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  1. #1
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    Custom Framebuilding?

    what is it?
    how do you define it?

    i tried to answer these questions here:
    http://www.richardsachs.com/nextwave.html
    as well as make some relevant suggestions.
    this list went up about 12 months ago but the
    text was just added yesterday. enjoy!
    e-RICHIE©™®

  2. #2
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE
    what is it?
    how do you define it?

    i tried to answer these questions here:
    http://www.richardsachs.com/nextwave.html
    as well as make some relevant suggestions.
    this list went up about 12 months ago but the
    text was just added yesterday. enjoy!
    e-RICHIE©™®
    I'll reply to your question with even more questions.

    Is "custom" framebuilding giving a customer exactly what they want? Or is it adapting "your" style to their needs?

    Will you build someone an eccentic BB shelled fillet brazed single speed bike or do you offer "your" style of road (or track frame) "customized" (size, color and minor details) to the buyers' wishes?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    I'll reply to your question with even more questions.

    Is "custom" framebuilding giving a customer exactly what they want? Or is it adapting "your" style to their needs?

    Will you build someone an eccentic BB shelled fillet brazed single speed bike or do you offer "your" style of road (or track frame) "customized" (size, color and minor details) to the buyers' wishes?

    that depends on you and your bounderies - and also how you define
    your mission statement. do you want to be all things to all people or
    would you be better served concentrating on what you know and do best?

    i would not do what you use as the example. others might.

  4. #4
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE
    that depends on you and your bounderies - and also how you define
    your mission statement. do you want to be all things to all people or
    would you be better served concentrating on what you know and do best?

    i would not do what you use as the example. others might.
    But then that begs another question. Is "custom" custom within a maker's parameters or the customer's?

    We've argued this one for years over in Knifemakers' forums. Many define "custom" as "conceptualized and designed by the customer and executed by a maker". Others define it as "set designs offered by a maker modified to a customer's likings by the use of options".

    I guess most framebuilders would fit into either of those definitions. Maybe they all do. We could all give examples of each.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    But then that begs another question. Is "custom" custom within a maker's parameters or the customer's?

    We've argued this one for years over in Knifemakers' forums. Many define "custom" as "conceptualized and designed by the customer and executed by a maker". Others define it as "set designs offered by a maker modified to a customer's likings by the use of options".

    I guess most framebuilders would fit into either of those definitions. Maybe they all do. We could all give examples of each.

    why get that verbose?
    i have never referred to what i do as "custom". i have an idea for
    the type of work that keeps my creative juices flowing and that idea
    is born out of my racing background and interest in the sport. i make
    "those" types of frames and each one is redesigned to fit the client
    who has ordered it.

    other builders do "everything". i prefer to stay focused on what i know
    and what i do best - and of course, on what pleases me.

  6. #6
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE
    why get that verbose?
    ME verbose? Ahemm.


    i have never referred to what i do as "custom". i have an idea for
    the type of work that keeps my creative juices flowing and that idea
    is born out of my racing background and interest in the sport. i make
    "those" types of frames and each one is redesigned to fit the client
    who has ordered it. other builders do "everything". i prefer to stay focused on what i know
    and what i do best - and of course, on what pleases me.
    Why are you getting defensive? You started the thread by asking the question. There is a place for custom and customized........and even hand-built. I never placed you in any category; you did. I was just defining two of those categories in my terms.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    ME verbose? Ahemm.




    Why are you getting defensive? You started the thread by asking the question. There is a place for custom and customized........and even hand-built. I never placed you in any category; you did. I was just defining two of those categories in my terms.

    sorry, mike...
    i wasn't getting defensive - and i didn't mean you with
    regard to my use of the word "verbose". i was speaking in general
    terms and i think it is not as easy to define "custom" in bicycle
    making as it is in, say tailoring. my site page defines it as i see
    it, but i could add to it if i had the time and inclination. for the
    time being, that page's text sums it up.
    maybe my reply was too concise. i meant nothing personal.

  8. #8
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE
    sorry, mike...
    i wasn't getting defensive - and i didn't mean you with
    regard to my use of the word "verbose". i was speaking in general
    terms and i think it is not as easy to define "custom" in bicycle
    making as it is in, say tailoring. my site page defines it as i see
    it, but i could add to it if i had the time and inclination. for the
    time being, that page's text sums it up.
    maybe my reply was too concise. i meant nothing personal.
    Ahh no sweat Richard. I like a good debate even if I do get my wires crossed.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T.
    Ahh no sweat Richard. I like a good debate even if I do get my wires crossed.
    you want verbose?!
    see my personal opinionfest yo:
    http://richardsachs.blogspot.com

    lotsa personal anecdotes re f'building, etcetera...

