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I'm putting together Smithwick binder and everything was going together fine and then got to putting in a tension control device and realized that my original thought of using a spring behind the thread spool and a wing nut, like I use in wrapping isn't going to work as well because I don't have support to keep the wing nut from unwinding itself. I was going to use that because I'm not a big fan of the two-disk thread compression device. Any other ideas on how to introduce tension on the spool? A photo or diagram would be real helpful.  (Bill Walters)

    Rather than using a wing nut that will unwind. Use 2 nuts one behind the other. Tightening one to the other will lock the tension without them unscrewing. It's a system I've used on my thread tensioners for rod wrapping for 25 years. Works just fine. You could use a nut for the inboard one next to the spring and a wing nut for the follower on the outboard end. That would make it easy to change tensions.  (Don Anderson)

    Sorry, don't have any pictures, but maybe a description will help.  I tapped the hole in the large pulley for mounting the thread spool and put a wing nut on the far side.  Tightening the wing nut will cause it to bind against the threads through the pulley so that it remains tight, yet the spool is free to turn.  So starting at the bolt head and going down the bolt holding the spool of thread is a washer, spring, washer, thread spool, washer, threading through the pulley, and wing nut.  I run my binder of a sewing machine motor so it can sometimes whiz right along, yet there are not problems with the bolt coming loose.  (Bill Lamberson)

    There is an easy fix.

    File a flat on the screw. Hit one side of the hole with a punch on a large area washer (fender washer) to upset the hole. File a flat in the upset hole to fit the flat on the screw. This is what I did to keep the wing nuts from turning on the wrapper I made. For tension on the spool, instead of using springs I used the 1" chair leg slides. Punched a 1/4" hole in the center to fit on the bobbin shaft.  (Tony Spezio)

    Go to a sewing machine repair shop and get some of those fancy washers and beehive springs that have the cross bar.  The cross bar is placed in a slit that you cut into the tensioner shaft.  Hard to describe but when you see the pieces you will understand.  The cross bars/shaft slit prevent the washer or spring from rotating and thus prevent the nut from rotating too.  (Chris Lucker)

      A sewing machine shop by my house had the whole tensioner. Had a box of used ones. Try that at a repair place.  (Dave Norling)


I am in the process of making a newly designed 4 string binder. I do have some questions about other binders.

1.  How do you get enough clamping pressure. I know that with  the Garrison style binder, the drive belt applies all of the clamping force. with the 4 string binder there is no drive belt, hence the question.

2. How much tension is needed to get the correct clamping pressure.

3. What  kind of binding thread do you use that can handle all of the pressure of the binding.  (Denny Dennis)

    I never figured you could get enough pressure with a four string, but that is just my own opinion.  Give me a Garrison binder anytime.  Just take time to tune it up.  (Ralph Moon)

    With a 4-string binder you don't need as much pressure as you might think, because it's multiplied by the effect of the 4 strings.  Its the same effect as wrapping a string around your finger for many turns, even without much tension the end effect is a lot of pressure.  The first wrap squeezes and the next wrap squeezes more.

    We did a survey a couple months ago and the majority of people use 1-2 LB of tension on each string.  Heavy cotton sewing thread or upholstery thread is very adequate.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

      Frank, this is the first time a four string binder has made sense.  I may even have to tinker some more.  (Ralph Moon)

    How long does it take to set up the four string binder. I would imagine that you have to set the spool tension the same for all spools. As opposed to setting it once for a one spool binder. I would think this would have to be done every time you build a different taper. Depending on the size of the tips, seams like the one spool binder may be faster in the long run. Besides Its fun to watch it go through twice!!!!  (Bill Tagye)

      15 minutes tops.  I used a spring scale that reads 1 LB then you run a piece of dowel through it as make sure it doesn't rotate or pull to one side.  And I haven't readjusted it since; just so the work keeps floating in the center.  I start the tips wide end first, and I don't bother to take off the tape.  (Jim Utzerath)

        I agree 100%.

        I had 4 string binder plans printed in one of the early Planing Forms and the Best Of Volume I  that is  easier to use than the Milward style -- essentially more finger room, so it is easier to adjust tension and actually remove the pieces of tape that want to come off easily.  If the tape doesn't want to come off, well, forget it.  Also, if a string breaks, forget it too because a twist will not happen for some reason.

