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"Easy Rider" about Metallic Tattoo -  HANDCRAFTS from Germany for bikes and cars
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Traditional surface ornaments

Various handicrafts dealing with the ornamentation of the most different metal surfaces have now nearly become forgotten. The talk is particularly about engravers and chasers, whose skills are more and more falling into oblivion. Nevertheless, bikes can be individualised in an astonishing way using exactly these techniques.

Speaking about chasing and engraving, most people know that this is a matter of motives, designs and letterings in metal. However, what exactly these terms mean and which effort and craftsmanship are behind it is often not known. Machine-made covers with prefabricated motives are mostly preferred, not least due to unbeatable prices. It is true though that more often than not, instead of achieving individual solutions rather exactly the opposite happens. The momentary Old School vogue, however, brings about that there is again a higher demand also for the complex ornament techniques.

There is only one problem: Looking for capable craftsmen is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Although these are two of the oldest handcrafts in the history of mankind they nevertheless are faced with extinction. Anyhow, this shall not be our subject here. Roland Ulbricht is one of the few, who not only keep faith with this craftwork, but who have developed techniques, which permit ornamenting almost any metal surface of a motorcycle. Originally this sort of craftsmen had dealt predominantly with the manipulation of precious metals. The different kinds of steel and surface coatings of a motorcycle require rethinking.

Actually, engraving and chasing are two different techniques, which nevertheless can be combined excellently. Engraving designates the carving of surfaces. For each line width the engraver has steel gravers at his disposal, which differ in form and size: A mushroom-shaped handpiece provides good stability and makes it possible to transfer proportioned pressure to the tool. The resulting lines are as fine as a hair. They show a certain dynamic which depends on graver, guidance and angle of inclination. Fine and shining mirrors in the curves are a typical feature. The manually engraved line is essentially determined by its regular cutting depth but also by a deliberate cutting angle. Apart from the different line widths, hatchings can be used as an artistic means in order to obtain two-dimensional effects.

Compared with the working manner of an engraver, the chaser goes about his work obviously more roughly: With his hammer and his punch he deforms the metal mostly on a larger scale. The punch is rarely larger than a common pencil though. Also these small chisels are made depending on need. The special chasing chisel is shaped in such a way that uniform working rhythm and impact force are ensured. This method serves above all for deforming sheet metal. An experienced hand can even make relief-like figures. In this way, lines can be realized as well as extensive indentations.

As already mentioned, these techniques were originally used particularly in processing precious metals. Gold and silver, but also copper alloys can be shaped almost playfully due to the ductility of these materials. It is far more difficult to shape steel or refined steel in the same way. The tools alone need to be much harder than the surface to be worked. The force necessary to be exerted is also considerably higher in this case. Mixed techniques using pointed punches permit to emboss also fine lines and hatchings into the metal.

So much for the mere craft; beyond it, a creative, artistic gift is indispensable.

Whoever comes to Roland's workshop usually knows only vaguely how he would like to have his bike ornamented. The dragon motive, which is often used to tattoo the back, can also be used for this purpose, just as well as a tribal or a person's own initials. Before setting one's hand to the metal, many sketches are made until the design is realisable and pleases the customer. As a second step the craftsman considers how to translate the motive into reality and which techniques to use. Only now the sketch is transferred to the metal in order to carve out the motive of the material. The motive can also be made of a piece of sheet metal and attached to the bodywork. Likewise, parts, such as cover, exhaust systems and other add-on parts can be handed in to be decorated separately. In extreme cases the customer brings his complete bike to the workshop to be treated there. Once the mere metalworking is finished, the question about the new surface coating arises. For artistic reasons the indentations could be filled with coloured lacquers in order to make them clearly stand out from the surroundings. Partial gilding or copper coatings are also possible. Sometimes a copper-coloured alloy found under the chromium layer can be used, too. In any case a clear varnish film is indispensable as a protection against rust and effects of the weather. Whoever entertains the idea of ornamenting his bike in this way should get together with the craftsman and leave him as much scope for action as possible. The possibilities of translating ideas into reality seem to be infinite and can be touched on only vaguely within the bounds of this report.

[1]   Engraved piece of sawing with lettering Harley Davidson
[2]   The first baselines of a tribal are transferred to the material
[3]   Numerous sketches are made before starting the actual work

[4]   The motives are realised by means of graver and punch
[5]   Also individual tank emblems can be realised
[6]   The motive had to be cut out and engraved back-to-front once for both tank sides
[7]   Cross and initials are worked out from the finished cover
[8]   Lateral cover - chiselled, chased and varnished with colourless lacquer
[9]   Engraved vulture skull - the customers have the most varied wishes
[10] A dragon for the cover - there are barely any limits to the choice of motives

[11] An endless number of tools is needed for each task
[12] The paper sketch is fitted for the motorcycle
[13] Designs are made on customers' requests.
[14] Customized metal sign with engraving
[15] Even hard fender struts can be ornamented

[16] The motive is embossed with hammer and chisel
[17] Ornamented fork tube - a "metallic tattoo" can be applied in the most different placed
[18] The Golden Rider has been chiselled in copper.
[19] The surface is worked with a special chasing chisel and punch.

translated text from autor: Peter Schulz  in: "EysyRider" page 1-4
L.-A. in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, Roland Ulbricht, Tel.: +49 (0)35 28 - 44 16 60