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    LyNcH's Avatar
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    Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Last night I started a thread regarding a Sage 99 rod that I am building. I completed a bunch of steps without photographing and walking through the steps, so today I decided to do so with another rod that I want to build.

    I am not a professional rod builder, but was taught by one and I am sure there are many different ways to do these steps. This process starts after I have assembled the reel seat. I am using a pre-made cork grip. The reel seat and cork are being put on a 10' 4wt rod. The following posts (finding the spline, thread wraps, epoxy, etc.) will be on my Sage 99.

    The first step is to properly ream the inside of the cork grip. The most effective tool I have found is the Batson Reamer. JS Fly Fishing: Rod Building, Fly Tying: Batson Enterprises Dream Reamer



    I have tried a bunch of other methods, but this by far is the easiest and best, perfect taper every time. This is time consuming, you want to rotate the reamer in the cork, not plunge it. Plan on taking at least 20 minutes to complete the process, especially if the cork has composite material in it like this one. The cork comes out in very fine particles, do it over a garbage. Blow out the inside of the cork before each time you try to size it up on the blank, you don't want anything scratching the blank. When you are sizing the cork to the blank, don't forget to take into consideration the length of the reel seat, I usually mark the blank with a marker to know were the junction will occur. Properly sized cork should have some resistance when done, but not so much so that you have to use elbow grease to get it into the final position. The epoxy step will lubricate it during assembly.



    Once done with the cork, now it is time to fit the reel seat. The interior dimension of the reel seat will be larger that the rod blank, so you need to build the rod blank up so it is a uniform fit. They sell dowels for this, but I find it's easier and more precise to build up masking tape for this process. When doing this, make sure you leave space in between each of the tape rows so the epoxy and solidly set to both the tape and the blank. Also, you don't want to build the tape up so much that you have to force the seat over the tape, rather there should be a minimal amount of resistance so the epoxy can bond to the tape and the seat.



    The next step is to mix up your epoxy and put the reel seat and the cork on the rod. I strongly recommend using a slow cure epoxy for this step. If you make a mistake, and it will happen, you can clean it up, correct it, and redo it without worrying about a 5 minute, or even hour window. I use a 12 hour cure epoxy. Besides epoxy, you MUST have some form of enamel thinner or mineral spirits and a roll of paper towels. Epoxy has a tendency to get everywhere, no matter how careful you are. You need to be able to thoroughly clean it up as once it sets, it's there for good.



    Thoroughly mix your 2 part epoxy. I try to use Popsicle sticks whenever messing with the stuff.



    First we will put on the reel seat. Slather the epoxy in between the channels of your tape and put a thin coat over every .mm of tape. The epoxy should bulge convexly slightly out of the channels. From the tip section of the rod blank, move the seat on down and make sure it is in the right direction. Once you hit the epoxy section, do not back the seat up the blank again as a trail of messy epoxy will follow (that's why the mineral spirits). Slowly rotate the seat down over the tape section, some of the extra glue will start to push out, clean it off as you go. Take your time here!



    Once your seat is where you want it, make sure there is epoxy in the end of the seat and put a thin coat on the reel seat cap and put it on. Now you have installed the seat! We will line it up properly to the blank later, remember it's slow curing epoxy so we have time. Clean up any extra epoxy around the seat. Look in in the threads, it has a tendency to get in there, you don't want a locked up seat.



    Now it's time for you to install the cork grip. Measure where the top section of the cork will be when installed and make a mark on the blank with a marker. Put a coat (not too thin or thick) of epoxy covering all of the blank from that mark down to the reel seat.



    Now you want to slowly move the grip down the blank, rotating it for even distribution of epoxy down onto the reel seat. Take your time here as well, and do not pull the cork back up the blank once you have started or you will have another mess. The extra epoxy will build up as you move down, remove the extra so you don't have a big mess at the end. If you have a recessed hood, make sure there is a thin coat of epoxy on the seat hood.



    Join it all together and clean up any epoxy that may be on the cork, seat etc.

    Next comes the winding check. The winding check is that small metal or plastic piece of material that is at the top of your cork. Put a very small amount of epoxy on the blank and put the check in place.



    Now go back and clean up any extra epoxy again, look hard, it's there. It'll be shiny.

    Once assembled, now you can line up your reel seat to the position you want it on your blank. I will actually put a reel in the seat to do this. You don't want the writing on the blank to be upside down from the reel or on the bottom.



    Now that it is lined up, take the reel off, and clean everything again.

    The last and final step to this process is to keep everything snug as the epoxy cures. Some will using a clamping system to compress it. I use rubber bands for now. This method pulls it all together for a snug solid fit. Check one last time for any little smudges of epoxy and set the rod aside for 12+ hours while it cures.



    So there is the butt section assemble process for a single hand rod. It is tedious and frankly my least favorite part of building a rod. Take your time with each step!!

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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Like it. Thanks for the pictures, I am attempting my first fly Rod in the Spring, this hepled a lot.

