Tom Porter's Recumbent Bike Plans - SWB versions
Tom Porter's Recumbent Bike Homebuilder Plans

Tools, you can’t build without them. The following lists will describe the necessary basic tools and the really nice to have optional tools. Also included are the necessary fixtures and jigs you will build yourself. It has been surprising to see what others have accomplished with the most rudimentary of tools. As in woodworking it is really not necessary to have every form of power tool imaginable to accomplish anything, just a little more hand work. Think of it as a work of sculpture, close is good enough for the most part.

Basic Tools    Layout Tools    Miscellaneous Hand Tools    Bells and Whistles    Jigs and Fixtures 

Basic Tools:

  • A GOOD hacksaw – one will cost 20-25 USD, this is really most essential as you will be cutting lots of 4130 steel with it. A good saw will have the best tension for the bi-metal blades and be much easier to control your cuts with, I can’t stress this enough!

    And of course hacksaw blades, I’ve found the 12” 24TPI bi-metal blades to be the best all around to use.
  • A set of files – by this I mean 3 each of the different grades of finish these give. Make ‘em the 8-10” ones in bastard (for a rough cut), second cut and finish cut, these terms should be self explanatory. Profiles (meaning shape) should be half round, round and flat or mill. You will use these more than the hacksaw, mostly to clean up your welds/brazes and for shaping. A very versatile set of tools. Be sure to get the proper wooden handles for these also.
  • 6” bench vise with removable jaws, yet another essential as it will be used almost at every stage of construction. You will also use this for the wooden forming blocks to ovalize tubing and the angle iron forming jaws for dropouts.
  • Measuring devices – such as a tape, machinist’s rule, ruler( 12” stainless steel in inch and metric gradations the way to go). A vernier caliper is also very nice to have. The electronic one that Harbor Freight has costs only 20 USD and is more than adequate for our needs, and is reads in inches or metric and is much easier to read than vernier scale one (where you basically guess where you are on it). I find using metric much easier to do calculations with than the crazy system we use in the USA, which is only easy to use if you think decimally all the time (so join the 21st century and go metric).
  • 1/3 HP 6”(meaning the wheels) bench grinder. An adequate one is usually available at your nearest box home improvement store for around 30 USD. This will really save time on roughin’ out metal, especially those pesky dropouts. Better than usin’ a file. Also re-sharpens your drill bits so save yourself a lot of money and go to your local library and get a machinist’s book on how and why.
  • Combination square – a 2pc. one will do (you can make your own center finder tools). Only way to make sure things are near square and perpendicular.
  • Torpedo level – I believe 9” is the standard. You will use this constantly to check level and square and is cheap to boot.
  • ½” Conduit bender – Uses include straightening and shaping the front fork for the FWD and bending electrical conduit for making cheap mesh seat frames.
  • Various clamps – The surprising humble hose clamp is very useful, other clamps needed are not expensive.

Layout Tools:

  • Blue layout dye (really blue lacquer) for coloring your bare metal to prepare it for etching, don’t bother to get anything but the bottle with it’s own brush type (I bought a spray can once and it went to s__ uh, seed long before I used it up).
  • Scribing tool - etch pattern in dye so you can see what has to cut out of your metal piece(s). Any sharp hard piece of metal will do, I use a scratch awl (but have used drywall screws when I’ve misplaced it).
  • Marker pens – felt tip (steal some from work) or paint
  • Center punch – A sharp, hard pointy thing to prepare a bit of steel so your drill bits don’t wander all over the place, used in conjunction with a BFH (ball peen).
  • Protractor – for laying out frame blocks on jig table.

Miscellaneous Hand Tools:

  • Snips – Wiss is the universal standard name in these but good for cutting 4130 up to .035 thick (lucky for us) any thing thicker will require the hacksaw.
  • Dead blow hammer – for persuading things without marring them up.
  • Sockets and wrenches – applicable bicycle sized tools of all types.
  • Adjustable reams – used in the suspension design to round out to fit bushings and pins.
  • Cutting oil and dispenser bottle – Remember this if nothing else NEVER cut steel with any saw or drill without cutting oil, you will only louse up the same and add immeasurable time (and frustration) to cutting the 4130.
  • Drills, drill bits, taps and tap holder and hole saws.
  • The most important electric tools are a ½” VSR drill and a 3/8” VSR (preferably with a keyless chuck).
  • Taps and holders (will be described in the building stages).
  • Bimetal Hole saw with a separate mandrel, the ones with their own individual mandrel are a scam and useless for our purposes anyway.

I guess that is all I can think of for now I’m sure there will be plenty of addenda as I get into this.

Bells and Whistles:

  • ½” Drill press – makes drilling true holes so much easier
  • Stationery bench belt sander and various grades of belts, sure beats having to file everything.
  • Miter tube notching jig – makes cutting big round holes quick and easy with hole saws (cut is adequate for brazing). I know some people maintain a mill is necessary for this but you’re not going into production are you?
  • Dremel tool – the only thing this is good for is grinding and cleaning up brazed areas.
  • Table or chop saw – use with cutoff wheel to cut pieces quickly, also cuts angles easier.
  • Sanders – block and orbital, for cleaning up and finishing steel for painting.
  • Lathe – all this is needed for on these designs is to cut your own pulleys, which can be done with an electric drill (see later on). 

Jigs and Fixtures:

  • Layout/framebuilding jig table – a piece of ¾” plywood backed by 1” dimension lumber is adequate for attaching alignment blocks. See the Recumbent Bike Jig page for details
  • Hardwood frame blocks – basically 1” x 4” boards with a 1.75” hole sawed through them then cut in half lengthwise and screwed to layout jig table and clamping the tubes in place for tacking together.
  • Angle iron forming vise jaws - an idea from EAA homebuilders book I got from the library to squeeze tubes down to fit dropouts that make them look fairly pro. 
  • Pine block to ovalize tubing – You HAVE to use a softwood for this as a hardwood will cause small dents or dimples. Now is the first time I will explain an ongoing abbreviation – VOE – The Voice Of Experience, this is a warning not to deviate from my recommendations and refers to a mistake made in the past.
  • 3/8” Threaded rod and 6 nuts (NC) – used to space dropouts to proper over locknut dimension.

All these will be illustrated with photos at the necessary stage.

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