Avondale teen builds wooden bike

Other bicyclists worry about rust. Collin Graver worries about termites.

On the other hand, this Avondale teenager's bicycle is completely recyclable.

And unlike most models you see online, Graver's bike is wooden right down to the gears and the wheels.

The idea came to him in a moment of whimsy. "I was doing some repairs on my mountain bike," said Graver, 15, "and I ended up using a tiny wooden piece on it. And I thought, 'Hmm, maybe I could built an entire wood bike.' "

Soon he was in gear. "Once I had the idea it was quite simple from there," said the homeschooled youngster, who has also built working models of medieval siege weapons and a compressed air gun that can shoot a pellet through an inch-thick marble countertop.

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Graver drew out the plans on paper, copying some dimensions from his mountain bike. He transferred the drawings to cardboard, then glued the cardboard template to a sheet of plywood.

The design is his own, though the tools are his dad's.

"My dad kind of had a slight woodworking hobby," Graver said. "When we did an addition on the house 10 years ago, he invested in some tools, so we have a decent shop."

A wooden bicycle has some natural drawbacks. There's the possibility of splinters from the wooden seat. The thing weighs about 50 pounds. And the ride isn't silky. "Even on smooth pavement, your vision goes blurry because you're vibrating so hard," he said.

The most significant problem: the teeth on his hand-cut gears aren't perfect, so they chew each other up. Graver is working on a second-generation wooden bike, using a computer-controlled router and better quality plywood. The gears should mesh better.

Also he's replacing the screws with pegs and glue, because metal screws were, in his mind, something of a cheat. The new bike should be done by October. "The hardest part for all my projects," he said, "is coming up with what the project is."

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