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Thread: Crisp Titanium

  1. #1
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    Default Crisp Titanium

    Hello,

    Iím Darren Crisp, the guy behind Crisp Titanium. I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to shed some light on my path to frame building or other aspects of my life that may be of interest to you.

    Iíll start off by saying that I do not come from cycling pedigree. Iíve never worked in a bike shop or at a frame shop. When I started building frames professionally, I thought this would be my downfall. It has taken what seems to be a lifetime to discover, but I honestly believe that this has served me well. Similarly, Iím not a bona-fide business man nor had I ever had the schooling to assist me in my business decisions. Needless to say, itís been an interesting road to get where I am today.

    Add to that, I live in Italy (Iím Texan by birth, Texas is a country, right??). Iíve lived here for 15 years. Iím a happily married, 41 year-old, father of two who remind me on a daily basis how life outside of bikes is just as important in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes that gets lost when youíre trying to meet deadlines or keep on top of your game.

    I graduated with an architecture degree from Texas A&M in í92. At the time, there were few positions available in my field due to a repressed construction industry so my buddy and I took off to Italy where we were to buy some time and work out our next great life plan. I was racing mountain bikes at the time and instantly fell in love with the sight of the Tuscan hills and the racing competition that I found here. It was nothing like back home. After a few years of floundering around, I had a pretty bad accident on the bike that took me back to the US to convalesce for the next few months. At the time, I had no other choice but to get a real job.

    My career path started when I was working for a blacksmith/sculptor in Jackson, Mississippi. I had spent seven years here growing up so I had some good work leads and a familiar network of friends. I was responsible for the shop production which included mig welding, brazing (copper lanterns), some tig, and drawing/design. Typical steel shop stuff. At the time, AutoCad was running on MS-Dos and I could generate most production drawings by hand before the computer could get warmed up enough to open a file. I was building important stuff like iron beds, handrails, mailboxes, and signposts. At the time, it seemed like trivial work, but it gave me a base for familiarizing myself with the equipment and social skills that I would carry with me to this day. Ironically, living in Italy gives me a new-found appreciation for street signs.

    After a few years there, I realized that I had the tools and basic know-how how to piece a frame together. This was kind of a necessity as there were no bikes that fit me within a 5 hr radius. To familiarize myself with the frame building process, I checked out and photocopied Talbotís frame building book. I made a go at it and had a blast learning to braze with silver and brass. That started the ball rolling.

    I gave myself three years. After that time was up, I was to get back on a plane with my new skill set and seek work in Italy which was my new life goal. I am a logistics freak and left 3 years to the day. It was hard leaving behind the double-wide trailer that I rented from a real estate developer. Difficult to believe, but living on 250 acres of prime mtb riding land was an epoch that Iíll cherish till Iím dead. The trailer was quite the experience, too.

    So now Iím in Italy, portfolio of some lame steelwork in hand, trying to figure out what to do next. All while racing mtb around the region. I didnít speak the language and my options were few. I was washing dishes in the school cafeteria (where I had studied a few years prior) and assisting the local architecture professor for the next two years (with my wilting architecture degree clutched in my dishpan hands). It was at the end of this two year stint that I got a call from a steel company not too far from Florence. I did the interview which I concluded had gone poorly, and thought my days here were numbered. I did manage to get a call back, but my Italian was so poor that I didnít even realize that they had been waiting for me to show up for work for two weeks. I was in.

    My first few jobs took me (ironically) back to the USA where I oversaw construction installations on commercial retail spaces for Italian fashion houses. My team was involved in the metal work only. Well, I guess you could call them a team. They were a group of about 10 guys from Napoli and the surrounding area (Casal di Principe, Caserta, Google for more detail). They seemed more interested in working as a team to loot me for our construction budget and were more interested in local tourism that getting along with our project installations. Did I mention that I still didnít speak any Italian and certainly not their local dialect those first few months?

