You are on page 1of 22

Step 1: Get the Materials

I looked at the 1/8 inch plywood at Lowes and Home Depot, but I wasn't very happy
with the quality. I then went to a local woodworking store and found some good
looking 1/8" baltic birch plywood in 5'x5' sheets that had a nice light color. It was
about $20 per sheet so if it turns into a disaster I wont be too upset. I also bought a
pack of birch veneer to wrap around the seat and head tube.

I bought a bottom bracket, bottom bracket shell, and crank from Amazon for about
$50. The rest of the parts I plan to take from a junk bike I had lying around.

The fiberglass, epoxy, and spar varnish were left over from a kayak build. I bought
these online from a boat building supplier. It is 6 oz glass cloth and the epoxy is
clear, non-blushing that takes about 24 hours or more to fully cure.

Tools needed: Saw, sandpaper, rasp, a couple of pliers, drill, power sander, power
jig saw, some solid wire, natural fiber rope or twine, a vise, and several disposable
brushes, cups, and latex gloves. When needed be sure to wear eye protection and a
mask to keep gunk out of your lungs. I also had to buy some specialty bike tools, a
chain tool and crank arm remover.

For removing parts off the old bike I used a hack saw, locking pliers, bench grinder,
and a Dremel.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 2: Cut Some Plywood
For cutting I used a coping saw, although other saws would work. Just be careful not
to tear up the wood too much, especially when cutting across the grain.

In order to get an even bend, the pieces should roughly have an even width. The
rear wheel section has a fork with two 1 1/2" wide sections that are 3 3/4" apart. The
rear forks are 13" long, and they narrow to 3" apart where they join together. It thens
tapers down to a single 3" strip. The total length is 43" The dimension don't have to
be perfect since I will shape the frame once it is all glued together.

I only cut 4 pieces to start with. Two of them are a 1/2" longer to account for the
extra length needed when bending. Small holes are drilled into the ends of the
boards so they can be wired together. The two outer boards have the holes an 1/8"
further from the edge so they can line up with the inner holes, and still come
together at the end.

Wire up the boards and see how the ends look. For wire I used 18 gauge solid
copper wire. At this point I had to cut a little bit off the ends of the outer boards to
make sure they came together like I wanted. A temporary seat tube is made out of a
piece of PVC with fabric taped to the ends to prevent it from slipping off the plywood.
The fabric adds some friction to keep the tube in place, although it still slips off more
often than I'd like.

Several times I held up the frame to my old $99 cheapo bike to see if the dimensions
looked right. Once the frame is the right size, I cut the glass fabric to the shape of
the boards.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 3: Initial Glue Up
3 More Images

I chose to layer fiberglass between each piece of plywood mainly because I have a
bunch of it. Hopefully this will add durability but I don't know if doing this will make
the frame stiffer or more flexible. If I were to do this again I would skip the extra
fiberglass and just add a few more layers of wood to increase the visual impact of a
wood bike.

Be sure you know how to use the epoxy before you start and always wear gloves.
The four boards are first painted with epoxy on one side then the glass is wetted out
onto two of the boards. They are then sandwiched together and the ends are loosely
wired together.

It takes a couple tries to get it bent into shape and wired together, but once I got the
temporary seat tube in place with the plywood bent around it, I could tighten up the
wires. I tried to make a herring bone pattern where the plywood is wired together,
but I was only moderately successful. I used some homemade clamps to keep the
boards tight together. After it cured I removed the wires and sanded it out.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 4: Laminate, Laminate, Laminate
This is quite a long process. I chose to do one layer at a time, and I'm getting 2
layers done per week. The steps are. Draw and cut out 2 boards. Cut the fiberglass
to match the boards. Clamp the boards on dry to make sure they are the right size.
Prepare the epoxy and paint it on one side of the frame and on one side of the new
boards. Wet out the fiberglass onto the new boards. Clamp it all together and let it
cure for 24+ hours. After it's hard (the epoxy should not dent from pushing your
fingernail into it) cut off the excess fiberglass, sand out any bumps, and do it again.

