Brazing Huffy

I really like that title; wish I had a post to go with it.

OK, I do…sort of. It relates to my next project, which is to learn to braze so that I can perform a minor repair on a *gulp* $4,000 bicycle frame.

[It occurs to me that “minor,” when used in this context, has the same meaning as when employed to describe surgery. That is, minor surgery is what is done to someone else.]

Here’s the deal. An over-zealous bike mechanic over-torqued one of the hex screws that holds the eccentric cam of the front bottom bracket in place, and popped the brazed-on fitting loose. It’s not a disastrous condition, but it has the unfortunate effect of allowing the timing chain (that’s the one that connects the front set of pedals to the rear set [um, you do realize that I’m talking about a tandem here, right?]) to gradually loosen, the effects of which are, at best, the occasional disconcerting jerk as the chain attempts to jump off the ring and, at worst, the potentially hazardous condition of coming to a complete and unexpected halt when the chain actually succeeds in doing that very thing.

Anyway, in a fit of completely unwarranted confidence, no doubt engendered by the pleasing-but-minor success of the last project, I’ve decided that this is something I can fix myself. I have the torch; I have the gasses; and, Wikipedia willing, I’ll have the online references that will show me how to use them.

Now, lest you think I’m barreling into this without proper preparation, let me assure you that that will, indeed, prove to be the case, if history is any indication. But it won’t be for lack of trying. Here’s my plan. I’ve recovered an old bicycle frame from our storage unit, and I’m going to hacksaw it into pieces and then attempt to reconnect the pieces in a fashion that will result in my developing mad brazing skilz. That’s right; a trusty old steed with great sentimental value will be sacrificed on the altar of DIYism.

Prepare to be awed.

I would be less than forthright if I didn’t admit that this thing has already gotten off to a less than auspicious start, as I began by googling “braising a bicycle frame.” While the inability to spell a thing doesn’t necessarily doom one attempts to master that thing, it does perhaps predict a disturbing tendency toward failure. Fortunately, I had that little Jiminy Cricket Googler to pose the timeless question “Did you mean: grilling a bicycle frame?” thereby alerting me to my faux pas. At some point in the future, when I have more time, I intend to return and explore more fully the options of grilling my bicycle frame, provided I haven’t already actually done that.

I also need to create a better category for this kind of post, dealing with mechanical repairs and projects undertaken with dubious competence. Suggestions welcomed.

5 comments

  1. Oh, Eric, Eric, Eric. You do provide endless hours of entertainment for the rest of us. *still laughing*
    You have officially “Braised the Bar” in blogging. 😉

  2. Beth, watch for it — coming soon, to a Dairy Queen near you!
    Gwynne, if I can’t be competent, I might as well be entertaining. Or, is that redundant?

  3. If you master that skill well enough to keep your bike on the road…I for one am going to be VERY impressed.
    I know…you already have the torch, the gasses and the will to learn but I do believe you’d be better off having it “heli-arced” by a pro. I believe that method is much stronger.
    To “Braze”…doesn’t that mean using brass as a filler rod or can you use silver solder on a bike frame? I’ve been around all kinds of welding methods most of my working life and I know…It’s not easy to learn. GOOD LUCKY ERIC!

  4. Clarence, brazing is actually the preferred method for building bicycle frames, and, in fact, results in a stronger seam than welding. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but it has to do with the relatively lower temperatures and the ability to join fine seams.
    With welding, the potential for burning through the thin-walled tubes used for bicycling is just too great, plus the high temps damage the heat-treated metal that’s used in all high end steel frames.

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