Dick was deeply involved with the tackle trade in numerous areas. Indeed his first book, which was published in 1952, was Rod Building For Amateurs. He continued to develop rods and one of the most famous connections was with Hardy's. Initially he worked on his own with Jim Hardy, but later others joined as the Moncreiff Rod Development Company Ltd, with Fred Buller, Fred J. Taylor and Leslie Moncreiff.
In the beginning they worked with glass as a material for rods, but it was through a wartime connection that Dick was alerted to the merits of carbon-fibre by his old friend Leslie Philips who had been investigating the possible uses of carbon-fibre for the MoD at Farnborough. Dick picked up Jim and raced down to meet with Leslie and returned to Alnwick with carbon-fibre ribbons. Not long after, the first carbon-fibre prototype rod was produced and many more rods followed as can be seen at the Hardy's tackle shop and museum in Alnwick, where there is a Hall of Fame for rods manufactured between 1885 and 1986.
Dick Walker at Hardy's in Alnwick with Pete Thomas, Fred Buller,
Frank Moir (Hardys), Bill and Jim Hardy
HARDY HALL OF FAME
FOR RODS MANUFACTURED FROM 1885 TO 1986
KEY: Red - Split Bamboo, Blue -Glass fibre, Black - Carbon Fibre / Graphite
The museum has a wonderful collection of artifacts and a wealth of fascinating information about the tackle giant that the Hardy Brothers built over the years. Plus of course the tackle shop, making it well worth a visit.
The strange tale of how I met Richard Walker.
LESLIE PHILLIPS - 1990
At an early stage in the development of carbon-fibre, the Ministry of Supply invited the BBC to broadcast an introductory programme and this was transmitted under the title 'From Strength to Strength' in the late Sixties. In it, I described the major properties of the new material and indicated some of its early uses in racing cars, boats and aerospace.
As an extra inducement, we announced that samples of the batch fibre (tows up to about 0.9 metres in length - a tow is a bundle of straight untwisted fibres containing a few thousand filaments) would be made available, without charge, for novel uses, in exchange for the results of any experiments, good or bad.
The public response was immediate and overwhelming!
Among the first of many visitors to beat a path to the departmental door, was the angler and writer Richard Walker, who brought with him J. L. Hardy of Hardy Bros, for whom Richard was consultant at the time. There was an enthusiastic meeting of minds. We agreed that carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics did seem to have the right properties for lightweight fishing rods and arranged to cooperate in production and testing of some prototype blanks, using fibre provided by RAE.
Within a few weeks, information began trickling back. The rods, while being both light and powerful, were really too violent in their response; flies were repeatedly snapping off their leaders during the cast.
Evidently it was time for a rethink. We needed a grade of fibre, which was a little less stiff, even stronger, with a higher elongation at break (the so-called type II fibre).
Happily such a product was already under development in the department, in the form of a thin but continuous tow. Possibly this could be woven? Early experiments with a small handloom showed real feasibility; and a contract was placed with James Carr and Sons Ltd, traditional weavers of narrow tapes, to mechanise production. There were many problems, first of all in the cleaning and sizing of the fibre. Then special creels had to be designed with low-fric¬tion guides to feed the tow safely through the loom without damage. The warp threads had to be held on individually spring-loaded reels, otherwise they wove unevenly. Special conductors were arranged over the surface of the fabric cloth to dissipate the high build-up of static electricity. Finally, around each motor to drive the loom an inflatable plastic bag was provided, blowing a current of air outwards, thus preventing loose fluff or fibre from entering and shorting-out the power supply!
The result of all this was a series of tapes or cloth, beautifully even, with their flattened carbon warps arranged in parallel array, held together with light glass-weft. Such fabrics became known in the trade as `U/D (uni-directional) carbon cloth' and Richard took to them like a duck to water. He designed a series of superb rods with this material, one of which was called the `Farnborough' rod in recognition of our period of fruitful collaboration. We did spend a most enjoyable day together fishing at Grafham Water, and it was very satisfying for me to see the rods in action.
Somewhere in the archives of the Materials Department at the RAE is our last letter from Richard Walker. In it, he says that the development of carbon-fibre and its application to fishing rods 'saved the British tackle industry'.
A fitting memory to a thoroughly nice man!
(Leslie Philips wrote this in a letter to Pat Walker in 1990, as Pat had written to Dick's friends and acquaintances requesting they share any memories or stories about their time and connection with him. It was published in 'Richard Walker - Biography of an Angling Legend' by Barrie Rikards, Medlar Press in 2007).