Rod Building Tips

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Rod Building is not too difficult, but making a good job is hard, it either takes a lot of time and care, or a lot of experience. But there is no reason why the careful amateur cannot make a first class job, and its great fun to fish with a rod you made yourself.

The Rod Blank.

In the UK, rod blanks are quite difficult to source for the amateur. Not many shops stock them, because so few people chance building them. It was not always thus! So the first problem will be sourcing a rod blank. My company is not retail but we will supply you a rod blanks if no one has them in stock. Try first. they have a huge range of blanks and rod building components and know what they are talking about. For carp and barbel blanks you could try one of the custom rod builders in our dealer list. or if all else fails talk email us and we will try to help.

The questions I often get asked about rod blanks are either about the spine or the material, the grade of carbon fibre. Let's look at these in more detail.

Carbon Fibre.

Most rods today are made from carbon fibre mixed with epoxy resin. The main ingredient of most blanks is unidirectional carbon fibre, with perhaps some woven fabric. Glass fibre when used in rods is usually as a woven fabric. This is a tough material, but not very stiff. Fibreglass rods can still be good for certain applications were weight is not an issue, and toughness is. An example is short rods for boat fishing at sea. But in all aplications where casting is important, carbon fibre out performs glass. it makes a better spring, cuts through the air better, and has a better power to weight ratio. I have detailed how a carbon blank is made and a little information on different fibres here in our production pages.

From the table on the production page you can see that Carbon fibre is available in a confusing number of varieties, high modulus, intermediate modulus and high strength, both as Unidirectional and Fabric. There is no best carbon for fishing rods. What suits long poles may not suit single handed fly rods. There is also either intentionally or by accident so much confusing information in many adverts for rods, that I believe you should ignore all the claims on fibre type and judge a blank on basic qualities, these include:

Is it the right action for the job? Are the manufacturers known for reliable blanks? Does it feel light and well balanced?. Will it cast and play fish well? etc. These are more important than whether it is made from P1000 or 1 million ton carbon etc. I believe my own company offers one of the best ranges of blanks around, but we are not alone. Personally I have a preference for plain black unground blanks, nothing added, nothing taken away. I have to admit however that a coloured blank can make a better looking rod. For the amateur though, the unground blank will be the better choice, in case of making mistakes with ring spacing or glue. You can not move rings on a painted rod without leaving marks.



Ok, back to spines, excuse the pun.......... First, what is the spine?

Rod blanks are made by rolling a pattern around a mandrel. Like a swiss roll, there is a start and an end to the "roll" and they can produce a hard and soft side to the blank. That is, if you roll the blank whist slightly bent, there can be a feeling of almost a bump in stiffness in one part of the blank. If you hold the tip in one hand and twist with the other, whilst keeping the rod bent, you are most likely to feel this. Holding the rod tip against a wall or floor whilst rolling the rod will do the same. Often the spine coincides with a slight bend in the blank, as ths spine tends to pull a slight curve during the cure. Many builders would say find the stiffest side of the blank, mark it and put the rings in relation to it. But they dont agree where! Some say at 180 degrees to the spine, some say at 90. One going for the stiffest plane, one for the preffered plane of bending. There are arguments for both. I have listened to all the arguments, spent more time thinking about them than most, and I feel I have as good knowledge of the subject as anyone, but I cannot offer you a simple answer. But I do say the following, and this I know is right. Instead of twisting the flexed rod bent over a hand or some other artificial fulcrum, you hold the rod at the handle end, with a weight hanging from the other. That is you load the rod at the tip and hold it at the butt like you do when fishing. Now roll the rod through 360 degrees, and voila, the sensation of the spine has disappeared. Yes, if you do this in a special jig you will detect a tiny variation in the apparent test curve due to a spine, but it is so small you will not detect it in real life. The spine as many rod builders detect it is an artefact of an artificial test. But like a lot of rodbuilding questions, there are no strightforward answers, so talk to someone else about the spine. However, if you want my advice, for what it is worth! Put the blank together and rotate and adjust the sections until the rod is as straight as possible, any natural curve in the rod bending upwards, then place the rings on the underside.

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