By Captain Neil Faulkner
The author's inexpensive (around $8), yet
functional, hand-driven rod wrapper built with
castors. The small jar holds the thread, and the
weight of the book pages apply the thread
You can’t imagine the pleasure
that comes from catching a fish on a rod that you
designed and built! I am sure many anglers would
like to have that feeling, but where do you start
if you don’t have the necessary skills? Your
prayers are answered! This is the beginning of a
three-part series on basic rod building that will
cover everything you need to know to get started
building your own custom rods.
"mini series", I will cover the following
In part one I will be discussing:
Tools and Items needed
including choosing a blank and components
parts two and three I will be discussing:
Basic Operations including: spining a blank,
static deflection-guide placement, guide prep,
thread and wrapping, applying finish, along with
installing components and finishing the wraps. So,
let’s get under way!
Almost every job can be
completed by hand. The only motorized task is
rotating the rod after applying finish to the
wraps. The rod will be rotating for approximately
6 hours. This prevents the heavy epoxy from
falling to the bottom of the rod and dripping off.
If you are handy with wood working tools, you can
make your own rotating device by using a BBQ
motor. You need to make a stand for the motor, and
1 or 2 V-Block stands to support the rod. Cover
the V-Block grooves with felt to protect the
blank. You will have to build a chuck to hold the
butt in place. An easier way is to order an 18-RPM
Flex Coat Finishing Motor for about $75. Ask about
the matching support stand.
You can wrap the thread on the
guides without an expensive wrapper. In fact, most
of us learned that way. We placed the spool of
thread in a baby food jar or similar container. A
heavy book lying on the table became the thread
tension device. Run the thread from the jar and
between 2 pages and to the blank. Increase the
number of pages above the thread to increase tension.
The author laboring away at his
Now we need a system to support
the blank as you wrap. This can be a box with V
grooves cut in each end of the box. Yes, this is a
primitive system, but it is doable. An easier way
is to mount 2 castors touching each other on a
piece of wood. Make 2 or 3 simple supports like
this, and the blank will be well supported. Your
fingers supply the power to turn the blank. This
is the system my father built and used, and it’s
how I and many other rod builders learned. You can
also purchase a Flex Coat Hand Wrapper for about
$65. Other companies make similar devices.
We use many tools found around
the house. An electric drill motor mounted on a
stand can be used for grinding the guide feet.
Some of the smaller items we use are small
scissors, single edged razor blades, pliers, screw
drivers, tweezers, spatulas, tape measure, files,
plastic one-ounce cups to mix finish, ¼-inch
natural hair brushes or throw away brushes to
apply epoxy, Flex Coat brush cleaner fluid if you
use good brushes, ½-inch masking tape, paper
towels, sand paper, 91% isopropyl alcohol, and a
good cleaning solution for getting epoxy off the
blank. To make your own cleaning solution, mix two
tablespoons of liquid Joy and four ounces of
isopropyl alcohol in a one-quart spray bottle,
then add the necessary amount of water to fill thr
bottle and shake well.
You will spray the solution on
paper towels and clean the area. Do this
repeatedly until the epoxy is removed, then spray
91% isopropyl alcohol on the paper towels and
clean the area until it becomes squeaky clean. As
you get into this great craft, you will add many
other tools, supplies, and devices to your
collection. When using epoxy, it is a good idea to wear old clothes.
The following supplies can be
purchased from most tackle shops that carry
rod-building supplies: two-part epoxy for
installing grips and reel seats (U-40 Rod Bond),
two-part epoxy for finishing the wraps (AFTCOTE by Aftco).
In order to determine
which blank is the correct one for a certain boat
fishing application, you have to ask yourself
these questions. What type and how big are the
fish being targeted? Where will you be catching
these fish in terms of water depth and bottom
structure? Will you be fishing on a private or party boat?
