Expensive Hobbies

I like to think of my self as a pretty good fisherman. I suppose anybody who fishes would think the same about themselves. I read everything I can get my hands on about fishing. How to make lures, understanding structure, what forage does, wave and wind patterns, fishing at night, etc. I was, or still to this day, am trying to learn as much as possible, however I just happen to have a little thing called bad luck that follows me wherever I go. Murphy’s Law is Bad Luck’s cousin. They both live at my house and follow me like white on rice. I have even burnt water while cooking. Now you get the picture?

In late February, I was getting the itch to go fishing. The frozen lakes were becoming unsafe due to a stretch of warm weather. I went to the sporting goods section of a local department store where I spent an hour or so contemplating what to buy. I didn’t need anything, but I was bored and buying a new lure or something for the upcoming open water season always gets my blood pumping. Then I saw it– do it yourself jigs. What a great idea. I can save lots of money by making my own jigs. I bought two molds and a melting pot. One mold was for jigs and the other for sinkers or weights. I needed to buy specially bent hooks of 1/0 and size 1 and 2.

I was all excited because I also had to buy paint in these little jars, sort of like the paint for my model airplanes when I was a kid. So I picked up a green, blue, chartreuse, orange, hot pink, glow in the dark and phosphorous colors as well. In all, I spent about $120 on the stuff and I wasn’t even planning on buying anything. As long as I pay for it with my side stash of money, it would be ok. (Every married guy out there knows what I am talking about. You may just have a twenty folded up small tucked in the corner of your wallet for emergencies or a secret hiding spot out in the garage. Either way, if you’re married, you have some amount of money stashed away somewhere.)

When I got home, I remembered that I needed lead. I had all of the other stuff and forgot the main ingredient. I went back to the store and found that they don’t sell lead. I then went to every store I could find that I thought would possibly carry lead. None of them. I guess its some kind of insurance or health thing. Either way, I couldn’t find any. I could spend a bunch of money buying weights for duck decoys at about eight bucks a pound, but that would get expensive. Didn’t even think of this while spending the money on all the other stuff. What to do? I went to the internet.

I got some good ideas such as taking the lead weights out of old windows or again with the duck decoy thing. Someone said you can buy it through a sporting goods catalog. I checked on that. It would have cost almost forty bucks to buy five pounds of lead. Shipping was just outrageous. Then my creativeness took hold and I think I figured it out. What about the lead that they pull out of old windows. Where do they get rid of it. I called a recycling center and the guy said he had tons of it.

I drove over there as quick as my truck with no gas would take me. The guy asked what I was using it for and I told him. He explained to me about different types of lead and that one certain kind is better for mold making. "Ok buddy, before you get me all excited about this abundant supply of yours, how much do you want per pound?" He said that if I made him a couple dozen jigs, he’d give me a five gallon pail of lead for free. I shook hands with the guy to seal the deal and filled my bucket full. I’m going to take as much as I can before he realizes what he gave me. I’ll skip over the part about the hemorrhoid I received trying to lift the little five gallon pail full of lead. It hurt for weeks and to this day, I haven’t needed or desired to buy any more lead.

All excited about my new found stash, I raced home to start my new money saving hobby. I had thoughts of making so many of these that I could sell them and have a lure making company. In ten years, I could retire and become a professional walleye fisherman with corporate sponsors. I snapped out of my daydream as soon as I saw the blue and red lights flashing in my rear view mirror. I guess going 55 through a school zone is illegal or something. I took the ticket and pulled away from the curb slowly.

Putting on my directional as I eased out into traffic. (Like you never did that!!) Play the little "I am so innocent and will always follow the rules from now on officer!" game. You know darn well, as soon as I turned the corner, I floored it and got away as quick as possible.

Flying into my driveway, I parked my truck and took my secret purchase to the garage, put it on my workbench and went into the house. My garage isn’t what you would call clean. In fact you can’t even call it a garage. A garage, as I read in a magazine once, is what you park your vehicle in. At my place, I parked my wife’s car in there for exactly one night when we first bought our house.

Since then, it has been packed full of various items. My boat stays in there during winter. I have a huge set of tools for most construction needs(my profession for now until I become a fishing lure tycoon) and on any given weekend, my Millermatic 135 welder is in the center of the sheltered space next to some strange piece of webbed metal. I started to weld a table for a workbench and it looks more like a Picaso painting.

Upon entering the house, I must of had a look of guilt on my face because I didn’t say a word and my wife was already quizzing me on what happened. I showed her my $134 fine from the cop and she was really mad. However that isn’t what she was questioning me about. She saw me get out of my truck with three bags and a bucket. I was going to lie and tell her that I bought presents for homeless kids or Braille books for the deaf people, but if I lie now-she would find out sooner or later. I’ve learned not to tell lies, well not big ones anyway. (By the way, if she asks, I only spent $30.)

