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HAND MADE IN ITALY

December 29, 2010

If you’re a frequent visitor to internet cycling forum’s, you’ll no doubt have seen the many threads about the origin of manufacturer’s frames and the ‘far east’ debate! In particular many people want to know if the ‘Made in Italy’ sticker found on many Italian marques is true. Well for the majority of Viner owners, this ‘sticker’ does hold true. Apart from a couple of lower end carbon models (which are made in the Far East to hit certain price points) all of Viner’s frames are made in their Tuscan factory – by hand.

To demonstrate this, Viner UK have been kind enough to send these images of a Maxima RS being built. As you’ll see, Viner have successfully blended high end technology with human craft and skill, to produce sublime products.

The heart of any bike is the frame, and for anyone ordering a custom Viner this kicks off with an initial consultation, that will help them design the frame, so that it does exactly what the customers wants it to do. So Viner take into account the bio mechanical or rider fitting at the consultation, the frame materials to be used, the construction process and what the frame is going to be used for. In my case after the initial consultation, the frame was drawn up and faxed over for my approval, including a few options for me to ponder!

So after you’ve approved your drawing, you then have the agonising wait until it’s been built. This can take up to four weeks, and there’s a good reason for this. Each frame is built by hand, with great attention to detail. Working with the approved drawing, the tubes are carefully mitred, making sure they’re not damaged. This is even more so in the case of the Maxima, as each of it’s tubes are custom drawn by Viner to the specific technical requirements of each rider. It’s a bit like getting a Savile Row suit made with cloth that has been specifically woven just for you!

The mitred tubes are then placed in the frame jig (Viner call this the ‘mask’), where they are lightly bonded to one another. The mask used for the Maxima and Mitus frames is unique in that it is digitally controlled resulting in a frame with 0.1mm/0.1 degree of variation from the initial drawing. It’s then part cured in an autoclave, using epoxy resins that Viner have been developing for many years. This is so the frame has some rigidity and can be taken off the mask for the next stage – wrapping the joints.

Working quickly and skillfully the ‘wrapper’ builds the compression joints (or ‘lugs’) using pre-preg carbon sheets. Up to 150 of these can be used to result in the correct strength for the joint. This is a highly skilled job with the ‘wrappers’ working deftly but quickly to ensure that no contaminants get in between the sheets, ensuring a perfect joint for the frame. Once built up the joints are then wrapped with a special compression tape.

When the ‘wrappers’ job is done, the frame is then filled with silica sand. This stops the frame being crushed during the next stage of the process. This is where the frame is ‘cured’. Firstly it’s placed in a special vacuum sac, where the internal ‘vacuum’ is specially calculated whilst the frame is being cured. Unlike other hand made carbon frame manufacturers, Viner use a very specialized ‘autoclave’ (or oven!), where a careful balance of internal and external atmospheric pressure and temperature curves ensure the perfect ‘bake’! It’s taken Viner many years to develop its unique curing processes which result in the highest possible strength yet low weight using their handmade compression joint process. Viner keep the details of this process a closely guarded secret.

Now if you’ve ever wondered why hand made, made to measure carbon frames are more expensive it’s because it’s much cheaper and easier to build a frame using a moulding process, there are no overlapping sections of ‘construction’.  Using individual cut tubes means that the compression joints have to be over engineered to ensure there is sufficient strength to form the structure of the finished frame.

The result of the autoclave process is a frame with individual layers of carbon effectively moulded into a solid section of carbon and resin. The hand wrapped ‘joints’ are highly compressed, with ultra low voids, meaning there is an even mixture of the resin and carbon with no micro air bubbles remaining. As with any cooking, the frame is then taken out and left to cool.

The final process after cooling is hand finishing. Depending on the model, the joints can be sanded to leave a smooth looking frame or the ‘lugs’ can be left for a more traditional look. The frame is then checked for tracking, alignment etc, frame ‘extras’ fitted and a final pre-paint finish before it’s off to the painters for it’s final process.

Final image courtesy of italiaanseracefietsen

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. mkarmalay permalink
    July 7, 2011 12:35 pm

    hello..the content and products you have added is really superb and worth taking.

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