I recently discovered a great new wood for reel seats on my rods. Kingwood is a member of the Rosewood family. It’s one of the hardest of the rosewoods, and as such, can be a little challenging to work with. But, with very sharp tools, it turns well on my lathe. It has a little more of a purple color than most of the rosewoods along with many black streaks in it. Once it is finished with a nice oil finish, the purple turns into a deep red color, let’s call it a “Cabernet” color! Here is what it looks like once it is finished.
Mary Ann and I just sold our house in Corvallis, Oregon after 18 years and moved about 120 miles to the east in the town of Sisters, Oregon. We’re both very excited about the move and our new house, and we are much closer to terrific year-around trout fishing…and much drier weather. Mary Ann has also started guiding in the fall and spring timeframes for Jeff Perin of The Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters. But, I don’t have a fully set-up and functional workshop for my bamboo rod building at the new house. For now, I’ve shoe-horned my big tools into a corner of the garage. And, I’ve put up plastic in the corner for a make-shift rod dipping operation. In fact, later today I’ll be dipping the fourth coat of varnish on a new 8′ 0″ 3 piece 6 wt. rod. Finally, I’ve temporarily taken over a bedroom in the house for rod wrapping and finishing work…sharing that space with fly tying. I’m fully functional and building bamboo rods to meet all my orders, but it’s very cramped in this new arrangement. I’ll break ground in the spring on a complete new rod shop…boy is that ever an exciting prospect! Here are a few pictures of my temporary rod building set-up:
I’ve been working feverishly on several new bamboo fly rods over the past several weeks. Here are two nice one’s heading out the door this week to customers. A beautiful 7′ 0″ 4 wt medium fast action rod built with tiger maple reel seat, classic reel seat hardware, and wrapped with highland green and black wraps. This rod small stream rod is heading to Idaho. And, a second 10′ 6″ 5 wt hollow-built progressive action switch rod. It’s built with figured English Walnut reel seat and butt cap, a black banded agate stripping guide, and wrapped with black silk thread and straw and claret tipping. This rod is headed to New Mexico. Here is a photo of both rods:
I’ve been making good progress on my hollow-built bamboo switch rod. The next step was making a custom winding check. Bill Bennett at Bellingers made a few of these for me last year and has inspired me to build my own. I machine small pieces of nickel/silver for the winding check, and then machine and polish black acrylic as the trim piece. They look pretty nice on my switch rods.
Then it was time to blue the ferrules. I use Brownells Oxpho-Blue liquid gun bluing solution on my nickel/silver ferrules. First, the areas I don’t want blued get masked off with tape. I then wipe a cotton swab drenched in the bluing solution over the ferrule, always making sure I move over the entire surface that I want blued. It takes about 30 to 45 seconds at room temperature to get the desired effect. Here is what it looks like:
It’s important to rinse the ferrule very well in running water to remove all the residual bluing solution. Let it dry, and then spray the blued surface of the ferrule with a clear lacquer to protect it. I use Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Crystal Clear Gloss in a spray can, but any good clear lacquer should work fine. Then it was on to wrapping the guides. As with all my switch rods, I use black thread with straw and claret tipping on my wraps. I use Pearsall’s Naples thread on the ferrules, and Pearsall’s Gossamer thread on the snake guides. The Stripping Guide is a 16 mm Black Banded Agate guilde.
Finally, after coating all the guide wraps with 8 coats of Varathane 900 Gloss, the rod was ready for finishing in my dipping tube process. I put on 6 coats of polyurethane on my rods, using a dip tube filled with finish. Each rod section is dipped into the finish and slowly pulled out. The finish just runs off all the guides. It takes about 2 hours to dip an entire rod.
It’s a slow process…kinda like watching paint dry! After a day of drying time, each section gets a thorough sanding with 1500 grit sand paper, first the flats on the thread wraps, and then the flats on the bamboo.
Finally, after six dips and a final 48 hours of drying time, the finish gets rubbed out with a polishing compound. I use Meguiars Mirror Glaze 83 as a polishing compound and a small felt pad. This process helps take out any dust particles that have made their way onto the finish coat.
And that’s it. After doing a final fitting of the ferrules, the Hollow-Built Switch Rod is finished.
And of course, I had to do a little casting down on the river this afternoon….
Work is continuing on the hollow-built switch rod. The next step was to glue on and fit the ferrules. There is a #20 ferrule on the Butt/Mid Sections and a #14 ferrule on the Mid/Tip sections.
Then it was time to layout the grip and reel seat on the butt section.
The butt section needed to be turned down on the lathe to accommodate the reel seat and lower grip.
The Butt Section was now ready for the upper cork to get glued on.
A little sidetrack…I needed to turn a reel seat and butt cap on my wood lathe. I chose a new piece of highly figured English Walnut.
Now it was time to sand down the upper cork grip, glue on the reel seat and hardware, glue on the lower cork grip and sand it, and finally glue on the butt cap. This resulting finished grip section of the rod came out looking great.
The next Chapter of my build process is making a custom winding check, wrapping the guides, varnishing, and final finish work. I’ll share that in Chapter 3.