Re: [CR] the mysteries of framebuilding

(Example: Framebuilders)

Date: Fri, 01 Jun 2007 12:03:05 -0400
Subject: Re: [CR] the mysteries of framebuilding
From: "Doug Fattic" <>
To: <>, <>, "" <>

Nick took this subject thread in an interesting direction. I was hoping someone would say, "oh yea, David Howard, I remember him". Jerry explained my thinking well, frames can be made for reasons other than making money to live on. In Brigg's case they added prestige and traffic to the shop and enhanced his entire business. This reputation for building excellent frames contributes to customers having confidence in the whole operation that even a lot of advertising could not necessarily provide. They aren't the foundation of the bottom line but rather the promotion to get it. Ellis Briggs was a well run business that had several salesman in the retail department that included a pro shop area, a couple of guys doing bike repair in the back, two more doing resprays upstairs and Andrew building frames. The Mrs. ran the office and Jack circulated to make sure all details were taken care of. This allowed him the freedom to spend a lot of time teaching me the particulars of how to design and build frames one at a time to exactly fit a specific customer. He wasn't under pressure to get a certain volume out in order to eat. It all seemed normal at the time but when I look back on it I realize I was beyond fortunate to have been in those circumstances. If I had gone to Bob Jackson a few miles away in Leeds, where I could see when I visited them that they put the emphasis on production speed, I would have had a completely different kind of training.

Nick asked: How does making a profit hinder an artisan from producing quality work? Because increasing profit is about reducing labor while increasing quality requires more of it. This tension is increased because frame prices have a fixed ceiling. The primary difference between an exceptional frame and an average one is the amount of time spent making it (skill and machinery also contribute). If a builder wants to make a better frame, he can't charge more he just makes less because it will take him longer.

Again I ask, does anyone remember a David Howard from Long Beach CA that raced in the early 70's?

Doug Fattic Niles, Michigan USA

Jerry Moos wrote:

I think what Doug is saying is that a shop with a good retail trade, refinishing business, etc. may be able to "subsidize" the frame building a bit. So they can then take more time and care with the framebuilding than would be justified by the frame price. Of course, in theory, one can just charge more for the frames, but in the real world, there is only so much the customer will pay and it seems that in UK the customers will often not pay as much as in the US. There have been lots of great products produced at a loss because the manufacturers had other sources of profit to subsidize then. Hybrid automobiles, at least when they were first introduced, were an excellent example. In the world of classic bicycles, it is quite possible that two pioneering bikes (whether the trends they started were good or bad) the Teledyne Titan and the Exxon Graftek, never made any money. Both were produced or marketed by huge companies for which they were an insignificant part of overall operations. So they could be produced as R&D, or public relations regardless of whether they made or lost money. Eventually, most products must make money or their producers will ultimately tire of subsidizing them. But many great products are produced for years at a loss before this happens. The so-called "laws" of capitalism are really no such thing. They are forces, and admittedly powerful ones, which do shape human behavior. But fortunately, human behavior is more complex than that. People can and do act counter to the profit motive to produce objects at a loss because they find those objects beautiful or important or visionary.


Jerry Moos Big Spring, TX

Nick Zatezalo <> wrote: Doug Wrote:

Ellis Briggs also painted frames on their premises so I was very fortunate to have learned those procedures there as well. I think both of those places made better frames than most others partly because their shops were not financially dependent on building alone but were just part of a bigger operation. That allowed them to take time to finish them they way they wanted rather than turn out the numbers to make a profit.

Doug Fattic - getting closer to some of the mysteries of framebuilding in Niles, Michigan

How does making a profit hinder an artisan from producing quality work?

I have heard this mentioned from several other sources and have a difficult time comprehending this thought process.

If it was in fact true; their best work would be free.

Nick Zatezalo