Planing my first atempt at a homebuilt lugged frame - material questions

jer0628 Posts: 2
edited September 2019 in Workshop
I've just recently really gotten into cycling. It started with the fact that I've been commuting by bike for a couple of years but never had a bike the correct size or one that was in reasonable condition. I started to look at the commuting as a good excercise opportunity (like many others I imagine) so I bought a used steel frame (A Columbus Aelle frame) and some parts, put it all together and wow what a difference!

I've always liked to do things myself, hence why I bought a frame and parts instead of a complete bike. I've also always liked the older more classic stuff (I'm mainly a car guy and mostly interested in cars that have motorsport heritage from the 70´s and 80´s). So from getting into cycling to thinking about building my own lugged steel frame wasn't a very long step to take. I'm comfortable with most tools found in workshop's but haven't mastered the TIG yet so I thought a lugged frame would be a good start.

Now.. I'm 1.93m tall and weigh rougly 90kg with an athletic build, so my main questions are if the tubing I've looked at could be considered strong enough for me as an amateur or if I should look at something with thicker walls. And if the type of tubing is usuable for building a lugged frame.

The tubing I've looked at is Columbus Life (Looked at Tange and Vary-Wall aswell, reynolds doesn't seem to be that easy to find). I've read that Reynolds 753 which is heat treated isn't something a novice should start with so the main question is if Life tubing is better suited? And if not, then why?

For tubing numbers I had planned to use:
TT 28,6mm 0,7/0,45/0,7 wall
ST 28,6mm 0,7/0,4/0,6 wall
DT 31,8mm 0,65/0,45/0,65 wall (there is also a version that is 0,75/0,45/0,75)
HT 36mm 1,1 wall, or if I really want to chase weight a Vari Wall 35,8 with 0,9 wall.
Chainstays 30x17mm oval 0,7/0,5 wall
Seatstays 17/12,5mm 0,5 wall

The angles as planned at the moment are (Long shen lugs):
73 degree seatlug
74 degree top lug
58 degree downlug
59/62 degree BB shell
Drop out should be 72-74 degrees something.
BB drop 78
Wheelbase right around 996mm
Fork 365 ish with 40-45 rake (should give 57-52 trail)

The "planned" tubing and lugs, with weights adjusted for the lengths of the tubes, end up to 1616 grams, So in my world this should end up being a sub 1700g frame (haven´t acounted for mittering the tubes, only adjusted to the c-c lengths). Thats about 650-700g lighter than the frame I have I believe.

Size 58cm square (I have short legs and a long back for my height)


  • Good project! Some pictures as you go along would be great!
  • proto
    proto Posts: 1,483
    edited September 2019
    Great project! I did the same some years back and made a steel frameset out of Reynolds 653 and cast lugs. I did plenty of homework first and a full size drawing (pre my CAD days). Went in my shed and a week later came out with a frame. Worked well, raced it, commuted on it, did everything on it including destroying it on a car roof rack/car park barrier incident in France a few years later. :(

    Best thing I did was get hold of a copy of Richard Talbot’s book “Design and Build your own Frameset.” Amazingly there is a scanned copy on the web here:

    Most important thing you’ll need is a jig. I made mine from marine ply and blocks of hardwood. Doesn’t need to be adjustable if you’re only making one. Talbot tells you how.

    Go for it and good luck!

    PS another book worth seeking out is Tony Oliver’s book on bike frames (can’t remember the title. Google). It also covers design and materials of all types of frame from racing machines to tandems.
  • mercia_man
    mercia_man Posts: 1,431
    “PS another book worth seeking out is Tony Oliver’s book on bike frames (can’t remember the title. Google). It also covers design and materials of all types of frame from racing machines to tandems.”

    Tony Oliver’s book is called Touring Bikes: A Practical Guide. As said above, it’s not just about touring bikes. It covers all types of frames and gives advice and information about frame design, geometry, lugs and the various steel tubing then available when written (1980s).