Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Belt Drive wrap up...

I wrapped up Louis's belt drive conversion today.

I fretted over my ability to match the paint, as no one was forthcoming with the paint code info. I've run into this many times with frames that are manufactured overseas. It took a couple of hours, but I think I was able to get a very close match mixing by eye.

Here's a pic of the finished project...

and a video that shows the entire process for ya...



Monday and Tuesday...lots of little loose ends

Hey guys and gals,

Monday and Tuesday in the shop have been spent cleaning up lots of little loose ends; forks, paint, a stem, etc...

Biggest work load has been finishing up this batch of Ti and steel bars...I've kept the pedal down and am down to just one bar left to make this morning, whew! For the first time in the last 3 years, I actually have about 6 steel bars in inventory. Right now, they are black 28" bars, but can be cut down if you need a more narrow stance. So, no waiting if you act quickly :)

For this post, I thought I'd highlight a little paint work, specifically, doing some touch up and how to blend it in. We're working on Louis's Soma belt drive conversion. Originally, we were just going to do the conversion and then rattle can the area to get Louis on the trail. The more we discussed it though, I just could not send it out like that, so I spent a few hours mixing paint to get as close as I could to the original color so that we could send this out the door looking as new as possible.

I started off by masking in the area to protect the original finish on the balance of the frame and then began sanding. The goal is to feather in the work area with the original finish by using increasingly finer grades of paper. I started with 180 on the steel, then 240, 600, and finished with 1200 grit papers. You want the transition to be so smooth that when you close your eyes and run your fingers across it, you feel no change.

The next step was to begin layering on primer. As I am transitioning into the stays, I keep my gun near the drop out end and feather up the stays like a fade, allowing the paint to gently find it's way. By using this method, I avoid the probability of too heavy a layer or runs. Multiple layers go down with a flash time in between each to keep it smooth.
I built the primer up so that once I bake it, it can be sanded down so it will seamlessly take the color. Note that I did not take the primer all the way up to the mask. The color will extend beyond the primer, then the clear beyond the color up to the masked portion. This loose masking will allow a bit of clear up the stays underneath the paper so that it tapers out. It will then be sanded down and buffed smooth with some finishing compound so that the clear transition is invisible.

Finished pics tomorrow!
Ah, the last pic is what is waiting for me today, the last ti bar for this batch.
More important though, is the note next to it. I spoke with Frank at Carbon Drive yesterday and he let me in on some fantastic looks like the belt drive cogs for the Rohloff drive train should be available in time for the Eurobike/Interbike calender dates this fall.
Frank promised to keep me on the forefront, as I've been jonesing for this development for a long time. A Rohloff speedhub mated with a belt drive would be a near silent/maintenance free drivetrain, a huge boon for commuters and mountain bikes alike.
Right now, Carbon Drive is planning on a 19, 20, and 22 rear cogs for the system. They are toeing the line between functionallity for both road and mountain, but mated with the more common 46 chainwheel, there should be some great range for the dirt. I'm so giddy!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Funky Luvs...

Hey folks, glad you stopped in to catch up on the shop happenings...

Just a quick post to show off some new finishes I'm working on.

Gonna be giving away the "pick of the litter" in a contest this week so stay tuned :)

As always, the contest will be limited to only registered followers/readers, so if you want an opportunity, you have a few days to get on board.



Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday...Ti bars and dirty pups

Hey folks,

Friday brought on the completion of the Ti bars for the July delivery...spent most the day parting off a bunch of Ti and getting it prepped for bending and welding.

Here Kalten caught me at the lathe mid process, using a flat second cut file to shape a slight "V" into the cut to allow the larger chip to exit without binding against the cutter. Gotta support your arm and have a steady hand so as not to introduce your hand/fingers into the quickly rotating chuck...that would suck!
After about 4 hours, 1400.00 bucks worth of Ti is parted, faced, deburred, and sorted for the next step. Here we have center sections and grips for 26, 28, and a few 27 inch bars.
The FedEx guy was good to me today, bringing some goodies from White Brothers and tubing supplies. Here's a big ol' box of steerer tubes for the final 10 forks I have to build.
After receiving over an inch of rain yesterday, the sun was shining high and begging us to come out and play. I finally decided at 1900 hours to close up the shop door, go home and get the dogs, and run out for a quick ride before the sun dropped behind the hills for the night.
Frankie is quite excited to be headed to the trail...
I would not suggest taking a pic like this 45mph on a twisty road is NOT the time to try and look into the view screen to see if the dog is in the picture :) Let's just say that either I need to pay better attention or the road needs to be a LOT wider!
The ride was nice...I've not been able to get out much the last three weeks and the stress of working too many hours without play has been showing on the bathroom scale. So, it was nice to get out and spin with the dogs for an hour. I think they had a better time than I, as at the end of the ride they both laid down in a 6" deep mud puddle to cool down, just their heads sticking out. The ride home was a muddy mess. Why is it that dogs only want to sit on your lap when they are filthy? A question that has no answer ;)
Hope all is well with y'all. Gonna be back in the Fire Department tomorrow and am lamenting the probability that I'll not be able to see the Mount Ventoux stage of the Tour. Hope everyone is enjoying it this year, I know that I have.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Darn kids are growing too fast...a new ride