        My binder has both disks facing the same direction as in a Dickerson, Powell or Winston binder.  (Chris Lucker)

      It takes me no longer than 2-3 minutes to set up for tips or for butts.  The same tension can be used for all tips within reason.  If you are building a 7 or 8 weight rod you can then use the tension weight that you would normally use for mids and butts.  However if you feel this is still too heavy you can easily make another weight that is between the butt and tip weight for your bigger tips.  I simply took empty vitamin bottles and filled them with nuts and bolts until I was happy with the tension.    I believe it was 10 oz. for butts and 5 oz. for tips, then marked them "Butts" and "Tips" so as never to confuse them, because you know how easily I am confused.  Anyway, what were we talking about?  Oh ya, then I put a hook on the top of them (those screw in hooks that you can put in your cupboards to hang mugs) for easy hook up to the thread.  I am a big proponent of 4 string binders because they tend to give less twists in my blanks.  (Robert Cristant)

      Biggest advantage to a 4-string is the time saved straightening twists.  If the tension is properly adjusted, the sections come out straight every time.  Plus the fact you don't risk chipping corners, especially on a quad.  (Tim Preusch)

        Even if you break one of the strings, you don't get a twist.

        Another advantage to having a 4 string binder is that it allows you to laminate, such as the Port Orford Cedar and bamboo laminations.  You cannot bind these together with a Crompton binder.  (Chris Lucker)

        Well, I guess the bottom line is, there is more than one way to skin a cat!!! I have seen the binder that Tom Smithwick built. Two pulleys and two brakes. It was the simplest design I have seen so far. And it work flawlessly. I am in the process of building a version of it now. Thanks Tom. I am going to try and make the pulleys out of a hard wood. I just love the look of wood. I'm almost done my first tip section. Next the butt. Slowly but surely.  (Bill Tagye)


Have any of you guys ever put a sewing machine motor on a 4 string binder?  I mean it's got a foot pedal and everything!  (Brian Creek)

    You do not need a foot pedal for a binder.  Just set the rpms at about 72 to 120 and let it rip.  If you look at my design (in the first volume of the Best of the Planing Form or in the second year of the Planing Form, I think)  you will see that I have the on-off located so that your knee can turn the thing on or off.  You will not vary the speed -- no need.  (Chris Lucker)

    The Preusch 4 String uses a sewing machine motor and foot pedal.  Works great.  (Scott Grady)

    I've got a four string binder and it has a sewing machine motor, with foot pedal. Works great.  (Dave LeClair)

    I have.  Works great.  (Tim Preusch)


Can anyone suggest a current  source for decent binder tensioners? Or, has anyone got a simple shop-made version?  (Karl Hube)

    I got a bunch a long time ago from Anglers Supply, and have picked up some from the local sewing machine repair shop. You can make a superior set easily enough if you have a lathe  and your local sewing machine repair shop will sell you some of those washer-type things with the smooth beveled faces that pinch the thread and some bee hive springs with the center wire.  The sewing machine "washers" or discs and the sewing machine bee hive springs have centered tangs or bars that fit into the vertical slot of the threaded body of the tensioning device so that they will not spin when thread is pulled.  This is important so you don't have the hassle of a pair of nuts locking against each other so that the tensioning device does not get tighter -- or looser -- as thread is pulled through.

    Did any of that make sense?  I think it is easier to just go buy some tensioners than describe the parts comprising a tensioner.  (Chris Lucker)

      Anglers Workshop has them. Made like a sewing machine tension device. Called Thread Tension Device. $6.95.  (Ray Gould)

    The binder tension device on my binder (I think it is the same binder Russ sells) is efficient and easy to make. It consists of (from top to bottom of device) a 1/4-20 nut, 1/4-20 x 3 brass bolt, brass washer (1/4"x 5/8), 2 each. 1/2 x 5/8 d cork rings, brass washer, spring, brass washer. It works well with no slipping or spinning.  (Doug Losey)

    Jeff Wagner sells them.  (Chad Wigham)

