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Tool Building - Planing Forms - Purchasing

Does anyone on the list know where I can purchase a set of Quad Planing forms (new or used)?  (Joe Eichenlaub)

    Jeff Wagner sells Quad forms.  (Dennis Higham)

    Ray Gould has how to & plans for Quad Forms in his book "Cane Rods Tips & Tapers". The book is well done and has a wealth of in formation including the largest accumulation of tapers I've even seen in one spot.  (Don Schneider)


There are a  lot of good planing forms out there. Personally $850 for forms is to the point I would buy a beveller and make a set of hardwood forms with aluminum angles and groove my plane.

I paid $350+ for my forms from Bootstrap and  I am more then pleased with them. Upon checking I did have to fine tune the first 20" of the tip section. It took me about 20 minutes to do so. Big Deal.

But if you do not have a problem spending $850 instead of just spending it on forms maybe this is an option.

Forms from Grindstone Anglers in Canada around $300 Canadian $28 for Stanley plane from Lowes. Either heat treat the blade or buy a Hock blade $35.  Build a binder pulleys and stuff around $30.  3 culms shipped to your door for around $100 Demarest or Golden Witch.  Use the rest for all the nick nacks.

You can actually get started for the price of a set of $850 forms.  (Adam Vigil)

    This message was in response to several messages that thought you are better off buying a form instead of making one yourself.

    I strongly disagree.  Perfectly adequate forms can be built with hand tools in far less time than it takes to build a rod.  I got in trouble once with one of the makers of high-end forms for saying that homemade forms are  "just as good" as the high dollar forms.  Yet I'll stand by that statement.  They are just as functional.  They may not be as nice looking, or as easy to use.  But home-built forms can be just as functional.

    What's our time worth?  Well, if we're trying to maximize the value of our time, then we ought not be building fishing poles, but making microchips.

    Last night I spent about 2 hours completely reworking my forms.  Those of you who saw them at SRG know why!  Right now they are as bright and shiny as any you will find.  And they certainly are capable of repeatedly making strips the same size.  That's all any forms should be asked to do.

    Buy a small drill press and a drill press vise.  Beg, borrow or steal a vixen file.  Get some high quality drill bits.  Make one of Don Schneider's file planes.  Get the best taps money can buy.  You should be able to build forms from CRS in 20 hours or less, start to finish.  (Harry Boyd)

      "You must have a 8aa finish on the faces of your forms" is another one of those rodmakers legends.   I cleaned up my forms only to the point of working and guiding the plane.  You do not have to spend all the time to take every single scratch and or groove out.  If you get 85% clean up on the faces that will work. 

      I must agree with Harry also, with the added estimate of 35 hours total. Do to the fact that I already had the cutting tools($40), drill press vice ($30.00) and drill press ($60-$100 Grizzly to Craftsman) my forms only cost $45 to build.  The major cost was the shoulder bolts at $1.25 each.  The bar stock was $17 for a 12' stick which was not too bad dollar wise.

      All of the tools with the exception of the taps can be used when building rods.  The drill press I use for everything from opening up the hole in reel seats to pinning ferrules (just started pinning), making cork handle clamps and building my binder.  (Brad Love)

    $0.02 more, primarily for the beginners that may be lurking.  When I first thought I might like to do this I immediately recognized that the reality might be that I would get either bogged down between the details and my career work or build one rod and then lose interest or just recognize that I just don't have the time.  Hence, I preferred to keep my financial investment down until I was sure I really liked doing this.  That way, if I walked away from it the money wasted would not be excessive (OK, I'm a bit cheap, I admit it). The cost of the forms you quote is slightly less than I paid for everything to get going (forms, oven, heat gun, planes, binder, etc) because I made them myself and used a lot of cheap or free scavenged stuff. It all works very  well.  The  most  expensive  item  I  have  is  a Lie-Nielsen scraper that was a gift. The next most expensive is the heat gun. Certainly it is better to spend your time planing than scraping steel bars to make forms. However, its all craftsmanship and a pleasant way to spend some time decompressing and very gratifying when you get your finished product, either forms or rods. Making the forms also helps to teach the patience required to do this stuff. You have to take the long view to stick with it, I think. Even building the rods is not the kind of thing that a hobbyist can do in a hurry-up way. I never thought it relevant to look at it in the time = money way since for me this is a pleasant hobby that complements my fishing and outdoor interests. I don't work for money when I go home. If I were to make this equivalency based on my average hourly consulting fees, my forms alone would be worth $4500. Now, there is nothing wrong with just buying everything and for many folks this is the best solution. However, making the stuff, if you have the skills, is also quite gratifying (I'm not sure which made me more pleased, my finished forms or my first rod).  (Jon McAnulty)

    Wooden forms work perfectly well and take about 1/2 day to make.  (Tony Young)

    I agree with Harry, I built my forms.  I did all drilling and tapping and making them level.  I then brought them to a machinist for the groove.  It cost something like $180 for the machining of the forms and a set of roughing forms.  The hard part was finding someone with a machine with a large enough table to make the cut.  The shop I found had a 16' table!  Very cool machine.  I recently got to use a set of "good", (read: bought), They were nice but I got the same results from mine.  But I prefer mine because they are made from 7/8" CRS as opposed to 3/4", I like the extra width.  (Tom Ausfeld)

    A vixen file is sometimes known as an auto body file.  Back in the days when auto body work was done by hand, in other words before power sanders were de rigeur, these very aggressive files were used to remove excess material.  If my ASCII art works, a vixen file basically looks like this:

        _____________________
    ---((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((

    The teeth are very sharp and cut aggressively, removing as much as a thousandth or two of metal on each pass down your forms.  This file is one of the keys to making forms in a short time.  You should be able to do all the filing on one side of your forms in an hour and a half at most.  In my mind, this beats the heck out of hour after hour of draw filing.

