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Monday, March 09, 2009

Metal sculptor produces fantasy bike

Staff Writer
Daytona Beach News-Journal

Ever dream of soaring down the highway on the back of a giant metal eagle? Or getting by with a little help from your dragon friends?

Key Largo metal sculptor Kim Brandell's motorcycle creations may help you do just that.

Brandell is exhibiting his unique metal creations, the Screaming Eagle and the Dragon bike during Bike Week at an Easy Riders magazine-sponsored space at the Iron Horse Saloon in Ormond Beach, at the Boardwalk Bike Show on Friday and at the Rat's Hole Bike Show at Daytona Lagoon.

A small crowd gathered as he unloaded his bikes from the trailer and at first impression, most onlookers assumed that the bikes were super-heavy.

Brandell's materials and technique — working with sheet copper and using a brazing rod and an oxygen-acetylene torch — gives the sculptures a massive, heavy-metal appearance, but they actually add only 75 pounds to the total weight of the bikes.

The Eagle bike is a three-piece copper sculpture that is overlaid onto a Harley-Davidson, which has 25,000 miles on it.

The attention to detail shows. Every metal feather overlaps, much as the real bird's feathers do.

"It takes a lot of money and time to build a custom bike," says Brandell, as he estimates in his head a cost of about $25,000 in materials and the amount of time spent to build each bike. Actual work time on the Eagle bike was six to seven weeks, and for the Dragon it was 12 weeks. But this work, which is his hobby, is stretched out over a period of two years, while Brandell continues his commercial work.

The Dragon bike is a functional sculpture. This three-piece metal work is mounted on top of a built-from-the-ground-up custom bike. With a main body resembling the textured, scaly skin of a dragon, several other dragons hold directional signals, speedometer and brake lights. One dragon that sits towards the back of the bike, tail wrapped around the license plate, watches Brandell's back as well as giving the "middle-finger salute" to other traffic following too close.

"I see the dragons as my psychological protectors. I feel I'm getting by with a little help from my dragon friends," said Brandell.

Brandell starts his works with a rough pencil sketch. Then he draws shapes and uses these as templates to cut the sheet copper. As he prepares to cut, he allows extra surface area, because the metal will have to wrap and bend to create a three-dimensional shape. "I think in 3D," says Brandell as he explains his process.

A few years ago, Brandell approached Easy Riders magazine with photos of his motorcycle works and Melissa Penland, principal of Action Promotions Inc., got him started exhibiting his custom creations at bike trade shows.

Brandell started his sculpture career 34 years ago. He began creating copper sculptures in his garage and exhibited his creations at outdoor arts and crafts shows in the eastern United States. After about 10 years, he was commissioned to do his first commercial project at The Mayfair Hotel and Shops in Coconut Grove. He made 18-copper elevator doors, 50 copper herons and 200 copper light sconces throughout the project. Most of his career since has been work for hotels, casinos, restaurants and high-end private residences, and he says he has produced metal sculptures for Donald Trump and Gloria Estefan.

Brandell built his first customized bike while still a senior in high school. It was a 1961 Panhead with silver fox fur mounted on the gas tank and fenders. But he did not build another bike until 2002 and that was the "Iguana Bike," which was featured on the official 2002 Bike Week poster.

And while he continues his metal sculpture work for clients, Brandell says his business is leaning toward the customized bike market.

Here's the link to the News-Journal site for story and more pics.
Here’s the link for the video.

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