Making artwork from previous bike components: A chat with Drew Evans of Chainbreaker Studio


What occurs to previous bike components as soon as they attain the tip of their usable life? That previous chain or cassette you’ve simply changed; these previous brake rotors you don’t want any extra? Generally, they most likely find yourself in landfill. Typically, the steel may find yourself being recycled. Sometimes, although, somebody finds an excellent higher use for these previous components. Somebody like Drew Evans at Chainbreaker Studio.

Based mostly in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA, Evans collects previous bike components (amongst different issues) and turns them into exceptional items of high-quality artwork. You might need seen his work on Instagram – he repeatedly posts movies of himself engaged on his subsequent creation, and photographs of the completed merchandise.

We acquired in contact with Evans to talk about how he acquired began within the high-quality artwork area, what’s concerned in turning previous bike components into artwork, and way more. The next Q&A has been frivolously edited and restructured for fluency.

CyclingTips: How did you first get into utilizing previous bike components to make sculptures?

Drew Evans: I had an thought as soon as – I used to be going to do the trim round my kitchen [with old bike parts]. I went to the bike store up the highway and requested them if they’d any junk that I may take and he mentioned ‘yeah’ and so I took it.

Nonetheless, I’ve by no means carried out that [the kitchen trim]. However then I wound up doing the identical type of model out on the gate on the facet of my home, which is the very first thing that I made out of motorbike components. And it’s there nonetheless. After which I put an archway fabricated from wheels over it. Individuals decelerate and have a look at it after they go down the highway.

I had been a welder for a very long time earlier than that, and I wished to make stuff out of scrap steel and components. And I’m additionally actually into biking and dealing alone bike.

What kind of welding jobs did you do prior to now?

I labored a bunch of various welding jobs like fabrication in crops and likewise constructing grain elevators and agricultural stuff and climbing huge towers. It was an fascinating job. 

You’re making artwork full-time now proper?

Yeah, I’ve been doing it full time for a few years. Nicely, final 12 months for like half of the 12 months, I did a bicycle restore service as a result of there was tremendous large demand and the bike outlets had a month or two for ready time on a tune-up. I simply began doing that outta nowhere; I didn’t actually know what I used to be doing. I knew find out how to do mechanic stuff, however I didn’t know as properly find out how to do enterprise stuff. I’m nonetheless figuring that out!

While you determined to make artwork for a full-time job, what was that like? Was that scary or thrilling?

Sure, it was positively thrilling. Additionally terrifying. However you understand, having means an excessive amount of optimism is an effective factor typically! “Alright, I’m going to do that and I’ll determine it out as I am going.” However as I mentioned, I did the bicycle restore factor too and I do a welding service typically. Like I welded collectively a snowblower earlier at the moment for a neighbour. However principally what I do is the artwork factor, most likely 95% at the very least.

However yeah, it was numerous a studying course of, particularly making an attempt to promote one thing that folks don’t really want. Not all people wants paintings. No person truly wants it so that you’ve acquired to be fairly intelligent about it. 

The place do you get the supplies to your artwork? Do you get so much at bike outlets? I noticed that you simply get some from scrapyards too, proper?

Yeah, Goldfinch Cyclery right here in Cedar Rapids – they’re tremendous superior. They name me when their scrap steel bucket’s full and I simply convey them an empty bucket and simply take their full one. They usually’re tremendous glad for me to take it away as a result of it’s simply type of a chore for them to do away with it. So it’s actually a win-win.

I acquired a bunch of stuff from the bike collective too. We’ve this non-profit bike store in Cedar Rapids right here in Iowa that I volunteer at typically after which assist clear out the basement typically too. After which I get a bunch from a few different bike outlets in Iowa Metropolis: World of Bikes, the Bike Library, and The Damaged Spoke – he was tremendous glad to see me final time. And I stuffed up all the truck. It was superior.

I began with making stuff primarily out of motorbike components, however now I’ve been exploring some completely different supplies, which has been an fascinating type of problem. Doing stuff out of motorbike components, you possibly can market to folks that experience bikes and never essentially simply folks which might be into artwork or no matter. And that’s why I nonetheless do a bunch of stuff made out of simply bike components however yeah I do some stuff out of nuts and different {hardware}. It’s actually fascinating to discover completely different supplies and stuff, particularly out on the scrapyard – there’s a lot enjoyable stuff up there. 

When you get a bunch of previous chains and sprockets residence, it’s important to clear all of them proper?

Yeah, I course of them. I did so many various iterations of chain cleansing as a result of it’s been such a ache within the butt to determine find out how to clear them properly. So I attempted at the very least 10 completely different solvents and a bunch of various heating strategies.

