In the immortal words of Freddie Mercury, “I want to weld my bicycle, I want to weld my bike.” No, that’s not exactly how the song goes, but now that line is now stuck in your head. Don’t fight it. Just sit back, hum the tune, and learn the secrets of welding your own bicycles.
While we won’t say you can’t MIG or Stick weld a bike frame together, most bicycles use a combination of brazing and TIG welding for their construction. Why TIG? Because welding a bicycle frame requires a lot of control over your heat, a task that’s more easily accomplished with a TIG welding pedal.
What’s brazing? Quite literally, it’s the metallic version of super glue. Brazing is accomplished by heating filler material that has a lower melting point then your base metal. This allows your filler to melt while your base metal remains unaltered. You then place a good amount of the melted filler between the 2 parts that you’re sticking together, wait for it to cool and then grind it down to a clean finish.
If you’re reading this bit about brazing and thinking “Heresy!” then congratulations, because you’re right. Brazing has some obvious problems. For instance, because you’re not physically “fusing” the metal parts together (as welding does), you’re creating a potentially weaker connection. This is why brazing is often done in combination with interlocking parts or lugs (metal sleeves that fit over the parts you’re joining). But that extra material means extra costs. Brazing also doesn’t work with aluminum.
Rarely, however, is brazing used as the sole means of constructing a bike. Often TIG welding will be used on the main part of the frame, while brazing is used to connect smaller parts.
While repairing a bike might be a simple welding job, replacing large portions of your frame or even creating a new frame can be quite a bit more challenging. Fabricating your own bike requires specific metal cutting and drilling equipment. You’ll need to start off with the design before you even think about striking an arc.
With any TIG welding, you’ll need to remove any impurities from the spots you’ll be welding. That generally means sanding down the areas you’ll be welding and applying a solution (e.g. rubbing alcohol, etc.). Once you’ve got your work piece cleaned, clamp all your pieces together and make sure there’s no gaps before you begin welding.
Manage Your Heat
Aluminum is the most common metal used for building a bicycle. It’s lightweight and cheap. But it also guzzles filler material like a fat kid in a candy store. Just be prepared.
The thickness of your aluminum will also vary from part to part. By applying too much heat, you’ll burn a hole right through your material. With too little heat, your parts won’t fuse together adequately. For this reason, you’ll want to use a welding pedal for quick and easy control.
Building your own bike frame can be quite challenging. If this is the first bike you’ve worked on, expect something new. You can save a whole lot of headache when approaching situations you’re not familiar with by simply doing a test run on a piece of scrap material.
Finding a position that works with a bicycle frame can be a challenge. TIG welding is already like patting your head with one hand and juggling chainsaws with the other. It might sound a little novice, but it’ll help to practice moving your hands as if you’re welding but keep your machine off. You’ll figure out if your hands are in the ideal position while becoming familiar with the line you’ll be taking.
Looking for other project ideas to work on this summer besides bicycle frames? Check out our article on our favorite outdoor welding projects by clicking the button below.