Eight Tubes, Part 2 – The Postman Cometh

It’s like Christmas in July here at The Bike Bunker; my package from Nova Cycle Supply showed up in the mail this week. Tubes, lugs, fork crowns, and all the really cool itty bitty parts that go into constructing a frame set arrived safe and sound.

But I am getting ahead of things.

One of the questions that I have gotten from readers is “Dude, if your blog isn’t going to be the absolute Encyclopedia Brittanica of frame building, where can I go to read up on it?” First, for our younger readers, “Encyclopedia Britannica” is a quaint reference to one of many old school go-to sources of general knowledge that we used to rely on before we had Wikipedia or the internet. We abandoned paper encyclopedias due to the health risks involved in using them; there were the occasional fatal paper cuts from turning the pages as well as the ever-present threat of being crushed beneath the 30 or so weighty leather-bound volumes if they fell off of the library shelf. Plus, there was no nudity.


Anyway, there are a couple of pretty good books out there to help guide you with your project, ranging from the Paterek Manual (which is probably the best and most comprehensive book out there) to a really useful book by a guy named Marc-Andre Chimonas who (based on the pictures that he includes) builds bikes in his back yard. The Chimonas book contains a wealth of practical advice, and it is relatively inexpensive. Reading it convinced me that I could build a frame in my garage –

Lugged Bicycle Frame Construction, A Manual for the First Time Builder: Expanded Second Edition (Marc-Andre R Chimonas, Raymond Wang: Books)

More thorough is the Paterek manual. You can download an outdated copy of the Paterek manual for free directly from the Paterek website. (He asks for a voluntary donation of $3 if you find the manual useful. Trust me, it is very useful). For the home builder, even the outdated Paterek manual contains a wealth of information and guidance that should be part of your education. Plus, I figure that since I am building an obsolete bike an obsolete manual is just the thing to have.

The Old Paterek Manual

Another very helpful little book was written by a guy named Dr. Paul Proteus. It’s a quick read and lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the Paterek manual and the Chimonas book in terms of detail and sophistication.  You can download it for free here:

The Proteus Framebuilding Book : Dr. Paul Proteus

Bottom line: download the Paterek manual (it is invaluable) for an idea of how an old-school pro would attack the problem and then read the Chimonas book (it’s not that expensive) to get an idea of how a shade-tree bike builder would approach the project.  I tried to find a happy medium between the two.

I also have been asked whether you need a boatload of “special” (i.e “expensive”) tools. The answer is, well, yes. You need to have access to a decent workshop; you aren’t going to be able to pull this off in your kitchen unless you regularly prepare food using a bench grinder and a drill press. That said, Number One was built with very few specialized tools. Basic cutting was handled by a hack saw. I mitered the ends of the tube using an air-powered die-grinder. This is a pretty heavy duty tool, but a Dremel tool would work just well (if a bit slower). I aligned things using a basic carpenter’s level, a simple dial protractor that cost around $9, and some string. As for a torch, I used a $65 MAPP gas torch and joined the tubing using silver brazing. The torch was cheap, but the brazing rods ain’t – 56% silver rods cost around $10 – $15 a pop, and I used up five or six of them.

As for bike-specific tools, you do need access to a headtube facer and reamer, a seat tube reamer, dropout alighment bells, and a bottom bracket tap. Any decent bike shop will have the headtube facer/reamer and the bottom bracket tap. I did buy a nice ajustable seat tube reamer for around $100 – none of thelocal shops had one. I eventually did buy my own headtube facer/reamer. I also had to make one or two tools – there was a simple jig that I copied from the Chimonas book that i used to align the rear triangle (about $10 in angle iron and bolts at the hardware store) as well as a neat little guide that I built out of bar stock to help attach the dropouts to the chain stays and seat stays.

But enough of that…on to the goodies. You certainly need a much smaller box to ship a bike before it is built than after you finish.


I purchased my tubes, lugs, and small parts from Nova Cycle Supply. The tube set (head tube, seat tube, down tube, top tube, chain and seat stays) is one of their house brands. It’s “regular” sized as opposed to larger “oversized” tubing like I used on Old Number One. It’s all double butted chromoly tubing, and it sure looks nice in the box.

The lugs and bottom bracket are made by Long Shin, and they are somewhat fancy. The head tube lugs are set up for a steepish 74 degrees, as is the seat tube. This will be a bit racier than Old Number One.




This project will have an additional element that I didn’t tackle with Old Number One: the fork. I bought a fork kit to go with it. Forks can be tricky because (1) they require you to bend the fork legs to get that nice curve, and (2) if you screw up you can die. The kit that I bought builds a straight legged fork with a 7 degree rake built into the crown. No bending of tubes for me. The fork ends are these little nice castings that go on the end of the fork legs. Way cool.


Next: The Most Important Tool In The World…A Blue Sharpie.

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