    ! all smiles !

  10. #10
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE
    you want verbose?!
    see my personal opinionfest yo:
    http://richardsachs.blogspot.com
    lotsa personal anecdotes re f'building, etcetera...
    ! all smiles !
    Oh I KNOW! That's why I said above - "ME verbose?" Yeah I've seen your (I didn't say "read" did I? I don't have that much time!) stuff before. Hey but that's fine. I could be accused of going on & on about stuff of which I'm passionate. It's all good. Let's be critical of those who don't go on about their life's work.

  11. #11
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have designed/owned several custom tandems and one single.
    We submit design/specs/componentry, the custom builder then builds it.
    It equated the same as buying a suit off the rack vs. to having a tailor make a suit to fit you.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Have designed/owned several custom tandems and one single.
    We submit design/specs/componentry, the custom builder then builds it.
    It equated the same as buying a suit off the rack vs. to having a tailor make a suit to fit you.

    normally, a tailor won't sign off on specs if the apparal
    fits less than well or does not reflect his vision for
    style and/or timelessness. there is custom, bespoke,
    and made-to measure - all involve making something
    that fits perfectly, but not all who practice tailoring
    offer each level of this service.

    with bicycles, fit and function have to overlap.

  13. #13
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    When I built “custom” frames, it was custom in as far as I took measurements from the customer and built a frame to fit them. The customer could specify small details like a different type of fork crown, but the overall design had to be mine.

    If a customer insisted on specific angles or tube lengths I would refuse the order. Why? Because if I built a frame and it didn’t ride or handle the best it possibly could. The customer would be dissatisfied and eventually sell it. Then I would have a frame that handled poorly out there with my name on it. So whose reputation would suffer?

    The same went for the paint. The customer and I had to agree on a paint scheme that was tasteful and fitting for a classic bicycle. Again I would refuse orders if the customer insisted of some garish, outlandish, choice of colors.

    I was fortunate in that I always had enough work that I could turn down the occasional order. In the long run it paid off, because my frames are still being used, bought and sold many over twenty years old. People have the confidence that any frame designed and built by me, will perform the same as any other I built.

    My advice to any up and coming framebuilder would be to find out what works, and stick to it. Don’t compromise or you are selling your soul to make a buck.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Moulton
    When I built “custom” frames, it was custom in as far as I took measurements from the customer and built a frame to fit them. The customer could specify small details like a different type of fork crown, but the overall design had to be mine.

    If a customer insisted on specific angles or tube lengths I would refuse the order. Why? Because if I built a frame and it didn’t ride or handle the best it possibly could. The customer would be dissatisfied and eventually sell it. Then I would have a frame that handled poorly out there with my name on it. So whose reputation would suffer?

    The same went for the paint. The customer and I had to agree on a paint scheme that was tasteful and fitting for a classic bicycle. Again I would refuse orders if the customer insisted of some garish, outlandish, choice of colors.

    I was fortunate in that I always had enough work that I could turn down the occasional order. In the long run it paid off, because my frames are still being used, bought and sold many over twenty years old. People have the confidence that any frame designed and built by me, will perform the same as any other I built.

    My advice to any up and coming framebuilder would be to find out what works, and stick to it. Don’t compromise or you are selling your soul to make a buck.

    words of wisdom - all of it!
    thanks, dave.

  15. #15
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Moulton
    When I built “custom” frames, it was custom in as far as I took measurements from the customer and built a frame to fit them. The customer could specify small details like a different type of fork crown, but the overall design had to be mine.
    If a customer insisted on specific angles or tube lengths I would refuse the order. The same went for the paint.
    My advice to any up and coming framebuilder would be ......... Don’t compromise or you are selling your soul to make a buck.
    Perfect! That's the way I'd do it if I was making frames. It seems like many of the respected makers do it that way - like Richard here for example.

    I make a product too (no not frames) and gave up long ago on the "full custom" grind. Now it's my design but they can pick the details. Those that I can't please, I send them to another maker. I feel much better doing it this way.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Bing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    We submit design/specs/componentry, the custom builder then builds it.
    It equated the same as buying a suit off the rack vs. to having a tailor make a suit to fit you.
    In this example you're reducing the framebuilder to a contractor, or even worse a pieceworker. What you get when you pay for a custom framebuilder is not just the skilled hands. With the best ones you get the skilled heads as well. There's a helluva lot of information learned about what works and what doesn't over the course of 20 or 30 years and 3000 frames.

