Be the Coolest Kid on the Block April 15 2014
Win a Truly One-of-a-kind Work of Art During Coyle's Spring Helmet Giveaway
Two grand prize winners will win one of Coyle's prized wood helmets, made right here in the heart of the Pacific Northwest! Coyle Design & Build makes the world's only fully-customized, sustainably-sourced, hand-made and totally unique multi-sport helmets.
To enter the contest and share with your friends, simply click the link above and complete the short entry form.
If you have any questions please email us at email@example.com
Finding and Salvaging April 15 2014
This is a quick blog post following up on the article written earlier in the month about black walnut. This past weekend we found out about several black walnut trees that a nearby orchard farmer wanted removed. This is always a workout but its a can't pass up opportunity as there is a lot of competition for this wood. Got stuck in the mud twice (shame!) driving in and out of the orchard but it was a sunny day and we got a lot done. In the video you'll see a short clip of one of the main branches of a tree being lobbed off.
This limb gets diced up into rounds and then measured and cut into blocks. Then loaded, taken back to the shop, painted on the ends and stacked to dry. Each block, at this point, weighs around 35 pounds.
True Natural Artwork as a Gift April 08 2014
The word or phrase 'functional art' is about as generous a compliment as one can grant to a made thing. Our "Hats" embody the meaning of that phrase. Combining the power of human inquiry and experimentation with the beauty and diversity of nature's materials to deliver a product that is at once both astonishing and elegantly simple.
As a gift they are the experience that those who are typically difficult to surprise or amaze are surprised and amazed by.
The story of each Tree Piece begins before we salvage the wood from an old farm tree that's died or a burly maple that been left to rot after a clearcut. Of course, these pieces of wood were at a time part of the home for birds and squirrels or shade for generations of family gatherings. Finding them and meeting the people and places they come from is always a great adventure to start them on the road to becoming a helmet.
When we get to them we choose from the largest trees with the greatest character. We look for the stuff that is far too pretty to be burned in a wood stove or fireplace, examining the wood for the best coloring and grain. Cutting out stock blocks one by one with an old used up chainsaw.
To cure the wood each block is sealed across the end grain and stacked carefully with others from the same tree, This slow dry process and particular sealing regimen is one of only a few ways to guarantee against the large cracks and fissures that would otherwise corrupt the blocks. Each helmet is made into what it is via the tools of nature as much as it is through the tools in our shop.
When the day comes that a block is 'wedded' to its customer we have already begun the customization process. The customer has already chosen the type of wood they want. For each block we must re-calibrate the CNC router to unique mate the customer's size and shape with the dimensions of the block. Each block is tracked by the customer's name in sharpie on the inside. In few other products and no other helmets is this degree of customization available.
After a relatively quick roughing out machine process the helmet takes a basic shape and gets thinned down to a finely even, lightweight shell by repeated fine machining steps with a finish tool. Slowly the final basic form of the helmet is arrived at.
With the machining process finished the piece is taken up by the artisan in the shop to be sanded and finely shaped by hand. This tedious and painstaking process is where the creativity and imagination of the artisan builder reveals and gives extra character to the natural grain and color of the piece. The artisan carefully drills the vent holes matching any customized requests from its owner. Along the way it is not uncommon to lose helmets to small defects that can't be tolerated and have to start the process anew.
Finally the helmet is sealed and finished. Sealed by hand with both an anti fragmentation coating on the inside and a bio based green epoxy resin on the outside. This ensures water won't ever get in. After sanding these surfaces smooth, again by hand, the pieces are sprayed with several topcoat layers a glossy, satin or matte finish. At this point you have a true piece of original art that happens also to be a helmet shell!
And that only describes the work that goes into the shell. The part that makes this piece of art functional, the honeycomb cork innards, the comfort padding and harness, are all done largely one at a time by hand. This involves just as much meticulous, if less artistic, work as the shell.
