Friday, August 29, 2008

Finish Filing, Days 2-6: Lug Filing is Tedious

... and not especially riveting material for blogging. Between other tasks, I've been filing away for the past week, doing my best to get things nice and even and smooth. It's very difficult to know when "enough is enough" and just to be happy with things. For example, things look very nice now, but the lower headlug is thinner than the upper headlug. So I suppose, perfectionist that I am, I'll keep going until things match perfectly. Oh dear.

In other news, it looks like I'll be getting my very own headbadge. Suzanne Carlsen will be doing it, and I'm very excited about it. It will be the bell/top shape with no writing on it, and made from stainless steel.

As for the paint, that will be handled by Velocolour here in Toronto. Noah Rosen, the owner/painter, is a very nice man and a really excellent painter. I presume he will be recieving my bike next week.

Now, back to filing...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Finish Filing, Day 1: Working on the Dropouts


Yes, my files finally arrived today. This did not happen until 5pm or so, and then I set straight away to finishing off the work I left off approximately a month ago: finishing the scallops on the front dropouts and at the seatstay/rear dropout connection.

After several hours, they're not particularly straight or even or perfect, but they certainly do look a lot better than they've looked for the past month. It's very nice to be finally beginning to finish this frame. (Yes, the scallops on the front dopouts, pictured below, do look comically high-up, don't they? That's so the file wouldn't hit the eyelet. I presume other people, whose scallops are not nearly so vertiginous, are both better filers than I and use Dynafiles.)

It will, of course, take a while. I'm planning on two days for each of the headlugs, and then a day or two to clean up all the other areas.

I'd been contemplating adding a braze-on at the rear for a light, but I've just decided to mount any possible light on the fenders — and for them to be battery powered. So that solves that.

More to follow tomorrow, and with better commentary...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Further thoughts as I await my files...

No, they're still not here. But I do have my vise attached to my desk (an oak one, and very sturdy), and have wood blocks. It has been extremely difficult to resist using my very crappy Home Hardware files. Indeed, I have used them quite a bit removing flux, etc.

While I wait, I have been busily determining what to do about tire size and my rack, and thinking hard about logos. The results are these. I will use the Grand Bois Cerf 28s tires and not use the rack. The tang on the Velo orange rack interferes too much with the fender and the brake arms to be used with anything larger than a 26mm tire. But if instead of using the rack I attach a front fender stay to the "rack mounts" on the fork, I can fit in a tire as big as a 30. That's pushing it a bit, though, and I designed by geometry around 26es -- so I'll use a 28. This way, no bottom bracket drop issue. And, my bike ends up even more like the Rene Herse bike I'm basing mine on: it too has bosses for a front rack repurposed to attach a fender stay. (To all readers of this blog who are friends rather than bike geeks, I apologize for this paragraph, and offer the only slightly more exciting next one...)

I have also decided to stick to my guns about my headtube logo. The Wyndham Lewisey top/bell is back in business, only with a slight change. On the headtube, I will somehow get a piece of stainless stell cut in the shape of the bell, and screw it on like a headbadge. It will be only the bell; no writing. And then on the seat tube, the version with the writing will appear, in dark blue. Note the very slight differences in this version: curved lines, and a bigger Toronto Ontario font.

I sure do hope those files come soon. Having everything so tantalizingly close to completion is nearly driving me mad.

In other news: I will try to devote one day per week to framebuilding over the winter. I'm hoping to get three or so frames done in that time, and to begin making this an official "side-project." I think that my first frame (his name is Niles for those who care to know...) will after all be pretty and cool enough to serve as a "calling card" frame. I'll charge only for materials and shop-rental time initially...

Update: no —wait — this logo is going on the seat tube, isn't it?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Tale of Vise

My patience nearly at a breaking point, I was assuaged with the arrival of my wood blocks and a very nice vise. I ordered the former a few weeks ago, and they simply arrived. As for the latter... well, stories about vi(s)es always make for excellent reading.