    I drilled and countersunk a hole in the tang of the file, and attached an oak handle.  The file I use is 14" long.  One hand goes on the handle, the other on the file itself.  Holding the file just slightly skewed from parallel  to the bars of your planing form, make a pass, then shift the file.  Make another pass, and shift the file.  This technique for filing is described well in Wayne's book.  You'll need to brush the bars clean after about two passes.  Metal comes off in a BIG hurry, so use caution.  When the entire surface of the two bars shows a bright surface, you're through with that side.  Turn the two finished sides together for use as the inner surfaces of your forms.

    Several list members have mentioned finding Vixen files at Grizzly Imports at a reasonable price.

    Next drill and tap the forms.  Use the correct size drill -- most people do not. You should use a drill identified with either a letter or a number to prepare for tapping a fractional sized hole.  For instance, use a size Z drill with a 9/16-16 tap (I don't know the right combo's off hand).  But you don't drill with a 1/4" bit for a 5/16" tapped thread unless you want blisters and broken taps.

    Buy a good tap.  Spend $15 or more on your tap and its handle, and it will save you many, many hours of work.  Use plenty of cutting fluid.

    Use either feeler gauges or your dial calipers to set the forms consistently wider at each station, following Tom Penrose's directions carefully.  Then use the 60 degree lathe tool described in Bruce Conner's FAQ to do the majority of the groove cutting.  The bit costs about $2, and I made the holder from scrap wood and two set screws.  Total cost, $3.  One tip, do the tip side of your forms first, so that when (not if) you screw up and go too deep, you can use the messed up tip  side for the butt side.  Once you get close, switch to a triangular file glued to a block of wood, or even better, one of Don Schneider's File Planes (described in Power Fibers e-zine).

    • CRS 12' -- $13
    • Dowel pins -- $5
    • Shoulder bolts and set screws -- $15
    • Vixen file -- $0
    • Drill press -- borrowed
    • 3" Drill press vice --$13 at Sears
    • Tap -- $15
    • File plane -- Gift
    • lathe tool -- $3

    Total cost on forms tools and materials $61, plus labor

    I've got a vixen file, a 60 degree cutter, and a File plane that I'll be glad to loan to anyone for a week  or two.  Just promise to return them as soon as you are through.

    I don't think there is a single idea described above that is original with me.  And I've borrowed from half a dozen sources to develop this technique.  All of them have come through this list over the last 5 years.  So my thanks to all those I've borrowed from.  (Harry Boyd)


Has anyone used the forms that Co. Bootstrap or Lon Blanvelt offer? And if so would you recommend them?  (Robert Hicks)

    I originally bought a set from Lon.  I still have them but rarely use since I got my MHM. They are good starter forms and fairly priced.  (Scott Grady)

    I had and used a set of CO Bootstrap forms years ago and liked them overall.  They were fairly well done and accurate; good 60 degree groove, consistent taper and reasonably flat.  They did require some cleaning up and polishing before use.  If I recall correctly, at the time they were $250.  I believe they're closer to $415 delivered now. 

    As part of my recent reentry in rod making, I purchased a set of forms from Lon Blauvelt.  Lon bills his forms as ready to use right out of the box.  Mine weren't quite.  They needed to be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned.  Then when checking the groove, I found several spots were the milling cutter had left a tiny shelf on one side of the groove, which had to be carefully cleaned up with a 60 degree carbide lathe tool and a small file.  As far as flatness goes, mine were OK except for one spot covering 10" of the butt side of the form were there was a noticeable crown.   As I use a plane with a milled slot on the sole, I wasn't too worried about this.  I may take off more wood in this spot, but I can compensate when setting the final dimensions.  The good news was that the groove is an accurate 60 degrees and the taper is reasonably consistent.  Lon says his tip form goes down to .028 but mine are more like .023.  That's fine with me as it opens up possibilities of really fine tips.  I paid $368 for them delivered.  I haven't planed any cane on them yet, but I believe they'll work fine.  Oh, one more thing.  Lon doesn't mention it on his web site, but his forms have extra push screws between stations on the butt end of the forms for working with swelled butt designs.

    I haven't seen any of the new CO Bootstrap forms, so I can't speak to his current form quality.  But I expect it's just as good as it used to be.  Either form will serve you well, but either one might require a little tweaking or flat filing before use.  If you don't mind spending the extra $50, get the CO Bootstrap forms.  I almost wish I had.  (Bill Benham)

    I have a hex and quad set from Lon B. I think they are both nice planing forms. They are well priced for their quality level. I think that you can make very competent and precise rods with Lon's forms.  I like Jeff Wagner's forms personally, but the cost factor is higher. It depends on what you are shooting for.   (Bob Maulucci)

    I have a set of Colorado. Bootstrap's forms and have made some perfectly good rods on it. I also have a set of Jeff Wagner's forms and really like them.  (Steve Weiss)


Any scoop on the Lon Blauvelt’s planing forms

I have a friend who is considering how to get into his first couple of rods as inexpensively as possible (you all know how some folks only make that one rod).

I didn't like the dowel holes on the flat planing surface.   (Scott Turner)

    I've been using one of Lon's planing forms for the last few years (about 6 rods).  Never used one of the more expensive ones so I don't have anything to compare it to but I can say that Lon's planing form has been good for me.  (Jim Maselli)

    I have not seen one of Lon's forms, but from his description I would expect you might make several hundred rods on his form.  I cannot see any reason for a form of this description to fail.  The only probably cause could be the adjusting screws and I  can assure you that you will not ever put so much stress on the threads that they will fail.  I have a form of Hoagy Carmichael's that has seen over a hundred + rods and yes I did have a problem one of the differential screws broke., but that was different because I was torquing a lot of pressure for a swelled butt.  The form is a good value and well worth the money.  If steel forms are too expensive make your own wooden ones.  (Ralph Moon)

    I have used forms from Lon for about three years with fine results. No complaints at all. I don't think your friend can go wrong with them.  (Ron Revelle)

    I've used Lon Blauvelt's planing form since I began in January 2004. At the time I did not have the proper drill press to make my own. He lapped the surface well and shipped them in a solid tube. It appears that he ground the taper in a machine shop. 60 inches, so an 8 foot 2 piece rod is the realistic limit; maybe 8'6". After 12 rods, no complaint, but then I don't have any other experience to compare.  The dowel pins are not on (or did you mean near?) the planing surface, rather through the center as two other forms I've seen (but not used).  His photos at the web site may be skewing the perception, so you should ask.  I've wondered if these forms will last 100 rods, like the expensive ones are touted. Probably not, so I try not to torque the bolts too hard. I won't last 100 rods, in any case.  (Paul Franklyn)

      Purely as a matter of academic interest, why shouldn't a set of forms last 100 rods ?  If you don't strip the screws or the  holes, and if you don't do your planing with an angle grinder, what is to wear out ?  And even if you do strip screw holes, surely you can just drill another set about an inch away from the other holes.  You don't have to measure your 5" dimensions over a set of push/pull screws; for example, if you are doing a rod that quotes the taper in 6" increments, you can just measure them where they fall.  And if the holes were too close to the planing surface, ditto, but with smaller bolts.

