Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Crafty's Cork Cutter

Boring a cork recess for an uplocking reel seat retainer can be a pain in the rear;
of the cork that is.

Crafty's Cork Cutter in-letting tool is easy to use with a high speed drill or lathe. The tool comes with interchangeable blades for in-letting grips for up locking seats in diameters of; .760, .810, .850, .900 and .950. These are the most common reel seat inlet sizes but blades can easily be made for this tool in any blade size needed. CAUTION! These blades are very sharp, so handle them with care when inserting them into the tool.

Cutter w/Blades Installed

Cutter w/5 Blades Sets
The long shaft at the front of the tool has a 4mm diameter but comes with a 6mm tube or can be easily built up with tape or paper to fit the bore diameter of any cork grip. The shaft is also long enough to stabilize the cutting process so the rod builder can achieve a perfect inlet every time. 

Crafty Cutter in our shop lathe

If you have a lathe or access to one, that is the best way to use the cutter. Again use extreme care when using with a drill motor or similar tool.

Friday, February 21, 2014

To Spine or Not to Spine

Spining or Finding The Guide Side of a Rod Blank

This simple process has caused much confusion and debate within the rod building community. Understanding why there is such a thing in the first place may help to eliminate a lot of the confusion. The act of ‘spining’ is finding the differences in the wall thickness of the blank after the flat graphite (carbon fiber) cloth is wrapped around a tapered steel mandrel and then oven cured. The mandrel has the rod designer’s line and length taper specifications ground to within thousands of an inch. The designer dictates the amount of graphite cloth (combined with a resin scrim) that the finished rod blank will have, how much overlap the cloth will have. The graphite materiel is cut into a tapered pattern, which will be wider at the butt end and narrower at the tip end. Because of these ‘ends’, each blank will have end spots, which will feel like ‘high points’. These high points, which typically run the entire length of the blank, are what we call a spine or spines. Just like the spine in your body, it is a stiff area in your back but different in blanks in that you may encounter several spines depending on how the graphite cloth is applied, or ‘laid-up’ on the mandrel. When the graphite is wrapped with heat shrink tape and oven cured, a ‘natural curve’ will appear along the rod shaft. This natural curve will be apparent when you sight along the axis of your blank and it has a definitive curve to it, if not, you’re lucky and you accidentally got a straight one. Also the curve will be more visible when you rotate the blank shaft when sighting down the length of it. This natural curve is also called the weak side, where the thickness of the graphite materiel is less than the other side, or the strong side. Although I have to admit that the rod companies that 'roll' their own have over the years produced straighter blanks without much curving.

So, we have a weak side and a strong side as determined by the amount of graphite material wrapped around the steel mandrel. You can check this weak side by holding the blank at a 45 degree angle with your one hand near the tip and then by pressing down and rotating at the same time with fingers of your other hand. The resistances you feel on both sides are the high points or spines. On tip sections you can also stand the tip upright and press down on the tip to make the section flex. The concave side is the guide side and obviously this only works mostly for tip sections; it's hard to push down and flex the butt section of a 12wt!

Remember the opposite side of the weak side is the thicker part of the blank and will result in more power in lifting and fighting big fish as the graphite resists compression as a result of more materiel. By putting your guides on the natural curve side, you will prevent the rod from twisting in you hand. If the guides were put off to the side this would cause the rod to twist during the cast resulting in inaccuracy, this is why guides are typically put 90 degrees to the spine as one manufacturer states but this will result in the same thing as putting your guides on the weak side.

Maintaining casting accuracy in trout fishing is more important than lifting power as in big game saltwater fishing. By properly placing your guides; your rod will track properly through the casting plane. Whether you decide to place your guides on the 'weak' side or the 'strong' side is a matter of individual decision. Being aware of a spine or spines and what they do will give you a better understanding of rod design and will help you create a finely tuned casting instrument.

