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stickleback

FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« on: January 11, 2009, 09:11:33 AM »
For a while Iíve had a hankering to build my own rod.  Iím attracted to the idea of catching fish on a rod Iíve built with flies Iíve tied Ė Iíve got a feeling that it will add something extra to the experience.  Time will tell if Iím deluded or not.

I decided to make a trout rod, learning as I went along so that ultimately I could buy decent salmon rod blanks and have a reasonable chance of making something that isnít an expensive dogs breakfast.  

I took some photos as I went along so that anyone whoís interested in trying it for the first time can hopefully learn from my experience.  

I opted for a Temple Fork Outfitters 9í, 4 piece #5 Lefty Kreh Professional rod kit from mudhole.com in the USA.  I also got thread colour preserver from them as itís pretty difficult to find in the UK.  The kit comprised the blanks, ready made handle, guides, winding check, and ready made reel seat and at the time I ordered it cost approx £90 inclusive of postage and customs  Ė around the same as what it would have cost to buy fully manufactured from the cheapest UK supplier I could find.  Unfortunately I couldnít find anywhere in the UK that did just the blanks / kits.  Since then the exchange rate has got worse and itís now cheaper to buy it fully assembled in the UK.  But as I say, one of the reasons I got it was to practice and learn.  

I had to buy other stuff to get going.  From guidesnblanks.com in the UK (it worked out cheaper than getting it all from the USA) I got
- epoxy glue for the handle,
- thread for wrapping the guides
- FlexCoat finishing for the wrappings (24cc Lite kit with mixing cups, stirrers & brushes)
- white chinagraph pencil for marking the blanks
- razor blade
- hot melt glue for the rod tip
- reaming wand for the handle
- masking tape

I also got
- a pack of disposable vinyl gloves from Asda, and
- a wee bottle of isopropyl alcohol from the local chemist to clean up any spilled epoxy (on American websites they call it rubbing alcohol)

I reckon all these extras cost around £30 but Iíll be able to use most of them again on any future rod build.

Having done a fair bit of research on the internet I felt that I had a rough idea of how to go about it.  

My first step was to make a rod cradle / wrapper from bits of wood and plastic fixing blocks so that it could support 4 sections of rod.  Basically from a bit of wood I had lying in my garage I cut four uprights to the same length, then cut a couple of Vís in each of them, glued felt strips into the Vís, then screwed the uprights onto bases.  

The kit ready to start:


Version 1 wrapping cradle:





The next stage was finding the spine in the blanks.  Iíd read that in lightweight rods itís not very important, but in heavier and longer rods (eg salmon rods) it becomes increasingly important due to the amount of leverage / torque experienced during casting.  Who knows.  Anyway, and just in case, I decided to try and find the spine.  I felt that the blanks for the handle and the next section up were too short and thick to comfortably try and find the spine so I only did the two finer more flexible sections.  If I understood the demos on the internet correctly you place the blank vertically with the Ďbottomí end on something hard (but which wonít damage your blank), then put your finger on the Ďtopí end, then gently press down so that the blank begins to bend and it will naturally flop/spin/bend to one side.  Try it again and it should go the same way.  Iím not sure if the inside of the curve or the outside of the curve is the spine but I marked the outside on both my blanks.  

Finding the spine:



Next I turned my attention to the handle.  It came ready assembled, but the hole through itís centre was too narrow for the blank and the reaming wand.  Rather than do the sensible thing and go out and buy a thin rat tail file to widen the hole, I decided to stick the handle in my workmate bench, then use an electric drill with a drill bit slightly narrower than the blank to widen the hole in the handle.  It would have been very easy to accidentally drill through the side of the handle, but I got away with it.  I wonít do it this way again and donít recommend anyone else does it either.  With a wee bit of reaming the handle fit the blank perfectly at the desired spot with about a half millimetre of play.  I took the handle off the blank, then as a dry run placed the real seat assembly onto itís desired position, lightly marked the place with the chinagraph pencil, then slipped the handle on too, and similarly lightly marked itís position.  These light markings allowed me to see where to build up a couple of rings of masking tape to make bushings for the real seat to sit on, and also the limits for when I applied the epoxy glue.  I was surprised to find that I only needed a couple of wraps of masking tape to build up the bushings to the desired circumference.  

