Over My Waders

Rodbuilding


from The Wise Fisherman's Encyclopedia


GUIDES
Fly Rod Guides. Fly rod snake should be of tempered steel. Stainless steel guides have been introduced by of the leading makers and are particularly well suited for salt water use.

Casting Rod Guides. Casting rod guides of first quality are made of nitrided steel—the hardest known steel surface—and are normally chrome plated to prevent rust. Tungsten carbide line guide rings are sometimes used. This material is extremely hard and resistant to abrasion, although it is quite brittle. With ordinary care, however, rings of this material will be like new after a lifetime of use. They may be used in salt water; tungsten carbide will neither rust nor corrode.

Spinning Rod Guides. Spinning rod ring guides, although similar in construction to the above, are made of lighter-gauge materials in order eliminate dead weight. The first, or gathering guide, usually measures approximately ¾" in diameter. The remaining guides generally decrease in size toward the tip of the rod.
Tip guides wear more rapidly than the others due to the acute angle made by the line in use. Tiny particles of grit imbedded in the braided surface of the line wear grooves in the ring. Spinning lines, due to their small diameter, are notoriously offensive in this respect. If the grooves remain unnoticed for any length of time, they become quite deep and sharply edged. The effect on the line can be surmised.
First quality guides and tips cost very little more than the poorer grades, and, in the long run, it is indeed false economy to consider any other.

CORK GRIPS
Handles for most fishing rods are made by gluing a stack of cork rings over the butt shaft. After the glue has set, the handle may be shaped easily, either by hand or in a lathe.

High-grade cork is very light in color, has a firm texture, and is relatively free of voids and holes (sponginess). Cheap cork is generally dark in color, soft, and quite open (spongy) in structure.
The ideal shape of a cork grip is a subject of considerable controversy. The angler is urged to choose the style that "feels" best in his hand.

WINDING THREAD
Either silk or nylon may be used for winding guides, trim, binding ferrule serrations, etc. The latter is relatively smooth, requiring at least two turns about the rod shaft in order to "clinch" the loose end. Silk is more tractable in this respect. Size "A" is suggested for the beginner. As proficiency is gained "0," then "00" may be used.
The method of applying windings is clearly shown in Figures 3 to 8. Place the first guide at its proper place on the rod and secure it in place with a turn or two of Scotch tape applied over one leg. Start winding about 1/16" ahead of the guide leg that has not been taped.

As soon as a turn or two has been applied, slide the right hand down along the thread for a distance of a foot or so from the rod section. If the thread is held at a slight angle, as shown in Figure 4, it will be crowded tightly against the turns already laid down, thus eliminating unsightly gaps in the winding. Continue for six or eight turns, then bring the free end out as shown in Figure 5.
Figures 6 and 7 show the next steps clearly. Cut the end of the thread about two or three inches long before pulling it through as shown in Figure 8. Using the back of a knife, push the winding back to compress it, taking out any looseness that might result by pulling on the free thread ends.

Remove the tape from the other leg of the guide and wind in the same fashion. Trim the loose thread ends closely with a razor blade. Fuzz can be removed by passing the winding quickly over a flame, rotating the rod section as it enters the heat.

FERRULE SERRATIONS
The foregoing procedure is followed except that the winding is begun at the tiny shoulder just beyond the slots of the ferrule, and is finished off right at the thin edge of the fingers.
Some rod builders prefer to double-wind the serrated portion. It may be necessary in this case to file the finger ends of the ferrule to a practically paper-thin edge. This enables the winding silk to be easily led up over the ends. In filing, take care that the bamboo is not nicked; use a fine file. Start 1/16" beyond the serrated fingers, climbing the thread "uphill" to the small shoulder. The lead then is reversed and brought back over the first layer. Finish off about 1/8" from the starting point. This results in a very substantial and good looking job. The only drawback lies in the eventual appearance of a varnish crack at the edge of the serrated fingers.

TRIM
Trim windings are ordinarily applied just below the tip top tube and just above the cork handle. A few turns of a contrasting color are sometimes added as a decorative border to other windings. Count the turns of trim you put on, and make all windings with the same number.

