Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TWT Motorcycle Parts - Interview

As soon as you learn that life is all about who ya know, things get much easier. We had such a damn good time at the Timonium Motorcycle Show and were able to meet and hang out with Mike over at TWT Motorcycle Parts. He is a solid dude and is quite the artisan when it comes to working with metal.

For quite a few years we have been looking at making custom metal pieces for a few projects we had cooking up, but machining them out just seemed overly engineered and lacked the detail we were after. Luckily Mike walked into the picture and completed the ideas in our head, through his crafty techniques with metal etching. Dig into his work and see the possibilities for what type of custom work he could do for you. Imagination is the only limit you have as he also works in a variety of metals and can school ya quick on the best way to achieve your idea.

Be on the lookout for a whole lot of projects with TWT Motorcycle Parts and us in the future.

Rusty Knuckles gear logo for Sportsters, created by TWT Motorcycle Parts
Wilkinson Bros metal emblems created by TWT Motorcycle Parts
1. Tell us about yourself, have ya always been into all things mechanical?

Yah, I’ve always loved mechanical things. Lego blocks and an erector set were my
two favorite toys as a young kid. As I got older I started taking things apart to see
how they worked, I even managed to put them back together sometimes. My mom
would never let me have a mini bike or go cart “they’re too dangerous”. So I had to
stick to building crazy bicycles and soap box cars. Nothing dangerous about adding
½” black iron pipe to the forks of a bicycle to build a chopper right?

Cafe Racer style tank emblems created by TWT Motorcycle Parts for Front Street Cycle
2. How did you get into metal etching? Mad scientist yearnings, comic book ideas
involving dangerous chemicals or did ya find it on the internet?

I saw an article once in a woodworking magazine that talked about making etched
brass builder plates you could attached to finished woodworking projects and I
thought that was cool. The idea was in my head for a long time. Years later a friend
asked me to make a wooden plaque for a small battle axle he got at a renaissance
fair. He’s a tattoo artist and wanted to hang it in his station. He was going to have
an engraved plate made that said “Tattoo Remover”. I told him to hold off on the
plate, that I wanted to try something. That’s how it started. I did find some valuable
information on the internet as I was stumbling through the beginning stages of
learning how to do this and I’m still learning as I go.

3. Knowing the chemical reactions that cause the metal to be dissolved, are there any
special concerns about your process?

Any time you are dealing with chemical reactions you need to be careful. A lot of
etching processes use acids. I quickly got away from that at the beginning do to the
dangerous nature of acids and the problems disposing of it. I use a combination of
salts which are a lot more user friendly and easily disposed of.

Matchless logo belt buckle by TWT Motorcycle Parts
TWT Motorcycle Parts ready to ship
TWT Motorcycle Parts can etch any part you send them
4. With the type of work you are doing what type of companies can you see working

I have a small line of motorcycle parts, belt buckles and accessories that I sell online.
You can see that stuff at http://twtmotorcycleparts.bigcartel.com/. I also do custom
signs. I’ve done signs for some companies in the motorcycle industry like Biltwell,
Lick’s Cycles, Cleveland Cycle Werks and a few others. Custom work is a big part
of what I do. I’ve made custom parts for a bunch of companies like Mutiny Cycle
Works, Shortbus Customs and Go Fast to name a few. Oh and let’s not forget Rusty
Knuckles. Stay tuned folks there’s some nice stuff coming from them soon.

5. Knowing that you are creating one off custom pieces, would your process be able
to scale to handle large orders?

Absolutely whether it’s a single piece or a large orders of pieces the process is the
same. It’s kind of like making cookies; whether you’re making a dozen or twelve
dozen you make them the same way it just takes more time. The key is to know how
to put it all together to make it flow efficiently.

6. Any other artisans working with a similar process you dig checking out?

I haven’t found anyone doing the kind of stuff I’m doing. I’d love to find some other
artisans doing it. So if your out there hit me up. There are two processes similar to
what I’m doing called Intaglio and photo etching. Intaglio is a form of printmaking
that uses etched metal plates to make prints and photo etching is used in a lot of
different ways. Jewelry making uses photo etching often to create details in the piece
being made. There are a lot of talented people in both fields. I’d like to meet some of
them and pick their brains.

Aluminum keychain for country band Hellbound Glory
Weld in oil cap with etched top by TWT Motorcycle Parts
7. What are the future plans for TWT?

I have a ton of ideas for different products rolling around in my head. So as time
permits I’ll be getting them out of my head and into physical form. I like working
with other creative people on different projects so I hope to continue to build on that.
I also want to do some one off pieces of wall art. So keep an eye out for that. I guess
you could say the future plans are to keep creating and make a little money along the