    From there I travelled the globe building and installing these boutique stores. Great experience if youíre 25, but after I began leveling and rebuilding on the same properties I had built just a few years earlier, I began to wonder why and who I was working for. The lack of challenge and my personal ideals led me to contemplate other career possibilities.

    I was six months into a project in Manhattan when the twin towers event took place. All union steel workers were called to Ground Zero to clear debris and the work was suspended indefinitely. It was at this time that decided to make a run for UBIís frame building course while work at the office back in Italy was on hold. That time in Oregon sealed the deal for me: Time to implement my new career strategy.

    Again, three years. In 2004 I left the company to start Crisp Titanium. It may be quite obvious by looking at my previous work how it has shaped my current fabrication method: clean, no frills, minimal. So here we are today. Iíve gone out to build on my dream, instead of the dream of my former employer. Iíve taken some lumps and will continue to do so forever, I guess. No regrets. Iíve been blessed to have great clients who speak well of my work and this is my biggest investment in marketing. Iíve been able to grow the business every year since inception and will continue to do so as long as I can remain ďsoloĒ. It gives me great pleasure to build for my customers and to convey that sense of excitement that I captured so long ago in building my first frame in the steel shop. It is my goal to make the best product I can, but no less important to give my customers a glimpse into the thrill of the birth of a custom titanium bike.

    I hope that gives an idea of where I came from and what is behind my work. Iíll be happy to go deeper with any questions. I enjoy talking about my experiences (both personal and business) and hope that you find interest in what you read here. Sometimes my English goes astray, so please bear with me.

    Best,
    Darren
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Darren, thank you for portraying your path to building bicycle frames. I'm especially fond hearing what makes a man behind the art since the two are , in my mind, inseparable.
    More to say after I've read some comments, for now a tip of my hat to you.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Hey TT,
    Glad to be here. I welcome any of those personal questions, too. I think it sheds more light than discussing frame weights etc. I hope I can keep up, I'm GMT+1 with the welder smokin'...
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    A very warm welcome on v-salon to my friend Darren!

    You know guys that Darren makes not only great ti-frames...but also a very good beer! So a virtual cheers to you Mr Crisp! Hope to see you soon!
     

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Wonderful to see you here on VS, Darren. Thank you for the biography.

    Never had the privilege to see one of your frames first hand, but enjoyed reading the coverage you've been getting in cycling magazines over the past few years. The article from Dec 2009 (I think) in Bicycling on your frames was especially good.
     

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Quote Originally Posted by sdg71 View Post
    A very warm welcome on v-salon to my friend Darren!

    You know guys that Darren makes not only great ti-frames...but also a very good beer! So a virtual cheers to you Mr Crisp! Hope to see you soon!
    Hey sdg71! I think I'm a little behind on the beer. If I can get it up to speed, we may be talking about a new business venture. Problem is that I keep drinking all the profits!!

    And yes..we will see each other soon..and then we have a raduno coming up a little later:)
    Last edited by darren crisp; 01-23-2012 at 02:02 PM. Reason: dimenticato un po' di roba...
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Hi Darren. Looking forward to this edition very much.

    Let's get this one out of the way first: why titanium? I'm interested from whatever perspective you care to share: artistic, aesthetic, ride quality or another.
     

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Great to see you here, Darren. I'm a fan and have always appreciated your insights in the dialogues we've had via email and it was a treat to meet you last year in Austin.
    Sean Chaney
    www.vertigocycles.com
    a peek behind the curtain

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Quote Originally Posted by fixednwinter View Post
    Wonderful to see you here on VS, Darren. Thank you for the biography.

    Never had the privilege to see one of your frames first hand, but enjoyed reading the coverage you've been getting in cycling magazines over the past few years. The article from Dec 2009 (I think) in Bicycling on your frames was especially good.
    Hey, thanks for that. I'm happy to share my experiences and I hope I can continue to do so. I am very fortunate that my work has caught some eyes back home. Makes Mom and Dad real proud of their prodigal son/architect. Kidding aside, I have had some wonderful help from collaborators, friends, clients and builders. Couldn't open my doors every day without them and I appreciate being able to share some of that with them when my work gets noticed.
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Quote Originally Posted by justinf View Post
    Hi Darren. Looking forward to this edition very much.

