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How a graphite rod is made
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FYI. Nice video on how a graphite fly rod is made:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAuYBIX4k0s

Posted on: 2008/7/15 7:21


Re: How a graphite rod is made

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Appears they don't spine them at Thomas & Thomas ?

Posted on: 2008/7/15 8:55


Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Just some fly rod and rod building stuff to argue about:

One thing that becomes apparent from the video is that making a fly rod is very labor intensive. IMO, the one of the main differences between a $200 and a $600 fly rod is where it’s made. The labor cost for Sage in the US is say $20.50 an hour (including employee benefits) while in China it may be $.50 an hour. Freight costs to ship to the States are minimal on a 3oz fly rod. These are just guesses on the actual costs, but it demonstrates my point. BTW, my wife is a production planner for a large fishing manufacturer that produces in the US as well as China, so my guess is not that far off.

I would love to see what goes into making the graphite sheets. The claim is that the high modulus graphite is much more expensive to produce, in addition, the resins that are used to bind the fibers together is also a big factor.

The factors that go into the selling price of a graphite fly rod as I see them are first and foremost labor costs. Other factors are the cost/quality of the components, the cost of the raw materials and the process used to make the graphite into a usable form (sheet). As well there are intangibles that factor into the cost, especially in the high-end fly rods, such as the premium paid for owning the “latest and greatest” models in the line, and the reputation (name) of the manufacturer.

In another post about rod building, Jack argued that low-end blanks are not noodles. Here is some info I picked up concerning graphite modulus:

"The highest modulus rod blanks you can buy are available in the G. Loomis GLX and Sage Graphite IV. These range somewhere near 65 million modulus.

Next down the line is Sage Graphite III, G.Loomis GL4, IMX and several less known rod blanks coming in somewhere in the range of 55 million modulus.

If you back down a little to the mid 40 million modulus range, you will find a group of rods including Sage Graphite II, G.Loomis GL3, Redington Premium and rods with the IM8 and SC44 ratings.

A little lower on the ladder is IM7 at 42 million modulus and IM6 at 38 million modulus.

Standard graphite is rated at 33 million modulus, and along with IM6 and IM7, is as high as some rod manufacturers get."

Cheaper graphite fly rods are nearly exclusively made from lower modulus graphite, therefore these rods tend to have more flex and are usually slower-action rods. I know that the taper is the biggest determining factor as to the action of a rod, but to produce a fast action rod out of say IM6 graphite, the material used in nearly all low end blanks, the rod would have to be a very large diameter and very thick and heavy walls making it the proverbial broom stick handle that Jack mentioned.

Jack also mentioned in another post about the importance of aligning the spine, or some call it spline of a rod. The wall thickness of the blank is not the same throughout the shaft (although Gatti claims that their high-end rods are nearly perfect). Therefore, the rod flexes more on the side with a thinner wall, and flexes less on the thicker side; this is the spine. You can find the weak and strong side by rotating the blank between your hands while it’s being flexed. The blank will jump when it reaches that point. Many rod builders mark this spot and affix the guides with the spine aligned either strong side up or down. There is always a debate as to which way is best.

Many of the rod manufacturers (Sage and Loomis are two that I am aware of) build their rods on the straight axis. Since blanks are not perfectly straight, they build their rods with the curved side down or up, in other words the guides are affixed on either the convex or concave side of the rod. A simple way to do this is to roll the blank section on a perfectly flat surface and mark where the blank raises and lowers as it rolls. This to me makes the most sense, and is how I align my guides. I align the guides to the convex side of the rod.

Good luck.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 9:38


Re: How a graphite rod is made

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No need to spline rods any more. Newfangled rods don't have a spine like the older ones had.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 9:51


Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Quote:

afishanado wrote:
In another post about rod building, Jack argued that low-end blanks are not noodles.


To be clear, to the extent I argued anything, it would have been that not all low end blanks are noodles. Certainly you can buy a soft action rod for a little bit of money. My point was only that you didn't have to spend a ton to get a fast action rod. In fact, you can get a medium-fast Rainshadow (Batson) RX7, 43 Million modulus for about $55 in 9 foot 5-weight and an extra-fast RX8, 51 million modulus, for just over $100.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 10:46
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Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Jack,

I actually built a Rainshadow RX7 9' 5wt. It was the first rod I built, and use it to teach beginners and lend out. I would classify it as medium slow (and clunky).

The Sage and Loomis rods I own are of a different class with respect to being light and fast action. As I stated earlier, a mfg. can taper a fast action rod out of lower modulus graphite, but it will be a clunky rod (IMO).

