Friday, July 31, 2009

You know you are a framebuilder when.......

I guess I know what it this month in a big way , now that frame # 18 for july is about to go to the painter. Yes, nearly 20 frames built this month-that's why I have not made any entries on the blog lately. What's up for tomorrow ? Drive up to Ashland and teach a tig course at least I'll only have to build one frame in two weeks instead of nine , but I will oversee the building of eight frames by the students. You can call me a poser, you can all me as s.o.b. , all sorts of stuff-but this summer you'll have to top off the pile of explitives with 'framebuilder', too. I wrote about the genuine fake framebuilder last time so here are the things that let you know when you are truly a framebuilder: # 1, The faster you build 'em, the longer the list gets. # 2, You get emails and phone calls from places where there's now way they should even know you exist.# 3, folks bring by deceased people's bikes to hang in your shop. # 4, Your shelves are filled with many frame tubes, so many that you don't stand a chance of using them all before you quit, die or both. #5, You are excited to build yourself a new frame, even though there's no way you need it and/or can afford to build it up. # 6, People order a frame and tell you: " Take your time...." and actually mean it. #7. There's a few projects hanging up in the shop that date back to the '90's that you swear you'll finish this winter. #8 , All of your bikes are filthy and you never take the time to work on them or clean them. #9 , Your hands are never completely clean except at the end of the two-week vacation that you never get, at least not in the last 4-5 years. # 10, You have set aside enough time to do X number of jobs and still take in another one even though it will burn you out , make you sick and most likely not get done on time. Well, those are the ones I could come up with. Add your own if you like . Of course, these are merely my obsevations and are not necessarily applicable to all, or even many framebuilders-just ones that are as primitive as me. Cheers, Paul.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Legend of the fake framebuilder

Details are sketchy in this story and my recollection of events is full of holes but the following is true, even if it isn't a perfect recollection . Back in the late '70's , my buddy was looking to work for a framebuilder-someone with a real shop with machines , paint booth , customers......all the stuff that makes for an actual buisness. My friend had built about ten frames but felt that he needed to get some knowhow from a veteran in the trade, most likely a Brit or an Italian......certainly not an American , unless one showed up who had the goods. One day a fellow came into the bike shop where my friend worked wheeling in a stunning black bicycle with no decals on it. The gentleman had a British accent and said that the bike was a Philbrook and that he indeed was the builder. My friend asked the supposed Brit what he was doing in Santa Cruz-to this, the gentleman said : " I'm here to set up a framebuilding shop in the hills here, Bonny Doon perhaps.". My friend was suddenly seeing visions of a new job in his dream career being the right hand man of this " Philbrook" character up in Bonny Doon in a clean, well appointed shop that turned out top-notch frames for discriminating clientele. From that day forward my friend went on bikerides with this supposed framebuilder up in the hills to scout out possible locations for the shop. My friend kept asking the Brit guy :" Hey, where are your tools ? Do you have any other frames here ?" The Brit kept riding , saying that in good time all would be in order and all the questions would be answered. This went on for weeks and after awhile folks in the bike shop were beginning to wonder if this Brit was really a framebuilder, or even a Brit at all. Some asking around was done ( This was long before the internet , so things like this took time to unravel.) Eventually , the identity of the stunning black bicycle was was made by Jeff Lyons , right here in California, not in Britain. And the supposed Philbrook ? Philbrook is an actual builder in the U.K. but the man who came into the bike shop and charmed my friend was not a framebuilder or a Brit , but an impostor.....a psychopath who was living some sort of twisted fantasy life and bringing in anyone who fell for his convincing act. Yes , this guy had never built a frame , was a local Santa Cruz guy with serious psychological issues but with a gift for storytelling that fooled many people. When all was revealed, my friend was crestfallen. His dream of building with a mentor was shattered......but time would go by and my friend would go to the U.K., work there, work in Southern California for Santana and within 5-6 years start a successful bicycle company of his own that was real-not a fantasy and it would be built on integrity. So who would want to be a fake framebuilder ? Why would someone bother to cook up an elaborate story and try to convince people that he was a framebuilder ? Seems to me if one is willing to do that much , might as well go the whole route and build the damn frames. Faking it may seem easier but I'm not so sure. All this said, this story is an example of something that I see isn't necesarrily as twisted as this example but the end result is the same-there are some folks ou there who advertise that they build frames when in reality, they don't . I don't think less of these folks if they don't build frames-they might have great skills in some other forms of work or issue is that for people looking to get a frame built,these impostors make it tougher for the guys actually doing the work to get noticed. The impostors have a gift for conversation, self promotion and spin......something actual framebuilders might not posess as thier attention is mainly to the building process. I guess the fakers kind of hurt everybody a little bit , customers and builders alike. Keeping it real in this buisness to me is what its all about and I know i'm not the lone voice in that regard . The fakers are very convincing , after all-it's what they do fulltime. The folks actually doing the real work need to get more vocal and not hide behind the torch, so to speak. A lot of us who have good skills with metal aren't paying enough attention to the skills interacting with people. This opens the door to snake-oil salesmen fake Philbrooks and the like. It's time to open the shop door and show people the real thing......they will know the difference.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Why do we do it ?

