This is the first frameset I ever built. It was constructed under the direction and watchful eyes of Paul Wyganowski in his workshop during 2002-2003. About 90% of the bronze brazing and 95% of the silver brazing were done by me. Paul did the rest to demonstrate technique and heat control. The hand mitering, filing, and finishing were done entirely by me. It was built for my [ex-]wife, who is [I hope] enjoying it still.
All the tubes are Columbus SL, except for the top tube, which is Tange Prestige. The wall thicknesses for the main tubes at the butts are around 0.9mm, if I remember correctly. The frame and fork together weigh just over three pounds. Paint (Imron #51078, red) is by
Vincent Domínguez Cycles was awarded “Best Fillet-Brazed” for this frameset at the 2011 North American Handmade Bicycle Show held in Austin, Texas. It went to NAHBS in 2006, 2010, and 2011. I’m not sure who all were the judges or what were the objective criteria used to make a determination for the award, but apparently the judges thought this frameset was a fit.
I knew the brazing and finishing of the fillets was nearly flawless under the paint, and so did Paul Wyganowski (who double- and triple-checked all my brazing) and Joe Bell (who did the painting), but how did the judges know? Anyway, it’s nice to have the hard work put into this frameset recognized and the award is much appreciated by me.
Show photo for “Best Fillet-brazed” award at NAHBS (2011).
Photo courtesy of handmadebicycleshow.com.
The work I put into this frameset is still the gold-standard by which I judge all my other work since then – and nothing less will do for my clients.
I no longer have the high-resolution photographs of this build, but I have included what I do have to give you an idea of what went into building this frame:
It all starts with a plan. This is an after-the-fact CAD version of the full-scale drawing.
This photo was taken after the head tube-to-down tube fillet was completed. The down tube was coped at the bottom bracket and placed in the frame fixture to check the angles and head tube position relative to the fork. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera working at the time I was coping the tubes and brazing the seat tube/bottom bracket joint. It is forever lost to history. No big deal.
Another view of the head tube-to-down tube joint. You can see the sloppy brazing on the fork with silver all over the polished stainless crown. Working with silver seemed more difficult than bronze for me, at first. Practice makes perfect!
After hand-slotting and -coping the chain stays, the dropouts were test-fitted in the frame fixture. The dropouts are G.P. Wilson stainless steel dropouts - very thin and very strong!
This photo shows the chainstays cleaned, fluxed, and set in place in preparation for tacking.
A photo of the bottom bracket area after the chain stays have been brazed. Still hot!
Here is another photo of the bottom bracket area. The frame is in the frame fixture again after checking alignment and spacing of the chain stays.
Paul grinning about something.
A close-up of the vent hole for the top tube in the seat tube. That clamp is for keeping the top tube in place (by gravity) during tacking.
The (head tube) complement to the vent hole in the seat tube.
The top tube has been placed. This photo was taken an instant after Paul put the head tube heat sink in place.
The third time is the charm! I did this fillet all by my self. It turned out “not too bad”.
Paul and I split the effort on the top tube-to-head tube brazing: he did the really tricky part between the top and down tubes. Since both of these tubes are 0.9mm in this area, I didn’t want to take the chance of blowing a hole through either tube as a result of having to work such a large fillet into such a tight space.
Here is a photo of the frame after an alignment check: everything was to spec. Two tubes to go!
A few passes of the die grinder and a carbide bit rough-out the bottom bracket fillets.
More grinding. This time, the seat tube/top tube joint.
Fond of fluted seat stay caps, I wanted them in polished stainless. Paul showed me a new (to me), lightweight, and nifty way of making these. This photo shows the pieces of stainless steel tube brazed in place on the seat stays. The one toward the top of the photo is still roughly shaped. In the one toward the bottom of the photo, you can see the spot of silver in the middle of seat stay cap from not paying attention to where the brazing rod was while heating the stay.
An action shot of me sanding the stainless steel seat stay caps. Over the course of a couple of hours, progressively finer grit sandpaper was used, to 600 grit. My poor thumbs!
The seat stay caps all polished on the buffing wheel. Actually, three separate sessions on the buffing wheel occurred, since buffing makes apparent the scratches that were missed. This is a terrible photo that doesn’t show how mirror-like the polishing turned out.
Another shot of the seat stay caps. Here the polish is a little more clear, but still indistinct.
