Making a Fishing Rod
Repairing and caring for fishing tackle is of prime importance and by care the fine goods may be kept up for many years, and thus it becomes cheaper in the end, besides giving better satisfaction while in use. While the initial cost of fine tackle makes it necessary to dig down deep in the pocket-book it is possible for many anglers, those who are skilled in the use of tools and are careful workmen, to make much of their own tackle and thus save some of the expense, have high quality goods, and have the pleasure of making it besides.
I have, when speaking of rods, recommended the higher priced article, although I realized that many readers of this work would be unable to indulge in such luxuries. But by making your own rod you can have one equal to the highest priced article, and it will not cost more than half as much. It is possible for an angler to make a fine split bamboo rod, but it is difficult to fit the strips perfectly and at the same time keep the outside of the stick of proper dimensions, so difficult that I would' not advise an amateur to try it, until he has had considerable experience in making solid wood rods. But the glued strips all ready for mounting and wrapping may be purchased so that even in this it is possible to save something.
As stated in the chapter on rods, there are three kinds of woods generally used in making fishing rods, and these are lancewood, greenheart, and bethabara. In England greenheart is the favorite rod wood, but in this country lancewood is preferred by the majority of those who use solid wood rods. Bethabara is better than either in the opinion of most of those who have given the subject study, but rods of this material are more costly than those of lancewood or greenheart, therefore comparatively few bethabara rods are sold, but when buying wood from which to make a rod, the difference in cost is so little that there is no good excuse for taking anything inferior.
While I don't know what particular style of rod you are interested in, I take it that the majority would prefer to make a bait rod for the first, as it is more generally useful than any other kind, therefore I have drawn a diagram showing the measurements for a three piece bait rod which when jointed will measure about eight feet two inches. The dimensions of this rod make it very nice for all-around use. This diagram shows the three pieces in correct diameter, but very much shortened. To know how much it is shortened it is enough to state that the wood for the butt joint (A) is thirty-two inches long and an allowance of one and a half inches for ferrule (the wood only goes to the middle of the female ferrule), will make this section measure 33% inches over all. The second joint (B) measures 32| inches, and when ferrules are fitted will measure the same over all as the butt piece. It will be understood that the smaller caliber ferrules are also shorter, hence the difference in length of wood. The tip joint (C) measures 83 inches, which allows of one-half inch for the agate tip, but when- finished each piece is the same length as the others.
On the butt joint I have shown the diameter in fractions of an inch, and the spaces between measurements are four inches each. This makes the stick sixteen inches from the small end to the place where the swell of the handle begins. A-l shows the handle proper, 7 inches long by 1 inch thick at its greatest diameter. Below this is a section If x f inch for a butt cap. A-2 is the space allotted for the reel bed.
This rod is to have reel bands only, instead of a metal reel seat, and a place is hollowed out in this section for the bed of the reel. The movable band is placed farthest from the grip so that the reel is brought up close to be convenient for thumbing. This reel seat space is four inches long by | inch thick. The tapered portion (A-3) is a graceful taper 2f inches long, from the diameter of the reel seat portion (J inch) to the diameter of the first measurement on the rod, or 15/32 inch. This butt is to be made complete from one piece of wood, and properly finished will make a fine rod. If you don't like the hard, smooth wood grip, you can make it a trifle lighter and wind it closely and carefully with some dark colored twisted linen line, about 27 or 30 thread size. This will make a very good grip. Or you can make it still smaller, say three-fourths of an inch, and wind it with split cane, which you can buy from furniture upholsterers.
The middle joint measures 15/64 inch at the small end and 3/8 inch at the large end. The measurements on this joint, as well as the tip, are 35/9 inches apart. Now, I realize that this is an awkward measurement and you are not likely to have any gauge that measures in unequal fractions, and to make this easy I have marked off a strip at the bottom of this diagram that measures exactly 3 5/9 inches in length, the exact distance between these measurements on tip and second joint. The tip joint will measure 15/64 inch at the heavy end and 3/32 inch at the small end.
