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Getting Started
  |  First Published: March 2003



OVER the past few months we’ve had quite a few calls about rod building. These queries have ranged from where and how to get blanks and components, to rod recipes and the basics of where you can learn to build a fishing rod.

A good rod-building book or having someone teach you is the best way to learn the basics. Rod-building courses are conducted around the place from time to time, but these are generally hard to track down. I used to run a few six-week courses each year through various tackle shops, but, unfortunately, I no longer have the time.

The most practical and down to earth book I’ve come across for getting started is The Australian Rod Builder by well-known Australian rod builder, Ian Miller. Along with running through the basics, it offers a number of rod recipes in the back that cater for just about everything.

Most larger tackle shops, and even a few newsagents, should have a few copies. For many years, the rod-building ‘Bible’ has been, Custom Rod Building and Advanced Custom Rod Building by Dale Clemens. It’s been around for a long time and is perhaps a little outdated in some areas. It does, however, offer a very sound grounding for a lot of work and has quite a large section dedicated to some of the more advanced patterns and weaves that can be achieved in the thread work. Tackle shops are your best bet of getting one of these.

As with many things, ‘practice makes perfect’. You will find you are all thumbs and fingers for quite a while, but persist – it soon becomes second nature. After a while you don’t even need to think when it comes to starting and finishing a basic bind.

I suggest starting on a few old rods you may have lying around. You’d be surprised at how well you can bring up some of those old sticks. It’s a lot of fun sanding back old wooden butts and cleaning off that old yellow varnish. Some of that dirty old wood ends up being red cedar or camphor laurel, both of which come up beautifully with a bit of varnish or epoxy. Old cane rods are ideal pieces to spruce up and place over the bar. In fact, restoring old rods can become an obsession in itself.

The rewarding part about rod building is that you are doing something that delivers an end result that you can look at, admire and use. I’d hate to estimate how many thousands of rods I’ve built and, as repetitive as volume can become, I still get a kick out it – particularly when doing something a little different. It might be a new style of Fuji guide or a different combination of colours and trims.

Like many others, I started building rods just as something to do – a bit like putting a plastic model together. That was nearly 25 years ago. Not long after leaving school I started doing a few repairs for local bait and tackle shops, and I slowly progressed from there. It’s a full-time job for me now, and has been for 10 years.

It’s not an easy road though, if you are hoping to make a living from rod building. In the early stages, you will likely have trouble accessing blanks and parts from most wholesale suppliers. Manufacturers and wholesalers are geared up to supply other wholesalers/manufacturers and support retailers, so it pays to try and link in with a good tackle shop.

Try and work a bit of a deal with the shop owner for a good discount, especially if you become a regular customer. At the very least, find a retailer that will buy in the parts that you need. Most have a few of the basic guides and grips, but they usually don’t have a big selection of blanks.

A few people have relayed experiences to me of shop owners telling tell them that blanks or even Fuji components are ‘too hard’ to get. Well, I’m afraid to say, if you experience this it’s generally just the shop being too lazy to make a few calls and it’s probably time for you to start shopping elsewhere.

Very few of the rod recipes we usually dedicate this page are made with items that are hard to get. I endeavour to provide a selection of recipes on builds that you should be able to get from most reasonable tackle shops. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be much point writing about it!

This is where developing a good working relationship with a shop comes in. It may even lead to you building a few custom rods for that shop and that really is where your slow road to making some money from rod building begins.

There are two blank manufacturers in Australia – Pacific Composites and Snyder Glas. Both are located in Brisbane and have a good distribution network to tackle shops around Australia. There are a host of other blanks available from other wholesalers that come from various other parts of the world.

The Fuji distributor is located on the northern NSW coast and has an excellent range and holding of stock. In most cases, it’s only a couple of days’ delivery to most parts of Australia.

Over a period of time you will work out for yourself what is good and what isn’t. As you’d expect, there is far more rubbish out there, and quality doesn’t always have to be expensive.

Good tradespeople know their craft. They also know quality that will last and what will not last.

It does take a while to familiarise yourself with the various components and blanks that are available and for what they can be used. That’s why you’ll find most reputable rod builders have been around for a long time. You have to start somewhere though and doing up that old rod is as good a place to start as any.

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