Factory Tour: K-Edge Machine Shop – Garmin Mounts, Prototypes, Gun Stocks & Blades!

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K-Edge started as a single chain catcher to save founder Joe Savola’s wife, Gold Medalist Kristin Armstrong, from dropping her chain during the Beijing Olympics. The venue had a course very similar to their hometown hills in Boise, ID, with the slight declines leading up to the climbs. Climbs steep enough to require shifting from big ring to little, the perfect opportunity for a medal-winning bid to fall along with the chain. Savola’s friend, Eric Jensen just happened to own a machine shop, so they made a few for her bikes.

Her team mechanic at the time called them Kristin’s Edge. He then moved to a Pro Tour road team and ordered 45 of them. Eric replied that they only had three. After a bit of persistence from the team, they decided to make them and Kristin’s Edge became, simply, K-Edge. The boys celebrated with pizza and beer from the order’s proceeds. Then they got a little press and a business was born. That was 2009.

Come 2011, they introduced Go Big GoPro mounts and got a bump. But it wasn’t until 2012′s Pro Garmin Mount that business really started booming. And booming it is – click through for a full tour of the K-Edge machine shop and see how all the parts (and some other really cool stuff – and Prototypes!!!) are made…

THE COMPANY THEY KEEP

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Eric’s father bought Aceco in the ’70s when it was a 10-person job shop. It now has three different machine shops in Boise making wood tooling, cutting tools for the food industry, and the tools that companies like Intel and others in the tech/semiconductor industry use to make their computer chips and wafers. It’s very high precision tooling. Even with all that, K-Edge has become an ingrained part of the company’s business and one of their top customers.

When I visited, they were keeping their sales are marketing offices across town. As this post goes live, they’re setting up shop in a newly built office space just across the parking lot from this workshop. It will house their full sales and marketing offices, bike lab, photo studio. Plus, the packaging process and warehousing you see below will move there, too. Not to mention finally showers for post lunch ride, gym, bike repair shop, etc.

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The K-Edge owners inspecting the goods. From left to right: Eric, Joe Savola & Kristin Armstrong.

While I didn’t get to see all that since Tim Kelley, K-Edge’s marketing man, and Joe left that morning for Outdoor Retailer to spread the word about the fine outdoorsy living and working to be had in Boise, ID. To help expand the story beyond just the manufacturing process, Tim sent the following:

“On a daily basis, the K-EDGE offices are bustling with work like this- We’re in daily communication with our distributors in over 25 countries worldwide, and do all our own photography, catalog design, tradeshow booth builds, sponsor races and teams, and find creative ways to support the cycling community. And of course, there’s the semi-competitive lunch ride, bike commuting to the office, and close ties to Boise and Idaho like Joe, Kristin and I attending an event at the Outdoor Retail Tradeshow to talk about the great business and lifestyle benefits Boise offers.”

They started out just making a few products, but as you’ll see here, K-Edge has become a well-known brand with global distribution thanks to the input and hard work of a handful of cycling fanatics that just happens to include a Gold Medal Olympic Cyclist.

HOW THINGS ARE MADE

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First, Eric draws a sketch, puts it into the water jet computer and is riding a prototype within an hour. Lately, he’s been pretty busy with prototypes for various camera mounts, new cycling computer mounting options and other bits and pieces. For example, The Mountain Bike steerer tube mounted Garmin mount shown here.

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Joe and Eric discuss and refine the ideas and test prototypes on their own bikes. Once they know it’s something that works, James Saculles, their mechanical and design engineer, builds it in SolidWorks and makes 3D printed models to test fit and aesthetics. This gets them close to or at the final design before it moves to the more expensive machining process.

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Once it gets the greenlight for machining, Adrin Clampett is the lead machinist and handles the R&D machining. Here, he’s putting the finishing touches on a new camera mount to finalize the cutting process and fixture shapes. Usually he can nail the fixture design in one or two tries, and they make all their own fixtures in house. They say making the fixtures and getting them right is harder than making the parts.

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Machines in the shop are placed in a mix of logical production order and, well, wherever they could find space. This pic is from the top of the stairs to Aceco’s and, until now, K-Edge’s design offices. This is only showing a very small portion of the operation.

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The CNC mills all have external pallet systems, letting them swap finished strips with blanks externally so the drills can run virtually continuously.

