Fenwick Glass blanks

Discussion in 'Rod Building' started by Jeff Hale, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. Jeff Hale

    Jeff Hale B.I.G.F.F.

    I just received a WHOLE bunch of old, glass Fenwick blanks, many of which do not have markings on them, but some do. I have never built a rod, and think these would be fun projects. First, I have a few questions.

    All the blanks are one piece. Can one cut these blanks to make them two piece? Do you have to use old-school brass ferrules?

    On some of the blanks, the very, very tip looks to be worn or cut off by a millimeter or two, instead of coming to a solid conical point. Will this effect the performance of the rod? Does this mean the blank is no good?

    Are the techniques used for bulding glass fly-rods similar to the ones for graphite?

    Is there a way to tell what kind of rod weight clasification a rod will have without markings, other than building the thing, and experimenting with different lines? What are the benefits of glass over other materials, if any? I know there was a huge movement towards glass back in the day when bamboo was popular. Thanks, Jeff
  2. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    You can cut an ferrule the blanks if you want, but if I were you, I'd start off with the idea of just wrapping one of those sticks up first.

    Lots of questions all at once!

    First off the techniques for glass and graphite rods will be the same. So don't worry about that.

    Second, unless someone with experience takes a look at the blank, you'll never really know if the rods will be affected by missing of the tip top. Generally the more you take off the tip the "faster" the rod action will be. There is a point though where taking off too much just gives you a fibreglass broom handle, and that point really depends on the taper of the blank (within reason).

    Glass is great because it's durable, easy to cast, and doesn't really cost a mint. The also feel great as you can feel the line load up the blank from tip to butt and all points in between ;)

    The downsides are it's slow (some people don't like that) and very heavy.

    In terms of finding out the power of a rod, there are a number of things that you can do. The first would be to read the following article from Rodbuilding.org.


    Basically by placing a rod in a jig, and carefully measuring the weight of the blank as it is statically deflected, you can come up with a reasonable number that will describe the power of the rod. From there you'll at least have a ballpark on how you want the rod to cast and feel. In general, fibreglass will be more forgiving of being downlined that the other way around....
  3. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    I think James is partially right in his analysis of fiberglass.

    IMHO, the introduction of fiberglass blanks after WWII offered several improvements over bamboo: first, fiberglass blanks were much easier to produce than the labor-intensive bamboo ones which meant they could be sold at a more affordable price point; second, because it was synthetic, fiberglass wasn't subject to possible water damage through compromised varnish and was impervious to sets that plagued cane rods; and finally, because later fiberaglass blanks were tubular, it was MUCH lighter than cane.

    (Yes, early fiberglass rods were solid, but not for long as early makers quickly figured out how to make lighter hollow blanks. By the 1970s, pretty much all fiberglass blanks were hollow.)

    Remember that we're looking back at a time when graphite wasn't even a twinkle in Dow-Corning's eye so the whole concept of 'fast' actions hadn't been invented yet. Because pretty much everyone at the time had cut their teeth on cane, the 'slow' fiberglass action James refers to was all anyone had ever experienced.

    Are your blanks solid or hollow? If they're solid, I think your only ferrule option is gonna be metal. I remember my first glass spinning rod my dad bought me in about 1955 was solid with metal ferrules.

    James is right in that a one-piece rod might be a kick to try with no ferrules to interrupt the smooth action of the blank.

    Finally, nearly all trout rods from the 1930s until the mid- to late-1970s were intended for a 5wt or 6wt line. That'd probably be as good a place as any for you to start.

  4. Jeff Hale

    Jeff Hale B.I.G.F.F.

    Thanks so much for the information guys. Yes, the blanks are hollow, so according to your info, they can't be THAT old, right? Also, some of the rods say "Grizzly" on them. One of the blanks that is a soft yellow color, says FL96-6 with no other markings at all. After measuring it, I think the 96 refers to inches, because the rod is 8 feet long (96 inches), and perhaps the "6" denotes a 6-weight rod??? What do you guys think? Ever heard of these blanks? There is also a really cool little blank about 6 foot 2 inches long that feels like a 3 or 4 weight, but I don't know for sure. Did Fenwick make decent blanks back then? I have an older FS 85C and an FS91 C that I love to use for trolling for salmon. They can take a KILLER strike from a BIG king and seem to really cushion the head shakes and runs and protect my 20 pound test leaders. I use them the only time of year I gear fish; the mouth of the Columbia.

    Okay, so where should I start? Get a book, take a class, what? Do I have to make some measurments before I buy the materials such as the cork rings for a handle and also a reel seat? Guides? Special epoxies? What is the bare minimal tools I can get away with to try this out? Thanks again, 'fellas, Jeff
  5. Kent Lufkin

    Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

    Jeff, Fenwick glass rods were quite highly regarded in their heyday, the 1960s and 1970s. Factory rods were almost all a rich brown color while blanks sold unfinished were mostly yellow.

    I'm not sure about the names, but regardless of the length, I'd still start with a 6wt line. I've got factory brown Fenwicks in an 8' 5pc for 8wt and a 7' 4 piece and a 7' 2pc, both for 6wt. The 7' 6wt is a rocket that I've had fun fishing dries on the Yak with.

  6. Tom Bowden

    Tom Bowden Active Member

  7. James Mello

    James Mello Inventor of the "closed eye conjecture"

    Those Fenwick blanks were among the most highly regarded fibreglass rods in it's day. It's sad to see how Fenwicks image has changed over the years, but none the less, the older brown blanks they had were really nice. My dad has a couple of their steelhead gear rods, and hands down they are my tools of choice when I drift fish.

    As for starting on the rod, it depends on what level of tinkerer that you are. I grabbed book and just started on cheap blanks. The first few rods were pretty grotesque, but I quickly mastered the things I needed to know....

    The other options include taking a class (both All About the Fly and Greg's Custom rods do great classes). Or finding someone who knows how to build a rod help show you.

    If I were to take a class, I'd head to All About the Fly, simply because they are a site sponser. But you really can't go wrong with either shop :)