Rocket Launchers

Made in Florida

FSF Staff December 13, 2010

Have you ever wondered what goes into producing the tackle and accessories we use today? Avid anglers and boat owners often take for granted the tremendous effort required to design and manufacture the countless components that enhance our on-the-water experiences. Skilled craftsmen build many of these essentials right here in Florida. We wanted to learn more about these professionals and about the products they specialize in, and we’re confident that you, too, will be fascinated with what we discover in our ongoing investigation.

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Photo: Steve Dougherty

While its originally namesake is still somewhat debatable, within the realm of bluewater sportfishing a ‘rocket launcher’ is a tool that enables offshore crews to fish multiple lines hassle-free from a centralized location. Similar to a fighting chair, a rocket launcher is mounted on a pedestal in the center of the cockpit and offers the ultimate in space saving functionality and versatility.

Utilizing only West System Epoxy the panels are glued and placed in a vacuum bag where incredible pressure ensures a perfect seam and superior bond.

Available in a variety of configurations to appeal to nearly every fishing style and amount of available deck space, you can safely assume that Bluewater Chairs produces some of the finest and most durable solid teak rocket launchers on the market. Based in Ft. Lauderdale, Bluewater Chairs has been serving discriminating anglers’ needs since 1988 with a dedicated team of skilled artisans who continue to surpass the expectations of their elite clientele. For this edition of Made In Florida, we were provided an inside look from start to finish of an 11 rod rocket launcher customized with beverage holders, rigging tray and tackle drawer destined for the gleaming cockpit of a brand new 60′ Hatteras.

The detailed process of manufacturing a custom teak rocket launcher begins will natural imported wood. Teak is arguably the most durable and weather-resistant hardwood and with a little TLC is capable of withstanding decades of constant exposure to harsh UV rays and damaging saltwater. As a result, teak trees are precious commodities and harvested from both natural forests and farm raised plantations around the world, with certain environmental factors contributing to the end product’s overall quality. While several South and Central American countries produce quality teak that would, no doubt, be more affordable and easier to acquire, Burma is world renowned for producing the finest teak on the globe and this is exactly where Bluewater Chairs gets their select planks. Raw teak arrives at the company’s South Florida woodshop in long planks (Image 1), which are sawed in half lengthwise when being prepared for a large rocket launcher. To ensure a final product that surpasses even the most discriminating expectations, a skilled craftsman carefully scrutinizes each teak plank, determines which sides have the most desirable finish and carefully aligns the wood grains. Only perfect pieces are selected for exterior portions of the rocket launcher. With the two pieces of selected teak lined up with matching grains they are edge glued and clamped (Image 2). In order to get the desired thickness and required strength this process is completed twice. The woodworker now has two individual panels, but before they can be laminated a template is used to outline the final shape of the top and bottom portions of the rocket launcher (Image 3). The pieces are then trimmed and prepared for lamination. Utilizing only West System Epoxy the panels are glued and placed in a vacuum bag where incredible pressure ensures a perfect seam and superior bond. The two planks are now one (Image 4).

With the rocket launcher starting to take shape the raw wood is trimmed with a bandsaw (Image 5). Next, the original template is fastened to the top of the panels (Image 6) and used as a guide when routing the edges to a smooth finish (Image 7). The template is removed and the predetermined placement for the rod holders and beverage holders is transferred onto the teak. The holes for the rod holders are drilled with a custom fabricated jig designed to cut the perfect angle for the rod holders (Image 8). At this point the edges are rounded over and a teak block is traced for the construction of the pullout drawer (Image 9).

With the rocket launcher shaped and the holes pre-drilled, the raw teak is sanded down to a semi-smooth 220-grit. After passing another quality inspection the wood is finally ready for its first coat of epoxy. West System’s two-stage marine grade epoxy (Image 10) is utilized because it provides superior strength and moisture resistance for years of abuse and exposure to the harsh elements. After each coat the epoxy must be properly cured and sanded. A total of 6 coats are applied (Image 11) to the entire surface. From the sanding station the rocket launcher is transferred to a spray booth where it is coated with a dozen layers of urethane (Image 12). From the spray booth the rocket launcher is wet sanded down to 3,000-grit (Image 13). The teak is finally polished and compounded to bring out its amazing, mirror-like finish.

It’s now time for final assembly. First on the list is the non-skid lining the oval rigging tray to prevent loose terminal tackle from sliding around (Image 14). Next, 11 high-quality Tigress rod holders are mounted for a stunning finish every blue water angler will appreciate (Image 15). The assembled drawer and pedestal block with pedestal mount are installed (Image 16 & 17). Last but not least the beverage holders are fitted and locked into position with a marine grade silicone sealant (Image 18).

The highly skilled woodworkers at Bluewater Chairs truly make the detailed process look simple. And while they are more than capable of fulfilling extensive custom orders, they also have parts on hand for projects that require a quick turnaround. A fully custom design like the one shown takes approximately 21-days to complete and while the painstaking process is no doubt laborious, the end result is well worth all of the effort. Along with custom rocket launchers, Bluewater Chairs also produces beautifully handcrafted fighting chairs, helm chairs and a wide variety of indoor and outdoor teak furniture. With premium hand-selected hardwoods and a focus on quality, their teak products are works of art guaranteed to stand the test of time.

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