Brasstown Creek Bamboo Fly Rod Three (3) Piece Rod Wrapping Information Preparing and Installing Guides

The information below for making a 3 (Three) Piece Bamboo Fly Rod Bamboo from Rod Blank to finish is an approach used by Brasstown Creek, Inc. to finish a rod using varnish (not Flex Coat) to coat the silk.  This works for us, but there are many other methods, some certainly may be better, but this is what we use.  Always use caution with lathes, flammables, razor blades, heaters, and other dangerous items.  Always follow manufacturer instructions.

1 A key thing to remember when you are preparing stripper and snake guides for your bamboo fly rod is to work the feet. A LOT! If the feet aren't tapered sufficiently fine where your silk thread transitions from bamboo to guide, you can get a gap or other perturbation in the uniformity of your gap. To help the process, we start by using a Dremel Trio with a sanding drum. Of course the grit of the drum is way too course for the finish, but it tends to cut away the foot very fast and speeds things up a lot. But use caution (like everthing else in making a bamboo fly rod) because if you twitch while sanding you can grind away too much and have to get a new guide. I usually waste two to three guides per rod.
2 I used to hold the guides in my fingers when I held them against the rotating sanding drum. The advantage to that is you get a really good "feel" of how the sanding is going. The disadvantage is that you can FEEL the sanding drum. So I have bought a set of Pin Vises and now I hold the guides in them. It is much safer for my fingers.
3 Here is a guide mounted in the Pin Vise.
4 This is a close up photo of the Pin Vise holding a guide. If you enlarge this photo, you can see where we are beginning to file (sand on the drum) down the end of the foot. You want end up with a gradual slope to the foot so that when you wrap with silk thread, the thread experiences a smooth transition from the bamboo rod flat to the guide foot.
5 This is a close up of the guide above as we continue to work the foot. Work this slowly; you can always grind more off, but you sure can't put anything back on. After you get pretty close to your desired end state, switch to fine grit (600 grit then 800 grit) sand paper and smooth out any scratches, by hand, from the corse grit sanding drum. Slope down to a very, very fine edge; if possible, you want the edge of the foot to be no thicker than 25%-50% the thread diameter.
6 The Nickel Silver Agate Stripper Guide (Arcane Components) we used on our three piece bamboo fly rod has a much thicker foot than our snake guides, so it takes more work to slope the foot to where we want it. Again, we start with the sanding drum on our Dremel Trio. But before we transition to sandpaper, we work a while with a very fine #6 then #8 Grobet Swiss File I bought from JD Wagner.
7 This photo show working with the #8 Grobet Swiss File.
8 Finish working the Agate Stripper Guide feet with 600 grit then 800 grit sandpaper.
9 When we finish, we will dip our bamboo fly rod in varnish. But at this point, we are going to smooth our blanks with 0000 steel wool then wipe a thin coat of varnish that has been cut with a with between 5% and 10% Acetone. Before dipping our rod, we want to sign the butt; we want to apply the signature onto a thin coat of varnish rather than directly onto unfinished bamboo. This makes it easier to wipe off any mistakes in ink (not that we ever make any mistakes).
10 Apply the thin coat of varnish with a clean lint free cloth. Then hang the blank sections in your drying cabinet for 24 hours.
11 Here is our 3 piece bamboo fly rod, after a thin wipe on of varnish, laid out next to a ruler.
12 We want to put a hookkeeper on our fly rod. Many makers choose not to use a hookkeeper because you can always use a guide or cork grip for that purpose. But we prefer one. Normally we install a "Wire Loop" hookkeeper (they are just as functional, but considerably more easy to install. But for this three piece bamboo fly rod, we are going to take a more elegant approach - we will use an 18% Nickel Silver Strap and Ring. The pencil point in this photo is by the Ring part of the Strap and Ring hookkeeper. Just below it is the Strap. We trimmed our Strap to the length we want (remember that you have to make a small "hump" in the Strap to allow the Ring to swivel. We will show more on that below.
13 The first thing we do after cutting our Strap to length is to prepare the feet, just like we do on the guides.
14 Since we have installed a fair number of Strap and Ring hookkeepers, we made a simple tool to help us make our "hump" uniform and centered in the section of Strap. This tool is nothing more complicated than two pieces of smooth wooden blocks with a groove cut into one of them with a saw blade. In this photo you see a round toothpick (yes, ANOTHER toothpick) and a rubber mallet.
15 Place the Strap on the block that has the groove in it. Be sure you get the Strap centered on the groove.
16 Since it is really important that the Strap remain centered over the groove, tape it in place with masking tape.
17 Now for the magic toothpick again. Place the toothpick on top of the Strap and align it with the groove.

