Hello everybody, it's been a while... Well, my wife and I finally relocated back to the states ~4 months ago after a 3 year Expat Assignment in Asia (Taiwan & Korea). On our return, however, we actually ended up a little more South then where we started. An opportunity presented itself in the Bay Area that we felt we had to pursue, and long story short here we are alive and well in Los Gatos, CA. Being back home (with a garage, MiSUMi & McMaster-Carr) already has me itching to start a few projects again. While I was overseas, I was pinged with the occasional interest in the tools I've built in the past and I figured these would be a great place to start again as the demand is there and I have a long history with their functionality and performance.
I, like most builders, build frames as a serious professional hobby. I do it for the love of bicycles and the passion for understanding the bicycle at it's fundamental core "the frame." However, this leaves me with little incentive to fully commit to the heavy investment in the coveted professional equipment. While there is maybe a jump in functionality and the overall fit & finish of these tools it also comes with a big jump in the associated costs. This is where I think Joe Bringheli has been able to fill a gap of entry level jigs in the bicycle industry. I think it's a great jig for the money (especially second hand) and I used it as sold from Joe for my 2nd & 3rd bikes. However, by #4 I'd become handy enough with the file that actually jig checking & fixturing with the Bringheli became the bottle neck in my process and not my miters. This is where I really started to examine ways to improve the jig with the greatest impact at the lowest cost.
My first project was the Bringheli Backend Replacement. I'd used Anvil Dummy Axles in my DIY Fork Jig and they are simply the best. The keyed design to keep the dropouts in sync are not just a luxury but IMO a necessity. I built the first Bringheli Backend Upgrade Prototype on a Manual Bridgeport way back in 2013.
It was simple, the positioning and mating between parts was mostly uncontrolled and parts were simply squared up prior to tightening the bolts... but, it worked, it worked really good actually. The back end of the next bike I built was the most complicated (my wife's Mixte), but it went together faster with less effort than any bike that came before it. It was months later when someone noticed this little modification from one of my process pictures. Other Bringheli Owner's with the same pains I had started to take notice. Enough notice in fact, that I actually committed to properly redesigning the fixture and producing a run of 10 sets.
It took 3 months from the 1st day of CAD to when the units started shipping. Precision dowels were added at all mating & slide locations, a complete piece from the original design was removed to reduce stack up tolerances and each component was subtly refined with CNC engraving to give a premium look & feel. All 10 were spoken for in less than 1 month. It was during this time that I had realized maybe I was onto something here and I had already diverted my attention to the front end of the Jig.
I was luckier than most others as my Jig had already been slightly modified by it's previous owner. The main shaft that holds the HT cones was actually made to split in the middle. This allowed me to at least load/unload the bike from the jig with a slightly minimized effort but it was still a pain as I had to make sure my datum was reset correctly each time. Again, I went to the drawing board and sketched out a simple prototype I could make.
This design followed the more widely accepted standard of having a flat puck on the bottom of the HT as a datum and a centering cone for the upper part of the HT. I also took the time to add a ruler that would allow me to easily setup the jig to X, Y coordinates (BB to HT) taken from the frame drawing. With these additions my Bringheli was a completely different jig. It became a joy to use and frames were coming out of it far straighter and far quicker than before. I built frames for the next 6 months with this setup, until I got a job offer from Nike based overseas as a Machine Design Engineer. The opportunity to travel and see the world was just too good to pass up so we packed up all our stuff in a storage unit and we moved to Taichung, Taiwan.
I made it through almost a whole year in Taiwan before the e-mails reached the critical mass required to pursue both the front & back sets. I tend to push for a constant refinement of a product even if it's small changes, and with the front & back upgrades, this mindset was no different. The first thing I noticed during the redesign process is how similar the holding methodology was between the front and back end of the Bringheli Jig. This led me to pursue a commonality between the main bracket between the two fixtures. It was almost as if by accident I stumbled upon this, but I really do love the way it turned out. For these new versions the refinements came in as removal of hard corners with chamfers, the addition of an angle pointer on the front end and a continued refinement of the corner radii and jig lines. Also, since all Bringheli jigs are not equal in terms of the C-Channel widths, these new versions included adjustable brass tipped set-screws to custom fit any Bringheli jig and ensure smooth sliding.
I produced 10 sets of these modifications and again was able to sell out, it took a little bit longer, but all were gone in about 3 months. While I believe the Bringheli modification market is probably pretty close to saturation, I still have enough interest to build the last set of 10 that I will ever make. However, only 9 will be available as one of these new set will adorn my own Bringheli. The back end will be the exact same design as the last set, but I took the opportunity to continue to refine the front end, which naturally is 1 revision behind the back end anyways. A newly sculpted main plate moves the angle markers to the front of the plate so you no longer have to set this from the rear of the jig. Also a counter sunk main slide handle drops it out of the way so there is no longer a fight between it and the bottom HT support handle. The final change is direct central plumbing for argon gas resulting in a more laminar type flow and a cleaner route of the tube away from the torch.
Both these modifications will be available some time in mid-late April 2017. Also, the purchase list is filling up quickly, so if you are interested please drop me a note in the contact section. As mentioned previously, this will be the last set of the Bringheli modifications I will make as I look to turn my sight towards other projects that have been on the back burner for a while.
Happy Building - Todd