Golden Witch – Spring 2014
Hello Rodmakers & Restorationists!
It’s late April and I’m updating this cover letter to the Golden Witch website again. I’m going to cover website updates which includes tips & caveats, new products, & re-inventoried products. I’ll also discuss product lines that are in the works short term. Upcoming shop closures are addressed at the tail end of this letter. Very quickly, though, let me reiterate a few important points from the previous letters for any who may have missed reading them.
On January 5th, Erica retired after many years of managing the office and inventory end of the company. I’ve been doing my best to stay on top of my craft work while temporarily taking over these new responsibilities. Please bear in mind that until I make a full-time hire, I’m a bit crushed for time. If you happen to call and listen to the long-winded voice mail message, please don’t worry that leaving a message of your own is in vain…I really will call you back, but it might be a few days. I’ll be the first to admit, I prefer emails because I can respond here & there throughout the day as I find a free moment. Until I have a full time staffer in the office, please order custom products several weeks in advance of your needs. Anything I make, I usually wind up making on the weekends and it’s not unusual for me to be running 5-10 days out with guides, the new nickel silver hook tenders, and that sort of thing. On a related note – and worth mentioning because it has cropped up a few times as a minor issue – I do charge for products at the time they are ordered, no exceptions, whether it’s a $30.00 guide or a $300.00 gold & blued reel seat. Buying a product puts you on the build list (or the order list in the case of, say, a rod sack or a large ferrule). Excepting back-order items and orders with custom or special order products, most orders are shipped in three business days or less (many ship the same day).
So – what’s new? Detailed information – lots of it. Check out the ferrule & ferrule plug page for a long-winded taste of the transformation that will slowly overtake the entire website. I’m trying to head off troubles before they worm their way into your life. I also hope to give you an idea or two that you hadn’t considered, a novel thought that inspires a creative reconsideration of how rods can be crafted. Product by product, I’m going to start writing a lot more, covering frequently asked questions, regularly occurring problems, tips, hints, creative sparks, reality checks, and so forth. Fewer problems will be good for both of us; more creativity is good for you & your clients.
New Products? Let me start with the products that are new to the website since I last up-dated this letter. The Vintage series of stripping guides in 10mm are now on the website. Nobody who has bought one says they’re ‘ok.’ Folks mostly seem to love them; a few dislike them. Try one - I think you’ll appreciate the vintage look they lend to a new bamboo rod, and of course they are ideal for restorations. In the next month or so I’ll get 14mm Vintage series guides to the website; these are available for ordering now if you put a note in the comments section of the on-line order form. The other new product group on the site is the GW nickel silver hook tenders. There’s plenty of my blather about them within the website, so I’ll keep this short. The world of rodmaking needed nickel silver hook tenders – it was a gap only partially filled by traditional ring & saddle tenders. Now I’ve got English-style tenders, inverted “U” tenders, and inverted box tenders on the website, each in two wire diameters, and bright or blued finish. These are very nice. However, it’s the next hook tender that will be added shortly which really has me excited. It’s a new twist on Lyle Dickerson’s looped hook tenders. Each is made of nickel silver wire, the loop on each is soldered closed for stability, and each foot is pressure formed into a traditional paddle foot, then hand tapered and polished. Every one of our nickel silver hook tenders is ready to wrap onto your rod. They’re a little pricey, but they’re beautiful and they’re ready to go, so the investment is worthwhile.
