Even with the current ubiquity of anything and everything that can reasonably be called DIY, when most people think "handmade," their minds don't necessarily jump right to "heavy machinery." To Max Hazan, though, it makes perfect sense. "When you build from scratch, you don't have to compromise," he explained last week in the shared Greenpoint workspace that now houses his one-man company, Hazan Motorworks. "You can create something really unique and clean."
In this case, what he's created is a formidable, hand-crafted motorcycle that's just returned from a successful first test run, with a wooden seat inspired by the design of Italian speedboats ("It's more comfortable than it looks," he notes), a large, retro tractor headlight culled from Ebay, and a 1950's Royal Enfield motor he tracked down on Craigslist.
"With this one I just started with the shape of the motor, and worked from there," Hazan says. "Everything else is handmade from whatever I can find, or from bare steel." And for Hazan, building something out virtually nothing seems to come naturally. After growing up on Long Island using his dad's workshop to "take things apart and put them back together," Hazan launched a Manhattan-based contracting business. 5 years ago, the commute between the two boroughs led him to re-locate to Williamsburg.
Though he's since left contracting behind to focus on his work with motorcycles ("I took a pay cut to do something I actually like," he says), there are still remnants of former projects all over the studio. Formerly home to an online retailer for vaporizers, the space now has custom wooden floors, paneled walls, and furniture all built by Hazan, including a table made from the base of an old sewing machine. "The junk stores in the neighborhood, they always have old meat grinders, old tools, things like that, sometimes I grab pieces of those," he explains. There's also a fixed-gear bike he put together himself, a nod to his effort to scale back on actually riding motorcycles after a particularly bad accident a few years back. "You're always more well-behaved on a bicycle," he admits.
And, while Hazan Motorworks has only been his full-time work for the past six months or so, customer demand already seems to be easily matching, if not out-stripping, his supply, something Hazan chalks up mostly to "good luck." A little more prodding reveals that that "good luck" means his very first buyer was Felix Baumgartner, of breaking-the-sound-barrier-and-jumping-to-earth-from-a-helium-balloon fame. So, very good luck.
High demand doesn't necessarily mean Hazan will be setting up an assembly line anytime soon — with a focus on challenging, design-oriented projects, he's set to put out just a few bikes every year. "I try not to do the same things twice, or copy something else that I've seen. The real time goes into sitting there and figuring things out, how to say what you want to say as cleanly as possible." And for that, he's set up in the right place. "This is the only neighborhood where I can park this outside of the store on Bedford, and I see girls taking pictures of it," Hazan laughs. "It only happens in Williamsburg. That's the best compliment, just an appreciation of something that's aesthetically pleasing."
Hazan Motorworks, 99 North 8th St.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.