Monday, October 4, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Some time back I was able to pick up a late 70’s Merz cross bike and knowing Jim’s work, one thing stood out immediately - this was not Jim’s fork crown. Jim’s bikes are exceptionally well executed, with nicely shaped crisp lugs and flawless brazing. But Jim focused on purely functional machines without flourish, only what was needed to get the job done. ‘Workman like’ was how Jim often put it.
But this crown was anything but workman like. For one it appeared to be hogged out of solid material. There was never a stock crown with this much room between the blades nor could I recall one with such graceful lines. Despite the name ‘Merz’ on the downtube, this crown had ‘DiNucci’ written all over it.
Despite being absolutely huge, there is a certain grace about this crown in the shoulders. It is almost delicate. But it is the tang running down the inside of the blades that does it for me. Stripping away the paint, I expected to find the usual big fillet of brass, but here Mark torch welded on a piece of fork blade to get the extension he wanted then blended it perfectly into the bottom of the crown. There is no sign that they were ever two separate pieces of metal. The curves are all subtle and there is nothing to interrupt the flow as your eye follows the perfectly thinned edge around the socket.
These days someone would simply render this in 3D, send the file off for tool paths and then flip the switch on a CNC mill. But this was all done the old way, with a careful eye and by hand, leaving the soul of the craftsman in the work.
Monday, June 28, 2010
I think it was Mark’s comment ‘This is my temple’ that stopped me short. Like everything he does, the details are not always apparent at first glance, but dig a little deeper and there are layers, lots of them.
Mark and I spent a lot of time in Japan in the 80’s when the bike biz was still there and we were lucky enough to be working near Kyoto, the former imperial capital of Japan and home to what for me, represents the high water mark in woodworking. On the surface, some of these ancient structures look so simple, until you happen upon an interlocking timberframe joint laid out to reveal what is hidden once the building is complete. Truly inspirational stuff, especially when considering the simplicity of the tools used to build them.
We both packed home handmade planes and laminated steel chisels, but it was when I saw a simple patio trellis Mark constructed that I knew I should simply keep mine in the wrapper. While I only aspired to the task, he ‘got it’ and had the hands to pay honor to the gentleman who made the chisels. It was looking over this bench, that I saw that same level of deliberate simplicity and deceivingly subtle craft.
Finding materials that underwrite the intent of the project is the starting point and in this case, it was salvage old growth timber. The stability of 100 year old beams offsets the typical checks and splits of age.
Despite being constructed largely with handtools, the design takes shape here in Mark’s computer.
Viewing the translation into wood, it’s hard to imagine anything electronic was ever associated with the design.
Here you can see the gorgeous, even end grain, offset by deep checks that somehow seem perfect even though they are considered flaws.
Looking under the bench, the relative simplicity of the working surface is contrasted by complex joinery. Each of those massive legs is joined to the deck by mortise & tenons.
The surface is finished without sandpaper, relying instead on razor sharp planes to remove layers thin enough to see through and a surface so perfect that it reflects a bolt head.
The bench top is then covered in thick sole leather, fitted perfectly around the vice and finished with beeswax and pine pitch.
This is where the next DiNucci frame will begin.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Never let it be said that the Oregon builders don’t know a good joint when they see it! More than 20 years after Jim Merz & I pioneered bonded titanium/carbon frames at Specialized, Bruce has decided to roll his own. Despite first apprenticing in Oakland under Albert, Bruce is one of the original Oregon builders and I’m glad to see that after all these years we are still sticking together!
Here is a picture of Jim, Bruce (hidden) & me going on a ride in the 70’s (when the 3 of us comprised the entire Oregon framebuilding population-now 10 times that size!) and 2 more of Bruce and me puzzling the same design problem in the 80’s and today.
If you are in San Diego April 9 -11, stop on by the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show, where Bruce and I will be discussing the finer points of handmade bicycles, Bruce’s fez collection and Bruce will host a special ‘after hours’ roll-your-own demonstration.