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Hardware - Guides

I dress the feet of the Snake Brand guides to a little less steep slope.  I wrap down the foot rather than up, and the shallower slope help keep things nice and tight.  Next time I get ready to order some Snake Brand guides, I'm thinking of asking Mike McCoy to make up a special batch just the way I like them.

To grind the slope, I use a Dremel tool with a fiberglass reinforced cutoff wheel, running at 30,000 rpm's.  Yes, I know that's fast.  And yes, you can mess things up in a hurry.  Then again, I can do a bag of 100 guides in  about 30 minutes.  I hold the guides in a small pin vice to keep my fingers a little farther from the spinning wheel.  One of the big advantages of the Snake Brand guides is that the feet are all very close to the same length, so no shortening is necessary.

After using the Dremel to establish the slope, I run the underside of each guide over a small diamond hone for a pass or two to get rid of any burrs.  Then I use a Cratex cone mounted on a mandrel in the lathe, turning about 100 rpm's to polish the guide slick as a whistle.  Yes, it is a little bit like ironing your underwear.  Chances are no one will ever see it, but I would know it's there.  And poor guides and wraps are the most common flaw turning aesthetically good rods into mediocre rods, in my opinion.  My wrap finishing still has lots of room for improvement, I admit.

Since I only use bronze guides these days, I then touch a Brown Sharpie or Pantone Marker to the places where I have removed the color.  After the marker dries for half an hour, I give it another coat.  Even under clear wraps, the feet show no evidence of grinding.

Just my way.   (Harry Boyd)


I dress my guides down with a 1" white aluminum oxide wheel that is mounted on a 1/8" shaft.  I pick up the stones for 89 cents at the local "General Store" here in town.  I chuck the shaft in my three jaw chuck attached to the lathe and run about 300 rpm.  The low speed allows for more control for me and does not seem to "burn" the feet as bad as at a higher speed.  The low speed also is gentler on my finger if I happen to get them in the way.

Remember to wear your safety glasses.  (Brad Love)


I have run across one interesting method for dressing guide feet. A rubber Cratex wheel with a half-round groove filed into it. The top of the guide foot is placed into the groove, it shapes the foot as you taper it, works quite well. About the only secret is choosing the correct texture of wheel, not to hard, not to soft. I see no reason why it would not work with a mounted alum oxide wheel, either.

Don't recall where I came across this.  (Larry Blan) 


I have done my research on stripping guides, and I am still confused.  I checked the archives, tips page, OEM web sites, etc., and I am still unable to figure this out... what type of stripping guide should I use?

I understand that agate/agatines are traditional and absolutely beautiful, and the Mildrum tungsten carbide rings look nice and seem to fit the bamboo style, but what about all the others?  SIC, Hialoy, Ceramic, Titanium, Carbide, Hardloy, Alconite... Wouldn't one of these other styles be an acceptable alternative to the agate/agatine or Mildrum style... List, please weight in!  I know I will hear that it only matters what I like, but I really want to know what others do and why.

I am sure some of you have read some of Charles Brooks works.  He was only interested in the function of the rod, and could care less about the looks.  He made his rods from glass blanks and used spinning rod guides for the strippers!  I probably fall somewhere between this and the strict traditional view.  (Kyle Druey)

    You guessed correctly.  In the end what matters is your preferences.  All any of us can do is share our own preferences with you.   I like the way agates look, but they are pretty delicate.  Since I intend my rods to be fished more than looked at, I only offer agates as an option.  I've had a couple broken, and replaced them with the heavier metal guides.

    Many of the Carboloy-Mildrum type guides look clunky to me.  REC sells several different styles, and the one I like best has the lightest wire of them all.  That's my personal favorite.  I use size 8 on 2-4 weights., size 10 on 5-6 weights., and size 12 on anything larger.  Though I haven't actually put these lightest style guides on the scale, I suspect that they weight 40%-60% less than the heavier Mildrum guides.

    I'm constantly amazed how heavy the metals we use on bamboo rods are. Sitting beside me right now are a couple of Payne 101 blanks, one with and one without ferrules.  The weight difference is astounding.  There simply must be something lighter than NS tubes that would do the job as well.  In the same way, those Mildrum-look guides are HEAVY.  A $2 Fuji guide would weight about 1/8th what they do.  Guess I ought to use Fuji guides, and reel seats too, if I'm all that concerned about it.  But I've got a lot of traditionalist in me.  Besides, a bamboo rod with a Fuji reel  seat  would  never  sell.  So  I'll  keep  using  the  lighter all-metal stripping guides REC sells.  (Harry Boyd)

    Mildrum made a variety of carboloy guides in different weights. The Mildrum SRMC is a good light stripper guide. The fly line shoots well and they are almost indestructible. The TiCH strippers from Golden Witch look good and work well. The agate/agatine guides were not used by the majority of makers. The agatine ones are a good deal tougher. A trap that many makers fall into in the early part of the learning curve is to use the fanciest and/or most expensive findings on their rods, I think in a attempt to make the 'clothes make the man' kind of thing. Use decent stuff that is not overpriced and is geared toward performance. This applies to guides, reel seats, cork, rod tubes. It unfortunately does not extend to ferrules as of yet as the aluminum or brass ferrules are not acceptable and compromise too much in reliability. Try to get past the '20 rod hump' and finish the first 100. The components are not what makes a rod worth a damn.

    As far as tradition goes, you would have to define whose tradition you are talking about. You can be comfortable at the Granger or Heddon level, about the same as the Leonard and better than the Garrison, not as good as the Payne.   (AJ Thramer)

    I like Agate/Agatine, Tungsten Carbide and Chromed SS casting rod guides on Bamboo. Anything else belongs on graphite.  All in 7 mm - 10 mm (especially for Agate/Agatine) for any size rod. There is no need to go larger. I believe the size of the stripping guide plays very little importance on distance casting. Smaller guides look better on Bamboo. Now of course this is just my opinion!  (Marty DeSapio)

    Well, the key word here is "acceptable."  They will all work (IE., function) equally well, although I'm told that the ceramic insert type has the toughest ring.  That said, one has to wonder just how durable a ring needs to be for an ordinary flyrod.

    If you are double-hauling on a regular basis, using the same rod repeatedly, and frequently playing large steelhead, then I suppose the question would be relevant.  Otherwise, the issue of durability seems a bit on the silly side, as all the stripping guides you mention are just fine.  Moreover, because you are a builder, if a particular stripping guide doesn't perform as you might have hoped, you can always replace it.

    Perhaps a more important question ought to be one of ring size rather than ring composition.  If you shoot line (whether hauling or not), then a ring size of 10 mm or larger seems preferable.  I would say that the scale (or proportion) of the guide to the size of the rod would be important too, but that's an issue of aesthetics.  And, as you don't seem to mind much what type of guide you use, the question of scale might not matter to you either.

    So, although you didn't want to hear this, you might as well simply follow your personal preference.  For myself, I guess I'm a bit of a "traditionalist,"  so, thanks to a lot of great assistance from Tom Ausfeld, I am soon going to be making my own agate guides.  (Bill Harms)

    Sorry, but I'm going to give you much of the same, use what you want.  After all, its your rod!

    FWIW, I use agate, because I like the looks.  I make them myself, because I'm insane.  (Tom Ausfeld)

    You may not be looking for this answer , but it really does boil down to what you personally like in a  striper for your  bamboo rod. Every stripper in the world will probably work on the rod, so you're confronted with the decision of what you want the rod to look and function like. For me, I want my rods to look traditional. All of the traditional strippers, be they agate, or a Mildrum, or whatever, should work great. I'd never consider a single foot ceramic stripper guide on any bamboo rod I'll ever build, no matter how good they may function but others may feel different. Maybe a better question to pose to yourself is, why wouldn't I use a traditional stripper on a bamboo rod. It's the same reason I use silk for my wraps. Not that it's better, but it's traditional, and yes I can tell the difference from silk and nylon, contrary to what Milward thinks. I'd also think that 90 percent of the rest of us could also!  (Jim Bureau)


What' the reliability/longevity of using a nickel silver (18%) ring in the stripper guide??  (Tom Ausfeld)

    I had a 1930's vintage rod that had an all NS stripping guide. The rod had seen a lot of use and there was line wear evident in the guide... a wide, shallow groove pointing toward the line hand. Dropping a greased silk line in fine sand a few times would probably cut this deeply.  (Reed Curry)

      So, you're saying that after 70 years of fishing, a shallow groove??  That seems pretty good to me.  (Tom Ausfeld)

        I'm just narrating an experience. I can't say that the rod had 70 years of fishing (it might have rested in a closet for forty years) but that it was from the '30s and had been fished hard at some time. Given that it hailed from the silk line period, I am attributing the wear to the silk line and its propensity to pick up abrasive particles when improperly used. PVC lines are considerably softer, are not greased, and thus are less likely to  wear guides  (I can't believe I'm saying this). I, personally, would not use NS stripper guides on any but a trout rod.  (Reed Curry)

    The life of the NS stripper ring can be measures in minutes with a shooting head system.  (AJ Thramer)

    Nickel Silver wouldn't last very long without grooving. It isn't hard enough.  (Dave LeClair)


I'm building my first rod and would like to know how many and what size guides I should use. The Rod is a Dickerson 7012, that's a delicate 7' 4 wt in which I'll be in pursuit of heavy trout using small dries and maybe a small wooley in a pinch. (Mark Pohl)

    I like my guides on the small size.  I'd use 3 size 1/0's, 2 size 1's, 2 size 2's plus a stripping guide and a tiptop.  (Harry Boyd)

      Hmmm, I like guides even smaller on light rods.

      2 -- 2/0,  2 -- 1/0,  2 -- 1,  1 -- 2,  Stripper   - or -  3 -- 2/0,  2 -- 1/0, 1 -- 1, 1 -- 2, Stripper.

      It depends upon the taper used.  (Martin-Darrell)


How durable are agate & agatine strippers?  (Mark Pohl)

    They hold up just fine until you drop the rod and the stripper hits something hard, then they immediately turn into the best line shedder there ever was. I'm still trying to figure out why anyone would put one on a rod they intended to fish. I have one customer at the moment who insists on having me put an agate stripper on his rod , I told him that he would not only have to buy the first one, but also the next one and the one after that and........(John Channer)

    The chances of dropping a rod and cracking the agate are minimal. I just picked up a  1920's  7 1/2' FE Thomas that needs a complete redo from years of fishing (wraps just disintegrate) but the original agate guide is perfect. If you like agate use it!  (Marty DeSapio)

    Being a newcomer to rodbuilding (one so far), I've been led to believe that agate was the "only" way to go for stripping guides on bamboo rods. Please enlighten me (and other lurkers) as to some alternative substitutes.  (Kevin Erk)

      There are lots of other alternatives. Most any unbraced casting guide will do fine. Anglers Workshop and REC both have Mildrum guides, I believe Anglers also has some Mildrum SRMC's left, they have a finer ring and weigh less than the standard Mildrum, many of the rodbuilding suppliers have the same type of casting guides made by both Perfection and Pacific Bay. My personal stripper du jour is the Pac Bay 8 mm casting guide in the titanium carbide finish, it turns a very nice black when varnished over. BUT!!!!!!!!, all this is a very personal kinda thing, you use whatever you find that turns you on, far be it for me to say what is right or wrong, I only know what I like and what makes sense to me.  (John Channer)

      Mildrum stripper guides. There are several types from which to choose. (Martin-Darrell)

      You have been led to believe by purveyors of the agate guides no doubt. Most rods were built with a casting type of stripping guide anyway. If there is a choice between agate or 'agatine' , take the agatine as they are more durable. The PacBay TiCh guides look good and work well and have the added benefit of being reasonably priced. The Mildrum SRMC carboloy guides are a top notch strip guide. The PacBay ones are a bit heavy and the frames are too high for my taste but they function well. Chromed boat guides are correct for a rod that will have chrome guides. On light rods I have used the Pac Bay TiCh unbraced spinning guide in 8 mm and they work well. I have noticed that most beginner rodmakers seem to NEED an agate guide for some reason.  (AJ Thramer)

    I've used agatine extensively, and have taken some really photogenic spills in places like 11 Mile and Cheeseman canyons on the South Platte.  Haven't broken a guide yet.  (Now I'm jinxed and will probably blow one out putting it in the tube!)

    I think they are great, but on the small size.  (Brian Creek)

      All I can say is, something breaks the darn things. I've refinished approximately 2 dozen old rods with agate or  agatine guides and all but one was broken. The chance is there and likely, why take it? Maybe I fall down more than most, I usually fish the San Juan, which is  slicker than snot  (here's a tip for  any first time visitors to the Juan, DON'T step on flat rocks under water, stay on the cobbles!), I've managed to break 2 tips there in 6 years, have dropped my rod several times in the mountains scrambling around in the brush trying to work my way upstream and have bent more than one snake guide in the process. Hey, you guys use what you want, I'll stick to PacBay TiCh casting guides for my strippers, I know they can take whatever I can dish out. JMHO  (John Channer)

    My experience with hundreds of vintage rods with agate/agatine guides is there very durable, it's a very rare case they need more then a good cleaning. Nothing dress a rod like top end hardware, so if aesthetics are important to  you a agate stripper is very nice.

    The Mildrums are probably more durable in the long run and 25% the cost of agate, on a hard fishing rod they probably are more practical since...

    On a side note you can get Mildrum Guides at Rick's Rods at 20% to 30% off everyone else price out there and they have all the styles...(Dave Collyer)

      I must bow to experience, the few dozen old things I have seen pale in comparison to the numbers that have passed thru your hands. I must just have the misfortune to get all the ones whose agate guides haven't faired so well. I still think they are a complete waste of time and money, but to each his own.  (John Channer)

    I've fly fished for 60+ years and I've never cracked an agate guide - of course I probably will the next time out. I've also seen many old rods with agate guides where the only undamaged thing was the agate stripper - so if you don't mind the cost, use 'em,   (Hank Woolman)


I'm using black guides and after dressing them wanted to restore the black finish.  I used a permanent marker and became paranoid when most of it came off when wiping with alcohol.  I don't want to put something on that bleeds into the wrap when I put the finish on.  What do you guys use??  (Dennis Aebersold)

    If you have a darkening agent such as the Payne blue, or brass black, try that.  I've found you can heat the ends of the feet red hot over an alcohol lamp, it'll darken the metal and remove the sheen too.  Or use only dark silk colors!  (Rob Hoffhines)

      Rob has the right idea. If you can get some cold blue solution, Brownell's 44-40 or Oxpho-Blue, Birchwood-Casey, etc., that should do the trick well enough to give you a dark surface, IF you have removed the chrome, which you probably have if you've filed them, BUT if you've accidentally removed only the black, then you have a problem.

      Spend the bucks and buy Snake Brand guides. You shouldn't have to file them but on rare occasion, and then not much.  (Martin-Darrell)

    Do any wiping with alcohol before you use the magic marker on them. Varnish won't make the marker bleed into the wraps, the solvents varnish has in it won't dissolve the solvent in the marker.  (John Channer)

    Why not file them on the bottom side, the side that will be against the cane? Then you won't have to blacken them.  (Dick Fuhrman)

      Easier solution, just use Snake Brand guides.  The feet are dressed before the guides are plated and you don't have to dress them.  I'm a Snake Brand addict, and will use NOTHING else!  (Bob Nunley)

    I had the same problem a few years ago after dressing the black guides, then using a permanent marker to reblacken the feet and yes they did bleed thru the wraps when I applied the spar...

