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This article was fist published on Sept. 24, 2008 in my personal blog Its All One Big Adventure.

Bicycle tools are somewhat expensive. If your like me and don’t like paying for labor you can do yourself, but don’t want to buy tools that you might be able to make a lot cheaper, then you’ve come to the right spot. I have made a few tools from stuff you can buy at any decent hardware store. Just about all of these tools have been made in some form or fashion before this, so I’m not claiming anything, I just want to share my knowledge.

Headset Cup Remover: This one is easy. Take 12″ piece of 3/4″ copper tubing and cut two slits about 4″ long as on-center as you possibly can. (You can also cut just one slit, but you sacrifice having even pressure on the cup when you go to smack it out.) In other words, the slits should have the same distance between them on both sides. For cutting I use a craftsman version of a dremel tool, but a hack saw and vice may work as well. When your happy with the slits, carefully separate the two prongs. Copper has a low yield strength, so take care in separating the prongs. You want to try to bend the full length of the prong as opposed to just at the joint. At the end of the tube you want the separation to be enough so you can slide the 3/4″ uncut end into the head tube and pull the prongs into the head tube until you hear the tool “click” into place. One or two hard smacks with a hammer will pop your cups right out. The copper will not damage steel cups no matter how hard you hit it, so don’t back down. The less hits to remove the cups, the more times you’ll be able to use the tool. Copper is soft and will deform when you hit it so you might be able to get two or three uses out of one piece. If you plan on removing cups on a daily basis (or more than just a few times) buy a remover tool. Once I start removing cups on a regular basis, I’ll switch over to a real tool, but for now, that length of copper tube sitting in my shop is good enough. Here’s a photo of my latest one. Its a one slit deal.

Single Slit Homemade Headset Cup Remover

Single Slit Homemade Headset Cup Remover

Fork Crown Race Setter: A crown race must pressed or tapped down with even pressure all around it. For 1″ steel forks I use a 1″ copper sleeve and a 1″ by 24″ steel pipe. Grease the race, slide it into place and twist it while putting downward pressure. By doing this you should be able to get it started onto the crown evenly. If it didn’t happen evenly all around, start over or skip this step. Next, slide the copper sleeve onto the steertube, and then the steel tube. (A 1″ piece of steel tubing typically has an inner diameter of 1″. A 1″ steertube typically has a outer diameter of 1″ so the tool should slide right onto the steertube.) Turn the whole thing upside down, center the copper sleeve on the race, hold the fork blade and steel pipe in and tap until the pipe on the groud (or floor) until the race is fully seated. Sometimes a slam is required to fully seat the race. Here is photo of my trusty tool.

Homemade Fork Crown Race Setter

Homemade Fork Crown Race Setter

Headset Press for 1″ Headsets: This can be made using a 3/4″ stainless steel piece of all-thread, brass bushings, washers, and nuts. The bushings must be softer than steel, so brass is a good choice because it is a copper alloy, and bushings will typically come in plastic, rubber or brass. Bronze is fine too (it is also a copper alloy) so if you find bronze bushings, your good to go. The size of the bushings should be 3/4″ inner diamter, 1″ sleeve diameter, and 1-1/4″ flange diameter. A good hardware store should have this size. The press is to be constructed as shown in the photo below with the head tube and headset pieces in between the brass bushings. All headset cups are a bit different, so when setting up the press, experiment to see if the sleeve end of the bushing, or the flanged end of the bushing fits on better. More often than not, I find the flanged end applying the pressure to both the upper race and lower race to be the way to go. Assemble and slowly tighten one nut while holding the other in place.

Homemade Headset Press

Homemade Headset Press

Dropout Alignment Tool: Start with two steel eyebolts, four nuts, and four stainless steel washers. I use 3/8″ eye bolts that are about 8″ long. 3/8″ translates to about 9.5mm, so they are just a hair too big to fit into front fork ends. To fix this, I ground off as close to 0.25mm on each side as I could making flats on either side of the bolt. I recommend lining the flats up with the eyelets so that your eyelets are parallel when installed on the fork. I also ground the threads off the end of the bolts so they would not get caught on each other if they happen to overlap (this would happen in a serious case of dropout misalignment.) Rear dropouts are typically 10mm, so fit is not a problem. Just make sure you have them seated as far back as possible. Here is a photo of mine:

Homemade Dropout Alignment Tool

Homemade Dropout Alignment Tool

Other Frame Alignment Tools: I’ve also used a 2×4 and a piece of string to align rear triangles. Use Sheldon’s cold setting method.

Other Homemade Tools: I’ve heard of people making their own repair stands, and truing stands as well. I can imagine how this is done, but I have not done it. I bought both.

I find myself heading to the hardware store quite often to make tools from various things throughout the store. I’ve posted a few on my other blogs, but I’ll transfer them over to here when I have the chance.

