The Rod Building 101 Playlist We Built You

These video tutorials walk you through each step of the rod building process to provide a virtual rod building class where you can learn expert tips, tricks, and techniques.

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With a collection of videos that cover everything from finding the rod’s spine and gluing up handles to wrapping guides and applying epoxy finish, this rod building playlist has you covered with a lesson on installing each component until you have a custom rod of your own.

Check out these video tutorials to build your own rod:

How to Find the Spine of Rod Blank

Instructions to Find the Rod’s Spine

Finding the spine of rod and doing it correctly creates a better performing overall fishing rod. It’s very easy to do and requires very little equipment. One, being a china marker.

Place the butt of the rod blank on a firm surface.

Support the rod tip with your other hand and start to put a nice firm flex in the blanks without overdoing it.

Once the rod is under load, you can pinch and twist the rod blank until you feel the blank roll into place. You will know you found the spine when the blank rolls into place, and you find it difficult to roll the blank out of spine.

TIP: You may want to do this more than once because you may find that rod blanks have more than one spine. In that case, you want to build on the firmer of the two.

Once you’re satisfied, you take your china marker and you make a 3 to 4-inch mark on the rod blank.

This will be the visual reference later when you’re lining your reel seat and mounting your guides.

TIP: For spinning and fly rods, you want to make that mark in the inside of your curve. For casting or conventional rods, you want to make it on the outside of the curve and that’s it, you’ve found the spine.

How to Find the Spine of a Multi-Section Rod Blank

Simply find the spine to each individual section.

Then, make a mark on the spine of each section and just to line up the spines to build the full scale rod!

How to Install a Cork Handle Assembly

Instructions for Installing Cork Handles

Now we can go over how to install your handle assembly.

The first thing is to decide is what type of fishing rod you are going to build, either spinning or casting. Then from there, you have a couple of options, one being the material.

The two most popular handle grip materials are cork and EVA.

Then you must decide on the rear grip, full or the split rear grip and that’s pretty much it for the options.

Once you have made the decisions, there are a couple of key pieces of equipment that you’d need to get the job done.

The first being a reamer. The reamer is going to increase the diameter of the grip so that they can be mounted on the rod blank.

When there is a good amount of material to move before the handle will fit on the blank, you may want to consider using the Extreme Reamer Set from CRB. These are tapered reamers that mimic the rod blank taper, and are designed to remove material fast.

If there is not much material to remove, or you just require finishes touches after using the Extreme reamer, then a grit reamer may be the tool to use.

The grit reamer may also be best suited for rod blanks that do not have much of a taper – like a fly rod.

The second next thing you will need for the handle assembly is some form of epoxy like ProPaste from ProProducts, which is a 50/50 epoxy mix, as well as something to mix the epoxy in, and a couple of stir sticks and you’re ready to go.

Building the handle

The first step to building your handle is going to be the layout of components.

To do this, you will need to make a mark on the rod black where each individual component ends.

This essentially creates a road map for us to use later when we’re ready to install the rear grip, the reel seat and the fore grip.

For a full grip portion, we are going to make a mark on the top of the rear grip, the top of the reel seat and the top of the fore grip.

For a split grip section, we will be a mark on at the top of the fighting butt, at the rear of the rear grip, the back of the reel seat, the front of the reel seat and the front of the fore grip.

These markings create a roadmap we will refer to as we build the handle assembly.

Start handle assembly

One of the first things that you want to do is to see where you are and how much cork that you need to remove.

The best way to do this is to slide the handle down the rod blank as far as it can comfortably go.

TIP: You never want to force cork down the taper of the rod blank. The material is a natural material and it may crack or split if forced.

Now use your reamer and start removing the cork material until your grip slides into place on the rod blank (referencing the mark we made earlier on our roadmap).

Remember to start at the back end of your grip to simulate the taper of the rod blank.

With Extreme reamers you start by twisting the reamer allowing it to bore into the cork, and material will be removed. With grit reamers, you want to move the reamer up and down as you slowly turn the grip (so you don’t over-ream one side).

Do a little at a time to make sure you get the exact fit you are looking for.

TIP: The one thing you don’t want to do is over-ream, it is a little harder to recover from. So be sure to ream a little and check often until you get the right fit. You also want to tap out the dust each time you check the fit so that you don’t have dust mixing with the epoxy. Some like to use condensed air to blow out the particles.

Repeat this reaming process until the grip slides down the rod blank to the desired mark we made earlier. We are ready to go on the next stage, which is to epoxy the rear grip

How to Install an EVA Handle Assembly

EVA is a little easier to ream and slide down over the rod blank. But with that said, still take your time and test it out often to get the best fit.

How to Install a Casting Reel Seat

Instructions for Installing Reel Seats

Now that you have completed your rear grip of our EVA split grip assembly we’re ready to install your reel seat.

