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Thread: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

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    Default Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    I feel like often I read about an old-school framebuilder they say they started their framebuilding education by just reaching out to some framebuilder like "Hey can I sweep the floor of your shop and watch you work so that I can learn about framebuilding?", which sounds like it was common in the 70-80's. Is it still something that actually happens and is it a viable way to learn about framebuilding? I intend to reaching out to certain framebuilders regardless of the answers I get from this thread (what do I have to loose, right?) and I also do intend on taking an actual framebuilding class next fall (most likely with Dave Bohm), but I'm still curious about what the mentors have to say about it. Is it a practice that got lost over time, or am I just not aware of it (hey I am after all a millenial who grew up with the Internet)? I must say that the "framebuilding legacy" here in Montreal isnt as big as it appears to be in some part of the US.

    I remember listening to a podcast with the guy from Mone Bikes where he mentionned doing an internship with James from Blacksheep, but it honestly was the first time in recent years that I heard about it, even sorting through this forum and listening to the few framebuilding podcasts out there.

    I DID do a short internship with a local titanium bike frame manufacturer that was part of my welding school program (I myself specifically chose that manufacturer), but I kinda feel like school gives it a different context or incentive for that company, that might not be there if you just hit them up randomly? I don't know if that makes sense, I tend to be over-apologetic and afraid of bothering people.

    I guess my question to today's framebuilders and mentors of this great forum is, how would you actually feel about having an intern with limited and/or non-professional experience with welding/brazing and framebuilding? Would showing an exceptional enthusiasm and motivation be enough for you to accept an intern, or is actual knowledge and experience required?

    I deeply appreciate all the insights I get from this forum, having a direct connection to experienced framebuilders is invaluable, hence why I feel comfortable asking such a vague/imprecise/personal/borderline-philosophical question.

    Cheers!
    Vincent Savary

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    I’m no pro, but most workshops I’ve been in (and I know quite a few builders) are pretty small one-man operations and it’s hard not to be in the way of someone else. In fall I helped a local neighbor boy build a bike as his 8th grade project. It took easily twice as long to complete it as it would have working alone.
    It seems like the best scenario would be in a place with a handful of employees so you could learn different skills/perspectives from whoever is available

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    I’m not aware of anyone who did an internship or had a position as an apprentice (in the literal sense) but before - way before - Y2K, framebuilding was a bonafide trade that wasn’t yet affected by outside forces. That’s essentially what has changed. Over time, the quality, efficiency, and even the marketing machinery of industrial made bicycles has caught up and even surpassed what most contemporary makers (sic) can do at the bench. That fact alone contributed to the trade’s demise. It still exists, but differently.

    I think one needs to define what framebuilding is to his own self, as a profession as well as a creative pursuit, and find role models to tap into in order to find some open windows.

    Your best bet is to find a job on a production line, accept that you’ll need to learn every single task before moving over to the next work station, and leave ?? years later with some basic skills.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    I had an entry level position at a frame building company and worked my way into competency. I don't know if anyone has ever done an old guild style apprenticeship. Frame building has always been a hand labor intensive product manufacture, and it's been scaled to some level of production since the beginning. Lots of folks were hired as floor sweepers and moved through various positions, but I'd call that getting a job and progressing within a company.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Thanks everybody for your answers. I guess it's what I suspected.

    For sure working on a production line would be the way, I guess it just asks a lot of commitement since it would probably mean relocating to the US for me. All across Canada I am aware of only 4 bike frame manufacturers and a handful of custom framebuilders. Opportunities are very scarce up here!
    Vincent Savary

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincentsavary View Post
    Thanks everybody for your answers. I guess it's what I suspected.

