Carlos Velazquez: TIG Welder

Interviewer: Walk me through what you do at Stinner?

Carlos: Right now Aaron has me in charge of welding. Basically every single one of these titanium frames and chromoly steel frames have welded joints all around. So Devin will do most of the fabrication, do all the miters and he'll give me all the tube set-ups. We set these in the jig, make sure everything's clean and ready for welding, make sure all the miters are tight, double check all the dimensions, make sure everything's where it's supposed to be and then from there go on to tacking the frame in the anvil fixture, make sure everything's straight and level and from there go on with the TIG welding process.

Throughout the process checking, straightening the levelness of the frame and adjusting from there. Metal sometimes pulls depending on how the miters are set or how much heat is input into every single area, so it's not an exact science every time. Every single frame is a little different depending on what's going on that day, how much heat is input so I try to minimize that from everything I've learned in the aerospace industry.

We use complete purging on the inside of the frame so that means you don’t have the oxidation on the inside as you would with some other processes. That makes the quality a lot higher, especially with titanium frames. Titanium is very picky with argon flow so if you have a bunch of oxidation, it might look like a nice weld but it could be a very weak joint. We just try to keep the quality at the highest level even if it means that we need a little more argon.

Interviewer: So you obviously know what you're doing and you're very professional. What is it that you feel about what you do that matches your personality?

Carlos: Honestly I chose this profession because of bicycles. I knew before I started welding, like my uncle and my cousin taught me how to weld when I was like 15 but it was MIG welding on old 50's cars, whatever customs they had going on, so that was cool but they wanted me to be a pipe welder so I could work out in the docks with them and obviously make a ton of money but you're working on construction equipment. My big thing is I eventually wanted to make bicycles so I got into TIG welding school and just fell in love with it. It's just something about it, it's one of the last few manufacturing arts in my opinion that are left. Like painting, TIG welding, a few other processes that are pretty difficult and require a lot of skill and patience to do, so I was drawn to that a lot. I’ve never been an artist as far as drawing or painting but when it came to metal all the sudden it came together and I found something that I was really good at and excelled at really quickly. So just tying that all into bikes, it's been really awesome.

They wanted me to be a pipe welder so I could work out in the docks with them and obviously make a ton of money but you’re working on construction equipment. My big thing is I eventually wanted to make bicycles so I got into TIG welding school and just fell in love with it. It’s just something about it, it’s one of the last few manufacturing arts in my opinion that are left. Like painting, TIG welding, a few other processes that are pretty difficult and require a lot of skill and patience to do, so I was drawn to that a lot.

Interviewer: How important is your process and craft in what you do? So if you have anything else that comes to mind when you think about the craft of what you do, you definitely just touched on that a little bit as well.

Carlos: It's definitely crucial for frame building. Welding on alloy frames, there's an extreme amount of stress on there, so having a subpar weld on a frame, it makes or breaks a frame. It's super visible, especially with titanium frames so it's 50% aesthetic and 50% functional. Obviously you want it to look nice but you want it to be well-made to the point where you don't have cracking or failure.

Interviewer: Why bikes? What is it about bikes? I know you have an aerospace background. What do you love about bikes? What do you love about bike culture in general?

Carlos: Just being on two wheels, there's really nothing else like it. A human on two wheels on a bicycle is the most efficient machine on the planet and there's just something about that feeling. You can push yourself really hard, see things you wouldn't normally see through a car or walking, go a lot of awesome places, meet a lot of awesome people while at the same time being healthy and having fun. It's always captivated me ever since I was a kid. We just had a mob of 20 or 30 kids in the neighborhood where i grew up and we would all just ride bikes and at that time cause mayhem. But it was fun.

Interviewer: So tell me about your path to get here, how you arrived at Stinner?

Carlos: I applied to Aaron a while ago. I basically just emailed him, who shot an email to Steve, he was hiring. At the time he wasn't looking for a welder fabricator like what I'm doing now, he was looking for more of an intern for fabrication so being in aerospace that would have been like a major step down for me, especially coming out here because the cost of living is a little higher and stuff. I wanted something a little more for sure so we kind of just left on good terms, said I wouldn't want to do something like that. I was a little more advanced in my field already so some time went by and I continued with my job, continued making progress there, welding exotic metals every day, all day, pretty intricate stuff at times. One day he sent me an email saying they were expanding, he had more work coming in and he was looking to hire a full-time welder. I came out here, interviewed, and fell in love with Santa Barbara.

Interviewer: Where did you move out from?

Carlos: I was living in Long Beach and working in Torrance.

Interviewer: Okay.

Carlos: I was working for an aerospace company in Torrance. I came out here and it went really well.

Interviewer: The brand Stinner carries certain values with it such as craft, simplicity, a considerate approach and self-expression. Which value is most important to you personally and why of those four? There's craft, simplicity, a considerate approach, and self-expression.

Carlos: For me it would definitely be craft because I know the amount of work that I and everybody else puts into these frames, working as a team, just knowing that there's hard working behind these bikes and you get to meet them. These guys are all awesome at what they do, everyone here so just knowing that the level of quality here is so high but you can get it at such an affordable price in your area, that's huge for me. If I wasn't part of the team I would still strive to eventually get myself one of these bikes. It's awesome the fact that such highly skilled workers are making these things and they all ride just like us.