Instructables
Picture of Antique Bicycle


Picture yourself riding one of these, and you will be the talk of the town.
Here I'll show you how to build your own antique bike like the Ordinary Bicycle,
also called a Penny-Farthing -- common in the 1880s which became an
iconic symbol for transportation history. 
With an old bike, a few tools and materials, and some patience, you can
build this bike and bring history to your front door.
Although replicas and originals can cost thousands of dollars, yours does not have to!
I'll also teach you how to ride it!
So get your tools out, find an old bike, and let's get started!
 

 
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Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools
Materials:
old bike with 26" rims
16" front wheel w/ tire from a child's bike
1" OD steel tube x 6'
1" wide x 1/4" thick steel plate
1 1/2" wide x 23" long x 1/4" thick steel plate
5/8" OD steel tube
6 lbs 3/32" #308 stainless steel welding rods
tricycle hub
2 pillow block ball bearings (shaft size determined by hub)
1" OD solid rubber tire
1/8" solid galvanized steel wire x 16'


Tools:
Craftsman  MIG Welder with Cart (wish I had it)

Tubing Roller

Craftsman 10" Compound Miter Saw (w/ metal cutting blade)

Craftsman 6" Bench Grinder

Craftsman 5" Bench Vise

Craftsman Hammer

Craftsman Wrench Set


Kobalt 27/64" drill bit, 1/2"-13 NC Tap, and 1/2" - 13 NC Die

Threading die 2-56

spoke wrench

drill set for metal

Spray Rust Oleum metal primer and paint

misc: pipe clamps, vise grips

Step 2: Grinding the Spokes

Make the spokes out of 36" long stainless steel welding rods (3/32" diameter, #308).
They are sold by the pound so buy 6 pounds which will be about 84 rods.
You will need 72 rods for a 48" rim and so 6 pounds will also provide a few extras.
The idea is to grind down the tips of each rod to a size which can be
threaded to accept standard bike rim nipples.
My welding rods had a stamping on the ends so I gang cut the ends off
using a 10" Compound Miter Saw with a 10" metal cutting blade.
Using the bench grinder, grind down the tip end (about 1" in legth) so as to end up
with a diameter of about 2mm for the entire 1" tip.
Be sure to grind evenly all around the tip end so as to maintain a cylindrical shape.
Do this by constantly turning the spoke around in your fingertips and moving
it up and down as you grind.
You will frequently want to take a measure of your progress since too much grinding
will result in too small a diameter for the threads.
The best way I found in measuring this is to drill a 2mm hole (or whichever size your
nipples require) on a piece of plastic.  
Keep grinding until you are just able to insert 1" of the grinded end of the spoke through
the hole in the plastic.
If you grind too deep, cut that piece off and start over.
A digital caliper may come in handy and always wear safety goggles when grinding!

Step 3: Threading the Spokes

You will know you have the right diameter as you begin to thread the rod using a #2-56 die.
This die provides a pitch of 56 TPI (threads per inch) which is standard in bike nipples.
Clamp the rod onto a vise so it is held steady while threading.
Use cutting oil on the die so it does not overheat and lose its sharpness.  Thread slowly.
More grinding will be needed if you can't get the die to either start the thread
or threading requires so much force that it does not progress well.
You will have grinded too far if the threading is really easy and running your fingernail
over the threads feels somewhat smooth.
It takes practice and lots of patience but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Ultimately, you want to test your threads by screwing the nipple onto it.
The nipple should accept the threading well as you finger tighten it.
Now is a good time to take apart the wheels off the old bike and
recover 72 nipples (36 in each) off of them.
Having done that, now repeat grinding and threading 71 more times!
Have patience.  You will end up with 72 threaded spokes eager to be cut to length
(but don't cut them just yet).
When you install the spokes on your big wheel, you will use a spoke wrench
to do the tightening.
You can readily get a spoke wrench at bike shops. Get the kind that works with
different size nipples, just in case your nipples are not a standard size.
An easier and faster way to thread your spokes is to use a "spoke threader".
It will roll vs. cut the metal so it produces a superior thread, however it's an expensive
little tool.
Lastly, it's important you do a quality job with the threads. 
The front wheel will only be as good as its spokes and you don't want it
to fail when you're on top on one of these!
Typically, these bikes used 60 spokes, so I figure yours will be 20% stronger.

