Archive for the ‘August 2011’ Category

A Nice Problem To Have…

Today I received a short, heavy tube in the mail. Inside was a manuscript accompanied by two sections of rod blank upon which several new and very unique guide and inscription wraps had been made. The gentleman who sent them had asked if I might consider the article and photo for use in RodMaker. I phoned him and assured him that I’d certainly make use of them in the magazine – but not right away.


This is perhaps the biggest problem I face with RodMaker – Builders often become discouraged or disappointed if they don’t see their submission in the next available issue of RodMaker. The thing is, I receive so many articles and photos, more than a few containing really new and exciting concepts and ideas, that I just can’t get them all published very quickly.  I would have genuinely loved to publish the article mentioned in the first paragraph in the issue that mails on October 1st, but that issue, nearly done as it is, contains other equally fine concepts and methods.  So it has to wait a couple or more months.  Same with all the other many fine submissions that arrive weekly.


So I ask for patience. From my perspective, having too many articles is far better than having too few. For the readers, it ensures that each future issue will always contain something completely new and different.


Tom Kirkman



2012 Expo Vendors

I’ve been more than a bit lax in getting the exhibitors for the 2012 Expo posted on the event website. That will change this week as I have more time to revamp the website.


Over half of the exhibit hall booths have now been sold, putting us on a pace slightly ahead of last year.


Stay tuned, more to come.


Tom Kirkman



I’m loving it…

RodMaker has always been a colorful publication. The cover, the Readers Photo Gallery and a several of the advertisements have all been in color since the 3rd or 4th issue back in 1998. But earlier this year, RodMaker moved to a complete 4-color process on each and every page.


Lana's Marlin, from V14 #2

While the quality of content didn’t change, the appearance of it did. Suddenly everything is brighter, bolder, more upscale. I’ve always believed that in order to get people to actually enjoy reading something, you’ve got to make it attractive. The addition of all the new color allows me to do just that.


article from V14 #4

Although this format change cost a lot more money, I think it was worth it. And it won’t cost the readers one more red cent – the subscription price will remain the same as always.

upcoming article from Doug Hannon

I’m having a great deal of fun with the layouts recently. Stay tuned for further improvements as we continue through 2011- you haven’t seen anything yet.


Tom Kirkman



Changes on the way…

Most subscribers will receive the Volume 14 #4 issue of RodMaker this week or next. It’s our largest issue to date, with a full 10 feature articles and the usual assortment of a half dozen regular columns.


Most readers will quickly notice the larger, brighter and bolder appearance inside the magazine. The recent format change has opened up many new opportunities for the magazine and I plan to take full advantage of them.


As happy as I was with this issue, it’s the next couple that have me really excited. Stay tuned for even more changes, upgrades and surprises as we close out what’s left of 2011.


Tom Kirkman



Some Good News

About 6 weeks ago, a neighbor and very close friend of mine passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. He was highly respected by friends, family and coworkers and his death was extremely bad news for a great many people.


Fortunately, these things don’t always turn out that way.  I was relieved to get a note today from a well known rod builder (to protect his privacy I won’t mention his name) informing me that his own two-year battle with cancer has turned out in a very positive way – he’s been declared cancer free and ready to resume his rod building business.


One of his major goals these past few years has been to attend the Expo. In fact, he had made plans to attend just prior to being diagnosed originally and thus had to cancel. This was a serious variety of the disease and it appeared that he might not be around to attend any future Expo’s either. Thus, today’s note came as a real bit of good news. Not so much because he’ll finally be able to attend an Expo, but simply because he’ll be around a while longer. A lot longer I hope.


Tom Kirkman




What follows is an explanation, not a tale of woe or doom. But it bears covering. I got an email from a long time rod builder the other day asking why there aren’t more rod building magazines on the market. The answer is pretty simple, but I’ll let you read his comments before divulging the answer.


“Enclosed please find my renewal for two more years of RodMaker. Question – why after all this time aren’t there several magazines for custom rod builders? You can find a dozen or more on wood working and about that many for fly fishing. Why just one for rod building? I would think we would have at least three or four, covering the craft in different ways.”


The answer comes down to one single thing – no rod building magazine will ever be profitable.  You see, the number of custom rod builders absolutely pale against the number of woodworkers or fly fishermen. Same with the number of companies in the rod building industry against those in the woodworking or general fishing trades. Comparatively speaking, custom rod building is a very small craft. When you add up all the variables including subscriber and advertiser numbers, plus the cost of producing what any printer considers a “short run” of magazines, you’re faced with the fact that you just can’t come out ahead. At least not if you plan to pay a staff, maintain offices and assorted overhead, etc.


