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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 skin them followed in the Volume 10 #6 issue. Scores of rod builders picked up the technique from there and a few are 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.

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/9319/title/some-more/cat/507

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/9503/title/carbon-fly-rod-grip/cat/507

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/10147/title/stellablack/cat/507

http://www.rodbuilding.org/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/10913/title/playing-around-with-carbon-sleeving/cat/507

New Issue

The Volume 19 #4 issue of RodMaker is in the mail now. Most subscribers will receive it towards the end of this month.

 

19-4

TTW Expo Report

Here’s the latest report on the 2013 Expo by the folks at Tackle Trade World:

Early Exhibitor List

The 2013 International Custom Rod Building Exposition has already signed several exhibitors. And… the booth contracts were only mailed middle of last week!

 

The first companies to sign on are:

 

American Tackle

Angler’s Roost

Bingham Enterprises

Mudhole Custom Tackle

United Composites USA

Total booths taken: 17. A pretty good start for the first week!

Expect the list to double, or triple, by late next week. Expect to see 50+ companies on board by late August as we move towards the largest Expo in history.

 

Tom Kirkman

 

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The “Experiment” Turns Twelve.

On June 7th, 2001, at 11:24 PM, Wendy Woudstra of Pairowoodies.com made a test post on a new type of forum for custom rod builders. There had never been anything like it before, nor since.

At the outset I wanted to provide a public forum for the exchange of custom rod building information that was devoid of the sort of rude, crude, fighting and flaming that was so prevalent on many public internet forums. To that end I installed a set of rules which required users to register with and use their actual first and last names. Folks tend to behave better when other folks know who they are.

 

The rules also indicated what would be acceptable in terms of overall conduct. Disagreements were expected and would be allowed, provided they were civil. While I saw nothing in the rules that was overbearing, I quickly received numerous emails and phone calls from folks who were very upset at what was required in order to participate. Few thought such a format could thrive, if even survive. And yet, to this day, Rodbuilding.org has been the most successful rod building forum on the internet. The daily traffic, the number of registered users and the support provided by an industry that feels comfortable being a part of a such a forum, has proved the idea can and has worked.

 

Sure, there have been a few problems. But only on extremely rare occasions does a user get banned, and then only for repeated rules violations. And no one has ever been banned for simple disagreements. In fact, out of over 7,000 registered users, only 16 people have ever been banned from Rodbuilding.org. That’s less than 1% of the total user base in 12 years. This tells me that most rod building folks are indeed level headed individuals who just want to build rods, learn from each other builders and have fun while doing so.

Sure, we’ve had a few bad egg sponsors. But very few. Rodbuilding.org has maintained a sponsor list each year of from 50 to 60 companies. The total number of individual companies involved in the past 12 years has run just over 80. Many of our original sponsors are still with us. While some came and went due to the usual ups and downs of the business world, only 3 were ever “given the boot” for defrauding anyone. Another testament to the good business practices that prevail in the rod building craft.

 

Some of you have likely heard me say that if I had it to do over again I’d have never started an internet forum. Frankly, there are days when I still feel that way – you have to watch such public forums like a hawk, which can get in the way of other things you’d rather be doing. But when I consider the 388,000+ posts (all about rod building) made in the past 12 years, the number of builders that have been helped, the friendships made and ideas shared, I can’t envision the craft without this or similar forums. In other words, I think it’s all been worth it. I hope you feel the same way.

 

Tom Kirkman

 

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Expo Criteria

Compared to the general fishing population, custom rod builders are few and far between.  This is why an event like the Expo, which must support anywhere from 40 to 50 manufacturers and dealers exhibiting in 85 to 90 booths, will only work in a handful of possible locations here in the U.S.

 

There just aren’t enough rod builders in any particular region to support an event the size of the Expo. Put the event in the wrong place and you wide up with a regional event which at best will only draw a few hundred builders. This leads to financial losses for the exhibitors and precludes them exhibiting in the future. In other words, the event dies.

 

The International Custom Rod Building Exposition has enjoyed tremendous success these past 9 years. Luck, however, has had nothing to do with it. You don’t get lucky 9 times in a row!

 

Others have attempted to emulate the Expo but none have succeeded. Not for lack of trying or sincerity, but for a failure to understand the demographics of the craft and therefore not being able to locate their event in a place which meets all or at least most of the necessary criteria required in order to successfully stage something like the Expo.

