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ftwelder 03-24-14 05:55 PM

I went to welding school and got a TIG welding cert. I practiced a lot and thought about bikes all the time and raced a lot as an amateur and accepted work job welding frames for start-up ventures. I liked what I was doing and it happened to be what was popular at the time making it lucrative. I was lucky with getting a bike job but a lot had to do with having a specific skill way in advance.

Personally, I would master the craft that was of my interest and then apply it to bikes. If hearth brazing is your interest, they do it and apply it to bikes either through a course or your own diversion. If hearth brazing bike is it, then find the path that takes you there. That may very well be a bike course with someone who knows that technique or a hearth course? do they exist?

Homebrew01 03-24-14 06:31 PM

What is the appeal of hearth brazing ?
I bought a small OA setup for about $500 (tanks, hoses, regulators, cart) and have it available for a multitude of uses.

e-RICHIE 03-24-14 07:04 PM


Originally Posted by Homebrew01 (Post 16607841)
What is the appeal of hearth brazing ?

There is none; it was the technology of the day atmo.

tuz 03-25-14 04:56 AM

Historical question. Were lugs used in early bicycle manufaturing because the only available heat sources were hearths or furnaces? Seems like a nice way to join lightweight tubes given the means. Just wondering...

FMB42 03-25-14 10:47 AM

There's a lot of excellent advice here. The problem I see with brazing is that it not something that the average person can learn to do properly in 2 or 3 weeks. This, and the number of "unfinished" (dead-end) DIY frame building blogs out there, makes me wonder just how often people are successful at it the first time or two they try it.

So, you may want to consider taking some community college, or adult ed, classes on brazing (if you can still find them). Other options would be to find part-time work in a weld/braze shop. This could be a big help in learning how to prep and fit the materials and components before you braze them (which, btw, is at least as important as learning how to braze).

As for the "Admin" question; just type and edit what you want say in a text editor and then paste it into the comment box. But then again, maybe you're using a hand-held... If so, you'll probably just have to log back in.

unterhausen 03-25-14 10:55 AM


Originally Posted by carfart (Post 16569189)
p.s. Admins--What eldritch machinations do I have to orchestrate in order to successfully write and edit a post without having to log back in to submit it? If I take longer than a couple minutes I get logged out. What's up with that?

click the "remember me" box when you log in. There may be a setting for logout time in your settings, but that's the hard way

Doug Fattic 03-25-14 12:01 PM

carfart, while reading an article in Classic Lightweights UK (UK meaning the United Kingdom but most likely England) I saw that one old time builder used a foot bellows to add oxygen (and therefor heat) to his hearth brazing. I can appreciate that old methods might appeal to you and have the intellectual curiosity to check it out. However for anyone else listening in, don’t even consider hearth brazing as an option. Unless of course you want to be one of those craftsman that dresses in 19th century clothes and does public displays at a place like Williamsburg. I’m probably the only one on any framebuilding forum that has actually hearth brazed a frame (unless Richie did at Witcomb) and would never ever choose it as an option in the US (unless I’m giving some kind of historical recreation). Its huge flame produces a broad heat heat pattern that requires special techniques to keep things in alignment and a super challenge to put on the rear triangle so a true rear wheel centers. I’m also positive that a place like Merican used oxyacetylene to put on braze ons just like we did at Ellis Briggs.

One of the best options for a hobbyist is using propane from a BBQ cylinder. They cost about $50 full at many convenience and hardware stores or gas stations. A refill would be $20. A regulator is an additional $80 (give or take). The cheapest and safest way to supply oxygen would be with an oxygen concentrator. This combination would allow anyone to work in their garage or shop. There are many restrictions on acetylene and oxygen cylinder delivery and use - particularly in cities. I decided to try a concentrator after reading what Frank the Welder had to say about it. A used 5 lpm model can be found for around $75. I bought a refurbished one for $350. You don’t need a regulator with a concentrator and never have to go for refills. A Uniweld 71 torch handle with mixer and tip would be under $100. “R” rated Hoses another $25 (although I would get light ones from TM Technologies for $45). For safety you would want a flashback arrestor on the propane line and maybe some check valves on the torch handle. The entire outfit would still be under $400. That is just the price you have to pay unless you can find an old oxyacetylene setup at a garage sale somewhere. I’ve read about people using those small MAP gas and oxygen cylinders. From what I understand those $10 oxygen cylinders get used up really quick and soon become very expensive if you are going to practice any amount.

