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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:00 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
retrobike rider / Gold Trader

Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:30 pm
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Location: Desk
After seeing the framebuilding thread (and really nice frame) by makster (here: viewtopic.php?f=41&t=297169) It reminded me that yet again, I had promised myself to build my own bike, but hadn't done anything about it. So seeing Maksters thread, obviously, I forgot about that (again) and went on with things until August, when, I noted on Twitter that Enigma Cycles were starting a Framebuilding Academy. Thus, I contacted them and managed to send a deposit for a framebuilding course. I was offered pretty much an immediate spot (not possible for me) or 10th November... which was last week.

So here, as briefly as possible, is what I did dunned.

Firstly, despite assurances from myself that I'd be bugging them daily with questions and requirements, I couldn't make up my mind on what to make. Indeed, sitting there with a tea in hand on 10th November, there was almost an air of incredulity when I said 'I erm, dunno' after being asked what I wanted to build. No matter, we'd figure something! After a number of searching questions 'Do you want a Mountain bike' 'Erm, probably not' etc, we arrived at a Road bike, classic looks, horizontal top tube. This isn't actually true, as we ended up with a compact frame with all the right bits in the right place, but it was only at the jig where it hit me that the headtube angle was going to be a little slack at 72 degrees. The tutor agreed, so we altered it there and then and put that top tube horizontal, 73 degrees parallel.

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Having set up the Jig, safety breifing, having a factory tour, we were handed a set of Columbus Zona oversized tubing and some quite nice cast lugs. Unfortunately, no one had considered filing these to shape as this was 'our first job'. I only mention this as my skills with a hacksaw could hardly be described as 1337 (little IT joke there). My father, had always said I was worse than useless with any saw so this was all going to be a lot of fun, for others, at my expense probably.

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Our tutor was Geoff Roberts, there were two of us on the course and we were assisted by other staff at Enigma occasionally, probably when Geoff needed to go outside and swear etc. Ultimately, we were able to get on and do the work with assistance and advice as required, but largely, we both tried to do as much as possible. We brazed some test lugs to try out the tools then proceeded to cut those lugs up and see how we did. The first attempt was a bit hit and miss, the second a little better. With Geoff explaining the process and guiding us through the first real lug, we ended the day with a set of filed tubes, a tacked seat tube and a bottom headset lug fully brazed. This is where we needed to be to keep the week on track. Despite many measurements, the downtube on my bike ended up a little short and we replaced it. I probably over-filed it when trying to clear out the section protruding into the Bottom Bracket. Ouch and whoops. Second attempt took longer but it was correct. In fact, it wasn't very far out the first time but to their credit they let me do it again. I was shown worse from the 'examples' box.


Last edited by DA-EVO on Wed Dec 24, 2014 11:41 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:00 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
retrobike rider / Gold Trader

Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:30 pm
Posts: 1255
Location: Desk
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Day two consisted of more filing and brazing. Its fair to say it was a pretty uneventful day, albeit I really enjoyed just carrying on creating a frame. At the end of day two, the front triangle was in place and the bottom bracket tacked to all the tubes (BB would be brazed last) and I'd cut and started on the rear stays. Saving a lot of time, and to ensure the weld at the seatlug was OK, the frame was shotblasted on that lug. We also spent a bit more time tracking the frame, making sure things were straight as we went along. Thus at the end of that day, things were still on schedule.

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On day three, the rear stays were tacked in place, as were the dropouts. We proceeded to braze all that up (well most of it, a few wheel checks happened before everything was set in place) and again we tracked and brazed and repeated. Finally, we brazed the bottom bracket, which is one continuous task that takesa bout 15 minutes. Watching and feeling the BB heating up and staying warm was one thing, trying to repeatedly flow and chase Brass into it in 3d while trying to not wreck a tube was quite difficult. However, having done this, I had the basis of a frame and I still had a few hours to kill for that day as I was now ahead. This meant I could get on with some filing. Luckily, filing was helped by their being not too much excess braze on the frame and also the sandblaster made light work of flux and other mess. That said, we did filing with a big 'F'. Towards the end of day three, somehow, I was silver soldering frame add-ons, things were moving really quickly.