The Arcane Component Works cork grips are back in stock and noted as such on the website. These are the three original designs, all 5.75” long: Cigar, Reverse Half Wells, and Half Wells. Are they short? Well, they’re certainly shorter than the typical 6.5” to 7.5” grips on the market. It is my firm belief that most grips made today are longer than necessary, so the first group of grips produced by ACW are shorter – yet plenty long for most anglers’ hands, and plump enough to fill the palm, which makes for comfortable casting. However, the 6.5” grip has become such a standard that I’m no longer going to fight it for the sake of being an obstinate heretic. You can expect, in the ensuing months, to see many more grip designs, some of them up to 7.5” long. I have ten new grips in mind already. Excessive? Sure. But I want rodmakers to experiment, to try new grip styles, for the sake of what they might learn about casting comfort, about aesthetics, and about rodmaking history. It will take a few months before the next batch of three grips arrives, but they will be a Torpedo, a Full Wells, and second Cigar. The Torpedo grip is a visual hat-tip to Mr. Garrison, though the specs are not identical to those he recommends. The Full Wells will fill a gap in the ACW product line and will be our largest flyrod grip to date – great for big rods made for the salt, for salmon & steelhead, or for bass. The new Cigar is my take on the most popular grip we sell, the 6.5” Cigar; This one swells to fill the palm, but tapers asymmetrically for comfort and good looks, and features a modest bevel at both ends – a simple detail that other 6.5” Cigars miss. Here’s a creative note: when you buy a grip, you don’t have to use it as-is. With a lathe, various grits of sandpaper, and a sensitive eye, you can manipulate grips quickly and easily. I will be making most of the new grips on the large side in terms of diameter – it will be easy for you to maintain the contours but drop the diameters by a fraction of an inch until they feel perfect in your hand. Or trim them to length. I’ll have a 5.75” & 6.5” Cigar to start you off, but you might want 6” cigar, and that’s simple to fix with five minutes on the lathe. Another option: after the grip is mounted to the blank, chuck up the rod carefully and use a folded piece of sandpaper to carve ventilating grooves into the grip like the old South Bend “Comficient” grip. Or pick up a professionally turned grip and use it as a model to craft your own from scratch. I’ll have rings back in stock shortly, in every grade from the finest for presentation grade rods, down to the cheapest lacunae-pocked rings that are ideal for use as an underlayment beneath a rattan grip.
Silks. I love silks – nothing synthetic can match the beauty of translucent silk for rod wraps. We dropped the Clover/Tire line of silks when our US distributor ceased to import these silks. Now there’s another US distributor and a slightly different name: Fujix/Tire. I’ve opened the account and Beka & I will be working over the next month or so to add all these silks back to the website and back into inventory. I still have some with the C/T label, so when you order, I might ship either the C/T or the F/T threads – same stuff regardless of name. And we’ll carry both diameters of this Japanese silk, the standard #50 in 171 colors and the heavier #30 in 71 colors. But this re-addition to the product line is only the beginning of the transformation of the GW silk options. I also opened a Kimono account. Kimono is a fine diameter, #100, Japanese silk that is available in 80 fabulous colors. Many of these color are decidedly earthy – ideal for rodmakers. There are a host of greens, browns, blues, yellows, and oranges. And the color names are evocative: Dripping Springs, Buttercup, Mossy Oak, Seaweed, Mississippi Mud, and one my kids appreciate, Black Belt. These Kimono colors are nothing short of extraordinary. And then there is the Tiara line. Remember the vintage rod with “space dyed” threads? These multi-hued spools of size #50 silk bring space-dyed colors back, in three distinct lines with eight options each. Please note, these are variegated, but they are not jasper or Twist threads which utilize two color of silk spun together into a single thread. Rather these silks are dyed in a swirling array of related colors which create shimmering patterns when wrapped contiguously on the rod. These spools are expensive, but relatively large with 273 yards/spool, so you’ll be able to wrap at least two rods per spool. All twenty four options will be available on the website before my next up-date of the cover letter. Last but certainly not least, I am exploring several options of nylon threads – not my cup of tea for most rods, but necessary; there might be one more addition to the range of silk options as well.
