GW Rod Tube Kits
Golden Witch Rod Tube Kits – The Ramble
After an absence of several years, the GW Rod Tube Kits are back, in both the Classic (flat top) and Antique (dome top) options. These things are fantastically expensive to produce to this level of quality, and the margins are quite slim despite the retail price tag, which is why these are not offered through our sister wholesale company, Arcane Component Works. If we sell through this batch quickly, we plan to make more and perhaps the product line can become self-sustaining. If these sell slowly, it’s the last time we’ll make them because a slow churn on this initial re-investment in tubing and cap sets means that the inventory dollars will be better off invested elsewhere in coming years. Intending no drama whatsoever because this is a simple yea/nay choice on future inventory based on its value to the company, let us be blunt. If you like these tube kits and you want them to stay in our line-up, don’t count on someone else to purchase enough to make it worth our while. We’re not talking thousands of tube kits. If a few hundred rodmakers each bought two kits before the year was out (that’s 2016), they’ll most likely stick around as a product. If we receive a host of very kind, and entirely welcome, emails saying how nice the kits look, but the sales don’t tally up with the praise, they’re gone. That alone should be an incentive to grab a kit or two while they’re here. There’s a nice circularity here…your personal incentive to snag a tube kit while they’re available, compounded by the number of good rodmakers out there who might need just one or two of these kits in a given year, becomes the modest volume we need to ensure that they are available for years to come.
This is Russ – I’m going to tackle a question about the kits in the first person. As I promised the fellow I wrote to, my response will be part of this ramble on the subject of tube kits. The gentleman was concerned about the difficulty of assembling and polishing the tube kits. Here’s my response (edited for clarity in the ramble format; and extended, too, since I was in a typing mood):
I am really glad you wrote with your concern, because if you’re thinking there’s an issue, so are dozens of other fellows. Perhaps I put too much “clarity” into the new version of the website text, i.e., maybe I’m scaring rodmakers off of something that is pretty straightforward. My goal wasn’t to make the tube kits seem inaccessible, it was to protect the company from the few guys I dealt with in previous years who lacked a certain amount of gumption and were quite frustrated that they had to polish the aluminum tubes themselves.
Polishing Tubes: The tubes are very, very easy to polish by hand, but there’s a physical labor component that you will feel in your forearms. I take a quarter sheet of coarse paper, fold that in half and twist the rod tube through my hand (aside: I don’t know why, but I have an easier time sanding with a folded sheet of paper than a single-layer sheet; perhaps because the other side of the paper has just enough bite to grab into my palm and stay in place as I twist). You’ll immediately notice a nice spiral scuff pattern forming and you can alter that pattern in a controlled fashion, lengthen it or contract it so the spirals are loose or tight (think of a spring in various stages of tension), by how far you push the tube “forward” through your sandpaper hand for each full revolution of spin. After you make several passes, you’ll have knocked off nearly all the surface blemishes. At this point, I like to spin it once through in the opposite direction to create a criss-cross pattern to the scuff finish. Then I work the same pattern through a finer grit paper or two so that the pattern is more subtle, but still evident. Finally, I polish with the Simichrome paste to bring out the luster. If you work like this, polishing the tube by hand, there’s nothing difficult except that bit of time and effort involved.
However, if you’re using a lathe, you do need a big lathe and you must be extremely conscious of safety. You operate your lathe entirely at your own risk. At one point I had an old Atlas set up with a 6” chuck and a fairly long bed. If you have a live center of large enough diameter (a bull nose live center may be worth the investment) to tuck into one end of the tube, you can grip the other end at the headstock…I preferred to open a set of stepped jaws into the bore of the tube, to help prevent the tube from crushing/deforming. For safety’s sake, you shouldn’t turn a tube without a steady rest of some sort. You must locate/make a roller-based steady rest for your lathe if you don’t have one. After you polish the bulk of the tube, working from grit to grit, you can move the steady and work the span that it had masked. Using this method, you can build up a darn-near perfect, mirror-like finish on the aluminum tubing and your power equipment takes the place of the physical effort.
Having done it both ways, I decided I prefer the safety of working the tubes by hand and I really do like the criss-cross scuff pattern, so that’s where I’m at. The slightly sedate (not dull, but not mirror) finish on the tube winds up contrasting beautifully with the mirror polish on the brass cap.
Also, for rods that see real world use, tossed in the backseat of trucks, stowed in a float plane, stood up in the corner of a distant cabin….those tubes are going to get scratched and the scuff pattern minimizes the visual horror of well earned scratches. My wife, Steph, is a cook in her free time. There’s a chef’s tool I’d like to bring in here as another argument in favor is starting out your tubes “scratched” on day one. Like many serious cooks, my wife has a small but growing collection of copper pots and pans. Originally, she started with French pans – mostly Mauviel. They look glorious when you buy them. But use them, really cook in them, and they go downhill. In large part this is due to cleaning. That’s me….I’m the dish guy. It’s a fair trade for eating well…she cooks fine meals; I scrub pots and pans after dinner. Eventually I was put onto Falk cookware. Not only does she love it from a functional perspective, but it comes with a brushed finish, not a high polish. I can use my scrubie and load it with Barkeeper’s Friend if I have to and there’s nothing to worry about….this heavy duty cookware essentially arrives pre-scuffed and ready to work.
Polishing Caps: The cap sets are easy to polish if you have a motor set up with a six inch buffing wheel….a little rouge, buff them, they get hot, so switch to another piece while the first piece starts cooling off, and keep rotating your work pieces until each is polished perfectly. You can dip the cap pieces in cold water to chill them down faster, but with some rouges, the rouge can gunk up faster if there is moisture present on the part, so it’s good practice to dry the pieces off before polishing if you use the dunking method to keep them cool as you polish. On the Classic caps, don’t over-polish the knurls or you can wash them out. On all the sets, don’t polish the threads more than briefly, or you’ll loosen the fit and caps may sit a bit sloppy on the threaded collars. The threads are nicely machined, so you can avoid polishing them altogether and you’ll be fine, but just like a pass with a #8 Swiss Cut file can sweeten the fit of a male ferrule that already seats full depth, a kiss of the buffing wheel can sweeten the turn of the cap set…just don’t overdo this.
Last but not least, I want to share two client tips that are on the bottom of the instruction sheet for assembling the kits, both of which are worth your time.
1.) You are undoubtedly aware of the coefficients of expansion for different materials. When the tubes are ready for the end caps, I set them out on the back porch ~ temperature about zero degrees F. (Of course in warm weather I would use an ice bucket ala champagne). I set the oven in the kitchen for 500 degrees and ‘soak’ the bottom end cap and top sleeve for about five to ten minutes, and the parts practically slip onto the tube ends ~ no mallet needed! … And oh yes, do wear an insulated glove!
And this second tip came in when I requested a “how to” lesson after seeing a client’s finished tube kit that utterly glowed from stem to stern….I know, I said up above that I don’t go in for the mirror polish on my own tubes, which remains true, but holy cats, when it’s done right, it is a fine spectacle to behold.
2.) I [took the surface down to] 2500 Grit Wet/Dry to get all the pits and deep scratches out, [followed with] some Meguiar’s Medium Cut Cleaner, then Meguiar’s Swirl remover, then Meguiar’s Show Room Glaze and finally the Meguiar’s Carnauba finish. I used some polishing cloth and then some felt to sparkle it up.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!