      There speaks an amateur rodmaker with about half a hundred rods,  who fervently hopes his forms last forever, as  the prospect of having a new set made here in Tasmania absolutely makes the mind boggle.

      I have, especially earlier in the process, done some pretty awful things to the surface of the forms, some of which involved the heavy use of drawfiling to rectify, and I am still nowhere near the bolts.

      Mind you, they are 1" square stock to start with, which probably gives me a lot more slop to work with.  How many people have 1' steel, and how many have 1/2" ?  I had mine made by a friend of mine who owns a machine shop in which he does some pretty fine work.  He is, for example, an "A" supplier for Caterpillar.  The machinist who actually did the work, at the end of it, said that one of his fondest wishes was not to have ever to do that job again.  I chose the maker because he was the only bloke I knew in the city in which  live who had a  6'0" .bed mill , and oddly enough they said that milling that fall (0.001" per inch) was the hardest part of the job.

      I have developed this theory, by the way.  If you want to have 5 sets of planing forms made by friends, and if you still want some friends at the end of the procedure, you had better start off with at least six friends.  It's kind of like friendship entropy.  (Peter McKean)

        I believe they should last for 100 rods or more. My original steel forms were 3/4" thick prior to final planing and I still use them. There's always the fixed groove wood forms for those who wish to build only a few rods.  (Ray Gould)

          ..and then, again, there are wooden forms.  (Roland Cote)

        The forms I got from Hoagy are 3/4" by 72" and are otherwise identical to the specifications in The Book. I notice none of the currently available forms have those differential screws, which must be assembled by a genius, I imagine.

        Your 1" forms I imagine will outlast you and your heirs! They must weigh a ton.  (Sean McSharry)

          Just to inject some realism here. I have used both Lon's and Frank's forms for years in a class situation. Understand that the first few rods will put the most damage into the forms as the new rodmaker learns the skills of planing. The insight is this. The forms are only getting truer and truer as the little plane blade digs are removed (filing). And that the forms will build smaller tipped rods today then when they first were used. I highly doubt that unless there were years of careless neglect that a person in their entire lifetime of rodmaking could ever . . . .blow through a set of forms. I reflect back at the conversations about the different levels of forms. Those of Frank's and Lon's VS those offered by Jeff. Most agreed that Jeff produced a set of forms that didn't need to be touched (flawless and accurate) as far as any honing or fine tuning. On the other hand for a entry level rod maker comments were that with the lesser sets they would fine tune (filing of light burrs and slight waves between stations) as the person using them fine tuned their skills and that after a few rods that for the most part the differences diminished.  (Wayne Cattanach)

            In posts last year there were some threads with the consensus advice that we should not to lap (or use a belt sander on) the surface of forms to remove dings, because that would ruin the taper that was carefully machined.  In the Golden Witch video on making blanks, Russ Gooding advises the maker to plane until you see metal shavings, which made me think that the forms will reach a point that lapping or tuning is needed again.

            My forms have many dings, for I have not grooved the two (beautiful) Veritas block planes that I bought after discarding the new Stanley imitation of a 9 1/2 block plane, which sole was so not perpendicular to the sides that I was ruining the angle on my strips -- and causing so many dings too.  At least I told myself that this plane was poorly made and causing operator error.  The error went away when I use the Veritas planes.

            Now the question: What are the risks if I lap the surface of my inexpensive forms to make them shine again?   (Paul Franklyn)

              You don't have to groove your planes.  Get some 5 mil stainless shim stock and stick in on the sole of the plane with double-sided tape.  I did this with my LN scraper.  (Ron Larsen)

                I use a couple of varieties of self-adhesive tape from McMaster. One is UHMW, .003 in thickness, the other is Kapton,  .0025 in thickness. Both dimensions include the adhesive. Not as long lived as stainless, but it serves the same function, is thin, easily replaceable, cheap, and reduces friction.  (Larry Blan)

                  For the last work on a strip, I use a Stanley box cutter replacement blade as a scrapper, full length passes. When no more dust comes off, done. This polishes the form but also puts a very sharp edge on the outer edges of the form which I dull after cutting my fingers a few times. :>)

                  To answer your question: Unless you are doing something that makes the top surface of the forms look like a roller coaster the taper is still there. It may be getting shallower but it is still there. Minor dings on the surface don't cause problems.

                  If you want to checkout/fine tune your forms, follow the instructions on this spreadsheet. Any questions, give me a shout.  (Don Schneider)

              I made my own planing form a while back based on the designs in Wayne's book (I took to heart his comment that if you want to work cane to tolerances of thousands in a project taking weeks of your time, you should consider making your own form), "The Lovely Reed" and other books - along with Thomas Penrose's online guide.  When I started, I had never draw filed metal, nor did I know what cold rolled steel was.  I am a geek - but now I am a geek with metal dust under my fingernails.  It was greatly satisfying, even though it took me months to learn how to draw file so that you actually remove metal, how to tap threads etc.  If I did it again, it would take me considerably less time - now that I know what I should have done.

              I chose to use separate push and pull bolts - one placed on either side of an alignment pin.  I have discovered that adjusting the final thousandth or so is a pain and have decided to convert my forms to differential bolts.  Seems like a good idea.