    Mine cost me about a $2 bucks a piece to make times 4 at the most.  They were are made out 1/4"X 20 bolts.  I tried using "finishing washers" as the tension mechanism and wasn't happy with the sensitivity on the the thread.  I got "Singer" brand washers (no interest) from a local machine repair shop and they were the same as the ones on the device I had previously purchased.   I  liked the washers because they worked better as far as tension distribution-(they were easier to adjust).   Call your local machine repair shop.  I got the springs from the same hardware store I bought the bolts.  If you have the machining capabilities, make the oversized nuts yourself, although regular 1/4X 20 nuts will work-but harder to adjust.  The things that I think are important to a 4 string binder are:

    1: How easy is it to adjust?  It's worth the time to avoid the "twist"

    2: How sensitive are the thread adjustment/tension devices?

    3: How easy is it to clean?   It's a time consuming thing I always forget about when your trying to straighten after binding.

    Check out Todd's site, look under "contraptions/binders" for a pic.  (Brian Smith)


I finished this binder just now. It has pulleys that are quite large. I tried available materials for the belt: firstly, a solid round rubber windscreen locking strip that was so thick/stiff it jumped out of the grooves. Then a hollow such strip that at first stretched and would not take the load. Then, shortened, the rubber broke apart around the superglued joint. Now I've just tried with a synthetic rope, but how do you adjust the bugger to the right length. There must be a better way. Any ideas please?  (Sean McSharry)

    You can buy lengths of O-ring (Neoprene or Buna, not Viton) stock in various diameters to suit your needs.  Cut the stock to a length that is shorter than that required to complete the loop by about an inch or two depending on the total length.  About an inch short for every two feet of length.  Cut the ends very square with a razor blade and glue together with super glue. If you've got a way to make a good scarf joint, that's even better.  Its working for me!  (Al Baldauski)

    Patrick Coffey posted a message a couple of months ago about round urethane drive belt material.  McMaster-Carr carries it in various diameters.  I think that Pat used the 1/8" material.  You can cut it to length and make any length belt you need.  (Robert Kope)

    I bought a length of yellow hollow urethane round belting 1/4" OD from McMaster-Carr and a packet of plastic connectors. It took me a little while to figure out how to insert the tiny connector into the tough urethane belting. I put the belting ends into boiling water and the connector slid in; and locked in place when the belting cooled. I cut the belting fairly tight on the pulleys and it works like a dream. Only problem is that McMaster ships using a courier, so the freight was four times the belting/connectors - to Sydney, Australia.  (Sean McSharry)


I have put up a few pictures of my rendition of the Smithwick string binder for your viewing pleasure.  Small ones, for low bandwidth folks, or for previews, can be found here:

Enders, Todd Binder 1

Enders, Todd Binder 2

Enders, Todd Binder 3

First one is a front view of the main chassis.  Second is an oblique top view that shows the binding thread spool holder and drag mechanism.   Third is the current working setup, oblique front view.  Using a C-clamp to hold the outfeed trough (I like to run mine so the rod passes right-to-left, being left handed  :-)  as a temporary measure, and since I'm not making any really long sections, haven't really needed the infeed extension.  Both extensions are 3' 1x2s. Tension arms are held on with bolts and wing nuts (wing nuts to the inside, to avoid knuckle-catching bits in the cranking path...  :-) .

Large (and in the case of the third image, really large  :-)  versions are available by removing the "small" bit from the links above.  A couple (slightly fuzzy, sorry) shots of the sort of results you can get with the binder are at:

Enders, Todd Results1 Enders, Todd Results2

These are small pics of a recently glued-up and bound tip and mid, respectively.  Probably a bit too small, as I look at them (I'll put better ones up tonight), but hopefully you can get an idea of how well it binds.  Also a bit difficult to see the first wrap on the mid, due to the thread being darkened by the resorcinol glue.

