My occasional comments on rod making and the fly tackle world in general.
There never seems to be enough time to add more. Making rods for a living takes up so much of the day. I'll add more when I get time.
Carbon Fibre Rods. A Gem of a story........
As I am cutting the pattern for a customers rod from the sheet of pre pr-preg carbon fibre, I smile to myself occasionally when I remember this incident.
I'm very careful to examine every inch of the carbon fibre for flaws. If I spot even the slightest hint of a flaw I bin it. Well not in the bin literally, as even flawed carbon cost's the same as pristine carbon. No it is still useful. It gets used for the reinforcing pulling section on a blank so it can be removed from the mandrel with the hydraulic mandrel puller. After doing that useful job - it does eventually end up in the bin.
A certain long established north of England U.K. tackle company. A company that had a long history of carbon composite engineering, asked me in 2005 to come in as a consultant to revamp their current Salmon rod range and work on some new designs. The old designs had developed an unfortunate habit of breaking on a regular basis and the company was starting to get a bit of bad press on this. Unfortunately they still do...
In due course I was given random samples of these 13, 14 and 15ft rods to test and examine. First thing I noticed was that the 13ft rod weighed quite a bit more than the 14 and 15ft versions. It turned out to be more than an ounce heavier! Same handle, slightly shorter, same reel seat, a few less guides, nothing visibly different to the naked eye to account for the added weight.
When I asked why the 13ft was heavier than the others? I was told that the rod keeps breaking........."we just kept adding carbon until it stopped breaking"................ The 13ft version was rated for a 9 line. In reality after all the carbon had been added it went right off the AFTM line scale. An early prototype scandi rod......... Shamefully - It was still being sold with these built in carbon bandages rather than withdrawn and redesigned.
I requested samples of the raw pre pre-preg carbon material. On examination It turned out that the material was sourced from China at a ridiculously low price per square metre. The head composites engineer was scornful at my incredulity when for comparison I stated some of the premium prices that I paid for my top quality carbon fibre. What he or the guys rolling the blanks had failed to notice was that the fibres, in this supposedly unidirectional carbon material, had a skew every 18 inches or so that ran off in a tangent for an 20mm before running back in line again The blanks were being rolled with an inherent fault - a bit like a knot in a branch - they were breaking with alarming frequency at these points. This company had been in the carbon fibre rod business longer than anyone else in Britain, yet they had failed to notice that the "bargain priced" material had this fault running throughout the rolls of the cheap Chinese carbon...........
My tenure at this job didn't last long after this incident. I suspect the embarrassment this caused was not well received internally self preservation kicked in and ranks closed. Eventually (actually very rapidly) my input was no longer welcome. This company has now established a reputation of the wrong kind. Consumers are quick to air any complaints about a products reliability online these days. Bad news spreads very fast on the Internet these days.
After my experience with them and discovering how sloppy their quality control was It doesn't surprise me in any way.
You can be assured that a Norwich fly rod is not built using cut price Chinese carbon fibre. My carbon fibre comes from Toray and Mitsubishi of Japan. The worlds largest and longest established manufacturers. It arrives here in the U.K. in huge bobbins and is manufactured (Pultruded) into pre-preg in this country. Pre impregnated carbon fibre sheet.
I pay a premium price for a premium U.K. produced product and supply a product that is built with the very finest carbon fibre materials available.
A YouTube snapshot on how Norwich fly rod blank is made.
I hope you will enjoy the clip. Just click on the thumbnail to view the video.
Or why not subscribe to my YouTube channel to see more David Norwich Videos.
What Price Carbon and Rod Design?
From a forum post - "I wonder if David Norwich would like to comment on Steve Partons views in this article?" http://www.sexyloops.com/sparton/graphiterods.shtml
"I accept it is a bit old now and the price of carbon cloth has probably gone up since he wrote it but what about his basic points?"
That rather old article by Steve is often quoted in forums.
Anybody that knows Steve will tell you he is a “character” and likes to court a bit of controversy. His comments on forums are designed to provoke reaction. I have always enjoyed chatting to Steve but it can be hard work at times…likeable though he is, he is of very fixed opinion. Getting a word in edgewise can be difficult….. However character comments aside and with a nod to his undoubted skill as an innovative angler, the opinions and dubious facts that were stated in that article are now over 10 years old. It is borrowed from a blog in Steve’s site. Things have changed dramatically since it was first published.
exchange rate and recent world economic crash and the financial banking crisis for one has driven cost up.