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The larger machines run 24 hours a day with two shifts of people. The second shift works until about 2:30am and loads enough parts in the last pallet that it finishes about the time the first shift shows up in the morning.

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Most pieces are made in separate operations so they can run more pieces quicker since they’re not having to change out parts on the mills every time. For example, the Pro Mount is having one side of the unit machined in the pic above.

Several blanks are placed in tooling that holds them tight. The first operation on the Pro Mounts removes all the material to create the flat piece shown below, behind the finished mount. It’s a bit slower than the second operation, so they run two machines to cut the first operation, and one machine to perform the second.

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These flat pieces have the bottom of each piece complete, then get flipped and placed into other molds to have the tops carved out:

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On the left is a row of Pro Mounts that have been fully machined, all snuggled tight in the tooling. On the right is one the pieces after the first operation that’s been placed upside down in the tool. The router will come down and remove the rest of the material to create another row of mounts.

The clamp is made separately and are much quicker – they can make a few thousand of them in a couple days versus about 500 per day of the Pro mounts.

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That’s how most of the parts are made. The exception is small run parts like the new SRM mount (smaller piece, on right), which are done three at a time in groups of three.

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Each tool in this mill cuts a different side, then the section is pulled out, moved to the next fixture to have the next side machined, and on down the line until they go to the last operation in another machine to have the back removed. Three total positions to create the SRM mount.

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Chain catchers, the product that started it all, halfway through their production cycle.

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After all the machining, they’re tumbled to remove any sharp edges them sent off for local anodizing before coming back for laser etching, assembly and packaging. The bright spot on the top right is the laser etching the torque specs onto the clamp.

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Once everything’s ano’d and etched, the bolts are threaded into the clamp and they’re sorted by color and part…

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…then moved over to packaging. Logo sheets hold nine to 12 units at a time, with small business card sized item sheets placed in the black space.

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Then the parts are placed over the logo and a heated shrink wrap laminate sheet is flattened over them. Minimal packaging that does a great job of showcasing the parts. From here, they’re boxed for shipping to distributors and retailers.

Ki2 SYSTEMS

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Originally, K-Edge’s Ki2 system required a bit of hacking and soldering. Now, with the plug ‘n’ play E-Tube system, it’s made their job a bit easier. Essentially, they offer two programs for Ki2 parts. For those just wanting to use Di2 with a larger cassette, they’ll sell their longer cage with offset upper pulley wheel placement. For those wanting to run Di2 on their mountain bikes, the kit’s a bit more extensive and includes the derailleur modifications and the button housings and clamp.

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Either way you want it, you can send your Di2 group in and have them convert it for you, or you just buy the parts and try a little DIY.

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The button housing is machined and holds the internals of Shimano’s stock climber button pod, plus a machined bar clamp to hold it in place.

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A derailleur conveniently laid out in parts for our visit.

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At left, the stock cage is shown next to the longer Ki2 bits. At right, a retrofitted derailleur all put back together. The wide-range cassette modification may end up being the future of these parts. We’re all expecting Shimano to release an electronic mountain bike group sooner or later, which Eric admits will likely kill off a lot of the Ki2 business.

MORE PROTOTYPES

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Rapid prototypes of the MTB steerer tube mount, including a version that with an adjustable angle. It’ll use their new plastic insert design to offer compatibility with other devices down the road. Which other devices you ask? Here are just a few of the different things they’re looking at:

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This one’s the first prototype run of a new Quarter Twenty camera mount adapter for their Go Big mounts.

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And a few of the test pieces behind the current Go Big handlebar mount. The slot on the last one holds a rubber ring that keeps the bolt in place, which threads into the hole found on just about any regular camera. This will become the second camera mount, and the Go Big gets the same new beam design. This lets them efficiently machine just one base piece, then either drill two holes for their GoPro mount or the slot and pin hole for a normal camera.

OTHER FUN STUFF

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They have two massive waterjet cutters. Garnet sand is the abrasive in the water jet machines. It pushes 50,000 psi and can cut through 2″ thick stainless steel. Here, it’s putting some fine details into a block of brass. It also gives them the ability to quickly cut out prototype mounts like the steerer tube Garmin mount.

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Planar heads, and they make them up to 600 pounds that are about 20″ in diameter. They also make food cutting blades in all manner of sizes, and their blades cut every baby carrot currently available in the US.