Had to run out of state for two quick days for some family stuff and came back to some vandalism at the shop....slashed tires on the Volvo, sliced window screens on the building, and a broken window. Kinda frustrating as I try to be really generous with the kids in the downtown area and you'd hope for a little positive karma in return. I suppose that is one advantage of having a shop at your home and not in a separate location. Oh well, pick up and move on.

Now that I am back in the shop today, I had a nice visit with Dr. Knob. He arrived with a broad smile and a little something hidden behind his back. With eyes closed, he set me up for his surprise... a Groovy ceramic tool and pen holder. Pretty cool, eh?

Mark glazed it in a metallic silver/bronze color that really shines in the industrial floru lights :)

Kalen has been growing like the proverbial weed this year and is already feeling a bit tight on his current single speed. With a coy "Dad...I think I need a bigger bike, do you think I can try one with a shock and some gears?" I guess the desire to go faster out weighs the purity of riding single and fully rigid ;)

As I've been maxed out for time, I started to look up in the rafters for a solution. I built the Rasta colored frame a couple of years ago and it was sold but then returned when a medical emergency forced a tight budget in the new home. I've not been real motivated to move it on, don't know why, maybe just because I kinda liked it and hoped I'd build it up for myself someday. It originally was designed around a YO Eddy geometry but with an EBB and modular dropouts to facilitate greater flexibility, internal cable routing, and suspension adjusted geometry for the front end.

Kalten however, wanted to run 650's, being sold on them with his single speed, and that presented a bit of an issue...would the larger wheel size work? I did some quick calculations and found that "wow, this could work really well!" The larger wheels would raise the front end a bit, but the greater contact patch and fork offset would do nicely to bring everything back into line. What the heck, let's go for it.

We started to spec out the bike, using a lot of parts in the shop and getting a few new ones. The final product came out pretty spiffy...wish I'd had a bike like this at 14.

With the new wheel size, the final geometry was measured out; 70.5 Head angle, 71.5 Seat tube, and 12.125 bottom bracket height. I built the stays extra wide on this frame, so the larger rubber slid in nicely with a good .5" on either side of the Pacenti Quasis.

After riding it around the downtown for about 10 minutes, I decided the frame will not be going back to the tiny wheels, so the canti bosses will be coming off the seat stays.

Gonna be a fun ride that "hopefully" will take Kalten through high school at least...fingers crossed.
As far as shop work, I finished the balance of the steel Luvs that were added on to this batch, finished up a few more rigid forks, and prepped to complete the last 5 Ti bars on Friday. I'll also be knocking out some bar ends for Roy Friday that will be used on his Bigwheel with Luv'll be interesting to see how those mesh. I've had a number of folks ask for them, we'll let Roy test them out and see what needs modified.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Michael's broken Brew...

Speaking of projects that have lingered, Michael (IF52) has been very patient in awaiting some progress on his wife's Brew racing frame, like a year and a half patient. Coming off a couple of short nights, I was feeling pretty fuzzy in the head and really did not want to tackle anything of consequence, so I pulled this guy off the's already broken, even if I'm not 100% I can only make it better, right?

This repair highlights a couple of issues that are important to pass on;

1.) For new builders, you need to understand that most seat tube stock IS NOT prepared to be slotted into a frame and built off of. The majority of standard tubes are too light in wall thickness to support the stress of a leveraging seat post and the mechanical weakening that comes with slotting. You must address the problem by one of three options; using an externally butted seat tube designed with a thicker wall for the post insertion butt, using an external sleeve that is brazed over the seat tube and then built off of ala early Groves/Ritcheys etc, or turning down an internal sleeve that is pressed into the seat tube to provide additional strength. Without it, you will most certainly develop a lateral crack extending from the slot around the tube much like this example.

