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Spining Blanks

A spine check is a non-dynamic exam.  Sorry for the wording, but the computer gods won't let me use the one I want to use.  A spine check allows you to check - for spine.  A dynamic check, which Letcher Lambuth refers to as regulating the rod, allows the builder to come up with a more accurate rod.  The tip is flexed and allowed to rebound.  All sides are checked in this manner.  The tip should describe a straight line while moving.  Not a circle or oval.  Then the next section is attached and this check is again repeated.

Mother nature builds a lot more bamboo than makers build bamboo rods.  Her tolerances are not quite as good as ours.  It is unfair to say that because we missed our numbers by one or two or three thousandths that we have contributed to spine or set.

All the rods I use have sets in them.  From catching big fish.

Don't beat yourselves up on this one.  (Chris Raine)

After some "conversation" with Chris, he added the following:

Letcher Lambuth did not use this technique!  He referred to the process of spining the rod as "synchronizing" not regulating.  So I was wrong to use him as the  reference for  the dynamic check.  So, I use the dynamic process of finding the spine.  It is not my idea, nor do I take credit for rediscovering it.  I just use it and I like the results.  Hope this clears things up.

    What you say in accurate. But I will always choose to make a blank without a spine if possible simply because I feel it is part of being a craftsman.  (Adam Vigil)

    P.S. If a blank makes a circle as you move it up and down or side to side it is time to cast that sucker into the trash.


I went to an interesting talk given by Andy Murray of Hardy's. Amongst other things he explained the construction of their graphite rods. one interesting point he made is that graphite rods also have a 'spine' due to the cutting and rolling of the cloth. The relevance to us is that Hardy's deliberately do not align the spine with the guides or at 180 degrees to the guides. Instead they align the spine at 90 degrees to the guides. The reason for this is so that the rod 'tracks' in a straight line, which is important for accuracy in casting. WRT 'tracking' Andy explained that 99% of casters actually rotate a rod slightly whilst casting. This sets up a slight twist in the rod itself. If the spine is in line with the guides the twist makes the rod tip tend to oscillate slightly sideways instead of only moving straight up and down. To illustrate this he firmly pressed the bottom 1/3 of a rod tip onto a table with the spine at 90 degrees to the top, bent the tip down and released it. The rod oscillated straight up and down. He then rotated the rod 90 degrees and did the same. There was a distinct oval in the movement of the tip.

The bottom line is that he suggested that, for anyone making a rod, the best way to determine where to put the guides in relation to the spine is to place the rod on a table as per his illustration and find out in what position the rod tracks best.

I haven't currently got a blank to try this out with, but thought it makes an interesting departure from the usual recommendation that spine and guides be aligned. Maybe because a hex rod can't have the spine at 90 degrees to guides, placing it in line with them might still be the best. Alternatively maybe the spine should be at 60 degrees to the guides. Quads of course could have the spine at 90 degrees.  (Stephen Dugmore)

    I suggest he is pulling your foot on this.  The vibration method IS FOR finding the spine rather than aligning 90 degrees out.  This method has been around for decades if not centuries and of course applies equally well for cane.  (Ted Godfrey)

      It was presented in all seriousness by someone who has been involved with the making of Hardy rods for over 20 years. It was also made clear that the spine was not in line with the guides. This is definitely contrary to all the recommendations I have read in the, admittedly very limited, literature I have.

      Apologies if this is repeating common knowledge, but perhaps it might nevertheless be useful to other rod making novices such as myself.  (Stephen Dugmore)

      I agree with you Ted and all my rods have guides  on or at 180 degrees and I think that makes sense. And I also have to agree that all publications I'm familiar with suggest this method.  (Jack Follweiler)

    Is there perhaps a difference in definition of spine here?  Most of us take the word to mean the direction of least stiffness, but the fact is that our definition tends to locate the side with the most material (often where the prepreg mat overlaps) 90 degrees to one or the other side.  Think of a yardstick that is obviously stiffest 90 degrees from the direction it tends to bend.  (Jim Utzerath)

      Could be. Andy initially showed how the spine is determined by the more conventional (?) way of rolling the rod at 60 degree angle, ferrule down, and feeling for the kick. The position where the kick is greatest is set at 90 degrees to the guides.  (Stephen Dugmore)

    Well, this debate has been around for quite awhile, but it's one that pertains only to fiberglass and graphite (where spines are inevitable), as a properly constructed bamboo rod will have no detectable spine.  If a bamboo rod has a spine, it is because the mated strips are unequal to one another -- either in dimension or in quality of cane.

    Instead of having a discussion about where to locate the guides in relation to a spine, let's talk about why we get them, how to detect them, and how much a spine will affect the rod's ability to do its designed job.  Even the high-quality, production rods from the Masters of the past will exhibit spines to one degree or another -- usually one tip moreso than the other. But that IS NOT to say that spines are inevitable in bamboo rods.  Spines are most decidedly NOT inevitable, and are the result of something having gone more-or-less wrong.

    On the other hand, since there's no such thing as absolute perfection in our building practices, and since it's also the case that our techniques for determining whether or not a rod has a spine vary widely, perhaps we should be focused more on "degrees of acceptability."  That is, in both theory and practice, there   is   a   point   where   a   spine   (if   there   is  one)  is all-but-undiscernable, and it's at this point that a spine, in itself, cannot affect casting.  Since we're not capable of perfection, that's the point we should all be shooting for.

    I'm thinking of a parallel in shotgun sports where debates rage around the "ideal load" for a certain purpose.  A good load can make a tremendous difference (as can a poor one), but there's a point where the issue becomes purely academic -- a point where no theoretical issue is as important as being on target.  (Bill Harms)

    I have a couple of friends in Europe that always come on me when I post something about putting guides in line with the spine. They put the guides 90 degrees to the spine. I have two commercial made rods that have the guides 90 degrees to the spine and notice a tendency to have the rod want to roll in my hand when I have a big fish on. One is a three wt. and the other is a 4 wt. This can be annoying. I find that I have to compensate in my casting style when I use these rods. YES I do still use the other type rods at times. I must be in the other 1 %. Oscillating the rod to find the spine is not new, I have been using this and other methods for a long time.

    There is a rod company here in  town that makes their own blanks. They don't care about the spine at all. They put the guides on the straightest part of the blank. They sight down the blank, the side that looks straight is marked and the guides are wrapped on that side. To each his own, I prefer to put the guides on the inside of the bend on my rods except for Casting or Saltwater rods.

    Here is my reasoning. When a line is raised off the water, this puts a load on the rod. With the guides on the "soft" side, the rod will load a lot more. When the rod is stopped the bend wants to straighten out and has to rebound against the stiffer side. There will be resistance and the bend will want to come back forward. By then you are starting the fwd cast so the stiff side is pushing the rod back fwd and aiding in the fwd cast. I may be all wet on this but it is what I think. I have made a few rods with the guides on the "stiff" side and to me, they feel funny.  (Tony Spezio)


Having a spine in your rod section does not mean that you have failed.  Having a glue line or open seam is also not a failure.  While these issues are of some importance to rodmakers that sell their rods commercially, they are not necessarily issues to you.  Hopefully your skills will improve as you complete more and more rods.  Glue lines that miraculously appear the next day, were probably there the day before.  As a rodmaker, you have the luxury of placing guides on the backbone of the rod, the belly of the rod or any other flat you want to locate them on.  I prefer to put them on the backbone.  You go ahead and put them anywhere you want.  All of this discussion is relevant to just three things.  And I personally feel that they are the only things that are important to me as a COMMERCIAL maker of bamboo rods:

1. A rod MUST be able to fight a fish.
2. A rod MUST cast accurately
3. A rod MUST possess a subtle elegance in its look.

