Monday, 30 January 2012

3. Rod Building - Finding the spline and varnishing the blank

Finding the spline and making use of it is probably something that most anglers need never concern themselves with.  Rod builders seem to make a great fuss about it, but whether you believe it makes a difference to the rod performance or not, it remains a part of the rod building process that most rod builders still carry out and align their reel seats and rings accordingly.  There are two popular beliefs out there, one stating that a casting rod should have its rings to the inside of the spline, and one that spinning rods should have theirs to the outside.  Tom Kirkam has suggested that on a spinning rod, rod stability is entirely determined by the rings and subsequent line pressure on the bottom of the rings, and that any spline effect is negligible.  That said, and even though I totally concur with his views, I still went through the process of finding the spline!
Roll the blank around to feel its side of greatest resistance.
On a three piece rod the spline effect is probably even less pronounced, as it probably won't be felt at all in the bottom section.  What I do is work my way down from the top section, mark the top side (most resistance), adding the sections and rotating them to check the overall spline is still in agreement with the top section.  It's a bit hit and miss, and depending on the quality of your blank there may be no precise or definitive point for the spline.  But there's generally an eighth of a turn or so in which you can identify it.

Once you have that, I assemble the rod and then remove all traces of the markings and wipe the rod down with U40 Brush Cleaner to get rid of any grease.  It's surprising how much graphite dust clings to the fibres of a blank if you've received it unvarnished or have cleaned up an old one as in my case:
My next task was to glue on the tip eye ring (tip top).  I like to do this as it gives you some kind of back up that you've not messed up somehow with the spline when you come to positioning the rest of the rings on the rod.  You can simply align the tip eye to the reel seat:
 Once that has set, you're ready to varnish.  I use Permagloss.  It's a polyurethane varnish that seems very tough with a high gloss finish.  Apparently it also makes a bulletproof finish for wraps too, the only downside is that each wrap would require a minimum of five coats, so I guess most folk prefer a single high build application.  I will give the rod three coats: two as undercoats, with the second rubbed down to remove any bubbles or uneveness in the finish.  The final coat goes on after the wraps.
If you're doing a multi-section rod, don't forget to leave a gap between the sections for wear.  No point in the female joint rubbing and sticking over a layer of varnish.

Next job is to position the rings - I'll be posting soon on the method I used.

Tight lines.


  1. Good advice, always better when it comes from experience.

    looking good!

    Good luck. Frank

  2. Nice article!

    I'm very interested because I have a few rods with varnish that has not aged well. I would like to refurbish them.
    What have you used to apply the varnish ? Airbrush ?

    Tight lines

  3. Hi Thomas - no, just a normal paintbrush. Permagloss is pretty thin so brush strokes won't show. The main problems I found were a) one or two air bubbles crept in on the last coat, b) the gloss is so high with Permagloss that it's hard to see where you've put the second coat! I'm sure Permagloss would do wonders for an old scuffed up rod. I think they recommend you abrade the surface with something like a nylon green scrubbing pad if there's an existing gloss coat you want to varnish over.

    Keep an eye out for my article on whipping / wrapping rod guides, lots of pictures - I'll be posting it up in a day or two.

  4. OK great!
    Thanks for your quick response!



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