What a strange and potentially frustrating thing to do with one's build bicycle frames for a living. I have done a few things to keep a roof over my head-worked graveyard at a donut shop I didn't put the holes in the donuts. I worked at a Mexican restaurant , a furniture store , played guitar in just about every shit-hole bar and restaurant in northern California , spent eleven years in bicycle shops wrenching and selling -I even was a house cleaner for one summer. Little did I know that I would wind up spending 40-50 hours a week cutting and welding expensive tubing together. Twenty-two years in fulltime buisness and I'm still at it-maybe you might wonder why, maybe not-hell, I'll tell you not why I do this every day. Wrong Reason # 1, to get laid. It's a common misconception ( like that ?) that lighting a torch will get you a least a female one. # 2, to get the respect of my parents.......that's downright laughable: " So your boy is a Velder ? Vot dose he veld.......the Brooklyn Bridge ? The Sears Tower ? .....Bicycles ! oy, soch a buisness-where did we go wrong ? # 3, to gain I have found, there are easier and much funnier ways to gain notoriety......#4, to make myself feel that I am better than someone else, most likely another framebuilder (s).........that kind of emptiness is way too scary to contemplate. O.K.,Here's my reason, or at least the reason for the day : I like to go to the races and see my bikes go around in circles being ridden by the most jolly folks I know-then sometimes I like to make a fool of myself and go out there,too and go around in circles-pointlessly trying to keep up with real atheletes.....I also like the bitch of a challenge that this line of work presents-how it shows me daily what a stupid moron I can be, then a minute later it will reveal that I have learned something after all these years-something that i can get excited about, something that I will notice on the next bike that makes me glad that I haven't given up yet. I like to share these discoveries with my jolly friends and see if they think that the latest edition is better than the previous one. It's not a planned obsolesence thing, Hell-I am walking and talking planned obsolesence...I'm 53 years old and battered from years of clutzy bike incedents.....what I get excited about is evolution. I guess if you don't believe in evolution, the concept is useless to you. Absence of developement, forward thinking and experimentation would kill the whole thing for me, just as lack of tradition would kill it for some other builders ( and me, too...believe it or not..) I keep at it because I know that I'll no doubt have a chance to learn something exciting every once in awhile....something that other folks can get excited about, too. I guess that was more than one reason.......

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I hope you are happy...

Yeah, another good source of info and supplies says 'fongool' to the framebuilder's chat world. Yep, all you guys who chime in with your dismissives have won another battle against enlightenment....what am I talking about ? Same old thing-In a perfect world the internet could serve as an exchange of pertinent information for everyone, even stinky anti-social framebuilders working away in garages and the like all over the world. The problem is the same old thing.....loud and animated bleatings from a few drown out the constructive info from the others. No doubt,here....the internet is the domain of all sorts of people looking for a scrap , some sort of debate-even if there is none.....these folks want to be the final word, even if that final word is bullshit from a narrow mind. Well, yet another learned person has given you the middle finger , depriving the rest of us from any useful information we could have gleaned. The person I refer to was a suppier of cutting edge brazing supplies......stuff that helps all of you stainless-steel junkies join your tempermental tubes to your shiny bits in an easier more reliable fashion. I know for a fact that if any one of us got in some sort of problem with any brazing/soldering situation we could call this person and with almost no exceptions he would get us out of it. So, all you crumudgeons.....are you satisfied ? Now that a voice of experience has been dispatched are you happier that now you can rule the internet with your opinons ? Hmmm, truth and usefule information got in the way of your quest for the last word ? O.K., now you can have the last word , even though your last word isn't useful information, most likely not based in truth and not helpful to anyone else in any guess is that the word is " Ignorance".