Russ Gooding & Golden Witch… Integrity, Experience, Professionalism.
-Doug Hall www.bamboorodmaker.com
You and your company are a treasure and more than a pleasure to work with.
– Dennis Aebersold
November, 2020: The new guides are here!
A lot has happened since I last updated this “About” page. We’ve moved. That ate up a huge portion of the last twelve months…packing, shifting a house and a company, unpacking. Organizing. Sort of. I’ll spend at least another year getting fully organized in the new location.
Right now Drake & I are in the process of rebuilding the GW workspace. When we moved, we set up a few cramped benches to speed the process of re-opening the company, of getting back on track with making and finishing all the small parts that we create or manipulate in-house. Manipulate is a great word, by the way, but one too often relegated to negative connotations (e.g., “the prince, a lumpy toad under the best of circumstances, manipulated the debutante princess of the neighboring kingdom). We can do better. According to Merriam-Webster, manipulate means, “to treat or operate with, or as if with, the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner.” Here’s your challenge of the day…find a way to use manipulate in a positive fashion when you’re sharing with someone the nature of what you do at the bench. You manipulate bamboo, thread, snake guide feet, finishes, etc.. Your skilled hands alter, adapt, create, and pass forward the objects you create from raw materials and component parts.
Anyway, in order to keep manipulating things here at Golden Witch, I need all my dedicated benches back up and running. That’s a bench for bezeling guides with sheet bezels (the traditional bezels most of you are familiar with). I need a bench dedicated to making wire bezels for grooved agates. There should be separate benches for both TIG pulse arc welders, for compressed gas (oxy-acetylene) welding, compressed gas (propane) soldering, and, soon, hydro-welding. In an ideal world, that’s five benches just for adhering bits and pieces with molten metal. The more benches that are arranged with a dedicated selection of tools and the accessories that allow those tools – and the operant hands – to work efficiently, the more smoothly GW runs. It’s best not to have to dig for any tools that are used regularly. It’s best to be able to keep an eye on the tools…even running dehumidifiers constantly, any unseen, untended, tools tend to oxidize…probably on account of the flux and the chemical oxidizers we use in the shop. Tools that are seen are tools that are maintained. Tools that are in easy reach – task specific, or dedicated, tools – are tools that wind up being used for their proper purpose. Hidden tools, where-did-I-put-that tools, even if they’re the best tool for a task, are often ignored if an at-hand tool can pull off a comparable task. There are always six ways to skin a cat. But one way, for any given maker, is the preferred way.
So, in the interest of getting back to a smoother operation, we are starting the process of assembling more benches, unpacking more tools, and ordering in more tools geared to the tasks at hand. Every three or four years, I bite the bullet and arrange a lease purchase that expands our shop capacity. Four years or so back that included our first TIG welder, the 20 ton hydraulic press, a rolling mill, and wire-bending tools. This year it’s a second TIG welder so that both Drake and I can run that tool without messing with each other’s settings; or I can set up for tacking bezels on one welder, while being set to run contiguous puddles to join larger parts – frame parts – on the other. We’re adding a dual torch (two operators, or two torch heads for different tasks a single operator might perform) hydro-welding set up. This tool uses electrolysis to break water molecules apart, then reforms those molecules when the torches ignite the collected hydrogen to form a super-hot, clean-burning flame that is extremely environmentally friendly. A green flame! And wait until you see pics of the flame in action, because it actually burns green. Beyond welding, we’re adding a heavy duty guillotine shear to form custom-width strips of bezel material. There will be a micro-motor rotary tool, of equivalent quality to those used by dentists and surgeons, which I understand will be the bees knees for grinding and polishing delicate parts. In our shop, that might be grinding and polishing the solder joins where bezelled agates are secured into the frames to make the join appear as a nearly seamless transition from frame to bezel, or it might be shaping and polishing the feet on our custom hook tenders. Last but not least for the current round of tool acquisition, we picked up a jeweler’s microscope that should extend the utility of my aging eyes another few decades; if I understand the microscope literature, I’ll be able to mount a camera to the microscope to take detailed process and product shots.