18 Just like we taped the Strap in place, we need to tape the toothpick in place.
19 OK. Now we are almost ready. Place the other wood block, the one without the groove, on top of the taped down Strap and toothpick. Then give the top block a single solid whack with the rubber mallet. Don't act like you are driving a railroad spike, just a good whack.
20 Now start peeling the layers of masking tape back off.
21 Take a look at the Strap. We have a very well formed hump centered pretty well in the Strap.
22 After removing the last of the tape, you can get an eyeball look to see if hump is exactly centered in the Strap. It looks to be a bit off.
23 Placing the Strap on the milimeter scale we see it is slightly off. That is a problem easily fixed with a set of small wire cutters. After cutting, work the foot again, as necessary, to be sure your silk wrap transitions well onto the Strap.
24 Now we are ready. You can see we did a dry fit with the Ring placed under the hump in the Strap. The hump is now centered in the Strap.
25 Here we will show a useful trick. In the section on installing ferrules, I emphasized that when you think you have feathered your ferrule tabs enough do it some more; well sometimes even that isn't enough. Once you have epoxied the ferrule onto the bamboo fly rod blank, you are pretty well done as far as further feathering goes. So what then? Well, here is one approach: You will almost certainly have feathered enough to look good on the rod.
26 But the problem is if the thickness of the end of the tab is much greater than about 1/4 the diameter of the silk wrapping thread, there can be a discontunity in the silk thread wrap. A way to mitigate this is to take some varnish and apply it to the ferrule tab/bamboo flat junction. Then let it dry 24 hours in your drying cabinet.
27 It may or may not be necessary to repeat the application of varnish (depending on the varnish build-up). Once you are satisfied, sand the varnish layer to a smooth taper from the ferrule tabs to the bamboo rod flat. The idea is to enable the silk wrapping thread to transition from the bamboo flat to the nickel silver ferrule tabs without any perturbation. Clearly it is better to taper the ferrule tabs sufficiently to start with, but you will find that sometimes you have to make corrections.
28 Now our three (3) piece bamboo fly rod is ready to wrap the guides.
29 All the butt ends of our bamboo fly rod line up.
30 And, fortunately, so do the tip ends.
31 Now we get ready to wrap. There are a lot of items that help when wrapping tipping, some essential and others simply helpful. We use YLI Silk Thread. Our preferred color combination (and what we are using on this three piece bamboo fly rod) is a Wrap of YLI Silk Thread (Color #201, Size #100) with a tipping of YLI Silk Thread (Color Black, Size #100).
32 Here is another helpful trick that sometimes work, sometimes not. Guide feet have to be kept in place while you start your silk wrapping; this is often done with narrow strips of masking tape. But Tacky Glue can also work. Advantages are you don't have to wrap around the masking tape, the disadvantages are that the tacky glue can come loose and the guide falls off (you only apply a very thin amount of glue to the feet of the guide).
33 Dip a toothpick (yes, another toothpick) into the dollop of Tacky Glue and apply it to the bottom of the guide feet.
34 This is an example of applying a thin coat of Tacky Glue to the Agate Nickel Silver Stripping Guide. Don't apply so much that it causes an elevation of the feet on the bamboo flat.
35 After application of the thin coat of Tacky Glue, position the Stripper Guide on the bamboo flat. For me it is easier to use tweezers as you don't want to slide the feet around and leave a glue residue. This is also a good example of why making a template which marks where to place your guides is helpful.
36 To begin wrapping our YLI Silk Thread onto the stripper guide, place the rod into the Flex Coat Hand Rod Wrapper (we purchased from Cabelas).
37 Various makers extend their wraps to different places on the ferrules. On Female Ferrules, we take ours just to the edge of the second ridge past the cut in the ferrule tabs. Rather than try to hold the silk thread in place with one hand while we wrap, we simply run a little excess thread and temporarily tape it.
38 Wrap your silk thread with several turns over the tag end of the silk. Note that it usually takes more turns to hold the tag end tight when wrapping over nickel silver than when wrapping over the bamboo rod itself.
39 This a closer view of the start of our wrap over the Nickel Silver Ferrule.
40 After securing the tag end, cut it close with a razor blade. We will smooth and pack it later with an agate Burnisher.
41 As we approach the end of the wrap, place a small loop of thread on the bamboo flat opposite the guide and continue the wrap for three to five more turns. Then keep the last turn in place with your finger and cut the tag end off, pulling it through the thread loop. With your free hand, grasp the two free ends of the thread loop and pull gently but firmly until the entire tag end is pulled back through the wrap and comes out as seen in this photo.
42 We will take a special "aside" look at tying off the tag ends of a wrap (same approach for both the main wrap and tipping, but the tipping is easier to come lose because there are fewer turns over the tag ends to secure them.

