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Where do I Obtain  Bicycle Framebuilding Parts?

Where do I Obtain Bicycle Framebuilding Parts?

This is a question I am often asked. Anyone who has already built a frame outside a course will already know the answer, but it is something prospective builders may be interested in. The information is already provided in the Links page of this website but the following may clarify the options. There may be sources of cycle tubing and parts I am unaware of so I would always be grateful for further information about any other sources. I am not including suppliers in the USA with one exception. The added cost of importation to my mind is not worth it as most of the parts are available from the UK and Europe, though of course with us leaving the European Union in the near future, this balance may change.

CEEWAY
Ceeway in Erith, Kent, run by Peter Evans, is the main source of framebuilding supplies in the UK, being virtually a one stop shop.
They supply a large range of dropouts, braze-ons, bridges and bosses as well as lugs fork crowns and bottom brackets. Some of the lug sets are from Long Shen as otherwise you would have to order them from Taiwan, though the lugs do not always have their origin specifically identified on the website. Additionally they stock brazing sundries and will sell brass and silver rods in small quantities as well as a large range of frame building tools. They are constantly adding new items whilst maintaining a range of classic frame parts. Columbus carbon forks and sometimes other carbon sections are also available and these are available un-laquered at a saving over normal retail prices.
They are the main stockist of Columbus tubing and also stock a lot of older lines and obsolete tubes.
Fork blades are from both Reynolds and Columbus though you cannot buy Reynolds frame tubes from them except perhaps some non-current ones. They do however, offer Reynolds 953 stainless fork blades.
Ceeway are strictly mail order. Ordering is by email and as no prices are listed on the website you will receive a return invoice of cost and payment link which you can then pay if you accept the invoice.
There is a minimum order value of £12 (£10+vat). Delivery is pretty swift once the order is confirmed.
Website: http://www.ceeway.com      email: sales@ceeway.com

REYNOLDS
TECHNOLOGY
Reynolds sell their frame tubes direct. You have to contact them initially and they may ask you your frame building experience, though I don’t know if they ever refuse to sell to anyone. They will then forward a tube specification and price list. Most of the commonly used tubes are in stock but they have many more that can be ordered. Reynolds 953 stainless tube is often in short supply despite being a stock item. Reynolds 531 is still available only as a main triangle for lugged frames. You can then order by email and when the order is ready to despatch they will contact you for payment which can be by various methods but I use a bank transfer. Delivery after that is very rapid. They do also supply a range of dropouts, bottom brackets, steerers and lugs etc. There is a minimum order value of £150.
Website: http://www.reynoldstechnology.biz     email: toptubes@reynoldstechnology.biz

BEAR FRAME SUPPLIES
Based in Leighton Buzzard, Bear Frame Supplies morphed out of Bear Bikes and specialises in CNC machined dropouts, also making flat mount disc tabs and through axles. They will also make custom designs if you feel the need. There is a simple online shop for their stock items.
Website: http://bearframesupplies.co.uk

PARAGON MACHINE WORKS
Paragon is based in Richmond, California, and is worth a mention as it sells an extensive range of dropouts and other, often unique, frame building parts. Some of it’s products are now available from Ceeway. The parts, I think, are expensive, possibly because of the value of the dollar, but ordering is simple enough. I once ordered some rear dropouts online with no difficulty.
Website: http://www.paragonmachineworks.com

DEDACCIAI
Though only formed in 1992, Dedacciai is another Italian (as well as Columbus) company manufacturing a smaller range of steel tubing, though they also make titanium, aluminium and carbon tubes for the frame builder. Their steel tube range can be viewed at: http://www.dedacciai.com/website2016/index.php/en/serietubi17/alloy
It is possible to order direct and there is minimum order value of 250 Euros (which is £223 at the time I am writing this). Lesser value orders I think are subject to a surcharge of 12.50 Euros (£11). They also of course do a range of carbon forks which can again be obtained un-laquered at a saving. Forks and other frame components can be found on their website: http://www.dedacciai.com
Ceeway also stock some of their tubing

I could supply their 2017 price lists and an order form on request.

