you want "standard" sizing-- 1" TT, 9/8" DT and pencil-thin seat-stays. Then put skinny tyres on it. If you want something off-roady with fat tyres, or for touring, I like "single-oversize" (9/8" TT and 1 1/4" DT). For a full-on MTB there are other tubes in the catalogues. I also might be tempted to go oversize if it was a very large frame for a bigger rider.
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Old 02-19-23, 06:05 PM
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brennie, I built my first frame in 2000 and have built 4 more since. This is what I how I went about it.

1. Ordered the Paterek manual from Henry James (HJ no longer in business, but the manual is still available from vendors)
2. Read the manual several times using it as a textbook, I studied and studied to burn the info into my brain.
3. Having a ton of miles under my belt and several bikes in the quiver I knew what I liked and didn't like, which made designing the frame fairly easy for me. Frame angles, tube lengths, etc. were already known to me, I didn't have to figure it out.
4. In high school I was exposed to some metal working and drafting, but hadn't touched any of that stuff in 20 years so it was not fresh in my mind, but I did read a lot on brazing and figured I could do it successfully. Design and drafting the bike took a few tries, but I got it.
5. Studied information on the Henry James website (no longer available) to understand lug sizing and tube sizing, butt lengths, etc. I wanted to know everything possible about the tube and lug dimensions. Also looked at a few Taiwanese lug sizing and Columbus and Reynolds tube dimensions. Again, the idea was knowledge.
6. Read up on how the old time Italians built frames and I did it the same way with pinned joints and no jig. Seems it worked out well.

This rogue method is not for everyone, but I had a lot of confidence that I could do it successfully and I did. Only one joint had to be taken apart and re-brazed, which was not a big deal. Called it quits after frame number 5. How many frames does one need!?
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Old 02-22-23, 06:07 PM
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Thank you all for the replies! I really appreciate it
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Old 02-23-23, 12:53 PM
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Another question:

If I purchased a very large frame, say 62cm, would I be able to deconstruct it for the tubes and use new lugs to create a new bike that fits me (56cm) with new geometry? Or would this be an idiotic thing to do?

I'm partly wondering because I like Miyata tubing but can't buy it anymore.
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Old 02-23-23, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by brennie
Another question:

If I purchased a very large frame, say 62cm, would I be able to deconstruct it for the tubes and use new lugs to create a new bike that fits me (56cm) with new geometry? Or would this be an idiotic thing to do?

I'm partly wondering because I like Miyata tubing but can't buy it anymore.
Could one do this? Yes. But why? Much more work than building from scratch. Much more likely to damage stuff on the take apart (weld tacks, pins and other "surprises"...). The added heat cycles do nothing but bad for the tubing. Potential of the tube butts not being long enough after sizing for you. This will be a really dirty, smelly and energy sucking job, I don't suggest it. Those that do take apart old frames for tubes generally will use the tubes for practice, not an actual bike. But often this only lasts a little while before the smarts of getting new tubing sets in.

The tubing costs are but a portion of the total cost of a frame, maybe half the total. To spend the effort, suffer the smells and exposures (of paint and whatever else in on those tubes) and end up with weakened tubes just doesn't make sense to me.

BTW there's nothing special about Miyata's tubing. They sourced the 4130 raw bars from the same smelters that the name brand tube companies did. The spiral/rifling ribs don't really add anything structurally that counts (although do make good ad copy) and variable butting thicknesses is nothing new. Miyata was known for their using slightly thicker walled tubes than some did and their racing team support certainly gave them good feedback about geometry. I suspect you are feeling the geometry fit being good more than any tubing aspect.

For practice I get generic 4130 tubing in .035 and .058 walls in the diameters I'll be designing around. The .058 cut into sleeves and slid over the .035 stuff (that's .125" smaller an OD) mimics luge flowing. For the real frame I use whatever brand has the tube in the diameter and walls that I want. I don't think much about which brand, just the tube specs. Andy
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Old 02-23-23, 06:23 PM
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Andy is correct and I can verify that he is correct. I had a Miyata 912 sitting unused and decided to take it apart and reuse the tubes. Proved to be a major waste of time and used up a lot of gas. The Miyata frames are brass brazed requiring a lot of heat to pop loose.
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Old 02-23-23, 06:55 PM
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After seeing this video I could see myself considering a frame build....

After seeing this video I came to understand just what a box store bike is...

Does that mean I could really do it?
Maybe not, but I am not afraid. I just don't have the time. I have an 80s FUJI frame and a 70s Mixte frame waiting for a rebuild.
Nope... I am not building my own frame... Ha

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Old 02-24-23, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by brennie
Another question:

If I purchased a very large frame, say 62cm, would I be able to deconstruct it for the tubes and use new lugs to create a new bike that fits me (56cm) with new geometry? Or would this be an idiotic thing to do?

I'm partly wondering because I like Miyata tubing but can't buy it anymore.
In theory but there might be a problem with butt lengths. Tubes are available in a few different lengths, and you use the longer ones with a bigger thin bit in the middle between the butts for a larger frame. You would then be cutting the ends off which might make the butts too short. It also depends how the original builder cut the tubes-- did he make the butts equal lengths?

I wouldn't worry about Miyata or any other particular tubing. Any quality seamless cold drawn double butted cromoly tube is much like any other. The quality level is likely to be higher nowadays anyway.
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Old 02-24-23, 09:44 AM
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bicycle tubing is so cheap* it makes no sense to deconstruct a frame. Just getting the paint off is a lot of work. I have been making bike racks out of discarded frames. There have been numerous times when I thought I should just spring for some 4130 from a metal supply place

*don't tell the tubing suppliers I said this
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Old 02-25-23, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
I think for a beginner, the unmentioned secret is that you are guaranteed to have frustrations. Some of those frustrations will probably keep you from completing your frame unless you are really persistent or have help. If you can afford it, going to a school is going to help with this, they aren't going to let you fail..
Managing student frustration and disappointment is one of my primary jobs as a frame building class teacher. That's why I like to have 2 rather than one student at a time. It can be beneficial to watch another beginner making the common rookie mistakes. That way they are not comparing themselves to an expert and can recognize what others are doing wrong more easily than themselves. It is also important to start with easier practice joints and work their way to more challenging ones as their understanding grows. Frustration and not knowing quite how to correct are real motivation killers.

One of the best things to ever happen to me was learning from a pro in Europe near the beginning of the bike boom in 1970. The craft had pretty much died out in the US when suddenly adults wanted to bicycle for fun and fitness. A poor start can affect a reputation long after they have gained skill if one wants to make morel. Those first imperfect frames representing the builder can have a too long life.

When I was searching for a place to learn in the UK in the early 70's, I asked the question "low long does it take to learn how to build frames/". The answer was almost always the same, it takes forever. That really isn't true. If one learns the correct principles, they can practice until they "get it". If they are learning on their own then catching on can take a lot longer. There are similar mistakes almost every beginner makes and knowing what they are and correcting for them right from the start can really shorten the learning curve.

Last edited by Doug Fattic; 02-25-23 at 10:07 PM. Reason: added clarity
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