Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tribute and Thank You To Blaise

There are great people in the world who inspire us, turn us on to new ideas and ways of thinking, who walk their talk and open our doors of perception.  When one of your close friends is one of those  people, special things can happen. It can change your life. I'm lucky that I have a friend like that and his name is Blaise (pronounced Blez) Descollonges.

Blaise was instrumental in introducing me to vintage BMW motorcycles! Blaise owns an R75/5 and I just fell in love with it. However I wanted something a bit older, so he suggested a /2. When I found one locally for sale, he accompanied me and helped me inspect and purchased my first vintage BMW, a 1962 R60/2.

Blaise marvels at the aerodynamics of the Wixom fairing on my very first /2 !

I took that little R60/2 on a ton of adventures with friends. It hadn't occurred to me at that point to become a BMW motorcycle mechanic. I was still working full-time in the tech field and wrestling with the Meaning of Life, and other thoughts.

Kevin Burke, Blaise Descollonges, me and Adam Cecchini enjoy some tall cold ones after a hot ride
During this time (and of course, even today) I love hanging out with Blaise because he's fun to be with, a great host and he cares about people. But what I want to focus on for this article is what it is like  visiting Blaise's workshop. He does absolutely amazing projects in his shop! From engineering a complex motorcycle suspension essentially from scratch to refurbishing a pair of vintage stereo speakers to furniture quality. Everything he does exudes quality, skill and competency...because he is a Craftsman.  The level of quality he achieves on simply everything he does is, frankly, draw-dropping.

Just focusing on metal work: to see Blaise work with metal is truly inspiring. He can take a worn or damaged part, and repair it back to new.

Worn shift selector shaft, part of a /3 transmission restored by Blaise for Scottie's Workshop in 2016

In about 2011, as I watched Blaise work this kind of magic in his workshop, I began to wonder if being a craftsman and working with my hands was something I wanted to do too.  At the time I was doing database design work and not really feeling as if I had found my true passion.  Remember when I said  there are people in the world who inspire us, turn us on to new ideas and ways of thinking, who walk their talk and open our doors of perception? You can read a book or watch a documentary about such people and it is inspiring.  But when one of your close friends is one of those  people, you meet new people, try new foods, go on more adventures, laugh and smile more... your mind opens up and you reach for a higher quality of life. You are inspired. It changes your life.
Damaged bell housing mating surface - Repaired as part of a complete transmission restoration for Scottie's Workshop by Blaise

It was about this time that I also met my friend, master machinist Joe Groeger, who taught me some lessons about life. Namely, that if you do something good and do it consistently -- even just some little thing -- after a few decades or so you are bound to wind up on top of something you can be proud of. He also taught me a few things about fixing BMWs and machining metal, but that's a story for another day! 

Stripped drain threads - Repaired as part of a R67/3 transmission restoration for Scottie's Workshop by Blaise 

Around 2012 point a few things converged in my life, some of them were pretty heavy, like my mom getting terminal cancer. I realized that I wanted to make some major changes in my life. I quit my job and answered an ad on Craigslist from a fellow named Randy who wanted me to repair his R60/2.  He told two friends. And they told two friends. Soon enough I had a little business going on in my home workshop and I was calling myself a BMW Motorcycle Mechanic. I was being egged on by old Joe, and my friends, my father, and especially by my good friend, Blaise.  

"If you do the transmissions, I can handle the engines, the final drives and the rest of the bike," I seem to recall saying.  To which Blaise replied, "Let's do it!" and so we were off and running. 

That first year we did a half a dozen or so transmissions. That was four years ago. Last year I think I sent Blaise more than 20 transmissions. How is the quality? It is inspiring, of course. The quality of Blaise's work is the gauge by which I judge my own work, and the work of the entire team here at Scottie's Workshop. 

These days we keep Blaise's workbench stocked with transmissions to be repaired and restored. Sometimes we will repair a transmission or two on my bench when Blaise is busy. But me and the guys at the main shop have lots of projects to keep us busy - service and repairs, museum quality restorations of vintage BMWs, a new 1970-95 airhead service department, a new body shop specializing in authentic single stage paint and stripes, crankshaft rebuilding, engine block repairs and other tig welding, cylinder head repairs (including exhaust threads), boring and honing, driveshaft repair, ring gear and wheel hub spline repair, final drive repair, full-on custom motorcycle builds, and lots more...so Blaise gets the bulk of the transmission jobs!

And both the clients and I am happy about that!   

Scottie's Workshop customer, Chuck, picks up his R67/3 transmission, restored by Blaise in 2017 

Complete /3 engine and transmission restored by Scottie's Workshop and shipped to Scottie's Workshop customer, Mauricio in Mexico City, in a wooden shipping crate made in our wood shop. Scottie's Workshop ships BMW  components worldwide. Transmission by Blaise. 

Blaise has his own business specializing in BMW transmissions called DescoAtelier and I hope you'll patronize him by visiting his web site www.descoatelier.com and when you call, tell him "Scottie sent me!"

My goal is for him to get very successful and be able to quit his day job so that we can spend more time hanging out and going on motorcycle adventures together. 
Blaise and his 1947 Velocette

Few people posses this guy's passion, integrity, and love of people and adventure. I'm proud to call him my friend. Thanks Blaise. 


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