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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everybody. I've been lurking around these forums for a minute now, I think I finally have something worth making a post about. This might get a bit long, so bear with me.

I've only been riding bikes for a couple years, kinda fell into it by accident and been fairly addicted since. I've got a background in automotive fabrication and paint, I worked in the old car business for over a decade, even had my own shop for about 4 years. At this point, I'm pretty burned out on cars, but I do miss building stuff. I've been thinking about (and trying to talk myself out of) building a frame for a couple years at this point, but it seems that once I get an idea in my head, I can't let it go so here we are.

Having built custom vehicles for a number of people over the years, there's a couple thing I like to determine before we begin any custom project. 1) Are we going to be able to produce a higher quality product than one we could simply purchase? No. 2) Can we produce our custom whatever for less money than we would spend on a similar off the shelf product? No again. Can we produce our product faster than simply ordering a similar counterpart? Absolutely not. So, now that we've satisfied all the requirements of a custom build, we're ready to begin :)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
On second thought, I'm gonna break this up into a few posts.

Until I finally jumped into this silly endeavor with both feet, I had only tig welded for about 47 seconds in my entire life. I can mig the hell out of some **** and I initially had thoughts on migging this frame but I have learned that stubbornness can only get you so far when you're actually using the wrong tool for the job. So I eventually broke down and exchanged a good deal of my hard earned currency for a tig welder. I then proceeded to turn a good deal perfectly good sheetmetal and tubing and filler rod into scrap, somedays I think I should have taken the more direct approach and simply started burning money. I'm at the point now that I'm making more weld than hole in my.035 practice tubing, it still looks like garbage but if i can claw my way up the learning curve to "adequate" that'll be fine for my first try.

I probably should have mentioned earlier, one of the reasons I'm doing this thread, besides forcing myself to keep some kind of record, is that as a beginner, I've found a lot of threads that either seem to get off to a good start, then not get any traction, then die. Or a bunch of "here's my newest frame" then a bunch of completed pictures. Or my absolute favorite "I'm 14 and live with my parents but i'm gonna build the best bikes ever cuz I'm wicked smart, I just need to raise $27k for tools, here's my kickstarter link" but not a whole lot of step by step beginner threads. Not to say there aren't threads like these out there, but why not throw one more out into the mix.

I do not have a mill, or a lathe, or a bandsaw, or even a garage, I'm building this in a back room of my house (really understanding wife) with fairly basic tools. A lot of the stuff I read or watch or listen to about frame building make the point that you don't need any fancy tools to make frames, usually while they walk over to the bridgeport or lathe :) I am truly making most of this stuff up as I go. I've found that the only way to learn how to do a thing is to just get after it, make your mistakes, improve, rinse and repeat.

Holy crap this is gonna be longwinded. I'm sorry in advance.
 

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Why am I doing this and what am I making? 2 reasons, I think I mentioned I like building stuff and I'm really tall. Like 6'5" with a 36" inseam and and a 6'8" wingspan. My current ride is a 2019 XL Ragley Bigwig, it's got a 480mm reach, and something like a 667mm ETT, it's overforked with a 160mm Z1 coil and it's got a 1* Works angle set in it so the ETT is actually a bit shorter, but I think you get the idea. The bike fits me comfortably while I'm just pedaling along but when I stand up, bend my elbows and really ride the fork it gets real short feeling real quick, it feels like to keep my chin anywhere near over the stem in need to do a kinda of hunch/scrooch backwards (forgive my technical jargon) kid of maneuver to get placed centrally over the bike. It's uncomfortable and not my favorite.

