Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Dave's cruiser frame...paint

An aspect of building that I truly enjoy is the paint process.  It allows me to switch gears, focusing on the creative side of the project, enabling me to dig deep and pull the personality of the customer out and into the frame's visual aesthetic.

From a purely selfish perspective, it's nice to be alone in a quiet room with my attention focused on a singular task...no phone, no distracting thoughts, one process to embark on that I slowly get to see the results materialize before an audience of one. Cool.

This cruiser frame finish gives a nod to the classic look but with a mix of colors that are understated yet flashy.

The frame began with a chemical/degreaser wash and a media blast with a 120 grit material, then it was into the paint booth to apply 4 sanded coats of primer.  Each coat is applied, allowed to flash off and harden in the bake box, cooled, then knocked down smooth with 600 grit wet/dry paper.  The end result gives a strong base for the color layers to come while offering long term protection to the substrate.

During the bake/flash process, I spend some time designing accent pieces for the frame, kinda a mix of old school and identity labeling.  This will be used on the seat tube of the frame and created in a metallic silver paint, matching the pin striping on the darts.  The masks are cut using a Gerber cutter/plotter and either it's proprietary software or Adobe Illustrator, dependant on the complexity of the design.

Moving ahead a number of steps (sorry, got focused) we've got the colors laid down, decals on, and the first coat of clear to preserve the work thus far. 

I began with the base white coats, laid down the first dart masking, and shot white again to seal the edges so the next colors do not bleed through.

Once the white flashed off, the metallic silver is applied to the tubes.  Symmetrical darts that lay parallel to the white are then placed and silver shot again to seal the edges.  I also place the negative masks on the seat tube over the silver and shoot the edges to keep them tidy.

The front of the bike is then wrapped in paper and then the frame shot in multiple coats of the midnight metallic blue.  Then it's time to slowly peel back the layers of masking to reveal our creation...

Before clearing, any tiny items are addressed, the edges of the masked area knocked down with a blending/tack cloth, and the base layers cleaned to insure no little nibs of dust will be contained in the clear.  I shoot  a hot coat of clear to burn in the color layers and protect the work, flash it off, and then add decals.  One medium coats of clear is then applied, building a smooth base and beginning  to bury the slight edges created by the decals and masking.

Three more sanded coats of clear will follow, creating a nice classy theme using midnight metallic blue, metallic silver for the accents, and carrera white for the contrasting color on the front.

This bike will be built with polished silver components, Ti fork, Ti bar/stem combo, Ti post, and a Brooks saddle.  Should be a snazzy looker at Nahbs and on the trail.



Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to lay out a rear end...old school style

A number of folks have hurdles taking a bicycle design from BikeCad to reality.  I've always found it beneficial to go "Old School" and make a visual representation of the rear end of the bike to help me physically insure everything is going to fit well together.  This is especially Important to me when working with curvy tubes that are required to get around big tires, tight chainrings, and folks with big feet.  So, when I have a design that I like to see how it physically meets all the design expectations/requirements, I break out the straight edges, squares, tape, calipers and a Sharpie. 

To make a visual representation of the basic rear end geometry, I use a steel table and begin by using the edge closest to me as my axle line.  I draw a line perpendicular to the tables edge to represent the center line of the frame in it's long axis, a little longer than the length of my anticipated chainstay length, in this case 440mm.  Moving back to my axle line/edge, I then measure out lateral to both sides of my perpendicular center line one half my desired rear end spacing (135mm, measured and marked at 67.5mm) and make a mark with a Sharpe; this represents the inside aspect of each dropout. 

I then measure and extend my dropout indicator line for the length and width of the dropout tang, coloring it in. I now have a visual representation of my dropout position relative to my frame center line.

Measuring from the center of the dropout to the terminal end of the tang...

Transferring that measurement to the table from my small dropout indicator mark...

Measuring the width of the dropout tang and transferring it to the table...you can see I now have a visual representation of the actual distance the dropout is from the axle center line and it's width marked on the table as the thicker black line.


Measuring forward from my axle line, I can then create a parallel line that represents the center of my bottom bracket. I'm using a 1.500"  x 68mm bottom bracket shell, so now I need to create that on my drawing.  Measuring and marking .750" parallel off that line gives me the apex of my bottom bracket shell. Measuring and marking lateral half the width of my intended shell, 68mm in this case, gives me my bottom bracket face for each side. I connect the dots and now have my bottom bracket position.

Measuring the distance to the center of my bottom bracket along my bicycle center line...

and drawing in it's outer parameters...

