This section is from the book "The Boy Mechanic Vol. 2 1000 Things for Boys to Do", by Popular Mechanics Co.. Also available from Amazon: The Boy Mechanic, Vol2: 1000 Things for Boys to Do.
By Stillman Taylor Part I
THE pleasures of outdoor life are most keenly enjoyed by those sportsmen who are familiar with all the little tricks - the "ins and outs" - of the open. It is the active participation in any chosen sport which makes the sport well worth while, for the enjoyment gleaned from little journeys to forest and stream largely rests with the outer's own knowledge of his sport. Not all of the fun of fishing lies in the catching of the fish, since the satisfaction which comes through handling a well-balanced rod and tackle must be reckoned the chief contributor to the outing. In other words, the pleasures of fishing do not depend so much upon the number of fish caught, as the manner in which the person fishes for them. The rod is naturally the first and important consideration in the angler's kit, and it is the purpose of these articles to set forth, at first, a few hints which my own long experience leads me to think may be of some assistance to those anglers who enjoy making and repairing their own rods and tackle, to be followed, later, by some suggestions on the art of angling generally. The hints given are merely my own methods, and while they may not be the best way of accomplishing the desired end, a good fishing rod may be constructed. Like the majority of amateurs, I have achieved the desired results with a few common tools, namely, a saw, plane, jackknife, file, and sandpaper. These simple tools are really all that is needed to turn out a serviceable and well-finished rod of excellent action.
Kind of Material
The great elasticity and durability of the split-cane or split-bamboo rod cannot be easily disputed. The handmade split bamboo is unquestionably the best rod for every kind of fishing, but it is also the most expensive and the most difficult material for the amateur to work. In making the first rod or two, the beginner will be better satisfied with the results in making a good solid-wood rod. Of course, glued-up split-bamboo butts, joints, and tip stock may be purchased, and if the angler is determined to have only bamboo, it is advisable to purchase these built-up sections rather than to risk certain failure by attempting to glue the cane. However, there are several good woods particularly well adapted for rod making, and while slightly inferior to the finest bamboo in elasticity and spring, the carefully made solid-wood rod is good enough for any angler and will probably suit the average fisherman as well as any rod that can be purchased.
Bethabara, or washaba, a native wood of British Guinea, makes a fine rod, but it is a heavy wood, very hard, and for this reason is perhaps less desirable than all other woods. With the single exception of snakewood it is the heaviest wood for rod making and is only used for short bait-casting rods. Possessing considerable strength Bethabara can be worked quite slender, and a 5-ft. casting tip can be safely made of 5 oz. weight.
Greenheart, a South American wood, is popular alike with manufacturers and amateur rod makers, and 90 per cent of the better class of solid-wood rods are made of this material. It resembles Bethabara in color, but is lighter in weight, although it apparently possesses about the same strength and elasticity. In point of fact, there is little, if any, choice between these woods, and providing sound and well-selected wood is used, the merits of a rod made of Bethabara or greenheart are more likely to be due to the careful workmanship of the maker than to the variety of the wood used.
Dagame, or dagama, a native of the forests of Cuba, is in many respects the ideal material for rod making, as it has strength and elasticity. This wood is straight-grained and free from knots, which makes it easily worked; it polishes well and is durable. While there is always more or less difficulty about procuring first-class Bethabara and greenheart. dagame of good quality is easily obtained.
Ill: Two Tools for Gauging the Diameter of the Rods, and a Homemade Scraper
Lancewood is much used in turning out the cheaper grades of fishing rods, but it is somewhat soft and has a marked tendency to take set under the strain of fishing and warp out of shape. It is less expensive than the other woods, and while it has a straight and even grain, there are numerous small knots present which make this material less satisfactory to work than the other woods. For heavy sea rods, lancewood may serve the purpose fairly well, but for the smaller fishing tools this material is inferior to Bethabara, greenheart, and dagame. Other woods are often used, and while a good rod may be frequently made from almost any of them, the three mentioned are held in the highest esteem by the angling fraternity. For the first rod, the amateur will make no mistake in selecting dagame, whether the slender fly rod or the more easily constructed short bait-casting tool is to be made.