I've never used any kind of CAD before, unless you count Cardboard Aided Design, but I'm determined to do the damn thing so I started messing around with BikeCad and can't recommend that program enough. I probably "designed" 30 bikes before I settled on something that I liked the look of and felt I could pull off. I've got a friend who says "if you're gonna be a bear, be a grizzly" meaning, don't half ass it, whole ass or nothing. With that in mind here's what I'm gonna try and build
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Forgive the crappy picture, it's just a screenshot from bike cad but it's gets the idea across. The numbers look like this;
HTA 62*
Reach 540mm
Stack 672mm
STA 75.5*
Chainstay 450mm
BB Drop 66mm
ETT 693mm

Yeah, I know, it's long. In theory, it'll have an ETT about 25mm longer than my current bike, but I'm gonna swap the 50mm stem for a 35mm so I should be only about 10mm longer than the current ride but have 60mm more reach when standing and riding the bars. I don't do a lot of tight switchback riding, so I'm not super worried about getting it around those kind of corners.

I have zero preconceived notion that that I'm going to do anything incredible on my first attempt here, I'm honestly just trying to get back into fabrication and have a little fun building something. Am I going to come out of the end of this project with a rideable bike? Maybe. It's probably just as likely that I'll end up with an unrideable wall hanging. However, I am an absolute fiend for metal flake paint so if I end up with something even remotely bike shaped at least it'll be pretty unrideable wall art. You might not be able to polish a turd, but I now for a fact that you can roll it in glitter.
 
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Discussion Starter #5
I built a simple 80-20 jig that can be described as "fine" Is it the best jig ever? No. Is it the best I could do with the allowable budget and time? Also no, but it's what I've got right now. As I used to say at my shop "It's good enough for who it's for" the jig itself is bolted to a section of solid core door that is in turn bolted to a really heavy drafting table that I removed from a back alley at work. The jig "floats" on the surface on studs so I can level the whole thing when I roll the table out to work on the frame. Some angle brackets, aluminum strap, all thread, a few wooden plugs to hold the tubes and a lot of swearing make up the rest of the jig.

I got all of my bike tubing and dropouts and stuff from Andrew at BICYCLE FABRICATION SUPPLY and just can't say enough good things about that guy, but that won't keep me from trying. He bent me up my custom long ass down tube out of 35mm .035" tube for me and I really like the way it came out. I probably should have gone with 38mm but whatever, next time.

I bought a "tubing notcher" from harbor freight and while it was excellent at making off center notches and generally turning nice tubing into scrap I realized it wasn't right for this project. I've been notching all my tubes with a paper template, angle grinder and a belt sander. I've had good luck with Tube & Pipe Notching Calculator - Printable Templates - Metric for the templates. I've never had a lot of tool budget so I spent a lot of years getting surgical with a 4 1/2" grinder.
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Template marked with a fat sharpie mark and roughed cut with a cut off wheel.
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Roughed in with a hard stone and finished up with a hand held beltsander. I don't have a picture of that, so use your imagination.

I'm trying to really take my time and get my miters as tight as possible, having to constantly remind myself that I'm not on the clock and the process is supposed to be fun.
I think I'm doing ok
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Discussion Starter #6
I'm not even really sure how it happened, but one day I was cutting tubes. I naturally started on the downtube first, since I've never done this before and it required the most mitering and was going to be expensive to replace if I ruined it. Great plan. I measured as many things as I could, eyeballed the rest of it and started hacking. I knew where my BB center was because Andrew was nice enough to mark it on the tube for me, so I printed a template for a 35mmm tube to a 38mm tube at a 90* angle and centered it on the BB center, and cut the tube. I sanded it until I was happy with the fit and then did the same deal with the top miter, got it close, left the tube long and just snuck up on it a little at a time until it fit nicely. Why yes, those are wormy maple frame tube cones, how nice of you to notice.
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I did put the seat tube in first, cut to length including the seat post collar it's 475mm. When the seat tube was in place and the down tube was fitted on both ends I got to do the compound miter for the top tube where it meets the BB and seat tube. I measured the angle of the base of the seat tube, removed it, put the down tube in and measured that angle, did a bit of subtraction, made a template for the down tube meeting the seat tube and only used the top half of the template when I marked the down tube. I don't know if that makes sense, but eventually I got this
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I got it to fit up pretty well and before too long this jig had tubes sitting in it!
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Discussion Starter #7
I’m excited, whatever the length or end result!