Step 4: Straightening the Rims

To make the rim, start with 2 26" rims off of your old bike.
Cut each one with your 10" Circular Saw using a 10" metal cutting blade.
You want to make the cut between any 2 nipple holes.
I chose to cut near the air valve hole.
Using a vise, progressively straighten each rim to form a semi-circle.
I cut 2 wooden blocks and sandwiched the rim in between so as to not
crimp or damage the rim as I straightented it.
I built a wooden frame to help me test for curvature.
As I straightened each rim, I would place it over the wooden frame and then
went back to straightening some more.
As the rim approaces a perfect semi-circle, you can also stand on top of the rim and bend/straighten slightly since the rims have a slight tendency to revert back to their old shape.
26" bike rims typically have 36 spokes which means there will be
36 holes on each rim.
Next, we will join the 2 rims to form 1 large rim.

Step 5: Welding the Rim

Having straightened each rim to a semi-circle, you will then weld them together
using a TIG or MIG welder.
A TIG welder is expensive and welding requires skill.
Luckily for me, my friend Max is an expert welder and so I just helped in holding
things in place.  I sure I wish I had one of these of my own, like the
Craftsman MIG Welder with Cart.  :-)
When welded, the rim will then have 72 holes which dictates having 72 spokes.
My welded rim measured approximately 48" in diameter...
I guess 26" rims are really smaller than 26".
As a guide, I measure 5'6" and the 48" rim reaches up to the bottom of my sternum.
When the pedals are at their farthest while riding, I can just reach them with the tip of my shoes.
In other words, if you are shorter than me, consider making your rim a little smaller
and using fewer spokes as needed.
If your rim is oval, use pipe clamps or the like to make them as round as possible.
Next, you will prepare the hub.

Step 6: Preparing the Hub

The hub (believe it came from a tricycle) I bought was neither the right size nor did it have 72 holes.
So, I cut it in half using my Craftsman 10" Compound Miter Saw with a 10" metal cutting blade.
I also cut a 5" length piece of steel tube which accepted the inside shaft of the hub.
I TIG welded the tube onto the inside shaft of the hub.
I proceeded to drilling 3/32" holes on each face of the hub so as to have a total of 72 holes.
36 holes on each face.  The idea is to have the 36 holes equally spaced apart all around
the circumference of each face.
This was a challenge for me since my hub's face had 14 holes as you can see.
On each face, I drilled a hole between existing holes, giving me 28 on each.
The missing 8 holes (for a total of 36) on each face were drilled further in from the edge equally spaced apart from each other.  Also, these holes needed to be radially in between any existing
holes since the spokes cannot overlap each other as they come out of the hub. 
As a result, I have 8*2 =16 spokes slightly longer than the rest.
Don't cut the spokes to length until it's time since you can cut to lenght as you start
spoking the wheel, which is the next step.

Step 7: Finishing the Spokes

Before spoking the wheel, I first calculated the approximate length of a spoke using the
Pythagorean Theorem. This is not a math lesson so if you are not sure, you can also
use a spoke calculator.
For my 48" diameter rim, 5" wide hub, and holes at about 2 3/4" apart across the
diameter, my spokes ended up being 22" long. 
However, to this length, you need to add an additional 1/4" for a total of  22 1/4",
as I'll explain below.
Cut 8 spokes to this length to start off with.
Now hold a spoke on the vise tight by the end you just cut so only 1/4" protrudes.
Hammer sideways but gently on the tip so as to bend the tip to a full 90 degrees.
While still on the vise, now flatten the bent tip by hammering it against the top of the vise.
This way, when you insert the threaded end of the spoke
through a hole on the hub and slide it all the way through, the flattened tip end
will not allow the spoke to slip out of the hole. See closeup picture.
You can also use vise grips instead to hold the spoke in place when hammering.