The Necessary Tools
The construction of a thoroughly well-made and nicely balanced rod is more a matter of careful work than outfit, but a few suitable tools will greatly facilitate the labor. A good firm workbench, or table, 4 ft. or more in length, will be needed. A regulation bench vise will come in handy, but one of the small iron vises will do very well. A couple of iron planes, one of medium size for rough planing-up work, and a small 4-in. block plane for finishing, will be required. As the cutters of the planes must be kept as sharp as possible to do good work, a small oilstone - preferably one in a wood case with cover to keep out dust - will be needed; a coarse single-cut mill file about Hi in. long; a few sheets of No. 1 and No. 0 sandpaper; a sheet or two of fine emery cloth ; a small thin "back" or other saw, and a steel cabinet scraper.
A caliper of some kind is a necessity, and while the best is a micrometer, Fig. 1, registering to a thousandth part of an inch, as well as indicating 8ths, 16ths, 33ds, and 64ths, this tool is somewhat expensive, but a very good caliper may be had in the sliding-arm type, Fig. 2, with the scale graduated to 64ths and taking work up to 2 in. in diameter. Cheaper measuring gauges are to be had in plenty, but as the brass and boxwood scales are provided only with coarse graduations, the better quality of mechanics' tools will give better satisfaction.
The set of grooved planes used by the professional rod makers are rather expensive, although they are most convenient for quickly rounding up the rod to the desired diameter. However, the beginner may dispense with the planes by making the tool illustrated in Fig. 3. To make this handy little tool purchase a steel wood scraper, such as cabinetmakers use, and file a series of grooves along the edges with a round file. File at right angles to the steel, finishing up with a finer file to give a sharp cutting edge. The tool thus made is very handy for scraping the rod after it has been roughly rounded with the plane. Its use will be mentioned later on in the description.
Ill: Five-Foot Bait-Casting Rod
The short one-piece bait-casting rod with but one ferrule is the easiest rod to make, and for this reason the beginner will do well to select this popular type for the first attempt. As the total length of the rod is to measure 5 ft, exclusive of the agate tip, the wood should be 1 or 2 in. longer to allow for cutting down to 60 inches. Having selected a good strip of dagame, % in. square, run the plane along each side and from both ends. This will determine the direction in which the grain runs. Drill two holes at the end decided upon for the butt, spacing them about 1/4 in. from the end, as shown in Fig. 4. Drive a stout brad in the corner of the bench top and hook the butt end over the nail. By rigging the stick up in this manner it will be securely held, and planing may be done with the grain with greater ease and accuracy than when the end of the stick is butted up against a cleat nailed to the bench top.
Ill: Diagram or Layout for a One-Piece Bait-Casting Rod, Showing Calipered Dimensions for Each Six Inches of Length. A Paper Pattern of Any Rod may be Drawn Up, Providing the Amateur Rod Maker Has a Rod to Use for a Pattern, or Possesses the Exact Diameter of the Rod at Intervals of Six Inches along Its Length
The wood should be planed straight and true from end to end and calipered until it is 1/2 in. square. It may appear crooked, but this need not trouble one at this stage of the work, since it may be made perfectly straight later on. Overlook any kinks, and do not attempt to straighten the stick by planing more from one side than the other. The chief thing to be done is to fashion a square stick, and when the caliper shows the approximate diameter, draw crosslines at the ends to find the center.
The length of the hand grasp should be marked out. If a double grasp is wanted, allow 12 in. from the butt end. This will afford an 11-in. hand grasp after sawing off the end in which the holes were drilled. For a single hand grasp make an allowance of 11 in. However, the double grasp - -with cork above and below the reel seat - is preferred by most anglers because it affords a better grip for the hand when reeling in the line. Mark the handgrasp distance by running a knife mark around the rod 12 in. from the butt end.
Lay out a diagram showing the full length of the rod by placing a strip of paper - the unprinted back of a strip of wall paper is just the thing - on the bench and drawing two lines from the diameter of the butt to that of the tip. While the caliber of casting rods differs somewhat, the dimensions given will suit the average angler, and I would advise the beginner to make the rod to these measurements. For the butt, draw a line, exactly 1/2 in long, across the paper and from the center of this line run a straight pencil mark at right angles to the tip end, or 60 in. distant, at which point another crossline is drawn, exactly 1/8in. long, to represent the diameter. Connect the ends of these two crosslines to make a long tapering form. Divide this pattern into eight equal parts, beginning at 12 in. from the butt end, marking a crossline at every C in. This layout is shown exaggerated in Fig. 5. If it is desired to copy a certain rod, find the diameter at the several 6-in. stations with the caliper and write them down at the corresponding sections of the paper diagram. However, if a splendid all-around casting rod is desired, it is perfectly safe to follow the dimensions given in Fig. 5, which show the manner of dividing the paper pattern into the equal parts and the final diameter of the rod at each 6-in. station, or line.