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Thank you. I hope it's worth everybody's time ;)

I ran a string from the top of the headtube the the top of the rear dropout and marked an approximate line on the seat tube where the top tube and seat stays were supposed to come together. I got enough 35mm .035" tube from aircraft spruce for a top tube and a bunch of practice pieces. I "calculated" the angles on the top tube using a plastic protractor from walgreens and the string I mentioned earlier. Nothing but the best, spared no expense. Once I got some rough measurements for the top tube I did the deal again, hack, grind, sand, sneak, rinse, repeat. After the 18 hours when I freaked out and thought I'd made the tube too short and refused to even look at the bike jig, I got the tube to fit right enough to make me happy. I reeeeaaallly like a seat tube brace and kinda wish I would have made this one bigger, but that would have required more seat tube and even though I'm going to have about 3" of 210mm dropper post up above the top of the seat post, I didn't want more seat tube. I think that brings me to about where I am today. Everything held up with hose clamps and masking tape, waiting for me to bump into the table and knock it all over.
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I'm going to start chain and seat stays next, I just got the crankset that I'm going to be using so I can make sure I've got clearance everywhere. I'm gonna try to keep this post up as I figure my way through this. Fingers crossed I can make it into something.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I just found the folder I was looking for with some pictures of past projects. Just for a frame of reference
Model A headers. I actually built this whole car, 32 ford framerails, supercharged flat head, 5 speed, chopped, the works.
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53 Chevy truck, bagged, big block, fenderwell headers, etc..
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Twin turbo 454 S10
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Bagged 64 Cadillac with a metal flake roof
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Falcon wagon custom paint
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Not sure if anybody's into that kinda stuff but I used to enjoy it a lot.
 

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Great build. Watching this thread.
I am building my 8020 jig now. Should be donein January and then can start my build.
 

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What is the rake for the fork you are planning to use? Unless you can find (or make) a fork with huge rake, the 62 degree HTA is going to produce massive amount of trail and will steer really wonky.
For cutting the tube miters from template marks, tube blocks (and vice to hold them), hacksaw to rough them in and half-round files to finish can do a great job for producing tight miters by hand from minimal tooling.

Thanks for sharing the auto pics, I like wreching on cars as well as bikes. Your fabrication experience from those should translate well to bikes.
 

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A couple thoughts you should ignore until you've finished this build (seriously, get through the full process and then apply everything you learn to the next one instead of second-guessing #1)

Neither bend is doing you anything - the bike is long and slack enough that the fork crown should clear a straight down tube, and the chainstays are long enough that you don't need the clearance behind the seat tube.

As for the down tube, bikes this long seem to be going to 44mm tubes - 35mm seems really small.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Great build. Watching this thread.
I am building my 8020 jig now. Should be donein January and then can start my build.
Thanks. I hope I don't screw it up too badly. Good luck with your build, I'll check it out.

What is the rake for the fork you are planning to use? Unless you can find (or make) a fork with huge rake, the 62 degree HTA is going to produce massive amount of trail and will steer really wonky.
For cutting the tube miters from template marks, tube blocks (and vice to hold them), hacksaw to rough them in and half-round files to finish can do a great job for producing tight miters by hand from minimal tooling.

Thanks for sharing the auto pics, I like wreching on cars as well as bikes. Your fabrication experience from those should translate well to bikes.
I'm gonna be using the 160mm Z1 coil that's currently on my Bigwig. It's got a 44mm rake I believe. As it sit the head angle on that bike is about 62.5*, it does get a little wonky (excellent word choice there) at really slow speeds once in a while but I don't think .5* is going to make it unbearable. Everything's a trade off to some degree, I'm perfectly happy to trade some low speed handling or climbing ability for stability at high speeds and in the steep stuff. If it's too unmanageable, I'll reign it in a little on the next one.

