My time with Darron, Mog and Steve of Sven Cycles in Weymouth, Dorset, has drawn to a close. We’ve had a fun time hanging out in the workshop, and the guys somehow managed to guide me through the brazing together of my first custom frame.
After a quick trip up to the Portland Bill Lighthouse, where it was blowing an icy wind, we made it back to the sanctuary of the workshop for coffee, stirred with brass rods, just to get into the spirit of things.
Sven Cycles are nicely settled into their workshop, which they moved into once Darron and his framebuilding had outgrown his garden shed. By then, Andrew ‘Mog’ Mogford had come on board as bike designer and moved into the shed as well.
The evening before, Darron had made me braze together the bottom bracket shell of my frame to the down and seat tubes — a supremely satisfying experience — so I was very keen to tackle the next stage: the head tube joints.
The torch was sparked up and the flux melted, eventually turning clear, indicating the area was hot enough to accept the brass rod. As soon as it touched, it pooled into a fillet. Then it was just a matter of continuing the fillet around the joint.
Pointing the torch where I wanted the heat to travel to, I guided it around the down and head tube, trying to stay in a rhythm and maintaining a continuous temperature. The result is really rough, but those tubes won’t be budging. Hopefully.
While we cleaned the flux off the half-assembled frame in boiling water, Steve went to work mitering the chain stays on a vertical drill press which was, along with the horizontal mill, sold to Darron by the previous owner of the shed — an old engineer.
Fair deal: they were both way too heavy to move.
Steve set the dropouts, supplied by Paragon Machine Works, into the jig, ready for the mitered chain stays. Notches were cut into the ends of the stays for the dropouts to slide into. The rear triangle is a bit complicated for a novice like me; Steve will finish it off.
In the meantime, I smoothed out the globs of brass on the top tube/seat tube joint, and around the bottom bracket shell. This was necessary as the rear triangle will be attached next and needs a clean surface to adhere to.
Here’s where we stand at the moment: a front triangle with an uncleaned front end, holes drilled for the water bottle bosses, cleaned fillets around the seat tube, and some dropouts that look a bit lost. Time for some morning tea.
There’s a small bakery in Weymouth called Sgt Bun and the baker is a chief druid. There are photos behind the counter of him conducting the solstice rites at nearby Stonehenge. One product on offer was this Lardy cake — a traditional English spicy bread made with lard. It was delicious and made a perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea.
Back to work. The next task was to finish brazing the BB shell, attaching the chainstays. Flux applied. They’re complicated and hard to get around, especially as the BB shell requires significantly more heat than the stays.
Not impossible, though. I managed to get in there and got amongst it.
Steve finished off the dropouts.
Finished shell. Clearance for 2.8″ tyres, plus mud: check. Darron will crimp the inside of the chain stays for a bit more space.
Steve propped up a wheel so that we could get an idea of what it will look like. Measurements are all very well, but there’s nothing like using the actual components to make sure that everything is going to fit properly.
Seat stays next. The hardest to miter, and requires finishing by hand, with lots of fine tuning to get as tight a fit as possible.
Darron wanted the stays to have a bit more of a bend in them to match the clearance offered by the chain stays, so he applied some crude, but effective, force.
We’re going to leave the frame with the guys to finish off. The cable guide braze-ons still need to be installed, as do the bottle bosses, bridges, and rear rack mounts. They’ll also paint it and the next time you’ll see this frame it will be a complete off-road tourer.
I’d like to extend a massive thank-you to Darron, Mog and Steve for their hospitality and patience during my stay with them in Weymouth.
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