My feelings about the first few rods I made were quite different.  I just wanted to FINISH them.  Then I could go fish with them.

We are going out with a stick and a string to try to fool a lesser vertebrate possessing a brain the size of a pea.

And finally, URAC 185 is a very good glue to use in the building of cane rods.  (Chris Raine)

    So far, I haven't heard of a fish complaining that the rod it was caught with had a glue line.  (Neil Savage)

      So far, the only complaint I've had from the fish is the hook in the mouth!  (Al Baldauski)

    Having a spine in your rod section does not mean that you have failed.

    Indeed, some level of "spine" is almost inevitable, IMHO, as we do not live in a perfect world.  The bamboo can vary subtly across the circumference of the culm, slight differences in glue thickness in the seams, differences in the varnish coat, etc., etc. are going to give you some difference in flexing planes, even with dimensionally perfect strips.

    Having a glue line or open seam is also not a failure.

    Quite true.

    While these issues are of some importance to rodmakers that sell their rods commercially, they are not necessarily issues to you.  Hopefully your skills will improve as you complete more and more rods...

    The only thing we can ask of ourselves as rodmakers, regardless of skill level is to try to make the next rod better than the last one.  I have yet to see the absolutely perfect rod.  It's a process of incremental refinement for most of us.  The first few rods move one quite a ways down that curve. Cosmetics are important to the commercial builder, as at least some of their customers will nit-pick a rod to death.  :-)   For the hobbyist, the one you have to please is yourself.  The catch-22 here is that the new maker gets hung on the notion of "perfection" before he is capable of approaching it.

    And I personally feel that they are the only things that are important to me as a COMMERCIAL maker of bamboo rods:

    1. A rod MUST be able to fight a fish.

    2. A rod MUST cast accurately

    3. A rod MUST possess a subtle elegance in its look.

    And this is the proper ranking for the hobbyist too, IMHO.  As long as your construction methods are in the ballpark, the rods you make should be able to fight a fish w/o coming apart.

    Some will no doubt argue that casting accuracy is more in the caster than the rod, but the overall character of the rod will contribute to some degree.  Again, if one has their dimensions in the ballpark, the rod should cast OK.  Maybe not to pinpoint, laser accuracy, but it will do well enough to catch some fish.

    And last, cosmetics, which is more for the angler than the fish.  I seriously doubt the fish give a flying fig about water marks, varnish runs, bumpy wraps, glue lines, or any of the other 999 things a maker might find "off" in a rod.

    My feelings about the first few rods I made were quite different.  I just wanted to FINISH them.  Then I could go fish with them.

    And, in fishing them, one will learn much!  :-)

    For some, even finishing a rod is the least of their worries.  Indeed, they get so hung up on the notion of "perfection" that they never even start a rod.  Or, they start, and get so* frustrated that their angles aren't exactly 60 degrees, or their dimensions aren't within 0.0000001", or whatever, that they just throw in the towel.  A newbie really should track down one of the lower-end factory rods of the day and put calipers to it.  You will feel better!  :-)   Again, IMHO, the majority of new makers will get finer tolerances than quite a few of the factory rods from back in the day, right out of the gate.

    The big thing is to "just do it", as the ads say.  :-)   The two biggest things that send the new maker heading for the exit are unreasonable expectations, and fear of failure.  You will make mistakes.  They will not be the end of  the world, 9 times out of 10.  There are things in rodmaking that no book can teach you -- they have to be experienced -- and when you run into them, you're at least going to end up with a strip that's less than "perfect".  Know what?  It probably won't render the finished rod unfishable.  Yeah, you might end up with a glue line from it, but you'll learn from it, and the next time you'll have a better idea of what you can and can't get away with.  Do the best you can at the time, and learn from it.  The next rod will be better, and the current one won't turn out half as bad as you think it will!  (Todd Enders)

      Bamboo Rod building is for all of us a matter of personal expectation.  Too bad that there are those whose expectations will always exceed their ability.  But It really does not matter.  I once cast a rod made by one of the most renowned builders .  I thought it was a piece of crud.  As a fishing pole I would not have paid $20.00 for it.  As an investment, I might have coughed up $5000.00 if I had had it.  Conversely one of the nicest rods I ever cast (other than my own) looked like hell.  I cost $5.00 brand new and had to be depreciated at $5.00 a year for the twenty years before I saw it.  If I built rods like the latter, I am sure that I would starve to death; it had no class.  If I were to build rods like the former, I still wouldn't have made any more money than he did before his death.  If I were to fish forever it would be with the $5.00 rod.  One of this list said, "You build rods because you have to."  I don't think you will ever be a rod maker unless you have to, and then it makes no difference at all what you build.   You will build good rods, bad rods, rods you  have to hide in the closet before company comes, and rods that make your spine tingle when you cast them.  Don't worry.  (Ralph Moon)


Last autumn I made an experimental rod with an extreme spine, there are 5 strips each same form as the strips in a quad rod, see "Five quad strips for an asymmetric penta rod."

It is "teaching" to cast with: in the "upright" position it is very fast and turned 90 degrees it is very slow. It, however, casts the same length of line with both fast and slow modes with same subjective effort (if you understand my expression)! With extreme line lengths the accuracy is affected by the asymmetry, with usual line lengths it is quite easy to handle. (Tapani Salmi)

    I made a rod with a built in spine also, but it was a rectangular quad. I put the guides on the long side of the cross section so that the rod "liked" to bend in the same plane as the guides. Before I finished the rod I temporarily taped the guides on the short side, just to see what it was like. From that experience I vote for guides with the spine either on the outside of the bend or the inside, not 90 degrees to it.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    This is a subject that is dear to my heart and is important with respect to rod casting and guide location. Any rod can be subdivided into four quadrants by two planes passing through the rod cross section at right angles. One can think of this configuration as follows.

                     ^
                     ^
                     ^
                     ^
       >>>>>> O  <<<<<<       Stiff Plane (horizontal)
                     v
                     v
                     v
                     v

        Soft Plane (vertical)

    Now depending on whether one defines (this is the key issue) the spine as the soft plane or the stiff plane depends on how one decides where to put the guides. The guides are always put on the soft plane (folks argue about which side, but in my opinion that does not matter) since the stiff plane keeps the rod from having induced vibrations in the stiff direction - IE: the tip of the rod vibrates in ovals when excited like Andy Murray said if you turn the rod section 90 degrees - he defines the stiff plane as the spine. The soft plane is the one that contains the curved rod when bent - one side concave and one side convex. It is my opinion that the only definite rule is to put the guides on the soft plane. Some folks put them on the concave side (I do) while others put them on the convex side (that is OK also). Either way, the guides are in the Soft Plane where they should be to minimize coupled vibration between the two planes.

    Some folks define spine as the stiff plane while others define it as the soft plane in their writing. The key here is to put the guides along the soft plane. If you put the guides on the stiff plane, the rod when cast will excite the soft plane (coupling of dynamic vibrations in two orthogonal planes) and cause the rod tip to wobble in oval like circles. If the guides are on the soft plane the rod dynamics limit the transfer of stored rod elastic energy into the stiff plane (well some goes there but it is very small when compared with the opposite arrangement).

    I hope this helps folks to think  about spine and not get confused.  (Frank Paul)

      After reading Frank's explanation on spines, I'm confused.  A couple of questions:

      On what flat should the guides be located to maximize power of casting?

      On what flat should they be located  to maximize accuracy of the cast?

