On a sub-zero day in Ohio, Austin Andrella had on a long-sleeve t-shirt, had the kerosene jet-heater blasting and the tunes blaring. That’s how Andrella says he likes to work. His shop is his studio, and his tools are his paint brushes.
“I’m more like an artist,” says Andrella, “and an artist can’t really charge their full potential when they’re just starting out.“
Andrella, who recently signed on as a brand ambassador for Baileigh Industrial, is a self-taught bike builder and welder based near Akron, Ohio (about 15 minutes from MPN’s HQ!). His father, who passed away when he was 11 years old, was a welder, and a good one at that. But Andrella never had the chance to learn from him. Instead, he learned through trial and error and a lot of YouTube videos as a self-taught builder. He is also a distant relative of one of Akron’s most prominent citizens, John R. Buchtel, who was a businessman and philanthropist, most famous for being the founding figure of the University of Akron (which used to be named Buchtel College).
The first bike Andrella built was in 2003 and he has taken off since then. He’s entered many bike building competitions and has trophies and giant promotional checks all around his shop to remind him of it. They are mixed in among other collectible items such as his Brian Klock bobblehead doll and old signs.
His shop is located behind his house in the same location as the original shop that burned down seven years ago. The fire engulfed the whole building and nearly everything he had been working on except for a tool box and a few other things he managed to salvage. Ironically, Andrella installs sprinkler systems at his day job.
However, Andrella is more interested in building up his reputation as an elite fabricator/bike builder. At this point he says he doesn’t need to do it to pay his mortgage. The day job covers that, and his wife and three kids don’t have to worry as much either. “I do it because I want to show people how far I can go and the type of work I can do. I don’t really care how long it takes me. A lot of guys are watching the clock and trying to get stuff done to get paid for it. Not that I don’t get paid, but this isn’t a shop that does routine oil changes and tires and so on. So I charge people accordingly because I don’t do things super fast, but the end results are really nice.”
Andrella says he often spends several hours a night in his shop working on projects for a handful of customers. Currently he’s working on a special project with his youngest of three daughters, Adelyne, who is 8 years old. She’s helping to build a 1971 Honda Mini Trail bike into a mini cafe racer for the Cleveland IMS Show’s Bike Buildoff later this month.
Some of you may remember Andrella from AIMExpo, where he took home third place in the freestyle class and first place in the street class for the Custom Bike Building Championship of the Americas. He brought a completely custom-built Yamaha XS 650 to the show. When we asked what part was stock, he pointed to a small section of the frame that held the engine mounts. He wanted it to be centered in the frame so he used the original mounting points but the rest of the frame was custom made. His fabrication skills separate Andrella from many other builders and he builds most of the frames and components himself if he can. Some customers only want help with part of their project, while others want the full treatment, which has his own personal style.
As if holding down two jobs and having three kids and a wife weren’t enough, Andrella also volunteers his time to local schools to teach vocational students how to weld. Giving back to the community is something that runs in his veins as much as building cool bikes.