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Bay area beginner, just trying to see what the story is out here.

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Bay area beginner, just trying to see what the story is out here.

Old 03-06-15, 01:34 AM
  #1  
James391
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Bay area beginner, just trying to see what the story is out here.

Hey there,

I've been interested in framebuilding for years now and for whatever reason I never made the leap in to it. I've finally managed to scrape up a few bucks to put towards a class in the near future; but before I do so I want to get a little experience so that I can get the most out of it. To that end, I just went out and got a small used oxy-acetylene torch to start practicing brazing and so on.

I'm still learning about what I even need to get my hands on to get started, and this forum is proving very helpful. Just thought it would be cool to see who is in my area.

If any locals have suggestions on where to get brazing supplies, for example, that would be quite helpful; since all I have so far is the torch. And, of course, if anyone has any tubing scraps for me to practice on; I'd be a very happy camper.

Anyways, I guess I just wanted to drop in and say what's up. I'm excited to get started towards building my first frame, and looking forward to participating in the community here.
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Old 03-06-15, 06:30 AM
  #2  
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Cycle Design is a great place to get your brazing rods and flux. Products ę Cycle Design Your local welding store probably does not have the right stuff. Henry James is another good place to get your brazing rods and flux, as well as other frame building supplies. Bike Frame Custom Building Materials : Henry James Custom Made Parts For Bicycle Frame Builders and Bike Enthusiasts
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Old 03-06-15, 08:19 AM
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James391, Iím going to suggest that it isnít always a good idea to mess about trying to learn how to braze by yourself before getting proper instruction. Iíve been teaching framebuilding classes longer than anyone else and have discovered it is sometimes difficult to break bad habits. Everyone is different and natural ability varies widely. Just like in sports or music some can excel and others will never do well. Most will be fine with good instruction. But those that come to class having been self taught donít do better than those without previous experience. And sometimes they have a harder time because they have to relearn how to do it right. Even some that have taken other framebuilding classes have on occasion needed retraining.

My recommendation for going to a class as soon as possible is that the sooner you go the faster you can make decent stuff and not waste time wadding in the shallow end of the swimming pool. Begging an hour of two of time can be interesting but knowing exactly what to do is more productive. Knowing what equipment works best saves money too.

A good class instructor understands common rookie mistakes and how to avoid them. Almost everyone makes the same ones starting out. Class practices start easy and increase in difficulty as one gains skill. This prevents frustration and discouragement. Check out framebuilding class options carefully. They are not all the same quality. Think back to your high school years and recall how some teachers were really good and others not so much. As a general rule, nobody can teach high school without having state teaching certification (which means they have to take a certain number of classes on how to teach and done supervised student teaching - I had to take an extra year of college to get mine). Even with all that, we all can recall a few poor teachers. Now imagine there are no qualifications whatsoever to teach framebuilding except putting up a website. You get my drift about not everything being equal.

Doug Fattic
Niles, Michigan
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Old 03-06-15, 12:28 PM
  #4  
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some local (san jose ) builders it it helps

Dale Saso (can't find web site so not sure what is going on) but he used to teach

Silva cycles Silva Cycles might have scraps?
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Old 03-06-15, 03:40 PM
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Defthouse Bicycles in Oakland offers a three day class. I'm not sure what the cost is, but you could call them for details. According to the website, Tim Sanner is there and I took a framebuilding class he offered several years ago.

Defthouse Bicycles / 1940 Union Street Unit #14 , Oakland, CA 94607 / 415.699.7189
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Old 03-06-15, 06:37 PM
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Tim has stopped his classes. I just bought one of the jigs off of him. He shares the space with other framebuilders so they may keep it going, not sure.
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Old 03-06-15, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Cynikal View Post
Tim has stopped his classes.
That's a shame.
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Old 03-07-15, 11:13 AM
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Had me thinking of a sign at a friend's Napa steel fabricating shop , "if you need it its not Scrap"
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Old 03-07-15, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
James391, I’m going to suggest that it isn’t always a good idea to mess about trying to learn how to braze by yourself before getting proper instruction. I’ve been teaching framebuilding classes longer than anyone else and have discovered it is sometimes difficult to break bad habits. Everyone is different and natural ability varies widely. Just like in sports or music some can excel and others will never do well. Most will be fine with good instruction. But those that come to class having been self taught don’t do better than those without previous experience. And sometimes they have a harder time because they have to relearn how to do it right. Even some that have taken other framebuilding classes have on occasion needed retraining.