Next time when you are at a fly shop or fishing with someone who owns a fast-action Sage or Loomis rod, cast it and feel the difference. I'm not saying those type of rods are best - just best for me.

I have not, by any means cast every rod or blank out there, but I have yet to cast a rod built on a low to moderate priced blank that's fast, light, and reponsive. I have heard than Dan Craft fast-action rods may fit the bill, but I haven't cast one as of yet.

All just my opinion Jack. I knew if I mentioned your name in a post, I won't get a response - and you didn't disappoint!


If you like slower action rods, the world is your oyster! There are a bunch of blanks out there at a moderate price to fit the bill. I built a 7' 4wt PacBay Tradition rod for my wife. It's a great little rod that, IMO, will rival the Orvis "full flex" rods as they call them. I built it, including decent components, for just under $100!

Posted on: 2008/7/15 11:30


Re: How a graphite rod is made

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As far as splining goes, I still do it on mine, and I put the guides in the inside if the rod is under a 7WT, outside if it's a bigger rod that needs more backbone to accelerate the line on the backcast. I, too have heard that it's not necessary, but it only takes a second or two and it can't hurt.

Boyer

Posted on: 2008/7/15 11:38


Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Matt,

I'm not saying just stick the guides anywhere on the rod. My point was there is a choice to either spine/spline the rod, or affix the guides on straightest center axis, the way the rod mfg do. Finding either takes the same amount of time.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 11:49


Re: How a graphite rod is made
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I don't always respond just because my name is mentioned, but usually you can count on it if you characterize a prior post or position of mine incorrectly. But, now you are shifting the target by introducing the concept of blank weight. You made an original claim that low-end blanks are all noodles. This is simply not true and that was why (in that other thread) I disagreed. There are inexpensive stiff rods, as I had mentioned, and also inexpensive, high modulus rods that are lightweight. I won't disagree that generally the low-end rods are made with lower modulus graphite, thus, generally softer action, but that's about as far as I can concede to you, and if that had been your point all along, then I probably wouldn't have bothered to comment then or now.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 12:12
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Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Jack wrote: "But, now you are shifting the target by introducing the concept of blank weight. You made an original claim that low-end blanks are all noodles.

Actually Jack this is what I wrote in my original post about blank weight: "to produce a fast action rod out of say IM6 graphite, the material used in nearly all low end blanks, the rod would have to be a very large diameter and very thick and heavy walls making it the proverbial broom stick handle."

Jack wrote: "There are inexpensive stiff rods, as I had mentioned, and also inexpensive, high modulus rods that are lightweight."

Who makes a blank that has a fast action, is made from high modulus graphite, and is lightweight and inexpensive? That's what I've been looking for since I began building rods a few years ago.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 12:31


Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Sorry, you are right. When I referenced an "original" post, I meant on the other thread about rod building, but that was Tabasco_Joe, not you. I blended my recollection of his posts with yours on this thread. Now that I have made reference to that thread, I see that he did agree with me that not all cheap blanks were noodles, just more likely to be, which I don't contest.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 13:12
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Re: How a graphite rod is made
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Quote:

afishinado wrote:
Who makes a blank that has a fast action, is made from high modulus graphite, and is lightweight and inexpensive? That's what I've been looking for since I began building rods a few years ago.


Maybe try these:


Toward the bottom of this page the RX8 is just over $100:
http://www.acidrod.com/RainshadowFLY_blanks.html

Also, Batson apparently has a blended blank known as RX8 "XF" that might suit your needs for just over a buck (scroll down this page):

http://www.schneidersrods.com/batson_advanced_rod_blanks.htm

Posted on: 2008/7/15 13:24
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Re: How a graphite rod is made

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Quote:

afishinado wrote:

......
Jack also mentioned in another post about the importance of aligning the spine, or some call it spline of a rod. The wall thickness of the blank is not the same throughout the shaft (although Gatti claims that their high-end rods are nearly perfect). Therefore, the rod flexes more on the side with a thinner wall, and flexes less on the thicker side; this is the spine. You can find the weak and strong side by rotating the blank between your hands while it’s being flexed. The blank will jump when it reaches that point. Many rod builders mark this spot and affix the guides with the spine aligned either strong side up or down. There is always a debate as to which way is best.

