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

The information below for making a 3 (Three) Piece Bamboo Fly Rod 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 For our three piece bamboo fly rod, we are using a very nice REC Spalted Maple wood insert. Here you see it hanging in our drying cabinet at approximately 95 degrees F for a minimum of 24 hours. This is because, once before, we dipped the insert in varnish and when we put it in the drying cabinet, we got serious bubbles in the varnish finish. We determined it was possible that the wood insert either wasn't fully dry when we received it or it had reabsorbed a good bit of moisture from the atmosphere. Either way, the solution is to throughly dry the insert in our own drying cabinet and then quickly dip it in varnish before it can reabsorb anything. We made wire "dip hanger" from coat hangers. Cut them to lengh, bend a small "L" shape in the bottom to hold the insert, and make a small 180 degree bend in the top so the clamp can grip it.
2 Since the beginning, we have had a HEPA filter and electric heater in our drying cabinet. But we decided to expand the air filtering to our dip tank area. We made a rough wood frame and enclosed our multiple dip tanks and extraction motors in heavy gauge plastic and got a HEPA filter to clean the air.
3 Here we show our HEPA filter placed near the dip tubes. This greatly reduces the odd dust particle that could otherwise adhere to our wood insert (or bamboo fly rod) as it is being extracted from the varnish.
4 During cold weather, we drop the thermostat in our rod-dipping to about 65 degrees Farenheit (the drying cabinet takes care of heating and drying the rods). But we like to keep the varnish at a higher temperature than that. Even though we extract our rods very slowly, we want to be sure the varnish in our dip tubes does not get too viscous.
5 We wrapped the lower part of each dip tube with a heating pad. We can turn the heating pads on and thus warm up the varnish without having to heat the entire room.
6 While waiting for the varnish to warm up, we make sure our REC Spalted Maple insert is properly worked before we dip it. REC does a great job right out of the box, but rubbing some 0000 steel wool over the wood makes things even better.
7 We use an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the varnish in our dip tubes. Here we see at the start that the varnish is 64 degrees Farenheit.
8 After awhile, our dip tube varnish has reached a little more than 80 degrees Farenheit. We continue to warm it until about 85 degrees.
9 OK, now to dip our REC Spalted Maple insert.
10 The insert is on its way under the varnish (note, a complete imersion on varnish seals the wood insert on the inside and outside). The light color in the dip tank is the aluminum of the inside of the tube.
11 Now we begin the extraction.
12 The insert is almost fully extracted. Our extraction motors pull the insert out at about 2 inches a minute.
13 We have completed extraction of our REC Spalted Maple insert from the dip tube. We placed the insert in our drying cabinet for 24 hours, then dipped it a second time (with a follow-on 24 hour tour in the drying cabinet). We only dipped this twice because we don't want the varnish build up to be so much that the insert won't fit in the nickel silver skeleton.
14 This is our Spalted Maple insert after the second varnish dip and it's subsequent 24 hour stay in the drying cabinet.
15 This close up of the insert shows the our "dip hanger" which we made from a coat hanger.
16 Now that we have completed the varnishing of our Spalted Maple insert, we need to prepare to match with the REC Nickel Silver uplocking skeleton. Here we have laid out the skeleton, in proper order, next to the insert.
17 Just like we dry fit the ferrules onto the ferrule stations of our bamboo fly rod blanks, we also dry fit the skeleton onto the wood insert. There are a lot of reasons to do this: one is to make sure our two coats of varnish were not so thick that it hampered the fit in the skeleton, the other is to be sure we correctly lay out the skeleton parts (they usually come separate from the insert). Having the epoxy dry and THEN discover you left out the slide ring is not a happy thought.
