Building A Frame Knowledge.
A friend of mine was kind enough to pass on a pair of JPW 16' tubes made around 1988. Unfortunately it did not come with a dry box full of cash for a frame, cooler and didn't even come with a dry box to mention either. So the following is a couple of weeks of drawing diagrams and researching NRS frames and DRE frames. I decided it would be cheaper to build a frame rather than purchase one new from $1200 to $1600. Then came the question of what size pipe, anodized, powder coated, mill finish, not to mention what did any of it mean anyways and how much would it all cost?
Design - The design is modeled after the DRE Deso 5 Bay XD without the double side rails, and uses the NRS Top Cat w/ yoke dimensions since NRS is kind enough to give specs on all there parts and frames, and they have decades of experience building them. As for fitting all this pipe together I researched every fitting I could and settled on what DRE uses, Hollaender speed rail fittings. Instead of trying to bend pipe for drop rails and top frame corners I decided to use 90 degree elbows as aluminum is difficult to bend even though it can be done elbows are just easier. The frame will also have a drop down support from the middle crossbar to the drop bars so that the drop bars are supported front, middle, back. My Inside rails are 39 1/2" but also adjustable side to side should i choose since drop rails are mounted with tee's that slide on cross bars, this way i can accommodate cooler/dry box size with my tube size.
120" Long, 72" Wide, Drop Bars 120" long with 11 1/8 drop from top frame.
Pipe - Using 120" side rails there was no way I was shipping them here for a decent price, local metal shop worked with me on a price and I was able to get 1 1/4" SCH 40 6063 Aluminum pipe for 2.90 a foot, while not anodized it is a significant discount compared to NRS's same pipe at $6.00 a foot. I needed 99' and being that it is sold in 20' lengths I had them make 1 cut in each 20' at a length I needed for my frame so that I could transport them. They charge 2.00 a cut and I needed to make at least 20 cuts so I purchased a large pipe cutter at Home Depot for $23.00.
Fittings - Fittings are not cheap unless you know how to shop online. For the 1 1/4" Tee fitting they typically sell between $11.00 and $17.00. I calculated that I would need 28 tee fittings, and at that price it would still be cheaper than buying a new frame but not by a great deal. I found a website called Zoro.com, they listed these same tee fitting for $5.39, half the cost of anyone else I could find. Zoro has the worst reviews of any website and through my research I found out they are owned by Grainger Industrial Supply and that they wholesale. I took the leap of faith and rode there ass until my stuff shipped because the reviews where horrible about products shipping. Finally they shipped and arrived in the right quantity and part #. So go Zoro because you saved me roughly $150 Bucks.
Since Hollaender fittings are snugged up with set screws it is imperative that you use safety pins so that if a set screw comes out, your frame doesn't fall apart. The fittings I ordered since not from DRE do not come pre drilled for a 5/16" Pin, so i had to drill a hole in all the fitting where my crossbars attached and drop bars attached so that frame would stay together.
The Meat and Potatoes -
100' 1 1/4 Pipe - $290
26 x 1 1/4 Tee - $140.14
8 x 1 1/4 Elbow - $53.04
32 x 5/16 Pins - $32.52
Total - 515.07
Thats a far cry from virtually the same DRE frame for $1500 ' ish dollars. Im looking into getting pipe anodized locally and waiting on estimate for that. but in order to get it powder coated I would be looking at $2-$3 a foot from what I was Quoted so somewhere around $200 to $300, still alot of savings.
All in all I would recommend building your own frame, there is alot you can do with customizing and making frames modular. Amazon sells for $15 for 2 round bars that fits inside the 1 1/4" pipe perfectly so that you can make your own breakdown rails like NRS offers making modular bays for multi day and day trips easier. Side note, I went with 1 1/4 because DRE and NRS make accessories for this size pipe, had I gone with 1 1/5" like DRE uses I wouldn't be able to outfit my frame with any NRS frame parts or accessories should I ever find a good deal on them.
Hope this helps someone like me that spent alot of hours planning this and shopping this out. I will also continue to post progress pics and end results as I am almost done but not quite.