Carbon is now much much more expensive to make and to buy. The highest quality
material has also has been difficult at times to obtain. Huge U.S. defense projects
and the Airbus project have tied up the worlds carbon producing plants. The
small amount of revenue from rod makers buying carbon is chicken feed in comparison
to the buying power of the makers of Airbus and Stealth Bombers……
So rod makers wait in line and pay premium prices nowadays……. Only
three years ago I had to drop a very high specification range of fly rods for
the want of suitable material. 12 month lead times were being quoted. Lead times
on orders are still in the region of several months
Steve mentioned sourcing from China and the bowl of rice wages etc. A lot of that still goes on. Ebay is a classic example of an outlet for poverty wage carbon rods. Look how many £100 or sub £100 priced rods you see on there being sold. That likely will end very soon - at least it will from the major Chinese manufacturers. China has a desire to be embraced into the western worlds economy. China also plans to emulate Japan (remember when Made in Japan meant tat?) China wants to rid itself of that down market image tag that it presently has and build it’s own brand name in tackle for sale in the Western world. It no longer wants' to be the behind the scenes supplier. It wants to have “Chinese brand awareness.” You very rarely see "cheap" Japanese manufactured items on sale these days do you? Why? The answer is simple. Living standards have risen in Japan. The Japanese workers wage has risen and prices rise accordingly. That is as it should be. Who really wants to profit from someone working on subsistence wages?
There are many European and US manufacturers who have their own Chinese manufacturing factories that exploit the low wage system that is in operation in China. Inevitably from the economic influences from the west and it’s own marketing ambitions China will step in line with the western worlds economies and give workers rights and a fair pay. As an example of this, they have recently been forced to bring in health care amongst other basic human rights for workers. Simply put that translates into higher costs, higher Chinese carbon fibre prices, higher rod and blank prices. Sweat shops paying subsistence wages will still exist to supply the worlds cut price merchants and ebay sellers with low priced rods to sell at bargain prices, just as it does in the west, but as in the west that will not be something large reputable companies with an image to present and maintain that will want to be associated with and that will reduce.
Steve also quotes development time, Quote:“I don't make blanks; I just commission them from specialist manufacturers. It has never taken any of them more than 3 stabs to get the blanks I wanted. And that includes most of the work I've done with Shakespeare's using Far Eastern sources at very long ranges indeed. (Shakespeare have a Chinese factory) But I do know almost exactly how to vary actions and therefore fairly precisely how to alter specifications with composites, flag cuts and varied mandrels - that's why I am a professional consultant - and there aren't that many of us around. After that it is down to costs because when you have finished the development every fly rod blank I ever saw took less than an hour to make and less than £5 in the most advanced composites currently available.”
....... If only it was so simple. Steve may give the blank the final nod - which is far removed from actual design.... Unless Steve has been given unlimited access to the pattern cutting table and spent hours wading through the very technical data sheets on carbon fibre specification and the grades needed, strain rates, compression figures etc to choose a carbon material with which to make fishing rods. I would take that whole statement with a pinch of salt. I would also doubt that Steve has had access to or talked with, the few mandrel manufacturers worldwide about mandrels, suitable steels, mandrel coatings and taper design, release agents etc. All component parts that a rod designer is consulted on.
Steve also talks about development costs. That is not so easy to work out. How do you value the time, skill and high cost of an in depth development program? A recent project I worked on is now running into hundreds of thousands of pounds for the inventors and investors. No manufacturer in his right mind is going to spend that sort of money - in addition to all the other post development costs involved in getting it to market and then sell blanks that are the result of that development – and expect to make a profit any time soon at the £45.00 price point Steve quotes.
who looks at the unit cost alone is being disingenuous, and is misleading the
reader by commenting that this is the actual cost of the item. That's a bit
like saying a car tyre is the value alone of the rubber content. It is a pointless
misleading statement. Try saying that to the owner of the tyre fitting company
next time you need a tyre for your car and see what happens..........
Despite his questionable mathematics, Steve does make some very good points and illustrates the chain of profit very well. There is no way round profits. We live in an economy that works on profit….. Manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers have to make a profit to stay in business, premises and promotion cost money - workers wages have to be paid. If there is no profit there is no future investment and no future development…….
The unpalatable truth is, that If you are purchasing a genuine carbon fibre 15ft salmon fly rods at a price point below £250.00 or a carbon fibre trout rod under £150.00 from any retail worldwide source in this day and age, you are profiting from someone somewhere being paid poverty wages for making it.
The chain of profit from manufacturer to importer to wholesaler to retailer to consumer at that price point or below, can be easily shown to prove that is the labour situation at source.
Rod Design or Rod Copy?
