Day 1 at Big Forest Frameworks

I’ve wanted to take a frame building course for a few years. But scheduling was always a problem. When my brother built his first frame in 2007 there wasn’t a lot of choice of courses. He spent 5 days with Dave Yates in Norfolk. Here’s a link to another guy who went there.

I always thought I’d do a course at The Bicycle Academy in Frome. However, when we moved to Germany the logistics of finding time to travel to the UK got even trickier. I really needed to find a local solution as I wanted to build a bike to race on a few times in 2018.

Nobody does this sort of thing in Munich so I signed up with Robert Piontek who runs Big Forest Frameworks in Potsdam. I took an afternoon train from Munich to Berlin on Sunday 7th January 2018. I like German trains. They’re spacious, you know in advance what platform they’re leaving from and you can sit in the bar and get a beer in a real glass.

The course I was taking was a 3-day lugged steel frame building course. I later found out that it was the first accelerated course that Robert had done. To get my frame built in time it had to be lugged not fillet brazed, without forks and with geometry decided in advance.

On Monday at 09:00, Robert met us outside his workshop.  He rents a small space under an organic wine shop in Karl-Liebknecht-Straße, which is actually in Babelsberg, just across the River Havel from Potsdam. Did you know that Babelsberg has the oldest large-scale film studio in the world, producing films since 1912?

Without knowing I’d booked an Airbnb right opposite the workshop. We started the day by chit-chatting about our biking and building experience. I also got to know Jurgen, the other student I’d be sharing the workshop with. He was enrolled on a 5-day fillet brazing course. A 50th birthday present from his wife.

Below are all the steps that I took on the first day. I just jotted them down in note form for when I go to build something on my own.

  1. Practice filing and shaping a tube using a paper template printed by BikeCad. I wouldn’t actually be needing this skill as I was building a lugged frame and the tubes would be cut to the correct angle using a drill.
  2. Mitre cutting technique ands etting the drill to the correct angle.
  3. Select tubes and check everything I would need was in the wooden box.
  4. Look at the drawing created by Bike Cad. Understand the tube cutting measurements.
  5. Measure tubes and make cuts in order to avoid changing the cutter too often.
  6. Use a file to take burrs off inside and outside of the cut tubes.
  7. Cut off bottom bracket notch on the downtube. Or seat tube. Can’t remember which one. But only one of them.
  8. Cut the headtube to size leaving 20mm on the bottom to be taken off later.
  9. Dremel out dropouts. Measure chainstays. Mark where I’ll eventually cut.
  10. Press chainstays for tyre and chainring clearance.
  11. Drill water escape holes. Two in the head tube and one in the seat tube.
  12. Drill holes for bottle cage bosses in the downtube.
  13. Make a fake lug using two different diameter tubes. Clean the insides and outsides.
  14. Apply copious flux and then practice brazing with oxy-propane torch and silver rods.

We finished at 17:00 and I was pretty exhausted. As we were underground I forgot it was going to be dark outside. But I still went for a run as planned.

Then it was back to Gleiss 6, a cool pub with excellent food and beer, that I’d found the night before. Tomorrow I’ll post details from Day 2.