Kaiser Aluminum - Anodize your Exmess.

You aren't buying enough stuff for Christmas, and probably never have... according to Kaiser Aluminum, at least. here's their recipe for a wonderful Christmas. There. Now don't you feel awful, you monster?

See? As early as 1948, kaiser Aluminum understood the importance of filling your house to the brim with good old aluminum products. On this I agree. I loves me some aluminum. Some of my favorite things in the world are gorgeously machined and anodized aluminum bike components and camera lenses. But wow, that's a lot of Christmas crap.

And let's not forget that, on Christmas Eve, this lucky couple not only set up their refrigerator (for the lady, of course), but also their full-size playground slide and their... aluminum bike?

Sorry, Kaiser. I'm going to have to call you on that one. The idea of a twelve year old boy owning an aluminum bike in 1948 was only slightly crazier than having a giant slide in the living room. Aluminum bikes were still pretty rare until The Nineties, when the mountain bike craze started to get really mainstream. Even in The Eighties, when I was trying pathetically to race BMX, aluminum bikes were very rare. There was a fairly exclusive brand of aluminum bike frame called "P.K. Ripper". Well, it turns out they still seem to exist as "SE Bikes". But anyway, P.K. Rippers were famous for their problems with cracking, or, more accurately, their problems with NOT cracking. It seems that even then, the trick of making an aluminum bike that would hold up under the vibration and stresses of a ten year old kid jumping it over stuff was still a work in progress.

My dad was a machinist, not a welder, but he knew guys in the business who were, and he always explained the difficulty in welding aluminum like this: most nice metals like steel go through a broad softening phase as they heat up. They glow specific colors that tell you pretty accurately what temperature the metal is. So, there's plenty of warning before the metal just melts into a puddle of slag. This is how welders tell the temperature of the material as they work. The freaky part is, the information in the chart to the left is pretty universal for all metals. Anyway, aluminum is tricky because it's softening range is very narrow. It softens and turns to a liquid in a pretty short range of temperatures. You have a very narrow window of working temperatures. So, anybody who can weld aluminum must be pretty darn good. Also, part of the added expense of, say, an aluminum bike, is not just the expense of buying a metal that must be made with huge amounts of electricity and weird stuff like bauxite, but also the difficulty in working with it, and the expense of finding and hiring welders who can build stuff from it that won't snap in half and wind up stuck through your kid's torso. Any time my dad build something from aluminum, he always did it in the cut-drill-machine-screw way, which I think results in inventions that not only look more "Nasa", but can also be disassembled for improvements or repair.

Okay, okay, okay, we did find this page about a postwar aluminum bike made by the French company Aviac. So yes, they existed, and that blows my mind, but your average kid would never get something like this on Christmas. Aluminum was the carbon fiber of 1948. But, then again, as long as you're putting a playground in your living room, why not spring for a crazy high tech aluminum bike?

Click for big.


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