Article By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The July 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
At this point, Led Sled Customs is well known for their custom hand spun steel fenders, but I’m not sure everyone knows exactly where they come from or the history behind the whole deal. Now, there is nothing that completes a beautiful custom build more than the perfect fender. The idea of a store bought ring that may or may not fit the radius of your rear wheel the way you’d like, might not fit the rest of your sheet metal design, or be just too wide to finish the lines off right. Well, for a guy like Pat from Led Sled, this just won’t do. In 2005 Pat Patterson saw an opportunity open up in the market. A good company he knew needed a supplier and he took action. He found an old spinning lather in St. Paul Minnesota and grabbed it up. The shop where it lived had other automated spinning lathes that could spin 1 ¼ inch plate for Farmall tractor wheels. It turned out that the old guy that ran the hand-spinning lathe was retiring and no one else was picking up the craft. Pat loaded it up and took it back to Dayton and parked an old semi-trailer out in front of his shop. There in the middle of winter, with basically a 3 phase extension cord, Pat began to learn the art of hand spinning sheet metal for fender blanks. He flew a guy down steel wheels on one end, is placed on the tool post and the operator begins to make the flat metal conform to the shape of the mold. It is truly an art form and if you’ve ever seen this live you know it’s a young man’s job. Either that or a big burly bastard cause the metal doesn’t want to be shaped and ya gotta put your ass into it to make it happen.
Through the years Pat has moved up to doing dozens of styles and sizes of fenders, wheel discs and beauty rings, it’s quite an operation. In the past three years or so he has also added a CNC spinning lathe as well to get a little more proficient with production. Not that the CNC machine does them faster but the amount of fenders they produce now, over 1,000 per year, would kill a few men a year on a manual machine. When you look at popular sizes like six-inch stock fenders, they will set the CNC machine up and run a batch of a hundred of them and just let it run. The only thing the operator has to do is go over every fifteen minutes and change the material. Now the expertise that they learned in all the years of hand spinning has been crucial in programming the automated machine. On the programming run you still have to use a joystick and teach the machine how to spin the fender. You control the speed, how much or how little pressure to apply. But then you have the program forever. Don’t think that Pat’s manual machine sits in the corner unused. Not only does he constantly use it for research and development of new products, he also makes one offs for a lot of the well-known custom builders that can’t just take a fender off the shelf. For those cases Pat takes the tool in his own hand and makes sure to meet those exacting standards with his manual machine.
Now, hard work is part of the American way and has been through our countries entire history but the American Made aspect of this story comes not only for the fact that Pat Patterson is a self-made man, but the very material that these great American products are made on have a very patriotic b a c k g r o u n d as well. It all started when a buddy of Pats stopped by the shop one day when he was spinning by hand and asked what he was making. Turned out that this guy worked for a government contractor who made Humvees for the military, specifically was the man who runs the laser cutter that cuts the hole in the roof of those vehicles. The guy told Pat he thought that he might be able to use those cut outs and he helped him make the deal. Today you can get Led Sled Customs fenders from a variety of sources: Mid USA, Kustom W e r k s , LowBrow, GG over in France and of course from their own website, but you now know a little more about the story here behind that double fisted brand. It comes from the kind of will and determination that once upon a time made this country great and with the work ethic of cats like Led Sled and Pat, it will surely be again.