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Thread: Anvil Bikes

  1. #61
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    yo, big d, good to see you out here under the spotlights and in the smoke, just like an 80's hair band-without the annoying sounds.

    antartica stories and good spirits were the order of biz last time we spoke in person. i'm looking for more of the same in about 14 weeks. and can't wait for a certain package from littleton to hit the loading docks here at the design and fabrication facility.

    hey, as a self-proclaimed "jack of all" (of which many of us certainly are-proclaimed or not), maybe you have by now realized (in your sagacious wisdom which comes with being older than i) that doing every-single-dang-thing yourself is hugely inefficient. i'm finally getting there, where i'd rather make/sell/service the widgets i understand and then pay someone else to do those things i'd have to learn or no longer have facilities to accomplish.

    you ever have thoughts like that?






  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamesand View Post
    Archie, thanks for letting me know about Binny's. I can get this stuff shipped to VT:

    Old Rip Van Winkle

    This man knows his tooling and bourbon or rye!
    They make the absolute best shit. Hands down taste test winner at the Richmond NAHBS was the High West "Rendezvous" (seen at far right in the pic). Try it if you can.

    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan View Post
    Don,

    a couple of things..... There are so many ways to join tubes but using your fixtures and tools is part of the pleasure for me. I'll be getting that frame fixture I keep threatening you about soon.

    Where does the tool business go from here? Can sales keep expanding for you frame and fork fixtures here in the US? Is the international market open to you?
    Thanks, Jonathan. Yes, we've been shipping overseas since the get go. I've sent tools to Antarctica, New Zealand (NZ always surprises me but we shipped there a number of times, even a Super Master), lots to Oz, Czech, Poland, really all of Europe, SK, Thailand, Taiwan, China, etc., & I should be sending one to Russia pretty soon. We've sold to just about every major manufacturer, Specialized, GT, Giant. Hell, I don't know if there is an end to it, but if there is, I'm ready.

    So, unless I win the lottery or go bumps up, I'll be doing this for the rest of my working life.

    I've got a bunch of new tools in the works which we'll trickle out as time & spindles allow. Seth Rosko and I have been doing a wee bit of collaboration on a motorcycle frame fixture from hell (and we'll probably be the only two cats in the world who end up with them!). I think my VW steering wheel design is very marketable and I think I could sell a couple bushels of my VW gas pedal. I could easily see myself getting totally submerged in making bad ass commissioned vintage/bobber style motos. Or maybe I'd just say fuck it and get back to riding bikes all the time. House is paid for, Jill & I are empty nesters, and all my bills are paid.... :)





    Last edited by Archibald; 11-21-2010 at 09:01 PM. Reason: added pics
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by bellman View Post
    Don, thats awsome that you included your workmates in this.
    I'm sure i'll have a question for you at some point but for now I'll leave it at this; I can't think of a better read than the story of someone who has no need to explain himself. Thanks.
    Jake
    Thanks, Jake. Couldn't do this at the level we do without good folks. I've been very lucky in that regard. I think part of it is that I always hire bike folks and teach 'em what I know rather than hire machinists. Bike folk are into it and what we do; they're invested in the culture and you can't get that anywhere else.
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  5. #65
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    Quote Originally Posted by WadePatton View Post
    yo, big d, good to see you out here under the spotlights and in the smoke, just like an 80's hair band-without the annoying sounds.

    antartica stories and good spirits were the order of biz last time we spoke in person. i'm looking for more of the same in about 14 weeks. and can't wait for a certain package from littleton to hit the loading docks here at the design and fabrication facility.

    hey, as a self-proclaimed "jack of all" (of which many of us certainly are-proclaimed or not), maybe you have by now realized (in your sagacious wisdom which comes with being older than i) that doing every-single-dang-thing yourself is hugely inefficient. i'm finally getting there, where i'd rather make/sell/service the widgets i understand and then pay someone else to do those things i'd have to learn or no longer have facilities to accomplish.

    you ever have thoughts like that?
    Whisky Papa! I'm with you. I was always taught that you don't build what you can buy, so if something is out there that does what I need done, I buy it. If it doesn't do what I need done, I build it. NITMOI happens a lot around here though and sometimes, since we live/work in a fishbowl, we reinvent the wheel. I just call that validation now!