First, you’ll notice that the inside diameter of the reel seat is too big to fit securely on the rod blank.

To correct that, you will create tape arbors to center that reel seat on the rod blank.

When you’re ready to do this, identify the mark that is the top of the reel seat. From here you are going to space out 3 separate tape arbors on the blank.

The first one will be placed about a quarter of an inch from the top of that mark. You don’t want to put the tape past the reel seat because then it will obviously stick out beyond where the reel seat is mounting. You want to do the next one a quarter inch away from the edge of your rear grip. You also want to make one directly in the center.

Now that we have laid out those marks, you are going to build up the diameter to match the inside diameter of your reel seat so that it fits securely.

TIP: Before you apply the epoxy, you just want to double check the reel seat’s fit one more time. You don’t want to have to force the seat over the arbors and you don’t want that to be too loose to allow any play.

TIP: You will also want to take a little preventive step and cover up the threads on the front of the reel seat. This will prevent any of your pro paste from getting in there and potentially create problems later.

When you are finally done checking your fit and prepping your reel seat you can take your pre-mixed ProPaste and apply a liberal amount over top of all the tape arbors.

Don’t worry about being neat. You want to make sure that you get a large amount of epoxy filling all the voids in so that it makes constant contact with the reel seat and the rod blank.

Don’t worry about doing too much excess. Any overflow will spill out at the back and you can clean it up later.

Then, you’re going to go ahead and slide you reel seat on top of your arbors.

TIP: Once your reel seat contacts the epoxy you want to spin the rod blank as you go. This will distribute any of the epoxy into those voids.

If a little bit of excess epoxy gets pushed out at the end, take a paper towels and some isopropyl alcohol and clean it off.

Once your reel seat is in place you are now ready to install your foregrip, using the same process as the rear grip.

Remember, slide the foregrip down to the place where it stops.

Tip: For cork foregrips, you should be able to slide it right to the mark we made earlier. For EVA foregrips, it should be able to slide down the rod blank close to the mark, as EVA will stretch to fit within reason.

Add a little bit more epoxy to the front of our reel seat and begin to rotate the grip as you slide down the base.

TIP: Before you peel out the piece of tape covering the reel seat threads, take a paper towel with alcohol and clean up the excess.

Then remove the tape that was protecting the threads from the epoxy.

Before we set this aside and let this cure, we are going to make one last check to make certain our reel seat aligns with that spine mark we made earlier.

The final step is going to be installing the winding check. This is a trim piece that will just finish off the front foregrip.

All we need to do is to slide this into place with a little bit of excess epoxy from the installed foregrip,

Now, we’ll let this handle with cure and we’ll move on to wrapping.

How to Install a Spinning Reel Seat

Follow a similar process to install the spinning seat, just make sure you line up the spine and the reel seat correctly.

How to Prep and Space Out Your Guides

Instructions for Guide Preparation and Spacing

Now we’re ready to select your guides.

Before we get to spacing the guides on the rod blank, we want to inspect the guides.

Prepping the guides

What you want to look for is at the top of the foot, at the very tip where it meets the rod blank, to check to make sure there is a nice smooth transition for the thread to move up.

If you run your finger over it and kind of feel any bumps or irregularities, all you need to do is take a standard nail file, support the foot of the guide and make a few passes over it.

Keep doing that until the top is smooth. What that might do is create a burr underneath so what you then want to do is double check and take the bottom of the guide foot and run it over your fingernail. It scratches your fingernail, it probably will scratch the rod blank.

If you do find something, take a few more passes with the nail file and keep checking it until it is smooth again. Once that’s done, you’re ready for the spacing on the blank.

Mark the guide spacing

Now you are ready to mark where the guides go on your rod blank. If you are using the CRB Guide System, for example, they already have the different rod lengths and the spacing charts right on the packaging.

If you are using other rod guides, you can refer to the vendor’s website for guide spacing, or contact us at Mud Hole for assistance.

In either case, remember guide spacing is always going to be measured from the tip of the rod blank down to the butt end.

Before starting, there are a few tools you will need in order lay out and mark your guides properly. One is a china marker, and something to measure out the blank like a tape measure.

Once you’ve got it ready to go, you are going to make a mark with your china marker on each of the designated measurement points.

TIP: What’s important to remember about these points is that this is going to represent where the ring of the guide is going to line up, not the guide foot. The mark represents where the ring lines up on that rod.

Once we’ve got all our marks in place, we’re going to secure the guides to the blank and move on to the next step.

To secure these guides to the blank itself, you are going to be using some 1/4 inch, rod building masking tape.

Take an inch or two of masking tape and press it about halfway up the guide foot. When we’re ready to place it on the rod, we are going to line our ring up with the mark we measured out earlier.

