Trying to track the history of a vintage rod
I have recently been willed what appears to be a vintage fly rod and was wondering if you might be able to help me identify it, and get some background on it. I’d also like to know if I should insure it etc.
It’s a four piece bamboo rod (three pieces make up the rod and there is a second tip that I am assuming is a different weight) with the markings of AL&W Toronto. The rod is hand marked with the following; AL&W and “Blake.”
It is in very good condition. The blank shows very little wear.
Here are some pictures for those of you who are interested.
I have ascertained that the manufacturer was the ALLCOCK, LAIGHT & WESTWOOD Company out of Toronto, Ontario Canada. The main things I would like to find out are:
Is this rod a collector’s item and if so what would its value be. I stress that I will not sell this rod as it was bequeathed to me by a very close friend who recently died. This information would be for insurance purposes
What is the significance of the “Blake” marking?
When was the rod made? I know that AL&W was making rods from 1850 through to n1930 but I’d like to narrow this range down if possible.
Can the rod be used for fishing or is it destined to be a wall hanging?
Any help is appreciated
The two tips should be for the same weight fly line. It was common practice (still is with bamboo) for the better quality bamboo rods to be sold with two identical tips. This was in case one got broken and also to help stave off putting a set (a more or less permanent bend) in the tip section from use.
As far as I know, the Allcock rods were production rods made in a factory and not hand-built custom rods. They were (and still should be) very good fishing rods, they just are not in the same class as Leonard, Winston, Payne, Powell, etc.
To begin with I'm not even sure what you are talking about with those other rod brands. I am not a collector, and comparisons mean little to me.
I would ask what you refer to when you mention factory made, as I can see the usual slight deviations that one would attribute to had crafting vs. machine built. Also I am curious to find out what the difference between production rods and hand made would mean. Also there is the matter of the "Blake” marking which, unless Al&W made a brand name rod called a Blake, seems to point to a custom order.
So far in my research, I have found absolutely no reference linking the two marks, AL&W and Blake together. By the way, I re-examined the rod after reading your post, and both marks appear to be directly on the rod, and not on the surface of the varnish. This would support the fact that the marking was made pre-finishing.
Perhaps it is just the production brand....the search still continues. Somewhere out there. someone know more about this. It'll just take time.
Anyway, thanks for you reply. I'll have a local builder check the two tips to see if they are the same weight, but in all honesty I think you're right on that one.
One of the folks I contacted relayed my information to a resource in Winnipeg, who came back with the following:
AL&W set up shop in Canada, and began making rods domestically in 1850. It appears that this rod may be one of those. The master builder/plant manager was none other than John Milward.
By extension, seeing how AL&W changed their name 1898 to the The Allcock, Laight & Westwood Company of Toronto Limited, from Allcock, Laight & Westwood and based on the cloth tag affixed to the rod's canvas bag (the latter not the former), it would seem to narrow the rod's construction timeframe to 1850 - 1900.
(Unless the company failed to change it name tags when the company changed names.)
We're still trying to track down the purpose of the elusive "Blake" marking. I'm still not thinking the rod is extraordinary as the "Blake" marking could still indicate a contrary finding to the one we made so far.
Thanks for your help.
Factory made means that different people worked on different parts of the rod, instead of one builder splitting the cane, straightening the nodes in the cane strips , planing the cane strips to the proper size and taper for the rod, gluing the can strips together, fitting and gluing the ferrules to the blank sections, gluing the cork for the handle and reel seat on the finished blank, sanding the cork to the proper size and style for grip and reel seat, preparing the rod guides for wrapping, wrapping the guides, putting the intermediate wraps on the rod (these are the short thread wraps between the guides), putting the top on the rod, and putting varnish on the finished rod. By having people specializing in doing one or two of these necessary steps, the rod manufacturer can produce more rods in the same time and thus lower the price.
The brands I listed are those that had a single builder (or possibly a master builder and an apprentice) make the rod from start to finish.
Bamboo rods or blanks typically have the manufacturer and other rod designations written on the unfinished blank in India ink and then the varnish is applied over the writing.
Okay now I understand. For some odd reason I had a modern factory image stuck in my head, which obviously would have been impossible given the time period that we are looking at. (Like I said before I'm not a collector, and not even a vintage enthusiast)
I think the main question that will solve this mystery and will probably date he rod is that darn “Blake” mark. It’s the key, or at least I think it is. If it proved to be a brad, then the dating should fall into place. If it’s the builder’s mark, which seems unlikely in production rod, unless of course the factory in Toronto also took custom orders. (in that case I’m probably out of luck as finding a record of the rod’s sale would be impossible.
Two other guys I have brought into this case, seem to agree that the rod is an older one, but they’re basing their opinions on the type of wrapping, which may prove unreliable.
Anyway the search continues.
Thanks for the input.
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