Don Marquis snagged a roll of painter’s tape from the shelf. He now had all the necessary tools to demonstrate how he winds his intricate custom rod wraps.
“Now I’ll pretend I know what I’m doing,” he said.
Marquis has been assembling his own fishing rods at the Seniors Fix-It Shop since he moved to Fort Frances from Rainy River five years ago. The shop, which neighbours the Sister Kennedy Senior Centre, is a place for seniors to tinker with tools and machinery to create anything they want.
“I found this place and Kenny said ‘here’s a table, do what you want,’” said Marquis.
Ken Noble, who heads the shop’s operations, said it has been running for about 30 years. He said the time they spend in the shop on a given day varies from an hour to six. Marquis said he visits the shop almost every day.
“It’s something to do,” said Marquis. “It’s interesting.”
Custom rod builders are familiar with the Mud Hole website. This is where Marquis orders all the parts to assemble the fishing rods. This includes the rod blank, grips, eyes, epoxy, thread, and whatever else he might need. Builders can select the length, action, and power of a desired rod blank, then order the other necessary components and assemble it from there.
Marquis will wind thread or wire to affix eyes to a rod, and then use an epoxy to secure them in place. The eyes are spaced apart at specific distances based on the rod’s length, so that when cast, the line will unravel naturally.
From there, Marquis will add coloured thread in particular patterns, creating precision designs along the bottom of the rod near the reel. He said he’s been assembling rods since he came to Fort Frances, but only began winding decorative wraps about a year ago.
His custom rods aren’t the only projects that happen in the shop.
“Everyone seems to have their own niche of what they like to do,” said Noble.
Noble often works a lathe, “Doc” Spencer builds wooden ducks, and Dave Beazley added the new base to the Bass Championship trophy.
“We all make something,” said Noble. “But we’re not in the business of making money.”
He said a lot of other seniors have items that are broken that they don’t know how to fix. Noble said they can bring it to the shop, and get it repaired at no cost, so long as no extra materials are needed. The labour is free.
“That’s what the centre’s here for,” he said.
Noble said three or four guys use the shop, as do about a dozen ladies who come in the evenings.
“They make some pretty nice stuff,” said Noble. “Most of these ladies had never done woodworking, so they’ve come a long way in a short time.”
He said some folks just come in for the social aspect.
“They might sit around for an hour, but they don’t accomplish much,” he said, chuckling.
Noble welcomes any senior to attempt whatever they like.
“If you have something you want to try, you can come in here and try it,” he said. “If you can do it yourself, that’s great, if you need help, there’s usually somebody around who can step in and give you a little advice.”