Going at the head tube fillets with a Dyna-File. This did a quick rough-out of the fillets, but it is a little cumbersome to use. Luckily, no under-cutting of the steel occurred and no animals were harmed.
The Dyna-File was a little too noisy and unwieldy, so I went back to thumbs and sandpaper. Many, many hours of sanding! Starting out at 60 grit for the really rough spots and ending up with 220 overall. Although physically tedious, I found this to be mentally relaxing and really gave me a feel for the way bronze can be worked.
Couldn’t leave well-enough alone, so I did a little more touch-up with 220 grit to smooth out the sweep of the fillet.
This took a while to do, too. Every time I looked at this joint I saw another spot in the bronze where the sweep of the bronze was not quite right. Luckily, I put on a lot of bronze to take off. Hopefully, with much practice, I’ll be able to put down the bronze where it needs to go (and nowhere else) to minimize clean-up.
For the right-handed: of course, the back brake would be controlled by the non-dominant hand. Hence, the cable guide exit on the right-hand side for left-hand operation. This photo shows the internal brake cable guide (through the top tube) right after brazing it into place. The guide is a piece of 0.25” x 0.020” stainless steel tube.
Here is a photo of the finished rear brake cable routing area at the head tube. You may have noticed the result of additional sanding on the head tube fillet.
Here is a photo of the finished rear brake cable routing area at the seat tube.
The right-hand seat stay brazed into place at the dropout.
This photo shows the right-hand seat stay brazed into place at the seat cluster. This turned out really nicely without a lot of silver going everywhere. Practice, practice, practice!
Here is a photo of me brazing in the left-hand seat stay without using a proper respirator or eye protection. Fluoride is a poison found in fluxes for silver and, consequently, requires appropriate respiratory protection and ventilation. We had a fan going that day, but the fumes were still really bad! Even the flame for brazing silver is too bright and full of IR and UV for eye safety (especially if you’re doing this every day). End of public safety message.
Hey! The seat cluster is done.
Those water bottle bosses sure went in quickly! These were simple and fun to do.
Marking the location for the brake bridge and chainstay bridge with a dummy wheel in place.
The seat tube was cut a little short, but I ended up liking the look of the frame and placed the top tube at an angle in-line with the chainstays. So, the final seat tube length comes to around 31cm and is the equivalent of a 46cm standard diamond frame.
Removing high points in the fillets on the bottom bracket with the Dyna-File. Just for practice. On this occasion, proper safety equipment is in use.
Here is a photo of the bottom bracket after too many hours of hand sanding to 220 grit. I had no thumb prints after this for a week.
Couldn’t leave well-enough alone, so I did a little more touch-up with 220 grit to smooth out the sweep of the fillet.
A shot of the seat cluster without all that messy flux. It reveals some messy silver on the left side and on the bottom of the fillet. Clearly, several thousand hours more of brazing practice are in order.
Another fun braze-on: the rear derailleur cable stop.
These little bits that go on the frame are really fun! Next time, I’ll use a stainless hanger and polish the contact area.
There was unevenness in the bottom bracket fillets, so I went at it again with 220 grit. OCD anyone?
Polished the seat stay caps to remove heat discoloration and undo the spots of silver that adhered to the faces from attaching the seat stays.
Here is a view of the fork crown after clean-up and re-polishing. These pictures just do not do justice to the shine.
Here are the frame and fork in the stand after another round of alignment checks and inspection.
Here are the dropouts cleaned up. I didn’t do much polishing of the clamping faces, since that would be ruined by the quick-releases anyway...
These shifter adjusting barrel stops were each made from two separate pieces and brazed to the down tube. It was a little tricky getting the pieces clamped in place for brazing, but it turned out OK using a small, modified C-clamp. The little nubbins on the head tube are single-loop cable guides to keep the shifter cables from rubbing on the head tube when the handlebars are turned. If only I had specified Campagnolo brakes this issue would have been averted. But, I’ve been a Dura-Ace fan since my first set of black Dura-Ace hubs with the Fuji-san-shaped quick-releases.
This photo was taken right after brazing in the chain stay bridge and soaking off the flux in hot water. A little messy with the silver. Again.
Another bad photo of the seat cluster.