              Now the challenge.  I thought of machining the bolt from scratch and dropped that.  I like socket head cap screws - and I like the recessed type even more.  I don't want to try making those from bar stock.  So, I bought a few 5/16-24 socket head cap screws and turned down the tip thread to the diameter needed to tap a 1/4-20 thread.  The turning worked great.  The thread cutting?  Well... not so much.  I guess the screws are hardened (question to the manufacturer - Serv-a-Lite - has gone unanswered).  I cannot get the tap to bite into the screw's material.

              So, I figured I would investigate annealing and retreating the metal.  If I remember my lathe class details, I can anneal in the family oven - SWMBO permitting.  Treating is another issue - a local shop wants $75 CAN to do that for a minimum order.

              Have any of you turned your own differential screws?  I would like to do this myself, not outsource it to a machine shop.  (Greg Dawson)

                I made differential screws by turning down 1 inch of a 2 inch bolt to the proper diameter and cutting the new threads with a die held in the lathe tailstock. The trouble with differential screws is where they start. Getting the two different threads of the screw to start in the same place in the threaded form is a real pain.  That's why I used three piece differential screws. The three pieces are: a setscrew drilled & tapped for a locking bolt, a hex head bolt drilled with a clearance hole for the locking bolt & the locking bolt. A star washer between the two halves keeps the setscrew from slipping.  (Ron Larsen)

                Differential screws are not all that difficult to make if one has access to a screw cutting lathe. Start with 5/16 x 24 threaded rod, easy to machine and durable enough to hold up to the stresses that the screws will see when adjusting the forms. I made a split collar chuck to hold the threaded rod concentric in a 3 jaw chuck while turning. Also, after the end of the rod is turned to the proper diameter for 1/4 x 20 threads, the lathe should be set to chase a shallow thread across the rod. Then one can use a die in the tailstock to easily finish the threads. After the threading, a 5/16 x 24 threaded nut can be roll pinned to the end of the screw to assist in turning.

                Regarding the assembly of the forms, if one does the math with respect to the difference in thread pitch, you will see it is very easy to select the proper spacer to set a gap between the bars before you start each screw. It only takes about 5 minutes to assemble once you see the importance of the spacer!

                I have been using differential screws for over 18 years without a problem. VERY easy to adjust the taper using a dial depth indicator and a 60 degree point. It is amazing how accurate you can plane strips by very precise adjustments when using these types of screws. I think this was Garrison's best idea!!

                Anyway, I may not have been clear enough in the construction steps, but look thru Garrison's book to see his use of spit collars in his lathe, and you will get the idea!!  (John Vorndran)

                I doubt the household oven would come near annealing a steel bolt. I am also a bit baffled. If the bolt was really hardened, you should not have been able to turn it. I would suggest you check the diameter of the turned portion. Maybe it's too big for the die.

                Having said that, let me advise you that the differential screw set up is not without it's pitfalls. If you don't get the tapped holes in the bars exactly on center, the bars will cam up and down when you turn the screws, and the top surface of the bars will go out of alignment. If you think you are an  obsessive detail geek now, wait till that starts happening and see what it does to your head. You should have no trouble adjusting the push pull mechanism. I usually get the last .001/.002 by tightening or loosening one of the screws without touching the other one. Just let the dial indicator sit on the bars, and watch the needle move, and you will get the feel of it.   (Tom Smithwick)

                  Regarding the differential screws: Here's what I did: I purchased 5/16" - 24 NF x 2 1/2" long socket head caps screws of hardened steel alloy. Then I made a sketch of what I wanted for a final product and took them to a local screw machine manufacturing shop and smooth talked the machinist into making them for me. Actually what he did was to take the cap screws home and annealed them in his barbecue, then brought them back to his shop and turned the threads for the 1/4"-20 NC section of each screw. I specified on the drawing that the 1/4"-20 threads must be concentric with the 5/16-24 threads, This means they had to cut the threads in a lathe or screw machine and not just run a die nut on them. They came out beautifully and work just fine.  (Ray Gould)

                I would advise against differential screws.  The different pitched threads of the two sections must be perfectly concentric, and I've heard that the forms are very difficult to assemble with differential screws.  In addition, because of play in the threads, once you set a dimension at a station, it can change depending on whether setting the next station puts tension or compression on the one you just set.

                I don't understand your difficulty in adjusting the push-pull screws.  I used the arrangement of Lawrence Waldron's design (from Thomas Penrose's site) with a socket head cap screw on one side of the form and the socket set screw on the other.  All the threads are in one bar, and I put the screws next to each other to reduce torsion.  To adjust a station with this arrangement, you set the depth indicator on top of the forms, put Allen wrenches into both screws, back the screws away from each other to unlock them, and push or pull them simultaneously in the same direction to widen of close the forms.  Then you tighten the screws against each other to lock them.  As you're tightening the screws against each other, watch the needle on the dial indicator and you can hold it exactly where you want it by the amount of pressure you apply to each screw.  It must take a total of about 15 or 20 seconds to set each station, and once you lock it, it doesn't change.

                I've seen some push-pull forms with the heads of both screws on the same side of the forms, often with hex head bolts.  That would require turning the screws in opposite directions to set a station, and the wrenches could interfere with each other.  I can see why that would be a little more difficult to adjust, but I would think you'd get used to it in time.  (Robert Kope)

              I have to agree in part with Robert.  My first form had differential screws.  As Robert points out setting a station is not a one pass job.  You go back and refine the taper several times.  Secondly the differential screws must be very precisely    MACHINED.  They must turn without difficulty, but there must be no slop in the fit. NONE.  I have made differential screws both on a lathe (and they worked out OK. It is better to use a sliding bar for a handle on the screw than to try machine bolts. I have also made differential screw from bolts.    It can be done, but it is simply impossible (for me) to get a good fit.  Finally as Robert points out assembling the forms is a bear cat.  Prepare to spend many hours getting it right.  I will say however, that I firmly believe a good differential screw planing form can be set with far more precision than push pull forms.  That said, who wants to take on all of the aggravation and spend all the time.  Give me Push-Pull forms.   (Ralph Moon)