    For sure working on a production line would be the way, I guess it just asks a lot of commitement since it would probably mean relocating to the US for me. All across Canada I am aware of only 4 bike frame manufacturers and a handful of custom framebuilders. Opportunities are very scarce up here!
    The number of opportunities mirrors the trade (what's left of it).
    Make the commitment.
    See it done.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincentsavary View Post
    For sure working on a production line would be the way, I guess it just asks a lot of commitment since it would probably mean relocating to the US for me.
    I hear this often- "I wish that I could do it here in (insert location)". But if you want to go to Harvard, you have to move to Massachusetts. If you want to climb the Eiger, you have to go to go to Switzerland. I moved cross country to go build bikes. Other folks had to go to the UK or Italy back in the day. It's never been about popping into your local frame maker and feeding their wood stove while Pappa Brazer passed on the trade. If one wants to work for CoMotion, Bike Friday, Moots, IndyFab, etc one has to go to them.
    Last edited by Eric Estlund; 03-29-2022 at 10:58 AM.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Estlund View Post
    I hear this often- "I wish that I could do it here in (insert location)". But if you want to go to Harvard, you have to move to Massachusetts. If you want to climb the Eiger, you have to go to go to Switzerland. I moved cross country to go build bikes. Other folks had to go to the UK or Italy back in the day. It's never been about popping into your local frame maker and feeding their wood stove while Pappa Brazer passed on the trade. If one wants to work for CoMotion, Bike Friday, Moots, IndyFab, etc one has to go to them.
    One of my most common questions I get when people when people ask me about my framebuilding classes is where I am located and how long they last. For many those are 2 of the most influencing factors that determines their choice. That is okay if you are just wanting to casually explore doing building as a hobby but it makes no sense to me if you want to be really good. I went and stayed in England for a few months after doing lots of research and looking for the best place for me that would have me. That research really paid off. I got a great start.

    My take is that if a potential builder really want to be good, he is going to do the research to find the very best place to learn and make it happen. Not every good craftsman is a good teacher and not every good teacher is a good craftsman.

    Because I know that a potential builder needs more than a class or two or three, I set up a frame shop in Ukraine where my students could go for several months and make robust transportation frames. These were turned into bicycles for pastors. That allowed them to come back with serious skills. It takes practice after learning the principles. Of course where our little shop was located on a college campus (where students could stay and eat in the cafeteria is in a horrible location now. Huge fighting has taken place in the surrounding area. We can thank Putin for ruining one of America's best places to get framebuilding experience.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    You might consider schools or jobs where you could learn adjacent or similar skills: welding, brazing/soldering, blacksmithing, metal fabrication, machining - all of these are skills that helped me get started and can be quite useful even if you don't end up building bicycle frames.

    Good luck!
    Steve Hampsten
    www.hampsten.blogspot.com
    "Tighten the wingnuts!"

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Vincent- Where are you currently located? I agree w/ Eric in that if you want to do an internship/apprenticeship you'll have to go where their location is. There are more than a few builders (or hobby/parttime ones like me) that might be open to sharing space or otherwise helping out. Understand this is no where the same as having a job that others depend you're doing, for their paycheck. But failing a real frame shop (production or custom) keeping your hands in the game, however little, might be better than not at all. Andy
    Andy Stewart
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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
    Vincent- Where are you currently located? I agree w/ Eric in that if you want to do an internship/apprenticeship you'll have to go where their location is. There are more than a few builders (or hobby/parttime ones like me) that might be open to sharing space or otherwise helping out. Understand this is no where the same as having a job that others depend you're doing, for their paycheck. But failing a real frame shop (production or custom) keeping your hands in the game, however little, might be better than not at all. Andy
    I'm currently in Montreal. Just to give you an idea, in the province of Quebec there are 2 bike manufacturers, Devinci and T-Lab, and 2 custom framebuilders, Daambuilt and Marinoni (who's pretty much on his way out). Mariposa isnt too far in Toronto but I'm not sure about the volume of production. And again only a handful of builders in nearby Ontario (Wake Robin and Northern Cycles or something?) and atlantic provinces (Altruiste and Tamarack). Then I only know about Rollingdale and LT Wiens in the Prairies, and BC is the most well known with Dekerf, Schon, WZRD and Wildwood. Chromag produce a certain amount of their frame in BC but are subcontracting to 3 different welders/builders, one of them being Chris Dekerf.

    I have absolutely no problem going abroad for an internship/apprenticeship, but from what I understand from the responses here those dont seem to be thing. And of course I agree with Eric, if I want to learn how to build bikes on same level as say Moots, then the best way to that is to go to Moots! All this makes perfect sense. Maybe I wasnt clear and am mixing up things, but that's kind of my question. Let's say I want to do an intership at Moots: 1. Is it even something that is realistic to consider? 2. What minimum experience would I need in order to at least have a shot?

    I guess I'm having a hard time visualizing how you get from amateur to pro. I know taking a framebuilding class won't lend you a job, but then what is the next step if not internships?
    Vincent Savary

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    How much time are you willing to commit to learning the rudimentary steps, and what sacrifices can you make to achieve these? More importantly, what do you want (envision) on the other side of all this? And separately, do you ride a bicycle? Do you understand the place a framebuilding entity occupies in the larger industry in the Y2K era? In short, what is your fantasy, your vision?



