The Plating Process
United Custom Polishing & Plating
1. When parts first come into the shop, they are laid out and a picture is taken of the job with a description of the parts so they can be tracked as they go through the system. This is how they looked when I picked them up.
2. First, they paint or chrome-strip the parts (as necessary). To get the best-looking chrome, it starts with the best-looking polish job. It's a dirty job, but every pit and scratch was removed.
3. Here is my oil bag. This is not plated, just polished stainless steel.
4. Here is the seat pan getting ready to get chromed. Every line and mark will be removed before moving on to the next step.
5. Next the parts were soaked and cleaned in Chemcid to remove all the polish compound or dirt from the metal.
6. Then the parts were rinsed off with hot water...
7. ...and run through the system up to copper. Once the part is out of copper, they again polish the part to smooth out the copper. This helps fill in any small pits in the part.
8. The part was cleaned once again. Then it was run in a bright nickel tank.
9. After nickel, it was finished up in the chrome plating tank. The trick is to get the chrome to flow over the part evenly to get it to stick for that super shine that people love to see.
10. Finally, the parts were washed and inspected for quality to make sure the customer would going to be happy with the finished product.
11. It is here where each part was inspected. Any pits or marks, and the part needs to be stripped and started over.
12. The parts were all hand-polished and wrapped up in paper or plastic for pick up.
The Seat Riff Raff Leather
13. I told Pascal what I was looking for in this seat; something that was black and red with a little rocker chick to it, and this is what I got back. Pretty cool-looking with a lot of details.
14. A rough sketch was laid out on the pan with a few directions on where the tooling will go. I know what you are thinking-this is a different pan. We used a different pan to showcase the different stages.
15. A strip of tan buffalo was cut and skived, then the strip was glued around the edge
16. A first layer of foam was put on the pan with a cavity cut out for the gel.
17. The gel was then layered into the cavity.
18. Another layer of foam went on top, covering the gel. The foam was sanded into the desired shape.
19. The leather was cemented on the backside following the edge of the top, then soaked in water until it was soft, and fitted to the foamed pan.
20. Once dry, Pascal cut out the top panel to be carved.
21. The artwork was then carved into the leather.
22. Different textures were tooled in to give depth to the leather.
23. Pascal then dyed the leather. In most cases, a few coats.
24. The lacing was cut to size, then woven into the top and side pieces.
25. You can see that it was done as four layers of lacing, somewhere around 40 yards.
26. Once the lacing was all done, the leather and foam were covered in glue, and then the leather was placed on top to form the seat.
27. Then all the rolled extra leather was trimmed off from the underside.
28. As the top was drying, Pascal worked on covering the bottom.
29. Same steps as before: cut the shape, tool the words, cut, and dye.
30. Once the dye had dried, Pascal coated and treated the leather so that the dye wouldn't fade away. This is how you get a one-off seat for a one-off bike.
31. I dropped off my MGS custom tank and rear fender at Buck Wilds shop and told Buck what I was looking for: something from the late '70s, the kind of paint jobs he likes to do. Once he saw the shape of the tank, he had a few ideas.
32. To get started, the sheetmetal was placed into the sand blasting tank. Then every part was rough-sanded so that all the body filler would sick.
33. The first coat of filler was spread on the tank and fenders; it sets up fast, so as one piece was drying the other was getting hand-sanded.
34. With an orbiter sander the rough filler was removed. But to get the sheetmetal to look its best, every piece was hand-sanded.
35. Now that the bodywork was done, Buck covered the sheetmetal with a primer coat followed with a coat of silver flake base coat.
36. Then all the panels needed to get masked and laid out. The trick was to get both sides to look the same and to match the rear fender.
37. The rear fender will have the same lines, so it was important to have both pieces together to see that the lines match.
38. The first coat of House of Kolor's "Kandy Red" mixed with the flake needed for the base.
39. Once the first coat of red was dry, the inside panels had the masking tape pulled to reveal the red on silver. The same goes for the rear fender, and then Kandy Tangerine was sprayed over both the tank and the fender.
40. The same went for the rear fender, and then Kandy Tangerine was sprayed over both the tank and the fender.
41. Then the inside layered stripes were added along the side of the fender and the side lines of the gas tank. This marked where the ghost yellow will highlight the tangerine.
42. Next the sheetmetal was coated with two shades of tangerine. This will look as if you are looking into a piece of glass with the color on the other side.
