The following pages detail the step-by-step construction of a two-piece 2-5kg, 7' fishing rod. I have chosen the G-Loomis S843-2 2-piece graphite blank for this project, using high-quality Recoil Titanium-alloy guides and Fuji reel-seat components.
The whole purpose of detailing this build is to demonstrate how easy it is for any moderately handy folks to knock up a really high-quality rod for a budget-conscious price. I've chosen the G-Loomis blank because of the renowned integrity of their construction and the superior feel they are reputed to have, but the techniques remain the same with lower priced blanks and components. Same with the componentry - I have splurged on some expensive bits, in fact much higher spec than you would find on a factory-manufactured GL-3, purely because the savings of doing it myself allow that luxury; however there's plenty of good components that don't cost the earth for the budget-conscious.
I'm by no means a pro-rod builder, and in fact didn't own a fishing rod until 2005, so there may be better ways to achieve some of the goals in this article. For this reason I encourage people more experienced than I to offer their opinions and add constructive comment. Perhaps try to add them in italics so we can keep track of the original article and the additions. There are also some great rod-building DVDs (the Gary Howard/Ian Miller DVD was my reference to get started) and plenty of info on the net. At this stage I'll point out that all of the components used in this project were sourced from an American rod-building supplier. All the bits are available from local shops if you prefer, but the purpose of this article is to show how cheaply it can be done hence the U.S. supplier.
The tools required for this are all pretty simple. A sharp pair of trimmers for the thread ($4), Chinagraph pencil ($2) A few reasonable quality 12mm art brushes for applying epoxy ($6 pack of 3 at Bunnings), A pair of measured syringes for the epoxy ($3), A few safety razor blades ($5) A Stanley-style knife with a spare pack of blades. ($10) Battery drill & bits (everybody has one don't they?) An old table knife with stainless steel handle with nice smoorth edges, or something else that's hard, smooth and shiny to be used for thread burnishing. 5-minute Araldite, 24-hour Araldite, 1 standard drinking straw or pen barrel.
A basic rolling frame and dryer rotisserie will help immensly. This is probably the only expensive tooling that you possibly need. The dryer slowly rotates the rod as the epoxy cures, thereby keeping the epoxy at a uniform thickness around the rod and giving you that nice glassy finish. You could get by with a couple of bits of ply with a "V" cut for the rod to sit in and then lined with felt. A DC rotisserie dryer motor is available from many tackle stores for about $40. I've splurged and made a whole 240v drying rotisserrie and roller bench using shop-bought rollers that cost me a bit over $100, you can also buy them ready made from the place you get your blanks from. For the serious rod-builder there are also wrapping-lathes available for around $500, but I'm happy to bind my guides by hand in beween a set of rollers. Here's a couple of photos of my drying bench.
02/12/07 Step 1.
Select your components.
You need to decide what sort of rod you're building and what reel you're going to put on it. I wanted an all-purpose rod that I could use for hunting Bass, Flathead and Moreton Bay snapper at the largest, but still be fun if I happen to get onto some bream. I'm keen on 7' rods, it's a size that I feel comfortable with on my boat or kayak. I like a fairly light-medium power (how the rod behaves under load) with a fast action and I'm going to be using a TD Sol 2500 with generally 4kg line, 6 kg at most.
Once you know what reel you'll be using you can select some guides. You can find recipes for just about any blank but remember, if they're not from a respected rod-builder they may not be any better (or indeed as good) as you can come up with yourself. I've combined a few methods into one that works for me. Firstly, What sort of guides do I want & how many will I need? I went for the Recoil guides because they're really light and virtually indestructable. 