Many of the rod manufacturers (Sage and Loomis are two that I am aware of) build their rods on the straight axis. Since blanks are not perfectly straight, they build their rods with the curved side down or up, in other words the guides are affixed on either the convex or concave side of the rod. A simple way to do this is to roll the blank section on a perfectly flat surface and mark where the blank raises and lowers as it rolls. This to me makes the most sense, and is how I align my guides. I align the guides to the convex side of the rod.

Good luck.


I'd have to believe if you can feel much of a spline it will affect the rod as it loads/unloads and should be taken into account with respect to guide placement. It's possible some of the rod building process are getting good enough that there is no spline of consequence. I have a couple four piece blanks I haven't been able to find the spline on some sections. I'm sure on these it's chance not consistent process quality.

Afishinado; when you align your guides based on blank curve are you checking the spline at all? Ever try both methods and see how well they correlate? I would think a blank with a strong spline and a curve that didn't correlate would have some complex torque during casting and be rather inconsistent casting.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 13:49


Re: How a graphite rod is made

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Totally ignorant on this subject so I thought I would ask.

Have a low end St. Croix 2 piece rod with about the first 5 inches of the tip broke off. Someday I would like to fix it.

Is it possible to just order the top section or do they make you buy the whole kit?- assuming it would still be in production.

Can you order just the 1 section? Is it possiblt to reuse the guides from the old section?

If it cost a lot probably wont go that route since I really dont use anymore but just though it might be a good practice if I ever decided to give it a try.

Thanks for any help.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 14:09
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Re: How a graphite rod is made

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I can somewhat answer how the carbon fiber is made. I believe fishing rods are not actually graphite, but rather carbon fiber with a graphene matrix.

Graphene can be thought of as a sheet of atoms in a hexagonal arrangement, in only two dimensions, so that each atom is bonded to three others, kind of like a chain link fence with hexagonal openings. The bonds between the carbon atoms are very strong covalent bonds, the same as in diamond. So the sheet itself is very strong and stiff (like a diamond) if you pulled along the sheet, and it conducts electricity and heat. Graphite is a whole bunch of these sheets stacked together, however, the bonds between sheets are vanderwaal's bonds, and very weak. Thus the sheets slide over one another very easily. Powdered graphite, with very small sheets, is thus a very good lubricant, as well as used as pencil lead (your actually shearing off small graphite sheets when you write). In larger sheets, graphite varies in properties considerably depending on direction, weak and nonconducting in one direction, and stiff, strong and conducting along the sheets. The technical term for different properties in different directions is "anisotropic."

Carbon fiber can be thought of as a graphene sheet rolled up, so that it bonds as a tube instead of stacking layers of sheets, the result is a very strong fiber that doesn't want to bond strongly to anything else.

The way they are made starts with a polymer. The polymer is oxidized at relatively low temperatures (maybe 600 degrees), breaking the bonds between individual strands, but not within them, making each strand independent of others. These are then carbonized at extremely high heat (3500 degrees is an approximate) in a noble gas atmosphere, driving off everything but the carbon. The real science comes in on what polymers to use to get the most perfect structure, of course more refinement of the initial polymer, thus more expensive, is needed to get the perfect graphene tube structure. Also, the heat treatment matters a lot, lower heat favors carbon fibers to form, making higher strengths, but also is less successful at driving off impurities, and the material is very brittle. Higher heat results in a higher percentage of carbon, but the fibers tend to break up into sheets of graphite, losing strength. I'm sure the really good stuff uses high heat to get pure carbon, followed by some more heat treatments to promote carbon fiber over graphite sheets. I don't know the specific process, and it may be proprietary.

After this, you have a thin, very strong strand of carbon fiber. Twist a bunch of strands together and you have a carbon thread, like a small multistranded rope. The thread can then be woven into a carbon fiber cloth, the specifics of the weave I do not know, and I'm sure there's several to impart different properties. You end up with a flexible, yet very strong carbon fiber cloth. In most applications, and I don't think fishing rods are any different, you use several sheets of this cloth and "glue" them together with plastic. I'm sure there's just as much science in the plastic used.

I believe super high modulus carbon fiber cloth (known commercially as graphite) isn't that hard to make, it'd need better initial polymers and more heat treatment so it may be somewhat more expensive. But this isn't what holds back progress. The higher modulus, the more brittle the material. The magic comes in the various weaves, which are proprietary to different companies, and the different plastics. Get it all right, and it ALLOWS you to use higher modulus graphite, meaning higher strength, which allows thinner walled, lighter rods with faster actions. Using that kind of graphite without a properly matching weave or resin will just result in a rod thats very high in tensile strength, but as brittle as glass.

Posted on: 2008/7/15 14:28



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