    A good example for me is when the mills used to break down, and they do now & again, I'd sweat getting the tech out here and the scheduling & repair bills that went with it. The last independent repair guy we had out here, I got sideways with and told him to hit the bricks. Since then, I've become a pretty good CNC diagnostician and repair guru. :)
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  6. #66
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    hey Ferris - wisest man I ever met

    Tell us about Chad and the peace corp chicks. Its the only time I ever see you go a little shy.

    Cheers

    KGB
     

  7. #67
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    Quote Originally Posted by KGB View Post
    hey Ferris - wisest man I ever met

    Tell us about Chad and the peace corp chicks. Its the only time I ever see you go a little shy.

    Cheers

    KGB
    Ha, ha, ha!
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  8. #68
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    Don, that red thingy with the holes in it came, and it's forced me to re-evaluate the meaning of life. Is the finger of god going to help me out of this mess?
    Seriously, after just a short time with a couple of your tools I realize just how much I've been missing. I had to recalibrate my cheat sheets after putting the fork fixture and finger of god into action.
    Thanks for the excellent tools! You can count on future business from me.
    Craig
     

  9. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig Ryan View Post
    Don, that red thingy with the holes in it came, and it's forced me to re-evaluate the meaning of life. Is the finger of god going to help me out of this mess?
    Seriously, after just a short time with a couple of your tools I realize just how much I've been missing. I had to recalibrate my cheat sheets after putting the fork fixture and finger of god into action.
    Thanks for the excellent tools! You can count on future business from me.
    Craig
    Thanks, Craig. This may help:

    He's got the whole world in His hands
    He's got the whole world in His hands
    He's got the whole world in His hands
    He's got the whole world in His hands

    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  10. #70
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    Yo Don!

    First, I want to say "great name"!

    Then I want to say Thank You! You have been at NAHBS since Houston. You have supported the show all along and I am very grateful for that.

    I dig the tools and as you know I have a SM, main/chain/seat mitering fixtures, fork jig, and a BBG. Love em all. With an arsenal like what you have created, which is excellent in every way, do you see any future developments in your tooling that can take them to a "next level", or are they perfectly engineered once they go into production?

    Again, thanks for all you do, and mostly just being yourself. You Rock.

    DW

  11. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slapshot View Post
    Yo Don!

    First, I want to say "great name"!

    Then I want to say Thank You! You have been at NAHBS since Houston. You have supported the show all along and I am very grateful for that.

    I dig the tools and as you know I have a SM, main/chain/seat mitering fixtures, fork jig, and a BBG. Love em all. With an arsenal like what you have created, which is excellent in every way, do you see any future developments in your tooling that can take them to a "next level", or are they perfectly engineered once they go into production?

    Again, thanks for all you do, and mostly just being yourself. You Rock.

    DW
    Thanks, Don. It is a great name, my Dad gave it to me and in return, I gave it to my Son; D3 as we like to call him.

    As to the tools, man, I don't know. I wouldn't say they're perfect, if they were I'd quit messing with them. Plus, we make over 400 parts in house, from raw stock to finished product so there's bound to be some sub-optimals in there. In a lot of ways, building the tools is just like building frames: you always strive to make the next one better than the last one and you focus your time & energy & money into that goal.

    As far as the development, it really goes in stages. I start off with an idea (or perceived customer demand, real or otherwise) and sketch it out first, then draw it if it shows promise, then make the proto. No big deal on small tools, but obviously a major risk for big ones. You minimize that risk by making sure your assemblies are 100% correct but there is really no gauging market response. Lots of speculation involved.

