Monday, December 14, 2009

Staying Busy + Good Book

Sorry I haven't posted in a good while. While the swine flue did knock me out pretty good for a few weeks, lately I've just been busy catching up with life. I do think (even though this is a bit different for my blog) I should mention a book that I managed to read while sick. Shop Craft as Soulcraft was one of those books (for me) that seemed to put into words, things and ideas that I've been mulling over since people first asked me as a kid "What do you want to do when you grow up?" While not exactly my words, it seemed to express the deeper reasons that I've come to appreciate while deciding to get into bicycle repair and frame building, as opposed to following my Economics degree or Philosophy minor. Not that this book is for everyone, but I feel that there are a handfull of good ideas that even office dwellers can appreciate.

But not to get too caught up in a good book, I have managed to get some more work done on Eddie's frame. I went a bit out of order on this one, and chaced/faced the B.B. shell. That way, I could install some cranks, and check the exact tire/chainring clearance that I've fretted about since first drawing up the blueprint for this frame. There wasn't much room for error when threading the drive side chainstay between the tire and chainring. (only a couple millimeters on each side) So it was a great relief to see everything go from blueprint to finalized function. I've also got both seatstays with custom S-bends fitted and mitered. Just a couple braze-ons, weld the stays, make a seat stay bridge, and some finishing work, and she's getting close to paint.

More pictures here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Have the Swine Flue!

That's right... after feeling like $#*! for the last week, I finally went to the doc. (hoping it would be another infection, so I could get some anti-biotics, and be done with it) But after some questions, and shoving a q-tip sort of device up my nose - farther than any finger has previously gone - my test came back with H1 N1. Woo hoo! I have no idea where I got it, (I swear I haven't made out with any pigs lately) but now I get to keep taking it easy untill this all goes away. And I'm allready borred out of my mind...

In other news, here's what I was up to with Eddie's frame: Chainstays were mitered, gussets were shaped, and braze-ons were brazed on with the help of some fancy new clamps from Sputnik Tools. (handmade in the U.S.) Let me say how excited I am to be using these! No more fiddling around with bending spokes to hold the braze-ons where I want them, eyeing things up to make sure they're straight and alligned, and heating with one hand and twisting with some pliers with my other hand if they didn't end up straight. Clamp on the tube, slap the braze on under the arm, and it holds it securely, centered, and alligned. I've easily saved 5-10 minutes per brazeon.

After that, drilled all the vent holes quickly and precisely with a fancy new drill press, thanks to my buddy Jason. Then I spent a day sanding, scrubbing, cleaning, welding, soaking, and a little smoothing. Now the main frame is all together, and alignment looking fine. I was worried about the clearance, threading the chainstays between the bigger 2.3" 650b tires and the chainrings. But it came out very nicely. I'm also trying something new with chainstay gussets, instead of a chain stay bridge. My brown bike has no bridge, but I figured the lugged BB was plenty of re-inforcement. With the lugless frame, I wanted to do something to keep that junction strong. And just for kicks, I made a bridge anyhow, and weighed it compaired to the gussets. (not that I'm worried about it, but the gussets ended up saving a few grams) But probably more relevant, they're going to be tough, and cool looking.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Dropping Out

Well Burning at the Bluff was pretty awesome. My team ended up 9th in our class, and 36th overall. This, despite about 7 cold ass creek crossings per lap, and two guys dropping out before their third lap. (if you want a more thorough race report, I refer you to Team Seagal) But the point was to do my three laps, have a good time, and to get excited about getting back into racing. If you know me, or read this blog, you may know this past year has had some setbacks. Breaking my collar bone, surgery, bronchitis/nasal infection, getting married, and going to Germany, are some of the things that broke my momentum and my motivation to train hard for something. But after finally getting back into it (even if I wasn't super fast), I'm totally excited again. And Greg, I owe you one hell of a PBR for spanking my lap times!

Aside from that, I've got the chainstays mated to their respective sliding dropouts at just the right angle for 650b tire clearance. Now a couple miters, some braze-ons, and the main frame will be ready for assembly.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Steel Kickin'

This fork has taken me a bit longer than I was hoping, but I do think it turned out pretty well. There were a couple times that I ended up doing second steps first, and then it would take longer to go back and do the first steps. For example, brazing the whole fork together, before putting the caps on the fork legs. It was harder to match up the exact angles, not to mention hard to get the file in there to make the miters as well as clean it up post braze. None of it has to do with the end result, just the fact that it may have taken me twice as long to get there. But all in all, I think my first go at a segmented fork turned out pretty well.