    Let's get this one out of the way first: why titanium? I'm interested from whatever perspective you care to share: artistic, aesthetic, ride quality or another.
    Hey Justin!

    Well, I was working heavily with titanium and nickel steel back '99-'00 so I had buttloads of it around the shop. Not aerospace quality, just some CP and industrial grade stuff. We were having to hire outside certified welders to get product out the door and I thought I could gain some insight by working on it myself (which was not uncommon for me to be in the shop fabricating). I became fascinated with it from a trouble-shooting perspective. I ended up learning quite a bit building architectural pieces (clothing display cases, cabinets, elevators, window fixtures). It was pretty natural that when I set off on the bikes that it would be a source of inspiration.
    Analogous to that was the fact that titanium can stand alone as a raw material, not needing a "finish". This was intriguing to me that a metal could have an oxidation layer that was pleasing to the eye. I pursued that and the end result was very much like the other work that was in the shop at the time. Satin finish a display cabinet for some nice shoes in the a.m...satin finish my frames after we closed up shop in the p.m. Needless to say that the ride quality was nothing like I ever experienced, having ridden steel, alu, and carbon til then..
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by VertigoCycles View Post
    Great to see you here, Darren. I'm a fan and have always appreciated your insights in the dialogues we've had via email and it was a treat to meet you last year in Austin.
    Aww now, thanks for that, Sean. You know I'm always stalking your Flickr photos to see how real men machine stuff. I wish I had an ounce of your intuition and skill. I enjoyed our visit, too. It just sucks that NAHBS can't be any closer to Italy (how far East is Don willing to go?). That beer was awesome, too. I look forward to having a proper chat without your fans between us next time we meet up. Good?
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Quote Originally Posted by darren crisp View Post
    Hey Justin!

    Well, I was working heavily with titanium and nickel steel back '99-'00 so I had buttloads of it around the shop. Not aerospace quality, just some CP and industrial grade stuff. We were having to hire outside certified welders to get product out the door and I thought I could gain some insight by working on it myself (which was not uncommon for me to be in the shop fabricating). I became fascinated with it from a trouble-shooting perspective. I ended up learning quite a bit building architectural pieces (clothing display cases, cabinets, elevators, window fixtures). It was pretty natural that when I set off on the bikes that it would be a source of inspiration.
    Analogous to that was the fact that titanium can stand alone as a raw material, not needing a "finish". This was intriguing to me that a metal could have an oxidation layer that was pleasing to the eye. I pursued that and the end result was very much like the other work that was in the shop at the time. Satin finish a display cabinet for some nice shoes in the a.m...satin finish my frames after we closed up shop in the p.m. Needless to say that the ride quality was nothing like I ever experienced, having ridden steel, alu, and carbon til then..
    Thanks so much. It's refreshing to hear that an artisan builder chooses a material for artistic reasons, knowing that the ride will also be of the highest quality.
     

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by justinf View Post
    Thanks so much. It's refreshing to hear that an artisan builder chooses a material for artistic reasons, knowing that the ride will also be of the highest quality.
    As the Italian say, "L'occhio vuole il Suo"..The eyes want their part, too!~

    Some of the production bikes I see today just give me comfort in that decision I made back when:)

    -thanks for reading..
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    so much respect for your welds and logo etching --
    i smile at your craftsmanship --- your pedigree is very strong..
    a very close friend i lost in 67 -- a texas a & m'r..

    ronnie
     

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    i met DMC at nahbs 1.0 in houston and felt a synergy with him and his frames ever since. his presentation is clean and delivery well thought out. his art/architecture/fabs background really shows in the sensible designs that comes from his bench. i think his way is a good one to study if you want to have a presence and succeed in the 21st century atmo.