2.) If you are going to perform a repair, do it right. When this frame cracked, a repair was attempted to correct the situation, obviously by a builder who has little experience/understanding of mechanical stresses and how to address them. In this case, the lateral crack from the seat tube slot was simply brazed over top of with silver, a band aid to please the customer for the moment and obviously not for the long term as no attempt was made to limit the extension of the problem or to support it for future use.

With the paint off, here you can see the crack has extended through the silver patch...

The game plan for this repair is to remove the poor silver patch, clean up the tube, fabricate an internal sleeve to improve the tubes ability to sustain the stresses of riding, and then to limit and clean up the cracked area.

I started off by cutting off the seat tube top as close to the top tube as I was comfortable with, keeping the cut straight and parallel. I also removed all the silver patch that was applied and drilled out the end of the crack to stop it's forward progression. In progress in this pic...
Using a machinists square and a file, I then worked around the tube insuring all aspects were as flat as possible.

I then cleaned up the inside of the tubing with a bit of a barrel sander, lightly applying pressure so as to keep the ID constant.
I then got to work on the new sleeve insert, cutting the selected tubing in the cold saw. As this repair will rely on an internal sleeve, I has to choose a piece of tubing that would allow me to keep the OD the same as the original seat tube, have a great enough wall thickness to turn down the wall for the insertion portion so that it still adds strength to the section, and have an ID that will accept a current seat post size...quite a few variables to consider.
Once cut to rough length, the sleeve is squared and deburred in the lathe, then I began to turn down the OD to fit the ID of the seat tube...
Here you can see a quick dry fit to insure I have the tolerances correct before pressing into place...
The piece is then taken out, everything chemically cleaned then pressed into place...

A thorough cleaning to get rid of the balance of the mill scale, a wipe with acetone again, and it's time to weld the two pieces together.

I then drilled and slotted the front aspect of the extension for the compression duties. I am a firm believer in slotting the front of the tube. Why you ask? Well, it never made any sense to me to place the weakest point of the tube, the slot, at the rear of the tube where a majority of the stress from the seat post leverage was concentrated. By moving it around to the front, it allows a uniform dispersal of stress in the rear of the tube.
Some of you may ask why I did not slot the extension prior to pressing it into the tube, an act that would have been easier outside of the frame. Well, I've been caught once or twice having the insert turn just a skoosh when pressing into the frame and then been stuck with aligning the slot, no small task with the pressure fit of the sleeve.
Something to watch out for if attempting this type of repair, you must have good heat control with your tig torch so as not to burn through and cause irregularities inside the seat tube that will cause interference with your seatpost. Tig bead is a bear to try and ream out, so control is the name of the game. Here you can see just a slight heat shadow on the distortion present.
With the sleeve in place, some cosmetic work is next. I had ground off the silver and the slot reinforcement. There was, however, too much residual silver to fill it with the tig torch without contamination, so I then laid down some 56%, allowing it to float and smooth over the top as well as drawing it down into the crack and in between the tube and the insert, further fortifying the area while making it look visually presentable.
The silver and sleeve was then filed smooth so that the repair becomes invisible, looking original once under paint.
This guy is getting a nice metallic lapis illusion powder coat, then it'll be off to Michael for hanging of parts.
I'll be out of the shop Monday and Tuesday for some personal reasons, looking to be back at ya on Wednesday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Never too early for travel plans...

Hey folks,

Yep, it's time to begin planning some winter travel to satisfy the bike geek in you; Don Walker has got the official web page up for the 2010 NAHBS and it's chalked full of info to help you satisfy your cycling desires.

Who's gonna be there? Well, the pre-registration for the builders who attended in 09 is up and they are listed on the web page. Time for everyone else who wants to be part to ante up. One of the aspects of this show that I really enjoy is the diversity of the folks who exhibit, from fairly new builders to guys who have been toiling away with a smile for over 30 years. The creativity and range of styles makes for a show that stresses individuality while bringing a level of professionalism to our cottage industry than encompasses all who attend.

Check it out... I hope to see you all in Virginia in February!

Speaking of guys who have their schwerve on, I want to put a shout out to an individual who was instrumental in guiding and encouraging me through the years, John Upcraft.

John, or "Hubby" as he is affectionately know, was Bill Grove's right hand man for many years, lending a creative focus and innovative drive to the business. When Grove Innovations dissolved in 98, Hubby took his vast experience and began teaching others at Penn Tech, leading a decade of new thinkers/fabricators into the work force. However, the love of bikes never left his blood.

