Do it yourself vs. factory rod

Discussion in 'Rod Building' started by TANGLES, Jan 8, 2004.

  1. Just got another fly fishing catalog in the mail and it took me a while to catch my breath after seeing the prices of some of the rods. I want to upgrade but would have to sell one of the kids to get one of those rods. Can they really be that much better? So, I checked out building a rod, thinking I could go up in quality and save a little money. What I want to know from this experienced group is whether you really do get more rod for your money by building it yourself, or, by the time all is said and done, does it work out about the same as getting a factory rod? I know I'd do a good job but I'm no professional.
  2. I guess it all depends on the difference in price between the rod and blank. Keep in mind that a reelseat, handle, guides, thread , and epoxy will add up. Also. Most blanks don't come with a tube or sock. I built one this summer and it campe out to the same price as a factory rod. I did upgrade the components a bit though. Look at the cost of parts vs. the difference in price. Lastly, warranties on blanks usually replace the blank if you break it, but you have to rebuild it so keep that in mind.
  3. Was it the Cabela's fly fishing catalog? I got it too and was thinking, more tempted really, of getting a Loomis GL3 blank that comes with every to make it(giuds, epoxy, handel, grip, thread, etc.) The price range was what caught me. For the blank only the pice was between $100-$130. For the kit and blank the price was between $120-$150. That's over $100 cheaper! I'm really tempted by the 9' 6wt...
  4. I wouldn't do it if all you are trying to do is reduce cost. There are many rods out there that you could pick up today that run $40 to $150, and are fine rods that do the job just fine, look pretty good, will last a while, and will save you lots of money. WWGrigg, Norhtwest X, TFO, fennwick, plflueger, and many others... For that price, you could by 3 or 4 rods of different weights\lengths and cover all your favorite types of fishing for the price of a brand name rod...

    But if you are thinking of getting into the art\craft of building rods - and really appreciate the fine touches and care that can go into one of these sticks, and have the time and patience - then maybe this is a good idea for you.

    I guess I all boils down to how you define 'better' ("can they really be that much better").
  5. Ive got a custom built RPLXi. It worked out to be consideralby less money, and a friend who makes AMAZING rods did it up for me. I traded him a winston 9ft 5wt (which was a freebie) so I made out like a bandit and so did he. The only thing I dont like is that if the blank ever goes..the warranty will only cover a blank. I cant just send it back to him and have him duplicate it. If cost is an issue there are plenty of rods that will serve the purpose just fine - as others mentioned.

    Or you will be in the same boat of most of the rest of us NON-High paying job holders do.....we just scrimp and save and get good toys whether we can afford it or not. This sure is an expensive hobby.....but it SURE IS FUN!!!
  6. If you decide to build a rod, don't go with a kit. The components that come with a kit are usually of lesser quality. One of the reasons I got into rodbuilding was because I could choose the look of my rod, thread colors, trim wraps, guide color/style, handle style, reel seat type/color, type of reel seat insert wood, and the list goes on. Your first rod, including cost of epoxies, and other equipment to get started, will probably not save you any money, but once you move on to your second rod, you'll already have the equipment and epoxies/glues, and you will/should be able to build a high quality custom rod for less money than a factory rod, plus it will look the way you want it to ;)
  7. i was having the same thoughts about building a rod, probably looking at the same catalog, how important is a power wrapper/dryer in the process. what are the other "start up" costs of building a rod?:dunno
  8. A power wrapper is not required at all. I wrap my rods by hand, and am finally upgraded to a nice hand made wooden hand wrapper, instead of my cardboard box ;) You can dry the rod by hand, but I recommend a slow 6-20RPM motor for the drying. Check out the rod building series on flyanglersonline, will give you an idea what you're in for ;) A cardboard box with notches in it makes a perfectly useable wrapper, using a phonebook for thread tension. Good luck. :beer2
  9. To buy all the "stuff" to make your first rod is not a bargain. If you want a custom rod at the price of a factory rod, that works. I've made a few now and am over the ramp up costs. Ask MacRowdy if he's happy with the rod I helped him build and see if you might want to do the same.


