Framebuilding

So for a long time, I’ve wanted to start building bicycle frames. It’s not just an issue of wanting to make cool bike frames (though that’s a part of it), but I’ve had this weird urge for years to make art bikes. But beyond that basic urge, I never really had any strong, overwhelming ideas.

Yesterday, I finally had my idea, and it’s pushing my buttons (in a good way). So I think that I’m going to find some basic metal-working classes to take over the next year, and sign up for a class with a framebuilder for early 2009 (after I have some vacation time banked up). I’ll be using the next year for some general research and some practice working with tiny batches of materials in an effort to get an idea of what I can and can’t do with the materials.

The end goal is to produce a series of three bikes — one for myself, and two that I’ll sell. They’ll all have the same theme (to be revealed at a much later date), and I’ll probably make a variety of types: road, cyclocross, and mountain frames. In addition, I’ll probably create custom frames at the hobbyist level, mostly for myself and friends — they supply the tubeset and (optionally) lugs, and I’ll build them a frame.

So now I need to do research on framebuilding classes, which all cost about the same amount. There’s Doug Fattic, there’s Yamaguchi, there’s UBI (United Bicycle Institute), and others… If you’ve got recommendations, I’m all ears.

1 thought on “Framebuilding

  1. smartflix.com has several DVD’s on framebuilding, offering step-by-step.
    Atomic Zombie’s website and book are excellent intros for doing work on the cheap.
    Practice tubing shaping using electrical conduit: it’s cheap and will get you all the skill you need in fishmouthing. If you want to use them to weld, you must strip off the galvanized zinc. Use hydrochloric acid to do this: it’s cheaply available as toilet bowl cleaner. Immerse until it stops foaming and is just bubbling gently (it foams A WHOLE LOT and unless you want every bit of excitement ever you need to use a big container to catch all the highly acidic, explosive foam.) Rinse with water, then use a scotchbrite pad on it, then quickly dry with paper towel or it’ll rust, and you’ll have an astoundingly clean joint.
    Any good framebuilder is going to start off by saying “well, first you buy a milling machine and a frame alignment table…” Atomic Zombie et al will teach you stuff to build acceptable play-around bikes without that level of equipment.

    I personally think you should use an oxyacetylene welding torch for your work, because it makes better welds for beginners than MIG and it’s far cheaper than TIG.

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