Monday, August 11, 2014


This is a project that has passed through a range of phases to reach it’s current point.  It’s a basic riff on the idea of painting outside or en plein air, combined in this case with my fascination with the bicycle as a site for creativity.  You can check out some of the background and early versions of the project here .  The Easel Rider has become somewhat of a central reference point in a whole range of investigations that I’ve been pursuing over the last year or so.  Most of my outcomes have embraced a DIY approach that has a sense of punk and the backyard.  And whilst I certainly celebrate these politics and aesthetics I have always had a desire to see what would happen if I could find a way to execute some of these ideas to a very high degree of engineering.  I was recently able to negotiate some support from Arts SA to engage a highly skilled fabricator working in the bicycle industry to work with to realise this vision.  The following images and words document some of the many processes involved in reaching the outcome.

I chose to work with Jesse Geisler at the Bike Bar, in Melbourne.  Jesse is a man who is committed to accuracy and precision and has an approach suited to the challenge of realising a creative project.  I have know Jesse for a number of years through my own involvement in the industry and it is fair to say that he is a well-known for his uncompromising attitude.  Due to a number of external factors the turnaround time for the project became very compact, resulting in a couple of weeks of long and intense days of action to achieve our result.  Jesse’s workshop is a bit of a wonderland of exciting machinery and exotic bicycle components.  He is often engaged in frame repairs and preparation and has extensive experience toolmaking and a range of metal fabrication.
This project required a broad range of processes that I have had a mild understanding of in the past but no real hands-on experience so it was a huge learning opportunity for me.  Suffice to say, all of the processes were executed to a much higher degree of precision than is often the case in my shed.

After the development of a number of analogue and digital drawings we were able to arrive at a set of accurate lengths and angles to pursue.  Our tube selection included a range of conventional bicycle tubing components combined with some straight gauge chromoly tubing.  Most of the easel attachment has been made with stainless steel.  The drawing phase allowed us to compare conventional angles and angles of my prototypes as well as resolve dropout design.

The next step was to do a loose lay up of the frame which provided us with a more resolved understanding of the aesthetic of our tube diameter choices.

After mitering all of the tube junctions and the attachment of the upper bottom bracket the main frame was fixed in place on the table.  This approach differs from the conventional use of a frame jig which is limited in its parameters.  This particular instance required some ingenious extension of the engineering table on order to hold everything in place.

Once firmly in place each join could be tack welded.  For this build I wanted to use as much TIG welding as possible.  It is a process that I am developing my own skills in and one that I enjoy for it’s elegant outcomes.  I am attracted to the immediacy of the process that remains present in the finished aesthetic of the weld.  It is a process which has less ability to conceal short comings.

The particular angles of this frame required a bespoke dropout design.  Most often these are laser cut and then hand finished.  Being that Jesse is a purveyor of processes and machines considered obsolete by industry but still capable of high quality outcomes we chose to use a pantograph to cut the dropouts.  A pantograph is a type of machine that preceded laser cutting as a process and employs a series of linkages to drive a cutting head along a path which is determined by a template. The linkages are adjustable to be able to translate patterns or templates across a range of scale.  In this case we produced a version of the dropout in perspex, cut and finished by hand at a larger scale, which became our guide for cutting 6mm steel in our final proportions.

You can see the original mounted on the right and the facsimile in the process of being cut, on the left.

The dropouts then received a little tidying and finishing with the mill.

Below is an image of one of the finished dropouts.  Also pictured is a fork tip in preparation for insertion.  Jesse prepares his fork and frame tips in a way that includes a positive fitment of material rather than the common approach of simply inserting into slots filled with bronze.

Here are a few shots of the fork assembly process.  This is the steerer tube being fixed into the crown.  Those of you more familiar with common lengths might notice that this is quite uncommon.

This process involves the application of quite a lot of heat.  The heat bricks help to focus and maintain the heat required.  You’ll notice the presence of two torches here - one which is generating the largest part of the heat required, the other is applied in a more focussed manner.


Lots of heat.

The fork blades being slotted.

 Final fork assembly brazing.  Note the pink flux applied to the components to be joined.  


This image shows the process of extending the seat stays. Here they are held in the lathe and set to turn whilst heat is applied in order to braze the parts.

Indie watches all of the processes closely to ensure quality control.

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