    Quick fix: Scribble black permanent marker in a small area on a small metal paint lid, apply clear lacquer with a touchup brush to the permanent marker area. Apply to the dressed area on the feet, makes a nice translucent black that dries quick and spar will not touch it...

    You could just use black lacquer paint, but the clear has many other uses in finishing out a rod and is handy to have around. You can get small 1 oz bottles of lacquer at your local hobby shop for a few bucks. Remember: you can put oil based over lacquer, but never put lacquer over oil based...

    I agree the Snake Brand are very nice and easy and worth the money, but sometimes you have to work with what you got.  (Dave Collyer)

    Acrylic artists paint thinned down a little  with water.  You get it at almost any craft store for a buck or so a bottle in any color.  Probably won't work well with water based Color Preserver (ugh); other solvent systems including epoxy don't seem to affect it.

    You can also try to match the color of the blank.  I've done it with green graphite.  (Jim Utzerath)


I'm using black guides and after dressing them wanted to restore the black finish.  I used a permanent marker and became paranoid when most of it came off when wiping with alcohol.  I don't want to put something on that bleeds into the wrap when I put the finish on.  What do you guys use??  Please???  (Dennis Aebersold)

    Acrylic artists paint thinned down a little  with water.  You get it at almost any craft store for a buck or so a bottle in any color.  Probably won't work well with water based CP (ugh); other solvent systems including epoxy don't seem to affect it.

    You can also try to match the color of the blank.  I've done it with green graphite.  (Jim Utzerath)


Thought I'd try wrapping with a translucent tan and really liked it, except for the fact that the guide feet had just been filed off down to bare metal and when the varnish was applied to the thread you could see the bright metal feet through the translucent thread. That part really looked bad. So, I took the wraps off and painted the guide feet with a magic marker and rewrapped and varnished. I need some suggestions on what to color the feet black with that won't bleed through the varnish like "permanent black magic marker" did.  (Don Greife)

    If you're using Snake Brand guides, you can blacken them with Brass Black, or probably any other bluing agent.  (John Channer)

    After I have filed the feet of my guides I stick them all to a strip of masking tape.  Then, with a Q-Tip slightly wetted in bluing solution, I dab each foot.  This seems to work well for me, but you need to be careful not to apply so much bluing that liquid is left standing on the metal.  Wipe the "wetness" away with the corner of a paper towel, and if need be, redo with a less moist application.

    Before mounting the guides on the cane blank, burnish the dried bluing a little by "scuffing" across the feet with a paper towel.  This all goes very quickly and is virtually trouble-free.  (Bill Harms)


I'm finishing a rod and as part of the ritual, took it out to "test fish" it.  It hadn't cast quite as I'd hoped and I couldn't understand what was wrong.

As I fished I noticed that the rod seemed out of balance.  I found I was holding on real tight to the grip.  It wanted to twist to the right. 

Any guess what was wrong?

The guides were off by one flat.  I wasn't casting on the spline!   Came home and moved the guides around to the next side and it worked a heck of a lot better.  I'll try it out on the water next weekend. (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    This rod was a pain in the ass from the very beginning.   I was making it for a friend, with no time limit so it got set aside several time.

    The day I was going to test cast it was so humid that the masking tape didn't want to stick.   After I tape the guides on a rod I always string a line and put a bow in the rod, looking for places where the bow is extreme between guides. (I've found that the rod will cast better if I do this.)   After I check and adjust the guide placement I usually test cast the rod in my drive way.   This I did between rain squalls.  

    When I checked the mid section later, the spline seemed to be between two flats, but the anti-spline seemed to be on a flat.   Usually I don't seem much of a spline in bamboo, unless I'm working with a rod that's got a fishing set or something.   This section looked. 

    My guess is, when I taped the guides I was having so much trouble that I got off one flat at that point. 

    I could tell the rod wasn't right, when I test cast it.   But it took me some time to figure out what was wrong.  The way I finally figured it out was to hold the rod ABOVE the handle and cast it.  I could feel the butt trying to turn under my hand,  something I couldn't really feel on the grip. (Terry Kirkpatrick)


I still dress the "toes" on Snake Brand if I am making a new rod and using 3/0, it goes up the foot better is it is tapered more, no problem with them as is with 2/0. I use a point file.  (John Channer)

    I have run across one interesting method. A rubber Cratex wheel with a half-round groove filed into it. The top of the guide foot is placed into the groove, it shapes the foot as you taper it, works quite well. About the only secret is choosing the correct texture of wheel, not to hard, not to soft. I see no reason why it would not work with a mounted alum oxide wheel, either. Don't recall where I came across this.  (Larry Blan)

      My preferred method is to use Snake Brand guides. You don’t have to dress them they are right out of the package.  (Dave Norling)

      It was Carl O'Connor's idea to use the diamond wheel to make a groove to shape guide feet.  (Ted Knott)


I suspect that I am guilty of  undersizing  guides  rather  than oversizing.  For me the smaller guides look better although, with a plastic line, they may impede performance.

I've been making 4 and 5 weight rods and tend to start with a couple 1/0 guides at the tip with the last snake being a #3.  The agate stripper, normally is a 9 mm.

I am curious as to how the rest of you approach how to select what size agates and guides you use.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    I just use what seems right to me!  For me this is an 8 mm stripper/butt ring on rods say less than 7' and say 10 mm for rods between 7 and 8'6".  (Paul Blakley)

    That is as large as I use for rods up to seven weight, although I may use a #10 stripper on the six and seven weights.  I typically use 2 to 2/0 on four weight rods.  You may recall the performance of my rod that Troy Miller used for the first casting demos at the SRG, it seemed to perform OK.

    Tom Morgan has the following on his Web page regarding their graphite rods:

    One aspect of our rod design that makes them different from most other rods currently on the market is the snake guide size. If you compare our rods to others the guides seem small, and perhaps, too small to let the line pass through easily. The common misconception is that the bigger the guides the better the line flows through them and the farther you can cast. I have wrapped identical rods with small guides and large guides and found just the opposite to be true. Apparently, the larger guides allow the line to slap around the rod too much and actually they reduce the shooting ability of the line. Another aspect often overlooked, particularly on rods like ours with delicate and supple tips, is that the larger guides weight the tip of the rods excessively and entirely destroy their subtle action. Trust me, our guides are of adequate size and the smaller and lighter guides are one of the things that make our rods feel so great.  (Bill Lamberson)

      I agree with Tom on the snakes - no gain in oversizing and you can see the line following the blank better with smaller guides.  On the stripper, I have definitely seen the opposite in action.  I made identical 8013s except one had a size 10 Mildrum (about 8.5 MM inside ring) and one had a size 10 agate (about 4.5 MM inside ring) and the Mildrum rod totally destroys the other on shooting line and there are no negative aspects.  The agate is coming off.

      I'm not sure exactly where the  crossover point  is for  strippers, but 4.5 MM inside is too small for a 5.  (Jerry Madigan)

      One thing the graphite guys have capably demonstrated is that guide placement is more important than is guide size. For all it matters, the smallest guides to be used on a rod could also be used for all of the guides, beginning right after the stripper guide. That is, an 8mm stripper followed by 2/0 for the entire cadre of guides. Of course, this looks odd, and I don’t think anyone would do it,  nor  would buy  it, but . . . . Hard to believe, but a 2/0 has ample room through which a 9 wt. line to pass.

      It really depends upon the taper and the rod type, but I'll predominantly use 2/0 - 2 with a 9 mm - 10.5 mm stripper for rods up to 5 wt, changing to 1/0 - 3 with a 10.5 mm - 12 mm stripper on 6 wt, and going up, again depending. Larger rods are another matter altogether.  (Martin-Darrell)

    Usually, size 8 mm stripper (i.d.) and snakes from 2 to 2/0. I don't make anything bigger than 8' 5 wts, at least not yet, and these sizes seem plenty big enough to me. I know Jim Freeman will jump my case about it, but I don't care for those 10 mm stripper that weigh an ounce per mm.  (John Channer)

    I do not believe you are undersizing your guides.  What you describe sounds just fine to me.  The only change I would want to make is one that seems not to be possible -- given the present availability of hardware.  I would like to use a 10 mm agate ring mounted in a frame size meant for an 8 mm ring.  To my eye, all presently available striper guides are much larger and clunkier than need be.  We need the larger diameter ring, but certainly not that damn huge frame.  (Bill Harms)

    Quoting from the Cattanach bible he recommends one 0, two 1s, three 2s, and one 3 on 6-7' rods, then add additional 3s after that for longer rods. For strippers he uses Mildrums in #8 for 2-3 wt, #10 for 4-5 wt, and #12 for 6 wt.  (Larry Puckett)


Dave Rinker talked about arbors and cups he uses for making agate stripper guides, does anyone have anymore info on "arbor and cups". And, pertaining to the same subject of making agate guides, being a second generation jeweler, I have tons, (well lots of pounds),  of agate, onyx, obsidian etc. so I might as well put it to some use. I understand how to core out the agate, but am  a bit confused on the method of bringing the ring down to the correct OD Dave says he does this on his lathe. Can anyone clear this up?  (Mark Bolan)

    What you need to do is fabricate a NS ring of the appropriate diameter and width, then "crimp or turn" on edge on a dapping block. Then, insert the stone, turn the open edge on the dapping block or crimp using methods or power tools used on any bezel. I'd solder the ring to the frame before I inserted the stone. Make sure that the NS for the ring is dead soft.  (John Zimny)

    I recently asked a similar question a few months ago and got mixed replies. I have got all the equipment to make the stripper guides but just haven't got around to it yet. From the research I have done from the archives/list the best way is to solder the NS strip, annealing it to make it soft, then use a bezeling tool to curl the NS around the agate ring. Dave Rinker has another way with two brass 1/2 cups in which you place the agate ring (with the NS around it) in the cup and tapping the two cups together to curl the NS around. ( this is how I interpret the instructions, could be wrong). Golden Witch has a secret way of doing it as well but you or I will never know.

    As I have not tried either of these methods I can’t tell you which is best. Tom Ausfeld makes his own guides and is writing a how to for Power Fibers, but I don’t know when that will be published.  (Andrew Chan)

      Just a couple of insights on agate guides.  I use two sized core drill to create the basic agate ring.  I shape the ring with a diamond burr on the inside of the ring and just round off the outside with a diamond stone. The remaining polishing inside and out is done with wooden shaped arbors covered with diamond pastes.  I create a mandrel the size of the bezel with a slot cut into it which I use to cut multiple bezels with pre made nickel silver bezel wire. I have a milling vise on the lathe that I mount the mandrels on. I slice them with my ferrule tab jeweler saw 2" in diameter. It eliminates the hassle of hand measuring each bezel.  I use soft jeweler's solder on the bezel.  The bezel is pressed into the stone and mounted carefully on a inside lapping tool, which happens to fit well.  Carefully tighten I've cracked a few agates at this point.  Mount the lapping tool in the lathe and press the bezel down with a U shaped bezel pusher.  I buff out the bezel and solder with Stay Bright to a frame.  The melting point is low enough to not fracture the agate.  If the guide is left plain I just buff it and the solder is not a problem.  If I blacken it I first electro less plate the guide with nickel and use a blackener from Caswells. I have a problem with then solder not blackening well and this easy plating method solves the problem.  (David Rinker)


What is the guides You folks prefer? I've mostly used Pac Bay on my rods since they are easy to get here. I've also used some of Snake Brand, and are great. But what about the Perfection, they used to be the choice of the classic makers, or H&H from UK?  (Danny Twang)

    Snake Brand for me.  I like the color of the bronze snakes, their shape, and the preparation of the feet.  In occasional slight bending of a foot is the only preparation required before wrapping.  The McCoy's are nice folks also.  (Bill Lamberson)

    Perfection guides are great, the most classic of shapes, but you can only get them in chrome now, not black anymore that I know of.  I'll never use H&H again.  I bought some of the black DLC guides @ 3.00 a pop and the DLC started chipping off the guides the first time I cast the rod.  They did offer to replace them, but who wants to rewrap a rod you just spent hours finishing.  I later found out found a friend who does high end plastic rods had the same problem with the H&H guides.  (Mark Petrie)

      I have tried all Guides even guides by Tom Moran, and I would say that Snake Brand and  Tom Moran Guides are the best on the market. I do have Tom Moran guide sets and Snake Brand Guides for sale. If interested any purchasing any guides email me.  I also have agate guides and Mildrum stripping guides.  (Dave Henney)

    I've used both the Pac Bay and the Snake brand. I like both of them better than H&H. The Pac Bay were their black finish and looked nice on a refurbished rod. They are made of a thicker wire than the Snake Brand and so they look a bit more like the originals. However, I think that the Snake Brand guides are the easiest to work with of any guide I've used.  (Doug Easton)


How do I basically size the guides?  For example:  2/0 next to the tip then progressively larger down to the stripper? 

A basic idea?  (John Silveira)

    Cattanach says:

    One 0, two 1s, three 2s, and the rest 3s. For 2-3 wt rods he uses size 8 stripper, 4-5 wt rods size 10 stripper, 6 wt use size 12.  (Larry Puckett)

    If you are using Mildrum, Perfection or Pac Bay unbraced casting guide type stripper, the weight takes a quantum leap from size 8 to 10, the 10's seem like they weigh a pound apiece.  (John Channer)


I've been using Snake Brand guides and tip tops but the tip tops seem to have a problem with the finish.  Looks like it comes off a little after heating when installing with Ferrule-Tite and/or when protecting it with masking tape when dipping.  Is anyone else experiencing the same problems and if so how are you dealing with it?  (Tim Wilhelm)

    The first time I heated a SB tip top to attach with Ferrule-Tite the black finish came off so I now install with epoxy and when I dip, I coat the tip top too so the finish will last.  (Chad Wigham)

      Hmm, so how does the finish last on the guides, I presume they are the same as the tip tops...?  (Danny Twang)

        The bronze finish on the guides holds up quite well, much more durable than the tiptops.  I've been using the bronze guides for several years and have had no wear problems.  Of course, to tell the whole truth, I only have two rods on hand with those guides, and both were made in 2002.  All the other rods on which I've used Snake Brand Guides belong to new owners.  (Harry Boyd)

        The guides aren't coated. Have heard Snake Brand is going to make a bronze tip top also.  (Chad Wigham)

      Been real curious about this myself. Have had "blackened" guides shed their finish in a couple of hours.

      Anybody have any idea how long Snake Guides last? From experience, Perfection’s hard chromes last about twice as long as Pac Bag hard chromes. H&H seem to last well for others - my experience is limited.

      The Pac Bay Titanium guides won't loose the finish as it is a coating. According to my grinder, it's tough too. Takes a while to get through the finish.  (Don Anderson)

    I spoke with Mike from Snake Brand about the black finish problem, shortly after SRG and a few guys there mentioned the finish ware problem on the black tip tops. He's working on a new plating process that's much more durable, probably has it on line by now...

