Introduction: Cover a Bike Frame With Comics (or Other Paper)

About: Swiss expat in Germany, husband, father, teacher, cyclist, tinkerer, former theatre propsmaster πŸ‡¨πŸ‡­ πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘¦β€πŸ‘¦ πŸ‘¨β€πŸ« 🚲 πŸ› οΈ Heimwehschweizer in D, Ehemann, Vater, Lehrer, Radfahrer, Bastler, Ex-Requisiteur

Sometimes things just come together like pieces of a puzzle you didn't know you were doing:

There was this bike I had hanging for almost a year on the wall of my cellar. I pulled it out of a heap of trash on the roadside once and brought it home on my shoulder while riding my bike with the kids in the trailer.

Then a few months ago a guy in a forum posted some pictures of a frame he was covering with comic pages and I thought, hey, nice idea, maybe I'll do it once.

Then there was this instructable of a folding fixie without welding which I saw and instantly favorited.

Then I visited my parents an went through some of my old boxes still stashed under the roof and found this old comic "Capitan Terror".

And all of a sudden it all came together into one new project....

Step 1: Tools of the Trade

Necessary tools:

  • a set of standard bike tools for taking apart the bike an reassembling it after the coating
  • ruler
  • exacto knife
  • cutting mat
  • set of paintbrushes (don't be cheap here the extra money saves you from picking lost bristles out of the varnish)

Optional tools:

  • dremel, saw or flex (if you want to get rid of unneeded parts of the frame)
  • a pipe cutter (if you want to make a folding bike)

Necessary materials:

  • Comics, book pages, napkins, etc. be creative, it works with all sorts of paper
  • mod podge: This is a kind of glue that works also as varnish. It usually is water repellant, but not waterproof. In german this glue is named "Kleber fΓΌr Serviettentechnik" or "Decoupage Kleber" which is basically the same, just the latter is a more artsy term. There are a few brands out there, I used the one from Marabu. Just check out your local art supply or craft store, they probably have it.
  • clear boat varnish

Optional materials

  • scaffolding couplings (if you want to make a folding bike)
  • get creative here....

Step 2: Prepping the Frame

First I disassembled the bike completely down to the bare frame and fork. The parts I stashed in a box for later use. Then I cut the frame and fitted it back together with the needed couplings. For this part of the process please head over to the instructable Folding Fixie (without welding) by jeroenvanoorschot dot nl. Be shure to check out the comments section as well. There's a lot of additional info hidden in there!

After the cutting, I cut off some surplus parts and the bike was sandblasted and primed.

To get a bit more surface to stick the comics on I added a sort of a tank to the top tube, grinded it in shape, filled the gaps with some putty and laminated it with strips of packing paper and glue.

You could also just give the frame a quick sanding to roughen up the surface a bit. All the other things I did, are purely optional and up to your creative mind!

Step 3: Apply the Paper / Coating

Now the main work started. First I took apart the comic and cut it down into single pages. Just to be on the safe side, I scanned all the pages into a pdf file for backup. As an option you could print them back out single sided. More on that topic later.

Next I went through the pages to find some key images, I wanted to position on defined spots, where they made some (weird) sense.

Then I just started to cut the pages in strips. I tried to get the orientation of the pictures as accurate as possible. So, as needed, I cut horizontal or vertical strips. Then I glued them onto the frame with mod podge*. It was more a go along with what you get than a planned thing. I had no experience in this at all so I tried to solve problems as they arose. That's one way to do it, but in retrospect I would do a lot of things in a different way.

So here is, how I would do it the next time (and I will do this again):

    1. After priming cover the frame with a thin layer of black paint and give it a light sanding. This minimizes the backside images bleeding through (I realized this, while working on the chainguard). You could also scan the pages and reprint them single sided on paper of your choosing (the thinner the easier to work with). Then it's probably better to leave the frame grey or white depending on the primer.
    2. Make up your mind first about which pages go where, then use the leftover or uninteresting pages on the next step.
    3. I strongly recommend doing the difficult parts first, like bottom bracket, dropouts (more on them later), tube and other joints, dented stays, etc. and then let the paper flow/fade into the straight parts (instead of the other way around, like I did it on the bottom bracket as seen in the pictures above).
    4. On the tough spots you can work much easier, when you really soak the paper in glue (dont care about the bleeding through here, trust me). But be careful: When it's soaked, it wraps around very easy, but it also rips apart very easy!
    5. Don'tmind the holes for screws and dropouts, just work your way over them. You can cut them open later with an exacto knife as needed while reassembling the bike.
    6. Let the tough spots dry for a day or so and then continue with the easier straight parts. Here, more than in the last step, it's important to keep the orientation of the strips right, if you want to keep at least parts of the bubbles readable, but that's totally up to you and the material you end up using.
    7. Work fast and in a warm spot. The quicker the glue dries the less the backside bleeds through.
    8. Dropouts: When done with all the glueing, cut/scratch/sand away the paper in the area where the nuts and washers of the axles will touch the frame! If you let the washers do this for you it will look awful! Do this before the final coat with boat varnish!
    9. When frame and fork are completely covered to your liking, let it dry for a few days. Then coat the complete frame and fork with a thick layer of clear glossy boat varnish. This seals the surface of the glued paper and makes your work waterproof. And nothing beats the glossy surface of a good boat varnish!
    10. Let the boat varnish cure for at least a week before reassembly. Mine took almost 14 days until I couldn't make anymore marks in it with my fingernail (on hidden spots of course).

    Step 4: Reassemble Your Bike

    After the varnish has finally hardened out, it's time to reassemble the bike. Depending on the theme you can modify other parts as well or take accessories that fit into the theme.

    I wrapped the handlebars with some rope, hanged a monkey fist on the saddle, made sure the color of the tires matched the artwork and made some disc wheel covers for the back wheel (there will be a instructable on that subject in a few days or weeks, so look out for it).

    As another special feature the shifter wire is also separable and the gearing is operated with the right brake lever...

    I hope you enjoyed my instructable and it was of help and provided some inspiration. If you like it,

    feel free to vote for me in the contest(s).

    Bicycle Contest 2016

    Participated in the
    Bicycle Contest 2016

    Make it Move Contest 2016

    Participated in the
    Make it Move Contest 2016