DO-IT-YOURSELF A GRAPHITE FLY ROD
really make the blank - with budget of 11
© Tapani Salmi 2/2016





Graphite (carbon fibre)is the most common modern material for fly rods and graphite tube is the most common blank to start DIY rodbuilding.
Graphite rod blank making is not very easy, see :
Graphite fly rod manufacturing-Youtube video

In short, graphite cloth is cut to proper dimensions, impregnated using epoxy, rotated around a thin metal rod (mandrel), heat-treated in an oven to the final stiffness and shape, and then coated with epoxy varnish.

Most often the DIY rodbuilding starts with the ready blank bought from the manufacturer.
These blanks are made by several suppliers using different properties of carbon, with different stiffness and lengths for different type of fly fishing.
Rod building is a great hobby and by selecting fine components the resulted rod may be really fine!

In bamboo rodmaking the rod blank is made by planing and glueing bamboo strips to construct the rod and the casting properties of the rod is thus decided by the maker.

But it also is possible using graphite here I tell about my experiment.


Graphite is available as long thin bars, round strips and thin poles for kite and miniature aircraft makers.
I bought 100cm long 2 mm thick Arrowind graphite bars, see Ebay or in Finland:
Internet store - Arrowind carbon




Graphite, carbon bars / poles, dimension 1000 x 2.0 mm

The thin bars are then glued to the rod blank.
I decided to try to construct a 250 cm long two-piece rod and wanted to make #4-5 line weigth rod.



ROD STRUCTURE

The butt section of the rod consists of six poles glued as a hollow structure.
It then becomes thinner as a four pole section at the joint level.
The tip section, respectively, starts as a four strip construction and becomes thinner as a one strip tip.

Here is a graphic schematic presentation of the structure:



The assembly of the carbon bars as a scheme. The length of butt and top is 125 + 125 = 250 cm.
The joints of the carbon bars are adjusted not to be located near to each other.




Schematic cross-sectional structure of the rod. The butt is hollow and consists of six bars. A short 1-2 cm carbon piece is located between the six bars.
The joint area consists of four bars. The tip is a single 2mm bar.


PREPARATION

The carbon bars are "oily" and you have to grind them matt with a sandpaper.
The bars are glued to gether using epoxy glue. I first tried very hard black "steel epoxy" but the more flexible like Casco Pro (Araldit) works best in my opinion.





GLUEING

Assembling of the bars to the proper blank is the most difficult step. I first tried to fix the bars together with superglue (cyanoglue), but it did not work very well.
It is critical to get the strips straight and symmetrical. It is possible using the hot setting glue and a hot air blower.

A small amount (5-10 mm) of hot setting glue is applied on the bars. Thereafter you may heat the bars and glue using the heat blower and carefully press the strips together by holding them by hand. Use gloves not to burn your fingers.
Start with the six strips at the butt site and then proceed step by step further to get total of 125 cm ready as shown in pictures.




Hot setting glue is applied to the lower end of the tip part with four carbon bars. The glue is heated using the heat blower.
The small amount of hot adhesive is now inside the the rod blank as small droplets. The excess on the surface should be removed at this stage.

Now you also should check that the blank is straight with now twists and as symmetric as possiblle.
If there are any twists you should warm the glue carefully and adjust the bars to locate properly before the permanent epoxy glueing.

Next step is glue the compositon permantently using the epoxy glue.
It is important to use protecting (silicone,latex) gloves to avoid allergic reactions!

I have applied the epoxy glue using a small piece of nylon socking (your wife certainly do help here!).
If the adhesive is too stiff, it can be heated a little to make it more easy to spread.
Spread the epoxy on the blank and then gently press it between the bars.

Next day when the epoxy is totally hardened you may grind the free ends of the bars.
I also have secured the end parts of the bars by wrapping them the same way as the line guides are attached to the rod.




The free end of the carbon bar is filed oblique.





The connections between the end of the bars are secured using yarn wrapping. This thick yarn is for demo, I have used a very thin wrapping yarn.
I have put a few drops of superglue (cyanoglue) to the wrapps.Thereafter you may safely test the blank.

Carbon fiber can be sanded easily. If you want to change the properties of the rod you may grind the bars thinner!


TOPCOAT

I've been using epoxy varnish with good UV light protection. Here again you may use a piece of nylon socking to apply the varnish.
If you want to have a nice surface you should sand the varnisha and use several layers of varnish to make the surface smooth.

Thereafter you have to make the joint or ferrule. It would be easy to make a spigot type ferrule using carbon tube.
I had some pieces of chrome coated brass tube strong enough for this purpose.
Here I have used hot setting adhesive to glue the ferrules.










The rest of the process is very familiar to any rod builder.
You need the cork handle, reel seat and line guides which all you may do by yourself or buy.

The resulted rod may be asymmetrical if you was not very careful when glueing the carbon poles together.
Some small asymmetry does not affect very much to the casting properties of the rod and the line guides should be located on the "soft" side of the rod.






THE RESULT?

It is very ugly, of course!
The surface is not smooth but lumpy due to the bars. Sanding and several layers of coating would help a little.
It is slower than a typical hollow graphite rods but lighter and faster compared to cane rods.
Most certainly it is very cheap - my budget for the total rod was 11 euros because I had all the other components available for free.


FUTURE VISIONS

I have not seen this kind of fly rod but most certainly someone has done these before me?

You could develop the idea further by combining carbon bars with different thickness (1-3 mm) to make the rod taper better.
You also may grind the blank thinner after glueing because the structure in solid.
There are also hollow carbon fiber tubes to make the rod still lighter.
For example, the tip could be thinner than 2 mm and you could add some 1 mm bars to the butt to make the function faster.

You could also try to make a three piece salmon rod or a long light tenkara -rod using this technique.

TWO HAND SALMON ROD

Two hand salmon rod with length of 375 cm consists of three parts of 125 cm. For the thick butt I used three bars with diameter of 3 mm and 9 thinner bars of 2 mm. The first joint is three thick and three thin bars and the upper joint consists of six thin bars of 2 mm.
The rod is 375 cm and casts #8-9 line.
I made the graphite ferrules as described here Universal ferrule
The construction is visualized here.







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