Archive for the ‘rod’ category

Part 6 of the Van Buren Reel

March 2, 2010

This installment shows the completed reel and its fitting on the rod! The mechanicals of the reel are complete, rivets peened, and the reel tuned. The only thing left to do is “age” it. My thoughts are to age the reel for the “10 year” look. Basically, a reel that has been in service and well used and cared for. I like to do this by speeding up the natural process. Brass patina is performed by fuming the reel in vinegar vapor for 8 hours. This gives the brass a golden color. I then polish the reel with sawdust and lemon juice – exactly like its owner might have done. This makes sure that the darkening stays in the nooks and crannies. The reel in the photos has been treated once and then polished. It is ready for the 2nd and 3rd treatments. Between the 2nd and 3rd vapor treatment, I will use burnt umber oil pain mixed with finely ground pumice to simulate grime and finger and fish oil build up. This mixture will be applied to the logical places (you can see where on the actual reel) and then gently blotted off. Once dry, the reel will be fumed one last time and then protected with a microcrystalline wax to lock everything in place.

Now then are the two reels side by side for comparison. I like to call this “twin reels of different makers”! (you can click the photos to see the full resolution image).

Front View

Top View

Back Side View – note the peened pillars!

Foot View

And now, the moment of truth – fitting the reel to the magnificent rod John crafted! I had to enlarge the foot mortise on the rod. I carefully mixed a concoction of finishes from John’s description and lo, it was a perfect match.

Makes me want to go fishing!

Side View

Tail End

I’ll post more photos of the reel tomorrow when it is out of the final fuming!


Quasi-final rod update 1/13/10

January 13, 2010

Well, I still have a bit of clean-up and polishing of the finish, but the rod is pretty well complete, with spare mids and tips.  Here are some pics of the rod with finish to attempt to match rods of that genre:

Now, off to make that wooden creel before life and job run me to ground.

The Rod

October 22, 2009

Given the time frame for Van Buren, he would have owned a rod from the Smith age of rod making, which refers to the fact that most tackle was made by gunsmiths and other existing trades, rather than an industry dedicated to tackle making.  These rods were made of wood using domestic hardwoods such as White Ash and Hickory, as well as exotic woods such as Lancewood, Bethabera, and Greenheart and were  typically comprised of four or five separate sections with a total length up to 18 ft.  A glorified example of this type of rod was the “Porter’s General” rod constructed to maximize versatility as well as to make such large rods as manageable as possible when not in action. The butt section was often hollowed out to house one or more tip sections.  In addition to the butt section, the rod contained two or three mid sections of length similar to the butt section and at least two tip sections.  Extra sections served as replacements if one broke during use (not uncommon with early wood rods!), but also were designed to provide alternative combinations to change the length and flex of the rod based on the type of fish they were after.  The rod sections were joined either by scarfing and wrapping the sections together or using ferrules made from brass or nickel silver.  The reel seat was placed forward of the grip area in the earliest versions as with casting rods, rather than at the butt as in later fly rods.  Below is a pictorial record of my adventures in making a version of this rod.

The common wood used for the butt and at least the first mid-section was ash, so that’s where we start.  A 1 1/2 inch x 1 1/2 inch x 36 inch blank was cut from larger stock and centered on the lathe for initial preparation of  the butt end prior to hollowing.  I decided it would be easier to hollow the butt while square, but needed a way to affix the blank back on the lathe once the hole was drilled.  I thus started by turning a 3/4 inch dowel on the butt end and then cut the end piece off for later press fit into the hole in the butt:

Using long spade bits and an extension, a hole was then drilled into the butt.  the first 18 inches was drilled at 3/4 inch diameter and an additional 6 inches was drilled out to 1/2 inch diameter.





Okay, time to move on to the first mid section.  The diameter of this section will taper from appr. 7/8 inch to 5/8 inch, so is thick enough that it doesn’t require added stabilization in the center while turning.  Tapering is achieved first using gouge and skew chisels, then by employing what John Betts, wood rodmaker par excellence, calls “clappers”.  These tools employ Sure-Form blades for the rough work, then sandpaper for the finish work (John has published a wonderful book through Amato Books that details use of these tools and other tricks in making strip-built wooden fly rods).

Here is a pic of some of the tools employed to round stock and form the taper.  the router set-up is used to knock off the corners from squared stock prior to putting on the lathe:



Here are a couple pics of turning the first mid:


So, with a bit more lathe time, we now have opening bids for the butt and first mid:


For the second mid, I decided to switch to Greenheart (wood kindly provided by Tom Kerr…thank you , Tom).  This wood should provide increased flexibility as we head toward the rod tip and was a favorite choice of early rodmakers.  The diameter of this section will taper from appr. 5/8 inch to appr. 7/16 inch.  When the shaft gets this thin and lower, we need to add a center support to keep the shaft from whipping about while turning.  This center support can then be moved to finish turning the center:


So, Time passes…lots of turning….lots of shavings…we now have the butt and two copies of the first and second mids, as well as two copies each of greenheart and yellowheart tip sections:


the end sections are left unfinished until final decisions are made regarding section lengths, taper, and placement of ferrules is complete so that the pieces can be re-mounted in the lathe in the same configurations.  Now, it’s time to make those decisions and proceed with ferrule production (10/31/09)



Made some pretty good progress this week with the ferrules…just have to do the toughies on the Butt section and big end of the first mid.  The “dowelled” male ferrules were the biggest challenge…more to the point, drilling the holes in the female ferrules to accept the dowels since there is not a lot of clearance.  It’s understandable why the makers in the later 1800’s decided this type of ferrule was unnecessary.  That would have saved a lot of effort and given the thinning of the walls, I question how much stronger the doweled ferrules would have been compared to flat male ferrules adopted by later makers.  Regardless, that was the style in the Smith era and that’s what was done.

I started by making a jig to center the holes in the ends of the two mids.  The one to receive the tip section tapered from 3/8″ to 1/4″ and the one for the second mid tapered from 7/16″ to 3/8″. Basically, it’s done by drawing a centerline on a block of soft wood…I used pine…then, drilling a hole through to the other side using a spade bit matching the diameter of the ferrule and stopping when the tip of the bit just breaks through the other side.  A kerf was ripped  along the centerline from the ‘entry’ side, which allows pressure to be placed on the ferruled by a drill press vise,  to hold it steady during drilling.  By then rigging the jig on the drill press and inserting the ferrule, then centering the drill on the small hole on the “breakthrough” side, one can drill out the hole to receive the male ferrule:


Files, bits and sanding tools were then used to make the holes conical to fit the tapered ferrule dowels.

The  smaller ferrules were made from extruded tubing, which is a bit of a cheat since the early rodmakers did not have this material and thus used seamed/soldered brass tubes as I will use on the larger ferrules downstream.  I will likely make these smaller ferrules seamed by cutting and re-soldering them for better historical accuracy.  So, here are a couple pics to show where we stand at the moment: