So you’re going fishing…let’s say thanks!

It’s Memorial day!

So you have been planning this weekend for quite some time. Long weekend, weather is getting much better and the bug life is really starting to bloom! Did all the yard work, or at least enough to please SWMBO. You have gone through all your gear and you are ready! Maybe got ahold of a couple of friends and planned a three day weekend trip. Maybe saved up some PTO time so you can even make it a four day weekend.

Or maybe you’re just gonna stay home and fire up the BBQ! Have a few friends over. Or go out to that park where all the friends and co workers are having a picnic! You know we can do just about anything we want! After all we have a job, plenty to eat and drink, nice home with a pretty cool back yard! Dogs are chasing a tennis ball. Cars are in good running condition full of gas and even washed! Kids are well taken care of, out on summer break.

All this we seem to just take for granted or even come to think that we just have it coming. Well let’s take a few minutes to think of why we have all this freedom. Many of our military men and women and their families have sacrificed more than we can even imagine so that we can live the life we have come to expect and just feel that it is normal. Let’s take a few minutes out of our lives to reflect on the families who have sacrificed so much.

I’m sure that I can speak for all of the fly fishing community when I say to our military men and women past and present:


Thank you for all that you have done for us and given to us!

Joe E. Arguello

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Matching a reel to your new rod… fuel for thought!

Matching a reel to your new bamboo fly rod can be quite an experience. Here is an area where we can get pretty crazy! Just what do you need… and what do you want? Well let’s talk about what is needed. For all trout fishing is in my opinion a single action reel of good quality. There are many that will fit the bill, from vintage reels that are nothing but classic and have that great air of nostalgia to more modern reels that are just too flashy for my taste, but may be just what you are looking for! I personally like the Hardy lightweights and featherweights. I have a half dozen of them, some are true vintage reels with the 2 screw line guards, but all of them are the made in England variety, as yes now a days they are made overseas! Goodbye Hardy! I love those reels and I just think that they go hand in hand with a fine cane rod, and are reasonably priced! I have considered getting a flyweight to fit a really small (6 ft. 3 wt.) rod but so far I have not really found that a featherweight doesn’t do just fine with a 3 wt line. There are many who really like the older Pflueger Medalist reels, these are also really cool and can be had for a song. They also just look right on a nice cane rod. Another choice might be an old bar stock Orvis single action in the size to hold the line size you want to put on your rod, I used to have a CFO III that was pretty cool but a friend of mine talked me out of it and since I am not a big Orvis fan it was not that easy to let go. So there are a few choices for you to think about.

Now about what you want! Here is where you can get really crazy, and believe me I have been tempted; unfortunately I am not a man of means, by no means! The one reel that I have really been wanting is a Ted Godfrey custom trout reel, I mean WOW! One of these days I will just pull the trigger and order one. This man hand makes all his reels are they are something to behold! Take a look here: Ted Godfrey Reels There are also a number of makers of these fine reels in the classic styles especially the ones with the serpentine handles and embellished with nickel silver, black side plates, solid is my choice! Peerless, Bogdan, and Bellinger to name a few! Beware that some of these reels can cost as much or more than your fine cane fly rod, but worth every penny!

One more thing that is simply a personal choice of mine, you gotta get these reels with the simple click and pawl, no disc drags allowed! Again just my preference but you don’t want to take away the sound of a nice trout running against that click and pawl; you just lose some of the experience.

OK. so I was promted to add this to my post, you can always go this route!

Hand made reel !

So save up your pennies so you can embellish your new J. E. Arguello rod with a nice reel!

Joe E. Arguello

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Leaders for your Bamboo fly rod! … which is best?

Leaders…furled, braided, hand tied knotted, tapered one piece. That about covers it! What’s the best one? Well that’s kinda up to you and how you define ‘best leader’ For a long time I used commercially available tapered leaders with a section of tippet tied on the end. This allows you to change flies often and when the tippet get short simply replace it. You can also change the size of the tippet just as easily. Well if you fish for a while and you are like me, you always want to try out new stuff (that’s what got me into building bamboo fly rods!)