Aside from that, I'm officially on a three-man team to do "Burnin' at the Bluff" - a twelve hour mountain bike race. This will be my first race in three years, and I'm in no peak performance, but I'm hoping to catch the bug again, and make a serious (for me) solo attempt in '10. I've realized that - for me - having races to train for keep me motivated to ride more, harder, and generally keep me inspired to make these machines with as much attention to their use as to their aesthetic. As much as I love the renaissance of making and refurbishing "old steel frames," I really do believe that there is still room for steel in the cutting edge technology of the bicycle world. With modern steel, as well as modern components, even steel framed bikes can get down into the 15-16lb range.

Not to say that there is no use for other materials. However, with the market pushing those materials to the limits of weight and strength, I think the pendulum must swing a bit back the other way. This past year, it seems that I have seen a good number of bicycle companies making something just able to handle a 130lb rider coasting along on a smooth flat road, and no more. In the ever increasing push for lighter weight, frames must be made stiffer to not deflect enough to break. Aside from sometimes having a "dead" ride quality, that extra stiffness can lead to extra fragility, or brittleness. Many companies are now pushing the "high-mod" carbon as a way to edge out the competitors. Basically, that means making the carbon stiffer, so you can use less of it, thus saving weight. However stiffening up carbon makes it more brittle. And using less of it doesn't help either. Breaking seat masts, seat stays, head tube joints, and even top tubes being crushed when hit with a knee or a chamois covered posterior - after slipping when trying to clip in - all come in as things I've seen in '09.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's awesome someone with enough cash can walk in and buy a bike that doesn't meet the weight limit of the UCI regulations. I have heard a few stories of pro's having to go as far as gluing on weights, or even dropping an extra chain down the seat tube to meet those regulations. But keep in mind why the regulations were invented in the first place. To keep things from being pushed so far that they were no longer reliable, putting the rider at risk. Plus, when putting extra strength and stiffness in certain areas is being marketed as making you go faster, why spend that weight in lead weights, instead of making the frame or other components strong enough to handle the rigors of racing. Again, I'm not totally against, making crazy light bikes. It's pretty cool riding something less than 14 lbs. But if I'm not getting paid a salary, and getting a couple free frames every season, it doesn't make much sense for someone like me to ride one.

Friday, August 28, 2009

One step down...

...many to go!

Got some good work done these last two days. The first miters were done for the front dropouts, as well as mitering the disk brake tab. Then it all went together with some brass. I think I was a little rusty after all the time off, so things went a bit on the lumpy side. But aside from a bit more work smoothing it out, it's tough as nails. (I guess tougher, as nails are usually a pretty mild steel) I will say I'm pretty excited getting this project going. So excited, I ended up waking up at 6:30 and starting into it today, just because I couldn't sleep thinking about how cool this is going to be. It's fun doing something as custom as a 650b specific mountain bike. Also, this will be my first try at a from-scratch, segmented fork design. After doing a little research, a little calculation, I called up my favorite aviation parts/supply company to order some stock 4130 steel tubing. It's pretty cool to see a few lengths of tubing that might have ended up building a piper cub, slowly turn into a rigid mountain bike fork that will have the crap ridden out of it.

(stock tubing... nothing special here)

(...but do a little miter work,)

(...check the angles,)

(...and now it's starting to look familiar.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Paragon Machine Works

All the bits are in, and while I iron out the last details before getting out the files, let me tell you how excited I am about some small chunks of steel. First off, I am in no way sponsored by, a part of, or even get discounts from: Paragon Machine Works. But what I am, is impressed at the quality and seriousness that is taken to make some of the nicest machined braze-ons, dropouts, and other frame bits available. Not only are they cooler, smarter, stronger, and or lighter, but they're pretty enough that many call this stuff 'frame jewelry.' Competitively priced, they're making the ol' "Made in the U.S.A." tag mean something good again. If only the U.S. car manufacturers were that cool.

The reason I'm talking about it so much now, is that I've used the excuse of ordering one thing from them, to order about $500.00 of stuff from them. The sliding dropouts that helped put them on the map have now expanded to pretty much everything except the main frame tubes. And every bit is given the utmost in design and detail. So I'm happy to say that with the U.S. made True Temper tubing, flux and filler from Henry James, and everything else down to the B.B. shell made from P.M.W. this next project will truly be a "Handmade in the U.S.A." bicycle frame.

