How to make your own fishing rod

WASHINGTON - JUNE 06:  Intern Matthew Manning ...
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Making your own rod is inexpensive and gratifying—and not as complex as it often seems. Here we show you how to go about the task, and later articles will describe refinements.

The lift Avon type rod of a fairly fast taper is a good all-purpose rod able to cope with a wide range of circumstances. Because of its versatility it is a useful rod to make.

First choose a blank that is neither too weak nor too powerful. When choosing the right blank, the test curve is a useful guide. The test curve—the measurement of the power of blanks and rods—is a figure derived from the amount of pull required to bend the tip of the rod at right angles to the butt. A blank of 1lb test curve and with a fairly fast taper (which would give us a diameter at the butt of Vsin or slightly more) would be ideal for lines of 4 to 5lb and would safely manage a range from 2 to 7lb breaking strain. Such a blank provides the basis of a rod suitable for many float and ledgering applications in a range of waters from fast to completely stationary. It would be too much to expect any rod to be ideal for all forms of fishing and the Avon will be a little short for trotting the middle of a big river with maximum efficiency, too powerful for use with very fine lines (one pound or less) and not powerful enough for heavy lines for pike fishing.

Casting a lite fishing rod with 2-lb line
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Fitting the rod together

The question of how the rod will fit together is important. Obviously an lift rod in one piece is out of the question—unless you are lucky enough to have a river at the bottom of your garden! The spigot joint provides a method of connecting sections while allowing the blank to follow its natural curve in a manner which is not possible with metal ferrules (which unite the sections of a rod). Most blanks now available have spigots fitted thus solving the biggest problem that the amateur builder used to be faced with. The fewer joints the better, so with the lift Avon only one spigot, uniting the rod into two equal sections, is necessary. A parallel section of 24in or so spliced into the butt is perfectly acceptable as long as the material used is hollow glassfibre and not thin walled duraluminium tube. Although cheaper, this is a false economy as it tends to snap easily.

A messy and exacting task The next step is to fit the handle. The blank supplier might be willing to do this messy job for you, but if you are doing it yourself you will require chive corks, reel collars (universal winch fittings) and a butt cap. Chive corks are sections of ap-proximately Vain thick X l’iin diameter with holes of various dimensions bored through the centre. As with so many other jobs the initial steps are most important. When fitting the handle make sure that the corks sit firmly without any gaps, onto the blank. If you have to enlarge the holes already in the corks keep the hole round and do not make it of such a size that it slides easily into its final position on the blank. On a tapered section the cork should sit firmly at a position at least 4in away from the required position. Similarly the corks of the parallel sections should be sized so that they require a lot of pressure to get them to slide along the blank. There are many types of wood adhesive suitable for fixing the corks but avoid using epoxy or impact adhesives. The main function of the glue is not that of a fixer but of a lubricative. With the corks fitting tightly on the handle, short of its final position, the glue enables the handle to slide easily into position.

Fitting the corks

For a handle of 24in long fit all the corks from the extreme end of the butt for a length of about 22in. When the adhesive is dry the blank should be laid on a flat surface. Removing the handle, draw a Sur-form plane or rough file down the entire length of the cork, making sure that the whole length of the cutting edge is in contact with the cork. By working’ in this manner, and rotating the handle slowly, there is little chance of removing too much cork at any one point along the handle. During the initial removal of cork with a coarse tool do not worry about the rough finish as this can be smoothed out later.

With a lin reel fitting the handle should be roughed to a dimension of approximately l’iin diameter. At this stage substitute the file or Sur-form for rough emery wrapped around a block of wood and once more work the whole of the handle with each stroke. Finer emery may be used as you approach lin diameter and when you reach this dimension concentrate on the 12in or so farthest from the butt, carefully reducing this section so that you can just slide the reel fittings on.

Finishing the handle

Removing the fittings and taking some of the fine cork dust that you have produced make a gluedust mixture to fill in the holes in the corks. When this has dried, the handle may be smoothed with sandpaper before sliding the reel fittings on again. Glue into position the remaining top corks. Take great care not to rush the job for it is difficult to work the top corks into a nice shape. Failure to do so will make the whole handle look messy. The final operation on the corks is to file a small register at the butt end and select a black plastic or aluminium cap which will fit this neatly and lay flush with the diameter of the handle at that point.

Rings may be purchased in a variety of shapes and types. Making a rod suitable for float fishing requires a ring that will keep the line well away from the blank. This prevents the line sticking to it when fishing in wet conditions. A high bell or match type ring is best suited to this purpose. These are available in stainless steel, chromed or hard chromed, or in a lined pattern where the eye is constructed from a different material to the rest of the ring. Either of these two types are suitable; other types usually wear quickly. Indeed some lined rings wear quite quickly and the very best type is that with a stainless steel frame and a polymer cushion ring supporting a liner which is made from aluminium oxide.

It may be necessary to slightly bend the ‘feet’ of the ring to seat them firmly on the blank. The underside of the feet may have to be filed or ground to remove any rough spots (this is not necessary with the aluminium oxide lined patterns). The top of the feet should then be filed to a point to enable the whipping to climb smoothly up the foot in order that the ring may be whipped firmly to the blank. It is imperative that an inch of whipping is placed at those points on the blank where the spigot is fitted. Do not be tempted to skimp on the amount of rings that you put on the rod. The more you use, within reason, the more closely the line will follow the natural curve of the blank and the less you will be likely to suffer from the line clinging to the blank. Typical spacings measured from the tip ring to the centre of each eye would be as follows: 3% 41a 5 634 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 9in which gives a total of 13 rings including the butt and tip rings.

Having whipped the rings, it will be necessary, unless you have used a colour preserved whipping which few stockists can supply, to prevent the colour of the whipping going blotchy. This can be done by applying a couple of coats of varnish, allowing plenty of time between each coat, to give the whippings a nice gloss. At all times you should try to keep your hands, and blank, as clean as possible. To ensure a good finish be careful about any dirt or grease which may be on the blank. It is a good idea to wash it before applying with the final varnish.

Applying the final touches

Apply the varnish with either your fingertip or a brush working from the top of the blank down. Try to keep the room that you are working in as dust free as possible and for this reason choose to work in the least dusty room in the house—the kitchen. Allow at least 24 hours between each coat of varnish and make sure that when you varnish around the rings you fill the gap between the ring leg and the blank.

The cost of building a rod depends, of course, on the quality of the materials purchased. Top quality rings and blanks would incur the following costs: a blank about £12.00; corks and winch fitting, £3.00; hard chrome rings, £3.50 and Fuji (aluminium oxide) rings, £7.50. Without such incidentals as whipping nylon, sealer, glue and varnish, expect the rod to cost about £19.50 with hard chrome rings and £23.50 using aluminium oxide rings.


Building by Alan Vare and Ken Whitehead (published by Rod and Gun Publishing Ltd) is a useful, illustrated guide to each stage in the rod-making process, including the selection of materials and tools.