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I recently decided I needed to make a 6'4" one piece rod, so after 2 minutes of brain storming I decided I would make my first steel planing form. You might wonder why I didn't just opt for a wood one? Well first, where would the challenge be? Just kidding, kind of,  I really wanted to see  what it would take to build the steel one, plus if I decide to never make any more one-piece rods, I might be able to sell it for a few hundred bucks!

So after running around town yesterday picking up the steel, and hardware, I got up bright and early and started at it. I decided to use hot rolled steel so that I could skip the heat treating. My 1" X 1" bars are fairly straight to start with, but I ground, filed, and sanded the inner surfaces till they were perfectly square. I then marked out my 5" stations and proceeded to drill, countersink, and tap my 16 holes. I'm using 5/16"-18 X 1 1/2" socket head flat bolts for the pull screws and 5/16"-18 X 1" set screws for the push screws. (The socket head flat bolts are countersunk.)

After bolting up the two bars I can see the how much machining it's going to take to square up both planing surfaces. I think I will take them to a local machine shop on Monday and have them square up my form. Does anyone have experience doing this? How much did it cost you? Assuming that I can get the shop to square up my form, I will use the carboloy 60 degree lathe thread cutting tool that I bought at MSC for $6.   Part number is 72666241. I have built a tool holder out of scrap steel bar to hold the cutting bit. The depth is adjustable using two set screws. I hope I can get a decent groove with the cutting bit and a 60 degree file.

Advice to anyone who is interested:  to facilitate the drilling of your form while clamped together, buy screw machine bits from an industrial supplier. (these bits are considerably shorter than standard (jobber) bits and are made specifically for using on a drill press. Also make sure the bits you buy are for the proper size tap. F bit is for a 5/16 tap.

So far I'm enjoying the process of building this form. Most of my other rod making and building tools were made by me right in my rod shop. I would encourage everyone who has ever been frustrated because something you bought doesn't exactly meet your standards to just build your own. After all, if you want something done right.....you got to do it yourself!!!  (Jeff Fultz)

    What will you use to keep the bars in alignment?  I see no mention of dowel pins or shoulder bolts...

    Also, you might consider gluing a triangular file to a block of wood to cut the last few thousandths off the groove.  The lathe bit does a fine job, but will sometimes chatter and leave little ridges.

    I'm building a couple of extra sets of forms to use in teaching others to build rods.  If you have good luck with the machine shop, please let me know.  (Harry Boyd)

      I am using flat socket head bolts, the countersink and tight throat tolerances provide all the alignment I need. I like the idea about adhering a file to a block of wood, but instead I attached one to some scrap steel bar stock using JB Weld, I have used this same setup on my wood forms and to modify other "bought" steel forms.  (Jeff Fultz)

    I did take my forms to a machinist.  Unfortunately, our two ideas of flat were not compatible.  It turned out that his bed on the vertical mill was too short for my 6’ forms, and so he had to move the forms to get complete coverage.  The result was a swirly mess.  If that was all, it wouldn’t be too bad.  But when I brought them home, and started to file them to remove the swirls and ridges (thinking that they just needed a bit of cleaning up) I found that the inside edges (along the groove) were filing more than the outside edges.  So, the forms were high centered.

    So, you might want to figure out what kind of set up they have.  If they don’t have a long enough bed,  you might just throw your money away.  On the other hand, if you can find someone with a long be surface grinder, then that would be ideal, and worth the $80 to $100 it would take to grind both sides.  (Jason Swan)

      Thanks for the tips, I will be sure to discuss in depth with the machinist my idea of a flat surface. I wish I still had contacts with the depot level maintenance department on my old Navy base, I bet those guys could whip this out faster than a chicken chasin' a flea!!!  (Jeff Fultz)

    Prior to taking them to the machine shop, make sure that all the holes are "on center".  To do this place a straight edge or machinist square across both forms. Rotate the shoulder bolts @ each station 180 degrees and check to make sure that each form stays level with its twin.  If the  holes are the least bit "off center," one of the forms will rise. Placing the square @ a slight angle with the light behind will reveal more than you might like to know some times.  (Don Anderson)

      Thanks for the advice. I did, however, carefully set up my screw machine so that I would be drilling straight through both bars while they were clamped squarely together. I checked my alignment as you stated and found everything to be ship shape. I know that it's impossible to plane equilateral triangles if the holes are off. (although the finest tapered tips formed on a closed form would be fine. One would only have to use their imagination to come up with a decent filler to use on all those wide gaps in the rest of their rod. I regress. (Jeff Fultz)

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