So I want to get into framebuilding (apprenticeshop with Sycip in my town?)
So out of the blue, in a moment of boredom with current life happenings, I thought to myself "Building frames seems like it would be fun, I want to learn that"
I'm 23, no experience welding, lots of experience with bikes and mechanics
So I'm planning on taking several welding courses at the local community college come Fall.
It came to mind also, Sycip is 2 miles from where I live and thought maybe I could proposition them into taking me on as an apprentice. I'd be willing to work unpaid.
Any suggestions on how to go about propositioning this? Any advice?
In my experience, builders are more often in need of machinists and painters than welders.
Be ready to do crappy jobs like beadblasting, or packing and shipping. Hang in there, and if you're lucky you'll learn some cool stuff. Don't expect to get rich.
You are taking a welding course...Talk to your teacher about a final project involving building a frame. Get a a budget 4130 tube set and boring lugs...Carve your own beautiful lugs and put the frame up as a confidence builder for yourself and those you talk to about an apprentice job.
I'm where you are at. I'd love to build my own frames but the time and money involved is really not so great. Sycip IMO makes nice frames but is more of a mass marketed boutique brand.
When you consider the hours that go into a frame and the equipment needed to build custom frames you are looking at pretty low wages. It is a labor of love.
"Money is not an issue, happiness is. I fortunately have a nice bit of savings that I'm able to live off of and focus my efforts on a job that I enjoy rather than one to sustain me."
- The first step to getting a job is to ask yourself what you can do for the person or business you are approaching, what's in it for him. They are in the business of making bikes for a living even if you don't need to be and getting your mind around that dynamic might help.
- There really aren't any apprenticeships since the economic basis for them has broken down. In some ways that's good news for the learn and leave specialist, since you don't have to actually stay with one builder for a long time, or give back for what you have learned. Just be careful not to add insult to injury by asking about apprenticeships, keep it to yourself.
- If you need the skills, don't have them yet, then a mass kind of shop is a good place to go. You get lots of practice, the people are competant, one would hope, and they need a constant turn over of people. A lot of the better makers of today started out in regional "factories" so they learned how to do it fast. It's a lot easier to slow down once you know how, having learned the skill, than to speed up without the skills.
I had the honor to spend time with/get to know a number of highly regarded USA builders over the years. All but one cut their teeth back in the 70-80's when steel was pretty much it. One I knew was a guy sort of like you I think who just "went for it" on his own, learned, experimented, bought equipment and did it for himself and friends. I bought a frame from him. It was super nice, had zero snob appeal and the price was right. It was very clear he had an absolute blast doing it.
I am told its pure labor of love, very hard to make a solid reputation and harder to make a living at. That was years ago when a real nice custom frame was maybe $800-1200+...today they seem to be $2500/$3000+ so maybe thats changed.
One guy you might want to call up is Richard Sachs...he's on anyone's very short list of the best steel frame builders in the world (or ever). Richey is a super nice guy, a genius and lives absolutely true to his art as set forth by the great masters we are all indebted to. Hey its worth a shot.
Sachs is online a lot, occasionally here, or frameforum or the list. So I would just catch him online.
Basically getting paid a few times what a Surly costs is not a great deal. Like Surly is 400, unfinished custom tubes brazed together can be 400-600. If all these frames where sent out for paint, and if the cost of tubes was adjusted for, there is less money in it than ever.