My recommendation for going to a class as soon as possible is that the sooner you go the faster you can make decent stuff and not waste time wadding in the shallow end of the swimming pool. Begging an hour of two of time can be interesting but knowing exactly what to do is more productive. Knowing what equipment works best saves money too.

A good class instructor understands common rookie mistakes and how to avoid them. Almost everyone makes the same ones starting out. Class practices start easy and increase in difficulty as one gains skill. This prevents frustration and discouragement. Check out framebuilding class options carefully. They are not all the same quality. Think back to your high school years and recall how some teachers were really good and others not so much. As a general rule, nobody can teach high school without having state teaching certification (which means they have to take a certain number of classes on how to teach and done supervised student teaching - I had to take an extra year of college to get mine). Even with all that, we all can recall a few poor teachers. Now imagine there are no qualifications whatsoever to teach framebuilding except putting up a website. You get my drift about not everything being equal.

Doug Fattic
Niles, Michigan
Doug, thanks for the reply!

I have gone back and forth on this point in my mind for a while now. On the one hand, I think you are fully correct. I don't want to learn any bad habits and waste the instructors time trying to untrain and retrain me; and I realize that any good class is going to give me a solid understanding of the process from the absolute beginning. On the other hand, I am excited to learn this stuff and feel like it would be silly for me to spend big money (and likely do a fair bit of travelling) to attend a good framebuilding class and show up having never even really attempted a single aspect of the process.

I've got no plans whatsoever to hesitate on taking a class, but I can't make it happen right this second, either. I feel I should use the time at least getting familiar with operating the torch, making some cuts, brazing a few basic joints, maybe rigging up a small jig and just getting a feel for it going in. I'm not trying to buy my way into framebuilding here, nor do I think that taking a single class with make me the real deal. I'm willing to use my crappy equipment and make a few mistakes along the way. After all, when the class is over, this is all I'm going to have to work with.

As for the class, there are indeed many people teaching this stuff, probably some better than others. I've done a lot of reading and seen a few names (yours included) that stand out as being well regarded in the field. I have to figure that, really, I'll be taking more than one class from more than one instructor if I stick with it. There are just too many types of bikes and ways to build them to learn from just one class. But, of course, I have to start somewhere. Were I still living in Chicago, your course would be a no brainer.

At any rate, I appreciate you taking the time to share your insight!

-James

Last edited by James391; 03-07-15 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Messed up quoting
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Old 03-07-15, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by dsaul View Post
Cycle Design is a great place to get your brazing rods and flux. Products ę Cycle Design Your local welding store probably does not have the right stuff. Henry James is another good place to get your brazing rods and flux, as well as other frame building supplies. Bike Frame Custom Building Materials : Henry James Custom Made Parts For Bicycle Frame Builders and Bike Enthusiasts
Thanks for the information, these look like great resources!

Forgive my ignorance, but what is it about the brass rod and flux sold by these framebuilding suppliers that differentiates it from whatever may be available at my local welding supply? Certainly for silver brazing I would be much more picky about my supply, but for cost (and skill level) reasons I'll be starting with brass. I've got the weekend off and would love to go grab something locally just to stick a few couple pieces of tubing to eachother for the fun of it.
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Old 03-07-15, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
Defthouse Bicycles in Oakland offers a three day class. I'm not sure what the cost is, but you could call them for details. According to the website, Tim Sanner is there and I took a framebuilding class he offered several years ago.