It has often been said that we have no native woods suitable for rod-making, that they are all too heavy, or too stiff, but I once saw a very fine fly rod, a light weight one at that, the tip and middle joint made of "juneberry," a wood found in the mountain district of the eastern states, and perhaps elsewhere. You may know this wood under some other name, as I don't think that ''juneberry" is right. It is usually more or less crooked and holds its thickness well, seldom grows to a greater diameter than eight inches has a rather smooth, dark bark, small leaves about like rose leaves in shape, but very smooth. It blossoms in May and later grows a small fruit, similar in appearance to a haw, but much smaller, say about like a wild cherry, first red and when ripe a sort of purple color. A wood that appears to be a dwarf variety grows in the North and is called saskatoon. This fly rod had the two upper pieces of this wood and the butt of sassafras, a strong and very light wood. Dr. Henshall recommends ash as a wood for the butt piece. White ash is very good for this and it can be procured without cost in most places, so that the only wood you will need to buy is that for the second joint and tip. For this you can purchase from any of the large fishing tackle dealers two pieces of square lancewood, four feet long, one piece 3/8 inch in diameter for twenty cents, and another piece 1/2 inch in diameter for twenty-five cents. Or you can get greenheart of the same sizes for twenty-five and fifty cents, respectively, or bethabara in these sizes for thirty and forty cents each. These as well as all other prices given, are only approximate and the actual cost will depend much on where you buy. If you prefer you can buy sticks already turned round and ready for finishing for about double these prices.
You will need two pairs of ferrules, the larger 3/8 inch and the smaller 15/64 inch. Plain, straight brass ferrules, not shouldered or welted, will cost five cents for the small size and ten cents for the larger, but you don't want these. When you go to the trouble of making a rod you want to make a good one, otherwise there is no satisfaction in making and using it, and there is certainly no saving in cost, for you can buy a cheap or medium quality rod, readymade, much cheaper than you can make it. Nickel-plated, shouldered ferrules of these sizes will cost about ten cents each. German silver shouldered ferrules will cost fifteen cents and twenty-five cents respectively. Welted ferrules (those having an extra thick edge to top of female ferrule) of this kind will cost five cents more each. Serrated and welted German silver ferrules, which are the finest thing you can get, will cost about thirty and forty cents, respectively.
I advise the use of German silver ferrules. They are harder and stronger than nickel-plated brass, and always look nice, while nickel plate will wear off in a few years and show the brass underneath. The welted ferrules are both handsomer and better than the plain ones, as the welt protects the edge from dents, and welted ferrules are the earmarks of a fine rod. Serrated ferrules have six long points on the end of each, and these points when covered with a wrapping, add greatly to the strength of the rod as the long points act as springs and keep the wood from being bent across a sharp edge, as it must when plain base ferrules are used. These are especially good for split bamboo rods, one of the long points fitting over each strip of bamboo, and they are easily fitted to the six-sided strip, something that is difficult with plain ferrules. What kind of ferrules you should buy for this rod I leave for you to decide, but I advise the best welted and serrated German silver ferrules. You will never regret the additional expense.
In addition to the wood and ferrules you will need for this rod you will want a 3i/4 inch butt cap of a material to correspond with the ferrules. If the latter are nickel-plated you will want a nickel-plated butt cap, costing about six cents, and if German silver ferrules are used, or even with nickel ones, you can use a German silver butt cap, costing twelve or fifteen cents. You must also have a set of reel bands to match the other mountings; these must be of 7/8 inch size and in nickel plate will cost about ten cents; in German silver they will cost twenty-five cents.
In case you don't like to use reel bands you can fit a solid metal reel seat here. It will cost about twenty-five cents in nickel plate and sixty cents in German silver. A finer article with tapered hood and welted band will cost forty cents for the nickel-plated kind and seventy-five cents for German silver. As stated before, these prices are likely to vary somewhat, depending on who you buy from and it is best to have catalogs from several dealers when making out your order. The reel bands described and recommended may be difficult to get in German silver, as few dealers carry them.
For guides you can use either the snake guides or two ring German silver tie guides. You will want seven of these and they should be of the three smallest sizes, the three nearest the tip of the smallest size, the two next of a size larger, and the next two a size larger still. Then on the butt piece, close to the ferrule you will want to mount a small adamant or imitation agate guide, and you will want a three-ring adamant tip, 3/32 inch size. These guides and tip, the complete outfit, will cost in the neighborhood of sixty cents.
The other materials required are a stick of ferrule cement, costing about fifteen cents; a bottle of rod varnish, costing twenty-five cents; and two spools of winding silk at fifteen cents per spool. These may be any color desired. These are the only materials required, but if you want to keep the wrapping a nice color you will want a small quantity of white shellac to apply before varnishing. Varnishing the wrapping will darken it considerably. Also, if you use bethabara for second joint and tip and ash for the butt you must stain the latter before varnishing, as bethabara is a very dark wood and ash is white. I am not sure that you can stain it to the exact color, but advise that you see a paint store man about this staining. It doesn't matter a bit, though, whether it is the exact shade of the other wood or not.