And to top it off we send each one out in a handmade fleece helmet bag made right here in town. Coolest bags we could ask for! This is a can't go wrong sort of gift that one can display on their head as well as on the desk or wall. It remains a beautiful inspiration wherever it lives.
And, HEY! Sign up to win one http://coyledesignandbuild.com/pages/contest
Black Walnut April 01 2014
This is the second post on various woods that Coyle uses for custom helmets. The first one covered Big Leaf Maple and this one is all about Black Walnut. For people who are not familiar with wood species this wood appears as a great option for its exceptionally dark color. Few woods finish as dark as walnut.
Black walnut is a native species of North America that has been propogated in Europe now for centuries because of its commercial value. The wood is used commonly in furniture, cabinetry and gunstocks and the nuts are a popular food. The wood is strong but not as dense as oak. It is the hardest wood that Coyle commonly makes helmets from (though we have made helmets from a few other harder woods on occasion). The waste wood (chips) suppress plant growth and people come pick up barrels of black walnut chips left over from helmets to put down on garden paths they want weed free. The walnut nut husks also have been used to make a dye (but not by us.)
rare black walnut burl
Black Walnut trees can grow very large in width if they are in an open space with no or little competition from other trees. Coyle gets most of its black walnut from word of mouth or craigslist ads for trees that have been taken down on a farm or yard. The wood is very valuable and so we have to take any and all opportunities to source it when they come up. Once here at the shop we seal the ends of sawn blocks with paint to control the drying process and stop/reduce checking (cracking).
When machining the blocks there is a sweet smell that becomes very familiar. This wood is a little harder on the machinery and tools because of its hardness. It ends up making a more durable helmet shell because of this.
walnut helmet being machined, notice chips in background
Finally, it is pretty rare to get pieces of black walnut that have a lot of figure (burl, curly etc.) but we have just sourced a couple of cool pieces that we will be doing a picture story about. Look for that on facebook and in the blog soon.
Bigleaf (Oregon) Maple March 26 2014
I thought I would do a short blog series about some of the more common woods that Coyle uses in building. Each one is its own with unique structural and aesthetic properties. The ones Coyle uses most are Maple, Walnut and Douglas Fir and I will profile a few others that we get to build with.
Maybe the most common, for us, to build with is Big Leaf Maple aka Oregon Maple. It can grow to have an 8 foot diameter and be over 100 feet tall. Its a hardwood that sheds its leaves in the winter. Its native to the western coastal states and provinces of North America and is relatively common there.
The strength to weight ratio of this wood is relatively high. This means, in a helmet, that it will be more durable but absorb somewhat less energy than a softer or weaker wood when an impact occurs. That said, Bigleaf Maple is not a particularly heavy hard wood and so it is also not overwhelmingly stiff and sturdy (which is good, you want it to break when you crash.) Maple has some of the greatest color and grain pattern diversity of any wood Coyle works with. It is close to impossible to accurately predict just what the end product will look like when starting out. It also is relatively common to find maple having figure such as burl/birdseye, fiddleback/curly and spalting (fungal infections that change coloring and create organic "patterns" in the wood.
Here you see spalted, burly and fiddleback maple samples respectively.
Here is an example of Maple Tree burls. There is some debate about what causes figure and burl in woods generally. Maple tends to have it more often than most wood species though. It seems to help give extra stability to trees that have undergone some sort of environmental stress or trauma.
Maple is a great choice for helmets because of its balanced strength to weight ratio and its tremendous aesthetic diversity. Even though I have built more maple helmets than any other species it is still great to build with because of that diversity.
The maple that Coyle uses comes from forests and urban sites as well. If we can locate a large tree with a lot of figure it gets processed into rounds and then rough cubes with a big chainsaw and then we can start machining it to dry. But that is another story! Hope some curiosity was both satisfied and stirred.