Step 8: Spoking the Wheel

I laced my wheel radially (no crossover) as I find that style most aesthetic and easiest to do.
Insert the threaded end of the spoke into a hole from the outside of the hub towards
the insdide.  Slide the spoke all the way to the bend on the other end and wiggle it
so as to bring it around towards the rim.  Choose a hole on the rim and bring the threaded
end through.  Now thread a nipple onto it.
Doing the same, spoke 4 at 90 degrees on one face and another 4 on the other face.
See the picture.
This should give you an idea if your length calculations were good.
If too long, adjust accordingly.  If too short, set them aside and try again with a few more.
When the spokes are tensioned, it's possible the short spokes were just right.
You can continue to cut, bend, and flatten each spoke as you insert them into position.
Use common sense.  Adjacent spokes stemming from the same face of the hub will
skip a hole in the rim since spokes alternate faces as they come out of the rim.
Spoking this big wheel is no different than a standard wheel so look for other instructables that explain the process if you need more help.
When all 72 spokes are in, start tightening each so as to give the wheel its rigidity.
The next step is about making the wheel perfectly round and rigid, called truing the wheel.

Step 10: Ball Bearings, Cranks, and Pedals

Picture of Ball Bearings, Cranks, and Pedals

I bought 2 pillow block ball bearings from bearingsdirect.com to fit the outside shaft of my hub.
The outside shaft measured 17mm in diameter, so a pillow block bearing with a 17mm
core shaft worked perfect.
You simply slide each pillow-block ball bearing to the outside shaft of the hub and
tighten the adjusting screw so it does not slip off.
I used a tap and die set for the cranks and pedals.
My cranks and pedals are from the old bike.  Just cut them off at the bend to the shaft.
I used a 27/64" drill bit to drill a hole on the crank and tapped it to 1/2" with 1/2" - 13 NC Tap
I then threaded the outside shaft of my hub with a 1/2" - 13 NC Die to accept the cranks.
I gave the cranks a few turns onto the shaft of the hub and securely placed them at
180 degrees from each other and then welded them permanently.

Step 11: Tiring the Wheel

Pneumatic tires had not been invented during the era of the Penny-Farthing
and I think they are still not available in this size!
So, to add authenticity, you use a solid rubber hose for the tire instead.
The tire measures 1" OD (outside diameter) and has a 3/16" hole down the middle.
You want to cut your tire about 4" longer than the circumference of your rim.
You then measure and cut 1/8" (14 gauge) galvanized solid steel wire to 4 feet longer than the circumference of your rim.  Apply a lubricant on the inside of the tire and
insert the wire through. Try to keep the wire straight and roundover the end of the wire to make inserting easier.  You may have to use pliers to help it along as the resistance becomes greater as you insert it. 15 ft. of wire is plenty as you need some extra grab the wire by the ends while  tensioning it.  
With the wire tight and the ends of the tire 3" apart, you want to sand off the galvanized
layer and braze opposite ends of the wire with silver solder. 
The tire should then close up to form a seam.
There are several ways you can apply tension on the wire.  The easiest I have found is by use of a homemade tensioner.
 


The homemade tensioner as you will see is the key to making the job easy.
It has 2 bottom bolts which when tightened, will sandwich the wire and hold
it's tension. The top big bolt, when turned clockwise will raise and pull the wire, thus applying tension. Use clamps to hold the wire ends.
It measures 3 inches across and has a window opening for brazing.
You can get the rollers from Home Depot or Lowes and are the rollers found in sliding glass patio doors.

This completes the wheel. Congratulations.
 

Step 12: The Backbone

To have a better understanding of how the bike comes together, I drew
the bike full-scale on paper after having looked at pictures of originals.
I laid the wheel over the paper and sketched it.
I then drew the backbone, which starts at the top of the wheel and follows it
as 1/4 arc.  It then goes off at a tangent to start a small fork for the rear wheel.
The rear wheel came off a child's 16" bike so if you have this at hand
you can place it on the paper and sketch it for a better idea of what's to come.
The fork for the big wheel comes from the old bike.
Cutting it as in the picture, you can then place it on the paper and sketch it.
You should now have a good idea for what the backbone will look like.
I used a 1" steel tube about 6 feet long.  To bend/roll it, use a "tubing roller" since
it makes the job very easy.  You want an extra 2 feet in length to make
the bending/rolling easier.
You want to roll the backbone gradually and compare with your drawing
as you go.  Once you achieve the curvature you want, trim it to length.
It's exact length depends on a few things so here you want to be your own judge.

