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Buck building by hand

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  • Buck building by hand

    As a forum focused upon traditional methods, I firmly believe the by-hand approach needs to be practiced as a means of developing a skill set and to preserve the craft. Buck building is no exception. This is intended as a why-to versus a how-to tutorial.

    Automated methods such as CAD, scanning, waterjet and comparable modern technology are exactly that- modern, not traditional. In a modern marketplace, some level of automation is usually necessary to compete. However, I think you'll find the Masters that many of us admire have their fluency in spite of automation and not because of it. Their expertise is based upon practice (often boring & repetitive) doing it the hard way. The short cuts need to come later imho. Knowing how to do it by hand significantly benefits doing it in the machine.

    Producing a buck, including all joinery, provide valuable rehearsal of conceptual development and accuracy of execution. Sawing and fitting individual stations after producing pencil & paper renderings develops your ability to work accurately and efficiently. You will learn which mistakes and flaws are irrelevant and which ones must be addressed. How you saw, sand or route each joint will teach you more than is obvious at the time. Your progress will be documented for your reference. A "perfect" buck, with absolutely accuracy facilitated by untold calculations and operations hidden within a machine, holds no comparison to an equitably accurate hand built buck showing minor imperfections.

    Many of the metal shapes and forms we admire are quite often imperfect, in terms of measured accuracy. This is a design quality that helps them appear to be more natural and organic. If these same shapes and forms are sanitized by perfecting symmetry and transition, there is a change in how that object is perceived by the viewer. I regularly tell people that their eyes are smarter than they are. A person with no training in art or craft can instantly recognize a perfectly round circle or line which is straight, bent or parallel to another. The same happens with complex shapes like a car body panel.

    A renowned Master Wood Carver named Griinling Gibbons produced many fireplace surrounds and swags, usually in limewood. Most if not all were based upon a symmetrical primary design layout (left and right major axes were mirror image with equitable number of components) while employing asymmetrical detail. The viewer is able to instantly perceive the two sides as equitable in dimension and overall composition while finding intrinsic value in the varying detail. The same bears true for coachbuilt automobiles. They have a symmetrical composition that is easy to comprehend, but the minor & somewhat impercievable variations make them appear more like a living thing (which are all imperfect when comparing right to left) that a sanitized "perfected" object. A tree or a person, which is never perfectly symmetrical right to left, looks alive. A geometrically or perfectly symmetrical building never looks alive.

    RockHillWill discussed design theory including the Golden Ratio or Sector and the Fibonacci Number at the recent Redneck Roundup. These concepts are derived from patterns found throughout nature. Man innately understands the relationships that these concept describe because he has been innundated with them during every day of his life, even though he may not comprehend what is happening. Your eyes are smarter than you are.

    I know many here employ modern CAD and automated cutting technology for their work. My point here is to advocate for practicing the method by hand in order to not stumble when electrons are not flowing freely. It is challenging to do a buck well completely by hand. One of the greatest obstacles to keeping this or any similar traditional work alive is modern technology. People seek the innovation, the short cut and the workaround. So much is lost when this happens. The basic skills need to be in place to provide foundation for future growth to be durable. Two thumbs are claimed by some to be what separates us from other living things. I'll argue that two thumbs can just as easily bring about our downfall.... Use your entire hands and your entire mind.

    Opinions?

  • #2
    Clint, I saw your handmade bucks at the recent Redneck Roundup and they speak to your thoughts. They were visually appealing and will certainly suit your needs in building your cafe racer components. I, for one, appreciate your posts and your desire to promote hand-eye-brain thinking. We need more of that. While my eye-brain certainly can appreciate that artistic viewpoint, my hand-brain seems slow to produce it. CAD allows me one way to achieve some form(s) of symmetry. Keep sharing your artistic viewpoints. Between you and Jim Hery, maybe I will become more capable some time.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by RockHillWill View Post
      Clint, I saw your handmade bucks at the recent Redneck Roundup and they speak to your thoughts. They were visually appealing and will certainly suit your needs in building your cafe racer components. I, for one, appreciate your posts and your desire to promote hand-eye-brain thinking. We need more of that. While my eye-brain certainly can appreciate that artistic viewpoint, my hand-brain seems slow to produce it. CAD allows me one way to achieve some form(s) of symmetry. Keep sharing your artistic viewpoints. Between you and Jim Hery, maybe I will become more capable some time.
      Will, I understand how much you value, use and enjoy CAD and was hoping you would add to this thread. Conversing with you here might benefit others instead of just me.

      You and CAD are inseparable in my mind. That's really the only way I've known you. Regardless, my imagination leads me to believe that your use of CAD came decades after you had designed and produced a wide range of machines & machinery the old fashioned way. Is this correct? Your extensive background & well documented success in NASCAR, including innovations in chassis/suspension technology plus creating, building and restoring a wide range of track & street vehicles, predates the computer technology that is now dirt cheap and readily accessed by everyone. Without stopping to think about dates and remembering that cellphones and Internet didn't exist back them, realizing you did it very well the hard way first could be lost in the shuffle.

      My hope that such progress into technology through hands-on methods will be still provide inspiration to craftsman, instead of making a priority of using technology to bypass hands-on methods. To emulate you, we need to understand that successful men like you didn't skip the hard part. That hard part likely makes you even more efficient now with more effective tools & methods. Every successful craftsman needs the proper foundation.

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      • #4
        Hi,
        I have some thoughts on the By-hand approach to buck construction. I view the buck as a tool and should be correct, the craftsman determines the by-hand aspect, when he builds the part. But what comes first, the buck or the part? The philosophy argument of the chicken and the egg, if the buck lacks artistic flow, will the part lack the flow.. Interesting to think about. To me, dimensional accuracy is critical with the buck, and that is accomplished with a CNC buck. For the aircraft components that get riveted onto bulkheads and ribs, that parts needs to be accurate. We use the one finger rule. The part must push tight to the structure with the pressure of one finger. If we have larger gaps and need higher pressure, you will see rivet failure in a relative short amount of time in operation. Rivet strength is in shear, with much less in tension. Peter had told me once, that it was common to find a car body to be very different from one side to another, and do to its mounting to the chassis, you can get away with this.

        With that being said, I have found issue with the "Perfect CNC buck". I had two bucks furnished by customers in the past that were 3D scans of the original parts and constructed by people who don't metal form. When they 3D scanned the part, they scan the lows and highs, dents and all. On both occasions, the defect was machined into the buck. When I go to form the part, I would find my part would stand over the low in the buck, yet have a correct sight line. So what is correct? Put in the defect or the artistic eye of a craftsman? I would argue the eye of the craftsman, but both customers would dis-agree. To them, 3D scan and CNC is all ways perfect and any thing less is a fault of the builder. Does it mean that they is right, in my opinion, no. I build the parts, it works, looks great, if they want the low, they can dent it them self

        Bill

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