DMsea. Those are my initials... sort of. After building a few guns I decided I needed to brand them and that's the best I could come up with!
My speargun building journey started during the Winter of 2013. Earlier that year I had contacted a well known speargun builder and had asked about buying some guns to sell at my retail location "School of Fish" in Rocky Point, NY. He politely replied that he didn't sell to dive shops and had no intentions to. He had a large waiting list for his guns and he made them one at a time. At that time my wood working experience consisted of building a few cabinets and small pieces of furniture for around my house. I was learning the basics and had a good assortment of power tools. One day shortly after contacting that gun builder I was on a popular spearfishing forum and came across an area with a few discussions about building spearguns. The lightbulb went off and I decided I would build my own gun. Five years and forty or so guns later here I am still working at the craft. What follows on this page is a chronology of my work over the last few years.
The first gun I decided to build was a 42" mid-handle (why not start out with an intricate gun) which is a great all-around weapon for hunting fish in the waters around Long Island. I had no idea about what size shaft to use or the correct band length required to propel the shaft. I quickly found some specifications on the Riffe website and modeled my gun after one of theirs. I used reclaimed teak from the battleship USS North Carolina. Before starting the build I made several "dummy" blanks from pine and 2X4's so I could practice making the trigger mechanism pocket and so I could practice with a new hand tool I had just purchased, a spokeshave. My plan was to use the spokeshave to hand-shape the gun.
Practice makes perfect. Pine mockup
By the time I started working on my teak speargun blank two or three months had gone by. During that time I read pages upon internet pages of content related to speargun building and design. I also watched videos on You Tube, notably those by Gil Galcua and the guys at Neptonics Systems. When I finally did get started I was confident my gun wouldn't end up in the fireplace. I had a solid plan and I practiced enough on junk wood
Here's a picture of that first gun, it's still my go-to gun for quick outings in the Long Island Sound.
Of course I was so proud of my gun I had to post about it in one of the forums where I had learned so much about building it in the first place.
I had a nice padauk blank all made up and ready to go. Without waiting very long I decided the thing to do would be to make a second, larger mid-handle. I wanted a three band gun so away I went. The one thing I did different on this gun was I used a router guided by a template to make some band relief grooves along the side of the stock as seen in the below photo.
This second gun for some reason didn't get used much, it's not that it did't shoot well but it wasn't well suited for the hunting I was doing in limited visibility. It's still sitting in my closet if anyone out there wants to make me an offer for it!
Build 3 and 4:
Two months after the first build, this was getting addicting. I was getting all kinds of compliments and words of encouragement from dive buddies and people who had seen my guns. For my next project I decided to use a combination of purpleheart and sapele a wood similar to mahogany. The sapele would help to offset the negative buoyancy of the heavy purpleheart. This time I decided to build two guns, one for me and one to sell. I loved the look of the purple wood but I didn't love working with it.
Here's a shot of the two mid-handles during the build.
One of these two guns wound up being the first gun I ever sold. The other one I used quite often diving for striped bass off of Montauk. I was lucky enough to shoot my largest bass off Montauk with that gun, a 47 pounder. A year or so ago I sold the gun to a local diver.
A shot taken back when there was a 2-per day limit on bass
I learned a very important lesson on my fifth gun build. Up until that point everything had been smooth sailing with no mishaps. On this fifth gun during assembly I was hammering in the 1/8" diameter pin that holds the line release inside it's recess. As the pin was being driven through the stock it ran into some finishing epoxy that had dripped inside the hole. The pin tore out a big chunk of wood on the top side of the gun as I finished tapping it in place. It was pretty ugly.
Here is what it looks like when that happens!
On build #5 I also decided I would video the entire process. I was still watching a lot of speargun related content on YouTube but one thing I couldn't find was a quick video that showed an entire build. Most videos fell into two categories: Horribly produced videos with not enough attention to detail or videos that took 20 minutes to explain what could be done in two minutes. So every time I worked on this gun I set up a GoPro and videoed a bit of what I was working on. If nothing else I figured It would at least show sequentially the method to my madness (at that time anyway). The video is up on YouTube here.
Build 6, 7, 8 and 9
This was the Winter projects for 2015. The plan was to get four more mid-handles completed. All four had names on them! Though they weren't all that much different from my first build I could definitely see my work was getting better and It wasn't taking me quite as long to finish each build.