As far as the hack saw and files, I'm sure that works a treat but I'm not trying to make more work for myself :) for the price of a "decent" file set I bought this little hand held, 1/2 x18" belt sander and it rules. There's a flat platen, a couple of slack belt areas and if you promise it's just for a second, just to see what it feels like and it doesn't really count anyway, you can use just the tip:D

Glad you liked the car pics.

A couple thoughts you should ignore until you've finished this build (seriously, get through the full process and then apply everything you learn to the next one instead of second-guessing #1)

Neither bend is doing you anything - the bike is long and slack enough that the fork crown should clear a straight down tube, and the chainstays are long enough that you don't need the clearance behind the seat tube.

As for the down tube, bikes this long seem to be going to 44mm tubes - 35mm seems really small.
Thanks, I expect the results here to be less than ideal. I am pushing forward and not trying to second guess myself to death (That's why I actually kept the 35mm DT) I'm gonna make mistakes, then I'll modify the plan, and do it again and again. A set of tubes for a bike is so affordable compared to car stuff that I plan to build a bunch of frames. I really do miss fabrication but there's only so much automotive stuff I can do with no budget, no space and very little interest. I can hang 10 bike frames on the ceiling and not worry about it so I'm not worried about building too many.

I know the bends don't do anything. I just like the way it looked. I built a bunch of frames in bike cad, convinced I wanted straight tubes everywhere, and just ended up liking the gentle bends in the st and dt the best. It won't be everybody's favorite, but that's ok. One of the best things I ever heard when referring to cars or bikes or whatever was "It's only gotta please one ass" I also found that with all straight tubes, it looked kinda like a gate.

I agree with the thoughts about the DT, but I already own it, and it's already mitered so I'm gonna give it a whirl. I'm sure that's going to be something I change in the next one. Not trying to second guess myself right out of the build.
 

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It turns out I'm better at working on stuff than updating this post. Been a bit distracted, selling a car and then shipping it across country is way more work than it should be. And, I've been kinda "meh" about the frame build, couldn't figure out why, every time I walked by it, I'd give it a glance, decide that was enough for now, and walk away. It hit me last week that I just can't make myself fall in love with that bent down tube, just can't. I liked it better on bike cad with that bend, but sitting here in front of me it just wasn't blowing my skirt up. Just holding up a piece of straight tube improved the look of the thing significantly, so I decided to change it. Since I was going to a straight tube I decided to increase the diameter to 38mm (1 1/2") I ordered that tube last week and I picked it up today. I'll hang on to that bent 35mm tube for when I want to build a Chromag knockoff.

I don't know. It just looks weird.
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With motivation refreshed, I started on the stays. I got both seat stays fitted without too much trouble (forgive the magnets)
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I really like these seat stays I got from Andrew at bikefabsupply 14mm round and they flatten out after the bend so they're an oval where they meet the seat tube, they're cool.

I'm getting ahead of myself a little. I did take everything apart, drill all the vent holes for the front triangle, weld the seat tube collar to the tube, weld the tube to the BB, cut the slot for the seat post clamp and made a hole for the dropper cable. And this is the only picture I have from that entire process.
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I got the drive side chainstay fitted. I really love a cool fabricated chainstay yoke and I love a challenge as much as the next lazy guy, but if I didn't need to make one, I wasn't gonna. I'm not an engineer, or a welder but I figured if I could keep my welded areas in high stress locations to a minimum there will simply be fewer places to break. I think my combination of long chainstays and a little chainring will get me clearance for a 2.5 and a whole tube chainstay all the way to the bottom bracket. If I can only run a 2.3, that's not going to be a deal breaker, I run a 2.3 now and have no complaints.
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I put a little aluminum tab on my fixture that's as long as my 30t oval chainring is wide at its widest, it's on about a 50mm chain line and I think it's got enough clearance. I'm hoping to get snowed out of work tomorrow so I can mess with that down tube, if not it'll probably have to wait 'till the weekend.
 