Step 13: The Rear Fork

The rear fork is mainly a 5/8" tube bent in the form of a U. 
However, to accept the rear wheel, you can reuse the tips
off of your old bike's front fork.  Cut those off and weld them
onto your rear fork at opposite ends. 
The total length of the tube you need depends on how large
a rear wheel you want to use and the length of the tips.
I'm using a 16" pneumatic tire and my tips are each 3 1/2" long and
the tube measures 16" for a total length of 23" end to end.
At this point, you can cut a round groove at the low end of
the backbone to accept the rear fork. 
Bend and slide the rear fork onto this groove and weld in place.
Next, is the front fork.

Step 14: The Front Fork

I cut off my old bike's top tube completely and grinded it down to remove all sharp edges.
I cut the down tube 2" away from the headset where it is then welded permanently to
the backbone.  These 2 tubes cut off of the old bike are reused to extend the front fork.
Their exact length is something you will need to determine as you slide each over the old
fork and place it over the pillow block ball bearings.
To the ends of each of these 2 tubes, you will weld a small steel plate about
1" wide x 3 1/2" long x 1/4" thick.
Drill 2 holes on the steel plate to align perfectly with the mounting holes on the ball bearing.
You will use 2 bolts, 2 nuts, and 2 washers to hold the pillow-block ball bearing to the plate
which is welded to the fork extension tubes.  In turn, each fork extension tube is welded
to the old bike's fork.  Weld the extension tube to the fork last as you hold it in place
for a perfect fit.
The handlebars are next.

Step 15: The Handlebars

The handlebars are from the old bike.  One popular style used for the handlebars
was the mustache shaped handlebars.  All that is needed to achieve this is a little
downward bending.
The ends of the handlebars can be left as is or you can make D shaped handles
by way of bending a 1/2" diameter tube and attaching a wooden dowel as I did. 
I attached each of mine with 2 long screws.  The D shaped end is then welded on after cutting
a notch on the end of the handlebar to accept it.
The saddle (seat) is next.

Step 16: The Saddle

The saddle (seat) itself comes from (you guessed it) the old bike.
Some suspension is provided by a steel bracket under the seat which will flex
when you sit down.  I used a steel plate 1 1/2" wide x 1/8" thick x 23" long.
However, I recommend 1/4" thickness instead since mine did flex more
than I anticipated and did not retain its original shape as well.
Bend it in the form of a J and notch off a semi-circle from the long end to accept the
curvature of the headset.  Weld the long semi-circle notched end to the headset
and the short end to the top of the backbone. 
The idea is to give a springy support for the seat.
About 10" from the headset on the seat support steel plate,
weld a steel rod/tube (perhpaps off of the old bike) that will accept the seat of
which you can tighten in place.  This way you can replace the seat with
any other that uses the same standard.
The mounting step is next.

Step 17: The Mounting Step

The trick to mounting and dismouting the Ordinary Bicycle is the mounting step.
It's just a small steel plate welded onto the left side of the backbone for your
left foot to rest on during mounting/dismounting. 
How high up on the backbone is a matter of preference,
but as a guide, you rougly want it to be about as high as the center of the hub on the big wheel.
So with a 48" wheel, the center of the hub stands around 24" high.
It should be low enough for you to be able to place your
left foot over it and hop on and yet high enough that you can swing back
your left foot while riding and blindly find the step when dismounting.
Cut a 3" long x 1" wide x 1/4" thick steel plate using your 10" Miter Saw.
One end of the plate needs to be notched to a semi-circle as it will be welded to
the left side of the backbone.  The other end just needs grinding at the corners
and be made smooth.  You don't want to scrape your leg against it.
The picture shows the bike already painted but when welding the step, as in all welds,
the metal should be sanded down and clean.
Now all that remains is a paint job.

