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Guide to rod whipping.


Watching someone professional tying rod rings on, or whipping them as we normally call it, is like watching someone play the piano. It all happens so fast you cannot really see what is happening. But break the job down into its simple components and the job is easy to understand, and only a matter of time to master. There are a few things that help. You need sharp blades, safety razor blades, good craft knife blades or scalpel blades. You need a flame, for example from a lighter. You need to choose thread made specially for whipping rods, and you need well prepared rod rings. Hands that are really clean and not roughed up by heavy manual work are also a bonus. We will now go through the process of whipping step by step, and everything will be described in context.

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Materials and Preparation.

Thread. Use Gudebrod, Worthington or similar whipping thread from a tackle supplier. It is smooth, other threads may not be, and may be impossible to varnish later. Non specialist threads may also change colour dramatically when varnished, although all threads will change a small amount during varnishing.

Ring preparation is important. It can make the difference between a tidy and a messy job. The purpose of preparation is to make sure the rings you have selected have smoothly tapered feet. You cannot whip over a burred foot with a step in it. Rings leave the factory ready to use, but a little bit of grinding and filing makes the job easier. Make sure every foot tapers down finely to the blank, that there is no step, and no burrs. Another useful tip, after grinding, use a black marker pen to dull the new shiny surface. A shiny surface will show through any gaps in your whipping a lot more obviously than a black one.

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Ring positioning.

Ask the manufacturer for ring spacing. If you want to change this ring spacing, try out your ideas by taping rings in place first with insulation tape. Insulation tape is easier to remove than masking tape, which usually leaves glue behind, or if left for long periods can become very stubborn to remove. It is important to try your spacing because changing rings effect the rod in several ways. For example, adding rings adds weight, which for match rods and fly rods can be significant, Lined rings on a fly rod can make it feel soft relative to the same blank with snake rings simply because the lined rings are heavier.

Also consider the spine in your ring spacing. I mention it here, and a recent excellent article by Phil White in Trout and Salmon, December 1999, also discusses it. But do not get hung up about spines, they are most important on fly rods, and least on distance carp rods. Ringing a rod oblivious to the spine is something that goes on every day in most factories. To my mind, of more importance is not overloading the rod with heavy rings.



Tying a ring

1. Place you first ring in its desired position, and tape one leg to hold it in place.

2. Trap the end of your thread in place by rotating the rod a few times and whipping over the loose end.

3. Cut off any excess of loose hanging thread.

4. Rotate the rod with one hand and guide the thread with the other.

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5. When the thread has almost covered the ring foot, take a loop of spare thread and whip over it. Between 4 and 8 turns is about right.

6. Cut the line going to the spool, and thread it through the loop you have whipped over.

7. Using the loop, pull the cut end of thread back under the whippings.

8. Trim with a sharp blade.

9. Remove the tape from the other foot, and now repeat.

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Points to watch.

Try and keep the tension consistent on the tying thread. 

Avoid gaps as you go, but small gaps can be closed up later using something smooth and cylindrical.

After Trimming you can get rid of "stick-ups" by passing a lighter flame quickly over the whipping quickly to singe them off.


After whipping, there is no longer any real need to seal rings before varnishing the thread permanently, and in some ways it is better not to, as the modern resins will soak through your rod whippings more easily if they are not sealed. But like everything else, there is another point of view. Sealing with dope or clear nail varnish does stop your rings coming loose as you tie other rings on the rod. I will come of the fence and say, for a fly rod with snake rings, sealing the whippings with clear nail varnish will make the rings a little easier to remove and replace if they become worn in the future. Not sealing the whippings prior to varnishing is recommended on powerful rods with big rings, as the unsealed thread will soak up epoxy resin varnish and make a better support structure for say a 40mm Fuji but ring.

Fitting tip rings.

These are glued in place. A whipping for decoration is usually applied. Do use either two pack epoxy glue, or hot melt glue. Do not use superglue. The latter has poor gap filling abilities, and does not like water! Tube sizes are rarely exactly right for your tip, if the gap is too big to be filled with glue, use a layer of whipping thread to build the tip up.

Whipping joints.

It has been practice to whip over the female ends of joints, and over areas where spigots are glued. Most rod joints have sufficient reinforcement inside the blanks these days, but it remains a nice cosmetic touch to finish a rod. 

Once you have placed all your rings on the rod, the next step is varnishing.

Back to Rodbuilding | Forward to Varnishing

Steve Harrison 2010