18 Now take the dry fit skeleton off and prepare to epoxy certain parts of the skeleton onto the insert. It is a wise idea to do what you can BEFORE epoxying the skeleton/insert onto the bamboo fly rod butt. We use 60 minute epoxy to allow enough time to place all the pieces together (5 minute epoxy will set up before you are finished); but there is a down side. If you aren't very careful, the skeleton can slip slightly during the epoxy set-up and even a slight slip will be catastrophic. So, gluing what you can up front will pay dividends.
19 We will use the same stainless steel pick that we used in the information section about perparing and installing the nickel silver ferrules on our bamboo rod blank (see Line #39) to scratch the inside of the reel seat skeleton. These scratches make it much easier for the epoxy to bind to the skeleton.
20 If you enlarge this photo, you can see the abrasions made by the steel pick.
21 Don't forget to also scratch the Spalted Maple insert itself. Since we sealed it with two coats of varnish by dipping in the dip tubes, we need to scratch the varnish to insure the epoxy bond between the insert and skeleton. Be careful doing this; you want to scratch the insert that will contact the skeleton, but you do NOT want to scratch any portion of the insert that will be visible once the skeleton/insert is epoxied onto the bamboo fly rod butt section.
22 Here is a photograph of the steel pick making the scratches we need.
23 Now we are done with scratching the outside portion of the skeleton. Note that this Information Section doesn't show ALL the areas on the insert that need abraisons. Use common sense, wherever the nickel silver skeleton is to be joined to the insert with epoxy requires abrasion.
24 Don't forget that the inside of the insert must be epoxied to the butt end of the butt section of our 3 piece bamboo fly rod. It too should be scratched.
25 The ends of the insert also require abraison, but this can best be accomplished by rough sandpaper (perhaps 60 grit). Be careful not to create scratches that will be visible to the fisherman after the nickel silver skeleton has been epoxied onto the bamboo fly rod.
26 Here are some of the items and tools we need to work with the reel seat and insert.
27 We have learned that Acetone is an excellent tool to keep handy. It is great for cutting grease in a ferule and thus make it easier for epoxy to bind. It is also effective in cleaning up epoxy residue from bamboo fly rod blanks. But this needs to be done while the epoxy has not yet set. The application of too much Acetone can jeopardize the integrity of the epoxy bond in the rod blank itself. Just dapening a lint free cloth with epoxy should work just fine.
28 Now we need to mix the epoxy to glue the nickel silver reel seat, REC Spalted Maple Insert, and 3 piece bamboo fly rod butt section together. Start by placing a plastic mixing cup on a set of scales and Tare it to zero.
29 Place some 60 minute epoxy in the mixing cup (we use 0.05 ounces); we need enough to mix well, but not so much as to cause waste.
30 Now Tare the scales again back to zero.
31 We try to use an equal amount of 60 minute epoxy hardner, but were only able to get 0.045 ounces. This is close enough.
32 Now the epoxy and hardner must be mixed together thoroughly. Be sure to you take the time necessary to do this right. Poor mixing (or an amount that varies widely from 50-50) will result in a poor bond.
33 Here is what we need for our initial work on the reel seat skeleton and insert.
34 Use the stirring stick and apply epoxy to the insert and to the REC nickel silver skeleton . Keep the mitered area (where the skeleton will NOT be) free from epoxy. You need a balance of plenty of epoxy, but not so much that it overflows when you join the pieces. Note that the rim of the nickel silver REC skeleton lines up with the edges of the mortise in the wood insert.
35 If you expand this photo, you can see where we squeezed out excess epoxy. There is nothing wrong with this, as long it is not excessive; expelling some epoxy is an indicator that you have probably put enough epoxy on the insert and skeleton. Wipe it off with a clean, lint free cloth then dapen the cloth in a bit of Acetone and wipe over the area again. This will clean it up just fine.
36 We use a small clamp to put pressure on the REC nickel silver skeleton and wood insert to prevent it from slipping while the epoxy is setting up. Obviously, you have to line it up carefully before you tighten the clamp.
