[CR]Early years at Masi : Part 3

Topics: Framebuilders:Masi

Example: Framebuilders:Rene Herse

Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2003 10:50:09 -0700
From: Brian Baylis <rocklube@adnc.com>
To: classicrendezvous@bikelist.org
Subject: [CR]Early years at Masi : Part 3

Hello everyone,

Time again to set the "Wayback Machine" for a trip to the past. Set the controls to early 1974, Mr. Peabody. We will be visiting the Masi, CA workshop in Carlsbad, California as fledgling framebuilder Brian Baylis gets his first opportunity to participate in the actual framebuilding process. What fun!

Apparently I had demonstrated to the Italians that I probably would not destroy anything if they turned me loose on metal parts. Faliero, Mario, and Roberto had gone home to Italy for the holidays over Christmas; but only Mario Confente would return. Faliero was not elgible to return for another 6 months stay according to the visa laws. Roberto had a girlfriend in Italy and supposedly wasn't interested in returning to the US to continue in Carlsbad. He was younger than Mario and rather reserved. He probably felt more confortable at home, not to mention he had a ladyfriend there. Mario returned to take the position as shop foreman once Faliero was out of the picture, which is why Mario was allowed to return on a visa extention. While Faliero was there Mario was subserviant to Faliero, sort of walked around on eggshells, and was clearly not really impressed with what Faliero knew about framebuilding. Once Masi wasn't there, Mario grew some balls and suddenly the whole atmosphere was different. Mario immediately began to do things his own way and was apparently not speaking highly of Faliero to Simonetti, who was the only other person who spoke Italian once the others left. We only kinda got the drift by the way they were acting and a few of the "jokes" that were made about "the old man". I missed Faliero.

My first encounter with Mario personally once he was in charge sticks in my mind. It is one of the more humorous things that happened to me while I worked there. In the production situation there, everything was done in relativly large quantities. That is the best situation for learning. One would usually spend several days or a week or so doing one particular job. By the time you were done one could be quite expert at the task at hand. My first filing assignment was to file front dropouts that had been brazed to fork blades. The dropouts were brazed into straight forkblades and they would line them up on a workbench that had your vise mounted to one end. There were probably 200 fork blades to file. It looked like a lot of work. The operation itself is relativly simple and involved two basic steps. First, the edges of the dropout had to be squared off and then blended into the forkblade so that it flowed smoothly and gracefully together, making sure to not undercut anything or take anything off of the raised area of the dropout. This was done with a 12" half round bastard file initially and then smoothed in for the final bit with a 6" half round smooth file. Once that was accomplished you had to work on the part of the blade that had been filled with brass. Care was to be taken not to file off the raised area again, this time from the side as opposed to around the outside edge. Further, one must not file a trough or undercut the surface of the dropout as you used about a 10" round bastard file to make a radius on the brass from the side of the dropout to the edge of the forkblade. This requires a little care. Smaller files can be used but the radius begins to come back on itself and looks like crap compared to using a bigger file and producing a consistant even radius. One tries to make them even on both sides. It is finished off by sanding with 80 grit emory cloth.

On this day, Mario showed me what to do by doing a demonstration part to use as a "sample". It was set on the bench along side the other 199 parts and I was instructed to proceed and work carefully until I got the hang of it. Mario was to return in about an hour to see how it was going just to make sure I wasn't going to ruin a whole lot of parts. He went off to his other duties and I cautiously set to work, as is my nature. I do my best to understand instructions and do as I was instructed. Within about an hour, Mario returned to inspect my production so far. When he returned there were about 8 or 9 parts filed and lined up as I was progressing down the row. The entire bench was covered with the forkblades. Nervously I awaited his critique. He looked at each blade one by one. Things were going fine until he reached for one blade and suddenly he was displeased. I thought crap, I must have messed one up somehow. Mario says "this one is no good" through the interperter. I looked it it myself and suddely realized that it was the sample! The others all matched and were done in a consistant manner, as is my habit. Before I realized, in my 20 year old lack of diplomacy, I blurted out that that was the one he had done as a sample. Mario wasn't amused. Nothing drastic happened on account of that incident I don't think, but Mario probably wasn't too pleased with the longhaired California smartass at the time. Later on after work, at home with my friends I laughed my ass off because it was so classic. There were a lot of funny things that happened like that; that was one of my earlier looks at what the Italians were like. This reminds me of something even funnier that happened while Faliero was there that will perhaps give everyone an idea of what I'm talking about. It goes right along with the fact that Mario would come back to the shop or stay late or whatever was neccessary to fix any mistake HE had made during the day that he didn't want us Americans to see him doing. Years later when Simonetti told me about this I really split a gut. What the hell is wrong with being human and subject to making a mistake once in a while?

During a bike assembly that Faliero was doing, which is what he did most of the time while he was there, he had a bike nearly completed when he realized that the top nut of the headset wasn't going to tighten because the steerer was about 1mm too long. The bike was in the stand and nearly completed, so he decided not to take the fork out of the frame to make the small cut. He removed the bar and stem that was still connected to the brake cables and let them hang. He took off the top nut and was going to just slice of the offending millimeter with the hacksaw as the bike was in the stand. Well, as he was cutting towards the frame the saw slipped and it slid across the top tube of the frame, and needless to say left some nice big hacksaw marks there. Faliero blurted out the Italian equivelent of "God Damn it!!" (a little help here Pergolizzi, something like "Adia Voya" is how it sounds) and suddely everyone in the shop looked up from their work. The workshop was very large and the assembly area was a ways away from where most of the work was done. Suddenly he realized that everyone was looking to see what happened and Masi instructed everyone to get back to work. As we returned to our work he casually sort of put the bike back together as if nothing was wrong. The bike was then wheeled out of the shop and into the office area where it made its way to a closet, I was later told. The painter, Ron Smith, was told to come in and fix it after hours since Masi himself couldn't do it. Ron told us the story since we never were allowed to see the bike after the incident. Since all of us were friends and shared stories and information on a constant basis, we all got a good chuckle out of that one. I've got one other good one that I will save for later that involves one of Marios "fixit tricks" that just might curl your hair, but apparently it was a "common" way to fix frames in Italy.

So that was my introduction to filing operations at Masi. I was there filing fork blades for a few days. I got quite good at it with some extra coaching from Ron Smith, who actually taught me the REAL fine points of doing the job. Apparently I started off doing a better job of it than Mario. Mario never changed. I just looked at the work on the ends of the track dropouts on my Confente track bike #24, and sure enough; too small of a radius from a 8" or so round file that "hooks" back on itself. No undercutting though. Ron showed me how to use the 12" round bastard file to get the optimum even and consistant radius. More difficult but it looks SO MUCH better. I've been doing it that way ever since. Thank God for Ron Smith. He was so much more sensitive to the fine points of craftsmanship than the production minded Italians. It's all relative, but when splitting hairs Ron knew what was the hippest and best way to do things related to filing, and he was the painter!! Furthermore, he spoke English and was more than happy to teach us anything he knew. He had been there longer than an American when I got there and he was the last to be let go when the cards got shuffled in about 1975 or early '76.

That's it for now. Gotta run out and get some cat food and some dog food before they all attack me and begin eating me alive. Then I've got some fork blades to file, really!

Brian Baylis La Mesa, CA Damn, them's some mighty fine memories, boys and girls. Wouldn't change a thing about the good old days.