Here we have started a wrap of YLI Silk Thread.
43 When you are about 5 turns from the end of your main wrap (this may be as few as three turns for tipping), prepare a loop of thread. We use contrasting colors for convenience.
44 Here we have inserted the thread loop under a turn of the main wrap. You will want to do this on the bamboo flat opposite the guide, for aesthetic reasons.
45 Begin to make more turns of your main wrap and over the thread loop. Pack the wrap as you go.
46 OK, now we have put approximately five turns over the thread loop.
47 Using a free hand, put pressure on the last turn of the main wrap thread and prepare to cut the tag end.
48 We want ample length to our tag end of YLI silk thread, so the cut is made off camera.
49 Keeping pressure on the last turn, tuck the tag end of your wrap through the silk loop. Using tweezers usually helps with this effort.
50 Now the tag end of the red YLI silk thread is through the thread loop.
51 Grasp the tag thread and pull it toward where the thread loop exits the main wrap turns. When you pull the tag end back through the wrap, you don't want a lot of slack in anything.
52 In this photo we have pulled the thread loop (along with the captured tag end of the main wrap) out of the overlying red YLI silk thread. Normally we pull the tag end through in one motion, but for demonstration purposes we are showing this in steps.
53 So now grasp the the thread loop and pull the tag end of the red thread completely through.
54 Now give a gentle but firm tug on the tag end of the thread to snug it up.
55 We now pack our thead wrap with an Agate Burnisher. Since we are going to coat the silk wraps with varnish,we will leave the tag thread uncut for the time being.
56 We are now back to the actual work on our 3 piece bamboo fly rod. You can cut the tag end off flush with the wrap.
57 Here is a close up of cutting the tag end with a razor blade. This appoach, cutting the tag ends flush work well whether you plan to cover the silk with varnish or with flex coat, but it is essential if you use flex coat. If you plan to cover the wrap with varnish, you have an option of leaving the tag ends uncut until you paint on the first coat of varnish. We will see this approach below.
58 Here we wrapped the other foot of our Agate Nickel Silver Stripper Guide and after pulling the tag end of the main silk wrap we temporarily leave it without cutting; then we use YLI Blace for tipping. Some makers try to keep their tipping to as few turns as possible, but we use 5 turns as we like to clearly see the Black on Red contrast.
59 Here we begin the silk wrap for our Nickel Silver Strap and Ring. With a Strap and Ring Hookkeeper, you have to wrap the silk thread under the entire "hump" part of the strap. Here we use the ubiquitous toothpick to slightly lift the strap so we can slide the thread undeneath. Of course the toothpick has to be removed with each thread wrap else the wood may abraid the thread.
60 This takes time to complete wrapping the silk thread under the length of Nickel Silver Strap, but the effects are worth it.
61 Of note is that you have to remember to insert the Ring after you complete wrapping under the hump in the Strap, but before you place the first turn over the Strap beyond the hump. Forget this step and you will have to unwrap some silk. We use tweezers to gently slide the Ring into place.
62 This photograph shows our Nickel Silver Strap and Ring in place with the YLI SIlk wrap and tipping finished. Since we will be coating the wraps with varnish, we left the tag ends and will cut them later.
63 It is a great help, when applying varnish to the Strap and Ring (whether brushing it or or later when we dip the rod) to keep the Ring erect. This is easily done if you use a pin with a long shaft; you can keep the pin in place by inserting the tip into the cork grip. We bought a box of pins from a Craft store.

64 We are applying an initial coat of varnish (we cut it with between 5% to 10% Acetone to immprove penetration into the silk).

We have our bamboo rod sections slowly rotating in a motorized rod dryer. The rotation insures the varnish doesn't sag while it dries.
65 Continue carefully applying varnish with the brush. You want an even coat. Watch out for bubbles.
66 Brushing varnish onto the Strap and Ring wrap is the most time consuming because you have to negotiate under the pin shaft and around the Ring.
67 Here is the wrap on a Male Nickel Silver Ferrule mounted in a drying motor. Note the tag ends have not been cut off.
68 On the left side of this guide we cut the tag ends off before varnishing. On the right side, we will cut the tag ends off after our first varnish coat. There is no reason to do it both ways here other than to show it doesn't make any difference in the end. It is your preference. You MUST cut the tag ends if you coat the wraps in epoxy rather than varnish.
69 On a different guide, where we left the tag ends on the silk thread, we are beginning the initial application of varnish.
70 Here is a guide where we have finished an initial varnish coat. The bamboo fly rod section is slowly turning in our rod drying machine. We will let the light coat of varnish dry for two hours before hanging the rod sections into our drying cabinet for 24 hours.
71 Using our three piece bamboo rod template, we make small pencil marks on our two tip sections indicating where we want to make our black silk wraps indicating Tip #1 and Tip #2.
72 Here are the completed wraps indicating Tip #2. Tip #1 would have only one wrap.
73 This photo shows a rod section with a guide that has a dried application of varnish. We will use a fresh razor blade to cut the tag ends off close to the wrap. If you wait until the first application of varnish, the tag ends become stiff so when you cut them off, they don't have any frizzes nor any chance to unravel.
74 Here is a close up of cutting a varnished tag end after 24 hours in the drying cabinet.
75 Another view of trimming tag ends.
76 There are a lot of tag ends when wrapping a three piece bamboo rod.