TIP: Remember align the guide ring with the mark, not the guide foot.

Once the guide is secured and aligned with the spine mark, finish the masking tape wrap by folding over the end making a tag end. This will make it easier to remove later.

Now secure the rest of the rod guides.

TIP: Very important to remember to line the rod guides up with the spine mark you made earlier and ultimately the reel seat.

Once you’ve got everything in place, you’re ready to move to wrapping our guides.

EXTRA TIP: Another way to adhere the rod guide to the blank is to use the CRB guide foot adhesive. Tape works great but lower profile guides tend to be more difficult to work with as far as taping it to the rod blank. The CRB guide foot adhesive is really easy to use, you just melt the tip over an alcohol burner, run your guide foot over it. Then, place it on the blank, keeping in mind to line up the mark with the ring and there you go. It will dry and it’s a lot easier for smaller profile guides.

How to Assemble Your HWS1 Hand Wrapper

Instructions to Setup the HWS1 Hand Wrapper

The first step in getting your HWS1 Hand Wrapper, ready to wrap, is going to be assembling the thread carriage.

First install the large washer, followed up by the first plastic spacer. Then, add your spool of thread, followed by the second plastic washer and finally, the last large metal washer.

Install the spring, followed by the small washer, then secure in place using the provided locknut.

Once the thread carriage is installed, you can route your thread.

First, run the thread through the eye hook, directly in front of the spool.

From there, run the thread up through the tip of the tension rod.

Then, directly through the eye hook of the center of the wrapper and finally through the eye hook on the easy slider.

Wrapping Guides on a Fishing Rod

Instructions for Wrapping Guides with Thread

Now that you’ve got your thread carriage installed and your thread’s been properly routed, you’re ready to begin the wrapping process.

First off, grab your pair of thread clippers, a straight edge razor blade, and most importantly, your burnishing tool.

When you are getting into the wrapping process, there are a few key points that you need to focus on.

First and foremost is tension. Tension is one of the most important things for keeping your thread secure around the rod guides, and looking good on the rod itself.

What you can use to measure this tension is our tension rod, mounted at the top of our HWS1 Hand Wrapper.

What you want to achieve is the tension rod pointing directly at your chest, you do not want to bode down to far down pointing down at the wrapper or too loose, having it point up at the ceiling.

Once you’re ready to begin to wrap, you are going to take you thread, and bring it up to the blank.

Next you are going to wrap around the blank, 2 times.

Holding pressure with your finger, you are going to take the thread coming off the spool and jump over top of those rotations, securing the thread in place.

Maintaining pressure with your finger, you are going to rotate the rod, 2 or 3 times, making sure that everything is held tightly together.

We can then continue to release and continue our wrap. After you have laid down 6 – 8 rotations, you can take your thread clippers and cut to what we refer as the tag end.

You can then proceed to finish wrapping down the blank.

When you get to the transition from the blank on to the guide foot, that’s where our process earlier by prepping the guide foot and grinding it down will come into play.

By making the nice smooth transition, the thread should just roll from the blank on to the top of the guide without any effort.
Once you have wrapped up to the masking tape, we’re going to carefully remove the masking, (being especially careful not to pull the guide foot out from underneath the guide wrap).

We can now continue wrapping our guide in place. If there are any gaps formed, take your burnishing tool and press the thread back into place, eliminating any gaps that may form in our guide wrap.

Once we get about an eighth of an inch away from the fork on guide foot, you want to put what we call a “Pull Through” in between the wraps to secure the thread in place.

To do this you are going to make a loop out of a small piece of thread, preferably with a different color so it is easier to see, and put it directly underneath the thread we are currently wrapping.

The key point to remember with the “Pull Through” is the loop goes the direction that you are wrapping the guide.

As you continue to wrap over the Pull Through, be sure to at least complete 6 to 8 rotations around the rod blank before actually completing your thread wrap.

Now, holding pressure with your finger, you are going to release some pressure from the hand wrapper spool, and with your clippers cut the thread.

Next, take the thread end and drop that piece through the loop we created with our Pull Through loop.

Once through the pull through loop, you can release the pressure with our finger, holding pressure with our other hand, grab the two loose ends and pull the thread back underneath the thread wrap.

You can now go ahead and take your straight edge razor blade, laying it flat against the back of my wrap, pull the thread into the blade, cutting it cleanly from the guide wrap.

How to Install a Tip Top on a Fishing Rod

Instructions for Installing a Tip Top

The final step in laying out a rod before wrapping is going to be installing the tip top. To do this, you are going to use a hot melt tip adhesive by CRB.

Cut a small sliver from the tip top glue stick. Then cut it fine enough to fit inside the tube of our tip top guide.

