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  • A Cane Rod For Katie by Joe Sanders

    I donít make any claims to being an expert rod builder, but I have built or refurbished a few rods. Some were graphite, some bamboo and at least one or two that were fiberglass. My knowledge of rod building came primarily from trial and error. I do, however, have to give credit where credit is due. One of those credits would have to go to a book I bought sometime in the 70ís. "DO IT YOURSELF ROD BUILDING" by Bill Stinson was instrumental in my education. Most of the credit though is due to Al Campbell, who wrote a tutorial on rod building for another website, . That website specializes in fly fishing only, but the basics of rod building are the same. I thank both of those sources for all my knowledge of rod building.

    When my father died in 1999, I inherited an inexpensive 3 piece bamboo fly rod with and extra tip.

    When I test cast it on the lawn, I found that a WF4F line worked well on this 8 footer. After several casts I discovered that the ferrule between the butt section and the mid section had a noticeable click on both the back cast and the fore cast. The ferrule had a loose fit and I knew that if I continued to cast it or even fish with it that a broken fly rod was in my future. So, I sat on the idea of that rod for several years, and never did fish with it. This last summer I took the rod out to the back yard and test cast the mid section and both tips. I just put the reel with a WF3F on the ground in front of me and held the rod without a grip or reel seat in my casting hand. Testing this way let me know that it could be converted to a 5í5", 2 piece, 3 weight with extra tip within a day or two.

    My project started with determining the spine of the rod. This can be accomplished by a couple of methods. One way is to put the butt end of the rod section on a solid surface while gently holding the tip end in the other hand. Put a slight bend in the rod with your free hand and turn the rod. You will feel a kind of thump in the rod section when it rolls around to the spine.

    Another way to find the spine is to suspend each end of the rod from equal heights. Then hang a light weight object from the center of the rod section. It will automatically turn to show you the spine.

    The spine is important to find, so you can align all the guides and the reel seat along the same axis as the spine. Doing this will help to have even and equal flex and reflex during the casting stroke. I have heard of some rod companies actually paying no attention to this detail, but I always align the spine if for no other reason that peace of mind.

    I always try to lay out all the parts Iím going to need to finish the rod. Iíve found that if I donít do this, I may skip assembling a part only to find out itís too late to put it on because of gluing.

    Most times when fitting the reel seat you will find that it fits loose. To make it fit snug you can wrap ľ" masking tape around the butt section. This will automatically center the rod section in the reel seat and at the same time increase the gluing surface. Here, Iíve wrapped a ferrule as an example.

    When I fit the cork grip I usually use a rat tail file to size the hole in the grip. You will want to check the fit often so you can get the grip as tight as possible without stressing the cork. A loose grip is NOT a good thing.

    Prior to wrapping the guides you will probably want to use a whet stone to smooth out the bases of the guides. If you donít, there may be a burr on the foot of the guide created during manufacturing. This burr, once wrapped snug to the rod, can cause a serious weak spot in your blank. Youíll never know about the weak spot until the blank breaks. (usually while fishing) You will also want to be careful not to wrap the guides too tight, as this can also create a weak (or flat) spot in the blank. Again, youíll never know about it until it too late. I use an adjustable tensioner seen in the following photo.

    When wrapping the guides or the hook keeper I like to start at a point somewhere off of the guide foot or foot to the hook keeper. I start by laying down a length of thread and then wrap back over the thread moving slowly toward the guide foot. When I reach the tip of the guide foot I slow down. I donít want any of the thread to end up under the tip of the foot. Try to make as smooth a transition onto the foot as possible. Any time you cross the thread over itself or create a gap in the wraps, it will show up after you put the rod finish on it.

    The thread tensioner will help you make nice neat wraps. It is simply a device that can be tightened, to cause resistance against your pulling thread off of the spool. The one Iím using in the picture was of a personal design, but they can also be purchased from manufacturers or distributors. If you donít want to buy a tensioner, you can always run the thread between the pages of a closed heavy book. More tension can be created by adding weight to the book. Be careful adding tension. The tightness of the wraps is not what keeps the guide foot in place on the rod. Itís the finish that does that.

    Also in this photo, you may notice that I use a piece of monofilament looped under the wraps to retrieve the tag end of the wrap. I normally use a contrasting color but this time youíll notice I used a red wrapping thread and Cajun Red mono.

    Once the wraps are done, itís time to finish the rod. But, before I apply any finish I like to take the rod outside and test cast it. This way I can determine if any of the guides need to be moved. Besides, I canít usually wait to try it out. As far as guide placement goes, I usually use a chart included in the afore mentioned tutorial by Al Campbell. The measurements on this chart are taken from the tip top.

    Now itís time to finish the rod. I recently found a good rod drying motor distributed by Pac Bay and available through Cabelaís.

    It comes with a rod stand for the other end of you blank.

    Once the wraps are all done, itís time to put the rod in the rod drying motor and add the finish. The rod drying motor is simply a tool used to turn the rod slowly.

    With the rod turning slowly, usually about 11 to 16 rpm, I start with a dab of finish on a craft paint brush and place it on the wrap. Once the flow of finish starts coming off the brush I move back and forth across the wrap and cover it completely. I extend the finish to a point just barely off the wrap to a point just barely past the curl of the guide loop. I do this because I donít want any moisture to get to the wraps by going under the loop. Once Iíve finished the wraps, I let the rod section continue turning in the dryer until it is dry. With the rod dryer turning, the finish tends to level itself and you can avoid those aggravating lumps.

    This tool makes finishing the wraps substantially easier. Well worth the $69.95+ shipping.

    Now that the rod is done, itís time to inscribe it with the information you would want on the rod. In this case, the rod is going to be a birthday gift for our neighborís 10 year old daughter. So I inscribed it with:

    Her Name 11-20-06
    5í5" 3 weight
    Isaiah 40:31

    Following is a picture of the finished product. Iím pretty sure she is going to like it. Itís been loads of fun putting it together for her and I can hardly wait to see the look on her face when she gets it.

    Happy Birthday Katie!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Speckanator's Avatar
      Speckanator -
      A lot to building a rod. I had no idea. Thanksfor the article.
    1. Lotech Joe's Avatar
      Lotech Joe -
      Speckanator, I promise it's a lot easier than it sounds.
    1. skeetbum's Avatar
      skeetbum -
      That's very nice work. I've done some of my own, many years ago and they were more functional than pretty. Caught fish on them til I was tired of looking at them and they moved on to others, still in great shape. Katie will have something very special for her Birthday.
    1. NYHellbender's Avatar
      NYHellbender -
      Awesome job Joe. That's gonna be one happy little girl.

      I gotta look into that web site. I would like to build a bambo fly rod some day.
      Plus I have a 5' Rapala Ultra lite that snaped on me a few months ago.
      Man, did my heart sink when it broke, it was my go to pole for Bluegills out of my kayak.
      I'd like to fix it. It was a Solid pole, but now is a two piece : (

      Merry Christmas Joe, Thanks for posting. Great read and pics : )
    1. STUMP HUNTER's Avatar
      Enjoyed your article and the pics. Great looking rod and one for Katie to cherish. I have finished two of my rebuilds and working on my third rod. A lot of joy to use one of your own.