I got the rest of the gas caps and some exhaust badges back from the engraver. It's a cool local shop with an old world feel. All of the work is done manually on 60's vintage machines using microscopic hand-ground tools measuring no bigger than one or two thousandths of an inch. The badges were created from a hand drawing I made which is then cut into a steel plate roughly 2' x 9". This plate then gets fixed to one end of a reducing arm with the aluminum badge at the other.
The engraver traces the master plate blindly with a scribe attached to the arm and the machine reduces the image accordingly; in this case about 300%. It's a rather interesting process to witness and it's a dying trade as most things are CNC machined these days.
I like to do as much of my work in house by hand as I possibly can but I don't feel guilty farming out some work to local craftsman with the same ideals as myself. In this industry keeping things hand made is the whole lure. It's why the machines we make are so enticing.
Reverting to CNC takes that hand crafted richness and artistic flare from what we are creating and turns it into a monolithic piece of machined billet with no mystery. They all work the same and there are no flaws but as far as being identical they are not and that's a good thing. The way I look at it, any person who want's to "customize" their motorcycle and can't afford some $50,000 + custom, reverts to a catalog where every part is the same. If this is the case than how unique is your bike really? I am not a huge shop with trained monkeys aka bench welders making parts 9hrs a day. I do however offer unique limited quantity parts at the most reasonable prices I can.
Yes, you could buy a gas cap for $60.00 that is one of 10,000 made at some job shop slap it on your tank and say it's "custom" and maybe not think twice about it. Or for a couple bucks more get something you can brag about being 100% hand made.
I'm not speaking entirely for myself and do note I am certainly not the only person making their products completely by hand. My goal is only to pose the question:
Do you want "custom" or do you want unique?