Two days ago I posted a wanted ad on Craigslist for a 5-6" bench vise. I don't know very much about them, other than that that is the size I need, and that I used a Record vise at Doug's, and that it was good. I know that these are no longer made. The English company was bought out in 2004 by a subsidiary of Rubbermaid, and the vises called "Record" are now made by Irwin in Taiwan. So I said in my ad, "Wanted: 5-6" vise, preferably English-made Record."

I got only one response: from someone in a distant suburb, asking $20 for a 6" vise. It wasn't a Record, but that seemed like a screaming deal, so off I went. It took me about an hour and a half to get there on transit. And then I had typed in the address number incorrectly, and so my Google maps printout was wrong. I had to call my girlfriend, have her find the email, and text me the correct address. Then I found it at last. And, naturally, it was not a 6" vise, but a phenomenally cheap and pathetic-looking 2" vise, with a big "2 inch" sticker on it. The seller assured me that if measured end-to-end and diagonally, it measured 6". I left, trying not to get too angry, pleased at having explored a new suburb, and having wasted approximately four hours of my life.

When I got back, I posted a "Where should I look for a vise?" ad. I mentioned again that I liked Records. It was at this point that a whole bunch of friendly Craigslisters informed me that a certain local retailer had received a bulk shipment of Record vises when they had been bought out. They had been clearing them out since 2004, and still apparently had some left. After having called every single semi-nearby outlet, I found a 5" English-made Record vise in a even more distal suburb, for $45. I'm not sure I know enough about vises to say this, but that seemed like a really good deal. A subway, train, and bus ride later, it was mine. Now I just need to clamp it to my desk, and await my files, and I'm away...

In other news, I think I will not use my Velo Orange front rack. Its tang limits clearance at the fork crown slightly, but more irritatingly gets in the way of the movement of the brake arms. I might be able to bend it into a better shape, but I also might just attach a forward stay to the rack mounts on the fork blades. That would, after all, be most true to my Rene Herse original...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Waiting for stuff, new headtube logo

I've been away on vacation for the last week, recovering from the very exhausting "vacation" that was the framebuilding class. While not reading or swimming, I decided I needed a simpler and "classier" headtube logo, and have come up with the one at the right. It also shows the colour scheme I've settled on: grey-blue with dark blue lettering and box lining. It will look very nice with all the parts I have for the bike, especially the Dura Ace cranks, which would have looked bad with the red colour.

Also: my frame pump, a Zefal "Lapize," arrived yesterday from France (it cost about $10, even with shipping!). Unfortunately, the 465mm quoted length was a fully-compressed length, so it didn't fit. But after a few frantic minutes of hacksawing and slide-hammering, I cut a few centimetres off of the barrel and squeezed it in. It looks very, very good now.

In other parts news, I found some Stronglight A9 headsets for a very good price from Spa Cycles and bought four of them. These will go on my first four frames! (The next one will likely be a city-type frame for a friend, then a fancy city frame for my girlfriend, then a randonneur with 650x42 tires for me...)

Meanwhile, I wait somewhat impatiently for my wood blocks and my files to arrive so that I can actually get to work on finishing up the frame.

UPDATE: New thoughts on the logo. Which looks better? The debate is between balance and confusion to the eye.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Decal ideas, and Choices...

As I wait for my files and my woodblocks to arrive in the mail, and as my body slowly re-adjusts to life post-class, I have been working on some ideas for decals.

The downtube logo is "inspired by" one of the Reyhand logos — it wraps around over the top of the downtube. The name "A. Hammond" is also French-ish, like C. Daudon. But it's also like W. B. Hurlow a bit. Well, I think it looks pretty nice, but I'm wondering about the size of the lines and how close together everything should be. I think I want to place it lower on the downtube than is usual — I don't have a water bottle boss there, so I can go low.