Because I'm using a G-Loomis blank the first thing I did was check their recommended guide sizes from the G-Loomis site. You can follow their recipe exactly and build a clone of a factory-built rod, but what's the fun in that? Since I was ordering from the U.S. I thought it would be smart to over-order rather than have to re-order more a later date so I used the tried and true old-time method of one guide per foot of rod-length, plus a tip. That gives 7 guides and the tip, then I bought an extra one of my smaller sizes and one extra intermediate size. Good thing I did really, because as it turns out the genuine Loomis uses one less guide than my rod, but I felt it was a necessary change. To get the sizes I started with the stripper guide, being the one closest to the reel. When referring to spinning rods, there is a commonly accepted method of using a guide approximately half the diameter of your reel face. The TD Sol is 50mm across the face so I've chosen a #25 stripper guide. I'm using high-frames which keeps the angle from the reel to the first guide at a minimum. A # 30 stripper guide would also have worked here. If you're really concerned about this you can leave the first guide or two un-epoxyed until you have a few test-casts. If you don't like it then you can change the guide without too much concern. Then I chose a tip. The tip only needs to be big enough for the leader knots to be able to flow through without getting caught. A common size for 4kg line and under would be a #6, I've gone up one size to a #7, since I generally use braid and a fairly heavy leader, therefore I have a sometimes bulky leader knot that needs to pass through when casting. I also made the decision to use a Fuji SiC tip on advice from another member who put me onto the Recoils in the first place. The next two guides I made the same size as the tip, being #7, then a #8, #10, #12, #16 and finally the #25 stripper guide. Here's a link to a method used by Fuji to create the "New Concept System" but can be used for any brand of guides. There's plenty of other methods detailed on the net but this is a modern approach that I sometimes use in conjunction with some other research. It's generally referred to as the "intersection method" - 
Handle kits are a personal choice. Myself I really like the look of the Fuji IPSM integrated reel seat/handle kits and that's what I've used on this rod. Here in Australia they're about $100, but you can buy them from the U.S. for around $30 AUD. There's also plenty of other really nice timber and cork styles availble that look and feel great, but don't forget if you want to build a budget rod you can always use Duralon or one of the other synthetics.
Choose you thread carefully. Nothing would suck more than having a great rod you hate the look of. I use "A" size thread because it's nice and fine. Generally I use normal nylon thread that needs to be coated with a thread preserver/sealer. Newer NCP type threads don't require it but I personally find I get a better finish if I use two coats of sealer before epoxying. On this rod I decided to go for an Orange thread (to match my Sol) with a Purple underbind or trim. A little gaudy for some but I like the trashy look.
02/12/07 Step 1b.
Bind the joining ferrule - only relevant for 2-piece rods
If your rod is a 2-piece then you really need to bind the join before you load the rod to find the backbone in step 2. Generally a binding of 25-30mm is sufficient on this size rod. I have done two wraps of Purple thread, sealed it with thread sealer and then epoxy in two coats. I won't go into how to wrap threads, you can find that out from one of the many websites or DVDs that deal with that topic in detail, and to be honest I'm all thumbs so I've developed my own kacky method...
02/12/07 Step 2.
Finding the "Spine" or "Backbone" of you rod.
There's a few methods here. Load the rod against a wall (tip down) whilst supporting it midway along it's length. Rotate the rod from the rear with your other hand and you will find it will snap to a natural point of rest where the rod feels to be bending along it's most natural curve. The spine is considered to be the outside of the curve. Sounds a bit complicated but becomes very obvious when you do it once. Mark the top of the curve with a Chinagraph pencil. Some schools of thought say it's not necessary to build along the spine but overwhelmingly the opinions are that it's the best choice especially for novice builders. You can place the guides either along the spine or underneath it at 180 degrees. Building under the spine is the most common way for a spinning rod and will give the most predictable feel; building on top of the spine will put the rod into it's most inflexible state, thereby stiffening when the rod is under load, however, there is a chance that if you don't get it exactly right you run the risk of getting rod twist under load. I always build under the spine so as to minimise any chance of rod-twist.
Sometimes the butt section of a two piece rod can be hard to find the spine. A common method with the butt end is to look along the rod for the natural bend and then consider it to be the curve of the spine, however I find this method a little inaccurate and feel it's better to locate it properly if possible. In fact on this GL-3 I found the spine to be about 45 degrees off the natural curve. A spine-finder is also an excellent tool if you plan on building more than one rod. Here's a link
02/12/07 Step 3.
Fit the handle and reel seat.
At this point the handle and reel seat need to be fitted before the guides get placed. First of all though, it was necessary with my rod to do some cork work. The particular type of handle kit I wanted to use for this rod was quite long, so this is where the Stanley knife comes out. Because the cork was already shaped I needed to cut a piece out of the middle, with both cuts needing to be made at points of the same diameter so I could join it back together as seamlessly as possible. I just took a bit of a guess but a more finicky person might use some verniers or at least a ruler.
