Meet Our Machinery

Blank Fabrication Production Supervisor, Dustin Spencer

November 10, 2022

Meet Our Machinery: Blank Fabrication Production Supervisor, Dustin Spencer

Meet Our Machinery: Blank Fabrication Production Supervisor, Dustin Spencer

Meet our Machinery Dustin Spencer

Everyone has their favorite St. Croix rods. Whatever your favorite model or series may be, you may have heard or read that it took at least 32 sets of hands to make it before it ever reaches yours. It’s true, and many of those hands come into play during the blank fabrication processMany anglers out there never really think about where their rods come from,” says Dustin Spencer, St. Croix Blank Fabrication Production Supervisor. “Here at St. Croix Rod, we talk about it a lot, because we’re proud to handcraft each of the Best Rods on Earth ® one at a time, starting with the actual rod blanks that many other fishing rod companies simply purchase from other suppliers. We take the raw materials and combine them and shape them to the exact design and performance specifications dictated by our Engineering and Product Teams. We hand craft over 800 rod blanks designed to give anglers the upper hand on the water, and each one is distinct in terms of its length, power, action, material composition, and finish.” Spencer says the actual process of crafting a St. Croix Rod blank takes place in two primary sequences. “What we call cold fab basically involves cutting the various raw materials into precise patterns, combining and tacking those patterns together to spec, then carefully rolling them onto the various steel mandrels that give the blanks their shape,” he says. “Warm fab is next, which includes curing the blanks in computer-controlled ovens, inspection, sanding, more inspection, painting, then final inspection. ”When the finished blanks leave Spencer’s team, they are ready to receive handles and reel seats, guides and the other components that form a completed St. Croix fishing rod.

Spencer started with St. Croix in2017working in cold fab rolling carbon on to mandrels.“ I learned all the jobs in my area and became lead, then I was promoted to Production Supervisor in Mayof2020,”he says. As one might imagine, Production Supervisor is a big job. “I’m responsible for production and quality in addition to all training and HR issues with my37 team members,” Spencer says. “Put simply, our job as a team is to hit our numbers with zero sacrifice to quality. Here in Park Falls, we run a shift and a half and typically handcraft about 3,500 completed rod blanks each week.” Spencer works with a lot of other people and teams outside of his own. “I report directly to Alex(St. Croix VP of Operations, Alex Ogurek) and work closely with the entire Operations Team, as well as the Engineering Team,” he says. “Some of the hybrid blanks we’re crafting today contain as many as four distinct materials, and unlike our teams here at St, Croix, some of these materials don’t like to work together. It takes creativity and problem solving. We all work very closely with one another to solve problems big and small, meeting challenges head on. We are always perfecting and then moving forward to the next challenge in order to create better experiences for anglers.

“I also spend a lot of time with Bill Koenig, who is our head of quality control,” says Spencer, adding that quality is something that’s on everyone’s job description at St. Croix Rod.“ I come from a manufacturing background and there was little-to-no concern for quality at my past jobs,” Spencer relates. “Here, everything is based on quality. Even the tiniest, most-seemingly inconsequential issues are taken very seriously by everyone who works at St. Croix. Best Rods on Earth is our promise to anglers, and that means never compromising or looking the other way when something surfaces that could interfere with our ability to deliver on that promise.” Spencer says the family atmosphere at St. Croix is very real and mimics what he sees in the greater Park Falls community. “I’m originally from Vermont, but my wife is from here,” he says.“ Inside and outside of the factory, we are all very close and know each other’s personal lives. think a lot of positive things happen when you have that kind of closely knit relationships. One of them is that you are more accountable to one another.” The 34-year-old Spencer is a self-described tech guy. “Away from work, I love to build and fix computers, engage in light gunsmithing, and I’ve recently taken a deep-dive into3D printing, ”he says. “Manufacturingespecially here at St Croixis right up my alley because I’m all about building things with my hands and I’m fairly mechanically inclined.” Like most other members of the St. Croix family, Spencer loves fishing. “What I’d really love is to be able to fish more often than I already do,” he says. “I grew up in Vermont and really enjoy ice fishing, so I’ve been pretty happy here in the Park Falls area.” Spencer’s latest angling obsessionone he shares with fishing buddy, Ed French on the Engineering Teamis catching a sturgeon. “There’s just something so incredibly cool about these big, prehistoric fish. We’relearning a lot and I think we’re getting close!” When asked what he’d most want anglers to understand about St. Croix Rod, Spencer had this to say: “I just wish everyone could see the dedication that everyone puts inhere at St. CroixOur team is really good at what we do...better than we have ever been...and each and every day we still all come to work with the idea that we’re going to do even better.” Seems like the precise words anglers would hope to hear coming from someone leading the charge every day in the handcrafted manufacture of the Best Rods on Earth