Isn't there a better material for rods?
By Tom Kirkman

Here is a question from Volume 6, Issue #2 of RodMaker Magazine:

RodMaker Magazine

I hear about all the wonder materials used in rod building today and still see rods break and fail when the graphite fibers break. Isn't there a fiber around that wouldn't break so easily and would make the rods more durable? It's tough to spend so much money on something you have to threat so carefully. I thought the newer fibers were actually supposed to be stronger. Curtis, Lithonia, GA

In terms of rod failure that is not caused by abuse - nicks, impact, etc., breaking fiber isn't the cause of the failure. If you take a sound rod blank and just continue to load it until failure occurs, at some point the fibers on the compression side will blow out of the matrix, collapsing the structure inward. Once this happens, the strength that was provided by the structure itself disappears and the load falls on whatever is left, which in this case are the fibers themselves. At that point the fibers themselves may break, but their breakage only occurs after the structure itself has collapsed.

The strength or resistance to failure of modern rod blanks relies on the structure staying intact as much of more than anything else. Intact, it is capable of handling tremendous loads, but once its integrity is breached you have nothing capable of handling the load. Broken fibers are usually the after effect of blank failure and not the cause of it.

There are many materials and fiber types which are suitable for use in making fishing rods. But, modern day graphite fibers remain the most popular in terms of providing the characteristics that most fishermen deem preferable in a fishing rod. The design of the rod blank also plays a role in how durable it's going to be. Everything else being equal, blanks of smaller diameters and thicker walls can take more abuse than those of slightly larger diameter and thinner walls, but the former will weigh more for the same stiffness. As in almost anything else, we have to live with a compromise when selecting the blanks we use in building our rods.

Try to determine what is most important to you or your customer. Performance? Durability? A measure of both, realizing that you have to give up a little of one to get more of the other? The day of ultra-high performance, lightweight miracle blank that is also absolutely unbreakable is still somewhere off in the future. Until then, you have to select the blanks that offer you the best combination of the properties you most require. This may require you to back down a bit from the ultra high modulus lightweight blanks and instead choose something that has a bit beefier structure capable of withstanding a few more bumps and bangs. ~ Tom Kirkman

Publishers note:

If you have any tips or techniques, send them along! Help out your fellow rodmakers! ~ Publisher, FAOL

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