The headtube logo has gotten a lukewarm reception from my friends. It's based on a cool shape from Wyndham Lewis's 1914 magazine Blast. I think it's supposed to be either an inverted spinning top or else a bell. Well, the idea for my logo is that the top part of it is the A. Originally, for 3D effect, I had "Hammond" written upside down, but it looked pretty awful.

Finally, colour-wise I'm back to thinking a red-magenta-fuscia colour with gold decals and single box lining. Basically, I want it to look a lot like this Rene Herse.

The other thing I've been driving myself crazy about is the issue of which tires and cranks to use, given my bottom bracket drop issue. All would be well if I used 700x32 or 30 tires — the Grand Bois Cypr├Ęs, for example. Tires of that size would raise everything off the ground enough to permit me to use the cranks I really want to use, some very cool 170mm-long Stronglight 93s that came with a Raleigh I bought for my sister and converted for her into a city bike. Unfortunately, tires that big won't fit. My Tektro 521ag brakes aren't well shaped for wrapping around wide fenders, 30s would require wider fenders than my 32mm-wide Honjos, and the tab of the Velo Orange rack is quite fat, and severaly limits clearance at the fork crown. Also, the geometry of the bike was designed around 26s. So I've got to use either Grand Bois Cerf 26es or else Pasela 28s, which measure 26mm wide on my rims.

I do have some nice 167.5 Dura Ace track cranks that I got very cheaply on eBay, presumably because they have a scratch on the non-drive side arm. I like them, they're pretty, and they're short — and they would match the Dura Ace aero levers I'd like to use — but I'm not sure they'll match the bike. Polished, non-anodized aluminum would look best, I think.

Well. I do plan on using those GB randonneur bars, which also came with my sister's Raleigh. The Mavic lever on the left will end up on my Alan cyclocross bike. I like the Dura Ace levers, but they'll look odd unless I use the Dura Ace cranks. Which I suppose I will have to.

I would appreciate comments on all this!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Doug Fattic's Framebuilding Class

Since I intend to keep writing on this blog, and since it's not exactly ideal to read about the class in reverse-chronology, this entry is meant as an index to my entries about the experience of Doug Fattic's framebuilding class. I posted these every night during my two-week class, and will leave them exactly as they originally appeared.

Introduction: Off to Niles
Day 0: Toronto to Niles
Day 1: Designing the Frame
Day 2: Lug Shaping and Mitering
Day 3: Brazing
Day 4: Starting on the Forks
Day 5: More fork work, etc.
Day 6: Lots of Brazing by Me... Disaster for Dan
Day 7: Rest
Day 8: Tacking and Brazing the Front Triangle
Day 9: Finishing the Front Triangle, Starting on Lug Filing
Day 10: Brazing the Chainstays
Day 11: Brazing the seatstays
Day 12: Brake and Chainstay Bridges
Day 13: Frame is finished

Update: the completed, painted, and built-up frame can be seen here.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Back in Toronto

Yesterday morning, Dan and I woke up early, got some breakfast, packed our things, and were on the train at 11.00. Doug drove us to the train station and gave me decal and filing tips while we waited for the train to arrive. The education process never ends!

We had to fight with the Amtrak people a little to get them to let us on the train with our bikes. Finally the "we need to get home" argument won out. Twelve hours later and with a train switch in Windsor, my bike and I were home.

This morning I unpacked and put some of the components on just to see what it will all look like. I'm very excited! I'm a little worried about bottom bracket drop still -- but it looks like I've left lots of clearance for 700x32s, so I don't think it will be an issue. My original desired BB drop of 75mm was for 25s. 83mm is even a bit high for 32s.

My immediate challenge is to get files and find a work bench to use. I'll work on that and keep reporting...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Day 13: Frame is finished

Well, I've completed my first frame. Or — mostly.

I stayed in the shop last night until 3am... and instead of filing all my lugs and scalloping all my dropouts, I filed one side of each rear dropout/seatstay joint. Which is to say, not much. The fine finish work takes lots and lots of time. One can see why there is so little money in framebuilding: if you want to make a perfect bike, you need to take a whole day for each lug — even, seemingly, if you're a pro. Humility and patience.