43. Then Buck added a drop shadow to all the inside panels lines where the red was taped off.
44. Once the yellow highlights were sprayed on the sheetmetal, Buck needed to pull the tape off the red and tangerine.
45. Lastly, about ten costs of clear was sprayed over the sheetmetal. Dried and ready for the bike.
46. Here you have it. Once I got all the sheetmetal back in hand I had to wire the bike, rewrap the exhaust pipe, line the rear wheel, gas, and oil, bolt on the seat, and start the bike. It was a long time to get this bike done and on the road, but when you think about it I have just about 24 days of work on this bike, it just took over two years to do. I would like to thank everyone who helped me with this bike. So thanks goes out to S&S; Cycles, JIMS Transmission, Belt Drive Limited, Denver Choppers, Chopper Head Road, Evolution Industries, Headwinds, MGS Customs, Crime Scene Choppers, Lucky Charms Choppers, Sacred Steel Customs, Spyke Inc., Riff Raff Leather, Lincoln Electric, Cutting Edge Cycles, Concept Powdercoating, Buck Wild Design, and RC Components. Without these guys, this bike would never gotten done.
"Is that bike done? How much longer? What happened to your build?"It's about time. It was built in 24 days-it just took 24 months to get it done. But that is what happens when you only get about one day a month to work on it.
The bike is done and looking forward a hell of a lot of miles. This all started over 24 months ago, when Greg Friend, ex-editor of Street Chopper, and myself were asked if we had what it took to build a bike. The one thing I will say is, if I could do this over, I wouldn't have started this on paper (putting it in the magazine) until I had all the parts needed to complete the build. But if you are like most readers, this is how the real world would get it built. I've been around all the top builders and a lot of small shops, and the only difference is the amount of time and guys doing the work. It all takes time to get it done; not everything you see on TV is real. Every home build I have seen runs like this-as you get the money, you get the parts. I was lucky to get a few freebies...OK, some really cool-ass free parts.
The idea to do this came one day as the Street Chopper staff was having lunch. We started talking about the kind of bikes we were seeing out at all the shows-the good, the bad, and the ugly. In some cases real ugly. That was when we started pointing out the things we liked and disliked. So when the big bosses came to us and asked if we as editors wanted to build a bike to show the reader what we would build and ride, both of us responded with "Hell yeah!" Then it turned into a little competition between the two of us. The idea was to build them in our home garages with as little help from the outside world as possible. Now, that didn't mean we couldn't get help; it just meant we needed to do the work. We could not have some shop do all the work and just stand there taking photos; we needed to do all that we could.
We both sat down and planned out each build and a detailed parts list. Greg wanted to start with a stock Harley-Davidson, a bike that could be chopped up and turned into something different from the start. He was lucky to get his hands on a real cheap Sportster out at the swap meet or someplace like that. It was a good start; we both felt that a lot of readers could follow along, and steal some ideas for themselves to do the same things. There are more readers out there already with a bike that want to chop, swap, switch, and ditch what they have and try to make it a little cooler.
In my case I wanted to get my hands on one of those new S&S; Shovelheads. Then I needed to get a frame and a trans. This is where it started to get long on the waiting lists; once I had my parts list together, it became a game of cat and mouse. We had a few snags slowing us down (OK, just me); with no parts, all I could do was watch as Greg was working in his garage building motor stands, tables, birdhouses, and shit like that. It wasn't until about three months into this build that I got my hands on my first parts.
The guys at Chopper Head Road heard about the build and called me up and asked what I was after, and in less then three weeks I had a frame sitting on my lift. That is what got the bike build rolling after 24-plus months. For the last part I needed to get chrome, a seat, and paint. After I picked up a bucket full of chrome parts I had dropped off at United Custom Polishing and Plating In Anaheim, California, I sent my set pan off to Riff Raff Leathers in North Hollywood to get it covered in leather. At the same time, Buck Wild had my paint set to get covered in funk and flake.
United Custom Polishing & Plating is a true mom and pop shop, from the owner Big Tony and son Jr. to his uncles and anyone else in the family that wants to make things shiny. I was lucky to find these guys through Sam at Ride Wright Wheels after telling him the headache I was having with the last guy that tried to screw me over with shitty work. Tony and his dad told me to drop the stuff off and they would get right on it. They do it all; there is no job too small, and everything is done in-house-aluminum, steel, stainless steel, and brass. They have been the inside secret to all the local bike shops and lowrider guys, from wheels to handlebars. They get stuff shipped to them everyday from across the country to get plated, so I was not worried that my stuff would look good. This business is family owned and operated since 1984.
United Custom Polishing & Plating
Riff Raff Leather
Buck Wild Design
Belt Dives Ltd (Bdl)
MGS Custom Bikes
S&S; Cycle Inc.
Chopper Head Road
Evolution Industries Inc.
Lucky Charm Choppers
Crime Scene Choppers
Barnett Performance Products