    Andy Brasko


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    LyNcH's Avatar
    LyNcH is offline Dries, wets, nymphs and streamers...it's all good!
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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Thanks Andy. I'll keep posting more up as I go through the steps.

    ---------- Post added at 02:31 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:26 PM ----------

    I'm trying to make this a blog post as well.


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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    The next step in the process is finding the spine on the blank. Here is a quick guide how to do that from rodbuilder.org site.

    There are tools on the market, referred to as "spine finders" that allow you to do this quickly and easily. However, you can also find your blank's spine manually. Place the butt of the blank on a smooth surface. Support the extreme tip end with the fingers of one hand. With your other hand, apply pressure to the middle area of the blank. Put a decent bend in it. As you do this you will find that the blank attempts to roll into a position where it wants to stay put. Any attempt to move the blank out of this position, while it is under pressure, will result in the blank trying to remain or returning to this same position. The OUTSIDE of this curve is referred to as the "effective spine" and should be marked for reference.

    Once you have found the spine, mark each section it with a white china wax pencil. Peel-Off China Marker | mudhole.com

    The first "guide" to put on the blank is the tip top. Use tip top glue, heat the end of the stick up, then smear some of the hot glue on the tip of the blank. Next, hold the tip top with a pair of needle nose pliers, and then heat the shank of it with a lighter. After a few seconds, push the tip top onto the end of the blank. The heat from the tip top will melt the glue enough to seat it in position. Once in position, rotate it to match the spline of the tip section. If the glue cools, quickly reheat it with the lighter and rotate it, holding it in proper position until the glue cools. Once the glue is cool, scrape off any extra with your finger nail. The flame may leave carbon on your chrome tip top, rub it with mineral spirits and it comes off.



    Next you need to measure out where each guide goes. Some rod companies like Sage will include a guide size and spacing chart on their website. If not, there are charts out there for any size fly rod, just do a search. Assemble the rod and lay it down on a measuring tape. Starting fro the tip, go down the blank and place a mark with the china pencil at the center of where each snake guide will be. Do this for each guide in line with the spline of the rod.



    Next you need to take your guides and file off any burrs that may be on them, both top and bottom. Burrs on the bottom will scratch the blank, eventually putting the integrity of the blank at risk, burrs on the top will poke through the thread and possibly cut it. I use a sharpening stone for this. Do this even if the guides come pre-filed. When done, you should be able to run your finger tip over both ends, and both sides of each guide without feeling anything but smooth metal.



    Next comes the actual start of the wrapping. In this section, I will not wrap any guides, but will get right to that point. There are a few ways to do this. I started off by cutting very this strips of masking tape and putting the tape close to the eye of the guide, leaving the tips open for the thread to start to climb up it. I have since discovered that small orthodontic rubber bands work better. Do one guide at a time when banding and wrapping, but place your rubber bands in position prior to wrapping.



    There are several types of wrapper out there, from manual to motorized. I started off with this simple wrapper, which has many rods under its belt. These are sold for reasonable prices on rod building sites. One of my favorite places to buy from is a PA company called Hook and Hackle.



    There are pro-wrappers out there and I happened to come across a great deal on Craigslist a few years back, so I bit the bullet and invested in a PacBay Power Wrapper. This power wrapper can also be used as a turn cork turner (with an upgraded chuck) and rod dryer.






    The thread colors I have chosen for this rod are: Burgundy as my main color, accented by Olive Green and Metallic Gold trim.




    I'll probably start wrapping the rod tomorrow. It'll be hard to take pictures as I am doing it, but I will try.






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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Wow dude, very nice write-up. I've been procrastinating lately, i have 2 rods need to be built.

    Maybe this will give me some motivation..

    "Life's hard. It's even harder when you're stupid."
    -John Wayne

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    LyNcH's Avatar
    LyNcH is offline Dries, wets, nymphs and streamers...it's all good!
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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Between Dr.'s appointment, watching TV and tying flies, I was able to wrap 90% of the rod yesterday. For me, the thread wraps are the most enjoyable part of building a rod. While completely unnecessary and purely cosmetic, I always do some form of funky thread combination near the grip. I changed up the colors from my post the other day.




    Some of the most challenging parts of wrapping thread is keeping proper tension on the thread, making sure that you threads are tight together with no gaps what so ever, and when done with the wrap, holding the wrapped threads when cutting the tag and feeding it through the loop to pull under the wrapped threads.







    Last minute I decided to do a simple feather inlay. Inlays are not as difficult as they may seem to be. Using color preserver as your bonding agent allows you to lay the feather and position the fibers where you want them to be. If you want to put a feather on a feather, you must let the first coat of color preserver dry before messing with the 2nd feather. If you make any mistakes as you go, you can simply pull the feathers off, clean the blank with some mineral spirits and a finger nail and do it again.



    I have 2 more guides to go then I will color preserve the wraps. Once the wraps are dry, then I will start to apply the first of 2 thin coats of epoxy. This requires a steady hand. I will post pics of this as I go. I will be sharing a few simple tricks to obtain that perfectly smooth glass like finish on your rod like the ones from a factory. The epoxy finish is where most custom rods end up lacking and usually have some form of build up or "hill" in the epoxy where other parts of the wrap may not be covered enough or have too much epoxy outside of the wraps, under the guides, etc.