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Last edited by DA-EVO on Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:01 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
retrobike rider / Gold Trader

Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:30 pm
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Location: Desk
Day Four. Not a great day. I phoned in, reluctantly, apologising because I was really not feeling very well. I went back to bed feeling poorly and also feeling like I was missing out and had things to do. I took a few things to try and sort out my malade, tried to get some sleep and finally crawled up to my workbench around 2.30pm feeling a little better to do some more filing.

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3 hours later, unbelievably, we were facing the Bottom Bracket, doing final tracking and we had a bike frame. In fact we were pretty much done with a day to spare. I had a finished article. As we approached the tracking bench for the final time, it was with some trepidation that we started measuring and levering the frame into its final shape. A bad weld, rippled tube, all sorts of things could potentially go wrong at this point. Luckily it didn't.

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On the final day, we were invited to do a small bit of preperation in the paint room, which then saw us in the spray booth, putting the base layer of primer on the frames. Unexpected and not normally part of the course, it was a nice end to the week which made us feel that we'd contributed a bit more to our bikes.

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So other than the downtube, nothing really went wrong. Also, its not that things go wrong, its not that they cannot be resolved, its just that you have a week on this sort of course and if it goes wrong later in that week, you have a lot of remedial work and re-doing things. There were of course the anecdotes of 40 years framebuilding, so you know that things can and do go wrong, but can usually be sorted. They also claim they aren't letting you go home without a frame, which is a reassuring touch.

Engima, Geoff, and indeed all the staff were kind, friendly and helpful and it was always enjoyable to be on the course. In 2 weeks, my frame should be returned with its paint and also a set of steel forks. I can then get on and build the rest of it.


Last edited by DA-EVO on Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:07 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
retrobike rider / Gold Trader

Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:30 pm
Posts: 1255
Location: Desk
And finally, the frame. Its a Columbus Zona tubed frame, 73 degrees parallel tubes, horizontal top tube. The top tube is Columbus SL but it is a Gilco styled tube. Due to the fact it's in an oversized frame, that tube is actually a downtube. The fittings include downtube shifter bosses, under-tube rear brake cable, Front mech hanger, chain hanger and a lugged brake bridge. Rear dropouts are Ritchey. The forks (not shown) will be oversized as well with a sloping crown.

PLEASE NOTE: The frame pictures are taken at various stages of build, they are largely in sequence, but may be out a bit. Finally, the frame was sanded, smoothed and cleaned prior to paint and after pretty much all these pics were taken. I don't really have a lot of pics of it at that point.

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 2:29 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
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How well equipped do you feel to go into a workshop on your own and start a build? my impression of a lot of courses is that it's more of a guided framebuild than a "how to build a frame"


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 3:29 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
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cce wrote:
How well equipped do you feel to go into a workshop on your own and start a build? my impression of a lot of courses is that it's more of a guided framebuild than a "how to build a frame"


I wouldn't be nervous on going into a workshop and start getting things ready to build another frame, in fact I'd love to do it. That said, the first thing I'll be getting is a practice kit and do a bit more brazing and cutting up the lugs to see how I did, then making sure I know what I want to make.

This was my first course so I have no prior knowledge of other courses. I believe the course was set in the tone that you'd be doing another frame, if only because we both (students) stated we'd like to do other ones. Geoff (tutor) has been building for 40 years and I think he tried to do the course a bit like he would teach an apprentice - with the caveat that he's got 5 days, not 5 weeks / months so he tried not to complicate things. He did say some students had been less comfortable with getting stuck into it and in some cases he'd been more hands on or things had taken longer. He really went into a lot of detail on what can go wrong, how to resolve things, what to look for etc. We discussed next steps with him too and he was helpful with advice.

We were both complimented on having done a good job - and yes, that's going to be likely as encouragement or because you paid for a course, but they did have some of the other off-cuts and explain the differences between good and bad.

Finally, there were 3 people that assisted us at various points and they all worked slightly differently so I guess you are going to develop a way to do things, the measurements and checking remain the same tho.