      How about using a cantilever vibration test to select the proper flat for the guides?  (Dennis Bertram)

        I was a little puzzled as well, until I visualized the rod as asymmetrical.  Like a yard stick.  The soft plane is the broad side of the yardstick, and the hard plane is the narrow.  In this case the guides go on the soft plane, and according to Frank it does not matter which side.   My problem comes when the rod is symmetrical.  In this case it presuppose a spine, and if my figuring it out is correct, the spine should be at right angles to the casting plane.  But that to me does not make real sense either.  So I decided not to worry about it and do like I have always done, because it works that way.  Did I really mess it up Frank???????  (Ralph Moon)

          Want to be more confused, read Ray Gould's new book on spines. I am still puzzled.  I will have to read it a few more times.

          Like you, I will just do it the way I have been doing it for the last 25 years. I tried a different way twice, was not happy with it.  (Tony Spezio)

            I don't think in terms of soft or hard sides but in terms of soft and stiff planes that orthogonal to each other (see previous post with figure). Think of a yard stick that has a stiff plane and a soft plane that are orthogonal to each other when you deform them. One wants to put guides on the soft plane, either side is acceptable to minimized vibrational coupling of these two modes. Some folks like to put them on the concave side and some on the convex side. From a solid mechanics viewpoint, there is no difference, as one side will be in compression and the other side will be in tension when deformed if the neutral axis of the rod section is in the middle of the rod. I usually put them on the concave side, but that is just my approach.  (Frank Paul)

          You have it right, except when the rod is perfectly symmetrical, no stiff or soft planes, just equally stiff/soft is all planes, then there is no spine. One can then put the guides where they want as there should be no preferred plane for casting the rod. The "plastic" rods made by Gatti are supposedly extruded from a die to make them as symmetrical as possible. This is different than most rod manufacturers who wrap a mandrel with cut sheets of graphite or fiber glass. The edges where the wraps come together in the wrap cause the spine. Currently, plastic rods use such thin prepreg sheets, that spine has become less of a problem in these rods as well. As Bill Harms indicated, if any rod is perfectly symmetrical longitudinally and laterally, there is no spine, or we do not need to worry about it - I think that is what you said Bill - am I correct?  (Frank Paul)

        Let me try.  You can buy or make a spine finder out of two bearings and a foot of pvc.  The bearings are at each end.  Stick a section of your rod into the contraption.  Where the rod contacts the bearings build up a round surface on the rod with masking tape or rubber washers etc. Push down on the free end and the rod will actually spin if it has a spine until it reaches its equilibrium point.  That state where the rod is most stable under flexion.  Sometimes you have to help it by gently spinning with your fingers but if a spine is there it will snap to the most stable plane.  If you want to maximize fighting fish you put the guides on the bottom of the arch.  If you want to maximize casting put the guides on the top of the arch. It is simple physics.  You do not want the rod to be twisting or trying to twist when flexed.  (Dennis Aebersold)

        On what flat should the guides be located to maximize power of casting?

        Ideally, I am not sure that maximizing power has anything to do with where the guides are located. That depends only on two things in my opinion. One, the rod construction and taper, and second the caster that supplies all the work/energy for a cast. There is no select flat to maximize power (work per unit of time) in my opinion. Once the taper is defined and the rod is built, the casting system - human arm, rod, and line together - is the integrated system that influences how effective and efficient the system behaves.

        On what flat should they be located to maximize accuracy of the cast?

        It is my opinion that casting accuracy (placing the fly at a desired/precise location) is best when the guides are in the soft plane of the rod, as the rod tip oval oscillations are minimum in this plane. Placing the guides on the stiff sides tend to make this problem worse in my opinion.

        How about using a cantilever vibration test to select the proper flat for the guides?

        Excellent way to identify the soft plane for guide placement. I usually do both the bending test, followed by the vibration test. The vibration test seems more sensitive in my opinion and often provides a corrected angular orientation. Of course, for "plastic" rods you have a full 360 degree orientation, but with a hex bamboo rod, you only have 6 sides to work with.  (Frank Paul)

          I always thought the soft side was the concave side of the rod. If I read correctly in Gould's book, it is the Convex side. From the posts I could not determine if it was the Concave or Convex side. I put mine on  inside of the bend "Concave"  like I did and still do on plastic rods. I agree with Bill, if the blank is about perfect in all aspects, there will be no spine. I strive for that and have achieved it on several rods but not all of them. On the ones that I find a spine, sometimes I can diminish it some with a bit of sanding.  (Tony Spezio)

      The way I handle the question of which face to mount the guides is as follows: when the sections are finished, straightened, glued-up and ferruled, I join the sections and select the position that gives best straightness through the ferrules. From that point I check very carefully for the rod's very slight preference, right or left, or up and down. I then place the guides so as to have them give correction to that preference so that fishing will bring it in even straighter. My rods have no spline differences that I can detect. KISS scores again.  (Bill Fink)

    Again, the "spine" is the backbone of the rod.  It is the flat that deflects the least.  It is measurable.  Here are a couple of pictures

    RC_spinecheck1

    RC_spinecheck2

    that show a fixture that measures deflection.

    If you chose to place the guides on  the flat that deflects the least, it will deflect the least of the six sides when you pick up your line from the water.

    Accuracy?  Talk to me about how accurate your most accurate rod is while you cast in a gusty side wind with a 17 foot leader tapered to 6x.  (Chris Raine)

      If I were fishing in gusty side-winds  with a 17 ft.  leader tapered to 6x, the spine in my rod would be the very LAST thing to worry about.  (Bill Harms)


I am a rookie rod maker, currently working on my second rod – two pieces with two tips. I have searched the Internet, including the archives of this list, and have not found a discussion of the problem I have encountered, so I'll make a cast into this pond and see if  I can entice a strike.  Using the “roll” and “kick” method to find the spine/spline (I have always called it “spline”, but I see that some list members call it “spine”, so I’ll use the combined form to hopefully keep from offending anyone.) of the rod sections; I find that one tip and the butt are well behaved with a spine/spline corresponding to a flat face of the section, but the other tip insists on “kicking” right to the apex between two adjacent flats.  What are your suggestions for making this tip into something more useful than a tomato stake?  (Warren Miller)

    Personally, (and aren't all things rodmaking and flyfishing personal?) I take the strongest kick and place my guides on that spline (not spine). I like the strongest portion of the rod to help me on the lift and backcast and not the cast. I know others who will disagree with me one hundred percent! Perhaps it's my own casting style. I like the most power in the rod at the lift and not the cast. Others prefer it the opposite and they have their on reasons.  (Mike Shay)

    Wrap guides on it, finish it, then fish it.  I think you'll find it casts just fine.  (Lee Orr)

    I think of each of the strips as a spline and the spine as the stronger strip. I've had a couple of tips in which there felt like there were two spine, opposite each other, in which case I put the guides between them and the rod cast well, feeling like it wanted to throw things straight and with the tip flexing less to either side. As far as which side you mount the guides, I prefer to put them opposite the strong side, as I want the strong side to come into play when I'm fighting fish or lifting the line from the water.

    Bet your rod will fish fine.  (Henry Mitchell)

    Have you seen this posting at the rodbuilding forum?  (Steve Shelton)

    If I can find my Spine/spline post from back a couple of years ago I will send it to you.

    Try this, Put the tip section flat on a table or bench with about 1/2 to 3/4 of the tip end past the table end. Hold the butt end down flat with one hand and bend the tip end down with the other hand. When you release the tip end it will vibrate up and down in an oval. When it vibrates closest to vertical that is the flat I would use to put the guides on. I normally put my guides on the inside bend. No tomato stakes, you made the section, finish it and fish it.  (Tony Spezio)

    I think it was Bill Fink who said that, all else being equal, he simply aligns the flats so that the rod is as straight as can be through the ferrule and then places the guides to counteract any tendency of the rod to 'lean' in a direction.