    Quote Originally Posted by Vincentsavary View Post
    I'm currently in Montreal. Just to give you an idea, in the province of Quebec there are 2 bike manufacturers, Devinci and T-Lab, and 2 custom framebuilders, Daambuilt and Marinoni (who's pretty much on his way out). Mariposa isnt too far in Toronto but I'm not sure about the volume of production. And again only a handful of builders in nearby Ontario (Wake Robin and Northern Cycles or something?) and atlantic provinces (Altruiste and Tamarack). Then I only know about Rollingdale and LT Wiens in the Prairies, and BC is the most well known with Dekerf, Schon, WZRD and Wildwood. Chromag produce a certain amount of their frame in BC but are subcontracting to 3 different welders/builders, one of them being Chris Dekerf.

    I have absolutely no problem going abroad for an internship/apprenticeship, but from what I understand from the responses here those dont seem to be thing. And of course I agree with Eric, if I want to learn how to build bikes on same level as say Moots, then the best way to that is to go to Moots! All this makes perfect sense. Maybe I wasnt clear and am mixing up things, but that's kind of my question. Let's say I want to do an intership at Moots: 1. Is it even something that is realistic to consider? 2. What minimum experience would I need in order to at least have a shot?

    I guess I'm having a hard time visualizing how you get from amateur to pro. I know taking a framebuilding class won't lend you a job, but then what is the next step if not internships?

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Every company is going to have it's own hiring requirements.

    1. Internships might happen, but in my experience and talking to some other folks who worked at other firms, most smaller like manufacturers are looking for employees. That is, a person who is coming in and offering a set of skills (or can be trained with a set of skills) that will allow that persons labor to garner income for the business. Most small companies don't want to train an intern (expensive) only to have the leave. Many of the small companies have good retention, which equals a good return on their investment in the hire.

    2. I imagine having the skills a company needs would be a good start. Welding classes, manual and CNC machining classes, design, a history in the bike industry, competency in mechanics, a history in sales etc. Some folks find that acquiring those skills can make them appealing to a firm looking for manufacturing employees. Some folks find that learning those skills opens up options for more self directed learning or positions in other areas of the trades.

    If I were looking today, I think I'd call up some companies and ask what they look for in a new hire.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Vincent, the path to becoming a framebuilder is not a straight or obvious one. There are many good reasons why a pro builder doesn't want to let a rookie practice and refine his skills on a customer's frame. Even a small mistake can be a big problem. If whatever you are doing is for free, it is costing the builder money because he can't work as fast with you there - especially if he is explaining anything. And it isn't so great for the "apprentice" either because he isn't making money to pay for his living expenses while he is hanging around. It is a lose/lose all around.

    The path most take today is to 1st take a framebuilding class and then see where it takes them. The student can find out if they have skills and sustainable interest to keep going. And if not they at least leave class with a custom frame they made (or mostly made).

    Allow me to talk about framebuilding classes. It is in my self-interest to do this but Iím also the most qualified to talk about them since I actually know what level of skill each student has when they leave. It is beyond the scope of this post to address how some that have taken a class somewhere were not prepared to make more very well. Because some have had poor results does not mean it isnít the best place to start.

    I already had my degrees in education w/teaching experience before I found a place to learn to build frames in the UK. My purpose for going was to bring back and share the secrets that had been neglected and lost in the States after WWII. It has been a life long journey. I taught my first class in the summer of 1976 and have been doing it ever since. My approach and philosophy was, that if information could be effectively organized and presented, it would cut the learning curve so that just practicing those principles would lead to success in a reasonable amount of time.

    What I have found out is that taking a 2 week or shorter class can be a good introduction to the craft but isn't sufficient. I have had a significant number of my students that have already taken a class somewhere else and then realized they need more instruction. What can often happen in those classes is that, in order to finish within the time period, the instructor or instructors have to help with the process so the student could finish before class is over. That doesnít mean they were poorly instructed. This hurry up meant that some aspects were rushed so the student didnít internalize the process. There wasnít enough time to even practice first. Of course everyone is different so you can't make an all-inclusive rule as to how long learning takes. How to effectively teach different people is why teacher training and experience can be valuable.

    My classes are usually 3 weeks long for a reason. I need enough time to explain and demonstrate each procedure before the student 1st practices and then does it for real. And if the practice didnít go well to practice again. A tremendous amount of material is presented in a short amount of time. A normal brain can't keep it all in so methods have to be used to remind a student what they once learned. Those include taking and reorganizing notes along with pictures and video for later review. I've also spent years writing and refining my class manual for them to refer back to when their memory of all the details starts to fade.