Builds 6,7,8 and 9 at various build stages
One of the mid-handles from the photo above
For the tenth build I decided I wanted to try something different. This time I would build a rear handle gun. I would also step away from the Neptonics reef mech I had been installing in my mid-handles and switch to their reverse mech which is better suited for a rear handled build. I also made this from reclaimed USS North Carolina teak. I set it up with a single 5/8" band and a 5/16" diameter shaft. This build was a learning experience. It would be the first gun I built using a solid wood handle which I mortised into the blank. I was happy with the end result and I still occasionally use this gun.
My blank was a little shorter than what I wanted.
I had to figure out a way to make it a little longer for easy loading
Build 11 and 12
After completing the teak rear handle I decided I should build a couple more. I had some nice blanks made out of walnut and maple I wanted to use. Since both guns were being built at the same time they came out looking very similar to each other. At this point I was starting to get a little more bold with my shaping, notice the curvy loading butt. I roughed that, and the area in front of the handle out with a jigsaw. I was also getting a little mor aggressive with tapering three sides of the stock.
The two guns as I was building them
No longer keeping track of how many guns I was building
At this point things start to get a little fuzzy in terms of the number of guns being made. Looking through photos I can see another 3 or 4 mid-handles I made for local divers. No major changes to the look of these guns but I was paying more attention to detail.
The next "different" gun I made was competed in August of 2015. Two years into my gun building journey it was time to go big! Blue water hunting had become a thing off Long Island. Guys landing tuna and wahoo out in the Gulf Stream. I figured I would take a shot a building a blue water gun. I had a big blank I had made out of purpleheart and padauk. What was I thinking? The gun turned out great it was 150cm mid handle. I had it set up with four 9/16" bands, and a 65 inch 5/16" shaft with a slip tip rigged on a breakaway setup. This was my first build that used a Neptonics Tuna Mech. Also my first foray into poured epoxy tracks. The mistake I made on this gun was my choice of wood. Way too heavy. I should have substituted teak for either one of those woods. I would still have had a super strong rigid gun, but with less weight and negative buoyancy. The gun shot lazer straight but for me it was too much of a beast to swim around with. I wound up selling it to a local diver.
Don't use a combo of purple and padauk on a big gun!
Fall of 2015 I was asked by a customer to build two guns, a mid-handle and a rear handle. He wanted a dark wood that had lots of figuring. He really wanted something called snakewood but I couldn't get it in the size needed for the project. I went shopping at the hardwood supplier and after sending a few texts of different boards I was checking out he settled on Ziricotè, poor mans ebony.
A picture of the $200 piece of lumber I purchased for the guns
The most challenging aspect of these two guns would be getting enough lams out of the board which was around 1.25" thick before flattening. He didn't want to see any of the sap wood, the lighter areas. I would wind up sandwiching some teak in-between the ziricote. Below is a shot of the blanks before glue-up.
It took me a couple of months to finish the two guns but he was very happy with the resulting weapons. (photo by Dave Hochman)
The ziricote twins
Again I decided to try something different. A few people had been asking me about making a hybrid. Daryl Wong's guns were popular amongst the local divers. I figured I'd attempt one (actually I made two at once). At the same time I had also become interested in roller guns. It got me to thinking - "hybrid roller?" I hadn't seen any photos of one in all my searching around. I'm sure I wasn't the first one to build a hybrid roller gun. These were also my first guns with enclosed tracks. Actually they were only partially enclosed but that was due to the fact that the gun was a hybrid. The guns came out nice and that Summer I managed to land a few striped bass with the one I kept for myself.
Below a photo of the first two Hybrid Rollers
In August of 2016 I built two more hybrids. I decided I would document the build in a blog post you can find here. One of the two hybrids was set up with a standard muzzle, the other with a roller. This was also my first attempt at painting one of my guns which I did with an airbrush.
Later in 2016 I was asked to build two more hybrid roller guns. I believe these guns were around 52" total length.
For the long winter ahead I decided I would need to replace that big blue water gun with something more manageable. I wanted to stay away from big and heavy. In poking around the internet speargun forums I was starting to get the itch to build an all wood rollergun. Since I needed a gun for bluewater hunting I decided to do a double roller. The gun would be my first attempt at a "cuttle shape". Narrow at the muzzle end tapering wide to in front of the handle and then tapering down again behind the handle. The gun would be relatively thin but since it had two sets of rollers it would be on the wider side. I was a little uneasy about the thickness of the wood at some areas, in particular the muzzle. I was also concerned with the strength of the handle. I wound up wrapping the handle and muzzle in fiberglass and carbon fiber to add additional strength and stiffness. This was another first for me. I also wanted to paint the gun. I did a writeup on the build here. I never had the opportunity to take this gun out but it did get me some cool artwork from an artist whose work I liked on Instagram.
