When I consider the great many custom frame builders I’ve encountered over the nearly 30 years I’ve been writing about these artisans, there’s a short list of builders who qualify for that upper echelon of masters. Sure, Richard Sachs and Peter Weigle start that list. It also includes Mark DiNucci, Chris Bishop, Dave Kirk, Mark Nobilette and Steve Rex. The list of retired or deceased builders who used to be on this list is beyond tragic: Albert Eisentraut, Bruce Gordon and Glenn Erickson are just a start.
All that said, one of the most gifted builders I’ve ever encountered is David Wages. As I noted in my episode of The Pull in which I interviewed him, Wages has a pedigree I don’t think another builder on the planet can lay claim to: He worked for Serotta Competition Cycles and then went on to build for Waterford Precision Cycles before striking out on his own.
While at Waterford, he built a bike for a client that recalled an Ephgrave he owned. Les Ephgrave built under his name for 20 years, from 1948 to ’68 and was known for cutting lugs with ornate curls and windows. To my eye, Ephgrave was a better builder than the much better known Ron Cooper, so being asked to evoke such a master was no small matter for Wages.
Complicating matters was the fact that the client asked Waterford to produce the bike in stainless steel. Builders who have worked in stainless tell me that everything about stainless steel is a challenge. It’s more to weld, more difficult to cold-set and more difficult to cut and file lugs cast from the material. It’s not log-scale more difficult, but it is a temple-rubbing complication.
I’m going to let David explain the images himself:
I started work with these three pictures, and I knew I had my work cut out for me…
Lots of tiny ornate cutouts.
Even the seat stays had a little lollipop thing brazed onto them! (apparently Ephgrave ran a metal stamping company and these were leftover bits that they re-used on the bikes!)
We added a socket onto an exiting Pacenti stainless seat lug which provided for the seat binder bolt.
First, I had to finish down the welds to make them look seamless like a cast lug.
And then the carving began. For the head lugs, I just left them attached to the long piece of tubing we’d used for the head tube part of the lug, I made working on them much easier and no need for a lug vise. The longer I worked on this set, the more I came to admire the design, all the elements started to flow from one to the next and I started to realize the true genius of this pattern.
One I had the top tube lug finished, I cut it off, slid it onto a piece of head tube stock and then slid that into the down tube lug for a visual of the finished product.
After I was finished carving, I mocked the lugs up on this tiny tubeset for a picture.
Lots of hours in all those windows, curves and swirls….
Can’t forget the fork crown!
After brazing and finishing.