Step 18: Painting

Remove your bike's front and rear wheels and saddle.
Mask any parts of the handlebars you don't want painted.
Use Rust Oleum metal primer by applying 3 thin coats waiting 15 minutes in between coats.
Use metal enamel of your chosen color in thin coats as well.
Let it cure 24 hours and you are ready to ride.

Step 19: Riding


Riding an Ordinary Bicycle is a most exhilarating experience!
You stand only 2 feet above the ground but boy oh boy do you feel tall!
At a minimum, you want to use a bike helmet.  I also use shin-guards,
knee pads, and elbow pads.  Bottom line, treat the bike with respect
and don't be foolish.
In learning to ride it, I recommend you take a step-wise approach.
First stand behind the bike, grab the handlebars, and place your left foot on
the mounting step.
Now with your right foot scoot along.  As you scoot and begin to gain
momentum, try and lift yourself up by pulling on the handlebars
and straightening your left knee.  You will need to bounce off of your right
foot as you go up.  Now just maintain your balance and ride out the
momentum for a few seconds and come back down on your right foot
before the bike slows down too much.
You want to go straight as you scoot since the wheel may not let you turn
to the right as it may scrape along your left foot.
Practice this for half an hour.  Who needs a stair master when you have a Penny!
As you gain confidence, the next step is to bring your torso forward
and actually sit down.  Don't take your foot off the step!
Then immediately come back off the seat and come back down.
Next, climb up, sit down, and take your left foot off the mouting step
and immediately bring your left foot back onto the step, get off the seat,
and come back down.  Think what you will be doing before doing so, so
you don't hesitate.  You are almost there!
You can do this a few more times and get a sense of when the right foot
has it's first chance to step on the pedal -- which is all that remains.
As soon as you get your feet on the pedals, you can keep the bike moving
and you should not fall.  To prepare for the dismount, get the bike going good
so you have a little extra time to find the dismount step with your left foot.
Turning is next.  Give yourself plenty of room and go easy.
One thing I have still to add to my bike (and instructable) is brakes!
I think learning to dismount is far more important than brakes since you can
brake all you want but if you can't dismount, you're in trouble.

Lastly, it's a fun ride -- literally a time machine!
Go for it and stay on top!

Carlitos
1-40 of 160Next »

How many rods will I need for a 40" rim?

I don't have a tube roller, would this be hard to do without one? If I cut the shape of the rim out of plywood would I be able to bend it into shape just with this?

For the tires could I just use the tires from the original rims, cut them into two semi circles, and bring them together for a large tire, then fill them with foam?