Defthouse Bicycles / 1940 Union Street Unit #14 , Oakland, CA 94607 / 415.699.7189
Hey, thanks! This looks like a really cool place. I'll have to check it out. Do you think they would be cool with someone just dropping in to see what's up?
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Old 03-07-15, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by James391 View Post
Forgive my ignorance, but what is it about the brass rod and flux sold by these framebuilding suppliers that differentiates it from whatever may be available at my local welding supply?
My experience with my local shop is that if you aren't welding with electric, they aren't a good resource. You can buy tanks and refills, but that's about it. If you buy bronze/silver/flux from Hank or Wade, you'll get as much information on using the product as you want, and it'll be pertinent to frame building.
-Ryan
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Old 03-08-15, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by James391 View Post
Hey, thanks! This looks like a really cool place. I'll have to check it out. Do you think they would be cool with someone just dropping in to see what's up?
Probably, but I'd call first to be sure.
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Old 03-08-15, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Scooper View Post
Probably, but I'd call first to be sure.
For sure. Thanks for the lead.
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Old 03-09-15, 08:07 AM
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framebuilding

You may not know where the frame building journey will take you. There is a whole lot of other factors to consider than the brazing together of tubes. A) Graphics and color/ paint job, Geometry/ angels, knowing parameters of why you want them. Quality control. (Something I call green light / red light- when to move forward and when to check it.) I do not know your aptitude for this stuff. My frame building journey started about 15 years ago, when i could not find a short tandem that would fit my wife and I so i rented a torch, ordered the tubes,and brazed it together by my self. With my abilities it turned out fine. It had no graphics, and ended up having it powder coated. I think people are trying to scare you. No one has had to break my bad habits (yet). I do not see how everything could be covered in a 3 day class. Brian
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Old 03-09-15, 08:54 AM
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Having taken a few building classes and also taught a few to build I'll add my two cents. I agree with Doug and others that having good instruction early on is a best idea. I do feel that having a little exposure to the tools and their functions (this is a file, you do this with it...) helps in the take up of the instruction as well as let's you focus on the aspects that you've already developed questions about. As to the duration of a class. A short one (say 3 days) won't leave much time for practice or for exploring issues very much. But the basic knowledge isn't too hard to translate quickly. The two different teachers I've had used almost opposite methods. One had 8 students and over two weeks most of us made a frame/fork while the teacher made two. (A few of us were paint ready, a few needed a lot more finishing time and one was no where near done). The other teacher had two students over a week and we both finished a frame/fork while the teacher didn't do anything but instruct us. When I teach is has been over an open time frame and very part time/after hours schedule. So many weeks of practice go by before any real frame tubes are touched. Andy.
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Old 03-10-15, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Brian25 View Post
You may not know where the frame building journey will take you. There is a whole lot of other factors to consider than the brazing together of tubes. A) Graphics and color/ paint job, Geometry/ angels, knowing parameters of why you want them. Quality control. (Something I call green light / red light- when to move forward and when to check it.) I do not know your aptitude for this stuff. My frame building journey started about 15 years ago, when i could not find a short tandem that would fit my wife and I so i rented a torch, ordered the tubes,and brazed it together by my self. With my abilities it turned out fine. It had no graphics, and ended up having it powder coated. I think people are trying to scare you. No one has had to break my bad habits (yet). I do not see how everything could be covered in a 3 day class. Brian
Thanks for your insight! Glad to hear that rolling up my sleeves and getting into it can work too. I intend to take a class as soon as I can, but I'm not the type to sit on my hands and wait around. I figure that the more experience I have, the more I can understand what is being taught to me.

I feel as though I've got a good set of foundation skills that will help me in framebuilding. I consider myself generally mechanically inclined and I've been tinkering and building and taking stuff apart for as long as I can remember. This is just the next step on my journey.

