In the Light of Day
The frame I built with Mike Flanigan over the winter has long been completed and powdercoated. I've been staring at it and doing a lot of thinking... which, somehow, hasn't translated into taking any pictures. Before I knew it, a couple of months passed. And now here I am, about to skip town for much of the summer. So before setting off, I took some early morning shots of my so-called creation.
When I look at this frameset and remember all that went into making it, the dominant sensations are those of physical and emotional exhaustion. I was a mediocre student. Making this thing was difficult and I struggled. It was difficult physically: The all-day filing, sanding, and even waving around the heavy torch, was exhausting for someone of my meager upper body strength. But no less difficult was the acute and constant awareness of working on something I was not good at. Of genuinely trying hard and getting at best so-so results, hour after hour and day after day. That was tough to take.
So when I look at the lugwork, rather than admire its beauty I shudder at the memory of what it took to braze the joints correctly and then get the shorelines looking half-decent.
The solidified mess of steel and silver that I gouged away at for hours with a variety of files to define and redefine the outlines. And don't get me started on the fork crown.
Or the seat cluster with its made-from-scratch endcaps on the chainstays.
The brake bridge, which I had wanted to braze without reinforcer plates...
The bottom bracket, with its myriad of crevices, the tight spaces making it nearly impossible to file without gouging another tube.
In the end, most of it looks more or less all right... except, ironically, for the dropouts. I had spent more time working on these than on any other part of the bike, and they look the worst - the one part of the frame that is glaringly amateur. The transitions are not entirely smooth and the braze on the drivetrain side betrays a couple of surface "pinholes." When pinholes happen in a lugless braze, it can be for several reasons. With small surface ones like mine it is likely mild contamination from burnt flux or metal dust. With some luck, they can be buffed out. Those pinholes kept me awake at night. I filed and buffed until I was sure I'd gotten rid of them - but somehow the powdercoat magnified rather than hid them, along with the not so smooth stay-to-dropout transitions. Naturally, this is the part of the frame I notice and think about the most. It hurts to look, but I keep looking.
I keep looking. And at first, maybe I feel mostly empty, numb, disappointed at my ineptitude. But with time I notice that underneath it there stirs something that almost resembles love. This thing has cut me, burned me, made me angry, made my eyes water, deprived me of sleep, and drained me of energy... What else can I do but love it.