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     Smithwick Binder Plans - Darrol Groth


I don't recall seeing this recently, but before I had access to Chris Bogart's excellent "tuning" article for the Garrison Binder, I found adding 3' lengths of 1/2" EMT (essentially plated steel used for running wires in NY City's anally retentive electrical codes) greatly helped with twists and bends by preventing the section from sweeping wide circles in the air when leaving the binder. You need to use a 3/8" dowel with a wad of tissue and vinegar to flush them with after the wrapping (or you'll soon have metal-enclosed rods of Epon instead of tubes *G*), but that's a small price to pay for the help they provide. (Art Port)


After messing with my Garrison binder for months, I have finally figured out a superior method for binding that I would like to share. I do it by hand, but I have my daughter help me. I begin wrapping by hand at the butt, and after about a foot she steps in and rotates the blank for me, and provides most of the "turning power". I also turn the blank, but concentrate on getting even wraps, supporting the rod, and making sure that everything is being bound into place properly.

The beauty of this system is that it seems to eliminate virtually every problem I had in binding. No twisting, the blank comes out straight, no danger of breaking anything, and there is no physical or psychological stress. She has caught on quickly how to adjust the angle of the blank to keep the binding going smoothly. It has become a Saturday morning  ritual (Maddie, get down here, we need to glue up some rods!).

I stumbled across this only in extemis. I was binding a tip by hand, and got a serious cramp in my hand. I called her over for help, and it worked so well we decided to try it again. The only drawback to this method is that she will eventually grow up and I will have to make a Milward binder.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Just wanted to give a plug for the Smithwick binder.  I originally built a Garrison binder when I was tooling up for the first rod, which worked quite well (followed the Bogart instructions).  This second rod is a quad, and the Garrison binder tore up the edges pretty good when I bound the strips after roughing.  I had the parts for a Smithwick style binder so I put one together.  This is a very easy gadget to build and use, it does not put twists in the blank, and it is easy on the spline edges.  I also like the Smithwick Binder because it sits right on top of the work bench, and does not need to be clamped or screwed down for use like the Garrison Binder.  I think the G-Binder is going to the bone yard and I'm going to use the S-Binder from now on...(Kyle Druey)


I’ve been fighting my binder since I made it. It's never worked exactly like it should. Tuned it some last week, and it finally made a bit of sense. We're talking about binding 50 some rods with this thing, and saying one or two bad words in the process. Question: I get into problems with the binding cord itself. Where exactly do ya'll attach your binding cord, and WHEN? Before you loop the drive belt over? After? Does the binding cord go better in-between the two guides??? This is driving me nuts! It's a Garrison style binder.  Do I need to heave it over the hill, and start over? Rods usually have a sweep to them when they come out of the binder, easily straightened when the glue sets, but I hear people talk about having really nice sections OUT of the binder. Any suggestions?  (Jerry Andrews)

    Have you read Chris Bogart's essay on  tuning the Garrison Binder.  If not, do so, it is on his web site.  I have used a Garrison binder for 25 years, and I get straight sticks.  (Ralph Moon)

      I also use the Garrison binder and do get straight sticks however I always get a twist which isn't too hard to correct with heat. What do you suppose causes the twist?  (Jack Follweiler)

        The likely culprit is too much binding thread tension.  It really doesn't take much.  The drive belt squeezes the strips and glue.  The binding thread simply holds the "sandwich" together.  There is no need to squeeze or compress it, just hold it steady.  That many turns or thread over that many corners provides plenty of friction to keep everything located.  (John Sabina)

          I assure you that the lengthwise curve is due to having too much binding thread tension. The twist could also be due to this, coupled  with   too   much   weight   on   the   drive    cord.  (Martin-Darrell)

    Wayne Cattanach's latest book has a sequence of pictures on installing the binding thread and using a Garrison style binder.  Assuming that the rod section will move left to right, install the rod and the drive belt.  Then pass the binding cord under the drive belt but to the right of the right hand center support. (In use the binding cord rides about at the right hand support bracket.)

    As to getting swept sections, are your drive belt weights too heavy?  Another possibility is that you are using too much binding thread tension.  The drive belt wrap and its weight is what squeezes the triangles together.  The binding thread has plenty of friction along the rod and needs only enough tension to keep things orderly.

    You might also consider adding some additional rod rests 16 to 24 inches either side of center.  These will provide better support at the beginning and at the end of the rod shuttling process.  Just watch that the lead end doesn't catch the extra trailing bracket.  (John Sabina)


I was working on a motorized binder a few days ago, and I decided that I wanted a pedal switch so I could have both hands free while binding.  A trip to Menards (can't afford to save much more BIG money)   uncovered   no   pedal   switch,   but   did   reveal    a clicker-controlled remote switch for ~$13.  I've seen these before in catalogs, but always for considerably more money.  The clicker will work from inside a plastic baggie, so I won't smear glue all over it, and I expect it will be as good as the pedal might have been.  The gizmo is also available in several different "channels."  (Grayson Davis)

    You might want to consider checking out a sewing machine store, and taking a look at one of their foot operated sewing machine switches.  Sometimes you can pick up one of those relatively inexpensively.  (Mark Wendt)

    I picked up an ancient sewing machine with motor, foot switch and tensioner for about $20 at goodwill.  (Bill Hoy)

    Use the foot pedal from an old sewing machine.  Head out to your local junk shop or there will be a sewing machine repair close by probably.  (Timothy Troester)

    Micro-Mark sells a foot control for $29.95, 110 VAC, 1.2 amps maximum. Item #82412  (Martin-Darrell)

    I don't know if you want speed control, but I picked up an on/off foot pedal (really just an extension cord with a foot pedal) from the local Rockler store. I am using it to start and stop the drive belt motor on my mill. It works just fine, and it was around $15 (maybe a bit more). I also have a rod dryer that does not have a switch, and I have been using it with that as well. It would be nice for router tables or other power tools. Woodworkers  Supply has  them in  their catalog,   product #108-815 for on/off and #908-190 for a momentary switch that turns off when you release the foot. Probably many others have them as well.  (Bob Maulucci)


I have a couple of questions regarding building a binder. I've located some pulleys at the hardware store with ~ 1/4" channel in them, is this too wide or doesn't it matter? What should I use for a belt?  (Mark Pohl)

    You can use either a round leather, or round urethane drive belt. The 1/4" wide groove shouldn't be a problem, and you can get the belting in 1/4", too.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I used something similar, rollers from a patio door - got them at Lowes, brass with bushings about 1/4 inch groove.   I built my binder ALA Garrison design, but have modified it per a suggestion on the list.  Make a second main drive pulley and stack them together.  Wind one pulley full of 50# braided nylon  masons twine - I anchored the twine by drilling a small hole for a screw, sticking the end of the drive belt/string in the hole and screwing the screw in.  Do the same think with the end of the belt on the empty drive pulley.  Crank the pulleys backwards to rewind all of the belt onto the other pulley.  Thread the belt through your pulleys and around a 1/4 test dowel, hang your weight on the belt and away you go.  The benefit is NO slipping of the belt, and NO bump as the splice or knot in the belt traverses the rod.  I use Polyurethane glue and run the belt back and forth through a cloth dampened with paint thinner after glue up.  Use the appropriate solvent for your glue for cleanup.  (Kurt Clement)


I've been giving some thought to the 2-string idea myself and am trying to come up with a way to use a Smithwick binder with an inner wheel that would counter rotate inside the larger wheel. Any ideas? Would this require gearing of some kind?  (Bill Walters)

    See Chris Lucker's improved Milward Binder in THE BEST OF THE PLANING FORM. Great design.  (Bob Maulucci)

    That's an interesting idea, but wouldn't that be just the same as a Milward binder?

    I like the Smithwick binder but the only minor difficulty so far is if you want to reverse the wrap.  To do this you must feed the rod in the opposite direction.  Normally, I pull the rod away from the tube as I warp, giving me one half of a crisscross style wrap.  To get the other side of the crossed wrap you feed the rod in to the tube and pull from the other end.  The problem this creates for me is that the thread gets pulled inside the tube and sometimes breaks.  I've polished the edge of the tube but it has not helped much.  I'm thinking of putting some type of fitting on the front of the tube, maybe half of a copper sweat union fitting, so that the thread has a larger surface to run over.  If you have any ideas on how to prevent thread breaking while wrapping in to the tube I would be interested in hearing you ideas.  (Kyle Druey)

      Why must you reverse the direction of feed for the cross-wrap?  Can't you simply crank the wheel clockwise for the first wrap and counterclockwise for the reverse wrap - pulling the section outward in each case?

      Is there something about the construction of your unit that prevents this? I don't see the problem, 'cause mine is AC/DC.  (Bill Harms)

        Do I feel stupid, DOH! just crank in the opposite direction for the second wrap!  My unit is constructed properly, but even though I live in CA, it sure ain't ac/dc.   (Kyle Druey)

    That would be essentially the Winston Mill design.  Look at my plans for a dual action binder that appeared in the March/April 1994 Planing Form and I guess you can find it in the Best of the Planing Form too.  I got around the gear/differential issue the same way that Bob Milward did.  (Chris Lucker)


I am interested in your opinions on four string binders.  Better than Garrison Binder?  Don’t bother?  Are they too hard to use?  All opinions and advice would be greatly appreciated.   (Robert Cristant)

    Make a Smithwick binder - low tech, low cost, high efficiency.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

    I put a motor from a garage sale sewing machine on my Smithwick binder.  The on/off and speed is controlled with a foot pedal thus allows me to have both hands free for holding the section while binding. I took the tensioner from the sewing machine as well.  The total cost of the binder was less than $20, a bit of copper tubing, a pulley, and the sewing machine.  (Bill Lamberson)

    I noticed that Harry Boyd's how-to article on rodbuilding has a nice picture of a hybrid Smithwick/four string binder. It uses a Smithwick drive system to run a the two binder wheels. Eliminates the need for a drive belt. I've been meaning to ask him about it.  (Bill Hoy)

    Well, I can't imagine what your secret is, but when I wrap quads with my Garrison-type binder, I find the corners "banging" against my cradle-guides. This was especially bad with the butt sections and their larger flats.  When  I  adjusted  the  weight  on the drive-string tightly enough to bring the four strips together, the corners of the section would scrape dangerously on the cradles.  And   when   I   adjusted   lightly   enough  to  minimize  the bump-bump-bumping, the strips showed glue lines.  So the Smithwick binder was the answer for me -- it's worry-free and my sections come out perfectly.  (Bill Harms)


I had Dutch rodmaker Marty Maas drop in to see me over the summer and, as usual , we got around to discussing the difficulties of binding rods. Marty explained to me the type of binder he was using. It was based on a design he had been given by a old timer Dutch rodmaker. The simplicity of it appealed to me and Marty sent me some drawings on his return to Holland.

I tried it last weekend on a rod I was making up and obtained a straight blank with very little twist. I thought it may be of interest to a few of you so have set out the details below.

It is so simple it is almost a little difficult to explain. I will endeavor to attach Marty's diagram but as my son's are not here to help their poor old Dad on the computer blame me if it does not come through. (Those who attend the Southern Hemisphere gathering in March next year will be able to  see this binder in action.)

The principal of the binder is very simple, and the materials cost about $10. You also need a variable speed drill with a reverse direction knob. You need a section of hard plastic tube (Metal such as aluminum would also do but it may be more expensive), about 1/2 inch in diameter, and a length of 3" by 2" timber (or similar) about 4'8" long.

The plastic tube I used is the ducting used for house wiring but I saw a similar hot water pipe tubing. You also need some hooks to hold the tube onto the wood. I just used half a dozen "cup hooks" which were bolted into the timber and the end of the cup hack sawed off. The concept is that you need to hold the tube onto the timber for stability but have one side of the tube unobstructed. In hindsight it may be easiest just to epoxy it on to the timber.

The reason for having one side of the tube unobstructed is that you need to cut a slit in the tube the length of the tube. I used a thick circular disk on a Dremel tool to cut this groove but a small saw at a low angle would do the job or a saw bench. The slit needs to be sanded back a little to give a round , non thread cutting edge to the slit. The thickness of the slit needs to be about .020 to .035 , enough to take the binding thread. The tube is mounted so that there is about 4" of timber overhang at each end of the tube.

