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Happy finishes and the tie-dye vomit!

A quick post that rounds up some finishing options I’d not seen before from our favourite fabricators. Back in my day it was either sand blasted or high polish and that was it, but now…

An example of Titan anodising frames after polishing them: single colour gold and tie-dye rainbow!

It’s pretty rust, isn’t it?

Ya’ll know that titanium doesn’t rust, right? OK, to be fair, the surface does react with air and oxidises, just not to the same extent that steel or aluminium does. With titanium you can thicken the oxidised layer which performs the handy trick of changing colour as it gets thicker!

The oxide layer is partly transparent, the colour you see is an interference effect between the light reflecting off the surface of the oxide and the light travelling through the oxide layer and bouncing off the surface of the metal. It’s like you’re creating your own single colour rainbow in the surface of the metal. Far out, man!

Interestingly you can even have a crack at doing this at home yourself, all you need is an electrolyte solution and a voltage source. Varying the voltage between around 10v and 110v controls the thickness of the oxide layer and hence the colour you end up with, as per this chart:

Keeping the voltage constant gives you a single colour, varying the voltage as you draw the piece through the electrolyte will give you the rainbow effect that titanium is well known for <shudder>!

When things get tasteful.

Don’t panic though because this can be used as a force for good. Like most finishing processes you can mask off some parts and anodise the rest. Used here with stunning effect by Firefly…

Beautiful masked anodising by Firefly!

And No. 22 Bicycle Company:

Beautifully finished frame that will then just get cable rub on the headtube, grrr! Time to move those stops to the headtube me thinks.

Much more tasteful than the rainbow look I think you’ll agree! But if you lean more towards Johnny Cash than Prince then how about a stealthy all black number?


PVD or Physical Vapor Deposition refers to a way we can put a coating onto a base metal that fuses with the original metal’s structure. Unlike a painted coating this means you end up with a very hard wearing, flake free, finish.

It involves a vacuum chamber some vaporised metal and a whiff of inert gas. Set up a strong negative charge to the frame and the vaporised metal ions are attracted to it and stick tight. Something like that, just don’t try and get me bogged down in the details otherwise we’ll discover I haven’t got a Scooby what’s going on 😉

Titan are currently one of the few people able to offer this titanium carbide coating but at a $230 upcharge on the cost of your frame you’re going to have to really want the super tough, scratch resistant, finish.

Raw, like a tiger.

If all this super bling is getting you down and you’d like things to be a bit more Zen then how about a raw finish? There’s no better example of the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi; aka the beauty of “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

Here the freshly welded frame is cleaned up a little but never sand blasted or polished. The result shows off the heat discoloration from the welding and gives the whole thing an industrial feel: this is a machine made of metal and proud of it!

Kingdom Bikes Vendetta in raw finish.

So as you can see we’re not limited in our choice of finishes these days, just remember to keep things tasteful, eh?

XACD and Titan are able to offer anodised finishes with Titan also able to do the PVD stealth black finish. Do ask if your prefered fabricator can do the finish you’re looking for, otherwise you can stick with the tried and trusted sand blast or high polish which is readily available from most suppliers.

Personally? I’m loving the ‘raw’ anti finish, maybe we’ll be seeing that soon somewhere on a little project I’ve got cooking. Watch this space as they say…


With reference to:

goldscott’s how to anodise titanium:

Firefly Bicycles:

No 22. Bicycle Company:

Kingdom Bike:

Titan Titanium: