By Tom Kirkman, (RodMaker Magazine)

Here's a question from Volume 4, Issue #2 issue of RodMaker magazine:

"It is nice that rod blanks have gotten so light in recent years but I can't help but feel we have given up a great deal in terms of durability for what we have gained in performance. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't it the thin walls of today's blanks that are to blame for the lack of durability in today's premium rods and blanks? And if that is the case could not the manufacturers just reduce the diameters just a bit and make the blank walls a bit thicker and then get back what we have lost in the durability department? Ricky. . . Alexandria, VA

RodMaker Magazine

If it were truly that simple the manufacturers would have done so long ago. But there is a piece to the equation that you are either unaware of, or have simply overlooked. Permit me to explain.

For any given amount of graphite material we could make two rod blanks, one with a larger diameter and one with a smaller diameter. The larger diameter blank would naturally possess thinner walls than the one made with a small diameter. (How much thinner would depend upon the overall difference between the two diameters.) But the performance of the two would not be equal, even though they contain the same amount of graphite material. You see, for any given amount or weight of material, the larger diameter blank will provide more stiffness for the weight. Therefore, simply dropping the diameter and beefing up the walls of your favorite blank will result in a corresponding drop in performance. Yes, it will be more durable, but it will also be less stiff. So in answer to your question, reducing the diameter would also require the manufacturer to then add more material, and thus more weight, to get the stiffness back up to where it was orginally. So you would gain durability but only at a corresponding loss in performance. Follow?

The whole point of using lighter, stronger, stiffer fibers is to create a rod with the same or greater strength, with better performance, at less weight. There is no question that we have seen a decrease in overall durability compared to rods made several years before, but I would stop short of saying that any rods made today, even the ones featuring the hightest level of performance are exactly fragile. It all depends upon what you are asking the rod to do. Yes, because the overall amount of material used to make the blank is less, the unit is less substantial and will not take the hard knocks and rough handling that rods made with beefier construction, albeit much less performance, will. But again make no mistake, the best performing rods are not the overly fragile items many fishermen make them out to be. With reasonable care in handling, they are plenty tough enough to perform the required task.

You're going to have to ask yourself what is most important to you - performance or durability? Obviously some balance of both properties is in order for most fishermen. The best blank designers have been able to arrive at high performance designs which still maintain what most feel is an acceptable level of durability. If you are breaking a lot of rods, you may wish to consider your own equipment handling habits and either be more careful, or drop down on the performance scale in order to find a level of durability you can live with. ~ 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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