Stick the sliver of tip top glue into the guide tube, cutting off any excess and using a pair of needle nose pliers, gently grab the arm of the tip and hold it over the alcohol burner melting the glue inside.

Once it’s ready, align the tip, put the top, rotate the top around to make sure good glue bond before lining it up with the spine mark and reel seat. Once that’s in place, we’re ready to wrap our guides.

How to Install Custom Decals on a Fishing Rod

Instructions for Rod Decal Application

One of the nice things making custom rods is customizing it and one of the more popular things we have are these customs decals.

You can put your name on it, your company name, contact information. Right now, we’re going to show you how to install one.

First you need a few things, obviously, a decal, a pair of snippers, a burnishing tool and some scotch tape.

You’re going start by taking the decal that has some area around the text and you want to snip that as close to the text as you can.

Now that we have the edges trimmed, you will need to take two pieces of scotch tape.

The first one goes over the top of the decal and is used as a tape handle.

The second piece of tape, you’re going to apply on the back and it’s going to serve as a handle to peel the backing off.

Once you take the backing off, you don’t want to have any fingerprints on it because once it’s transferred to the blank, those fingerprints will last a lifetime. So, make sure you hold on to the tape handles

TIP: You don’t want to touch the back of the decal, you just want to touch the little tape ends when installing right on the blank.

Once you have the decal on the blank, you want to leave the tape on top because you are going to take the burnishing tool and slowly roll over the decal getting out the air pockets.

Want more details for rod decal installation? Read The Guide to Applying Custom Fishing Rod Decals!

How to Apply Epoxy to a Fishing Rod

Instructions for Applying Epoxy Finish

It is now time to apply the epoxy to the guide wraps.

Just like the epoxy glue that was used for the handle assembly, you will need to have an even 50/50 mix of epoxy finish to achieve proper set up and cure times.

Use an epoxy like ProKöte for crystal clear finish over your thread wraps.

Once you have your 50/50 mix into your mixing cup, you can just use the mixing stick to stir until complete.

TIP: It’s important to note here that you don’t want to whip it like pancake batter, that creates a lot of air bubbles. Just nice, even rotations when mixing. Usually it takes a 2 or 3 minutes, just keep mixing until it becomes clear and most of the bubbles are out.

Once your bubbles are out, we want to make one final check to make sure that our guides are perfectly aligned.

Once you’re happy and everything is straight. The last step is to go through and remove the marks left from the china marker to line up the guides originally.

Once the epoxy is ready we can go ahead and start applying it.

The epoxy finish is a relatively easy process, as you can see, the rod is rotating in our RDS Rod Dryer. This is going to spin the rod at a constant 9 rpm that will allow the finish to self-level during the curing process.

The key is to coat the guide and the thread completely. You always want to start off by making a nice clean edge, and while you do this, do not force the brush flat against the guide wrap.

Just use your brush to push the bead of epoxy around making sure that it thoroughly coats everything.

Once you have your edge started, you can go ahead and paint up the guide wrap, towards the edge of the guide wrap.

Once near the end, hold the brush steady and allow the bead of epoxy to create another nice finished edge at the back side of your guide wrap.

TIP: One thing to note is that the thread will create two channels on either side of our guide foot. You want to take extra care and take a little bit of the finish and fill in those gaps to prevent any water intrusion later when we are using the rod.

Make sure to get a thorough coating, without overloading it. Too much epoxy will cause sagging and a balloon-looking finish, you just want the right amount.

Once you are all set and done with the finishing process, you’ll introduce some heat using your alcohol burner to level out the epoxy further.

TIP: We use denatured alcohol in our alcohol lamps because it is a clean burning fuel and it doesn’t produce any soot. Using a butane lighter can produce soot/contaminate that will show up in the epoxy.

With careful flashes of heat, you are going to introduce your alcohol burner flame to the epoxy. This process is going to eliminate any bubbles that may be trapped under the surface and also level the finish perfectly as it cures.

With just a couple of quick flashes of heat, you can see some of the excess epoxy that beads up underneath.

TIP: Finishing a double foot or a casting guide is the same process as the single foot, just a little more effort. We are going to make a nice clean straight edge. Just by pushing a bead around the wrap with the head of the brush. We can then fill in the rest of the guide wrap with the finish.

Once everything is thoroughly coated, use your alcohol burner again. Flash under the thread without leaving it under there for too long and this will eliminate the bubbles and level out the finish. That all it takes to successfully coat a double foot casting guide.

TIP: If you took the time to apply a custom decal to the rod, you want to protect that with the 2-part epoxy finish as well.

The Final Wrap Up

More Mud Hole Rod Building Resources!

You’ve successfully built your first custom rod. Remember, we here at Mud Hole are always around to help.

We’ve got a fully staffed customer service and technical support line, available at 1-866-790-RODS. Or check us out a on

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