                When you use push-pull screws and set a station to 1/1000 or better and you know it stays set, then how much more precision could you ask for.  As Bob Kope pointed out, the differential screws have slop which you will chase back and forth.  All screws have slop but the push-pull arrangement eliminates the slop when you lock them up (and you don’t have to make those screws “cry” either, just snug).  I have no trouble with my PP forms, I love ‘em.  When I have my taper set, I go back over each station to check and they’re RIGHT ON.  (Al Baldauski)

              I started out with planing forms that used differential screws, and as others mentioned, there were problems with it.  First time bolting the forms together took me almost three hours just getting the damn screws set up correctly so I could close the forms.  And as somebody else mentioned, you have to go back a bunch of times to reset stations that have tweaked a little when setting the next station, or the one after that.  I ended up getting so frustrated with the differential screws that I drilled them out, retapped, used shoulder bolts and set screws in a push pull setup.  Much easier, and I can have a taper set in less than a half hour.  (Mark Wendt)

                What he said!!!!

                I've used two sets of differential screw forms for over 20 years and I finally broke down and bought a set of PP forms after trying them for the first time last year.  The  screws are damned-near impossible to make (I tried and succeeded with ONE  screw  after 11 blown tries!) and the slop will drive you to distraction! This was on a lathe as I can't believe it's possible to get the two threads concentric with a premade set and a die applied after-the-fact. The forms I have were made to fine tolerances (as far as I could tell), but those screws were always sloppy enough that you might turn one 1/8th of a turn for .001, or 2 1/8 turns for that same effect. I implore you to not try to experience this for yourself unless you are a certifiable masochist!

                Believe me, fooling with those PP screws is a walk-in-the-park, compared to those infernal differential devices.  (Art Port)

              Well I find the setting of the differential screws is not all that bad. I agree you have to go back and check each station but mainly it is off a bit where the nearby station required a considerable adjustment from its previous setting. The bloke who made these forms must have been a master craftsman.  (Sean McSharry)

                So what are the numbers?? With my personal set of forms - the original Garrison style I hand made - 115 rods. And on a intermixing of Lon's and Frank's forms 158 rods divided into 5 sets of forms.

                Now some say I am showing the signs of the wear and tear of life from over the years - the forms are holding up better than I am. (Wayne Cattanach)

            I have a set of Aluminum forms (that I inherited many years ago) that have produced well in excess of the notional 100 rods  benchmark figure.  (Paul Blakley)

              Bully for you and your aluminum forms. You can join the KISS team. My original aluminum hex forms from back in the 60's still work well. I made them in one afternoon, and have since (with help from Tom Smithwick) made forms for quads and pentas, all successful. I've also had success with big salmon rods using wooden forms. Don't knock 'them.     (Bill Fink)

                I have a recollection that there were only 12 of Hoagy's forms which were distributed by Carson ever made.  I forget the serial number of mine, and the only people other than you and I who used one that I know of is Wayne.  It would be interesting to hear if any others of this set are still being used.  Interestingly enough it is through that broken differential screw that I first became acquainted with Hoagy.  That and his letter to the editor telling me to go back to basics on my rod building.  But that is another story.  It was the editor at Flyfisherman that botched up my article so that it made no sense.   Never did forgive those guys.  (Ralph Moon)

                  I just looked but see no serial number. I have some correspondence but where is it.  (Sean McSharry)

                    My serial number was on the butt end of one of the bars.  Metal stamped number  (Ralph Moon)

    I have one of Jeff Wagner's forms. I have made around 200 rods on this one set. I have lately been wondering about the longevity of the forms. so far I see no reason why these forms should not last my lifetime anyway. (Timothy Troester)

      I am confused about this thread. Other than neglect and the form rusting out, why shouldn't  forms last  practically forever? Are people actually planing away the metal of their forms?

      Perhaps because I use grooved planes I don't get any wear on my planing form, but I always took that as normal.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I have a set of Lon's forms, and can't say anything bad about them. I have 7 rods on them, and I think they will last for many many more, unless I try a big swell.  (Robert Hicks)


I guess the old adage "you get what you pay for" applies in regard to Colorado Bootstrap planing forms as well as anywhere else, but I'd appreciate all the input you care to give. I stumbled on a web site the other day that directed me to this site. In reading about this planing form and the fact that it's cost was $390.00 compared to  $800.00 up to $1300.00 for other planing forms it sure seems like a bargain. That's why I'm coming to the list members for input (+ or -).It looks well made, it's steel, and even has dowels @2.5" in between the 5" stations to hold better for tapers and to allow for swelled butts should one want to build a rod that way. Because of the large discrepancy in pricing between this form and other forms I've seen I thought I should find out as much as possible about it before purchasing one or to continue saving for one of the top end forms.  (Will Price)

    There is a difference between a Rolls Royce and a Ford, but they both get you there and if you  can afford one or the other go for it.

    Colorado Bootstrap Form is a modification of the Garrison Form I cobbled up many years ago and has been since produced by Frank Armbruster.  They are an economy form, but very satisfactory .  It will be necessary to surface dress the form with a draw file for best accuracy and the groove should be checked  out.  I have one of the earliest bootstrap forms ever made and it is still the one I go to most frequently and has never given me trouble.  The higher priced forms are fancier looking but don't do the job a great deal better than any other adjustable forms.  My advice is buy it!  (Ralph Moon)

    I might be wrong on this, but I didn't think you could get much of a swell on standard forms with running the risk of buggering your forms.  (Lee Orr)

      This is true on the Colorado Bootstrap forms for really large swells, but for reasonable swells it does a good job and doesn't take the bend permanently.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        I made your 5' 3/4/5 as a one piece on my slightly less than 5 foot forms.  I just reset the forms for under the grip and slid the strips up in the form.  Any glue lines were covered by the cork.  That is one cool taper by the way.    (Lee Orr)

          Glad you liked the taper. It continues to be my favorite small stream rod, so much so that I have a one piece, two piece and three piece version of it.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    On my Bootstrap form, the 2.5" dowel spacing is only on the tip half of the form.  The butt half of the form goes back to 5" spacing. 