 

The RodMaker Magazine mailing list provides a good general overview of rod building demographics in the U.S.  When you look it over, you see that well over half of all the rod builders live east of the Mississippi River. If you want the event to be within a single day’s drive of the greatest number of rod builders, you’re faced with the fact that the event must be held in the eastern third of the Country.

A nearby international airport is an absolute must – we’re talking about it being within 15 miles or so of the event facility. Amtrak is nice, but not altogether required. Major interstate highways should run within a very few miles of the event facility and lodging.

 

Weather is your next concern.  Northern winters, along with the similar harsh winters of the Southern Appalachian Highlands, put any such event at huge risk. So, you need to stay south of the Mason-Dixon line for the best weather luck. But not too far south or you’re no longer within that single day’s drive for most of the builders.

 

Only a few locations then become apparent. Atlanta is one of the top convention towns in America. It has almost every single thing going for it in terms of being a great place to host an event like the Expo. There’s just one catch – the bulk of the rod building industry is made up of mom-and-pop type companies. Only a handful could afford the cost to exhibit in a place like Atlanta.  So, regretfully, scratch Atlanta. While it would be great for ICast or AFFTA, it’s just a tad bit out of the ICRBE’s reach.

 

Further south than Atlanta takes you out of that single day’s drive of most of the rod builders. So now you turn and look north of Atlanta, but not too far north – remember that the chance of a bad winter storm increases the further north you go.

 

So now you come to Nashville, Knoxville, Asheville or Charlotte. All have a lot going for them.  But the high altitudes of Knoxville, and particularly Asheville, put you back in danger of major winter storms. The other two are still very much viable.

 

Raleigh just built a new convention center in its downtown. It’s one of a few cities that could make an outstanding location for the Expo all the way around. It certainly meets just about all the necessary criteria involved. I like Roanoke and Richmond too, but they miss on at least a few of the criteria needed.

 

And of course, High Point isn’t the home of the world’s largest trade show for no reason – the International Home Furnishings Market has been here since 1911 and neither Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, San Francisco nor Atlanta have been successful in their many attempts to lure it away.  Imagine that.

 

Sister city Greensboro isn’t half bad but presents a few logistics problems for out of towners – it has convention facilities galore, but most are single hotel/convention complexes. Nice as they are, they can present logistics problems when your crowd prefers more than one hotel.  The city’s large coliseum complex, is nowhere near walking distance of any hotel.

 

The bottom line is that everyone would like to have the Expo in their backyard. The reality is that such a thing just isn’t possible – not if you want something the size of the Expo to succeed. There are only a handful of places where this particular event is possible and tomorrow I’ll give you a great hint/riddle as to which one I’ve chosen.

 

Tom Kirkman

 

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The RodMaker Reception

 

What you can’t see in this panorama, are the folks sitting in the chairs lining the back wall from one side of the hall to the other, nor the people seated at the tables set at the back right and far left hand side of the room. One other thing you can’t see is the look of relief on my face as I realized that once again, we wouldn’t exceed the 450 person carrying capacity of the room.  But it was close, very close.

 

I never know beforehand just how many folks are going to show up – there is no registration required. So there’s always a bit of apprehension as subscribers start pouring into the hall. I never relax until I can see the end of the line and can then do a quick mental check to make sure that those remaining outside, will all fit, inside.

 

The RodMaker Reception has become a staple of the International Custom Rod Building Exposition. Held every year since since the 2nd Expo, it offers an opportunity for the magazine subscribers who are in town for the Expo to relax, meet and talk with other rod builders. They eat, drink, and have fun while hoping to win one of about 100 free door prizes. The door prizes for 2012 included a large assortment of high end rod lathes/wrappers, blanks, components, tools, etc. The odds of winning something are about 1 in 4. Not bad at all, and there is no cost to enter. Everybody gets a chance, the same chance, to win. About 100 people did just that.

 

There are no speeches nor presentations. Just a few quick words concerning the Expo’s opening time and perhaps a few mentions of other pertinent items. That’s it – food, fun, fellowship and lots of free stuff. RodMaker is the only entity in custom rod building that does this for it’s customers. I hope to be able to continue doing it, for a long, long while.

