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How were old steel bikes made?

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How were old steel bikes made?

Old 02-02-21, 02:14 AM
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oj.
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How were old steel bikes made?

Sorry the title is vague, but I didn't want to be too specific. I need some resources that discuss the manufacture of steel framed bicycles (probably lugged) of years gone by for a report, and was hoping the folk on here could help me? I know that 'steel framed' encompasses an enormous variety of bicycles, but I'm pretty flexible in the sense that, if there's a great resource for 19th century bikes and nothing for 80s bikes then I'll write about 19th century bikes. One thing that's very important is that the resource centres around manufacture and not design. I'd prefer to write about design but my lecturer doesn't want to hear it. Text resources are preferred, since there easier to cite, but old videos and such would also be handy.
Super specific stuff is handy as well, even frame building instructions would be useful. I've got to write 5 pages and not a word is to be on design, so I'll probably be getting to 'how they butt tubing'.
Cheers in advance for any input, even suggestions on specific types of bike/ manufacture would be appreciated. ATM I was thinking something like the Raleigh factory.
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Old 02-02-21, 03:07 AM
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build

Big subject but one chapter that you must include is when Schwinn developed the Electro forging method of turning sheet steel into bikes in the 60s and 70s bike boom era.I think they sold 8 million Electro forged bikes....a unique manufacturing method.....traditionally cast or drawn lugs were brass brazed or silver brazed to seamed or seamless tubes..which was considered the strongest way.......cheaper bikes were just welded together without lugs.........there is no such thing as lightweight steel.....but they combined alloys like chromium molybendum magnesium to the steel to make the steel much much stronger so they could draw the tubes thinner and make a lighter bike....a butted tube has the wall thickness of the tube thicker on the ends to weld/braze better and thinner along the middle which made the bike lighter still.......heat treating made the steel even stronger so they could make the tube even thinner and lighter still.....there is a ton videos on you tube.....the RALEIGH how a bike is made from 1950s....and tons hand builders.. Columbus tubing and Reynolds tubing.........the Jack Taylor Bike video on youtube is great.......I hope I gave you someplace to start
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Old 02-02-21, 04:20 AM
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The Veteran-Cycle Club has an extensive online library that covers just about every British marque (as well a others) ever made - many of them in extraordinary detail.
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Old 02-02-21, 04:47 AM
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Another suggestion: considering how "versitle" the English language is, work on what "manufacture" means to you. Steel bikes were/are created in many environments. One person creating one all by hand, one at a time. A small shop, maybe 2 or 3 people. A small business, like Carlton, Worksop, creating 100/month or 1000/month. Huge operations like Raleigh Nottingham creating I-donno-how-many/month. In the 1880's Crescent, Chicago used to regularly fill 40' rail cars with bikes to be hauled to east coast markets. To many folks "manufacture" means the large or very large operations.

What do you mean? The answer will influence the information you need as the manufacturing technologies are different, tailored to the volumes planned. If you intend to address all the possibilities you're gonna need more than 5 pages and more time.
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Old 02-02-21, 05:42 AM
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Have a look at
and you will see a complete view end to end of how Raleigh in particular made their bikes; it might give you the inspiration for your report.
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Old 02-02-21, 06:01 AM
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Originally Posted by homelessjoe View Post
Big subject but one chapter that you must include is when Schwinn developed the Electro forging method of turning sheet steel into bikes in the 60s and 70s bike boom era.I think they sold 8 million Electro forged bikes
That sounds cool I've never heard of that, I'll be sure to have a look. Certainly sounds like a totally alternative method of making bikes


Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
Another suggestion: considering how "versitle" the English language is, work on what "manufacture" means to you..
You're very right. This report I'm writing is to be part of a larger report contrasting the methods used to make a much more modern carbon fibre bike. It would probably be beneficial for me to cover the hand building methods rather than mass manufacture. I think something like Raleigh Carlton would be a good model to base my report off, since the frame were made using hand building methods, but they would still buy in the groupset etc.
Sorry I can't be more decisive on my particular topic of writing, I'm still trying to get an idea what would provide a good contrast with a modern bike, whilst still being easily researched (unfortunately I don't have a vast amount of time to get my sources ready).
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Old 02-02-21, 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by markk900 View Post
Have a look at https://youtu.be/XOE0DbfWqyo and you will see a complete view end to end of how Raleigh in particular made their bikes; it might give you the inspiration for your report.
I might have seen this one before, but I'm not completely certain. Should be good food for thought.
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Old 02-02-21, 07:27 AM
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Old 02-02-21, 07:46 AM
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there is an entire framebuilding subforum on this site. do some looking and reading there.





