Saturday, May 3, 2008

Building a Fly Rod: Part 3 - Guide Layout

You have all the tools you need. You have purchased the supplies for your rod. Now what? It is time to start laying out the rod.

Cutting Tape

Okay, you probably already know how to use scissors. And I'll bet you even know how to unwrap masking tape from the roll. Why do I have this listed as a step then? You will be cutting small tape strips throughout the project. A lot of small tape strips. You will get sick of tape strips. You will be finding them all over your house for months. Did I mention you will need a lot of small tape strips?

Cut out enough strips to mark each eye position, plus a few extras.

Cutting out Tape Strips

Find the Spline

Rod blanks have a natural curve in them. This is called the spline. To maximize the rod's performance I want to place the guides on that line. But first I have to find it. This is not a difficult thing to do. Hold the section of rod at an angle and with one hand push down slightly in the middle. With the blank in this position, roll the rod. You will feel the blank “jump” where the spline is. Mark that side on each piece. Some manufacturers mark the spline for you. The blank I am using has small white dots marked on each piece. This is the side I will put the guides on.

Finding the Spline

There is some debate whether placing the guides on the spline really makes a difference. I look at it this way – it is not doing any harm. It is easy to find the spline, so why risk it?

Mark the Guide Positions

Now that you have located the spline, it is time to mark where each of the guides go. There are many guidelines that you can use for the spacing. Most rod building instructions will give you charts. There are sites online that can help you out. Some companies provide recommended spacing for their blanks. Sage is one of these companies. I looked up my blank and printed out the recommended number of guides and the recommended spacing.

To mark the eye position lay the assembled rod blank out on the floor (or a large workbench). Lay out a tape measure next to the blank.

Laying out the Guide Locations

This is where all your hard work cutting tape strips starts to pay off. (Did I mention you will need a lot of little tape strips?) Most spacing charts list the distance from the tip to the guide. Place a tape strip at each location you want a guide.

Guide Locations Marked on the Blank

In this case, one of the guides was directly between two sections of the blank. I had to adjust the position of that guide, and by doing so had to readjust the position of other guides as well. This is okay. When the guides are on the rod I will run some line through them and check my spacing to verify it is adequate. I can change right up until I put the finish on the rod.

As a side note, Sage also provided recommended guide sizing. I purchased larger guides than recommended so that I can more easily pass knots through them. This is a consideration when I am using my shooting line / head setup. This is, after all, a custom rod.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the contribution, I'm building a rod now so any new insight is great for me. Someone told me the marks on a Sage blank denote the straightest axis, not the spine??

Ryan said...

The mark on the Sage blank denotes the straightest axis. There is some confusion about the term. The spline and the straightest axis are typically the same side of the blank. In fact, on all the Sage blanks I have used the mark has matched the side where I determined the spline to be.