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Building A Cane Rod, Part IX.

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This is the last installment of the building process and concerns winding the guides on the rod with silk and sealing the wraps. As mentioned in an earlier column, the guides can be wound on the rod either prior to varnishing or afterwards.

Although some late manufacturers used nylon thread to wrap cane rods, silk is the traditional and the most widely used thread for wrapping. Silk comes in various sizes and the size within a grade can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Most common sizes are A and 00, with the 00 being the finer and most commonly used. The silk fiber comes from the silkworm, Bombix morii, and undergoes extensive processing to reach the stage of becoming the thread we use to wrap rods.

The individual filaments are spun from glands on the worm called spinnerets and each individual strand in its natural form is composed of two identical fiber units that are bound together with a type of biological glue called sericin. These fibers are woven into a cocoon. These cocoons are then harvested and the long process of unwinding the individual fibers, twisting them into thread and dying then commences.

Prior to wrapping the guides on the rod a builder first must consider where and how many guides will be used, as well as the color of the silk. As a rule of thumb there is one guide for each foot of rod length (plus the stripping guide) and the distance between each guide increases from the tip to butt ends of the rod. A rodbuilder may either use the guide spacing used on the original rod they are attempting to emulate, or they may experiment to find what they believe makes the rod cast best.

On many classic production rods one difference common between models of different price ranges was the number of guides wrapped on the rod and the presence or absence of tipping or decorative wraps. Like all other steps in the building process, wrapping is labor intensive and manufacturers found they could cut costs by using less guides and wraps.

The choice of the silk color is another important consideration. Some builders and buyers prefer color tones that harmonize well with the color of the cane, while others prefer a more exuberant appearance. To each their own!

Once the placement of the guides is decided upon, most builders take the time to grind or file the feet of the guide so that the foot of the guide tapers to a fine point. This allows the thread to be wrapped over the guide foot without a visible 'break' in the thread. The wrap begins by securing the end of the thread by crossing over a wrap or two, then continued up the guide foot. It is not necessary to use elaborate or expensive jigs to provide tension to the thread while wrapping. Once the guides are all wrapped a rodbuilder may use a burnisher to flatten the wraps and eliminate any small gaps in the thread.

The next choice of the rodbuilder is color preserve and seal the wraps, or seal the wraps without using a color preservative. The cosmetic look of each option is very different. Color-preserved wraps in their finished state appear opaque and much the same as the color of the silk as it comes from the spool. The guide feet and rod shaft cannot be seen through a color-preserved wrap. Either shellac or lacquer can be used to color preserve wraps.

The second choice is to simply apply varnish to the wraps, and this gives an entirely different look to the wraps. In this case the wraps become translucent and the color of the thread can change dramatically. Several coats of varnish are usually used to completely seal the wrap and secure it to the rod shaft.

Once the finish has cured, it's time to deliver the rod and go fishing!

As we draw this series to a close I hope that you have a clearer understanding of how cane rods are made and the huge number of individual steps necessary to turn our raw materials into a finished rod. Most professional rodbuilders will have invested anywhere from 30 to 50 hours of their time and creativity in this effort, and there is nothing they'd like more then for you to hit the water and have some fun with your new toy! ~ J.D. Wagner ~
2000, J.D. Wagner, Inc.

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