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  1. #1
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    Recommended reading list for framebuilders

    Thought I'd start a slightly different thread. I invite you to share books and articles that you think all framebuilders, professional and amateur alike, would enjoy reading. Not "How to" books, per se, but things that will inspire craftspeople or that they might identify with strongly.

    I'll start with a personal favorite:

    Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford

    I rarely read books twice, but I've read this one three times now. Somewhat ironic that he writes in defense of blue collar-type work, yet writes in a rather scholarly manner. Still, the message is good.

  2. #2
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    Bicycles & Tricycles: A Classic Treatise on Their Design and Construction and 100 Years of Bicycle Component and Accessory Design: Authentic Reprint Edition of The Data Book

    These two books are here so you know it's pretty much all been done before.

    The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

    This book is about how to convey information visually, and a big part of it is about reducing things down to what you really need and how often "features" can actually distract from your goal. It taught me to stand back and really look at things. On bikes I often want to add X feature for some reason and I have to stop myself and really think whether X meets the goals of the bike.

    Design For The Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change

    The most influential design book for me - I've read it many times over the last 20 years. It also has a lot about editing your products/objects, but has you think more about the object's context in the greater world.

    The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition

    A classic design book, this one is more about looking at your object from the point of view of the user. Probably won't revolutionize anyone's framebuilding but if you like to think about the design process you'll enjoy it.

  3. #3
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    CYCLEPEDIA: A Tour of Iconic Bicycle Designs, Michael Embacher.

    Has some very classy variations for inspiration.

    Eric
    If I don't make an attempt, how will I know if it will work?

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    Touring Bikes by Tony Oliver.
    The Paterek Manual - first and second editions (I like the scribbled in additions in the first edition)

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    NOTHING WORKS LIKE CLOCKWORK

    www.clockworkbikes.com

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    My latest favorite book: The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles. It has a lot of little amazing handbuilt details, and those bikes are just so nice to look at!

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    The periodic table, Primo Levi.
    zen & the art etc, Pirsig

    on the bike side
    bicycling science,
    bicycles tricycles as suggested above
    jerome,3 men on a bicycle
    custom bicycle, kolin-de la rosa
    bicycle,herlithy.

  8. #8
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    Metals and how to weld them - Metals and How to Weld Them

    best 10 bucks you'll ever spend if you want an excellent intro to metallurgy, heat treatment, and welding/brazing.

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    "The Bicycle and the Walkman", C.J McMahon Jr. & C.D Graham Jr. An Introduction to Engineering Materials.

    It gives a great insight into how and why metals yield and fail, by explaining the mechanisms of how dislocations travel through their crystalline structure. There's other useful stuff in there too.

    Ric Hjertberg (co-founder of Wheelsmith) mentioned the book on his blog a while back,
    How Spokes Work - Wheel Fanatyk

    Alistair.

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    Since I generally get annoyed by books about being an artist in Portland or how-to stuff that I can also find online, here's mine: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.

    It has very little/nothing to do with bikes. It has very little/nothing to do with building things, unless you're talking about codes or codebreaking. But it will make you want to figure stuff out and put you in geek mode. Which IMO is more important than philosophizing about the role of the artisan in modern society or whatever. Also it is a novel so it is super fun to read.

    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

  11. #11
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    I just remembered this one: Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed.

    Another one I've read several times. The story of engineering the U-2, SR-71, F117-A Stealth Fighter, and other projects at Lockheed's Skunk Works. It's got a great mix of espionage, rockets, and serious feats of engineering and construction.

    +1 to the Crytonomicon (well, everything Neal J. Stephenson every wrote, really).

  12. #12
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    Walt's response is simultaneously the most off-the-wall answer and the one most closely aligned with the spirit in which I started this thread. I was looking for books that would be interesting reading for framebuilders. Not bike porn, or even necessarily bike books of any kind. More like....manifestos.

    BTW, Walt, can you recommend some books about being an artist in Portland? Thanks.