Next, it'll be nice to know where my tire falls in this drawing.  I'm going to set this drawing up for my customer's largest tire, a 2.400" knobby.  The widest portion of the tire falls at 13.500" from the axle line with the peak frontal edge at 14.500" for this 29er rubber.  I'll draw this representation, using the center line and axle line as datum points, then connect the dots.

 The last bit of information I need before I can begin shaping my stays is the location of my chainrings on my drawing.  Using a Shimano spec, it tells me the lateral distance from the frame center line (x coordinate) and the amount of rearward (toward the rear axle) distance I can anticipate for my desired chain ring combination (y coordinate).  I then find these points using my drawing datums and mark the chainring position on the table...this is the ring position I need to insure I have enough clearance for with my chain stay.

Here I've taken the dimensions from the Shimano spec and transferred them to my drawing, using x and y coordinates to locate the chainrings off of the center line of the bike and the center line of the bottom bracket.  This drawing is reflective of a Shimano XTR 40/28 crank set up.

Now that all my critical dimensions are known, I can begin to shape my stays to accomplish a few items; clearance around the tire, clearance for the rings, clearance for the rider's heel. 

I mark my stays in tandem to insure symmetry, including the apex of the bend where the tire will be located and my bend datum point where I will anchor each tube for shaping.  I'll then bend the tubes and crimp the stay for the apex of tire using special dies I machined for this purpose.

Here you can see the chain stay being supported by an oval profiled die and it's corresponding curved piece that will create the crimp on the center line of the tube.  I've matched the apex of the bend up with the apex of the curve in the press to insure a smooth indent in the correct location...

I will then lay out the stays on the table drawing, lining up the apex of the bend with the widest point of the tire, to insure that I have no interference issues at any of the critical areas while insuring good placement on the bottom bracket and dropout.  With the worst case scenario tire, it looks like I'll have .250" clearance for both the rubber and the chain rings to either side of my profiled stay.

While on the table, I will note the point where the end of the dropout tang terminates on the stay and then measure down the stay toward the dropout another 12 mm; the amount that I want the stay to encompass the dropout tang for brazing.  I will also note the angle the dropout intersects the stay, as this will become the angle necessary for my slot in the stay to receive the tang.

I mark where the stay will meet the bb as well, that way I have a reference point when setting up for mitering as to where my apex of my cutter will be.

The excess tubing is cut off and deburred, then it's off to the mill for mitering.  The tube is held parallel to the table and a double slitting saw is positioned at the correct angle and depth to make the cut for our dropout.

The slitting saw is run through the tube end with copious lubricant and then the center "tooth" of the machined tube is grabbed with needle nose pliers and bent a time or two until it comes off. 

A quick rinse to get rid of the oils, a few strokes with a round file and then she's checked for fit...

I will then fixture up the stay and the dropout and braze it up...

Once brazed, I turn my attention to the other end and will miter in the bottom bracket for a tight fit, taking care to be mindful of my bottom bracket apex line previously marked...I don't want to miter beyond that or my chain stay length will end up shorter than designed.

After cleaning, back into the frame fixture it goes and I will weld up the chain stays and then move my focus to the seat stays, repeating many of the same steps.

I start off with straight stays and using my table dimensions, begin determining where the tube needs manipulated.  Once bent up, I place the seat stays on the table, placing the apex of the bend where the widest portion of the tire is and note where the stays meet the dropout tangs and the center line of the seat tube.  Mark it up as before, chop it, and miter it...

One stay mitered for the dropout, one to go...

Alright, you are there.  All that is left is to cut in for your seat tube miter and you've got a rear end that matches your intended design with appropriate clearances...congrats!

Friday, January 25, 2013

OU Paw prints heading south...

Work in the shop has been hectic, at best.  Lots going on.

One of the biggest issues is outside vendors.  For many special projects that exceed the capacity of my shop, I rely on outside vendors to help out with certain items; hand made fenders, special cnc machine items, etc.  In short, been a rough couple of weeks getting the timing and quality out of them, so many items go back for another try.  Hate wasting time and money.

Gonna be outta the shop today to visit Ohio University in Athens with Kalten...he's decided to attend the pre-med program next fall and has to pick out his dorm.  We're excited as the school has a very active cycling program, immediate access to miles of quality single track, and is close enough to home we can get there in a day, yet far enough away that he can enjoy his independance.  While there we'll be delivering a ceramic steel bar to Matt, a customer who just happens to be a member of their mountain bike team, so I added a little OU green and the Bobcat paw print. 

Hope y'all have a great weekend!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Trickling forward into the new year...

