Wrapping Tension

By Tom Kirkman, (RodMaker Magazine)

Here's a question from the September/October 1999 issue of RodMaker magazine:

"I read everywhere about having the "right tension" and not "too much tension" on thread wraps but that's pretty vague. Any idea just how much tension (poundage wise) a guy should use? I can put a scale on the thread after I get the spring do-hicky tightened down on the wrapper but what should I set it to?" Gary, Williamsburg, OH

RodMaker Magazine

"Assigning an optimum amount of tension via some sort of measurement would be an excellent idea, except for the fact that the vast majority of thread tensioning devices in use on rod wrappers and lathes today do not contain any tension reading device. For this reason, no one I am aware of has taken the time and trouble to develop optimum tension settings. Perhaps this is something that should be looked into.

In the meantime however, there is a general rule of thumb that you can reply upon for good results. After wrapping a guide, if you cannot move it slightly to either side with moderate pressure from your fingers, it is too tight. What you would like to achieve is a wrapping tension that allows you to slightly adjust and align the guides after wrapping, with only firm finger/hand pressure. This accomplishes two things; first, it allows you to correctly align the guides, and second, it prevents undue pressure being applied to the blank by the guide feet, which in some cases can result in damage and ultimately failure of the blank itself. Poorly prepped guide feet and extreme thread tension have no doubt resulted in many, many brokem rods, particularly on today's thin-wall high modulus blanks.

It is important to remember that thread tension is cumulative, it increases with each wrap of thread. Many rod builders apply far too much tension in the mistaken belief that extreme tension is needed in order to keep the guides from shifting when the rod is used. Modern epoxy finishes do much to anchor the guides in place in place as well as protecting the underlying thread. Most standard freshwater and light saltwater rods simply do not require copious amounts of thread tension.

It is also important to remember that on thread tension devices where a spring or some such device places tension directly on the spool rather than directly on the thread, the amount of tension will increase as the thread's diameter on the spool decreases. On such devices, it is wise to check tension every so often and adjust as necessary.

Obviously, big game trolling blanks can withstand, and require, more wrapping tension on the guides than ultra-light spinning rods or light line fly rods. Keep in mind the type of rod you are working with, the job it is expected to do, and the wall thickness of the individual blank you are working on and wrap accordingly. While this may be equally vague, remember to wrap "snug" not "tight" and you should be okay. (And we'll give the thread tension scale idea more thought!) ~ 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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