The Lost Art Of

Lars Jans­son and the con­trol of metal

Motorcyclist - - Contents - —Zach Bow­man

lars jans­son, owner of Lazze Metal Dreams, is hell­bent on teach­ing the world how to shape metal. It’s a pas­sion that has chased him through life, from the hours he spent teach­ing him­self his craft in his fa­ther’s base­ment garage as a child in ru­ral Swe­den to his re­lo­ca­tion half a world away in Pleasan­ton, Cal­i­for­nia. He has cre­ated a li­brary of in­struc­tional videos, in­clud­ing free, ba­sic ex­am­ples on Youtube and in-depth DVDS. He hosts sold-out work­shops in his stu­dio, where he teaches ea­ger stu­dents how to shape gor­geous, flow­ing fuel tanks and fend­ers from flat sheet steel.

Many of Jan­soon’s pur­suits or­bit around the English wheel, that cu­ri­ous, old-school tool that al­lows the cre­ation of com­pound curves without the bur­den of ex­pen­sive dies.

“I saw an ar­ti­cle in one of the Amer­i­can hot-rod mag­a­zines,” he says. “My English was not good at all, so I couldn’t read, but I saw the pic­ture of an English wheel and thought, Oh, that’s a great ma­chine that I can use to form metal in three di­men­sions.”

But there was a prob­lem. At the time, there were no English wheels in Swe­den. Jans­son’s so­lu­tion was to build his own.

“Later on, I fig­ured out that they used a sand­bag and a ham­mer, and then they went to the English wheel to smooth it out. I didn’t un­der­stand that from the pic­tures, so I started form­ing from the be­gin­ning with my English wheel. That’s why, in de­vel­op­ing this, I re­built it six times.”

The most im­por­tant part, Jans­son says, is en­sur­ing that the long top arm re­sists flex­ing in every di­rec­tion; oth­er­wise, any move­ment in the tool will trans­late di­rectly to the sheet metal, re­sult­ing in un­sightly waves. His are the words of ex­pe­ri­ence, knowl­edge gained through trial and er­ror. He built his first pro­to­type in 1991 and reck­ons that he’s sold some­where be­tween 700 and 800 in­di­vid­ual English wheels in the years since.

“I have ma­chine shops do­ing parts for me, but I’m a one-man show,” he says. “I’m weld­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether in jigs, and then I send it for pow­der­coat­ing.”

These days, he’s pro­duc­ing some­where around 25 a year.

“You know, if I was younger, I’d prob­a­bly let the busi­ness grow and take off, and hire more peo­ple, and get a big­ger build­ing and big­ger headaches, and pro­duce more, but money is not ev­ery­thing. More and more is not al­ways bet­ter. I’m 59. I have other stuff that I would like to do in my life as well.”

Much of that drive goes into ed­u­ca­tion, spread­ing the metal-shap­ing gospel, and keep­ing the art alive. Jans­son is run through with it, glad to share the hard-won se­crets he’s teased out of steel with the tools he built by hand.

coun­ter­clock­wise from right Var­i­ous met­al­work­ing dol­lies wait on a work bench. Jans­son works a fender with a care­ful eye. His hand-built English wheels are beau­ti­fully util­i­tar­ian. Jans­son shows off two in­tri­cate fuel tank pan­els.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.