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@sevilla315 thanks for posting that link, incredible!

This patent does show up on the international patent database espacenet:

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Does anyone know when the Playfair non-slip patent (or others that were sold to them if they existed) expired/went “dead?” Assuming the other makers of spliced rods abided by the patent law that date would be a solid data point for dating other builder’s spliced rods.

on edit: I can’t find anything attached to Playfair on espacenet about this patent (splices) or rods, etc. FWIW.
 

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Hi Middlecalf,
I believe the patent is now in the hands of a UK rod maker who took it over more than a few years ago, i will ask Alexander's Great grandson who i know well and lives in Edinburgh, he has kept a record of everything about Alexander and i am due a trip to Edinburgh in the next month or two to meet up with him, following on from Alexander Grant, he has also written a book on the intricacies of the violin.
 

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Interesting..
If you look at the history in Feathers, Flies and Phantoms, Jim Somers took the Vibration production with him after he left Playfair to set up his own business in 1951.
If the patent was eventually sold on (Harry of Clan?) and the patent was for the splice, what of all the spliced rods produced by say Sharpes and Farlow (were these branded Playfairs or Somers?) as well as all the modern spliced bamboos of Brandin, Clay and Reid if the patent is still active? Are these rods breaking the patent?
 

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Discussion Starter · #104 ·
From what I remember reading in James Hardy's book, Hardy's were 'patent enthusiasts'- from reel fittings to bail arms. Patents had a given duration, requiring renewal for a fee to maintain. I think Dingley had a 'falling out' with the Hardy Brother's over an issue with it.
I doubt any makers of spliced rods, of any material, should worry about being sued for making them..
 

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Problem with all the posts is it‘s just all us old guys posting 😂 (yeah, I know, I’m speaking of myself!).

Wrt to greenheart, Jim @jimlucey did you see in that patent about how Grant made the splices? Started off with the blank squared at the splice, cut the slants, then rounded to match. Thought that was interesting. Also read about another greenheart rod maker in the day (I’ll have to dig through the files to remember who, maybe Allcock) who cut their harvested greenheart logs into planks and then let them age, for something like three (several) months iirc. So that brings into question/debate about greenheart “drying” out. I’m not a wood guy, but I do remember a teak wood outdoor furniture maker talking about teak not drying out because of it‘s natural oils. If the surface gets dry feeling a light sanding and then a light oil (tung oil) application will help with the “look and feel” but there’s really nothing to be done about overall drying, it’s completely natural and self-enduring. Same for greenheart? 🤷‍♂️

I have tons of questions wrt to not only these patents (but are there others? I can’t find any) and who/when owns them, what does it mean to “own” them, etc. My curiosity is mainly driven by the desire to accurately date things, so it seems that patent dates (start/end) and trademark dates (start/end) would be a good set of data. Company records, as well, for sure but those seem to have disappeared for the most part esp. wrt greenheart rods. I thought the digital Revolution was suppose to be the end all for data/info storage 😂.
 

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I have to laugh at that patent, it’s not only for rod splices but golf clubs and “other articles.” So y’all quit making those non-slip splices on your “articles“ and you golfers had just better give up the sport (anyone ever see a spliced golf club? I can’t imagine 😂).
 

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Hi sevilla315,
If the patent was eventually sold on (Harry of Clan?) and the patent was for the splice, what of all the spliced rods produced by say Sharpes and Farlow (were these branded Playfairs or Somers?) as well as all the modern spliced bamboos of Brandin, Clay and Reid if the patent is still active? Are these rods breaking the patent?

I know nothing about patent law,... thankfully, not something i think many have looked into regarding splices on fishing rods, i know Hardy's were the patent masters and a nighmare if you showed them something new in fishing, if they thought it was worthwhile and a good idea they would patent it before the inventor had a chance, they were notorious for it back in the day, would defend it in court and never lost.
 

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I think that patent is very useful in terms of getting some rods built . Any insight into the process is , since we don’t have anyone left around to tell us how they did it .
 

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Actually the patent is only to do with the splice, nothing to do with the taper of the rods, though there are some tapers on the Feathers, Flies and Phantoms site.
I think that if the owner of the patent is not going to insist on a fee for making a Vibration copy, I think the best would be to work (if possible) off an original Grant.
We should go all high tech and make a digital CAD design of one using measurements provided and CNC it from a block of greenheart!
 

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Discussion Starter · #111 · (Edited)
Would the 'Big Deal' with the splice be that it is oval in section rather than round?