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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Having already seen one of your rods, and without a doubt it looked like a professional rod maker made it, this one is going to be a beauty.

    Keep the posts and photos coming !


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    LyNcH's Avatar
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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Coat one of epoxy has been applied. Below is all that is needed besides a fiber free brush or spatula set. Make sure you use rod epoxy. When mixing the epoxy, you can buy the little plastic stirrers, but I just use McDonalds plastic coffee stirrer. Mix the epoxy in a plastic shot glass that you can get at a party store, then pour it onto aluminum foil. I have been using Flex Coat lite. The key to a smooth finish in the epoxy is using a small lamp with denatured alcohol in it. Once you apply a thin coat with the brush, immediately and quickly run the flame underneath the epoxy. It heats the epoxy and then allows it to settle out smooth. Don't hold the flame under the epoxy for obvious reasons, plus you will also cause the epoxy to bubble.




    The pot life for rod epoxy once mixed is not very long until it starts to thicken up. It's been awhile since I made a rod and I took too long applying it. When it starts to thicken, you can run the aluminum foil over the alcohol flame and this will heat the epoxy and thin it, but you can't do it to many times as heating the epoxy also causes it to thicken quicker once it cools. For my second coat tomorrow, I will make 2 small batches instead of a large one like I did tonight.

    When applying, you want to rod on a turner. Anywhere from 9-20 rpm is good. Once complete, allow the rod to continue turning for 3 or 4 more hours. No matter how tempting, do not touch the rod during the drying phase, you will mess up all of your hard work and at that point, there is really no easy way to correct that fingerprint/smudge you just put on the rod. The room temp should be around 70 degrees with low humidity.

    Coat one of epoxy has been applied. Below is all that is needed besides a fiber free brush or spatula set. Make sure you use rod epoxy. When mixing the epoxy, you can buy the little plastic stirrers, but I just use McDonalds plastic coffee stirrer. Mix the epoxy in a plastic shot glass that you can get at a party store, then pour it onto aluminum foil. I have been using Flex Coat lite. The key to a smooth finish in the epoxy is using a small lamp with denatured alcohol in it. Once you apply a thin coat with the brush, immediately and quickly run the flame underneath the epoxy. It heats the epoxy and then allows it to settle out smooth. Don't hold the flame under the epoxy for obvious reasons, plus you will also cause the epoxy to bubble.




    The pot life for rod epoxy once mixed is not very long until it starts to thicken up. It's been awhile since I made a rod and I took too long applying it. When it starts to thicken, you can run the aluminum foil over the alcohol flame and this will heat the epoxy and thin it, but you can't do it to many times as heating the epoxy also causes it to thicken quicker once it cools. For my second coat tomorrow, I will make 2 small batches instead of on large one.


    Coat one complete.


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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Another thing to keep in mind is dust. You want to apply the rod epoxy in as much of a dust free environment as posible as anything and everything will stick to the epoxy when wet and tacky. Be aware of this if you have a forced hot air system and you might want to consider covering or filtering your vent during application and the first 4-5 hours of dry time.

    The following day: Before going on to the second coat of epoxy. Wait at least 12 hours and then go over all of your wraps with your finger tip. The epoxy is not "hard" yet, so don't press your finger into it unless you want to use your fingerprint as the rod identification tag. As you run your finger tip over the guides/epoxy, you may notice little thread tags or a random microscopic bubble here and there. Very carefully take a razor blade acorss the top of it and cut the burr or bubble. When you do this the epoxy in that area looses it's sheen. This is ok as the 2nd coat will blend in with it and you won't be able to tell. This extra step is not necessary, but if a glass finish is what you are after, it's worth the extra 15 minutes. When done with this step, use a damp fiber free cloth to wipe the rod down. Don't leave any of the razor blade shavings on the rod, they will bond and become permanent.

    I epoxied the rod from 10pm-11pm last night and it is not quite set enough at 6:30am to do the razor blade step for another 4 or 5 hours. It is ideal to wait 16-24 hours before you apply the 2nd coat.


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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Lynch, thank you for this guide on your rod building process. I really like the jungle eye in there.


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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    Well the rod had been complete for a couple days. It's good to rest a rod for at least 3-6 days after the final coat to avoid any potential stress marks developing in the epoxy while it cures. It'll at least me another month until I use this and cannot wait! It's not a bad idea to treat and protect the cork with U-40 Cork Seal.

    I hope you enjoyed the walkthrough.








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    Re: Start to finish - a home rod builders tutorial

    This is really nice too look at. The rod looks great. I built a rod with my Dad when I was 10 years old, and my brother promptly rod his bicycle over it and snapped it. I never even got to fish with it. I have never tried since, 31 years have passed, but your thread is giving me inspiration.
    Thanks and keep it coming...


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