Whether to spine or not to spine will continue to be a question until the end of time. The bottom line is that you are building your rod and you need to do what you think is best for you.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ask Flyrodcrafters - Gluing on a Cork Handle

This is a very common question:
When gluing on the cord handle, do you put glue on the rod blank, inside the cork handle, or both? If I put glue inside the handle, I get glue on the upper part of the blank as I slide the handle down the blank.  Also, it is hard to get glue inside the entire handle length. If I put glue on the blank, the glue pushes down the blank as I slide the handle on. If I am using a handle with an insert, the excess glue ends up in the insert recess and is hard to clean out without getting glue on the exterior of the handle. What do you use to clean up excess glue from the blank and cork handle?

I put the glue on the blank only and I put the glue about 2-3 inches above where the grip will be mounted. Any 2 part epoxy adhesive will work to glue on a preformed grip; some rod builders prefer a fast set glue over a slow setting glue. Either works just fine.

Use a tapered reamer to make sure your grip is not too tight, nor too loose; just right. Make sure that if you use a reamer that is a glued-on grit reamer that you blow air to remove all the bits of grit that came off during the reaming process. Dry fit your grip after blowing the tapered hole and make any adjustments before mixing your glue. As you rotate and twist your grip onto the blank the glue will coat the inside of the grip, I rotate the grip on the blank approximately 30-40 times before stopping at my reel seat mark. If your grip is too tight before gluing you will simply push all the glue out the back end of the grip and into the hood or onto the reel seat.

Applying glue above the front of the grip

We do not glue the reel seat on first; the butt section fits into our drying chucks and also makes wrapping easier without the reel seat mounted. This gluing operation can be done with reel seat mounted or not, that depends on the rod builder. Just make sure you put enough glue on the blank but again, not too much that is runs out the back or interferes with your reel seat. Also don't forget to align the retainer in the grip with the guide side marking.

Rotating grip so glue is even 

Make sure grip is all the way to your stop mark/tape

A little bit of glue clean up may be required at the bottom of your grip or inside the recess. Clean up if necessary, is easy with a cotton swap with alcohol. We use denatured alcohol to clean up after epoxy glue and epoxy finish and just about everything else. We also use the denatured as our fuel in our alcohol lamps. You can use other chemicals, but be careful because some such as MEK and Acetone may blemish the finish on the blank.

You will have to clean off the excess epoxy off the blank in front or your grip. If you don't have any glue to clean off, then the grip was too snug. I mark the blank where the grip will be placed because the reel seat with insert is the last thing I mount on the rod. We use the exposed butt section to clamp our drying motor. Also, it is less hassle when I'm wrapping and it weighs less and we don't take the chance of marring the reel seat parts. Double check that your reel seat hood is aligned properly to your guide side marking.

If you have any rod building questions, send them to us and we will try our best to help you out. Email me at BobW@flyrodcrafters.com.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Rod Building Magnifiers

SlimVision Readers

Helping the visually challenged rod wrappers....

Custom rod building gets better with experience and age but vision doesn't. I'm farsighted and after years of straining to see the wraps and trims, I was a bit frustrated with my vision limits. Thank goodness for reading glasses, magnifying lenses, and prescription bifocals. 

Me, I opted for the simpler method of just using SlimVision readers by Fisherman Eyewear for all my close work.  I wear prescription eyeglasses and I like the idea of wearing glasses as I'm always working around the grinders and lathes and I don't give wearing 'safety' goggles a second thought. But when I'm at the rod wrapping bench, I use my magnifying reading glasses to really see well down to the individual thread wraps.

There are a number of magnifiers on the market but these reading glasses are lightweight, inexpensive and are perfect for 'on the bench'. Custom Fly Rod Crafters are offering three diopter (magnifying or optical power) sizes: +2.00, +2.50 and +3.00. These are the most common sizes that are sold and they are very inexpensive at $11.99 and they come with a nice little carrying case.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rod Finish Brush Cleaning

Here is a short video on how to clean your epoxy rod finish brush. If your brush is not cleaned thoroughly, the epoxy will harden in the bristles and will ruin it.

