By P.J. Harmer — Rattling Chains staff
Disc golfers are often noted for being fans of nature and the outdoors.
Brad Vehovic is taking it to a new level.
Vehovic, the owner and lone employee of Flywood Disc Innovations, is bringing a new look to the game with hand-crafted all-wood discs. Though not PDGA certified, the discs seems to have found a place in the game.
He founded the Nicktown, Pennsylvania company in 2010. The main products are the all-natural wood discs and, in the past, the company has also produced wax, accessories and hemp discs.
But wood discs?
In a game where plastic rules and rubber has recently started to surge onto the scene, wood discs seem a little out of place.
Especially because the discs Flywood produces can’t currently be used in PDGA events.
“Flywood offers disc golfers an alternative to mass-produced plastic products,” Vehovic said. “Each hand-crafted disc offers natural and sporty characteristics very capable of competing with today’s engineered plastic goods.”
To make his discs, Vehovic uses North American hard maple, Eco Glue wood adhesive, all-natural hemp oil and beeswax.
Still, even though they are crafted by hand, why wood?
“It’s the wood that makes it good,” Vehovic said. “Simplicity exists in earth’s trees, offering many natural uses and benefits. In my mind, the sport and its developing industry skipped a step.
“As the game has grown, most in the industry looked to the easier, quicker, and much more profitable approach — providing mass-produced products made of a cheap, synthetic material,” he continued. “Maybe they didn’t realize that the same performance could be had from a natural material; something more suited to the culture of the sport and the players.”
He said the idea of the company came while playing in Florida. During a busy day, he was playing pine cone hacky sack and a group of new friends offered up the idea. That night, Vehovic bought his first board. Soon after came a router. And then came time to research and see what he could come up with.
Flywood was becoming reality.
The company offers three discs — The Walking Stick (driver), The Harvest (mid-range) and The Log (putter).
According to the company’s website, all three discs are made out of Maple. The Walking Stick ranges in weights of 145-160 grams, The Harvest ranges from 140-165 and The Log is from 160-180.
The process in shaping these discs has taken time. And the durability of these discs has grown as well.
“Years ago, my first attempt of playing a round with a hand-crafted wood disc lasted five holes,” Vehovic said. “Today, many Flywood enthusiasts state our discs will last longer than five years.”
Vehovic said his discs will hold their shape after abuse, which is different than most plastic discs. This will provide consistency to the player.
The process has taken time to develop these discs. He said choosing the materials and methods of making the discs took years of testing and trying different things, as well as a lot of testing. Vehovic said discs have been thrown into rock, concrete and steel and he’s still waiting for one to break during play.
Discs like this aren’t cheap, however. Each disc is $30, but that includes shipping and some extra wax.
“Flywood customers are at least curious about playing a natural product,” he said. “Many have become fanatical about using wood. We have found that once players have found that a natural wood disc can perform as well as anything plastic, they are more than willing to incur the expense.
“We believe that most people understand a natural, handmade good is going to cost more,” he said. “Our retail prices reflect fairly the resources and profits required to continue producing the discs. We really haven’t had any complaints about the price.”
In September of 2011, North American Hard Maple became the wood of choice for the company.
Vehovic said the wood is one of the hardest available in North America. On top of that, the wood is harvested in Northern Pennsylvania forests, which also provides a boost to the local economy. The wood which provides the color options comes from Canada, where veneer material is more accessible.
Once the wood is in place, it’s time to make the disc.
Each piece of wood that meets the company’s specification is kiln dried and stacked for a year. It’s then cut and split into layers, which gives each disc symmetry and consistency.
There is gluing, pressing and cross-layering, which helps provide impact strength. It also helps each layer hold its shape. The disc blanks are then cut into circle form, branded, spun and cut on a lathe.
Then, the discs cure via a drying process, which allows the hemp oil to soak into the disc, which makes the discs resistant to moisture and other weather conditions. The final stage — before sending the disc out — is to wax the disc. That helps provide more waterproofing.
Owning a Flywood disc requires a little more care than a regular old disc though. Vehovic said players should reapply any oil about once a season. Discs should also be cleaned and re-waxing helps discs retain their feel, which can be similar to gripping plastic.
“Our oil and beeswax finish is quite similar to the feel of plastics,” Vehovic said. “Therefore, most first-time wood users experience a fair amount of success throwing our discs.”
In the air
Vehovic said flight patterns are quite consistent.
“Flywood discs lack flex and fly with less wobble,” he said. “This consistency allows each user to perfect their technique. … Right now we offer three designs in a range of weights. Each model’s flight tailored for the most part for a throw from a particular distance. As we expand our product line, new models will provide a broader range of flight patterns allowing each player a choice in custom flight options.”
Then there’s safety.
A wood disc flying at a high rate of speed seems like it could do some damage if it hit a person. That being said, plastic discs can have sharp edges and are extremely solid, so any disc could essentially hurt somebody.
“Flywood discs are weighted comparatively with plastics and would hurt
just the same,” Vehovic said.
Vehovic doesn’t seem to be taking his foot off the pedal any time soon. He said he hopes to introduce new models of discs and continue to grow his client base.
“As our customers play our products we receive more and more feedback regarding performance and what they would like to see us produce next,” he said. “These responses are invaluable to our growth and those customers provide the energy to push us forward.”
And, of course, he said it would be important to eventually have discs be PDGA approved.
“Absolutely. And we feel that time and interest will play a factor,” he said. “While we obviously support the play of these discs without approval, our goal is widespread exposure and experience in playing the sport with a natural product. PDGA approval would certainly help us achieve that.”
See below for a video where the discs are in action.
P.J. Harmer is the founder and executive editor for Rattling Chains. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.