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Thread: Bikes By Stewart

  1. #1
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    Default Bikes By Stewart

    Hey all- I'm not so sure how much I deserve to be here amongst so many skilled and experienced builders. But I can bring to this stage a different view of what frame building can be about. For the last 25 years I've built as a hobby, mostly for me and a very few others. Yet I've also worked in a couple of frame shops so I can appreciate the demands of day in and day out building. Here's how I started.

    By the time I was 22 I had gone up the ladder of local shops and found a long term (as much as a 22 year old can think "long term") home at Geo. Rennies Bicycle Shop. My bike ownership had also gone through the phases that you go through as you learn a craft. Start with a production bike. Change out a few parts next. Get a frame and transfer over parts. Build wheels. Pretty soon there was nothing else to learn how to do except make the damn frame. About then a new shop had opened up nearby and the rumor was he built frames. Before I began to hang out much the guy (Jeff Napier) handed me a file and a lug and told me to do this (making a motion with his hands like he was filing the lug's edge). So I did. By winter I was working for Rochester Bike Shop, cutting wood for the stove and learning to build a first pair of frames.

    Rochester Bike Shop was the first of 10 shop locations that I've built out of. My first 6 frames were completed there. We used very basic methods. Full sized drawings on the floor. Looking for the sliver of light between the ST and HT. Using wheels clamped to a bench top as fork and rear jigs. We sand blasted in a back closet and ran the air hose up to the roof to splatter Imron onto the frames in the wind. Half of the 6 were customer frames.

    In 1979 I attended Albert Eisentraut's course in Rutland, VT and was in awe. Al is a very talented man with a torch and a file. But what I took away the most was the math of frame design. Specifically how to design by the numbers and derive the rest of the needed dimensions with a calculator. That bike was painted and on the road within a month. It was stolen before it's 3rd ride. (There are a few things that I might choose to risk death for. Getting this bike back could be one).

    After a couple of years Rochester Bike Shop folded and I continued working for Rennies (and Peddalers) , building a bike or two a winter until 1985. During this period I used three different shops in friends or family's basements then bought a house and set up in depth. After buying much of RBS's stuff, my selection of tools slowly grew past the casual space size.

    1984 was an exciting year for US cycling with the Olympics and all and also the year I met my partner for a too short 23 years. Emily soon took me to Chicago and a bike shop 200 yards from our apartment. Cyclery North was the area's frame building and painting shop. 6 months and 6 frames later my skills had improved a lot. But I hated Chicago (except all those tiny Asian restaurants) and we moved to Cleveland.

    The next 25 years I built only for Emily and I (ok one exception). She was small and the Terry (actually Bill Boston) design was in vogue. I ended up building 4 bikes for her with 24" front wheels, her 5th to be, the 650C bike, never needed completion, unfortunately.

    A few years ago I decided to get a better handle on my skills and attended Doug Fattic's brazing course. Another great learning experience and Doug's a good guy. The frame I built there is almost done and will stay that way until it makes sense to finish a bike that's too large for me. I spent a very enjoyable week with him last winter while we painted my current Sunday bike. Doug is one of the people that have strongly influenced me.

    Jeff Napier, Al Eisentraut, Georgena Terry, Eddy Weisler, Tommy Winn, Steve Sobel and Doug Fattic are all people that guided me along in building. Others have influenced me in how to do details, some in how not to do the fine points... My being a retail wrench for 37 years has made me intolerant of poor braze on location/design. Being a touring guy I have lots of needs for braze ones (one bolt one job) hence I make some of my bits and pieces. Lately stainless steel has interested me as a braze on material.

    My building has had its fast and furious moments and its long periods of no time to do. It averages out to just over a frame a year, for 32 years. Over the years I've tried a lot of different methods of assembling a frame and fork. And a lot of homemade jigging devices. This is a topic I enjoy sharing. The flat surface I got in the early 1990s raised the level of alignment and since I got a HJ Universal Jig in 2001 the fit up is so much quicker. But I'd still build if I didn't have these tools. What I'm not sure of is my building for pay again. I've been there and done that a few times and almost every time didn't want to do another. Yet I have in the past and will probably build for pay in the future.

    Now I'm back home in Rochester. I've gone back to my roots/family. Wrenching for a struggling shop, spending some quality tandem time again, and helping my aging parents. My home shop is coming along. The basement is almost finished and the tooling in the garage will come after the electricity runs are finished. My next projects will be a coupled road bike and a seat post mounted handle bar rack. It's nice to be back and starting another frame.

