Some Experiments in Rod Repair
Warranties apply a lot of the
time when one breaks a rod. But sometimes they don't, or one may have
other reasons for considering a self repair. The conventional wisdom
says it isn't possible--quite true if the rod is extensively crushed.
However I have found that simple snap-offs, which are reasonably
clean, are not at all hard to fix. The method proceeds from the
observation that spigot ferrules joining rod sections work quite well.
In the manufacture, a rod blank is made in one piece and then cut into
sections and the spigot joints set up. The
Steffen Brothers Rodmakers
have a discussion of this on their web site. Such rods of that
design that I have examined have no noticeable change in thickness or
taper at the joints. Neither does a rod with a clean break.
Spigot Ferrule on Steffen 8 Weight
So why not use similar approach to make a permanently glued and wrapped
repair. In summary, the method is to use a splint "spigot" of a short length of
sufficiently strong tubular material carefully sized to the inside
diameters of the rod on both sides of the break, glued in place, and
overwrapped with rodmaking thread and coated with rod finish. A US Patent, 3,519,294
describes the construction of spigot ferrules. It appears that the main
difference from this repair method is that one side is not
For most repairs I use high pressure stainless steel tubing. I get it from
usually ordering the thickest wall available for a given tubing outside
diameter. See their online catalog page 129. Type 304 stainless
is quite adequate for the job. Twelve inch lengths of it run five
to seven dollars. Tubing is to be preferred over solid material to
minimize the weight added. I measure the inside diamter of the rod at
break using a drill index. I find the adjacent pair of drills, the
smaller of which will slide into the rod while the larger will not. I
then start with a size tubing whose outside diameter is slightly larger
I use lengths of tubing 1.5 to 3 inches long, the nearer the tip, the
shorter. Stainless steel is fairly gnarly stuff to cut. I use a Dremel
tool with a cutoff wheel. Safety glasses are a must when using it. I
then use a small drill press running at its highest speed to turn the
tubing while I sand it with emery paper to cut its diameter to fit the
rod. I take it out of the chuck and check for a slide fit often. I
carefully round off the ends so there are no sharp edges there to cut
into the rod. For this reason I generally get the thickest wall tubing
available to get the greatest radius where I round it off. Obviously this
could be done in a lathe, but I don't have one or access to one.
Shaping the Tubing
I use a good grade of slow setting epoxy to glue the tubing in place. A
repair failure using this method led me to the startlingly obvious
conclusion that the only useful place for the glue is between the
tubing and the blank. The failure happened when I smeared
a large quantity of glue up in to the rod before pushing in the
tubing. The tubing then moved a lot of glue further up the rod. The
glue set and formed a sharp edged meniscus beyond the tubing and beyond the end of the wrapping. The rod,
after a considerable amount of use, broke at the edge. This
demonstrated that restraint in the amount of glue used is important, as
is the rounding the edges of the tubing mentioned above. My
current method is to smear the outside of the tubing with glue before
inserting it. Most of the glue is scraped off and wiped away but enough
is carried in to do the job.
Wrapping and Finishing
I wrap the outside of the rod the whole length of tubing inside plus a
bit of overlap on the ends with size A rodmaking thread.. I use a color
which is a reasonable match in hue to the color of the blank. It may be
lighter in value than the rod, but after is is coated with finish, it
will darken to a close match so the repair won't be conspicuous. The
finish I prefer for this job is Perma Gloss
which is a sort of varnish that does not build up to a thick layer like
epoxies do. It's also not necessary to rotate the rod while it sets as
it is with epoxy finishes. Four or five coats are sufficient to hide the
texture of the thread wrap but not make much bulk.
Broken Rod with Tubing
Ragged Edge Masked and Trimmed
There will typically be some short splits along the length of the
rod near the break, as can be seen above. If the edge of the break is
ragged, wrap masking tape around where a trim
will clean it up, and trim it off with a cutoff wheel in a Dremel tool.
The tape will prevent splits from propagating and make a line for the
Tubing Inserted and Glued in One Piece of Rod
Wrapped and Finished Repair
Results: Successes and Failures
I first started doing this when my wife broke the tip section of an
L.L.Bean four piece spin-fly rod. It had been a gift from her
father and there was no warranty card. Since the break was near
the tip I used a piece of music wire sanded to size as described above
rather than tubing. The next year, she broke the tip section again--but
not at the repair indicating that it was not a weak point in the rod. I
fixed it again using the same method.
It's still in use.
The next case came up when I broke the tip section a Redington Wayfarer 6
weight 5 piece rod by snapping it off in a car door. Fortunately
it wasn't crushed. I had won it in a club raffle and hadn't bothered
with the warranty card. I guess I could have sent it in, but by then I
was interested in this repair process. This was when I first started to
use the tubing. So more or less as described above I repaired it.
A while later, I snagged bass popper in some lily pads and
horsed back on it, breaking the tip section in two places--but not
anywhere near the first repair. This indicates again that the
repair was not a weak point. So I fixed it again using the same
technique. Here I made a mistake. The break closest to the tip took
tubing about .063 (1/16) inches in diameter. It was not
strong enough. On the first back cast with it lifting a lot of line off
the water, it bent at the join! I was able to strip off the Perma Gloss finished
wrap and get it apart using an electric heat gun. I replace the
tubing with a piece of drill rod close to the needed size. I got
the drill rod from McMaster-Carr. In a annealed state as it comes, it
is soft and easy to sand to the required diameter. Then
it needs to be heat treated to get it to the necessary strength.
I messed around with heat treating it on my own with poor results.
Then I consulted a friend who makes knives
With his help I got a good result using methods described at the link.
A simpler solution might have been to buy a drill bit close to the
right size, cut off the shank with a
Dremel, and sand it for the longer time it would take to
get it to size. It would be in the heat treated state as obtained. The
music wire mention above is about the same as hardened drill rod, but
it's only available in a very limited number of diameters. Anyhow
this repair seems to be fine now
Another case was a vintage Sage two piece 5 weight. The fact that it
had been built by a custom rod maker complicated the warranty situation.
It was broken a few inches above the ferrule. It's the rod in the pictures
above. It's also the rod which the glue meniscus described above caused
to fail. A fair number of good fish were fought and landed with it before it finally
did break. It may yet fish again.
One might worry that the tubing adds too much weight or has a deleterious
effect on rod action. The short answer is, not so I can notice. I have
had some sophisticated casters try these rods and they haven't
found any significant fault. You mileage may vary. The closer to the
tip it's added the more effect weight has. However the closer to the tip
the splint has to go, the smaller and shorter it will be, and the less
weight it will add. For example, the first break of the L.L.Bean rod
was about 5 inches from the tip. The solid steel splint weighed
0.36 grams. The second break was about 9.5 inches from the top
and the solid steel splint weighed 0.89 grams. For comparison,
tip-tops weigh in the range of 0.6 to 0.9 grams and snake guides
weigh in the range of 0.2 to 0.5 grams. So we are talking about
weight additions of the same order of magnitude as an extra guide. In
the end whatever compromise this represents, it would seem to beat
having no usable rod at all. I consider the method experimental at this
point, but it does seem promising.
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