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Richard Sachs: List of Inspiring Books



Richard Sachs not only has a book written about him – that nicely illustrates his skill and craftsmanship as a preeminent frame builder – for the inspiration of others, but the "Magus of Metal" himself often turns to the artistry of others for inspiration as well. Richard recently compiled a list of books that he feels best extols the virtues of true artistry.

I hope Richard doesn’t take umbrage to my liberal use of his article(s). Then again, I sit at my desk barely 5 miles away from his location. He can always come by and let the air out of tires. 😉     

Richard Sachs, Bicycle Builder:
Richard Sachs Cycles (Warwick, MA)

At a time when the return to handcraftsmanship is often in the news and the community of design “makers” continues to grow, the custom bicycles built by Richard Sachs—and the attentiveness he brings to building them—are still a rare ideal. This same attentiveness is just as evident in what he calls the “pile“ of books he “built” for his list.

“The thread that runs through most of the books is one of focus,” writes Sachs in his book list introduction. “They’re about someone, or a staff of someones, or a family business with a long line of someones, all paying attention to detail. All the someones have their heads down trying to understand and tame the material, while simultaneously have their heads up thinking about ways to drive their past into a future. Many of the items written about here may seem like vestiges from another era, but I view them more as designs, crafted goods, and business models that are timeless. In the case of the titles that are not about making things, the same is true—the stories and their authors are beautiful to me.”

Richard Sachs’s “pile” of books.

So, there are books on the finest of guitar makers and violin makers and watch makers—even gun makers. “I don’t really have any particular favorites,” Sachs says, “but the books about Jimmy D’Aquisto (guitar maker) and George Nakashima (woodworker) are the ones I’ve turned to more often, and over a longer time, than any of the others.”

Yet, Sachs continues, “I haven’t read any of the books on my list. But I have opened them hundreds, maybe thousands of times looking for inspiration or an answer. Each is like a friend, or a therapist, or even just good medicine that I turned to when I needed direction. And I think that fact is reflected in the work I do at my bench. It’s been said that I have built the same bicycle for decades, inferring that I am stuck in time. I don’t think I have ever built the same bicycle twice. I am not sure I’d ever want to build the same bicycle twice.” He notes about his books, “Every time I come back for visit, the results are different. No two alike.”

Richard Sachs’s Book List

These are my books. I’ve had some for a very long time; others are recent acquisitions. Quite a few were gifted to me by their authors. I don’t really have any particular favorites from the pile, but the books about D’Aquisto and Nakashima are the ones I’ve turned to more often, and over a longer time, than any of the others.

The thread that runs through most of the books shown here is one of focus. They’re about someone, or a staff of someones, or a family business with a long line of someones, all paying attention to detail. All the someones have their heads down trying to understand and tame the material, while simultaneously have their heads up thinking about ways to drive their past into a future. Many of the items written about here may seem like vestiges from another era, but I view them more as designs, crafted goods, and business models that are timeless. In the case of the titles that are not about making things, the same is true—the stories and their authors are beautiful to me.

I haven’t read any of the books on my list. But I have opened them hundreds, maybe thousands of times looking for inspiration or an answer. Each is like a friend, or a therapist, or even just good medicine that I turned to when I needed direction. And I think that fact is reflected in the work I do at my bench. It’s been said that I have built the same bicycle for decades, inferring that I am stuck in time. I don’t think I have ever built the same bicycle twice. I am not sure I’d ever want to build the same bicycle twice.

The pages in these books have been my safe haven. With an attention span that measures on the far left hand side of the meter, I don’t know if I’ll ever have the tools to read (read, as in finish) any of them. I’d love to know what I am missing. In the meantime, I’ll take my small doses since they have served me well. And every time I come back for visit, the results are different. No two alike.

PAUL WILLIAM SCHMIDT

One of my earliest inspirations was Jimmy D’Aquisto. I saw a film about his work on PBS that aired from a local affiliate. More than any other maker whose works I’ve become aware of, I always come back to a fantasy that includes making my bicycles with the skill and humility with which D’Aquisto made his guitars. This book chronicles the lives of Jimmy and his mentor, John D’Angelico.

ANSEL ADAMS

A gift from one of the authors. In the 1990s, I made several bicycles for Ansel Adams’s business manager, William Turnage. The 15 or so years that our paths overlapped were a gift back to me. The man had a more profound influence on my development than almost anyone else. This was Adams’s last book project, and was printed several years after his death.

JOSE L. ROMANILLOS

One of those titles I bought because of the subject. The contents are too cerebral for me but the story line remains the same: there are some geniuses out there, and there’s a reason folks line up at their doors.

WILLIAM HENRY HILL et al.

I haven’t read this book end to end, but have opened it and read pages, and looked at illustrations, and then closed it. The point? My spirit and enthusiasm are always renewed when I take note of the lives of craftsmen who have made a mark on their trade. There’s no doubt Strads have a following, whether real or assigned to them through the years by zealots.

RUDY PENSA

This is a very heavy and expensive book that was produced in conjunction with an exhibition called “Archtop Guitars: The Journey from Cremona to New York.” For once, I wanted words, but this one is all about images. It’s too late to ask for a refund!