    That makes sense to me, as if the tip and butt are not straight through the ferrule in the casting plane, the position of the spline is not going to have that much effect in improving the accuracy of the rod anyway.  (Stephen Dugmore)

      I've suffered from this myself. Can it be that there are twists in the section? If the section is not straight, this problem can be a problem.  (Mike Canazon)


All three sections on this first rod have a "jump" to them when rolled on the counter top, due probably to my flawless binding and straightening technique :(   What are your opinions regarding the location for the spline, and reasons why?  Spline on top or spline on bottom?  (Kyle Druey)

    This could also be a result of some strips being inadequately straightened, but a quick visual inspection of the strips (prior to and during planing) ought to have obviated that possibility. Usually a "jump" is the result of strips being of slightly different dimensions.   It doesn't seem to take much to make a difference and, of course, this effect will always be greater in a tip section than in a butt.

    Not to worry: you'll get a better feel for this as you make more and more rods.  As to whether the spline should go on the top or the bottom, you'll probably get a whole range of opinions.  The only question, really, is whether you want the greatest strength in the back cast or in the forward cast, and I don't know which might be "better."  (Bill Harms)


I had never heard it said that the spine doesn't matter until recently.  And that comment came from an experienced 100+ (number of rods not age) rod maker.  I've located the spine the traditional way as well as the oscillation method.  In fact, I've done both to see if I got the same answer.  But does it really matter?

Here's my hypothesis:  If the spine does matter, then I assume the rod would have a tendency to lean to the left or right of the vertical plane when loaded if the spine was on the side of the rod.  That would seem to be the worst case.  Having the spine on the top or bottom of the rod would supposedly make the rod stiffer in the back or forward cast.

I set up a rough test.  I clamped the handle of a 7.5‘ 5wt 2 piece rod in my drill press vice suspending the rod parallel to the floor.  Rigged up a  plumb line  approximately the weight of 30’ of 5wt line.  Hung the plumb from the butt near the vice just in front of the cork and marked the location of the plumb on the floor.  I used that mark as the anchor point for a straight line on the floor to the tip location.  Next I moved the plumb line to the tip of the rod and put a pencil mark on the floor noting the position of the weight.  Marked a straight line from butt to tip on the floor.  I then added enough weight to the plumb to equal about 4 times the weight of 30’ of 5wt line.  Hung that from the tip of the rod and marked the location of the plumb on the floor.  Did that whole routine 4 times turning the rod in quarter turns.

Now...if the spine of the rod is going to make the rod lean outside the vertical plane when loaded, the marks I made on the floor with 4 times the weight of 30’ of line should skew materially to the left or right of the straight line from butt to tip.  They did not.  The loaded point was within a 16th of an inch of the straight line in all four rod positions.  Actually they may have been on, but my testing setup wasn't precise enough to get any closer than a 16th.  My casting stroke isn't good enough to stay within a 16th in the vertical plane anyway.  I also noted the deflection of the rod in all four positions.  There was a variance of about half an inch.  Again, not material.

I checked the rod for a spine using the traditional method.  Both the butt and tip have notable spines and the guides are mounted on the stiff side.  So why didn't the spine effect the trajectory of the rod tip in the vertical plane with a load on the rod?  And why didn't I get more than a half inch variance in the deflection of the loaded rod?

It appears that the position of the spine has no noticeable effect on the performance of a loaded rod (at least in the case of a trout class rod).  Am I missing something?   (David Bolin)

    The question that comes to mind is how does a static load comport with a dynamic load?  (Vince Brannick)

      I agree.  To that point..I tried to mimic the oscillation test this afternoon just holding the rod normally.  Couldn't do it.  I had to anchor the butt of the rod against my hip to get the tip to oscillate.  The natural dampening effect of holding the rod in my hand eliminated any oscillation caused by the spine.  It seems reasonable to assume that the spine really does cause the oscillation and stiff sides noted in traditional static methods.  But maybe just picking up the rod with a few feet of line out totally eliminates the spine effect we see in those tests.  (David Bolin)

      My own perception is that static or dynamic, the effecct will be the same.  But then What do I know???  (Ralph Moon)

    Your approach addresses the static behavior of the rod structure, and its spine. The vibration test you mention more appropriately addresses the dynamic behavior of the rod structure in my opinion. It is my opinion that the spine is important when casting because casting is a dynamic process.  Just a quick opinion. There are many others that do not agree.  (Frank Paul)


What should I look for when trying to determine guide placement on the blank? How do you determine spine? Or do you just pick a flat and wrap?  (Paul McRoberts)

    On the placement of the guides. Place the end of the ferrule on a flat surface with the shaft angled up about 45 degrees. Roll the shaft slowly in the palm of your other hand till you feel a "jump". It will feel like the shaft wants to bend easier on that flat. Check each flat that way as you roll the shaft. The shaft will bend  softer on one flat  I put my guides on the

    inside of that bend. Another way is to  lay the tip section on a flat surface with about 1/3 to 1/2 of the shaft extending beyond of the end of the surface on one flat. Bend and release the end of the tip, it will osculate. Do this

    on each flat till you find the flat that it will not osculate in an oval. When you are on the spine flat, there will be no oval oscillation, the tip will vibrate in a straight line.  Doing it this way, I still have to determine which flat to put the guides on by bending.  (Tony Spezio)

      I'm usually able to determine which flat yields the concave bend on a rod section, but would appreciate learning the rationale for choosing that flat, or the opposite (convex) side for mounting the guides. My thought is that the most resistance (strength?), should favor lifting the line for the backcast. No? Thanks for words of wisdom.  (Vince Brannick)

        I have posted the reason several times. Will see if I have it saved on this computer. If not, I will type it out again and be sure I save it this time. Have to leave now will get back to this later today.  (Tony Spezio)

          I did not find what I posted on this computer so I will type some of it out again. Most of the experience has been with graphite rods but it also applies to bamboo as far as I am concerned.

          This is my take on why I put the guides on the inside of the bend on fly and spinning rods and on the outside of the bend on Salt water Spinning and Casting rods. I may be all wet on this but it is the way I do it.

          By putting the guides on the inside of the bend There is more accuracy in casting. Just imagine casting with a stiff broom stick, it would be hard to direct the cast. Now think about a Willow sapling, you can direct the cast better. My thinking is that when you pick up the line off the water, the rod is going to bend more on the inside of the curve, therefore loading the rod more than if the guides were on the stiff side of the bend. When the line on the back cast straightens out, the resistance is against the stiff side and the stiff side wants to straighten up. That will help in throwing the line forward increasing the line speed. Having the guides (line)inside of the bend also takes the load off the tippet when fighting a fish. On Saltwater Spinning rods (when I was making them back East) I put the guides on the outside of the bend because the rod would have more fighting power for big fish. Same for casting rods. Did the same on the few Saltwater Fly Rods I put together.

          Many years ago I built a 3 wt, my first graphite blank. When I got the blank, the instructions were to put the guides on the outside of the bend. I still have this rod but seldom use it. It never felt right when casting it. Maybe some day I might change the guides.

          In the other hand, I was given two commercial made rods to try here on the White. Both have well known names on them, both have the guides off (the bend) spine. When I hook a good size fish on either of those rods, they want to twist in my hand. One will twist one way the other the other way. Both are on the rack with the 3 wt.

          As far as Bamboo goes, I have made several rods that had almost none or no spine, most of the ones I made have had enough of a spine that I consider it as far as the guides go.

          We all have our ways of doing things, do what you feel is best or are satisfied with.

          I am not an expert, I have only made just under 90 bamboo rods and over 150 graphite and glass rods. I can still learn things.  (Tony Spezio)

            I think you've convinced me to forget about "soft" ~ henceforth I'll practice referring only to the 'tension side' or 'compression side'. I have a better understanding now about 'plastic' rods having spine too, but that's really of not as much concern to me. One point in the recent discussions though that has my attention is the reference to guides being placed  90 degrees to the spine. On a six sided rod? Mount them on the crest? ~ Neat trick!