Here's a picture of the first double roller
Like always, immediately after finishing my first double roller I had to build a second. I feel each build I've learned something that will make the next one better.
Double Roller 2
After the two double rollers I went in the opposite direction, I built two "hole guns." Specialized guns for hunting at super close range or in seriously bad visibility. These guns would be only 30" in length. I decided to get a little adventurous with the design and incorporate a roller muzzle with an additional kicker band. The idea was that if shooting at point blank you could disconnect the roller band and use just the small traditional loop band. Having fun with the airbrush setup I decided these would have some sort of paint job on them.
The first two completed hole guns
I decided to keep the blue/green one and use it in the hopes of landing a stripped bass in the Long Island Sound. It definitely has the power to land one but the opportunity never presented itself. I did however use it on opening day of tautog season to bring home the limit of four fish.
I had posted some photo's of the guns on Spearboard and a guy contacted me about making him a hole gun. He hunted carp out in Oregon. He wanted the gun to have a carp scales pattern on it. I made him the gun and he sent me the below photo. He said he took those fish on the first four shots he fired.
Early summer of 2017 I started making two single roller guns. One of the guns was going to be the "boat gun" for Dave Hochman and Spear-It Charters up in Rhode Island. Dave gave me some specs that he liked in his guns and I designed the build(s) around those parameters. You can look at the entire build here. I used a new technique getting the rough shape transferred to the blank using a template and a bearing guided bit on my router table. The two guns came out really nice. I sent the blue one up to Dave and kept the red one for myself.
On the first trip out with the gun Dave sent me the photo below.
After the Summer ended my work schedule changed in such a way that I was getting very little shop time. I somehow found the time to build two medium sized mid handles though. In late September out of nowhere, I got a message from Jon Huberman owner of Ulusub. Jon makes some of the nicest spearguns around. He was about to move from Rhode Island to Hawaii. He asked if I'd be interested in buying his Bridgeport milling machine since he wouldn't be able to take it with him. I sort of told him yes without thinking about it for too long. I did not realize how huge the machine was. I had no room in my basement for it. I wound up making a second shop at my house in my small garage. After knocking down a wall and cleaning out all the crap I had laying around in the garage a new work space was born.
A couple of months after getting the Bridgeport I came across a South Bend Lathe that I thought would be nice to have. Up to this point I had zero experience working on a lathe or a mill. So far it's been fun figuring things out. Machining is an art that takes a lot of practice, some spend their lives mastering the craft. I'm just "tinkering" with these machines but I'm finding that a lot of what I learned in woodworking can be applied to machining.
Making the switch.
I had the Bridgeport for probably a month and a half before even using it. It took me time to get the space straightened out and then get the electricity hooked up for the three phase motor. As I was making the space up and collecting the bits I needed I was watching every Bridgeport video on YouTube I could find. The machine was a little intimidating at first, there was a learning curve. I almost felt like I was taking a step back instead of moving forward. I was in a way. I had to relearn things I didn't have to think twice about when I was using the router based method. Before getting involved with a build I knew I had to do some practicing on scrap wood. I made 3 or 4 blanks out of douglas fir, pine and cedar I had laying around. After hacking those blanks up I decided I couldn't wait to see what I could do with some "real" wood.
Build #1 on the Bridgeport.
I figured I would continue in the same direction I left off with, single roller. I wanted to improve on what I had done with the last two guns. There were a number of changes I would make on this build. First, I wanted to step away from the enclosed tracks I had been using. A single roller is equivalent to a 2-band traditional gun in terms of power and at 50" in length "shaft whip" would be a non-issue. Another change was my choice of trigger mechanism and hardware. For the first time I would be installing a trigger other than a Neptonics. I love the Neptonics parts but I was chafing at the bit to try out one of the new double roller triggers that Ermes-Sub had come out with. I had been hearing good things about this trigger from many respected spearo's and builders and had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I started the build with a wide mixed wood (teak and padauk) blank. I wanted to go for that cuttle shape, similar to the last two roller guns. To say I was a little nervous about messing the blank up is an understatement. I took my time and got my rough shape done on the mill. It looked pretty good. I still had to do quite a bit of shaping work by hand but far less than when I was using the router based method. I learned a lot on this first build and subsequent builds have become faster and easier. The open track design worked much better than the enclosed. Trajectory of the shaft was much more predictable and flatter. The Ermes trigger lived up to its hype with a buttery smooth pull. Video of the pool testing showed very little jump in the muzzle during the shot. I was really pleased with this gun!
