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SplinterBike
April 27, 2011 4:46 AM   Subscribe

Michael had always claimed he could make anything from wood, and James called his bluff in a big way. More than 1,000 man hours and a considerable amount of skill and ingenuity later, the SplinterBike was ready to ride.
posted by veedubya (39 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
It has one gear and no brake

Looks like it will flat-pack too. Should be popular with certain demographics.
posted by DU at 4:51 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


One look at that seat and the boys retreated in a sympathetic response.
posted by tommasz at 4:54 AM on April 27, 2011


Danish scientists have apparently been working on developing a wooden car. The first model had 98% of the engine parts made out of a variety of soft and hard woods, the chassis, seats etc are completely wooden and the wheels (which are without tyres) and transmission are wooden. The only problem so far is that it wooden go.
posted by biffa at 4:55 AM on April 27, 2011 [14 favorites]


Very cool, thanks for this!
posted by Daddy-O at 4:59 AM on April 27, 2011


This is 100% admirable, but friction? Wouldn't wooden ball bearings heat up a lot?
posted by carter at 5:05 AM on April 27, 2011


I can't find a reference to it now, but ISTR some old-timey ball bearings (or maybe it was just a regular bearing) made of some oily wood that was self-lubricating.
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on April 27, 2011


1,000 man hours for a professional joiner, and that's gotta be at least $50,000 for a bike that weighs 31kg. At times like this, I can't help thinking that the Industrial Revolution happened for a reason.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:20 AM on April 27, 2011


We choose to build this bike out wood not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
posted by localroger at 5:23 AM on April 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


The only problem so far is that it wooden go.

It's not a lemon. It's pining for the Fords.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:24 AM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


SplinterBike rider? [not for the squeamish]
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 5:39 AM on April 27, 2011


You may also have noticed that the frame features a pear, which Michael explains is because at some point the project will inevitably "go pear-shaped".

I admire his optimism. That's a true boneshaker.
posted by arcticseal at 5:40 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


some oily wood that was self-lubricating.

Ironwood in this case, and Lignum Vitae historically. I've got a couple chunks of Lignum Vitae; it's getting hard to find since it's endangered (and protected by CITES, I believe), so if you want some you've generally got to find pieces that were cut a while ago, or which have been salvaged out of industrial or marine bearings (assuming, of course, that you're not prepared to be a dick and buy illegally-harvested wood).

Due to this, there's a different tree that's often sold as Lignum Vitae, but which is not the real thing and which generally can't be used in bearings. Probably good enough for decorative turning, though.
posted by aramaic at 6:09 AM on April 27, 2011


ISTR some old-timey ball bearings (or maybe it was just a regular bearing) made of some oily wood that was self-lubricating.

Lignum Vitae is the classic wood for this. Extremely hard and oily, it was (and still may be in some places) used for bearings on prop shafts of ships. It's certainly durable enough to get through a record attempt, but I would expect this bike to require frequent rebuilds if anyone were silly enough to ride it regularly.
posted by jon1270 at 6:10 AM on April 27, 2011


So, basically, it's for adults with Likeabike envy?
posted by scruss at 6:10 AM on April 27, 2011


You'd think he could have made the saddle a bit more comfortable by using a nice springy bent lamination and I wouldn't want to ride it in a crosswind... Nicely done though.
posted by zeoslap at 6:21 AM on April 27, 2011


Here is another site that includes a video. I would still like to see more photos of details.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:29 AM on April 27, 2011


Ok it's been at least 15 years since I've even sat on a bike so it is no stretch to say I don't know a lot about bike riding but - he hopes to go 31mph on a contraption that HAS NO BRAKES!

Maybe this is no big deal but it certainly seems like a bad idea to me. Hopefully someone with more bicycle experience than me can tell me why it's not a big deal.
posted by Bango Skank at 6:30 AM on April 27, 2011


From the builder's Website, here is a gallery of (mostly) wooden bikes. One of them appears to have a wooden chain.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:35 AM on April 27, 2011


Bango Skank, it's not a big deal because he's going to test it out in a place where stopping suddenly isn't going to be necessary. Since it's a fixed drive train, and doesn't look like it has the ability to coast (major props if he built a coaster hub out of wood) he can slow down by applying back pressure to the pedals, the way fixed gear riders do.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:44 AM on April 27, 2011


At 31kg, and with one fixed gear and no brakes,

IT'S A METAPHOR FOR THE ECONOMY!!!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:49 AM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


but, scarily, it has never been ridden

Before building the full size model, the Mythbusters would have went small scale with a capuchin monkey for a driver.
posted by digsrus at 7:02 AM on April 27, 2011