    He mentioned that he sure would like to hear from those that are having problems so he can make it right as he has not had much feedback on the problem.  (Dave Collyer)

    I've nothing to say but good things about Mike McCoy. He doesn't at all mind if you call and give him feedback, whether positive or negative. He's always interested in improving his product, and goes out of his way to make things right. Beside the fact that he makes the best guides out there, bar none,  I'd buy from only him, regardless, just 'cause he's a nice guy and he really tries to do things right.  (Martin-Darrell)


I am wondering what different types of lengths some of you file your guide feed down to.  This is not something I could find in the archives with a brief search and thought it might be interesting.  Wayne suggests a 5/32" length in his book stating that longer lengths will tend to pull wraps apart.   Has anyone experienced this?  How long is too long?  How short is too short?   (Carl DiNardo)

    I do not measure my guide feet, but I go by proportion. I lop off almost (but not quite) the entire tapered portion of the foot with a nippers, then regrind a taper using a small grinding tool in a Dremel. This is on Pacific Bay guides. Snake brand I am less sure about. I made one rod with snake guides, and recall trimming them just a bit,  but many makers use them as is with no touchup.

    The guide foot may vary in length, but my wrap does not. 23 turns except on the stripper, which gets as much thread as needed to cover the entire foot. Howells calls this "the spare minimalist look".

    By the way, I tried not trimming the guide feet on one rod, and it just didn't look right. I ended up cutting off the wraps and trimming the feet.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I use Snake Brand Guides almost exclusively.  One reason is that the feet are very close to the same length when you receive the guides.  I don't shorten the guides at all, but do grind a little more shallow taper to the foot.  Each size guide ends up with different sized feet.  I make sure all my wraps on size 2/0 are the same length, same for 1/0, 1, 2, etc...

    I do shorten the feet of stripping guides some.  Just guessing, I'd say I shorten them to 5/16" or 3/8".  (Harry Boyd)


What is the proper size tip top for the 7’ Sir D (.068 tip).  Looking at Snake Brand and everything seems to be in mm and I don't remember my conversions.  (John Freedy)

    The sizes aren't in mm, they're actually in 64ths.  In your case, .068" works out pretty close to a 4.5 tip top, which is .070".  (Mark Wendt)

    Be aware though that unless you want to shave down the apexes you have to measure apex to apex, not flat to flat. Fitting a winding check you have to measure apex to apex unless you get a hexagonal winding check.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      The geometry works out that the apex-apex measure equals roughly 1.15 times the flat-flat measure. For tip-tops I try to stay somewhere in between. For example:

      Flat-Flat = .070 x 64 = 4.48/64ths

      Apex-apex = .070 x 1.15 = .080 x 64 = 5.15/64ths

      So you could use either 4.5/64ths or 5/64ths. I'd probably go with 5/64ths  so  I  wouldn't  have  to sand off  as much of the apexes.  A 4.5/64ths tip-top would work fine too.  (Tom Bowden)


I am wondering about what choices I have when it comes to refinishing the feet of snake guides after I have dressed them. Specifically the feet on the titanium  oxide black finish snake guides. Will a standard bluing compound work of is there a better option.   (Mike Maero)

    I touch mine up with the appropriate colored art marker, black  or dark blue in this case.   (Timothy Troester)

    Anyone have any experience with plated strippers?  Do they take a bluing, or is that a waste of time since it will wear off?  (Greg Kuntz)

      If you use a black marker pen ( I do and it works fine) make sure that it is a water based solution. If the base is one of the volatile fluids there is a good chance that it will bleed into the varnish when you apply it. Most water based markers set out this information on the pen but if in doubt water based marker pens do not have any smell whereas the pens with a volatile base usually have a chemical smell.  (Ian Kearney)

    I've used a black permanent marker, followed by a seal coat of lacquer.  (Ted Knott)

    I use my bluing solution on my guide feet and don't have to coat it before wrapping the guide.  Someone else asked in   reply to this if bluing solutions would work on plated guides.  No, not any that I've found, including mine.  (Bob Nunley)


Trout season opens in Minnesota on January 1. While there is no final solution to frozen guides I have made a couple winter rods by making and using #5 snake guides out of titanium wire and cutting the number of guides on the tip to 4. using the # 5 guides all the way and making my own tip guide with the same wire with the loop big enough to put a lead pencil through. I don't use a stripper either I use a snake there also. When the build up of ice is too bad I hold the rod in the water till the guides thaw out.

Patience here is necessary but then that is a given if you can fish and have any kind of line control with mittens on. 

A sense of humor doesn't hurt either.  (Dave Norling)


Of those of you who have or have tried the Golden Witch Snake Guide Maker what are your opinions on it's performance and is it worth buying a set? Annnnnnnnnnnnnnd is it essential that you get the Flat Foot Tool set to go with it?  (Paul Blakley)

    I've had fair-to-middlin' luck with the snake guide maker.  Perhaps I just haven't fooled around with it enough to get really familiar with the process.  I tend to get a tighter set of turns on one end than the other, and haven't quite been able to lick that wrinkle.  Also, it takes more than a little practice before you can turn out various sizes of guides that are absolutely uniform in the length of their twists.  It's an ingenious and simple little device, but like any device, it requires technique.

    On the positive side, you can use any type of wire you like and have a really hard surface.  I bought a few sizes of piano wire through a local music store.  And, yes, you definitely need a foot flattener.  I bought the full set about 7 years ago, but the plate (or "anvil") on the flattener is not a really hard steel, and I noticed after banging out a few guide feet that the plate was becoming indented from the hard wire.  Now, I don't know if Dave LeClair has changed materials or not since then, but you might inquire about that.  (Bill Harms)

    I have the set and like it a lot, I can make nice tight loops. I don't have the flat foot tool, as Golden Witch was out of them and they say they will not be getting them until mid '04. At the moment I'm just using a file to shape the feet. I have tried using my bench vise and a hammer, but the vise didn't hold up to well, the wire chipped it. When Golden Witch has them in I will be getting the Flat Foot Tool set, unless I can find a way to make them good and flat without it. Golden Witch sent me some instructions on how to make my own  Flat Foot Tool, using a "T slot" nut. I can make a copy of them if you like.  (Robert Hicks)

    I got mine second hand, along with the Flat Foot tool.  I like the way they turn out.  The Flat Foot Tool is almost a necessity for flattening the guide feet, however you can probably make one of your own with some steel stock.   I've made guides for 4 rods now, and they've turned out pretty nice.  Plus, it's a nice feeling knowing that I'm able to make more and more parts of the rod.  Dave LeClair got me going on collets and a collet chuck, so hopefully in the near future I'll be turning out ferrules and reel seat hardware too.  (Mark Wendt)

    Since I designed the Snake Maker and I know what it will do, I thought I'd chime in here. I like the way Golden Witch redesigned my Snake Maker, with a separate tool for each size guide. They do work very well. I like using it because, I can make American twist or English twist guides with it. Also, it's nice to say that you made every part of the rod.

    As far as the Flat Foot Set- You would be better off getting a couple T slot Nuts from MSC and use them. Basically, I make a steel T slot nut without the threads  and then harden the top of it. I don't make them as hard as I'd like to, because I'm afraid if I make it too hard, it may chip when it is hit with a hammer and I don't want anyone getting hit in the face with a piece of metal going at that speed.

    But, if you get the T slot nuts, you can harden them as hard as you want. Get some Casenite hardening compound from Brownells Gunsmith Supply. It is a powder. You heat up the top of the T nut, red hot. Then sprinkle some compound over the top and keep heating it. It will turn to a liquid. This puts carbon into the metal and "case" hardens the metal. The longer you keep it red and the more compound you put on, the harder and deeper it will harden. After you have heated it for a few minutes, drop the T nut into cold water. And it will be hard. If you find after using it, that it isn't hard enough, just go over it again.  (Dave LeClair)

      I noticed that Casenite is ALSO available at  MSC,  but for a price - $12.04 for a pound of the stuff!  (Ted Godfrey)


I was curious about the availability of wire  for Dave's snake maker. I see that Russ sells some tungsten but what other type wire works well and where it can be found.  (David Ray)

    I make my own snakes since a while, although I don't use a snakemaker, I do it by hand and it works well too. I will however try and make a snakemaker soon. I use aviation lock wire. It is a stainless steel wire without memory used to secure bolts in airplanes. A friend gave it to me. I can have a look as to where to find it. It is an American company. I have no idea about resistance to wear however, but at least it doesn't rust!! It exists in different diameters.

    Another wire I heard about but did not use is remanium. It is the wire used by dental technicians to make braces. Doesn't rust either... I would suggest you contact a dental technician as to where to get is. Maybe he can order some for you.  (Geert Poorteman)

      There's a similar stainless steel wire in marine  (sailing) supply stores - Boat US, West Marine etc.  I don't know if it's available in different sizes.   It's kind of soft though, might bend at the wrong time.  I use it to keep my turnbuckles from loosening while sailing.  (Neil Savage)

    I use stainless steel wire.  It comes in coils of 25', if I remember correctly, and you can order it through most real hardware stores.  Don't have the sizes off the top of my head, but I can check for you tonight.  (Mark Wendt)


I finally got a blank that I feel is worthy of some nice hardware so I bought all Snake Brand guides and agate stripper. Wrapped everything on and coated with a couple of coats of varnish. Test cast and I am very happy with with my little 6'3" 4 wt. My question/problem is; the edges of the ring that hold the agate in are very rough, is there an easy way to remedy, or should I remove and ask for a replacement?   (Pete McKean)

    Just a suggestion since I've never run into that particular problem.  The metal in the bezel (I think that's what it's called) is usually quite soft.  Might try using something a little harder to mash it in a little, and then polish with a small buff on a Dremel tool.

    Try at your own risk...  (Harry Boyd)

    I'm guessing that whoever made the stripper guide used bezel material that jewelers use, and that is pure silver. Pure silver is fairly soft, that's why most silver jewelry is made out of sterling silver, which is silver alloyed with tin and copper. Hardens the silver so that it doesn't dent or scratch as easily. Jewelers use a tool called a burnisher or a bezel  pusher to form the bezel over a cabachon (rounded or oval gemstone). For a picture of the tools look here.

    If you decide to try and burnish the edge do not put a lot of pressure on the solder joint between the bezel and the frame. I am certain they would have used easy (or soft) silver solder and the joint can be broken quite easily.  (Darryl Hayashida)


Has anyone ever tried just gluing guides on with super glue, no wraps?  (Brian Creek)

    I've done that before wrapping to hold them in place. No wraps would look ugly.  (Mark Dyba)

      Then again, how different are they in appearance than "clear" wraps?  (Rich Jezioro)

    I have been doing it for years and you can't tell with clear wraps, just go easy on the super glue,  just a tiny pin drop will hold them.  (John Pickard)


I've been using Snake Brand bronze guides since they first came out.  I can't say enough good things about them.  I do a little grinding on the feet to make them look exactly the way I want.  But Snake Brand guides are so far and away better than any others I've tried I hate to even think about changing.   Here's the problem:  Snake Brand doesn't offer bronze tiptops, and none of the other tiptops I find match very well.  Bronze tiptops are hard to find.  Snake Brand in the black chrome don't look bad, but I've had a problem with the finish.  Might any of you have suggestions on brands of snake guides and tiptops that you like?  Bamboo rods look best to me with bronzed guides, but I'm so tired of tiptop problems that I'm even willing to try other colors.  (Harry Boyd)

    I actually have had the best luck with Pac Bay for black tip tops.  (Timothy Troester)


Recently I was asked to build a rod as a retirement gift.  After some discussion I chose the little ultralight 5 1/2 foot T & T taper that was posted here about a year or so ago. 

I am looking for some suggestions as to the size and type of the guides that I should use and also for some ideas about where I can locate some sliding rings for the reel seat.  I have only seen black aluminum sliding rings at places like Janns Netcraft and at Cabelas.  Are there any other options? 

Any help would be appreciated as I can't ever recall seeing a cane spinning rod before.  (Mark Babiy)

    I miked & posted the original taper. The original had duel bright NS ring slide bands over cork and chrome plated wire Foulproof spinning guides. This type of guide was also used by Orvis on there Superlight series and Fenwick on there early UL Glass rods. These guides were out of production for a while but I believe are being made again. Try the normal rodbuilding suppliers and also REC and Golden Witch.   If they don't have them they probably can tell you where to get them.  (Marty DeSapio)

      Just a thought on the spinning guides. Cabelas sells several types of spinning guides in their "Tackle Craft 2004" book even holographic and also on page 18 they have a list of what they recommend for each rod length for spinning and casting rods. For this 5.5' they suggest the following guide sizes. 1-30, 1-16, 1-10, 1-8, 2-7, 1-6. I have not used their suggestions so I do not know how accurate they are but it is something to go by.  If others have better suggestions I would like to learn, I know nothing about spinning rod guides and placement.  (David Ray)

    Check out Golden Witch. 3 years ago or so, Russ found 2 beautiful sets of agate spinning guides and 2 spinning rod reels seats for me, I know he still has reel seats, he may have another line on the agate guides.  (Doug Losey)

      I would like to thank everyone that responded to my query.  I am just in the middle of ferruling the blank and then will put the light wire spinning guides on the rod.  These guides look like the Mildrum strippers, but are made of a finer wire.  (Mark Babiy)


I am thinking about making my own snake guides.  It’s no fun being short a guide or two and have to wait another week to get it in the mail.  It would be nice to be able to make a few snakes if I am short.  Anyone making their own snakes and willing to share info on how to get started?  I would like to make bronze snakes if possible.  (Kyle Druey)

    I've been using the Golden Witch snake maker on the last few rods, and am starting to get the technique down.  One of the tricky things with the snake maker is to remember to flip the guide in the snake maker half way through so that the "wrap" of the guide is similar on both sides.  I still have a little difficulty with getting good feet consistently on each guide, but I'm getting better at that too.  I've been using both the large and small flat foot tools to flatten the feet, and it takes a little practice to know when you've tapped the guide foot just enough to flatten the foot.  It's not hard, just takes a little practice.  I've used both Golden Witch's tungsten wire sets, and also some stainless steel wire to form my snakes.  Not sure where to get the bronze wire, maybe one of the  internet supply houses carry it.  I've successfully "blued" the wire guides using Bob Nunley's MegaBlue (now supplied by Joe Byrd) solution though, if you're looking for that kind of finish.  Watch out though, not all grades of stainless wire take bluing very well.  The first brand I had didn't blue worth a hoot.  I picked up some nameless stainless wire at the local hardware store and it blued up beautifully.  Any other questions, give me a holler.  (Mark Wendt)

      If the wire blued, it is not stainless, it's high carbon steel. There is a process for blacking stainless, but trust me, you don't want to go there. You can heat stainless to about 600 F and get a brown color. The old type "bronze" snakes are not bronze, but steel that has been heat treated to the brown color. Put a magnet on them and you will see. Real bronze would be too soft and wear quickly.   (Tom Smithwick)

        I go the info from Nunley, who said he was able to blue some of the stainless wire.  I picked up the wire from a stainless bin at the hardware store, maybe it was mismarked.  I'll have to check and see.  (Mark Wendt)

          How would you tell stainless from other steel?  I know some (but only some) stainless alloys are nonmagnetic.  Is there some other simple way for us non-metallurgists to tell?  If there's a concern, I'd get some snake wire from Golden Witch.  I expect their stuff will be as advertised.  (Neil Savage)

            I used piano wire for quite a while.  Available at any good instrument repair shop and available in several different sizes. It worked quite well and blued nicely. However, I went back to buying my guides mainly for the convenience.  (Randall Gregory)

            The label on the bin where I grabbed it from in the hardware store.    I know not all grades of stainless are the same, I don't know what the properties of each different alloy of stainless are though.  (Mark Wendt)

