Friday, August 26, 2005

Missing Velomart

Fred Parr has received a few mentions on this blog, and while we've yet to meet face to face, I consider him a friend.

The following will sound a little like an obituary - sorry for that, but I need to set a stage.

Fred has a background that includes a wildly diverse set of experiences and careers. For example, he's been a stuntman in movies and a forensic auditor in the military.

Some of Fred's experience is more pertinent to framebuilders (especially wanna-be and newly becoming). For example, he learned his initial building skills from his father who (many years ago) worked as a welder for Ryan Aircraft (they built the Spirit of Saint Louis) and later had fabrication roles at the famous Skunkworks building the likes of the U2 and related aircraft. Not a bad base from which to learn metal crafting. He also knew and exchanged knowledge with a number luminaries of the bike building industry who became better known than he. For example Art Stump and Mario Confede.

Any three great framebuilders can come up with three different "best" solutions to a problem. So, I won't get pulled into wars about who's right or best. But Freddy can keep up his end of the argument about the "best technique" with the greatest of them - bar none.

On the other hand, he welcomes newbies and offers to help them learn. For all the great information available through the Frame Forum and the framebuilders.phred, I wouldn't have made the progress I have without Fred.

One of the ways Fred has helped builders (of all stripes) has been in making available the specialized torches and related equipment that work best for most of us, at discounted prices. I probably shouldn't let this out, but he actually upgraded my order to 2-stage regulators for free, because he thought they would work better for me.

Another way Freddy helps is by pushing the envelope regarding brazing materials, fluxes, and tubing. Whether or not you choose to use it, Picklex really is a remarkable product. I've used three of his fluxes, and they really do clean up well. I've tried Allstate 11 at his recommendation (and for free) - it really does allow for nice small filleted joints. His new filet silver is really easy to manage and move around with a torch. His new fluxes make even Harris 56 easier to manage and move with the torch. And while I'll only know if I don't have failures, I'm confident that his new fluxes make better joints to stainless steel.

Similarly, Fred has always been available to discuss a problem and its solution. He offers to review test-joints sent to him and to provide feedback.

So, I was sadden to hear of the end of Velomart (his webstore). Freddy and Georgine are making some lifestyle changes related to her retirement. So, it may take a while to see if/how/where Freddy will continue to be involved with the builders community. My guess is that unless something gets in the way, he'll continue to be here for us. Nonetheless, I'm still sad that Velomart is gone.

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