    Anyway, once I have a working proto or three I generally send them out to builders who have a great need for whatever the product is focused on so they can put them through their paces and I can get their feedback. It's too easy to get caught up in your own loop so that outside input is critical. I'd say that aspect of it is a lot like the feedback that builders get from racers.

    Once I get that feedback, I may or may not incorporate it into the design. :) Seriously, it's easy to tweak a tool so much that it prices itself right out of the market so I have to balance manufacturability with the builder's desires and the potential market. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes not. A good example of this is the BBG which looks nothing like it did originally and a more current example is the tube bender.

    When the design is finalized, we just make a batch of them and put them out there for folks and hope they fulfill a need and sell. Being a builder myself helps reduce the speculative risk also....not that I don't get it wrong, sometimes it has more to do with timing. Take fork fixtures for example. When I first made fork fixtures, I couldn't give them away. Sat on the shelf collecting dust. Everybody was crazy about CF forks and nobody was building forks so I dropped it from the lineup. A few years go buy and demand is increasing to the point that I fire them back up (and redesigned it to make them easier to manufacture) . Now we can't keep them in stock because folks, and by folks I mean both builders and the greater cycling community, have largely returned to understanding that steel bike frames & forks should be mated at the hip and not by a QBP catalog part number. OK, I might be proselytizing with that last bit...

    Another good example is the tube benders. I built a fair number of them, but the demand for them wasn't there to risk further investment in follow on batches. Everybody was buying their S-bend or single bend stays and not making their own. Over the last few years, we've been getting more and more calls about them, so it seemed there was again enough demand to risk the investment. I should speak to this a little further.

    I talk about the risk of investment because for us to sell the tools at the price we do, we have to build them in batches. If I had to build a Journeyman frame fixture one at a time, they'd cost $10K each. If you don't believe this, take a fairly complex assembly drawing with some tight tolerances to a machine shop and ask for a quote for 1-each. When you recover from the shock, you'll understand. The risk of investment has to be considered to justify making a batch of a product. I have to be able to recoup ALL my overhead which means the cost of the design & development stage and the cost of the entire batch. That means the cost of the labor, the materials (which have to be bought in bulk), cutters, running the machines, the cost of the money, everything. And I incur ALL those costs before I sell a single product. If the product doesn't sell, or doesn't sell at a fast enough pace, I'm eating it.

    A good example is the Super Master. Of course there's a twist: I simply out competed myself with it. The Super Masters were very expensive to produce and to get a business sustainable profit on them at what I felt was the market's limit on price, I had to make at least 20-25 at a time. You can imagine how much money that is. The problem was that the Journeyman was outselling them over 20 to 1. The JMan slowed the sales of the Super Master to the point where it was taking too long to recoup my investment and the cost of money ate away at the sustainability of it as a project. Couple that with the fact that the Super Master baseplates couldn't be made in house, economically, and it made it an easy decision to pull the plug on it. When I say easy decision, it doesn't mean it wasn't painful. Getting a bad tooth pulled is an easy decision, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. But, in every cloud: that led to the birth of the Super Journeyman which I feel is a better fixture for most builders.

    Sorry I rambled so long on this, but once I got started it was hard to stop!
    Last edited by Archibald; 11-22-2010 at 03:41 PM.
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  12. #72
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    don-
    you're the only person in the world whose opinions on bicycles i trust who didn't spend their entire adult life wallowing in the bike industry which probably says more about me than you. you said earlier you'd only hire bike people even though on paper your business is being a machine shop. so before this turns into a sycophantic, how'd you get so smart? question from a pal and a fan- you're one of the few guys actually making bike shit in your own shop, with your own hands whose making money and living comfortably and seems more restrained by time than by orders or potentially awesome profitable projects. got any lessons you could share with the rest of us on how its done? how do you make the economics work making specialty shit in the usa?

    thanks,
    c
     

  13. #73
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    I don't know what the hell that metal thing a few posts above is but it is beautiful.
     