            You may wonder about my emailing to you directly. I don't seem to have a total 'grasp' on how this mail thing works. Harry Boyd advised me to click on 'reply to all' if I want the message delivered to the List. That worked the first time I did it, but twice since then, the message sent apparently vanished into the ether. I did hope to solicit some 'other' thoughts about the tension-compression issue. Anyway your detailed reply has been very helpful. (Vince Brannick)

              I think you should let your own logic dictate where you place the  guides. Several examples of guide placement have been given, all will  work fine, unless we are talking about an extreme case.

              The stress of regular polygon under stress is 0 in the center of the  mass. If a rod has an apparent stiffer side  (for whatever reason)  the effect is to shift the COG toward that side. I think it  effectively has  a shorter apothem. The rod, in this case, will want   this side to be facing the source of the stress.  90 degree may have  some logic, if you want the rod to twist or torque.

              The only decision you have to make is, is there more stress on the backcast, the forecast, or when fighting a fish.

              Also, there is only one MOE for bamboo, no matter which way it is  deflecting.  (Jerry Foster)

                I've forgotten now who said that about 90 degrees, but it was referring to plastic (round) rods, not bamboo.  (Neil Savage)

                You're apparently well versed in the field of 'Mechanics'. You present a good lesson. Thank You.

                I've always considered the Center of Gravity as being somewhere along the neutral axis, depending on the shape of the polygon, and the volume and weight of  (in this case) the truncated (frustrum) of a pyramid. I think "Fish On!" may screw up the whole program. But, that's the ultimate goal, methinks.  Fun discussion.  (Vince Brannick)\

                I looked up apothem, a learning experience and that's a neat way to think about spines. I still think I prefer favoring the side that fights the big fish, would that I hooked enough of them to really matter.  (Bill Fink)

            You've put my mind at ease with the 'whys and wherefores'. The initial question was not about finding the spine, but what was the reason for placing the guides on which side. Your argument is perfectly logical. I'm still a bit hung up about the tension Vs compression issue, though. In those instances when guides may be placed on the 'outside' (tension) flat, doesn't that then become the 'inside' (compression) flat?  William McMurrey raises the same perplexing question regarding which is actually the 'soft' side. What causes the section to 'kick' during the conventional test method? Do the outer fibers under tension yield to the bending stresses, or do the inner (lower) forces buckle more readily? {"To BEnd or not to BEnd, that is the question"}, eh?

            The question though, does seem to have generated into a larger discourse of how to find the 'spine'.

            Thank you again for your helpful elucidation.  (Vince Brannick)

        I would like to hear the rationale, too.  I hav always done exactly what Tony describes.  But in the last few years the graphite guys have figured out that the relationship of the guides to the rod's spine makes almost zero difference in performance.  Yes, I've always done it that way, but that does not mean it's right! <g>  (Harry Boyd)

          I have 2 things to add to this discussion:

          1) I was asked to make an old Montague rod fishable.  It only had 3 snakes on a 7 1/2' rod and they were NOT on either of the spine flats.  Didn't seem to matter, the rod cast straight in that form and still did after I put 3 more snakes on the "correct" flat. 

          2) I put my guides on the "soft" side of the rod so it will be more nearly straight when being fished.  IE the stiff side being up helps offset the weight of the line.  Also, in fighting a fish it seems that having the stiff side away from the fish would be a help.

          Remember though, "my opinion and $..."  (Neil Savage)

            Just to add murk to the waters. From a theoretical point, fibers be them graphite, glass or bamboo have more strength when under extension/stretch then they do under compression (the connective matrix has to hold the fiber in place or you experience evulsions of the fibers). Therefore if you place the strong side where it gets the greatest compression forces, would make theoretical sense.

            Also a point to consider. When casting, the forward stroke places stress evenly on the entire rod length (the line is directly against the rod). When fighting a fish the stress points are concentrated at the feet of each guide.

            Just food for thought.  (Will McMurrey)

          About 15 years ago I was in a sporting goods store when a customer brought back a new halibut rod (glass or graphite) with the guides 90 degrees off the spine. When strung up and put under stress the tip would not bend down as one would expect, but flopped badly to the right and down. As the halibut here can go over 300 lbs that rod was unfishable, even with a 40 pounder. Imagine trying to pull up a sheet of plywood from 250' deep. With a twist like that it would be no fun as the rod twists in your hands. This is an extreme example but I think that it does show that at some point it does make a difference.

          Sure made a believer out of me. Now, as to whether to put guides on the inside or outside . . . . .  (Steve Shelton)

            I agree totally with your comments, the spine does make a difference. I had a spinning rod a few years ago which had a bad spine in it and the guides out of alignment from the spine. A 2 lb fish was very hard to handle as the rod kept "flicking" sideways when the fish put any bend in the rod.

            I realigned the guides and it was a lovely rod to fish with.  (Ian Kearney)

            It's funny how we all take a stand on some of these issues. My  impression is you will have casting directionality issues if the rod  isn't spined correctly. Outside of that, when only considering  casting, I don't think it makes a twiddle. Both sides will contribute  whatever they can. Now, as to the subject of "fish on". If the more  rigid spline is on top, will the rod try to rotate 180 degrees?  (Jerry Foster)

              I'd argue that the timing of the forward and or backward cast are dependent on whether the stiff or soft side is forward. I've always place the soft side forward on both my graphite (yes, I did build graphite for 10 years before taking up cane) and cane rods. To my mind, I'd rather have the soft side forward for playing and setting up on fish and the stiff side to the back to make a slightly more positive forward cast. The casting differences are minimal to be sure but I tend to me more anal about such stuff than most. The difference between a good cast and a great cast is often small adjustments in timing.  (Jim Lowe)

              I don't understand why we take it for granted that a bamboo rod will have a spine. Spines result from faults in the building process (usually, inaccurate planing), but these are not inevitable. Shouldn't we be striving for rods that exhibit no spine rather than agonizing over where to place the guides?  (Bill Harms)

                I think you can get different stiffness from things other than dimensional differences.  More/better power fiber structure would also lead to more stiffness in the same dimension strip.  (Scott Grady)

                  Without a doubt, but wouldn't strip selection/inspection be considered part of the building process?  (Larry Blan)

                    It might, but I wonder how many would count power fibers and measure resistance before assembling strips into  sections.  In my own opinion, a small spline if aligned with the casting plane, doesn't matter much.  (Scott Grady)

                Well, two of my rods have been "spineless" as it were, and 3 have had 3x3 spines, though not very noticeable (I use a 3x3 stagger.)  (Neil Savage)

                Ah, bless you, Bill.

                Aside from a Howald process fiberglass rod, all fiberglass and graphite rods have to have a spine, it just comes with the territory. We aren't handicapped in similar fashion, and I see nothing wrong with striving for a rod with no discernible spine. I think that is one of the potential hallmarks of a master, certainly more so than the smell of a particular varnish.

                Now, before anyone jumps all over me, understand that my rods have multiple spines, I make no claim to be able to achieve a faultless rod. If I did, I couldn't give it a practical test, due to my flawed casting skills. If I managed a reasonable cast, it wouldn't matter, since there are no fish in Michigan!  (Larry Blan)

                  I actively try to get multiple spines - six of them.

                   :)

                  No but seriously some rods I have made have perceivable spines and some don't. I personally doubt it makes a discernible difference where you put the guides unless the spine is really pronounced, in which case you have a bigger problem anyhow.