Seems that the next progression is to hand tie some leaders! There are a bunch of recipes on the internet for all kinds of fishing situations. Hand tying leaders is a lot of fun and just like catching fish on your own flies, that you so carefully tied, using your own leaders just adds to the fishing experience. Nothing like seeing a leader turn over and present a fly just as it should be! Blood knots are probably the tradtional knot for making leaders but I prefer to use two nail knots slid together! I have never had a nail knot come loose and I use them for everything including tying on my flies! I also prefer to use a Tye Fast nail knot tool and here is a great video on how to use them.

So what’s next? Well let’s look at furled leaders, don’t confuse these with braided leaders. I don’t know anything about braided leaders because I honestly have never used one! What I have heard is that they have a tendency to spray water when you are casting with them. This has been enough to deter me from even trying them! I know…not fair. But that’s enough for me. Especially with the great results I have had with furled leaders. Again making furled leaders is a lot of fun. You need to make a ‘board’ to furled them on and you will want a few tools to help you with the process. Even though you can get by with a cordless reversible drill, there are other tools that make the whole process more fun. Once you get tooled up and get yourself some material, you can make a years supply of furled leaders in just one afternoon. You can make them in all kinds of configurations and in both treated to float or not treated so they get waterlogged and sink! So you can see that you can make them for just the type of fishing you are doing at any given time. Here’s a link to a great write up by Claude Freaner on the subject of making furled leaders.

So there you go, just a few thoughts on leaders, try to make some, it’s a great way to extend your sport, maybe just another rung in the ladder on your way to making a bamboo fly rod!

Enjoy the summer!

Joe E. Arguello


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So you want a new fly rod… which one to buy?

So you decided you want a bamboo fly rod! Is this your first one? Or are you adding to your collection? Are you gonna fish with this rod of buy it as an investment? These and many other questions may and probably should come to mind! But none of them are as important as if you are gonna fish this rod, where are you gonna fish it? Size of the water? River, stream, creek or even a lake? Are you a dry fly fisherman or are you going to swing wets, or streamers or even …gulp! fish with nymphs (this isn’t so bad if you don’t use a bunch of sinkers and bobbers!) Anyway it is important to address these questions to some degree or another.

So let’s take a look at it. If you are collecting rods as an investment, well that’s a whole different world, there are vintage rods from known builders who are no longer with us, therefore the number of available rods is what it is and not gonna get any better! As we all know some of these rods fetch a small fortune! I don’t know much about this game. There are also some well know modern builders, some of these rods can be sold for what you pay for them almost as soon as you get them, wait a while and you might even make a few bucks! “You pays your money and takes your chances!”

Now let’s talk about rods for fishing! It’s important to know that fly rods are not meant to be one size fits all! No more than trying to play golf with only a putter! Or at least if you want to get the best out of them they’re not. Bamboo fly rods are at their best fishing dry flies and casting them to the range that they are designed for. Now this may sound like a conflict to what was just said, but you can find a rod that is in the middle of the range that will fit many conditions! Let’s say a 7’9” (one of my personal favorites!) this rod can work on smallish streams as it isn’t to long, and is yet long enough to do quite well on a lake or swing those wets and streamers… and yes even nymphs with … well enough about the nymph stuff! But you get the picture.

Let’s specialize here! On those small streams, you know the ones that are real bushy and tight quarters, now you would be better off with a 6′ – 7′ rod that will throw a 3 to 4 wt line and can cast a few feet of line and a short leader with the utmost in accuracy! These rods can make that type of fishing an entire sport in itself! Unfortunately in our quest for that ‘do all’ rod most of these rods are overlooked, and they are just too much fun to pass up! Mid size streams, how about a 71/2′ to that 7’9” rod that will throw a 4/5 wt line? Gives you just what you need to stretch out a bit! For those wets, streamers, and nymphs, maybe an 8′ – 81/2′ rod for a 6/7 wt line. Now there are those of you who are fortunate enough to go after salmon or even salt water varieties! Well I don’t know much about this game but I wouldn’t want to be caught short here, maybe one of those 10′ – 16′ two handed jobs!

