New Issue Mails August 1st

The Volume 17 #4 issue of RodMaker Magazine will mail on August 1st, 2014. Enjoy.



New Issue Ready to Mail

The Volume 17 #3 issue of RodMaker Magazine will mail Monday, June 2nd. Renewals and new subscriptions received no later than Friday of this week will receive it.

New CD is Available, Now!

Finally, the first of the final promised CDs featuring the last few years of RodMaker is available. The Volume 10-12 CD includes all issues as found in Volumes 10, 11 and 12. They are faithful electronic reproductions of the hard copy issues and include a total of 18 individual issues (3 years). Hard copy versions of all these issues are currently still available but would cost you just over $143. By CD, you can have these same issues for just $44.95 ppd.


The initial burn will be for 750 CDs. I suspect this will be sufficient to fill any orders I get this year. A subsequent order may be placed when or if these run out, although there is no guarantee.


I expect to have the new CD listed on the magazine website within about two weeks, but if you’re wanting one a little sooner you can mail a check or money order for $44.95 to: RodMaker, PO Box 1322, High Point, NC, 27262.


The final back issue CD for volumes 13, 14 and 15 is expected to be ready towards July. 

New RodMaker CDs

Several years back I released the first 9 volumes of RodMaker on CD. It has been a tremendous hit and allows would-be readers to obtain bulk copies of this magazine at price which is less than the same in hard copy version, and in what many feel is a more convenient form for them.


About a year ago I mentioned that I was considering releasing volumes 10 through 15 on CD as well. During these past months I have been diligently working an hour or so each day to convert the hard copy versions to electronic PDF versions. It’s not easy – it takes more than the push of a button to convert the PostScript Printer PDF files to Computer Viewing PDF type files. In fact, it requires laying out each and every page of each and every magazine all over again.

It’s been a lot of work but it’s nearly reached fruition. I have decided to release two CDs, one featuring volumes 10, 11 & 12 and another featuring volumes 13, 14 & 15. The reasoning behind the two volume set is to expedite the completion and availability of at least the first 3 volumes more quickly, and to reduce cost for those who may have at least some of the latter 3 volumes. I expect each CD to retail for under $45. The same set of 3 volumes in hard copy would cost you about $145.


As of today, I expect to release the Volume 10, 11 &12 CD on June 1st. The CD featuring volumes 13, 14 & 15 will quickly follow on July 1st. They will initially be sold via the RodMaker Magazine website but may be available at selected dealers in the fall of this year.

New Issue Mails Today

The Volume 17 #2 issue of RodMaker mails today. Most subscribers will receive it around the 3rd to 4th week of this month. Enjoy.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate

The Origin of Foam Core, Carbon Skinned Fishing Rod Grips

How many of you are old enough to remember the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup advertisement? The one where some guy eating a chocolate bar walks around a corner and bumps into a guy who’s finger scooping peanut butter out of a jar. They look up and as they regain their senses, one shouts “You got peanut butter on my chocolate bar!” The other responds with “You got chocolate in my peanut butter!”  All ends well as they taste the combination and decide that something delicious has just happened.

Back in 2003 I began searching for a good do-it-yourself method for creating  flocked grips.  For those unaware, flocked grips are made from embedding short nylon fibers onto an underlying base, generally of cork.   Such grips had long been available from a couple of commercial sources and were often referred to as “the Cadillac of rod grips.”  But there was no simple, inexpensive do-it-yourself method for rod builders to create their own. If you desired a flocked grip, you paid the price – which often exceeded $30 for a single grip!

Borrowing and then modifying a process used by custom furniture makers for lining drawer bottoms, I developed the method I was looking for. I published an article on the technique in the  Volume 7 #4 issue of RodMaker.

Shortly thereafter, I decided that there was no need to use expensive cork as the core for flocked grips.  I began experimenting with mixing, pouring and shaping my own urethane foam to use as flocking cores.  Hold this thought

Down in Texas  Andy Dear  had purchased a large quantity of cork grips from the old  All Star Rod Company  operation. In an attempt to salvage some of the lesser quality cork and create something more novel at the same time, Andy had begun experimenting with glass and carbon sleeving as a covering for the cork.  Hold this thought €¦

In 2006, shortly after researching and publishing an article on  Rod Grip Ergonomics  (Volume 10 #3) I began toying with the idea of fitting a fly rod with a carbon fiber grip. The increased rigidity it would provide over a standard cork grip was bound to increase control and reduce fatigue. Trouble was, any such grip would be limited in size and shape to the commercially available non-tapered carbon tubes often sold for making Tennessee handles. Or so I thought.

One afternoon while conferring with Andy on another matter, we spilled our current projects to each other. In an instant, peanut butter and chocolate collided. A unique idea was borne that day – combining a lightweight, rigid, shaped urethane-foam core with an outer skin of carbon-fiber. Within 72 hours afterwards, the world’s first urethane-core/carbon-fiber skinned fishing rod grip was a reality.  

The world’s first rigid foam, carbon skinned fishing rod grip appeared on the cover of the Volume 10 #5 issue of RodMaker Magazine in October of 2006.

Maybe not exactly delicious, but innovative and important nonetheless, that first grip appeared on the cover of the Volume 10 #5 issue of RodMaker. An article on making your own cores and how to €œskin € them followed in the Volume 10 #6 issue. Scores of rod builders picked up the technique from there and a few are even producing them commercially today. Now you know how they came to be.

