Building a speargun from scratch takes a lot of creativity, especially when using repurposed wood. Travis Emory builds each speargun by hand in his garage in Treasure Island, Florida from repurposed wood salvaged from old buildings and boats. “You have to be creative with the cuts, avoid nails and holes. You never know what you are getting until you cut into the wood. But that’s why every gun is different and that’s what makes each one unique.”
Travis built custom rods for a while and has always liked making things. He crafted his first speargun in 2011 from the trim of a 1976 Aquasport because he wanted to build a customized freediving gun for himself. The rest is history. Like any speargun, a freediving gun must be light, easily maneuverable, powerful, and most importantly, accurate. It’s an added benefit that the older, salvaged wood he uses also has beautiful grain patterns.
What makes a Flatline speargun unique? When he builds a gun, he includes all the features he can to increase accuracy, but at the same time makes sure to have a good understanding of what the customer wants so it will be built to the exact specifications the customer desires. Each piece of wood has its own amazing history, even before it’s constructed into a sturdy gun. Travis has been shooting guns since he was old enough to hold one and tries to incorporate the best features of an accurate weapon into his spearguns. He includes all the different ideas he can to help keep the speargun laser accurate and still as simple as possible. This can be seen in the track itself. The more area the spear shaft contacts with the tract, the more likely it will fly in a straighter line. “I like to make as deep a track as I can for my guns so I can ensure accuracy. It’s like a rifle: the longer the barrel, the more accurate the weapon will be.” The deeper track also helps the spear shaft stay in place while wrapping the shooting line. “I make the gun as close to an enclosed track gun as you can get, gaining the accuracy without the added weight and pain of loading.”
Besides being beautiful killing machines, Flatline spearguns are exceptionally eco-friendly. Using repurposed wood means no contribution to deforestation. “It’s pretty cool to take something that has already served a purpose and give it a new purpose. No two guns will ever be the same because of the wood.” Older wood has time for the grain to settle which makes it less likely to warp once assembled as a gun. When cutting the strips out of a piece of wood, Travis pays attention to the grain so he can make sure to reverse it when the strips are laminated back together. One of the most important parts of building an accurate gun is ensuring that the blank the builder begins with is as absolutely straight and true as possible. Once laminated, the blanks are squared and allowed to sit for months. He double- and triple-checks the wood for straightness. They may be squared again before any cutting or routing is even started.
Travis uses the best possible components in his guns, including Neptonics trigger mechanisms. He prefers them because of their high quality and dependability. When installing the trigger mechanism, he pins it as low in the pocket as the construction will allow so it lines up perfectly with the track, adding another accuracy-increasing feature. He spends extra time routing out the pocket fractions of inches deeper to ensure alignment with the track. “When you squeeze the trigger and the shaft is released there is no shaft drop which helps reduce the movement amount of the shaft.” Most mass-produced guns will have two degrees of motion on the shaft because it drops down off the trigger mech as it moves forward, decreasing accuracy. Any extra motion will affect the straightness of the shaft’s path. With so much pressure on the sharkfins from the bands, any added motion will cause the shaft to wobble as it travels down the gun. Another feature used to help ensure accuracy is the actual shape of the guns themselves. The triangular shape allows the bands to lie as parallel to the shaft as they can, so no need for band ramps or complex muzzles. The more parallel the bands are as they recoil, the straighter the shaft will fly with less tail whip or shaft wobble, which is usually caused by the bands pulling at awkward angles. “It also resembles a Desert Eagle .50 cal. shape, which is pretty damn cool looking to me.”
What’s the best type of wood for a speargun? Travis prefers repurposed Burmese teak. Growing deep in the forests of Southeast Asia, the trees can be more than 100 years old when harvested. The natural oils in teak make it durable and resistant to pests, an ideal long-lasting material. With the higher oil content, tighter grain, increased hardness, and its amazing natural beauty, it is hard to beat Burmese teak. Plantation teak, the most readily available teak, is still very beautiful, but the trees grow fast and are young when harvested so the grain is not as tight, has lower natural oil concentrations and is sometimes not as hard.
Other types of wood work, too. Travis has used repurposed mahogany and salvaged plantation-raised teak and even teak from a 50-year-old Asian sail boat. His most recent batch of Burmese teak came from an owner of a demolition company who had just torn down a large building in Epcot that was built in the early 70s. That means most of the teak would have been harvested in the late 1960s for construction, meaning the wood is most likely a century old or more. Imagine having a custom gun made from wood with so much history.
Travis runs Flatline Spearguns on his own, aside from his day-job. “My full time job is working in marine biology, conducting fisheries research on inshore and offshore fish.” His constant encounters with fish give him a unique perspective and understanding of how fish behave. His love for all that swims is why he originally pursued freediving. “Freediving is the most challenging way to harvest fish and requires a lot of technique and skill.” His passion and respect for the environment were the key components that led him to use repurposed and salvaged wood to build his spearguns.
To order a handcrafted, custom-made Flatline Speargun, visit www.flatlinespearguns.com and contact Travis Emory at (910) 200-7704 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There are guns on display at Dogfish Tackle Company in St. Petersburg, FL if you would like to take a look in person. Don’t just own a speargun, own a part of history and enjoy continuing the story of some of the most beautiful wood nature has ever produced.
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