I would also be remiss if I didn't take a moment and thank Darrol Groth for his input and assistance in this project.  He's sent me a couple pictures of his, which was more or less the basis of my version (the lineage will be pretty obvious  :-) , and I'll be putting those up shortly for sake of comparison.  Also a tip of the cap to Tom Smithwick, for a neat, simple design that works pretty darn slick.  :-)

At any rate, hope these photos help anybody considering making one of these.  Would be happy to answer any and all questions, if I can.  If not, I'm sure there are folks here (Art, Darrol G, and even Tom himself) who probably could.  (Todd Enders)

    Looks great, in the process of building one myself.  Where did you get the pulleys from?   They seem to be the most difficult item to find.  (Pete Van Schaack)

      I have made several pulleys for binders on my lathe from maple  salvaged from  the top of an old maple dresser.  It can be done on a lathe. NO lathe!!!!!!, you can do it with a circle cutter and groove it on the drill press.  (Tony Spezio)

      Checked several local sources, hardware stores, farm supply, home improvement, etc.  Prices varied widely, from $7/ea. to $20+/ea. for the exact same pulley.  Pays to shop around.  :-)   In the end, I found a pair on the shelf at a farm supply store for $7/ea.  Guys that do furnace or laundry appliance repair may be another viable (and cheaper, if scrounged off old assemblies) source.

      I wouldn't go much smaller than 6" pulleys, either.   Mine are that size, and feel good in operation, but I think would get cramped if much smaller, plus the drive belt would tend to bunch up on smaller ones if one weren't careful in winding.  Bigger ones might be marginally smoother in operation, and cranking ease, etc., but they're more expensive as well. One could groove a couple wood rounds of 6" or larger diameter and they'd likely work nicely, too.  No access to a wood lathe?  OK, cut out four 6" circles of 1/4" plywood, and two 5 1/4" circles of 3/8" ply, use some glue and laminate the smaller one between a pair of the larger to form a pulley.  You could even drill/cut all manner of "lightening" holes in it.  :-)

      All kinds of alternatives, and you're not bound to the precise metal ones some of us have used.  Be creative!  Doesn't have to look exactly like the pics to work well.  Only really important thing to remember is to get the top of the cradle pin DEAD LEVEL with the bottom of the feed troughs.  I made mine somewhat adjustable in the vertical plane so I could set it precisely.  (Todd Enders)


Since my binder seems to be working well should I assume I have the tension set pretty well on the binding cord and the thread.  Since I haven't been able to find any locally I made my own thread tensioners from a spring and pieces of cork. Got the idea from the tips pages.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    If your binder seems to be working well.... STOP.  Don't mess with it.  (Harry Boyd)


I've read all the tips on Todd's site and also some of the other sites listed - so I'll try to keep my questions limited to what I can't find answers for in the archive's.

Binders.  I'm not mechanical by nature - that's why I like woodworking no moving parts - so I'm really struggling mentally with the concept of a binder.  Right now I'm thinking that I have so many other things to buy and jigs to build that I'll try binding by hand.  However, I really like to looks of and comments on the Smithwick binders on the tips site.  Does anyone have any plans or instructions for building one that are written for a mechanically inept person.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    There are two difficulties with binding glued up strips by hand.  It can be a messy job and it would be good if the tension were generally consistent all along the rod section.  Binders help with both the messiness and the tension.  That said, you certainly can bind by hand.  Nothing wrong with it. Mount a thread tensioner of some description to something stable and let it rip.  Shoot for keeping the rod the same distance from the tensioner as you wrap, obviously if you move closer to the tensioner without making up for it by the speed at which you turn the rod you will decrease the tension.  It might be worth a dry-run or two to get the hang of it.  If you are using an oven for heat treatment, binding the dry strips by hand will give you some experience.

    Some of the glues commonly used can be the devil to work with, particularly over the period of time hand binding might require.  It is common to wear rubber gloves when gluing.  The glue and the rubber gloves stick to everything except what you want to hold tight, like strips of masking tape. It can be cumbersome.  Again, might be worth a dry-run to understand what you are up against before gluing the rod up.  Its a lot of planing to lose with a sloppy glue job.  It is really just a matter of manual dexterity, so some practice helps.  (Russell Dabney)

    The first 10 rods I bind by hand, not difficult, so You should do  fine with out any binder.  (Danny Twang)

