Pebbles to Boulders: From Jam Cans to Little Rocks Part 2
Crosslink Technologies from Toronto, saw an opportunity in the mid 1980’s for their injection molding company to enter a rock in the growing business of little rock supply. Their 20 lb. version of a little rock was grey coloured plastic, looking more like granite rocks, and came with plastic handles of red, blue or yellow, which were not as cold to the touch like the cast aluminum handles of other rocks. While looking like tiny flying saucers of sort, these rocks had defined striking bands and a concave removable running surface, in the case the running surface became damaged which then could be replaced very easily. Like other versions of artificial rocks, they had to be pushed to gain the weight to reach the far house and the amount of curl was suspect. The Crosslink rock made it into numerous clubs across Canada and the USA.
Also, in the mid 1980’s, the Keanie little rock came on the scene. This really was a granite rock. Made from chunks of granite in Scotland too small to produce regular curling stones, the Keanie rock could curl, for it had a running edge like that of larger rocks. The 25 lb. weight rock could almost make it to the far end of the ice without a push. Due to storage problems off ice, the Keanie had to be cooled well before making it to the ice surface for play. Due to higher cost, Keanies did not see to many clubs acquire this rock for their programs.
Going outdoors for a moment, Thompson Curling Supply of Winnipeg came up with a Bantam Rock to care for the need of those schoolyard
games of curling in western Canada. Here they wanted to advance themselves from the traditional jam can. The Bantam Rock is made of two slices of granite surface adhered to their own ¾” plywood board. The two halves, with the plywood sandwiched between, are put together. An old gooseneck curling handle is run through the middle. A metal band forms the striking surface around the diameter of the rock, also helps to hold the rock together. For outdoor rinks at school or the cottage, this half weight (slightly lower profile) look-a-like rock provides you with the appearance of curling rocks, with just as much fun.
(insert photo here) In the 1990’s, there was a concern (and still is) about the lack of quality granite supply from which to make new curling rocks. The quarries in Scotland and Wales were running out of raw material from Mother Earth. There is a demand for new curling rocks due to the explosion of curling around the world as more and more countries started to participate in the sport. The Olympic movement created the boom of interest. The search was on to find synthetic materials from which to make rocks. Here is how that influenced Little Rock stone development.
One creative solution in the 1990’s came from the folks at Thompson Curling Supply, who experimented with ceramic tile running surfaces. For Little Rock stones, a polyester plastic resin and sand mixture was used to mold a curling rock body. This Real Rock looks like a brown trevor granite rock. A slice of ceramic running surface is adhered to the rock body, making a 25-pound rock that curls down the ice sheet. Even a slice of blue hone granite could be used. For a cost effective option, the rock running edge could be left plastic, but does not have the ‘curling’ quality as the ceramic tile or granite. Plastic or gooseneck handles are used to complete the rock. Over 12 years of development, a few thousand rocks are in use worldwide.
Still in the 1990’s and another very creative solution for granite rocks came from Keith Kolbelt from Can Curl in Quebec. Keith came upon the Lite Rock, an injection molded epoxy resin rock. Being full size, but half the weight of granite rocks, the Lite Rock at a distance, looks like a grey granite curling rock. The running surface is on one side and if necessary (but not likely needed) can be reconditioned. The rock feels lighter, but throws and reacts like a granite rock down the full length of the ice surface. Due to it’s epoxy nature, if stored off the ice surface but kept cool on a walk-way or side board, the rock is ready for use in moments once placed on the ice, with no special preparation. Canada Curling Stone of London, Ontario is now caring for the production and distribution of Lite Rocks. A Curlex Handle is placed on top, which can be engraved to acknowledge sponsors. Since sales of the Lite Rock began in the late 1990’s, over twelve
thousand or 800 sheets of rocks have been delivered across North America, Europe and world–wide. Fred Veale of Canada Curling Stone, notes that the folks from the Grand National Curling Association the USA have 38 arena ice surfaces in use, were they are using versions of the Lite Rock as a substitute for granite and are advancing the sport of curling participation as a result.
From Jam Cans to synthetic rocks, there is one common factor that makes this all possible and that is the fine people who have worked and continue to work in the interest of advancing youth in curling. Cheers to all of you!!
Written by Mort Cooper
Tuesday, 1 March 2011 10:30
About Mort Cooper
Mort Cooper has been a curling administrator for over 25 years, beginning with 10 years as the Executive / Technical Director for the Ontario Curling Federation. He spent 3 years as the Curling Professional at Brantford Golf and Country followed by 10 years as Club Manager / Ice maker at the Brant Curling Club and one year as the General Manager of Guelph Curling Club. Presently, he is working on a semi-retirement career with a few outdoor pursuits, one of which is a member of the Canadian Ski Patrol System with Snow Valley Ski Resort in Barrie. In a volunteer curling capacity, Mort's career is highlighted with 10 years service as the Technical Advisor with the Uniroyal Goodrich World Junior Curling Championships, and along with his wife Donna, are major contributors to the Tim Hortons Little Rock Resource Guide. Mort acts as a resource on Little Rocks and is a Business of Curling Facilitator with the Canadian Curling Association.