A few months ago I saw a bike that was in progress on xs650chopper. It was a killer XS650 boardtracker that caught my eye. I made it a point to visit the site every week to see what was up with that build and then a couple weeks ago there was a post with some nice photos and it was done. I emailed the builder, Nick Stringer, proprietor of CENSORED to see if he’s like to get pimped on bM.
Thanks to my great charm (ahem), he quickly agreed and the following Q & A ensued:
bM: You’re an incredibly talented metalworker, from modern stair rails and floral gates for rich people to furniture and leaf spring front ends. How long have you been working in metal and how did you develop such a wide range of projects?
NS: Thanks man. I tried welding in high school and just did it off and on for a while. My main thing out of school was doing electrical work. Every once in a while there would be different ornamental iron projects on the job site, so I started asking the general contractor if I could bid the work. After a while, jobs started coming through. All the money from those side projects went back into getting the basic equipment for metal working. All my stuff is still pretty basic. That sort of forces you to get creative in how you’re going to pull something off. A big help has been hanging around shops that specialize in certain things, and then bringing those together.
bM: What projects are your favorite?
NS: That’s a tough question. Getting metal into the shape you want is always entertaining to me. I’d have to say manual machining has become a big favorite though. Figuring out the set-ups for machining really gets you thinking. Learning the little tricks showed me that there’s always a way to make something work.
bM: I imagine some of our readers know about finding ways to make something work when it comes to metal, and you can apply that concept to make anything happen. You’ve recently completed a very sleek XS650 boardtrack style motorbike. It looks like everything that isn’t motor and wheel was fabricated by you. Can you tell us about some of the most challenging elements of this build?
NS: Well, wondering if the bike would turn out similar to what I pictured was a challenge through out the build. It started off as a sketch on top of an XS that was in a magazine. We ended up pulling a piece of 1.5-inch d.o.m. around a curved jig that was already in the shop and, by luck, it seemed to look okay to use as the backbone. Getting that tube bent was a funny day in itself.
bM: It looks great. You’ve developed a clean and smooth leaf spring front end that you sell for $1200. Do you have plans for other front end designs? How about other bike parts like hand and foot controls, exhausts, or velocity stacks?
NS: There are a couple ideas floating around for forks. One is for a real narrow leafer that should be ready soon. The other is for some girder style forks. I’d like to offer some short and narrow girders for the more compact style builds going on.
The velocity stack thing is another project that should be ready soon. They’ll have adapters that look similar to the one on the tracker, but accept either frog scoops or the standard style velocity stack. Right now we’re just doing custom exhausts here and there. No plans for hand/foot controls for now.
bM: Sounds great. Your front end designs are slick and look tough without being too big. How many hours and did you put into the XS board tracker?
I think I’ll call it Pontus, after the pre-Olympian sea *** (burp), son of Gaia and Aether. That’s what you get for living in Solana Beach. The earth/air/water thing seems to fit. Cool?
NS: Ha ha. The Greek is over my head, man. I’ll have to take your word for it. The bike didn’t have a name really, so you’re in there. We were calling the it “Steam Krunk”.
I’m not sure on the hours. It was built over the course of a year, but there was a lot of down time though out the build. The bike looks better in the pics than it really is. There’s all kinds of lopsidedness in it. It was never meant to be a show bike or anything like that.
bM: Steam Krunk? That’s hysterical. Much better than my Greek Mythology 101 bull***t. I doubt the bike looks better in pix than in person. You’re probably being humble.
When I first wrote you, I mentioned that I’d like to talk with you about bikes and beer and you replied, “I can make time to talk beer any time.” You seem like a guy that might brew his own. I know to a true working man and beer fan there are two kinds of suds; beer you can afford and beer you savor. What are your favorites for each? A rare grand cru? A honey nut ale? Bud? PBR? Does a good buzz help inspire you or make you want to hit the surf? Does beer make you feel like a revolutionary?
NS: No home brewing so far. If it’s on a budget, I don’t care. If it’s good, there’s some Belgian beers that rule. Leffe Blonde and Hoegaarden are a couple. A good buzz usually inspires me to drink more.
bM: Why Heavy Metal Fab? Is it music or science?
NS: A little of both. Maybe a little more science. It came from thinking about metal work all the time. Each area ties into another. The music side fits in there by coincidence.
bM: You recently took a trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. We have a lot of readers from the Southeast Asia, especially in Bangkok. Would you share a story about hot Thai babes, beer and bikes?
NS: Man, I don’t know where to start…. It was one of those places that lived up to all the good things I’d heard about. As far as babes go, it’s better than the stories you hear. I’ll leave it at that.
The big cities are little messy, but the Thai people are great. Nothing phases them; traffic, hard work, heat, no problem. They feed you more food, and life is good. Each city usually had there own local beer for the region. A lot of people make their own whiskey, too. That was highlight for sure.
We were in a town in the south called Hat Yai for a while. The first morning there, I saw this guy (Geoff) marching up the street with a Red Sox hat on. I decided to see what his deal was. It turned out he was British. He’d moved there in his thirties for business and ended up getting married, having a couple kids, and settling down. I asked what there was to see in town and he said he’d show us around. Everyone in town knew him. He ended up taking us to four or five different bars or restaurants to get some drinks. Later in the night he goes, “hey, I’ll take you by my wife’s restaurant and introduce you guys.” When we got there we met his wife and the two young women that work for her. He tells his wife that “these are good boys, take care of them,” and takes off. We were completely hammered. The guy bought us rounds all day and wouldn’t let us pay. We ended up hanging out at his wife’s restaurant for a week. Half the time she wouldn’t charge us for food or drinks. If business was slow, she would flip the closed sign and tell us all to head down to the beach on the scooters. That was a great week down there.
Proper motorbikes were few and far between. It’s mostly scooters everywhere. The cool part though, is that half the people have side cars hooked up. Their ingenuity is awesome. These things look like they’re made from e.m.t., but they haul more sh*t than my Ranger. Their sidecars really got me motivated to build one.
bM: Thanks for sharing such a great story, Nick. I hope to visit Thailand some day and it was great to hear your experience was so nice.
If you were to boil down your personal philosophy in nine words or less, what would it be?
NS: Arbeit Macht Frei.
bM: “Work sets you free,” eh? The words of the infamous bronze sign of the former German **** death camp Auschwitz. That’s a scary way to end an interview, man.
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