Once the handle was cut I "lapped" the ends on a sanding block to clean them up a bit and then butt-joined the two pieces of cork with some 5-minute Araldite and pushed them together until the glue went off. Normally I'd put a nut and bolt arrangement throught the middle to clamp it together but it's a bit hard with the reel-seat cut-out in the cork. Here's a tip - I use a small nylon cutting board wrapped in Al-foil to mix my epoxy and glue on. It gives a nice clean surface and you just take the foil off and throw it away when you done.
When the glue had cured I fitted the whole lot onto an appropriate sized drill bit in my Battery Drill and used the sanding block to shape off any rough edges at my join. Beautiful. **Here's another tip. I reckon the battery drill is the most under-utilised fishing tool in the world. I use mine as a line-stripper as well; bung an old spool onto a drill bit (packed with tape if you need to make it firm) and Viola ! one high-speed line stripper.
The reel seat with this kit had an internal diameter of around 16mm. My Rod is only about 10mm at the butt so I used masking tape to create "arbours" by winding it around until I got the correct thickness. At this point you need to ensure that there's reasonable space left between the arbours for a good amount of glue, otherwise the reel seat could become loose over the years as the tape inevitably loosens.
Put plenty of glue under the handle section as well then assemble the whole lot. Then I have a quick check to make sure that it's lined up with the spine by loading it against the wall one last time and adjust the handle to suit before leaving it to set. I used 24-hour Araldite for this because if you use 5-minute Araldite and don't work quickly enough you can end up with a handle stuck in the wrong spot. At all stages throughout this process I keep a bottle of Metho and a rag handy for cleaning up glue. You can use Acetone but there's a risk of damaging the finish on the blank. It's always a good thing to make sure there's no glue residue on your hands before handling that expensive blank as well.
05/12/07 Step 4.
Fit the tip.
This part is pretty easy but you need to take care. I generally use 5-minute Araldite to fit my tips and this rod was no exception. However, a safer way is to use hot-melt glue. At least that way you can easily move it around with a bit of heat should you get it in the wrong spot. The tip should be a loose but not sloppy fit onto the rod tip. Some people make the mistake of using a tight-fitting tip but this provides no room for glue. This rod has a 1.8mm tip so I got a 1.8mm tip-top and it's a nice fit with room for some sticky stuff. I find the easiest way is to tape the rod into a set of rollers with the spine down. (If I'm only working on the top of a two-piece rod I generally mark the rod at 180deg to the spine so I can see when I've got the spine at bottom dead centre in my rollers. Then I look for the tip (and guides when I get to them) to be perfectly vertical and in line. Glue the end of the rod and if possible try to get a bit down inside the shaft of the tip. Fit it to the rod and using a small piece of tape if necessary to hold it from spinning around, sight down from the handle and make sure the tip is aligned perfectly. All other guides can be adjusted before epoxying but the tip only gives you one chance if you're using glue. Obvously if you use hot-melt you can be a little more relaxed about it.
09/12/07 Step 5. Placing and binding the guides
Ok so It's time to place the guides on the bank and do some load testing. As I said earlier, there are spacings available for any G-Loomis rod on their site, so I started with the factory recipe first, although using my guide sizes which were essentially one larger at every ring than the factory rod. Generally I fit all the guides in place and bind them on with some masking tape. Then it's off to the living room where the front door has a convenient stopper down the bottom which provides an excellent loading point. So, with reel fitted I tie off and put the rod under load by pulling up as would be the normal action if you had a fish on. The line should follow the curve of the rod fairly closely all the way around. You shouldn't need to put the rod under too much load to see if it's going to work or not, it's fairly evident once the rod starts to load-up.
While initially loading the rod I noticed some flat spots in the line around the second quarter of the rod length. This indicated to me that I needed probably one more guide to even it out, which may be a result of the larger than factory guides, hence the difference to the factory recipe. Remember that when you have less guides the entry and exit angle at each guide increases, thereby putting more strain on the guide itself and particularly your line due to the laws of mechanical advantage. Once the extra guide has been fitted you can see the difference in the way the line passes through the guides, even under quite heavy load as per the photo.