    Binders.  Easy to build using parts from the hardware stores.  For grooved wheels (directing the binding belt), I used screen door replacement wheels.  They are tracked and come in plastic or bronze.  The main dive wheel is a clothes line wheel (grooved for the clothes line) with a small handle attached to one of the "spokes" of the wheel.  I line the groove with rubber bands and that helps grip the binder belt when I turn it.  I basically used Garrison's binder plans for spacing and location of the various wheels/cogs (not exactly to scale, but to maintain the gist of Garrison's plans.  (Scott Turner)


I now have a 4-string binder and it seems to be an improvement over my old Garrison by a couple orders of magnitude, but... I am currently hand cranking it and my arm just isn't quite long enough to pull the blank and turn the crank. No, the wife doesn't want to make like a motor for me. I was thinking about getting a sewing machine motor and foot control to power it. Is anybody else using such a little motor for the task? Or, just what is being used?  (Larry Lohkamp)

    That is exactly what I use.  Just get a sewing machine with an external motor from the Goodwill store etc. You have to "gear it down" with an extra pulley so you don't spin the binder too fast.

    It takes a little concentration to use, because you are standing up moving your hands around  feeding the rod thru.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

      Mine rotates two larger wheels.  This slows it down quite a bit. This why I do not have to use a foot control.  (Tony Spezio)

    I am using a sewing machine motor with foot pedal and it works great. Took a bit of Goldberging but not too tough to do.  (Steve Shelton)

    Mine has a Sewing machine motor and a on and off switch. I used a foot control but decided I did not need it.  (Tony Spezio)

    WHAT? No one has came up with a binder with automatic feed?? A little math, a couple of gears, some string, hook, pulley, and several other things and Wah-la! Presto! Automatic feed with perfect thread spacing!!  (David Dziadosz)

      That is what we now need, "Perfect" thread spacing for glue up.  LOL!  (Tony Spezio)

      Heck, with a cheap compooter, Linux and EMC2 you could CNC that puppy.  (Mark Wendt)

    I thought that a sewing machine motor would work, but wanted to check. I didn't get one in the end. They used to be inexpensive on the auction site. Looking at rod building motors, there was only one available and it opened at $75. Even getting one under the intended use was nearly half the ridiculous $75. I ended up getting a fixed speed motor with a 9:1 speed reducer for less than the sewing motors. I like the auto feed idea.  (Larry Lohkamp)

      As a thought for others, I'd check with your local sewing machine repair service or watch the local newspaper and buy a used machine.  (Dave Burley)

    I also use a four string binder but with a fixed speed motor.  It needs to be a minimum of 1/10th horsepower and your reduced speed on the binding wheels wants to be between 100 and 200 rpm.   Mine is fixed at 200 rpm and it just a little too fast, I think. (Al Baldauski)

    Actually, I think Fred DeBell's old binder had an automatic feed, a wild contraption of pulleys, ropes and weights.  It was a 4 string. (Bob Nunley)


I am building a Garrison style binder, and was wondering what to utilize as binding thread as well as drive belt material?  Bellinger, Wagner, and Golden Witch want approximately $30 for binding thread, and Golden Witch sells drive belt material for $25.  Does craft stores or Walmart sell something suitable?  (Ron Delesky)

    Just about any sewing store and Wal-Mart as well handles Coats and Clark Cotton Quilting Thread. I have been using it for around 5 years now and it works well for binding.  (Will Price)

    I use the same thread that Wilmer said in his response, Coats and Clark Quilting Thread, cotton glace.  For drive belt material, I use 25-30 lb test braided fishing line.  In Wisconsin, it's Musky line or tip-up line used in the winter and is relatively cheap.  Some people also use masonry cord from the big box hardware stores like Home Depot, but my pulleys do not take that large of a diameter belt so I go smaller.  (Scott Bahn)

    I’ve been happy with old fly line as a drive belt.  Strip off the line to expose the braided core and tie your favorite knot to make the loop.  A drop of glue and you’re ready to go.

    Just in case, I have a couple of spares hanging near the binder.  So far I haven’t had a mishap.  (Lou Martin)

    I use the cotton thread from Golden Witch (the smaller one) for binding. I like using the kite string for the drive belt. Since I learned to tie a blood knot free hand, I like to use it, because it makes a small, strong knot that rolls around a fine tip just fine.  (David Dziadosz)

    I went to eBay and bought 1500 yards of dacron backing for 10 bucks. Good price, and you can make spliced belts with it or use it for endless belts.  (Don Peet)

    For the belt, I have been using Mason Line for the past 10 years. I was splicing the line but I now use a square knot since I modified my Garrison Binder. In the 10 years, I have replaced the belt four or five times.

