Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 4: Starting on the Forks

Last night around 11.00, Doug came over to visit Robert, Dan, and I. The three of us are staying at Doug's parents' house, which is right next to his house and shop (it's also empty — just the three of us are here.) I was already pretty sleepy, but the conversation woke me right up. Doug's a very friendly and very knowledgeable guy who's been doing this forever and knows just about everything. We talked about about builders, their bikes, about frame design, and about making it as a frame builder. The short version of that last item is that it's very tough, especially if you're a perfectionist like Doug (and like me, for what's it's worth!). Some builders can make a living if they're willing to work fairly quickly and put out bikes that are "good enough" but not immaculate. Doug thinks a perfectionist makes about $5/hour on his frames when all is said and done, which obviously isn't enough to live on. We talked about the issue of frame prices: should people pay, say, $6,000 for a "perfect" frame from an experienced builder? It sounds nuts, but seems like a "fair" price. (Doug tells a funny story about a plumber who complained about the cost of his frames. Doug replied, "How much do you make per hour?") Anyway: the real "artist" framebuilders seem to have other sources of income, or spouses with good jobs.

Well, back to the class. Today was fork day, and it was really fun. We're at the stage now where we're refining skills rather than learning totally new ones. So far it's been not only a framebuilding course but also machine shop, filing, basic carpentry, etc. Now I've begun to get those skills down to the point where I'm not cutting horribly crooked lines into tubes and can sort of file smoothly. AND, I can sort of braze now.

This morning, after helping Doug unload a tractor trailer's worth of True Temper tubing into his shed (for his Ukraine project), we started on the day's project: brazing the steerer tube into the fork crown. We started by practicing with a "practice crown" (a Miele crown, in fact, bought when it went under), and I did a fairly good job with it, though not great. A little later I did the "real thing," with my beautiful Richard Sachs Newvex fork crown and my True Temper 28cm steerer. Doug was busy watching Robert do his practice braze, so I did most of it "on my own," and it went extremely well. There was one little gob, but otherwise it looked just about perfect, and way better than my practice crown. It felt really good to get that done, especially since I only learned to braze yesterday, and it's a "real" joint. Enlarge that lower picture and try to spot the golden-looking silver braze joining the crown to the steerer.

After that the task was to put the rake on my fork blades and cut them to length. I wanted a nice low, even bend for my 53mm of rake. And this too came out really well. Doug has a cool bending fixture and it was pretty fun to put all my weight into it. One fork came out with a nicer radius that the other, but I don't think it will be at all noticeable. I was getting pretty sleepy by the time I cut the fork blades to length, but I did manage to get that done before we wrapped up for the day.

It's really cool to be here. A week ago, writing and editing English papers, it would have pretty impossible to imagine myself fully engaged in filing and brazing from morning to night. I'm trying to enjoy every minute of this.

[More photos here.]

1 comment:

smd said...

Nice work! I learned the basics of brazing by building a copper manifold for my mashtun. Not the prettiest, but it sure is fun to use.

Looking forward to seeing this frame come along.