3rd day On Doug Fattic’s Frame Building Course

Here are some pictures from my 3rd day with Doug Fattic.

Herbie Helm tacks a seat tube into a bottom bracket shell after ensuring the tube is exactly level with the flat surface.

Doug watched Bill silver braze his fork crown onto the 1" threaded steerer.

Doug cleans the "shoreline" of the bottom bracket shell with the flame.

Here I have filed all the excess silver braze material and the protruding amount of steerer so that it's flush with the underside of the fork crown. The crown tips are still as they were cast and not crisp and sharp though.

Mitering a tube by hand with a file.

Another good old English vice..

tubing, lugs & braze-ons.

The deer say hello after our class.

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Second day on Doug Fattic’s Frame Building Course

Today, after noting down all our tubing specifications, dimensions and angles, we marked and mitred our frame tubes so that they would fit snugly against the other tubes at the joins.  We rolled the tubes on a flat surface plate, watching to see daylight underneath, so that we could tell which side of the tube was straightest.  This plane of the tube will end up vertical on our bikes, so that there is as little lateral deviation as possible.

Next, we put the tube into the fixture on the Bridgeport milling machine, an American classic!

The angle is set on the mitre fixture and then we mitre the tube with a cutter the same diameter as the tube this one will join to.

Chomping though an American "True Temper" tube with Connecticut's finest milling machine, the Bridgeport.

Bill and I got to know the milling machine intimately today as we would go back to take another cut to make sure it was the right angle and diameter.

Using the Bridgeport with autofeed. The tube is held in a collet. Remember not to walk off and let it eat through Doug's fixture..

Next, Doug showed us how he made the wooden blocks he uses to hold the tubes in a vice when they are filed and worked on:

Tubing blocks for different sized tubes, made of hard maple.

We had to file the edges of the bottom bracket shell so that they were clean, at 90 degrees to the tubes, and the tips of the shell came to a clean point:

Cleaning up the edges and putting a point on the tip. We used a Swiss file, and Doug showed us some neat tricks.

Sighting the point to check it's symmetrical.

The most difficult to read instrument in America, but I kinda like it.

Doug let me use his prized chainstay socket reamer, once belonging to his favourite English builder of all time, Johnny Berry.

Chainstay socket reaming tool, once belonging to Johnny Berry of Manchester, England.

Original "Samsonia Perfect" vice from Johnny Berry's Manchester workshop, now holding my bike's head tube and caked in flux.

Herbie Helm's own design lug vice, for holding lugs firmly while they are filed, shaped etc. Available to buy. Hmm.

Well, that’s all for today folks. Stay tuned..


First Day on Doug Fattic’s Frame Building Course, Niles, Michigan

Well, after getting off the Amtrak (and a young chap sitting next to me buying me a beer on the train) in Niles, Michigan, I unfolded the Brompton and trundled down 5th St. towards Doug Fattic’s place on 3rd.  I had quite a few bags attached to my back, so I got a few funny looks in town.  I remember passing the gun shop.  Some friends of Doug’s took me out to dinner, before I hunkered down for the night at the house next to Doug’s which was his parents’ place.

I spent my first day of the week-long transportation bike course today – my fellow student Bill from Tennessee and myself chose our tubing and parts, worked out the size of our frames and had a good old play with Doug’s jig.

Doug’s apprentice, Herbie Helm, helped me with my silver brazing technique. Herbie has been making some very nice bikes – google him..

Bill and I were shown the ropes with the Oxy-Acetylene set-up, and then we had a go at silver brazing a steel sleeve into some old tubing – this was to simulate a lug for practice purposes.  I’ll get some pics up tomorrow.

Doug told us about his trips to England in 1973 and 1974 to learn frame building. He went to Ellis Briggs in Shipley, and his frame jig was inspired by that used by F W Evans in the 1970’s.  Doug explained how he was one of about 10 young men from the US who went to England to learn frame building in the early 1970’s, as the skills simply didn’t exist in the USA at that time.  Here are some pictures from my first day in Doug’s workshop (more will follow):

Doug Fattic's workshop, behind his house.

Bill & I sort our tubes into sets.

Herbie Helm, Doug's assistant, shows a frame design in progress in the fixture.

Inside the Workshop

Doug paints a good frame too.

A Look sizing bike in the workshop

I’ll make sure I write in more detail tomorrow. Good night.


Frame Building Co-operative, Chicago

I just spent a great 3 days in Chicago, where I visited Owen Lloyd at his workplace at Blue City Cycles retail shop at 3201 S.Halsted St.

Brompton in Chicago (thanks for the lend, George!)

Blue City Cycles.

A healthy display of Brooks saddles inside the shop.

The loading area of the building.

Restoration photographs framed on the wall inside the building.

Refurbishment pictures - the building was gutted inside first.

The building on the outside before the transformation.

Frame building workshop on the first floor.

Owen with a trusty Victor torch

Granite surface table - the beer can is strictly for scale. Good thing there's a goods lift as this is on the first floor.

I chatted with Owen about the frame building co-operative he is part of, situated in the wonderfully-named Bubbly Dynamics Building at 1048 West 37 Street.  The surrounding Bridgeport area has suffered a decline as industry moved out of the city to greenfield sites and then overseas, although the commercial designation of the area means that residential speculators have not been able to move in and drive up the land value. Read the history on the website..!

We cycled to the workshop, which is within an old paint warehouse, built in 1910. The owner, John Edel, has totally transformed the building into several units, one of which now houses 7 frame builders in a fully-equipped shared workshop.

The Bubbly Dynamics Building

Old machines adorn the corridor..

Michael's bench.

A short production run of frames that Michael was making for a shop.

4130 cro-mo tubing which will become wishbone seatstay rear ends.

Anvil cantilever brake boss jig

A frame repair in progress

Diacro tubing bender

Garden viewed from roof

Another angle..

Michael’s reconditioned Smith torch
Fork blade bender
A pair of vintage high-flange hubs
A Henry James frame jig.

Anvil frame jig

On the green roof. The plants make a picture of the owner's baby which is visible on Google Earth.

View from the roof

A bench in the shop

Another bench in the workshop

Owen moved into the workshop after completing a frame building course at United Bicycle Institute, Portland Oregon about 5 years ago.  Most of the frame builders work part-time, although some, including Michael Catano, who I had the pleasure of meeting, work there all week.  Michael was working on a small production run of frames for a retail shop.

I asked Owen what the benefits of the co-operative were, and he told me:

1. Cheap rent – The building owner only charged each tenant of the workshop their share of the rent, even before all the other places were filled, enabling each person to get on with their craft straight away without having to find others to pay the remainder of the rent.

2. Shared tooling – This has saved a great deal of money and space within the workshop. Only the larger tools/fixtures are shared, whereas hand tools and smaller items are used only by their respective owners.

3. Shared knowledge – Each person can help fill gaps in the knowledge of others.

4. Shared contacts – If a certain skill, tool, material or service is required, other tenants can often recommend a suitable person or company.

5. Increased “word of mouth” promotion of the frame building activity to the local and internet market.

When I asked Owen about the disadvantages, he mentioned:

1. Sometimes, although not often, personalities can clash.

2. Occasionally shared tooling can be damaged.

Owen explained how the building owner is very supportive to the craft, and sympathetic to the ideals and benefits that cycling and local manufacture bring to the community.

Uvay's metal fabrication and powder coating shop on the ground floor.

Thanks for putting me up when I came back through Chicago for New York Michael.
Best wishes to all the Bubbly folk.