A recent visit to Dave Bohm's shop has got me thinking more about what I see myself doing for a living, and what kind of shop I want to have.
Dave has a relatively clean indoor shop so all the dirty stuff happens outside. Indoors it's very quiet and a lot like a jewelry studio. Lots of files and vises. His S.O. has her home office in the same room, and Dave's got a triple-flatscreen CAD workstation running SolidWorks. Outside there's two small buildings, plus a big yard for big jobs. He had a lot of square steel tubing for making a big fence for a custom home nearby.
Attached to the house, there's a small machine shop packed with 2 horizontal mills, one with a vertical head attachment(?...!), a benchtop CNC lathe, and a South Bend 10 Heavy lathe. That room is oddly shaped, and somehow also holds a TIG welder, an O/A rig, a big (and really badass) plasma welder, an Anvil Super Master frame jig with tandem attachment, a slew of smaller Anvil jigs, and the washer/dryer. Next to the house is a paint shop Dave just finished building that also houses a Henry James alignment system. Next to that is a storage shed for all the other crap. And outside there's an abrasive mitering machine and a tandem-sized sandblasting cabinet. I'm definitely forgetting a few things.
So he has an incredibly well-equipped shop for doing all manner of deeply customized work. He has a comfortable space where he can do intricate cutting and filing for hours, but also a lot of precise, high-tech machines. It's taken him 15 years to collect everything. To my mind it's a dream set-up.
His tools allow him to go far beyond assembling purchased parts. He cuts every headbadge by hand from raw sheets of silver. His dropouts are laser-cut locally from stainless plate, then heavily thinned and modified. He CNCs his seatpost binders in-house.
He said a lot customers ask him to CNC custom parts, but they're usually surprised at how time-consuming (and thus costly) the process is: Even after a lot of design work, "the first one is never right."
There are several forces colliding at Dave's shop. The fine traditional craft of building beautiful lugged steel frames and forks is present in force. His 10th frameset is on display (still dirty from yesterday's ride), with abundant ornamentation that would make Hetchins pround. Then again he was working on a very custom trike for a disabled woman, involving plenty of CAD/CAM and even a little carbon. And then there are the almost outlandishly oversized mountain forks, complete with laser-cut plate crowns, steerer turned from solid stock, crimped left blade for disc brake clearance, turned blade caps, and so on. TIG and brazing, hand filing and CNC--making disparate processes work together is what I like most about Dave's work.
We agreed that more folks should have lathes in their shops.