    My form seems to work well and the price was right.  Spending $750-1,000 on a form makes me scratch my head and say that I'm 1/3 of the way to a Morgan Hand Mill. (I know, they're not for everyone!).  (Scott Turner)

      That was not the way I designed the form and if it is so then someone sold you one that was made backwards.  There are dowels at each five inch station and also at the two and 1/2 inch stations at the BUTT of the form for swells.  The form does not allow extreme swells but it does allow moderate swells.  Finally in answer to Darryl.  I think the form is longer than five feet.  I will have to go check on this, but what the hey a five foot form would allow a two piece rod over nine feet.  I have made 7 1/2' one piece rods on the form.

      I still maintain that with a little judicious tune-up there is no better value in planing forms.  If one is looking to impress others go for the more spectacular ones and don't worry, but if you are using a tool that adequately does the job bells and whistles don't make it a better tool.  (Ralph Moon)

    I bought a Colorado Bootstrap form ten years ago, the only shortcoming of the Colorado Bootstrap form that I have come across is that they are 5 feet long. There was a time when I was experimenting with one piece rods where I wished my forms were 6 feet long.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I have had Wagner, Bellinger & Bootstraps Forms, can't go wrong with any of them...

    But I really like the design of the Bootstrap Forms best...

    One side adjustments that stay put...

    A little lighter and easier to use .75" x 1.5" x 5'...

    Just as accurate as any forms out there once dressed...

    I have built most of my rods to date on a set of Bootstrap's and they just keep getting better with each rod...

    Dressing the forms when you get them is really no big deal, two hours tops...

    I used the Sup-R Sander Tungsten  Carbide sanding blocks, Heavy, Medium & Light...

    The link for the Sup-R is on the Rodmakers site under Tools & Parts Suppliers...  (Dave Collyer)


I'm looking into either buying or making final metal planing forms (really depends on price as I understand making them is fairly challenging but a lot less expensive).  Has anyone ever purchased the ones sold by Colorado Bootstrap?  They seem to be about 1/2 the cost of others (Golden Witch, etc.). Is this an example of you get what you pay for?  (Louis DeVos)

    They may need a little tuning up, which is easier than starting from scratch, but there have been a lot of rods made on Bootstrap planing forms.  (Timothy Troester)

    I got one of those. They work fine. When I miss a bit on the taper I think the fault is mine rather the forms. A bonus is that they got closer stations at the  butt so you can make small swells. Sometimes they are a bit deep, but that’s because I like to have the two bars close to each other. Gives a little bit more support. The remedy are to slide the strips a bit back and forth the get the right taper. Think I can get 0.050"  tip on my form. Some of the smallest #1 and maybe #2 weights are to small for this form though.

    I  haven't tried other forms so nothing to compare with.

    A friend got some 7' 6"  long forms. They look nice.  (Tom Simarud)

      I bought a set from Lon Blauvelt in Maine. Similar in price to Colorado Bootstrap. I have no problems with them.  (Martin Jensen)

        They are even cheaper than Bootstrap!!  You find the measurements accurate?  (Louis DeVos)

          They seem fine. I've made almost 20 rods off of them and still going strong. I can make tips down to .025 or .030. I do have a lot of divots in them but I don't think it really hurts anything . As long as your divots are not bigger than the plane, it should not be a problem. Realistically, if your divots in the surface are larger than the plane base anyway, you got other (bigger) problems.  (Martin Jensen)

          I too have a set of forms from Lon Blauvelt. To phrase it differently from the other messages, I would say that their capabilities are higher than my skills at this time. You should not be disappointed.  (Steve Shelton)


I am new to rodbuilding and to this list.  I built my first rod under Chris Raine's tutelage at Dunsmuir Rod Co.  I am excited and ready to start on my own.

I have been looking at the different planing forms available.  They vary enormously in price from $850 for Wagner's to $375 for a Blauvelt's. What are the differences between the different forms available? What does one get in a Wagner or Bellinger that is missing from a Blauvelt or Bamboo RodSmith?

Obviously, I would like to save money, but get forms that perform, so to speak.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    In general terms the difference is that: with the high price planing forms you can start to make your rod immediately after the delivery, with the low price one, frequently, you must "tune" the planing form, and sometimes, without the help of an expert, it is not so easy.  (Marco Giardina)

    I would say the biggest difference I can tell is the size of the forms. The more expensive forms are generally made of significantly bigger stock, weigh a good amount more, and are longer (6 feet as opposed to 5 feet).  This makes for a more stable working surface when planing and the option to make longer 1 piece rods. 

    The more expensive forms are probably (no evidence to back this up) held to higher tolerances in terms of surface grinding and groove depth.  I know w/ my Bellinger forms there's exactly a .001 drop for every linear inch (I think that's it!) down the form when closed up all the way.  I had a set of CO Bootstrap forms for a few years but don't recall ever trying that test so I won't state something I can't back up.  The "intro" forms are great for a hobbyist.  The better forms are definitely a professional quality piece of equipment. 

    Also, you should note that right now the Bellinger web site says their forms include a dial indicator base ($120 separately I think)... So essentially you'd be getting another tool you would need to make rods for "free" (you may not need one as nice as this but it certainly can't hurt...)  No experience w/ the Wagner forms or Lon's forms but I would bet there are a good number of folks out there who can weigh in with their opinions or findings.  No commercial interest in any of these products... Just my experiences. 

    The most important thing to do is pick one, work with it, and build a few rods... Once you get a set, you probably won't be kicking yourself about how you  should have bought X-form over Y-form.  I know plenty of people who turn out a fantastic product on "intro" forms because they know their equipment.  The best thing to do is practice and get used to whatever equipment you choose to purchase. 

    That said... I just purchased a Lie-Nielsen 9.5 Block Plane and it's probably one of the best things I've ever bought for rodmaking.  The Stanley feels like a brick in my hand compared to this.  Just a heads up that, although it's not cheap... Sometimes it definitely pays to buy the best.  (Matt Leiderman)

    I purchased the Blauvelt forms 1 1/2 years ago and have no regrets. I have found them fully capable of performing to a level exceeding my abilities. I suppose that the extra foot of length would be nice, but I have not used the full length of what I have and cannot imagine doing so. I measured the length of the groove when I got them and cannot remember if anything was out of tolerance. Certainly not enough to make me think I needed to do anything about it. The one thing I can't do with my forms which might count someday is plane a tip below 28 thousandths. Haven't seen many tapers requiring this and probably won't have that need, either. If I did I suppose I could dress the top of the forms to get down to the needed depth.

