What inspired you growing up to become an engineer/modelmaker?
My dad was a carpenter and my mom was a seamstress, so there were always plenty of tools around the house I could use to make, take apart and modify things. Slot cars, trains, model airplanes and bikes could all be tweaked to perform better with some small "modifications." And failures, if you could call them that, were just as interesting. I'd say I was pretty lucky, having access to all of those tools. My parents never held me back from exploring. Being a parent of two girls now, I look back and question the sanity of my parents and what they let me do as a kid growing up in the 70's!
I was influenced to get into tool & die, mold making industry by a friend that I made while drag racing cars with in the late 80's. He was an older retired lead mold maker. He saw what I was doing with my cars and engines and said my skillset would be perfect for that trade. I'm so thankful he steered me in the direction to become an apprentice mold maker because it opened a lot of doors for me and gave me access to the manufacturing and design world.
BEING A PARENT OF TWO GIRLS NOW, I LOOK BACK AND QUESTION THE SANITY OF MY PARENTS AND WHAT THEY LET ME DO AS A KID GROWING UP IN THE 70'S.
Above: Frank Pistorio in the early 70's with his BB gun, gas powered control line plane and train set.
What was the first thing you ever designed?
The first thing I ever "officially" designed was a ram air intake system for one of my cars. I also designed the tool that would allow you to do a camshaft swap in a roller cam Chevy V8 engine without having to remove the intake and fuel injection system from the engine, saving about 10 hours of labor. That tool was designed with magnets on the end of sliding rods that would hold the roller lifters up and out of the way, so you could slide the camshaft out of the engine. I presented these two designs at my first job interview to become an apprentice mold maker. The owner of the shop was pretty impressed and I was hired.
Above: F3 Cycling's FormMount
What is your latest project?
My latest project is a small cycling startup company called F3 Cycling. Our first product is a computer mount that is adaptable to almost any bicycle stem, called the FormMount. We're using this component to try and build a bit of capital so we can launch more product that we have in the works.
FormMount exceeded its goal of $45,000 on Kickstarter. Considering its a niche product, it is getting some great support in the cycling community. Just from the experience-gained standpoint, I consider the product a success. Helping refine the concept, the product evolution process, CAD, prototyping, sourcing, partnerships, networking, etc.... Even with 16 years under my belt at PDT, this has been a great learning experience.
Tim Boundy, F3 Cycling Founder, Mike Scalise, F3 Cycling Partner, and I all were heavily involved in the filming, photography, marketing and website creation for the campaign. We learned a lot about the whole product life cycle and not just the creation and design side of things. I'm sure I will be able to apply a bunch of this knowledge here at PDT since exploration is encouraged and part of our culture here.
What is the inspiration behind this product?
Cyclist, who are really into their bikes, like the look of custom direct stem mounted computers. The problem is that stem geometrics vary quite a bit and there are only two direct stem mounts on the market designed specifically for those two brands.
The FormMount offers the custom direct stem mount design to virtually any stem on the market. It even goes a few steps further with allowing adaptability to almost any device or combination of devices because of its modular design. It's a niche product, but for serious cyclist or gearheads that have a lot of time and money invested into their rides, it's a really cool concept unlike anything else on the market.
IT'S A NICHE PRODUCT, BUT FOR SERIOUS CYCLIST OR GEARHEADS THAT HAVE A LOT OF TIME AND MONEY INVESTED INTO THEIR RIDES, IT'S A REALLY COOL CONCEPT UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE ON THE MARKET.
What are some other products you have made?
Around 2003, I started repairing, customizing and building vacuum tube guitar amplifiers. One of the amps, The Alchemyst, was featured in Guitar World magazine, January 2004.
This eventually led to the Treble Bezel, a niche product made for the 4001/3 series of Rickenbacker Basses. The Treble Bezel resolves an issue that arises when a popular modification is performed by bass players. Basically, players remove what they consider "an obtrusive pickguard" on the bass, only to be left with a gaping hole. Removing the pickguard makes the bass more playable and installing the Treble Bezel makes the mod look like it was part of the original design. since the bezel doesn't exist on the bass originally, it does not infringe on any patents or design trademarks.
I currently produce and distribute the Treble Bezel directly and wholesale to two different select dealers: Picks of the Ricks and RickySounds. I have sold close to 6,000 since launching the product in 2010.
Above: The Alchemyst
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I'm constantly tinkering with stuff, researching gear, playing bass, or riding my bikes. My family is most important to me though, so I spend a lot of time around the house with my wife and kids. I think it's really important that they learn how to make and fix stuff. My girls are exposed to a lot of different hobbies and I think they're more mechanically inclined and resourceful because of it; hopefully that will serve them well later in life. So, part of what I do is try to get them interested in being creative and curious.
You have a theme of practical product filling a niche, what does that say about you?
I'm a nerdy gearhead....
What is your favorite thing you own?
I don't have anyone favorite; I'm into quite a few things. Any one of my bikes: mountain, cyclocross, BMX. As far as music goes, I would say my Fender Precision Bass and my custom amps, record collection, vintage Hi-Fi gear and I have a vintage camera collection that's cool too. I guess if I had to narrow it down to just one thing, I would say my Mountain Bike 29er Hardtail Rules!
Above: Gramovox Floating Record Player
Being a recent recipient of an IDSA IDEA Award for the Gramovox Floating Record Player, what advice would you give to young engineers/designers?
Think, imagine, create, take things apart , push things to their limits and break stuff. Understanding how things fit together, AND how and why things break, is important to creating your own great designs. Always be thinking of ways to make products better, while at the same time being mindful of aestetics. Take time to daydream and be alone with your thoughts - a lot of times that where the awesome ideas come from.