        What about the suitability of phosphor bronze for snakes.  The alloy is supposed to be much tougher and stronger than brass or copper, and is excellent for cold working.  (Kyle Druey)

    I’ve been using Dave LeClair’s Snake Guide maker for a few years and I thought I might give you some ideas.  First I machined a cap for the female side of each guide set to only allow the male portion to insert into the female to a specified depth. As the guide gets larger the cap I machined will shorten the space that the male can be inserted.  By doing this you can reproduce guides that are formed exactly the same. Although they are easy to make I always had trouble with consistency in the bends. I can turn them out without thinking. I use prestraightened music wire from MSC which is hardened somewhat in the straightening process. This wire doesn’t do well by hammering the feet {they become brittle and crack sometimes} so I us a cheap 12 ton press with a pressure gauge to press the feet out. I found a tubing drawplate from Rio Grande Supply for about 20 bucks which will fit all the sizes in the set and I press them on that.  I generally plate the finished guide with Caswells cold plated nickel after forming and finishing guides. I can blacken the nickel or leave it bright. I think it has a less harsh shine than chrome. And cold plated nickel is pretty tough stuff. Dave LeClair sent me some bronze plated wire a few years ago which I don’t think he produces now. But he also sent a two part bronze coloring system which works nicely on steel you might contact him about it. By the way I use the wire diameters that are listed on the Snake Guide web site they work well. Also try out tip tops they are pretty easy to solder up as well.  (David Rinker)

      What sort of jig do you use to form the loop for the tip tops?  (Mark Wendt)

        I used to use the snake maker male side. First I would bend wire at 45 degrees or so insert it into the hole, wrap the wire around the shaft till I got back to the beginning hole. Remove the bent wire form the end to match the original bend  and cut it off so both ends match. Press this into tubing and solder in place. I stopped using the snake maker and made a similar arbor out of steel now since the wire was beating up the brass hole in the snake maker.  (David Rinker)

      Thanks for the info.  Just as a rough ballpark figure, about how long do you make the wire ends that get soldered into the tube?  About 1/3 the length of the tube, or would that be too long?  (Mark Wendt)

      For the tips tops are you using brass tubing, such as the type that can be purchased in hobby stores?  What type of solder do you use with brass?  (Kyle Druey)

    I make all my guides. I use stainless steel wire of different diameters. I have tubing with different diameters and I wind my wire around it to form the guide. Make the two pieces cross each other at 90. Then bend the feet with pliers, where the two wires touch. Then pull the guide open so the feet separate and cut them to length. Then I place the guides in an open vice so the guide hangs under the feet.  The feet rest on the jaws of the vice. A couple of bangs with a hammer to flatten them and then I shape the feet with a Dremel grinding wheel. Fairly easy. I have started making a guide-maker a couple of months ago. Should be quicker. I have heard about using remanium wire, the wire dental technicians use for braces, but never used it myself. Maybe copper or bronze wire?  (Geert Poorteman)

    There is a snake maker in The Best of the Planing Form, Vol. 1.  I was just looking at it today.  It's Dave LeClair's article.  Dave originated the ones Golden Witch sells.  Golden Witch also sells pre cut wire for snakes.  (Neil Savage)

    You can also obtain some good wires in dentist shops. Orthodontics use some stainless steel al titanium wires to make our children "torture apparatus".  You can find these in different diameters also.  (Marcelo Calviello)


Well here I go again with stupid ideas. While I was pastoring in New Mexico I got to meet a lot of silver smiths. And learned how to do a little silver work with silver wire. Now you can get some stiffer wire than just pure silver so why couldn't you make the snakes out of pure silver? It is semi soft easily molded bent and hammered flat and from what I remember cheap there or via email. Any other thoughts?  (Paul Amschler)

    You might consider that with silver guides you will run into tarnishing unless you do something to prepare the guides (a coating or what ever they do to keep silver from tarnishing).  While the tarnish would still look good on a rod, I've noted that the silver can pit if badly tarnished and the actual tarnish is a bit tacky and may slow down the line.

    Good luck with the guides.    (Scott Turner)

    I have made (or rather had a jeweler made) three butt rings in sterling silver on agate rings. The rings are big, so no trout rod size rings, but I used one on a  British coarse rod (the MK IV Avon) and it looks great! So yes, why not silver for snakes?  (Geert Poorteman)

      Surely silver is a bit soft for the job, Geert.

      If you spend much time fishing in water with much suspended abrasive solids, you can chop out both Agate ring inserts and hard chrome snakes PDQ, let alone silver.  (Peter McKean)


I'm going to place the guide order with Snake this weekend for rod number two.  First I have a question.  The first rod I made is a Para 14.  I used guide sizes 1/0, 1/0, 1/0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 10.  I've been fishing it with a 4 wt DT line.  The line seems to be restricted in the guides when shooting.  That could be below average casting technique, faulty guide spacing or maybe the guides are too small.  I've never experienced that feeling with my plastic rods, so I assume my casting isn't the cause.  The spacing is based on a formula posted on the list that seems to be a generally accepted method - looks reasonable too.  So I wonder if the guides are the problem.

What would be the pros and cons of going up one size across the board on my next rod (IE: 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 10)?  The rod will be a 7'6" 5 wt version of the Sir Daryl that I extrapolated from the original 7' 4 wt taper.  It seems like the larger guides would reduce the friction when shooting line.  But is there a down side?  (David Bolin)

    Even a 2/0 will be plenty big enough to allow shooting of an 8 weight line (see Don Phillip's book). I believe that actually in contrast to what you say, smaller guides may be better. Larger guides tend to have the line slap around in them, while the smaller guides do not. See Tom Morgan's take on it here.  I tried this since Tom suggested this, and I like the smaller guides. In your case I would have probably used: 2/0, 2/0. 1/0. 1/0. 1/0, 1, 1, 2, 8 mm.

    Have you tried a static test to see how the lined rod looks when bent?   (Bob Maulucci)

    The line is too light, and you are not loading the rod enough to shoot line. Try it with a 5 weight, and maybe even a 6 weight, depending on how your thickness tolerances turned out.  (Tom Smithwick)


For nearly a hundred rods now I've struggled with trying to get the guides on each tip in EXACTLY the same position.  I mark their placement at the same time, and eyeball them as close as I can, but it's never quite perfect.  There has to be some trick.  Anyone willing to offer suggestions?  (Harry Boyd)

    No such thing as "EXACTLY" in my book, but I get them as similar as possible by completing  all the wrapping on one tip first, and then matching up the guide spacing on the second tip, one-by-one.  You can tape just one foot of a guide on this second tip, check alignment against the first tip, and then wrap that foot.  Check again against the first tip, and if need be, you can squiggle the guide a little under the wraps.  Worst case, rewrap and then carry on down the line.

    When I have difficulties, they come because I always grind my feet to feather-ends.  In doing this, the overall lengths from guide-to-guide sometimes vary just a tad.  But you can "average" those disparities against the corresponding guide on the first tip, making sure that the wrap lengths, at least, are identical.  One needs to be pretty anal to want to be sure the feet all end at identical points.  On the other hand, it's fairly easy to match-up the centers of corresponding guides, and to get the wrap lengths the same.  And that's what one sees quickly.

    'Course the difficulties become multiplied if one is using black guides, wrapped with transparent silk.  So, just don't do that.  (Bill Harms)

    When making my first rod, I gave considerable thought to this. I do almost exactly as Mr. Harms. I wrap the first tip, then lay it in my rod-wrapping cradle. I then lay my next tip in beside the completed one, and line them up.

    However, instead of using tape to attach the guides, I use scrap thread from my first wrapping. I align the guides and then tie them in place using this scrap thread (making a couple of tight turns and then just a simple knot). This way I can make fine adjustments later. I then complete each one, checking if it needs to be adjusted before I complete the wrap.

    This does not result in them being "perfect", but on my first rod they came out pretty darn good.  (Dave Alexander)

    Use the equivalent of what brick layers call a story pole. Use a section of lath with a block glued to one end for a stop. A pencil mark across the lath marks the position of each guide. You can also keep such info as the size and the length of the wraps for that guide at that position. I also have marked placement and number of wraps in the signature wrap. Use one for each model rod you make. To use just lay the blank on the lath with the end butted against the stop block and lay the guide at the mark. I use a very small cloths pin I found in a craft store to secure the guide until it is wrapped in place. My guides always come out in the same spot for all rods of that model.  (Jerry Drake)

    One trick for keeping the guides in place until the wraps are on is to get a bag of the small rubber bands that orthodontists use on braces. Place one on each guide foot and then when the thread gets up to it cut it off using a razor blade or scalpel. They're also good for test casting to find the best guide placement.  (Larry Puckett)

      I have tried this approach and it did not work well for smaller rods so I would simply recommend 1/4" masking tape that has not been sitting on the shelf too long.  (Larry Tusoni)

        I have been using Teflon plumbers tape for this as well as test casting, to cover ferrules and my cork while dipping I use the Teflon then masking, etc. It works great comes off like a flash with no cleaning to do, and is real cheap.   (Ron Rees)

      An even smaller source are small urinary catheters (unused, of course)  They're a small diameter red latex tubing that you can slice to get very small diameter bands.  I don't remember sizes.  (Greg Kuntz)

    I have to ask, how far out of line are your guides? Are you looking for .001 variance or are you using the wooden yardstick again. ;>)

    I mark the layout using lines wider than the blank on masking tape put on my workbench or use adding machine tape if I want to save the layout. With the blank in place I cut very thin pieces of masking tape 1/16 or smaller, and line up on the blank with the mark. Then center the guide from the top center of the eye to the marker tape while I tape the guide to the blank. Marker tape comes off easily after both wraps are done. I know it passed the yardstick test but don't know about using the caliper on it.  (Gary Jones)

    I use the story pole technique and keep the guides in place with small bands cut from the rubber(??) gas lines they use for model airplanes.  My hobby shop carries them in four sizes.  I've found it to be superior to rubber bands, tape and thread.  As with everything in rodbuilding, care is required.  (Don Bugg)

    Your questions make me think.  I thank you for that.  It seems funny sometimes what causes us consternation.  Exact placement of guides, hum. Knowing how far advanced you are from my experience, I hesitate to say anything, but I have a question.  After you have marked and wrapped the guides on the first tip, do they precisely align with where you intended them to go.

    If so, it seems obvious that you should do exactly the same things again.  That ought to work.  If the guides on the first tip do not precisely meet your specifications, wrapping the second tip won't solve the problem unless you are inconsistent in the same way twice.  I might offer two points.  First, mark not only the location for the center of the guide, but also the limits of your wraps and/or guide feet.  Second, have you considered beginning your wraps on the guide and winding off of it.  The silk can sometimes push the guide  along before it rises onto the foot.  It is not too tricky if you have prepared the guide feet and it anchors the guide first,  then adds decoration.  (Russell Dabney)

    The closest I can get is by marking both tips at the same time, where the guide rises off the blank, use Snake Brand guides so all dimensions are the same (won't happen with anyone else's), count turns of thread (I have the number of winds per foot per guide size written on my winder) and double check as I wrap. It still doesn't come out perfect, if you stand both tips on a hard surface side by side there might be a two or three turn discrepancy here and there, but the very few high end classics I've seen weren't any better. The strange thing is, the Heddons I've had come thru the shop were closer than anyone else's.  (John Channer)

    Over the past two years I have done quite a few rewraps and refurbishments on older rods. A number of them had light pencil marks to mark the beginning and end of the wrap on each guide. Of course, this was back when preserved wraps were all the rage, but it suggests that people were using some sort of "story pole" or layout approach. But the focus was on the wrap and not the guide. I never saw the end of the guide foot marked, even when the guides used were not ground at all.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      Let me explain my current process in a little more detail in hopes that someone can point me in a different direction.

      First I lay out the guide placement on both tips at the same time.  I tape the ferrules together with the ends even and place light pencil marks one flat off of the guide flat.  I then wrap the first tip, using only Snake Brand or Tom Moran guides (all the same length)  I center the guide over the mark (one flat removed so it's easier to erase later) on the blank.  I wrap down the guide rather than up; so the first turn or two of thread won't shove the guide a little.  I count the number of turns of thread.  Yep, every single time.  It takes precisely 19 wraps of 2/0 Gudebrod thread to cover the foot of a 2/0 guide, 36 wraps of Pearsalls Gossamer, etc.  Turn around and wrap the opposite foot, then move on to the next guide until the first tip is finished.  Now for tip #2.  Same process.  When I'm finished, one or two guides are inevitably a few turns of thread higher or lower than those on tip #1.  It's not like I'm off by 1/4", just a little here and there.  All the wraps are the same length, it's just that one or two guides will be a little lower or higher.

      I think a combination of things might help.  First, wrap tip #1, then mark where to begin the outside edge of the wrap.  Guess I could do the tipping first and use that as my mark since I wrap down the guides.  Second, some sort of precise layout pattern might help, but it would have to be precise enough to show where to start and finish the wrap, not just where to center the guides.  maybe some sort of ruled paper sleeve over the rod section....

      There has to be a simple answer to this.  John said many of the old Heddons he did were better than others.  That may be because their wrappers did so many rods in a day that they were better at it than most of us.  Or else they had some sort of trick. <g>  that's what I'm looking for, the trick.  (Harry Boyd)

        How about marking where the end of the foot comes, rather than the center of the guide?  If the feet are all the same length, it would be easier to hit the mark.  If you mark the center, you have to eyeball where the center of the guide is...  If you don't hold your head in exactly the same place, paralax sets in and the guide is off a little.  Just a thought (left over from High School Physics, where we measured something or other, I don't remember what after 45 years, with a 1/4" thick yardstick laid flat and then stood up.)  Of course, you have to adjust the guide spacing by 1/2 the length of the guide.

        Or, you could just make all one tip rods and eliminate the problem altogether.  (Neil Savage)

          I think that's a great idea and was part of what I implied in the response to Jeff.  Only trouble is removing the marks under the wraps with translucent finishes.

          Maybe one tip rods really are the answer. (Harry Boyd)

            Wrap the opposite side first, remove the mark under the guide foot, then wrap that side.  (Mark Wendt)

        Forgive me if this was mentioned. But, if you use a Snake Brand or other same foot length guide, mount and wrap tip one (tip top side) and then use a straight edge to match up the edge of the butt-most foot of the guides. In short, match at the edge of the feet not in the middle. I think it is tough to match the middle, the curve throws you off every time.  (Bob Maulucci)

    How about if you mark your guide placings on one tip. Start with the first guide, wrap one foot, lay out the second tip, align the guide and wrap one foot, lay them out together, adjust until they are exactly lined up how you want them, then wrap the other foot of each guide, move to the next. This way neither guide permanent until you are satisfied that is precisely where you want it.  (Pete Van Schaack)

    I've never used it but maybe the thermal guide glue that some rod builders use would help solve the problem.  Both sets of guides could be put in place before you start wrapping.  Seems like it might work.  Like I said, I've never used the stuff.  (Scott Grady)

      Let me share a tip that Don Jackson told me to keep those pesky recoil guides from dancing when I wrap them that I think will help in this problem.  He said to put just a tiny bit of super glue on the guide feet and wipe all but a tad.  Then stick those suckers to the rod and they will stay still while you wrap.  (David Ray)

    Might try Pliobond to glue the guides in place, just a tad so it dose not squeeze out the sides...

