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

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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)  adamant62812 months 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 carlitos5 months ago
Hey im interested in some rubber tub. Whats the cost?
Thanks for the offer, I've sent you a PM.
David HW11 months 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 HW11 months 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) 12 months 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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