VARNISH AND FINISHING
Color Preserver. If retention of the original color of the winding thread is desired, a color preserver must first applied to all wrappings. This may be white shellac (which will darken the color slightly) or clear aircraft dope, The latter must be applied on a clear dry day, otherwise it will "blush' and become opaque white. Special color preservers are available that exhibit none of the foregoing limitations. Several applications should be made in order to "fill" the winding completely. Transparent windings are obtained by varnishing alone. Three or four applications of varnish should be given the silk windings prior to the first application to the rod.

Varnishing. A good brush and absolute cleanliness are imperative to obtaining a good varnish surface. The brush should be 1/2" to 34" wide, with bristles of badger, sable, or ox hair. Before use the brush should be held up to a strong light and the hair should be flicked with a finger. Particles of dust, lint, etc. will be thus ejected. Do not use the brush until the particles cease to fly away.
Use the finest spar varnish obtainable, the type intended for exterior use. String a fine wire across the open end of coffee can. Dip the brush in the varnish and remove the excess by wiping the brush across the wire—never wiping it against the edge of either container. Apply to the rod, especially around and beneath guides. Brush out well. Wipe brush across wire frequently to remove excess. This precludes the appearance of "runs" or "laps" caused by covering it heavily. After the coating is applied set to rod sections aside to dry. Be sure to maintain a room or cabinet temperature of at least 75 F. Chilling will cause wrinkling of the varnish surface. A temperature of 80 F to 90 F is recommended as the varnish will then set quickly and thus be free of dust.
When finished, thoroughly rinse out the brush in clean turpentine. Store it in a tall, clean, covered glass jar with the ends of the bristles immersed in clean turpentine. When the first coat is dry, wipe the entire rod section with an old nylon stocking that has been slightly dampened with turpentine. Do not use linen or cotton, as more lint will adhere to the rod than the amount of dust removed. Apply the second coat of varnish in the same manner as the first. Three well-brushed applications will suffice. The sheen may be removed by rubbing the rod section with a paste made of rottenstone and linseed oil, followed by careful wiping to remove the residue.

Surface Sealing. Surface sealing preparations are available that make varnishing unnecessary, except at the windings. These are swabbed on the surface after the ferrules are mounted (but before the guides are wrapped in place) After a short period to allow for penetration, the surface is wiped clean, whereupon the winding procedure is begun. A good grade of auto body wax applied occasionally preserves the original finish. This treatment may be applied only to rods assembled with waterproof glue. The sealer, although easily absorbed by the bamboo, cannot pene- trate the glue line itself and therefore affords no protection to the exposed edge. Dip Varnishing. Many rod-building firms varnish by the dip method. A deep tube or other container is filled with varnish. The rod section is prepared by covering the engaging portion of the male ferrule with masking tape. The female ferrule is plugged to prevent entrance of varnish. The entire tip section is then completely immersed, slowly withdrawn, and hung by its tip guide. If the withdrawal is done very slowly, little varnish will drip off the end. The butt section is dipped only to the forward extremity of the cork grip and is hung with the handle uppermost. Two applications are equivalent roughly, to four brush coats.
Care should be taken to prevent the formation of a skin on the surface of the varnish during the drying interim. A disk of wood loosely fitting the inside of the container and floating on the liquid will prevent such jelling. A wire brad driven into the wood will facilitate removal.

TOOLS FOR THE NOVICE
Those amateur rod builders who are content to purchase ready-glued rod sec- tions need very few tools to assemble their rod. Assuming that ferrules have already been mounted by the makers, the following list represents minimum re- quirements:

Razor blade, single edge
Alcohol lamp or candle
Assortment of sandpaper
Cork pusher
Small badger brush, ¼" round or flat shape
Screwdriver, medium small size

Razor Blade. The razor blade is used primarily for cutting the ends of silk windings flush.