    In short, you will have enough expenses in starting up. If you are a hobby builder as I am the less expensive forms will serve you well. And that extra $500 saved will go a long way toward components or other tools.

    If money is no object go for the best. If you want to keep things in some kind of a perspective the less expensive forms will serve you well.   (Steve Shelton)

    I got the Wagner forms [excellent quality] back when they were at sub higher-end price. Know from  machining experience that higher tolerances mean more $.

    I got some short forms from Bootstrap, and worked them for making swelled butts. Lots & lots of measuring & filing to get 'em there. Would only recommend their long ones if your budget is tight.  I'd say though that 'rodsmith forms sound like a very good product for the money. I'd be tempted to get them as startup forms, and think there'd be no need for upgrade unless you have the xtra $. I've seen over the years the resale on higher grade is much better too.  (Chad Wigham)

    I've been using the Wagner forms since I started and have found them a joy to use. Faultless, no dressing/tuning - just start using them. I can't comment on cheaper ones, but I would be worried about tuning/dressing cheap ones from what other people are saying.

    When you look at it, even the expensive ones cost about the same as a "top brand" plastic rod.  (Nick Taransky)

    I'll throw in my 2 cents worth (or $1,350 worth, which what I paid for forms I was dissatisfied with)...

    Over the years I've purchased 6 sets of forms (4 sets of hex forms and 2 sets of quad forms).  My first two sets of hex forms cost me $350 (Blauvelt-used) and $600 (Munro-new).  The problem with my first set of forms was the inability to set the tip end small enough for a taper I wanted to build.  My second set of forms were not as accurate as I believed they should have been. Forms should decrease by 1 thousandth be every inch or 5 thousandths between stations.  This set of forms had differences between stations that were all over the place.  Some differences were only 2 thousandths between stations and some ranged as high as 12 thousandths between stations, no two adjacent stations had a 5 thousandths difference.  The good news on Munro forms was that I was able to get my money back because UPS lost them when I sent them back to Munro.  Before I purchased my current set of hex forms ($750 Bellinger forms), I asked for and was provided the specs of the forms.  That is the measurements of each station with the forms closed tight and the specs were nearly perfect.  I also own a set of the Bellinger swelled butt forms and again the specs are near perfect.  Finally I own a set of Jeff Wagner's quad forms (2 separate forms), which are awesome forms compared to the $400 quad (3 bar) forms I first purchased.  I don't think  you can go wrong with either Bellinger or Wagner forms.  The Bellinger forms at $750 plus a free depth gauge and base are hard to pass up.

    While I tend to believe you get what you pay, I do think you can build rods from any of the forms out there.  However, I would recommend before buying anyone's forms you should ask for the specs to make sure you know what you are getting.  (Bob Williams)

    Thanks to all who responded.  I appreciate all your comments as they give me a good idea of the  issues in choosing planing forms.  Of course, the decision is still not obvious, since different people have had different experiences.  At least I have a better idea what I am choosing between.  Guess I'll plunk down my hard-earned and start developing my own experience.

    Here's to happy planing.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

      I have used the Colorado Bootstrap forms for several years with great success.  I think I spent 20 minutes using a file to even up on spot on the tip side and it has been good to go ever since.  (Adam Vigil)

        Same Here, 7 years, 60 rods and they’re only getting better...

        I like the lighter weight (still 45lbs!) Boot Strap Design with one side adjustments.  (Dave Collyer)

        True story.... A beginning rodmaker drove down to seem me a coupla weeks ago.  We spent most of a day puttering around the shop.  We flamed some cane, split some cane, made a reel seat, and ---- checked to see what was wrong with his forms ----.  He couldn't get a true strip out of the forms.  I just grabbed some bamboo and a plane and started to work.  In a few minutes I had a tip strip within a few thousandths of equilateral and intended dimensions.  Guess the forms were okay after all.  I think the less expensive forms sometimes get a bad rap more through inexperienced users than bad forms.  I've got an expensive set and I love 'em.  But I also have a homemade set that works perfectly well.  (Harry Boyd)

          Sounds like your friend might need one of my hand plane levels. Check it out on Todd's site. It is easy to make and will train anyone to hold the plane level.  (Adam Vigil)

          Good point Harry. My forms are still better than I am. A lot of that bad rap is dated, as well. I can't help but think that practice might just have improved the inexpensive forms. It hasn't been all that long since the 'inexpensive' forms  were not only all that were out there, but were the expensive forms.

          "In a few minutes I had a tip strip within..."

          I think that speaks volumes, Harry. How tall would you be if you were standing on all the bamboo shavings you have made?  (Larry Blan)

            I agree. My forms, from Grindstone Anglers (what happened to them, anyone know?) were good. After reading this list for years. I thought I may need "true" them and tried to do that. Silly me, they were fine. Now I have file marks on perfectly good forms.

            The moral of the story is try some strips in the forms. Read Wayne's book which lays out a method which is placing a mirror at the end of the forms to see how you are holding the plane and at which angle.   (Rich Jezioro)

          "In a few minutes I had a tip strip within..."