1,000 hours, 31kg, one gear and no brakes. No, this doesn't sound like a complete waste of time at all, perhaps his next project will be a full scale icebreaker made entirely out of spoons. Anyway, as any long term listener to Test Match Special knows, Lignum Vitae is traditionally the wood used to fashion extra heavy bails for cricket matches played in windy conditions so there is also something useful it can do.
posted by joannemullen at 7:08 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those criticizing the practicality of this appear to have swung wide of the point.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:28 AM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I can't find a reference to it now, but ISTR some old-timey ball bearings (or maybe it was just a regular bearing) made of some oily wood that was self-lubricating.

Probably John Harrison. This guy might be a good subject for a Dr. Who episode. A carpenter's son over 100 miles away from the nearest clockmaker figures out how to create a series of revolutionary clocks of unprecedented accuracy for the 18th century. Before attacking the longitude problem, he built a self-lubricating wooden turret clock that, according to the book Longitude, ran for over two centuries with only minor adjustments before being given an overhaul.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:32 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, the point isn't to create a practical product prototype. The point is to push the limits of woodcraft about as far as it will go. It's the same sort of ambition that prompts people to create working Babbage engines or handblown water clocks rather than just buying a microprocessor or quartz watch.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:40 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't think you're supposed to attempt a kinetic sculpture land speed record WITH NO BRAKES in traffic.

At least that's what the police told me.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:52 AM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


How are the wooden wheels supposed to get traction if there's no rubber on them? I'd hate to be the rider trying to set a land speed record on those.
posted by splatta at 8:07 AM on April 27, 2011


He's got 3.5mm of rubber glue on his rims, so it's not a 100% wood bike as the article claimed. Those decals aren't made of wood either.

68 pounds! It didn't really hit me until I did the conversion. I'm no engineer, but it seems like there's a lot of opportunity to take a lot of weight off that monstrosity. Wooden rims were common years ago (and are still available). Why not use a spoked wheel like a wagon wheel?

I'm not worried about the saddle, but those broomstick pedals look uncomfortable and dangerous. When you're pedaling hard, most of the weight is on the pedals, not the saddle. Saddles for track racing that are just plastic shells aren't unusual--you don't need more for a short race. On the other hand, slipping off a pedal at 30 mph on a fixed gear can be a disaster--there's a reason fixed gear riders use foot retention. I wonder if he's got plans to modify a bike shoe to fit the pedal. Perhaps a round channel running across the sole?
posted by hydrophonic at 8:28 AM on April 27, 2011


I think the saddle has to have a certain amount of integrity, with that massive cog whirring past an inch below it. I wonder if he'll wear armoured bike shorts (just in case).

btw thanks for all the lignum vitae links, folks; fascinating stuff.
posted by carter at 8:41 AM on April 27, 2011


No brakes? Pfft. Any kid that had a Big Wheel knows how to deal with this. You just lock your knees and pull a wicked skid!

*cruises off going ka-THUMP ka-THUMP ka-THUMP*
posted by xedrik at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Before building the full size model, the Mythbusters would have went small scale with a capuchin monkey for a driver.

I would hug that video so hard.
posted by quin at 9:08 AM on April 27, 2011


The SplinterBike has no screws, bolts, metal, plastic or rubber. It has one gear and no brakes, and it's going for a speed record

I, too, like to live dangerously.
posted by owtytrof at 9:09 AM on April 27, 2011


This is so ridiculous. And so great.

And yeah, if we're splitting hairs, it's not 100% wood. Plywood's got adhesives in it and whatnot.
posted by that's candlepin at 10:40 AM on April 27, 2011


What about this wooden bike? Built by a 16 year old, with a chain and a freewheel...
posted by garethspor at 1:40 PM on April 27, 2011


That's the one I linked to a picture of in the wooden bike gallery. I'm not sure, but it looks like he may have use steel pins in the chain. He talks about the spacers, but not the pins inside them. His freewheel is actually a ratchet. He's not going for the speed record, apparently.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2011


Kirth, if you look at the closeup view of the chain you can see the wood-grain in the pins.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2011


a freewheel is a ratchet...
posted by TheJoven at 3:18 PM on April 27, 2011


I love stuff like this.

(Please don't let Faze and joannemullen have children.)
posted by maxwelton at 5:31 PM on April 27, 2011


James called his bluff in a big way.
If he can do it, it's not a bluff and it looks like he did it.
posted by Tashtego at 8:19 PM on April 27, 2011


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