What do I need to build a frame?

Knowledge - One way or another, you need learn how this all works, and there is a ton to learn. This is why there are places where you can spend 2 weeks learning how to make a frame and fork. And those 2 weeks will just get you started. You can spend a lifetime figuring this stuff out. Of course, in this world of ours, there's also YouTube. You can check out some folks doing their thing on there.

Something to work off of - Really there are 2 options for this. Learn how to make a frame drawing (check out Pithy Bikes and Paul Brodie) or get BikeCAD. I can't tell you how many calls and emails I've gotten from people all hot to build a frame and curious about the tubes they should buy. Problem is that they haven't even made a frame drawing yet. A frame drawing (or BikeCAD) is step #1. It will inform all of your other decisions.

Jigs & fixtures - The "is it a fixture or is it a jig" debate is made that much more tangled by the current interchangeable use of the terms. Suffice it to say, we don't have a dog in this fight. We'll just try to use the terms most commonly used.

A frame jig - Frame jigs run the gamut from $350 "it'll do for now" disposable particle board versions on up.

Simple Bicycle Co. makes the Arctos jig which has long enjoyed a solid reputation among builders. You can't go wrong with them.

Farr Frameworks is in the running for most beautiful stuff. They remind us of Anvil's line of tools and jigs and that's high praise.

Sputnik covers a lot of bases with their frame jig as well as other tools and fixtures. Lots of stuff.

Cobra started with their "TOOB" bender and now offer a frame jig. They also kill it with videos and podcasts. 

Alex Meade and Incepi both offer some tools to make your life easier.

There's always someone to add to the list so please let us know if you know of someone who's joined the fray. It's hard to keep up!

Chop Source is new to us and their frame jig is similar to the "low cost" one that Bicycle Academy (sadly no longer around) used to make.

What frame jig you end up with will be determined mostly by how much money you have to spend. And let's not forget a variety of DIY versions. Here's good and better. That last link was inspired by an Arctos clone by Alex Wetmore. We linked to him in the top section on this page, but it's worth mentioning again that you should check out the YouTube channel that Steve at Pithy Bikes has going on. You can kill hours watching him work through all sorts of cool stuff.

Fork jigs etc. - There are so many other jigs to add to the list that we'll try to keep it short. Fork jigs are a good thing to consider, as are jigs for stems, canti bosses, disc tabs, and many other things you may never have thought of. See some of the above frame jig sources for these ancillary items.

Heat source - If you want to braze, you'll need an oxy-acetylene set-up. If you want to TIG, you're best served by spending the money on a quality welding set-up (see your local welding supplier). For some bike-specific insights about torches and welders, see this thread on the frame builders' forum Velocipedesalon.com.