trade musings – part one of three

by | Jan 8, 2012

I’m new to this and have spent countless hours looking at various custom builder websites the past month. There seems to be a lot of great, talented builders. How did you guys choose which builder to go with?

buy a frame from a professional framebuilder who has some degree of experience and a history in the trade, the sport, or both. the electronic era age has made it possible for many who have short term work periods and outputs seem like career veterans. find a way to filter through this.

I’ve heard you say this before, and I agree with it. That being said, say I found a ‘new’ builder whose personality jived with me. They seemed to know what they were doing, and their work spoke to me. How would you objectively judge someone who’s new to the scene? Thanks for the info.

i’d wait until they weren’t new. these are vehicles, not macrame. i say that with respect and love.

I agree, but playing devil’s advocate…
So if that was the way everyone went around doing things, how would they get their start? First working for a bigger parent company and then branching off and using their history to market themselves?

since there’s no accredited house of learning nor apprenticeships as such, well – yeah, ya have to learn somewhere before you operate. don’t make me state the obvious because it tends to alienate, and that’s never the intention. how do you choose others with whom you spend money? your physician, accountant, home appliance contractors, etc? they didn’t just “start working” without first developing a skill set, a routine, some level(s) of expertise…

Slightly OT, but going in this direction…
Why aren’t there more apprenticeships offered? Impatience? Lack of opportunity? I’m assuming that that’s the right way to learn, no? When these guys get out of apprenticing, are they still “new,” or are they established? I think I’ve read an answer on this before, but I can’t recall it (or maybe it never existed).

there never were any to speak of. the term is misused to the nines. and the reason we have what we have now is because of the internet, and the fantasy that comes when looking over the electronic fence and trying to appropriate a career when one has zeal but no training. framebuilding has always (999999.9 percent, that is) been about folks wanting to do better, or finer, or with less restrictions, or with fewer levels of management, or simply wanting to tell the conventional market and industry to get the eff outa’ my face. most cats, at least at the front end, got sick the eff of the routine at the workplace and left. what they began with was an experience level, some connections, and a fresh attitude – and were now their own boss. but most importantly, they all had been through the work stations, and the repetitive drills, and all things in between. they didn’t learn the basics in year one of their eponymous (i LOVE using the word eponymous in a sentence…) firm’s existence.

these are different times atmo. industrial frames in the last 20 years have become so incredibly well designed and made that any need for a trip to a frame shop is not for the same reason it may have been a generation or so prior. in the pre-MTB era, it was unthinkable to get a good bicycle for racing from the rank and file LBS because most of them (the bicycles) sucked. over the course of 20 or so years, while all of that did a 180, the number of folks building frames suffered as a result. many simply vaporized. the newer crop, those from the internet and forum era, have another calling altogether. most have built an incredibly small number of frames, either before they went commercial, or since. the business they are in is a unique model. actually, i don’t know what it is. no matter.

some of us do what we can to plant seeds and nurture a few bright lights. i believe the door is slamming shut on the number of folks that can pull off the “…handcrafted frame” in this era and still make a career of it. enthusiasm, blogs, picture pages, and the like can only sustain so much. i often make analogies to latin; an interesting language with some special needs that demand a grasp of it. framebuilding is not unlike that. with the fine (and getting finer) wares being made en masse (that’s french for in the masse…), the road to a frame shop will be narrower and narrower as time passes, and only the best and the brightest will make the cut. these are different times.

to be continued atmo…