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Installing Guides

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This workbook will take you step-by-step through the process of installing guides on a fishing rod. For those who are working on rods of their own, this is a good primer to help you with your work. For visitors who are interested in purchasing a Preston rod, or just interested in learning more about what goes into building one, this section and the other workbooks will give you a good idea of what you would be spending your money on.

Please feel free to start the first step of the Guide Workbook now, or continue to read the following paragraphs for a more general introduction.

Single Wraps

Single wraps are made up of a single layer of thread overlaying the blank and the foot of the guide was an accepted and acceptable practice for the earliest fishing rods. Bamboo or cane rods, especially those that originated in the Orient, were predominantly wrapped with a single layer of silk thread. Silk thread is very strong - the tensile strength of silk thread exceeds that of the same diameter steel. On these early fishing rods the blank itself flexed very little. This meant that the threads weren't subjected to torsional movements and also that the guide underneath didn't significantly wear into the blank.

Most of the damage to the guides, wraps and the blanks were and still are associated with penetration of water under the wraps, rotting the thread and rusting the guide feet which eventually caused the guide to fail (fall off). In truth the water invasion below the threads was more a result of the failure of the overcoating - shellac or varnish cracking. These problems increased with the advent of solid fiberglass rods which tended then (and now) to flex across more of the length of the rod blank causing the guides to wear into the thread wrappings - especially if the guide feet weren't carefully prepared by smoothing out all the rough edges.

Double Wraps

A wrap of thread below the guide and another on top of the guide. With the introduction of solid fiberglass rods and the follow-on hollow glass rods which still tend to flex over a greater distance from tip to butt section - commonly called slow or medium action rods it becomes necessary to provide a cushion between the rod blank and the guide feet to minimize the wear on the rod blank and also to allow a softer base for the overwraps.

In addition newer threads were available - nylon both treated and non treated for color retention and a greater variety of thicknesses also allowed the builder more flexibility to maintain the original "feel" of the rod. That is using smaller diameter thread (size A) in order to maintain the flex along the rod length. Changing the length also allows the rod builder to change the action of the blank - make the butt section stiffer with longer underwraps to dampen the reflex response of the rod blank during casting or to give it "backbone" for deep water jigging.

The next step in rod design really forced the rod builder to strongly suggest underwrapping. Graphite and graphite composite rods - especially those manufactured today have much thinner wall diameter and are much less forgiving of scratches and nicks in the surface of the blank. They also tend to flex more at the tip section of the blank - called "fast" and "extra fast" action. I do not recommend any of the newer rods be wrapped with anything less than a double wrap.

The newer polymer and epoxy finishes are also superior to the early varnish methodology. They flex along with the rod blank and maintain the same "feel" as much as possible. These are available in both a "heavy" finish and a "light" finish in many compositions from many manufacturers. Selection is based upon the type of rod and the use expected.


Triple Wraps

One underwrap and two overwraps. This approach should seriously considered on any rod that will be used heavily or will be used on heavy fish. The construction of these wraps also involves a bit more care be taken in finishing - Especially those that are to be used on trolling rods or heavy "tuna sticks" and "stand-up rods".

I have found it best to do the underwrap, apply a color preserver if the thread is radically different than the blank color and then apply one of the newer thinner rod finishes - both Manhattan Custom Tackle and Dale Clemens offer these under their own brand names. They are both excellent products. After the finish has completely penetrated the threads to the rod blank and dried is the time to set the guides and perform the first overwrap.

Finish this first overwrap with color preserver to seal any gaps in the threads between the threads themselves, the guide feet and the underwrap. This will eliminate bubbles in the final finish and provide a much more durable finish. The second overwrap then is applied to the guide feet, color preserver applied and the final finish - usually a "high build polymer" manufactured and distributed under the name Flex Coat. It is available at any shop or through any mail order catalog.

Note: Flex Coat is a very "forgiving" finish. By that I mean that it allows some SMALL error in measurement of equal parts. It is critical that the finishes be allowed to completely dry in-between each step. The length of time required is dependant upon both ambient temperature and humidity. In some cases extreme humidity will delay the curing process - especially of the thinner finishes by 48 hours or more.

Tip: Bubbles in finishes are the bane of every rod builder. The thinner the finish coat the fewer problems. Multiple coat of color preserver will also prevent bubbles forming as the air will have been forced out by the color preserver coatings. Should bubbles begin to appear in the final finish there are several things that the rod builder can do. First is to exhale lightly across the surface of the finish. The combination of warm breath and air flow will cause the bubbles to come to the surface and break.

Another method that works — but is more dangerous — is the application of a clean burning flame below the finish as the rod rotates in the drying apparatus. Great care is needed as the finish will turn almost completely liquid and drip off the wraps - even scorch the wraps below. The method I've found to be the best is using a small hair dryer on low heat and low air settings. This provides the air flow of your breath and a clean heat source at the same time without the dangers of open flame.

Guide Workbook >>

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