Hydro-Welded™ Guide Frames – Production Notes
Russ, I really like the new frames, much crisper!
This page features some process pictures showing our Hydro-Welded™ Guide Frames being made. I’m only going to show a few of the 125 steps needed to transform raw wire – and assorted other parts – into completed guides. For those who want to know it all, I urge you to sign up for The Atelier at Golden Witch once we open our new website. Drake and I are (very slowly) working on a series of videos which, among other subjects, will take students on a three year component crafting journey that begins with making Dickerson-Inspired Single Twisted “Loop-The-Loop” Hook Tenders and ends with a number of lessons sharing everything I know about how to make guides, first from pre-formed components, then from scratch. For now though, I want to share enough about our limited production, second generation, Hydro-Welded™ Frames to let you know that they’re worth the wait and worth the expense.
The Steps. Briefly, the spooled wire must be straightened, trimmed to workable lengths, folded, flattened, TIG welded, and then Hydro-Welded – all of which are essentially two dimensional forming processes. Of course the frame parts are three dimensional objects, but each object, up through the final frame-welding steps, is able to lie flat on a bench top because all the bends occur in the same plane. When wire-forming, industrially or within hand-wrought jewelry applications, these parts are considered two dimensional. After each frame is double welded, it is formed in a hydraulic press, curving the wings of the frame upwards and morphing the 2D form into a 3D form. The feet of the formed frame are then trimmed and ground prior to setting the ring and moving to the polishing room. Polished guides are sold at this stage, or taken several steps further with various finishes – oxidization, plating, and/or coating.
Yes, a CNC wire bending tool – or a vintage four-slide machine – could be used to form the 2D frame halves, but these steps of the process are relatively easy to complete with hand tools and switching the Golden Witch set-up to accommodate different frame styles or frame sizes takes a matter of moments. In a few days I can make more frame halves than I can use in months, so I haven’t seen a need to automate this step, to spend a fortune on a largely idle tool. I freely admit that after eight hours of bending frames, with blisters raised when working with heavier wires, I do ponder the transient joys of automation. Alternatively, I could sub out the wire forming work, but the minimum orders (per permutation) are extravagant, especially when I want so many frame sizes, each in several wire diameters. It’s more cost effective from the perspective of total inventory investment – if marginally slower and more expensive per part – to make what I need, when I need it. Having the equipment on hand to form nearly any frame size from any practical wire diameter – and knowing how to operate the several pieces of equipment safely and quickly – allows me to work up custom frames for specific jobs, e.g., the always oddball Franken-Stone™ rings, with relative ease. I’ll eyeball the ring, or measure it if the OD isn’t ringing a bell, then start with the jig set up for frames of a known size, adjust up or down a notch, and make the prototype frame. I have dozens of these unpolished bastard frames perched on window sills, nestled in boxes, hidden in drawers. The rings are fitted to the prototype frames and, as needed, the frames are adjusted so that the wire weight works – and looks appropriate, so that the wing height holds the ring aloft at a height that is functional and aesthetically pleasing, and spaced so that gap between the wing tips holds the ring ‘just so’…neither so tight it springs the ring toward the ceiling, nor so loose that if falls between the wings before or during soldering. I am not, bamboo rods excepted, more than an amateur when it comes to fine woodworking, but I think the best analogy that many craftsmen will understand is the urge to make hand-cut dovetails well and repeatably over and against the notion that one can make perfect dovetails reliably with a sufficient investment in dovetail jigs and router bits. Both methods work and both are used – frequently – to great practical effect. No matter how perfect the machine cut dovetails are, however, the joints measured, marked, sawn, and chiselled with hand tools will always have an inimitable charm that the machined parts lack – even when the glue-up and finish work are carried out to equally high standards. There is machine work and there is hand work. Having, at best, the latter half of a single life to live, I am choosing to make inimitable parts by hand. Thanks for your support.
Over time, we’ll be creating a full range of frame styles. For now (October 2020) we have standard frames suited for 8mm, 9mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12mm, & 18mm rings, with other custom sizes easily accommodated. The 8-12mm frames are made from 16 gauge wire in the standard frame weight. 14-18mm frames are made from 14 gauge wire in the standard frame weight. Upon request (eventually we’ll make the option”clickable” on the website pages) we can form these frames from the next heavier wire up the scale (14 gauge for 8-12mm frames and 12 gauge for 14-18mm frames) and these heavy duty frames will be our Hydro-Welded™ GUIDE Series Frames….indomitable frames suited for constant, daily use or for larger quarry. We also have an adaption of our standard frames that sits a bit lower on the blank (a middle height guide, not a low frame) and will be called our Medium Frame. Before long we’ll introduce our new Cradle Frame – prototypes are in the works. Eventually we’ll design a Low Frame.
For more info on why these are our “Green”-est guide frames ever, please check out the main Hydro-Welded™ Guide page linked below the process shots. It’s not merely because the hydrogen torch throws a hot green flame!
Without further ado, here are some pictures.
I may add more images later, but this is enough for you to understand the basic steps involved in forming and shaping the frames. Early prototypes excepted, here’s the first start-to-finish Hydro Welded™ Guide, an 11mm White Jade set in a Standard Frame.
Thanks for looking through this page! Please support small business innovation and traditional artisanship by purchasing some of our Hydro-Welded™ Guides for your finest rods. Roughly speaking, every two guides you purchase supports sixty to ninety minutes of shop time – that’s the craft labor, plus materials and overhead. Five hundred rodmakers ordering only four guides each, per year, supports the shop hours of one full-time angling-oriented artisan. Drake, Nikki, Matt, & I very sincerely appreciate every single guide sale, and speaking as the primary craftsman here at GW (with increasing frame making help from Drake), I appreciate your patience with the delay between order and delivery.