Here is a fork vise I made that can be held in a regular old bench vise. Pretty simple to make if you have the right supplies and tools. You’ll need a front QR axle. This is where that old rusty front wheel comes in handy!

I have included Plans on the Downloads page


Fork Vise Secure in Bench Vise

Underside of Fork Vise

Underside of Fork Vise

Birds Eye View

Birds Eye View


1- 2″x 2″ steel angle – you’ll need about 85mm, but this exact dimension depends on the cones and locknuts you use.

2- 9/16″x 1-3/8″ “U” Bolts with washer and nuts

1- front quick release axle with skewer

4- front axle cones with the same Outside Diameter (OD) (old pitted cones work best!)

2- front axle locknuts

2- front axle washers


Hack saw or band saw set up to cut steel

Round File to clean up drill holes

Flat file for edges and surfaces

Bench grinder (optional)

Drill with 1/4″ bit meant for steel

Scribe, center punch and counter sink to mark and line up drill holes

Cone wrenches

Box wrenches or ratchet

Tape measure, calipers, or ruler


Disassemble the axle and reassemble putting an extra cone on each side as shown in the photos and plan. Measure the spacing of the exterior faces of the locknuts and maintain 100mm between the two surfaces while maintaining equal axle stubs on each side. Tighten all the pieces against each other on each side. You should now have a front axle with the cones forming a rounded circular groove on each side.

Put the completed axle on one flange of the steel angle. Line up the edge of the angle with one of the exterior cones exterior face. At the other exterior cone, scribe a line on the angle at the cone exterior face. This is where you’ll cut the angle. You want the four cones to make contact with the angle flange, but you do not want the locknut (which has a larger OD) to contact the flange. See the photos and plan. You’ll end up with a piece of steel about 85mm long give or take a few millimeters.

Mark the longitudinal center-line of one of the flanges. Scribe a line parallel to the center-line offset by 3mm away from the perpendicular flange. This is the line your axle will sit on. The 3mm offset is to account for the perpendicular flange. This will make more sense when you place the “U” bolt washers on. There won’t be enough room for the washers unless you do this.

Put the axle on its seat line and center it lengthwise on the angle flange. Mark the location of the two circular grooves on the angle. Scribe lines perpendicular to your axle seat line at these marks. These are drill hole center-lines. Measure the distance between the two prongs on the “U” bolts. Mark the locations of the drill holes on the drill hole center-lines making sure they are centered around the axle seat line.

Punch mark and run a countersink bit at the drill hole locations. Make sure you have at least 8mm of steel around all the holes. Drill the holes and finish all the surfaces with files.

Assemble the tool and mark the “U” bolt prongs for cutting or grinding. (Without doing this, the prongs will be too long and will interfere with putting the tool in the bench vise). Cut the prongs and finish with a file. Reassemble and tighten down the nuts.

If you don’t have cones of the same OD, then you can grind a flat on the larger ones. Don’t bother putting it together without doing this. You’ll just bend the axle when you tighten the nuts.

You’ll find the plans on the page called Downloads. Below is a partial image of the plan. My scanner isn’t big enough for big sheets.

Fork Vise Plan Image

At the beginning of July my wife Syrah and I moved to Monterey California. We moved here because Syrah got a great job. I was coming here jobless. This was my opportunity to begin something of my own. In my mind I am an engineer, but in my hands I am a mechanic and technician. I do not like working for others, and I enjoy providing service to others in need. Working on and with bicycles is my passion, and I’d like to revolve my business plan around the bicycle. The final plan is not yet done, but the beginning steps are clear. Since my arrival to Monterey I have set my garage up as a shop. A similar shop to what I had in New Orleans. This time I’m no longer in a spare bedroom. I am in a garage with a concrete floor.

Garage 9/15

I’m fixing bikes out of my garage. I have some fantastic customers already. People who I see eye to eye with. People who want to have a relationship with their bicycle mechanic. People who want good work done at a reasonable price. People who will tell their friends about my little bicycle garage world. When I’m not fixing bikes I’m looking for a location, buying parts, looking for deals on tools, making tools, working on a business plan, or studying the topic of bicyle design. I just opened a business account with my bank yesterday and named the sole proprietorship “McGivern Cyclery”. I jumped around with names for awhile, but I believe this fits best for now. Once established, I’d like to add the subtitle “Bicycle Repair, Research, Design and Testing” or something like that. The company may also break into different smaller companies to accomodate such things as material testing, but we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes.

Part of this business will be located in this website. I plan on keeping track of my business progress here on this blog. Hopefully this is a place where I can showcase my work, share my ideas, and offer my services. The idea behind the blog is to share my experiences establishing my own bicycle workshop.

As of today, the goal is to have a location by January 2010. Lots of things come with location, but I’ll save that for another time.

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