Alcohol Lamp. An excellent alcohol lamp may be made from a small oil can of the dime store variety. Cut the spout down to approximately a 3/4" length, and drill or punch a small breather hole in the top alongside the spout. Make sure this hole extends all the way through to admit air to the inside. Make a wick of a 8" length of old cotton dish towel or other well-laundered material. Roll this material, cutting its width, if necessary, until it fits neatly inside the short spout, extending ¼" to ¼" above the spout.
Fill the can with denatured alcohol, and wait a few minutes for the liquid to be drawn up into the wick before lighting. The lamp is used for singeing fuzz from windings, setting ferrules, straightening rod sections, etc. When the lamp is not in use, a cap of some sort should be placed over the wick to keep the water in the air from mixing with the alcohol at the end of the wick. A fired .22 calibre or .25 calibre cartridge case will fit nicely over some of the spouts.

Sandpaper. Coarse grades of sandpaper are used for rough-shaping cork handles and reel seats. Number 172 (60 grit) is the correct grade for removing excess glue and the grainless natural outer enamel from the bamboo surfaces. Grade 2/0 is generally employed to smooth Out cork preparatory to finishing. Final finishing on both bamboo and cork is done with 4/0 sandpaper. Bamboo surfaces can be further finished with fine steel wool, if desired. Cork Pusher. The cork pusher, although not absolutely necessary, enables the builder to press the cork handle rings tightly against one another while gluing these parts in place, thus avoiding the large gaps so frequently evident in the handles of home-built rods. Ob- tain a piece of 1" x 2" lumber (furring strip) 12" long. Drill a 3/8" hole through the wide side approximately 6" from one end. Saw a slot about 3/8" wide extending from one end of the board to the hole, and the pusher is ready for use.
Cork rings are threaded over the small end of the butt section, glue is applied to the sides of the rod for an inch or so at the handle end, and the first cork is pushed flush with the end of the stick. The upper face of this cork ring is then covered with glue, whereupon the second cork ring is pushed into place by hand. The butt end of the rod section is set on a table or bench and the pusher, with slot spanning the shaft and with hands held at opposite ends of the tool, is pressed on top of the second cork.
When the cork is felt to yield slightly (excess glue will have been squeezed out), a good joint will result. This is continued, one or two cork rings at a time, until the reel seat, handle, or fore-grip (whichever operation is in progress) is completed. Brushes. Badger, ox hair, sable, or squirrel hair brushes are used for the application of color preserver and varnish. If the whole rod is to be varnished, a flat brush is necessary. The width may be 1/2" or 3/4". A round brush is more easily manipulated around guides, etc. If a smooth, clean varnish surface is desired, keep one brush aside for just this purpose. Color preserver may be removed from bristles with lacquer thinner or acetone, the former available in most paint and hardware stores, and the latter sold in drug stores. Varnish brushes should cleaned and stored in turpentine.

Screwdriver. The only use for a screwdriver is to assemble separate butt caps. If the side edges of the screwdriver are polished slightly, it makes an effective tool for compressing guide windings by sliding the many wrappings together to eliminate slight gaps, uneven starting turns, etc.

TOOLS FOR THE ADVANCED ROD BUILDER
Those who wish to split, bevel, glue their own rod sections will find need for more elaborate equipment than that previously itemized. In addition to the former list, the following will necessary (Figure 9)

Circular saw, 8" (optional)
Steel rule, 6"
Micrometer caliper, 0—I" capacil
600 thread center gage
Try square, 4" or 6" blade
Flat file, 8" single cut for cuttii~ aluminum
Mill file, 6" Planing form
Iron jack or block plane, quality
Aluminum oxide sharpening stone
Hunting knife, heavy blade
Rod winding machine, endless type

Circular Saw. The use of a circular saw for cutting bamboo strips from the culm was once considered poor practice. Basis of the argument lay in the fact that the saw cuts in a straight line, crossing the natural vagaries of the fiber here and there along the length of the cane. Splitting was recommended, as the cleavage tends to follow the grain.
In the former case, the angle formed by the saw cut and the fiber lines is so small as to have little or no effect on either strength or action of the finished product, for bamboo of excessively twisted or warped character should never be used in either case. Slight deviations from an absolutely straight structure are always present. Since the ability of the rod section to stay straight depends largely upon the early operations, it behooves one to start the bevelling on the straightest possible strip. Such strips cannot be obtained by splitting the bamboo, but are exceptionally easy to obtain through the use of a small circular saw.

