Friday, May 9, 2008

Building a Fly Rod: Part 5 - Selecting Thread and Starting the Guide Wrap

The handle and reel seat are attached. The guide locations are marked. It is now time to attach the guides to the blank. This is done using thread. When all the guides are wrapped an epoxy finish is applied.

Selecting Thread

Okay, this may not seem like that big of a deal. I use size A thread, it is fairly standard. You also need to select the colors you want. There is, however, a catch. If you use a color preserver then a normal thread will keep its' color. I typically do not use color preserver. When I apply the rod finish the thread goes a very dark shade. The final shade will be similar to the color the thread is when wet. I like this look on a rod as it blends into the blank.

I also like to use a metallic thread for accent wraps. The metallic threads maintain their colors without color preserver.

As it is a custom rod, select colors you like. The Sage Z-Axis blanks are a deep green color. My original thought was to use a green thread with a metallic green accent. When the blank arrived I took a closer look, and decided to try a few different color combinations. I wrapped the blank with various combinations – green with green metallic, garnet with red metallic, garnet with silver metallic, green with gold metallic, and garnet with gold metallic.

Sample Color Wraps

I finally decided on the garnet with red metallic accents. See, I told you it was not always a simple thing to decide the which thread to use!

Attach the Guide

With the daunting task of selecting thread behind us, we can cut off the sample wraps. It is now time to start wrapping the guides.

The guide needs to be held in place as you wrap. To do this I use (are you ready for this?) small strips of masking tape. You did remember to cut a lot of those, didn't you? Carefully hold the guide on the blank with the guide centered on the strip of tape that marks its' location. Make sure the guide is as close as possible to centered on the spline. It is okay if it is not perfect. Once the thread is on you can adjust the guide within a limited range. But the closer you are now, the better the end result will be. Tape the guide down on each side. I have better luck if I angle the tape inwards on the guide. Some builders use a small bit of adhesive to hold the guides on the blank, and some use small dental rubber bands. I have recently heard of someone cutting rings of heat shrink tubing and using that to hold the guides.

Guide Taped in Place. Note the Tape Angle.

Lets take just a moment to talk about guide preparation. Some folks like to file the ends of the guides down where they touch the blank. This will make it easier for the thread to seamlessly climb the guide. I don't typically do this anymore, as I have found the guides are much better than they used to be, and I do not have any trouble wrapping them. If you are having trouble, you may want to prep the guides.

Now that the guide is in place I like to place tape strips on the blank outside the guide to butt the thread up against. This will help keep the wraps equal. It is up to you how much thread you want on the blank before you start up the guide. I like a little thread on the blank. Some people like only a wrap or two before they start up the guide. Look at other rods and make it however you choose.

Tape Strips to Mark Thread Wrap Start

Wrap the Guide

With the guide marked you are ready to wrap the guide. Start by setting up the thread in your thread tensioner. The setup I made has two tensioners – I use one for the main color and one for the accent.

Setup the Thread Tensioner

You are now ready to start the wrap. Hold the thread against the blank and rotate the rod blank so that the thread wraps over itself. As I mentioned earlier, I do not use a power wrapper. I like turning the rod by hand. After a few wraps over itself, the thread will hold. It may take a little practice to get this move down – the thread will move around on you as you are getting it started.

Start the Thread

With the thread started do about 5-7 wraps. After every couple wraps push the thread tight against itself. Tight thread wraps will look nicer.

Thread Wrapped Over Itself

Hold the thread in place and cut off the tag end. Do this carefully using a razor blade. Cut the end as close to the wrap as you can. It is very helpful to have a sharp razor or exacto knife. Do not be discouraged if you cut the wrong thread and the whole wrap unravels. It will happen.

Cut the Tag End Close to the Wrap

With the tag end cut, rotate the blank to wrap the guide. Watch the wrap as you go. If the threads are not tight, stop and but the thread up against itself using your thumb. If the thread jumps over itself reverse the rotation until the thread is at the right spot, and continue on. As you approach the guide foot keep rotating. The thread should climb right up the guide. This may take a little practice, but by the time you are finished you will be a pro. As you reach the tape strip holding the guide stop and remove the tape. Then continue on.

Wrapping the Thread

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