Where did you get the rubber tube? I'm sure many would like to know. A website would be helpful. Anyways, thanks for these plans.
2nd! Having trouble sourcing rubber tube like this.
I am also having trouble finding the tubing, and would appreciate a tip on where to find it.
carlitos (author)  adamant6281 year ago
You can buy quality 1" black solid rubber tire (which takes a 1/8" cable wire) from me and pay less. Knowing the precise dimensions of the wheel is important and you need to understand the length of tire required is more than the circumference. Installing one yourself requires special tool and a little know-how. There are a few variables here. Type and grade of wire, how to tension, and fastern. I have a reliable solution which would make it very easy on you.
If I install a tire on my rim of same size, I can pry it out and you can pry it in. You just wrap it around as far as it goes before the last part of tire is straight and outside the rim. Then use electrical cable ties to tie the tire on both ends where the tire is over the rim but not outside. This helps to hold the tire in place. Then take a pry bar, and vertically slide it under, between the tire and the rim. Then with a little force, swing the pry bar towards you until the tire is foced over and onto the rim. Pop! It's in. Good and tight. Takes 5 minutes.
Message me if interested.
jeglitis carlitos6 months ago
Hey im interested in some rubber tub. Whats the cost?
Thanks for the offer, I've sent you a PM.
David HW1 year ago
Beautiful bike! Thank you for posting it an taking all these questions. What is the wall thickness of the C channel you use? Do you bevel the inside edges or splay them out to fit the tire?
carlitos (author)  David HW1 year ago
1/8" thickness. I did not bevel the edges as it was not necessary. It measures 1" across with 1/2" sides so the opening is 3/4"and a well tensioned 1" tire stays snug.
carlitos (author) 1 year ago
12 gauge (2.7mm) galvanized steel spokes.
Photo Oct 27, 8 39 39 AM.jpgPhoto Oct 26, 3 38 03 PM.jpgPhoto Oct 22, 8 44 52 AM.jpg
Dutch561 year ago
Great 'ible Carlitos. Just a couple of questions, in the pictures of your recent p/f builds they look like they have some type of braking system on the front tire-can you explain or post more detailed pictures of how they are set up and work? Also where did you find a bike rack to carry your p/f? If it's something that you built, care to share the plans?
carlitos (author)  Dutch561 year ago
Thanks. Yes, it's called a spoon brake.
It's just a lever which when squeezed, presses the tire.
It consists of 2 pieces, each with a hinge. You can use a spring on the top piece to retract or a band works well. I built the bike rack too. Got the idea from racks sold which support the bike at the base of the wheel, except the vertical pole that helps the bike stay upright is made longer to accomodate the height. I would look to buying one of these and just extend the pole yourself.
echodog1 year ago
This is very impressive work. I'm very interested in how you built the large wheels for the two newer penny farthings using a roller machine and steel C-channel. Would you be willing to post an instructable on that?
carlitos (author)  echodog1 year ago
It's simple really. You measure a C-channel to the circumference you need and mark the ends plus 1 feet in length on either side to allow for rolling past the marks. Using a tubing roller with straight dies, you roll the channel until the marks meet, then cut at the marks and weld while holding with clamps.
Well you certainly make it sound simple. :) Thanks for the explanation and the swift reply. I'll have to give this a try--I've been looking for a way to build larger than normal bicycle rims for awhile.
carlitos (author) 1 year ago
Building 12 gauge spokes out of galvanized 12 gauge rods is much easier than using stainless steel welding rods. Thanks to my home-made semi-automatic spoke threading machine..
http://www.instructables.com/id/Semi-automatic-spoke-threading-machine/
Hi, Carlitos

Just wanted to ask you how thick the wall of the 1" od steel tube that you used for the backbone was - I found some tubing, but the wall seems pretty thin, and the tube feels a little too 'flexible' for a bicycle frame! What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks in advance,

Russell
carlitos (author)  russbuck1001 year ago
Hi Russell, 13 gauge or heavier has worked for me. I measured 0.091" thickness on the last one I built.
Old rim is made of some very stiff steel which acts more like cast iron, kinked it and think rolling a C-channel will be a much better way to achieve a strong, circular wheel. Did you (on the C-channel wheeled Pennys) measure make holes for the spokes on the rim before or after pipe-bending?
carlitos (author)  awesomecreations1 year ago
I measured the holes after bending. I drew up the circle on a cardboard. Took a few tries to divide it up evenly for 60 spokes.
Not easy. Perhaps measuring before bending would be easier. Another idea is to use google sketchup since you can draw a circle and divide it radially by any number.
Thanks. I would have visited a scrap yard to get some good steel, but every one I went to was closed for the holidays.
I just bought a 6m long steel pole with a diameter of 32 mm. Now I have to make a C-channel somehow. Not sure how to make certain the cut will be straight. I also need to aquire a good tricycle hub to use now.
carlitos (author)  awesomecreations1 year ago
Look to a steel yard instead and buy the C-channel.
carlitos (author) 2 years ago
My 2 recent masterpieces.
IMG_2280.JPGDSC08047.JPG
Nice work, did you make the back wheels aswell?
carlitos (author)  awesomecreations1 year ago
No. Penny's rear wheel is the front wheel from a child's 16" bike.
DSC08651.JPG
alqudwa1 year ago
I'm riding a wheel with a hub shimano v3. radial style. Not against the spokes 233mm. Then I thought of using the spokes own and make the thread size I need. spoke of using the 2mm diameter
alqudwa1 year ago
hello can you help me?
which the diameter of the wire you used? 2mm?
#2-56 die
thnx!!!
carlitos (author)  alqudwa1 year ago
I had used 1/8" stainless steel welding rods which is why I had to grind them down to 2.0 mm. If you can find 2mm wire (probably galvanized steel), then you don't have to grind them.
I've gotten to the point where the rim must be straightened in a vise, but when I remove the steel, it doesn't appear to be any different, ie. it springs back. What can I do to prevent this?
How did you tighten the spokes?
carlitos (author)  awesomecreations1 year ago
spoke wrench
Also want to build one, not many in South Africa and I've got time these holidays. How could I avoid the two rims returning to their original curvature once removed from the wooden circular former?
carlitos (author)  awesomecreations1 year ago
You will likely need to bend it to a larger curvature since it tends to flex back. Yes, it is a challenge to have a true circular rim. The preferred method is to use a steel C channel and use a "rolling" machine.  That's how I made the rims on the 3 bikes pictured below.
Is it just me or is the wheel in the first picture slightly wobbly?
sweet build im making 1 at the moment, for the cranks i used a 16mm die steel rod and ground out a 10mm slot so i could use cottered cranks im guna upload them soon, were did you get the tubing from for the tire? im in the uk and cant seem to find it
I realise that your post is quite old, but just in case you're still stuck, or other people in the UK want to try this (I certainly do, and found the tyre was the sticking point.. until I found out about the following company) here is some iformation that might help.

