Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Day in Primary Colours

Red Curtain, Artisan's Asylum
Red curtains. They are there for practical purposes - welding screens to protect the eyes from the intense glare of the arc. Brazing happens on one side of the shop, welding on the other. In the middle is this vinyl semi-transparent barrier. But the red backdrop spreads an aura around the room, bathing it in a mysterious, yet energising light. I see the light flicker dimly behind it, and somehow the universe seems to make sense.

Shop Scenes
Against the vast expanse of red, five adults open long cardboard boxes with the hushed anticipation of polite children on Christmas morning. Inside the boxes are steel tubes wrapped in newspaper. The unraveling is almost formally festive.

Shop Scenes
The blue work shirt. My grandfather worked in a machine shop and wore one well into his old age. In the '90s, the boys I went to high school with wore the same shirts because it was fashionable. They played in garage bands and dressed like mechanics, never having been near a wrench, which used to annoy me. Now some of them wear blue work shirts unironically, having indeed become mechanics or machinists. So it goes.

Shop Scenes
Blue buckets full of gloves, cotton and leather. I burned myself three times building my first frame. Once by picking up a piece of scrap metal after it had just been hole-sawed off. Another time by grabbing the frame too soon after it had been torch-dried post washing. And the third time by accidentally brushing the hop tip of a filler rod against my cheek. Who knows, sometimes the gloves help. Other times they are a hazard and can get stuck in a machine. 

Shop Scenes
Yellow packaging, labels, warning signs, equipment decals. It is noticeable, even in a sea of other colours. See me, read me, peel me.  
Shop Scenes
Yellow booklets, dusty yellow machines. I am too easily enticed to visit the other side of the curtain. 

26 comments:

  1. Still, I think you would have embraced the mechanic look had you seen the Mod clothes we wore in the early 80s.

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    1. The 80s were my pre-teen years. I remember vividly my mother's collection of dolman sleeve sweaters...

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  2. The first picture makes me want to sing "There's a liiiiight..."

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  3. They don't MIG-weld bicycle frames, do they??

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    1. The booklet is for the welding shop where people make all sorts of stuff, not necessarily bike related. But I'm pretty sure you *could* MIG-weld a bicycle frame.

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    2. if you were desperate.

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  4. Velouria, having worked in such a place for more years than I wish were true, I urge you to remain absolutely resolute in maintaining your status among the ten-fingered.

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    1. Weird, the system logged me out as I tried to reply. Blogger issues this weekend.

      I am resolute to keep my fingers. Though with most of the machines at the Asylum shop, the bigger danger is getting hair and loose clothing caught.

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    2. Among the headed then, red or otherwise.

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    3. yeah... I am happy enough buying my bikes off the shelf, thank you!

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    4. It's a deal, Thomas.

      Anon - there is some common sense in that, I admit : )

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    5. "... by accidentally brushing the hop tip of a filler rod against my cheek"

      Welcome to the club!

      Shorter rod will prevent this.

      Also, always safety glasses to keep it from poking you in the eye!

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    6. I prefer close-fitting long-sleeved cotton jersey tops to wear while welding and metal-working; they don't catch fire or get caught in machinery as easily as blue work shirts- they are also much cheaper so when they get full of holes from MIGing they can be replaced without financial pain.

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  5. Lots of bikes are Mig-ed, you just don't want to ride most of them. HOWEVER, it is possible to do beautiful welding with a Mig if one wants to, it just takes a different approach than the normal toothpaste squeeze most people associate with it, and if you are good enough for that you probably have a Tig lying about anyway.

    I like what you said about the red curtain. The welding curtain is sort of a magical border between the regular world and a place where interesting things get conjured from smoke and heat and that urgent snapping sizzle of the electric arc. When I get under the helmet in my gloves and leather shirt I am doing something so completely different from the other stuff that I do that it might as well be witchcraft.

    I've never lost a finger or gotten yanked into a machine by my shirtsleeves, but I have set myself on fire more times than I can count from wearing shabby frazzled clothes. Twice in one day even. "Hmmm, whats that smell? Why is my leg so warm all of a suddeJOHN BROWN! I'M ON FAHR!!!"

    Spindizzy

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    1. I've tried welding only briefly and found it sort of surreal, compared to the hyper-reality of brazing. Being encased in that helmet felt so detached - like I was playing a video game or something instead of actually working with real fire and steel.

      I confess that I do not fully understand TIG vs MIG vs whatever other kind of welding; need to read up on it. It also freaks me out to see people weld titanium, where they have to insert stuff into the tubes. Oh, but I understand there is at least one US based manufacturer who actually MIG welds bikes. City cruisers.

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  6. Velouria: Been following here in addition to your fbuilding blog. As a long time reader and hobby builder it warms my heart to see you tackle this. The single speed frame will be easier and cheaper to build up than the randonneur you made with Mike, so hopefully we will see the fruits of your labor soon.

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    1. Thanks Frank. Most likely both bikes (assuming this one works out) will be built up in March.

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    2. wasn't aware that there was a separate frame building blog. care to share the url?

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    3. It's more like a scrapbook of random thoughts, pictures, and inspiration from framebuilders I've met. Here it is.

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    4. very nice! thanks!

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  7. red curtain pics are awesome!

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  8. I have noticed that some welding shops use red curtains, others use yellow or green. What is the difference?

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    1. I have seen yellow ones at Cantabrigian Mechanics. I wonder, might is have to do with the materials being welded and what quality of glare they produce? At Seven Cycles, I do not remember any curtains at all.

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  9. I have this blue Italian shopcoat I got at the thrift for $4. It's exactly the shopcoat that millions of Italian workers wear. It happens to have an interior breast pocket (useful) an orange silk lining (not poly, not rayon, freaking orange silk) and a Giorgio Armani label. I've had it a few years now and can never figure out the suitable level of irony. Maybe it's connected to being denied entry to welding class in high school because otherwise I was AP and the admin could not figure me out.

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    1. Nice. I've been wearing a long apron, but I am messy and would benefit from a dedicated work shirt. I was thinking Dixie's, though I guess your Armani sounds nice too : )

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