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March 5, 2006 4:33 AM   Subscribe

How to build a bike. Much more inside.
posted by fixedgear (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can build a bike from different materials, and use different methods to join the tubes. Bikes can be built from bamboo, wood, carbon fiber, and the more common titanium, aluminum or steel.

Frames can be joined by fillet brazing, TIG Welding, or gluing.

The most aesthetically pleasing way to join frames tubes is with lugs. First, you'll need to make some lugs.

Lugs are usually stamped or more commonly, investment cast. Then you carve the lugs, using jewelers saws, Dremel tools or whatever you have handy.

The results are spectacular.
Let your imagination run wild.

More, more, more.
posted by fixedgear at 4:42 AM on March 5, 2006

That should be First, you'll need to make some lugs.
posted by fixedgear at 4:49 AM on March 5, 2006

Cool. I've been car-free for about 2 years and I've been riding an old attic Puegeot 10-speed around NYC. Recently I've been shopping for a decent single-speed bike to replace it.

I wish I could view the first and last videos, that site seems to not really work too well on Firefox with OS X. Gonna give safari a try...

Can anyone make lugs, or do you need a machine shop?
posted by splatta at 5:40 AM on March 5, 2006

Nice set of links!

The company in the vid, Columbia Bicycles, is still around. In fact, they still make a bike very similar to the one shown being made.
posted by bonehead at 5:43 AM on March 5, 2006

(Those bikes were made with Ashtabula cranks. cool! I've never seen one myself.)
posted by bonehead at 5:45 AM on March 5, 2006

The y2karl version of bike building, classy!!
posted by wheelieman at 6:07 AM on March 5, 2006

Someone went through all the effort to custom craft an ornate bike and they chose Calvin & Hobbs as a motif?

To each his own for sure there.
posted by HTuttle at 6:18 AM on March 5, 2006

The first video reminds me very much of Make Mine Shoebox.
posted by lemonfridge at 6:18 AM on March 5, 2006

Lots more pictures from the recent NAHBS.
posted by fixedgear at 6:56 AM on March 5, 2006

Great archival film footage. At the conclusion of the NAM bike-building video, the announcer says: "One of thousands of Columbia Bikes bringing health and pleasure to millions of Americans who have learned to enjoy the pleasures of the great outdoors under their own foot-power."

As he's saying this (starting around 4'12") we see two guys in heavy peacoats riding the bikes in the street. You can catch the guy on the left improve his health and enjoy the great outdoors as he puffs a cigarette. We've come a long way, baby.
posted by fubar at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2006

Great post! Those videos are really interesting, especially the one on investment casting. It's amazing to see such an ancient process modernized and automated to produce massive runs of fairly identical components. I've never noticed bike lugs before, and those are certainly works of art. Absolutely gorgeous!
posted by prostyle at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2006

More fancy lugs.
posted by normy at 7:23 AM on March 5, 2006

...and despite the ubiquity of mass produced bicycles, bicycle frame making is one of the few industries left that's also able to support a healthy number of small independent manufacturers producing one-off custom items of very high quality.
posted by normy at 7:56 AM on March 5, 2006

Good post!

Note, fillet brazing is different than lug brazing. Fillet brazing bascially build up a "lug" out of the braze filler. Lug brazing replaces this fillet with a prefitted lug. Lug brazing is much stronger, but much harder to do.

BTW, if you're going to braze lugs, you'll want to pick up two things.

1) Several dozen simple lugs.

2) A few meters of spare tubing.

Now. Braze two bits of the tubing together with a simple lug. Once done, cut the lugs in half and look at your braze. Anywhere the braze filling didn't wick was an area that wasn't fluxed and heated properly.

Do it again, until you get good penetration.

The one bitch about brazing tubes with lugs is that, from the outside, the braze can look great, and yet, there's no real penetration, thus, the joint is very weak. Other brazes look like heck, but only because you didn't add enough, and most of the filler wicked in deep -- thus, a very strong, but ugly joint. That's the core of the problem -- you can't see where the filler has flowed unless you destroy the joint. With fillet brazing, you can, thus, it's much easier to learn to make a solid joint.

The only way you'll learn is to destroy several joints to see how your are doing. Finally, while ultra fancy lugs are cool, simpler lugs are simpler to braze. If you're looking for a strong bike, stick with simple lugs until you're confident of your brazing skills.

Rivendell uses fancy lugs, because Rivendell uses some of the best brazers in the business -- and every so often, they'll weld up a test lug and cut it apart, just to make sure nothing's changed that would affect the braze.

The reason the big guys went to TiG welding isn't because of strength, it's because of easy -- TiG welding is much easier to do on production scales than lug brazing -- TiG welding is closer to fillet brazing, and you have the advantage of being able to see the weld as it forms.

Those who have soldered copper pipes, that's basically what lug brazing is -- but the filler is a bronze or silver bronze alloy that's much stronger, but requires much more heat to melt, is even more demanding of flux, and freezes up far easier than solder -- oh, and unlike a water pipe joint, you need much more mechanical strenght, and much less pressure seal.
posted by eriko at 8:24 AM on March 5, 2006

Still more from NAHBS.

Eriko makes some great points above. Lugs have their own language, too. Ones with many intricate little features are said to have lots of 'shoreline.' Cutouts like hearts, diamonds, spades, clovers, etc. are 'windows.' A fork crown may have 'epaulets.'
posted by fixedgear at 9:18 AM on March 5, 2006

Great post!
posted by davidnin at 9:23 AM on March 5, 2006

This post rocks. Thanks, fg!

Schwinn's bygone "Electro-Forging" welding technique, as described by Marc Muller (via -- where else? -- Sheldon Brown's incredible bike-related site.)
posted by Opposite George at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2006

But can you make it into a pipe bomb while you're at it?
posted by aberrant at 9:59 AM on March 5, 2006

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