As I slowly find myself in more and more little shops around the country seeing the intimate workings of some of the most famous builders around, I quickly realized something: it's supremely rare that any of these builders paint their own bikes.
Vanilla has Coat, Argonaut is building a booth. The big guys like Parlee, Independent, and Seven all have their own paint facilities. But once you break into smaller builders, the guys we all love, they outsource their paint. It's not from a lack of skill, no doubt they have the ability to learn to mask and spray some pretty great stuff. But, when you account for the facility needed, the tools, the considerations for the environmental impact, outsourcing to a great painter so a builder can focus on fabrication starts to make a lot of sense.
A few weeks ago I was invited to visit Black Magic Paint, without hesitation I accepted, especially knowing NAHBS was right around the corner.
As luck would have it, Black Magic is only about 15 miles from Embro HQ, tucked on the east slope of the hill on Portland's west side in Forest Park. Oddly, I'd ridden past their driveway but had no idea the work that was happening in a very quiet little shop no more than 100m from where I was climbing McNamee Rd. Coincidentally, I had stopped at the end of their drive to grab a photo during the Festive 500 just a short time ago.
Walking into Black Magic I was greeted by Rudi, exited to show me around the small space. Immediately his excitement for what he does was apparent, clearly proud of his work. Fortunately, with only a few minutes of poking around it's easy to see why he's so proud. Something that could be so basic, what at first appeared to be a bit of a faux panel paint job on an Ira Ryan turned out to be a white panel on a very light pastel blue main color with all lines and logos painted on. Looking closely you realize how perfectly masked and sprayed every line is, and then, then you start to understand the level of detail that goes into every inch.
Admiring the work displayed on every shelf and in every corner, Rudi pulled me over to see some things he's most proud of. Carbon tube samples sprayed with new methods he's testing showed he isn't content to settle with his current skills. Always pushing, always learning, Rudi knows he's good at what he does but fully understands you can always be better. Akin to the league MVP being the one to turn off the lights every night after practice, after everyone else has gone home, Rudi wants to ensure every paint job is slightly better than the last.
Then I saw the booth. In it sat a masked Strong, details covered, awaiting final touches before heading back to Carl and on to NAHBS. While I didn't get to inspect the finished product, a nearly-finished frame sitting proudly in the booth waiting for the mask to be lifted and clear to be sprayed was nonetheless impressive. As per my luck, Rudy did remove those masks but a few hours after I left and sent me an iPhone photo. If you want to see it, tune in next time....