Telescoping Rule. Telescoping or folding rules are used frequently, and by virtue of their compactness are very handy.

Steel Rule. Six-inch steel pocket rules are furnished with various optional scales. Be sure to get one divided into inches, tenths, and fiftieths of an inch. Each of the smallest divisions are, therefore, twenty thousandths of an inch (.020") apart. Five small divisions aggregate one-tenth of an inch (.010"). Thus measurements are made in decimal parts of an inch, similar to micrometer readings. Although such divisions are minute, these scales are exceptionally easy to read.
Micrometers. As the work of tapering progresses, frequent measurements must be taken of the bamboo cross section at

various points along the length to insure not only duplication of the individual strips that make up one section, but ad- herence to the graph or working plan as well. These measurements are always taken in units of a thousandth part of an inch. The ordinary 0—1" micrometer caliper, illustrated in Figure 10 is used by almost every mechanic, and measures these close dimensions very accurately. Prices of micrometers range from five to ten dollars. Extras, such as ratchet spindle or 'tenth' scales (enabling readings of 1/10,000") are unnecessary. Moreover, there is no special "rodmakers micrometer".
Thread-Center Gauge. The 600 thread center gauge is used by machinists for setting and checking screw-cutting tools. It is made of tempered flat steel. An accurate 600 point is ground on one end of the tool, and a 600 V-shaped notch occurs at the opposite end (Figure 11). This gauge is used in the construction

of hexagonal (six-strip) rod sections, as well as the hardwood planing forms used when fashioning the individual strips. This item can be purchased at any well equipped hardware store for less than a dollar.
Try Square. A small try square will be useful for building four-strip (quad. rate) rods, and for other tasks as well throughout the workroom. The large sizes, such as carpenters use, are a bit clumsy for rod work; therefore, a blade length of 4—6" is recommended.
Flat File. A file designed for work on aluminum is particularly well suited for levelling smoothly the outside nodes of bamboo. Such files may be recognized by their working surfaces: each tooth is a continuous cutting edge angling across the face of the tool. Tooth spacing is relatively coarse as compared to that of ordinary metalworking files.
"Viking" auto body builders' files also produce a clean, smooth finish on bamboo. Under no circumstances should a woodworking rasp be used. As second choice, a 10" mill file may be used for de-noding. In this case, the rate of cutting

will be greatly diminished, but the finish will be good. In either case, file along the grain, never across.
Mill File. A small mill (or Swiss pattern) file can be used in tapering ferrule serrations prior to winding, as well as in other minor clean-up operations.
Planing Forms. Planing forms, whether of wood or metal, serve a dual purpose. First, the grooves support the narrow bamboo strip while the latter is being planed, thus assuring a smooth, accurate gluing surface. Secondly, the groove depth serves as a rough approximation of strip size as the work progresses. A wooden planing form is easily made at home if a circular saw is available. Any kind of clear-grained wood can be used, but oak, maple, or walnut are more satisfactory. Figure 12 shows the construction. From 1" thick dressed stock, 4' long, saw three pieces 3/4" wide (center pieces), and two pieces 11/2—2" wide (sides). Stack these on their sawed surfaces, one wide strip on each side. Align them flush, then drill 1,4" bolting holes clear through the narrow edge at 6" in- tervals. Before removing the clamps, number one end of each strip in proper sequence. Set the saw table to cut a 30' bevel. Check the angle by sawing this angle on two pieces of scrap wood. Place the bevelled edges together facing each other, thereby forming a 60' V-shaped groove. Insert the pointed end of the thread center gauge squarely in this groove, holding both up to a window or other lighted background. If light can be seen between the gauge and the wood a slight correction must be made to the saw table angle. Do not force the gauge—it should exclude light with but moderate hand pressure. One or two fine readjustments are usually enough to obtain a perfect fit. Now set the "ripping fence" of the saw to obtain a light (1/16") cut. Measure the width of bevelled face; the flank of the first groove should scale exactly 3/32". One or two more careful settings may be necessary to obtain the exact figure. The next stave is treated in the same manner; and so on, until a pair of straight bevels have been cut for each groove. Each of these pieces is then tapered along to a bevelled edge, resulting in a groove of uniformly increasing depth. A simple fixture must be made to hold the work at a slight angle while it is being cut. This consists merely of a 4' length of straight 1" x 2" (or larger) lumber fitted with a ½" "hook" at one end, and two small pads, one at the middle and the other at the end opposite the "hook." Figures 13 and 14 illustrate the construction of this fixture. Note that the saw table is now positioned square with the blade. In setting the ripping fence, care should be exercised to bring the heel or rear portion of the work into such a position as to barely contact the inner, right hand, cutting points of the teeth.