Binding is then easy. The freshly glued  blank, held with a few cord ties or masking tape, is put into the tube with an inch or so protruding. Cover the protruding end (thicker end of the blank) with some clear film and attach the chuck of the drill to it. Tie the binding thread to the blank in front of the chuck and then have a friend (SWMBO can help also) turn the drill on at slow speed after you lead the thread into the slit. I had the thread on a fly tying bobbin and just used my hand for tension but I am sure there is a better arrangement that can be made. While the rod is turning in the tube the thread is lead along the length of the tube , in the slit. When the end is reached, and this does require a little coordination (yelling) with the drill operator to move the rod section back so that the overhang of the rod length is bound and then poked out the end to be tied off.

Then back to the chuck end and tie the thread again, reverse the drill direction, and do a second binding run up the tube, this takes out most of the twist, then tie off again.

Then run the drill at high speed in one direction for 10 seconds, reverse the direction, and run at high speed in the opposite direction for 10 seconds.

The rod section came out straight and with very little twist.

This binder may not be ideal for very light tips, but I was doing a .070 tip and it was OK. It may be easier to have a separate tube for each rod length but they only take about a hour to build (less if you have a saw bench to cut the slit and epoxy the tube onto the wooden support) so that is not a hassle.

The concept is very simple and obvious and considerably simpler as a first binder then binders such as a Garrison.

I have checked my effort at scanning and the pic does not show up too well on the screen, but prints fine for those who may be interested.  (Ian Kearney)

    This method, with an illustration, credited to be invented and developed by a Mr. Piet Veugelers can  be seen in the small, 1997, self published   book  "Splitcanerods   For Fly-Fishing"  by H.S.   Schooten,     Heerlen,    The    Netherlands.     Check COCH-Y-BONDDU BOOKS, they still had a copy or two for sale.  (Gary Heidt)


I use a binder made from wood, a 6" furnace pulley, bits and pieces, bolts, etc.   Made this about 25 years ago from the plan in A. J. McClane's Fishing Encyclopedia.  Only cost was the pulley which I bought at the hardware store.  Each time I see one of the beautiful binders that others have made, I swear that I'll make one too.  But then I have the latest set of strips to glue, and I use the old one again.  (Ted Knott)


I have a Garrison binder I am thinking about building a Milward. I have heard that it is difficult to keep the binding string tension equal with the Milward. Would any of you using a Milward binder consider going back to a Garrison.  (Mark Dyba)

    I did. I have several 4 strings and went back to the Garrison style when receiving Jeff Wagner’s new design. It does a great job and is much easier to use. Works fine for quads.  (Bob Maulucci)

    Make a Smithwick binder because

    A. it is easy to build
    B. it is cheap to build
    C. it works like a charm

    did try a Garrison binder - it never even gets close to the Smithwick binder.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

    Or for that matter, would any of you who have a Garrison-style binder consider going back to binding by hand?

    A young bloke whom I helped a bit in the early stages of rod building, and who was a bit of a "gear freak", took pity on me in my primitive existence and built me a Garrison binder as a gift. He did a great job on it, and after a couple of rods, I put it away carefully and went back to hand binding.

    I put a big G-clamp on my bench  and use it to hold a sandwich of two pieces of wood and two pieces of felt; between these I  run my binding thread. I can vary the tension at will,  even when the gloves are all crappy with glue, and any mess at all is easy to clean off later.  I can easily put on enough tension to break the thread should I be so bloody stupid as to want that much, or I can run it through with hardly any tension  at all. If  the string breaks, the string breaks; I just tie a knot in it and go ahead. Twist is a sheep I never shore.

    I thought that using the binder, with all the potential permutations and combinations of settings, was a real ant sandwich, and I was glad to return to the simple life.  (Peter McKean)


I just wanted to report a minor tweak that I made to my Smithwick binder that might help some of you.  I think most of us made our binder from 1/2" copper pipe, which works well most of the time.  The problems I had is that the 1/2" wouldn't allow me to use the MD heat treating forms or some swelled butts.  I changed out the 1/2"  for 1"  copper pipe and it solved the problem.  I couldn’t find a 1" bore belt pulley that was satisfactory so I took the 5/8" bore pulley I was using and bored it out to the needed 1.125".  Just something to consider for some of you who might be making a Smithwick binder in the future.

I was thinking about motorizing the binder, anyone done this and can report back with motor specs that worked?  (Kyle Druey)

    I have motorized the binder.  I used an old sewing machine motor.  The pulley on the motor is about 1/4" in diameter.  I put a sleeve of vinyl tubing over it and let it rub on the rim of the 6" pulley on which the thread is mounted.  The other drive pulley is dispensed with entirely.  I run the rods through one direction, then run them back through the other direction to equalize twist.  The foot pedal for the sewing machine muter allows foot control of on/off and speed with both hands free for handling the sections.  (Bill Lamberson)


Several years ago after throwing up my hands in despair with a 4 string binder I built. I decided to try something different. I cut a 3/4 inch PVC pipe in half and smoothed the edges. I mounted three 6-8 inch pieces on little pieces of 2x4's so the PVC is raised 3 1/2 inches above the base. The center PVC has a small hole drilled in the middle so that the thread can go through. I put a tensioner just below the hole.  The other two pieces of PVC are put on each end of the center piece with enough room for your hands. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is.   You can now either hand bind and/or twist the rod while it is the PVC cradle. With the hole in the middle there is support on both sides. I have had very little problems with twisting. Clean up has never been a problem, I never have. If I ever decide it is necessary there is plenty of pvc left. I have no idea whether it is better or easier than a Garrison binder but this one has worked well for me.  (David Ray)


I just finished building a binder. Its a variation of the Tom Smithwick two pulley Binder. My question is; What material is best to use as a drive Belt. I used some nylon cord and it didn't work too bad, but I could see it slipped a couple of times. Thanks to Tom Smithwick for the Idea!!!!  (Bill Tagye)

    I use 80# test Dacron braided fishing line.  (Tom Smithwick)

    I just finished building a variation of the Smithwick binder. I found an easily replaceable belt at you local fabric store. I bought 1/4 inch elastic cut it to length and sew the ends together, if your belt slips, shorten your belt, and re-sew the ends together.  (Denny Dennis)

    I use a Cortland running line ( braided) that I attach the ends by inserting each end into the main part, like when you make a loop at the end of your fly line. I then place a large rubber band in the grove of the pulley to stop from slipping.

    I have used one now on 4 rods without any problems.  (Mike Lajoie)

    I use cotton twine from the hardware store. I wind it on an old salt water reel that's attached a board on the floor. The reel has a very smooth drag and so I can adjust the tension. It works great and I don't worry about a knot or running out of twine.  (Mark Dyba)

    I have been using mason line for several years. Found it to be better than anything else I have used.  (Tony Spezio)


As I see more 4 string binders, I'm wanting to build one myself. Would like to find a drive belt that is readily available.  (Chad Wigham)

    My four string uses 5 mm neoprene O-ring cord, which I buy by the foot at a local bearing supply house.  I cut it to length and cement the ends together with an industrial grade super glue.  Regular off-the-shelf stuff will work, but be sure to get a fresh tube from a place that sells a lot of it, since the glue has a fairly short shelf life and loses its cure strength after a few weeks.  If you'd like,  I'd be happy to send you a six foot length to play with.

    Depending on the design, I've also seen standard V-belts used.  Check out some of the pics on Todd Talsma's 'Contraptions' page to get some ideas.  (Tim Preusch)

    I use 3/8" diameter braided nylon rope. You can get it by the foot at most hardware stores. I cut it to the length I need and then fuse it together by heating the ends with an open flame until the nylon is melting and then pressed together. It works well and is a lot stronger than I ever expected. It only took one practice run to get the technique down. Still using the first one I made 3 years ago. It's cheap, easy to find and quick to make.  (Brian Smith)

    McMaster-Carr has a web site that has everything you can imagine, including several styles of round belts that you trim to length and fuse together.  (Chris Lucker)


What type of adhesive do you all use to attach a rubber band to the drive wheel on your binders?  Getting just a smidge frustrated with the rubber band slipping off the drive wheel.

On another note, has anyone used anything other than rubber bands to help get traction on the drive belt?  (Todd Talsma)

    Try barge cement. (Timothy Troester)

    I bought a roll of 3M two sided tape.  It has a foam core and works great.  It comes in 1" width so you can slice it in half and a little goes a long way.  I have been able to get a couple of glue-ups without a problem. Once dust gets on it it’s time to replace, pull it off and reapply an new strip. Works for me.  My idler wheels and the drive wheel I  fabricated out of Delrin so I need something to grip the drive belt.  (Michael Hoffman)

    I had the same problem (especially using slimy Epon) - so I installed a two pulley system on my Garrison style binder.  A supply wheel and a take-up reel for the drive belt.  No slipping and no knots.  (David Van Burgel)

    Have you tried painting it with Pliobond or running a wide bead of caulk (no silicone!) on the pulley.  A rubber band from the broccoli works great for me.  (Brian Creek)

    I tried many things for the same problem and I find that a cross piece of a bicycle camera (inner tube) is the best.  (Marcelo Calviello)

    Late coming in here, but try wrapping the drive cord around the drive wheel twice.  Works for me. (Harry Boyd)

      I double wrap my drive string too, but have had instances when the cord catches on itself on the drive wheel.  Don't know if it is the shape of the "groove" of the wheel or whether it is caused by the tackiness of the excess glue on the drive string. 

      Do you have similar problems?  (Tim Wilhelm)

        I had this same problem again and again till I made a small modification.

        I added a small  "out guide" roller that guides the belt off the crank pulley, moved out about 1/4"  from the base so that the "out drive" belt is separated from the "in drive" belt. The modifications are in a past issue of Power Fibers. I never get any hang-ups or slippage . Now that Sowbug is over, I will have time to get some shots of this. Will be glad to send them to who may want them.  (Tony Spezio)

    I took the crank handle off  my binder drive pulley many years ago.  My drive pulley is a 4 1/2" diameter V groove pulley.  I pinch the drive belt/cord into opposite sides of the V with my thumb and fingers and then turn, pinch and turn, pinch and turn, etc. until the section is bound.  (Ted Knott)

    No kidding, I just bind one rod with resorcinol and leave a little in there and it won't slip. *G*  (Dewey Hildebrand)

    I wrapped the groove in the wheel with cotton string to make a smooth soft pad, then I coated the pad with clear silicone caulking.  It never slips  (Ralph Moon)

    I rebuilt my binder this past fall after seeing Tom Smithwick's newest ideas on binder construction in the Catskills.  I used his principles, and after getting a couple of bugs worked out, it is running worlds better than my Garrison style, and I can even think of a couple of things that will still help.  Because of the wheel to wheel drive belt, there is no issue of the  belt slipping.  I am truly impressed with Tom's design.  (Carl DiNardo)

    Lay a bead of clear silicone caulking in the drive wheel, smoothed out with your finger. Also  try using 30 pound fly line backing for a drive belt. Knot it with an Albright knot and you will never know its there.  (Dave Kenney)


I have a Garrison-type binder modeled after Digger DeGere's version but with a few modifications. There is a single drive pulley using a continuous belt. I am considering altering it so I can use a pulley like the one Golden Witch sells. That has a drive pulley made from some black plastic that has both supply and take-up sections. I looked through the MSC catalog for plastics that might be appropriate and was overwhelmed (as usual) by the selections. Does anyone know what the material is that is being used in the double reel?  (Barry Mayer)

    I have one of the Bellinger/Golden Witch binders and it has, i think, hard black Polyester wheels. I’ve found that on mine it turns one direction, clockwise, okay, but not counter as well. I just use it in that direction, then rewind and reset the blank [running left to right feed both times]. If you want I could turn you one made of aluminum. I'd just  need your hole/bolt size & I'd use 3" diameter stock and make it the same width as the Bellinger. I also cut a slot for the string, like on a thread spool for quick change of drive string. You probable won't find an after market plastic one like the Bellinger as they are turned special for their binder. I've looked for poly stock too and haven't  found  the  hard stuff  at reasonable  prices. [McMaster-Carr] (Chad Wigham)

      I made mine out of plywood disks with aluminum flanges.  Seems to work OK.  (Neil Savage)

      I modified my Garrison style binder by using two garage door spring pulleys sandwiched together.  Seems to do the job.  (David Van Burgel)

      I've got a tip or you that you should try.  This assumes that you are feeding the blank from left to right, and have a long enough belt to make 2 passes without rewinding.  I use a long enough belt to bind an entire rod without rewinding.