Out of the 5'x5' sheet I squeezed out 14 pieces. Thus I have seven layers each for
the top tube and the down tube sections. I discovered (a bit too late) that if I make
the boards a little too long, I can cut off the excess while it's dry clamped to the
frame. On this frame, I placed four layers on top and one layer of plywood on the
inside of the frame to cover up the wire holes, and hide any scuffing caused the
clamping and reclamping.

Because of the bending, the rear chain stays and seat stays have a tendency to
move closer together. To stop this I had to add a scrap piece of plywood between
the stays to maintain the distance. Once all the layers were added and cured I cut
out the scrap plywood. To protect the wood I added a final layer of fiberglass on the
top and bottom of the frame.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 5: Make Tubes
2 More Images

The seat tube and head tube are made out of fiberglass, brown packing paper, and
birch veneer all wrapped around a pipe used for a mandrel. For the seat tube I
used part of an old shower curtain rod with the decorative plastic removed. It just
happened to be the same diameter of my seat post. For the head tube I used 1 in.
pvc pipe that had an outside diameter of 1.3 in.

I planned to attach a front derailleur to the seat tube so I had to pay attention to both
the inner and outer diameter of the tube. The seat post was 1 in. in diameter and the
derailleur needs a 31.8 mm (1 1/4 in.) seat tube so I had to make the tube 1/4 in.
thick (1/8 in. on each side). I also integrated the old bike's seat post clamp into the
tube so I wouldn't have to figure out how to put it on later.

There are some helpful websites for amateur rocketry that provide instructions on
how to make fiberglass tubes, but my experience was difficult. It took 3 tries to make
the seat tube. The first attempt made a tube with an internal layer of paper that was
way too loose. The 2nd attempt was a very tight tube of fiber glass and paper, but it
wouldn't slide off the pipe. Finally I made a tube of only fiberglass and with effort was
able to pull the pipe out. The head tube is much smaller and slide off the pipe fairly
Here's the steps I finally used:
1. Sand the pipe so it's smooth
2. Lubricate the outside of the pipe, with grease or wax, but leave the ends
clean so the wax paper can be taped on.
3. Wrap the pipe with wax paper, and tape the ends so it stays in place.
4. wrap the tube two times with fiberglass and epoxy. Using latex gloves I was
able to wrap the epoxy soaked fiberglass flat onto the pipe so that there no
bubbles or gaps. Don't make it too tight though or it will never slide off.
5. Let the the tube cure, but not completely.
6. Remove the pipe: Remove the tape then break the pipe free by locking the
fiberglassed section into a vise and twist the pipe with pliers. Work the pipe out by
pulling and twisting with the pliers on one end and push the pipe with a stick or
smaller pipe on the other end. Take care to cause as little damage as possible but
there will be some.
7. Remove the wax paper, and slide the fiberglass tube back on the pipe. Sand it
and coat with more epoxy and wrap with several layers of paper to add some
thickness and add some epoxy as you go. The paper doesn't need to be soaked
with epoxy.
8. Let it cure. I used some cord to keep the paper tightly wrapped while it cured.
9. Sand the pipe again, and measure the circumference, to get an idea of how much
veneer is needed. Cut the veneer so it overlaps the pipe by about a 1/4 - 1/2 of an
inch and sand the inside edge of the veneer to a sharp blade (the outside edge gets
sanded after the epoxy cures). The blade edge will go down first then the opposite
edge will lap over it.
10. Add another layer of fiberglass and epoxy followed by the veneer layer. The
veneer bends easier once it's been wetted out with epoxy.
11. Let cure. This time I used wire ties to the keep the veneer wrapped around the
12. Sand the veneer to get rid of the over lapped edge, and to remove any marks or
indentations caused by the wire ties.
13. Finally apply the last layer of fiberglass.
14. Let cure
15. Sand it smooth.

The Head tube ended up being 1/8 inch thick with an inner diameter of 1 5/16 in.
and outer diameter of 1 9/16 in.

I originally tried to use a 28.6 mm front deraileur, but it wouldn't fit, so I added
another layer of fiberglass at the bottom of the seat tube and used a 31.8 mm
derailleur. The seat tube finally had an inner diameter of 1 1/16 in. and an outer
diameter of 1 5/16 in.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 6: Dropouts
3 More Images

For shaping the frame I began at the back and worked my way to the front. I plan to
attach the dropouts by gluing them into slots using thickened epoxy. If it doesn't hold
I may have to revert to bolts instead.