    Here's the Flicker site of my work. bikesbystewart's photosets on Flickr
    Andy Stewart
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Hey Andy! Thanks for chiming in,
    I have appreciated your contributions to various forums over the years and have utilized many of bonus tips that have come with each posting. Your even keeled responses and polite nature have been a good influence in more than one location. I look forward to seeing more of your work as you get your shop space settled.

    More later I'm sure,
    Thanks again,
    Jake
     

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Thanks for posting....great story...you belong here.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Andrew,
    Nice story. I have such a love hate with Rochester. I really kind of hated R.I.T. since Henrietta is hardly a hip place but Rochester has some great history and is a cool small city. Where are you actually living (if Henrietta I apologize in advance!)?

    -Drew
    Drew Guldalian
    Engin Cycles
    www.engincycles.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Wow, you've really been around a while. Thanks for stepping up, Andy. I'm glad to hear your story, it's definitely interesting. Maybe it's a silly question, but I'm curious how the carpet works out in your shop.
    Eric Doswell, aka Edoz
    Summoner of Crickets
    http://edozbicycles.wordpress.com/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/edozbicycles/
    In Before the Lock

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Andy, I love your story and the passion you have. I was wondering why you didn't enjoy making frames for profit in the past and is it the same reason or reasons why you don't think you'd enjoy it in the future? Thanks-Chris

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Andy, great to hear your story again, I remember parts of this from my visit with you in Rochestor earlier this year. All the best with everything, hope to visit again next time I am in Rochester for work. Cheers, Locky
     

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Quote Originally Posted by bellman View Post
    Hey Andy! Thanks for chiming in,
    I have appreciated your contributions to various forums over the years and have utilized many of bonus tips that have come with each posting. Your even keeled responses and polite nature have been a good influence in more than one location. I look forward to seeing more of your work as you get your shop space settled.

    More later I'm sure,
    Thanks again,
    Jake
    signed again, WP

    (just about exactly what i was going to say)






  9. #9
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Thanks all for your welcomes. I do feel a bit over my head here (amongst the many pros) but I also know my experiences are valid. Let me try to answer your questions.

    Drew- I have a small house in a working class section of eastern Rochester. On a map it's the Winton/Merchants/Atlantic neighborhood. I did work in Henrietta (Peddaler's Bike Shop) in1984 and lived there for 6 months when I moved back North last year. I do know what you mean about the town's character (or lack of). My girl friend lives in Greece which has an even more bland reputation (except for the police dept.) I lived just three blocks away from here in the late 1970s and feel at home with this area. I can ride out of my house with many directional options and real hills are only a few miles roll. Not that I'm much of a Mountain Biker (my first was in 1983 a Univega Pro, currently a 1988 Mongoose Tomac) but Tryon Park is a mile away and offers very technical and topgraphical challenges in a small tract.
    How long ago were you at RIT? The campus is much more built up and has much more vegetation growing that back in 1984 when I moved fron Roch. There is a commercial/club spot next to campus now. I hear that is has some good music. I ride South to Avon along the river frequently and always liked River Rd.

    Eric- The shop with carpet was in Raleigh, NC. It was the bottom level of a three floor split level house built in 1968. The "basement" was carpeted wall to wall and was the family room and third bedroom. When I set up the shop I decided that I would have to replace the carpet before selling so if I was to melt or stain it during my stay then no big deal. I did have some covering in some areas but the rug did show the use with stains of dirt and some small melt spots. However I didn't have to repalce the carpet after all when I sold the house 10 years after moving in. I did do most of the brazing out side for 7 of those years though. I did enjoy the padding under foot, my job had me standing on hard surfaces. This shop was the cushiest of all that I've had and I've built in over 10 different shops over the years. My current shop is in my basement with a painted concrete floor, don't think I'd carpet my shop if I had a choice.

