Falling for Fillets
This morning I ran into Nao Tomii - a Boston area sculptor, bicycle component manufacturer, and recently launched framebuilder. I was excited to see that the roadbike he had been building for himself was now finished: There he was, riding it... in a matching outfit!
Tomii frames are fillet-brazed - a process I've been intrigued by after watching Ian Sutton building Icarus frames in the same workshop occupied by Bryan of Royal H. Cycles. Nao learned fillet brazing from Ian and began making his own frames this year.
Fillet brazing (pronounced kind of like "fill-it") is a lugless method of joining steel tubes together using a heated filler material. The construction, as far as I understand, has the strength of lugged steel. The look is absolutely unique: seamless and "liquidy." Whereas lugs create interruptions at the joints and welds create visible seams, fillets give the impression of one tube flowing into another. There is no beginning or end to the joint and the effect is mesmerising.
It almost looks as if the frame is sculpted, which makes it easy to understand how this particular method would appeal to a sculptor.
To my eye, the streamlined look of the joints lends itself especially well to road/racing bikes - reinforcing the idea that they are light, unencumbered, fast. And on this particular bicycle, this is further reinforced by the "airy" colour.
Lilac-gray and white -
- with strategically placed powder-blue accents (an excellent paint job by Circle A).
The "lighter than air" effect is a clever way to suggest racy qualities without resorting to a traditionally aggressive colour scheme, like bright red. I love it and would like something similar should I ever have a road/racing frame built from scratch, or an old frame repainted.
The pewter headbadge, handmade by Nao, adds just a bit of flourish as the finishing touch to an otherwise minimalist frame. Sigh, I love it. This bicycle is just so perfectly elegant and tasteful.
Nao's frame is what I would consider my size, very similar to my Moser. I rode it in the parking lot very briefly, but would need to lower the saddle a tad and attach my own pedals in order to try it properly. The bike does not have toe overlap, proving once more that this can indeed be achieved with small frames. I look forward to seeing more of Nao's thoughtful and beautiful work in the future. If you'd like to inquire about a frame, his email address is posted here.
What is your take on fillet-brazing? anyone a fan, or own a fillet-brazed bicycle? A labor-intensive process that - when done well - delivers a flawless finish, it is the choice of some of the best custom builders.