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Cars and bikes - they seem to go hand in hand... :)

This is a great thread, I love that you're doing your own thing and making a bike to fit YOU, all the while applying a great attitude. To get that sort of quality with basic tools in a spare room of your house is very impressive. Look forward to seeing more updates when you have them!
 

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Cars and bikes - they seem to go hand in hand... :)

This is a great thread, I love that you're doing your own thing and making a bike to fit YOU, all the while applying a great attitude. To get that sort of quality with basic tools in a spare room of your house is very impressive. Look forward to seeing more updates when you have them!
Thank you for the kind words. I'm trying to remember that I'm not on the clock, I don't have a deadline and this is supposed to be fun. One of my favorite things to do with cars was build headers, I enjoyed getting all the pipes to fit just right and go where I wanted. And at the end of that process you have something unique that anybody can't just go to the shop and buy. This is like that, it's certainly not quick or practical but that was never the point.

As for making it fit me and to my taste, there was a point when I stopped building things for me based on what other people might think. I spent a lot of money and time building things that I hoped other people would tell me looked cool. When I started building what I wanted because I wanted it, not only did the process and result get more fun but I learned so much about everything because I was pushing boundaries that I hadn't before. Good times. I'm enjoying this build and I feel like I'm learning so much, I'm curious to see what I end up with. If I can ride it to the mailbox without it bursting into flames, I'll consider that a win.

Thanks again, I hope to get some more done over the weekend.
 

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Yup. The straight down tube was the correct choice. That looks so much better to me.
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I still need to do the non drive side chainstay but I'm thinking I'm going to at least tack the front triangle together before I fit that. Should I finish weld the front triangle before I put the stays on? Probably makes more sense to do it that way than to finish weld the whole bike at the same time. I guess I better get real good at welding real quick.

I got a picture of what I'm gonna do for the dropper cable. I had a spare cable port? Bulkhead? Thingy? left over from from my BigWig build, so I just made a little oval hole for that to clip in to. I considered making some sort of "reinforcing" plate for that hole but it seemed just like adding a heat affected zone there for no real reason, and I think I mentioned earlier about the lazy, so no plate it is. I'll probably put a little strip caulk around the plastic clip just to keep it quiet and keep any junk out.

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The more eagle eyed amongst you might have noticed that the hole for the dropper cable is on the front of the seat tube. I'm running all of my cables on the top of the down tube, shift cable and rear brake will split off and go under the chainstays, dropper cable will make a nice easy bend and go right there. My BigWig runs the brake and shifter cables under the top tube and the dropper on the bottom of the down tube, under the BB and in the back of the seat tube. I carry my bike by the top tube and am always twisting the cables or they're squirming around under my fingers. I want everything tucked nicely up on top of the down tube where it's (probably?) less likely to get damaged, and out of my way when I need to pick the bike up. I also really like that bikes are machines, and I like my machinery on display. I hated cars that tried to cover everything up and bury everything in the most inaccessible spot because, god forbid, someone might see an oil filter or some spark plug wires and get the impression that this thing, is in fact a car. I like my wires and cables where they're easily accessible and serviceable, I like them clean and tidy but not hidden away.

But? But where are you gonna put the water bottle? I'm sure neither one of you reading this actually care about where I'm gonna put a bottle cage, but since you didn't ask, I'll give you an answer. I'm not. I don't want one. I'm not going to say that I think water bottles makes a bike look stupid, but I have never seen a bike that I thought had it's looks improved by adding a water bottle. Not one. I ride with a little backpack for my stuff and it has a reservoir in it, it holds more water than a bottle and I don't notice the extra weight when it's on my back. I did notice the bike felt better (lighter) with no bottle or tube/pump strapped to it, so for now I'm keeping the back pack.

Not gonna lie, I'm also leaving the bottle mounts off because I truly enjoy how angry some people get about bikes with no bottle mounts. Since the bikes already "too slack" and "too long" anyway ;) might as well go for the hat trick and add "no bottle cage".

Thanks for reading, I gotta go get good at welding.
 
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