Hi Spearfishing World members,
As I mentioned in my introduction I would do a small piece on my current speargun quiver, all of which I made myself.
I started freediving spearfishing back in 1986 while on a scuba trip to one of the local islands off Southern California. As a result I ended up joining the LA Fathomiers, which was a great move for me. Talking with Bob Sellers (one of the Fathers of the club) at my first meeting I asked him which gun I should "buy" as a first real hunting tool (I had a really small AB Biller at the time). He told me to make my own as I would appreciate my catch more than taking the easy route.
I then called up Jay Riffe, who at the time was working out of his garage. He sold me a mechanism, handle and a shaft and I went on my way. After several failed attempts at cutting up teak boards and having them warp on me I was about to give up. I went to Jay's house and told him to sell me his "standard", as he called it, as I was done. Jay's advice was to keep on trying. Back then Jay did not laminate any of his guns. His brother would cut up the stocks and cure them and the straight ones made it into Jay's shop. At the next Fathomiers meeting Bob Sellers told me I have to laminate the stock to get a straight one. So I bought another teak board, ripped it in half, opposed the cuts and to my surprise I ended up with my first straight blank! From that blank I made my first gun (81cm) and I named it the "Calico" as I shot an 11lber at Catalina Island with it. That gun is still with me and I have shot everything from Halibut to White Seabass with it.
Next up was my first mid-handle gun with a stock, handle, pushrod, trigger and line release I made myself. I called it the "White Seabass gun (117cm) as I built it to hunt WSB in poor vis conditions at Palos Verdes. That is the gun with the old Riffe reel attached. Although fairly crude I have shot a LOT of big fish with that gun over the years. I made everything but the mechanism and shaft for that gun. I made a few other guns with that crude handle including the large "Yellowfin" mid-handle gun (140cm) I designed and built for a Bluefin Tuna trip to Cortez Banks back in 1992. I called it the Yellowfin because I wanted to leave room for an even bigger gun in case the need arose! And also the "Scramble Meet" gun (86cm) that I designed for competition diving. That gun is a 4 teak laminated gun in a square pattern.
My favorite gun of all time as next and I named it the "Yellowtail". It is a 108cm rear handle gun with a handle I am actually proud of! It is beautiful and my wife burned a picture of a Yellowtail right on it. This gun has a name for a reason! My first trip out with the gun was on the Westerly on a scuba trip to San Clemente Island back in 1993. Wanting to just test out the balance in the water I jumped in with no trail line or float attached. Swimming down to 25ft once away from the scuba divers I came across a school of large yellowtail. As the largest one swam about 10ft from the end of the shaft I had a decision to make: take the shot and make it a perfect one, or risk losing the gun, or just pass on the shot all together. I aimed right above the eye and stoned it dead. The captain could not believe it when I boated the 35lb yellowtail without a reel or float!
The last gun I built (which I just finished a week ago) remains nameless (86cm) as it hasn't been in the water yet. It is a dual Honduras mahogany laminate with the handle and loading pad dovetailed into the stock. The mother of pearl inlay was hand routered into the handle and glued in place. It is probably my most beautiful gun to date. So as you can tell my wood working skills improved with almost every gun I made. As will yours with practice.
So if you are wanting to build your own guns don't worry! You have way better materials and information today than I had back then. And you will definitely get a different sensation when you shoot a fish with a gun you toiled on for hours.
At the moment I am building a 95cm single roller gun that I will be writing about right after I finish this article. I hope you enjoyed my small story and maybe it will inspire you to build a gun too! You will need (or at least access to) a table saw, router with table and bits, drill press and a power box planer, as well as a flat table and clamps to do your laminating on. I use the West Systems epoxy, but there are others that work as well. And don't bother putting a nice, shiny finish on that teak gun. Oil it with a good teak oil and re-oil after a few dives and it will look like new forever. If you decide to use Mahogany you will need to apply several coats of a good spar varnish as Mahogany does not have natural water resistance like teak. But it is an easier wood to work with and some folks have luck without the need for laminating. The cool part is that you don't need a mechanism for every gun. You can swap one around to save cost (of course the mid-handle guns will need one with a cut down trigger).