Why process shots? Because I know how limited I am. Drake is a very good craftsman, but his passion does not follow mine – he is a guitarist who plays lead for two bands when the country isn’t under lock down, and he would much rather be on stage, a modern, youthful incarnation of Jimmy Page, rather than hunched over a bench next to me. If teaching Drake everything isn’t going to propagate the information forward within the craft, then I really need to teach you how to make the parts that you buy from GW. I won’t be here forever. In order to share what I do, in enough detail that you can follow my lead up to a certain point, then take tackle craft forward in all the possible directions that your mind’s eye will guide you towards, I need to produce better how-to material. A portion of this material will be free on the website. Right now I’m working on a ramble that goes into pages and pages of detail sharing the methods I use – and alternate, often more affordable methods, i.e., peening hammers or vises rather than planishing hammers – to create the range of Dickerson Inspired Twisted Tenders that we sell. Some of the how-to material I create, though, I’ll have to sell. Sorry, but the brutal reality is this: I work to pay my way through life. I’m not quite sure how I’ll move forward with this project, but I’m gathering the tools to make it happen, to make something happen. In an ideal world, the final how-to bit I produce will be a treatise on making guides which I can issue right before I retire…perhaps alongside kits with agate donuts, fluted and unfluted, wire bezels, sheet bezels, framing wire, etc. And when will I retire? That is the question. And Covid-19 is mucking up the clarity of the answer.
For now, Golden Witch is not only moving forward, it is expanding operations to fill several voids in the rodmaking world. Before long we’ll be offering all, or nearly all, of our current range of agate & agatine rings, both sheet bezelled and wire bezelled, in the new hydro-welded frames. New, only in that that we haven’t offered in-house crafted frames of this sort except as more expensive custom items (and these frames were welded with compressed gasses, not hydrogen; the new hydro-welding outfit will offer a superior weld that can be produced at a moderately faster pace – that’s a great pair of benefits from one task-specific tool). The hydro-welded frame’s basic design will be eminently traditional, recognizable, but we’ll add a few twists to the process, a few variants of material and aesthetics for makers to choose from. That’s phase one, once the new tools are in the shop and each has its dedicated bench. Phase two will be bringing in an entire new range of agate rings. I sketched these rings out about two years ago – part of a proprietary project initiated by a large fiberglass rod company. They didn’t follow through on the project, and those sketches have been gnawing at me. I really want to make these guides. Now that one of our competitors has recently gone out of business, which has increased the volume of our guide sales, and increased the number of requests for guides we don’t currently offer, I’ve decided to move forward. The new rings, once the lapidary artist gets them cut, will be offered in more sizes than we currently offer…a full size run from quite small to quite large. These will be slightly more ornate than our current rings in terms of the cut, the physical shape of the stone rings. There will be distinct grades – I’ll hand cull the agate rings we receive into standard rings for nickel silver bezels, and some sort of higher tier or tiers which will receive precious metal bezels. The fanciest of these guides will be bezelled in gold and the weld seams joining the frame halves will feature slim gold lines on account of being welded with gold; these gold seams will be visible because the frames will be blued to create contrast. While still having a delicate appearance, these guides are being engineered to be the most durable we’ve ever created. The finest guides for the finest rods. Heirlooms to pass from generation to generation on the rods that you make. Guides worth harvesting and putting onto new bamboo rods two or three centuries from now when your talented heirs spec out your rods in an attempt to duplicate the action, the aesthetics, of a rod that finally gave up the ghost after three restorations and so many hundreds of hours on the water.
Assuming I can stay clear of this damn virus, these new guides should be available in the first sizes & stone colors, by fall of 2020.
Anything posted below is old news, but I’m leaving it posted in case you’re bored to tears and slowly nursing a morning cup of coffee.
The 20th Anniversary Sale. It’s Here.
Well, it’s actually HERE. Click that link for the current list of sale items. The list will change every day that I have the gumption to list things, or further drop prices on stuff that’s already listed. Figure I’ll drop prices on surviving items about once a month.
Golden Witch has been incorporated for twenty years as of November 2018. We’ll be starting our anniversary sale a little early, and we’ll extend it for a full year with rolling discounts on regularly stocked, non-custom, items. As a huge “Thank You!!” to all our clients, we’re going to give you access to all the non-standard stuff that has accumulated in our warehouse space over the past two decades. We’ll start listing new items (well, not everything will be brand new….some of the best stuff will be vintage, and variously mint or crusty or somewhere in between) and tucking them around on the website – sort of a treasure hunt at the moment (as of mid-August 2018). Before long, we’ll consolidate all the sale items on one main category page (which we’ve now done). What can you expect to find on sale? Everything from signed copies of Michael Sinclair’s Bamboo Rod Restoration Handbook, to vintage silks by Belding-Corticelli, to components from our stash of Lyon & Coulson parts, to a pair of flies tied by George Grant.