Road Fan 06-07-14 08:54 AM


Originally Posted by Six jours (Post 16587597)
FWIW, I started with homemade jigs put together with Home Depot angle iron, and a MAPP torch, also from Home Depot. I'd put the initial start-up costs at maybe $300. I used my wife's granite counter tops as an alignment table. That's either really expensive or completely free, depending on your point of view. Regardless, that level of tooling allowed me to build frames that passed the alignment inspection at Cycleart and have lasted tens of thousands of miles, many of them off-road.

Or depending on one's wife, life-threatening!

duanedr 06-08-14 03:15 AM

I'm the OP from Andrews post up above.
I had to throw the front triangle away as the ST/BB ended up out of phase from the rest of the front. the frame was headed north but the BB was headed slightly north west! If I had taken a course, I likely wouldn't have made that mistake. The flip side of that argument is that the error cost me around $50 in material and maybe 8 hours in 'work". But if you love doing it, is it really 'work'?

If I'm understanding correctly, few of the masters became who they are after taking a course. They spent time in a high volume production environment where it's feasible to spends 1000's of hours building muscle memory and understanding.

A course may get you an interview for a job in a volume production environment but, it won't make you a great frame builder. I don't understand how you can do as one person suggested 'hundreds' of frames to build expertise. My first took me probably 2 months of regular/consistent work (it was spread over about 5 months) including making a few little fixtures and doing a couple buckets of practice joints. Assuming I get down to each frame taking one week, that's still like 5 years so, at that point, much of what you learned in the class would be lost or adapted to your own processes.

I'll never be a pro. The way I got out of the predicament of not having a flat surface was to go buy a straight edge and then use that to find a flat piece of marble - total cost $100. From there, knowing what to measure to ensure the frame was straight and in plane/phase was straight forward. I was more looking for interesting ways that Pros had found to do measures that I hadn't thought of.

My 2nd frame (well, 1.5th) was completed last week. It's perfectly sound, ride-able (60 miles so far!) and rides well - no hands even. It's straight, accurate to my CAD design papers and has a few trick little details to accommodate the components I was going to use. The biggest thing though, is that it reflects my aesthetics! The fillets are a bit thin in some places while being blobby in others. I've seen where my sanding has cut into the tubes so, i'm going to cut my time lost on the fine finshing of the fillets. They'll be fine as they are.

Having said all of that, for a hobbyist, I think taking a class would so much fun and well worth the $$. I'm working on convincing the wife and kids that Niles Michigan would be an awesome place to spend 3 weeks while dad plays in someone else's garage!

Andrew R Stewart 06-08-14 07:44 AM

duanedr- Glad that you got through #2 with good results. I really hope you didn't think i was picking on you with my earlier post. just that your situation was a good example of my earlier points.

Frame building/brazing is kind of like playing music. It's not hard to link together notes that are about right to resemble a song. But the more you play the more you understand there's a lot more involved and that you have a ways to go before you're actually proficient.

I think you'd have a really good experience with Doug F. Andy.

Sixty Fiver 06-08-14 08:25 AM

I have spent the past three years (almost four) working with a master builder and fabricator and will keep working with him until he decides to pack it in... at 80 my mentor is still feeling inspired and now we are working jointly on some projects and independently on others. After a year of working together (part time) he said I was ready to start flying solo as he could not teach me much more.

Not too many people have that kind of opportunity... most of our work is filet brazing and most of the work is done freehand.

I came into this with a background in fabrication, a lifetime of working on and studying bicycles (geometry does not confuse me), and using the torch came pretty naturally as I have also done plumbing work.


I get to use the torch a great deal as even if I am not building frames I am doing repairs, custom work, and building custom racks... this is what helps pay the bills as the number of people who are willing and able to purchase a custom frame are a very small percentage of the market.

I see quite a few amateurs building very nice looking and competent frames... and this is what frame builders used to do when it was a more common trade and not a boutique affair.

Ron Cooper was one of my heroes and he built some truly beautiful bicycles and said he never felt he could put his own name on a bicycle until he had done this work for 20 years... he apprenticed under the master builders at A.S. Gillott and then became one of their primary frame builders.

He was building a frame a day for most of his adult life.

duanedr 06-08-14 11:40 AM

No, absolutely not!! And even if you were, I have learned so much from you and others on these forums that a bit of public humiliation is a very small price to pay and doesn't nearly come close to balancing the ledger of cost/benefit of hanging out here. I would even go so far as to suggest that before any newbie questions are asked you require pictures of work before the information was given and then another after as entertainment for yourselves! I look at my bucket of practice joints - that I continue to work on - and just shake my head at how bad I was (and frankly still am!) and how having the right flux and brass and torch and tips and glasses and and and... All things I would have quickly gotten through in a class. But I think I'm a bit smarter now knowing what to look for when flux comes up to temp and what sort of glow I'm looking for when using LFB or silver.