Ill: Gauge Made of Sheet Brass Having Slots Corresponding in Length and Width with the Caliper-Layout Measurements
Procure a small strip of thin brass, or zinc, and file nine slots on one edge to correspond in diameter with the width of the horizontal lines which indicate the diameter of the rod on the pattern. This piece is shown in Fig. 6. By making use of the pattern and the brass gauge, the rod may be given the desired taper and the work will proceed more quickly than if the caliper is alone relied upon to repeatedly check up the work.
When a good layout of the work is thus made, the next step is to carefully plane the stick so that it will be evenly tapered in the square. Plane with the grain and from the butt toward the tip end, and make frequent tests with caliper and gauge, noting the diameter every 6 in. Mark all the thick spots with a pencil, and plane lightly to reduce the wood to the proper diameter. Reduce the stick in this manner until all sides have an even taper from the butt to the tip. The stick' should now be perfectly square with a nice, even taper. Test it by resting the tip end on the floor and bending it from the butt end. Note the arch it takes and see if it resumes its original shape when the pressure is released. If it does, the elasticity of the material is as it should be, but if it remains bent or takes "set," the wood is very likely to be imperfectly seasoned and the rod should be hung up in a warm closet, or near the kitchen stove, for a few weeks, to season.
To facilitate the work of planing the stick to shape, a length of pine board with a groove in one edge will be found handy. A 5-ft. length of the ordinary tongue-and-groove board, about 1 in. thick, will be just the thing. As the tip of the rod is smaller than the butt, plane the groove in the board to make it gradually shallower to correspond to the taper of the rod. Nail this board, with the groove uppermost, to the edge of the workbench, and place the rod in the groove with one of the square corners up, which can be easily taken off with the finely set plane. Plane off the other three corners in a like manner, transforming the square stick into one of octagon form. This part of the work should be carefully done, and the stick frequently calipered at each 6-in. mark, to obtain the proper taper. It is important to make each of the eight sides as nearly uniform as the caliper and eye can do it. Set the cutter of the small plane very fine, lay the strip in the groove and plane off the corner the full length of the stick, then turn another corner uppermost and plane it off, and so on, until the stick is almost round and tapering gradually from the mark of the hand grasp to the tip.
To make the rod perfectly round, use the steel scraper in which the grooves were filed and scrape the whole rod to remove any flat or uneven spots, and finish up by sandpapering it down smooth.
The action of the rod differs with the material used, and in trying out the action, it is well to tie on the tip and guides and affix the reel by a string in order to try a few casts. If the action seems about right, give the rod a final smoothing down with No. 0 sandpaper.
For the hand grasp nothing is so good as solid cork, and while hand grasps may be purchased assembled, it is a simple matter to make them. In Fig. 7 are shown four kinds of handles, namely, a wood sleeve, or core, A, bored to fit the butt of the rod and shaped for winding the fishing cord; a built-up cork grasp, B, made by cementing cork washers over a wood sleeve, or directly to the butt of the rod; a cane-wound grip, C, mostly used for salt-water fishing, and the double-wound grip, D, made in one piece, then sawed apart in the center, the forward grip being glued in place after the reel seat is in position.
To make a grip, select a number of cork washers, which may be obtained from dealers in the wholesale drug trade, or from any large fishing-tackle dealer. Make a tool for cutting a hole in their centers from a piece of tubing, or an old ferrule of the required diameter, by filing one edge sharp, then covering the other end with several thicknesses of cloth. Turn this tube around in the cork like a wad cutter. If the cutter is sharp, a nice clean cut will result, but the opposite will likely octhe Four Different Types of Hand Grasps Are a Wood Sleeve Bored to Fit the Butt of the Rod; the Built-Up Cork over a Wood Sleeve; a Cane-Wound Grasp, and the Double Cord-Wound cur if an attempt is made to hammer the tube through the cork.
Ill: Grasps with a Reel Seat between Them
Having cut the butt end of the rod off square, about 1 in. from the end, or enough to remove the holes, smear a little hot glue on the end, drop a cork washer over the tip of the rod and work it down to the butt. Cut another cork, give the first one a coat of glue, slip the former over the tip and press the two together, and so on, until about 10 corks have been glued together in position. This will give a hand grasp a trifle over 5 in. long.
