Saturday, August 30, 2014

Another Casting for Recovery Rod

The southwest council FFF has issued a rod building challenge to any SWCFFF club and their members. The rods would be use at Casting for Recovery  So .Cal. at their retreats. 

The rules were simple: 
1. Build a 9’, 5wt 4 piece rod, supply a rod tube and donate it for the challenge.  
2. Build the rod to CFR theme. There must be a bit of pink somewhere on the build.

I found an old Fisher blank with spigot ferrules in the back corner my blank storage closet, and thought perfect. It was a moderate action blank, which would load easily and be great for a beginner. 
I thought a pink wrap with a metallic purple inlay on the would carry out the CRF theme but the combination was to much for my taste. I ended up using a chestnut color thread , which matched the beautiful chestnut color of the blank and used color fast pink thread as the inlays.  I think it turned out beautiful and carried the theme through out the rod.

The last step was to add a small pink ribbon under the reel seat for a little extra “mojo” in the rod.

Here are some pics of the finished rod.

It was a fun project and I had fun developing the "pink" CFR theme.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Step #1:  Choose your feathers from the supply you have.  As you can see, I've got plenty to choose from!

Step #2 - Feathers Picked.  These feathers were selected for the design I had in mind.  

Step #3 - First feather applied after being soaked in a 50/50 solution of Color Preservative and water.  The CP acts as an adhesive for the feathers.  This feather is a Jungle Cock Flank Feather. 

Step #4 - Make sure that the first feather is thoroughly dried before applied the next feather, or this may cause the first feather to shift position.  This is vital for all steps!!!  After drying, the second feather is applied, again using the CP/Water solution.  This feather is an Amhurst Collar.

Step #5 - Again, after drying (this is vital), the Amhurst Flank Feather is applied.

Step #6 - After drying (again, I can't stress how important this is), the Peacock Pheasant Eye is applied.

Step #7 - After drying (I really can't state this too much), a pair of Jungle Cock Eyes are applied

Step #8 - After drying (see a theme about the drying yet?), a second pair of Jungle Cock Eyes are applied.

Step #9 - After drying (last time about the drying), a flex coat is applied, and this is what you end up with!

I hope this helps you out with your multi-feather inlay attempts.  It took me more than once to get this technique perfected, so be patient and keep practicing.  And remember beauty is in the imperfections of an object! 


Saturday, November 10, 2012


AUCTION: Nov. 26 - Dec. 7  2012
(see bottom of article for link to auction site)

It's time, again, to help those affected by breast cancer.  I think of all those friends who have been so affected or died from this terrible disease and I try to think of ways to help.  Being a custom rod builder and knowing about CFR's on-line auctions seems to make a perfect fit. I'm able to combine my passion to create a 'one-of-a-kind' fly rod while helping raise money for a wonderful cause. 

This year the rod was built on a Five Rivers FTL 8'0", 3 wt. six piece blank. The blank is made of 57 million modulus graphite. It is a moderate fast action and very light. It is great for those delicate dry-fly presentations or drifting nymphs. The western style (RHW) grip features Afzelia burl with a sapwood/ heartwood interface showing the fabulous peach and cream two tone colors and figure. It is highlighted with the accessory wood Paduak, buffalo horn and ivory (pre CITES treaty)(see "Making Wood Insert Fly Rod Grips" article in this blog).  The guides and tip-top were chosen to maximize the rods performance.  A # 10 single foot Fuji ceramic insert guide was used as a stripping guide followed by light wire snake guides and light wire tip-top. It was all brought together with maroon and silver metallic thread.  

 Showing the beautiful two tone and figure of the wood in the grip.

Working on the 7 feather inlay which includes 3 jungle cock eyes. (because it's a 3 wt. - of course) 

Finished feather inlay with butt wraps. Butt and ferrule wraps are highlighted by a three turn spiral sandwiched between two 3 thread bands of metallic silver thread. (because it's a three wt.  of course)

Showing feather inlay, butt wraps, ferrule wraps and a two thread band of metallic silver thread in the center of each guide foot wrap.

The last step is the addition of a mini pink ribbon inside the reel seat for a little extra "MOJO" built into this rod. 

The finished rod with all six sections

Of course, this like all my rods, it comes with a custom made rod sack and rod tube. 

This "one of a kind fly rod" can be yours if you are the winning bidder in CFR's  2012 holiday auction. Please bid generously as the money goes to a fabulous cause which is helping those affected by breast cancer - one women at a time.
See Gallery 8 of my website selecting Gallery 8,  then click on each pic for a larger view.