A quick update for y'all so you know what's happening in the Groovy shop;

I've been working away on show prep, mixing some fabrication with time in the paint booth, ordering parts, and finalizing details.  Amidst all the activity, the cruiser frame received 4 sanded coats of primer and is all ready for color layers tomorrow.  I gonna work on designing the masking tonight so I can cut it and shoot some pigment first thing in the am.  It's always exciting to start putting on the color as it begins to complete the personality of the bike.

 Em has been coming out and assisting with Luv handle production, child labor laws be damned!  :)  As her desire to keep ahead of the latest fashion trends increases with age, so to does her need for cash.  The benefit...mo bars mo quicker!

We wrapped up the day with a beautiful sunset reflecting off the windows of the house and shop, a fine ending indeed.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Build list update...

We'd like to welcome the following fine folks who have chosen Groovy Cycleworks to build their dream bikes in the last week...

- Rob G
- Keith F
- Jeff P
- Ben Reed (two bikes)
- Casper D
- Jamie D
- Brian B
- Matthew R
- Kevin K
- Aaron H
- Tai and Soleie S

I look forward to working with each of you, hoping that each creation is a reflection of you and is inspired by fun. We've made the difficult decision to close off the build list so that we can focus on catching up a bit, thanks to all for your understanding and support.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The start of Nahbs show prep, 2013...

Alas, it is time to move all other life items to the side to begin prepping for 2013 Nahbs.

The first build is a steel single speed cruiser frame that will be painted up in a classic midnight metallic blue, cream and silver pinstripes.  A ti unicrown fork, ti bar/stem combo, ti seat post, and a host of White Industries polished silver components will round out the build.

We're gonna fast forward a bit in the build process; the frame is completed in fabrication and just blasted to get ready for paint. So often, it is the paint or the lines of the bike that draw the eye of those walking by. For those that do this for a living, it is the bare naked state that tells the most about the level of craftsmanship.  Particularly, in the blasted state where there is no color, reflection, or variations in surface textures to trick the eye, can you see how well you've done.  So, enjoy the following pics in their stark state of truth...

We'll start at the head tube junction.  Looking at the joint critically, I want to insure that in the acute angle of the lower down tube that I've kept control of my heat input, added enough filler, and have not undercut the wall of either piece, leaving a smooth transition through the valley. This frame was all welded with .035' filler, not pulsed, varying the speed of my filler based on the requirements of the joint as I moved along...

You can see the little bobble I made with my torch hand as I rotated my way around the top tube underside. The torch moved out of the valley and up onto the tube a tiny bit, allowing my filler to solidify a bit higher than the rest of the bead, as I was still pushing it in at a rate necessary for the valley.  Structurally sound, will never be seen under paint, but I noticed it and will strive to improve next go around  :)

Next up is the intersection of the cruiser cross tube and down tube, a critical joint as the tube terminates just above the butting in the down tube.  When working so close to the thinner section, good heat regulation is very important.  As the tubes are of common size, the outside aspects of the joint begin to flatten out, increasing the propensity of the edges to peel back under heat.  My rate of torch movement speeds up here to insure that I keep good penetration on both surfaces, feeding my rod in more quickly as well to keep an even puddle within the bead...

Details like brass and silver brazing are more easily seen once blasted as well. You can tell by the shape of the fillet how evenly heated the pieces were, how well the material was placed and drawn around the joint, and how smooth the final shape is before the paint adds it's magical smoothing touch...

Finally, a shot of the frame ready for the first layer of primer...

I'll try to get some paint pics up for y'all in the next few days, thanks for stopping by.



Friday, January 4, 2013

Just what equipment does it take to build a frame?

"Just what equipment does it take to build a frame?"  This is a question that gets asked across the forums and of builders literally weekly by those that are enamored with the idea of crafting bicycles for a living.  It is interesting that within this small niche, just how diverse the approaches can be to reaching the same end...a self propelled construct on wheels that brings a smile to your face.  Often the competitors that end up in the ring to battle it out are the hand filing/minimalist tooling vs. machine driven ideology. Recently, this discussion surfaced again on velocipede salon.  Here are a few of my thoughts as shared with the original poster....

Here's my perspective. It is not necessary to have heavy machinery to build a simple bicycle frame. If your goal is a single frame at a time, custom designed for it's intended user and defined purpose, your money and time would be better spent as noted by the respondants above. Richard and Dave are two fine examples of folks who operate as professionals that fabricate their style of bicycle with minimal tools and loads of muscle experience. This maximizes their time and ultimately, their money. Low capital investment in machines and tooling allow them to pay themselves a living wage, actually surviving long term in this business.

