Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oregon bike builder crafts frames from wood using CNC Router

Bikes have been around for quite a long time but every now and then bike technology takes a leap.
Ken Wheeler of Portland, Ore, has led his bicycle company in a new direction and that direction is hardwood.

Ken in front of the bamboo fixed gear and several showroom frames.

A complex joint in the rear triangle of a bike; as strong as it is beautiful.

Originally a wood boat and airplane craftsman from Seattle, Ken decided to launch a new career in bicycle crafting after a venture with an old friend dried up.

Before getting into bike building, Ken was a boat builder and airplane designer. The plane in the frame is one he designed.
Ken realized that his passion for design, building, and cyclery could give him an edge.
After some intense research and many late nights Ken realized that he didn’t want to use conventional materials; he wanted to instill in bikes the same sort of craft and artistic eye that went into wood boat making.

Every customer gets to pick the sort of wood that they want to come alive in their bike.

In order to craft bikes these wooden bikes the way that he wanted he had to go out on a limb and invest in a CNC router and that’s exactly what he did.

The enormous CNC router takes up much of the shop space but also accomplishes much of the work.

Sarah, head woodworker and sander extraordinaire looks over some recent templates for frames.
Renovo bikes are different from the antique wooden bikes that people may think of. The old way of building a bike out of wood was to create solid shafts of the material. Not only was this extremely heavy and ungainly but it wasn’t very strong.
Ken decided that instead he would create designs that cored out pieces of solid wood to create hollow forms. All Renovo bikes are constructed out of two cored out pieces of solid wood, which gives them a hollow core, just like any other bike. This structure makes the bikes extremely light, quiet, and exceptionally strong.

The original chunk of wood (on the right) as opposed to the form after the CNC router is done with it (on the left).
Ken does all the design himself but he has found such a market for his wooden bikes in Portland, and even all over the world, that he is expanding his employee base and expects to keep growing and designing for years to come.

Renovo bikes uses airplane grade epoxy to bind the two halves of the frame together. After this process is complete bikes are still tested for strength.

One of Renovo’s best selling bikes is the simple and affordable bamboo fixed gear bike.

A bike waits in the painting bay for it’s layer of glossy clear coat paint.

Renovo remains relaxed even though the processes are exacting. A shop dog and cat wander around freely.

Empty buckets of epoxy litter a worktable.

All extra wood pieces are retained for the future.

A close up of one of the show room frames. Each and every one is meticulously constructed.

Ken in the sanding room.

All error messages coming from the router are in French, Ken laughs, it’s definitely learn as you go.

A couple bits for the router; small but extremely expensive.

Sarah checks over a frame that she is refinishing.

There is always sanding to do at the shop.

Measurement calipers litter the shop.

One of the darker wood frames in the showroom, this completed bike may be sold for upwards of $5,000.

1 comment:

Frank Hylewicz said...

Really great !!
I know about frames from aluminium, carbon fibre, steel......
But wood ??

Is it also stable than carbon ?
Its a really amazing information !
Great job, nice work !