How to

Rod building tools

MARK FISHER gets back to basics with a list of essential tools of the trade to get you started in rod building.

EVERY rod builder, even a beginner, needs the basic “tools of the trade”.
The first thing you need to look at a support system for turning your rod. This is commonly known as a “lathe”. My lathe consists of an 8’ x 6” x ½” piece of hardwood which has two pieces of right angle alloy screwed on each side forming a bed in which I’ve placed three blocks of wood which fit perfectly between the angles. On the blocks I have sets of rollers screwed in. The blocks can be moved along the support bed to any position required. The blank is easily turned by hand while I’m binding guides. On each of the rollers I have a top roller which I can lower down to lock in place if I need the rod held firmly. At the left end of the frame I have a small microwave motor fitting and an adaptor. This is the turning system for applying epoxy and drying the rod. This whole system cost me about $30. I’m sure many of you could make something far better.

Lights, action
As well as a rod lathe, you need excellent lighting. Good natural lighting is by far the best but you can’t always get it. I have a stand attached to my work bench which has a lighting system attached. It uses a good quality 100 watt globe with a mirror-like backing to focus the light exactly where I need it. I also have downlights directly above the workbench which provide excellent light so there aren’t any shadow areas where I’m working. Good lighting saves your eyesight and helps ensure your thread work is the best it can.

If you only build a rod or two for yourself and very occasionally for a friend, then you only need to buy 50-100m spools of thread. If you really get into your rod building, you’ll need to build up your thread library. I have threads from Gudebrod, Holland, Speed, Mettler, Madeira, Brother and Fish Hawk in metallic, NPC, regular nylon and polyester. You also need to consider different thread sizes – A, B, C or D – and don’t even start on silks! I

A couple of tools I can’t be without are a good quality pair of snips and a thread tool. You can get thread snips from sewing shops – scissors just don’t cut it, so to speak!  The thread tool I have is a piece of ¼” stainless steel about 6” long. One end is flattened and rounded. This end is super smooth and designed for pushing thread together and also as a burnishing tool. The opposite end has been ground down to a point with a triangular section. The point has been smoothed over so that there is no sharp area which could cut the thread. I use this for packing thread patterns and in design work. I would be lost without this tool

Other stuff
For any rod building or rod maintenance, you’ll need colour preserver and epoxy. I use a colour preserver called Chromaseal. It dries perfectly clear and is, in my opinion, the best CP out there. CP is used to soak into the thread and create a barrier to the epoxy. This preserves the original colour of the thread. If you just used epoxy over regular thread it goes translucent. There are many epoxy resins on the market. Most are good and very reliable, if you mix the quantities exactly. I currently use Threadmaster. Whatever brand you use, ensure you follow the instructions and don’t play around with the epoxy when it’s setting. I use two 3ml syringes, one for resin and the other for hardener. After dispensing the epoxy onto your mixing area, carefully wipe the syringe with a metho soaked cloth and it put aside. You can continue to use the syringes for years without having them clog up. Just make sure you mark them and don’t mix them up.

NEXT ISSUE: Anatomy of a rod.

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