A sleeve will be needed for the reel seat to slip over, and a soft-wood core of this sort can be purchased from any dealer in rod-making materials, or it can be made at home. For the material procure a piece of white pine, about 3/4 in. in diameter and 5 in. long. A section sawed from a discarded curtain roller will serve the purpose well. Bore a 1/3 5/2 in. hole through the piece and plane down the outside until it slips inside the reel seat. It should be well made and a good fit, and one end tapered to fit the taper of the reel seat, while the opposite end should be about 1/4 in. shorter than the reel seat. Slide this wood sleeve down the rod, as shown in Fig. 8, coat the rod and the upper part of the last cork with glue and force the sleeve tightly in place. A day or two should be allowed for the glue to set and thoroughly dry, before giving the hand grasp the final touches.
If a lathe is at hand, the hand grasp may be turned to any desired shape, but most anglers prefer a cylindrical-shaped grip, leaving the top cork un-trimmed to form a kind of shoulder when the metal reel seat is pressed into the cork. If corks of 1 1/4 -in. diameter are purchased, but little trimming will be necessary to work the hand grasp down to 1 1/16in. in diameter. This size seems to fit the average hand about right. The lower corks will need a little trimming to fit the taper of the butt cap so that it may fit snugly in place. Cement the butt cap in place by heating the cap moderately hot, then rub a little of the melted ferrule cement inside the cap, and force it over the cork butt. When the cement has hardened, drive a small brass pin or
The Corks Glued in Place on the Butt and the Wood Sleeve, or Reel-Seat Core, Ready to Slide Down and Glue in Position
brad through the cap, and file the ends off flush with the metal surface. All the guides, ferrules, and reel seat are shown in Fig. 9.
The regulation metal reel seat is about 4 1/2 in. long, and in fitting it to the old type of bait rod, the covered hood is affixed to the upper end of the reel seat. This arrangement is satisfactory enough for the 9-ft. bait rod, but it is rather awkward in fitting it to the short bait-casting rod, as with the hood at the upper end the reel is pushed so far forward that it leaves 1 in. or more of the reel seat exposed, and the hand must grip this smooth metal instead of the cork. To avoid this, it is best to cut the reel seat down to 3 7/8in. and affix the reel seat to the rod with the hood at the lower end near the hand. For a single hand grasp, a tapered winding check will be needed to make a neat finish and this should be ordered of the correct diameter to fit the reel seat at the lower end and the diameter of the rod at the other. In the double hand grasp the winding check is used to finish off the upper end of the cork, which is tapering to fit the rod at this point.
In assembling the reel seat, push it with the hooded end well down and work it into the cork to make a tight waterproof joint. Push the reel seat up the rod, coat the sleeve with cement and push the reel seat home. Drive a small pin through the hooded end and reel seat to make the whole rigid. This pin should not be driven through the rod or it will weaken it at this point. Just let it enter the wood a short distance to prevent the reel seat from turning.
The upper or double grasp is fashioned after the reel seat is in position, and the corks are cemented on and pushed tightly together in the same manner as used in forming the lower grasp. The first cork should be pressed tightly against the upper end of the reel seat and turned about so that the metal may enter the cork and form a tight joint. As many corks as are required to form a grip of proper length are in turn cemented to each other and the rod. After the glue has become dry, the cork may be worked down and tapered to make a smooth, swelled grasp. The winding check is now cemented on, to make a neat finish between the upper grip and the rod.
Before affixing the guides, go over the rod with fine sandpaper, then wet the wood to raise the grain, and repeat this operation, using old sandpaper. If an extra-fine polish is wanted, rub it down with powdered pumice and oil, or rottenstone and oil, and finish off with an oiled rag.
To fit the agate tip, file down the end of the rod with a fine-cut file until it is a good fit in the metal tube. Melt a little of the ferrule cement and smear a little on the tip of the rod, then push the agate down in place.
Spar varnish is often used to protect the rod, but extra-light coach varnish gives a better gloss, and it is as durable and waterproof as any varnish. It is only necessary to purchase a quarter pint of the varnish, as a very small quantity is used. The final varnishing is, of course, done after the rod has been wound and the guides are permanently whipped in position. However, it is an excellent idea to fill the pores of the wood by rubbing it over with a cloth saturated in the varnish before the silk whippings are put on. Merely fill the cells of the wood and wipe off all surplus, leaving the rod clean and smooth.