And as always, more pictures here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sometimes Hard Work Pays Off

Justin's frame is painted, reamed, faced, chased, frame-saved, stickered, packed, and should ship out today. Ok, so I was feeling pretty down on the whole 'hidden binder bolt' lately. It was just too much work, and a real pain in the neck. But now that it's all finished and painted, it does look pretty sweet. Not to say I'll do another one anytime soon, (or ever) but I think it is pretty cool. Thanks for being patient Justin. Hope it's not too stiff.

As always, more pictures here on my Flickr site.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ok, Now Back to Work!

Alright... so it's been forever since I've updated about anything really. But for those who knew, Melissae and I got married and honeymooned in Berlin. The wedding kicked ass. Seriously, I didn't know you were allowed to have so much fun at your own wedding. And not to brag, but I think we threw a pretty kick ass shindig for a pretty modest budget. But what really made it awesome, was the kick ass people that could make it. Cool friends and family make something like that much less stressful, and way more fun! Tons of pictures here if you're curious:

Berlin was also freakin' amazing! We're contemplating learning German so we can just move there. I've heard it a thousand times, but I was still blown away by the public transit. It puts Boston to shame. Anywhere in the city to anywhere else in the city - 2o maybe 30 minutes. I seriously wouldn't own a car. Well except maybe a Smart Sports Car. Yea, they have those over there.

The city was cool, the history even more amazing. The people were cool (as long as you were attempting to use their language and not demand they spoke yours), the food was great... well except for this plate I accidentally ordered due to not quite having my food words down: The beer was great. Although there was fewer kinds of beer than I was expecting. They pretty much had three kinds. Weiss - White, Hell - Light, and Dunkel - Dark. And sometimes they'd have a Heffewissen. Seemed like the hundreds of kinds of totally different beer is more of something we do. They were good though, and on average more bitter than what we're used to in the states. Oh, and talk about bitter, their coffee is awesome bitter! Even they're supprised when you order it black.

But really, enough playing around. It's time to get back to work. I finished up Justin's frame yesterday. Had a bit of a freakout when I didn't cut the seat tube slot wide enough and it wouldn't clamp the post. But seems everything is in fine order now. I think it turned out pretty darn cool. Although the hidden bolt thing just seems like too much work for not enough gained. So more learning experiances. So it's off to paint Mon. or Tues. And now on to the next one. Eddy, let me know those final details so I can get started.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Prolonged Update...

So I haven't posted in a good while. While I have made some progress on Justin's frame, I've kept more busy with planning a wedding than I had imagined. This Sunday is the day, so things around here have been pretty hectic. Really not all that horrible, but it has most definitely eaten up most of my free time. I'll get some pictures of the progress up as soon as I can, but I just wanted to say I'm not dead, or have quit what I'm doing. And I may be busy for a bit more, as we're going to Germany after the wedding.

But once things settle back down to normal, I'm looking forward to tearing into things again. All Justin's frame needs from here is the brake bridge and final cutting of the seat binder slot. Then it's off to paint, and time to ship it out. Then it's time to start on the next project: A 650b specific mountain bike with custom suspension corrected steel disc fork, able to be swapped out at will with his suspension version. I'm actually kind of jealous, as I've wanted to make one of these for myself. I just haven't had the time or funds to do so. Maybe if he's nice, I can take it for a test ride ;)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Comming Together

Well after 9 miters, 11 brazes, and countless hours of work, the front triangle and chainstays were ready to be joined. And after a solid day of cleaning, sanding, cleaning, fluxing, tacking, checking alignment, and brazing, it was in fact together. And it was good. The brazes came out pretty smooth, so not too much *extra* work to smooth them out afterwards. And alignment is not too shabby. The worst part is that the non-drive chainstay ended up getting brazed just a hair further towards the middle of the bottom bracket. But the only way you can even tell is that the wheel is slightly closer to that side. But the wheel is straight, and should track quite nicely. (I guess I only checked the alignment after tacking in the jig. I didn't think to check the exact position of the joint. Yet another lesson that needed to be learned.)

But overall, I think this is going to turn out quite nice. Short chainstays will make it lively and stiff. Tube selection will be light, but not noodly light. And of course customness will make it awesome! Just need to do some custom seatstay action, cut down the seat and head tubes, and a few finishing touches, and she'll be ready for paint.