TIM CROSSMAN
I have no personal knowledge, as yet, of this manufacturer of handmade carbon fibre tubing but his products have been used by some custom builders, noteably Matt McDonough of Talbot Frameworks (http://talbotframeworks.co.uk); who has incorporated some of the tubes into steel designs which seems to be currently in vogue, especially with seat tubes. Whilst Dedacciai do sell carbon fibre tubes, they seem to be all quite large diameters intended for making full carbon frames. Crossman however supplies narrower tubing more suitable to using in steel lugged designs. He is based in the Ukraine but says he will supply worldwide.
Website: https://www.timcrossman.com

RANDOM SUPPLIERS
Our old friend EBay is of course a source, particularly of vintage tubes and lug sets. I have to say I have not been impressed with what I have seen for sale nor the price, however provide you are happy with the provenance of that which is offered, you may be lucky.
You occasionally see mainstream retailers offering frame parts. St John Street Cycles currently offers own brand Thorn Rohloff dropouts.  https://www.sjscycles.co.uk/frames/thorn-for-rohloff-stainless-steel-dropouts-per-pair/
Brick lane bikes offers vintage Zeus rear track dropouts should anyone be interested. https://www.bricklanebikes.co.uk/frame-spares-2
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Framebuilder Tooling – Using a Milling Machine

Framebuilder Tooling – Using a Milling Machine

A Milling Machine is usually the second major machine tool any aspiring metalworker will obtain, after a lathe. More correctly known as a vertical mill as horizontal mills do exist. Whereas a lathe mainly turns objects in a circle, the milling machine will make objects square and cut slots as well as performing tasks that can also be done on a lathe such as drilling and tapping (being more flexible for this), boring holes and sawing (using a ‘slitting saw’) and mitering tubes.
 Basically it consists of a drill mounted on a column which can be moved up and down, pretty much the same as a pillar drill. The head is wound down slowly and has an accurate depth scale on the operating handle. There is also a plunge section as you would find on a pillar drill with a large handle which can be used for rapid drilling but is locked out for more subtle milling operations. The column can often be tilted from side to side to enable cutting at an angle but in practice this is not very useful and it is usually better to mount the work at an angle. The mill can be used as a drill press. Some mills are sold as mill/drills but I am not sure of the difference. Drills can be mounted in a drill chuck but other tools are best mounted in a collet chuck system which is more accurate and secure. The drill head itself can only move up and down, so the shaping of the metal is achieved by moving the table in two axes, against the milling cutters of which there are several types. Collet chucks and the like are usually attached to the mill head using a morse taper. These have a tapped hole in the top which is to further secure them in the drilling head with a threaded bar. Unfortunately a lot of potentially interchangeable lathe tools have a tang (a projecting bit of metal) which is to facilitate their ejection from the lathe tailstock. This means they will not fit into the mill head. I am mystified as to why tooling manufacturers do not make interchangeable tools.
*(Belatedly I have discovered my mill can accept tools with a tang by fully extracting the drawbar, I do not know if all mills are capable of this. I have not seen any reference to it anywhere so it may well be worth asking if you are considering a specific purchase)
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Femi 782XL Metal Cutting Bandsaw – Review

Femi 782XL Metal Cutting Bandsaw – Review

I have wanted a bandsaw for some time but have been deterred by their size and weight in as much as one would have needed a permanent space allocating in the workshop, which I do not have! I then discovered the Femi portable saws, the 782XL being the smallest and only weighing 16kg. It will cut solid metal up to 41/2 inch diameter at a reasonable speed and the blade requires no lubrication during cutting. It stores away under my bench. 
I also obtained one of the matching tables which folds flat so also takes up no space. Although the table is sold as matching the bandsaw I could only match up one hole to slip a bolt through to make sure it is stable in use when being used as a table saw. It seems perfectly stable when used otherwise resting on a bench or the floor.
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Extras available are a small cutting table which attaches easily by clamping in the material clamp and a quadrant kit which in retrospect I probably will not use as it appears to be designed to help feed a large sheet at an angle, the size of which I cannot envisage using. Oddly Femi do not supply a fence guide which I think you really do need when cutting small pieces on the table. It is possible to purchase generic fences from places such as Axminster but I do not know for sure if they will fit.

Tube Mitering on a Lathe – Updated

Tube mitering is a fundamental part of custom frame building and I am sure there is always a need to be able to produce good results by hand and eye. Paper templates are a boon for speeding up the process and increasing accuracy but I decided to see how I would get on with some form of automation for the process. A milling machine, lathe or tube notcher can all be used but as I already have a lathe this seemed the way forward. I have described elsewhere making the tube blocks to enable this. My lathe is small with 500mm between centres.
I have obtained several Coba-Tech hole saws from Stakesy’s metalwork machinery suppliers (https://www.stakesys.co.uk/hole-punches-hole-saws/hole-saws-arbors/coba-tech-10-tpi-fine-tooth-holesaws). These are fine tooth saws as opposed to the more usual coarse tooth saws I have used in the past. For cutting good mitres in fine tubes I would say these are essential and Stakesy’s were the only supplier I could find. They also sell some tube notchers which are designed to be used with a conventional drill but I have no experience of using these.