    Snake Brand and counting your wraps is about all you can do, rewrap any that are out of line.  (Dave Henney)

    Some people use a spot of Pliobond to hold guides in place.  I have not tried this myself.  (Hal Manas)

    I checked the two tips on my dad's old Heddon (admittedly NOT a high-end rod) and found one pair of guides off by a full 1/16" and another at least 1/32", maybe more, so a turn or 3 is pretty good I'd say.  (Neil Savage)

      I have had rods returned because of the guides not being exact, they say rod has been restored, or 1 tip was a replacement. They also say the  factory would never let a rod leave like that.  (Dave Henney)

        Well, I KNOW this particular rod has not been restored, my dad never used it.  In fact, it still had the plastic on the grip when I got it, and I have not fished it either, just lawn cast it.

        It's a Heddon "Expert", was made for Sears in the late 40's or early 50's. Mom gave it to dad for Christmas about 1948-1950.   (Neil Savage)

    I lay my rod out assembled on a measuring tape on the floor and mark each spot I want the center of the guide with "White Out" or some liquid paper. I do this for both tips. I put the spot to one side of the guide flat so I can remove it easily with a very sharp needle - it can be "picked off". The liquid paper scrapes off easily but leaves a small spot that can be polished out before final finish is applied. Seems to leave no noticeable spot on the final rod finish. (Frank Paul)


Any opinions on Golden Witch's snake maker?  Thinking about picking one up but didn't know if making my own guides was a worthwhile proposition. Not concerned about the time involved just the consistency of the results.  (Lee Orr)

    It's a nifty gadget but you'll still need to make a hammer and anvil to flatten the feet.  Other than that, the thingy makes neat guides!  (Mike Shay)

    I have made my own guides on occasion, and you can make some very high quality guides.  Piano wire is hard stuff.   The down side is that it is surprisingly time consuming,  cutting, filing, flattening and shaping feet.  Regarding consistency, getting the guides basic shape is fairly easy, getting feet of the same size and shape is a bit more difficult.  If I did this more often I would build better jigs to save time on some of the more tedious chores.   I definitely like the guides and I have some on well used rods over 10 years old with little sign of wear.   Incidentally, you can made your own snake makers as the basic design is pretty straightforward.  (Bob Milardo)

    I've been using them for a bit and have a few suggestions that may improve your consistency per guide.  Instead of eyeballing the gap between the Hex brass pieces each time you twist them, I capped the end of the male portion and thus created a stop to turn against. If you turn the caps at different depths you can create consistent small (deepest cap) through large flush cap. You would be surprised how consistent they stay.  I use straightened piano wire which tends to get pretty brittle when you hammer out the feet. Instead of hammering I use a tubing drawplate from Rio Grande Tools and a cheap 15 ton hydraulic press to flatten. I modified my press and added a pressure gauge to the hydraulic jack which gives a consistent way to gauge pressure. The drawplate allows you to press out feet a various widths. If you relieve the sharp edge with a Dremel just a tiny bit you won't over harden the edge of the feet. Hardening will cause them to break off. One other insight, cold plating the guides in nickel (Caswells) creates a non rusting , slick, surface which you can also blacken with "Jax "nickel blackener if you want to go that route.  If you decide to go with the snake guide makers don't forget to thank Dave LeClair for his ingenuity.   (Dave Rinker)

      I never thought of using a press to address the foot problem. At first I thought it was over kill, but the more I thought about it, it starts sounding better and better!  And yes, thanks to Dave LeClair!  Now if I could only have gotten them to turn out as nice as Snake Brand's...(NFI)  (Mike Shay)


Anyone ever built a snake guide checker to see whether or not the guide feet are in alignment. Got some guides and the center point of the guides is leaning - some left and some right.  (Don Anderson)

    I have spent some time tweaking guides because of the spacing  challenges on spiral rods. It quickly teaches you just how much  variation there is from guide to guide. I have always just eyeballed  the adjustment, but if I wanted to make a jig, I would want to both  measure, and adjust at the same time. The ideal would be to clamp the  guide into the center of a channel with sides that moved in and out  equally, like the jaws on a Jorgensen clamp. If you had the feet well  clamped, you could push the hoop of the guide one way or the other  until the closing sides contacted the guide at the same time. It  would also work to have fixed sides, and feeler gauge stock to  measure the distance to the guide.  (Tom Smithwick)

      You don't aid sleep a lot. Spent most of the night trying to figure out how in the devil I'd hold the feet. Some of the feet are not only twisted left to right but also rotated off the center line. I guess the first step would be to hold the loop on center and see if the feet were parallel to the center line. If not, they could be straightened readily. Then the feet would have to be checked for rotation and squared up to the center line.

      I think a "checker" would be the first thing to build. Clamp the feet down and see if they line up through the center line. If not, bend them to fit or reject them. Then check the feet for rotation.  Going to have to ponder this some more.

      And I'm really wondering how much manipulation one could do to the guide feet before the chrome coating delaminates.  (Don Anderson)

        With a jig that makes the job simple it's worth your time and effort to straighten the guide feet.  Not owning such a jig, I discard those guides which don't look right.  Have to ask myself how much time do I want to spend working on a part that costs less than $1?  (Harry Boyd)

        How about this:  a short section of hex (maybe an offcut from the tip of a but section),  some of the rubber bands the orthodontist uses, or some O-rings.  Put a couple of the rings on the section, slide a foot under a ring and see if the other foot lies flat.  Then use the other ring to hold down the second foot as well and check for the guide being bent.  A pair of drafting dividers should do for any measurements you need to make.  (Neil Savage)

    As you know, you have five things to check on snake guides:

    1. are the flats on the bottom  of the guides even with each other?

    2. are the flat bottoms of the guides in line with each other?

    3. is the center of the hoop perpendicular to the flat center of the feet?

    4. is the hoop distance from one foot to the other the same as the other guides?

    5. is each foot on a guide the same length?

    Item 1 is usually self-correcting when being wrapped on the rod under tension. It can first be checked by placing the guide on a flat surface and putting alternating pressure on one foot then the other. If one foot is twisted off center from the other, any correction will likely distort the hoop and so should be discarded. (Because I wrap from the ends toward the middle, I prefer my snake guides to touch the rod at the ends of the feet while being slightly higher at the middle.)

    Item 2 can be corrected with pliers. It is easily eyeballed for straightness when holding against the rod.

    Item 3 is the tough one. Usually it's discovered after the guide has been wrapped on the rod, and can be corrected by bending with the fingers to line up with the other guides (or is the rod slightly twisted at that point?). Unusual for this to happen to only the occasional guide during manufacture.

    Item 4 can be compared with other guides of the same make and size.

    Item 5 can be corrected by filing one side, or discarding the guide.

    I have a set of gauges for the length of the feet of each guide size and routinely check for accuracy.  (Ron Grantham)


When I look at older rods, the snake guides usually have a teardrop shaped foot that is  very different from those made today. And the snakes on most brands look a LOT alike. Did H-I, Heddon, and the other production makers make their own guides, or did they all get them from one or maybe two manufacturers?  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    Mike Sinclair has an extensive set of pictures from the catalogues of various hardware manufacturers in his bamboo rod restoration guide. He says that the large production rodmakers put the guides and some other hardware out for bids. They bought from the manufacturer that gave them the best deal. Chubb made lots of ferrules, perfection made guides etc. I suspect that the guide making process was very similar between makers. Sinclair says that guides are the least distinctive pieces of a rod. FE Thomas and Divine stuck with English twist guides long after others dropped them. Some early snakes were made from nickel silver later they tend to be bronzed steel, later still tungsten steel. Most are made of heavier wire than today's guides. The feet were often not ground down much (particularly on low end rods).  (Doug Easton)


I finally have a blank. Took long enough but didn't turn out too bad. One minute sliver came off and left a tiny gap but I might be able to fix it.  I've been thinking about the finishing steps, of course, and am wondering about progressively shorter feet on the guides as they approach the tip. Apparently Wayne Cattanach shortens them but I've not heard much about others who do. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.  (Wayne Kifer)

    All mine were shortened. I also spent a lot of time fine filing and polishing to remove any burrs that might affect the thread. I have copy of Wayne’s CD and of his book. All were shorted the same and not progressively. Since I'm in the middle of Chemo, I haven't had a chance to try it out so I have no performance data for you. This was what Doug Hall does on his rods. As far as progressive you will have to  find out from some of the other guys.

    By the way I ordered A 54" heater and thermostat from Grand Technologies today. I decide to try the electric oven. I'll let you know how all that comes out as I get it assembled.  Once its built, I think I will include plans a schematics on the web site (may help someone else). Will probably build it very similar to Wayne's in the book.

    Lot of luck. As you know by the pictures I sent you, I have a few defects as well but am very happy with the first rod.  (David Boedeker)

      If you are going to build a Cattanach style oven, you might want to make it a little longer.  If you want to use MD's fixtures, you need at least 60" of interior space if you do not want to cut them short.

      Don't know about MD's fixtures?  Check out this site from our own Harry Boyd.  (Scott Grady)

    With Snake Brand guides, I don't shorten 'em at all.  I do tend to round the outward ends and make the slope a little more shallow on a Dremel tool though.  Then I polish quickly on a Cratex wheel with a little groove worn in it from previous sessions.  Finally I use a brown Sharpie on bronze guides to recolor the ground portion of the guide foot.  (Harry Boyd)

      Reading Harry's note is like listening to an echo - pretty well exactly what I do.  I always shortened the guides, but since moving to Snakes I am more inclined to leave alone, except that I make the slope a bit more gradual.

      Also, the guides up close to the tip usually need to be reduced in width a bit and re-smoothed, as they are actually wider than the flat at that point.

      Like Harry, I use my Dremel and it works beautifully.  (Peter McKean)

    I also use Snake Brand guides, and don't shorten them, they are already proportionally shorter as the guide size changes. I round and bevel the ends so that the silk has a smooth transition, then a quick touch on a polishing wheel all done with my Dremel tool.  (Wayne Daley)


I am trying to finish my first rod, a Paul Young midge. I have spent the last year and a half building my tools and other items and am getting close to having a rod, finally...

I would like any advice on the following issues.

1.)  What size and manufacturer of stripping guide would be appropriate (I am leaning towards not using agate)?

2.)  Would Pearsalls or YLI silk be easier for me to start with?

3.)  I am considering "snake brand" snake guides and tiptop from golden witch, any other suggestions.

4.)  Varnish or poly for a finish and which manufacturer?  (Dave Alexander)

    I remember not too long ago getting close to having my first rod finished.  It really is a great feeling of anticipation, and when it is done, and you take it out in the yard and cast it for the first time, it's damn near impossible to wipe the sh*t-eating grin off your face...  ;^}  Then catching the first fish on it is another exultant moment (unless you're like me and almost go arse over teacup setting the hook whilst climbing over a deadfall in the stream.  Oh yes, my buddy was laughing his rear end off as I teetered on the edge of falling over, rather gracefully, but I did manage to catch a branch with my free hand and keep from falling in.)  I have ended up really liking the Pearsalls Gossamer silk.  It wraps beautifully.  Just be careful of putting too much tension on the thread.  You can't go wrong with Snake brand guides, for sure.  They really are sweet little guides, requiring little or no prep before wrapping.  I've been using Minwax Helmsman Spar, and really like the finish.  Now that I mix it with 5% by volume Penetrol, it really is Mark-proof.  (Mark Wendt)

      Geez Mark, that story (falling in the creek with your first bamboo rod) cracks me up. You gotta be more careful. Good thing that tree branch was handy.

      About the Pearsalls, I was concerned if it was too fine for a first time user. But, if I were careful about tension, do you think that it is possible for a first time user to do a good job with it. I could practice on a scrap piece of bamboo.

      Is the helmsman spar you use a poly or varnish and how does it look on bamboo. I know that I can get that locally. what the h*** is Penetrol?

      M-D suggested snake brand guides also, so I guess that snake brand it will be.  (Dave Alexander)

          Yeah, sometimes I'm not as graceful as I ought to be.  The Pearsalls really isn't that difficult to work with.  You'll get used to it pretty quick.  And the nice thing about it, is it's inability to be wrapped too tight...  ;^}  The Helmsman is a spar polyurethane.  Works well with bamboo.  I was turned on to the stuff by Bob Maulucci and from seeing it mentioned a number of times on the list.  Penetrol is a wetting agent that is added to the finish.  Kind of like a fish eye reducer.  Helps keep the finish from pulling from the corners, and other maladies.  I think I got my can of it at the local Sherwin Williams store.  Check around.  A good paint store should have it.  (Mark Wendt)

    I would use an 8mm Carbide stripping guide preferably with a low frame, Pearsalls Naples silk, Snake Brand guides and Tip Tops are great. The final question is the toughest, which finish. Tung oil varnish is traditional, Poly is the "new stuff". Both work great. If you are brush applying the finish use Spar varnish. Dipping, use either. On restorations for classics I use Tung Oil Varnish (Prat & Lambert Spar #61). On my own rods I use P&L Varmor Poly. Poly holds up better stored in the dip tube, Spar Varnish tends to gel over time and is more apt to form a plug at the top of the dip tube. Poly forms a harder finish but Spar is plenty hard enough.  (Marty DeSapio)

    My original PHY Midges had #8 Mildrum carbide stripping guides on them.  (Bob Amundson)

    At risk of providing too much information, I would like to pass on some thread ideas for discussion.

    Pearsalls gossamer is the best for wraps, but it takes practice to get a good looking wrap. And although many use it for ferrule wraps, I think that a stronger thread is better for that purpose. Naples is great for guide and ferrule wraps, but color choices are limited. YLI silk is great for a beginner because you can order identical colors in both 50 (coarse) and 100 (fine). There are many rodmakers that believe that YLI 50 is too coarse for guide wraps, but it is much easier to work with and I would argue that a well done wrap with YLI 50 is better than a poorly done wrap with gossamer. Even YLI 50 will give you that "poured on" look, but you will be able to see the individual threads at very close range and there will be a bit of a bump at each wrap. My feeling is that YLI 50 can give you great results for your first rods, then you can go finer with much less trouble. Regardless of thread thickness, wrap in as strong a light as you have available, and pick up one of those Optivisor magnifiers that you wear on your head. I do not recommend the magnifiers that clamp to your bench- they are cumbersome, tiring to use, and a general pain. I use the Optivisor for numerous shop tasks- if it looks good under magnification it will look great on the stream. The other thing is practice. I recall my first attempts with gossamer- I must have redone each guide several times and broke the thread constantly. Just keep at it and you will be surprise how quickly you become proficient with any size thread.

    As a historical note, I have been putting together a modest vintage thread collection because I now do a reasonable amount of repairs and refinishing jobs. None of the production rods I have worked on had fine wraps- they all used fairly coarse silk. The use of coarser silks was obviously done to save time, but they got good results without gossamer. You can see this in both the old wraps coming off the rod, and in the vintage silk I have been able to scrounge.