Quote from Steve Harrison: "In each company there are one or maybe two people who can sit down with a blank sheet of paper and choose the materials, select the mandrels, design the patterns and instruct the blank rollers how to produce a rod blank. That means there are probably about five of us who do this in the UK, and more likely only three or four of us who are really experienced in designing fly rods. This raises the question. If there are dozens of companies selling fly rods in the UK, how do they design their rods? When they say in their adverts, for 2009 we have designed a whole new range of rods, just what do they mean?"
And while we are on the subject of design or copy.......
This may sound like a moan, but you do get a tad peeved when things like this happen.
Some years ago prior to 1996 and getting into blank making myself, like most other rod builders I sourced my blanks from various suppliers. I used to work very closely with two well know U.K. manufacturers of blanks. My blank designs were agreed to be “exclusive.” to David Norwich. I was happy that was the situation as we had worked hard together and had came up with some mighty fine fly rods. This particular company had no experience of fly rod manufacture at the time. I even had a hard job persuading them there was a market for fly rod blanks. These were In fact the first high modulus rods in the UK to compete with the American invasion of the British market. Out of the blue a customer phoned one day. You won't believe this David but I was in a tackle shop waiting to be served when I heard the salesman say to a customer who he was showing some rods – “These rods are Norwich designs. Why pay more for the name? These are the same blanks.” I was incensed when I heard the tale and immediately phoned the shop. No surprise there then that the owner flatly denied it! I phoned the manufacturer. He denied it too!. "These are exclusive to you…………"
Incident number two was with a different firm. A very famous English manufacturer. I was speaking to the sales rep for the company at a show and he said, “Do you know the guys on the shop floor say will we use the norwich tapers? Visiting a large tackle shop that sells the brand some time later…… I could immediately spot the range of rods with my taper design…………….
Multi Modulus. I invented that concept term for my rod construction way back in 1989. I have catalogues with that term and a description about my fly rods from 1989/90 for the M400 series. Prior to that no one had ever used the term to describe different lay ups and differing modulus of the carbon material throughout a rod shaft to control the bending moment in a rod shaft. My mistake was not registering it as a trade mark……. You will see it borrowed quite often by rod companies all over the world now………. Here is one blatantly untrue example from Micheal Evans - claiming exclusivity of design in 1994......
Those incidents give you some insight into why I was very keen to be in total control, and why I risked all and put my life savings into purchasing my own blank making equipment to be in control of manufacturing my own designs. The very first public airing of the rods was a total success. Thousands of pounds in debt from investment and advertising the new rods, nervously we had booked a stand at the 1989 Chatsworth Angling Fair. We sold out on every model of the new M400 Multi-Modulus rods by the middle of day two.........
Back when they used to be held in Scotland, I was giving a rod building demonstration at a CLA Game Fair at Auchterarder one afternoon. We were discussing split cane and how rods can be made with no varnish finish such as in impregnated cane rods. I used to make a range of impregnated cane rods myself.
Somebody in the audience asked how the impregnation was done? Reluctant to give away a trade secret on my process, I said, "I'm sorry I can't tell you. It would give away a trade secret." Quick as a flash a young lad piped up. "My Granny would know! She knows everything............and she makes great soup!"
know the term when used to describe a rod action. Do you know how the first
"Parabolic" rod came about though?
Ritz Hotels - You know the name –– Putting on the Ritz and all that. Well known old song too.
Charles Ritz was the son of the gentleman who owned the very famous chain of hotels. Charles was a great tinkerer with rods. He had his own little basement room in the Paris Ritz Hotel set aside just for that purpose... He had purchased a well used 10ft 2 piece English made Ogden Smith split cane rod that he had taken a fancy to in a shop window. Old and tatty, he lovingly restored it, replaced the rings, and varnished the rod to perfection.
Now although Charles was the son of a rich man, he didn't have it easy, (a relative
term if there ever was one!) and his father made him start from the bottom in
the hotel business. Charles's father was old school, nothing was given on a
silver platter, so Charles the younger poor lad, didn't have a car, but he did
have a bike.
One day around 1956 Charles strapped his newly renovated Ogden Smith rod to the cross bar of his bike and set off across Paris to go fishing. On the way the string holding the rod broke and to Charles' dismay the newly renovated rod got tangled up in the spokes and was broken!
The crest-fallen young Ritz took the broken rod back to his basement room and took it out of the bag, examining the pieces he realized he roughly had, minus the handle and the very top few inches of the tip section, a piece of cane around 8'9” or so long. The butt section was shorter than the tip though. So undaunted he fitted a new handle to the remains, re-spaced the guides, fitted a new tip ring, and hey presto he had a new rod!