Proper now I’ve a way the place I preheat them in a water-based solvent after which after they’re good and heat, which actually softens the grease, then I take it to my components washer and type of clear every little thing off as a result of it tends to get the stuff on the within out higher.

However it’s at all times a piece in progress. I considered getting a dishwasher to attempt doing that to see if I may simply put a bunch in a dishwasher. However I wouldn’t wish to use one which I exploit additionally for meals!

While you’re creating a brand new piece of artwork, do you begin with the uncooked supplies and assume “I may make one thing cool with this”? Or do you begin with an thought after which attempt to discover the supplies for it? Or is it a little bit of each, relying on the piece? 

Just a little little bit of each. I’m in every single place. I normally have an thought in thoughts, however I simply attempt to do completely different stuff. My thought at first doesn’t at all times line up with the completed product, which is nice. It’s an exquisite shock typically – more often than not. Typically it doesn’t work out as properly however that’s the character of making an attempt new issues.

However normally I’ve considerably of an thought in thoughts of “Alright, what am I going to place down on the desk at the moment? It’s going to be some type of radially symmetrical mandala thingy”, however I normally have 5 various things occurring directly.

I’m certain all of them take completely different quantities of time to do, however simply as a ballpark determine, how lengthy would it not take to make your common piece of artwork?

This tree would most likely take … OK, first cleansing after which forming it. I did 5 of them directly, and two of them have been a lot greater than this. And I did all of these in like three days of labour I feel.

I’ve additionally gotta grind off all of the sprockets after which I put these within the oven to alter their colors. After which after every little thing’s carried out, I’ll do a last cleansing.

I’ll drop it on the ground a few instances to ensure nothing falls off … It truly does work. As a result of it’s actually dangerous if issues break in transport and on the shopper’s finish. That sucks. I’ve had that occur a few instances and it’s not enjoyable. Or it’s only a ache within the butt. It’s higher to make them sturdy.

Then I’ll clear all of it up with acetone after which I’ll put a transparent coat on it. It’ll both be clear epoxy or lacquer, relying on what’s under. Lacquer tends to dry a bit quicker and be good on a bit bit extra contaminated floor. Enamel, not as a lot – it bubbles a bit bit extra.

You talked about altering the color of the steel. Is there a selected temperature you might want to intention for to get sure colors?

My oven at residence shouldn’t be probably the most correct however your temperature ranges between 500 to 550 Fahrenheit (260-280 ºC). Nicely, it begins at about 450 ºF (230 ºC) after which it’ll go from gold to love a pink to a blue after which when it’s cooked or overheated, then it’s a gray that’s a bit bit much less vibrant.

You may solely go a technique with it, but it surely’s type of cool as a result of should you did an excessive amount of, you possibly can simply grind it off after which restart it due to an oxide layer you have got comprised of heating the steel.

It’s metal that may be colored like that proper?

Yeah, metal. Brake rotors should be a bit bit completely different although as a result of they’ve a better temperature – they should be a unique alloy. However the sprockets are all simply metal kind of. They’re all hardened metal and varied sorts of that.

They’re very laborious too. The one means I minimize these any extra is with a plasma cutter. You may’t minimize with something like a blade. Oh, you possibly can minimize them with an abrasive disc too.

For those that aren’t accustomed to welding, how are you truly placing stuff collectively? Are you able to present an summary of the welding course of? 

OK, I exploit an arc welder that has a wire feeder. It’s mainly {an electrical} present that runs by your gun and into the piece after which it makes a vibrant flash as a result of all of the resistance within the circuit because it’s arcing by the air creates the warmth to soften the steel. 

What I exploit is named MIG [metal inert gas] welding. It’s fairly akin to a sizzling glue gun; it even type of appears to be like like one, or like a caulking gun. And [the metal] simply comes out the tip. It’s a reasonably easy setup. 

I began with TIG [tungsten inert gas], which is so much fancier and complex, and it takes much more dexterity [with TIG welding, the welder feeds a filler metal into the weld area with one hand while using the welding torch in the other – ed.] And I assumed it was the popular means however should you’re welding on greasy bike chains, it’s not the popular means. So I MIG every little thing and it’s like 10 instances quicker. However, yeah [MIG welding] additionally leaves a bunch of crud on it too so that you’ve acquired to scrub that up afterwards. TIG welding is so much cleaner.

You talked about you’ve acquired a welding background. Do you have got an artwork or sculpture background? 

I’m engaged on it! I imply, three years of making an attempt to make it as an artist, I assume? Apart from that, no, not likely. I didn’t begin making an attempt to study high-quality artwork stuff till a few years in the past.

