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.
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.
Additional Photos of foam-core/carbon-skinned grips. Copy and paste each URL into your browser’s address window.
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.Â
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 â€œshareâ€ 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 donâ€™t want to be compensated for their ideas – they give and share without any regard for any sort of compensation. But the thing is, Iâ€™ve always felt that anyone who adds value to something Iâ€™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 â€œthanksâ€ but paying somebody shows that you actually mean it.
Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ve decide to do it. Itâ€™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 thatâ€™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 itâ€™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 donâ€™t care – I still think itâ€™s the right thing to do. â€œThank youâ€™sâ€ 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 email@example.com.Â I should have them ready to send by first of next week.
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. Iâ€™ve always had too many. There just hasnâ€™t been enough hours in the day to get around to all the various things Iâ€™ve found interesting and been involved in. I suspect most rod builders, obviously having a creative bent, have the same trouble.
Occasionally Iâ€™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, Iâ€™ve been able to use it as it was originally intended.
The Trifoiler was the end result ofÂ DanÂ and GregÂ Ketterman’sÂ 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. Iâ€™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 Iâ€™ll even get around to putting together those last few rods I started back in the winter.
With several thousand rod builders attending, the International Custom Rod Building Exposition is arguably the worldâ€™s largest custom rod building event. And by a wide, wide margin. But what is the worldâ€™s second largest custom rod building event? The answer may surprise you…
It turns out that the RodMaker Magazine Reception is the second largest rod building event held anywhere in the world. This year, just over 430 custom rod builders attended the event in its new location – the Winston Salem Embassy Suites Grand Ballroom.
The RodMaker Reception is open to all subscribers of RodMaker Magazine. It is funded by the magazine with over 100 door prizes donated by RodMaker advertisers and sponsors. There is no fee associated with the event. The food, the entertainment and the merchandise is provided free of charge to the subscribers.
While not part of and nowhere near as large as the â€œExpoâ€ the RodMaker Reception is noteworthy in its own right.
All too often custom rod builders find themselves competing with commercial rod companies. No doubt, there are certain things that the custom guys do better than the commercial guys. But for 95% or more of fishermen, itâ€™s all about marketing, warranty and price, all areas where few custom builders can match the factory builders . Thus, any custom builder who chooses to go head to head with a commercial manufacturer experiences a tough road.
Over the years new technology and techniques appear and the smart custom builders, the ones who manage to make a few bucks, are quick to jump on the better ideas. And quick is the key – any good idea is going to be swiped up by the commercial makers the instant they figure they can make a killing on it. Figure that it takes a bit of time before they can prototype, test and get a new rod in the inventory pipeline, and the custom guys have got maybe 6 months to a year before any non-competing item is going to wind up on the rods at the local sporting goods store.
Much too frequently, great sales opportunities elude the custom builder. Most of the money made on rods featuring the Fuji NGC would up in the pockets of the commercial builders. The new KR Concept is heading that way as well. What a pity that custom builders, to whom most of the new products are initially made available to, are so slow to get on board.Â These great systems should have put a ton of money in the pockets of the custom builders. Sadly, most were too slow to react. Now the scenario is about to repeat itself.
How many of you reading this have even considered building a line of rods with the new MicroWave spinning guide system? No matter what your opinion of the guide may be, we already know that at the very worst it works at least as well as anything else out there. You give up nothing by using it and in many cases stand to gain quite a bit, not the least of which is the novelty which it currently enjoys. Make no mistake, it is going to wind up on commercially produced rods very soon – it casts great! – Â and a ton of money will be made by somebody. Why not you?
Until the first commercial rod manufacturer gets the MicroWave into their inventory pipeline, you have the chance to step out front and offer the consumer a product that he cannot get anywhere else, yet. And that means you have the opportunity to offer it at a premium price with little to no competition. A year from now, however, will be too late. It will be a pity if custom builders let this one get away before theyâ€™ve had their day in the sun with it. Why leave money on the table for someone else to pick up?