      For the first pass, lay the butt end of a rod section on the cradle and cross the binder belt over the blank from front to back.  Put one loop of the belt over the blank, tie on the binder thread, and then throw the second loop of the belt over the blank.  Turn the crank to wind the first wrap onto the blank, but when you reach the end of the blank, stop as the first loop of the belt slips off the end of the blank.  You will still have one loop of the belt over the blank, and the thread behind the belt.  Now pick up the end of the blank that you started with and swing that around to your left so the direction of the blank is reversed.  Keep the single loop of the belt over the end of the blank in the cradle while you perform this maneuver, and it will keep tension on the binding thread.  When you are done, you will have the direction of the rod section reversed, the belt crossing from the rear to the front and the binder thread in front of the belt.  Now you just throw a second loop of the belt over the blank in front of the binding thread and you are ready to wind the second wrap in the opposite direction (again feeding from left to right).

      Give it a try with a dowel instead of a rod section if that's not clear.

      I started out binding by hand and always started at one end and wrapped a section down and back.  When I built a binder, I'd never seen anybody use one, and I didn't realize that some people tied off the thread at both ends. I just kept winding the thread like I always had, and have found it much simpler.  I've done this on tip sections where the tip was 0.050".  I start at the butt end of a section and have never had any trouble rotating the section around even with a tip that fine under the belt.  (Robert Kope)

    I made that pulley using 3/4" recycled UHMW plastic sandwiched between 1/8" acrylic discs to form the sides and middle section.  I used the same stuff to make the in and out feed beds for the binder.  My theory was that the super slick plastic would be easier to clean than other less expensive options.  I think I paid about $30 for a 10' x 4" piece of the UHMW at a local plastics supplier.  Probably should have used something less expensive, but it sure is easy to clean up.  (David Van Burgel)

      Woodcraft, who is outrageously expensive most of the time, has a UHMW pieces grab bag that may be the ticket.  It was  pretty cheap, if my feeble memory serves.  (Brian Creek)

    I believe that the Bellinger binder has wheels made from black Delrin.  That gets pretty pricey in the 3" or 4" size.  I made the small pulleys on my binder from 1" Delrin rod, but made the large double drive wheel from 2" thick maple, but you can use nearly anything.  I have not found cleaning to be an issue since I change the belt each time I glue up a rod.  (Robert Kope)

      Here's an easy solution. I used two Cortland Micron spools glued back to back and covered each end with a brass disk. Works great.  (David Rinker)


I had to glue up 5 2/2 rod blanks last night. Gluing 15 long sections with an old Garrison style binder is not exactly my idea of a fun night, especially at 3:30 in the morning. I know some of you are really into new gadgets and state of the art tools, so I was hoping to get some advice on choosing a new type  of binder.

Let me start by telling you what I like about my binder

1. It's super fast & easy to setup - I wind on some new drive cord and start binding.

2. It's hand operated - I have a small trust issue with power tools (I have had more than one sneak over to a buddy's shop behind my back to play for a few weeks at a time)

3. It's super simple to operate -  I'm not all that smart, and besides, I often put in 80 plus hours a week in the shop and I don't need a complicated binder getting on my nerves and causing me to curse in the wee hours of the morning.

4. It's super easy to cleanup - nuff said

Things I dislike about my binder:

1. I have to rewind the drive cord after each section. I tried a continuous belt system but I didn't like it. Splicing belts takes too long and is fairly difficult with my hands shaking from those 24 cups of high octane coffee (I got used to drinking this potent stuff in the Navy, I just can't find a good substitute for JP-5 fumes, tried Acetone, got real sick)

2. I have to be real careful when binding tip sections on light rods like 1 & 2 weights. I usually end up having to support the tip section with my fingers as it passes through the drive belt. Lately I just started planing 1 & 2 wt. tip strips with 4 extra inches so when the binder breaks the tip of the blank it's no big deal!

3. I guess the only other big complaint I have about my binder is that I can't seem to ever get Hoppe or anyone for that matter to come over and glue up all my rods so that I don't have to!

Based on these facts, does anyone have a miracle binder that will satisfy all my deepest & darkest gluing desires?  (Jeff Fultz)


I have a Garrison type binder I built some years ago. Some I have seen have a divided spool that supplies the drive belt on one side and winds it up on the other. I would like to make one and would like some advice about what material would be suitable. It should be readily machined, relatively inexpensive and available and clean up easily after gluing. I have thought about Delrin and UHMW but don't really know how they fit the criteria.  (Barry Mayer)

    I scraped my Garrison binder and made another out of UHMW as you  suggest with a supply and take-up spools. Works great and is easy to clean up. Used mason line for a driver belt. None of the adhesives we use will stick to it. All of the screws are stainless.

    The turn around is set so the belt is aligned to the center of the supply and take-up reels. Drilled a hole, centered front to back, through top surface of the supply & take up reels to thread the drive belt. All that is needed is a big knot so the drive belt won't go back through the hole. This setup causes the belt to level wind on the reels. All of the pulleys are screen door parts.

    The handle is nothing more than drilled out piece of plastic with a 1/4x20 through it.

    I'm in the process of making another change. You will notice two silicone bronze pins laying on  the tray to the left of the tensioner. (make an extra) I'm going to cut out the center of the tray, getting rid of the captured rotating single pin, and install one of the pins so that it's top edge is aligned with the bottom of the tray. This pin will not rotate like the present one and threads into the back plate. This will make it easier to thread the binding cord and wrap the driver belt around a strip. The single pin works well in the present setup but being captured is a pain to wrap the drive belt and thread the binding cord.

    The weights in the pictures are 16 oz, 8 oz & 5 oz sinkers with hook made from a coat hanger. Most of the time the 8 oz is all that is needed.  (See pictures here)  (Don Schneider)


My binder worked like a charm for the first few blanks.  Now my binder cord slips and I have to coax it along by hand.  I'm using chalk line which is easy to make a belt out of, but also slick as snot.  Any suggestions for binder cord material?

Oh, and the drive wheel I used on my binder was a metal garage door pulley.  It is two piece and has a gap which is filled with old glue and slick as crap as well.  Any suggestions for a drive wheel?  Any problem with using the one piece poly garage door wheels? (Lee Orr)

    For a belt I use 30 LB Dacron fishing line.  Just tie a square knot in it.  A wide rubber band that fits in the groove of the pulley adds some extra traction for the belt. 

    However, I would recommend buying a spool of 20 or 30 LB Dacron fishing line and rigging up a holder opposite the pulley belt and running a continuous belt. I just use a piece of wood with a long bolt through it and a wing nut to add tension to the spool.  Clamp the wood piece to the bench or the binder frame.

    Instead of the weight for tension on the drive belt, drill a 1/4 inch hole in the binder frame insert a 1/4 inch bolt from the back, place two cork rings on the bolt, add a washer and wing nut.  Run the belt through the two cork rings and add tension by tightening the wing nuts.  The continuous belt is nicer because it doesn't keep picking up glue which seems to either make the belt stick or slip.  (Tom Mohr)

    Wrap a rubber band into the groove of your drive wheel for friction.  (Mike Shay)

    I use chalk line with a square knot. I used to splice the chalk line but found it not necessary. Slip a wide rubber band in the pulley groove. That should do it. There are other ways but this works for me.  (Tony Spezio)

    Try wrapping some rubber bands around your drive wheel.  (Mark Wendt)

    For what it is worth, I took the drive wheel and other wheels  off my binder and use direct pull cord of ice fishing line through tensioners. I got tired of the slipping and other problems I experienced with the original EG design. ---I can share a photo if you like. It is simple and cheap to build and works every time. (Ron Revelle)

    Make a fat rubber band out of a piece of bicycle tube and stretch it on to the drive wheel. Be sure to clean it before the glue dries and it will keep its traction. You can also try making your drive cord longer and take two turns around the drive wheel.  (Steve Weiss)

      When I didn't do it Degere style, I coated my binder cord with two coats of Pliobond.  This, coupled with what the good doctor mentions, kept things tight and happy and slip-free.  (Joe West)

    A few thoughts:

    1) look for cotton chalk line, not nylon.  Not near as slippery.  Mine is braided polyethylene and that seems to work also, but I'm using item #3.

    2) make an extra wrap around the pulley

    3) add an extra pulley in front or behind of the present drive pulley and use a long cord ala the one GW sells, clean the cord after each section and replace it often.  (Neil Savage)


Do 4 string binders really, substantially, (note emphasis)  reduce twist?  What about endless drive belts on single string binders?  (Brian Creek)

    I am not sure about the 4 string, me thinks the extra effort/expense to make/buy one isn’t worth it.

    I think the endless drive Garrison style is wonderful... I am a convert to this type.  I have found that I can use just about any type of string for the drive belt so long as it is strong enough (I mean go to the dollar store and buy spools of cotton string).

    The other tip that has been great is to use "button thread" for the binding string... thanks to Channer for that one!  (Kyle Druey)

    If the tension on the 4 string is set even on the 4 spools it does eliminate the twist.  (Tony Spezio)

    You'd really have to go some to beat Tom Smithwick's newest binder! Does a heckuva job! And simple as Simon!

    See:  Tom Smithwick's New Binder

    I made a couple of modifications for my convenience, but it's a work of genius as it stands.  (Art Port)

    There are no directions for this.  How does it work, how do you build it?  (Brian Creek)

      The main change I made was realigning the wheels so I didn't have to turn them in opposing directions. Darn near drove me crazy! 8^)

      As for weight, I use a 1 lb wt hung from a string about 10" out from the point of friction and switch it from side to side (I don't weight both sides) as I use the forward/backward action. That's for the tips; I move it about 2" farther out for the butts. That answers the question of running right and left, I guess. I run it through from left to right and then I fool with it only enough to tie a couple of half-hitches before binding the other way. And no, I don't increase the tension for the second pass. I DO have a Wagner/Singer type thread tensioner for the binding thread.

      I also made my infeed/outfeed trays about 4' long each (mine Definitely ain't portable without dismembering!) so they support the sections ALL the way out from the mechanism. I don't know if I routed my troughs too shallow or if  Tom has a similar problem, but I had to drill holes along the sides of the troughs and drop 8p finishing nails into them as a fence so the gluey-gooey rod didn't try to climb out of the trays and flip on the bench or the floor. The drag of the glue seems to be the most likely source of any twist you might get. When I used it last year in front of others Ron Barch and John Zimny both vowed they'd never seen a rod so straight right out of any binder before. And Ron was afraid to let me use it at first for the Catskill school. I suggested we use it for the heat-treating and if he didn't like it, we could use his for the actual glue up. Well, he was MORE than surprised and almost effusive about its results!

      Oh, also Tom's knotting area was TOO small for my fingers (and I have a very small hand) so I set up a slightly different system for that. It opens and shuts as needed.

