Archive for the ‘May 2011’ Category

A 2012 Expo

Questions about a 2012 International Custom Rod Building Exposition are beginning to pour in. All I can say about it at this moment in time, however, is that I haven’t made a final decision.


Many don’t understand why I wouldn’t move ahead with a 2012 Expo considering the huge success that each and every Expo has been. And, with each Expo growing and being larger than the one preceding it, why not keep going?


Well, it’s not that simple. There is really only one person that is at a large personal financial risk – me! As successful as each Expo has been, most of that success falls on the plates of the exhibitors and attendees – I know going in that the best I can possibly hope for is to break even (and that’s okay – I never intended to make any money on the Expo). Custom rod building is a fairly small craft and getting folks to attend from all over the world, providing a quality venue and pulling everything off without a hitch requires a significant financial investment that could easily go south should any manner of unexpected weather, economy, etc., catastrophe befall us.


Many have mentioned that I could cut my investment by changing a few aspects of the Expo.  The RodMaker Reception comes out of my pocket, 100%. I rent the hall, buy and give away the food as well as any and all products donated for door prizes. It’s free for all RodMaker subscribers and as has been made painfully aware, as many as 1/3rd of those who attend aren’t subscribers – they manage to get tickets from others who are. It’s been suggested that I charge admission and/or change the free door prizes to an auction or raffle.


Others have suggested that I charge more for Expo admission. This year’s event only cost $8 ($5 for RodMaker subscribers) and parking is always free. But I don’t like the idea of a higher admission fee either. In fact, my goal has always been to offer free admission. No luck, yet.


Then there’s the matter of paying the seminar presenters. Few if any other rod building events bother to pay their seminar presenters. I feel it’s only fair. My only regret is that I can’t pay each presenter more – they add a great deal to the event and the least I can do is give them enough so they can buy themselves and their wives a really nice dinner.


And, of course, we could host the event in a place not nearly as nice and user friendly as the Showplace, which would easily save a 3rd of the total event cost in the process. But…


At the end of the day, an Expo without a free RodMaker Reception, quality seminar presenters, the largest and best line up of exhibitors, a low admission price and one of the Nation’s finest exhibit halls wouldn’t really be an Expo, would it? And I have zero interest in hosting just another rod building show.


I won’t do anything halfway. We’ll either say goodbye to the greatest rod building event on earth and know we went out on top, or we’ll do another Expo in the manner to which we’ve becomed accustomed. Stay tuned.


Tom Kirkman




Some Straight Talk…

I don’t expect the public at large to get everything right. And even for all the good the internet has done, it has done more to expedite incorrect information than any other medium in history. Sometimes RodMaker is the target of such incorrect or misleading information and when that happens I feel obligated to set the record straight.


RodMaker Magazine has been around for more than just a few years. In fact, RodMaker is nearing its 15th year of publication. In that time it has published far more rod building information than any other custom rod building periodical. Remember, RodMaker has always been a full sized publication and has always published 6 issues a year! Currently the number of rod building articles that have appeared in RodMaker tops the 1000 mark! And we’re only talking about bona fide “how-to” articles, not tips or editorial comments.


Currently the price for a RodMaker subscription is just $27.95. That’s only $4.66 per copy by subscription. Compare that to the price of any other rod building periodical.


In short, RodMaker isn’t some “Johnny come lately” magazine. It’s been around a long time and will be around for some time to come.  It’s gained far and away the largest circulation of any rod building periodical in history and continues to gain new readers every issue. In fact, RodMaker’s circulation is over 25 times that of any other rod building magazine! RodMaker is also where most of the new rod building techniques are found (usually months or even years before they trickle down to the internet) and yet it sells for less than any other rod building publication.


There, you heard it from the horse’s mouth. Click the back issue page button to the left to see what we’ve been up to these past 15 years. The proof is in the pudding and where RodMaker is concerned, the proof is in print!


Tom Kirkman




Supporting Your Troops

On a slightly different note…


The United States is now involved in the longest single military engagement in its history. It goes without saying that repeated and extended tours of duty have placed a heavy burden on our military personnel, some of whom return home with debilitating injuries, if they come home at all. I have been asked by many rod builders if there is any way they can show their support for those in active service or who have recently served in the conflict.


As a member of a family with a proud military heritage (my grandfather served in WWI and my dad was one of the first naval aviators to fly and land jets from aircraft carriers), this is something I take very seriously. Therefore I highly recommend either of the two programs listed here:


Project Healing Waters


Wounded Warriors


There are certainly other valid and worthwhile programs for our Nation’s veterans, but you can be confident in the validity and conduct of the above two – both are fully accredited with the Veteran’s Affairs Administration and are happy to provide full disclosure of their financial/service records to any interested party.


Bottom line – it’s easy to say that you “support the troops.” But talk is cheap. If you really care, check into the above mentioned programs or mail a donation to your local VA Hospital (my favorite means of support) via this link:


There is a quick-find VA Hospital locater for each state along with simple directions for how to donate. Your veterans will appreciate your support.