                  Incidentally as I mentioned in an earlier debate on spines, Hardy's (and now Grey's as well) deliberately align the spines of their rods at 90 degrees to the guides. The thinking is that if the extra stiffness is in the casting plane the rod will more likely want to twist over to a less stiff side. The same argument of countering twisting is made for placing the spine in the line of casting. So which is correct? I don't think it matters that much.

                  Another thought is that the rod is rotated at various angles whilst fishing especially where various types of cast are required eg a reach mend. The self weight of the rod will affect alignment and accuracy more than the spine will. The only time the guides are perfectly aligned with the casting plane with no lateral forces on the rod is with a perfectly vertical overhead forward cast - how often does one actually do that whilst fishing? I think for many people 'never' or very seldom. The rod naturally leans out a bit when forward casting unless you unnaturally cock your wrist vertically and risk putting a fly in your ear in so doing.

                  I am inclined to go along with Bill Fink's thinking (I think it was Bill - apologies if not) that it is probably a better idea to place the guides on the best alignment through the ferrule rather than on the spine. I would imagine misalignment through the ferrule would have more of an effect on accuracy than the location of the spine would.  (Stephen Dugmore)

                  I don't understand how they get the spine at 90 degrees to the spine on a hex rod?  Do they put the guides on a corner instead of on the flat?  Or you talking about graphite?  (Neil Savage)

                    My apologies, I should have made it clear it was for graphite - Grey's don't make a bamboo rod as far as I know? The principle remains that there are different approaches to the problem taken by reputable rod makers (although I know some will argue what 'reputable' is).  (Stephen Dugmore)

                Bill, I have the highest respect for you so don't take this the wrong way. I make rods from what I have on hand, I don't have a lot of bamboo to select from so my rods are not perfect.  (Tony Spezio)

                  Nice to hear from you again. In truth, modest     spines     probably   make little-or-no-difference when oriented in the casting plane. I guess I just had to shoot my mouth off because, over the past several years, I've heard this discussion about guide-location a dozen times. It's as if spines are inevitable and all rods have them. Indeed, most rods (even those by the famous old masters) have spines, but they aren't inevitable. I just wanted to point out that we don't have to accept spines just because they're common.  (Bill Harms)

                    I figured it was something like that. It kind of surprised me to see your post. I have been through this several times on this and another list I am on. I can only tell them what I think and they can do what they want to. I see you have a disagreement about making bamboo rods without a spine from another person I respect. I know it can be done as I have had a few rods I could not find a spine. It almost scared me.  (Tony Spezio)

                      I think it's impossible not to have a spine of some measure. It's a matter of degrees. Oscillating the tip with its ferrule-end being secured is probably the most exacting test, and perhaps no rod would pass that test perfectly. But even if a rod should satisfy the oscillation test, we could then devise ways to detect differences among our flats on the molecular level.

                      My test is to hold a tip section with hands spread about 8-10 inches, bend the section and spin it (while bent) between the fingers. Do this all the way down the section. Any "jump" that can be detected is a spine, and may have the potential to affect a cast -- depending on how severe it is and how great an area it occupies.

                      If one cannot detect a spine in this manner, for all practical purposes, you've built a rod without a spine.

                      Nevertheless, even though a tip may feel "silky-smooth" down its full length, it still may not pass the oscillation test. But a spine of such subtle magnitude more theoretically present than anything else, and is powerless to affect a cast. It's all a matter of degrees, but at this point we're already questioning how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

                      I didn't explain thoroughly before, but it was the "rotation" text I had in mind when I stated that spines are not inevitable.  More subtle evidence of a spine moves beyond the practical level of detection and can't possibly matter. If you can't feel a spine, it's not likely that your line and leader can either. Too many other casting factors enter the equation and quickly overwhelm the effect of a spine that's only theoretically present.  (Bill Harms)

                        we could then devise ways to detect differences among our flats on the molecular level.

                        If a spine is actually a stronger side to our rods, I wonder how much of what we call a "spine" -- really is a stronger side?

                        I'd be willing to bet that a large percentage of what we "feel" as a spine is hidden bends, crooks, and doglegs.  Often two or three tiny little bent places in the rod counteract each other and allow the rod to appear straighter than it really is.

                        I'd also bet that if we spent an extra hour or two straightening we would find many of our "spines" disappear.  (Harry Boyd)

                          I think you've hit it dead on. If you have six nearly identical strips, with adjacent strips from the culm opposite each other on the rod, and have absolutely no bends or kinks, I don't think there would be any noticeable spine that could affect the  casting accuracy.

                          The spine we are talking about shows up more in synthetic rods because of the seam, or overlap, of the fabric when the material is rolled on a mandrel. Good plastic rods have that seam sanded to a minimum, but it's still there to a small extent.

                          When checking for spine by bending the rod, we are simply discovering the weak side. The strong side, or spine, is not opposite the weak side, but is 90 degrees to it. (Try bending a length of 1"x2" wood. It will bend much more easily  on the weaker, thin side.)

                          Many bamboo rod makers, commercial and hobbyists alike, ignore the spine and place the guides on the rod after installing the ferrules and sighting down the rod for straightness.  (Ron Grantham)

                            I'm not sure I agree with your analogy to a 1x2.  With my spring deflection measuring system, I will find that one flat needs, for example 20 grams for 3" deflection and the opposite flat needs 40 grams.  The other 4 flats will need 30 grams for the same deflection.  A rod is after all not a rectangular form, it is symmetrical (at least it is supposed to be).  If you try to bend a 1x1 piece of wood, you will probably find similar results to what I see on          a rod.  (Neil Savage)

                          Coming from a graphite  background, I've always sort ignored "spine" and simply place the guides on the side with the "natural curve". On a graphite rod, the "spine" is often 90 degrees to the natural curve and it never made sense to me to place my guides there.  (Jim Lowe)

                Like most of us I'm not perfect - yet  ;-)   Just ask my wife LOL.

                So my blank on #1 did have a spine and I had to decide how to deal with it.

                In an ideal world I would have discarded it and made another one which was 'spineless,' but I don't live in an ideal world.  So ...

                Plus #1 was so beautiful!  (Nick Kingston)

                With all due respect, and that is considerable, we should do both.  In light of the recent article on bamboo and power fiber placement within a culm, I suspect that there are differences in the bamboo splines which may not be overcome or may not be noticeable until after glue up whence we then find a spine.  (Ralph Tuttle)

                Of course you are absolutely correct in your assertion, but for the  rest of us.

                I think the conversation should have started with, "If you do find a  little (tiny) spine on your rod, where would you place the guides?"

                In regards to the windward,  leeward, crosswise, strength of the fibers.

                JW made a table much  like the one in the article, and sent it to me  to experiment with. I precisely cut about 3 culms worth of strips  with my mill. the largest difference I could discern was about 10%.  That was the difference in the dial mic reading. (I was too lazy to  do the math to figure the deviation in stress). Some of the  differences were in the same strip at different points. What did I deduce, diddly. If you really wanted to select the strips by that  method, plan to spend about 3 extra hours/rod. What I did see, for  the most part, is that by simply looking and the end of the culm you  can see with your necked eye where the fiber is deeper. Most culms  kind of have a starry pattern where the pith intrudes more toward the  enamel, if you like just select around those patterns. Also there was some deviation from culm to culm, my conclusion. NOT TO STEP ON  ANYONE'S FEET. Make your own decision about mixing culms. I think  you will make and AVERAGE rod, and be guaranteed a spine.  (Jerry Foster)

                I agree Bill.

                When I do my part there is no spine in the rod section. If I do find a spine I can usually track it down to a problem with consistency in the splines. I always get guys who believe all sections should have a spine try to roll the blanks for several minutes trying diligently to find it, only to shake their head in disbelief when they can not. When all sections are the same dimensions and the cane is good there should be no spine to find.

