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 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….
Here is a little video showing how I hand wrap guides on my bamboo fly rods. I don’t use a standard rod wrapper with a tensioner. Instead, I hand wrap using a fly tying bobbin to hold the thread. I use Pearsall’s Gossimer 6/0 Silk Thread on all my rods. Going slow and packing thread frequently is the key to getting great wraps. I spend about 30 to 40 minutes on each guide. So, I’ve sped up the video in the middle to shorten it up. Enjoy!