I have a large 1950's cast iron Rockwell Delta lathe for my bamboo rods- this would be useless for making any greenheart rod I would say, however well the resulting rod may vibrate. Note my opening post Pathe film, that hand held cutting jigs were used to work the wood down and the resulting blank was 'felt' rather than measured for the desired action. These days, unless the greenheart would be sandpapered down (with all the resulting toxic dust) I would have no idea how the sections could be secured in a lathe and worked on- chisels, compound cutting tools ? - somehow I doubt it. My lathe has a large diameter head stock which itself would be too small to hold the handle end of any wood, unless some device was employed to secure it.

Much seeking for the 'Holy Grail' of greenheart makes for interesting reading, however with the obstacles involved- from obtaining suitable wood, to how to work it down to a usable rod may well prove problematic to make but one or two rods, Along with many others I persevere with bamboo as I am not an Alexander Grant calibre caster, plus (he says in a low tone..) I don't really see any advantage, apart from the possible challenge.

I would be interested to know if any contemporary maker has even made a large and long greenheart and spliced salmon rod, as personally I have no knowledge of any. who have If there are any out there, how do they make them?

Malcolm
 

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Pretty sure harry at clan rods did . Yes Bruce ? Not much lathe work on a violin either . But they seem to work fine .;) I don”t think they have ever found the holy grail . But there sure are some interesting stories about looking for it ! The wood we have is what it is . Bamboo was likely better back in the day too , but it works , eh ? Wet sanding keeps dust to a minimum . Masks work better these days as well as dust extraction . Come on Malcolm , you could do it .:):) It’s always about the challenge !
 

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So far this has been a really interesting thread. I just thought I would add my $0.02, on what some of the challenges might be if someone wanted to recreate one of these for posterity.

Violin bows are made of Pernambuco, similar to greenheart, maybe better for rod building even having greater stability and lighter weight, if you could afford it. Greenheart sometimes called Snakewood is used in lesser quality bows and is perhaps the stiffest wood in the world, with an average modulus of elasticity of 3,716,000 lbf/in2 (Pernambuco is likely a close second with a modulus of an average 3,364,000 lbf/in2, with Bamboo having an MOE of 2,900,000 lbf/in2). However, the Greenheart also has a fairly high movement in service, and it's not recommended to be used in situations where stability is critical. Being a luthier Grant would have been well aware of both types of wood, and Pernambuco was rare and very expensive even then (most of the good stocks had been harvested by the 18th century), Torte', Pernambuco bows used by high level soloists fetch close to $100,000.00 USD or more. Interestingly, Greenheart is fairly easily sourced, sustainable, and good stocks of it still survive, it is typically used to make flooring because it wears well, while most of the remaining Pernambuco was cut down to make railroad ties throughout South America, along with the majority of Brazilian Rosewood. The bulk of it can only be sourced from salvaged railroad ties, probably not long enough for rod blanks, even if you could find a piece big enough for a bass bow blank, it will set you back $200, but it will last 200+ years; my guess is, Grant made Greenheart rods for this reason, something of a compromise.

I'm not really sure why the greenheart supposedly dies. I suppose it's to do with stability in storage (Most stringed instruments need a humidity of > 54%, or they will crack), it also has the unusual characteristic of occasionally shattering explosively when milling it, especially in areas where there is cross graining. It doesn't grow very tall so maybe selecting pieces without knots would be difficult? and Playfair and others probably just used what they could get a hold of; their QC likely wasn't on the same level that a skilled bespoke maker would impose, and they probably didn't want to throw away lots of wood to get a single decent rod blank. Purely speculation on my part, but if the rod material was carefully selected, and it was stored in a stable environment, it should theoretically last for decades, if not longer.

The wood selection would be important. The best violin bows are made from clear, straight vertical wood, that has been milled into planks. The wood is then stickered (stacked up with flat shims separating the planks, anywhere from 30 to 100 plus years). Finding material that fits these criteria would be pretty hard to do, it may mean a trip to Brazil to select the wood nowadays or repurpose some old timbers. I would also think that mass producing rods made like this would be cost prohibitive, even if you could use modern production methods. it would take a lot of manual finishing work; but this exercise assumes a one off or small batch production run. As a side note, the health risks involved with working with Greenheart are a concern; however, it is only categorized as a low risk, mostly from allergic reactions and some respiratory illness associated with long term exposure without the proper PPE.

With regards to tuning the rod. It would be easy to determine the pitch. You could just clip a guitar tuner to the blank and tap it to find the box resonance in air or do it by ear even. Grant may have possessed perfect pitch, I haven't seen mention of this, but he was known to have a very good ear, so he may have been able to get the pitch by ear withing a couple Hz. Grant certainly has that kind of Renaissance Man vibe, the Scottish Highlands version of Galileo perhaps. While I don't know a lot about violins, I have some experience building guitars (not an expert by any stretch, but enough for this exercise). A classical guitar maker will always try to get the lowest pitch from a guitar top. Normally, you can get a good idea how the top will sound before you build it. Tighter grain wood is denser lower pitch. A good guitar will have a box resonance in air of a G or maybe F#; a typical store-bought one A, A# or even a B, better wood, lower pitch. A good builder can manipulate the thickness selectively to get it a little lower. Presumably, Grant would approach the rods the same way. The pitch may not be the same as a violin or guitar top, but a good piece of wood will typically have a lower pitch than a lesser one. A starting point would be to get the resonance of an old Grant rod and go from there, selecting material for a blank that is close to the correct pitch.

