Mike Flanigan / ANT BikesPosted: May 27, 2011
Today I drove to Holliston, just outside Boston to visit Mike Flanigan at ANT Bikes .
Mike started building frames at Fat City Cycles in 1983, where he became skilled in Tig welding and painting. Fat City was sold in 1994, and Flanigan and six others started an employee-owned company, Independent Fabrication (custom-built factory-made bikes).
Mike went his own way in 2001, following his environmental sensibilities to specialize in utility bikes and roadsters with racks.
Mike explained some tig welding basics to me – the filler rod is generally used once, and no double pass needed. The double pass technique is used with titanium mainly for aesthetic reasons, but also helps to seal the argon gas.
It’s more difficult for the new frame builder to get started with Tig welding than with brazing, but Tig welding is easier to master. Brazing is the complete opposite as it is easy to start but very difficult to master.
It can cost $4-5,000 for a good tig welding machine, but a useable machine can be bought for $2,000.
Cheaper tig machines don’t have the same arc stabilization as the more expensive machines.
A 3-phase setup is probably the best.
Mike has recently switched to a low voltage machine to give him greater flexibility in where he can work.
Tig welded frames can be completed much more quickly than brazed frames. Machining and tacking is much faster.
Mike adopted his own niche early on in the style of bikes that he makes, and due to his level of experience, he can make a very high quality bike much faster than many builders, although Mike ackowldeges that the skills gap is narrowing with the amount of classes and tools available .
Here are the photo’s I took during my visit:
Mike is now offering frame building courses which include fixtures in the price.
Thanks Mike for talking to me after I turned up late due to getting slightly lost in the Holliston backwoods, especially when you had to be somewhere else.
Tomorrow morning I fly to Portland Oregon, city of frame builders. I’ll be meeting Andy Newlands of Strawberry Cyclesport, Mitch Pryor of Map Bicycles, getting a Chris King factory tour and having a snoop round United Bicycle Institute. Don’t miss it..