Blank marked up and with bushings for real seat and handle:


Not much tape required for the bushings:



Then I dry assembled the real seat and handle again.  Everything looked reasonable so I took the plunge, mixed the epoxy glue (I used plastic medicine spoons to ensure accurate measurement of resin and hardener) then slathered it on the widest end of the blank with the masking tape bushings up to the first chinagraph mark, and slipped the assembled real seat down from the narrow end of the blank until it went over the glue and bushings to the desired place.  The end of the real seat overhung the end of the blank by approx 1cm.  I then slathered on more epoxy on the section of the blank up to the next chinagraph mark, put a very light covering of epoxy on the real seat where it would recess into the handle, then slipped the handle onto the thin end of the blank and down and onto the epoxy, snugging it onto the real seat.  Then I slipped the winding check over the thin end of the blank and worked it down to the handle and glued it in place with a tiny wee bit of epoxy.  Finally I stuck the end cap on the real seat with a wee bit of epoxy and held it in position with a couple of bits of masking tape to allow it to dry.

I didnít take any photos whilst gluing as I needed both hands for the process.  Initially un-noticed, a wee bit of glue had got on one of my gloves which had then accidentally smeared onto the blank.  The isopropyl alcohol worked a treat in removing the epoxy glue smears whilst they were still wet.

Whilst the epoxy on the handle and real seat were drying I measured out the positions for the guides (there were none on the handle section).  The manufacturer had supplied the measurements and I marked the guide positions with very slim pieces of masking tape.  

Blanks marked with guide positions:



To make sure the guide feet were flat and their tips tapered to a fairly sharp edge which would lie flat on top of the blank and allow the thread wrapping to easily climb up the guide foot, I gently sanded them on a small fine grade sharpening stone.

I then fitted one guide at a time.  To do so I placed a guide on the blank with itís top over the centre of the position marker, then held it in place with a very slim piece of masking tape, then indicated the starting point for the thread wrappings with another piece of masking tape.

Guide held in position and ready to wrap:



The photo makes the bits of masking tape look huge but in reality the bit holding the guide onto the blank is only about 1 or 2mm wide.

To wrap the thread I used a normal fly tying bobbin holder, with the thread being tensioned by it passing between two heavy books, then onto the blank where I wrapped it suspended in the wrapping cradle.  Itís difficult to put in words how to do the wrap, particularly the start, so hereís a link to a demo that shows it better than I could ever explain:

http://www.mudhole.com/Rod-Building-101/Videos/Artie-Hebert-Wrapping-A-Guide

The bloke doing the demo used a burnishing tool to get the wraps to snug up to each other, but I used my thumbnail.  He also shows how to finish the wrap.  I never quite managed to correctly judge where to cut the thread and as a result had wee tag ends sticking out.  I found it extremely difficult if not impossible to trim these tag ends down further.  He starts his wraps right at the bottom of the guide foot but I started mine about 5mm further down the blank.

Impossible to remove tag end ?:



I did the guides starting with the largest first.  I found it easier starting with the large ones and by the time I got to the small ones at the thinnest end I was reasonably adept at it.

A point for first timers to consider Ė in hindsight I should probably have used thread a slightly different colour to the blank to make it easier to see what I was doing whilst wrapping.  I used black thread on matt black blanks and even with good lighting found it difficult to see what was going on.

I made sure as I went along that the guides were properly in line by sighting down the blank and through the guide centres.  On the blanks that I had spined, I put the blanks on the sides I had marked, ie the outside of the curve.

I found doing the wraps at the female ends of a blank pretty difficult to do as the blank wasnít fully supported in the cradle and you therefore couldnít put any weight on it because doing so would tilt it out the cradle.  I solved this by sticking a pen or paint brush in the female end of the blank and then resting the pen / brush in the cradle.

Supporting the female ends for wrapping:



I finished the guides by sticking the rod tip guide in place with the hot melt glue, and scraped the excessive off just before it hardened with a wooden ice lolly stick.

Iíd read somewhere that wrapping thread on guides can sometimes become transparent when coated with epoxy finish, so before coating them I painted them with the colour preserver and let it dry for a day.

