Currently, Serial No.'s 002, 003 and 004 are in production and all three are pretty much in the same stage of the process. They have been slow following 001 as I have built additional tools and tuned up the existing. As I finished final planing #004 this past weekend, though, I realized that things are starting to fall into place. The tools seemed to be tuned properly and working as intended and I am beginning to see the strips meeting tolerances. Just as I would have expected but that realization caused me to reflect on the past year.
I attended Grayrock last year and was really disappointed when I couldn't return this year. What a great time it was talking to the makers, learning how a rod is made, picking up the little tips and tricks. Then casting all those wonderful rods. Oh, those wonderful rods and everyone brings their finest! Glass like finishes, cast like a dream, beautiful rods. They were awesome but, to a new maker like me, possibly a little overwhelming. I returned home, still committed to making but just a little bit intimidated by the whole thing. How could I possibly make a rod like those I'd just seen - on my first try?
In July, I went to Idaho for a few days fishing on the Henry's Fork with my 17 year old son. When Bob Nunley heard I was going, he suggested that I give Ralph Moon a call and arrange a visit with him. I did, dragging my son along with me. We spent about 3 hours with Ralph and I listened intently while my son stared at the ceiling. (Hey, he was 17 at the time and didn't appreciate the finer things in life. He's 18 now and still doesn't, but a fine fisherman nonetheless.)
During Ralph's and my conversation, Ralph asked if I would like to see Serial No. 001. "Yeah, I sure would!" I said as he added, "It has some glue lines." Now, I don't think Ralph will be upset that I tell you that it did indeed have some glue lines. They ran from butt to tip. Big, beautiful glue lines. Beautiful? You bet they were, because as I looked at that rod, I could feel a weight lift off my back. This is what a first rod is supposed to look like I thought and, after returning home, I made one just like it. It's got some gaps in it that you could slip a quarter into. Not a bad thing really, since you never know when you'll need a quarter for a pay phone.
I showed my Serial No. 001 to Harry Boyd at SRG this past October. Now Harry, because of his profession I would guess, not only knows how to be gracious but knows when to be honest as well. "That's nice", Harry said and, with that "glowing endorsement", Serial No. 001 became a special rod for me just like Ralph's.
I don't know if there is a point to all this, other then I felt like relating the story. I do know, though, that of all the rods that I have seen over the course of this past year, the one I remember the most and that had the biggest impact on me was Ralph's. Thanks Ralph for letting me see it.
For that reason, as these three rods are completed and xxx is started, I plan to keep Serial No. 001 handy to show any visitors I have. Maybe they can find the quarter! (Tim Wilhelm)
What a great story! I'm glad to see a few other folks such as myself that aren't too far along in this wonderful journey, and to hear their stories and tales. I hope I'm as proud of my first one as you are of yours. Please keep writing about the experience, so that other folks like us can share in your pride and joy in craftsmanship. I remember the first model airplane I ever built, it was an old control line model called a Ringmaster. This was back in the days before we were introduced to heat shrink covering, and our finish consisted of silk and model airplane dope. It sure may not have been the prettiest Ringmaster in the world, but doggone it, I made it, and it was like the crown jewels to me. I've learned over the years of building models like this and in other hobbies, that things we make by our hands are never perfect, only the big Guy upstairs can do that. As we get better and better at what we do, we are able to hide our flaws better and better, if for the reason the flaws get smaller and smaller. But, again, they'll never be perfect. I've got aircraft that most folks would consider show quality, but you can bet all your money I know exactly where the little goofs are. You'd be hard pressed to find them though.... ;^} But, I always strive for perfection when I build, knowing I'll never reach that plateau, because it makes me work at it harder to try and make it perfect.
Here's to hoping the next rod is always better than the one before it. (Mark Wendt)
Tim and all others.
You are so right. Serial #1 is always going to be a favorite rod. Tim was too kind in explaining my glue lines. Instead of butt to tip, they were from corner to corner. The varnish was done under benign conditions during a Sahara Desert Sand Storm, As extenuation you must realize this was before the Rod list, before Bruce Conner, before Wayne Cattanach and before Garrison. I had no idea what to do or how to do it. my first planing forms were simply v grooves in a board, my first plane was a little 2" Exacto, the taper was half copied and half original. The butt section used a taper of Bill Fink's, and the tip taper was all mine. no science just guess work. The outcome?? It was the second ugliest rod I have ever seen. BUT, I made it and believe it or not, it was a fine rod to fish with. It was number one. I have had student's first rods that will stand in the company of most of the rodmakers out there. They have far more potential than I will ever have. If you guys are hanging up like Tim because you see so many beautiful rods out there. Dive in. Your first born will be just as beautiful. (Ralph Moon)
Ralph - how true your words are - reflective - I guess us 'old timers' remember how alone and isolated we felt - trying to work out issues in the workshop night after night with no real place to turn to - and I especially relate to what you said of your students rod - at Grayrock I was ask why I never had any new rods to show - my commitments have prevented me from having 'spares' just laying around - my response was - look around you - you will see reflections of them - I suspect you can say the same - If you haven't heard it lately - Your efforts to the craft are Appreciated (Wayne Cattanach)
The hardest part of building your first rod is just getting started. Everything else is easy by comparison! (Ralph MacKenzie)
The first rod is meant to teach you about your tools and your process. To give you first hand knowledge about what you have learned. You can apply what you have learned on your second and without knowing your limits and the limits of your tools you can't figure out what needs to be done better. (Tim Wilhelm)