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Old 02-02-21, 08:39 AM
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oj, an American bicycle frame building teacher here. I learned how to make bicycle frames at Ellis Briggs in Shipley, West Yorkshire in 1975. This was in the era when adult Americans had just started to be interested in bicycling for sport or recreation again. The art of the craft for upper end bicycles had been mostly lost in the US after WWII. Paul Gibson is now the owner of the bicycle shop after the grandsons of the original owners sold him the business. He learned how to build frames too during the many years he worked there and in addition also took my class in Michigan. Here is a brief outline of how a steel lugged frame is made:

1st, the design of the frame is created. If it is a custom one-off frame the design will be based (or at least influenced) by the customer's position on a bicycle and the kind of riding he will do.

2nd, frame materials are chosen and shaped to match its design. This will include the brand of tubing as well as its wall thickness (tubing comes in various wall thicknesses and diameters). There are various types of lugs and dropouts and braze-ons that can be chosen. They are reamed to size and irregularities filed away.

3rd, the ends of the tubes are mitered to match the shape of the adjoining tube. This can be filed by hand or with the help of a lathe or mill.

4th, the frame is brazed together using either bronze (Americans usually say "brass" even though it is really bronze) or silver. TIG welding to make frames came later.

5th, the frame is aligned during the brazing process to make sure all the tubes are in the same plane and the dropouts are equidistant to its plane.

6th, finish filing is done to improve the shape and appearance of each joint.

7th, the frame is painted.

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Old 02-02-21, 08:48 AM
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I think Tommasini had a nice video shot in their factory, but in a quick web search I only found some bits and pieces cut into this video:
I'm sure the original I'm thinking of is out there somewhere.
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Old 02-02-21, 09:26 AM
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This isn't a quick e-mail research. You'll need to read a few books and take notes. Others have pointed you to European builders. For the US, read the book: No Hands: the Rise and Fall of the Schwinn Bicycle Company. Good luck.
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Old 02-02-21, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by oj. View Post
That sounds cool I've never heard of that, I'll be sure to have a look. Certainly sounds like a totally alternative method of making bikes
Here's the best article I have found about Schwinn electroforging. It shows the process in pretty sufficient detail:
https://sheldonbrown.com/varsity.html

And here's a video showing a brief view of the process being used to attach chainstays. Around 0:17 to 0:27.

I think the discussion at the end of the Sheldon article is interesting. I wonder if they had just hung on a little longer, if we'd have a competitive high-quality lightweight factory means of producing steel frames. Or would cheap labor nullify any gains that could be made from machines? Who knows.

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Old 02-02-21, 10:33 AM
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Umm, slowly.



Sorry, my smart assed comment for the day.
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Old 02-02-21, 10:47 AM
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There are 2 places in England designed to teach custom bicycle frame building. The Bicycle Academy in Frome and Dave Yates closer to you in Lincolnshire. I've actually had students from both places take some lessons from me at our frame shop in Ukraine. A call or visit to one or both might be really educational.

There used to be lots of custom steel frame builders in the UK. There still are some. For a variety of reasons they have closed shop as the market and materials and methods of manufacturing have changed. Again with a bit of searching you can find ones that still exist and be able to watch 1st hand the principles of how it has been done for decades. The way I build and teach how to make frames has not changed that much since I learned in Yorkshire over 40 years ago. Processes get refined and expensive equipment have replaced hand made methods and tools but the principles are the same.
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Old 02-02-21, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
I wonder if they had just hung on a little longer, if we'd have a competitive high-quality lightweight factory means of producing steel frames. Or would cheap labor nullify any gains that could be made from machines? Who knows.
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Old 02-02-21, 11:42 AM
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Paul Brodie puts out some nice videos on bike building. This one demonstrates fillet brazing- a lugless style of construction that has smooth transitions between tubes.

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Old 02-02-21, 12:03 PM
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Use google search to find topics on bike forums. This website's built-in search function isn't very good. use this format: site:bikeforums.net schwinn factory

Then just swap out the search term. If you are wondering about the companies that made them and their respective industrial centers, lots of discussion on the different large manufaturers. I'd recommend "raleigh factory" for British, "schwinn factory" for US, and "etienne factory" for French. If you are wondering about the actual manufacturing techniques "electroforg", "fillet brazing", "lug brazing" would get you started.
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Old 02-02-21, 12:11 PM
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I am a little confused about your end goal though. Are you looking for the manufacturing techniques immediately leading up to carbon fiber? And are you talking about monocoque carbon only or are you also considering lugged carbon? A lot of early carbon was lugged and some manufacturers still use lugged techniques. If you are purely looking at monocoque, I'd say that TIG welded steel and aluminum bikes were the immediate predecessors, but if you are including lugged carbon, then definitely lugged frames would need to be mentioned.

