Framebuilding 101: Need to Know

Math and stuff. See end of posting for data.

There are things I wish I had paid more attention to in school that would help me a lot with my framebuilding.

  • Math. No, seriously. There’s a lot of geometry and algebra used when designing a frame. Sure, there are programs that will handle all that for you, but man, geometry skills that I haven’t touched since the late 80’s are coming back and feel very rusty. I wish I’d paid more attention.
  • Shop Class. I don’t think I had a shop class after seventh grade. I know I didn’t have one in high school (unless you count my electronics class). There are things that aren’t necessary, but I would like to do, that I don’t have the foundation of knowledge to approach. I’m going to have to do some trial-and-error for a bunch of this.
  • Business. I’m not building frames for the sake of building frames. I wish I had a better volume of business knowledge. I’ll definitely be looking for classes to fill in the gaps here.

Now then, there’s also a bunch of things I’m glad I studied.

  • English/Communications. I love that I am able to communicate with proper grammar and spelling. I often read emails and web postings from framebuilders that border on gibberish and often imagine that they were daydreaming their way through their classes. I wouldn’t want to buy a frame from a guy that used the “shotgun method” of punctuation (“scatter it in there”), or couldn’t be bothered to learn the difference between “your” and “you’re.”
  • Computers. I save a fortune by being able to build my own site, configure my own software, and so on. With the advent of cheap CAD and CNC, the framebuilder that has can fabricate his own parts is at an advantage.
  • Library Science/Researching Skills. Framebuilding has this interesting way of showing you what you don’t know. Being able to research — knowing where and how to look for information has been supremely helpful.
  • Graphic Design. I see a lot of smaller builders out there who do things like picking a font just because it looks cool, without regard to the characteristics conveyed by the font. Some builders who make great bikes are an absolute turn-off because of their font choices. Additionally, there are some bad head badges, bad color choices, and bad paint schemes that leave me scratching my head. If you’re going to make a very high quality frame, why would you skimp on these details?

Now, I’m not saying that any of this is necessary to be a good builder, but I think a lot of it would be useful for any builder. There are very successful builders who probably know very little of the stuff I’ve described, but are still very good and make enough sales to keep the bills paid. The purpose of this list was to give you an idea of the sort of stuff I encounter while I’m building bikes so that if you’re planning on pursuing this, you’ll have an idea of some of the sorts of things you’ll need to know.

The photo in this article was shared at Flickr under the Creative Commons, by Starbuck Guy.

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