With a little encouragement and a big deep breath, Hub has moved forward and hung out his shingle in the custom bike arena. His focus is on custom frame creations with meticulous detail in fabrication. Check out his site, I'm sure you'll be impressed with his breadth of knowledge and his attention to detail.

Good luck Hubby!



Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday potpourri...

Ok, here's a quick riddle for ya.

What's green and gold and dissapears before your eyes?

Scroll down for the answer...

Yep, it's a Reynolds 531 reproduction decal.

Despite what the seller states, these water slide repros do no hold up to solvent based clears.

Mike had provided me with a two of these little guys to place on the blades of his box crown fork. Without a few test pieces, I had to trust the manufacturers claims that they were good to go, obviously they were not. It is quite frustrating to have the finish perfect and then have the decal disintegrate before your eyes. What sucked even more is that although the centers dissolved, the adhesive edges stuck fast and had to be sanded off.

The sanding left a small blemish in the color can see it on the blade just below the crown. Arrh! More unneccessary work.

So, after a bit of cooling off (me, not the fork), I broke out the airbrush and touched it up.

Nice and clean now, can't even tell that there was an issue. Mike can still have his tubing decals, it'll just have to be over the clear coat instead. With the fork repaired now, this guy is ready to go home. Look for an email from me Mike :)
With a few hours of the afternoon left today, I started a local project that I've been pushing to the side for too long. Kalten was in desparate need of a little tutoring before his Algebra finals this spring. Despite my best attempts to work him through the difficulties, the parent/child barrier could not be broached, so I put in a call to Louis who works at the local bike shop, Ride On. Louis, besides being a friendly wrench, is working on his Master's degree in Mathmatics, I felt pretty confident he could help. Anyhoo, long story short, I asked Louis what I could do to pay him for his time...he really wanted a belt drive single speed.
Well with time and budget constraints being an issue, he decided to hook into a Soma B-side 650 frame and have me put a split into it to pass the belt through. I've been tripping over the frame for months now, dusting it off occasionally so I did not feel too guilty, and finally got tired of seeing Louis's sad puppy eyes when I'd tell him, "Nope, haven't gotten started on it yet" for yet another time. So I figured with a few hours left in the shop today, I'd better get it done.

We started off by having Kalten sand off the paint for the area of the seat stay we would be adding the lap joint to.

I dug through the bar stock and pulled out a piece of stainless steel that sat just above the OD of the stay. The piece did not need to be stainless, but I thought that the non-corrosive nature and the ability to leave it unpainted would assist with keeping the joint serviceable for years.

I spun the piece down in the lathe so that it sat about .100" strong, enough that once the piece is turned down to fit into the stay, a small lip will exist to allow me to keep the silver moving down the inside of the stay and damning it a bit the other direction to keep it out of the lap joint.

I then set up the mill and cut out a section of the piece exactly 1/2 of the outside diameter. This will eventually be split and one section turned 180 degrees so that the pieces meet eachother and make a perfect unit.

The piece was then drilled, counter sunk, and tapped to accept a 5mm stainless bolt.

I then lightly sanded down all the edges, bolted it together, and chucked it in the mill to turn down the ends to fit into the ID of the seat stay.

Out of the lathe, now you can see how the piece fits all together.

The sanded frame section is then layed out to match the size of the lap joint and the section cut out with a hack saw and a bit of filing to insure squareness.

The joint was then dry fit, tolerances checked, then removed and fluxed up. We're ready to braze!

Heat control is really important on this piece as the bulk of the lap joint will take longer to heat than the thin tubing of the stay. This is one reason I left the small lip, so that despite the heat concentrated on the piece to keep the tubing from overheating, the mechanical lip will keep the silver from wanting to flow into my lap joint if I misjudge the temperature application. Fortunately, it was a moot point as the silver flowed nicely down into the tube, sealing the piece in for good.

Out of the dunk tank and hit with a bit of scothbright, here you can see how the joint allows the stay to spread so that the belt can pass.

And with the bolt in place...

The frame will get a cream fade towards the drops to blend in the work. Should be a nice economical option to allow Louis all the advantages of a belt drive system on a rocking 650b wheel platform. Can't wait to ride it :) (and before you, I will not be doing retrofits for others, this was a one time special).
Not a bad looking frame...



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Too much fun...quick post for the holiday

Hey folks,

Sorry I've been a bit lax on keeping up with ya on the blog, too many hours non-stop has limited my computer time of late. So, catching you up on what's been happening, I worked a crazy 108 hours at the Fd and 20 hours in the shop last Thursday to Tuesday, and took a brief 3 hours out on Saturday between the two to do some trail maintenance on a section of the Knob that has been bothering me for a year.