 

Tom Kirkman

 

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Eight Weeks and Counting…

While I was preparing the photos from last year’s Expo for inclusion in RodMaker, I kept running into a common theme in nearly all of them. No, not custom rod building, although that’s surely the overall reason for the event. Rather, in every single photograph I opened, I was confronted by wide grins and smiles on the faces of those who attended and displayed.

 

People come to the Expo for a lot of reasons. Some are here for the big savings on blanks and components that companies only offer during this once a year event. Others come to attend the Expo seminars and increase their rod building knowledge by leaps and bounds.

Some builders say the camaradarie with other builders is why they travel here, often from very long distances. Others say it’s the chance to talk to the actual people who own and operate the companies that make all these fine products for us. After all, who knows a product better than the people who actually design and make it? And there’s more of those people here than at any other rod building event in the world.

Of course we get some media folks too. They’re here to shoot photos for their publications. And we get some general tackle industry people here as well. They’re here to find out what the upcoming trends in fishing rods are going to be.

Yet while these comprise the reasons most state when asked, I think there is an even greater reason they come to the Expo each year. Look at their faces – they’re here to have fun.

 

Tom Kirkman

 

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Correction

Got a note from Greg Stotesbury at AFTCO Mfg. last week asking me why AFTCO wasn’t on the list of exhibitors for the upcoming 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition. After all, AFTCO was among the very first to purchase booth space for the event. The reason was that I simply made a mistake and omitted them – something I’ll now correct below with my sincere apology  for the omission:

 

Exhibitors for the 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition

 

 As of October 15th, 2011

 

AFTCO Mfg.

 

American Tackle

 

Angler’s Envy

 

Angler’s Resource (Fuji)

 

Angler’s Roost

 

Batson/Rainshadow/ALPs

 

Bingham Enterprises

 

Decal Connection

 

Fishsticks

 

Hydra Fishing, LLC

 

Jim Upton Weaving

 

Ken and Lana Preston Rods

 

Lamiglas, Inc.

 

Mar Ktruz LDA Cork

 

Mickels Custom Rods

 

Mud Hole Custom Tackle

 

NERBS – Northeast Rod Builders

 

North Fork Composites

 

Renzetti, Inc.

 

Roddancer

 

RodMaker Magazine

 

Schlesinger Wood Turning

 

Seeker Rod Company

 

Skin Shop USA

 

St. Croix Rods

 

Sticks ‘N Bones

 

Swampland

 

Talon Graphite

 

Tiage USA

 

Trondak U-40

 

Woodworkers Shop

 

More TBA by October 20th, 2011

 

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A Shameless Plug…

Custom rod builders who rely on the internet for the bulk of their rod building information and education will always lag behind those who subscribe to RodMaker.

When did you first hear of Micro Guides, Carbon Skinned Grips, The Common Cents System, Marbling, Free Form or Beaded Wraps?  When you attend a rod building seminar and watch a demonstration on how to flock your own grips, inlay snake skin, create a true “threadless” guide wrap, or spin your own metal components, did you stop to wonder where the presenter learned the technique? When you saw your first Birch Bark Grip or Off-Angle Inlay, did you wonder where these were first unveiled? The answer to all of the above is, of course, RodMaker Magazine. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

RodMaker is first with most of the new ideas and methods that make the modern rod building craft what it is.  The hundreds of completely new, innovative and ground breaking techniques that have appeared in RodMaker over the past 15 years have only trickled down to the internet months, and in some cases, years later.

While RodMaker has long been known for the high quality rod building information it presents, it’s also a very attractive publication. While the appearance of a magazine is secondary to the information it presents, being able to present that information in a pleasing, easy on the eyes format is an added benefit to the reader.

RodMaker is printed on heavy, bright white, glossy stock. Of course, this costs more to print and mail than a publication done on lesser stock, and although not absolutely necessary, it goes a long way in providing the reader with a sturdy and substantial magazine that is suitable for long term reference.  Many, if not most RodMaker subscribers, save their RodMaker copies for years on end.

So how much does such a high quality publication, with the newest rod building techniques and methods cost? Not much, really.  Six full issues, mailed to your doorstep, is just $27.95. That comes out to just $4.66 per issue. Last time I checked, a Big Mac Value Meal was considerably more than that, and while tasty, won’t teach you a thing about building better custom fishing rods.

 

Tom Kirkman

 

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