Monday, 12 December 2011

1: Rebuilding a rod: stripping the old handle and guides

If you follow this blog you've probably already seen pictures of my old, half wrecked Orvis spinning rod.  Salt is a killer, and sea kayak fishing gives you plenty of it: the rod handle will usually sit in a pool of sea water in the rod holder while you paddle, or if you hold it between your legs while you quickly manoeuvre then it gets soaked from paddle splashes.  This treatment just seems to ruin cork handles.  The cork handle on the Orvis was the first to go, losing the end cap (like every other rod I've had - rod holders and rod butts don't mix!) and with that, the final two cork rings became exposed to rough treatment and broke off while fishing.  Several of the rings also began to rust and came loose in their wraps.  I put this down to poor finishing - the rod builders for Orvis don't seem to bother with sealing the holes either side of the ring feet, and that's where the salt water gets in and it doesn't dry out.  Of course, had they used stainless steel, the rust wouldn't be a problem!

The reel seat was the last to go, but when it did it meant the rod was unusable.  No way of fixing the rod seat, other than taking the whole lot off and putting a new handle on.  If I was going to do this, I figured I might as well do up the whole rod.  That way I could put some decent EVA handles on the rod (sea kayak fishing is just too rough on cork), some better rings and polish up my whipping skills.  I can whip a ring on fine, but I have always fancied doing something a bit more interesting than a straightforward single colour wrap.

First job is to get rid of the old handle and reel seat.  In my previous blog posting, you'll remember how damaged the reel seat was:
If you click on these images to look closely, you can see how the lining of the hood on the reel seat has dropped out, the cork is full of holes and the rings are in a poor state with salt clearly getting in at the top.
  The brass knob was added to stop the bare blank catching on my jacket and developing cracks.  The 20lb braid whipping then prevented the blank wall from cracking further.
Stripping an old rod 
First task was to remove that handle.  I set to work with an old knife, cutting away the cork to reveal a truly horrible mess of old epoxy resin underneath. True to rumours, the reel seat arbour was just a single ring of masking tape. Expected a little better from Orvis but there you go. Can't say the arbour failed, it was more the quality of the Fuji reel seat itself.  Anyhow, modern epoxy sets like concrete. I had to literally cut and rip the real seat from the blank using both the knife and a set of pliers.

But once you've got it off, you're then left with thick ridges of impregnable epoxy, mixed with some filler (sawdust? metal filings?).  This stuff took some getting off the blank, even with a strong sharp knife.   Where it didn't bond properly, and you could get under it, it would lift off the blank quite easily.  Where the bond was good, it was hell to get off.  Very easy to damage the blank at this point.
I read later on that you can apply a hair dryer (you own one?!) to this stuff and it will soften sufficiently to be peeled off with a thumbnail.  Mmmm.   Well, after much careful scraping and so on, I got as close to the bare blank as I was prepared to go with the knife.  From this point on, it was fine grade wet-and-dry.
The remaining sections of the rod were much easier.  Old wraps will come away quite easily once you cut into the thread under the foot of the ring and get hold of a bit of thread to unravel them.  You're then just left with some small bits of high build to remove.
Damage to varnish should make this pretty easy.
Just knick the thread under the reel foot and then peel it back.
The wrap will pop off quite easily, but you're still left with some high build to remove.

The tip eye (the tip top for my American readers) will usually come off easily if you gently heat it over a flame.  As you can see below, mine had already been through a few "field repairs".  It looks like a complete bodge because that's what it was.  At the time I was grateful just to be able to keep fishing as  the solder on legs joining them to the tube of the tip had broken, and for a moment it looked it was the end of that day's fishing.  But then Bodge-man got going with some 8lb mono!
8lb mono, used to whip a broken tip eye while sat on my kayak.  Ok, the kayak itself was sat on the beach, but still...
Given how badly broken the eye was, I was quite pleased to get it to stay on at all and keep fishing.  It then stayed that way for another year!!
Once all the rings are off you can either scrap the worst of the high build off with a blade, or use a bit of fine wet-and-dry.  If like the Orvis, you're left with a fairly thick layer of tinted varnish, you have no other option really than to use wet-and-dry.  I like to soak it in bowl as long as possible before use - sure it may weaken the paper a little, but it helps keep the dust down if you use it really wet (important for those of us working in the living room!) and gives a better finish.

You're finished blank will be nice and smooth, probably pale grey, with no traces of the original varnish left.  This might expose some rather obvious, even worrying joins in the carbon fibre cloth used to make the blank.  Although there are unsightly (not the sort of thing I'd expect on an Orvis blank) I don't think any of them affect the blanks strength.

However, given what they look like, I'm tempted to cover them up using paint or perhaps something similar to the heavily tinted green varnish that was used on the original blank.  But no sooner do I start thinking about possible colours, than I realise that could be a serious time waster!!  Maybe best to stick plain black plus highlights.  Even that has so many options.  Metallic thread or traditional, skeleton seat or  pipe, pipe with insert, trim rings, etc. etc.

Maybe this is something to do over Christmas in front of the fire!

Tight lines to those still fishing.


  1. Hola Kester.
    Buena mano la tuya,es un buen trabajo y dificil,para mi claro.
    Por cierto aprobecho para comunicarte,que he adquirido un kayak,el tarpon 120,espero poder aprender muchas cosas de ti,gracias.
    Un Abrazo.

  2. Great news - remember to dress for immersion and to wear a pfd. I'm sure you'll increase your catches massively by having a kayak!

    I won't be getting mine out until the spring. I'm already looking forward to it. :-)

  3. Hi Kester,

    Things moving along. Good work. It really was in a horrible state! I sure you'll do a fine job.

    Happy fishing. Frank

  4. Cheers Frank - the way I look at it is the rod was wrecked anyway, so I get the blanks for free.

    The Orvis is rated casting up to 50g and it's a bit stiff for my plugging, so I'm not too worried about it being a "practice effort" before I try and make myself the rod I've always wanted (which, to let you into a little secret, is actually a four piece ultra-light, ultra-fast action spinning rod for mountain trout!!).

    And after that, I'll make the ultimate 3 piece kayak rod. Could turn out to be a bad hobby. :-)

  5. Hi Kester, great work!! It should take long time and patience from you.
    Now I am making a kayak rod too. It is for my friend anyway....

  6. Well you're certainly doing a proper job!!. I've not worked on a rod for many years. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

  7. Hello Kester.

    I tried to send you an e-mail but couldn't. Please read my latest post.

    Many thanks. Frank

  8. Cheers Frank - nice post, read it and left a comment!

  9. Merry Christmas & a Happy Fishing New Year to you, your family and all your readers.

    All the best. Frank

  10. I've just downloaded iStripper, so I can have the hottest virtual strippers on my taskbar.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...