OK, so now we have and idea what we might want. Today there are as many rod builders as there are fly fishermen! Or at least it seems that way. You have a great deal of rods to chose from in all price ranges. There are many gatherings where you can go out and cast several rods by many different makers. First hint here: Leave your machismo at home! “What the hell do you mean by that?” you say! Well if you spend the time you have test casting fly rods trying to impress the crowd by throwing the entire fly line… you are not giving yourself the opportunity to find out if this rod is really what you want and need (unless you’re gonna use it in a casting tournament) Cast the rod at the distance you are going to fish it! Try to hit that leaf out there at 10 ft. then 30 ft. maybe out to 50 ft. on the longer ones, pay attention to how you can form a loop, is it effortless? Take a good look at the rod, do you really like it? Does it fit you? Does it just feel right? Is the handle comfortable in your hand? Now you are truly trying to find a rod that’s for you. Or you are close. At least when you go to your builder you can start out at the right point.

So to sum up, don’t buy a putter and expect to be able to drive a ball 350 yards. with it. And don’t buy a 6′ 3 wt for Atlantic Salmon!

Oh and about that rod you were test casting…the one that just fits you? Try like hell to get the maker to sell you that rod! Don’t take no for an answer! You may never find one exactly like that again! And remember if this rod is from a well known maker and you decide you really don’t like it, chances are pretty good that you can sell it and get your money back to buy that next one!

And remember as a friend of mine told me when his wife asked him: “Just how many rods do you need?”

His answer: “One more!”

Joe E. Arguello

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Bamboo Rods…buy or make? or both!…

So you have been bitten by the Bamboo Rod Bug! Well, here’s the bad news, there is no known cure! The good news… yes every cloud has a silver lining! You are in for a trip that is full of some of the most enjoyable times of your life! At some point you start to think maybe I can learn how to make my own and save some money! OK, hold on there cowboy, didn’t you learn your lesson when you thought you were gonna do that by tying flies… yeah right save some money… well you might use that on your significant other, but don’t try that on me cause I ain’t buying it! Good try though! And maybe it will get you a kitchen pass! OK so let,s look at this endeavor.

So by now you have already bought a book or two… you know you have! And in the back of your mind you are saying to yourself, “I can learn how and have a bunch of nice rods, and then start selling some and make back my investment!” maybe even do this for a living! Well this may be true, especially the first part of that statement, but it’s a hard row to hoe! So here’s the first piece of advise…take a class! Today there are a great deal of choices in people offering classes, everything you can think of from one week classes with several students, which can be a blast, to one on one classes which can also be fun. Just depends on how you are wired and the time you have to dedicate to learning this craft.

Next thing to consider, how many rods do you want to build? I really don’t think you can know that, you might think you do, but you may change your mind after you cut yourself, smash your fingers, glue yourself together and just totally frustrate yourself on that first rod. Second bit of advise…don’t give up! You can do it! You may just decide that it is not for you. That being said, what about all the tools? Well if at all possible you should seek out a class that will give you a complete rod at the end of the session. Maybe a rod with only one tip, but a rod you can actually fish with (two tips is better) I know that when I was teaching I would take the student through the whole process and show them how to dip the first coat of varnish on the rod. This gives you a complete rod that should get a couple of more coats of varnish. I would offer to do the final couple of dips as time gets stretched out here while you wait for the varnish to dry! If your instructor furnishes all the tools and materials, you end up with a rod and a decision on whether you want to pursue making more rods, thus tooling up (this can be expensive) but at least you haven’t bought a bunch of tools that you won’t use anymore (planing forms make very expensive pry bars!)

Now how about just buying a rod? “What!!!” you say. Why are we talking about that? Well if you are thinking that you might build your own and save money…let’s take a look at that. So a class will probably cost you about $1000. You will build a rod, maybe a very nice rod (probably, hopefully!) so let’s say you have a rod that cost you $1000 and a week of your life. Not a bad deal since it is a blast to do. But how do you start to recoup that investment? Remember you told SWMBO that this was the plan! OK now you have to spend another $1000 or so getting tooled up! And believe me I am talking about the bare minimum if you are very well disciplined! If you’re like me…well let’s just say there is a Bridgeport milling machine and four lathes, couple of belt sanders, oven, presses, dies, well you get the picture!