Now, as I figure it, the material for this rod, using bethabara and ash, the latter of which you can get somewhere near home, will cost about three dollars and ten cents, and with fifty cents added for transportation charges, and twenty-five cents for shellac and stain, the entire cost would be three dollars and eighty-five cents, and with this material you can make a rod worth anywhere from ten dollars to fifteen dollars, and will have something to be proud of. I have made no allowance for an extra tip for this rod, but if you can stand it, you will do well to make the extra tip, for the tip joint is the most likely to break in use. This piece should be fitted with guides, but ferrule and adamant tip are not needed, as in case you break the other tip piece you can use the mountings on this one. It is true that you could also use the guides, but the wrappings would have to be varnished and you would not only have to wait until you could find opportunity to do this work of mounting the guides, but would also have to wait for the varnish, two coats, to dry. If you have it wrapped, and guides fitted and all varnished complete, all that you need to do to make it ready for fishing in case you have an accident with the other, is to remove the ferrule and adamant tip, and place these fixtures on the extra tip. This requires only a few minutes, and it will be in condition for fishing immediately. To have this extra tip will only cost about fifty cents more.
The wood comes in square, rough strips. It is best to get them both thicker and longer than needed when finished, to work out any flaws that may appear, and I have made allowance for this. To make perfectly tapered and perfectly round sticks require careful and slow work. It is good to spend five minutes in measuring and inspecting for each minute of actual work. You will want a very sharp iron smooth plane, lightly set; a bastard-cut file, a flat mill cut file; some No. 00 emery paper, and some coarser, say No. 1; a pair of outside measuring calipers that measure to 64ths. of an inch, or if you can't get this you can use plain calipers and a rule with these graduations; a small saw, a sharp pocket knife, a marking compass, and a bench on which to work. To hold the square sticks you will need a grooved board fastened on your bench. The groove should be such that a square stick will fit into it when placed corner down, and the easiest way to get this groove is to use two straight-edged strips of hard wood, with the two meeting edges on top planed off to a 45-degree face, so that when placed side by side they make a sharp, bottomed groove for the stick. You will also want a try-square, or what is still better, a bevel-gauge. The first step is to square up your ash butt to one inch, the diameter of the handle, then find the center of each end by drawing straight lines across the end from corner to corner and where these lines cross is the center. If you can put the stick in a lathe you can turn this handle to shape with very little work, but if you don't have access to a lathe, take your compass and setting the point in the center of the end of the stick make a .circle that just touches the edge on each flat side. Then draw a line across each corner just touching the circle and so placed that it throws an equal portion on each flat surface, and from end to end draw two perfectly straight lines on each flat side, making these lines strike the ends i of the short lines drawn across the corners. If this is properly done you will have two lines lengthwise on each side of this strip, and each line will be the same distance from the edge. Now place the strip in the grooved board on the bench and carefully plane off each corner the entire length until your plane just cuts these lines. When this is done you have an octagonal shaped stick, and each of the eight sides is of the same width. Then you plane each corner down lightly and you have a stick with sixteen sides, and when these corners are carefully cut down you have an almost round stick. When the corners show very faintly it is best to use the file for cutting as a plane shaving may cut too much.
Then on the butt make a 3/4 inch circle and measure off 15/8 inches, and round this portion down and round the end, and you have the butt shaped for the cap. Then you can shape the handle and the reel bed and then shape the slender part of this butt stick down, rounding it in the way described, and being very careful to make it measure exactly as shown in the diagram. This part must first be squared in a taper as shown, and then the corners planed down forming an octagon, but always keep the measurements right, and do the last rounding of corners with the flat file. The coarse file is used where you don't care to plane, and in shaping handle and butt, etc.
The second joint and tip must be made in the same way, by squaring the stick and bringing it to the proper measurements from end to end, then throw a circle on each end (you can't carry this out to the tip, but do it as far as practicable), then a line across each corner to form an octagon, and lines drawn with a straight-edge from end to end, then plane or file down to this line, etc.
