Editor’s note: This is part of our ongoing series on getting into people’s business, profiling some of the interesting people and places in Evanston’s business community.
Chris Keil is the service manager at the Evanston branch of Wheel & Sprocket on Davis Street. Sporting hair that’s a multitude of colors, he fixes bikes and manages a staff of bike mechanics at the active retail store.
Many bike riders are still on the roads, taking advantage of the crisp sunny weather and dry road conditions. Serious riders who don’t want to risk riding in rain or snow can bike all year round on indoor ‘trainers.’
“During the summer we might have 13-15 on staff, and during the winter it will be me and maybe three other folks,” he wrote in a note to the RoundTable.
His talents as a sculptor and craftsman are a bit more undercover, though. There’s a wall-sized clock in the midst of Keil’s workstation.
“Oh, I made that,” Keil says off-handedly.
Keil’s clock is basic: It doesn’t have an alarm or any digital components and runs on two AA batteries. When it’s time to change the clocks, the hands must be manually moved.
Keil said he bought the clock’s inner workings online. They’re in the center of the clock and are covered by multiple gears. Each hour around the dial is indicated with a gear, varying in size and color along the wall. At first glance, it looks like a display – until its functionality becomes clear. It’s disarming in its simplicity and beauty.
During a recent conversation at Wheel & Sprocket, he shared photos of his other creations: angels that fit atop indoor Christmas trees, a functional Hanukah menorah, a trophy for a social service group and a toilet paper-holder used at the store.
Each item is constructed out of used bike parts that have been cleaned, polished and given a new purpose.
He is self-taught when it comes to these projects.
“I’ve always been a crafty sort, I liked building models as a kid, and I like making things into other stuff. Most of the stuff I use for these things would get scrapped.
“Most of the metal that the shop produces gets picked up by a scrap team. Carbon fiber items (like the toilet paper holder) unfortunately just go to landfill otherwise,” he wrote.
Keil doesn’t have a website or get paid for his crafts, though he says that if he were to be bombarded with requests, that might change.
Keil said he’s constantly making new things depending on whatever items are ready for the junk heap, although he hasn’t ventured into furniture – yet.