Back to buying rods, if you have invested in rods made by well known builders the chances of getting your money out of them is pretty good, you may even make a few bucks, that is the only reason we are talking about buying… kinda goes with that little thing you said about ‘an investment’

So make a choice and have fun, maybe do both!

Remember that you have been bitten, all we can do is try different ‘treatments’ …

There is no known cure to man!

Enjoy…he he!

If you want an easy way out…Here it is!

Joe E. Arguello


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About those knives!……how it started!

Like many people I have always been fascinated by knives. So I thought I should make one, you know not just grind a piece of metal but forge it! Always looked cool when I would see a blacksmith forming a piece of metal into a usable tool. Well those of you who know me were not surprised that this would happen! As a matter of fact one of my friends, when I told him I was making knives, said “OK, let me see if I’ve got this right…you bought a book, read how to and started making knives? Right?” well, that’s exactly how it happened! I bought ‘The Wonders of Knife Making’ by Wayne Goddard. It’s not a very thick book, more like a magazine! Anyway, now I am truly pumped up about my new found interest! I will make myself a cool knife…just one…OK maybe a few!

Well like everything else I do, going out and buying all the tools is not an option…you gotta make them! So I set out making a forge…first one…Oh yes one won’t be enough! First one, charcoal burning forge (still in use) then a forced air propane one! Well that’s out of the way, they both work pretty well! Now an anvil, had to find a good one, couldn’t make that! Hammers (more than one) Now I need a belt sander for 2 inch belts, made that! Well we are in pretty good shape here, let’s get to work!

Well I found some old leaf springs that are a good source of steel and got to it, made about a half dozen knives and each one was getting better! Now we need sheaths for these knives so I had to teach myself how to do the leather work to make the sheaths! So I am running around showing off my handy work. “I’ll take that one” one guy said! “I really like that one” someone else said, how much? Next thing you know all my knives are gone! “You gonna make Damascus?” somebody asked me. No I don’t think so…well it wasn’t long and I was forge welding steel to make Damascus blades!

Well one thing led to another and I was asked to make a knife for Todd Helton (1st baseman for the Rockies!) then Todd called me and asked me to make a knife for one of his team mates (Jason Giambi) and so goes the story…thing is I really need to get my bamboo fly rods done and these knives take up a bunch of the very limited time I have! What a problem to have, huh?

Well the moral of the story is…I need to retire and start working on the stuff I like to do! Period

Now who in the world would come up with a retirement plan like that? I need to retire so I can get to work…sheeeeeesh!

You don’t have to be crazy to be a bamboo rod maker…but it does help!

Joe E. Arguello

Photos and engraving by Jeff Graham

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My Latest effort…

Here’s my latest effort, this rod went to Japan, second one for the same customer. It has all custom made components and is based on a Garrison 204e.

Click on the thumnail for larger view,

Thank you for your interest,

Joe E. Arguello

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The J.E. Arguello rod… A matter of custom!

When I started making bamboo fly rods back in 1991 it seemed that it was somewhat difficult to find components that I felt would compliment a fine bamboo rod. Aluminum reel seats have never been an option for me although I know many great makers used them. 18% Nickel silver was and is my choice of reel seat hardware material as well as ferrules. I also felt that to make a rod truly custom one should make as many of the components as possible. So I have always tried to do just that. This was written in Ed Engle’s book “Splitting Cane as I was doing this even back then. I must confess that I did, for a time use commercially available components. What I did not like is that all the rods on the market were starting to look alike, regardless of the maker! So… 

The last couple of year I have been spending a great deal of time doing R&D, making tools, and refining my processes. I am now in a position where I can make everything that goes into one of my rods. The only thing that I am not making on my rods currently is the tip tops, but I do have a design I am developing, I should be offering them soon. I feel that I am not only making truly custom rods but I am making some of the finest rods available at any cost. There is just something about drawn reel seat hardware that give the rods a warm custom feel to them. I have also acquired a roll stamp to put my name on the butt cap. This hardware can be fitted with whatever kind of wood and I have come to use Olive wood from Jerusalem as my standard filler wood, but there are options that I will consider. The lines of the drawn hardware are just right and they don’t have that machined look.