The tips shown will work for sable and acrylic or synthetic brushes. In the past, we used lacquer thinner or other harsh chemical cleaners that worked for cleaning but really shortened the life of our finishing brushes. After switching over to Flex Coat Epoxy Brush Cleaner, we don't use as many brushes as they last at least 4 times longer. The cleaner is somewhat thick as compared to a thinner and it doesn't evaporate over time. Another side benefit is that it's odorless unlike lacquer thinner which over extended periods of time may be harmful.

We hope this helped and thanks for watching. We will be producing these 'shorties' covering all sorts of tips and techniques.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Alignment Dots

Alignment dots seem to be a love it or I don't need them item.

For those who like to have them on their multi-piece rods this article is for you. Alignment dots or 'ferrule' dots make the job of assembling a rod together and lining up the guides very easy and simple. And there is an easy way to add them to any rod without a large investment of money or time. You can add them to your custom build or you can add them to a finished factory rod, no problem.

The first photo shows a finished section of a rod and samples of different dots using an assortment of household items, with the second photo showing those tools.

A - Doting Tools (from nail salons or polymer clay tool)
B - Straight Pin
C - Straight Pin with ball end
D - Straight Pin with Plastic end
E - Hair Brush (One of the 'bristles' from a new style hair brush - Found at dollar stores)
F - End of a finishing brush
G - End of a Flex Coat disposable Brush
H - Pick ( Old tool from tool box!)
I - Small Phillip head screwdriver
J - Pen Tip (old one that is out of ink is fine)

So you can see there is lots of things around the house that will work for applying the dots. Different items make different size dots, so find the item that makes the size of dot you want. If you use a straight pin - get yourself a pencil with a good eraser on the end and sick the pin into the eraser and now your pin has a nice handle.

The first thing after you have gathered your materials, is assemble your rod and make sure the guides are lined up. I begin with the middle sections so after they are on both sides I can take the rod apart to do the other sections without working with one long piece!

Apply the white or whatever color you decide by using whatever tool you decide. The size and shape of your alignment dot is entirely up to you. Would you believe that all the dots on the sample blank were done with 'White Finger Nail Polish'  that I got at the dollar store?  I took the brush that come in the polish and put a small quantity of polish on a piece of paper and then dipped the tool into the polish and then onto the rod. You don't want a large blob of polish just enough to make a dot.  I cleaned off the tool after I did a couple of dots so the polish wouldn't build up on the tool. If the polish on the paper starts to get thick, stop and put some fresh more out on your paper. If you make a mistake  - wipe off the polish right away with a Kim Wipe or something that won't leave any lint. Let the dots dry completely so as not to smire the polish. There is no need to put anything over the nail polish - it will stay on for a long time and if it should come off just remember the tool you used and get your nail polish out and redo the missing dot.

Having alignment dots sure makes the job of putting your multi-piece rod together.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Guides! What a Grind!

There are some parts of rod building that are considered boring and tedious. One of them is grinding guide feet. Yawn...

But, if you are spending a lot of time and money to make your custom build 'One-Of-A-Kind' then you need to pay attention to all the details. One of those details is guide feet.

This rod building tip applies to all types of guides for fly rods, spinning rods, boat rods, it doesn't matter what kind of rod.

First, the purpose of grinding guides is to make wrapping your thread up over the guide foot smooth and easy. If not properly ground, you may get gaps and struggle a bit to get the thread up over the edge of the guide. The image below show the difference between 'unground' and 'ground' guides. Most rod guides come pre-ground from the manufacturer but I don't consider them finished to the point that I prefer. I still take the time to 'finish' grinding before wrapping. I use a grinding wheel but you can use a file or sandpaper, it will just take a bit longer doing it by hand.

Unground, factory ground & how I do it!

Not only do I grind the front of the foot but also the sides to reduce the width of the guides. I do this only when I think the guide foot is too wide for the blank I'm wrapping. I also take a moment and run the bottom of the foot across 220 grit sandpaper just to remove any side or bottom burrs. If you run your guide across your finger and it feels like there's a edge, your nylon or silk thread will certainly find the burr. Also with a smooth foot, the guide is less likely to dig into the blank and scratch the rod finish.

It only takes a few minutes to really dress the guide feet especially if you are using a transparent thread wrap the guide feet will look finished and even.