Rod Clusters

Made in Florida

FSF Staff December 19, 2013

Anglers and boaters rarely consider the tremendous effort required to design, manufacture and service the countless components and accessories that enhance our on-the-water experiences. Skilled craftsmen design and assemble many of these essentials right here in Florida. We wanted to learn more abut these companies and are confident that you, too, will be fascinated with what we uncover.

rod-clusters01

1 of 9

Photo: Birdsall Marine Design

Everyone knows the act of purchasing a boat is only the initial investment throughout our boating and sport fishing careers. It’s highly likely over the years you will choose to upgrade power and accessories. Fortunately, there are a host of high-quality, high-performance and affordable aftermarket products designed to enhance our boating and fishing experiences.

By utilizing only the finest materials and manufacturing techniques, Birdsall Marine Design remains ahead of the competition with products and materials that are handmade in the USA.

Birdsall Marine Design has been a leader in aftermarket and custom boating accessories for over 30 years. Based in West Palm Beach, this forward thinking company specializes in the manufacturing of custom T-tops, rocket launchers, aluminum rod holders, canvas and upholstery products, and a wide array of anodized aluminum hardware.

You know the old saying you can never have too many fishing rods? Well, Birdsall is a firm believer in that notion and has come up with a solution in the way of anodized aluminum five capacity rod clusters that help eliminate loose rods and clutter so anglers are free to walk around the boat and fight fish without obstruction. Five-rod clusters also allow anglers to carry a complete arsenal of equipment in a variety of classes in order to take advantage of any opportunity. Birdsall has labeled the product, The Collector, which can be inserted in a tower leg, vertical rod holder, or in your gunnel.

The process starts with the initial development and computer aided design, which is created in-house by a veteran designer who has over two decades of history with the company (Image 1). When designing one-off products, CAD files enable efficient creation, modification, analysis and optimization of the final product for maximum accuracy and efficiency before the first piece of aluminum is ever cut or welded. Once the design has been approved and finalized the files are sent to the CNC machine.

When creating The Collector, the process starts with the manufacturing of the interior brackets that support the individual rod holders. The raw material for the brackets is 1/2 inch by 3 inch aluminum. Once the brackets are cut to size the metal is polished. While the aluminum brackets are being cut and polished, tubing for the rod holders are acquired from Eastern Metal Supply, which is just down the road in Lake Worth, FL. Here, a single machine creates the rod holder that features wedged butts and flared tubing. While Birdsall once owned this specialized machine, through several acquisitions it is no longer a process that is accomplished in-house.

When the metal tubing arrives at Birdsall’s facility it is welded to the previously fabricated metal brackets and the entire assembly is polished (Image 2). Simultaneously, the center tube is welded to a solid butt that rests at a 30° angle. When the inner and outer rod holder assemblies are complete, the machinist places the components on a jig so everything lines up perfectly (Image 3). From here the outer rod holders are tacked in place one at a time (Images 4, 5 & 6). Once the tack welds are inspected, the aluminum can be welded together for final assembly (Image 7). At this point the rod holder cluster is polished once again in preparation of anodizing.

The welding process is very detailed and demands highly skilled craftsmen. Although aluminum is highly desirable for its anti-corrosive properties, it is a difficult material to weld due to its inherent physical properties. Too much heat can create a faulty weld and distort the metal while also marring the surface. There isn’t much room for error and the welder must do it right the first time. There’s no second chance welding with aluminum, and Birdsall Marine Design credits their Miller TIG welding machines for making the process simpler and easier, resulting in perfect finished products void of imperfections. Once the product is inspected and cleaned on the polishing wheel it is sent out for anodizing.

The anodizing process is actually an electrochemical process that converts the aluminum surface to aluminum oxide. The aluminum oxide provides further corrosion resistance, in addition to increased protection from wear and abrasion. This multi-step process is time consuming (Image 8) and the material must first be cleaned of any contaminants and oils. From here the material is rinsed with de-ionized water and then placed in a caustic bath to take down the finish of the aluminum. Next, the metal is washed in an acidic solution and placed in an electrolyte bath and chemical solution. Electricity passes through the chemical bath and the resulting reaction creates the aluminum oxide finish. At this point, various coloring methods can be accomplished. The final step seals the porous metal to provide a lasting finish that will stand the test of time.

When the rod holder cluster returns from anodizing, rubber inserts are placed in the rod holders and The Collector is given a final inspection before being packaged and shipped to anglers around the world.

While Birdsall Marine claims that more than 85 percent of their product line consists of anodized aluminum, they have the ability and expertise to customize or restore your boat to whatever fantasy you desire. By utilizing only the finest materials and manufacturing techniques, Birdsall Marine Design remains ahead of the competition with products and materials that are handmade in the USA.

Join the Discussion