As I stated in one of my previous blog posts, I started making agate stripping guides by cutting and polishing the agates, this is so time consuming that I had to quite making them. I have recently found a source for finished agate rings and have started making my agate stripping guides once again. The frames are hand twisted from 18% nickel silver wire and the stones are bezeled in 18% nickel silver bezel material. The agate stripping guides are made to jewelry quality and are the finest available. Snake guides that are hand twisted out of spring tempered wire can be made just the way I want them and I feel that the nice flat profile when you look at them from the side is not only pleasing to the eye but also has less resistance to a fly line as it makes it’s way through them. I prefer the English reverse twist as do many of my customers.

Ferrules made from both nickel silver tubing and also drawn from flat nickel silver stock can be made to look and function better than anything commercially available. They can be sized to fit a taper exactly. All hardware is offered in both silver or oxidized. Upon the choice of hardware, everything is considered to make the rod as ascetically pleasing as possible. The finest cork avalable is used for the handles. Fine silk of the proper color is used to wrap the guides onto the rod blank, as well as the signature and ferrule wraps. I shoot for a very simple understated beauty, not unlike that of a fine English double barrel shotgun!

Last but not least I have recently modified my forms, which I made before I ever made the first rod, to incorporate a swelled butt when desired, this will be the standard unless someone wants a very specific taper. Each rod is hand inked by myself with my name, the rod length and a serial number which is made up of the year and number of rod for that year. I finish my rods in several coats of varnish which are carefully applied to obtain a flawless finish. A rod bag is sewn, by myself to fit the rod perfectly and a powder coated aluminium tube is fitted to the rod. Leather rod tubes are in the future.

So to sum up I am offering truly fine custom made Bamboo fly rods that are the result of many years of experience and always striving to improve on my technique. I feel that I am in complete control of the process and can make a rod that is one of a kind. My customers find themselves in possession of a fly rod they can use for a lifetime and hand down as a family heirloom. Rarely do you see a J.E. Arguello fly rod on the secondary market and I am very proud to say that my customer do not give up their custom rods.

I take great pride in my work and would be happy to make you a truly custom fly rod you will cherish.

Thank you,

Joe E. Arguello

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Personalizing your rods…line size designation…line weights!

When I first started building rods, somewhere I got the idea that if you found a taper and made it within .001 of the published numbers then it would be the exact published line weight! I also believed that since this was Gospel, one should ink the line size on the rod (ie. DT – 5) This should certainly be part of one’s personal signature. Inked very carefully, say below the maker’s name along with a serial number of your personal choice! Well I have come to believe, after many years of experience, that this may be only a half truth! How can that be? Well here’s my take on this subject:

When I first got started, all I had to go on was what was published in whatever book I could find, the internet was in it’s infancy and there was very little published on the subject, to be fair my computer skills were very limited at best and Google was not even in existence! And to get my hands on an old Payne, Dickerson or Garrison…well dream on! So I built the rods as I found a taper, as I stated in one of my earlier posts, the first rod I made was built on a taper that I got from “The Bamboo Rod” by Claude M. Kreider this taper is published in that book and is in 6” increments, so I had to put it into a piece of graph paper and extrapolate the numbers to 5” since I had built my forms to be set as such! Well cut to the chase here Joe… I built the rod, it was a 5 wt. End of story! And so it was for quite some time. I would find a taper, build the rod, and carefully ink the line size on it. Well you know if you keep at this for a while you’re gonna build several rods… you’re gonna cast them… hopefully you’re gonna fish some of them! At some point you may forget your reel with the DT- 5 line and only have the one with the WF – 6 on it, well I hope you don’t decide to go home because you don’t have the ‘right’ line size, you know the one that you so carefully inked on the rod! So you decide that you will fish with the ‘wrong’ line although your day is already headed in the wrong direction! Little do you know that this is the best thing that could have happened to you! And one more thing, there’s something about the sound of running water, birds singing, the smell of the wild flowers and last but not least the sight of a rising trout that just seems to melt all your troubles away…even the idea that the line does not match the number that you so carefully inked on your new DT- 5 wt. Rod! Now comes the reward… you start to notice how easily you can place the fly right where you want it! Much better than the last time you fished it with a DT -5 wt. Line! You start to notice how effortless you can form a narrow tight loop. You start to notice that this rod really shines! Now if you can approach this experience with and open mind, you are well on your way! Well that is how it happened, I then started trying different lines on different rods… hummmm! Next step… well you just can’t start asking other peoples opinion on line sizes on rods that you build, especially asking them to cast a rod with a line other than the one you so carefully inked just below your name … under several coats of varnish, now can you? So I decided to not put the line size designation on my rods any longer! Now comes the next revelation… you know I am a pretty fair caster, and I know of at least one of my Bamboo rod building friends who is a certified casting instructor! What I have found out is that we all have different casting styles! Case in point I had a rod that I loved with a 4 wt. Line, the person that bought it, just had to have that 5 wt rod! Go figure. Then there is the water you are fishing, you know is it big water where you need to cast a bit farther, small water were you need to cast 20 ft. max.? There are countless variables in play here. I personally really like the idea that I am not stuck to a line size that is so carefully inked on the rod, right there under the maker’s name next to the serial number! We are free to try out different lines and find the one that fits the rod for our casting style and fishing conditions!