    Again, this is just my opinion, and I hope you here from some strong gossamer-for-everything proponents to get that perspective.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I've bought just about every tip top out there the last couple of years except Snake Brand and Hopkins & Holloway. Lately I've noticed that all the tip tops I'm getting only have a 3/4" tube at most. Some have been as short as 5/8". I'm usually not too anal over this kind of stuff, but looking at a few older rods that I have sitting here for repairs that have the Perfection tip tops, all with a 1" tube, I thought that they looked MUCH better. Normally, I wouldn't think that a 1/4" would make that much difference, but it does (at least to me). I'm looking for a brand and a source to buy that has a 1" tube.  (Will Price)

    If it helps, then it is the duty of every tip top, or tip ring in English, to be as light as possible.  Strictly the tube length needs only be three times the diameter, six times maximum.  I often trim mine down a bit.  In my poverty stricken youth I used modified snakes, rebent and whipped on, they were much lighter and lasted adequately, they would have been even better if they were bent through another 360 degrees to form a complete loop.  (Robin Haywood)

      For many years I've been using the Fuji ceramic-ring top guides. They are about half the weight of the Perfection which is important because the tip is where you want minimum weight. They are virtually indestructible in terms of line grooving, but are rejected by many because of their appearance, as not being as pretty, and are non-conventional.     (Bill Fink)

        I use them on all carbon builds, have done for 30 years, and on cane where appropriate.  There are some others called "Seymo" which I rather prefer.  It generally depends on the color of the rings, what's in stock or who is going to be using the thing.  (Robin Haywood)

          What exactly are the weights of the ceramic ring tip tops and the Perfection tip tops?  (Rich Margiotta)

            I ran this weight test a number of years ago and naturally lost track of the exact data, but my recollection was that the Fuji weight was a bit more than half that of the Perfection. I will try to round up enough samples to repeat the test and will get back with the data. 

            Belay that last. I found the data which was run for me By Ron Lord on his reloading scale. The Fuji weighed in at 4.3 grains, which translates to .010 oz, compared to the equivalent size Perfectionist at .018 oz.  (Bill Fink)

    For what it's worth. I have been known to solder a short piece of bronze hobby tubing onto a tip top barrel so that I can reinstall it where it has been broken off flush with the barrel and still retain the original tip section length without scarfing. I then start the trim wrap just two or three wraps below the new barrel.  (Don Sargent)


I'm ready to put the black snake guides on a rod.  Problem is, I'm using a tan thread.  After I grind the edged of the feet flat, I'll have black snakes with silver metal foot edges.  I'm wondering about bluing the edges of the feet, to keep them from showing under the wraps.

Any comments or suggestions?  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    You can use black magic marker which is alcohol-based and will not be affected by varnish but will be affected by  lacquer, shellac, and some color preservers.  (Al Baldauski)

    Black art marker. Pick yone up at the local art supply store. You can also use black finger nail polish. (Timothy Troester)


Does anybody have a table or listing of the dimensions for snake  guides?  (Jerry Drake)


Is it possible to swarf agate in a lathe or is it to hard? Do I need a special tooling or can I use HSS?  Low or high speed and maybe water cooling?  (Tom ???????)

    I've never tried it, BUT agate, garnet -- the reddish sandpaper -- and quartz are all the same hardness (7 on the Moh's scale).  I suspect carbide might work but HSS would dull pretty quickly.  Try some lapidary sites and see if you can find any info there.  (Neil Savage)

    Agate can't be cut by a lathe tool as in the fashion that metal is cut and comes off in curls or chips. It has to be ground down by abrasives. That doesn't mean it can't be shaped on a lathe, but you will have to figure out a way to use a grinding tool on it, and it does have to be cooled as it is ground, water is most commonly used.

    My other main hobby is lapidary and jewelry making, and I have a whole other set of grinding and cutting machines to handle stones like agate. I have been bouncing ideas around in my head for quicker easier ways to make stripper guides and reels seats, mostly involving casting the metal parts first.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    This is a link where you can see a technique to made agate stripping guide.

    Sorry, it is in Italian.

    You can translate it by Babel Fish, and if something is not clear, I can help you.  (Marco Giardina)

      I did understand some  from the photos and will study it better later. The stripper was really nice and the way you made it was something that came to my mind after my first reply. Did you solder the ring around the agate or did you heat it up to get it around the agate?

      I found some small diamond covered hole saws in a store here quite cheaply and think I got some equipment I can use to cut the agate to the right thickness.  (Tom ????)

        The ring around the agate is a very thin tube  - in the picture is brass - of the same diameter of the agate, then rebated around the stone with a little wood hammer. Finally it is soldered to the feet.  By the way, the stripper is not build by me, but by my good friend Stefano Ferri from Bologna (yes! the Tortellini Capital).  (Marco Giardina)

        Fixing the agate into the frame is one of the ideas I've been thinking about. I can do lost wax casting, and I've been wondering if I can cast a nickel silver (or brass, or even sterling silver or gold) frame and set the agate in the frame like a stone in a ring is set. Typically the way it is done now is the metal around the agate is a thin bezel and it is soldered together, then the bezeled agate is soldered on to a wire frame. If I can cast the frame and bezel together then set the agate in the now single piece of frame and bezel that would eliminate most of the hand work of making stripper guides.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I have cut gem stones agates, jaspers etc. for years. My family being in the jewelry/lapidary business for over 40 years.  Cutting the inside of the agate ring is cut only one of two ways. Carborundum or diamond. Diamond being the most preferred.  A diamond grinding bit are not that bad in price $10.00-$30.00 for a complete set.

    A lathe is not the preferred tool. In my opinion a small drill press (tabletop) is perfect for the job. Your drill press must be set to it's slowest speed. I had to put a power control switch on my drill press to slow it down even further.

    Keeping the bit and stone cool is the #1 priority. This can be done with water or light cutting oil. #2 priority is the speed in which you grind, work as slow as you can. It should take you at least 20 -25 minutes to grind the opening. Don't rush, speed develops heat. Heat can break the stone. I have small lapidary vise submerged in a water tray/bucket, to keep the stone and bit wet and cool at all times. Remember that different stones have different hardness, it may take a longer time to cut/grind the hole.

    I cut the inside hole first, then I grind the outside diameter last on an 8" diamond lapidary wheel.  Polishing the stone can be done by hand with progressively finer polishing compounds, or by a small lapidary tumbler (this usually requires 40-50 stone rings to polish all at once) for those who are into mass production.  (Denny Dennis)

      Thank you very much for the information, you just cured me of what little desire I ever had to make my own agate strippers<g>!  (John Channer)


What size Stripper guides are you guys typically using on your 8 ft. rods?  (John Silveira)

    8mm on all rods under 8'6" 6wt, 9 or 10 on those, I haven't made any longer/heavier.  (John Channer)

    I'm in the smaller is better camp too (8 or 9 at the most).  This was debated quite some time ago and MD proved to my satisfaction that most use guides too big.

    I'm also with Harry - wish I could find a steady supply of smaller loop bronze tip tops -  instead of the 'hula hoops' marketed today.   (Darrol Groth)

    I have always used #10 strippers on my 8 ft rods and #8 on the shorter ones.  (Tom Peters)

      I use 8's on less than 8', 10's on 8' to 9', 12's on 10' or 12' rods. Some times I use what I think looks best to me especially on heavier wt rods.  (Don Schneider)

        I purchased some 8mm agate guides from Snake Brand. They are beautiful. I also have some 8mm Mildrum SRMC guides. I like the classic look of these. My question is, the opening in the agate guide looks quite a bit smaller than the opening in the Mildrum so just where is the 8mm measurement being made?  (Frank Drummond)

    3-4 wt rods = 8 or 9mm
    5-6 wt rods = 9-10 mm
    6-7 wt rods = 10mm
    8 wt and larger = hula hoop

    My opinion is the length of the rod does not have anything to due with the size of the stripper guide, the weight of the rod does however.

    Just my humble opinion.  (Scott Bahn)

    For 8' rods I usually use 9 or 10 mm sizes. I use 8 or 9 mm for 7' or 7 1/2" rods.  (Frank Paul)


I purchased some stripping guides that were said to be #10 but I believe they are size #8.  The ID for the guides I got is .250.

What are the ID s for #8, #10 and #12.   (Frank Caruso)

    Most makers measure the OD, i.e. a #10 has a 10mm OD and so on... (Dave Collyer)


I'm setting up to make my own guides and was wondering what electroplating units were recommended for plating piano wire with bronze and/or NS? Caswell's has a variety. Don't know if the lower price units are adequate or not though. It does mention they are for decorative purposes. Might wear off too quickly. Any input appreciated.  (Wayne Kifer)

    I've been doing electro and electroless plating for around 35 years now. I plate a lot of nickel silver ferrules. I usually plate with Bronze plating or Nickel plate. I don't use the brush plating units, as I don't think that they work well enough for this type of work.

    I use a small tank with the chemicals and anodes of brass, copper or nickel. I've never had any trouble plating nickel silver. Nickel is plated at 2 volts. Bronze and most other plating jobs are done around 6 volts. As long as you get a power source (rectifier) that will put out say around 6 to 8 volts, you should be fine.

    I have dealt with Caswell for many years and they are a great company and carry very good products.  (Dave LeClair)

      Dave LeClair's comments are on the mark. I purchased a setup from Caswell and they were very helpful in getting me started. You might want to think carefully about doing your own plating. It is a lot harder to do than it looks. My guides got plated but not as flawlessly as folks like Snake do it. My big problem is that the chemicals age in the tank and go bad even if you do not use them. Disposing of them responsibly is another issue.  (Phil Lipton)

    Has anyone had any luck using Caswell's "Plug & Plate" system for electroplating NS? I have a unit that I'm trying to plate a set of 18% NS ferrules (that I machined myself) with black nickel (Black Krome TM) and it won't work at all.

    I tried activating the metal with phosphoric acid, and still nada.

    Any thoughts?  (Chris Obuchowski)

      You will need to purchase a rectifier for doing any plating. Caswell has many different ones for the small jobs you would be doing, I would say that the first two, the 3 amp and the 5 amp should work out well.

      Once you have the rectifier, then you can either buy the complete plating chemical kit, for the type of plating you want to do, nickel, bronze, copper, etc. Or, you can just but the chemicals separately and don't forget to order they're book on plating.

      You may want to order they're plating manual and get an idea of what is involved in plating metals, before you buy all the "stuff".

      I would say, that to get you started, you will need to spend around $200.00 to $300.00 minimum. And then add to that as you get more into plating.

      There are ways around buying a rectifier. Using a small battery charger, etc. But the rectifier is more accurate.

      Here is Caswell's web site.   (Dave LeClair)


Anyone ever try gluing the guides directly to the blank and then dipping??? - No thread.  Curious as wonder if would work well enough for prototypes and such?  (Rob Smith)

    There was an article in  Rodmaker Magazine recently showing this, on that other flyrod material, but might be worth reading the article. There are several list members who glue their guides on before wrapping.  (Scott Grady)

    I glue them on with super glue, but merely to position them correctly before wrapping.  (Geert Poorteman)

    Yes I have done that Superglue the guide and epoxy over. No problem crystal clear and NO they don't come off.   (Gary Nicholson)

    Not quite gluing the guides but I had a student use heat shrink tubing with single foot guides (on a glass blank) in a class last winter. Not the usual stuff I have seen and used, this was some pretty skookum heavy stuff. Not sure where he got it but he is a techie geek keeping the local TV station on line so I imagine he has sources not available to most of us.

    He tells me that he has caught many fish including silver salmon to 15 lbs. and that they are still holding tight.

    Looks like hell though.  (Steve Shelton)


Now that I've solved the problem of Duronze availability my next step will be to pick up some piano wire and start making guides as well. It would be nice if I could match the patina of the Duronze hardware with the guides somewhat. Anyone had any success with this?  (Wayne Kifer)

    I picked up some bronze piano wire on eBay. The bronze snake guides seem to be hard enough, though more flexible than steel piano wire. Time will tell on the wear. The bronze wire is slightly darker than polished Duronze, but the ferrule will get closer in patina over time.  (Paul Franklyn)

    Mike McCoy at snakebrand.com sells some gorgeous bronze colored guides. (Timothy Troester)


Does anyone have a source for the old English reversed guides. A customer has need of a single guide for an old Hardy...?  (Mike St. Clair)

    Hopkins and Holloway?  Or have i misunderstood the question.  (Robin Haywood)

      Thanks Robin... yes, I was pointed to the English patterns. The question now is the vintage. I'll have to see the rod to determine if they will match, or if it will matter.  (Mike St. Clair)

        That's why I was being careful, I don't know how many different patterns of English snake I have here but its rather a lot. Very often you can re-bend them a bit so they match, but some bluing/japanning/bronzing treatments may prove taxing to replicate.

        I have now taken to buying up any cheap built cane rod, whatever its intended use, as, oriental examples excluded, they always yield something useful. I'm getting good at replaning cane that's about forty years old!  (Robin Haywood)

    Anyone with a Snake Maker can make a reverse twist guide.  What size do you need, is it steel, blued, etc?  (Ron Larsen)


On all my past rods I have used single foot guides.  Recently, I've completed what was supposed to be a 7'0" 4 wt but found it more like a 5+ wt.  The difference was I used two foot snakes.  Has anyone else found this much difference between one foot versus two foot guides?  (Al Baldauski)

    I have.  In fact, on my short light rods I use lightweight guides (two foot guides), both for aesthetics and action.  (Larry Tusoni)

    Having made deflection measurements on a tip section without any guides, I then placed and wrapped two-foot snakes onto the section and allowed the varnish to cure.  Last night I made deflection measurements again and to my surprise there was NO measurable difference !!!  Since the guides and wraps cover only a one inch long section of the rod at each placement, this apparently is not enough to make a difference in rod stiffness.  This finding correlates with a calculation I performed to estimate the additional stiffness due to foot wrapped to a rod (the additional calculated stiffness was about 1% for that one inch section).  (Al Baldauski)

    If the guides alone can have that much effect, I would have thought it would tip the balance the other way around. That is, changing from one-foot to two-foot guides would make the rod heavier, less responsive, and and able to handle only a lighter line.  (Bill Harms)

      You've got two competing factors.

      1. Possibly heavier guides adding weight to the rod, therefore requiring a lower line weight.  Although, the one-footers I use are only lighter by about ten percent.

      2. The fact that you've got two feet per guide wrapped with thread and covering a greater length of rod would make it stiffer.  I think this is the overriding factor.  (Al Baldauski)

        You might want to check the line weights if you are using ones that are different than the first ones. Line weight numbers on the line are not always reliable.  (Bob Norwood)

          That certainly could contribute to the problem as far as casting feel is concerned. I first tried a Cortland 4 wt Sylk line and it was way to light. A Scientific Anglers 5 wf with 40 feet out loaded it well.

          My problem is that my Deflection program predicted a certain curvature (hence line wt). But on a deflection board and casting more weight was required than predicted. Previous rods measured on the deflection board compared closely with my deflection program. The only explanation that comes to mind is that the bamboo has a greater MOE than average and/or the two foot guides substantially stiffened the rod.  (Al Baldauski)

            Something you might try is to check the deflection point of the tip with the weight on the Tip Top and then try the same with the weight on the line coming out of the TT.

            I found that the Weight on the tip top gave me the least deflection and adjusting the guides helped to bring it back up some but I never could get the deflection w/line up to the TT point ?

            This seems to be the opposite of what I would expect. Maybe you can make something out of it.  (Bob Norwood)

              I will try that although I'm confused a little.

              You said: weight on TT gave least deflection and never could get line-thru-guides-deflection up to  weight on TT.  Did you mean weight at TT gave MOST deflection?  (Al Baldauski)

                NO, the weight at Tip Top gave the LEAST deflection. I was very surprised to get this type of result, that's why I would like someone else to try it and either confirm or disprove what I am seeing.  (Bob Norwood)

                  I tried two rods on a deflection board last night.  I didn't have the time to do a full measurement along the entire length of each rod so I just measure total deflection at the tip.  On one rod the deflection was IDENTICAL whether I loaded the tip only or with line through the guides and tip.  The other rod was like you said, least deflection with weight at the tip top only.  BUT the difference was only 1/4 inch out of 20!  That's about 1.2%.  I wouldn't say that's meaningful.

