Monday, March 29, 2010

Moving In and Setting Up

My friend Olivier and I now have our own little shop and have been busy for the last few months getting everything together to begin building frames in it. This process is now nearly at an end, and so I present the following photographic journey into our shop...

My bike, "Suave Gardin," heavily loaded outside my house with stuff for the shop. It was not an easy journey, and it taught me a lot about better ways of carrying heavy loads! One of the tricky and fun things about this whole process has been figuring out ways of transporting things to the shop without a car. In some cases it's been possible (barely) to carry them on bikes. At other times we've needed to rent vans, call in favours, and take the TTC. My mother and sister deserve special praise for driving our surface plate and oxygen concentrator from far-flung parts of the province to our shop.

In the "courtyard" of our shop (between a bike shop and the garage we're set up in), with the bag, which somehow made it without falling off. It's an old "German Police Backpack" I bought on eBay. Strapping it to the handlebars is not the best idea: it swings all over the place. It's filled here with files, tubing, tools, etc.

The shop itself. There are boards on the windows right now to scare thieves away. Soon those will be down and replaced with bars and curtains, and there will be lots of natural light—very important for framebuilding! My friend David, who has his shop set up in a basement, stressed that when we were looking for a shop we shouldn't settle on anything without lots of natural light. We got lucky!

Some of the things from the backpack laid out. Most importantly, two old mountain bike stems (one with a 25.4mm quill and one with a 28.6) we're using as lug vises. They cost next to nothing and they work extremely well.

The first thing I did in the shop was drill out this Ritchey vertical dropout. I did this not because I'm especially obsessed with saving weight—and certainly not because I have anything against that divine Ritchey logo—but because it was noisy and in this shop it's okay to make noise. This was a major problem in my "bedroom shop."

Having made lots of noise, the dropouts had their rough shape. More work to come.

A seat lug in the "lug vise." After working in my bedroom and holding the lug in my hand for filing, I was astounded at how quickly I was able to put the rough shape into this lug.

The next job was drilling a hole in our little (24"x18") cast iron surface plate. Olivier made this guide out of lucite. We didn't drill a starter hole (advice from David—thanks!) we just went for it. It took a while but it worked just fine. Our hole location could have been a tad better (a few mms of the BB post hang off the edge) but it's not bad.

Our alignment system, which fits nicely on our workbench, and should be large and heavy enough to align frames and cold-set them. (Thanks to Drew of Engin Cycles for the Bringheli BB post. The handle half is broken off, but we knew that in advance!)

My hand got in the way of the flash on this photo and then my camera's battery died. But it has a certain appealing sinister aspect. That's our Doug Fattic design fixture sitting atop a drafting table. It hangs about 3" off the edge, so we may end up looking for a larger table top... Beneath the table are our oxygen concentrator and a propane tank. We picked propane as our fuel because it's safer and we can get it refilled down the street. We picked an oxygen concentrator over an oxygen tank because it's safer, was relatively cheap, and we never need to get it refilled. We still don't have our torches and tips, though, so we're not quite sure how this will all work!

That's the next post!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Bunch of Things on eBay

Here, dear reader, is a way of supporting my framebuilding addiction! I have listed a bunch of things on eBay. As an experiment, I've started most of them at 99 cents. So, far things seem to be going well. For sale are:
There are also some things related to Linn LP12 turntables for those interested in such things.

Depending on how these auctions go, I'll likely be listing a SON28 front and Phil Wood "Riv" rear hub on eBay in the near future, and probably some Chorus alloy-bladed 10 speed ergo levers with a matching rear derailleur.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Ride, Some Acquisitions, and an Anecdote

The ride in question was to Goodwood from the Scarborough Zoo on Wednesday. It was 18 degrees on Wednesday—a gorgeous day, and the warmest so far this year. In the picture on the right you can see the suddenness of the warm weather: that's ice on Musselman lake, and lots of skidoo tracks.

I rode Niles, which was a bit exhausting, especially on the way home when we had a tailwind and the group was moving at about 45km/h. My legs often felt like they were going to fall off.

Most of the riders in the group were in their sixties and seventies. I want to be in such incredible shape when I'm their age!

Below is Niles in good company at the bakery in Goodwood. That's Mike Barry's Mariposa "Mountain Bike" in right behind him—the model for the bike I'm going to start working on this week. (It looks like Olivier and I will be making fire in the shop this week some time; our hoses and torch tips have finally shipped.)

I also made some considerable equipment scores this weekend, pictured at right. Yesterday I visited a local bike co-op and found in their junk bin four dirty but unused 6-speed 13-24 Uniglide cassettes. This isn't quite a lifetime supply, but it will keep me going for quite a while.

