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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Custom Rod Building/Latest Newspaper Column

Here's the latest of my bi-weekly outdoors columns. Published two weeks before xmas.

Hope you like it!
I am a custom rod builder. A few years ago I was admiring a beautiful hand made fly rod a friend had just gotten. I’d heard there were a small, but growing, number of custom rod building enthusiasts. An internet search turned up a wealth of information. There are forums that you can ask questions of experienced builders, companies that supply all the components and many helpful videos. Most of the instructional sources are free! My first step was to figure out what to actually build the rod on. You need something to hold the rod blank while you wrap the thread on the guides. I found a company in Florida called Mud Hole ( They claim to be the worlds largest rod building supply company. I don’t doubt it. They have an amazing amount of blanks and components. I saw a nice simple jig for beginners. It cost approximately $50.00. But that was too easy for me. I spent 2 weeks constructing what can only be described as a Rube Goldberg device. It is three feet long. Is fully adjustable. Has multiple arms and wheeled rollers. Holds up to four spools of thread that I can adjust the tension on. It looks funny but it works great. There are power wrappers that make it easier, but then you’re getting into commercial building rather then custom hand wrapping. Once I had my wrapping jig finished it was time to start my first rod. I ordered an inexpensive kit. Beginner spinning or fly rod kits can be purchased for as little as $50.00. The components needed include the rod blank, reel seat, cork handle, guides, tip top, hook keeper and winding check. You’ll need thread, glues and a few tools. It’s much simpler until one gains more experience, to get a kit with everything included. It’s easy to forget something if you’re picking out items separately. You can get a basic tool kit for very short money. It should include a reamer to fit the cork handles to the blank, a burnishing tool for smoothing thread wraps, a few razor blades and sharp scissors. Some sandpaper, masking tape and cheap artist brushes for applying glue and finish will complete your tool kit. I’m not going to give you step by step instructions here. Let me just go through the basics. First thing you must do is to locate the SPLINE on the blank. The spline is a line that runs up and down the blank. You can’t see the spline but it is most important that the guides are located directly on it! A big difference between store bought and custom rods is that commercial rods just get the guides stuck on anywhere. This can lead to broken rods and poor performance. Finding the spline is easy and Mud Hole has the info on locating it in the catalog. You’ll need to use your reaming tool to ream out the cork handles to fit snuggly on the blank. Decide where the reel seat will go. It gets mounted with masking tape around the blank (to center the seat) and epoxy glue. Lightly sand the blank, mix the epoxy and brush it on. Slide the reel seat and handle where they go and let dry overnight. Install the tip top , making sure it lines up with the reel seat! Next step is to locate where the guides go. Again, the Mud Hole catalog (or online) will have a chart showing where to place them. This is where the fun starts! Once you become comfortable wrapping guides you will soon learn the different styles and colors available are virtually unlimited. Wrapping a basic thread pattern is very simple and only takes a few minutes to learn. I usually do some fancy wraps on the butt section just above the handle. I’ve weaved diamonds, chevrons and even fish out of thread. If you decide you enjoy rod building then you can learn all the fancy techniques. For now all you need do is get all the components installed. The threads need to be finished with flexible non yellowing epoxy. You can be assured that no one has a rod like it. You will have a truly unique fishing rod that will give you a lifetime of flawless performance. I sign all my rods. Typically, “Hand Built for Jon Doe by Captain Pete’s Custom Rods”. There’s quite a few of my rods out there. I really enjoy it and it helps make winter go by. I have two to get finished before Christmas. A rod building kit would be a fine gift for your favorite angler. And if you aren’t the handy type, but a custom rod interests you, I have gift certificates available. If you do decide to become a rod builder feel free to contact me for any advice or help.