                  The only way I could explain the difference is that the weight of the line though the guides was enough to cause the extra 1/4 inch.  I used backing line for the experiment.  If you used actual fly line it probably added more weight that the backing line.  I suspect, too, that the rod with more deflection with the line-thru-guides had a finer tip which would have made it more sensitive to  extra  weight.  (Al Baldauski)

                    No, I expect that it is always true.  It revolves around the law of moments, and probably requires some calculus to accurately measure, but basically, the line through the guides changes the leverage applied by the weight.  It probably also changes the geometry of the arch.  You probably need to try this on a board like the common cents system uses.  (Paul Gruver)

                      Except in the case where the rod is really loaded so that the curvature is extreme, the line through the guides is pretty much parallel to the rod so there is virtually no component of tension in the line acting to bend the rod except at the tip.  (Al Baldauski)

      Here's a question about this comparison.  It seems to me that the guides would be about the same weight as the single foot and double foot would both have the same amount of "wire" used to make them.  All the single foot guides I've seen have two strands of wire at the foot and then the loop formed out from the foot.  It doesn't seem logical that you'd lose weight there unless you're using different wire material!

      On the other hand, you're eliminating the second guide wrap and the varnish associated with that.  That would be the only weight savings on the blank from what I've seen!  (Todd Talsma)

        That's my take on it.

        This weekend I found a tip section on which I had a defect near the tip so I never used it.   I decided to experiment with it.  I put it on a deflection board, tied a weight to the tip and measured the deflection along its length.  I've plugged that data into my deflection program.  Then I installed two foot guides along its length as if it were a regular rod, wrapped and varnished.  When the varnish cures, I will put it back on the deflection board and compare the data with and without guides.  That should be definitive.  (Al Baldauski)

        BUT... you're adding rigidity with the tension between feet and the additional wrap extension. I personally believe the rigidity of the rod now increases the required line weight for proper load... JMHO...  (Mike St. Clair)

          I hadn't thought about that when I was typing out my message.  I was thinking strictly about weight.  Of course, you're argument here is spot on!  Maybe I'll have to make a couple of identical rods with different guides and see how they compare!  (Todd Talsma)

            I think the lighter weight guides (Snake Brand) will bend as the rod section bends.  (Scott Grady)

              Agreed... but you're adding resistance, no matter how feeble it seems. And you are creating wraps with twice the surface area of  the  one-footed wraps... which also detract from the flexibility of a unfinished area.  (Mike St. Clair)

          I think your statement might be true if the rod were static, but I don't believe it would make that much difference when in actual use because of the momentum of rod travel overriding the weight difference. Just my thought.  (Ren Monllor)


Who makes a nice not-agate stripper guide? The mildrum guides seem so  clunky, like the wire is twice the diameter it needs to be.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    A possibility are the Pac Bay Model N guides which look a bit like a snake guide. A nice picture is here. I have used them and think they look good, but looks are, of course, a matter of taste and my taste has been questioned on many occasions. They do have the advantage of being cheap, so someone will probably say they look that way.  (Tim Anderson)

      I saw those strippers when I was looking last week. They look too high to me. Almost like a spin rod guide.  (Larry Swearingen)

        A size 10 (in these Pac Bay NHG guides) is 0.575" high from the bottom of the feet to the top of the ring.  That is comparable with many stripping guides.

        The guides can answer the original question, "Who  makes  a  nice not-agate stripper guide? The mildrum guides seem so clunky, like the wire is twice the diameter it needs to be."  Whether anyone wants to use these guides is another question entirely!  (Tim Anderson)

    The last ones I got from Golden Witch were better suited to a boat rod than a fly rod.  I was not happy.  (Ed Berg)

    Both Perfection and Pacific Bay make titanium carbide unbraced boat guides, I use the smallest size, 8mm and I think they look much better than the mildrum's. Pacific Bay's color is a bit nicer, the Perfection guides are dead black, Pac Bay's are a smokey grey that turns a very nice black when varnished over. Angler's Workshop has the Perfection guides, the only one's I know of who have the Pac Bay any more are possibly Golden Witch, Jeff Wagner and if they fail you might try Ron Barch, he used to sell them.  (John Channer)


I have turned some Duronze ferrules and slide rings for my next rod and I really like the look.  I would like to match the color of the guides, tip top and stripper.  I see snake brand makes bronze guides but no tip or stripper. Any idea where I can get some? 

What do you who use Duronze do for guides?

I am also thinking about using black but have never used them and am wondering what happens when you dress the feet does the black file off and leave silver feet?  If so what do you use to recoat the feet.  I use spar urethane to finish my rods.  (Rick Barbato)

    I make Duronze ferrules and went though trying to find Bronze tip tops.  Mike at Snake Brand said new ones pretty much do not exist and that is why he does not have them.  I like the idea that a rod should not reflect anything shiny so I opted for Snake Brand black.  Actually they are not black but have a dark gray color like titanium and I think they look great.  (Doug Alexander)

      My 2009 catalogue from Anglers Workshop came last Saturday and they have Pac Bay English Bronze snakes and tip tops. The English bronze refers only to the color. They are American twist snakes.  (Will Price)

        Thanks, that's what I use Will.  The wire is a little heavier than I might choose, but at least the color is correct.  (Harry Boyd)

    You can get close with gold colored snakes, tiptop, stripper, though the Duronze will darken (yet can be polished easily).  PacBay makes a TiGold color over chrome over steel (see it at Cabelas). A bit expensive unless you are selling the rod. I buy the tip top and stripper in gold color and make my own snakes with bronze piano wire. Or blacken the Duronze (Birchwood Brass Black works well) and go with black snakes and black tip top.  (Paul Franklyn)

    According to everyone I've talked to, they just haven't been able to make a bronze tip top that looks good.

    As to the feet on the black guides, touching up with a sharpie works great....just give it a few minutes to dry.  (John Dotson)

      WARNING: The Sharpie works great ONLY IF you are not putting on a 1st coat of epoxy. The denatured alcohol that is used to thin the hardener and resin to a usable mixture so that the wraps aren't football shaped ALA graphite rods, will cause even PERMANENT makers to become unpermanent! Don't ask how I know! Let's just say that the closest I have come to crying since my Dad died was watching not only the black run over the cane but the single turn of red in the center of the wrap turned the water clear thread to  blushing pink. All that tedious work down the drain.  (Will Price)

        Ouch!!!  I know that feeling.  Thanks for pointing that out Will.  Since I don't use epoxy, I haven't done that one yet.......but I will I'm sure.  (John Dotson)

          Simple India ink will not dissolve in epoxy wrap finish, even though it will soften in alcohol.  Even colored India inks will withstand epoxy.  The ink needs to be dry.  I suggest testing to make sure that the ink you are using will withstand whatever combination of epoxy and alcohol you use, because dried-on India ink can be cleaned off with alcohol.  (Tim Anderson)


Okay, so I ground my black guides,  colored the bare metal with permanent Sharpie, wrapped them, and the bare metal still shows through when I covered the wraps with a coat of Waterlox High Gloss.

I think I must have scraped the black off with my thumbnail packing thread while wrapping.

I'm sure I could have done this a better way, but here is my question:

Can you blue chrome snakes?  They seem to be cheaper and if I could blue them after grinding it could be the way to go.  (Reed Guice)

    I don’t think chrome snakes can be blued.

    Try heating your black guide feet after you have ground them with an alcohol lamp to cherry red. When cool they will have a blue tint.  (Frank Drummond)

      When you get 'em cherry red, dip the ends in motor oil.  You'll end up with a sorta blued finish that was common on some older weapons, and on certain steel work.  (Mark Wendt)

    The series of the Permanent Sharpie is not able to cover completely a metal surface of the ground snakes feet. Try with a marker of the series Industrial Permanent Markers like Sharpie Mean Streak.  (Marco Giardina)

    What brand of guides are you using? They may cost a little more than Pac Bay and other brands, but I've never had to do anything at all to the guides from Snake Brand.  Maybe I've just been lucky.  (Will Price)


I am making only my second rod, and I have a tip top question.  I'm making a Cattanach Sir D 7042, and I bought ahead of time the tip tops that RodDNA lists as appropriate (4.5 in this case).  My dimensions at the tip are very close to perfect: dead on flat-to-flat from two directions, and too big by 0.001 in the third direction.  Nonetheless, the tip top doesn't slide on.  (Yes, I filed the burr from the inside of the tip top.)  Obviously I can sand the tip a bit and it'll go on, no problem.  I'm not really worried about what to do.  My question is more one of the thinking to determine tip top size.

Is it better to choose a smaller tip top and round the tip a bit, or keep all the bamboo intact and step up the tip top a bit?

I suppose the answer is one of balance: strength of the tip -v- weight of the tip top.  Too extreme either way is obviously bad, but how do you guys think through this? It seems to me that simply using a 5 on my tip top would be better for strength reasons, but I figure Wayne new what he was doing when he chose 4.5.  Being new, I'm wondering why 4.5 is best?

Of course, the answer is probably that my tip is not as good as I think it is, and if I had truly nailed it 4.5 would perfectly slide on.  (Tyler Beard)

    I think you have answered your own question.  I rarely want to sand down a tip to install the tip guide.  If I can just chamfer the edge a little to get the guide started, them gently twist and push it down, that's what I want.

    I keep a nice selection of tiptops on hand.  It's amazing how different one 4.5 can be from another 4.5 -- even from the same maker.

    A set of numbered drill bits helps.  Often I will enlarge the tube a little by spinning an appropriate size drill bit inside.  (Harry Boyd)

    Perfection is greatly overrated.  If you have two flats that are dead-on at the tip and one that's off by a thou', we need to be asking YOU for advice, not the other way 'round!

    Personally (with only 16 rods under my belt -- hardly an expert), I'd be looking to see where the offending dimension was and removing the absolute minimum cane necessary to slide the tiptop on.  If you go to a 5 tiptop, you may wind up wrapping a layer of silk on to snug the fit--more mass, more weight.  Remember proportions.  Sand off .002 from a .050 tip, and that's 4 percent.  Sand it from a .200 shaft, and it's 1 percent.  And so forth.

    My rule of thumb is that if the tip "falls" on, I should check out the next smaller size.  And even though I'm a big epoxy fan, I use the Ferrul-Tite for the tips.  Easier to heat-and-tweak if I'm off a hair the first time.  (Steve Yasgur)

      I definitely got lucky on the tips.  I can assure you that every station is not as close as the tips ended up!

      One other thing I didn't mention is I have one of those plastic tip top/ferrule gages.  My tip tops fit perfectly on the 4.5 nub, and my tips fit exactly in the 5 hole.  That doesn't really change anything, but that is part of what prompted my question.

      Thanks for all the comments so far.  (Tyler Beard)

    Everybody is right! The Sir D tips are .0068 which is 4.35/64ths or a 4.5 tiptop ...BUT... the .068 is flat to flat,

    if you do some trig the corner to corner dimension is .078 which is 4.99/64ths  or a 5 tiptop!  So your tips  are 4.5 flat to flat but 5.0 corner to corner.

    Like Harry I have a bunch of tip tops and use whichever fits best but if all you have are the 4.5's  I'd do  a little sanding and open up the tip tops a little with a small drill bit.  (Dennis Higham)

    I have made a number of this same taper and find that a 4.5 tip top is the right size. It may be the that the hole in the tip top is not the full size. One company tip tops I get are smaller than normal. The flats on the tip should be .068. A sz 4.5 tip top hole should be .068 equal to the flats. If you are trying to fit over the apexes then it will not go.

    I taper the very end and "screw the tip top down. This shaves the apexes off leaving just the flats. If you have numbered drill bits, check the hole in the tip top with a # 51 drill bit. It is .067. It should be a loose fit If it is NOT, drill it out and the bit of jiggle should open it up to .068.

    If this bothers you, go to a # 5 tip top to go over the Apexes It should be .078.  (Tony Spezio)


I have several old, originally blued, snake guides that I want to remove the old bluing from and re-blue them. To facilitate this, I am toying with the idea of having a grandson tumble them in his rock tumbler with his fine polishing grit, or see if my son can have his neighbor run them through his brass polisher (he reloads for rifles and pistols). The re-bluing I can handle. Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated (discounting sanding each and everyone by hand!).  (Frank Schlicht)

    There’s no doubt a chemical answer to this, Frank, but a shell polisher/rock tumbler with a load of walnut shells ought to be just the ticket.  Just be meticulous about the pre-blue degreasing.  (Steve Yasgur)


Was it here on this forum I read about re-plating guides?  If so I can't seem to find the messages ... any help?  (Ron Hossack)

    It has been mentioned here  so I can assure you you are not nuts. Hope that is some help.  (Timothy Troester)

    Most of the home plating info was originally from the Caswell Plating web site.  I haven't done it, but I'd assume you'd strip the old plating, probably with an acid bath, and proceed as if it were new.  (George Bourke)

    If I recall correctly, just as you can put a finish on  a piece, you can also remove the finish. I think it all has to do with finding a material that likes what you're trying to get rid of. If that makes any sense. Then you can re-electroplate.

    You can remove rust using electrolysis which is nothing more than a kiddie pool full of borax and water, a battery charger and a hunk of metal that likes the rust better than what it's currently on. Electricity takes care of the rest.

    Works great.  (Kurt Wolko)


I really like the looks of single foot guides like the BLAG Fuji Alconites.

Is there a reason that I never see modern guides on bamboo?  I would think the rod would cast better with the line up off the rod but what do I know.

Is this a preference or tradition issue?  (Ron Hossack)

    Jeff Hatton uses similar.

    Yes (Scott Grady)

    Jeff Hatton likes single foots, too. The rest of us think they look weird on a bamboo rod, but there's no laws against it as far as I know.  (John Channer)

      Unless you refinish one yourself, you will never see single foot guides on a J. E. Arguello fly rod! Or pink thread for that matter! ..............Oh I did wear a pink shirt to the CCC!  (Joe Arguello)

    Use whatever you want to use on the rods. They are yours so do what you want.  Though they are not original to bamboo rods.  As a matter of fact I know some guys who swear by the single foot guides.  (Bret Reiter)

    I put Fuji single foot guides on the first two fly rods I built in the very early '80's and have only one complaint; I should have used slightly larger guides as it the ones I used restrict line shooting. Otherwise, I have liked them.  (Frank Schlicht)


Quick question. Are stripping guides sizes determined by the inside diameter of the hole in the insert, or the outside diameter of the wire enclosing the insert?  (Wayne Kifer)

    There's really little standardization there.  Usually it's the ID of the wire, but not always.  (Harry Boyd)


I've been doing some reading on making snake guides and I have a question that may be very obvious but I am just missing it.

A number of tips on the Todd's tip site reference using a hardened t-slot nut in flattening the feet.  Why and how do you use it?

