Rodhouse How-To: building a kickass rod.

here's a presentation of the building process based on the SWS 65 MH blank, the program is heavyweight jigging for pollack on the wrecks. jigs of 150/200 grams (5-7oz), 20lb braided line  and matching fluoro tippet.

obviously, my methods and techniques are not necessarily the only possible ones, I'm not saying how one should do it, just showing how I did it.

the idea is to be able to fight 15 lbl fish without letting it take any line. I needed a very sturdy blank, rich in matter, able to flex a lot, with lots of stamina. I needed amix of strength and flexibility, with a bendy tip and a truckload of power. this is not about sensitive antennas, but about standing the abuse without weighting a ton

so I chose this blank :

which seems to have all I'm looking for: a sturdy carbon, fiberglass, big butt, relatively short, heavy tip, for a reasonable weight.

1. Find the spine

the spine of a blank is not a fixed line, sheets overlap, and the cutting pattern of the prepeg generate a spine as a result of contradictory forces. anyway, for a given length, the blanks shows a predilection for bending in a certain direction, that is easy to find. Had the blank been a foot longer, the spine would probably have been different.

so I put the butt of the blank on a clean and flat surface, holding high the tip, in such a way that the blank can roll under its own weight.
in 99% of the cases (and that seems logical) the strong and heavy part of the blank will tend to roll down, while the light part goes up. then I put a bend in the blank, and it will move again, a little. the loaded blank is a curve, and it makes sense to put the guides inside the curve, respecting the way the blank, in its whole length, wants to work.

I mark with a white china marker (or any crayola style marker)  the curve's interior with a continuous line from butt to tip, and that's where I'll put the guides.

2. Build the grip

I wanted to give this rod a streamlined look, like a javelot or a missile for a rod that will serve to bust the big bunkers (hence the name :D) on the wrecks 50m down under. So I decided to build a massive grip where I'll put a maximum of the weight behind the reel seat, in order to get the best balance. I'm usually quite skeptical with respect to the notion of balance for a 4 oz rod that will fish most of the time at 45°, but here we're talking of a quite heavy rod, that will fish jigs so stay horizontal a lot, so looking for balance here makes more sense.

I choose a XCUT EVA grip:

a damaged flyfishing cork grip that I couldn't sell

a Fuji DPSM 18 black reel seat (henceforth RS):

I cut with a cutter blade, trying to be as straight as possible

then I get a clean flat surface by sanding with fine grained sand paper 

after each cut, and very often during the sanding process, I check the match between the parts, aiming at perfection.
this is the main advice in rodbuilding: WORK SLOWLY, TAKE YOUR TIME, DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING

then I prepare the 18 shim for gluing in the RS. using shims allows for weight gain (not that it matters much here). you can also make up for the difference between the blank OD and the RS ID with a build up of masking tape, then drenching everything in epoxy, but I prefer to use shims.
notice that in order to avoid tedious clean-up jobs, I protect with masking tape all the parts where the glue could make a mess

I put then liberal amount of 2 parts epoxy on the shim

I slide the shim in the RS, slowly rotating in order to get a good bonding surface between shim and RS. I also put glue on the other side of the RS so that pushing the shim through the RS will not take all the glue out.

then I lightly sand the blank where the RS wil go. you don't want to scar the blank, just prepare the surface for better bonding

then it's time to ream. you want to make the ID of the grips larger, to match the blank. for that you use a special file made of a coned shaped shaft covered with sanding paper.

I locate on the blank the spot where the EVA grips will go. I chose them with a smaller ID, because it's easy to ream out some matter, but much harder to put something when matter is missing

check the spot on the reamer with the correct diameter

and I'm good to go. I ream untill the grip slides in place with a little effort.

you see on the grip the marking I use to avoid any confusion, H for haut (towards the tip) and B for bas (butt side). I use numbers also

I repeat the process for all the parts of the grip: locate on the blank, measure ID, ream, test the fit on blank, ream some more, etc. 

now the rear grip is ready for gluing

I scratch the decorative rings for better bonding

once the glue in the RS is cured, I ream the shim in the same way I ream the EVA grips. I make a small reservation with a cutter for the TRS18 ring:

and scratch the ring:

I smear the 2-parts epoxy on the part of the blank where the first grip goes

then I proceed, gluing everything in place. for some reason, I'll only put the butt cap last

I use making tape to create a base for the TRC ring:

... and go on with the gluing process, making sure I cover the parts to protect them from the glue

the grip is taking shape:

I decide to add a mortised ring before the fighting grip. I push the ring against the EVA grip, which leaves a mark that I use as a guide for cutting out some EVA, then I glue the ring

3. Place the guides

the simplest method for guide spacing is to follow a Fuji chart. you'll find them here:  and here:   it works fine, yields efficient rods. you take the spacing tehy suggest, decrease a little the guide size for a light rod, increase a little for a heavy rod, and everything's fine

once you've built a coupe of rods, once you understand their role, their shape and size, and where to put them, you can take some liberties and devise your own charts quite easily. all it takes is to have a couple of extra rings for experimenting with number and size. it's up to you to invent something finely tuned for your needs. But, again, Fuji charts are good and competent people worked on them.