37 Enlarging the photo here shows what you might expect, that is the further explusion of excess epoxy.
38 This is not a problem and can be easily handled with a clean cloth and a bit of Acetone. Remember, it is far, far easier to remove the excess epoxy before it sets up.
39 This is an example of of our Spalted Maple Insert and REC nickel silver skeleton properly glued, cleaned, and clamped. We leave our insert and skeleton clamped for a few hours until the epoxy sets up solidly, then we remove the clamp and hang the reel seat in the drying cabinet for about 24 hours.
40 Enlarge this photo and you can see where, after doing a dry-fit of our Portuguese Cork Grip and Reel Seat/Insert, we made pencil marks at where the wood insert comes and also where tip end of the cork grip will reach. The pencil points indicate the marks. You will notice that we did not have to turn the butt end of our butt section in order to expand the hole so our insert could slide on. We normally do, but this time we paid to have a larger diameter hole in the insert.
41 It is important to dry fit and mark where things will go, because once you apply the epoxy, you don't want to take too much time trying to figure things out. Also, it is a good idea to know how far to slide your hardware and just as important, when to stop sliding; remember you are sliding it over epoxy and if you back things up you will leave an epoxy residue that will have to be cleaned. Note we have the ring for the reel foot on the insert. You don't want to forget that!
42 This is a dry-fit of everything. Of course, we did that first before making the pencil marks, but we changed the photos around a bit so you could see the end results. You will almost certainly have to ream out the small hole through the cork grip. Use a tapered reamer or round rasp file as you will want the diameter at the butt end of the grip to be larger than the tip end of the grip. Test frequently. A tight dry fit is OK because wet epoxy acts as a lubricant.
43 See the blue masking tape? As mentioned earlier, we paid extra to have a larger diameter hole cut in our insert, thus eliminating the normal need to turn down the bamboo fly rod butt. But you don't want any slack in the wood insert either, so if that happens you compensate by building out a small section with some masking tape. Then when you apply plenty of epoxy, the masking tape keeps the insert centered.
44 Here, the epoxy has been applied to the section of the bamboo fly rod blank that will be covered by the cork grip. This is where you will first appreciate the fact that you made a pencil mark where you want to stop sliding the cork grip on. A very small piece of toothpick can be used as a shim if you reamed a bit too much our of your cork. In this case, everything is fine.
45 Since the insert that goes into the recess of our half wells cork grip is manufactured with parallel ridges, we don't have to scratch it. Enlarging the photo shows where we put epoxy on the part of the insert that will contact the cork recess. A few notes: don't put too much epoxy at the lip of the cork or the excess will get on the cork; be very careful NOT to put any epoxy on the on the inside of the insert or you may not be able to attach your reel foot.
46 Here we are putting epoxy on the inside of the skeleton where we will install the end cap. Be sure to fully coat this part of the nickel silver skeleton, but if you put too much epoxy on and it exudes onto the threads when you press the end cap on, you will be very busy with your clean cloth and Acetone. So use caution. Next, put plenty of epoxy on the butt section and slide your wood insert in place. The butt of the rod should press against the inside of the butt cap.
47 I use a Reel Alignment Jig which I bought from Tom Morgan. While the epoxy is still fresh, set the Jig in place (just as your Reel would be when fishing) and rotate the grip/reel seat until the Jig lines up along the bamboo fly rod flat where you will wrap your Stripper Guide. Naturally you will have already identified the spine on your bamboo butt (if it has a spine).
48 Now let the epoxy set up before you hang your rod blank in the drying cabinet. During this set-up period, pay close attention to the alignment of everything as things tend to move about while epoxy is wet. Now is when you will apreciate having already glued part of this beforehand. Watch the butt cap closely, it may have a tendency to slightly back out of the skeleton while setting up and this will be blatantly obvious upon rotation of your finished reel seat.
49 This is a close-up of the grip and reel seat. After about two hours, place it in the drying cabinet for 24 hours.