Wouldn't a large flat bottomed punch work to flatten the feet instead and be easier to use?  (Ron Elder)

    Dave LeClair can give you an answer. He uses one in a press and does both feet simultaneously.  (Vince Brannick)

    You put the nut in a vise, drop the loop part of the guide in the hole in the nut, and smash the feet flat with a precision alignment tool (big hammer). (Jason Klett)

    I make my own snakes and have for quite some time.  The reasons you use the T-Nut are:

    1. It's already hardened and you need something harder than the wire you are using.  I use two kinds of wire, Spring Tempered steel wire and Spring Tempered Stainless steel wire (in different diameters).  Most punches are not quite as hard as the hardened wire, so you'll quickly end up with a groove beat into the punch.

    2.  The nut has a hold in the middle of it so you can put the loop in the hole and more easily "square up" the guide.  You're still going to get a certain percentage of them where the bottom of the feet are not right...  in other words, feet flat on a rod, the guide leans  to one side.  Having the t-nut with the hole lets the weight of the loop center itself, giving you a better chance of getting a square foot when you punch it.

    OR, you can spend a fortune building a jig like I have that will do exactly the same thing... by the time I got the punch and jig hardened to Rockwell 60, I had about $175 in it. T-Nuts cost about $2 each and if you have a lathe or a mill, you probably have a few spare ones around the shop anyways.  (Bob Nunley)


Anyone know where to get the tool to make snake guides?  (Wayne Vierhout)


I have had several rods in the shop with guide feet pulled out from under their wraps.  Almost every one of them have had the feet shortened. It seems to me the shorter guide feet are contributing to the feet pulling out from under the wraps.

So why are makers/builders cutting down the guide feet?

And as long as I'm asking, for those of you not using Snake Brand, why?

Wire size?  Color?

Cost?  Durability?  (Scott Grady)

    I use snake brand on all the rods I make. However, for restorations I like the match the originals as much as I can. was surprised by someone's recent observation that they liked to use Snake Brand for restorations. Most Heddons, Grangers, etc use wire that is a bit heavier gauge than Snake Brand uses.

    One interesting note. I don't grind down Snake Brand guide feet because I could never put a finish on the ends as nice as  the manufactures do. I have noticed (It might be the run I recently bought) that there are differences of around 0.5-0.25 mm in length between the two feet on a given guide. This could tempt some makers to try to equalize them by grinding. This would mean grinding off the finish on both ends of all guides. On the most recent rod I made I spilt the difference on the number of wraps at each end of the shortest  feet so that both wraps were the same length. For example, add a couple of wraps in front of the foot and a couple at the center on the shortest foot the sum of the distance covered by extra wraps would be equal to the difference in length between the two feet. It is hardly noticeable.  (Doug Easton)

    Yeah, I don't use Snake brand because of the cost.  There are a number of lower cost alternatives that are perfectly acceptable.   I do feather the ends of the feet, but I don't shorten them.  If I fully wrap the feet up to where the loop begins, I've never had a problem with them pulling out.  (Paul Gruver)

    I don't shorten the feet  on guides and do use Snake brand guides.  I can think of three reasons why people would shorten the feet:  1) appearance, 2) weight savings, and 3) less effect on the action of the rod.

    For those who do shorten the feet, I would think that a couple of wraps of thread behind the foot would reduce the problem of feet pulling out.  (Robert Kope)

    I've had snake brand guides pull out before and I've always attributed it to the softness of the guides more than shortening of the feet. When you think about it, a perfectly good guide shouldn't pull out unless the wire is soft enough to let it pull out, I don't think this would be prevented by double wraps. Sure, all wire guides are probably soft enough to pull out with some force, but I've had snake brand pull out with very little force, they simple seem more flexible than other guides.

    I use them because I like the color and I like to think that softness affects the action less. I also shorten the feet because I find the guides are inconsistent in their appearence and again I'd hope doing so affects the action less.

    My two cents.  (Jim Lowe)

      I've only had one snake guide pull out, that was a titanium REC Recoil guide, simply too flexible. That's not all bad, once I'd under-lapped a ferrule and I squashed the guide down so that it fit into the headstock and turned it down, on pulling it out it returned to previous shape; that was not the guide that pulled out from under the wraps.

      Now I'm sticking with the Snake snakes.  (Henry Mitchell)


I'm in the process of building my first flamed rod and was planning on bluing the hardware. I'm wondering what kind of material the guides and reel seat hardware should be made from that will give me the best results.  Will any generic steel guide work?  Should I steer  away from  one finish  type over  another (ie. chrome guides)?  (Derrick Diffenderfer)

    You can buy guides that are already blued, but many of those that are colored are coated with something, or painted, or black nickel plated Two Problems... First, stay away from Chrome. Nothing that's safe to use will blue it. Second, there are a several brands of guides that are made from Spring Tempered Stainless Steel then colored. Many of these need to have the feet cleaned up on them before use. Stainless will blue with certain formulas under certain conditions, but not very easily... and if you're going to use non color preserved wraps, then that shiny end of the foot will stick out like a sore thumb.

    I would strongly suggest using Snake Brand Guides. They already have a great color PLUS the feet are ready and do NOT have to be sanded, ground or filed to get a good transition with your thread.

    I make my own guides from Spring Tempered Music Wire and blue them myself, but if I ever go back to off the shelf guides, Snake Brand is the only way to go.

    No, I don't work for Mike! I don't even use his products, but I used to use them, and they're hard to beat.

    As for the hardware, most nickel silver hardware will blue very evenly. Once in awhile you'll run into a butt cap made of Bar Stock that blues spotty or uneven. Harry Boyd and I ran into that during one of our rodmaking classes. I blued that sucker 3 or 4 times and it looked bad every time. Finally, I decided to anneal it slightly, so I heated it up to nearly cherry, quenched it in cold water, then resanded and buffed it out on my buffer. It blued perfectly even that time.

    I'm just guessing, as there is absolutely no evidence to support this, but I think that, being as that reel seat was made from Bar Stock that it might have work hardened more in some places than it did in others, and that made it take the patina badly. Heating it up evenly then cooling it might have evened out the hardness and let it blue nicely... and when it was finished, it was a beautiful blue black... lacquered over it and WOW!

    In any case, have fun with it and let us know when you get the rod finished... photos are expected to be posted somewhere on the internet!  (Bob Nunley)


Anyone out there making their own tip-tops?  I'm looking for ideas and methods if anyone can help out.

Not that I need anything more to do, but I think it would be an interesting challenge and in theory, they look pretty simple if someone had a jig for the top loop to be consistent.  (Scott Bahn)

    I use a drill bit the size I need to wrap the NS wire around, then pinch it snug with a pair of pliers.  Tuck the loose ends into the top of some brass or aluminum tubing and drop some silver bearing solder on top to finish it off.

    Just my own home grown method.  (Brian Morrow)

    You can stop by and pick up my Snake Maker and some wire if you like. I do not have any cork trees, yet.  (Scott Grady)

    Fine brass tubing can be found in the tips of radio antennas. I can buy a new antennae here and they do fine for the tip tops.  (Geert Poorteman)


I was given a bunch of chrome snake guides, dozens, all different sizes in one box. So I was wondering if there was a better way to measure their sizes than holding them up to guides I know the size of.  There must be a known measurement for each size.  But where do you measure and what are the corresponding sizes?

Any tips?  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    You could use the chucking end of drill bits.  Select the closest fractional bits you have to the metric size and holding it parallel to the feet, see which one just slides thru.  For the range of sizes of guides go to a website like Pacific Bay.  (Al Baldauski)

      I got lots of good information and ideas. I ended up going with Al Baldauski's suggestion of using the chuck end of drill bits as measuring guides. I found the biggest drill bit that would fit in any size.  Then all I had to do was to see which was the largest bit that would fit a given guide. 

      Here are the bit sizes that I used:

      Guide      Bit

        2/0        1/8"
        1/0       9/64"
         1        11/64"
         2         3/16"
         3         7/32"
         4        15/64"
         5          1/4"
         6         9/32"

      I found I could size the guides very easily.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    If it were me, I would first sort them by size and then compare to the guides that you use and know.  I don't think there is a consistent accepted size standard.  I store my snake guides in seven day pill boxes that I bought from Walgreen's for about $2.

    Yes, I have a financial interest in Walgreen's, but this wouldn't make any difference, ha ha ha.  (Scott Grady)


I have a client that is a bit worried about having an agate stripping guide installed  -- he fishes a lot.  Any stories of excessive guide wear on agate guides.  I know Jeff Hatton won't use them.  (David Van Burgel)

    JMO but unless you use a silk line and let it be dirty continuously I think you would be hard pressed to wear one out in your lifetime. I have done repairs on just as many rods with grooves in a mildrum stripper as I have in an agate or agatine stripper. These were of course older rods that had seen their heaviest use in the days that silk was the only line available.  (Will Price)

    I have not heard of problems with agate.  Agate has a hardness of 6.5-7 on the Mohs scale; agatine is 5.5.  (Robert Kope)

      I have never heard of any wear issues though I have heard about them cracking.  I think those stories are exaggerated though.  I put agates on about 50 rods per year (glass rods) and, knock on wood, have not had a rod returned for a cracked guide.  (Mike McFarland)

        I had a customer crack an agate guide.  He attempted to toss a big conehead wooly bugger on a very windy day, and the bugger hit the stripping guide dead on shattering it.  I told him that he was lucky the fly didn't hit him in the head or face.

        I replaced the agate at his expense. He is now much more careful of his fly selection.  (Paul Julius)

    I'm a geologist and, although agate is a little out of my areas of geologic expertise, maybe I can help a little here.

    Agate is essentially quartz of a type commonly called cryptocrystalline.  Quartz is used to define hardness 7 on the Moh's Hardness Scale.  If you check on the internet, you will find that agate is listed as having hardnesses varying between 6.5 and 7 on Moh's scale.  The lower values are probably due to impurities.  In the case of agate, some of those "impurities" are what make it look so nice.  As diamond polishers have long known, a material can be used to grind and polish itself, so quartz will grind and polish agate.  Not as fast as, say,  diamond or sapphire (and its non-gem varieties), but it will do so.

    The sediments in our rivers and streams contain abundant amounts of quartz as sand and silt grains.  Stick that stuff to a fly line and drag it across a guide repeatedly and you will discover what Will mentions.  If you fish a rod enough to groove an agate stripping guide with a plastic line, you are having entirely too much fun and probably deserve grooving the guide.

    Many of the modern ceramic rings in guides are harder than quartz, but they do not look as beautiful as agate.  In many cases tradition and beauty win and agate is the material of choice.  If you want to have the most durable stripping guide, one with a ceramic ring might be a better choice.  It just will not be so eye-catching and attractive.  (Tim Anderson)


I am doing a repair job on a friends graphite rod and it has single foot guides.  I have never seen a bamboo rod with these guides.  I know  traditionally these were not used and aesthetically would not look as good but I am wondering how it would affect the action of the rod (better or worse).  If anyone has tried it I would be interested to know how it worked out or any other opinions or thoughts.  (Rick Barbato)

    I have used single footer on a few rods and have them on a 8' bass rod that I use a lot. Only problem I have is that I have to replace them much too often.

    If you do use them make sure to continue the wrap past the ring side of the foot.  (Bob Norwood)

      Here's a way to lock in single foot guides that I have found to be very reliable.  (Mike McGuire)

        I use the Forhan locking wraps on all my single foot guides for spinning (and baitcaster) rods

        I'll have a couple with me (graphite spinning - scandal) at Grayrock if anyone is interested  (Nick Kingston)

        Suggest you use the Forhan wrap, where you wrap the foot, part of the leg, and then extend the wrap past the leg.

        I also like the Fuji seats - functional, warm, secure ... but I would never place them on a bamboo rod, visually it seems wrong!  No matter how functional it is.  (Dave Wilson)

          Yeah, we always backwrapped them, but they'll still pop out if provoked. Snakes will too, even if properly mounted, popped one only a month ago on a boat seat. Fortunes of war, put it back in and carry on, pug it up later.  (Robin Haywood)

      Interesting discussion on the guides...

      What type of SF guides are we talking about here that grace Jeff's and a few others rods? The ones like these:

      Hossack_hsfgp

      Single Foot Stainless Steel Guide

      or

      Hossack_ltcflgsmall

      SF with Hard Aluminum Oxide Ring

      I much prefer the second ring but hey ... I'm not normal anyway. I saw a nice pic of another (another Jeff?) rodmaker who used the bottom style guide on a bamboo rod and I liked the look.  (Ron Hossack)

        I much prefer the first item, only in black finish. To me the oxide ring ones smack too much of conventional tackle, but anyone who makes bamboo rods is a few sigmas away from the norm anyway, just how much and in which direction varies.  (Mike McGuire)

        You can get the lined sort with gold frames and smooth brown inserts for the same price as Fujis, they are called Seymo and come from Hopkins and Holloway. They are probably the best to use on cane.  (Robin Haywood)

    I've not noticed any difference in the action. But they do look terrible. And last forever. As far as I can tell, without getting anal and weighing them, they are not actually heavier than snakes.  (Robin Haywood)

    Jeff Hatton is a fanatic about single foots on Bamboo.  He only uses single foot guides on his rods.  I like Jeff, but I do NOT like single foot guides, not even on a graphite rod.  Just my opinion, of course,  and something that Jeff and I, although we are friends, differ greatly on!

    OK, here's the way I look at it.  I can cast WAY more line than I can fish with my 8 foot 6 weight... How much more unfishable line are single foot guides going to allow me to cast?   (Bob Nunley)

      I don't believe there should be any difference in line cast with one or the other.  And there is no difference in weight.  Basically a single foot is a snake guide folded over with both feet on one side.  This real issue is whether the stiffening that a snake guide creates over a greater length is meaningful compared to a single foot.  It's probably insignificant in the lower half of the rod but will have more of an effect as you  approach the rod tip.   Is it enough to matter?  I don't know.

      I've built rods with both styles. Never two identical rods with different guides though.   So I've never had a true comparison.  (Al Baldauski)

      Bob beat me to it.  Jeff's been using single foot guides for quite a while, and I tease the hell out of him for it.  Like Bob, I prefer the looks of snake guides running up the rod above a nice agate stripping guide.  But, obviously some folks prefer their rods a little more nekkid, with only one wrap per guide.

      I don't like totally nekkid rods.  I prefer to leave a little to the imagination...  (Mark Wendt)


I recall that some on the list were flattening guide feet with Roper Whitney punches; so when I saw a #5 at a yard sale for $5, I scored.  Such a deal!  There are no flat anvils in the kit, and I don't see them on the R-W web site.  Did you R-W users buy your flat anvils?   ... modify the existing ones?   ...make new?   (Grayson Davis)

    I'm the guy who started the Roper Whitney thread.  I ground the 9/32 punch flat and screwed in a 7/16 - 20 bottoming tap in place of the anvil.  You could use a hardened 7/16 - 20 bolt, but don't use carbide (it'll shatter).  It works rather well, but I've given up making my own guides.  Mine don't come out as well as I'd like.  (Ron Larsen)


I'm making a rod for NZ, Dickerson 801611 with bamboo ferrules. I'm starting from scratch since this will be the first bamboo ferruled rod. I've made 3 rods so far with NS ferrules. 

Yeah, I like the challenge. Any rate, what size agate stripper do you recommend for this rod? (Boris Gaspar)

    I've always went with the sizes Russ Gooding lists on his web site for particular size stripping guides to fit lines. So I'd go with a 10mm.  (Will Price)

      Golden Witch has a 6 wt against 3 sizes 10, 11, 12. I suppose it's not that critical but why 10 & not 11 or 12? (Boris Gaspar)


 

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