You like to ride. That’s what it’s about. Not skimming around on a pretty set of purple powder coated tubes, with matching water bottle, helmet and Lycra bottoms. The tougher, the better and if it can handle blood spatters from shin gashes, dehydration vomits and a 30 foot fall… all the better.

Sean Walling know the principle of a bike being ‘a simple and efficient tool.’ It’s evident in the custom steel bicycle frames he’s design and manufactured over the past 10 years as owner of Soulcraft. Filmmaker Michael Evans caught a glimpse of what goes into the fabrication of these serene, steel beauties and gives us a taste of the steps Sean goes through to make it all happen.

Our focus is making better frames; built to be ridden rather than idolized, not something to be coveted for what they are, but for what they can do. The goal is always “build it quicker, build it better”, and we achieve it by investing in machinery, fixtures, materials, and by designing new construction processes and more accurate fitting methods.

Big hugs to Al Dean, who’s made of custom steel, for passing this along.

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.

7 Comments

  1. the perfect balance of high precision (height gages, mics and calipers) and eyeballing and marking with a sharpie. And with such a great film and an obviously magnificent craftsman, you don’t really want to bring up the debate of automated machining versus craftsmanship. But obviously, I will. 🙂

    So let’s start the argument here. Does the term “handcrafted” imply better because it’s a trained craftsperson that created it or does it imply something that is prone to human error versus the highly repeatable nature of modern manufacturing tools?

    I happen to think my road bike, with its “swiss precision” rides with just as much character as my hand laid carbon frame.

    • Oooo, you’re starting somethin’ here Paul. Would really like to make this questions a whole other post.

      I don’t think ‘handcrafted’ implies better so much. But I do think it implies care and thought. The quality depends on the design, engineering, manufacturing process, tools and operators either way.

      Experience on both fronts is also hugely important, but experience is what truly brings the air of perfection to handcrafted products.

    • Definitely a fascinating topic. What I’d be really interested to know is how long each frame takes from start to finish. At $1700 for the cheapest one, I can’t see how with all that tooling, material costs, etc., he’s able to turn a decent profit. To me craftsmanship =time, and as with most things, a lot of people don’t appreciate how much time and effort it takes to produce the products we buy/consme these days. Any idea Josh?

    • Kevin De Smet Reply

      I think it depends on the product, a bike well maybe a little but not so much. I’m a firm believer that shoes are an example of a product you just can’t mass produce, everyone’s feet are to unique and I for one haven’t worn one shoe ever that really fit “just right” and well, it bugs the hell outta me and I’m not even a woman! :p

    • Let me ask you something:

      ¿Do you think that sharpie marker could win against a CNC machine program?…
      Moreover, imagine you got an entire manufacturing cell for this product!!

      As an Engineer, I have no doubts about how machines win this argument, because I prefer the accuracy of design and manufacturing supported by computers than just a well goodie hand-work. In this new world we cannot accept errors in products like this. Making a bike is more than paste metal and give it to good appearance, in this case, we’re talking about security too.

      This is a new era, we should appreciate what the art of manufacturing means; Real Enginnering and physics applied in CAD, CAE and CAM systems, developed by engineers.

      The answer is simple; Think the idea, CAD it, apply engineering and feed the machines.

      • The machines still have to operated by people, and indeed programmed by them. For instance, cutting tools wear.
        With machines, you still need to know that it has performed its task within tolerance- otherwise you have a Rubbish In Rubbish out situation.
        I am not saying that a handcrafted process is necessarily better, but different. Although the man’s sharpie might not mark the tubes to within thousandths of an inch like a CNC machine, we know that he will not start the next stage of construction until he is sure that the current one is absolutely spot-on.
        You make some good points, but we are not quite ready for the machines to be blindy fed without supervision. Well, okay, we might be, but it still requires thoughtfulness on the part of the engineer.

        • When you said ‘the machines to be blindly fed’ I got a bit of a shiver… too much news in the past about machines feeding on people.

          Another thought… how do you make things when you don’t have machines? There’s something pure about being able to do something by hand. I know I’d love to have some of those skills when the economy collapses and we have to rely on ourselves to make a custom steel bike frame.

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