Not much before becoming interested in boomerangs, I got started into woodworking. By the time boomerangs hit, I was really into it. A few trips to visit Vince in college got me real close to Grizzly Tools in Williamsport, PA and I managed to get a table saw, band saw and jointer, along with a bench top belt sander and drill press. At one craft show I was buying boomerangs fromPeter Ruhf and he asked why I didn’t make my own. He pointed me to a local source of 5ply 1/4″ baltic birch plywood and told me to try his boomerangs as patterns. He said to follow his basic airfoils and go from there. The first booms mostly worked but were shabby by current standards. I remember making a copy of a tiny 3mm thick traditional from that 1/4″ plywood. It’s a miracle I got it to fly. Many of those early boomerangs have lots of undercut, just to make them work.
Purchases of boomerangs from other boomsmiths broadened my awareness of how they were made. By trying to make similar boomerangs, my skills advanced. I think it was sometime in 1995 that I called Fred Malmberg before going to visit some friends in York, PA for the weekend. Fred said: “Come on over and visit” so I did. We did two things that day. One was to go out and throw boomerangs a bit, the other was for Fred to show me how he made lap joint boomerangs from rare woods. I must have been a pretty good student because in 1996 I entered the Craftsmanship contest in Virginia Beach and tied with Fred. At that point I was pretty much unknown in the USBA. Fred was a big help in that he gave me the opportunity to make boomerangs from what I consider “real wood”.
One reason I became a woodworker was that I like the beauty of wood. To me, nothing beats applying that first coat of finish and seeing the grain and color of the wood come to life. I have since moved on to different techniques for my hardwood boomerangs but Fred’s initial advice went a long way to making me a better boomsmith.
I am still learning and always seem to find inspiration from other boomsmiths. Niels Jensen taught me about long distance airfoils with his BadBoy and I have tried reworking one or two on my BVD’Rangs boomerangs to take advantage of it. Dave Hughes somehow always sends me his nicest work and it pushes me to refine my own finishing technique. Pierre Kutek has opened my eyes to the use of space age materials, both alone and in combination with traditional materials. Someone who taught me, while I taught him, was my son, Vince. As soon as he started making boomerangs, I could see the crudeness of his first boomerangs. As he progressed, I had to get better just to stay ahead. I have four or five of his lapjoint boomerangs and know Vince could enter the Craftsmanship contest and be very competitive. I think he might have done it in 2003 except that he was selected to judge the contest.
Probably my newest teacher is Bob Burwell. Bob makes his airfoils different than many people I know and I am sure it affects the performance of his boomerangs. Recently I have tried to make some duplicates of his models to see if mine performed the same. Some work very well and now I am going to apply some of these techniques to several on my own designs, in order to see how it affects their performance. I guess that an “old dog” can learn new tricks, especially if the teacher is an older dog”.