I spent my Sunday burning up acetylene and learning how to get the torch lit and adjusted properly; followed by brazing together some scrap metal I've had laying around forever. After a couple dozen attempts, I definitely have a better feel for getting the joints properly prepped and fluxed as well as getting them properly heated. By the end of the day I was able to get the brass flowing where I wanted it pretty well, and a couple of the joints looked pretty passable. I was only able to find 1/8" rod locally, I'm betting that 1/16" will be easier to work with.
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Old 03-10-15, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Having taken a few building classes and also taught a few to build I'll add my two cents. I agree with Doug and others that having good instruction early on is a best idea. I do feel that having a little exposure to the tools and their functions (this is a file, you do this with it...) helps in the take up of the instruction as well as let's you focus on the aspects that you've already developed questions about.
This is how I'm approaching it. I don't want to waste someones time teaching me how to light a torch or what a saw does. I'm pretty good with working with my hands, but this stuff is new to me. I should be able to get in to a class in about a month or so, which leaves plenty of time to get some experience with the tools and processes (so far as I can with youtube and forums) and come in to the class knowing what I don't know and having questions at the ready.
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Old 03-10-15, 11:41 AM
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I figure that the more experience I have, the more I can understand what is being taught to me.
That is definitely the best way to approach learning to build a frame- especially when you can say:

I feel as though I've got a good set of foundation skills that will help me in framebuilding. I consider myself generally mechanically inclined and I've been tinkering and building and taking stuff apart for as long as I can remember.
I think getting in some good torch time and figuring out brazing will make taking a class that much better because you'll be able to focus on the finer details instead of having to worry about the most basic elements of the process.
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Old 03-12-15, 10:52 PM
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You should have several goals for your practice. The 1st is to learn how to move your left and right hand independent of each other. It is a natural tendency that the one hand is involuntarily linked with the other. Everybody knows the pat your head while making a circle on your tummy routine and see if both donít either want to pat or circle. My favorite is to point your fingers towards each other and then make them circle in opposite directions. 80% of people will helplessly have them going the same way like pursuit riders on a track. As they get more proficient they become oblong circles. Eventually some can make round circles going faster or slower or bigger or smaller and instantly change directions. What happens in brazing is that when the motion of the torch hand is moving the rod supply hand stops or when the supply hand moves in as the filler rod melts, the torch hand freezes and fries what it is pointed at.

2nd learn how to identify the heat indicators of the joint as you work it with the flame. That way you know when to start adding the filler. With silver it is recognizing the 4 stages of flux melting to know when to apply the rod and with brass is is getting it to a cherry red color.

3rd is learning how to evenly cover with heat the area being brazed requiring that the flame be a consistent distance (unless there is 2 unequal thicknesses) and move without going over some places more than others.

There needs to be some level of inherited ability to be able to braze. 10 or 15% of those that take a class will never be good at it. Some catch on right away but the majority with effort eventually do a good job. Almost everyone that takes my class will be reasonably efficient by the end of 3 weeks. The few that were given other gifts not including brazing can be helped so they still go away with a nice frame. Most can operate independently at the end without the need for coaching. Those with some prior experience donít do better than those that have never turned on a torch except by the natural talent divisions. Some with prior experience come with a bit of damage because their practices didnít go well. This is why I donít encourage prior practicing. The greatest difference might be psychological in feeling prepared and ready and not so nervous when starting out.

There are a number of rookie mistakes almost everyone makes that if understood before one starts speeds up the learning curve. A couple of examples include feeding the rod at the wrong angle requiring more conscience effort to keep it in contact taking attention away from the flame hand. Or not bending the silver straight enough so more coordination is required to keep it right at its entry point. Many are a bit confused about how to effectively melt the filler rod so it doesnít go where it shouldnít. In brazing very small differences in torch management is the difference between success and a mess.

The hardest thing to learn is how to get really clean shorelines on a lug so that all the area inside is completely covered but there is absolutely no extra peeking out. The coordination required to do this is more than an average person has without a lot of explanation and practice. Obviously with specific instructions it eventually comes.

Brazing is actually a more complex action than a beginner realizes. The chapter in my framebuilding class manual is 15 pages long. Of course that includes how to light a torch and equipment explanations.

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Old 03-13-15, 01:19 AM
  #21  
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Old 03-13-15, 09:07 AM
  #22  
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At least one building instructor has considered this. But he has other instructional projects already incomplete. So I suspect it's partly a matter of wanting to finish something before starting another big effort.