As it turned out the rod compared to the long slow English rods he had been
used to, this one was faster in recovery and would cast a line to beat the band!..
Charles fished with the rod and pretty soon realized in his opinion that it
was one of the best casting rods he had ever used.
Out fishing one day and having some success with his new rod and playing a hooked Trout, he looked at the bend of the rod and suddenly realized that the curve it took under load was exactly the same as part of the curve of a parabola.
If any of you don't know and to explain it in very simple terms what a Parabola so that you understand what was going on in Charles's mind. If you were to fire a bullet high into the air the curve it would describe as heads aloft and then gradually runs out of energy to keep going as gravity starts to get to work dragging it back to earth is a parabola. Then as it starts to fall back to the ground. It would follow exactly the same trajectory on the way down as on the way up. If you split the point at the apex, the highest point of bullets trajectory (this is called the Apogee. Yes a rod brand or blank has been named that too.....) and look at the two half trajectory curves it is a parabola X two.
Examining that curve it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that half of that parabola is roughly have the shape of a fly fishing rod under load..... “Eureka” said Charles – “that's what I'll call this new rod of mine!….The Parabolic Rod.”
In one fell swoop an new fly rod was born. Not only that but a new terminology that would be used for years after by rod makers and anglers alike. He also coined the term"Staggered Ferrule" A fancy name to account for the butt section being shorter than the tip. Our own Sharpe's of Aberdeen saw the commercial implication in the 60s. The Sharpe's"Eighty" series of staggered ferrule impregnated cane fly rods were instant best sellers for the company.
The story is pretty well laid out in Charles Ritz's book“ A Fly Fisher's Life.” It's a good read. You have to read between the lines though. It is my humble opinion reading between the lines of that very enjoyable superbly written book, (his leader designs are as good today as they were back then) that while Charles may have been a very very good caster, and there is no doubt he was a successful angler, he was no rod designer – the rod's action was arrived at purely by accident.
Enthused by his new rod action "discovery" He was successful in persuading the French fishing tackle company Pezon et Michel which was located in a not far away Paris suburb (I think he actually persuaded them by offering them money) to market the rod. True or false, the subsequent series of Parabolic rods were world-wide best sellers. The 8ft 5inch Ritz Fario Club was one of the most famous cane rods of all time. The 8ft 9inch Super Parabolic PPP was another.. ....
Interestingly enough as we have been talking about salmon rod reviews in another thread. When the Americans saw the first Ritz Parabolic rod, one noted American writer and commentator on all things fly fishing. Alfred W. Miller. aka Sparse Grey Hackle. .... A superb commentator on things fly fishing and a lover of Leonard and Garrison's fine cane rods wrote in review stating rather dryly, "You would get exactly the same curve (parabolic action) if you cemented a plank of wood into a wall then hung a bag of cement from the other end." Which disparaging as it sounds, pretty accurately sums up and describes the curve or action an original parabolic rod took under load. Sparse Grey Hackle's uncomplimentary remark didn't stop the Americans though from jumping on the band wagon in marketing their own range of Parabolic Fly Rods. Never ones to turn down a chance to make a buck, many U.S. makers worked parabolic action fly rods into their ranges. When something is hot it is hot! These were big sellers.
Other manufacturers have used the term often. Several rod companies use it to this day. Charles Ritz left quite a legacy when he came up with that term. Tackle makers and anglers use the term PARABOLIC a lot without knowing what they are actually talking about. Only the other day I noticed one seller on Ebay describing a rod he was selling as "True Parabolic action." True the seller may have known the history, but why not say so and pay the man his dues and describe it as"True Ritz Parabolic action"?
I smile when a customer uses that term when ordering a custom made rod from
me. It's a bit technical sounding isn't it? Good to bandy around. It has that
pseudo scientific ring to it that sways the end consumer into thinking it means
something really technical.
Lastly to make you doubt that Charles actually knew what he was talking about, he designed a range of spinning rods that were called Telebolics.......Now I have seen a Parabola. But never a Teleparabola......or even the teeniest part of one. The final irony on this tale of rod actions arrived in the post today. There featured in a trade magazine was an advert for a new type of coarse fishing rod. "The Parabolix." No that is not a misprint....... You couldn't make that up could you?
Ever wonder how some brands become popular?
I used to wonder about that myself before I got into the fly rod business. We used to run this advert in Trout & Salmon magazine. It kind of fills you in on what goes on. It certainly struck a chord and created a lot of interest in my rods. It also caused a bit of controversy...... One irate gentleman phoned me one day to say it was blasphemous! Maybe it was the reference to the "boy David"? I was younger back then........