    I'm not a fan of larger class sizes where a demonstration is given with the expectation a student will now know how to repeat the process. There is too much going on for the eye to take in and the brain to understand what is happening - much less how to repeat it again. Students often donít realize what mistakes they are making until an instructor points it out and shows the correct method. Lack of correction is why do-it-yourself learning can take a long time. It is not always self-evident to them what is the problem or even if there is a problem.

    Unfortunately as I mentioned in my previous post my method of training beyond my classes has been recently destroyed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. That also messed up my supply of fixtures and other frame materials.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Estlund View Post
    Every company is going to have it's own hiring requirements.

    1. Internships might happen, but in my experience and talking to some other folks who worked at other firms, most smaller like manufacturers are looking for employees. That is, a person who is coming in and offering a set of skills (or can be trained with a set of skills) that will allow that persons labor to garner income for the business. Most small companies don't want to train an intern (expensive) only to have the leave. Many of the small companies have good retention, which equals a good return on their investment in the hire.

    2. I imagine having the skills a company needs would be a good start. Welding classes, manual and CNC machining classes, design, a history in the bike industry, competency in mechanics, a history in sales etc. Some folks find that acquiring those skills can make them appealing to a firm looking for manufacturing employees. Some folks find that learning those skills opens up options for more self directed learning or positions in other areas of the trades.

    If I were looking today, I think I'd call up some companies and ask what they look for in a new hire.
    You make really good points, I guess that's why I was asking the question as it does seem like there would be very few advatanges for a manufacturer to take an intern unless it could lead to an actual job.

    Well I am fresh out of welding school and have been working as a bike mechanic for 4 years, I guess that's not too bad for a start eh?

    And thank you Doug for your insight on framebuilding classes. That has been my issue with finding which class I'd like to take. A lot of them don't include forks, or have limited design options. I think I read at UBI students don't even work the mills and lathes themselves for miters and such. Your 3-weeks program sounds a lot more realistic and compelling to me. So far I was aiming at Dave Bohm's class, as it is 11 days, 9 hours a day and the workshop is open in the evening for students who wants to practice some more. And also they're only 2-student class, which as you said I think is very important. How many students at a time do you usually have?

    Thank you everyone. I know it's not an easy game and can't expect a job to pop out of nowhere.
    Vincent Savary

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincentsavary View Post
    And thank you Doug for your insight on framebuilding classes. That has been my issue with finding which class I'd like to take. A lot of them don't include forks, or have limited design options. I think I read at UBI students don't even work the mills and lathes themselves for miters and such. Your 3-weeks program sounds a lot more realistic and compelling to me. So far I was aiming at Dave Bohm's class, as it is 11 days, 9 hours a day and the workshop is open in the evening for students who wants to practice some more. And also they're only 2-student class, which as you said I think is very important. How many students at a time do you usually have?
    I have either one or two students at a time. There are advantages both ways. One of my primary jobs as teacher is to manage student frustration/discouragement/disappointment which will happen when things get difficult. Those are motivation/enthusiasm killers. Watching another student go through the same normal learning curve challenges can be comforting when you both are struggling to catch on. As most almost always do. Watching a pro do it effortlessly and easily can be discouraging. Also, it is easier to see and know how to correct the common mistakes others make than when you are making them yourself (because there is so much going on all at once). The repetition in procedures (you + the other guy) can help your brain retain the knowledge to do it correctly. Mistakes most often happen when you can't remember all the details you are supposed to. And having 2 students requires a bit more class structure which can help with efficiency and retention.

    On the other hand, some students require constant attention or they go off track. They need several practices on one joint before they can do it for real on their own frame. In this case having only one student is best. The time it takes for the slow student wouldn't be fair to the 2nd student standing around. Fortunately it has worked out well that the classes where I've had 2 or 1 has been best either way.

    My classes run 15 days long Monday to Friday from 9 to 5:30. The shop is open on Sundays and evenings/night for as long as they want to work. If they need to stay a day or two or three longer to finish, I don't mind. Spreading the days out make memory retention easier. Like I said there is lots to learn that has to be retained in a short amount of time. My teaching philosophy is that it is the responsibility of the teacher to prepare the student properly so they are equipped to do the tasks they are taught. This belief was part of my teacher training in college and grad school. In other words the teacherís job is more than just giving a presentation and then expecting the student to take from that whatever they can. My responsibility isnít finished until the student is prepared. Well the best that can be done anyway. There are a few that can never catch on no matter how they are taught. In those cases Iíll do the hard parts so they can still leave with a nice frame.