Now to sum up, this in no way implies that the builder you get to make that dream rod can’t build you a 5 wt. Rod if you ask for one, most builders today have all the information, tools and skills to do just that. What this is all about is simply to say that you should try different lines (sizes, makes, types) maybe you will find that the rod of your dreams has been in your hands all along! You may even want to ask the builder to build you a 5 wt… “uh, but can you not ink the line size on the signature please?” I’m sure you will not offend the builder and if you do, well … it’s your rod! Or maybe you can just ignore the carefully inked line size designation because…

There’s something about the sound of running water, birds singing, the smell of the wild flowers and last but not least the sight of a rising trout that just melts all your troubles away!

Let’s go fishing…oh wait… gotta get that garden in first!

Joe E. Arguello

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Off on a tangent…one of many…Agate Stripping Guides!

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about making agate stripping guides on various forums. I thought I would talk about my journey into this area. When I first started making rods, maybe the first couple of years, I would be amazed when I would see an agate guide on someone else’s rods.  Where did you get that? I would ask. The answer was always the same, “I salvaged it from an old…” Some of these ‘agates’ were actually agatine or glass! Some were genuine agate but maybe the wrong size for the rod just because the availability was next to none. So I started looking and scrounging what I could find. One day I walked into and old bait and tackle store in Denver, CO and just happened to ask, “Do you have any agate guides?”  “How many do you want?”  The owner asked. To my amazement he had a box full of them! About sizes 10 – 12 maybe a few larger ones mixed in. Many were genuine agate with nickel silver frames, and many were the old agatine with the stamped frames, there were even some tip tops included, a whole bunch of those in agatine! Anyway I bought the whole kit and kaboodle for about $2500.00! Of these I sold, some of to recoup some of my investment and I had a whole bunch of them to put on my rods! But there was that need for smaller ones… so off on the tangent I embarked! I decided to take a class in lapidary to learn the art of cutting and polishing stones. This was fun and I made a bunch of jewelry in the process. Also true to form I ended up with a tool box full of jewelry making tools as I also decided that it was a good idea to take a silversmithing class! As it turns out these classes have been a great help!

Well I did make several agate stripping guides for rods I was making, what a job! I once said: “If I were to get paid for the time it takes to make a stripping guide, I would have to charge $600 for each one!”  Well as luck would have it agate stripping guides became available right about then, and they were selling for around $25 ea. What a bargain! I quit making them!

Recently, I found a source for agate rings, cool, back in production! I have been stocking up as my supplier has only been able to get me a hundred or two at a time I have been buying them as they become available. I put the word out that I had some when I first got a shipment and was willing to sell some agate strippers to other rod makers. I have made and sold about 200 of them and everybody really likes them! I ran out of rings and even though I have since stocked up I decided that I would not make anymore until I got caught up with my rod orders, is that going to happen? Don’t know! One nice thing is that since I do this as a hobby, things can change as I find time.

Well, there you have it, one of many tangents I have taken, as a craftsman this is way too much fun!

Reminds me of the time I decided to make a knife and the path I took with the knives…

Oh but wait … that’s another story…

stay tuned!

Joe E. Arguello

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