There is a company who produce tyres suitable for this application, based in the UK, and it does NOT require a hollow tube and a wire, tensioned by the fitter, and brazed in place. The company produce puncture-proof tyres for wheelchairs, which fit using a coil embedded through the tyre itself. The company is called Lee Healey, and their website is http://www.lee-healey.com/ - unfortunately they don't have prices on the website, mainly because they offer different sizes and it also depends on the length.

I emailed using the details on the website and asked about penny farthing tyres, and I got a reply:

"We do sell tyring by the metre, We hold some over runs in certain sizes.

This is available in 15mm White & Black, 19mm Red, White & Black, 22mm Black & 25mm Black all dependant upon requirement. I normally supply 19 or 22mm for Penny Farthing Tyring.

The spiralling runs through the tyring and this is used to connect the ends as per the fitting instructions.

I hope this is useful and if you advise length and size required and were it to be sent I can advise costs."

and attached to the email reply was a word document containing (VERY simple) instructions for fitting of the tyres:

"Using a wet knife, cut the rubber down to the wire inside to length. [there was a table stating which length to cut the tyring to, but it only went up to 635mm/25" and suggested cutting it to 1918mm/75.5"]

Cut the wire with strong wire cutters or press the wire onto a piece of steel held in a vice and cut with a hammer and chisel.

The wire must be cleanly cut. Grind the end of the wire flush with the rubber.

Then cut a full 6.5mm (¼”) of rubber from each end using a wet knife. Hold the ends of the tyring and twist the right hand end in a backward direction exactly four complete revolutions.

Bring the two ends together. Let the reversed end screw forward until the ends of the rubber close up.

Place the joint in the rim first and then stretch the tyre on evenly all round making certain it is not twisted."

Hope this helps some of the UK residents looking at this wonderful Instructable - would be nice to see more of these on the roads - saw one just last week in Preston and it certainly raised smiles!
carlitos (author)  iamcookie30003 years ago
That's great. Love to see pictures. Mexico, Spain, and UK -- can't find the tire. I wonder where master builder Mr. Edwin Knight from Chelmsford gets his.
A company in Ohio sells the tubing for the tire and for 20 feet shipped, it will be in the $100 range which is why I'm sure you can do better in the UK. I like his 5 Penny's at a pub video. Riding must have been fun after a pint or two.
Jagster19982 years ago
Hello carlitos,
I am intrested in building a penny farthing bike as soon as I can but I am confused on the type of hub I could use and how far spaced the disks are. So if you could lead me to a place where I could purchase one for realitively cheap (under 20 dollars) I would be very grateful.
Thanks
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