Guide spacing is a subjective thing. If you follow the "Fuji New Concept" method it's a simple procedure but I like to complicate it a bit. With the rod sitting in the rollers with the guides pointing up and reel fitted, look at the path of the line from the stripper guide onwards. It should be straight from the stripper to the lowest guide without any corners or bends. I generally rotate the bail arm so the line is leaving the spool at the closest point to the rod and check it from that point. On this rod, it leaves the bail-arm at that point and is just off touching all the guides right to the second back from the tip, which along with the other #7 ring are the lowest guides on the rod. This is my "Compromise intersection method", which is a bit from Fuji, a bit from Rodmakers Guide 1967 and a bit from common-sense engineering. I cant help but think that the path of least resistance has got to be straight down the middle of the guides right?
Once your happy with the guide spacing it's time to get binding. As I mentioned above, I won't go into how to wrap thread but it's bloody simple to get a good mechanical bind. It's harder to get it really neat and that may take some practice but it's up to you how pretty it needs to be. I recommend cutting the guides off an old rod and re-fitting them for practice with your binding. It's worth the effort to get the expensive one looking better. My aim is to make a really functional rod that looks good, but on close inspection some of my bindings aren't without fault. I don't get too caught up in it but I will offer a tip. Don't use a dark purple underbind with a bright orange overbind, it's really hard to get it to look nice. Sort of like that girl who insists on wearing a black bra underneath her white blouse... can't hide it. On this rod I have underbound all the high-foot guides, being #8, 10, 12, 16, 25. It's best not to underbind if you want to minimise the weight but I wanted to keep the blank free of any chance of guide-wear so I underbound the ones likely to have the most movement. It's not really necessary on this line-class of rod and with a bit of hindsight I probably wouldn't do it next time. I've done a purple and orange trim thread for the tip to keep it all looking the same. I then gave all the threads two coats of thread preserver to help bring out the colour.
09/12/07 Step 6.
Epoxy Time, take your time!
Applying the epoxy is probably the job the requires the most patience. There are a number of different epoxy brands available, I used Jack Ersine's epoxy for this rod with pretty good results. I use the rotisserie for this job as it's easiest to apply the epoxy to a rotating rod. Combine EXACTLY EQUAL parts of your epoxy, using the syringes. Never mix up the syringes and you'll get many uses out of them. I rinse them in some acetone when I'm done and I've been using the same set for a few months. Don't be tempted to use 24hr Araldite in leiu of rod epoxy, it yellows fairly quickly and has no UV stabilisers, meaning it will eventually deteriorate in the sun. Warm the epoxy in a cup of hot water before mixing to make it a little thinner. Combine the epoxy and hardener with a smooth round swizel-stick type device to avoid swirling air into the mix, this will help get a better finish. I generally use an old spoon handle for ease of cleaning.
Take a smallish artist's paint brush of between 9-12mm and apply some epoxy across the thread. http://www.akff.net/forum/download.php?id=16305&t=1&type=image.jpg
Once I've got a good coating around the whole binding I turn the brush onto an angle and cut a nice square line around each end of the binding, just like cutting in when you're painting.
Once the binding is fully coated, take your drinking straw and blow warm air at the epoxy to smooth out any small air bubbles or imperfections that have crept into you mix. You'll be surprised at how effective this is in helping to get that ultra-smooth finish. Another way is to use a small alcohol burner to heat the epoxy and the air will disperse as it warms.
Leave it in the rotisserie for at least 6 hours so the epoxy doesn't sag. If you don't own a rotisserie then you can take the approach of simply turning your rod a quarter turn every 5 minutes or so but that doesn't sound like fun. The $40 rotisserie motor with a stand and chuck-cap sounds way less tedious to me.
There's no need to try to build the epoxy too high on the first coat. I generally go for two light-ish coats. The first coat may not look as glassy as you want, but have a little patience, the second coat always looks much better.