With the first build on the mill complete I took two more blanks and laid out two more roller guns. A teak/padauk and a mahogany/padauk. I learned a couple things on the first go-round with the Bridgeport that would change the process slightly with the added bonus of having to do less hand shaping. I actually like working with hand tools but using the machine is a little more efficient and if done correctly the results are spectacular. The second two guns came out really nice as well. The shape was a little more narrow overall compared to the first build and was also slightly more rounded along the length of the barrel which I really liked. Both guns came out great these probably being two of my nicest builds ever. They shoot like a dream too!
Below is a photo of the builds in process
Completed teak / padauk build
First Mid-Handle in a while
A local diver messaged me saying he had a bag of parts from Neptonics and a blank. He had intended to build a gun but didn't have the necessary tools or time. So he wanted to know if I could build the gun for him. He wanted a mid-handle. When he arrived with his parts I noticed the mahogany blank his friend made for him had some ugly voids along the lams. It looked like when it was laid up there wasn't enough epoxy applied. It was slightly crooked as well. After straightening the blank I decided to beef it up by sandwiching it between two lams of wenge. The new blank consisted of four vertical mahogany lams and two horizontal wenge lams. It looked pretty sweet. I got this gun done pretty quickly and it came out really nice, I sort of wanted to keep it for myself.
It had been a while since my last hybrid build. I had a bunch of new parts I had been wanting to try and figured this would be a good build to try them out on. I got the parts from Mark Laboccetta of Maverick America. He had recently obtained the rights to manufacture and distribute the legendary Steve Alexander trigger mechanism and alloy handle. I also had a beautiful carbon barrel and delrin muzzle. I wanted this hybrid to be different from the other ones I had made. The milling machine would allow me to take the build in a different direction. I got my inspiration from some hybrids that Gil Galcua had built out of colored plywood. This hybrid would be a three banded 60" gun with a 5/16" diameter shaft and slip-tip. A powerful gun capable of taking a large fish. I guess you could call it a "light" blue water gun. I did one test run on a scrap blank but again I was a little nervous about ruining my gorgeous teak / purpleheart blank. Mark supplied me with the wood as well. Using the new parts was an adventure to say the least! I made a couple of minor mistakes but was able to figure out a solution that actually improved the gun in some ways. Another first on this build was the finishing epoxy used. All my prior builds were finished using Phil's Epoxy from Neptonics. Phil's is great stuff but I had read about another product called "Super Sap" made by Entropy Resins. I was happy with the results, not better but equal to the finish I was achieving using Phil's and just as easy to work with.
The completed hybrid
Rear Handle 120
This would be the sixth build since I started with the Bridgeport, which was sometime in early January and it was only mid-March. The 2 guns per month output was nice, I'd never made that many guns in that amount of time. Nice! On this build I wanted to stick with the same style as the previous three roller guns. I really liked how those came out and I was getting a lot of feedback from other divers and gun builders. It's taken a while but I feel like I finally have the style gun that I do best so I will continue with these types of builds and try to improve each one wherever possible. On this 120 I decided I would set it up as a three band gun with a 7.5mm shaft. I tried a new technique with the epoxy finish on this gun and I'm super happy with it. It looks more like an oiled finis but it's epoxy! The technique involves applying epoxy and then after the gun is fully covered, you wipe it down. This gun really came out nice!
More Hole Guns
During the Fall of 2017 I made a batch of blanks out of mahogany that would be specifically used for hole guns. In April 2018 I received a eMail from the organizer of the Top Dawg Freshwater Spearfishing Competition asking if I'd be interested in becoming a sponsor of the event. Since I had been planning on making the hole guns I thought one of them would make a nice weapon for hunting in the murk and swift water conditions that inland divers are often faced with. I wanted these hole guns to be simple, unlike the the ones I had made with roller heads. I decided on simple 2 band guns with a reverse mech to maximize band stretch. Since the mahogany wood is a little on the Plain Jane side of things I also decided I'd paint the guns up with a cool looking paint job.
