How to Make a Homemade Rod Lathe


Wrapping fishing rod guides by hand is a time consuming and tedious task. Rod builders who construct or refurbish more than a few rods a year employ a rod lathe, which spins the rod on its axis to facilitate wrapping the thread around the guides. To save the expense of purchasing a commercial model, an efficient homemade rod lathe is easily constructed from a few pieces of scrap lumber and an old sewing machine motor.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 studs, 2-by-4-inches, 8 feet long
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • 2 studs, 2-by-4-inches, 3 feet long
  • Drill
  • 1/4-inch drill bit
  • 3-inch long wood
  • Saw
  • Hole saw attachment
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Felt
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 3-inch long section of 2-inch diameter pipe
  • Rubber mallet
  • Automotive drive belt pulley
  • 1 1/2-inch diameter bushing
  • Flat-head or Phillips screwdriver
  • Sewing machine motor with foot pedal control
  • 1-inch lag bolts
  • Socket wrench
  • Drive belt
  • Measure in 2 feet from each end of an 8-foot-long, 2-by-4-inch stud with a tape measure. Draw lines on the stud at the 2-foot marks with a pencil.

  • Set the 8-foot stud up on one of its 2-inch edges, running the board perpendicular to your body. Align the bottom ends of two 3-foot-long sections of 2-by-4-inch studs on the 2-foot marks of the 8-foot stud, placing the 3-foot sections on the narrow edges. Drill through the 8-foot-long stud and into the bottom ends of the 3-foot studs with a 1/4-inch drill bit, making two holes in each 3-foot section.

  • Attach the two 3-foot studs to the 8-foot stud by driving two 3-inch-long wood screws through the drilled holes and into the end of each 3-foot stud.

  • Flip the three-piece frame up so the 8-foot section is laying flat, with the two 3-foot studs sticking straight up.

  • Measure the inside distance between the two vertical studs with the tape measure. Cut a section of a 2-by-4-inch stud, with a saw, to span the distance between the insides of the vertical studs. Attach the cut stud between the vertical studs, as a cross support, 1 foot from the top of the 3-foot sections, using the same procedure as you did when the vertical studs were attached to the base stud.

  • Measure down 1 inch from the top of each of the two vertical studs with a tape measure; mark the location with the pencil on the 4-inch side. Cut a 2-inch-diameter hole through the center of the 3-foot studs at the pencil marks with a drill and hole saw attachment. Sand the insides of the holes smooth with 220-grit sandpaper.

  • Cut a 2-inch-long by 1 1/2-inch-wide piece of felt with a pair of scissors. Glue the felt to the inside perimeter of the hole in the right vertical stud to act as a protective pad for the tip of the fishing rod.

  • Tap a 3-inch-long section of 2-inch diameter pipe through the hole in the left vertical stud with a rubber mallet. Bolt the axle of an automotive drive belt pulley to a 1 1/2-inch-diameter bushing and insert the bushing into the pipe. Attach the drive belt pulley mount to the outside of the left vertical stud with wood screws and a flat-head or Phillips screwdriver.

  • Bolt a sewing machine motor to the top of the 8-foot base stud directly below the drive belt pulley with 1-inch lag bolts and a socket wrench.

  • Measure the distance around the drive belt pulley and the belt pulley attached to the sewing machine motor with the tape measure. Attach a drive belt, of the appropriate length, to the pulleys with your hands and tighten the drive belt pulley adjuster with the socket wrench.

  • Wrap the butt end of a fishing rod with felt. Inset the tip of the rod through the hole on the right upright, then insert the felt-wrapped rod butt into the bushing on the left upright.

  • Plug the sewing machine motor into a power source and step on the motor's foot pedal control to spin the rod in the lathe.

Tips & Warnings

  • The weight of the motor is heavy enough to hold the lathe in place during operation. Mount the lathe permanently to a workbench with angle brackets and wood screws, if desired.

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