Doing a series of how to braze vids isn't an afternoon project and involves more then two people, each with their skill set at a level to make the results worthy. Actually easier to do would be a what not to do vid Andy.
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Old 03-13-15, 09:34 AM
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Old 03-13-15, 10:37 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by BotSpanx View Post
I always appreciate your input Doug, but if the rookie mistakes are so stereotyped, then I would expect a reasonably well shot HD video series would serve those of us with any mechanical aptitude just as well as dropping many thousands on a building course. Rather than simply record a master building a frame, record the master demonstrating torch technique, or brazing various types of joint, and then record students attempting the same thing, with narration of their error. I honestly don't know why this hasn't been done yet. With so many people taking an interest in building, you could probably sell the series to a lot of them, and those that feel they need personal instruction can still come to the course. Publish to Vimeo, or something and charge less than $100, and I know I would buy it.
BotSpank, I certainly understand where you are coming from for someone that has limited time and money for pursuing your hobby. But what is good for you isnít necessarily good for me. I agree with you that there are many interested in building frames and some of them would like to be able to buy instruction videos at a reasonable price. You also explain a good way to instruct by not only demonstrating the right way to braze a certain joint but also coach a student doing the same thing. The expert does it so fast and easy it is difficult to pick up the nuances. When a 2nd student watches the instructor teach the 1st student how to do the same thing, everything slows down for the 2nd student as he observes what is happening. He is not nervous because he doesnít have fire in his hand and isnít trying to remember all the things he has to do (like how far away and at what angle and what pattern he is supposed to move the torch). This repetition reinforces the details of what should be done. It is difficult to put into memory everything and what is forgotten becomes mistakes. So when a student is brazing I remind him what to do correctly when he starts to go off track. This is one of the reasons I teach 3 students at a time with Herbie Helm helping me.

So while your idea is a good one it is a bit far down my to do list because I want to do other things 1st and it isnít in my business interests to do so. Before a video, I want to turn my framebuilding manual (that I have literally spent hundreds of hours writing and rewriting) into a manual for sale. Actually several for sale since I would have one general one to begin and then detailed supplements as they tooled up and got experience. Iíve put equal amounts of time in designing my fixture and it would be very helpful to have accompanying videos on how to use it most effectively. And doing a good video is a big undertaking. Getting footage of brazing (particularly brass brazing) requires special filters and many hours of shooting the various joints. All that would have to be edited down. So I would have to sell a lot of videos before it was profitable.

There are many hours of brazing instruction given in one class. I 1st explain in detail what to do for a particular joint. The torch setting, heat pattern, silver or brass placement, etc. Depending on the class this takes 30 to 45 minutes of talking and note taking for each joint. Sometimes an hour. The demonstration will take only 5 minutes or less. On average a student will take 15 minutes or more brazing the same joint. Add up all the joints and it is a significant time.

One of my challenges for me as a teacher is that there is a huge amount of information presented in class. A lot more detail than someone might expect in order to make a frame correctly. I need to cram all of this into a studentís head. It isnít like when I taught high school history and I would pass a student if they got 70% of the lesson. A framebuilding class student needs to remember 100% and it is up to me the teacher to know how every student learns so I adjust what I do so he gets it 100%. This is why my classes are usually 3 weeks long instead of 2 (although I do teach a 2 week class sometimes for those that canít come for 3). Teaching in high school was waaay easier. My point about all this detail for complete instruction is that to do it right would make really long videos.

But in reality I want to give my students a real competitive advantage over others that have learned in other schools or self taught. There are differences I know that someone just looking around for learning possibilities probably doesnít get. To some their choice might be based on price or traveling convenience. My goal is for every student is for them to leave class with a frame built to a professional quality. By definition that means it will fit their contact points and usage, be brazed within the temperature window of the brazing material with no extra leaking out, be within a mm of alignment and look nice (because they know how to file). Some need more help to do that than others but everyone does unless something unusual happens. So I suppose some of my reluctance to doing a video that would be difficult to eventually make a profit from is based on I donít want someone to take a learning path that seems to be easier and cheaper but in reality be inferior. For a hobbyist this would be okay but a bad choice for those with serious intentions.

Doug Fattic
Niles, Michigan
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Old 03-13-15, 11:00 AM
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BotSpanx
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Last edited by BotSpanx; 04-09-15 at 06:14 AM.
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