      I don't know what anyone's hookup is so I won't send pix without your okaying it, but if you can handle big files without choking, lemme know and I'll  forward some stuff. Maybe I'll have to send the pix to Todd's site.  (Art Port)

      The machine continues to be very successful. I just glued up an ultra light 2 weight with Epon, which is really slick stuff.  One of the sections needed a brief roll on the bench top, the other was so straight I just hung it with no tweaking. The mechanism with the drag levers is simple and successful, and eliminates a lot of the extraneous junk on the Garrison machine. I believe that the success of the machine, however, is due to the replacement of the traditional cradle, which was actually an afterthought on my part. The cradle design predates Garrison, and I have concluded that it is responsible for much of the twist and kinking, and a lot of drag. The first thing most users notice about the new machine is how smoothly the sections pass through. I think I prefer the revolving pin "cradle" to the strip steel version, but either is fine. I only run the machine left to right, rewinding the cord between sections. I use no weight on the right lever.  I string the binding cord over the cradle with some slack. The section is then laid in the channel with its end on the cradle. The cord lays over the section, and the thread is knotted on. Then the cord is wrapped over the section another turn. In this way, the knot is between the two wraps of the cord, exactly the way a Garrison machine would be rigged up. Slack is removed from the cord and thread, and the section cranked through. What you will notice is that the cradle supports the section as it is bound, and you can even run a fine tip right to the end without bending it in any way.  None of the dimensions of the machine are critical, and neither are the materials. The only area to watch is to make sure that the top of whatever you use as a cradle is exactly level with the bottom of the routed channel. In this way, the section is neither pushed up or pulled down as it is bound.  (Tom Smithwick)

        Really nice!  I have a couple of questions.

        How does the binder cord work and what do you use? 

        Have you tried springs on the axles with washers and nuts to provide tension, as on a Foley food mill (yep, we're making jelly here in the heartland!)?

        How do you determine tension?  Is it just trial and error with a dowel rod?

        Thanks once again for your innovation and your willingness to share your work with the masses!    (Brian Creek)

        I tried your roller, and it was a disaster. Couldn't make the darn thing turn. seemed like a massive improvement in principle, but so much for theory (at least in my case). I went back to the brass plate and am very happy with it ever since. I had the roller on bronze sleeve bearings and everything!

        About the level of the cradle; I found that it was even better if it was one drive belt's thickness below the channel's level. This was more important when I was using butcher's twine than now. The belting actually seemed to lift the section above the channel and then it had to drop down again. I guess that probably depends on how thick your belting is. I'm currently using (I think) Dacron fishing line, about 50 LB test. I'm inferring here that you also  run your sections through butt first. I've had fine results using my tip first method, so maybe it doesn't matter a hoot which way you go!

        As for your two wt, I'll see your ante and raise you one. I had fine results with a one wt  (also with Epon)! *BSEG*  (Art Port)

          Couldn't make the darn thing turn.

          That may be a function of the super slick Epon not generating enough friction to turn it. Mine does not turn much either, but that may change with the next rod, which is going to be glued with resorcinol.  I think the pin may generate less friction than the strip steel, even if it does not turn, but as I said, I can't prove that. Did the pin cause you any problem, or just not spin as it was supposed to?  (Tom Smithwick)

            The flats hung up on it!  I didn't mean the roller didn't turn, I meant the ROD didn't turn. All the same belting and thread setup as usual. Thank goodness I was doing the heat-treating bind. If I'd had glue on the thing and had to disassemble the whole guide, I'd have been spitting nails!

            I thought it'd be a real improvement as there's no way the belting can ride on it and therefore you needn't worry about that bump in the road. Alas, 'twasn't to be!  (Art Port)

              Wow - I have not had that problem, but I am using a lot less weight than you. Maybe that's it.  Was the pin 1/4" diameter? Something akin to 80# Dacron for the drive belt? I have not had the opportunity to try a larger diameter pin, say .312 or .375, but maybe that would help if you use heavier weight. My weight is 1/2 pound, and I hang it roughly the same distance from the fulcrum as the contact point, ie, 1/1 leverage. That seems to give me enough tension for a tight bind.  (Tom Smithwick)

                Yep, 1/4" shaft. I should think that more weight would make the twine grab better ad thus drive the section better. Maybe you're right. Remember that I start out with the butt of the section. The flats are wider there by far. Maybe if the thin end goes first the wrapped thread and initial turning allows for easier revolution when the thick end gets to the "business area".  (Art Port)

            I use L-100, do you guys see any problem cleaning the binding belt with a sponge and water on the return trip to the left wheel?  I don't want to have the belt become too slippery or too crusty to use.  (Brian Creek)

              I get quite a few passes with the belt before it gets too sticky/stiff to be usable. Of course I don't know whether "L-100" is more like #2 crude or like Crazy Glue than Epon. *G*

              I do my rods in 2-batches and I've always been able to do the 6 sections w/o a problem. Sometimes it'll soften enough after soaking in water and vinegar that I can get another pair, another day, out of it.  (Art Port)

                It's URAC made by Borden.  (Brian Creek)

    I have been using The "Original" Smithwick binder since it was released and a fine piece of equipment it is.  It has one drawback, however: A helper is, IMHO, needed in order to bind. Can’t say the family is overly happy to fill in here.

    I presume the "New" binder is a one man show - could someone confirm/deny?

    Is the new binder a realistic improvement over the "old" one, and if so, how?

    Your opinions are, as usual, welcomed.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

      The goal of this design was the same as the goal for the original "no brainer" design. I wanted something that was simple to build, worked reliably, and could be put aside for months and then used with little or no tweaking. An amateurs machine.

      The no brainer has the advantages of extreme simplicity, and the ability to bind 5 and 4 strip rods with the same ease of use. I never claimed it was the best binder out there, but if it is constructed is such a way that even thread tension is applied, it does a very acceptable job with little fuss.

      The mechanism of the new binder was designed to be as utterly simple as a string binder could be. The mechanism may look crude, but it relies on gravity, which is pretty reliable and also free, the last time I checked. The machine has exceed my expectations, producing results as good as any I have personally seen. I think it will do a better job on hex rods than the original, it may work on pentas, but is dubious for quads.

      I'm still undecided on the efficiency of the strip steel cradle Vs the pin, and was surprised to hear of Art's difficulty with the pin yesterday.  I would welcome feedback from anyone else. If I have not mentioned it before, the strip steel cradle should have well rounded edges.

      In any case Carsten, it is a one person design. If you are only making hex rods, you may want to consider it.  BTW, if you install infeed and outfeed supports for the blank, you should be able to operate the no brainer single handed.   (Tom Smithwick)


I built a Milward style (admitted rip-off from a Dawn Holbrook binder) 4 spool binder a few years ago and am modifying it with purchased thread tensioner devices (I built my own thread tensioner devices and have not been happy with their performance). I am curious as to what the lbs tension on each tensioner should set it at. I believe that Ray Gould told me 1 lb, though that was 10 years ago at least and I forget for sure, and in fact could be wrong on that.)

Also I was thinking that the best way to set the tension would be off of the spool as opposed  to putting  tension on the actual thread. The problem with setting tension on the thread is that it assumes the diameter of the thread is constant. I just don't know if this is a fact.

Next question is maybe I'm being too anal on this. I do know that even pressure of some kind is critical. This is a learned experienced. (Martin Jensen)

    I think that 1 lb is about right.  You get a lot more wraps of thread with a 4-string binder than with a Garrison style binder.

    I run a light rod tip thru my binder (doesn't have to be cane), and its easy to see if the tip wants to roll (2 strings on a wheel tighter than the other wheel), or flop (1 string tighter than the other 3).  Once the tip goes thru without rolling or flopping you are set.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

      You know I built my tensioners but always had trouble finding decent springs for them. I had to take springs that I got and bend them to fit. Never really found what I wanted, you know just the right tension and all. I had a little issue with some severe twist on my last tip section and decided to buy some of those Flex Coat TD2D Thread Tension Devices.   (Martin Jensen)

      If it does "roll" or "flop" how do you determine what thread is loose or tight. Do you check all four threads and reset the tension.  (Tony Spezio)

        Its pretty easy to diagnose if the wheels are spinning slowly.  If its just 1 string too tight the rod will be following that 1 string.  If its rolling, it will be rolling in the same direction as the wheel with the 2 tight strings.  You can just adjust the offending string or strings a little.

        Helps a little to have different colored threads.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)


On the subject of motors, I plan on adding one to my four string binder and operating it with a foot switch and was wondering what rpm would be recommended?  (Wayne Kifer)

    Jeff Fultz uses a GE 1.4 amp which runs fast at about 180 rpm.  All of this is determined by the wheel sizes you use of course.  I'm not sure you need that much speed or power.  (Ralph Tuttle)

    How about using a variable speed control ALA a sewing machine?  (Neil Savage)

    I made mine using a motor and foot peddle from a sewing machine. Not sure of the rpm, but it will go faster than I want if I put my foot down.  Lots of non working sewing machines out there, rarely is the motor the problem.  (Steve Shelton)

    I did this and used a sewing machine speed control so I could adjust the speed as needs. FYI I have since abandoned the speed control as I found it unnecessary. My binder rotates at about 150 RPM and that is a very comfortable speed (IMO). I have no trouble reaching for the switch if I need to turn it off while in the middle of binding  (Martin Jensen)


Over thirty years ago I built my first rod and since at that time there was little information re rodbuilding available, I did a lot  of improvising.  My first binder was was a Crompton as shown in  McClanes Encyclopedia.  The binder was made from 1/2" plywood and it did work, but I was never completely satisfied because of all of the sources of friction made it hard to use.  After The Master's Guide was published, I decided to give the Garrison adaptation a shot.  My first effort again worked, but not too well and I soon built another which I have used successfully for over twenty five years.  I still had a few problems, but the major problems attributed to Garrison's binder never caused much trouble,.  Twist for example has never been a problem for me once I discovered the effects of the counter wind and made the appropriate adjustments.  My sections always came out straight except for a slight bend on tips about four inches from the end.  I was aware of the cause of that bend,  but I couldn't figure out how to eliminate it.  It was caused by too much pressure bending the rod between the cradle supports.  I almost always had to carefully unwind my drive cord and do the last few inches by hand,

Then Tom Smithwick came up with a revolutionary modification to the Garrison Binder, and I shall be everlastingly grateful to him for it.  Instead of using two cradle supports at the binding point, Tom went to one,.  If fact he made his one support a free turning point.

I just rebuilt my Garrison Binder utilizing Tom's adaptation.  I am literally astounded at the results.  Binding has never been easier and never so free from the worry of something going wrong.  Even the finest tips go through without any distortion or undue strain.  With new (good) pulley wheels and a single non moving binding point I have found the perfect binder.  I have always wondered why so many builders bad mouth the Garrison Binder.   I love it.  (Ralph Moon)


I'm getting ready to purchase some more tooling, and wanted to get some input on binders. I will be producing quads and hex's. Garrison style binders seem to be the standard, but I am leaning towards  Tim Preusch's 4 string binder. Should I have both types? Any input as to positives or negatives of either?  (Paul McRoberts)

    Check out Jeff Wagner's binder. I got one last March. Now to be truthful, I have not used it for a glue up, only for binding strips for heat treating (a busy summer and fall). Will use it for gluing for the first time this weekend (the first of this winter's rods). But it works way better than any of the three other binders I made over the years, and my hand binding. And Jeff and his wife service what they sell-When I first started out I didn't know how to use some of the equipment I bought from them and they talked me through some techniques and near disasters.

    Anyway check it out.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      I've owned two different 4 string binders and sold them both after I bought one of Jeff Wagner's binders.  I use it for both quads and hexes.  It is very reasonable priced and I think it works much better than Garrison style binder.  (Bob Williams)

      I'm another happy user of Wagner's binder. I find that I like to use it Degere style that is in continuos belt drive with 30 pound backing. Use an old Cortland Rim Fly reel to hold the backing. Best part after glue up just strip off the glued up string off the drive wheel and your ready to go again. Even works with those old cracked PVC lines!  (Tim Pembroke)


I finally got a chance to use the Wagner Binder.

This is one fine binder, and it produced the straightest bound sections I have ever achieved in about 25 rods.

Some details - the binder works three ways: as a Garrison style, a hand cranked style with an endless drive belt, and a motor-driven style powered by a cordless drill or screwdriver (comes with an adapter for this use).

When it first arrived, my initial thought was that it was just too simple (Jeff advertises this fact). But I tried it for some triangulated strips for heat treating and it was fine. The true test came tonight when I glued up two 52 inch sections. I used the hand crank because 1) it is fun, and 2) I liked the control (Jeff recommends the motorized version). I also deviated from the setup instructions by making PVC cradles rather than the simple dowel supports Jeff recommends. The thing was smooth as silk. Nice even wraps and no stress on the tip sections. The instructions were clear, and designed to keep you away from nearly all the problems rodmakers experience during binding (twists and bent blanks). Both sections came out absolutely straight even though I had a non-recommended cradle, cranked, and it was my first time binding with the thing, and the blanks were longer than is typical.