Or are you trying to fit the entire history of bicycle manufacturing techniques of small handbuilders, large assembly line style frame building and large automated manufacturers (Japan, I think Panasonic in particular, was doing fully automated frame building in the 80s) into 5 pages?
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Old 02-02-21, 12:15 PM
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I remember seeing the video from the Raleigh factory a few years ago. I had seen the words 'unit brazed' on some old raleighs and wondered what it meant, then the video cleared it all up - the frame is assembled with the tubes in the lug sockets then the whole thing (one 'unit' = one whole frame) is put in the oven to melt the brazing rod material into the joints. I may be misremembering some details).
Funny how they proudly advertised the production method that was clearly meant as a cheap and simple way to make a 'good enough' bike frame. As my high school drafting teacher would say "Looks good from far, but it's far from good"

Comparing 70s Japanese frames to 70s British (and Canadian) built Raleighs is like comparing a modern Porsche 911 to a 1955 Beetle - they kinda look similar, but the closer you get the more obvious the differences are.
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Old 02-02-21, 01:01 PM
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research

I think you will be amazed....I know I was.......that many manufactures are small one and two man shops ....then and now even with carbon......building them one by one....major names in the industry turn out to be a skinny little Italian guy with a torch.....or a couple of coffee drinking college educated bearded hipsters laying up carbon frames........research...Rene Herse.....he made the entire bike gears cranks fender racks
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Old 02-02-21, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by oj. View Post
That sounds cool I've never heard of that, I'll be sure to have a look. Certainly sounds like a totally alternative method of making bikes



You're very right. This report I'm writing is to be part of a larger report contrasting the methods used to make a much more modern carbon fibre bike. It would probably be beneficial for me to cover the hand building methods rather than mass manufacture. I think something like Raleigh Carlton would be a good model to base my report off, since the frame were made using hand building methods, but they would still buy in the groupset etc.
Sorry I can't be more decisive on my particular topic of writing, I'm still trying to get an idea what would provide a good contrast with a modern bike, whilst still being easily researched (unfortunately I don't have a vast amount of time to get my sources ready).
There’s as much difference between mass production of steel framesets and artisanal crafting of steel framesets as there is between mass produced carbon framesets and artisanal crafted carbon framesets.

Some (not all) carbon frames are built not drastically different from how old steel bikes were- still just tubes mated to one another.
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Old 02-02-21, 02:10 PM
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consider Bilaminate/

a bit out-side-the -box;https://www.ellisbriggscycles.co.uk/...ew-allrounder/

https://www.classiclightweights.co.u...inated-frames/
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Old 02-02-21, 02:50 PM
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Originally Posted by markk900 View Post
Have a look at [this link I edited out] and you will see a complete view end to end of how Raleigh in particular made their bikes; it might give you the inspiration for your report.
This video shows hearth brazing, which was used before gas-and-torch brazing was common. It also shows case hardening of bearing components.
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Old 02-02-21, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by scarlson View Post
Here's the best article I have found about Schwinn electroforging. It shows the process in pretty sufficient detail:
https://sheldonbrown.com/varsity.html

And here's a video showing a brief view of the process being used to attach chainstays. Around 0:17 to 0:27.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vX46Ioduc9A

I think the discussion at the end of the Sheldon article is interesting. I wonder if they had just hung on a little longer, if we'd have a competitive high-quality lightweight factory means of producing steel frames. Or would cheap labor nullify any gains that could be made from machines? Who knows.
Schwinn had the UAW in Chicago... the plants in other states did not. But I do not think that was the killer.
The offshore wage that could be 10% of what was paid locally, it would take a tremendous amount of machinery and robotics to attempt to level the field.
couple that with the offshore makers could buy equal or better equipment. The end was in sight.
the electroforged process was refined to mimic fillet brazed construction. I have a Schwinn New World pre WWII, fillet brazed, nice bike
too labor intensive.
Schwinn was very vertically integrated, a good thing till it is not.
it was stated that steel strip arrived and bicycles left.
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