And today I bought a pair of nearly new 36-hole Mavic MA-2 rims from someone on Craigslist. This coincidence of acquisitions more or less decides the rear wheel debates I was having with myself; I'll sell my Phil "Riv" hub and build up a 36-hole 6-speed Uniglide cassette hub into one of my new MA-2 rims. (I must say, while these are gorgeous rims, I don't like that sticker!)

Finally, here's a good anecdote from a book I read through this week, Greg Curnoe: Life and Stuff:
Curnoe described bicycles as a form of functional collage; through a limitless refining of the component parts (which Curnoe itemized in pencil notes on the surface of the watercolours), the cycle afficionado could produce a lighter and lighter machine. This became something of an obsession for him. Pierre Th├ęberge remembers that when he took Curnoe and [his wife] Sheila to Venice in 1976, the year when Curnoe represented Canada at the Venice Biennale, he could not engage Curnoe in looking at the art and architecture of the city or the art in the other pavillions. Instead, he had to indulge a day-long outing to the industrial fringes of the city to visit the Campagnolo cycle-parts factory. When they arrived, the factory was locked and Curnoe was desolate. (80)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Start of the Season

It's the happiest time of year for a Canadian cyclist. Last week there was snow on the ground; this week, the sun is shining, the temperatures are high, and the snow has melted into quickly-evaporating puddles.

Niles and I went out for a ride to Port Credit this morning. He has become my main bike, and in the process has lost much of his polished appearance. Which of course has only endeared him to me further.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lug Shape Help

I need your help! Faced with the prospect of actually having a shop to build bikes in (we'll be brazing in the next week) I'm beginning to go a bit mad. I spend my spare moments drawing lug shapes, speculating on methods for bilaminates, deciding that I need to make my own lugs from scratch, etc. That envelope is only one victim of my madness.

The biggest debate I'm having right now is which lugs or construction method to use on my next frame, which will be a randonneur. I recently carved up a set of Prugnat lugs quite dramatically, and I think they look nice. But they don't quite say "randonneur" to me. For a road bike they'd be perfect—I can imagine a green bike with these lugs masked off and painted yellow, with red logos... But anyway, for a randonneur that will be painted black they just seem a bit flashy and angular.

This thought set me off on all sorts of researches. First I thought I would do bilaminated joints on the headtube (like on this incredible Jamie Swan), and use an investment cast BB shell and seat lug. But then I couldn't find a standard-diameter investment cast seat lug I liked enough (the Henry James is perfect except for its too-short point on to the top of the TT).

So I started looking in to making my own seat lug from scratch. In addition to giving you lots of freedom, it's good practice with fillet brazing! I was naturally led to the Rene Herse Bicycles website, and the glorious handmade lugs Mark Nobilette makes for them. Looking at this page made me want to make my own lugs, certainly, but it also made me take another look at the Singer/Herse lug shape. There really is something perfect about the distinctive constructeur double-swoop. But I also noticed the very un-showy shape the headlugs made around the head tube. While certainly the less celebrated side of the Herse/Singer lug shape, I appreciated its simplicity, and it got me thinking.

It brought me back to the Prugnat lugs I recently carved up. They had the same "Herse/Singer" shape around the head tube before I set in to them with the file. (The points on to the TT and DT, of course, were more Italian and long-pointed.) Suddenly this seemed to be to be a more or less ideal shape for my randonneur: not flashy, not an exact copy of the Herse/Singer, with nice long points to work with...

So I ask you: which of these head lugs should I use on the randonneur I'm about to build? The "loveable nerd" shape on the left or the swoopy avian shape on the right? I'd leave the "nerd" more or less as it is, but I would shorten the point on the underside of the TT and make it a spoon. (And I'll use the "carved" lug on an upcoming road bike if I don't use it here...)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Setting Up Shop

My lack of activity on here has been due not to a lack of bicycle activity but to a surplus of it.

In the last few weeks I have secured a place of my own to build; got of one Doug Fattic's design fixtures; found a surface plate; solidified a 75-year-old workbench; and moved all this stuff in to the work space—which also needed some cleaning. We (my friend Olivier and I) are going to try out an oxy-propane setup, getting oxygen from an oxygen concentrator rather than a tank. We have the concentrator and our torch. We're just waiting for some things to arrive in the mail, to adapt a drafting table as a base for the Fattic design fixture, and to install some lighting in our workspace before we can get going.

In the photo above you can see the fork blades that arrived yesterday on my full-scale drawing of the frame I'm about to begin (code name: Adam Jr.). We got these blades from John Clay, and they have his incredibly beautiful bend in them. I'll get around to trimming them once I'm in the shop.