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    darren - how are titanium sales going in italy? i was under the impression that ti was more of an american/CA/UK/OZ thing - not true? and raw material - easy to get?

    "Titanium; strongest of all steels!" - M Kullaway
    Steve Hampsten
    www.hampsten.blogspot.com
    "hey, we got grenades!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by ron l edmiston View Post
    so much respect for your welds and logo etching --
    i smile at your craftsmanship --- your pedigree is very strong..
    a very close friend i lost in 67 -- a texas a & m'r..

    ronnie
    Hi Ronnie,

    Thanks for that, much appreciated. I try my best to make it perty for the folks who go out of their way to work with me. I owe it to them to give it my best shot. Saying that, there's always room for improvement. I talked at length with an older fella who had welded the structure of the Hancock Center, Chicago. That guy had welded since he was 12 (he was 64 when we chatted). I asked him if he ever had laid what he considered the perfect (weld) bead. He said plainly, "Nope, never will..and neither will you." Guess that sums it up.All you can do is try to improve and learn from the mistakes. Kinda made me want to give up before I started:)

    Sorry for your loss. We Ag's are a strange bunch for sure...
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by e-RICHIE View Post
    i met DMC at nahbs 1.0 in houston and felt a synergy with him and his frames ever since. his presentation is clean and delivery well thought out. his art/architecture/fabs background really shows in the sensible designs that comes from his bench. i think his way is a good one to study if you want to have a presence and succeed in the 21st century atmo.
    eRiccardo,
    Thanks for those words. It was/is reciprocal. I get all fuzzy inside thinking back to 1.0 and really miss that feeling. There was something awesome going on there. I've been back frequently to NAHBS to try and absorb some of that man/bike love. It's still there, just well hidden behind the show. We were all a bit hungry at that first show. Heck, while visiting home the day before 1.0, I made my Dad buy a Lincoln mig box to piece together my display sign in the back of his pickup truck. I sold him on how useful it would be around the house..hehehhe.

    My way of doing it could be a way, for sure. Looking back I think of all the idiotic things I should have/could have avoided in my previous work. If I had just gotten out sooner..was smarter with the money...kept working the other job while setting up shop...taken some machining classes. The list goes on and on. I've gotten to the point where I really appreciate the dumb-assed decisions I've made because they were all necessary for my growth. Not necessarily as a frame builder guy, but as a guy. It's easy to look back and see where you have gone wrong, but you don't get the feeling that is associated with the mistake if you see it on Youtube or Flickr. I think it's that feeling of knowing through experience that takes you down your path. Something uniquely individual and yours. Through those mistakes comes something intimately yours. Hopefully it's not debt or prison.
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium

    Quote Originally Posted by hampco View Post
    darren - how are titanium sales going in italy? i was under the impression that ti was more of an american/CA/UK/OZ thing - not true? and raw material - easy to get?

    "Titanium; strongest of all steels!" - M Kullaway
    Hey! Sales here are steady on the rise. I can say that some other folks that I keep in my ti network are noticing a downturn for sure. I've got more frames coming overseas now than ever, but my local sales remain strong in growth. I think there is a play on the Euro/Dollar that will keep things uncertain for a while. Generally speaking, I think that ti is a safe bet for the long run. Lot's of funny-shaped bikes these days. The more strange they are, the more traffic I get at my booth each year at the bike shows. I guess I'll always be fringe, but that's good enough for me and my cronies.

    WRT material, you know how that goes. I've got feelers out all over. We ti guys have to stick together b/c one Airbus order puts on our backs. If I ever decide to get out of frame building, I'm going to become a ti distributor...
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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    Default Re: Crisp Titanium



    who IS that underpaid, overworked crooner??

    ca. 1999..just like the party. would have rather been building bikes. no trainng that year for sure...

    anybody guess the city? I'll give you a hint. it was 6 stories tall and built in italy, then dismantled, shipped on a plane, then reconstructed. and you wonder why shoes and handbags cost so much...
    Darren Crisp
    crisptitanium.com

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