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They even make parts for weapons, like these broadhead blades for archery…

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…and gun stocks. Eric’s holding the full rifle stock, the single part on the right is for one with a folding stock.

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This vacuum heat treating oven is the only one in the state. These knives were made elsewhere, but treated here at 2,000°. By heat treating them in a vacuum, fewer impurities can get into the metal. Apparently, these retail for about $800 apiece.

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And if you’re going to offer team and race support, you might as well do it in style…

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…and showcase your parts.

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Big thanks to Eric, Joe and Tim at K-Edge for the tour and hospitality. If you’re ever passing through, Boise’s worth a day or two stop to ride, tube and just check out a very cool little downtown.

Comments

Ryan - 08/22/13 - 3:33pm

All that capability and I didn’t see a single machined bottle opener. Pssh.

Martin - 08/22/13 - 4:10pm

Hi,

If they don’t want kill off a lot of the Ki2 business when Shimano will show an electronic moutain bike group, while they modify rear derailleur 9070 Di2 to use with Sram XX1 cassette. A lot of people is applicants!

Patrick

Steven - 08/22/13 - 4:29pm

So the K-Edge manufacturers are also weapon manufacturers? Would customers care if they knew?

dartingd - 08/22/13 - 4:57pm

What kind of question is that Steven? Who gives a crap?

greg - 08/22/13 - 5:20pm

they could manufacture baby seal clubs, it wouldnt bother me. besides, aceco makes the other stuff, not k-edge.
good to see that they have more stuff up their sleeve.

Jason - 08/22/13 - 5:31pm

Every parent in Newtown Connecticut. Yes they make a lot of guns and bikes in Connecticut.

Rob - 08/22/13 - 5:50pm

Glad to hear they make gun stocks! I’ve been looking for a new one. Yes I ride bikes and shoot guns. They are both very fun hobbies.

LD - 08/22/13 - 6:01pm

They didn’t say anything about making firearms, only stocks. Awesome setup and some great products.

Henry - 08/22/13 - 6:03pm

Knowing they make guns makes me an even happier K Edge customer! If that bothers you the company that makes K Edge also makes parts for guns then you shouldn’t be allow to have an opinion.

rico - 08/22/13 - 6:10pm

Guns and knives are interesting in the metal/machining sense imo. Bike parts even moreso. But I do think the murder rate in this country would drop by 1000% if guns were completely banned. There is just no argument against it that isn’t idiotic or feuled by greed.

MMyers - 08/22/13 - 6:14pm

If you have an opinion, “you shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion.”.

I can see the logic in that :/

Jason - 08/22/13 - 6:17pm

Henry is right. More guns and no opinions that are different than his.

Walther - 08/22/13 - 6:21pm

rico, yes you are correct. If guns were banned all the criminals would turn in their illegal guns. We are idiotic for not disarming the citizens of this country and leaving the protection up to the government. Governments around this great nation are doing a fantastic job at policing the gun free zones! Check out the stunning low murder rates of Chicago! A wonderful success of removing illegal firearms from the streets.

THAT GUY - 08/22/13 - 7:33pm

Sooo….an absolute gun ban would induce the Zombiepocalypse. Hmmmm….

Psi Squared - 08/22/13 - 10:09pm

Don’t really care to mix gun talk with bike talk as the politics kill the bike vibe. I like what K-Edge is doing, and looking at freshly machined metal always cause blood to fill up the spongey tissue.

Jack - 08/22/13 - 10:13pm

I will never buy products from a company that directly profits from the runaway insanity of US gun culture. I am not interested in convincing Americans of the folly they have made for themselves but I am not going to contribute either. Pity… a lot of the stuff looks nice.

carl - 08/22/13 - 10:36pm

@ Jack – You’re only hurting/fooling yourself…. they are a machine shop. They make stuff. Relax.

Chuck - 08/22/13 - 10:46pm

In an attempt to get things back on track, while this stock could be used for a variety of sporting endeavors, Eberlestock actually makes some of the world’s best biathlon stocks. Lets not try and fight over our political agendas here. These guys make quality items for a number of sports, as well as commercial applications. We are lucky to have them, as anyone who owns any of their products already knows.
http://www.eberlestock.com/Biathlon.htm

Inlinefox - 08/22/13 - 10:58pm

Awesome tour of the machine shop. I really like the prototypes. I’m still waiting for the extension arm for the seat mount to hold the camera above/behind a saddle bag.

