I think I first met Gianluca of Tredici Custom Castings at the Café Racer Festival in Paris. I loved the sand cast items he was displaying on his small booth under the boiling hot sun.
Or perhaps I had already met him when he came to the UK to race during one of the Dirt Quake weekends. We featured his Grey Coffin Bultaco in SB19, and also super-minimal Suzuki DR600 he built for a customer in SB31. The first time I saw his sand castings I wanted him to do something for Sideburn, but it took years make it happen, but happen it did.
The result is the St Mert shield, a roughly hand-sized item of no fixed use. What are you supposed to do with it? I'm not sure, but I love it nonetheless and we have a few for sale. The design is Gianluca's version of Toria Jaymes' original design (click to read St Mert Explained).
We sent Gianluca few questions.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Gianluca, I'm 41, I have ridden bikes forever. Motorcycles were always there in my family. I've seen my grandfather, uncles, aunts and my mom on bikes. When I was younger my two wheels were mountain bike and BMZ, so having an engine in them was the logical result of all this. As soon as I was 18, legal age for motorcycle licence, I've paid to take it with my first wage. I'm now a metalworker and welder artisan and was a foundry teacher for 12 years. I'm currently rebuilding an 190-year-old farm, in a village of 80 people, that was rebuilt in WW1 and used as an artillery base, then used as a distillery till 1940, then owned by farmers again till 2020 when I bought it as a quite-not-so-total ruin. I've been squatting for one year now waiting to move in before this February, I hope. I will have my metal workshop in this new place and resume building bikes soon..
Where does the name Tredici come from?
Tredici means thirteen in Italian. It's also the letter M, which means a lot to me. Up to you to guess... and the street number of the workshop where all began was 13. My old house.
Aside dirt trackers, my influences are choppers, hillclimbers, speedway, dragsters.. Well, if a motorcycle is modified for a special purpose it could be one of my favourites. I'm fond of the 60s and 70s eras, and I've always transformed my bikes and motorcycles. Cutting, removing, replacing, increasing, until the whole thing pleases me.
Gianluca and his Grey Coffin from SB19. Photo: Dimitri Coste
How long have you been making sand cast parts?
The foundry is one of multiple means to obtain a custom made part. I began to make my own parts in 2005, for my bikes first, then for my friends and then in early 2010 Tredici Custom Castings was born. Under that name I do special parts for motorcycles, mostly sand-cast, in bronze or aluminium. Performance parts also, one-off parts or small series. Quite everything can be made, from an idea or a pattern to a quality finished part.
How do you make the pattern for the casting?
A piece of the beautiful St Mert drawing from Stay Outside Studio was used, head and logos. I used photoshop to do the shield drawing then 3D'd with Solidworks to create the prototype pattern by 3D printing. After testing the casting with the prototype, two more patterns were made and the whole series was made.
How has the lockdown affected your business?
Major shortage of construction materials, like steel profiles with prices that are still 2.5 times higher [than pre-pandemic], slow-motion everything, lost parts during shipping, less work request by customers, etc, but I managed to stay busy till my move last year.
You've built some memorable dirt track bikes, do you still get chance to race?
I wish I had more time to ride, maybe next year after my moving, having fun is the final goal! Racing is maybe a big word but keeping riding is still a hot topic, you have to do hours and hours of van to be near a decent track from here. So we (with local dirt lovers) have maybe found a great place to do a turn left permanent track.. let see what 2022 holds for us.
BUY your St Mert Shield
Suzuki & Bultaco built by Gianluca and both featured in Sideburn
Find out more about Tredici Custom Castings