How did you come to be known as “Frank the Welder”?
I got that name when I worked at a special effects place in the early Yeti days. I worked part-time for a guy named Richard Armillo, who had difficulty pronouncing my last name, Wadelton. So whenever someone called on the phone asking for me, he’d yell out ‘Frank the Welder!' Longtime cycling journalist Zapata Espinoza was in the shop one day when this happened and he laughed out loud. And so it stuck.
How long have you been doing what you do?
My first memory of welding was when I was 10 or 12. My Dad was welding and I helped him build a motorcycle trailer. I found it fascinating…the light, the welding hood, and so much heat radiating three feet away from the source. I thought, “Man, this is cool!” And then growing up in the suburbs of Southern California there was a group of 10 of us riding around on early BMX bikes and Schwinn Stingrays, doing our best to imitate motorcycles. Things broke, and so I started welding pieces back together and fixing bikes, and then I started modifying them instead, and just kept going.
Would you say welding was your calling? What would you have done if you could start over?
Welding was all I really wanted to do. From the 8th grade I was already tired of school and more into working on things and fixing anything I could fix for money. And I love racing. I’m not the best at it, but I love tuning and adjusting things and doing anything I can to make things faster. I’ve dabbled in all sorts of gigs from helping fix cars and trucks in off-road races in the desert, to pitting for Ivan Stewart, to prototyping parts for GM Proving Grounds, aircraft parts, race cars, restorations, all sorts of odds-and-ends. It always pays off with some idea, or development or progress. It’s always about performance and I enjoy changing the way things perform. If you’re going to improve anything, you have to risk failure, and that’s what racing, bicycles or cars, brings to the table. That’s how you learn and get better, and that’s how you develop the best practices. I built my first frame in 1972, and haven't stopped building since.