You have 3 options
when choosing a blank material, fiberglass,
graphite, or composite.Fiberglass has been with us
the longest. The blanks are very durable, and when
flexed (bent), form a parabolic curve. Graphite
produces blanks that are very sensitive,
lightweight, and very strong in the mid and butt
sections of the blank.
The method for finding the
spine of a blank will be described in Part 2 of this rod building
Composite material is
a combination of fiberglass and graphite. It is
the best of both worlds, sensitive, strong, and
durable. A major reason I build on composite
blanks is that this combination stands up to the
very strong synthetic (braided) lines.
Once the blank
material has been determined, you have to decide
on the tip action and line class that suits your
needs. The different tip actions are; Extra Fast
Action-only-the top ¼ of the blank flexes, Fast
Action-only the top 1/3 of the blank flexes,
Moderate Action-about ½ of the blank flexes.
Line class is
determined roughly by the pound-test line that you
use. Now you can look in the blank catalog and
choose the blank of your dreams. Here is an
example of one of my favorite rods for inshore
fishing when targeting fluke, sea bass, porgies,
and small blackfish. In the Lamiglas catalog,
under Graphite/Fiber-glass Blanks, a line will
show "CGBT 84 1L-7’-1 piece 20# test line-.689
butt diameter, 7½ tip size, 4 oz. average weight"
and the MSRP.
Cork or synthetic grips are the
usual choices. Cork comes in ½-inch rings, and you
can design/create your own. Pre-formed cork grips
are easier to install. Synthetic grips, EVA or
Hypalon, are less expensive and hold up under
heavy use. Decide the length of the butt grip. You
can do this by measuring the length of the butt on a favorite rod.
Measure from the bottom of the
reel seat to the end of the butt. For example, if
the length is 13 inches then order a 13-inch long
butt grip. The fore grip goes above the reel seat,
and it usually starts about 5¼ inches above the top of the butt grip.
We know the butt diameter is
.689, and we use that to order the butt grip with
a smaller inner diameter (ID). We can order a fore
grip with an even smaller ID, since the blank
diameter is smaller above the reel seat.
Not much to choose
from here except a spin or trigger grip. The spin
seat is the regular one, and the trigger is just
that, a trigger. Then you can decide what color
the bands will be, frosted or gold. If you have
the blank handy, mark off where the seat will be
installed and use a caliper to measure the blank
diameter in mm. Make sure to add a couple of mm to
the blank diameter, as the reel seat has to slide
over the blank.
Since this is a boat
rod, that dictates the type of guides we need.
There are several companies to choose from, Fuji,
Pacific Bay, and others. For this rod, I use Fuji
BNLG Hardloy ring guides. These guides are user
friendly with synthetic line. How many and what
ring sizes are the big questions. You can look at
factory rods in your local tackle shop. Check the
sizes and how many of each size is used. A good
rule of thumb is to take the length of the rod and
add 1 or 2 guides to the length. So a 7-foot rod
will get 8 or 9 guides. The flex of the blank also
affects how many guides. For our CGBT 84 1L, I use
#’s 20-16-12-10-10-8-8-8-8. We could use other
types of guides and setups. The tiptop will
normally match the guides. The blank catalog said
a # 7 ½ tiptop would fit.
You can get all the
info you need from a local tackle shop that sells
components and/or builds custom rods. Many
retailers have their catalogs online, or you can
sometimes call for a catalog.
Here is a list of
components I would need to build my ocean fluke
Blank, Lamiglas CGBT 84 1L
7K1312, 13"long-1/2" ID-1 3/8" OD
Reel seat, Fuji DPSM 20
7K538, 5" long, 3/8" ID, 1" OD
Tiptop, Fuji BPLT 8
(7.5), 8 are ring size and 7.5 are the barrel
Some of the numbers pertain to the
Merrick Tackle wholesale catalog used by many
In part two of this
series, we’ll continue with the basic operations
of spining the blank and using static deflection
to determine guide placement.