Coarse and fine tooth saws (fine on the right)

Coarse and fine tooth saws (fine on the right)

Tube Bending and Panana Budget Tube Bender Review

Tube Bending and Panana Budget Tube Bender Review

Tube bending is something I avoid, however there are times when it is necessary. Some framebuilders do it as a feature of their work but I tend to only use bent tubes when it is necessary to solve a clearance problem as with the child’s first pedal bike. I purchased this bender for the princely sum of £90 from an Ebay retailer who I guess is based in China but had stocks in the UK. The brand may be a red herring as I suspect it is one of those tools turned out by a Chinese factory under different names. Indeed Stakesy’s have what looks to be an identical bender available on their site for £165, though they were out of stock when I ordered mine: https://www.stakesys.co.uk/tube-pipe-benders/manual-tube-benders/sta137-buzz-bench-top-manual-tube-bender.

Bespoke 2017

Bespoke 2017

An excellent display of custom building again this year with many highlights. I doubt if I spotted them all.
Lugs are back
Although they never went away it seemed to me that there were more lugged bikes than ever this year and in particular with stainless lugs, my own favourite. The standard of stainless steel polishing also seems to have gone up, though once again the bikes displayed by Darrell McCulloch (Llewellyn Custom Bicycles) were on another level.
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There was some brushed stainless in evidence, not something I have tried and I suspect difficult to do well.

Pro-Max 350w 6inch Bench Grinder –  Review

Pro-Max 350w 6inch Bench Grinder – Review

I purchased this machine from Metal Polishing Supplies after an online search. It is a “Budget” model in the world of Bench Grinders and bears a remarkable resemblance to a lot of other own brand models suggesting they are likely to be made in the same Chinese factory. Credit to Metal Polishing Supplies, however, in as much as the company has produced it’s own product leaflet which is written in clear english. They also offer a 3 year warranty.

Bespoke 2016

Bespoke 2016

Predictably I went to the Bristol Bespoke show again this April to keep up to date with current ideas and trends. The photo above is of the displayed Craddock track bike and I want one of his road bikes. Richard Craddock is not the only bespoke carbon fibre builder but has been doing it in the UK the longest. He uses Carbon fibre tubes and cuts and mitres in the usual way then overlays the joints. His bikes used to have a lugged appearance but now due to popular demand he has smoothed out the joints by feathering the layers. You can get a truly made to measure bike with his method.

Oxy-Propane Brazing – UPDATE 2

Oxy-Propane Brazing – UPDATE 2

I use oxygen and propane for my brazing. I did not want the expense and extra safety concerns of storing and using acetylene, and in particular did not want to get involved in contracts given the small number of frames I am likely to build as a hobbyist. Recently small contract free acetylene cylinders have become available. Personally I see no advantage in using acetylene for building lugged frames, but it does have advantages for fillet brazing. Propane is relatively cheap and long lasting and widely available for a small cylinder deposit. I use a 11kg cylinder. Smaller ones are OK but I have found the larger cylinder more stable, especially when using a gas fluxer, I don’t know why. Storing the smallest size cylinders of practical use of any flammable gas is common sense.
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Custom Frame Builders Association and Public Liability Insurance

Custom Frame Builders Association and Public Liability Insurance

Several informal meetings have taken place between Custom Frame Builders across the UK with a view to establishing an Association. At present there is no formal organisation established but an intention exists to make it such, primarily as a talking shop for exchange of information. Additionally it has been proposed to offer a EN/ISO test of frame integrity in conjunction with Reynolds. It has been mooted it may cost around £300 for 631 tube set and test and the frame can be lugged or fillet brazed or maybe Tig welded. Regarding entry to the Association, the only clear cut criteria which has been agreed by all the participants is Public Liability Insurance. The long term structure and function of such an organisation I am sure will evolve over the years but I would like to think there may be a place for Amateur and semi-Professional builders within it. The current forum is being co-ordinated by Phil Taylor, organiser of Bespoke Bristol but he is keen not to take responsibility for fully organising an association as he obviously has enough on his plate with the show. As a preliminary move I decided I would have to investigate Liability insurance as even though I have never sold a frame for profit it would be nice to have the cover and indeed even making frames for friends and family it is a sad fact of life that one would be wise to have some indemnity against frame failure leading to accidents etc.