Tom Kirkman

Additional Photos of foam-core/carbon-skinned grips. Copy and paste each URL into your browser’s address window.

More Decals Arrive

Free decals featuring the International Symbol for Custom Rod Building are back in stock. I had run out a couple weeks ago so I hadn’t been able to fill the SASE requests that came in during that period. However, I’ll take care of those tomorrow and most guys will have theirs by end of the week or so.

If you wish to obtain one at no charge, send a 5×7 SASE to:

International Custom Rod Building Symbol Decal Offer

PO Box 1322

High Point, NC 27261


Note: Requests sent with a standard letter envelope will not be honored. The Decals are 5 inches in diameter and will not fit in a 3 inch letter envelope. 


Not long after I hosted the very first International Custom Rod Building Exposition, I rocked the rod building world by paying my seminar presenters. This had never been done. Some competitors were outraged at this dastardly act. They said that by paying seminar presenters I was going to ruin the aspect of rod builders being willing to “share” information at no charge. Of course, at the same time, they had no problem charging rod builders for buying their magazines and books, or for attending their shows. I still believe their outrage was more about being able to continue getting ideas and techniques for free, which they could then peddle for profit, thereby increasing their own revenue.


Granted, many rod builders don’t want to be compensated for their ideas – they give and share without any regard for any sort of compensation. But the thing is, I’ve always felt that anyone who adds value to something I’m selling should be compensated to at least some degree, even if it is only a token amount.


At the Expo, the amount I paid varied depending on the presenter, the topic and whether or not the person was doing something else at the event whereby a seminar stood to put a little money in their pockets. Most times the compensation was $50 to $100. Not much, but maybe enough for a guy to pay for a hotel room night, or take his wife out to a nice dinner when he returned home. My point was simply to show these folks that I really appreciated what they brought to the event. Anyone can say “thanks” but paying somebody shows that you actually mean it.


I’ve done the same thing at the magazine for quite a few years, although a bit more sporadically. Payment amounts for articles and photos have varied depending on the quality of the piece submitted and how much work I had to do on my end to prepare and photograph anything required. And often, due to other things involved, no direct compensation was made. Nobody has gotten rich off writing for RodMaker, but the occasional $25, $50 or $75, or perhaps the extension of a subscription by a year or two hopefully helped buy a blank or two for the author.


More recently I’ve been thinking about drafting an ironclad compensation form with specific amounts to be paid for specific submission types. Articles, photos, tips, etc. In fact, this very afternoon I’ve decide to do it. It’s not like I have to – I receive article and photo submissions on a nearly daily basis and very, very few ask to be paid. But that’s not the point – I simply want to compensate the folks that contribute their ideas and techniques, without which the magazine would be far less than it is. I think it’s a good thing to do.


No doubt, some will fuss and scream about this just as they did all those years ago when I began compensating the Expo seminar presenters. But I don’t care – I still think it’s the right thing to do. “Thank you’s” are nice but awfully cheap, and if you really value what somebody has brought to the table, you should be willing to offer something tangible in return.


For a copy of the new RodMaker Article/Photo Submission Compensation rate schedule, please email a request to  I should have them ready to send by first of next week.


Tom Kirkman



New Issue Mails August 1st

Another new issue of RodMaker is at the printer now. It will mail on time, as usual, on August 1st. Subscribers should see it around the 3rd to 4th week of August.

If you are due for renewal, you’ll want to renew now so you don’t miss the August 1 mailing. Check your mailing label on your last magazine for the volume and issue number of the last issue on your current subscription. If you see “16-3″ then your subscription has expired and you’ll need to renew now in order to receive this upcoming issue.


Most rod builders have interests in addition to custom rod building. I’ve always had too many. There just hasn’t been enough hours in the day to get around to all the various things I’ve found interesting and been involved in. I suspect most rod builders, obviously having a creative bent, have the same trouble.


Occasionally I’ve been able to see a project through to fruition. Recently, I bought a piece of history and have spent the past few months laboriously rebuilding it to near new condition. And over the past couple weeks, I’ve been able to use it as it was originally intended.


The Trifoiler was the end result of Dan and Greg Ketterman’s endeavor to set the world speed sailing record. Their original design, Longshot, was operated by Russell Long in obtaining four individual world records including the Class A record of 50.1 MPH, which still stands.

Very few of the production models were ever built and sold, and fewer remain in active service. The few that are left rarely come up for sale and when or if they do, can be a bit pricey. It is a highly complicated and somewhat fragile craft that was designed to do only one thing – go very fast. It is not very practical and being more like an airplane than a boat, it does not suffer fools lightly. I have been on the foils about two dozen times now and each time have been astounded at the power, acceleration and speed this thing can generate from the wind. Once it gets up, it literally tries to run out from under you.


With few parts still available it was necessary to make most of what was needed. I’m not going to bother to tally the hours I spent making and machining individual parts and pieces. Rebuilding and resculpting the fences on the foil leading edges took over a week of solid work alone. But all that is behind me now, unless and until something breaks, which is quite likely.


With summer fully upon us and the back of the shop getting rather hot, the next project will be undertaken mostly at night when things are a bit cooler. Maybe I’ll even get around to putting together those last few rods I started back in the winter.


Tom Kirkman