Fly Rod Line
Ratings and Fly Line weights.
This topic seems to confuse a lot of people. Some say a rod has an optimum loading point and works best with that weight of line. I can’t see how that can be possible? Who decides on what the “optimum” line loading is? Which expert caster from the many good casters in the World, should be used as the benchmark for rating a rod's optimal loading? It is a daft notion isn't it? It think what they are really trying to say is "this is what we think is right for this rod." Which as you will find with any rod is not definitive.
Obviously when I rate a Trout Fly Rod I rate it on my casting technique and what I feel is best for that rod. It does not follow though, that this may be to every casters taste. This is why I am careful to give the reasons for the ratings on my rods. There are mostly two. For example a 9ft #6/7 rod. The first number refers to a double taper (rarely used these days) or a longer belly weight forward, i.e. a line with a belly (the level section excluding taper) of 36ft or more. This will load the rod comfortably and allow the line to be shot quite effortlessly to 100ft or more. The second number, 7 refers to a std 30ft belly weight forward line. This too will comfortably allow the rod to cast that line a 100ft or more. This however does not mean that the rod will only work properly and load correctly with those lengths of line.
All my rods have sophisticated taper design that allows, with the correct technique, the rod to cast the full fly line or a very short length of line of a few feet plus the leader and still turn the leader over properly. I design my rods with advanced tapers and a dual line rating system. This ensures that my rods will perform properly in all casting spheres and cope with the variance produced by different line types, floating or sinking - or manufacturing AFTM weight tolerances. Read more........
Q Suber? Synthetic "cork" handles?
No not the real thing. Quercus suber Cork. The real thing at the top of the above picture. The stuff we use as handles on fly rods. No this bland stuff is plastic or rubber or something? One thing is sure it isn't cork. Does not even come close to the feel of cork. It honestly reminds me of the stuff Woolworth used to have on their cheap fly rods when they sold tackle in the 70s. Intrepid in Falmouth made these for Woolies. Both companies now sadly gone.... They had tan rubber handle too...... Maybe if they had had cork handles they might have sold some? This stuff also looks remarkably like those plastic wine bottle stoppers....
Top quality cork fly rod handles or a handle made up from bottle stoppers? No contest!
You will not see it as a handle on one of David Norwich's rods. The feel of the stuff is totally unnatural - I would liken the feel of it to the plastic used in a resuscitation dummy. If you have had the experience of training on one of these dummy's it is nothing at all like the feel of a real person.......
Details like only sourcing the best cork available at any time is what I hope sets my rods apart. Plastic handles? No not on my rods thank you!
Looking at in light of the World's economic woes, one thing is sure - if you have read the link on cork and how valuable it is to some the worlds economies Quercus suber or the text extrapolated from it below - about how important cork is to one of the worlds ecosystems, if synthetic cork substitute (moulded in a machine in a factory employing how many people in the Far East?) ever takes off - we will deprive thousands of people who are already on a low living wage out of a living and contribute to the ruin of an environment.
"By Maria Carolina Varela:
and foremost, it is a natural product made from renewable resources following
an environmentally friendly process that does not even
require harvesting of the trees. A second aspect is the clear, demonstrated
importance of the cork industry in maintaining the ecological stability of the
fragile and threatened Mediterranean ecosystem. The increase in the market
share of alternative wine stoppers, specifically plastic stoppers and screw
tops, could reduce the economic value of cork lands therefore leading to conversion
to other uses, abandonment, degradation, and finally loss of one of the best
and most valuable examples of a human–nature balanced system. Because
the forests have an economic value to local communities, people care for the
forests. This helps maintain their environmental values as well as reducing
the risk of fires and demystification.
"A third is the importance of the cork industry in terms of providing employment and income - in Portugal, for example, cork is the country's primary export product and probably the leading source of employment."
Anything to make a $......
Hillside Works, Fountainhall, Nr. Galashiels, Scottish Borders. TD1 2SU, SCOTLAND
TEL: 01578 760 310
The content of this website - all text and photgraphs (except where stated) are the property of David Norwich, do not use or disclose the information contained in this website in any way.
The contents of this website may contain personal views which are not the views of David Norwich. Unless specifically stated.
All material contained in this website is the copyright of David Norwich. Any written statement or extrapolation of the text in this website is the Copyright of David Norwich
unless otherwise stated and is private and confidential. Permission must be obtained in writing from David Norwich to use the contents for any purpose.
This website has been virus-scanned by AVG Grisoft Anti-Virus Software.