Seriously, I think my whole experience through frame #1 .5 really represents this (and several other) threads well. I think it comes down to what your expectation is of your own proficiency. I raced for about 10 years and it's pretty common to get pretty good just riding a lot with other racers who are stronger than you are and push you to train harder. But at some point, if you want to get better faster, you need a coach, doctor and lots of support. When I decided I wanted to increase my proficiency and upgrade, I got a coach and he helped me figure a few things out that made a big difference. I had some bad habits to break and some new things I had to do more/better. Very much like what I hope to do with frame building.

About 12 years ago, I took a welding class at a local Voc-Tech college here and was going to attempt this then. We had our first child shortly after so, the small hobby torch sat in the garage for all that time. Through a quarter we learned all kinds of welding that could be used to join metal. I had forgotten most of everything I learned and what I learned wasn't applicable to brazing thin walled tubes.

In my last post on the other board, I posted some of my learnings which include how difficult and challenging it has been to figure out all of the little details and sequencing. Even stuff as simple as holding cable guides while you braze them. I'm a bit neurotic so, when I had it all fluxed up and hit it with the torch, the flux melted and the dang thing fell on the ground. Now what?! Do I need to clean all of the flux off and start back at wiping it down with alcohol? For one I did and for one I didn't. We'll see which falls off first I suppose. I also figured out how to hold them in place with the tools I have. Same with mitering the chainstays which is probably one of the hardest operations....

This is a very challenging pursuit but it's addictive and rewarding and expensive and relaxing and...

In the end, the race is only against yourself.

MassiveD 06-10-14 02:34 AM


Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart (Post 16603229)


Had he attended a class he would have learned how to measure the frame during construction and avoid some of his results. In said class he could have learned how to do some of these steps without fancy tools.

True. Though he could have learned how to measure a frame from Paterek, or P's videos, just to name an obvious source.

It is also the case that many activities have far more demanding measurement systems than bicycles. This is largely so thanks to tube miter programs, that really dumbs the whole thing down, as far as getting a few fits is concerned. Or if one cuts with machine tools, then the cutter does a lot of the contouring, and all one needs is a single measurement. So anyone with some knowledge of boats, or carpentry, or fine woodworking, or timber frames, will know how to make parts fit. Then there are actual pipe fitters. I live in a nuke town, we have welders, and pipe fitters coming out the wazoo.

So part of the question is whether one is going to take a course in order to learn to make a bike, or to learn to walk upright and chew gum. The increment of bike building over other existing skills may be quite small. Or a person may need to learn basic shop stuff.

Here is a random master smith knife set. They forge weld the steel from different types of steel - that lame hearth thing again. Look at the eyeballed grind lines and the fits. This guy shows up at a course, and there are quite of few of these guys, I'm guessing he knows some basic shop skills.

Sixty Fiver 06-10-14 07:52 AM

One is always learning... any kind of fabrication that requires a lot of hand work requires that you be able to think on your feet.

duanedr - For attaching small fittings like cable guides I have discovered that if you wet them with a little brass / silver before you braze them to the frame this really helps... I use dead spokes or small rods that will pass through them to serve as clamps.

duanedr 06-10-14 04:14 PM

<<I use dead spokes or small rods that will pass through them to serve as clamps.>>

That's what I was trying to use - as I had seen something similar here somewhere. I brazed a spoke to a spring clamp but it kept slipping and then I tried something bigger etc. etc. etc... After about 10 tries I figured out how to balance it all without it slipping and also realized that I could actually slide it around to get the right position if I kept the silver at the right temp and the tube level. I'll definitely be working on a better fixture this operation for #2 and beyond!

bill meyer 06-23-14 10:08 AM

2 Attachment(s)
I just finished my first frame and I'm very pleased with it. The brazing is sloppy compared to a pro, and it took an insane amount of time, but I did it, and that was the point for me.

I spent a year or so reading forums, the paterek manual, general brazing stuff, collecting tools, and building a jig.. before ever starting the frame. To me it was all about the process. That said, I think had I taken a course my frame would have likely turned out better and I'd be light years ahead knowledge wise, but that really wasn't my goal.

himespau 06-23-14 10:24 AM

I think that looks nice.

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