Posted by Harper Fly Rods - Dennis at 11/10/2012 1:11 PM

Monday, July 30, 2012


My web site page on making the grip was out of date and did not address some of the innovations which I  am now using. I started to work on it and decided to give those who visit my blog a preview.  

In the early 50's when I was learning to fly fish I started with a 9' bamboo rod with a solid wooden grip and reel seat. Today, I realize what a "beast" it was as far as weight goes for a 9 year old. 

About 5 yrs ago I was inspired by Terry Henson. With his encouragement, I started to use wood inserts in my grips. Most of the time, these were successful but a few times weight became a problem. 

The 2 rods above (Top - Tulipwood w/ Bloodwood, Bottom - Ebony and Ivory) are beautiful but the extra weight tired my arm after a half day of casting. 

The problem I faced was to lower the weight and still be able to have the beauty of the wood and I think I've solved the problem. 

The process begins the same, as always, selecting the most beautiful and unusual woods available to be featured in the grip.

In this case I have choosen Aboyna burl and Redwood burl. The top photo shows the fantastic eyes of the Amboyna and the eyes, swirls and twirls of the Redwood burl. The lower photo shows the sapwood, heartwood interface showing the natural multi color effect on the wood.

With the featured Amboyna, I choose Ivory, Horn and East India Rosewood as accessories. With the Redwood, I choose Ivory, Horn and Canarywood as accessories.

The Amboyna, to be used in a Western style (RHW) grip, had serial sections cut for the fore section, mid section, butt section of the grip and the reel seat. The redwood, to be used in a Full Wells grip with a fighting butt, had serial sections cut ,as above, but with the fighting butt. These sections are clearly marked to insure correct orientation during glue up.

The sections of the featured wood are bored out to reduce the weight. 

With the Western style the mid section (1.5 " in length)  is bored to 3/4" completely through. The butt section (3/4" in length) is bored 3/8" deep with a 3/4" Forstner bit.  It could be bored completely through but the 3/8" of wood at the end helps prevent wobble on the mandrel while turning on the lathe. It will be removed when inletting for the reel seat hardware. The fore section (3/4" in length) is bored with a 5/8" Forstner bit to a depth of 3/8" to accommodate the taper in the fore grip.

The Full Wells pieces are bored completely through and will later be capped with the accessory wood. 

Cork arbors are glued into the openings in the feature wood pieces with Titebond III and allowed to dry over night. The surfaces are sanded flush with 120 grit sandpaper in preparation for glue up

The photo below shows the approximate outside diameter of the finished grip mid sections and fore section of the Western grip and mid section of the Full wells grip.

 As you can see we have eliminated a significant amount of the wood and the weight associated with it.

Natural and burl cork are added, and all the pieces are gathered together and inspected.

21 pieces for the Western grip (RHW) featuring Amboyna burl with canary wood,horn and Ivory.

23 pieces for Fulls Wells grip and fighting butt featuring Redwood burl and E.I. Rosewood

The pieces are arranged to check for correct sequence and orientation one last time.

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory.

Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The pieces are glued together on all thread using "Titebond III". The grip blank is allowed to dry over night. (Coating the all thread with liberal layer of "Parawax" makes the grip removal easy.) 

 Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The blanks are transferred to turning mandrels and using these as handles excess stock is removed with a disc and belt sander.

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory. Notice the voids in the eyes of the Amboyna burl, these will be stabilized with CA glue.

Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory. The redwood has bark inclusions, voids and small drying checks which will be filled and stabilized With CA glue.

The wood portion of the grip will be trued and shaped with wood turning tools to within 1/8" to 1/16 " of the final diameter. (DO NOT try to turn cork with turning tools as they tear large chunks from the cork)   Any eyes,voids or inclusions are stabilized with CA glue at this time. The final shaping of the wood and removal of the cork then starts with 60 grit paper. it then progresses through 80, 100 and 150 grit paper until the final shape and size are reached. Then I start the finish sanding with 220 then 320,400, 600,800 and finally 1200 grit paper. I'm Just removing the scratches left by the paper used previously. This gives a wonderful polish to the horn and ivory.

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory.

 Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The cork portion of the grip has a single coat of "U-40 cork seal" applied and the wood portion is finished with Tung Oil. (6-8 coats on the grip and 10-12 coats on the reel seat)

 Western (RHW) with Amboyna burl, canary wood, horn, and Ivory.