    Good things come to those who wade...
  10. As a rough guide, a rod you build yourself will cost about half of its factory equivalent. A "kit" is a good project for a first rod, but it's nice to completely customize your rod to your taste. You can save money with, for instance, a cheap but functional reel seat, or you can upgrade to TiCh guides and a reel seat with a wood insert from the Mayflower, if you like.
    You can do a fine job of wrapping the rod with a notched cardboard box and a book to tension the thread, but I've found that a power dryer is needed to get a reliably smooth finish. Cabela has a good cheap one, and the handy can cobble one together for even less.
    Beware the trap, though: your savings will probably go into the components of the second rod that you'll soon be building, and the third...
  11. Take a look at and just spend a couple of hours reading the post and archives. Every question you will ever have about building a rod has already been answered there and you will come away with a much clearer idea about what to expect. In addition their list of sponsors is outstanding and every conceivable rod building goody can be provided by them. Ive
  12. In Lake Stevens Gregs custome fishing rods is offering a Rod Building Class From 7 pm to 9 Pm on Jan 12 13 19 and 20th. the cost is 25 bucks there phone number is 425-335-1391. Dont know any other details then that might want to give a call see all what the class offers. Might be a good class who knows
  13. I started building rods at the tender age of 16, and don't regret a single one. I'd guess that I've built close to forty fly rods.

    My advice, take the class mentioned above. Use the cardboard box. Get a couple of rod dryer motors for $3.00 from and build it yourself from scrap for less than 5 bucks total. You will save some serious coin, find something to do on those blow out weekends like this one, and make something special for yourself.

    The materials cost is nothing compared to buying new. Go to for info and check out some of the great small manufacturers of blanks out there these days. Companies like 5 Rivers make great guaranteed blanks for a fabulous cost. My last blank from them was light years ahead of any of the sages I have built, and cost less than a premium sage cost 23 years ago. Rob.
  14. Rod building is a lot of fun. I liked it so much that one thing led to another, and I'm now making bamboo rods.

    You don't need a power wrapper or drying motor. I've built about 15 graphite or fiberglass rods plus 26 bamboo rods without either of these. Running the thread through a book works well, or you can make a simple & cheap tensioning device. If anyone's interested, I could post a picture of the one I use. Rather than using a drying motor, I just turn the blank by hand until the varnish sets up. This takes an hour or two with epoxy, but less than 15 minutes with the fast drying Polyurethane varnish I use on the wraps of my rods.

    You can take two different approaches, or something in between. One way would be to build a special custom rod that you'll be proud of. Get a nice cork grip ($20), a high end reel seat ($50-$100) and high quality guides. Do the wraps in your favorite color. Put small signature wraps 14" and 20" from the butt so you can measure the fish you hope to release. Another approach would be to save money by buying a nice blank and putting cheap but usable components on it.

  15. Of the rods I fish, I bought 2 and built 5 now, and the 2 that I bought have been rebuilt.

    In short, unless its a deal, I would never buy another rod prebuilt. first off, the prices are sky high, and they certainly aren't all that spiffy a rod, unless you think plain brown wraps are spiffy.

    Now, if you know someone that has the equipment, you could probably use it when he is not. Mine just finished sitting around for 1 year. Now its back in action.

    Then again, if you know a guy like me, I might be persuaded to build the rod you want for nothing, or maybe even barter for services or the whole thing.

    And then there is the whole other side of rod building: blanks by makers that only rod builders know about. Rainshadow, Dan Craft, Tiger Eye to name a very few of them. And if someone disses any of these without trying one, they have no idea what they are missing.

    Come to the darkside. Build a rod or have one built. You will never go back.
  16. me personally, i build my rods. partly because it is cheaper and partly becaus eit is a hobby and i just enjoy building them. i build them for friends all the time. if your just looking for one rod then you are probably better off just buying one. just my opinion.
  17. Yes. Build a rod. You can go way cheaper than a factory rod, and get better components, especially if you like sexy things like fancy reel seats.

    I recommend Gregs Custom Rods in Lake Stevens. For $20 or so you can take a class there and buy every thing to make a rod. Plus you get to meet other people making the rod and fishing.