                And I am a chiropractor and I know spines!  (Adam Vigil)

                For what it's worth, I have never seen a bamboo or graphite rod that did not have a spline. This includes all  the rods I have built and those that I've had the opportunity to check. My criteria for checking a bamboo rod is to hold a flat down and pulling down the section and letting it go, if it oscillates straight up and down on all flats it does not have a spline. If it oscillates in a elliptical circle on any flat, it has a spline. Have yet to find one of these exceptional works of art.  (Don Schneider)

                  We know why some graphite rods have a spine. It is due to the way the fiber is wrapped. Some manufacturer of graphite rods developed methods of wrapping to eliminate the spine. Walton Powell and Gatti are two that comes to mind of graphite rods that do not have a spine. They were able to determine what caused the spine and eliminate it. We should do that for cane also. Sure sometimes something may slip by but if you know what causes the spine eliminating or at least minimizing that cause will do the same for the spine.

                  Good cane, good technique can minimize and eliminate a spine. I have seen many section with no spine or a very minimal spine. But once you place the eyes on a section you have just determined which side is going to be stiffer and have created a spine.

                  Bob Milward talks about good sections having no spines in his book and I agree and have found the same.  (Adam Vigil)

                    I think one point we are overlooking is the spine may shift from its original position with use of the rod. If we simply put the guides on a rod with no or little spine and the spine shifts position we could be left with a rod with little real backbone to the rod. So with this in mind is a defined spine to a rod not a good point.  (Gary Nicholson)

                  No matter how hard I try to match the six sticks, with voodoo etc, I never come out with a section that will oscillate straight up and down on all flats. There is always two flats that will. One of those is stronger than the other. So take your pick, stronger pick-up or stronger fighting. Actually there isn't much difference.  (Don Schneider)

          Think of a rod as having four quadrants. There is a pair of opposite sides that are softer than the adjacent pair. You can think of this as an ellipse of stiffness. The argument is between rod casting power and rod casting accuracy. If you as a user are into casting power - longer casts (more than 50 feet in my opinion) on big water - you may wish to put the guides on the stiffer side (distance over accuracy) - the ellipse with the larger diameter (wrong word I know, but you guys understand).  On the other hand, if you are a user that wants casting accuracy - shorter casts (less than 50 feet) on smaller water - then put the guides on the weaker side (accuracy over distance). With guides on the weaker side, the casting process keeps the rod from wobbling in the casting process - remember that a small wobble side to side in the cast creates a large variation at the end of the line (or fly).  You can also check out the rod using a vibration test and observe this wobble by holding the blank section on a table and plucking the end to vibrate in a vertical plane. You will see the wobble of the tip.

          Current graphite rods are better with respect to spine than ever, so I know one excellent graphite maker that does not even take it into account. I think this is more true today than it was 5 years ago. So that is what I think/know about spine. I take it into account for bamboo rods because I do not create a perfect rod blank - Oh My   :-\  (Frank Paul)

            I use a similar logic:

            For rods of 4 wt & below I place the guides on the soft side of the blank (opposite the stiffest side), this allows for delicate casts and helps in overcoming the "stick" created by surface tension when picking up line of the water.  I do the opposite for rods 5 wt and above because casting power and line speed are generally my paramount concern & the impact of "stick" is somewhat negligible in heaver line weights.  I avoid having the stiffest side of the blank offset from the guides because it tends to end up doing some weird things to the action.  (Joe Babulic)

    Interesting discussion but no one has mentioned oscillation or pentagonal rods.

    For what is worth, I equate the rod spine with stiffness and the least amount of off axis oscillation.

    For hex fly rods, I mount the guides opposite the spine, and for pentagonal fly rods, I mount the guides on either side of the point opposite the spine.  (Larry Tusoni)

    Fun subject to talk about.  I had always thought that the term "spine" originally came from "spline" which was coined by early bamboo rod makers.  The topic of spines and guide placement has been widely discussed among graphite rod crafters particularly whether the strong side (180 degrees from the what most people call the spine side) or weak side  should be front or back.  And what do you do with multi-section rods?  Should the tip be weak spine back and the butt weak side front?  I have heard the story that placing the spine at 90 degrees has caused big game rods to explode!  Can't say I believe it was the spine location that was the cause even if the story were true.  What about the hinge (as applied to rods rather than leaders)?  I always thought the term was begun by WC and that I imagined as a localized spine.  Is this another idea originated by bamboo makers that has yet to be appreciated in the graphite rod industry?  I really liked the oscillation technique, described in an earlier post, which got me thinking whether the spine always stays in place with different amounts of stress.  (Jim Utzerath)

    Perhaps nodeless construction is the best way to virtually eliminate spine problems. When I cut up my "chopsticks' from whatever culms I am working with I make no effort to retain culm identity. I do sort for length and power fiber density. This gives me a sort of "Gaussian Distribution" in the finished section. It seems to work.

    But being mortal, more-so all the time, I do find that my rods are not quite straight after glue-up. So my guide placement is such that on the happy occasions when I fight a nice fish the stresses are in the direction of straightening my fault.  (Bill Fink)


I am relatively new to rodmaking compared to most of you folks. I have read the books, and reviewed spines at length in the tips section, but I am still unclear what the general consensus is. I know a lot say the position makes no difference whats-so-ever but based upon my experiences in an other profession I was in for years I find that hard to believe. For years I did custom fitting and constructed sets of golf clubs for hundreds of folks and I always took the time to test each shaft under load conditions and find the primary spline for each, and yes it is possible to have more than one but using a dial indicator you would find the strongest and per USGA rules that could only be aligned in a certain orientation because it enabled through its orientation to promote different type shots. 45 degree opposite of the spline would almost always be the natural bend point of a shaft, so it would be aligned in the swing plane. that being said in rodmaking if you place the guides on the spline flat are you not then prohibiting the rods ability to load and unload naturally and forcing it to bend or flex on the most rigid plane? Just a question as I didn't know how to post to the tips area.  (Gary Williams)

    Man, that's a good question!  When one finds the strongest (weakest?) spline, should you put the guides on the flat on the inside of the bend or the flat on the outside of the bend. When we spline a rod,  aren't we looking for the flat that gives the most?  Isn't that the weakest flat?

    Not being a golfer, I'm really amazed that USGA has rules on where the spline of the shaft is located in relationship to the head of the club.  (Reed Guice)

      I believe it's really up to the maker and what he so chooses for his rods attributes. I've heard the arguments for both sides and I don't believe there's a right or wrong way. I know where I want my rod to be the strongest and I build accordingly.  (Ren Monllor)

    For that very reason, I've had a tendency to believe that penta rods had the strongest "backbone" in 'boo rods. Their apex is opposite the spline side and provides more resistance on the back stroke... JMHO...  (Mike St. Clair)


I’m gonna stick my neck out. I spine my rods like most of us. I put the guides on the inside of the natural curve the section wants to take. At the fly fishing show in Denver this January, a man asked to demonstrate spine. So I did. Once the guides are on the rod, apparently the spine shifts to the next weakest flat! Makes sense. The guides do stiffen the rod a little, I had just never witnessed that before. Any of you whipper snappers noticed that?  (Ross Smith)

    I have never noticed this but will see the next time I put guides on a blank.  Should be this weekend if the post office doesn’t take a day off.  The way I find the spine of a rod is to hold the rod section down on a table with all but an inch or two hanging off the table.  Then I flex the rod and release it.  I watch how the tip moves.  If it moves up and down, then that is the flat I put the guides on.  If it makes circles or ovals, I move to the next flat and repeat the process until I find the flat that gives the straightest up and down motion.  Does that make sense?  (Greg Reeves)

      I put the guides on exactly the opposite way, wanting them on the strongest side as that's where the greatest stress is lifting line off the water and fighting fish.  (Henry Mitchell)

    There are several ways to find the spine.