    From e-R's interview with Grant Petersen/Rivendell Reader:
    I think the line in the sand came when one of my clients, Rudy Sroka, who was also a good friend of mine, was on the first American team to be invited to the Tour de L'Avenir, which for those who don't know, is the amateur Tour de France. He wanted the bike to be 76 degree parallel, with an 11_ inch bottom bracket, the shortest chainstays possible, and a minimum fork rake. I made the bike because I thought that, "Well, bike makers make bikes to order and this is what Rudy asked for." He was my pal and an accomplished racer, and I figured, well I'm not going to argue. The bike looked great; you couldn't tell from the side that it was queer. It was what he wanted. He had enormous success on it, but when he went to the Tour de L'Avenir, which was his first taste of European stage racing, he lasted three or four stages. There, the team manager, Mike Neel, said to him, "If you ever get invited back to Europe to represent America in the stage races, don't bring that bike. Or if you ever find out I'm the coach, don't bring that bike.

    Rudy related that story to me and at that point I said to myself, "That's it." None of this stuff ever made sense to me. I didn't know how to say no. I was still getting the information for my other customer's orders that said they liked their bikes the other way (with the inane geometry). The real racers and the National team guys, all wanted it to be this way, meaning more rationally designed. So I stopped making bikes to order and I decided to use my experience from the sport and say, "Look — there are two people in this equation, and I know more about the design than you do. I will design the bike to fit you perfectly. The result of this will be based on what I think will be correct for a bike." Rudy's was the last frame order I filled in which the client spec-ed the geometry and the key numbers. In other words, from the beginning I thought many of the so-called custom frame orders were coming through with requests for design elements that were contradictory with good handling and balance, and the incident with pal Rudy and his Tour de L'Avenir experience galvanized my decision to, once and for all, make my frames my way."

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bing
    In this example you're reducing the framebuilder to a contractor, or even worse a pieceworker. What you get when you pay for a custom framebuilder is not just the skilled hands. With the best ones you get the skilled heads as well. There's a helluva lot of information learned about what works and what doesn't over the course of 20 or 30 years and 3000 frames.

    From e-R's interview with Grant Petersen/Rivendell Reader:


    yeah these are the cliffs notes. i believe that all occurred
    ca. 1978 and i haven't made a custom frame since. it
    was a seminal experience - one that every f'builder will
    have sooner or later and, when it happens, will definately
    learn what it means to pull rank. here is the entire interview:
    http://www.richardsachs.com/articles/rsachsriv.html
    e-RICHIE

  18. #18
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Well, agree with most of the above comments/statements.
    However, if we do not experiment a bit, or push accepted boundaries, we would all still be riding highwheelers. Improvements in design are usually done in small incremental steps; however, over the decades this can amount to significant change.
    Having said that, there are still a few folks out there that are highwheel afficionados!

  19. #19
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    I agree with Dave, and these days liability would be a big part of that.

    There are two parts to custom. One is that the craftsman is a true expert/profesional/master. And that he modifies the product in accordance with the particular needs of the user. Without part one, I think the definition overlaps with "employee". If you are a real craftsman, it would be pretty rare, even in the age of internet gunslingers, to actually have a client who operates at an equal level with the craftsman. I think a full time, skilled person should have a lot more on the ball than the client who makes cheese for a living. There is an elite level where you get to work with a great expert in his own right. If you were the custom bike builder to the likes of Lance, it might be more a shared experience (I have no idea how techie he is).

    Knives are different. There is very little in the knife world that compares to the racing or long distance touring uses, those are very competitive events that determine a lot of the design (and regulate it). Maybe the new cutting competitions will open that out. Even where the same objective is in play, like skinning there is quite a lot of differnt was to skin... Also there are a lot of historical types. If a client comes to a knife maker and wants a traditional machete made out of D2 with a Micarta handle, I don't think there is any shame in taking that order, though I don't think many of the leading makers like Fowler, or Fogg would take it. And finally one has fantasy knives.

    I think a lot of the anguish around terms like "custom" and "handmade", arises from the fact that we don't really believe in good work any more. To simply say something is made by a master (masterpiece), doesn't mean as much in a day when most goods are machine made. So there is a lot of money in trying to fit something into the handmade, art, or custom brackets whether the fit is good or not. I have run into some evidence in the craft field than handmade is kinda a hippy candle era relic, and doesn't drive sales the way it used to. Or almost worse that it now means crude work where one can see the evidence of the hand's passage, dings, bumps and tearout.

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