building your own frame

given how much i enjoy all things bike related, I’d like to build my own frame. I really am a sucker for beautifully lugged steel frames and I thought that building my own would be pretty rewarding (even if it was only a sunday afternoon bike).

Has anyone had any experience doing this?
What’s involved (briefly)?



alot of patience

Just ask one of the world’s best framebuilders.

I’m sure Darrell would respond to your email. But personally I wouldn’t ask him something like “how do I make a bike frame?”

I guess by that I meant: “click on this link to view a gallery of photos that might give you some idea but don’t go asking - if you have to ask you are already done”. or something

I recently had one of his work stands delivered.
I can highly recommend these if you want a work stand.

Very easy to use, and pack up great.

Have a look at:
Framebuilders Mailing List
Bikeforums Framebuilding Forum
Suzy Jackson’s Little Fish
United Bicyle Institute
Ceeway (Supplier of tubesets, lugs, frame fittings)
Henry James

This guy is just the raddest :slight_smile: am i a dick for feeling pretty great everytime a bikebuilder replys to an email? is it lame to smile when i see mike flanagan in my inbox? for the record, i didnt get this sent to me to post in this thread :slight_smile:

Hello future frame builder!

I have written this letter in response to the many emails I receive asking about what one would do to become a frame builder or if they should take a class at a frame building school. There are many options now available and most all are good ones. There is no one best way to go about it; every option has its advantages. Here is my advice on the subject, but I am not the last word on the subject. First I will list my opinion on what to do and then I will list all of the options that I know of [there are more that I do not know of too].

  1. Get a job at a frame building shop, such as IF, Seven, Serrotta, Sycip, Waterford and many others. Any place will work, but a higher volume place would be good to learn in and will actually pay you to be there. The pay will be very low, but it will be a job. You can get in with no experience [almost better that way, so you are better at learning the way of the shop]. You can start in shipping, sandblasting and paint prep etc…low skill positions to get your foot in the door. Then you can learn on your own time with the tools available. When you take a job like this be prepared to do the shit work in a department for some time like a year or more before moving into another department…or quitting like so many of you do!

  2. Just do it yourself! [and keep your day job] Find some space to work in [This is the most important]. You can use a garage or basement or rent a space [you can not do this in your apartment or bedroom!].Buy a book by Tim Paterek I would suggest building lugged frames to start with. This requires the least amount of tooling and brazing is easier to pick up [not to say that you do not need skill to braze it is just easier to get started with]. Lugged construction is also easier to fit the tubes together and gives room for the slop that will occur on your first frames [once again I stress that lugged frames built by skilled people are very good in tube fit and function, not sloppy]. The main tools you will need are a good vice, an assortment of files, tube blocks, a brazing torch set, and hacksaw. You can make your first jig out of plywood. You can get by on very little and save your money for materials to practice brazing with. This is the least that you can get by with and it will run about $ 500.00 to a $1,000.00 Some people can be much more resourceful at finding scrap and used tools to work with I am just trying to appeal to many people that are asking about building. Get some cheap lugs and straight gauge tubing and practice brazing a lot before building your first frame. Build frames for free [family, friends] then for material cost….then much later for a fee.

  3. Do it yourself, but with gusto! By this I mean plan on really getting into this and spending the money to do it. One way to look at it is let’s say that you were planning on taking a class. A class can run from $1,850.00 to $2,250.00, air fare about $400.00/$500.00, taxi etc…$50.00, Hotel $300/600?, food for a week or two $200/300, one to two weeks off from work in lost wages? Maybe you can take a class locally and stay at home and that is great, but most can not. Take the high end of this price say about $3700.00 [not counting the lost wages]. That is a lot of money that could be used to buy tools and materials.

Here is a little breakdown of some basic tooling cost [without shipping cost]

  1. Frame jig $1,200, 1,850, 3,500, 3,700 and up to $7,000.00
  2. Fork jig $600 to 850
  3. Brazing torch $300 to 800
  4. Files $100
  5. Tube blocks $75 to 120 [or make them yourself]
  6. Hacksaw $20 to 30
  7. Vice with soft copper jaws $30 to 250
  8. Work table $free to 200
  9. Frame building book $75 and videos $100 to 200
  10. BB facer and chaser $400/600
  11. HT reamer $300/600
  12. ST reamer $100/200
  13. Alignment table $1,400/3,000
  14. Fork raking tool $300
  15. Emory cloth $20/50
  16. Flux and silver $100
  17. Dremel tool $50
  18. Chop saw $200
  19. Materials for one lugged bike $200.00
  20. Having someone else powder coat or paint your bike $100 to $500 [spray bomb priceless;)

Some more tooling items of interest.

  1. Vertical milling machine [used Bridgeport type] $600, 1,200 to 3,000
  2. Large lathe $1,500/3,000
  3. Horizontal mill [for tube notching] $50 to 1,000
  4. Tube notching system $200 [crap] $2,000 to 3,000
  5. belt sander $200 to $300
  6. bench grinder $50/600
  7. Brazing ventilation equipment $1,000
  8. Sandblast cabinet $1,000 to $4,000
  9. Compressor $1,000 to $5,000
  10. Cold saw $1,000 to $4,000
  11. TIG welder $2,000 to $4,000
  12. Welding table $100 to 400
  13. Misc bicycle hand tools $1,500
  14. Wash tank $200 to $1,200
  15. Air lines $50 to $500
  16. Hand held belt sander $50 to 500

I know that many people can be more resourceful in acquiring machines and tools raw materials etc…to make this all cheaper and that is great an all, so why are you asking me about building then?
Ok, sorry. Got a little distracted;)

You may think that I really want to be shown how to do this? Well no problem there are many classes to take.

  1. United Bicycle Institute
  2. Hot Tubes
  3. Yamaguchi Bicycle Framebuilding School
  4. Doug Fattic [I have no info, but I know he teaches in MI.]
  5. I am sure there are others, but I do not have the specific info.

Other useful links: Sputnik tool
Yahoo Australia | News, email and search

This is all I can think of for now. Good luck with your endeavors!

Sincerely Mike Flanigan/ANT

Haha love it, the guy has just about written a novel and finishes it with “This is all I can think of for now”!!!


Where the fuck are all the Australian framebuilders? I can thing of baum, llewellyn, paconi…

Thanks guys. Much appreciated. Looks like I’ve got a lot of reading to do :-o

I am pretty partial to Llewellyn bikes. Vanilla, in the states, are also pretty sexy.

yeah, not much mention of aussie builders there, but i think the sites he mentions have something to offer builders i.e., paint, jigs, parts, tubes, whatever. I guess Kookie could get a mention for his Kaisei connections…

following a few of those links around last night, i stumbled upon some pretty firey stuff on frame building sites… those dudes really get stuck into it.

they certainly do. the north american handmade bicycle show is the perfect example.

i’ve been thinking it would be cool to make a frame from bamboo, and then i saw this picture on shifterbikes, Website Disabled
the only thing stopping me is i don’t have access to any bamboo. i imagine you probably need some fresh stuff, and not the kind they sell at bunnings which splits easily.
i can fibreglass a lot better then i can weld. i could probably even make carbon/fiberglass lugs for the frame with a bit of effort.

bamboo and carbon MTB

The Bamboo Guru

Thats so cool! I like the contrast between new and… well organic.

yeah, i looked at all of those. i believe the best way to make one would be to cut up an old frame, and use the intersection of the tubes as internal joiners, and socket the bamboo tubes onto them.


Anyone else have a Year 8 IT teacher who preached dvorak, but only to those who’d get-it? (yes, a nerd I am)

Go on then, click.