    Chris- I'm not surprised that you ask about my adversion to a full time for profit business. When I was learning to build (1978/1979) I did a few for $ right away but didn't have the confidence I thought right. So pretty soon I decided that I had to get better and have a customer that would look the other way (me). I found that building was more far comfortable when there was no time or design pressure. The second pro building went better as far as the skill/confidence thing. But the shop I was at was disfunctional and heading no where in so many ways. Customers were allowed into the work area, we would have to put on a game face and look pro while the guy would check us out. I watched what my boss would go through to land the deposit and deal with the progress reports. Once again I learned that customers expectations were very high when getting a custom bike. Too high in a few situations, in my view. By know I had met only, maybe, three guys that made a living from building (Albert, Richard and Bruce) yet had passed by many more who prentended or couldn't. So when I moved to Cleveland I decided to keep a steady check coming and continue to build for me and my wife. During the 15 years I had my own shop (Bike One) I didn't push my frame experience too much but slowly became the place to go to with a problem. A number of frame repairs went through the shop, the low cost stuff usually went off with out much issue. The high cost stuff always took so much more marketing, hand holding and overall effort. Little of it made much $. My opinion of pro work was not raised. Since then I got 10 years older and lost a step with my wife's death. I won't stop building for myself but am reluctent to take on a project for $ until it feels right. Maybe when I retire from the day job. Yea right.
    Andy Stewart
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Andy,

    we've never met but I feel like I know you. Been reading your posts almost 10 years now. Always the gentleman online, you're often first in line to offer encouragement to framebuilding newcomers. No questions from me, just wanted to give you a pat on the back.
    Keep on building, not that you have much choice. Like many of the folk here, it's in your blood, and something you'll always do, I have no doubt.
    All the very best to you.

    Alistair.
     

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    River road is a fine road as long as you are up good and early to avoid the traffic. I mostly road my MTB while at school. I spent most of my time at Towners and Park Ave. Park Ave is where I first got a look at a Fat Chance. That moment changed my life I just did not know it yet!

    I heard Main St. Tahou's went under? What a shame if true. Worst best food in the world.

    I will 2nd what Alistair said. When I met you at NAHBS this past year it was similar to when I met Omar at Vegas last year. Kind of felt like I already knew you.

    -Drew
    Drew Guldalian
    Engin Cycles
    www.engincycles.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    I got to see Andy at the bike club's Volunteer Appreciation Dinner tonight. It was especially nice since he and I were the only people who actually rode our bikes to the bike club meeting.

    Andy rode this one which really is a beauty in the flesh.


    As someone who cycles for basic transportation, I really liked the brazed-on rack.
     

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Nothing to add here except that I really appreciate Andy's kindness, knowledge, experience and willingness to discuss bikes and give me, a newbie home wrench, advice about them when he lived here in Raleigh before moving back to Rochester. He was more helpful and excited about bikes than any shop worker I have met.

    Thank you sir. You are missed.

    -Kenny
     

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Hey all- I've finially had a chance to light up the torches. This Fall's delays included my parents failing health and their resulting care needs. Now that's stabilizing and I can play in the shop for more then a few minutes and with some focus and energy. Since my building was never very steady (it's been more then a couple of years) and only during the winters I've always started things out with a few projects to get up to speed with. This time around I've decided to spend more time at practice brazing.

    Brass work has always been the greater challeng for me so that is what I'm focusing on now. I just did a few practice pieces. While I don't think it will show anything amaizing in my skills it could be interesting to those just starting out. Mostly the set up. By using basic 4130 tubing (1.125"x.058") and a scrap 1" top tube I made "lug" samples for little cost and effort. The attached shot is the ready to braze set up. I have a Flicker set with 10 other shots showing the various steps and some results. To those who know what you're doing please note that the shorelines were not my focus, but temp control and a full flow through of the brass were my goals.

    Here's the link to my Flicker set:

    Practice - a set on Flickr

    Any comments or questions are welcome.
    Andy Stewart
    10%

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    IMG_1195.jpgIt's not surprising that in 6 years a lot has happened. Lost my parents, got remarried, found a great LBS to work for and then burned out, moved from an affordable city home to a house in the burb I grew up in AND built a few frames. Oh, I'm still riding.

    I hope to be doing more torch stuff although not yet taking the plunge into pro building. Maybe if tonight's lottery hits :).

    The Phily Bike Expo was last weekend. It was fun seeing people who I've known for years but rarely speak to. The seminars were great to attend, some real gems of info for those who listened. Of course the bikes on display were pretty cool. I do admit, though, that I can be a bit jaded walking past so many well done frames. Some of this is the show burnout that I developed from the Interbike/retail shows I went to for so many years, some from seeing over the top stylistic details that don't add anything but glitter to the ride and some from being plain envious for some of what I saw.