The final stage was applying two coats of epoxy finish onto the guide wrappings.  I got the FlexCoat Lite kit out and saw that it recommended slightly warming the syringes so that the resin and hardener become runnier and therefore easier to dispense accurately.  Rather than dunking mine in warm water I stuck the syringes on the radiator for a couple of minutes which seemed to do the trick.  I accurately measured out 2cc of each into a wee mixing cup and stirred them together as per the instructions.  Iím afraid I didnít notice any of the predicted changes taking place Ė itís supposed to go from clear to cloudy then again to clear to cloudy to clear - so I just kept stirring for about 5 minutes (perhaps these changes are only more noticeable in larger amounts ?), then poured it onto a piece of tin foil to help get rid of the wee bubbles created during the stirring/mixing process.  I think the instructions said you have approx 20 minutes working time with FlexCoat Lite Ė I reckoned it was probably more like 10 minutes but that might have been because of my possibly over-exuberant stirring.  

To apply the epoxy onto the wraps I put the blanks on the wrapping cradle and slowly turned the blank with an epoxy loaded brush gently touching the wrap and dispensing a light coating of epoxy.  I kept the pen/brushes in the female ends of the blanks to prevent any epoxy seeping inside the blanks by mistake.  After coating all the wrappings I turned the blanks180 degrees every 10 minutes for the first 2 hours, then every 20 minutes for the next 2 hours, then let them be.  This stopped the epoxy running/sagging in any particular direction whilst it firmed up.  

I did mine on the kitchen table, and left it there overnight - not a great idea as our dog sleeps in the kitchen and causes dust and hair to go everywhere, and the drying epoxy could be like a magnet for any particle of fluff / hair.  I allowed the first coat to dry for approx 24 hours, then did a second coat Ė I never saw any fluff / hair sticking to it at the time but after the second coat had dried I did notice that there were a few wee bits of micro fluff but nothing to that Iím overly bothered about.

Guilty as charged Ė the dust generator:



Also, those little impossible to cut off tag ends of thread were still sticking up but were now epoxied in place.

Epoxied thread tag



Another slight problem I encountered was the blanks moved very slightly from side to side as I turned them whilst applying the epoxy onto the wrappings and this caused the outside edges of the epoxy to be slightly wiggly.  This is probably slightly more noticeable than normal because the epoxy is gloss against a matt blank.  

Slightly wiggly epoxy edge:



In hindsight I might have been able to reduce this by gently holding the blanks in place with rubber bands, and secondly by having something to rest/brace my brush hand against whilst applying the epoxy.  With this in mind Iíve nailed in pins so I can string rubber bands over the blanks.

Version 2 wrapping cradle:



Close examination also shows a few tiny bubbles in the epoxy that I hadnít noticed when I put it on.  Iím not sure how you could prevent this.  Iím not bothered by it, but some folk might not be too pleased.

The final rod looks as if it will do the business no problem, but I donít think it will win any rod building / beauty competitions.  

Finished rod  :z16:





The bottom line is very Iím pleased I took the plunge, and chuffed with the overall result.  It certainly gave me the experience and confidence to try my hand at a more expensive or complicated rod building project in the future.

Hereís some websites I found helpful:
http://www.flyforums.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=15
http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/board/forumdisplay.php?f=14
http://www.rodbuildingforum.com/
http://www.rodbuilding.org/list.php?2
http://www.mudhole.com/Rod-Building-101
http://www.flexcoat.com/prodex.html

Now, if only I can find some mega cheap R B Meiser or Sage Z Axis Spey blanks !!  :z4 :z4 :z4

All the best

Cammy

Mike Barrio

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2009, 09:28:46 AM »
Awesome Cammy! :z16

I really enjoyed your step by step and all the photos, which I'm sure others are going to find useful.

Well done and thanks for posting it! ....... Have you caught your first fish on it yet?
Cheers
Mike
www.flylineshop.com   At the heart of your fishing ..... lies a great fly line!

stickleback

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2009, 11:18:52 AM »
Thanks.  Unfortunately I haven't managed out with it yet - I just completed it on Wednesday night.  I had hoped to give it it's first airing at the Outcasts meeting yesterday but work commitments got in the way.  Weather and work etc permitting I hope to get out soon and see a fish put a bend in it.

Cammy

Goolager

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2009, 11:30:59 AM »
Stickleback,

I'm not a rod builder but I found your post most interesting and wish you luck in fishing with it.