The guides may now be fastened in place, and for the 5-ft. rod, but two of them are necessary. The first guide should be placed 19 1/2 in. from the metal taper which finishes off the upper hand grasp, and the second guide spaced 15 1/2 in. from the first. By spacing the guides in this manner, the line will run through them with the least possible friction.
Winding, or Whipping, the Rod
Before whipping on the guides, take a fine file and round off the sharp edges of the base to prevent the possibility of the silk being cut. Measure off the required distances at which the guides are to be affixed, and fasten them in position by winding with a few turns of common thread. Ordinary silk of No. A size may be used, but No. 00 is the best for small rods. Most anglers agree that the size of the silk to use for the whippings should be in proportion to the size of the rod - heavy silk for the heavy rod, and fine silk for the small rod. Size A is the finest silk commonly stocked in the stores, but one or more spools of No. 00 and No. 0 may be ordered from any large dealer in fishing tackle. As a rule, size 0 gives a more workmanlike finish to the butt and joints of fly and bait rods, while No. 00 is about right to use for winding the tips. In fact, all rods weighing up to 6 oz. may be whipped with No. 00 size.
Ill: The Mountings Used on a Bait-Casting Rod Consist of a Reel Seat, Butt Cap, Taper Sleeve, Narrow Agate Guide, Agate Offset Top, One Ring Guide, and a Welted, Shouldered Ferrule
In whipping the rod, the so-called invisible knot is used. Begin the whipping, as shown at E, Fig. 10, by tucking the end under the first coil and holding it with the left thumb. The spool of silk is held in the right hand and the rod is turned to the left, sufficient tension being kept on the silk so that it can be evenly coiled with each strand tightly against the other. A loop of silk, some i in. long, is well waxed and placed so that its end will project a short distance beyond the last coil which finishes the whipping. This detail is shown at F. In whipping on guides, begin the whipping at the base and work over the pointed end of the flange, winding on sufficient silk to extend about 1/8 in. beyond the pointed flange of the guide base. When the last coil is made, cut off the thread from the spool and tuck the end under the whipping by pulling on the ends of the waxed loop, as shown at G.
Cut off the ends neatly with a sharp knife.
For colors, bright red and a medium shade of apple green are the best, since these colors keep their original tint after varnishing, and are less likely to fade than the more delicate shades. Red finished off with a narrow circle of green always looks well, and red with yellow is likewise a good combination. Narrow windings look much better than wide whippings, and a dozen turns make about as wide a winding as the angler desires. For edgings, three or four turns of silk are about right, and these should be put on after the wider windings have been whipped on and in the same manner, although it is best to tuck the ends of the edging beneath the wider winding when pulling the end through to make the invisible knot.
Ill: Both Ends of the Silk Thread are Placed under the Winding to Form an Invisible Knot
Varnishing the Rod
After winding the rod, see that all fuzzy ends are neatly clipped off, then go over the silk windings with a coat of shellac. The shellac can be made by dissolving a little white shellac in grain alcohol. Warm the shellac and apply it with a small camel's-hair brush, giving the silk only two light coats. Allow the rod to stand a couple of days for the shellac to become thoroughly dry.
A small camel's-hair brush will be required for the varnishing - one about 1/2 in. wide will do. If the varnishing is to be done out of doors, a clear and warm day should be selected, and the can of coach varnish should be placed in a pot of hot water for five minutes, so that the varnish will spread evenly.
A temperature of about 75 deg. is best for this work, as the varnish will not spread if cold or in a cold place. The varnish should be evenly brushed on, and care taken that no spots are left untouched. Hang up by the tip to dry in a room free from dust. While the varnish will set in four or five hours, it is a good plan to allow three days for drying between coats. Two coats will suffice to protect the rod, but as coach varnish, properly applied, is rather thin in body, three coats will give complete protection to the wood. The materials required for this rod are, 1 dagame or greenheart stick, 5 ft. long and % in. square; 1 reel seat with straight hood, 3/4 in.; 1 butt cap, 1 in.; 1 taper, small end 1/3 5/2 in.; 1 offset, or angle, agate top, 3/32 in., and 2 narrow agate guides, 1/2in., all in German silver; 2 doz. corks, 1 1/4 by 1 1/8 in., and two 50-yd. spools of silk, red and green, 00 size.