 Fulls wells grip and fighting butt with Redwood burl, E.I. rosewood,horn and ivory

The inlets for the reel seats and butt cap are done by hand with a Dremel tool fitted with a straight router bit and drum sander with 220 grit paper.

The grip insert and reel seat hardware are dry fit to insure everything is correct.

Finally completed these light weight, beautiful, one of a kind grip - reel seat combinations are now ready to go on that special rod of yours.

Thanks for visiting, and be sure to visit my website.

Please comment.

Posted by Harper Fly Rods - Dennis at 7/30/2012 1:17 PM  

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Finally after several months I had a chance to get in my first fishing trip of the year. As always the anticipation and preparation were big part of the enjoyment of the trip. Got a list of recommended flies and tied up a bunch.

The weather was cooperative and the fishing conditions were great.

The catching was not red hot but all the fish caught were in the 19 - 20 inch range.

At the end of each day there was FANTASTIC food (I didn't have to cook as I supplied the flies) and great deck time to discuss all the really important issues of life like the next trip.

Posted by Harper Fly Rods - Dennis at 4/15/2012 11:50 AM

Friday, October 21, 2011


After last spring's successful Casting for Recovery auction for one of my fly rods, I was asked to consider donating another rod. Of course, the answer was yes.  How can you say no to such a worthy cause.
The process started last summer when I was sorting some of the special feature woods I use in my grips. I wanted this rod to be as nice or better than the one I made for the spring auction, so the wood for the grip had to be very, very special. I sorted some of my best burls and found I had quite a choice. Some of the burl pieces are are shown below. 

I choose a piece of Amboyna burl (the most beautiful and expensive burl wood in the world) which was 1/2 sapwood and 1/2 heartwood with the interface running length-wise on the grip. This piece was not only bi-colored but had very small, dense eyes in both the sap and heart wood. 

I did not have any pink wood but I did have some purple heart which I chose as the accessory wood knowing it would go well with CFR theme. I also selected horn and Ivory to go with this beautiful wood. The pieces were cut to appropriate size and prepared for assembly.

The center of the mid piece was bored to 3/4" and cork lined to reduce the weight of the wood. The fore piece of the grip was bored to 5/8" half way through and lined with cork. The butt section would later be hollowed to receive the recessed reel seat. The pieces were center drilled and assembled. 

The grip was shaped on the lathe to a 6 3/4" western style (reverse half wells) and reel seat insert to fit, nickel silver reel seat hardware.

The four views, below, show the beauty of the Amboyna burl used in this grip and reel seat. 

  Now, how am I going to decide which view goes on the top part of the rod???

To me it is the eyes which make Amboyna burl so special as well as the swirls and twirls seen in the wood. So it boiled down to sap wood or heart wood. As I turned the piece on the lathe I noticed a small drying check in the sap wood, it was stabilized but was still visible (see 3rd photo of the 4 above) so the heart wood became the top(see top photo of the 4 above).

Now to chose a blank for this rod. I decided on a Five Rivers Signature V 9'6" five weight. This is a medium fast action rod, very light and sensitive, for those delicate small fly presentations yet can develop high line speeds to punch through those afternoon winds. The extra 6" makes for easier mending to get those longer drag free drifts. Its medium fast action make for easy relaxed all day casting.

The components to complete the rod were a fuji ceramic tip top (1/2 the weight of a standard chrome tip top) followed by six #1 fine wire snake guides then two # 2 fine wire snakes, one #3 and one #4 standard snake guides and a Fuji # 12 ceramic insert stripping guide. All in chrome finish. These components maximize the rods performance.

Gudebrod maroon and metallic silver were the threads chosen for the wraps. A silver two thread band is centered on each guide foot.

 The ferrule and but wraps include a silver five wrap spiral (because it's a 5wt.) sandwiched between two 3 thread silver bands.

 A multilayered layered feather inlay featuring an amherst pheasant collar feather and red rump feather, a peacock pheasant eye feather and 5 (because it's a 5 wt.) jungle cock eyes, was placed just above the grip. (Fore more detail see post: Casting For Recovery Rod  Mar.  2011)

Just finishing he feather inlay with the top 2 sections on the dryer.

All my rods have a lot of "MOJO" built into them but for a little extra, a pink ribbon was added to the reel seat before the butt cap was attached.

Here it is finished and ready to fish.

Click HERE for auction site
Posted by Harper Fly Rods - Dennis at 10/21/2011 8:11 PM