Extreme Fishing Outfitters

Extreme Fishing Outfitters

Fishing reels and gear

 
 
 
 

Building Fishing Rods

If you are an angler that truly wants a fishing rod that is unique to your specific use and personality you may want to consider building your own rod.  This may seem complicated, but in reality the process only takes a few hours, not including drying time, and can be done with items that you can get easily at your local hardware store.

First thing to decide upon is a place to work.  If you have a workbench out in your garage then that would be perfect.  If not, you can use your kitchen table.  Lay down some newspapers to avoid getting glue or epoxy onto the table.

You can go about this one of two ways.  There are kits available for building your own custom rod, that contains everything you need plus instructions.  If you don’t want to use a rod building kit, then you can still get the items you’ll need to build one completely from scratch.

Here are the tools you should pick up from your local hardware store.  An exacto knife, several different colors of B or C thread, a cigarette lighter, six or seven guides (also known as eyes or eyelets), cork handle with reel seat, a taper file, a chuck ring, masking tape, 5 minute epoxy, a couple of small paintbrushes, rod glue, assorted rubber bands, epoxy finish, some paint thinner, a magic marker, a tape measure or yardstick and a rod blank.  You can ask your local hardware specialist where these items are located.  They should be able to help you find all of them easily, and many are probably in your home or toolbox. 

You’ll need a couple of extra things that might be a bit harder to come by.  First, you’ll need something to turn your rod as it dries to prevent the epoxy glue from pooling to one side of the rod and drying there.  If you have enough patience you can probably do this yourself, but you can also use an old record player – albeit slightly modified – to turn the rod.  They also sell specific machines to do this, but this may be more than you want to spend for your first rod. 

Next, you’ll need something to hold your rod blank as you build it.  You’ll want the rod held horizontally, and this can be done with a few stacks of books, or if you feel like digging out your circular saw, you can build something quite easily that will hold the rod securely.

Make sure you have something heavy to hold the tension in the thread as well.  You can read ahead to see exactly how it will work to build a primitive device to do this job – but you can just as easily use a book or a brick.  Just make sure it is heavy enough to hold the tension successfully.

Let’s begin.  First, you’ll need to find the spine of your rod blank.  This is actually quite easy to do.  Fishing rods are made from wrapping a pattern around a mandrel and you end up with one side of the rod that is stiffer and more reinforced than the other sides.  Place your rod on the floor or against a wall and bend it slightly about two feet from the top.  You’ll find the spine side has a bumpy stiffness on one side of the blank.  This side is your rod spine.  Mark which side is your spine with some masking tape. We’ll put our guides on this side of the rod, although some rod builders do it at 180 degree angle or a 90 degree angle to the spine.  I recommend you try it our way the first time, use your rod and then decide if you like the guides on the spine side or if you want to move them on the next rod you build. 

Let’s put the handle on.  Use your tapered file to file out a hole in the cork.  Your handle might come in multiple pieces, which means you won’t have to file quite as much.  Fit your cork onto your rod blank and slide it all the way down to the butt.  Now slide your reel seat down.  Use your masking tape to fill in the blank space you see. Make sure to wrap it tightly and fill in all the space.  File down the top section of your cork so it can slide down as closely as possible to the reel seat.  This will keep your handle secure.  Now, take everything off and coat your bottom portion of the rod blank with the mixed epoxy and slide the pieces back on, lining them up so they fit perfectly.  You may need to use some paint thinner to remove the excess epoxy.  Just dab some on a rag and wipe down the rod blank. Finally, secure your pieces with rubber bands and let your handle and reel seat dry for about thirty minutes.

After it is dry, put your rod on the stand you have crafted and use your tape measure or yardstick to mark off where you want to put your guides.  This differs depending on the size of your blank, and your personal preference.  There are some charts that you can find on line.  A good one is at this link, that will give you the spacing for both casting and fly rods, categorized by what type of fish your going after.  http://www.stcroixrods.com/content.asp?id=68&section=builder.  However, a good rule of thumb to follow is to determine how many guides you have, and start between 4 and 5 inches from the top and measure the rest out evenly from there.

Once you have all of your guide locations marked with your magic marker, start by putting the bottom one on.  This will be the largest guide, and it goes nearest to the handle.  Use some of your rod glue and apply it to the foot of the guide and heat it up with your cigarette lighter.  Apply the guide to your rod, on the side that you have marked as the spine.  Let it dry for a few minutes while you select which thread you are going to use. The heated glue should hold it in place for a few minutes while you ready your thread.

This is the most fun part of building your rod – wrapping the thread.  Once you have the basic wrap technique down, then you’ll be able to work on adding colors and even patterns into your thread wraps.  We won’t go into how to create complex patterned wraps here, but you can find many resources on the web for this.  First, start the wrap about ¼ of an inch ahead of the opposite guide foot by making an X and winding the thread all the way around the blank and over its own loose end.

After about five turns trim the free end close to your wrap and continue winding thread up to the foot, within about 8 turns of the finish.  Cut off a 6” section of the heavier thread and make it into a loop.  Lay this onto the rod with the looped portion pointed towards the guide ring.   Continue wrapping over the loop and up the guide foot, making sure that your thread lays are all even. On the last turn, pinch the thread you have been wrapping securely against the rod.  Cut the thread about 4 inches from the top and continue maintaining tension on the thread while you put the end of the thread through the loop that is sticking out. Pull the free end tight, and keep pressure on the free end as you slowly pull the loop out.  The free end should now be sticking out of the wrap. Pull it tight and trim is as closely as you can. Now, put some of your glue on the thread with one of the small paintbrushes and let it dry. 

Repeat this process until you have all of the guides on the rod.  If you want to wrap some extra thread on the guides for color or style you can do it the same way. After letting your last guide dry for about ten minutes If you are careful, you can apply the tip while waiting for the glue on the guides to dry.  Just use epoxy or the tip glue to glue on your new tip, making sure it lines up with the rest of your guides, and let it dry about the same amount of time.

If you want at this point, you can coat the rod with some color preserve.  It will go on white in most cases but it will dry clear.  Apply it to the rod and then let it dry for about five hours.  Once you’re done with the color preserve apply the finish to your entire rod.  There are a couple of different types of finish, but once you choose use the dryer to continue turning the rod and applying.  You may need to apply two or three coats, all the while using the dryer to continue turning the rod.  After letting it set and dry for a couple of days you are ready to thread your line and take it out on the lake and catch some fish with it.  Remember, that each time you build a rod you’ll get better at it, and we advise to start with an easy kit – like the lacroix kits – until you know what you’re doing.  Building rods can not only be fun, but you can build custom rods for friends and family for gifts – or even as a business.  The most important thing to remember is to have fun building!