What I wanted was a rod as powerful and flexible as possible, even if that would cost me some sensitivity.
so I decided to build it with few guides: 6 instead of the 7 usually prescribed by the charts. conventional wisdom in rod building says: n+1 guides where n is the length in foot of the rod. Why so few? because µI wanted to start with 2/3 heavy duty double footed guides, requiring long wraps that may influence the rod's action, so i wanted to compensate by taking one guide out. 
as you see, you're free to experiment. that's what is cool about building your own rod. 

after the double footed, on the tip, I chose 3 KB 4.5, for their foot is extra strong and they'll perform better than the KTs and their regular feet. they also may preserve some sensitivity: I compensate for the heavy duty carbon tip with a somewhat lighter build

I've said it often, the perfect rod that will do anything, attract the fish and do the dishes doesn't exist. any rod is a compromise. 

so, it's small KBs on the tip that will transmit what happens down there, with a long foot because they'll have to stand the abuse, then big double footed guide which job will be to transfer the higher mechanical constraint along the blank's strongest part.

here's the foot of a KB:

compare to a KT:

with a white china marker, I draw on the blank a standard progressive spacing: 11/12/13/14/17/24 cm. then wrap the guides with masking tape (a rod builder's good friend) and I proceed to static tests

after a couple of mods, I'm satisfied with the static. it's the next job that will require come care: determine the guides' size. I want a bif striper, the rod is not meant to cast but the line should always be free to drop vertically. notice that I do not plan the leader to go into the guides. the line to leader knot will stay outside the tip.

4. Wrap the rod

The three double footed guides will have an underwrap, the purpose of which is to prevent the guides' feet to damage the blank under heavy load. And there's going to be heavy loads  :mrgreen: 

first I put the guide on the blank for marking the wrap length, then... I wrap.

First I spin the thread once around the blank. The bobin leg crosses the tag end and block it. The block is secure after a couple of turns. no knot, no glue, just a thread blocking itself around the blank (which is a knot, actually  :mrgreen: (translator's note)).

After a couple of millimeters, I trim the tag end, and the wrap goes on

A couple of turns before the wrap is finished, I put a piece of free thread under the wrap, forming a loop.

A couple of turns later, the loop is firmly held by the wrap. I block the wrap applying my finger on it. I cut the thread. Then I pass the tag end into the loop. I pull on the tag ends of the loop, so that the loop goes under the wrap, and the loop takes forces the wrap thread under the thread itself. discard the loop. The tag end of the wrapping thread is now apparent after going under a few turns of the wrapping. Trim carefully the tag as close as possible to the wrap. if some thread fibers are still there, burn them with a lighter, but be quick and careful not to burn the wrap.

My pics being crap, please refer to William's excellent tutorial on wraps (in French) to be found here:

and Eric's one, no less magnificent  (in French again):

When you do an underwrap, you have to gloss over it, ie. do something for making it hard, stable, and appropriate to wrap over it. Either you do that with color preserver or you use a thin coat of finish. I this case, I did it with color preserver.

Then I wrap the running guides, with a simple trim in the middle:

The easiest way to have the thread going up the guide's foot is to prep the foot with a little filing. you want the foot extremity to be fine, but be careful, it shouldn't be sharp, otherwise it would damage the thread.

Same thing for single foot guides:

As for thread tension, it's always better to wrap with lower than higher tension. the guides should be able to move a little when you align then. but just a little.

5. Align the guides

I recommend to work with the guides facing down, even though in my case, with a thick blank and small guides, I'll have to work with guides on to to see anything.

My method is to put a reel in the seat, hold the rod straight in front of me, with a clear uniform wall as a background, and then align the guides. look at the pics to see how it works, it's too bothersome to put it in words and pics are clear. 

Here, it's not good. the first guide is off to the right (of the reel+rod plane):

There I've corrected the first, but the second is off, to the right again. So you get it: you check, correct, check again, correct, guide after guide up to the tip

Proceed to corrections up to when it's satisfying. Do not hesitate to have a good coffee break, for after a while doing this you'll start to hallucinate and the guides will seem to move all alone.

Here you can see the trace of the white markings of the spine, the guides are where they're supposed to be  :mrgreen: 

6. Finish the wraps

This is the dreaded part of rod building. No matter how experienced, there's always a chance for things to go wrong. But if you are careful, work slowly and pay attention to some crucial points, everything will probably go fine. I confess that I even have fun doing it.


I refer to this topic (in French):

Here I assume you'll be using, like I did, a 2 part epoxy finish. There's other options, but this one is by far the more common, let's focus on it. 

Main points are:

-2 parts should be mixed in 50-50 proportions. That's exactly 50-50, take a very special care when measuring. most of the disaster come from inaccurate measuring. Use syringes. Mark one for the resin, another one for the hardener.
-prepare a lot of epoxy. At least 2 cc of each part. The more you do, the less the impact of inaccurate measures.
-put the epoxy bottles in your pockets (or the pockets of your significant other) before mixing, thus you'll work with epoxy at optimal temperature. 
-mix well, thoroughly, smoothly for 3 minutes. Measure time, it's boring and after 30 secs you'll think you've been doing this for an hour. Take care not to put too much bubbles in the mix
-apply the mix with brush strokes along the blank, not across it. 
-apply a lot of mix. the main cause of bumps and holes in the finish is that there isn't enough of it to coat easily the wrap

The mix:

I apply it, then let it cure on the power dryer for 6 hours, then wait another 6 hours before touching the wraps, and 48-72h for complete cure. 

I strongly recommend the use of an alcohol burner for bursting bubbles in the epoxy. take care, the flame must be on the side of the blank, never under it (good recipe for disaster). 

The beauty queen (?):

See you on the wrecks....

This tutorial is under Creative Commons licence. 
You can use it, share it, but only in its original form, for non commercial activities and only if you specify where it comes from.