13/12/07 Step 7 -
Ok, so the rod is now fully assembled, all epoxy work is done and it's time to do some tidy-up work. Unfortunately my first bit of tidy-up means cutting off one of the guides and re-binding it. I've been looking at a tiny bit of bright silver titanium poking out between the bottom threads on one of my guides for two days, and while I normally wouldn't worry, this rod is somewhat of a special one for me. So, I carefully take the trusty Chinese-copy Stanley knife and cut along the side of one of the guides, parrallel to the blank. If you have to do this for some reason dont make the mistake of cutting into the blank, it's certain death for a graphite rod. Anyway, the guide has now been re-bound and I can move on with the pretty things.
First of all I need to plug the back of the handle. I had some cork plugs for this job put they're all a bit small so I cut a piece of thin cork I had lying around to use as a packer. You could use gasket cork for this as well. I glued it in first and then the small plug; once dry I simply trimmed it back with the knife and gave it a quick sand. ** Tip. It's worth keeping an eye out for cork specials. I bought a box of 20 small cork fly handles on ebay for $8.00. They have come in really handy for using as packers, arbours & trim bits. I also keep any reasonable size bits I cut off, you can glue them together to make other handles or whatever.
I'm partial to adding a leash point on all my rods that I plan to use in the kayak and this one is no exception. I'm using another recoil guide for this because they're so bloody tough and light. (thanks Anthony for all the tips). I don't expect the leash point to hold the rod when the line's hooked up to a shark, but rather I just don't want to lose my rod if I drop it when I'm re-rigging, or if I fall out. I simply bind this guide as close to the foregrip as possible, allowing room for the foregrip to be released in the case of integrated reel seat hood/foregrips. Generally I would underbind this as well to add strength and also to permit me to remove it with less likelihood of damaging the blank, just in case I sell the rod to somebody who doesn't want it there.
I've got in the habit of putting a decal on any rods I build, generally to proudly announce that I built it, and also to state the line class. The Loomis blanks come with one in the pack but unfortunantely I damaged mine when I was fitting it by rubbing it too hard and removing some of the print, so I had to order a replacment for that. I find a location just in front of my leash-point, same as where most rods would have them, in front of the foregrip or at least somewhere behind the stripper guide, the lower the better. Fit the decal by sticking it in the middle first and then smoothing it to the outsides and around the blank. You only get one go, if they crease then they're throw-aways. After application of the decal give it two coats of epoxy just like a binding. Make sure the edges are super-sharp, this is the epoxy that people will first see when they inspect your rod.
Finally, I get a nice soft cloth and give the rod a quick wipe over with a tiny bit of olive oil to give it a nice shine. It's the best it will ever look right then and I like to drink a good Queensland beer and look proudly at my creation before I take it out and get some fish blood on it.
Rod finished, fish caught
Ok, so the rod is now completely done. I've had to re-do the epoxy on the decal and rod leash point thanks to an errant possum that came into the kitchen and knocked the rod off the dryer, but it's all done now and I've caught a couple of fish on it. The Loomis blank is very powerful but this is not immediately evident, being as the blank is also very light and quite "tippy", but it really comes into it's own when loaded with a half-decent fish and I couldn't be happier with the performance. The guide spacing is good and the 8lb fireline peels off the 2500 size reel without choking, so I'm happy with the size of the stripper guide. I do feel that the handle may be just a tad long for my Kayak use and possibly it will get a few inches trimmed at some stage, I'll see how I go with it.
The total cost of the rod came in at AUD$270 including freight and a replacement decal. Money could be saved by using cheaper guides if you like, but I was happy to spend as much as a standard G-Loomis would cost for the benefit of the much upgraded hardware. With that in mind I saved a couple of hundred dollars and I've got a beautiful rod that I'd be happy to catch a bream, a bass or a small-medium snapper on. (A really big Snapper might worry me a bit!) I hope this article will be of some use to somebody but I really suggest getting a good instructional DVD for novice builders. If I can be of any help please PM me through the forum.
G-Loomis GL3 S843-2 blank Recoil guides 7,7,8,10,12,16,25 Fuji SIC tip #7 Fuji IPSM reel-seat and handle kit
Spacings - guide to guide
tip - #7, 7 - 105mm, 7 - 123mm, 8 - 155mm, 10 - 175mm, 12 - 205mm, 16 - 240mm, 25 - 315mm