Thom Jones was born in Longview, WA and has been in the Pacific North West area ever since. He has been building bikes since 2010 with his first build being a 63’ Harley-Davidson Panhead. This year, Thom was invited to build a bike for Born Free 9. We saw it at the show and knew right away it needed to be featured in Revolution Motorcycle Magazine.
The chopper scene in Washington is a bit bare but with Thom’s skateboard, chopper and furniture-building background, the guy has wicked style and built a bike to prove it.
“I grew up pursuing a career as a professional skateboarder, but pretty much wound up being a professional drug addict. I got clean, went to Parsons in New York, started a furniture company in 2000, then spent the last 17 years trying not to go broke. I’m probably best known for my furniture. I got into bikes as a way to escape my wood shop and still be creative. It quickly turned into a sickness for which there was no end in sight,” Thom said.
Thom has had enough time in between running a furniture business and starting a family to build his fair share of old Harley-Davidson choppers. His builds have been featured in large motorcycle magazines and shows across the states and Canada. His claim to fame was building bikes that looked like they were recently “dragged out of the ocean” so for him, this Born Free bike build was a bit of a contradiction and he’s showed that he can pretty much build anything.
As Thom explained, “I built this bike as an invited builder for Born Free 9. It was a bike I had wanted to build for over five years but because it was going to be such an immense pain in the ass, I needed a good reason to build it. Born Free was that reason. If you are going to be invited to do a bike for the biggest vintage motorcycle show on the planet, you need to bring the heat.”
His “Two Chains” 45’ Magnum Chopper was Thom’s first Born Free build. This bike is a 45’ Flathead bottom end with a 57’ Ironhead top end. Aside from the paint done by Denis Babin, Thom is a fabricator and pieced the thing together himself. Because the bike is so much different than what Thom usually builds, he wanted to go over and above, and tried his best to throw in as many “firsts” as he could.
“I am most proud of the frame, front end, engine and throttle. As far as I know, no one has ever done a VL wishbone frame (using 45’ VL and BT frame parts), a low bend Finch VL springer, a dual front head magnum engine (there has been plenty of dual carb magnums, but never a dual front head magnum as far as I could find) and finally a dual Superpractic B throttle (they made a dual cable, but it didn’t look anything like this and as far as I know, no one has ever been stupid enough to do this to one),” Thom said.
As Thom built this bike from the ground up, he started posting his work online through his Instagram : @semigoods. The first thing that viewers noticed was the frame he posted up when he first announced he was an official Born Free builder.
“My favourite part of the bike is the frame. I spent over 150 hours sweating apart two frames and cutting up another to make this one single frame. I had no idea what I was doing or how hard it would be to do this. So when it actually got accomplished, I almost couldn’t believe it. It was definitely my proudest moment ever as a metal fabricator,” Thom said.
There’s a lot of complicated work on this bike so I asked him, “what was your biggest hurdle ?” His answer : “Everything… I have never done anything like this and it completely kicked my ass. It’s still kicking my ass, to be honest, and I don’t think I will ever do this again. I’m gonna go back to building Panheads and Knuckleheads that go fast, they’re much easier.”
I rode my Sportster chopper down to Seattle to see Thom’s work space, his other bikes and get to know him a little bit better. His little two-car garage is filled with choppers, little dogs, engines, tools and all the collectables you could imagine. It’s the place he gets most of his work done and it’s something to see.
“It’s actually a walled-in carport, so it’s smaller than an actual garage. It has super low ceilings, no wall space, and is pretty much the definition of 10 lb of shit in a 5 lb bag. It’s a miracle I don’t kill myself working in there, it’s such a nightmare,” Thom said.
I was at Born Free 9 for the last issue of RMM and noticed right away that this bike seemed to sit in the shadows from photographers, viewers and the media. I asked Thom why he thought the bike wasn’t as much of a hit as it should have been : “People definitely weren’t ready for this bike. Well, at least most people weren’t. People think it’s a Sportster, and I don’t have time to explain to them all the work that went into it, so it goes unnoticed. If it’s not a Knucklehead, nobody gives a shit. This bike took me five years to dream up and almost a year of working every single day to make it happen,” Thom said.
We appreciate the bike Thom ! Thanks for putting it all out there for us.
I can’t imagine being a builder and starting another build from the ground up after putting so much work into a bike like this but when I got to Thom’s place, I noticed a fully pieced together Knucklehead in his garage.
“I am finishing up a 1945 HD Knucklehead race bike for a client in Canada who is going to The Race of Gentlemen to take a crack at stomping some boys on the beach. I’m extremely excited about this one. I am also building a full show 56’ Panhead for a client in California. Those bikes along with my own projects should keep me pretty busy in the next year,” Thom said.
Over the past seven years, lots of iconic bikes have come out of Thom Jones’ walled carport. We’ve been keeping in touch with him and will be posting lots more of his bikes through our social media pages. Keep your eyes open :