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  • By Tom Kirkman
*This article deals with guide spacing related to getting proper stress distribution for any blank.  Guide sizing (frame height and ring diameter) remains dependent upon reel type and size.  Although written primarily for rods used with conventional or level wind reels, you can adapt the process for use on spinning rods as well.  For information on the New Guide Concept System of guide placement, please consult the Volume 3 #4 issue of RodMaker Magazine.
Static guide placement is as good as it gets, if you don't mind the time required to do it. I suppose that we now have so many newer and fancier methods of guide placement that static guide placement has been relegated to the bottom shelf and doesn't get the proper treatment anymore. I'll try to give you a good procedure here.

First off, it's very true that as you apply more and more load to any blank, the amount and area that flexes changes. Thus, just putting one load or bend in the blank won't allow you to locate the optimum placement for the guides under any and all expected loads the rod will be exposed to. So it's best done in stages.

Glue on your tip-top and make sure it is secure. Tie a line to the tip and fasten that to an object, or to a container that allows you to apply any amount of load needed. Water or coins are good for adding more load to the blank.

You should already have some idea where the butt or stripping guide is going to be located, as well as the first guide behind the tip (4 inches or so for most lighter rods and 5 or maybe 6 for heavier rods or surf types). Beginning with the second guide back from the tip, place the rest of your guides at 5 inch intervals. All of them. If the last one is closer than 5 inches to the butt guide, leave it off.

Now place a reel on the rod and run the line though all the guides and tip-top. Tie or fasten it to an object that is only heavy enough to keep some tension on the line. Now use the line you previously tied to the tip-top to apply a load and put the blank into a bend. Start by loading it enough to create good flex in the upper 1/4 or so of the blank, but no more than that. Now begin work on those first few guides. The first one behind the tip is set, so skip that one and look at the next. Notice how the line coming off the reel passes through the guides. You want that line to closely mimic the flex of the blank. So at that second guide, adjust it as necessary to achieve this. you may have to move it up a tad, you may be able to move it back a tad. Get it where it suits you and then move to the 3rd guide and do the same. Continue on with each guide until you find that you are moving out of the area of flex you currently have on the blank.

Now apply more load and flex the blank into the upper 1/2 of it's length. Begin working on those guides. By now, you're likely to find that you've moved guides progressively more and more towards the blank's butt end. You may even find a point where you need to move a guide to a position that will put it right next to or on top of another guide. No problem. If that happens, remove that next guide and continue working. As you run out of flex in that area, stop.

Now apply more load and try to get the blank to bend at least a bit into the butt area - the lower half of the rod. Pick up where you left off and adjust the guides in that area of flex accordingly. At this point, you should have some pretty nice guide spacing in place.

Now for the obvious questions. Why use a separate line to load the rod instead of the line coming from the reel? Well, if you load the line coming from the reel, you don't get a true picture of how you blank wants and needs to flex. That's right - the line pulling between the guides can force the blank into a bend it wouldn't otherwise take. So we load from the tip and allow the blank to flex in the manner it was designed to. That's the bend we're trying to mimic with our line.

Why put guides at every 5 inches? Well, you have to put them somewhere and in some quantity before you can start. With a guide at every 5 inches, chances are really good that you'll actually have too many rather than too few guides on there. They'll also be too close in most cases, so your static placement will consist mostly of moving each guide back a hair and possibly having to remove a few guides in the process. This just makes things a bit more simple since the possibility of not having enough guides or having some guides too far apart to start with, have already been taken care of.

Hopefully this will simplify your static guide placement and make it about as good as it can get.  Tom Kirkman

This article originally appeared in the Q&A column of RodMaker Magazine.