(A cheeky review of the power of color changes using VisualWRAP by Milt DeReyna)

Just some thoughts on decorative wrap patterns and how to improve/change them with VisualWRAP software.  (With apologies to senior NERBS guys who know all this stuff already)

Somebody else already did all the heavy lifting.  That’s indisputable.  There’s only so many designs you can make by crossing threads at 90º angles up and down a fishing rod.  Clemens, Ehler, Doc Ski, and Billy Vivona too, and that surely leaves a lot of really smart guys off the list.  And what did they come up with?  Diamonds, Chevrons, Maze, Snowflake, Scales, 4 pt. Star, 8 pt. Star, Spider, Spotlight, Fish, Eagle, etc.  They came up with the designs with a lot of hours spent fooling around, and then they came up with mathematics to account for the taper in rod blanks, that would allow these patterns to close and fill the space with thread.  How to lay the pattern out on the blank.  The mechanics of wrapping the blank.  You know, all the technical stuff.  My rod building life became complete when Vivona showed me how to prepare the blank with tape, a toothpick, and how to turn the thread around to go back up to where I started, instead of cutting the thread at each end and making a huge ball of tape.

Clemens taught me how to make Diamonds and Chevrons, and that was pretty much my building world for a long time.  (As an aside, we will not be discussing my foray into marbling in this article.  I am very nearly over the shame induced by that episode and I don’t wish to discuss it.)  Then, there was a knowledge progression.  First, I learned about computers.  Then came Facebook, followed by the NERBS, followed by Vivona’s book.  I read the thing a couple of times, but I still didn’t really get it.  I struggled, maybe because I had a hard time visualizing the finished product.  I could look at a photo of a wrap, but I couldn’t get my mind wrapped (pardon the pun) around how it all came together.

Then came Dave Boyle’s VisualWRAP.  Well, dang!  Lookie here!  You want to talk about somebody who created something unique, Dave Boyle is the man!  Take any wrap that you don’t know how to do, load it up, put it into Single Thread mode, and BANG, that 250 watt lightbulb just flared into existence.  I left my virginity behind on a Spider.

Custom rod building is equal parts technical skills and artwork.  But I suspect all art is that way.  I don’t think you can be Rembrandt without first learning how to handle a paintbrush.  You can’t build metal sculptures unless you’re good with a welder and a grinder.  And so, beginners are much more prone to concentrate on the technical, rather than the art.  That’s as it should be.  You gotta start with the basics, right?

Conversely, that’s the very reason that so many wraps by beginners, look like something the cat dragged across the clean kitchen floor, no matter how well technically, they were done.  You’re talking about guys who’ve spent most of their life in faded blue jeans, flannel shirts or brown tees, and sneakers.  They wouldn’t know how to use color properly if you dropped a Conex full of Madeira palettes on their heads.

Color is the key that opens up artwork.  Color, and where the artist shades it, where the artist changes it, and how well the artist is able to use it to make certain places pop out, and others subdued, is the artwork in decorative wrapping.  Color can be a signature.  I can identify a Billy Vivona or a Mary Christy wrap just by looking at it.  But in addition, you can change basic patterns into something else, by using color.

Wait, what’s that you say, Milty?  I thought you said that the “heavy lifting” of pattern design was already completed work?

Yep, I did say that.  The technical design aspect is mostly a completed work, unless you’re talking about abstract things that follow no known pattern.  You think of something that’s pretty cool; chances are virtually 100% that some old guy in Des Moines thought of it 30 years ago.  But the artwork aspect, using color as your design metric, is wide open.  And, as just one of the great design features found in VisualWRAP software, I’m going to show you what I mean.

This is one of my favorite wraps, a 4 pt. Star that’s been morphed into a Razor Star.  Here it is, wrapped.  As you can see, I didn’t stick exclusively to the VW design.

Now, without changing any sequential instruction in the script, but by changing the color number within the script, I can change the shape of the pattern, or highlight it in a different manner.

Same pattern, technically.  But I added depth to the star, and made it pop a little bit more, by changing the first threads in the shading box-out, to black.  Pro tip:  When packing at the end, the background gets packed outwards, and this might uncover a little space between the star and the background.  If I already have black thread there, on a graphite/black blank, you can’t see that.  I know, a cheat.

So now, we play What If I Did This?  What if I change the first few threads on the box-in that forms the star, to the same color as the black threads that start the background?  Well, this is what happens.  Now, instead of a Razor Star, I have a Ninja Throwing Star.  (C’mon, use your imagination, this is the fun part.)

What if I get rid of that stupid looking black cross in the center?  That’s a better Ninja Star, isn’t it?

Whoa!  Changed 1 color.  Now the Ninja Star is bleeding all over the floor.  And also, if you’ll think about what you’re seeing, this is why it came in handy to have 2 blacks loaded up in the color palette in the software.  Since you were wondering why when I changed black to red, all the black didn’t turn into red.

These are just a few examples of the possibilities that are provided to the rod artist by using color inventively, along with VisualWRAP.  So, you guys get rid of those brown tee shirts, start looking at the world around you for color ideas, and go clothes shopping with your wife once in a while.  She knows things.

Milt DeReyna, April 2019

You can check out Milt's facebook page here: Dow's Ditch Custom Rods