  14. #74
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    Thanks for sharing your reflections and thoughts with us, Don. I don't want to over-inflate your ego, here, but I really do think your voice in the general frame building community is one of a handfull to listen to and learn from. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how US custom frame building went from relative obscurity in the late 90s to mainstream press coverage in the late 00s. What in your opinion happened in that period that created that massive change?

    Truls
     

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by jerk View Post
    don-
    you're the only person in the world whose opinions on bicycles i trust who didn't spend their entire adult life wallowing in the bike industry which probably says more about me than you. you said earlier you'd only hire bike people even though on paper your business is being a machine shop. so before this turns into a sycophantic, how'd you get so smart? question from a pal and a fan- you're one of the few guys actually making bike shit in your own shop, with your own hands whose making money and living comfortably and seems more restrained by time than by orders or potentially awesome profitable projects. got any lessons you could share with the rest of us on how its done? how do you make the economics work making specialty shit in the usa?

    thanks,
    c
    Thanks, Craig. Damn good question and I can only answer it as it applies to framebuilding & me personally.

    My answer: I work at it.

    Anvil works within the bike industry just like the rest of you guys. The bike industry is generally thought of as small margin central & if I worked in support of DOD or the medical industry, I could charge a hell of a lot more, but my expenses would go up the same amount and those shops don't historically fair that well either. I think it really boils down to running a business like a business. I see too many folks get into building who want to live the dream of frame builder as quirky artist rather than frame builder as skilled craftsman and businessman. Frame building as a career only works if you get up everyday like all those corporate working stiffs we like to scoff at and bust your ass doing your job for 8-hours or more. Like I said earlier, I traded in my corporate straight jacket for one of my own choosing that didn't fit so tight. That's enough for me.

    I think folks don't work hard enough and they don't charge enough for their labor. Pricing is really not that hard if you work backwards from what it costs you to live each year + run your business + whatever you want to earn over that. I haven't run those numbers lately, but a few years ago the breaking point, in my opinion, for a guy who could turn over 100 basic tig frames a year was $1,200 per. $1,750 is more reasonable. It's a balance between your real costs, your pricing structure, and how many units you can move just like any other enterprise. I understand that most builders think they have to price themselves to be competitive with the mass manufacturers, especially when starting out, but that model can never last. Since you work in retail, you know that real pricing on most mass manufactured frames is on par for what the custom guys are charging. You just can't make a living pumping out 1 frame for the same price as the outfit that does 100 or 1000 a day.

    For Anvil specifically, I had to figure out ways to do what we do in the most efficient way possible. As I said in a previous post, first and foremost we have to do batches and those batches sizes have to find just the right balance between price & demand. We also maximize the density of parts under a spindle at any one time and our machine fixturing has always reflected that. Doing one part, one at a time in a vise is the path to bankruptcy.

    We also maximize our material usage by nesting parts together for roughing operations or when using full size sheets of material (5-foot x 12-foot sheets) we have the parts nested and have them roughed out with waterjet. That maximizes the part efficiency from the raw stock and saves tons of $$ in the fixturing, spindle time, and cutter costs of turning it all into chips. The water jet leaves us about .100" margin around the profile of the part for our profiling and machining and the water jet kerf is only about a 1/16" across which means the parts can be nested more tightly. If we milled the parts out of raw stock, we'd be running a 3/4" carbide cutter and turning every path it takes into chips. Now if you were nesting manually, it lose its appeal in short order, but I have a software program that does it automatically, including part within a part, and can realize material usage efficiencies in the mid 90 percent range!

