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American Pride: Inside Colony Machine

 

Last month Lowbrow Customs' Malinky brothers introduced me to Mark Borcoman, the VP of Colony Machine in Brunswick, Ohio. Lovers of shiny bits may recognize the Colony name. Mark and Colony's founder Roger Reich have been churning out American-made hardware for Harleys for over 40 years. Here's a peek inside this company's well-oiled machine.

 

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Our tour host was Colony's VP of operations, Mr. Mark Borcoman. Tyler Malinky drove past Colony for six years before he made the connection with the famous hardware brand. Now his own company is ramping up to do business with this venerable US manufacturer

 

Tell me, Mark, what's your company's story?

Colony produces and distributes high-quality reproduction motorcycle parts and hardware, both Original Equipment (OEM) and decorative chrome plated. We especially enjoy manufacturing the restoration parts, and take great pride in exactly duplicating the OEM parts for old motorcycles.

What were Colony's first products, and when did you get into the motorcycle hardware business?

Originally Colony was a contract job shop machining a variety of parts for the automotive and machine tool industries. During those days we also did government contracts for military applications. Around 1969 the chopper craze was becoming very popular and it became apparent there was a demand for high-quality hardware to safely assemble these choppers. Colony did it first.

What is your top-selling motorcycle-related part today?

OEM style vintage nuts and bolts, with correct finishes.

 

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Life for practically every piece of Colony hardware starts as a raw extrusion, usually round bar or hex stock in a wide range of sizes


Sportsters and Japanese bikes are very popular with ChopCult readers. Is this phenomenon reflected in your company's sales?

Sales for Sportster hardware are good. We have seen an increase of sales in restoration parts for Sportsters, and a decrease in the sale of acorn nuts, pike nuts and purely decorative hardware. We do not produce much for Japanese bikes, except for special production runs for some of our Japanese-oriented dealers.

Tell me about Colony's chain of supply. I ask because online retailing has become a big part of the landscape in today's home builder scene.

Colony sells to dealers and distributors. We don't sell consumer-direct because we feel it is unfair to the distribution chain that we have developed over the past 40 years. We have dealers and distributors that are online, and several retailers offer our most popular hardware sets on eBay.

 

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Screw machines like these take the aforementioned bar stock and feed it into cutting bits, with each tool performing a different machine process: threading, tapering, boring, shortening, and facing, for instance


How many people work on the manufacturing floor at Colony? What are their responsibilities?

We have five employees setting up and running our machines, which range from 1970's to modern CNC equipment. We utilize the older equipment to achieve the original finish of parts that were manufactured many years ago with form tools. These old machines leave distinctive turning marks on the hardwware that restorers love.

 

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The six-sided block in the center of this screw machine is called a turret. This turret is equipped with five different tool assemblies, each one responsible for a different step of the manufacturing process. This machine was spitting out what looked like a 2-inch-long x 7/8-inch diameter idle adjustment screw in under 60 seconds. The finished part was very detailed, and featured threading, knurling and deburring

 

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Despite the level of precision most screw machines are capable of, some raw hardware requires a human touch before final finishing. This is one of three men who were monitoring the production processes on at least eight different machines during my tour

 

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Colony uses tumbling machines and a variety of tumbling media to deburr and polish the surface finish on freshly-made hardware. With the exception of large decorative pieces like pike nuts and axle caps, tumbling is sufficient to give the hardware a smooth surface before chroming

 

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After tumbling, the raw hardware is delivered to sub-contractors for final finishing. Surface treatments include chrome plating, Parkerizing, zinc plating, black oxide and others

 

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This Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) behemoth is a threading machine. You didn't think these guys use taps and dies from Harbor Freight, did you?

 

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During my visit this machine was kicking out fork caps at a rate of about two per minute. American manufacturing isn't dead, but it has been seriously automated

 

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When plated hardware returns it is hand sorted and packaged in this department

 

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In this work station one person subdivides hardware kits onto a single master card, then feeds the card into the shrink wrapper. After the clear plastic is heat sealed, the card is moved into a die cutter that slices the master sheet into 16 units with a single click

 

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High-volume hardware kits are stocked in bins for speedy order processing. Slower-moving esoteric parts and hardware are produced and delivered as required based on customer demand

 

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Colony takes quality control seriously, and maintains a dedicated work station for this purpose

 

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In recent years Colony has seen demand for purely decorative hardware like pike nuts decline, and sales of restoration hardware for old ironheads and shovelheads grow

 

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Colony has several hidden jewels in the dusty corners of its warehouse. This 1945 H-D mill lives behind Plexiglas panels on its original shipping crate, and has never been assembled or fired

 

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This knucklehead is part of Colony's collection of old motorcycles, and rests comfortably beneath a half dozen vintage Schwinn bicycles hanging in the rafters of the company's well organized factory and warehouse


For more info on Colony products visit your favorite retailer or check out their website

 

 




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Comment with Chopcult (17)

Commented on 10-7-2011 At 01:58 pm
 

it's always good to see an American company with their shit together.

Commented on 10-7-2011 At 02:47 pm
 

Great write up on a Great AMERICAN company....thanks McGoo!

Commented on 10-7-2011 At 04:44 pm
 

Chop Cult How It's Made. Cool write up.

Commented on 10-7-2011 At 05:06 pm
 

Way to support the States McGoo!!

Commented on 10-7-2011 At 06:24 pm
 

Mad respect for the guy setting up the swiss screw machines! That's a dance I haven't had the pleasure of learning! Looks hard-as-hell to this journeyman! Great seeing the inside of a shop that is still making it in the U.S.of A! Everyone that grumbles about CNC you gotta have it to compete!

Commented on 10-8-2011 At 12:07 am
 

Ive used Colony hardware multiple times. They have great stuff and it makes me happy to know im buying from an American company that supports America.Thanks for a great product guys.

Commented on 10-8-2011 At 12:51 am
 

Colony is a great company, down to earth, and great to deal with. I am glad my friend George introduced me down there after alerting me to the fact I drove past their shop every day, it is only four or five miles from my house. Crazy.

Commented on 10-8-2011 At 04:25 am
 

"American manufacturing isn't dead, but it has been seriously automated."

This. It's what I do, and it's what we've got to do to survive.

Commented on 10-8-2011 At 04:33 am
 

very cool right up.

Commented on 10-8-2011 At 05:48 am
 

great write up and photos Harold. One of the very first manufactures I started doing business with and after five years never a problem and top notch products. Nice to have an inside look. I am very surprised the plating and finishing is subbed out. Did they mention a goal of doing this in house?

Commented on 10-8-2011 At 05:58 am
 

cool that is good shit to see.

Commented on 10-9-2011 At 12:43 am
 

pure gold...

Commented on 10-9-2011 At 07:34 pm
 

Good Arti. Definatly gave them much cash outa my pocket.

Commented on 10-11-2011 At 01:18 am
 

OldStf, I know the plating is all done in Cleveland and Akron, the closest large cities in Ohio.

Commented on 10-15-2011 At 01:43 pm
 

Great write up! I was just lookin into some products from colony ,but didnt know the history- I love seeing this kind of stuff definately be buying colony products!! Thanks guys

Commented on 10-16-2011 At 06:07 am
 

YES.......always good to see USA made on a package you spend your hard earned bones on....nothing i hate more than putting a china bit on a old HD...makes ya just cringe don't it...Buy American While There is STill Time...

Commented on 10-18-2011 At 01:38 am
 

nice feature.

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