    I had hoped to ride while there, like last year. I had mapped out a couple of routes and sent out invites. But Saturday evening my call to the wife brought bad news. Our 9 year old female cat had taken a turn for the worse. So Sunday AM I left for home and within a couple of hours of getting back we put her down. Once again life brings reasons to remember and honor the responsibilities one agrees to and get back up to carry on. So timely given recent elections and Veteran's Day.

    All this motivated me to post some recent torch work over in Friday Night Lights. My latest project is the re fitting of various braze ons of our CoMotion tandem prior to it's repainting. This bike was made in the mid 1990s and so had their then standard cable routing, which sucks. As a wrench I really didn't like their cable routing but made a few clamp on mods and lived with it for almost 20 years. Now it's time to make it right and paint a color that my new wife likes. Here's a shot of the underside of the stoker's BB and the chainstay dent (chain suck) I also need to fill.

    I hope the next installment in this subforum isn't in another 6 years. Andy
    Andy Stewart
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Sounds like a tough couple of years...however being a complete novice myself I really like the work in your Flickr account. Learning to fillet braze I love to see how you work. Really liked this clever fix:

    Hope to see more, and preferably in less then six years ;-)
    - Michiel Burgerhout

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    IMG_1197.jpgSo it seems that old revisited is a theme lately. My new project is a CoMotion tandem that my late wife and I got for ourselves back in 1997 for our 10th anniversary. It saw close to 20K miles before she climbed her last hill. Now Christina and I are enjoying it and I want to make it "ours". Of course this means a repaint in a color C likes as well as redoing the really stupid cable routing that CoMotion was making their trademark back then (to their credit they have seen the folly of their ways and use more sensible pathways).

    I've started a Flicker album on this job. Yahoo - login Of course I've added text to the images. Posted here is a teaser that shows a really ugly point in the process.

    I will say that I'm rather impressed wit CoMotion's built quality. If I did fillets that looked like these I'd be proud. The tandem has always ridden really nicely, that the under the paint is also nice makes me feel good. Andy.
    Andy Stewart
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
    Once again I learned that customers expectations were very high when getting a custom bike. Too high in a few situations, in my view.
    This is it. I recall looking at ads in Bike World or Velo News (I don't remember which), where some guy, Richard Sachs, had ads about building frames. I was at that time just at the beginning of learning how to do that. I remember vividly thinking, "Wow, that guy has balls thinking he can make a living at making bikes in the US. The cool bikes than came from Italy, England or, very rarely, Eisentraut back than. I sold the first bike I ever made, but none since, for the reason you spelled out above. I think I could do it now, but this is the big hurdle in my opinion.
    Mark Walberg
    Building bike frames for fun since 1973.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    IMG_1221.jpgWell I'm pretty far into my CoMotion mod project. Actually one more braze on bit to go (but I will step back and re assess that, it seems often when I think I am done I'm not...). What have I learned? Once again how I hate brazing on a painted frame. How I wish I had access to a chemical stripper to remove the paint (and internal Frame Saver) first. Not just to reduce the vapors but also to reduce the file marks from initial mechanical paint removal. One more reason to get my own sand blaster. (Oh, dear wife, can I take over the entire garage? Would a piece of jewelry help out...).

    So the most difficult braze on replacement has been the rear brake cable tunnel which snakes around the stoker's seat tube. I counted 5 different bends within about 4". Here's a shot of the piece after brazing (which was done in 3 steps).

    Now I can have the wife pick out a color. Hopefully I'll like it too. As always my flicker site has the album of this project, and others Andy.

    Flickr
    Andy Stewart
    10%

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Bikes By Stewart

    IMG_1391.jpgIMG_1211.jpgIMG_1249.jpgA major aspect of my building is making tools. As a hobbyist both frames and tools are slow to be created. Two tools that have been achieved this fall are due for note.

    First is a braze on holder, inspired by Sputnik. I've done many wire/rod examples and a spring loaded one that served for years. But when I saw Jeff's I had to do my rip off. It's attached along with the previous spring loaded tool.

    Second is a stay crimper. Like many I started with using a bench vice, a dimpling form and a steady/support form. The failing is only having two hands... Next up was a squeeze tool based on a huge channel lock with the form and support jaws brazed to the pliers jaws. I don't have the hand strength to make this one work. So a period of back burner went by and the Ah So moment happened. Fix the form and move the stay.

    Enjoy and ask if you have questions. Andy
    Andy Stewart
    10%

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