Hand-made: 1925 films of the Gazelle bike factory


2007: Azor aluminium frames being hand-welded

I recently spotted some bullshit about the difference between “hand-built” and “hand-made” on some site or blog promoting somebody’s bikes, or maybe it was just a blog comment. Huh? I’ve been designing and making (often pretty nice) things with my own hands for many years and have always used “hand-built” and “hand-made” interchangeably. Furthermore when it comes to bicycles, they’re mostly built with quite human labor intensive processes: Steel and aluminium frames are generally soldered, brazed or welded at least partially by hand, finish work is manual, and assembly is mostly performed manually on an production line of some sort. This is true for the bikes of small and large producers.

Certainly all of our (WorkCycles) bikes are made this way. Most of our city bike frames are hand built/made in Belgium. Some are hand built/made in Holland and China. Ironically enough the frames made in China are the most consistently straight and best finished. So much for China bashing.

The notable exception to our “hand-made” (or was it “built”) rule is the Bakfiets Cargobike frame which is built/made by a (very sophisticated) robot in a factory in South Holland province. The robot bends and miters the tubes and then welds them together. All of our bikes are assembled and finished by hand… though the mechanics do utilize machines such as a headset press and seat tube reamer to work more efficiently. Will the manual labor police disqualify them from being called “hand-made” for this?

Anyhow this is all just a long introduction for a fantastic film from 1925 somebody put up on You Tube (in two parts). Its called “De Avonturen van Piet” (The Adventures of Piet) referring to Piet Pelle, a promotional cartoon character of Gazelle. Between Piet’s adventures of taking his Gazelle bike to the North Pole we see a proud overview of the workings of the Gazelle Bicycle Factory. Amongst other processes:

  • how the frames are soldered, aligned, finished and painted
  • how the unitized handlebar/stem are formed from sheet metal
  • how the famous Gazelle chainrings (with jumping gazelles) are formed
  • how the hubs and headsets are turned in the lathe
  • how the parts are nickel plated…
  • The commentary is all in Dutch but you’ll get the idea of what’s going on: they’re hand making bicycles… or are they “building” them. Who cares! Its fun to watch.


    1925: Gazelle frames being hand aligned

    There’s a more complete version of the Gazelle factory video here but it doesn’t seem to have any sound.

    Oh yeah, here’s Piet Pelle of Gazelle:

    One Response to “Hand-made: 1925 films of the Gazelle bike factory”

    1. Paul Says:

      Hi Henry,

      Hope all is well with you, family and workcycles!

      You can find a complete version with some subtitles I made here;

      http://www.vimeo.com/1132271

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