There are three things you need to be aware of before use.

1. The binder does not come with any place to attach the spool of Dacron backing that serves as the endless drive belt. I made one, but future versions might consider an accessory that would hold the spool. You can easily  rig something,  but it  would be a cool add-on.

2. If you are cheap, you can save a bunch of Dacron drive belt material by rewinding it back on the spool if you are just heat treating. That is another possible attachment that could be included in future versions (something to hold the Dacron spool in your drill for rewinding). This idea isn't in the directions, but could be.

3. You need to follow the directions that call repeatedly for minimal tension on the drive belt and the binding thread. I used a vertical paper towel holder to hold the binding thread spool and it did not rotate well until I glued some "magic sliders" on the base. Found them at the hardware store - they are a product designed to help furniture slide along the floor (one of those "as seen on TV things"). Had I not done this, I would have had too much tension on the binding thread.

4. The directions suggest that you remove tape from the sections and hold them together with some wraps of fine thread. This can not be overemphasized - Jeff believes that the best binding occurs when there are no stops during rotation. This would defeat the whole design, which is to provide smooth rotation and movement through the process.

So my summary is that there are two minor improvements that could be added to make a great tool even better, but you can make those accessories yourself. And the directions might say "you need to follow the instructions carefully, and here is why". This is only needed for certain people such as myself.

Over the past 6 years I have made 3 binders, and none of them worked half as well as this one. I recommend this binder highly. Simple, elegant, and sturdy. And I forgot to mention that it looks nice.

No financial interest, although Jeff and his wife were especially kind to me during my initial rodmaking cluelessness. And they remain kind during my continued cluelessness.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I'd have to agree with Jeff. This tool is easy to use and ready to go right out of the box.  I haven't used the binder to glue up sections, but I've used it for sections that are ready to be heat treated.  I have to make some infeed and outfeed supports yet, but once that's accomplished, I'm sure the binder will work even better.   (Todd Talsma)

    I found that a Cortland Rim Fly reel, with only one of the pawls engaged, solved the problem of creating minimal tension as well as the ability to rapidly rewind the continuos belt back for reuse when binding sections for heat treating. A C-clamp holds it to the bench for easy removal when not in use. As some of us are spaced challenged.  (Tim Pembroke)


So, I am rounding the corner on building my binder. I have one final piece to mill, the cradles. I mocked one up just to make sure everything is functioning properly. With the way it is currently set up,  my bindings are applying at exactly 1/8" apart. Is this too tight? Most I have seen look to be spaced further apart.

Now......I am really not set up to be milling parts (Metal, delrin etc) so I am considering myself lucky to have all my body parts are still attached and functioning!! I did however take a lathe chisel twice to the face (Didn't learn with the first fat lip) and while drilling some brass on a bench top drill press the bit caught.......ripped the vise out of my hands....then as it was coming back around, smacked the top of my hand which immediately started to swell and bruise!! I hit the stop button before it got me the second time around!!  Bent the vise screw as well!! Needless to say, my metal lathe, drill press and new vise will be shipping in about a week!!! I have never had so much fun getting hurt!!!  (Paul McRoberts)

    Glad you're enjoying it Paul, there's plenty more to come. If you think paper cuts get sore, wait until you get your first bamboo cuts. They redefined sore for me.  (Will Price)

    I see Paul is going to be a contender for the coveted Nunley Award.  1/8th inch wraps on your binder is pretty tight but certainly useable.  (Mike Shay)

      Hi Paul, mine are .5 in from outside edge to outside edge.

      Plenty of grip.  (Jerry Foster)

      Yeah Mike, but don't forget, you set the bar pretty high last year with your hot varnish incident. Now do we hand out permanent awards or is it like the Stanley Cup, where you just get your name engraved on it and only keep possession of it until the next winner is announced.  (Will Price)


I have never used Delrin, and I wanted to know how well it would hold up for use in a binder (Using it for the pulleys and the cradles) Also wondered if dried glue is easily cleaned off of this material? Any input?  (Paul McRoberts)

    I never thought about using it for cradles, but Bellinger uses it for all the pulleys on their binders.  I used it for most of the pulleys on mine, but not the drive pulley.  I made a double drive pulley like the Bellinger binders have, but made it about 5" in diameter.  Delrin gets expensive when you buy it in rod that large.  I made my drive pulley out of maple.  I don't know how easily that cleans; I've never cleaned it.  Nothing sticks to Delrin, so it cleans pretty easily.  (Robert Kope)

    I made my Bellinger type binder out of UHMW including the in & out cradles, take-up & supply reels. It's not Delrin, it's close but still pricey. If you don't allow the adhesive to cure on it, it's a snap to clean up. If the adhesive does cure on it it still pops off like Delrin.

    The reels are about 5" in diameter with ball bearing centers separated by 1/16" thick aluminum disks. The binder also level winds. All the other pulleys are the ball bearing screen door type.

    Drive cord is about 60' of mason line. When it gets saturated, change it. For the weights, 5 oz round sinker ball for tips and 8 oz for butts. All you need is enough weight so the drive cord doesn't slip. I've also found out minimal binder cord tension works well. More is not better.

    Outboard of the cradles I have about 2' of 1" PVC to keep the strips from flopping around on the infeed and support on the outfeed.

    Cleans easily and solvents won't hurt anything.  (Don Schneider)

    Delrin will make a great material for pulleys or just about any other part. Glues will not stick to it and it is impervious to any solvent you are likely to use. In addition, it machines very easily.  (Al Baldauski)


I have just finished  my rough planing and moving on to the binding. I was going to go out and build either a Garrison or Smithwick binder. I was wondering which one is easier to build and what are the tool parts  for either and where can I get them at.  (Brandon Shepelak)

    I built a Smithwick style binder with plans from Darrol Groth.  It turns out arrow straight sections every time.  Sometimes I have to do just a little heat straightening of tips, but that's it.  It cost me about $10 in parts from the hardware store plus some scraps I had laying around.  It's really ugly, but it works.  I like it because it uses two wheels for the drive cord.  All I do is spool on a whole bunch of cheap backing.  I built mine with a 3 foot bed on both sides of the post to support the rod fully.  I think this helps with keeping things straight,  but that's just my opinion.  (Aaron Gaffney)

      I don't suppose it would be possible to get a copy of the plans you got from Darrol?  (Bill Walters)

        I zapped a copy of plans for Tom's table top type binder (son of, son of No Brain Binder) to Bill and would be happy to supply them to anyone else.  Basically a parts list to save shoe leather looking for stuff to make one.  If anyone else would like them feel free to holler.  In the meantime, maybe Todd would post it on the tips site if there's more interest. (See Here) In any case, no matter what kind of binder, Chris' article on tuning a binder is invaluable.  (Darrol Groth)

    If you're going to make a Garrison style binder, be sure to read the article here and also Chris Bogart's FAQ here.

    There seem to be a couple of things that are critical to making the Garrison binder work well.  If done right, it's great.  My only suggestion  would be to add support on each side of it, three or four feet long each side, so most or all of the section is supported before and after binding.  (Neil Savage)

    I just finished making a Garrison based on the drawings and pictures in Wayne's book. I used aluminum plate, 6"x12"x1/2" and 2" angle purchased from a local surplus store. The drive pulley I found at hardware store - plastic clothesline sheave, small utility pulleys (3), also plastic spacers for alignment. Had to grind the  heads of the pins off. To get the sheaves out of the pulley blocks. The Thread tensioners, I found on Cabelas web site.  (Bob Gansberg)

      You might check my article on modifying the Garrison binder in Power Fibers issue # 5. Makes it run smooth as silk. If you don't have it, will be glad to send it to you.  (Tony Spezio)

    If you are talking about the Smithwick "tabletop binder" It is simple to make and works very well. There are some plans around for it. The pulleys are available at most hardware / home improvement stores.   (Peter Van Schaack)

    I have a Garrison style binder and it works well for me.  Supports on each side are critical.  I made mine out of 1" PVC pipe that I ripped on a table saw.  I mount them on each side of the binder.  If you want, I can email a pic to you.  (Scott Bahn)

      Another approach in lieu of ripping 1" PVC pipe is using round corner bead intended for drywall.  I built several houses where the outside corner of an inside wall were optioned to be rounded.  This PVC strip with flange is designed for this application.  It just happens the diameter matches near perfect to my Garrison style binder.  I saw some at Lowes or Home Depot.  (Doug Alexander)

    On a second note that I forgot, have 2 drive pulleys back to back.  That way you can have a continuous drive belt and you do not have to worry about a knot getting caught on anything.  Works great.  (Scott Bahn)

      I made mine that way too (two pulleys back to back). Works great. Kind of a pain in the duppa  to clean after glue up though.   (Tom Kurtis)


Being that I have only seen binders in print, I am wondering about the top plate and face plate thickness?? What is sufficient and sturdy? 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" thickness? Also, dimensionally, top plate 4"x18" face plate 8"x18"?  (Paul McRoberts)

    My binder is made of aluminum. Front plate is 6"X12"X1/4" thick.  The top is 2"X2" aluminum  angle to which the front face is bolted.  (Mike Shay)

    In the interests of being frugal I made Garrison binder out of materials on hand. Dimensional lumber nominally 3/4" thick. Top measures 5 X 18", front measures 11 X 18". This sits in a notch centered in a 5 X 60" piece of 1/2" plywood. This gives a shelf of 30" on each side of the binder that supports the blank sections fully as they are being bound. Split a piece of 1" diameter PVC in half, one on the shelf on each side of the binder. Easier to build than to explain. Pictures available if you wish.  (Steve Shelton)


On my binder, the thread feeds vertically off the large spool which stays stationary, then is guided over to the tension device. This is the way it appears to feed on quite a few binder styles. Any of you have your thread feed set up so that it feeds horizontally (Spool spins) then is guided over to the tension device? I would imagine it does not matter either way, it was just something I pondered while making my binder.  (Paul McRoberts)

    On my Garrison style binder I have my spool on a post with a bearing.  The cone of the spool fits on the bearing and spins easily.  I think I get less twist in the binding thread.

    But I don't use the Garrison as much as the four string binder.  (Scott Grady)


Several photos of several 4 String Binders shows a clear plastic (?) belt. I have seen this advertised but have not been able to find it for several days. Does anyone have the source for the 1/8 - 1/4 diameter belt material?   (George Hills)

    McMaster-Carr item:   9407K14  1/4 black Buna-N O-ring cord.  (Ralph Tuttle)

    You can also find urethane belts at appliance repair stores. (Jeff Schaeffer)

      McMaster sells the urethane belting as well. My lathe uses similar belts. I have had far better luck with urethane than with neoprene or buna.   (Larry Blan)

    Try here.

    They bought Eagle belting. I have and use there orange round belting in 0.25". It is urethane and requires a heat weld. It also comes much smaller. The belting is supple and strong. I guess I would suggest 1/8" round orange.  (Olaf Borge)

      When I constructed my 4-string binder I looked in the Yellow Pages for a belt maker. I found someone within a few miles from home, and had a 3/16" belt made to order. You can see pics of it on the tips site.

      One tip: because the belt has a "memory", don't store the binder with the belt in place on the pulleys.  (Ron Grantham)

        Where could I get plans for a 4 string binder?  (Ren Monllor)

          Like most things bamboo, it can be found at Todd's site.  (Rich Jezioro)


I've read so much about the Smithwick Binder, how good it is ect.. So, I've decided to make one, does anyone have plans!! the only thing I found was Darrol Groth's list of components!

How does it work!.. How is it built!.. How is it set-up ect...