  13. #13
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    Here's a couple more from my personal collection:

    Choosing Craft: the artist's viewpoint
    An anthology edited by Vicki Halper & Diane Douglas

    Rework
    by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson (Founders of 37 signals)
    The most refreshing business book I've ever read
    (OK, the only business book I've ever read)

  14. #14
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    The Waterhouse-in-Jail segment about Arete probably qualifies as a manifesto. Stephenson is sort of given to that sort of thing, though, so you can probably find manifesto-ish stuff all through his work if you look.

    Or you can let Bobby Shaftoe sum it up for you: "Show some ****ing adaptability!"

    Man, just reading some quotes made me laugh and want to reread it again.


    -Walt
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

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    Ha, that Shaftoe and Reagan scene is classic. I'm going to have to read it again now.

    Stephenson hated his first book, The Big U, but it's my absolute #1 book, no other book had as great an influence on me growing up. It's chock full of nerdy stuff.

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    Quote Originally Posted by golden boy View Post
    BTW, Walt, can you recommend some books about being an artist in Portland? Thanks.
    "a confederacy of dunces" -- too bad he only managed to write one book before he died.

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    Weirdly enough my wife, who pretty much shares my taste in "literature", hated ACOD. She found Ignatius just insufferable, rather than funny/insufferable.

    -W
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

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    Two of my most prized possessions are publisher proofs of Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon ;-)

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    Coming Into the Country-John McPhee. and most anything else John McPhee. This is anthropologists look at Alaska in the mid seventies. It's just fascinating writing. Kayaking the Brooks Range, homesteading goldminers who flew in a disssassembled D8 in two hundred planeloads, and reassembled it onsite, etc etc. Broad and inspiring.

    The Goal - Goldratt. recommended by Dave Kirk in the other forum. Industrial engineering for dummies. Teaches you to think about improving the worst part of your process first.

    Welding Secrets-Hal Wilson. This is a weird little book I got online. I think it is mandatory for any metalworker. Written by an old school shop welder. All the things you would learn if you worked for 40 years at Bubba's Welding Shop. The most valuable info is about how welds affect the parent materials movement and stresses. When you read about Carl Strong tacking up his parts deliberately out of line so they are pulled into alignment by welding, this book explains why.

    Simplify Your Life- Elaine St. James. Although written from an uppity yuppie perspective and at times irritating, this is a tiny little book that has 100 ideas for getting yourself squared away. Fun to pick up and read a few at a time. Number one? Reduce the clutter in your life. How is your shop looking by the way?

    Oh and I hated Shopclass as Soulcraft. It really over-romanticized blue collar work. Having been dirty, tired, and exposed to hazards and crap weather most of my worklife, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I am back in school for engineering at age 37.

  20. #20
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    Thanks for your contributions, El Train. This thread will serve as a resource for me for the future. And thanks for your input on Shop Class as Soulcraft. Without opening the book, I know he notes more than once that all is not ducky in the blue collar world. I think one of the main points is that there is a certain satisfaction in performing this type of work that one can't get from an office job. Granted, I've mostly just worked office jobs and don't have your work experience, so I probably have romanticized this lifestyle in my own mind. What kind of work have you done, BTW?

  21. #21
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    my experience as blue collar worker at Trek was the motivation I needed to finish engineering school. And that was no picnic for any of my degrees. School for me is one of the most soul-sapping experiences possible, so it's a miracle that I managed to spend 15 years in post secondary study.

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    First off, I have never built a frame, yet I have extensive experience doing fabrication. I have been in an architectural steel fab shop for the last 4 years. Before this I have done years of carpentry, steel fab, landscaping, and a two year stint in the office doing construction estimating. I have a BFA in Metalsmithing/Jewelry Design that involved four years of hammering, filing, sanding, polishing, soldering, and drawing. I have a few welding certifications. I can build damn near anything you want out of steel. The reality is I hate the smell, the grease and dirt, the air quality, and the noise of shop work. I have the skills, and I have thought about it a lot, but in the end at this point I don't really want to build frames. I LOVE bicycles but the last thing I want to do when I get home is go do more fabrication. What is it: The more you know, the more you don't know? Well, I know I don't want to do frames without the right tools: a mill, a real jig, and a nice tig welder. Which is about 10,000 more dollars than I have laying around. All this talk about hand filing miters because Sachs still does? What? That is ridiculous. The ideal for me is Carl Strong who happens to be local to me. His whole operation is so tight, it is the gold standard as far as I am concerned on how to run a framebuilding BUSINESS. I think a lot of folks want to build frames but don't understand squat about doing it for a living.