    I will only cover two ways here.

    I put the butt end of the tip section on a flat surface with one hand pressing down in about the middle of the section. The other hand at the tip so that the tip top can roll in the palm of your hand. Press down to bow the section while you roll the section till you feel a jump. That is the spine. Roll the section till it bows without any resistance, the guides should be on the inside or outside of the bow. (curve) The guides should be lined up with the bow and not off 90 degrees or so. This is loading the rod. You will find if the Spine is off, say 90 degree, while a load like playing a fish, the rod will want to twist in you hand to the soft side of the rod. In casting, the line will want to cast off center. You can check the spine on a table. If you lay a blank flat on a table with about 2/3 of the tip section off the end, bend the tip down and release it. If the tip is not on the spine it will oscillate in an oval. The closer to the spine the narrower the oval. When on the spine it should just vibrate up and down in a straight plane. Doing this will give you an idea of what your line will be doing when you cast a rod that does not have the guides on one or the other side of the spine (soft or stiff). I do know books call it a spline and it may be, but to me it is the spine I am looking for. I have made three Graphite rods with the guides on the outside bend, did not like them at all. Made over 100 with the guides on the inside of the bend. I find that the guides on the inside seem to cast best for me. The tradition I have heard is: for power put the guides on the stiff side, for accuracy put the guides on the soft side. I go with the soft side except for Casting and Saltwater rods. Yes, there can be more than one spine but one will always be pronounced . That is the one I use. I have had two bamboo blanks that it was almost impossible to find a spine. Can't tell you why, don't know. I make them all the same way. Now to crawl back into my hole.

    After I posted my message I got several off list messages as to why I place my guides on the  inside of the curve.  Rather than answer them separately I will post my reply.

    I may be all wet but this is my way of thinking. Think of your rod as a bow. With the guides on the soft ( inside) side when raising the rod to pick up line off the water the line puts load on the rod. It will bend and load the rod on the soft side, (inside bend) more than it would on the stiff side. As the rod comes up and the line loads the rod on the back cast it has resistance from the stiff side. It will want come back to neutral. Being that the rod is loaded on the stiff side now, it will want to straighten out fast and will throw the line out with higher speed. Being that it has to work against itself in the opposite direction it will not bend as far forward as it does back thus keeps from throwing the line down. It will tend to stop quicker and throw the line straight out instead of down. In fighting the fish, The rod can be raised higher and the fish is fighting the soft side, this is easier on the tippet and more pressure can be put on the tippet without it breaking due to working on the soft side. What happens when you have no spine, darned if I know.

    Article # 2

    Most of the experience has been with graphite rods but it also applies to bamboo as far as I am concerned. This is my take on why I put the guides on the inside of the bend on fly and spinning rods and on the outside of the bend on Salt water Spinning and Casting rods. I may be all wet on this but it is the way I do it.

    By putting the guides on the inside of the bend There is more accuracy in casting. Just imagine casting with a stiff broom stick, it would be hard to direct the cast. Now think about a Willow sapling, you can direct the cast better. My thinking is that when you pick up the line off the water, the rod is going to bend more on the inside of the curve, therefore loading the rod more than if the guides were on the stiff side of the bend. When the line on the back cast straightens out, the resistance is against the stiff side and the stiff side wants to straighten up. That will help in throwing the line forward increasing the line speed. Having the guides (line)inside of the bend also takes the load off the tippet when fighting a fish. On Saltwater Spinning rods (when I was making them back East) I put the guides on the outside of the bend because the rod would  have more fighting power for big fish. Same for casting rods. Did the same on the few Saltwater Fly Rods I put together.

    Many years ago I built a 3 wt, my first graphite blank. When I got the blank, the instructions were to put the guides on the outside of the bend. I still have this rod but seldom use it. It never felt right when casting it. Maybe some day I might change the guides.

    On the other hand, I was given two commercial made rods to try here on the White. Both have well known names on them, both have the guides off (the bend) spine. When I hook a good size fish on either of those rods, they want to twist in my hand. One will twist one way the other the other way. Both are on the rack with the 3 wt.

    As far as Bamboo goes, I have made several rods that had almost none or no spine, most of the ones I made have had enough of a spine that I consider it as far as the guides go.

    We all have our ways of doing things, do what you feel is best or are satisfied with. I am not an expert, I have only made just under 90 bamboo rods and over 150 graphite and glass rods. I can still learn things.  (Tony Spezio)

      Like Tony, I spine bamboo by vibration. I posted this on the Rod Building Forum a while back. It's also described in this bamboo rod building booklet.

      I was disappointing with the tip action of my rods using conventional methods of spining.  (Ken Paterson)

      I agree completely with Tony's approach to spine rods; same as I have done on plastic and bamboo ones I have made. I would add one additional suggestion. I also join together the rod sections (tip and butt) and do a vibration test to see whether individual rod sections behave with appropriate vibration behavior. Sometimes one needs to slightly modify the tip orientation to insure that the assemble rod shows vertical vibration motion. Also note that one needs to do this for each bamboo tip. Sometimes one has to made some corrections for each tip that improves the overall rod behavior. I hope this adds positively to Tony's approach.  (Frank Paul)

        We might both be all wet but I agree with you 100%.

        On the other hand, I had a student that wanted his guides put on the outside of the bend. He fishes this rod as often as he can and raves about how well it casts. I have cast it also and it does cast very well so we both might be all wet. I will still do as I have been doing.  (Tony Spezio)

          When finding the spine by the vibration method, how do you determine which is the inside curve?  Do you still have to do the first method to determine the inside and outside curve?   It isn’t any trouble to do both, I am just wondering.  (Greg Reeves)

            Yes, I first do the spine by bending each individual section and determine the inside/outside relationship as Tony does. I then mark the insides and assemble the sections with the same marks adjacent and do the assembly vibration test for any corrections.  (Frank Paul)

              A way that I have done this is to build a jig that you place the section into under a load condition and then using a dial indicator attached to the jig look for the flat that gives you the highest reading. I think much more accurate than just flexing and watching the oscillation pattern. (Gary Williams)

                I use a spring scale (left over from my days of fixing IBM keypunches) to find the spine.  It has a flat spring and scale measuring in grams -- either 0-65 or 0-650 depending on the spring I install.  I push the tip of the section down to a given point (actually I clamp the last 1" of the section to my radial arm saw and push down until the tip part reaches a point on my lathe.)   Each flat will usually have a different reading, and I put the guides on either the stiff side or the soft side, depending on the preference of the recipient.  (I don't sell rods, just make them for family or myself.)  I Googled the scale a few years ago, and they were ~$100 then and now I can't find them at all.  I suppose any kind of scale with a proper range would work.  (Neil Savage)

              One method I’ve seen to determine the spine of a section that is simple and works every time is to support the ends of the section in smooth “U” shaped notches. Place a doughnut shaped ring with a smooth rounded center hole and sufficient weight to flex the section slightly on the section.  The section will rotate because of the rings weight and the section will always come to rest with the weak flat side up.  (Don Schneider)

                That is an excellent approach - one that I had not seen suggested before. The key is to make sure the "U" shaped notches are very smooth so the rod will roll; more difficult with six sided rods when compared with rod rods.   (Frank Paul)

                  Its true, all the notches and ring surfaces must be rounded and smooth. I forgot to mention in my  post; a good source for the ring is the rings used for hanging drapes on a curtain rod, brass or wood. Now everyone run in the house and cop one of the rings from the drapes. Your wife may look at you a little strange and ask why you are doing this but you will understand why the guys in the white coats show up a little later. :>)   (Don Schneider)


 

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