Here is a better photo of the seat cluster showing the binder boss, brake bridge (tight fit!), seat stay caps, and seat tube point to good effect. Note the workbench in the background: once you get busy building, the workbench gets cluttered! Although, in hindsight, it really helps to clean and put your tools away when you are done using them. No. Really, it does.
A clear view of the brake bridge. This has a stainless steel washer brazed to the brake pivot clamping surface.
Here is a photo of me reaming out the seat tube. This was tedious work, but using a heat sink prevented significant tube distortion so it didn’t take very long.
A view of the bottom bracket after drilling the drain and cable guide mounting holes and stamping the serial number in place.
After six months, I am happy to be done with this, my first frame. Now, the wait really begins. It’s off to be rust-proofed and then painted.
Here is a close-up of the bottom bracket area after painting.
Joe Bell puts his marque on my frame. This photo comes the closest to matching the color in real life (at least to my eyes on a Macintosh with an LCD monitor) in sunlight.
Here is a photo of the seat cluster.
Here is a photo of the Element 26 decal. Since this frame was made with a tubing from several manufacturers, I made up a generic frame tubing decal that says, “Steel!” Tubing decals are so silly, I thought I’d take it a step further.
Who doesn’t love the ride of a Vredestein tire? Note the color-coordinated valve stem cap. This was purely intentional. As were the red rims (difficult to find, these days). This photo was taken a year and many miles after the bike was completed.
A close-up of the fork crown with white highlight in the cut-out.
Another view of the bottom bracket and Joe Bell’s marque.
A view of the left-hand side of the seat cluster. Note the tight routing of the brake cable. Next time, I’ll not set the seat tube this low: that will give a little more distance between the brake and the top tube brake cable exit hole.
A better view of the T.A. chainrings. They’re pretty, but the red fades over time. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe it’s the sweat. Maybe it’s the road salt (they salt the roads when it snows in Minnesota - which is less and less, these days).
Fresh chainrings for a new season of riding!
Refreshed for a new season of riding: Cleaned, with new chainrings, matching red stem, fresh bar tape, and new (Vredestein’s, of course), fatter tires (25c).
Photos courtesy of my now-ancient Nikon CoolPix 950, except the last eleven (Nikon D100 and D300).
Frame and Fork
Top tube length (c-c)
Seat tube length (c-c)
38.0cm (46cm equivalent)
Bottom bracket drop
Chain stay length
Trail (25mm tires)
CrMo 31.8mm ø (1.1mm)
Tange Prestige 25.4mm ø (.8/.5/.8)
Tange Prestige 28.6mm ø (.9/.6/.9)
Tange Prestige 28.6mm ø (.9/.6)
Bottom bracket shell
CrMo 34mm ø (68mm width)
Columbus Zona 30/16mm oval (.8/.6)
Chain stay bridge
CrMo 9.5mm ø (.9)
Seat stay bridge
G.P. Wilson, semi-vertical, 17-4 stainless, ultra-light
Columbus Thron, threadless 1”
Long Shen LC-01, stainless steel (38.5mm)
Tange Prestige 30/16mm ø (1.3/.9)
G.P. Wilson, 17-4 stainless, ultra-light
Selle Italia LDY
Thomson – no set-back
Ritchey Pro, 42cm
Shimano Dura-Ace (ST-7700), 9-speed
Cinelli Cork Ribbon, black
Velox – rubber, black
Ritchey Pro, color-matched – 80mm
Cane Creek, silver – threadless
Shimano Dura-Ace (BR-7700)
Vredestein Volante – 700c x 25mm
Vredestein – 700c x 20mm
Mavic CXP-33, 700c x 18mm, red, 36-hole
DT Swiss – stainless steel, brass nipples
Shimano Dura-Ace (FH-/HB-7700) – 36-hole, 130/100mm
Shimano Dura-Ace (CS-7700), 12-25t, 9-speed
Shimano Dura-Ace (CN-7700), 9-speed
Shimano Dura-Ace (FC-7700) – 172.5mm (Many thanks to Wayne Stetina at Shimano USA!)
Specialités T.A. – 38/52t, red
Shimano Dura-Ace (BB-7700)
Dérailleur – Rear
Shimano Dura-Ace (RD-7700)
Dérailleur – Front
Shimano Dura-Ace (FD-7700) – braze-on
Water Bottle Cages
King – stainless steel, silver (2x)
Shimano Flite Deck (SC-6501)