What’s going on? Well, we’ve finally decided that we’re never going to re-open a brick & mortar shop. That frees us from the need to keep a host of display items. Also, our kids have become ever more firmly entrenched in their own curious paths, and none of them want to take over an obscure tackle business. Two of our four are already in college and the other two will be following before long. Steph & I plan to downsize eventually, so a rip-roaring sale seems appropriate. Really, I don’t need two or more copies of most rodmaking books, that pristine spool of B-C 5115, enough angling art to decorate a retail shop, a four-string glue binder, a bazillion vintage guides, the nearly ancient Leonard casting rod which decorates my office, nor a few hundred dozen other odd bits that have accumulated. Steph curses my pack-rat nature. Maybe you can benefit. Excepting a very few high-value items, the sale will be absolute, which is to say that over time we’ll lower the price of all the items until they sell. If you don’t like Lyon & Coulson, Inc. vintage corks at $50.00 per 25 rings, then wait to see if the 19 bags last until the rings are a buck apiece. Eventually they’ll sell. I hope you’ll find something you like!
Now a short social update. A bunch of you have met my sons, Angus & Drake, over at the bamboo warehouse. You may also have bumped into the girls, Mackenzie & Alex, or we may have discussed the kids by email. While the girls are still in high school, the boys are long gone, with no plans to return home or to Golden Witch, except for summer hours during their few remaining college years. Angus, the oldest, has been bartending while chasing a degree in music business, but this semester (Fall 2018) he’s headed out for three months with Sea/mester and he’ll be sailing and diving throughout the Caribbean while studying marine biology….what a way to knock out the science requirements and pick up a few other credits. Drake is cobbling together a program in business entrepreneurship while semi-secretly pursing his dream of becoming a second generation classic rock star like the young fellows in Greta Van Fleet (who we saw, live, from a front row distance of about ten feet from the feet of the bassist, using General Admission passes, after Drake conned me into standing in the rain for nearly eight hours); he’s been taking all sorts of classes with different programs, including a NOLS Semester in the Rockies, rock guitar classes with Berklee College of Music, and this year he’s down at the University of the Virgin Islands for some business classes (and one credit of island rhythm on the steel drums…ooops, spoke too soon….UVI cancelled this class since not enough students signed up; Drake will have to find a local drummer to learn from), then he heads off with Sea/mester in the spring of ’19 to sail from Tortola, BVI, through the Panama Canal, down to the Galapagos Islands, then across the Pacific to Tahiti….like his brother, he’ll be picking up sailing and dive certs around his formal academic work. Mackenzie is aiming somewhere between an Ornithology degree & something in Bio-chem or Bio-engineering, but she’s still a year or so out from having to pick a program, which is tough when you also love literature & history; Mackenzie is our resident nerd, and proud of it. Alex, our youngest daughter, is focused almost entirely on cooking for her four years of home school high school. She’s studying the sugar arts (imagine crafting realistic orchids from gum paste…that sort of thing) at the Sugar Arts Institute, and more general cooking at the Zest school, all around a regular home school curriculum that she designs with me to challenge her and to drive her toward her chosen career. Can you guess that she plans to be a pastry chef? The kids will each go their own way before long, and I guess that’s the point of trying to raise independent folks. If any of you are young parents, let me plug home school. PLUG. It’s worth the effort. Both boys were partially home schooled (here’s Drake doing a TEDx Talk last summer); Mackenzie is our public school girl; Alex will have been almost entirely home schooled by the time she graduates and every year it gets better.
If you want to learn more about our family, please check out our new family adventure blog, the ‘other’ GW: Goat Waters. Careful here; you could lose a lot of time if you’re the reading sort.
Getting back to this 20th Anniversary Sale, yes, we’re clearing gobs of stuff out because GW will most likely end when I retire. I’ve got to start listing all these things now, while I still have the energy and patience to do it. Steph & I have some pretty cool plans for our family and ourselves over the next decade and whether this means something to you or not, you’ll be helping out when you invest in items from our 20th Anniversary Sale. Please tell your rodmaking friends, relatives, associates, compatriots, and competitors that we’re selling oddball stuff and lots of it. As more widgets sell, I’ll have the incentive to list new items and you’ll get to see deeper and deeper into the hoard. Again, Thank You!
More later, I’m sure….
New For 2018: I’ve been convinced to give FREE SHIPPING a try. If you want to stock up and fill your own bins with spare parts, or plan ahead and pick up a couple rods’ worth of components at one time, we’ll help you save money with free shipping on small part orders totaling over $500.00 in merchandise after any coupons are applied. Check out our Shipping Rates, Terms, & Conditions page for more info because there are restrictions on this program. Also, as you’ll read on that same terms & conditions page, we’ve had to formally put an end to add-on orders. Enjoy the free shipping if you can make use of it, and thanks for your understanding about the new add-on order policy.