This is what I explained to the gentleman who sent the above email. And just as I expected, he followed with this:


“Then why and how are you able to keep RodMaker going? If there is no money in it, why do you do it?”


How can I do it? Well, I don’t depend on RodMaker for my livelihood. I was well enough off by my early 40’s that I no longer needed a day job. RodMaker was something that I decided to do more as a hobby than anything else. Something to keep me busy a couple days a week, at most. Of course, it turned into a full time “job” but that’s okay – I enjoy it and that’s why I do it. But I couldn’t possibly depend on it for any sort of a decent livelihood. And if I had to farm out the administrative duties or pay a layout man, editor, etc., then even RodMaker would be nonexistent. I’m lucky I’m able to wear several hats around here, otherwise well… it just wouldn’t be possible produce something like RodMaker for such a relatively small craft.


So what does the future hold? Will there ever be a plethora of rod building publications? I seriously doubt it. Without a huge increase in the overall numbers of custom rod builders it’s highly unlikely that anyone else will even test the waters. And that’s the crux of the matter – if rod building magazines were in any way profitable, there’d already be several on the market.


Tom Kirkman


P.S. As I told a representative from Tackle Trade World the other day, if I was looking for profit I’d be producing a kayak fishing magazine – now there’s a profitable, growing industry!



Most Wanted

If you could have any single improvement in some aspect of rod building materials or equipment, what would it be?  As the survey sheets continue to pour in, I find that most builders are more interested in having new, helpful rod building specialty tools than they are any type of new blank, guide or seat.


In fact, less than 1% of the over 4300 respondents thus far have asked for new types of blanks or components. Nearly all desire some type of shop tool instead – devices for painting blanks, grinding guide feet, aligning guides, etc. It appears the market is full up with every conceivable type of blank, reel seat, guide type and color, etc., but short on specialty rod building tools. At least, that’s what this aspect of the survey would seem to indicate.


For myself, the one item I’d most like to see is something that may still be a long ways off – a high performance, extremely durable rod blank. One of the biggest problems that custom rod builders face is rod breakage. When the worst happens, and it often does, even if you get a new blank at little or no money out, you’re faced with rebuilding a handle and rewrapping and finishing guides. Perhaps you’ll get paid for this, perhaps not. Either way, it’s the single great disadvantage that rod builders face compared against their contemporaries in knife making, gun building and wood turning. Those folks rarely have to deal with warranty claims.


Of course, building an unbreakable rod blank is certainly possible. Several companies have come close. But none have nor can build an unbreakable rod blank that retains the highest level of efficiency and performance. You still have to give up something on one end to obtain something on the other.


Hopefully, as the years roll by and material and manufacturing technology continue to advance, it will some day be possible to build a high performance rod blank that is also nearly unbreakable. If or when that day arrives, I think it will be the greatest boon to custom rod building that there’s ever been.


Tom Kirkman



More Value

Smart business people understand that success or failure depends almost entirely on the value that a company offers the consumer. One of the things I’ve tried to do with RodMaker Magazine is to offer my customers an unparalleled value.


Aside from constantly updating and improving the magazine, the recent move to a complete 4-color format aside, I have not increased the subscription rate in almost 6 years. This, even, in the face of no less than 4 postage increases during that same time period.


In 2007, each subscriber got a free decal featuring the International Custom Rod Building Symbol. I sprang for the good, heavy, 5-year vinyl, too.  This wasn’t done on the cheap.


For those who are able to travel, I added the RodMaker Reception back in 2005. This annual event is free for all RodMaker subscribers and their guests. It includes hearty hors d’oeuvres, liquid refreshments, and a ton of free door prizes. The 2010 prize list featured 75 items including rod lathes from Renzetti, Batson Enterprises, Pacific Bay and The Rod Shop (EcoWrapper). Again, the entire event and all its trimmings are free to RodMaker subscribers.


The 2010 International Custom Rod Building Exposition included an admission discount to all RodMaker subscribers – a $3 off coupon which knocked the admission fee down to just five bucks. I’ve always wanted to make the Expo completely free for my subscribers, but the overall cost of hosting and advertising the event has precluded that, so far. Still, it remains my goal and I hope to be able to do it for the 2011 event. And even if it remains impossible, at the very least RodMaker subscribers will be able to attend the Expo for the least amount at any time in Expo history. Stay tuned.


Tom Kirkman