A Trip To The Bicycle Academy
Posted: September 2, 2014 Filed under: Uncategorized
I decided that in order to try and take my brazing to the next level, some tuition would be a good investment, and so I signed up for the Bicycle Academy’s Fillet Brazing Masterclass.
I was keen to get some one-one training from Andrew as I’d heard great things about his courses.
Being far too mean to pay for a hotel, I laid down five quid a night to stay at a local campsite, “Vallis Veg”.
The campsite in Frome, Somerset. I was the only person there. I got a bag of firewood and made a fire in the car wheel provided. During the night a field vole came and snuffled around me.
Some might ask why I needed brazing tuition when I work as a production brazer for Brompton. My reasons were:
1. I’d never had a specialised brazing class before, as college courses I’d studied were more welding-orientated.
2. Brazing tuition at the bike factory is more of a “you’ll find your way, just practice more” approach.
3. I wanted to learn brazing in relation to more conventional bike frames, especially with regard to best practices for tacking, making smooth fillets around the whole BB cluster, etc.
4. Brazing at work to tight targets usually requires a very large flame, which isn’t always the best way to achieve the nicest fillets. Certainly not with thinner-walled tubing.
5. I wanted to take a course where someone could critique and advise me on my technique as I worked.
6. I simply don’t get time to try new techniques and experiment at work. If I try a new technique, I may not hit target, or I may have to scrap a part, or both.
Here are some of my efforts from the class:
Andrew talked me through laying a nice fillet.
We spotted that I was bridging my fillet a bit, and we cured it there and then. Andrew has developed some techniques to get a smooth start and finish.
I managed to pull my bead tighter under instruction.
We covered tacking, making full fillets that can be filed easily if required, and recommended fillet throat depths.
It felt weird to be allowed to take time over my brazing!
Back to Skool.. I found it helpful to make notes and sketches.
This is the torch I used in the class.
Neat economiser setup.
A Gasfluxer puts flux into the acetylene so powder/paste flux is only needed where capillary joining is required.
It’s not all work, work, work.. An apprentice takes aim with a Nerf gun!
Quite a cool way to diffuse the frustrations of frame building.
The Academy offers cycle fit/sizing courses. Here lead weights are attached to the wheel rim of this sizing frame to more realistically simulate spin up and spin down. Resistance can also be adjusted.
There are lots of tubes in stock.
All the lugs, crowns and braze-ons a student could dream of.
This sight was familiar to me as I sanded tubes daily during my 10 months as Brompton’s Repair Brazer before I moved to production brazing.
A Sputnik Tool frame jig, like the one I’ve ordered. Except I’ve ordered more standoff on Andrew’s recommendation.
Academy Tools’ own frame jig is in development and should be available to buy soon.
A surface plate with stays and various bits ‘n’ bobs.
An evil Nerf gun lies menacingly on a fly press set up to dimple stays for chainring clearance.
Balance bikes made for children by students have been painted and will soon be enjoyed..
Be careful folks..
All the tools you’ll need.
Africa bikes hang on the wall, each one made by a past student.
Staff and students chat by the kitchen/coffee area. I found it a really nice environment to learn in.
A student finishes his frame.
brazed inserts allow a 1 inch steerer to be used in a large diameter head tube. This allows for easier brazing without ovalising the downtube on the Africa bikes.
Another view of the workshop. Photos of some past pupils are stuck on the wall to the rear.
A pupil’s leaf design seatstay cap.
There were some interesting items and books on display.
Riding back to the campsite, there was a beautiful purple sky.
Frome is a lovely place to ride around. Even at night.
I got back to the tent just before dark.
Next morning, after a coffee in the town I rode out to Longleat. I saw these hops growing wild in a hedgerow.
It was a really fun descent to the house.
..Then a big climb out again after a visit to the cafe.
All in all, I felt that my visit to the Bicycle Academy was good value, interesting and fun, and I would definitely recommend the fillet brazing masterclass, not just to those with less experience, as it is bound to give a good foundation, but to more experienced brazers too. I felt like I was stuck in a bit of a rut with my brazing and wasn’t sure how to improve. I have taken tips and advice to my own brazing with very good results.