    I have picked up a 1200 yd spool of Polyester thread that I use for binding on the Garrison. For my 4 string binder I use quilting thread from Walmart.  (Tony Spezio)


I've been binding by hand during glue up with reasonable success, none of my rods have yet had glue lines, but after a 3 piece 2 tip rod my hands and fingers are fatigued, no, knackered! Every time I resolve to make a binder. That time has come.

Does the multi-string (MS) type of binder typically use thinner string than the Garrison (G) type binders? I'm also wondering if the clamping or compressing power of the MS  is better or worse that the G type? I imagine the G type to be better in that respect since it has the drive cord with weight clamping it. However, the MS relies on the binding string to compress the strips and remove excess glue.

I also imagine the MS to induce far less twisting. What do you blokes think about these types of binders?

If I was ever to make a MS type I'd use hand power rather than electric power. Any help appreciated.   (Boris Gaspar)

    I saw a Garrison binder and thought it was pretty cool, and easy to build.  Then I saw the plans for Milward's  4 string machine and told myself that's the way to go.   It took me a few days to sort through the plans but after it all made sense, it was easy.  It's easier to set up, adjust and maintain.  I've watched guys (who swear by their Garrisons) fiddle with them for what seems like hours to get them running right before they bind.  Once the 4 string is set up it stays that way.  I use thread tensioners but I like Larry's idea about tensioning the spool.  All you need is any good grade cotton, hand quilting thread at about $ 1.25 US each and you're set for multiple sections.  No binding cords to mess with.  I've built about 6 of them at this point and am done for a while.  Try to find pulley wheels with a 1" hole thru to maximize the diameter of the rough blank you can pass and try to build it with the guides that lead the thread to the blank rotating as close to each other as possible-without touching each other obviously.  It will reduce the tip wobble (and stress) as you get to the very small end of the section.  Keep the drive pulley the same size as the binding pulleys-something smaller will have you soon spinning quickly out of control... Make it simple and don't go nuts trying to over-engineer it.  Smithwick's designs are also the simplest to make.  it's only a bamboo rod you're making... Todd has some pictures of a couple of the ones I made on his site with detail. (Brian Smith)

    I've looked hard and long at this subject and I've come to the conclusion that a 4 string is the way to go ... laid out that thing on some nice MDF even before I've finished my forms <G>

    Anyways ... here are some simple plans if you desire to do something along these lines.

    Edited to add Parts List...

    3 -6" x 1/2" Wood Wheels, turn a grove it them to receive the drive belt...

    2 - 7" x 1/8" Thread All

    4- - 1.25" Roller Wheels ( or like )...

    4 - 4" Bolts with Nylon Nuts and Felt Washers...

    4 - 4.5" Rod Tips or Brass Rods with guide and tip top...

    2 - 7' x 3/4" Conduit...

    2 - 2" x 8" x 16" Pine for feet...

    2 - 2" x 8" x 10" Pine for base of handle, or you can power it up with a little modification...


    You really should consider a 4-String Binder over the Garrison IMHO...

    Easy to make with readily available parts and you can turn your other parts in wood...

    Much easier to use and puts less twists in the cane...

    I can elaborate if interested...

    Take Care, Dave


    4 string is the way to go in my opinion, Steve Kiley


    Once you try one you won't ever go back, and you will wonder how you ever were able to work with the other!

    Joe  Arguello


    Light tension is the correct idea. I started with 100 grams on a spring tension tester, but now use a 4 oz. fishing weight. I have fewer problems with glue lines using 4 4oz strings than I did with a Garrison binder using a 1-1/2 pound weight.

    I am still using sewing machine string tensioners... mainly because I haven't finalized a spool tensioner design yet. String tensioners tend to be more erratic than spool tensioners. When the next blank gets to the point of needing binding, I will probably change tensioners. The string pull has gotten me by so far, but I'd like something less touchy and more consistent.

    Larry Lohkamp

    (Ron Hossack)


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