Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Brian Alfonsi - Craft Method

Most of you know, that check in on this blog from time to time, I really like old tools and anything old and mechanical.  So it may come as no surprise that my eye is easily caught when I see a picture of an old machine tool, steam engine, or anything "Rube Goldberg" looking.  One day while cruising InstaGram I came across this picture of this really cool single cylinder steam engine.  I immediately had to check out this person that went by "craftmethod".  Maybe this person has a similar interest (read illness) as the things I look for for inspiration.

So I started following this guy on IG.  Brian Alfonsi.  This guy "GETS IT".  A young guy with real old-world thinking, technique, and style.  He took the leap and is building himself a Machinist's empire as well as an incredible collection of antique tools.

(All pictures used with permission from Brian)

Brian is machining everything from drawer pulls and beer taps, to Yoder power hammer dies for recreation of body panels.  He has machines from about every era including CNC technology and he's not afraid to use them.

Here's a few things from the mouth of Brian himself... (Brian gets all the credit for this write-up.  It was such a great read I wanted to share it as-is.)

My name is Brian Alfonsi. I am 30 years old and was born and raised in the fine state of Michigan. My shop is located just outside of Detroit. I started Craft Method with the desire to be a multidisciplinary maker. The name "Craft Method" was inspired by my interest in the dawn of the automobile. Before automobiles were mass-produced, they were built one at a time by craftsmen and machinery. Historians use the term craft production to describe this method of making. Over the past 6 years, my infatuation with the industrial revolution has lead me to research and acquire several tons of old, belt-driven machinery. I'm restoring them in my free time and intend to set them up in a proper building someday. As a proponent of tradition and technology, my dream shop will be an unbiased space in which modern and antiquated machinery will work together in harmony.

My father has been a machinist for 35 years. When I was 8 years old, he brought home a milling machine and from then on I was hooked. In addition to working over 60 hours a
week at his day job, he would take on side work in our home machine shop and I would help him deburr parts. I give full credit to my parents for raising me with a strong work ethic. I was also fortunate to attend a high school with a vocational education program that was second to none in Michigan. My machine shop instructor, Guy Hart, is the most dedicated teacher I've ever met. He worked tirelessly to improve the program and inspire young people to work with their hands. After high school, I started taking classes at a community college to work towards an art degree. A desire to utilize and exercise my creative side led to this radical change of direction. After a year of art classes, the magnetic force of the Motor City pulled me in and I began working in the concept vehicle group at General Motors. What started as a temporary parts procurement job quickly turned into an amazing decade-long career of building concept vehicles. Fast forward to January of 2015, I made the decision leave GM and start my own business.

I serve clientele that desire quality over quantity. Due to my lifelong passion for transportation, I work with clients on projects involving automobiles, airplanes, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. I've also had the opportunity to make architectural details, custom beer tap handles, tin signs, and other creatively fulfilling work. I get the highest level of satisfaction from a project in which I am granted full creative control. The challenge of taking a project from conception to completion is very rewarding. For now I've been predominately working on client based work, but down the road I intend to create some products of my own.

In 1934, the Museum of Modern Art organized an exhibition titled Machine Art. The organizers of the exhibition wanted to prove that art could be made without the handicraft approach. The objects on display shed a new light on the nature of beauty and value in an age of mass production. Today, there seems to be a resurgence of this mentality. Although I can't take credit for the hashtag, my #machineart posts are heavily inspired by the research I've done on the exhibition. I'm trying to expose the beauty in machine made objects.

My Haas CNC milling machine has been utilized in nearly all of my work so far. Because of this, most pieces I've made are heavily influenced by our current digital age. The triangular tessellation which forms the surface of my Statue of Liberty TIG torch holder is a great example of this. As I complete the restoration of my antique machinery, it will enable me to draw inspiration from the entire span of the Machine Age."

I'm really excited to be sharing Brian's story here.  His story is very inspirational to me and I'm assuming some of my readers as well.  Here are some additional pictures of his operation and work.  Hopefully this will inspire people to get out there and make beautiful things WITH beautiful things.