Wood Science and Engineering at Oregon State March 10 2014
Over the past month I have had the privilege to speak to a faculty group and a Innovator's conference through Oregon State University's department of Wood Science and Engineering. The first presentation was with a group of tenured research faculty interested in how Coyle uses wood and cork as helmet materials. The second was to a mixed group of private wood products industry folks, students and graduate students interested in hearing how the commercialization process evolves for a product like Tree Piece. Lots of great questions were asked and a few really valuable contacts were made. Tomorrow I will be talking with someone about developing a new product that would be entirely unprecedented as a result of these contacts. Going in with fingers crossed!
There are products and improvements that come out of such interactions and I am so grateful to have such a top notch forestry and wood science university right here in Corvallis, Oregon.
For Small Businesses and the Curious January 14 2014
I found this article through a small business email list I am on. A lot of the time I just ignore posts from the list but this one caught my eye.
In the end starting a business is an expression of myself. It can have meaning and connection or it can be about generating revenue. It can be about getting things done on time or it can be about looking good when things are really not going well. It can be about making big, stupid mistakes for NOT the first time and it can be about learning things that seemed so ovewhelming at first. It can be about a lot of things and it is usually about all of them at the same time. Right now in this moment I strive for it to be about inspiration and about a new team of people . This article spoke to me because of its honesty. There is a lot that "looks good" in this article. Lots of successes recounted and celebrated. AND, shared, there is some realness about what starting a business can look like for even the most heroic among us.
Imitation is Flattery December 28 2013
One of the first amateur engineering endeavors made in the development of Tree Piece's inner protection system was figuring out how to make cork work as an effective substitute for molded EPS foam. Cork is inherently good at absorbing impact energy but it isn't absolutely perfect for the particular types tested for in helmets. It was a little too resilient (strong) and needed to beable to fail more easily during impact testing. This problem lead to several potential solutions that were proto-typed for testing. In the end what made the most sense was to create a honeycomb perforated layering system that gave 3 advantages
- More effective impact energy 'absorption'
- Significantly reduced weight
- Significantly improved airflow within the helmet shell
More than the wood shells this is really, from an innovation standpoint, the most valued 'invention' that Coyle developed. Coyle started showing off this technology at tradeshows in the summer of 2011. Since then plenty of folks, including designer/engineers from other large helmet companies have checked out this technology with interest.
So, since I am a little more product focused that market focused it took me til now to discover that one large company has adopted the same approach to lining in their helmets. Smith Optics rolled out their first bike helmet line this August (2013) which features what they are calling Aerocore™ Technology featuring Koroyd. Its a plastic honeycomb protection system which they claim is:
- better protection
- better venting
While its fun to wonder if the honeycomb system that Coyle debuted in 2011 helped inspire their approach its definitely validating to see a large company has come to the same conclusion. That being that using a collapsing honeycomb arrangement to absorb energy enhances the effectiveness of the substituent materials.
Maybe its bad form to provide links to other helmet company product lines but I can't help myself here. Its just really cool to see Goliath playing with a slingshot. http://www.smithoptics.com/technology/#/Snow+Helmets+Technology/?slideID=helmet1&techCat=helmetTech/
Added Inspiration 2.0 December 23 2013
As promised here is an introduction to new Coyle Team Member Matt Holland!
Matt is a hometown Corvallis guy who graduated from Oregon State University in 2011. He found out about Coyle through a Craigslist help wanted add. After combing though dozens of replies Matt filtered in for a visit during which he immediately expressed interest in building a helmet himself (its getting close to done and its featured on the website right now as the cover shot for the Custom Helmets on the shop front page.) He showed up in a big old american pickup with baseball bats hanging from a gun rack. Turns out he has an enduring passion for baseball which he indulges in via spring/summer softball leagues. Matt also delegates his passion to a variety of other pursuits including pursuing opportunities as a thespian (he's even got himself out there to get a part in the next Star Wars movies!), writing gaming blogs and getting outside. He has his own landscaping business http://www.odditiesandendeavors.com AND he freelances in website development and coding. On top of it all he just got married and bought his first house in a year which has been a big one in many ways.