I woke up this morning ready to just get my braze-ons done and to bring it home for filing, and I was happy with that plan. And, with this more reasonable goal in mind, it ended up being a very fun day. The water bottle bosses went on without too much trouble. I agonized a bit about whether to use the star-shaped reinforcements but ultimately went for them. The reinforcements scream "I'm a handbuilt bike!!," which is a message I would perhaps like to send more subtly. But they also seem (to me) like a hallmark of the US-centred renaissance of framebuilding going on right now, and my bike is a part of that, so it's fitting. Anyway, I digress.

The next braze-ons to do (and here I was thinking my fixed gear bike wouldn't have too terribly many of them...) were my pump pegs. Doug learned to build frames at Ellis-Briggs in Shipley but originally inquired at Johnny Berry in Manchester. Doug remains a very big Johnny Berry fan — and he also acquired a lot of Berry's framebuilding equipment and bits when he died. Well, a few days ago I was poking around amongst Doug's braze-on bits and found some very nice pump pegs which resembled the ones on the Rene Herse fixed gear
I've been keeping in mind. Doug said these pump pegs came from Johnny Berry and so weren't available, but that he had some similar ones. So we decided to use those. Like nearly all of the other braze-ons, these were tricky, so Doug did all the hard work and I acted mostly as an assistant. The fixture we used to hold them in place originally came from... yes, Johnny Berry.

Equally nice are the brake cable housing stops. These also match the Rene Herse bike, but are also very English, and are also the result of my poking around in Doug's braze ons. Originally I had my eye on some Suntour ones, but they're no longer in production and Doug is holding on to them. The cable guides are just cut out bits of tubing. Dan assisted in coming up with an ingenious way of holding them in place for brazing.

Meanwhile, I was setting up the Velo Orange front rack for perfectly level mounting. First I drilled a hole and made a slot in its tang by using the South Bend mill (this was fun!). Then I set the fork up in a vice at the 73 degree angle of my headtube, put in a wheel, and used a level to figure out where — with the rack sitting level and with the right clearance between the tire and the fender-mounting boss — the mouting braze-ons needed to be. This I did, and marked the spots... and Doug brazed them on while I was doing some else important like facing my headtube.

It was a busy day but was permeated with the sense accomplishment. I didn't braze literally every joint, but I feel like I built this bike (that's it there). I designed it, I mitered the tubes, I did as much brazing as I sensibly could, and I have filed and will continue to file it into shape. No one ever builds a bike entirely by themselves anyway: they're following a tradition or putting someone else's advice to use — so the sense of humility isn't something that should disappear with future frames. And yes: I've learned how to make more frames, and am excited to do so.

And I really like my bike, and am very excited to ride it. I ordered a Velo Orange randonneur bike last year that will coincidentally arrive soon, and I'm very eager to compare the ride on them. I suspect, though, that it will be especially nice to look down at this bike while riding it and to know I made it... To strike a note slightly bitterer, I'll be thinking also about my low bottom bracket drop when I turn in to corners! But then again, they say low bottom bracket drop (and mine is by no means unreasonably low...) can be a very good thing. We'll see.

In the meantime I'll continue to keep this blog posted as to the process of completing my filing and of having the bike painted. Doug suggested a solid colour, which I had more or less decided on, but also suggested box lining. A fine idea.

Well, enough about my bike. Robert's was done last night and he headed out with it neatly boxed this morning at 5am as I slept. Dan, meanwhile, was making his disc brake jig, which worked out wonderfully. That's his bike over to the right. I think each of us managed to produce frames that almost exactly represent our respective characters. That's Dan!

A final thought: it's not every class that leaves you with something concrete you get to enjoy for the rest of your life. It's not like I treasure or spend time with the essays I wrote in second year.

Dan and I leaves Niles tomorrow at 11am. It's been a very memorable two weeks.

[More photos here.]