Matching the taper of the rod should be pretty straightforward, the same goes for the scarf joint, you could make a jig for that at whatever ratio Grant used. With all that being said, replicating a Grant rod is certainly within the realm of possibility. The hardest part would be getting a hold of an original Grant. As an aside, I worked on a similar project, helping a friend reproduce a famous classical guitar, the 1936 Fleta. Employing similar techniques should produce a rod nearly identical to the original. FWIW, the finished guitar took about a year to build, plus a year of tracking down the owner and getting permission to examine it, and about $2000 in materials. The materials for a Grant rod would likely be less expensive, but the scope would be similar.

If only we can figure out the Planet Cast?
 

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Discussion Starter · #114 ·
Excellent information Neil Fox! Maybe Grant whittled away at his greenheart without use of a lathe or rotary cutting tools, possibly shaving and scraping by hand as he would have one of his violins- which is how that splice area would indeed have been oval shaped. Was the rest of his rod round in section, I wonder.

Someone should start another thread- For those interested in Lancewood..

Malcolm
 

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Greenheart rods in general were produced because they were cheap to make. Figure out the process of how they manufactured them (and did so so quickly) and we could have some fun here. Unfortunately, I think we have kind of lost the manufacturing technique to time. I will tell you, a modern source of greenheart or a very similar wood to greenheart, Ipe, is out there. Just search locally. Picking through stacks of wood to find what you’re after is key. That wood planning tool that gentleman uses in that old English video is called a “Trapping Plane”. A trapping plane was designed to plane a tapered shaft on a lathe. I figured out the name on an old English tackle making forum, and found 1-2 gentleman who use them for making tapered hickory golf shafts. I even managed to buy one, but they’re NOT CHEAP and quite rare. Turning Ipe wood in this manner was doable but not super easy.

I reckon Grant started with a sawn, square blank of the finest straight grained greenheart, cut the splice first, and then tapered the wood with a trapping plane after it was spliced. I’ve even used a hand plane and planes out tips, and have been experimenting with using my 2x72 belt grinder to taper shafts as well. I made a 12’ 3pc spliced blank of hickory as a test. It was made a bit too thin, super noodley, but could cast 90’ of a double taper, overhead, without much effort.

I have come across a few books on the topic of building wooden fly rods (not cane) in which there are instructions which mostly include hand planing a square tapered shaft, then knocking off the corners and then finally rounding the shaft. Not difficult by any means, just a bit tedious. John Betts published one not too long ago, on gluing 6 strips of various wood and using some rasp/jig, turned them down on the lathe, similar to the trapping plane method. Wish he would have known about the trapping plane before he passed. It’s quite a speedy method compared to basically sanding down a shaft on the lathe.

I had a short correspondence with James Reid about the oval splice, and basically what he said was, “if you want to acheive something similar to the same action it would be smart to use the same splice.”
Nick
 

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Great post @NeilFox007 !
Some thoughts are the other woods that you mention, would they have the same "self casting" properties as greenheart? It would seem that unless this can be established then using other woods won't produce the same casting rods at the Vibrations.
Regarding the wood quality, assuming there are good stocks still remaining in the world, would it not be an easier task in this new global economy to obtain the higher quality wood? I guess as you say an onsite visit (much like the Bamboo Broker did before his untimely death) would ensure selection of the appropriate quality.
I don't think anyone here is proposing mass production of greenheart rods. It's an old material with bad press, and the majority of people won't contemplate bamboo much less greenheart.
The thought is from what I can gather is that even the Playfairs may not be an accurate representation of Grant's rods. My proposal (jokingly but entirely plausible and possible) is to make a clone of the original rods (we know Gordon has one and there's one in the museum the T&S article used for its shots with Scott Mackenzie) using modern methods such as CNC'ing the rod from a block of greenheart once the digital image is captured. I don't know how easy this capture task is, can it be 3d scanned then edited to remove rings and reel seats, etc? Or does it have to be measured manually? This would provide the most accurate copy of a real rod. As you say and what I asked Gordon, has any rod had its frequencies measured and recorded along its length so that this can be reproduced in a clone?
I recall doing some building work on our Edwardian Terraced house and some of the original stair spindles were broken and needed replacing. The builder took it along to a shop, it was scanned and CNC'd in a couple of days looking exactly like the originals. Spindles aren't Vibration rods, but probably not too different?
Using a CNC would therefore remove any of the necessity for buying or building jigs, avoiding health risks etc and could be pumped out relatively quickly for testing frequencies, casting etc.
This isn't an exercise in artisan rod building as in bamboo rods, it's a process to create a clone of a Grant rod to produce one which is as close as possible to the original for test casting and fishing - for those crazy enough to be obsessed with the Man, his Vibration rods and the lines and casts he used with it.
 