Iain

Derek McLaren

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2009, 11:59:01 AM »
Great step by step  :z16  :z16,rod turned out well,watch out sage and orvis  :wink  :wink
Yir flea has to be in the water to catch fish

Rob Brownfield

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2009, 12:14:32 PM »
 :z16 :z16 :z16 :z16

It becomes addictive, just ask Sandy and myself :)

Once you start to get into custom corks etc then it really bites deep!


Sorry..bit fuzzy but its a custom insert using rubber cork, drilled and filled then glued together and turned.


From a different angle.

Quick tip regarding getting perfectly straight edges to your epoxy. About 2mm from the edge of your thread, put a turn of insulating tape. Epoxy as normal, just over coating the tape. Once finished, immediately remove the tape. Taadaa! A perfect edge!!

For neat finishes on your tag ends, pull through the tag end, then using a burnishing tool, seperate the threads slightly where the tag end comes out. Take a scalpel and cut the tag against the exposed blank. Dont worry, the thread will go long before the blank gets marked. Then, with the burnishing tool, push the threads back into position. No exposed tags :)

What are you building next??  :z18
Ok, I admit it, I quite like this salmon fishing lark....

Rob Brownfield

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2009, 12:25:09 PM »
I forgot to say...where you have the epoxied tag ends or dust, dont worry, these can be removed by the careful use of a scalple. The epoxy will just slice away along with the tag. Once removed you can use a polish to blend in the area.

Also, the reason why you start the whipping at the very foot of the guide is because if you extend the wrap too far and epoxy it, with the blank being flexible and the foot being ridged, you can sometimes get a stress crack in the epoxy where the foot meets the extended whipping. Luckily it tends to happen on larger diameter blanks and big rings, such as spinning rods and beach casters etc. Yours should be fine...but if it does crack, by heating the epoxy with a hairdrier, you can peel the old stuff off and redo..so its not a disaster :)

These are all things you pick up on the way ...and the improving each build bit is all part of the fun :)  :z18
Ok, I admit it, I quite like this salmon fishing lark....

stickleback

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2009, 13:59:47 PM »

Quick tip regarding getting perfectly straight edges to your epoxy. About 2mm from the edge of your thread, put a turn of insulating tape. Epoxy as normal, just over coating the tape. Once finished, immediately remove the tape. Taadaa! A perfect edge!!

For neat finishes on your tag ends, pull through the tag end, then using a burnishing tool, seperate the threads slightly where the tag end comes out. Take a scalpel and cut the tag against the exposed blank. Dont worry, the thread will go long before the blank gets marked. Then, with the burnishing tool, push the threads back into position. No exposed tags :)

Excellent tips - I'll definitely try them when I do my salmon rod.  I'm really tempted by the Meiser 15' #10 Highlander as it gets good reviews on a salmon forum.  The blanks cost $385 from Meiser - I'd love to know if they're available anywhere else at a cheaper price.  Either way I'll have to start saving my pennies and pray for the exchange rate to improve. 

 :z18

Catman

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2009, 15:18:59 PM »
Hi Cammy

Excellent step by step,  :z16 hopefully with your step by step & a lot of mentoring / advice from Sandy I will be starting my first rod building project very soon, have all the bits now.

Alex

Rob Brownfield

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2009, 18:13:40 PM »
Either way I'll have to start saving my pennies and pray for the exchange rate to improve. 

Tell me about it!!! Its kinda hit me hard when it comes to reel seats that I was getting brought back from the States. I tend to build on British blanks unless asked for something different so that side of things is not too bad.

As for the Meiser blanks, not familier with there stuff, but looking at there website they have some interesting rods. 12 foot double handed 4 weights...very interesting indeed!!! Do you think the 15 footer would cope for what you want it for??? I see its only designed for Salmon upto 40 pounds  :z4 :z4 :wink
Ok, I admit it, I quite like this salmon fishing lark....

Sandy Nelson

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2009, 19:27:56 PM »
Nice one cammy

the first step on a slippery slope :z4 :z4

I would echo Robs comments on the tag ends, if you slice the end flush with the scalpel after you have pulled it through, then i burnish the tag end in the direction of rotation it will slip under the next wrap up and dissappear, and you dont have to go near the blank with the scalpel, i also find i use a new scalpel blade for each rod as they get too blunt to make a clean cut very quickly.

