The new frame fixture – Anvil Journeyman and its homemade stand

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Wednesday afternoon I stopped by the new Anvil shop and picked up my brand-spankin-new Journeyman 3.1 frame fixture. Wow…just freaking awesome!  I completely spaced taking pictures of the inside of the shop, sorry. I was too preoccupied with gawking at the Master’s lair.

As you enter the building, on the left is Don’s office.  He had his three dogs in his office with him all lounging on the various dog beds (couches) and was sitting behind the computer working up my invoice (ouch). Beside his desk is a vintage Harley-Davidson motorcycle with welding mask hanging off the bars. After sufficiently giving scritches to all the dogs, we got onto the business of the day.  My fixture was waiting by the door and that’s when it hit me. I’m going to bring that baby home!

First, I got a short tour around the shop with Matt.   He was kind enough to show me the pieces of the tools-in-progress, and also ran a process on the CNC mill for me to check out.  I had never seen such a machine in action so being there first-hand to see these huge massive tools was pretty damned cool! The rest of the shop was complete with lots of huge and heavy granite surface plates for proofing stuff, a ‘clean-room’ to house the finished tools and do measurements, welding, etc., and a ‘dirty room’ for making the boxes to send off the tooling. Don went over the basics of the fixture – how to set up using the measurements in BikeCAD and such – before giving me a quick tutorial in getting weld beads like him.  Very cool of him to take the time. I learned more in 5 minutes from Don about using the pulser in welding bike frames than I have in the last two years of practice and online learning! Now I’ll just have to put it to work.

The new Journeyman fixture is a thing of beauty. There’s a reason it costs more than most other frame fixtures out there. It’s hard to rationalize me having this nice of a fixture right now, but it is what it is.  I will certainly use this thing to pump out at least a dozen frames a year and hopefully more.  Along with the fixture I purchased the Universal Tube Holder, 44mm head tube puck, the Notorious BBG, and the FOG so I can stop dropping all the tubes on the floor accidentally while mitering and testing their fit.  I can’t wait to use the tube holder so I can much more easily tack the frame together without playing a game of twister to keep the tubes and jig together!

The BBG is a really nice step up for cantilever brake boss fixturing, and the FOG will be great to help hold the bridges in place while tacking too.  I love how the fixture is already set up for back-purging — with a flick of a switch, the argon flows to all main tubes just like that.  No more using the Paragon purge valves that sometimes fall out if the frame is rotated while welding.  The fixture actually holds the seat tube in place AND reads seat tube angle (unlike the Access65).

The new version BB-tower on the JMan is a thing of beauty.  It has markings for 100, 73, and 68mm BB shell widths. There’s no measuring the centerline of the BB and measuring out from the edge of the fixture anymore to get the frame’s centerline!  You just set the tower at the right BB shell width and voila’.  I’ll have to take more fixture-porn shots soon, but for the last few days I created a mobile fixture stand copied directly from Anvil’s drawings (thanks to Don for sending me that to copy!).  It’s an extra $350 to buy one from him, but I decided like many, to make my own. I kinda wish I had spent the extra cash up front, but oh well…i did it myself.  I think I spent more than enough time making the stand, especially since I don’t have my abrasive chop saw to cut the steel, so had to use an angle grinder with a cutting wheel to do all my cuts.

I used mostly 1/4″ thick by 2″ wide angle iron from the hardware store to make this fixture. I had some 1/4″ flat 4130 lying around to so I used that for the plate the fixture stand connects to.  A drill press with a 3/8″ bit made the holes for the bolts as well as the sweet locking 3″ casters from Rocklin tool supply.  I, of course, don’t have my MIG machine with me so I had to push the limits of my TIG torch.  I have a 185 amp machine, but only wanted to turn it up to my only torch’s max capacity of 125 (it’s a WeldTec 9F).  So even though my welds look good (and plenty hot actually) I was welding below the recommended amperage for 1/4″ thick steel.  I’m hoping there’s enough penetration to make a strong enough bead to hold this expensive fixture up for life! I had some bad dreams last night of waking up to a face-down fixture…

All said in done, it’s not the prettiest piece of equipment but it’ll do just fine.  Even though I copied the specs of the Anvil, it seems to want to tip over if i try to tip the fixture frontwards.  It could be that I didn’t mount the wheels far enough forward on the legs or that you just need to push the fixture’s main swivel-arm back enough so that the balance point is better…not sure which (or just don’t pull in the fixture that way).

I’m sure I’ll have more words to say on the Anvil once I get building so i’ll just shut it for now.  Cheers!

7 Responses

  1. I very much enjoy reading your posts and learning from them. Glad to see that you’re near to getting going again with the new fixtures. My son and I are just now about ready to be building our first frame so I figure that we’re about 2+ years behind you in frame building. We’ve invested in the Anvil equipment and feel very confident that we can design a good frame and get the tubes to be near “water tight” before welding. The biggest hurdle for us would seem to be the Tig welding. I’d be real curious to hear what Don told you in that 5 minutes about the use of the pulser in welding a frame. In fact if you could add that to your own welding experience that would make for a great “next” blog installment. Thanks for all the great info in your previous entries.

  2. So, now that the secret is out…what is Don doing to lay those amazing beads?

    • No way man! You need to buy a frame fixture to get that beta!!

      I’ll try to write something up this week. It’s really not that much info, but it was just a few little tidbits that made the lightbulb in my head go off. It was really nothing new for most people probably, but for me it will help me get a better smoother stack of dimes if I practice a bunch. There’s something to be said for getting advice in person after trying it for awhile by yourself.

  3. I’m considering both the Anvil and the Henry James, Can you give me an assessment on the two: advantages/disadvantages for a garage builder?

    • I’ll write something up in a day or two. But if you have the money get the Anvil, it’s a set it and forget it fixture. Access65 is nice for a tighter budget but I don’t think it’s on the same level as the JMan. Version 4.0 looks to be a step up even further…

      • Thanks, I expect there to be differences. The question is are they worth 2K. I’ve worked with the Anvil some already, but only build 4 bikes a year currently. That won’t change much in the future. Really appreciate your thoughts. Also, I love the honest and true to experience blog.

      • Thanks, I’m happy to hear you like the blog!
        I think if you’re not planning to sell bikes and don’t need or want to ensure extreme efficiency and precision, and don’t mind futzing with the fixture more to get it set up, the HJ’s are totally fine. I’ve not used the Universal jig and that may be nicer with all the tube holding parts incorporated. But that’s not that much less cost than the Anvil. I didn’t like the rear axle on my HJ, the indexed Anvil is way better and can be used on any if his fixtures or on your own creations.
        If I were going to be making frames for a long time I’d save up for the JMan. But it’s not needed and you will make great frames on an HJ. The Access series I think is better for brazing types, especially the head tube access to tack and braze or weld in the fixture. Not as rigid IMO though as the JMan.
        Some may want to upgrade to the new version so you may be able to get a used one in the coming year.

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