Clearly, it needs "step by step" pictures and explanation of a build procedure and how it operates!! Would you agree??  Please let me know!  (Geoff Smith)

    There is this. (Timothy Troester)

    The parts list pretty well implies the procedure for assembling Tom's third generation binder.  I only put together the 'Parts List" to help save shoe leather in gathering the necessary stuff - and these are suggestions only.  Simply make a box with a work surface on top and cut a groove close to the front edge with the mentioned router blade,  leaving some kind of space in the middle, where the binding post is, to be able to tie the thread, etc. to the blank.  Put your thread supply on top with some kind of tensioner and contrive a feed arm to direct the binding thread.  The drive cord is wound onto the left pulley from the right one, over the binding post/rod section and the drag arms provide tension.  It works basically the same as a Garrison binder, the difference being that there is no continuos drive cord - you just rewind it after you're through binding.  A 5 or 6 in.(best size) pulley holds plenty of cord to bind a section forward and back again.  You can get pulleys at a farm store or where they sell parts for swamp coolers.  Just start cutting out the pieces and slapping them together and it will begin to make sense. As Tom says in his original article: "The only critical factor is that the binding post be exactly level with the bottom of the trough the blank rides in."  Otherwise, nothing else really matters.  Trust yourself, after all it is intended to be a "No brainer." (son of, son of, no Brainer).  I liked it well enough to make it.  I really like the extension arms I made for mine (as did Tom) - it will support a whole rod section in the trough  whilst I fiddle with other things, or pause for a minuet. :^) Feel free to improvise - I'll bet you can do better.  If you have any questions feel free to holler.  (Darrol Groth)

    As Darrol suggests, there is not much you can do wrong if you look at the pictures and keep the proportions roughly the same. If I were making a new one, I think I would cut a 2" gap in the trough about 6" to the left of the cradle to facilitate removal of masking tape during the process. I use Coats and Clark button and craft thread for binding  thread, and nylon bowstring server cord for the drive belt (available at archery shops). I have also used 80-120# test Dacron line for the drive cord with success. I once tried braided mason's line, but it was too thick and tended to absorb glue and stick to the blank.

    I just glued up an 8 foot two piece 3 weight with a semi hollow butt.  I used Epon epoxy,  which is really slick when freshly mixed. The tip came out of the machine with a slight bend near the tip, and needed to be rolled a few times, the butt was straight right off the machine. If there was any stress in the bound strips, the Epon would have allowed the strips to slide and resume the set. I have never had to remove a twist when using this machine and remain very pleased with the design. If you have any questions after reviewing Darrol's plans and the proto's, get back to me.  (Tom Smithwick)

    Thanks guys for all your help, I'm beginning to get my head round it now.  Some really good devices you guys have made, but I think I'm going to stick with the Smithwick and go ahead and build one.  Just one thing on this binder I thought might be improved (note I say might!) was the tension bars that hang under the wheels. I thought it looked a bit primitive to me. Could the tension be had by some type of hub on the wheel axles, adjusted by a large wingnut or something similar?  Just a thought!!!

    I am just starting rod building again after about 30 years, when I used to plane on a wooden former. It was hard work, I made a few cause fishing rods then and some guy saw my work and asked, "How much do you want for them?"  "Oh," I said, "they're not for sale!" He got his wallet out and just started throwing £20 notes at me by the dozen!!  He didn't stop!!  I thought, "Wow, my rods must be good!!"

    So, I'm starting up again, I have an engineer building me a mill, and I'm hoping that I can make other things I need, ovens, etc.. The problem I have living in the UK is obtaining materials. There's not many companies left here that build split cane anymore! I'm going to need plenty of Tonkin cane.  Who knows where I'm going to get that from! Then I have glues and corks etc. to obtain in plenty supply?? So I'm feeling a bit "out on my own" over here in the UK! I will appreciate all the help I can get from you guys, it will be most welcome, I have my head buried in Garrisons book at the moment, so you can say its a start!  (Geoff Smith)

      Primitive equals elegant simplicity, equals less to go wrong. I'd make one myself if I weren't challenged in the tool-making department (homo not so sapiens) and had a working binder already.  (Henry Mitchell)

      The thing that really bumfuzzled me at first when I made mine was trying to come up with some kind of fancy bearing shaft or the like for the binding post as Art and Tom did (N. Tx. being somewhat industrially impoverished).  As always, I was unnecessarily complicating matters.  I finally hit on a common hanger bolt (wood screw on one end and machine screw on the other) and put a nylon bushing over it held in place with an acorn nut.  It is not necessary that the bushing roll. - only that it be dead level with the feeding trough.

      I also forgot - if you need to borrow the 3/4 core box router bit I'd be glad to loan it to you (or anyone else for that matter.)  (Darrol Groth)

        When I constructed mine, I complicated matters by using a shaft that rode inside of two sealed bearings.  The shaft itself was just some scrap piece of something-or-another.  After testing I discovered that what I had done was add unnecessary expense (I think $6) to a project tool that I otherwise made for nearly nothing.  Darrol is correct once again:  the important thing is that the shaft be level.  Mine actually spins very little during binding.

        But it really looks cool on those bearings!  (Carl DiNardo)


For the drive cord on my Blauvelt Binder, they suggested 75lb cotton kite string? I can't find it online or in the store.

Can you help with a suggestion on binder drive cord? Is there something from Atlantic Thread that would work?  (Adam Trahan)

    For a binder string I use woven catfish or walleye line and pull it inside itself to make a loop.   (Timothy Troester)

    I use planer board cord.  I get it from Cabelas or Gander Mountain.  (Bret Reiter)

    I use braided chalk line on my binder.  (Neil Savage)

    I use 30# dacron backing for binder cord.  (Jerry Drake)

    I use an old fly line for the drive belt; formed into a loop and held together with braided mono running line and super glue.  (Lou Martin)

    I have been using Mason Line, (Chalk Line) for the past nine years, works fine on my binder.  (Tony Spezio)

    BRAIDED DACRON FISHING LINE ABOUT 30 TO 50 LB WILL DO THE TRICK. I have used Kevlar which is quite fine with great success.  Actually anything that doesn't make a huge knot when joined and that does not break easily will do.  Don't sweat the little things.  (Ralph Moon)

      I'm with Ralph on the binding cord. Cabela's sells the stuff.  (Don Anderson)


I've been having problems breaking driving belts for my Wagner binder.  The spliceless one I got w/ the binder broke the first time I used it.  I've got a couple other belts I've tried w/ limited success.  I'm using a half pound weight for tension.

What do y'all use and where can I get some?  (Michael Johnson)

    Call Jeff and tell him you are having problems.  (Larry Blan)


I'm another new guy, just accumulating what is needed.  Have Cattanach and Barnes' books and note that Wayne spends a fair amount of time on straightening after binding.  Is there any advantage to Milward's 4 string binder?  Like the idea of simultaneously wrapping in opposing directions?  (Dave Kemp)

    Binders are one of those subjects about which you receive as many opinions as the number of those who respond.  Everyone seems to have love-hate affairs with their binders.

    Some swear by their single string binders.   Others swear at them.  Same is true for four-string binders.

    I have used half a dozen different binders over the years.  Started with hand binding, then moved to a crude, self-made Garrison-esque binder.  Then "improved" that one three times before starting over.  When it worked right, it was great.  When it didn't, well, it had to be the binder rather than the operator.  I've had two different four string binders, and a powered, one string version based on a Smithwick design.  All have their strengths and weaknesses.

    Remember, the purpose of a binder when used while gluing is to help you clamp things snugly and prevent any unnecessary glue lines from showing up.  Hand binding works beautifully, but is tough on the muscles in your hands.   A good, well-tuned single string binder can work beautifully.  Mine does.  Four string binders can be great, or horrible.  You want the thread to feed smoothly off the spools and onto the shaft.

    This is one of those things you want to experiment with until you find what works for you.  (Harry Boyd)

      You don't need a binder to start with as you can hand bind as Harry says. You may at the end of the day find rodmaking isn't for you so stick with hand binding for those early rods. You may even stick with hand binding full time.  (Paul Blakley)

        I hand bind mine.  I had a binder that eventually didn't work for me.  You can do it by hand just fine.  I find that my hands start to hurt rather quickly, so I am hoping to build another binder someday.

        Good luck.  Wayne's book is what I used and really like it (early edition).  (Rob Clarke)

          Ya know guys, building a binder is good practice for what you are getting into! Teach yourself how to gather the necessary stuff and how to figure out stuff. Not a bad way to go. And believe me you can find all the help you need right here. Just my .02 worth.  (Joe Arguello)

            Yes! I do agree think that is the point. There are just not any kits for doing it right.  (Timothy Troester)

            I do agree with Joe to a point.  If you don't have the patience to make the tools, you may not have the patience to make the rod.  But look, I am not the greatest tool maker (or rod maker) and it took me several tries to make a decent set of forms.  By the time I got to the binder, I decided I could do it by hand.  I took one of my junk tapped wood forms and ran a bolt through the upholstery thread bobin, screwed it to the 1/2 form and put it on the floor with the thread on a foam brush.  By stepping on the form I could control (to a point) the thread tension.  But I wanted to glue up splines, not build another tool!  They turned out fine, and I even used a PVA, and by practicing a few times before glue up, it worked fine.  I concentrated on making sure the sections weren't twisted in  the 2 minutes I had after binding, and used VERY light heat to straighten.  Good enough for my first few rods. They fish, and I'm happy.

            Point is, there is a certain amount of difficulty, and probably a few hard-and-fast rules, but don't make it harder that it needs to be for YOU.  Don't make it so hard you don't start making or eventually finishing, your first rod. Failure is part of learning. Realize that your first rod won't be perfect, it will be your first set of lessons.  I'd be willing to bet most posters think there next  rod will be better that their last one.  (John Wagner)

    I assume you found Todd's tips site (well, you’re here!).  You can read for days about binders in Todd's archives.  I agree with everything that's already been said.  I'll just add this thought from my perspective, if you decide to make a binder, I would not start with a 4 string.  A Garrison style binder would be easier to make.  If you decide to go with a Garrison, you need to read the article at this link carefully.  It will save you a lot a of frustration in the long run.  (David Bolin)


Some time ago someone wanted info on a 4 string wrapper. Back in the early 80's I think,   there was an article in The Planing Form about one developed by someone in Canada that eliminated the torque twist problem of Garrison’s wrapper. It wraps 2 strings clockwise and 2 counter clockwise in close proximity at the same time without twisting or turning the strips being glued. I built one,  it works very well.   (Jack Mickievicz)


I am finally starting to acquire tools and make as many items as possible to keep the initial startup cost more feasible.  Does anyone know of a source  that has step by step directions, pictures, as well as a parts list for a relatively inexpensive/easily constructed binder? (Ron Delesky)

    Look through the contraptions section. (Pete Van Schaack)

    My binder is a direct drive using a draw slide with weights hung on the bottom and a spinning reel for binder string tension. Make my own belts out of 50 lb test stranded backing string. Use a rubber band to cover the wooden pulley on the slide. Use your imagination and let it go.

    Have used these for 75 rods and still going strong. Simple really does work.

    You can make and use wooden planing forms or make steel ones.  (Bob Norwood)

    For the Garrison binder, Chris Bogart's write-up can't be beat. He covers the essentials of what's important. I just went to Home Depot and picked the cheapest stuff to fit the design requirements he has in his article.

    I built mine in a Saturday afternoon for less than $20. The two biggest expenses were a used thread tensioner from a sewing machine repair shop and the 3 inch wheel (cheaper than the 4 inch version) for the drive wheel that is normally for a garage door cable. Just use minimum weight for the straightest rod sections. I use 4 ounces for tips and 8 to 16 ounces on butts with minimum thread tension, as Chris suggests, and it works great for me.