    I built my first rod for $40, knowing I would build others and wanting to get my feet wet, so to speak. Be aware, if you build one rod, you will not be happy and eventually it gets addictive. Anyway that $40 rod fishes pretty damn well. Now I'm building a 4 piece with a custom laminated and carved handle.

    Go to and visit their sponsors. There are a lot of great blanks out there. For instance, Dan Fast is a custom rod builder whose rods are in the $500 range, but you can buy his blanks around $100. You'd have to add a lot of fancy components before you lost your price advantage.

    In the latest issue of NW Fly Fishing, I saw an add for all kinds of blanks at $5/foot. Hard to go wrong.
  18. In my experience, you will save significant dollars building your own rod. The first rod I built was a St. Croix, 4 weight 4 piece Legend Ultra. My buddy had built a rod before and with minimal instruction from him I was able to put together a great fishable rod. Running your winding thread through a telephone book with a gallon milk jug on top of it is a great thread tensioner. You do need to spin your rod while drying to prevent the epoxy from sagging. You can do this by hand in front of the tube on a good viewing night.

    Hook and Hackle in New York is a great place to buy blanks and components. They currently have a 20% off sale going on (they always have something like this). Their site indicates that the sale does not apply to blanks, but I've always received the discount when buying blanks.

    Good luck, I think you will find it rewarding to catch fish on a rod that you've built and a fly that you've tied.

  19. Thanks for all the input. I checked out some of the rodbuilding sites and read all the things you need to consider when building a rod, plus all the equipment or alternatives.
    One of the fly fishing clubs has a class where you bring in all the materials to class, then they tell you how pick the best materials. Hmmm.
    I think in the end I'm going to follow the advice of a fishing buddy who says "don't do it if you're doing it just to save money".
  20. O man,

    The rod building idea for me turns into The bamboo rod thing. My wife got me "The Garrison Book" and so I started reading. I got to looking online at the used rods but the decent ones are all pricey, even the fixeruppers. Then I start thinking Hey, why not just build one! So then you go hunting for bamboo, stanley block planes (with decent irons which supposedly only come on the old models) the planing forms (holy cow they are not cheap) and sharpening stones. Holy cow. Did I say that enough. Holy holy cow.

    With the two kids, house and station wagon there's just no way to swing that.

    But the brain don't turn off when I sleep so in the wee hours of the night when I wake up (nature calling) I have these thoughts like "Wouldn't two straight strips of maple ripped on the ole talble saw work instead of cold rolled steel (for the planing forms you see). But what about the grooves???? Then you wonder why you can't find a decent block plane anywhere (or else reportedly decent) for less than 20 bucks but you stumble on an article on making your own on Lowe's woodworking plans site. Hmmmmmmmm Then on a trip to my Dad's I read one of his woodworking mags and it talks about making your own replacement blades for antique planes and my Grandpa has a forge, cutting torch and anvil and I know where to get a few badly dull but high quality circular saw blades (another guy on a boatbuilding board posted about using these) that would make a nice nice iron for the plane....

    Then I wonder about coming up with my own tapers instead of using the stock ones which is really silly because there are lots of Leonards, Paines and Garrison's that are published out there but I can't help it. When I'm sleeping it won't stop so one night I stay up till midnight after the kids are tucked in scouring the net for college projects and people who are also moderately insane (or really really (much much) smart (er than I am)) and crack open college math books that I haven't seen for years.....

    And then I think, sheesh, if I'm gonna build a rod then why not build the spey rod that I've been wishing I had so then you start scouring the web looking for spey tapers (there's only a few that are published) to prove to yourself that you're not totally nuts........

    and it goes on and on and on and on and on and on.

    I'm like this about boats too. Stitch and glue or ply on frame. Found a design program that spits out plywood templates and .... this is already out of control.

    But someday I might buy that good hard maple, cut up some circular saw blades, build a tensioner and make that spey rod. Ideas like this haunt me and I can't get them out of my head.

    So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if you want to build a rod because it haunts you then do it. Then you can tell me how good it is and drive me even more nuts.



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