Framebuilding with Dave Bohm


Back in 2007 my obsession with all things bicycle was reaching ludicrous heights. It wasn’t enough to just ride the beautiful machines, and it wasn’t enough to merely take a bare frame and add components to it. I was looking for something more. I wanted to ride a bicycle frame that I designed and built myself.

My old pal The Internet introduced me to Doug Fattic. Doug learned the craft from some of the masters in England before establishing himself as one of the top framebuilders and painters in the States. With a background as a teacher, Doug later started offering framebuilding classes at his workshop in Michigan.

Although the UBI framebuilding class was a lot closer to home, I was drawn to the idea of learning from one of the founding fathers of American framebuilding. It was just icing on the cake that Doug’s prices were lower and his class offered a lower student to teacher ratio.

After two weeks spent with Doug, I learned the essentials for making a steel frame. The frame turned out better than I expected, especially once Doug sent it back to California after painting it.

Doug Fattic fires up the torch to show us newbs how to lay down a nice brass fillet.
Doug Fattic fires up the torch to show us newbs how to lay down a nice brass fillet.
The front triangle of my touring frame is tested for alignment on Doug's surface plate.
The front triangle of my touring frame is tested for alignment on Doug’s surface plate.
My first frame all dolled up. Isn't she a beaut?
My first frame all dolled up. Isn’t she a beaut?

The frame was a beauty and it rode well too. I used the frame on several local tours not documented in this blog. It was also my trusty steed during our trip around Iceland. For that trip I managed to make a frame for Carrie using a very rudimentary setup in my apartment’s garage.

In the subsequent years I only churned out one more frame and two partial frames before liquidating most of the framebuilding tools I acquired because I admittedly lost interest for awhile.

There are certain aspects of framebuilding I love: the initial design process, brazing the tubes together, riding a bicycle I made myself. But there are other parts of framebuilding that try my patience: cleaning, endless cleaning and filing. Framebuilding is a craft for the detail-oriented, the perfectionists, the obsessives, and the geeks. Sometimes I feel like I fit that mold. Other times I’d just rather go out for a ride.

Dave Bohm

Ok, Ok, so what does all of this have to do with Dave Bohm?

In 2008 Dave mentioned somewhere on the Internet that he needed a new website. I offered my services and with his help we made the current iteration of bohemianbicycles.com. In exchange for making the site, I got a bit of cash from Dave and an offer to come build a frame with him in Tucson. It was a great deal for both of us. But after making the site, I got hired at a new job and had no leverage to ask for time off. So I never went to Tucson and I never built a frame with Dave. It’s tragic. I know. I’ve spent every day since 2008 ruing my decision to let work get in the way of my obsession.

Now here we are. It’s 2015 and I’m working at a bike shop. Carrie and I are fresh off a summer of wonderful tours and we’re about four years deep into living without a personal motorized vehicle. I can’t figure out why but my framebuilding obsession is peaking again. Although at work I’m surrounded by fancy carbon fiber bicycles that I can purchase at wholesale prices, my heart seems to always return to the old fashioned steel frame.

An empty seat in Dave’s March framebuilding class caught my eye recently and before I know it I’m laying down a deposit and buying airplane tickets to Arizona. So although this blog has been dedicated to documenting my bicycle trips, I’m taking advantage of my power as sole owner and contributor and will be reporting about the process of building a steel bicycle frame under the tutelage of Dave Bohm.