All the pictures, all the time: Click Here

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Good Weather and Hard Work

Lately, things have warmed up here in St. Louis, bringing in the flocks to the shop as well as low electric bills. The bike trails are hitting critical mass, and street lanes are getting flooded with both cyclists and people on bicycles. So in the spirit of last year and commuters dusting off their bikes everywhere, I'm posting the sequel to the original "Do The Test" video. I know I'm preaching to the choir, but share the video with a friend or family member, and maybe raise some awareness. I wouldn't mind hearing a few less honks or choice words on the way to work, but I definitely would like to at least make it to work.

But in other goings on... The weather really is awesome. We were sitting outside a couple evenings ago, and just decided to stay there. So we busted out the tent and some sleeping pads, and camped on our back lawn. Working in my workshop is always more cheerful when I can open some doors and get some fresh breeze in. Justin's frame is coming right along. I even have some H2O bosses on the *correct* side of the seat tube! The fork is done, the tubes are mitered and set to go. Just need to spend a good day prepping and brazing this baby! Then it's some smoothing of the welds, making some chainstays, and a few last details, and she'll be ready for paint. Maybe a couple weeks to go? We'll see how long those last details actually take...

Smoothed out fork crown

Smoothed out seat tube collar. This took a lot of careful filing to get the edges rounded off like this. Trying to keep the lugged crown and seat tube collar matching with the overall smooth filler brazing feel this bike will have.

Tubes all ready to be a frame...

And as always, check out more pics here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rainy Vacation, and New Things

The last two weeks have been busy and trying, so the lady and I were going to go for a nice backpacking trip in the rain. We even bought the last couple things we needed for a totally waterproof hike. But the morning that we were scheduled to head out, they were calling for some severe thunderstorms at night. I was all for a good hard rain, but didn't really need to find out how conductive my titanium plate is. So we ended up just pretending, and loaded up the gear and had a good 8-10 mile hike in the rain. I'm not exactly sure, as our map wasn't very good, and the trail wasn't marked very well, so we got lost on a number of occasions.

But thanks to a good compass, and what map we did have not falling apart in the rain, we were able to make it out, and not turn a backpack simulation into a survival trip. And we did get to see some cool things, including deer tracks, a large cat tracks tracking the dear tracks, and what appeared to be either a beaver or a fresh water otter. He took off too fast, and I couldn't get a good look at him. And we stayed comfy and dry the whole time. This whole era of waterproof breathable materials is just too cool. So after we make it back, turns out the whole thunderstorm thing was a bust. But oh well, it was a great hike, and nice to re-charge the batteries.

So with the fresh start, I got to building today with the same outlook. The botched seat tube gave me an opportunity to take a different direction. The dropouts have a double curve detail (that I just hope will show up well after paint), and the *new* seat tube collar will have a curve detail that goes along with the fork crown. I even threw a little "FB" in there for fun. It's still got some finishing touches to go, but it's pretty close. The fork blades are all evened up, so they won't hold the wheel in crooked, and they're drilled and ready for the final assembly of the fork. And once I get done with the new collar, braze it in place, and drill the waterbottle mounts on the correct side, this thing will be just about ready for a big day of fillet brazing. So I might be running a tad behind schedule, but should be smoother from here on out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It Was Bound To Happen...

...And it finally did happen. I botched a tube. Not even just any tube, a true temper fancy heat treated seat tube with some custom carving and brazing, taking a good solid two days work, by yours truly. And it was a pretty simple way of botching it too. I drilled some holes in it. Nope, it wasn't messing up a miter that had to be spot on to keep the alignment. No, it wasn't messing up and using the wrong butted end, or not inspecting the tube to find where the butting was, or what way it curved. No, it wasn't mis-aligning the re-inforcing collar, or putting it too high or low to reinforce the top tube properly. No, I did all of that just right. I just drilled some perfectly centered, round, and spaced just right for a waterbottle cage holes exactly 180 deg from where I wanted them.

I guess I was pushing too hard, and trying to get too much, too quick. I measured exactly how high up the tube I was going to put the bosses, found my centerline, punched and drilled. And that's when I looked at the collar and noticed it was facing the wrong way. Skip one step and two days and a chunk of cash goes down the tubes (no pun intended).

So unless Justin wants a water bottle mount instead of a rear wheel... It's time to start over with the seat tube.

The miter for the fork dropouts.

The good news, is the fork is coming along nicely.