Machinery becomes necessary when your desire moves beyond simply shaping a bicycle frame, one at a time. Machines allow two distinct advantages; the ability to miter multiple tubes with fantastic speed, accuracy, and repeatability for production runs, and allowing for the creation of fixtures, tooling, and the ability to fabricate your own unique products (bb's, dropouts, derailleur mounts, etc..) that solve either design or function issues, extending your ability as a builder to create custom products that go beyond just geometry. The trade off is that to do so means a substantial investment in not only money, but of time. Careful planning of time allocation and customer billing is required to insure that this business model not only pays for it's self, but pays you.

So, it comes down to what do you want? Will this continue to be a hobby or a career path?
If choosing this as a career, do you have the machining foundation and knowledge of fundamentals to put your purchases to use immediately, offsetting the cost with profitable fabrication?

Frame fabrication can be as simple or complex as you choose it to be. Ultimately the process is defined by your vision and it's requirements.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Welcome to the new year!

Yes, I know, it's been an intolerably long time since I last posted.  Thanks to all the kind folks emailing and calling to check that I'm ok and remind me of my blog absence.  Honestly, I was not sure anybody read this thing anyways  :)

Not much transpired shop wise that was worth mention that I've not recounted and documented numerous times previously on the blog, so I thought not to burden you with laborious rhetoric spewing forth from my keyboard.

However, there was plenty of forward progression in other aspects of Grooydom, so let's do a quick bullet point update for y'all.

- November and December evolved into a Luv Handle fabrication snowball, rapidly growing as it rolled along, as I tried to meet everyone's requests before the Christmas season.  I made a metric butt load of bars in all flavors and finishes, and quite honestly, am glad to be done for a bit.  We're accepting orders for April delivery, but if you'd like one sooner, please call or email Jason or Mike at http://www.theedgeoutdoors.com/ , Wakakko at  http://bluelug.com/ , or Neil at http://www.cyclemonkey.com/ , all who have bars in stock and are ready to sell.

- We had our Groovy race team shin-dig at the house just before Christmas and had a really nice time.  Lots of good hearted folks who really care about grass roots racing, enriching kid's mountain bike skills development, and supporting public access trails.  The overwhelming request for food was  Coccia House pizza (though I was rooting for sushi), so we chowed down on this local favorite, shared cycling stories and chatted, then moved downstairs for some rousing Foosball and pinball action.  All said, it was a nice night shared with our extended family.  We look forward to the 2013 race season.

- Speaking of racing, the 331 Racing crew were able to get together and hash out a direction for next year.  We had over 27 different requests from clubs/venues we don't currently serve asking for us to bring races to them for this season. Unfortunately, as much as we'd love to help everyone out, there is only so much time in our collective schedules.  To check out the action for 2013 we decided on, looky here... http://www.331racing.com/cms/event/powerseries/index.html

14 races in the Ohio Series including xc, tt, enduro, and short track.  We're also complimenting these with a full slate of kid's events and a night/under the lights cyclo-cross...whew!

- December was also a period where I devoted time to moving the establishment of the Vulture's Knob Recreation and Education Foundation forward.  Kevin and I met with attorney's and accountants to get our ducks in a row to continue our forward progression of federal non-profit status, allowing us a strategy to secure the property for public access forever.  It will take most of the next year, but the effort will be worth it. 

To those ends, we had a very successful Family Christmas Tree cut at the Knob, helping us cull out a few of the 9000 evergreens we have growing there.  Please disregard Kalten's fly...unintentional, he swears  :)

- Christmas was a bit of a bummer...ended up having about 4 hours to share with the family on Christmas eve before I headed into the Fire department for a 60 hour shift, Christmas eve through the day after Christmas. 
- Rob G came down from the greater Cleveland area to pick up a bar and decided to jump on the build list for a custom bike.  Welcome Rob!

- Speaking of the build list, as you may have noticed, I've got a lot going on.  Between the Fire Department, Groovy, 331 Racing, Vulture's Knob and family life, I'd like to squeeze in a little time for myself and some projects that I'd like to work on.  Hopefully, the future holds building a replica 1940's motorcycle from scratch and traveling a bit of the globe with Christi.  Right now, we're out close to 8 years on work, a huge undertaking of time and patience for all involved. So, I've decided to give anyone else who'd like to get on the list for a bike within the next decade (did I really just say that???) one week to get ahold of us, then I'll not be accepting any more custom bike work until we are caught up and have shared a little time for us.  Bars and cranks will continue to be a staple, but for those personal one off cycling projects, the time to commit is now.