I don’t know, I attempt to study every little thing, however my major focus is … I’m making an attempt to learn to do determine sculptures as a result of these are promising and difficult. Visually difficult too, and fascinating and numerous enjoyable.

What makes them so difficult?

As a result of our brains are extremely tuned to know what folks appear like and what appears to be like bizarre in an individual, particularly faces – they’re means laborious as a result of our brains can detect delicate variations and if a face doesn’t look fairly proper … 

Far more than, say, like a tree. You may make a tree nonetheless you need, and it’ll appear like a tree even when it appears to be like goofy or no matter. However yeah, figures are laborious.

You talked about earlier that you simply’re a bicycle owner – what kind of using do you do? What do you experience?

Nicely, the one bike that I experience proper now’s one I made myself on the United Bicycle Institute (UBI), a 12 months in the past proper now, out in Ashland, Oregon. I constructed a titanium-frame bicycle. It’s only a fairly customary touring bike.

Truly, in line with all people else, it’s old-fashioned as a result of I used to be the one man within the class to do V-brakes. Everyone else did disc brakes. Everyone else did thru-axles; I simply did just like the common drop-out axles.

However that’s type of how I prefer it, as a result of I type of like occurring longer rides and stuff … and utilizing spare components truly is what I actually like doing. So it’s laborious to seek out disc brakes and spare components, however I may discover V-brakes in every single place.

Inform me extra concerning the framebuilding course. How did you discover it?

Since I’ve been an avid bicycle owner after which additionally a welder it appeared like one thing that I actually wished to do was to construct my very own bicycle. So I regarded up on Reddit folks speaking about what someone that’s excited about framebuilding ought to do.

It appeared like one thing that does take some specialised tools. As a result of I’m normally, 9 instances out of 10, apt to attempt to educate myself issues. However this one, particularly with titanium, too – as a result of I’ve by no means messed with titanium earlier than – and it’s a way more finicky steel. Even in my store now it’d be type of laborious to work with since you do want numerous specialised tools. And having a framebuilding jig is very nice too, and should you purchase knowledgeable one they’re a number of thousand {dollars}. So they’d all that there.

However then, I regarded up completely different framebuilding courses across the US and there’s not an entire lot. Truly, the one at UBI was the one one which was greater than only a one-on-one factor. And there have been solely six guys in my class.

However yeah, it was tremendous cool to go on the market, and we went by the entire strategy of designing a motorbike and the way the match works. There have been a few guys there that had by no means welded earlier than, in order that they extra focussed on studying find out how to TIG weld. Since I already knew find out how to weld, I kinda tried to focus extra on body design.

We have been there just about from eight within the morning to 5 within the afternoon on daily basis. So it was 40-something hours every week for 2 weeks. It was tremendous cool although. I discovered an entire lot.

I’ve nonetheless acquired the bike. It acquired stolen as soon as after which I acquired it again a pair months later. I’m actually glad I acquired that again. It was fairly heartbreaking. I imply, I did depart it outdoors the home in a single day. I don’t do this anymore.

I feel I’m going to tear it right down to the naked body once more and polish the entire thing to a mirror shine as a result of that’ll be a enjoyable challenge. And principally, I simply wish to mess with sprucing titanium. I’ve simply began sprucing a part of the body simply when it was sitting there, and it appears to be like good. So I’ve acquired one shiny spot.

Are you able to see your self making extra bikes sooner or later?

Oh, most likely. I would wish to get a mill. It will most likely be extra of a interest since you’ve acquired to be fairly dedicated to it to essentially make a profession out of framebuilding and one solely has so many hours within the day! I actually like doing sculpture stuff, so I’ve determined to give attention to that.

I like that I understand how to make a motorbike, and I may, and I do wish to make extra of them sooner or later for certain.

What’s subsequent to your sculpture enterprise? Have you ever acquired targets in thoughts or specific belongings you wish to work on?

Oh, yeah, I wish to construct greater. I wish to construct bigger issues, extra works of public show, and construct sculptures for Burning Man or related sorts of issues. I used to see so many cool sculptures on Instagram and stuff and so they have some wonderful artists down there, so that may be a cool factor to do. However then I additionally wish to educate different folks to make stuff, as a result of I get pleasure from sharing the information. 

And I’ve been devoting extra time to creating movies these days. Particularly as a result of now my Instagram is monetised. I used to be doing it without spending a dime earlier than and now if I get extra views, it means I make more cash, which is actually nice motivation to simply put out all types of movies. And simply throw issues on the wall and see what sticks.

Be sure you try Drew’s Instagram the place he’s posting each day movies exhibiting how he creates his sculptures. And for extra details about his work, or to purchase considered one of his items, try his web site.

Photograph gallery


Supply hyperlink