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Great post @NeilFox007 !
Some thoughts are the other woods that you mention, would they have the same "self casting" properties as greenheart? It would seem that unless this can be established then using other woods won't produce the same casting rods at the Vibrations.
Regarding the wood quality, assuming there are good stocks still remaining in the world, would it not be an easier task in this new global economy to obtain the higher quality wood? I guess as you say an onsite visit (much like the Bamboo Broker did before his untimely death) would ensure selection of the appropriate quality.
I don't think anyone here is proposing mass production of greenheart rods. It's an old material with bad press, and the majority of people won't contemplate bamboo much less greenheart.
The thought is from what I can gather is that even the Playfairs may not be an accurate representation of Grant's rods. My proposal (jokingly but entirely plausible and possible) is to make a clone of the original rods (we know Gordon has one and there's one in the museum the T&S article used for its shots with Scott Mackenzie) using modern methods such as CNC'ing the rod from a block of greenheart once the digital image is captured. I don't know how easy this capture task is, can it be 3d scanned then edited to remove rings and reel seats, etc? Or does it have to be measured manually? This would provide the most accurate copy of a real rod. As you say and what I asked Gordon, has any rod had its frequencies measured and recorded along its length so that this can be reproduced in a clone?
I recall doing some building work on our Edwardian Terraced house and some of the original stair spindles were broken and needed replacing. The builder took it along to a shop, it was scanned and CNC'd in a couple of days looking exactly like the originals. Spindles aren't Vibration rods, but probably not too different?
Using a CNC would therefore remove any of the necessity for buying or building jigs, avoiding health risks etc and could be pumped out relatively quickly for testing frequencies, casting etc.
This isn't an exercise in artisan rod building as in bamboo rods, it's a process to create a clone of a Grant rod to produce one which is as close as possible to the original for test casting and fishing - for those crazy enough to be obsessed with the Man, his Vibration rods and the lines and casts he used with it.
Using CNC to replicate something seems like the most straight forward and “easiest” way to do it but I reckon that would be a fools errand. Using a CNC router to mill a tip section down to 1/8” and near perfectly round would basically be impossible. Not to even to mention, milling a fairly thin shaft that’s 4-5-6ft long on a CNC would be nearly impossible as well. I don’t think making a digital copy of an original would be as easy as simply scanning it either, so now you’re looking at sitting at a computer trying to design this rod when it would be wiser to get to it with a hand plane. Also, wood is a natural material with grain, and it would be critical to work the wood with the grain. Even the trapping plane removes material along the grain. A CNC wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

I like how you are thinking though, and hell. Maybe I’m wrong! Making/fabricating things, especially natural things (as opposed to man made materials), is difficult. There’s no easy “modern” way to really go about it, and that’s why a good cane rod is so expensive. At some point you’re just going to have to start working with your hands and put in the time to figure it out. The “easy” way to go about all of this would be to just go buy a B&W or a Meiser or similar. Know what I mean? I don’t want to sound stern my friend, encouragement all around!
Nick
 

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Discussion Starter · #118 ·
Great discussion, yet then raises the 'spectre' of hand planed vs.machine planed bamboo rods..
 

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Having gotten rid of all my B&Ws abd Meisers for a stack of JMR boo I'm not advocating the easy way out as I'm severely lighter in pocket and it's taken 10 years.
But we wsnt to clone a Grant rod not copy one by planing it. You could spend dozens of hours on a hand lathed rod then just have to chuck it away. And you'll probably have to do dozens to replicate the frequencies. I'm sure I'm way oversimplifying the cnc (I'm a simple guy) but why not use tech if we can to save time and health?
 

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Great discussion, yet then raises the 'spectre' of hand planed vs.machine planed bamboo rods..
I can’t speak from experience on behalf of hand planed vs machined planed cane. But when you split the 6 strips and combine them, you end up with a consistent, straight grain that’ll follow the taper. With a single piece of turned wood, as in the case with the Vibrations rods, the grain can run out, twist, and do all sorts of crazy stuff. And the hand tools general work in correspondence with grain opposed to not taking it into account when cutting with a router.
 
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