Matt getting crazy in an outdoor theater adaptation of MacBeth
Matt is taking on development and maintenance of the website as well as building the social media presence of Coyle. He is looking into better understanding how to share what's happening at Coyle with people who would find inspiration from it. This includes creating surveys, monitoring web traffic and experimenting with social media channels among other things. Matt is a stand up guy who came with enthusiastic recommendations and Coyle is excited to give him interesting challenges to tackle.
Along with Nick its been great to create more community at Coyle. These two guys are putting themselves out there in a way that is more adventure than anything else. Its a real inspiration to watch them shape things.
More to come!
and, check out Matt's local business at:http://www.odditiesandendeavors.com
Added inspiration December 19 2013
In the process of building Coyle and the Tree Piece helmet lines there have been successes and failures, of course. Maybe the greatest shortcoming has been a lack of a robust team. This has been largely a one man show for lots of good reasons and its finally occurring to me that reasons all too often take space that could be filled with actions.
So, in the interest of bringing more ideas, more passion, more creativity and more energy (and maybe, here and there, more people to share in sanding?) to Coyle I am introducing Matt Holland and Nick Hurwitz.
Nick hails from Falls Church, VA, just outside of DC and moved to Oregon in 2012. He has a background in environmental policy and natural resource management with a longstanding passion for sustainable product design.
Nick is consulting with Coyle on new product development. He is thinking big about solving sourcing and commercialization questions that would lead to the introduction of a revolutionary product line that Coyle has envisioned since day one (Top Secret). Nick is an accomplished photographer who will be taking on product shoots of the Tree Piece lines (you will see, from the bio pics here, that yours truly needs some help in this department!).
On the weekends, Nick can be found cycling the country roads north of Corvallis or backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge with his lovely wife Mara and their two dogs Berkley & Jonah. He also has a wicked arm and has been known, at just a little over 6' tall, to dunk a basketball from time to time. Yes, a little jealous there.
Coming soon, renaissance man Matt Holland.
Win Fund Update #2 July 16 2013As of today getting the laser replaced and back in production mode is maybe halfway completed. The machine that Coyle could afford is a Chinese make and getting parts for it (It needs to be upgraded some) is complicated mostly by what one might expect, communication and the opposition of time zones that limits communication opportunities. Coyle bit the bullet and liquidated some 401K monies and was able to find an unused machine from a person here in Oregon (this is the sort of rare find that would have been ideal when originally buying the machine as it keeps money closer to home and still makes the purchase within reach financially.) The machine was somewhat smaller and underpowered for Coyle's application so buying some upgraded parts was necessary. Skyping and emailing with China has been a little bit torturous at times (for the amount of time it takes a person of limited laser machine expertise to buy the right parts from people who are of limited english language expertise) but it proceeds nonetheless and the Chinese do seem to be hard working and reliable from direct experience and from references that Coyle has run down.
To contribute to the Fund you can mail a check to or contact Oregon State University Federal Credit Union at https://www.osufederal.com/, PO Box 306, Corvallis, OR 97339 - Phone: 800-732-0173
Send checks or ask to contribute funds to Daniel Coyle LLC Fund and/or account number 394123
WIN FUND Update June 29 2013
Thanks for checking in to follow the progress. As of this morning the Fund had grown to $550. This is enough to purchase any one of several important components of a new laser. The total cost of the laser that was destroyed was $8K and a lot of work is being put into salvaging old parts to reduce the total cost of the replacement. Other time and money was spent on the cleanup. All fund money will target getting the replacement laser on line. Once again, to contribute to the fund contact Oregon State Federal Credit Union to deposit a check or funds to account number 394123, Daniel Coyle LLC Fund. Call OSUFCU at 541-714-4000, on the web at osufcuonline.com or via snail mail at
OSU Federal Credit Union
PO Box 306
Corvallis, OR 97339-0306
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