The fancy seat tube collar that looks like it won't see the light of day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gettin Things Done

Man it's been a long week. Things at the shop are picking up big time with the spring weather rolling in, and I've been pulling some late night work hours frame building. Probably not sustainable, but man I've been getting $h*# done lately. Did a little hand painting on Mike's frame to fill in the lug work. That turned out pretty sweet. And Justin's frame is coming right along as well. The chainstays are drop-outed and mitered for the BB shell, down tube is mitered and drilled for H2O bosses. I even mitered the bosses themselves, to sit more flush with the tubes. Sometimes, even I think I take things too far. The top tube is ready for head tube, and I've been working on something different for the seat tube, which is coming along nicely.

Of course, more pics on my Flikr Site

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oh man...

It is really nice out! Worked from get up to the afternoon, then had to sneak away for a couple hours of saddle time. Oh it is nice to feel some miles in my legs again.

Even though it's a week later, NAHBS was great. Went to a bunch of seminars going over everything from metal tubing properties, to fitting, to insurance for a small guy like myself. Oh yea, and there were a couple cool looking bikes that happened to be there also. Everyone has been asking me what, or which one(s) are my favorites. That's like going to an international food fair and saying what was the best thing you put in your mouth. There were so many styles and flavors there; each one as cool as the last, in it's own right. I just liked to see the variety, and the attention to detail pertaining to the builders' own style. I tried to take some pictures, but I figure the photo journalism guys did a better job than I did.

and Here.

It was cool to meet some guys face to face, pick their brains, bounce ideas off of, and just hang out. Henry James had some great info and tips, and is just a plain nice guy to hang out with. I also meet up with an old aquantiance from Gainesville, FL. Lex of Villin Cycle Works. He's come a long way in the time I've known him, and definately knows his way around frames. A couple pics of something different he did for the show: (he's got his normal stuff on his website)

Aside from that, Justins bike is comming along. Been pretty buisy between nailing down exactly what we are doing with this one, and thing picking up at work. But, the plans are set, and miters are being made. Think it should be pretty sweet. Check in later, as I get more done.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Going to NAHBS

In case you haven't heard: This year (this weekend), NAHBS is coming to the mid west. While I'm not quite ready to get a booth, I will be attending to meet some of my favorite frame builders and suppliers face to face, and go to some of the seminars. If you are also going, and want to meet up, have a beer, whatever, let me know. Otherwise, I'll post how it all went down and put up some pics when I get back. Take it easy, and hopefully you enjoyed the good weather we had today.

Friday, February 20, 2009

One Down, Many to Go! (FB Business Update)

Mike's frame is back from paint, and I think it turned out pretty sick. The white really brought out the details of the lugwork. It's all chased, faced, reamed, turned, and ready for parts. I should be getting those soon, and giving it a personal test ride before shipping this one out. Now on to the next one...

I figure I should also give an update as far as the progress of my business. I know some of you are interested in purchasing my frames, and I've been saying I'm not too far away from hanging the shingle - and I'm still planning on it. I appreciate any interest I've been getting, and I still have your info for when it comes time.

This past year has been pretty crazy for me. A broken collar bone, surgery, a couple good viruses, and trying to plan a wedding have definitely pushed back my schedule more than I wanted. But I do feel that I've been learning exponentially with every frame, and have been getting more efficient at building them. They are turning out more and more aligned, and so far I haven't had any complaints. As it stands right now, I've got four more 'buddy' frames to nail down my methods. After that, I feel like I will be more than ready to get a business license, and start listing some prices and options.

I have five people that have already contacted me, which I will contact to see if they are still interested. So, from this point, I potentially have a build list of 9 frames (possibly with forks). Working a day job of at least 40 hours a week, I've been able to get these done at ~2 months each. Some things have held me back, but things like not building a fork or not getting the bubonic plague should have me ahead of schedule. So being up front, if you're not already on any list, I'm looking at up to 18 months of being busy (possibly less). My aim is weather I'm ahead or behind of schedule, keeping people updated and informed. I'll contact you one to two frames out, so you have time to figure out what you want, and eat enough ramen to afford getting another bike. But, if you have any questions, and I haven't contacted you yet, feel free to shoot me a e-mail. Here's the next few on the list:

Justin - Awesome road bike of stiffness! (with fork)
Eddie - Cyclocross frame (unless you've changed your mind)
Matt - Possibly Cyclocross frame

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