Warning. The saw must not be in operation while this is being done, as the work, together with fingers, may be suddenly plunged into the whirling blade! The opposite side of this stave is done in the same manner except that pads of double thickness must be used to compensate for the taper just cut. The wide bordering staves, being mitered on only one side, are taper-cut only once. The several pieces are then stacked together, 1/4" machine bolts with washers at both ends inserted, and nuts drawn tight, whereupon the planing form is ready for use.
The grooves (note Figure 15) if made according to plan, will taper in depth at the rate of exactly .0 15" per foot of running length. It is a good policy to mark depths, at least, at 6" intervals along each groove. The "mike" (micrometer) need then be used only during the final operations. The reader will note that there is a considerable overlapping of depth from one groove to the next larger one. This greatly eases the work at the ends of the planing form, eliminating the so-called "no man's land" region so prevalent among early models.

Plane. The plane used in shaping bamboo should be of highest quality and of cast iron or cast steel construction. The bottom should be flat, not ribbed. Individual preferences will probably determine whether the builder chooses a jack or block plane. Excellent joints can be made with both.
In the event a block plane is chosen, do not buy the "low angle" type, as the edge will have a tendency to lift splinters rather than cut cleanly. Some rod makers have suggested regrinding the cutting edge to a very steep angle; the function, then, is transformed into one of scraping rather than shearing. Very little trouble will be encountered with ordinary edges, providing they are kept sharp. It is a good idea to have a few extra blades on hand ready for immediate use. Later, when all are dull — and bamboo does this quickly—the amateur can soil his hands on the oilstone resharpening the whole lot.


Whetstone. Although oilstones of aluminum oxide cut somewhat more slowly than those of silicon carbide, they stand up well under repeated use and show little tendency to become depressed in the middle from wear. The grit particles of silicon carbide stones, conversely, are bonded rather loosely. The cut here is faster by virtue of the fact that the bond is easily broken down, continuously presenting new cutting edges. This rapid wear is detrimental to a straight planing edge, so choose harder stone, one with fine grit on one side, and coarse on the other.


Sharpening Planes. Cabinet and pattern makers, as well as experienced carpenters, can produce an extremely sharp edge "free hand," that is, by holding the blade at exactly the proper angle while sharpening it. Others will more readily admit defeat and resort to some form of holding device wherein the blade is held secure at a proper angle. One such homemade device shown in Figure 16.
Regardless of the manner in which the blade is held, the bevel is treated first. Apply a few drops of light oil to the stone, and stroke edge with a circular motion until a tiny burr, or "wire edge, can be felt along the entire opposite edge. The blade is then laid flat on its back and given a few strokes, edge leading. Do not lift the tang or rear end of the blade. A half dozen one-way strokes, first on the bevel, then on the reverse side, will eliminate the burr. Wipe the abrasive stone clean, spread on a few drops of oil, and cover it up, until needed again.

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All content copyright Reed Curry © 2006.
Cartoon by Walter Young © 1961, used by permission.