    Another thing I try to do is to spend the money that saves me time & money. I've invested many thousands of dollars into software (now MasterCam 15) that keeps us from having to program at the spindle, allows us to generate or change our CNC code in seconds, and allows us to verify a program is correct before we ever hit a cycle start button. Buying a new VMC with part probing and QA capabilities is another one that will greatly increases our productivity and reduce our scrap rate. The investment we've made in our new metrology tools has already paid for itself. I just look around the shop and note where we spend our time and then figure out ways to reduce it and if I do it right, our quality goes up at the same time.

    I don't know if that answered your question fully, but....
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  16. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by JFW View Post
    Thanks for sharing your reflections and thoughts with us, Don. I don't want to over-inflate your ego, here, but I really do think your voice in the general frame building community is one of a handfull to listen to and learn from. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how US custom frame building went from relative obscurity in the late 90s to mainstream press coverage in the late 00s. What in your opinion happened in that period that created that massive change?

    Truls
    Thank you, Truls. It's a good thing the doors to the shop are 100" tall!

    I don't know that it was in obscurity in the late 90's; I think it was always there amongst the more dedicated cyclists and the cognoscenti but I think there is no denying the resurgence the made to order frame has undergone. I spoke to this in an earlier post, but it was that resurgence that spawned NAHBS, and in return, NAHBS has shined the light on our niche that made it so much more visible to the greater cycling public. These are great times and I'm glad to be a part of it! So many talented people doing such cool shit that it gives me hope for the return of "craftsman" to the greater cycling vernacular.
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


  17. #77
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    Not a question, however an experience.

    I recently borrowed a relative's Anvil while in Denver for a long weekend. It was a steel road frame with carbon stays, painted pearl orange, and built up with Record. I've only ridden off the peg bikes our club team rides. What a revelation. That thing felt better out of the saddle up climbs than any carbon bike I've ever ridden. Maybe it was the slightly longer cranks. At first I was a little scared to be riding such a nice bike. However by the third day I was curious to see how far I could push it by bombing down Flagstaff in Boulder. I can't believe how it felt flying down those switchbacks. The feeling of that bike was reconfirmed the next day coming down through some tight spots on High Grade.

    To make a long story short, thanks for showing me what I'm missing. I'm usually of the opinion that a bike is a bike. However, four days of bliss on that bike showed me why people go custom. My only regret is that I don't have any pictures of it. And you better believe I spit-shined that baby before returning it.
     

  18. #78
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    My Anvil stuff hasn't made me a cent, but I can surely say that I enjoy owning it.
    Lots of stuff said here by Don that people in a slightly different game just can't get, but it's obvious that Don doesn't need/try to hide anything here or elsewhere - Anvil has quality stuff at the right prices, and the experience to know what people need. Except that the website is down. You can buy those, y'know? :)

    <smack> XOXO
     

  19. #79
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    "Spindle time" I like that, I also think MasterCam is really cool. Do have a h2o jet nearby or your own? Nesting the parts and first op'ing them with the water jet is a great idea, saves so much time and material, there are still quite a few job shops around here that haven't figured that out yet. I have built quite a few fixtures over the years and they have all been influenced by these factors; fixtures at the place I worked, other frame fixtures I have used to build a frame on, the material I had available and the tools I had to make it. In the other fixtures category I used a hydra, journeyman, arctos, Ird, bringhelli and a few of my own. I am a slow and (no other way to put this) hard learner. When you built your first frame fixture did you have a clear vision in your mind as soon as you knew you wanted one? how long was it from light bulb to tacking the first frame up in one? Are there any other tool builders who have made you say "I wish I would have done it that way"? Were you inspired by any cool equipment you worked with in other industies? Gotta say I never liked lowered type 2s, not dirt road able enough. Nancy rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TRuss View Post
    I don't know what the hell that metal thing a few posts above is but it is beautiful.
    Thanks, TRuss!
    "It's better to not know so much than to know so many things that ain't so." -- Josh Billings, 1885

    A man with any character at all must have enemies and places he is not welcome—in the end we are not only defined by our friends, but also those aligned against us.


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