Reel Seats. After months of waiting, the reel seat inserts are turned, sanded, almost finished. In the next two weeks, maybe less, the reel seat inserts will be in the bins and on the website. You’ll have eighteen options when selecting inserts for any of our slide band reel seats. Right now we’re finalizing the following wood varieties: Oak-Curly Quartersawn White Oak; Bocote; Bubinga – Figured; Butternut; Canary; Cherry; Cherry – Figured; Cherry – Gummy; Lacewood; Maple – Bird’s Eye; Maple – Curly; Osage Orange; Paduk; Spanish Cedar – Quilted; Rosewood, Bolivian; Walnut, Black – Curly; Walnut, Black – Figured; Zebrawood. I’m going to call out one for closer consideration. The Quilted Spanish Cedar is a radiant version of straight grained Spanish Cedar; it’s simply gorgeous. If you traditionalists find it to be too pretty, tell me and then I’ll add back the plain Spanish Cedar as a more historically accurate option. Other notes: these are all non-stabilized inserts; bore options will be .312” and .350”; and I have anywhere from dozens to hundreds of pieces of turning stock already ripped in each variety, so future lapses in inventory will be minor and limited in duration. You can expect at least another six non-stabilized woods and six stabilized options down the road. Golden Witch is a work in progress, but it is progressing!
There is so much more happening behind the scenes, but I don’t want to spoil all the surprises in one draft of this letter. More updates will follow every 45-60 days. Arcane component works is developing a new website – our old domain was, unfortunately, captured by a parasite, a squatter. Along with the new website, there will be a new downloadable PDF catalog. Once that’s complete, my friend, Matt West, and I will get cracking on the new GW catalog. I’ll keep you posted.
Finally, let me point out up-coming shop closures: Due to some exciting family adventures, which are detailed in the Golden Witch Annual Letter, there will be irregularly spaced closures through-out the year. Please keep tabs on the website and you’ll be able to place orders and have them shipped prior to the closures. Right now I expect to be closed May 22-27; July 9-16; October 15-22…and there will be at least another week-long closure over the summer once I settle on dates for my annual backpacking trip with my boys. Because so many Golden Witch products are made, or finished, to order, it is best for you to place your orders at least two weeks in advance of a closure if you’re ordering guides and that sort of thing. For items we stock deeply like ferrules, silks, reel seats & whatnot, you can safely order up to three business days prior to a closure and I should be able to get your package out the door. Always bear in mind that inventory does fluctuate and the occasional back order will happen at the least convenient time – Murphy’s Law. Plan ahead – order ahead! - and it will save both of us a lot of grief. Thanks!
In closing let me say that I am loving the experience of running GW in its entirety. I can’t keep the pace up forever, but I sure am getting a deep education on what works, what doesn’t, and the many ways I can best help each of you while ensuring the long-term viability of the company. Many thanks for your time & your business. I couldn’t do this – build a better component company - without you. Inside the website I mention that buying this or that product supports an American craftsman and that doing so is good for your soul. I want to briefly expand on that. I’m partial to American craftsmen and women because I’m immersed in this water, but I’ll be the first to say I couldn’t make this company work without craftspeople from all over the globe. I’ll highlight the Portuguese…without the fine people who are taking my cork grips and turning duplicates by the hundreds, I wouldn’t be able to offer the ACW grips to rodmakers around the world. When you buy a grip, or a guide, or a ferrule, or a rod sack, you are helping to support an artisan who earns their living making something in this world (an increasingly rare feat in a world addicted to synthetic pleasures and technologically enabled sloth); in turn, when you make a rod or restore a rod using these components, you are an artisan making this world a more worthwhile place. I strongly believe that supporting those who make, who craft, who grow, helps us to grow in intensely worthwhile ways. This extends far beyond rodmaking. If you aren’t growing your own food, I urge you to meet a local farmer and stock your table with their produce. You might brew your own beer, ferment your own wine or mead, or bottle your own bitters, just to develop a taste for the challenge that artisanal foodcraft presents. This process will help you to better appreciate masterful food when you meet it, in the same way that making a rod from scratch allows you a depth of insight into tacklecraft that most anglers don’t have. The act of creating gives you a worthy edge in this world. Hone that edge everywhere you can.
The GW Annual Letter – 2014