Wednesday, 22 February 2012

4. Rod Building - Choosing and spacing rod guides

After finding the spline, perhaps the next most contentious subject in rod building is the best way to space rings given the length and type of rod, and even the type of ring itself.  I'm working with a spinning rod, so it's relatively straightforward to follow one of the many guide charts out there.  However, there are so many variants I was at first stuck on which to choose.  I settled on the  New Guide Concept, which I think works pretty well and was formulated with spinning rods in mind.

After you've glued on the handle of your rod and its tip eye (tip top), mount the reel you will use on the rod.   New Guide Concept uses the diameter of the spool to determine the placement of what is termed the "choke" guide.  The choke guide is the first of the small diameter rings that lead to the eye.  Where this method differs from the traditional approaches is that the rod rings do not reduce in diameter to match the taper of the rod.  Instead, there is a set of guides ("running guides") after the tip eye that all have the same diameter.  These are the smallest eyes on the rod, and the first of these looking from the handle end is called the "choke" guide.

There is a very nice guide you can follow hosted on in their library section that explains the concept in more detail that I do here.  But in brief, order the size of rings that match your typical line strength in mono.  Roughly:

  • 10lb mono or less = size 6
  • 10lb to 14lb = size 8
  • 15lb mono or above = size 10.

How many do you need?  Again the rule of thumb is length in feet of your rod plus one, plus your tip top.  So for a 7ft rod get 8 guides plus a tip eye.  But how many running guides to get, plus the reducers?  Generally, for medium rods you'll need around 3 guides between the reel and the choker.  So for the 7ft rod in our example, that makes 5 running guides, 3 reducers and a tip eye.  Before ordering measure the diameter of the rod tip with a set of callipers to check you won't get a tip eye too small.

But there is a fair bit of wiggle room in guide selection, half foot rod sizes are up to you and you should also take into account the length of handle (i.e. how far up the rod your reel sits).  For example I've designed my rod for working top lures and soft plastics, so I have the reel as far up the rod as I can reasonably make it.  Under the New Guide Concept this has an effect, as it pushes the choke guide up the rod in proportion, so you may need fewer rings.  However rings are relatively cheap and lightweight, so I'd order too many rather than too few.

First take the spool diameter in millimetres using a set of digital callipers.
Take this measurement and multiply it by 27 to give you the distance to the choker guide.  Measure it in a straight line from the centre of the spool to the guide.  It helps to lay the rod on the floor to do this.

Tape the choke guide on at the distance given by your spool measurement.  Then just divide the distance equally from there to the tip eye to match the number of running guides you bought.

Tape them up and check their alignment.  Then space the descending rings from the butt ring to the choke guide evenly (though this distance is likely to be larger than that for the running guides.

The next test is unspool some line from your reel and check that the line follows the curve of the rod evenly.  And that's it!  Job done.

In the next article in the series we'll look at guide preparation and how to whip (or wrap) them to the rod.

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