    It is also important that brazing practices go from simple to more complex. Learning is easiest when it is progressive. Iíve got a system all worked out. I know we are getting in the weeds here about educational methods but my background as a teacher can get me all wound up about it.

    I expect every student to make a professional quality frame and fork in my class. That means the frame was designed to fit their body and use, the brazing is within tolerance, the shorelines will be clean and the frame aligned. If someone has a relaxed attitude about doing quality work, Iím the wrong teacher for them. I do admit I get frustrated when I get a student that has already taken another class somewhere else and they donít know much. Their results hurts the reputation of all framebuilding classes. Teaching and building are separate skills. Each takes training and experience to do well.

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Fattic View Post
    I have either one or two students at a time. There are advantages both ways. One of my primary jobs as teacher is to manage student frustration/discouragement/disappointment which will happen when things get difficult. Those are motivation/enthusiasm killers. Watching another student go through the same normal learning curve challenges can be comforting when you both are struggling to catch on. As most almost always do. Watching a pro do it effortlessly and easily can be discouraging. Also, it is easier to see and know how to correct the common mistakes others make than when you are making them yourself (because there is so much going on all at once). The repetition in procedures (you + the other guy) can help your brain retain the knowledge to do it correctly. Mistakes most often happen when you can't remember all the details you are supposed to. And having 2 students requires a bit more class structure which can help with efficiency and retention.

    On the other hand, some students require constant attention or they go off track. They need several practices on one joint before they can do it for real on their own frame. In this case having only one student is best. The time it takes for the slow student wouldn't be fair to the 2nd student standing around. Fortunately it has worked out well that the classes where I've had 2 or 1 has been best either way.

    My classes run 15 days long Monday to Friday from 9 to 5:30. The shop is open on Sundays and evenings/night for as long as they want to work. If they need to stay a day or two or three longer to finish, I don't mind. Spreading the days out make memory retention easier. Like I said there is lots to learn that has to be retained in a short amount of time. My teaching philosophy is that it is the responsibility of the teacher to prepare the student properly so they are equipped to do the tasks they are taught. This belief was part of my teacher training in college and grad school. In other words the teacher’s job is more than just giving a presentation and then expecting the student to take from that whatever they can. My responsibility isn’t finished until the student is prepared. Well the best that can be done anyway. There are a few that can never catch on no matter how they are taught. In those cases I’ll do the hard parts so they can still leave with a nice frame.

    It is also important that brazing practices go from simple to more complex. Learning is easiest when it is progressive. I’ve got a system all worked out. I know we are getting in the weeds here about educational methods but my background as a teacher can get me all wound up about it.

    I expect every student to make a professional quality frame and fork in my class. That means the frame was designed to fit their body and use, the brazing is within tolerance, the shorelines will be clean and the frame aligned. If someone has a relaxed attitude about doing quality work, I’m the wrong teacher for them. I do admit I get frustrated when I get a student that has already taken another class somewhere else and they don’t know much. Their results hurts the reputation of all framebuilding classes. Teaching and building are separate skills. Each takes training and experience to do well.
    Your approach seems very sensible to me, and thank you explaining all this, it's the type of information we rarely get about framebuilding classes. I tried to write you directly but apparently your inbox on here is full, would you mind messaging me your info so that I can reach you about your class? Thank you.
    Vincent Savary

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    Default Re: Are internships with framebuilders still a thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vincentsavary View Post
    Your approach seems very sensible to me, and thank you explaining all this, it's the type of information we rarely get about framebuilding classes. I tried to write you directly but apparently your inbox on here is full, would you mind messaging me your info so that I can reach you about your class? Thank you.
    I sent you a PM with my new email address so you can contact me directly. I've never bothered to go out of my way to market myself because I get about the right volume of work as it is. Those that are serious about learning how to build frames find me. Of course potential students can have different objectives. Most of my students want to learn the basics so they can make more in the future - maybe just as a hobby but possibly to explore if it can be bigger than that. Some just want to have a hand in the process and are perfectly happy to let me do the hard parts so they can leave class with a professional quality frame fit just to their needs.

    I also teach frame painting classes as well. Sometimes that is tacked onto the end of a framebuilding class or they come back latter.

    It used to be that you could get on the train in Toronto and stay on it until you got off in Niles Michigan where I live. Now you have to walk across the border to catch a new train. I haven't checked recently but neither country was making it easy to get into the other country after Covid.

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