          I think that speaks volumes, Harry. How tall would you be if you were standing on all the bamboo shavings you have made?  :)

          Neither Harry nor you will ever know because he uses them for packing material with all the items he mails out. I kind of like that idea.  (Steve Shelton)


I have a young friend who is thinking of taking advantage of  the relatively good Aussie dollar and buying a set of forms, and he has asked me about Lon Blauvelt's forms (spelling?) so I told him I would ask if any of you blokes know about them.  (Peter McKean)

    I am using a set of them right now.  They are OK and make a good rod.  One of the down sides that I have noticed is that they do not go any smaller than .028-.030 on the tips.  If you need to make a smaller rod, you won't be able to do it.  Also, the bars are only 3/4" steel which is plenty big enough, but I like a heavier set of forms such as 7/8" or 1".  (Scott Bahn)

    I have a set that were made in 2003. They are pretty good with only one limitation. The tip groove is kind of deep and makes it impossible to plane out tips for many rods lighter than a 4 wt. This is being discussed in a thread on the Rod Building Forum here. I plan to file the surface of my forms down a little therefore making the groove a bit shallower so I can do some 3 wt rods such as the Sir D.  (Larry Puckett)

    I have a set also and am pleased with them. Your friend could also check the particulars on the Colorado Bootstrap forms as they are about the same price. They may have a shallower groove for making smaller tips. I don't like anything lighter than a 4wt so the Blauvelt forms suit me just fine.  (Will Price)

      I have a set of Bootstrap forms and like it very much.  I've built 70 rods on them and they're just getting better...

      I like the down scale size also, you might keep that in mind as far as shipping...

      There .75" x .75" x 60" and still there 30 or 40 lbs, plenty of meat...

      Just built a sweet 8' - 3/2 - 3wt with tips @ .052"...

      Not sure if you Aussie even know what a 3wt is though.  (Dave Collyer)

    I also use forms from Lon. They're a great value, just plan on dressing them up with a flat file when they get there.  (Kevin Little)

    I have two of Lon's forms.  The first one I purchased could only be set to ~.030 minimum, which was not good enough for me, so after talking to Lon, I ordered another one, and it can be set to ~.022 vs. ~.030.  I don't know if he made a batch of them or just one for me.  Perhaps you should talk to him directly.  (Larry Tusoni)

      I had two students that recently bought Lon's Forms. They closed down to .025. What I liked about them is they had the extra bolt spacing in the butt section to make swelled butts. The forms are well made. What I did not like is the adjustment screws are both on the same side. Most are made that way, I like mine with the push on one side and the pull on the other side. That is the way I made mine.  (Tony Spezio)

        I agree with Tony about the screws.  I never understood why anyone would put them on the same side.  If they're on the same side, you have to turn the push and pull screws in opposite directions to adjust the forms.  Putting them on opposite sides means that you pull the allen wrenches apart to unlock the screws, rotate both wrenches in the same direction to adjust the forms, and squeeze the wrenches toward each other to lock them.  It takes about 2 seconds to adjust each station.  (Robert Kope)

          I guess the location of the push-pull screws is a matter of personal preference.  Mine are on the same side and I find that more convenient than reaching across the form to make the adjustment.  Hex head bolts might be better, but the forms I have used with push and pull screws on opposite sides were cap screws and even though I have had considerable experience getting an Allen wrench into a bolt I couldn't see, I never found it to be terribly easy.  (Neil Savage)

            Don't you have to reach across when you set the other side of the form?  (Ralph Moon)

              No, the tapers are reversed so the screws are always on the front with the big end on the right.  Might be  a problem if you were left handed though. I got mine from a Canadian builder -- it was one he used in classes and needed some repair, but the price was right and the fix wasn't too bad.  Only problem is the screws are metric, so they don't grow on every bush around here...  Also, the screws on the butt end are on 2 1/2" centers so I can make swelled butts within reason.  (Neil Savage)

          I use two "T" handle Allan wrenches, have no problem adjusting my forms. I can set my home made forms with screws on each side, quicker than I can set the forms I have with screws on one side. We do what works the best for us.  (Tony Spezio)

    16 rods in and going strong.

    I had originally purchased another maker's forms but problems with the groove created a need for another set; I ended up with Lon's forms and they are doing fine for me.  I like the set-up of 2 1/2 inch stations on the  butt section for swelled butts (not too radical a swell, don't think I could  imitate a Heddon swell but is OK for what I do).  Could go with a six foot  form and a one inch piece of steel; I do miss the hex bolts in the other form  but for the price, can't go too far wrong.  (Kevin Little)

    I own a set of Lon's forms and have no problem setting them with the bolts on the same side. He uses hex head bolts so it is very easy to use a ratchet set to adjust the forms which are a lot easier to work with IMHO than Allen wrenches. There is no reaching over the forms or swapping the Allen wrench from one hand to the other.  (Larry Puckett)


I am looking at getting both quad and penta forms. I see Wagner sells the quad forms, are there others who sell both types? Anyone sell penta forms?  (Paul McRoberts)

    It would probably be cheaper to buy a Morgan Handmill rather than buying both sets of forms.  (Don Peet)

      The only thing you'd have to do is purchase the separate cutting heads for each angle. The carbide inserts are interchangeable. The hollowing cutters use different carbide inserts, but that's no big deal. Some people prefer the forms and planes... I prefer the handmill.  (Mike St. Clair)

    I got my quad forms from Jeff Wagner (I think they are the best) and my penta forms from Mark P. Mahaffey.  My first penta turned out very nicely using the penta forms I bought from Mark.  I also recall that Bellinger can or will do quad forms.  (Bob Williams)


I am currently looking to purchase my first planing forms, and basically considering offerings from Bamboo Rodsmith, Lon Blauvelt, and Colorado Bootstrap if still available. Bellinger would be regarded as a distant possibility, but JD Wagner's version at $850+ is beyond the constraints of my budget.  It seems that Bellinger and Wagner are regarded as the best, and the others are relatively close in quality. What are your opinions concerning my main three choices, and are Bellingers really worth the extra expense of $300+? I was leaning towards Bamboo Rodsmith.  (Ron Delesky)

    The rodsmith forms are good. I tried to use bootstrap once, not so good.   (Jim Lowe)

    My original forms were from Lon Blauvelt.  They worked, but I had to monkey with the tip section of the forms as they were no where near .027  as he  said they  were.   They were more like .042.  No complaints other than that.   (Don Peet)

    JMHO, buy the Bellinger or the Wagner forms, they are worth the extra money. I have the Rodsmith forms, they work, however,  the steel was very uneven. They now have at least 7-8 hours of tuning on them, or more, and the tip side is still too fat for some of the tapers I would like to build.  (Jon Holland)


 

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