KENNETH VOSE

I bought this book as an extension of my interest in handmade things, fine guitars among them. Scott Chinery commissioned a handful of luthiers to make their own version of a D’Aquisto guitar that Jimmy made for him (Scott) years earlier. The book is a bit too commercial for me. I wanted to know more about the makers, and their thoughts, rather than about the man paying them for the work.

GEOFFREY BOOTHROYD
SUSAN BOOTHROYD

I went through a long period during which I saw analogies between the bespoke shotgun trade and the one I am part of—making racing bicycles by hand. I liked this book for the history it lays out for the reader, but it was a bit too general for me. The book about James Purdey & Sons (see Purdey’s) is the better of the two, in my opinion.

ALLEN ST. JOHN

A gift from the author. Allen St. John spends a year and then some watching famed guitar maker Wayne Henderson build a guitar for Eric Clapton. As with some of the other titles, I find many parallels with Henderson’s life, his daily interaction with his material, and how it all fits into the commercial world we inhabit.

RICHARD SENNETT

Someone gave me this book assuming I could relate. When I have the time, and develop an attention span, I plan to relate.

SUZE ROTOLO

I was a few years too late to be part of the early Dylan era but have made up for it ever since. He may have taken many cues from folks who preceded him, but the man/artist certainly rearranged it all on his own terms. I respect that.

KAZUYUKI TAKAHASHI

This is a book produced in Japan and shows the daily lives of two great watchmakers, Daniel Roth and Philippe Dufour. As is the case with other titles listed here, I own this book for the inspiration I get when I see these men at work, at their respective benches, making art that also tells us time.

I met Michael Maharam in 2009 when his firm underwrote an exhibition I was part of at the Museum of Arts and Design in Manhattan. From the first e-mail a year prior to the show’s opening, I felt a kindred spirit in this man. We’ve been friends ever since. When the book came out, I had to own it. It’s like having Michael on my coffee table, but I can pick him up and put him down at my whim!

ALEXANDER VON SOLODKOFF

This was a book I picked up at an antiques store in Gloucester, Massachusetts and hoped I would open it someday. It’s a beautiful book. But I’m still waiting for that day!

DOUGLAS BROOKS

A gift from the author, who is a friend as well as longtime client. I also idolize Douglas as a person, a scholar, and a mentor.

RICHARD BEAUMONT

This is a book about the origins and history of James Purdey & Sons, a famed family of gunsmiths. I am fascinated by these products, their market, and how—in my era—items such as these comprise the luxury brands that command beyond-high prices and in whose queues folks wait forever before taking delivery. Now that’s a gig.

RICHARD WALKER

This is a typical book that made my radar during the 1990s. I thought reading about tailoring on London’s famed street would help me find my way as a bicycle maker. I found it, but this book was never the part of the equation I expected it to be.

FRANCO COLOGNI
DOMINIQUE FLECHON

A pal of mine is an executive at Vacheron Constantin and gifted me this book. It’s beautiful, but the history and minutiae about watchmaking are a bit much for me. The pictures are killer, though!

Photography by MICHAEL MORAN
Essay by JOSEPH GIOVANNINI

I was two years behind Lee (Mindel) at The Peddie School. He has an established presence in the art and design world and I have tried to follow it through the various media outlets. When the book was announced, I was quick to pre-order it. The pages show his firm’s work, talk about its history, and each photo could be framed and mounted. If this book doesn’t inspire you, check your pulse.

A gift from the author. I worked with Julie during the exhibition “Bespoke: The Handbuilt Bicycle” at the Museum of Arts and Design (on view in 2010). We’ve been friends ever since. Julie did the book that accompanied the show, and after I read the chapter she wrote about me and my business, I decided that she got to know me better, and in a shorter period of time, than any journalist I have ever worked with.

GEORGE NAKASHIMA

I bought this book in the late 1980s when it first was published. I wanted more from my trade, and from the time spent at the bench, and found bicycles dull. When I started to cast a net out to try to catch inspiration—this book fell right in my lap, and has remained there ever since. Similar to what I write about Acquired of the Angels, the more I learned about Nakashima, the harder I tried to channel it into the work I was doing with metal.

JOHN MCPHEE

A pal and industry colleague of mine, Grant Peterson, gave me this book 20 years ago. We were going through periods of introspection, each looking for more in our trade than the trade itself offered back. If I recall, Grant thought a book like this one could strengthen our resolve, and we’d both be better people and craftsmen for having read it.

BILL STRICKLAND

A gift from the author. Bill chronicles a season on a bicycle, the racing he does, and how so much of it mirrors the lives we lead.

GERMANO CELANT

A gift from the artist with whom I share a last name. Beautiful. And heavy.

BEN HEWITT

Ben is a journalist who has written about me and my business several times over the years. This book reminds us that everything (towns, too) gets a second chance.

JOHN MARCHESE

It might be unfair to compare craftsmen at all, much less folks whose eras never overlapped. But Samuel Zygmuntowicz, in this book, is written about as the incarnate of the renowned violin makers of Cremona many centuries ago. It’s refreshing (to me) to read the maker’s thoughts about his studio work, minus all the lore that’s typically attached to a legend who has long since passed. The writer and the violin maker both talk about the craft and the business in very pragmatic terms. Of all my titles, I have spent the most time with this one, hoping to find parallels with the trade I am part of.


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