Will certainly be trying to do another one, whether with assistance or not.

Edited to add: we built relatively simple lugged frames out of pretty resilient steel and therefore it was not as critical as say silver soldering or fillet brazing and so on. My next project will likely be similar.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 10:32 am 
BoTM Winner / retrobike rider
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Great work!
I really want to try building with some lugs now, as I didn't get to try on my course.
I love the fluted top tube on your frame. Mega cool 8)
I look forward to hearing how it rides once you've got it built up.
There is no feeling like swinging a leg over a bike that you've made yourself :D


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 10:36 am 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
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DA-EVO wrote:
cce wrote:
How well equipped do you feel to go into a workshop on your own and start a build? my impression of a lot of courses is that it's more of a guided framebuild than a "how to build a frame"


I wouldn't be nervous on going into a workshop and start getting things ready to build another frame, in fact I'd love to do it. That said, the first thing I'll be getting is a practice kit and do a bit more brazing and cutting up the lugs to see how I did, then making sure I know what I want to make.

This was my first course so I have no prior knowledge of other courses. I believe the course was set in the tone that you'd be doing another frame, if only because we both (students) stated we'd like to do other ones. Geoff (tutor) has been building for 40 years and I think he tried to do the course a bit like he would teach an apprentice - with the caveat that he's got 5 days, not 5 weeks / months so he tried not to complicate things. He did say some students had been less comfortable with getting stuck into it and in some cases he'd been more hands on or things had taken longer. He really went into a lot of detail on what can go wrong, how to resolve things, what to look for etc. We discussed next steps with him too and he was helpful with advice.

We were both complimented on having done a good job - and yes, that's going to be likely as encouragement or because you paid for a course, but they did have some of the other off-cuts and explain the differences between good and bad.

Finally, there were 3 people that assisted us at various points and they all worked slightly differently so I guess you are going to develop a way to do things, the measurements and checking remain the same tho.

Will certainly be trying to do another one, whether with assistance or not.

Edited to add: we built relatively simple lugged frames out of pretty resilient steel and therefore it was not as critical as say silver soldering or fillet brazing and so on. My next project will likely be similar.



That's cool. I did bicycle academy a couple of years ago, and I reckon I'd probably need a refresher now but at the time I felt like I could nail anything together with a torch.

I'm of the opinion that teaching why is as important as teaching how, and I get the impression not all courses do that. This seems like a goodun then.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:48 pm 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
retrobike rider / Gold Trader

Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2009 10:30 pm
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Location: Desk
makster wrote:
Great work!
I really want to try building with some lugs now, as I didn't get to try on my course.
I love the fluted top tube on your frame. Mega cool 8)
I look forward to hearing how it rides once you've got it built up.
There is no feeling like swinging a leg over a bike that you've made yourself :D


Thanks, much appreciated, I've been reading your thread and glad you are enjoying it. Quite a number mention the feeling of getting on 'their' bike for the 1st time so hopefully I can get that sorted as soon as possible, but got to buy components now as I don't have any :)

The build process was subtly different as we never used mitre templates but marked and cut to that (then a lot of trial to make sure everything fitted). I really want to do another one though.

I think it was Karl or Groucho Marx who said "Framebuilding is the opium of the bike-hoarding masses" ?. It was very close to that, I am sure.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 16, 2014 7:57 pm 
retrobike rider / Gold Trader
retrobike rider / Gold Trader

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cce wrote:

That's cool. I did bicycle academy a couple of years ago, and I reckon I'd probably need a refresher now but at the time I felt like I could nail anything together with a torch.

I'm of the opinion that teaching why is as important as teaching how, and I get the impression not all courses do that. This seems like a goodun then.


I did see the Bike Academy one when it was starting to get funding (I think it was that one) and think thats a really worthwhile thing, I did manage to forget about it and made a beeline to the Enigma one as it was there at that moment in time. I imagine it'd be pretty good to compare different courses and see how closely / different people do it.

So, re-reading Maksters thread, I sort of want to do an MTB now ;)


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