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Undercover craftsman hides at Wheel and Sprocket

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 a service manager at the Evanston branch of Wheel and Sprocket on Davis Street. Sporting multi-colored hair, he fixes bikes and works with a staff of bike mechanics at the active retail store.

Chris Keil stands in front of the wall clock he made at Wheel and Sprocket on Davis Street. Credit: Wendy Kromash

Chris Keil is a service manager at the Evanston branch of Wheel & Sprocket on Davis Street. He fixes bikes and works with a staff of bike mechanics at a very active retail store. He sports multi-colored hues in his hair.

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 lightly.

During a recent conversation at Wheel and 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, non-working bike parts that have been cleaned, polished and given new purpose.

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.

Chris Keil used spare parts to make this toilet paper holder for Wheel and Sprocket on Davis Street. Credit: Wendi Kromash photo

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 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.

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.

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