Fellow Rodmakers & Restorationists,
It’s March 13 – Friday the 13th – and I’m finally taking a partial day off from making guides and answering emails to get this letter typed up. It’s been chicken scratch on a notepad for too long now. Prepare yourself for a slightly disjointed stream of thoughts if you want to read this…
So, welcome to the second Annual Letter, a new tradition here at Golden Witch that is at least cyclic if not prompt. As I draft this letter the shop is not buried in snow, but looking out the windows the hills of the wildlife refuge across the Middle Creek are showing white ground through the mass of barren trees. And more snow is expected. It is 3 degrees now, not including wind chill, and even the dogs want to stay inside. I am warm enough by the woodstove, but I anticipate spring when I’ll be warm enough outside without thick boots and layers beneath my barn coat.
My father is already (middle February) host to an ill-timed flock of robins who jackhammer the crust of old, icy snow sheeting his lawn, hunting, like deluded woodpeckers, for any tender morsel. I’m watching for snowdrops to crop up with the next thaw, but it is the bloodroot bursting in white stars through the brown woods that will truly signal spring. I want to mulch the yard, plant the garden, then go fishing. This year more than ever, I am ready for, and in need of, this annual rejuvenation.
And there’s my segue – rejuvenation. The past year has been an intense challenge and I owe special thanks to my father and my wife. My father, John, has been drafted out of his retirement to run errands, order supplies, secure equipment, and even to take my kids hunting when the pressure of re-building the company kept me in the office or at the bench. My dear wife, Stephanie, sometimes calls herself a shop widow. (I’ve always been dark about my personal life unless the topic arose conversationally, but now is as good a time as any to discuss this. When I started GW I was married to Erica, but we quickly discovered we were better business associates than life partners. We divorced ages ago but remained business partners for many years, up until January of 2014 when she retired from the company.) Steph and I agreed never to let the company cross paths with our marriage, so the closest she gets to my shop is cracking the door to bid me come in for dinner – any further and she’d feel compelled to clean my space, at which point all my tools might be lost forever. Steph’s days are currently spent as a science teacher, but she’s now certified and ready to move into K-12 administration. We have many interesting conversations since she’s a public educator and I’m a homeschool dad. A helpful father and an understanding wife make GW possible and are thus allowing the rejuvenation to continue apace. The cover letters on the front page of the website will continue – as I find time to write them a few times per year – to keep you posted on all the progress we’ve made recently in terms of adding new products and returning old products.
The kids are the focus of attention outside of work. I indicated in last year’s Annual Letter that most of the shop closures through-out the year are geared toward the many activities the kids are involved with. Looking ahead for 2015, here are some upcoming closures:
May 1 - May 7
June 25 - July 5
October 14 – October 20
That’s a few breaks to accomplish other things and take a breather from work. Most of this year, however, I’m in the shop. I’ll visit the office only long enough to keep up with processing orders and responding to emails. As you all know – especially if you’ve called and listened to that message – I rarely pick up the phone because I don’t spend much time in the office and there’s no phone in the shop. Please email…if you haven’t discovered this, you will: Golden Witch customer service over email is top notch – but just like a slow cooked meal, sometimes that top notch service takes a little while to deliver. I do my very best to respond to every email that comes across my desk, usually within one full business day, but that can mean late Monday if you emailed early on Friday. And then there are days when I’m gone midweek – visiting suppliers or attending school-related meetings – so, please, be patient and I will get back to you. If by some odd chance you don’t hear from me after a week, try emailing again because most likely I didn’t receive your email.
If you’ve followed GW over the years, there’s no doubt you witnessed growth, then stagnation. Now, looking back over the recent past of 2014 and early 2015, you must see a reflourishing of Golden Witch. Custom made products like agate stripping guides excepted, our products are deeply inventoried. Many products that had gone out of production have been brought back. Some of this revitalization has gone smoothly; in other cases it has not. I’ll give one example of each. The agate supply fell off a cliff when my former stone cutter retired. It took the better part of a year, but now I’m working with a new lapidary artist and the bins are not only filling back up, but I’ll be expanding the number of bins. In 2015 look for new styles, sizes, and colors. To go along with the new agate rings I’ve begun to purchase new tooling – keep tabs on the website because later this year I’ll be offering more frame options, including both jewelry quality frames and large, sturdy frames for Spey Rods and Coarse Rods. As of March, 2015, the evidence of the new tooling can be seen in slightly modified frames across the line…subtle changes…curves that suit my eye a little better, and hopefully yours as well. And now an example of the frustrations: the former manufacturer of our brass rod tube caps is no longer in business. I’ve been hunting for a new supplier, but haven’t been successful yet in locating the right price/quality ratio considering the relatively low volumes that go hand in hand with top tier products in this little niche market. One of these days, the rod tubes will come back.
Speaking of top tier products, I want to thank all the guys who have adopted the nickel silver hook tenders I began making last year. Along with guides, these are taking up more and more of my shop time each week. If you’re making up a particularly fancy rod – and if you can give me plenty of lead time to order in the precious metals – I’d love to work up a Dickerson Twisted Hook Tender in sterling silver or 18K gold. As I write this, I’m backlogged about 10 days on all custom products, so no matter what you’re ordering, please plan in advance and order in advance, especially if you see a shop closure looming ahead.
You can expect a lot of new products from Golden Witch and our sister company, Arcane Component Works. One of my boys, Drake, is involved with his high school’s engineering track, college credit classes which have been influenced and endorsed by the national Project Lead The Way (PLTW) team. Less than a year into the program, Drake has sufficiently mastered computer aided drafting that he is designing parts for GW’s future production. You’ll see the results of our collaboration in mid to late 2015 with some new stripping guides, then new winding checks. Drake’s efforts at translating my frightening little sketches and notes into illustrated CAD spec sheets were introduced as before/after examples of the value of his Intro To Engineering Design class during the recent PLTW review process. His work, one small cog in an elaborate effort, helped lead to his school’s successful certification. As a parent advisor on the school’s PLTW team, I often feel I’m the odd man out. The other parents have strong math, engineering, and computer programing backgrounds. I have an undergrad degree in philosophy and a pile of grad classes in philosophy and theology, but no advanced degree to show for that time…fishing tackle sucked me in. I was so fortunate to have experienced an apprenticeship as a young man. If I can offer the PLTW kids something more than a soldering demonstration, it’s the two-fold notion that a) working with your hands offers career opportunities even for the academically inclined, i.e., their future doesn’t necessarily entail life in a cubicle with a computer, and b) that seeking learning opportunities everywhere they present themselves helps to develop a unique skill set and, in the market of competitive commerce, such a skill set can engender the flexibility to create a worthwhile career in a new, or barely occupied, niche. If you have kids or grandkids in high school, please take the time to see if the school offers a Project Lead The Way program and push your kids to sample just a single PLTW class because it could be a bonafide life changing class.
That’s enough of a ramble for this year. Keep watching. Good things are happening and I can’t emphasize this enough: good things are happening because you support the GW & ACW endeavors with your purchases. I rely on your business & I appreciate your business.
Enjoy all your shop time and your time on the water!