As Saturday was Independance day, we broke out Tim's special bike to ride around a bit, nothing like a homemade ride to bring a smile to one's face..

I had the pleasure of taking the controls while Kalten and Eric stoked the pedals...ahhh!
The section of trail we worked on was Candy's ridge, previously a multiple log crossing that had eroded into a muddy mess. Mike, Kalten, Eric and myself pulled all the logs out, cut in 3 12" deep french drains, crowned the trail and then layed in a pickup bed full of flat rock over crushed concrete to stabilize the area. Rolls really nice now :)

As Wednesday was my first full day back in the shop for a bit and I was coming off the tough work schedule, I kinda mulled around in a zombie like state and did not really accomplish much. Christi and I spent most the day packing and shipping...bars, forks, and stems all going out.
Here's a shot of Kevin's custom bullmoose we built a month or so back, all painted up in blue/purple pearl with a bit of prismatic to catch the Atlanta sun. This is going on his rainbox colored 80's Ibis. Finally shipping it out now as he tacked on a LD stem to the order and had to wait for me to finish that up.

It's tough to walk into the post with four loads of stuff to ship, the tellers all look around at each other to try and figure out who is gonna get stuck with helping us :)

Hope all is well with y'all,

Saturday, July 4, 2009

How to apply decals...

I get a lot of questions from folks about how to apply decals on their cherished frames that they are restoring or just giving a freshening up, so I thought I'd run through the process with you as I do Mike's Fat.

Now, these decals are a bit more tedious than most, as they are 26 years old and are quite fragile. If not for old school folks like Gary Prange who has been involved in the business for so long, this type of resto would never be possible, so a big thanks to SSSink for hooking us up.

Ok, so last time we shared, I had sprayed on the color and the first coat of clear, and here's what we have...
Before we begin, you need to understand that the frame must be ready for the next phase of paint before we begin. So, insure that your hands are gloved or well cleaned and oil free, your work area is prepped, and you have the time to follow through.

The frame gets sanded down with a light rubbing with 600 grit paper to begin to level out the finish, prepare a mechanical tooth for the next layer to adhere to and to prepare for the decals to transfer easily.
Once the frame is fully sanded, it's time to get all the pieces parts we have the original decals and two repros of the Reynolds 531 tubing markers. Sitting alongside is a soft plastic debasing tool.
The frame then gets blown off with filtered air to remove the dust from the sanding...

The decals are basically four layers; a thin protective sheet that keeps the adhesive side of the decal dust free, the decal transfer it's self, the transparent transfer sheet, and an adhesive cardstock to protect the decal from wrinkling/bending. Here you can see the three layers separating...the actual decal sandwiched inside.

These are super duper fragile and once placed gently on the frame, must not be moved or the decal will get one shot to place it properly. As the back side is not very sticky, I gently place the transfer, smooth the piece down from the center to the outer edges, and then hold the clear transfer down around the tube on both ends so that it does not lift.
To release the decal, it must be debased using friction. I use a soft plastic debasing tool to rub down the decal from the center out to all edges, insuring that all surfaces are covered well.

Once you believe the decal has been properly debased, do it again. These transfers like to tear at the little points, like small letters, the leading edge of graphics, etc... the more you rub, the better. When you are ready, begin at the side that has the longer smooth edges of the design and begin to pull the transfer sheet back over it's self slowly, feeling for any resistance and listening for a consistent sound. If you feel any resistance, stop immediately, lay the transfer sheet gently back down, and debase it more. It should lift free easily and evenly.

Once off, visually inspect the decal to insure that it is laying flat on the tube and has no edges raised. If you need to press down a section, use the original side of the transfer sheet, not your finger. Here she is, looking good.
The double sided down tube decals on this Fat are a real ass clencher, as the shooting star trails are just begging to tear due to their long narrow nature. Add to that the long surface area of the transfer sheet and it's a lot of stuff to watch, remove, control at once.

And here is the downtube decal properly laid...
Little ones like this tubing transfer are a bear, as every little letter is a sticky point...
Once all the pieces are down, it's time to lay down a protective layer of clear...
The frame will get a brief flash bake to set the clear, then allowed to harden for a couple of days before sanding again to prepare for the next layer.
So there ya go, decal application 101 for dry transfer appliques. Next class will have to discuss waterslide and dry vinyl techniques.