Tom Kirkman




One of, if not the most important key to business success, lies in the value offered to the customer. I like to think that RodMaker Magazine offers an unparalleled value for its subscribers. While the magazine easily stands on its own merits, birthing nearly every important new technique brought to the rod building craft in the past 14 years, there’s more…

Each year since 2004, all RodMaker subscribers have been treated to a yearly party of sorts – the RodMaker Reception. Held in conjunction with the International Custom Rod Building Exposition each year, it features food, tons of door prizes (including Renzetti, Batson Ent. and Pacific Bay rod wrappers/lathes) and camaraderie with others of similar vocation, all for free. All that’s needed is to show up and enjoy the event!

More recently, all RodMaker subscribers received a $5 discount coupon for use at the Expo, reducing the entry fee to the world’s largest custom rod building event, to just $3. Not too shabby.

If possible, my goal for 2012 is to allow every RodMaker subscriber into a possible 2012 Expo at absolutely no charge.

Back in 2008, every RodMaker subscriber received a free vinyl decal featuring the then new International Symbol for Custom Rod Building. Nothing to send for, no expense – it was included free with Volume 11 #4.

In the Volume 14 #3 issue, due out in June, RodMaker subscribers will be invited to participate in the industry’s first survey pertaining to demographics and buying habits. It may have a strong impact on the products and services custom rod builders can expect to see in the coming decade.

After 13 years of a combination B&W and color publication, the advent of Volume 14 saw RodMaker move to full color production. And…there was no increase in subscription price. In fact, right on through 4 postage increases, the cost of a RodMaker subscription (6-issues per year) has not increased since 2002 and it’s not expected to increase any time soon.

And there’s more… but I’ll let that remain a surprise. The fact is, the value of a RodMaker subscription continues to grow and grow every year. There is simply no other value in the custom rod building craft that compares to RodMaker. As one reader told me recently, “Considering the quality of the information and all the other perks that go along with it, getting a subscription to RodMaker is almost like getting paid!”

Tom Kirkman


Easy “POP!”

Recently I came across a topic on the rod building portion of StripersOnline. It concerned custom EVA grips. Some of the work was stunning and reminded me that it’s not at all hard to create custom rods that really stand out from the crowd.

Far too often newcomers to the custom rod building craft think that it takes years of experience and untold practice to build rods that better the commercial variety. The fact is, while some techniques do indeed require a high level of knowledge and craftsmanship, there are many very simple techniques that can be employed to build rods that will catch anybody’s eye, and which certainly offer more “POP” than anything offered by the commercial manufacturers.

Some years back we featured an article on the basics of inlaying EVA grips with solid bands of contrasting EVA material (see photo above). Later, master rod builder and all around good guy Bernie Cohen wrote a piece on how to make picture type inlaid EVA grips. More recently, in the very next issue in fact (Volume 14 #3) you’ll be able to read how Billy Vivona goes about making his radical abstract inlaid EVA grips.

If you want a simple way to make your rods stand out from the crowd, try some work with EVA. With a plan and just a little patience, you’ll be on the way to creating some really stunning work.

Tom Kirkman


New Issue & Project

The Volume 14 #3 issue of RodMaker left for the printer this afternoon. It will mail on June 1st and most subscribers will see it towards the end of June.

There is an important survey enclosed within this issue. I hope each reader will take the time to fill it out and return it (postage has already been paid on my end – it will cost you nothing other than a few minutes of your time).

I’ll go into more details in a blog entry here next week. For now, suffice to say it could determine what blanks and components you’ll be buying next year and on into the future!

Tom Kirkman



Most publishers see advertising as a good thing. A very good thing. Subscription payments do little more than cover a publication’s paper, ink and postage expense. If you’re going to make any money, you’re going to do it with advertising sales. This is why most magazines are comprised of at least 50% advertising.  In some cases the total can far exceed that figure. Give it a try sometime – take your favorite fishing magazine and go through it page by page, writing down each advertisement and its size (1/4 page, 1/2 page, full page, etc.) You’ll no doubt be quite surprised to find that the actual informational content is in the minority!

RodMaker has never contained more than about 15% of its total pages in advertising. More recently, that figure has pushed towards 20% and this concerns me. Sure, I like selling advertising, but I don’t ever want to see the magazine move in a direction where it’s mostly just advertising, or anything even close to it.

Granted, the only advertising you see in RodMaker is directly related to custom rod building. It’s not like the magazine is pushing tobacco, beer, automobiles or anything else outside of rod building products. But it still worries me that we’re now leaning a little bit too much in that direction. I prefer to keep the vast majority of RodMaker’s pages devoted to rod building informational content.

To that end, I have recently placed a moratorium on any new advertising in RodMaker. I don’t like to turn companies down – it’s money I don’t make and it’s exposure they can’t get anywhere else, but in the short term the only way I know of to preserve RodMaker’s high ratio of rod building content to advertising is to close the door on any further ad sales beyond what we’re carrying now.

Of course, in the overall scheme of things, this is a very good problem to have!

Tom Kirkman