I placed the reverse mechanisms as far back in the stock as possible which made it tricky when it came time to mount my rubber loading pad on the butt end of the gun. I used Neptonics handle frames for the handles since I thought the side stocks would look cool painted to match the gun.
Once I had all the shaping it was time for painting. I decided on a high visibility color fade, lemon yellow to lime green to an iridescent blue. I picked the worse day ever to start painting. Unfortunately for me we had a week straight of damp cold weather which made the paint sessions frustrating at times. When I finally finished painting though I was super pleased with the results.
After assembly I took the batch of guns down to my local beach for a photoshoot. I shipped off the one gun to the guys at Top Dawg and quick sold the other two.
Photo courtesy Big Kurt Robinson
The first time I saw an inverted rollergun I had two thoughts; "How the hell does that thing work?" And, "I will make one of those someday." Well, someday came during the Summer of 2018. I had been educating myself over the previous couple of years reading all I could about these mysterious (to me) spearguns and drooling over builds by guys like Seal (RIP), Neven (Gladiator), and of course Alemani. When I finally mustered up the courage to build one I'd have to say my main influence in design came from Neven of Gladiator spearguns.
I started with a 3 and 1/4" wide teak and padauk blank. The shape would be similar to previous roller builds I had done but the profile would be different to allow the bands to retract on the underside of the gun without dragging along the bottom of the stock. I used a big core box bit to hog out two channels to give the bands and pulleys the clearance they would need.
The photo above shows the gun after glueing the handle material in place. Most of the shaping was done at this point. One thing I notice in this photo is extra material at the muzzle forward where the rollers would sit. I would remove a good portion of that extra material from the muzzle.
One thing I overlooked in my original plan was a kicker band. On inverted rollers a kicker is used to get the shaft out of the pocket initially. From what I understand without a kicker there can be a bit of a lag before the bands on the bottom of the gun get the shaft up to speed. I didn't have room due to the shaping that had been done to put a slot in the gun, my only alternative was muzzle ferrules which worked out great! In the photo below you can see the muzzle ferrules and the anchors I used for the line that runs through the pulleys and connects to the bands.
After getting the gun shaped I started working on the finish. I used my standard six coats of epoxy and left a glossy finish on the gun. During the build my biggest concern was the band setup; How many, what diameter and how long. I figured why not ask someone who knew what he was talking about. I sent a message to Neven from Gladiator and he provided the following answer to my question:
I prefer softer rubber for achieve enough prestreching. Usually it's 35-45% - First preloaded band is 340-350%, second (and third if needed) are on 320-330%, but depending on rubber type and diameter. These numbers are for 17.5-18 mm soft bands such are Cressi S45 or Picasso boom.
I decided to use 18mm material for my first set of bands and 16mm material for pairs two and three. The kicker would be 14mm small ID material. Once the finish on the gun had cured I got to setting it up. After installing the Ermes trigger mechanism I turned my attention to the band anchors on the bottom of the gun. I had some pre made ones but decided I would take a shot at making something on my lathe. I went with a very basic design, nothing more than a round piece of Delrin turned down at one end leaving an overhang at the top. If you looked at these from the side they would look like the letter "T". I had some pulleys from MVD but I wasn't totally crazy about them so I purchased a pair of Harken 376 16mm series pulleys from West Marine, the same ones I had seen on Neven's guns. Finally the gun would be set up with a 11/32" custom shaft from Dean at Addiction. The shaft was necked down to 5/8" to facilitate installation of a Steve Alexander slip tip. I installed an MVD reel as well.
Here's a few shots of the finished gun
Aesthetically I was super pleased with how this gun turned out. The real test though is, "How will it shoot?" The first session in the pool went well. My first shot was a bullseye! I did encounter a couple minor problems with my design. The main one being at the muzzle. After shooting the line that rides on the rollers would get jammed between the wood of the speargun and the roller. There was too much room between the roller and the wood. I had to make some adjustments but after another two sessions in the pool I got the gun working great. Accurate, good penetration and no line getting jammed at the muzzle. Most of all, very little recoil and a nice flat shaft trajectory. I'm really impressed but this gun and look forward to building another one soon. Check out the video of the gun being shot in the swimming pool.