After getting yelled at for a few minutes on the speeding ticket,( at least I think she was yelling at me-all I heard was a clicking noise while her lips moved) I returned to the garage to start on my new found fortune just waiting to be had. I plugged in the melting pot and nothing happened. I waited for about five minutes and the lead wasn’t melting. I immediately went inside the house to check the circuit breakers to see of I tripped one of them. Nothing… I stopped in the kitchen to get a bite to eat and then got sequestered from my daughter to help with some algebra.

About an hour later, I remembered about my project in the garage. I went outside and saw smoke billowing out from underneath the door. I pushed open the service door and pushed the doorbell button for the overhead door. As the smoke puffed up and up in the sky, there were people with sandwich boards campaigning in my front yard about the end of the world and the apocalypse . As I was telling them to go away and that it was just smoke, the fire department showed up. The smoke cleared quickly and the source of the problem was instantly found. My work bench wasn’t cleaned off very well and some rags with oil ignited from the lead melting pot. I was given a quick lecture from Fire Marshall Frank on the dangers in a home. He and his heavily clad posse rolled up their hoses and headed back to where ever they came from.

I then had the enjoyment of hearing my wife yelling at me about how I could have killed the whole family ( I think that’s what she was talking about. I just heard that clicking noise again and saw her face get wrinkly, so I figured she might be upset——again.) It didn’t matter if she was mad at me though because I now knew that my outlet in the garage was working just fine.

Had I read the directions to the melting pot, I would have seen the part where it says it takes about 15 minutes to fully melt one cold pot of lead. There was also a section on keeping the product away from hazards such as oily rags and solvents. NOTE: They really should make those warnings more noticeable. I place full responsibility on the company that made the thing.

Ok–so I now have my work bench cleaned off and I am ready to mass produce my fortune. I started with melting a fresh pot of lead (the firemen knocked over the last one and didn’t clean up the mess) and got out a pencil and paper. Keeping the paper a safe distance away (because it said so on page 5 of the safety booklet) I started to make a graph so I can do a time study on how many jigs I can produce in an hour. This is my new found glory and I had to know exactly what I was doing so I can improve my methods later on.

I opened the mold to insert the hooks. I then try to pry open the pack of 100 hooks. They seem to have molded the plastic sides together. I pull and pull. Suddenly it opens and all 100 of the hooks go flying behind my workbench. There must be a magnet behind the back left leg of my bench because that is exactly where they all went and I can’t find one of them. So now I had an empty package and no hooks. I ran back to the store and bought five packs of hooks. Now I was in business. I proceeded to make all five hundred jigs in about 2 hours. All I had left to do now was to paint them.

I bought two different kinds of paint in as many colors as they had. One of the ways to paint them is with a powder paint. You heat up the jig and just before it melts, dip it into the powder. It cures itself with the heat in the lead. The other method is you dip it in what ever color you want and hang it. I did find out that for the second method, you need to dip it in a white base first and then the color and then a clear hardening coat. With the powder method, you heat it up, dip it and then just hang it to cure. To get the paint to not chip off as you bang them around in you tackle box, you hang them on the oven rack at 250 degrees for an hour to harden the paint (you’re useful tip for the day). Much easier than dipping it three or four times and you spend a lot less on materials.

Let me tell you what you shouldn’t do. Don’t put the jigs in your oven and forget about them for eleven hours. When I opened the oven door, I saw five hundred empty steel hooks dangling from the racks and the bottom of my stove covered in about six pounds of shiny lead. It scrapes out easy enough when its still warm but if this happens to you, you may want to keep some kind of oven cleaner handy and some cash to take the family out to eat for a while. You probably don’t want to directly inject lead into the food of your offspring. They have enough problems with the new math in school.

After I finished cleaning out the oven, I really didn’t have enough energy to start all over again that day. I had to take my wife and daughter out to eat or let her know what I did. Did you know that making jigs isn’t a good idea in February? When you almost burn down the house and poison your family, your going to be buying a lot of flowers and as we all know, flowers are three times as expensive in February because of Valentines day.

In all, I spent $130 on the set up. Another $30 on the hooks. Flowers at $75. Dinner for 3 $95. Speeding ticket $134. On top of the money, I wasted almost 12 hours and had five hundred empty hooks to make into jigs—-again. I could have bought a lot of jigs for that amount of money. I didn’t let it beat me though. The next weekend I made all the jigs over again(under my wife’s supervision) and found that maybe I have a better chance at winning the lottery than become a fishing lure guru. I do have an idea on a crank bait that I can make. I wonder how I can melt plastic in the garage. Let’s see, I’d need a blow torch and …