Golden Witch Technologies, Inc. was conceived while I was undergoing my bamboo rodmaking apprenticeship with Daryll Whitehead in Seattle. The difficulty of finding top notch tools and components was readily apparent, so I decided to found a company oriented toward the needs of custom rodmakers and the anglers who appreciate custom tackle. What started before meeting Daryll as a custom graphite rod company, Golden Witch Rods, has merged with my passion for bamboo rodmaking. Once a sole proprietorship, Golden Witch incorporated in 1998 and has been growing to suit the changing needs of our clients ever since. The finest rodmakers and restorationists choose Golden Witch components for all manner of rods – graphite, bamboo, & fiberglass – and all manner of fishing, from ultralight graphite spinning tackle to top shelf, collectible bamboo fly rods. Whether you need something vintage, like an obscure agatine tiptop, or something classic in appearance but modern in function, like GW’s internally tapered slide band reel seats, Golden Witch has the components you need.
The demand for custom rods, especially custom bamboo rods which appreciate in value as the years pass, originally allowed me to continue making rods even as Golden Witch served the needs of other rodmakers around the world. Quite simply, there was, and still is, a greater demand for custom tackle than there are craftsman who can sate that demand. As a practicing rodmaker, I am intimately aware of the needs that rodmakers have – needs for better components and for better service. However, as of 2014, I no longer make custom rods for sale. With thousands of clients, many of them world class rodmakers, it was time for me to choose between fishing or cutting bait, so to speak. I’ve chosen to cut bait; here I mean the phrase in its original incarnation, that of choosing either to angle or to conduct the preparatory maintenance necessary for angling. I enjoy making parts that rodmakers take pleasure in using, and in offering advice to budding rodmakers. Everybody who is fortunate in having a job they are passionate about needs to nurture their particular passion in order to thrive during the work day. My passions have shifted over the years and now I’m finding more pleasure in designing components, making guides, and creating jewelry grade components, than designing and making rods. This said, I still make rods for my own use, for family, and for the occasional donation. This keeps my hands dirty at the rodmaking end of things, but allows me to focus my time on component innovation and production. Your needs drive the innovation at Golden Witch. Working with my team of associated rodmakers, anglers, historians, artists, and engineers, I am constantly creating new products and re-inventing old standards. I re-invest a significant portion of profits in R&D, thus when you become a client, you actively help me to create new products that will serve your needs. 2016 has seen the return of the Classic & Antique Tube Kits, the introduction of Hexagate hexagonal stone guides, the minor innovation of the Improved Saddles (available with our Blue and Gold Ring & Saddle Hook Tenders), improved variants of the Whitehead Ferrule Puller and our Roughing & Intermediate Forms, and more. 2017 promises even more positive expansion. I’m involved with Peak Bamboo as a founding partner, so you’ll see Golden Witch make a re-entry into the bamboo supply market; GW plans to expand our cork importing business; we have already produced a host of new options for agatine guides which we need to get listed…these include the new agatine colors Antique Gold (dark gold) and Scuppydine (pale gold). If all goes according to plan, it’s going to be an incredibly busy year, so please be patient if you order custom products that I make – guides and whatnot – because there will be delays during those times I’m wearing my Peak Bamboo hat. There is a lot more planned for 2017, but we’ll work our way to fruition one project at a time.
If you’re already a GW client, thank you for your support! You help me to keep a host of craftsmen and craftswomen employed and I think that’s valuable, and valuable for you to know. Most of the Golden Witch tools and components are made in shops that employ fewer than eight craftspeople and three employ just a single person. These are folks dedicated to their trades and working with them is a real pleasure. These craftspeople help me to expand my definition of what is possible and part of what they make possible is Golden Witch. The vast majority of our products are crafted here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but no matter where they’re made, the pride of craftsmanship shows in the products Golden Witch purveys.
Please explore the Golden Witch website. I want to earn your business. Let me know how I can work together with you to achieve that goal. – Russ
My goodness Russ, I thought I was a bit odd sending an order to you [so] late…, but you replied before most of this continent was awake this morning. Thank you….By the way, you cut bait with panache. And that is just as important as all the rest. If the bait ain’t right, the fish don’t bite! Cheers,
Malcolm B. (Canada)
Your company is amazing, thank you so much. You will be well represented by me simply as a customer, but also as an advocate for small, family-owned businesses that are tough to find these days. Your customer service is second to none. Thank you, your donation is greatly appreciated!!!!
-Jed Hamberger and the Lock Haven University Fly Fishing Club