    I have a buddy who asked about working in the shop with me. He is a systems programmer. I asked how much he makes per hour currently. He said he bills out around 120/hr. I said well, how about you start at 12 bucks. That was the end of that conversation. Not much romance in anything for that little money.

    The craft part of all of this is not hard given the correct teaching and correct tools and practice time. Anyone can get a welding cert with a 60 hour course. Knowing what I know, I can't imagine trying to teach yourself how to build a bike frame in your garage without a background in fabrication. What a waste of time! Just go to the UBI class. Learn the right way, and have a fun hobby. Keep making money in the office.

    I like designing things. Which is why I am in engineering school now. I hope to god I can make it through and get paid to design sh*t instead of make it. Maybe at that point I can do some hobby framebuilding on the side. Then it actually may be appealing.

    Edit: Just read your frame #2 thread goldenboy, and you are on the right track: Went to UBI already, and got a pimp jig right out the gate. Nice work. The hardest part for hobbyist level craftspeople is to get enough reps to build a feel for the work. If you really want to get good at a craft, just start pumping out the volume. Talent is overrated. The best have put in WAY more hours more often than not. Sachs is right about this. It takes hundreds of reps to understand what is really happening with certain processes. Braze something every day. (I prefer TIG in the end because it avoids all that cleanup that brazing requires.) If you really want to build frames for a living, go get a job in a metal fab shop and put in a few years. And read every single word on Strongs website. And then go read in the Velocipede site his and Dave Kirks smoked out sections.

    Okay, I wrote way too much here. I could talk about this stuff for hours!

  23. #23
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    You didn't write too much for me. Lots of interesting stuff in there.

    First off: after reading your post, I revisited Carl Strong's website. I really like how he has elaborated on his process of working with the client to produce the end product. I've not seen any other builders' sites that have gone into that much detail on the client relationship. Very cool.

    Designing vs making: sounds like you are tired of making things, and want to design things. I won't discourage you. Here's my own experience: I have a BFA in industrial design. I have held jobs where I designed things, and jobs where I made things, but I've never had a job where I got to make the things I designed. That is what appeals to me about custom framebuilding, or any similar venture. Jobs that allow one to complete that feedback loop, where the fabrication experience can then inform and improve the design process, seem few and far between. In fact, it seems like the most likely way to find work that incorporates both is to start your own business. Please enlighten me if I'm wrong.

    Talent vs putting in the hours: Timely comment, as I just started reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers yesterday. In one chapter he highlights the 10,000 hours theory. It basically says that to become an expert at anything, you must put in 10,000 hours of focused practice. Not sure if I would hold that number as sacred, or if it truly applies to framebuilding. But certainly, if you put in that many hours, you'd be damn good at whatever it is.

  24. #24
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    I've subscribed to a number of bike magazines over the years, but increasingly they disappoint me. Product reviews are typically all but worthless. Of the mags I am currently aware of, one stands way above the rest, IMO: Bicycle Quarterly. Never heard of it? Either had I, until I stayed at the Bike Hostel in Ashland, OR while attending UBI. It's a low-key, black and white quarterly out of Seattle. Mostly roadie-oriented, but the content is damn good. The fact that is has legitimate "content" alone makes it stand apart from the crowd. Check it out.

  25. #25
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    OT: remember that what you are selling is as much an experience as a bicycle in many cases. Customer interaction and the whole design process is the value added, because most people will be pretty well served by a non-custom frame at half the price. I spend maybe 25% of my time actually working with metal - at most, it takes me 6 hours of steady work to build a frame from start to finish. I spend a LOT more doing design work, talking through or explaining things to a client, making sure the right parts for the job are getting ordered, etc. If you don't like people or aren't great at personal interactions - you are not going to get anywhere, no matter how pretty your fillets are.

    -W
    Waltworks Custom Bicycles
    Park City, UT USA
    www.waltworks.com
    waltworks.blogspot.com

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