    I think a heat gun oven has got to be the least expensive approach to an oven design  that needs minimal talent to operate, unlike the blowtorch with iron pipe technique. A variable temperature gun is not absolutely essential but it does reduce the tedious aspect of heat setting Epon on glued up rod sections. I found that baby-sitting a single temperature heat gun for the hours needed to heat set Epon is a lot worse than straightening and flattening nodes. If you make a heat gun oven consider using heat duct instead of stove pipe, its cheaper and comes in 5 foot sections.  (Joe Hudock)

    I have made several binders, the one I am using now is about as elaborate as I have made but that is not what you want now. Use large Cup Hooks for the guides. If you have a lathe, turn a piece of hardwood for the crank, it only has to be about 4". The rollers can be the plastic rollers from the hardware store that are used on shower doors. The placement is what is important. Off set the lower one so that the belt don't overlap on the crank pulley. This is often overlooked and there is where the biggest problem comes in with the binders. The thread tensioner is a long screw, ( smooth area where thread passes) with a fender washer on the bottom, a layer of felt over the washer then another layer of felt over that with another washer over the felt. Slip a spring over the top of the washer on the screw then a small washer and a nut to apply tension on the spring. Run the thread through the felt and then through a small screw eye to guide the thread to the rod under the belt.  The belt is made from a length of Mason Line. I used to splice the ends but now I just use a square knot with a dab of Super Glue. It is important that the knot is made small and the ends are flush. Mount it all on a piece of 1X6 Pine and you will have a binder that will work till you decide it you want to do more with it.  (Tony Spezio)

    In the contraptions section, scroll quite a ways down to find the Smithwick "Model II" binder.  You can spot it because of the two wheels involved.  I built it recently at quite low cost and it works like a charm.  (Tim Anderson)


I'm building a Binder from Darrol Groth's plans of the Smithwick binder. The only thing that is missing is the size of cord that is wrapped on the pulleys. I was hoping I could get one of you gents to enlighten me. Any suggestions or tips in using it. What size of weights should I use on the arms for tips and butts?  (Dave Damon)

    I'm using a variation on Tom's binder, and I use 20 lb flyrod backing for the drive belt. (It takes a surprising amount of line for a wrap - I put about 30' of the stuff on the sheaves.) I use sheaves of diameter 6", lever boards about 2 ft long with their fulcrums about 5" beyond the vertical line through their centers' axes with 1 LB weights hung about 4 - 5" outboard of the the fulcrum. I guess that amounts to about 8/10ths to one LB of effective wt. (for tips and butts, respectively)  (Art Port)

    The only thing that is missing is the size of cord that is wrapped on the pulleys.

    Hi Dave - I have used 80 to 120# dacron fishing line in the past, but now use bowstring server cord, available at archery shops. It's waxed, and gets a good grip on the blank. The wax helps keep glue from soaking the cord and getting it sticky.  Use about a pound of weight hung the same distance on the lever arm from the fulcrum as the distance from the fulcrum to the pulley. You can adjust the drag by moving the weight, but I never do. The right hand pulley only needs an ounce or so of weight, just enough to keep it from free spooling if you let go.  (Tom Smithwick)

      I use the braided nylon cord intended for chalk lines in my version of Tom's binder.  It works well, is cheap, and comes in large rolls, so replacement when it absorbs too much glue is not a problem.  I use epoxy for my blanks and, after a bit of it hardens on the cord, I turn the pulleys so the cord runs back and forth across the support a couple of times.  That restores pliability so replacement can be put off.  (Tim Anderson)

        I use green dot dacron fishing line - I think it's 50#, whatever I scrounged.  Must be doing something wrong.  I've never had to wipe the cord down, nor have I changed it ~ 30 rods with Epon now, and still supple.  Hmmm.

        Thanks again, Tom for evolving the design.  I only compliled a sample parts list to save others shoe leather looking for parts. 

        The bolts #1 and wing nuts #2 under the tension arms should read 3/16"

        Art's is nice because I don't think you have to rewind his.  (Darrol Groth)

          SURE you rewind it, but probably not the way you mean; You wind it one way to wrap the first spiral, left-to-right, then rewrap the belt and cord and wind the other way! After that, you hang it up. That's why I set the right-hand wheel below the other. They both turn clockwise, while putting the TWO spirals on!  (Art Port)


I took a 46 inch piece of bricklayers braided nylon "dry line" you can get at any hardware store or lumber yard to make a continuous binder drive belt for my Garrison binder. It's what they stretch out to lay a course of bricks with. Then I took a 45" piece of monofilament I got from a hobby store. It doesn't have a size indicated but it mic's at .022. I started at one end of the mono carefully making tiny scarfs about every inch with a utility (box cutter) knife till I reached the middle. I reversed ends and did the same thing. Then I cut the ends of the mono square and just touched it to a candle flame to make a round end. a slashed or pointed end will hang up and come out the side of the cord. I pushed about an inch of the mono into one end of the cord, then grasped the cord with thumb and index finger where I could feel the mono inside. I grasped the cord with the other thumb and index finger about one quarter inch apart. Very lightly I pushed cord into a bunch and then held the spot in a tight pinch. I pulled the bunched slack away with the other pinch. I repeated the push/pull and inched the cord onto the mono. I didn't take long to reach the middle of the string and then the other end till the end of the mono met in the middle of the cord and the ends of the cord met in the middle of the mono. A tiny drop of super glue was applied to the end of the cord and pressed together. The braid of the cord acts like the paper finger cuffs we played with as kids. the tighter you pull the more it grips the mono core.  (Bill Palmer)


Group, I'm just a binder away from being a self-sufficient fledgling rodmaker.  I would like a JW Flyrods Garrison style binder, but can't raise him on phone or e-mail.  Anybody got a Garrison style binder for sale?  Please email off list.  I don't care if it is in well used condition as long as it works well.

Anybody got a suggestion for purchasing another binder from another maker?  (Reed Guice)

    Have you looked at the J.D. Wagner binder?  (Jim Sobota)

    Get the binder from Jeff Wagner. Very easy to use and Jeff is just a phone call away if you have any questions.  (Frank Drummond)


I have looked at the great tips site and seen a lot of great binders but few if any have drawings/plans, do I need to reinvent the wheel or is there somewhere I should look for plans for 4 string and standard binders. Purchasing one from the states isn't feasible (given the list of rod hardware I need to purchase) also I am a metal fabricator with a workshop equipped to do most anything in Aluminum, Stainless Mild Steel.  (Andrew Connell)


I have experimented with four or five different binders and am interested in opinions on tensioning from the members of this forum.

The binders I use seem to consist of two different strings: the one that rotates the bundle and the one that wraps around the bundle horizontally (I don't know offhand if they have official names), but in my fiddling with the machines it strikes me that one that rotates the bundle has to be fairly tightly tensioned to squeeze out the glue and make the stick rotate (especially if it is a quad),  but the wrapper string only needs to follow along with enough tension to keep the bundle from opening or delaminating and if it is too tight it will cause a twist in the blank which has to be removed later.

Now it is also my impression that most folks use more tension on the butts than on the tips and my question is why do that? Could not the same snugness of tension work for the whole length of the rod?

It seems like all you need to do is find that sweet spot where the string is tight enough to keep the bundle from delaminating but loose enough to keep from twisting?

I'm bringing all this up because I have been making a series of one piece rods and would like to not have to change the tensions in mid wrap if I don't have to.

If any of this rambling makes any sense to anyone I would sure like some greater light and knowledge on these issues...  (Dick Steinbach)

    I can't speak for quads but I don't think anybody changes tension in the middle of a one piece. I know I didn't in the only one piece that I've built. If Tom Smithwick doesn't chime in you should contact him. He's got a bit of experience making one piece rods.  (Will Price)

    You are absolutely correct. The drive belt must have some tension to hold things together and rotate the strips. The binding string should have minimal tension. If you have ANY more tension than you need on the binding string other than to hold it all together you get torque. All that tension has to go somewhere, and you end up with a curve in your blank that will need straightening. My binding string spool rides on four "magic sliders" so it can rotate without tension, and I messed with the spring tensioner until it just holds the thread in place. I use the same tension on the drive belt for both tips and butts, but that is the way my binder is set up.

    I wrote about this in Power Fibers a while back when I did a review of the Wagner binder.

    This binding thread tension issue can be really confusing. There is a passage in Ernest Schweibert's book "trout" that describes how Paul Young rods were bound with incredible amounts of tension derived from a converted WWII bomb hoist. I read that, and actually tried to maximize thread tension for a while, the resulting rods were named "the Shepherds Crook", "Mr. Bad Example", "Trout Pretzel", "the curve of binding energy", Miss Mobius 2004, ... You get the picture.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      Thank you Jeff! I just glued-up nine different one piece rods ranging from 5' to 7' and found the same torque issues as you, but as I fussed with the tensioners I could eliminate the problems.  I guess I should say that my binder uses thread tensioners on both strings so I get infinite adjustments just by turning the knobs. I also reached the same conclusions with my Wagner binder.

      All this being said, I have developed a much greater appreciation of the subtleties involved in the process and will probably continue to explore them (I have the pieces on my shop bench right now for another binder soon to be built).  (Dick Steinbach)


What would be a good tension for each string of a 4 string binder? Does type of glue matter? I currently use URAC.  (Larry Lohkamp)

    Harry showed me the right tension on my binder at CRR a couple years ago. It is a lot lighter than you may think. In fact, almost no tension, and I don't get any twists in the sections now.

    I've used several different glues, with the same light tension.  (Tom Vagell)


I have a 4 string binder that I got a few years ago.  Just decided to give it a try.  I'm having several problems just using an already glued blank to get the feel of it.  Here goes:

1. What is the best way to adjust the tension so that they are all equal - or does it matter?

2.  How do you tie the strings on with so little room to work?

3. How do you tie off the strings ant the end of the blank?

4. Does slightly different strings on one or two of the spools make any difference?

Is there any illustrated or video instructions out there?  (Frank Caruso)

    OK, I'll take a stab at this:

    1. What is the best way to adjust the tension so that they are all equal - or does it matter? 

    Just pull on each thread and feel for light resistance, that's enough tension.

    2.  How do you tie the strings on with so little room to work?

    Before you even start pull the threads all together in the middle and tie them with a simple overhand knot then take up the slack by turning the spools that hold the thread, you should end up with a knot right in the middle, When ready to bind simply turn the binder on and feed the blank in.

    3. How do you tie off the strings ant the end of the blank?

    You need to feed the blank by hand as slowly as you want, I usually like the wraps to be spaced about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch, I go all the way to the end and then go back to where I started. Now when you get to that end simply let the thread slip off the blank and let it twist itself together for a couple of inches while pulling on the blank with slight tension, now you have a kinda 'rope' you can half hitch onto the end of the blank. One more thing, now I take the rod back to the bench and roll it like a rolling pin from one end to the other to nestle everything together, Now back to the binder (don't forget to tie the ends of the thread back together) and run it through again same way, forward then back to the end (4 wraps altogether)

    4. Does slightly different strings on one or two of the spools make any difference?

    Yes I think it does matter, I go to Wal-Mart and buy some sewing thread, look or ask for glace cotton, they have it. I buy 4 spools as my binder is made to accept these.  (Joe Arguello)

    If you run a sensitive tip section thru (doesn't have to be cane) and one string is too tight, it will be obvious because the tip will follow it.  If 2 strings on the same wheel are tighter that the other wheel, then the section will want to roll in the direction of the tighter strings.

    I use different colored threads  to make it easier to diagnose.  But once you have the tensions set it doesn't need much tweaking.  It holds its settings.

    At the end of the section, I just keep pulling the blank thru and get a pigtail of twisted thread about 4 inches long.  Then stop & cut it off. The stickiness of the glue holds the threads together without any knot.

    It's a fun gizmo to use.   (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

      And another thing.... most nylon thread is good to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, so works at least as well as cotton for heat treating and for gluing.  (Another myth bites the dust)  As long as you keep the tension very light, nylon will not bite into the corners of hex rods, but may present problems on four sided rods.

      At one time I would hang a one ounce weight from each thread and tighten till it would only barely move.  Now I just tension each thread by feel.  But one ounce per thread is a good place to start.  (Harry Boyd)

    I just pull each string by feel, others use a little scale some use a quarter in a little container. Once you get the first four threads tied together you can start the section through the tied threads. They will wrap on the section.

