Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Shop Night

I've dabbled in and enjoyed racing and fast group rides. At my core, though, I really love bikes that help with the job of living life. A little over a year ago, I got really fascinated with custom rack building and John put me in touch with Alex, who graciously spent an afternoon showing me the basics. In Seattle, where he lives.

I booked it back to Spokane all wound up and with just enough confidence and skill to make me really dangerous. I spent many, many hours and late nights over last fall, winter and spring screwing stuff up but also figuring out the equipment and technique fundamentals, and building some fun and satisfying racks in the process. Which was the first part of the goal and which set the stage for the second.

John and I were inspired by how Alex has enabled so many people around him to get involved with building racks and we shared the idea of really just wanting to import this skillset and some form of Alex's model into the Spokane area and hopefully figure out a way to get some local-built custom racks out on the road. This fall has been the time to take that first step.

I've set up my shop with a couple of workstations and it happens once a week and we're figuring it out as we go. That's John in the foreground and Ryan in the background. It's hard to take a bad picure when there's fire involved.

I'm a natural do-er, not a natural teacher and so maybe the biggest obstacle these dudes face is my meddling. If you understand and acknowledge the problem (which I do) you can do something about it, and the solution so far is for me to take on a non-bikey task in the general, but not-too-close vicinity of the rack building epicenter. That way I am available to answer questions, but occupied enough with my own stuff that I'm not hovering and pecking like the mother of all hens. Tonight I wired in some outlets and lights in my shed.

Which left these guys free to make tracks on their projects. They're both presently building porteur racks. These are struts that Ryan has put together.

Here's the project box where they store stuff in-process from week to week. Very much reminiscent of junior high metal shop, except that the projects are way more bikey exciting. That's John's medium-duty rack deck (for his Elephant) on top and Ryan's heavy-duty deck (for his Kogswell) just below.

I have no idea how any of this will evolve, but for right now, shop night is new and cool. Seeing these racks come together is just rad.


Hank said...

Way too cool, Pat. Great of you to share like that.

alex wetmore said...

I also have to find the balance of helping out and staying out of the way.

Your shop has so much space! When we have 3 people working in my shop it feels like we're always getting in each other's way. I've tried 4 people and it is a no go.

2 people working together on one project can be amazing though. I've done some racks with Jan where he does the filing and fitting and bending and I do the brazing. As soon as I'm done with one piece he is ready for me to do another.

John Speare said...

Yes. Shop night rules. I can't tell Pat "thanks" enough. I find building the rack to be pretty relaxing. And flame -- torch -- fire -- metal -- brass... really rules.

Bryan B said...

Hm. Inspiring!

Now that I have a bike that can mount front racks (X-check), this is a lot more interesting.

Question though: what would you guys say is the average cost for materials to make a front rack?

Pat S said...

Alex, cool idea about two people working together on a rack. Something I'll have to try at one point.

John, it's only relaxing until accidetally set something on fire.

Bryan, cost varies a lot with materials and design. Maybe $100 is a good average for materials + shop supplies + powder coat. It's not something you'd do to beat the price of what you can buy at your LBS. It's more about wanting to spend an inordinate amount of time and money creating something unique.

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