Ben C-K - 08/22/13 - 11:03pm

Awesome stuff; I love tours like these!

Regarding that other stuff, there are at least a couple things to consider. First, Steven, there are no weapons shown in the photos above. Second, similar to what carl said, they’re is a machine shop. This is what they do.

Locally, there are shops that produce parts for both the firearms and textile industries, all under the same roof. The company who made the frame rail for that hybrid? They also made the part for those solar panels. The same company who made parts for that drone also made the tiles for that mural over there.

This is how modern manufacturing works.

goridebikes - 08/22/13 - 11:15pm

Would be awesome to see the ability to get other colors done for Anodized stuff, especially since they’re taking it out of house to do so. Maybe some limited edition runs in something besides gunmetal(boring) / black / red.

john - 08/22/13 - 11:25pm

Some people dont like these parts because they also make gun stocks? Get real folks. You do realize that $ you spend at the gas pump or at the grocery store also funds guns. Also your tax dollars fund lots of very big guns. Are you going to stop buying groceries and gas? And stop paying your taxes?

Back to the subject, K-Edge makes sweet & solid stuff!!! Beautifully machined & finished. Functions great on the bike. Glad to see they are continuing to innovate!

Jason Henry - 08/23/13 - 1:18am

Okay then. I have a K edge mount for my Garmin Edge and it works great. Here is a freebie for k edge if you are reading this. How about a telescoping mount for a Polar/Garmin/edge/iphone that allows one to not have to look down during intervals. Say 6 – 10 inches out in front of the handlebar. That way I do not have to look down to check wattage/cadence/hr to make sure I am in the interval I want. Enough clamp strength on the bar that the leverage of the computer does not cause the mount to move. Telescoping to you can adjust to the desired distance as well as fully collapse for racing. You could also use the telescoping mount for a Go Pro to film the riders face and narration if wanted.
To go even further you could contemplate making mounts for motorsports, like the sport bike above as well as autos. On Track days auto/motobike run multiple cameras. They buy tons of mounts for cameras and have quantum $$$ to spend.
To put it another way- Cycling is going to become as wired as an F1 car. G forces/watts/GPS/HD video/….. Keep it real and made in America
Cheers

rideifbikes - 08/23/13 - 9:24am

I am very disturbed by this article. I can’t believe that a company lik K-Edge, founded in making bicycle parts and accessories could now be making millions of dollars on these “side businesses.” Its disgusting. How many have to die in this country every day until we change our habits. We need regulation! Just think, every single little carrot in the country gets chopped up by their knives, utterly repulsive. EAT BIG CARROTS!

Efrain Aguiluz - 08/23/13 - 1:49pm

How bout a stem cap that double as a garmin mount ?

Efrain Aguiluz - 08/23/13 - 1:53pm

how about a stem cap that has a garmin mount on it?

kcr - 08/23/13 - 7:41pm

Lest we forget, it’s not just guns that kill people. Bikes kill people too.

http://road.cc/content/news/89218-us-cyclist-who-killed-pedestrian-guilty-vehicular-manslaughter-escapes-jail

Pablo Tan Santa - 08/23/13 - 10:50pm

its not a stock
its an 80% milled lower receiver.
technically they don’t make weapons…they make unfinished weapon parts.

Corey E - 08/23/13 - 11:15pm

Cyclist are such cry babies. K edge rules. They only make 80′s. as far as the law reads they are paper weights. Get over it, [deleted]!

Chris - 08/24/13 - 1:05pm

I’m hoping K-Edge resolve the issue with Garmin tabs breaking…. The billet alloy mounts are simply too tough and stiff for Gamin computers. I’ve already broken (2) and it’s costs $89 to have Garmin fix the stupid thing. I love the billet look and adjust ability but what good is the product if it’s destroying the garmin computers it was intended for? Mt LBS constantly gets people coming in with broken Garmin mount tabs. I’ll go with the Barfly from here on out, since it’s made from plastic which is safer for the Garmin devices. My 2¢

Adam - 08/28/13 - 11:49pm

Garmin tabs break off in plastic mounts too.

RUFUS - 09/05/13 - 2:08am

@Ryan with the first comment, they do make machined bottle openers, I have one on my key ring right now!!!

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