January 6, 2011

Trying new things

I often run into the stereotype that all steel framebuilders (or all custom framebuilders period) are wool-shirt wearing, bearded grouches who only build lugged randoneur frames.

There is of course a smidge of truth to this, mostly because doing what you know is quick and easy. For example, I built a pretty conventional 29er SS frame for Mike C recently (it’ll go to powder today or tomorrow) – I knew exactly what parts I would use, had them all in stock, and knew exactly how to do every operation needed to take the frame from a pile of tubes to a complete bike.

On the other hand, I (yesterday) built a fork for Ian that uses a 15mm quick-release through axle. This is something that I had never done before, but I felt it was appropriate for his use, not to mention the fact that these axles are becoming more and more common for XC bikes, and if I want to keep building forks for people, I’m going to have to figure them out eventually. Of course, the bearded grouch builder response would be “there’s nothing wrong with a 9mm quick release”

Long story short, the fork (usually about 1/4 of the work of a frame, comparatively) took at least as long as Mike’s whole frame.
-I had to make the dropouts. I *should* have ordered in some 3/4″x.120″ 4130 and put it on the lathe, then tapped the other side to make the threaded dropout. Instead, I made the dropout in 2 pieces – one piece of 4130 turned out to 15mm (the slip fit) and one M14x1.5 nut which I turned down to match the OD on the lathe. Talk about a dumb way (from a time/effort perspective) to do things…
-I had to make adapters to attach things to my fixtures. The 15mm axle won’t fit in my fork fixture, so I had to make a dummy axle, as well as an adapter to fit my disc tab fixture to *that*. And all of them had to be to pretty decent tolerances to make sure things lined up well, so I couldn’t just slap things into the lathe and blaze away.
-After I welded in the dropouts, I realized that I needed to chase the threads – so off to the hardware store again for a ($28! Ouch!) M14x1.5 tap.

I’m fairly happy with the results, though, and the next time around, all the things I learned should make it go much quicker. There will be an upcharge ($75) for these setups, until someone starts making a plug/play dropout for them that I can just weld in (hear that, Mark?)