Happy New Year to all! We celebrated the passing far from NYC, in a very small town. There were a lot of small children around, and we launched some small fireworks on New Years Day. It was a lot of fun, and I am grateful for the time away. Now back in Brooklyn, I think we have a refreshed perspective on life and work.
So what do bicycles and furniture have in common? Joinery. That’s what this post is about. Almost every piece of furniture can be classified in term of it’s joinery. In the next few months, Noble Goods will attempt to stretch the boundaries of these classifications, and create some work that will be really astounding. I love furniture. But back to the bicycles…
This photograph shows a type of metal joinery called the “lugged” joint. It’s very common. The detail is right where the seat post slides down into the frame, near the rear wheel. Four separate pipes must come together at this location, and “gathering up” their stresses and strains can be quite a task. This lugged method speeds things up, and provides a strong and elegant solution. If you like this method, read more here http://lovelybike.blogspot.com/2010/11/lugged-non-steel.html
This second example is what you get when you carefully cut each tube to “nest” into its neighbor. Then, through welding, you add the same type of metal to the junction. In this case, the weld is left in a raw state. No attempt has been made to grind, paint, or polish it, and it truly says “I am welded”.
Taken one step further, we have this joinery. What may look like a repair job is actually the original work on this “Spot Coyote” bike. I took this picture because the look really surprised me. Sure, the world has seen the look of the exposed weld- but this takes it one step further. Those black and bluish areas near the welds are a direct consequence of how the tubing reacted to the heat of the welding process. They are like the jet’s blue sky vapor trail, or like those rocket marks you find in the cornfield after the alien spacecraft left (you did see it, didn’t you?) It is not hard for a metalworker to scrub away these strange colors. They are not deep. Instead, this designer chose to leave every mark, and apply a dense clearcoat (think varnish) to protect the look of the weld. To me, it’s like they took an intimate snapshot of their fabrication process, and made it an inseparable part of the product. Process becomes product. Here, I gotta say, I don’t love the look of the completed machine. But when I saw this frame, it really got my attention.
Oh, speaking of attention! I could not find a maker’s mark on this Manhattan machine, but it did not look like a one-off. I think there is a flock of these bamboo things out there. And if I find the time, I will do some research. Can I explain this? Maybe. The frame maker loosely cut the bamboo “tubes” until they fit the desired geometry, then placed each tube in a clamp that held them in their exact spatial relationship. (At this point, it probably looked like a bike frame exploding in space). Then they bandaged each joint with a fabric, saturated with a liquid binder. The fabric? Probably carbon fiber. The binder? Probably epoxy. If you have ever looked at the Native American’s early methods of making spear points or snow sleds, then you have seen this. Animal sinew, plus thickened blood, plus heat- it can produce a similar joint. Now could that be the next bicycle frame?