If you do have dust or tags sticking up after the first coat of epoxy, check the whole blank and slice each one flush with the scalpel blade (do not use sandpaper) and then when you put on the second coat it will have gone never to be seen again.

I do like some of the wee tools you made :z16 i still use Shoe boxes with notches for letting blanks harden off :z4 although i have a 4 bank electric rod turner turner now which is fantastic, the first few rods i built were turned by hand, i then used the stonefly rod turners. If you decide to build another drop me a line and i can lend you some of the stonefly turners, i have three that are sitting as back ups now (they make a big difference to the finish , nice and even :z16)

Putting the rings on the outside of the curve or the inside is a case for much debate amongst builders :roll I find it depends on the specific action of the rod, ie a med action i'll put them on the inside and a fast action i'll pop them on the outside, its just a quirk :z6 But i have my reasons :wink

Still perhaps you will embarrass me into finally getting some photos done to go with the On-line instruction i wrote ages ago :shock they were supposed to go live when Mike started doing the kits, but i have never found the right moment to do it. :oops :oops :oops :oops :oops

Still well done, its great fun and i hope you keep us informed of any future projects :z16

Sandy
« Last Edit: January 11, 2009, 19:46:48 PM by spiderman »
John Geirach 1999 "Millions of trout have died of old age before i could catch them and there's not a damn thing i can do about that"

stickleback

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2009, 23:21:20 PM »
the first step on a slippery slope :z4 :z4

Yes, i'll certainly be doing it again.  Thanks for the tips - I've no excuse now for not making the next a masterpiece  :z4.  Keep us updated with your bamboo project - it's fascinating stuff all these old crafts and techniques.  

I've now done my rod and flies - I don't suppose you know anyone with a horse so I can nick some of it's tail to pleat my our own horse hair fly line ..... or silkworms  :z4 :z4 :z4

Cheers

Cammy

Sandy Nelson

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2009, 05:57:41 AM »
Cammy

i had a thought last night, thread colour preserver, i have used "Humbrol Modellers Dope" in the past , its perfect and can be picked up from any model shop.

Again its a personal thing, but i never usually use it as i like the thread to go translucent.

 :z18

Sandy

John Geirach 1999 "Millions of trout have died of old age before i could catch them and there's not a damn thing i can do about that"

Rob Brownfield

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2009, 08:42:44 AM »
Again its a personal thing, but i never usually use it as i like the thread to go translucent.


Arrrrrghhh!!!! One of my all time hates!! Take that ZG i just bought...you can see all the tag ends of the gold thread thats used as a highlight. It really spoils the finish of the rod...in my opinion.

Also, at the Scone Game Fair I had a look on the Hardy stand at £999 worth of Angel and you could see the feet of each ring. Every one had been badly ground back with the ends being different angles and widths. again, it just ruined the finish of the rod. For the sake of 80p a snake ring it just looked crap.

I don't use it on dark threads but certainly on lighter threads for me its a must...except green!  ??? Coz the Gudebrod Dark green looks bloody awful if CP is used. It just goes "flat" and has no life about it. I use a very watered down Flexcote epoxy as a sealer coat and then epoxy as normal. That way the green thread sparkles under the final coat, does not go so translucent meaning tag ends are hidden but it darkens down to match the blank perfectly. :)

Having said that, some of the bamboo, sorry, cane rods on Rodbuilders.org with the totally clear wraps are stunning! BUT, the attention to detail on the feet is amazing with them all ground down to match perfectly. Thats nice!
Ok, I admit it, I quite like this salmon fishing lark....

Sandy Nelson

Re: FIRST TIME ROD BUILD PROJECT
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2009, 10:08:38 AM »
This is the beauty of building your own :z7

I never have a problem with tag ends of gold, because i hate tipping the whippings, i think its a lot of unnecessary work that spoils the overall look of the rod. Plus i spend a bit of time grinding the feet as there is nothing worse than catching the the thread when you almost complete :z10.

Magic, i guess this why we should all build our own :z16 And perhaps why people buy things from different places.
very cool this world we live in :cool:

Sandy
John Geirach 1999 "Millions of trout have died of old age before i could catch them and there's not a damn thing i can do about that"

 




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