I’ve seen a great many shots of frame builders in my time. The shots have ranged from contemplative portrait in order to portray the builder as a thoughtful artisan to military-bent badass to convey the attitude that metal will submit. Most action shots of a builder end up seeming of a piece: shots that no matter how carefully framed, no matter how perfectly exposed, end up draining the life and dynamism from a device that is anything but static.

The shot above of Mark DiNucci is the shot that leads on his web site. It’s also my favorite portrait of a builder I’ve ever seen. The guy is in motion, and because he’s reaching for one of the torch’s tanks to make an adjustment, it serves as a reminder that there’s more to brazing steel than just heating a joint and pushing in silver or brass. And as he reaches—one foot off the bare shop floor—his balance makes the move look practiced, routine, even elegant. Yet all the while that torch is burning, with the business end carefully aimed between bench and body.

Then there’s the fact that he’s got long, unkempt hair and a wool sweater straight from Scandinavia. The dude is counterculture, a—gasp—hippie. With the frame clamped in the bench vise mounted at the end of his flat table and a universal bevel protractor in the foreground, we are reminded that frame building isn’t sexy. It doesn’t require a bunch of fancy tools. It’s metal, heat and geometry. End of story.


  1. J

    I agree with the description of the picture and its spirit, but it seems quite unpossible that he is reaching for the tank in the foreground. his hand is behind the cup on the table. its more like he got his brazing mojo on and is setting down his doobie before getting to work. There is still plenty of meaning with that action in mind (practiced, routine… elegant). (and maybe i read photoshop disasters too much)

  2. Gary Watts

    I bought a set of Reynolds 531 from Strawberry in 1975 when it was Andy Newlands and Mark. Barely high school age, I was in awe of the shop and creating frames. That shop was rather small, in an old building in downtown Portland. After Mark’s departure, there was a small stream of others that built along side Andy.

    Mark’s ultra thin lug work is still my favorite of all time. I had one of those Strawberry catalogs shown on Mark’s site. I spent lots of time going over and over it back then.

    Mark was also a decent rider back in the day as well.

  3. Mark DiNucci

    Patrick Brady’s insight into this photo has allowed me to better appreciate just how fine of a job the photographer, James Mason ( http://www.pbase.com/zidar/root&page=all) did in these and his other photos. He did capture the fluidity that can be found in most good professional’s routines.  Thanks Patrick or your description. Regarding your comment that “metal will submit”, good point. I believe that it is the builder who must submit to the metal. The frame material must be respected and held in the highest regard. I also agree, frame building is not sexy. Your statement ” with the business end carefully aimed between bench and body” reminds me of the comment the photog James Mason made to me. He said ‘it looks like you are going to burn your winkie’. As far as the comment from ‘J’ goes, yes i was not reaching for the regulators, nor was I reaching for a ‘doobie’. No one can build a good frame without being as mentally sharp as possible. Thanks Patrick.

  4. Jim Merz

    Just to say that the photo is from a series of shots James Mason took of my shop. James has generously allowed me and I think also Mark, to use these photos. But He likes to make sure he is credited. You can see all these shots on my Facebook page called Merz Bicycles.

    Jim Merz

    1. Author

      Thanks for checking in Jim. We’re happy to know who the photographer is. Mr. Mason did great work; we hope to see more of it in the future.

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