To create the slots, I dug a channel into the back the same size as the dropouts. I
first cut out the area using a Dremel rotary tool, then moved on to using a hand drill
and wood bit and moved it up and down the channel to route out the wood. I
designed it so that the dropouts have to be rotated into the slot, opposite the
direction the frame pushes on the wheel.

I chose the go ahead and glue in the dropouts before shaping the stays. To thicken
the epoxy I combined sawdust with wheat flour I got out of the kitchen. With a little
experimenting I was able to come close to the color of the wood. Before gluing in the
dropouts I made sure they were clean and grinded in some pits with a Dremel so the
epoxy can get a good grip on the metal.

A string taped down the middle of the bike helped me make sure each side was
even. Then I used a handheld jigsaw to cutout off the edges along the seat and
chain stays and used a flexible wire as a straight edge to help pencil in where the
cuts should be.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 7: Bottom Bracket and Seat Tube
3 More Images

The bottom bracket section needs to be shaped such that the frame has clearance
between the rear tire and the sprockets on the pedal crank. To do this hold the
bottom bracket with the crank loosely installed to the frame and measure where the
cuts should go. Make a small cut to the frame then measure again. After doing this
several times it should fit. Then cut the other side so it is symmetrical. The down
tube ended up being 1 7/8 in wide.

To determine where the bottom bracket and seat tube should go I held the bike up
to my old bike to get an idea. I drilled a hole for the seat tube using a 1 1/4in hole
saw. Once the seat tube hole is made, the edges can be cut off leaving 3/4 - 1 in. of
the frame on either side of the seat tube. Then taper the top tube section down to 2
in wide.

Once the seat tube is glued in place I glued the bottom bracket shell on the opposite
side the down tube. I went ahead and wrapped some extra birch veneer around the
bottom bracket but it wasn't really necessary.

Since the bottom bracket is basically hanging from the bottom of the frame, it needs
a lot of reinforcement to keep it on. In my first attempt I tried to fasten it with a paper
and fiberglass composite, but it didn't look that great. Also I neglected to reinforce
the connection between the seat tube and the bottom of the frame. It cracked on a
test ride, and gave me a really wobbly crank.

In the next attempt I used strips of fiberglass cloth wrapped from the seat tube over
the frame to the bottom bracket and back, and then I wrapped the whole area with
many lashings of a natural fiber rope I had in the shed. Everything was wetted with
epoxy before applying. I used wire ties to add some compression to the joints, but in
retrospect I probably should have used some plastic or electrical tape to get rid of
the lines left by the wire ties.

It might be possible to place the bottom bracket on top of the down tube, but you
would lose ground clearance, and you may need to use a more sophisticated
bending technique than that of a stick and some wire.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 8: Head Tube
2 More Images

The hard part about attaching the head tube is getting it in the right position. I used
my old bike as a template to get the forward/backward angle right, then I was able to
use my hole saw and drill it out. When checking to see if the hole is lined up right, I
found it helpful to insert the PVC pipe into the head tube and see if it looks true.

Unfortunately the left/right angle wasn't right, so I had to do some sanding and used
a couple nails to temporaryily hold the head tube in the right spot while the epoxy
cured. Once it cured I could remove the nails and add more flour and sawdust
thickened epoxy around the tube.
Add TipAsk QuestionCommentDownload
Step 9: Cable Stops and Head Tube Cups
3 More Images

Now that the headset, seat tube, and rear dropouts were in place I could spend
some time finalizing the frame shape and sand everything smooth. It should now
look like a bicycle frame.

I created the cable stops out of left over pieces of the frame. I cut a rectangular
piece and drilled a hole halfway thru about the size of the cable shielding, then a
small hole all the way thru for the actual cable. Carefully I sawed a slot to the hole
for adding and removing the cable, and rounded off the corners.

I pressed the headset cups from the junk bike into place by hand. After a little
sanding they fit inside of the head tube snugly. To make the old parts look better I
taped off parts of the bike and spray painted silver on the headset cups, seat post
clamp, and rear dropouts.