When the sticks are shaped and rounded, smooth them down with fine sandpaper, but be very careful in this for sandpaper cuts fast and you only want to smooth the stick; not cut it down. It is best to not use the sandpaper on the end until you try the ferrules. When the ferrules can be put on with steady but rather heavy pressure, put the ferrules on and joint the rod up and see how one piece lines up with another.
If these are not in perfect line you must find where the trouble is, and remove the ferrule, then by use of the fine file, take a little off at the right place to relieve the strain, even though it makes the ferrule fit loosely. Then remove all ferrules, heat the end of your stick of ferrule cement and anoint the ends of the sticks, as far down as the ferrules will reach, then heat the ferrule and push it on as far as it can go. Many of the manufacturers pin the ferrules in addition to cementing, but I do not think it advisable. The cement will hold the ferrule securely, and in case you ever want to take the ferrule off, a pin is a bad thing.
After the ferrules are fitted, the tip and the reel bands are fitted and placed on (the two smallest reel bands are fastened, but the reel bed must be worked out first) and then the butt cap, after which, if the rod has not drawn crooked, give it a coat of varnish, but don't get any varnish on the metal parts, assemble the rod and hang it up by the tip to dry, but don't have it near a wall. When the varnish is dry you can wrap it with the silk thread and fasten the guides on in the same way. The guides are placed at varying distances, those nearest the tip, the smallest, being closest together. You will have to measure this off and divide it up perfectly I might do this for you, but will leave it for you to do, for I don't want to make things too easy. See that all the guides are in perfect line with one another and with the tip. Wind them by either of the methods of winding here illustrated, waxing the thread lightly with pure white wax, and be sure that you have clean hands, and keep them clean until you are through. Examine each guide before you bind it and see that the ends where the wrappings come are not sharp edged, or they will cut through the thread in time, then place the narrow wrappings between the guides, and over the ends of the ferrules. Here you will have to measure and space again, and it is best to make the bands of wrapping closer and wider midway between the guides, as this stiffens the wood at these places, just the same as the guides stiffen it.
I don't think it will be necessary to say much about these two ways of wrapping rods illustrated here as the pictures show it so plainly. The ends of the silk should be cut off very closely, but don't cut against the rod. The second method is best for wide wrapping as the thread cannot be drawn through under a wide wrapping if the first method is used, but the first may be used by winding to I inch of the length of the wrapping before placing the small loop, and this is a very good way.
After this is finished go over each wrapping carefully with the white shellac and let this dry before you do anything more with it. When dry, give the entire rod, wrappings and all, but not the metal parts, another coat of varnish, and hang away to dry. A small varnish brush usually accompanies each bottle of varnish, but if you don't get this you must buy a small camel's hair brush. This last varnishing finishes the rod, but another coat will do no harm. Each must be perfectly dry before applying another.
When you buy fishing rod wood it is likely to be warped, especially bethabara. In such cases, before you do anything with it, just drive a small tack into the end, the center, and hang the stick up in a room, and in a few days it will be straight. If not, hang a weight on the butt and that will straighten it. Always hang your rod up after varnishing and let it dry that way, and keep the room as even a temperature as you can. Never hang the rod near the wall while the varnish is wet.
In case you want to make the butt piece of the same kind of wood as the other joints, it is best to have this piece fitted into a handle of lighter wood. The rod should be cemented in and, should be seated about four inches into the handle. In such cases the 23/4 inch taper from reel seat to rod proper is omitted and a very short taper is used. This has a German silver taper fitted over it, thus hiding the joint. If you like you can get a solid metal reel seat (German silver) with a tapered end which covers the joint completely and makes a very nice appearing rod.
In regard to handles, those I described are very good, but they are all inferior to the solid cork grip. These are made by reducing the size of the handle to, say 3/4 inch, and gluing on it rings of solid cork. You can make a cork handle a little thicker than a wood handle, say 11/8 inch, as cork is lighter than wood. These cork rings, 1/4 inch thick, may be purchased at about fifteen cents per dozen. Each one must be fastened to the other with cement and must be dried under pressure. After the glue is dry the cork may be pared down to shape with a very sharp knife, and smoothed with sandpaper.
If you want to make a split bamboo rod, as I said before, you can get the sections all glued up, in any size you want, and ready for mounting. These sticks will cost about seventy-five cents each. The butt length must be fitted into a wood handle as described.
Brooks, Lake. The Science of Fishing. Columbus, OH: A.R. Harding, 1912. Print.
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