    I move the section out a bit then come back in to over wrap the first wraps for about two inches. That will lock in the beginning wraps. Run the section through the binder and let the end come out of the binder. Keep coming out of the binder till the thread shows. Keep coming out to let the thread form a "pig tail" of thread about four inches long. Cut the thread at the binder and use the pig tail to make a half hitch around the section end and a hanger string, I do this on the tip sections. On the butt sections that are thicker, I do the end as I do the start. Pull it out then back in to over wrap. When you cut  the pig tail, leave some thread showing out the end of the binder tube. Now the thread is still wrapped together ready for starting the next section, you don't have to tie the thread together. It is already tied. I grab the pig tail and pull the section  straight out, I find this helps keep the section straight.   (Tony Spezio)


I just built a 4 string binder and trying to do a test run with a 3/8 inch dowel stick.  Got a really dumb question. For example, on the right side, do you tie those two strings together and then loop over the dowel stick and then do same thing for the other side.

Doing this I am unable to bind upt he dowel. how do you guys get this 4 string binder started binding the strips together.  (Lew Boyko)

    I just pull some slack in the strings and tie all 4 with one overhand knot.  If you like, then turn the spools back by hand to take up the slack.  But I don't think the slack matters.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    Pull all 4 strings out and tie a simple knot then back up the spools to take up the slack. Start your binder and it will make an even better knot. This is how I do it.

    When I go to bind a rod, I first start the binder spinning then insert the rod.  (Jeff Fultz)


Does anyone have the Wagner style binder? It has three possible modes of use including the conventional Garrison set up with weight, Degere style, and motorized (drill driven). This is the first time I am planning to use it and I would like to use either the Degere or motorized endless belt set up. Actually it is the "endless belt" set up that has me  a bit confused  as to the proper belt "path." Also, how to best take up the endless belt slack. I assume the tensioner suffices for tension in both the Degere and motorized setup without additional weight? Any other tips would be appreciated.  (Keith Clinton)

    I have the binder. Actually I use the hand crank, but instead of a belt I attached a roll of Dacron fishing line to the left side of the binder.  The fishing line is wrapped around the blank and I hand crank the binder.  If you want you can reroll the Dacron line back on the spool and reuse it.  I usually find however that it gets full of glue and I don’t reuse it.  You can do a number of blanks with a 500 ft. roll of Dacron line.  (Tom Mohr)

    I’ve used the Wagner Binder on about a dozen rods.  This is the only binder that I’ve used so I can’t compare it to others.  

    I’ve used all the methods to rotate the rod but now have settled on driving the unit with a variable speed drill.  The endless belt is pretty simple and works well, just follow the directions that came with the unit.   Your assumption about the tensioner supplying the tension without additional weight is correct.  Wagner recommends using  the minimal amount of binder tension, and while I agree in principle, in practice I use moderate tension. 

    In operation I set the upper thread tensioners so an 8 oz weight fixed to the end of binding thread will just slightly pull through the tensioners (adjust both tensioners).  Set the bottom tensioner using the same weight, with the endless belt routed through the tensioner and over the cradle.  In practice I set the bottom tension slightly higher than the binding thread tension and increase it one click on the second wrap. The Wagner instructions showed putting the binding thread on dowel so it would rotate freely (as I recall).  I use a different arrangement and sit the binding thread cone on a flat surface, lace the thread through a tip top located above the spool so the thread pulls off the spool.  I did it this way because I did not want the weight of the spool to impact the binding tension.  This  seems to work really well, but I don’t know if it is an advantage.

    For the continuous belt I use 20# Dacron backing material which works fine for hex rods.  I manually rewind the belt back on the spool when I bind for heat treating and discard the belt when I use it for glue up. I’m still on my first 500 ft spool of Dacron so I don’t know how many rods it will wrap,  but I’d estimate about 50.  I’ve modified the drive wheel used  with the variable speed drill.   From Wagner it slides on a metal stud and can also slide off.  This works fine during binding but the spool falls off when I rewind the belt (try it and you will see what I mean).    This spool has been modified so it is attached to the back plate but will also spin freely. 

    The only other advice that I have is to consider using 30# Dacron backing.  20# works fine for hex rods but I have breakage problems with Quads. (Ray Taylor)


Well, last night I learned quite a bit about binding by hand.  The drive belt on my  Garrison-style binder failed in use while gluing.  So, I just kept winding the binding thread by hand.  Everything came out pretty darn straight!

Lucky, I guess.

Now the request.  I just can't put together a drive belt.  I've tried all the suggestions in the archives, but can't seem to make it happen. Could someone sell me some drive belts for a Garrison style binder? Please send me a few at the address below with a bill and I'll promptly send you a check.  (Reed Guice)

    While it may not be the best knot for the situation, I always used a square knot on chalk line. Occasionally hangs on the binding string but really not a problem. Also easy to repair if it breaks while in use. I couldn't do the fancy stuff either.  (Larry Tucker)

      Guys, one of the approaches to this problem is to thread one end of said chalk line about two inches up inside the other end and then you have no knots to worry about, the result relying on the "Chinese finger trap" (so-called) principle to trap the first end inside the second.  Was looking for the source of  this info but haven't been able to locate.  When I do, I'll post it.  If someone else has seen this tip, could you beat me to it please???  Works slicker 'n . . . well, it works slick!  (Steve Yasgur)

        All the chalk line I've ever seen was a twist affair. I think you may be referring to braided backing, for which that would work excellently well Steve.  (Art Port)

          Yeah, true,  Art.  I can't be sure the material was chalk line.  But you get the concept.  The stuff that was shipped with my Wagner binder is a tubular braid that lends itself to a needle knot approach, main difference being that the inside piece never emerges thru the wall of the outside piece, as it does with a leader butt/fly line application.  But     it's     run     up    inside    the    outer    piece    an inch-and-a-half . . . two inches, maybe.  Jeff prefers and recommends using the binder with the supplied take-up spool that allows you to use a cordless drill to do the "cranking."  But I put the traditional hand crank handle on it recently and fitted the afore-discussed "belt," which works very smoothly with no knot.  Don't know whether those belts might have a dab of Super Glue on the junction or not.  (Steve Yasgur)

          Somewhere in all my junk in the garage/shop I have a spool of braided kite string I bought for just that purpose, I could probably make a machine to braid that stuff faster than I could find it! I think I bought it at hobby lobby or some other hobby store. Maybe a store specializing in kites? I'm getting old and not only losing interest but losing my memory! Anyway that's where you can get it and I have also used 30 lb backing with great success since I can't find that other stuff I was talking about .... what was that? Oh yeah kite string.  (Joe Arguello)

          Albeit harder to find, mason's line or chalk line is available in a braided rather than twist form.  This is probably what Steve was referring to.  Another option might be to use small diameter heat shrink tubing such as that used with those slip-on leader loops that work so well.  (Bill Ernst)

            Albeit harder to find, mason's line or chalk line is available in a braided rather than twist form.  

            Are you guys using this string for glue-up of small tip sections, or for rough planed sections for heat treating?? I like the kite string. Grips the pulleys pretty good when using lighter pressure for epoxy the way I string it up on the binder. The knot, a shorter version of the blood knot ever since I was taught how to tie it free hand. Small and strong!  (David Dziadosz)

              Somebody's got to put in a word for the troglodyte lobby here.  I am coming up soon to 180 or so rods, and I still bind by hand.

              Ergo, no need to tie any knots at all!

              A young bloke I helped along the road to building his first rod, years ago, felt sorry for me and built me a beautiful Garrison-style binder.

              I used it for a while and went back to the old Mk I Hand, as provided by Himself as part of the original package.

              Nothing to clean glue off, no worry about strings, you can massage the strips in to position and as a consequence there are virtually no glue lines; and I have never had  a twist in a section cause a problem.

              Admittedly, I use Epon, but have used the technique with A-V Syntec P/U, with URAC, with Resorcinol and with Titebond III, and while some of them require that you lift your game a bit, it is still not inconveniently close to a problem.

              How many people do hand bind?  I'd love to know.  I suspect pretty near none.  (Peter McKean)

                I still bind by hand, but I don't make that many rods.  (Hal Manas)

                I am only up to my 6th rod but I have bound them all by hand after fumbling around with a 4 string binder that I made. Hand binding is really easy and all 6 rods have come out with no twists and have been easy to straighten. I use TBII Extend because it is readily available, safe, and easy to clean up with a damp rag. No sanding required to remove glue and string. My “binder” consists of a 4” x ¼” carriage bolt, two fender washers, a small spring for tension and a wing nut clamped in a bench vise. The hand cramps others have complained about must be masked by my arthritis and is certainly no worse than wrapping a rod full of guides with silk thread. I guess that makes me a full fledged member to the Troglodyte Club.   (Jim Healy)

                  I'm a hand binder and proud of it.  For the same reasons mentioned by you guys.  Its just too easy for me to do.    Can we get patches or a secret handshake for our Troglodyte Club?   (Pete Emmel)

                  A Similar setup works for me, but like Hal, I don't 'make that many rods;  Maybe 3-4 per year and in a bad year, even fewer. I use Elmer's Ultimate PU glue. It has about an hour of time to assure straightness, but I find that the more I mess with it the less good the result. If I take some care, I get a straight rod to start with. Final straightening of tips occurs on my wife's ironing board. I believe I was first introduced to the technique by Max Saitoh . It works like a charm! Arthritis is creeping into my hands too. This might explain why I make a lot of three piece rods. I get to take breaks between sections. One advantage I see is that I can take special attention to make sure that butt swells and other difficult places don't have glue lines.   (Doug Easton)

                And how many people that bind by hand, also have arthritis in their hands/fingers? I know it's a good way to bind, just a little too difficult for my short, fat, arthritic fingers! (David Diadosz)

      To splice braided cord,  unravel about an inch of each end kind of intertwine the two ends.  Then take a fly tying bobbin and hold the thread horizontal with the cord and with both hands spin the bobbin around the thread. It makes a secure flexible joint.  You might want to drop a little head cement on the thread end.  (Ralph Moon)

    While I no longer use a garrison style binder I had success using 30 lb. fly line backing with a small uni-knot to join the ends.  I don't know if that will work for you or not as all of the Garrison binders that I have seen vary somewhat in design, give it a try, maybe it will work for you.  (Don Green)

    If you may a slight adjustment to your Garrison style binder by adding back to back pulleys, you will have a continuous drive belt and you won't need to struggle with any knots ever again.  (Scott Bahn)

    I have been using Mason Line with a square knot for years. Used to splice the line, I don't do that anymore. Tie a square knot, wet the knot and pull it as tight as you can. With a small hammer or mallet. Pound around the knot while pulling the tag ends., You will need help here. This will make the knot smaller and tighter. Cut the tag ends off as close as you can. When dry, a drop of super glue will finish it. The knot does not hang up on the binding string if done like this. It works well for me.  (Tony Spezio)

    Try putting a spot of super glue on the knot you tie in your drive belt. Works like a charm.  (Ken Weymouth)

      Well, I'm a heretic, but I use large rubber bands which allows me to adjust the tension on my binder...

      You mileage may very...  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    If you Google "no knot line splice" there is a web site that shows how to splice Dacron with a sewing needle.

    As an aside, if you hang a spool and run it through your tensioners and then tie it to your handle with your spool, you have a continuous drive belt without the fuss of purchasing another spool.

    Hope that helps...but I am tying some spliced belts to send Reed anyway.  (Don Peet)

    I do my belts like Yaz described, and have been using the some belt forever. Before I pull the line back through the opening to complete the belt I put a small drop of super glue on the exposed end the pull it back into the braid. After that I sew it with regular tying thread and needle running the thread back and forth through the junction a few times. Haven't had one come apart, but after a while they get pretty worn and frayed. When I'm done wrapping I drop it into a jar of the 91% alcohol shake it up and let it soak while I  clean up the binder, etc. Then remove it from the jar dry it with some paper towel and its ready for next time. I bought the braided mason line at Home Depot. I've attached a link to the instructions, but if it doesn't get through you can just search "The Garrison Binder". It's a pdf file on tuning the binder, and has a section on making the drive belt.    (Floyd Burkett)

      THAT'S IT, FLOYD!!! 

      That's where I read about it!  I used the suggestions in the article (while I was at it) to tune up my binder and found them quite helpful.

      Thanks, Floyd!  (Steve Yasgur)


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