If you are new to the wonderful world of rod building, then you may have some questions (or not) about thread size and type for your rod building project. In this guide I will discuss some topics regarding nylon rod wrapping thread such as selecting the proper size, different types of threads, and some words on color preserver and epoxy finish and their effects on the thread. I will not discuss about silk threads due to my limited knowledge and use.
When I was learning to build rods, I had no clue as to what size thread to buy, so I went to a local tackle shop and bought the only one available, Gudebrod size D black. This was the easiest way to start since D size is fairly thick and black color is extremely forgiving, hiding all imperfections and becoming even "more" black after coated.
After getting used to wrapping, I slowly acquired a decent selection of other colors of regular nylon thread, but black was always the "bread and butter". During that time, the only brand available was Gudebrod, but today you can find equally good rod wrapping threads such as Fish hawk and RodSmith (Pac Bay) with comparable sizes and color selections.
Once you experiment with a color other than black, you will immediately notice that all regular nylon threads absorb epoxy finish, even black (you just can't see it). To avoid absorption, you will need to seal the thread with a "color preserver" prior to applying epoxy finish, or use NCP (No Color Preserver) type thread. There are different brands of color preservers, but Flexcoat Color Preserver and U-40 Color Lock are the most popular and are available at a very reasonable price.
NCP thread vs. Regular Nylon thread\
NCP is a nylon thread that has been treated no to absorb epoxy finishes, thus retaining it's color after epoxy is applied. This is however a preference of each rod builder. If you are just starting, you can get away with just regular nylon and actually save some money because you can get two shades from one color thread. For example you can wrap a rod using red (candy apple) thread and choose to use color preserver, thus the rod will have red (candy apple) wraps, or you can just apply epoxy finish directly to the wraps without color preserver and get deep wine (burgundy) translucent colored wraps. This works for most colors, but keep in mind that light colors such as white of yellow become almost completely transparent if you don't use color preserver.
Right thread for the job (rod)
Going back to beginners, I recommend "D" size thread because you can easily wrap a medium freshwater rod, all the way to a heavy duty saltwater rod.
However, when you start building more and more rods, you may want to fine tune your work.
For fly rods and light to medium freshwater rods, you may want to try "A" size thread because it's more delicate and creates a lower profile wrap. You will also consume more "A" thread than "D" thread, so make sure you purchase accordingly.
When wrapping under-wraps of butt-wraps or guides, "A" size performs better because of it's low build and the thicker over-wrap thread will not dig in.
For medium to heavy freshwater rods to medium saltwater rods,"D" is perfect! Not only it's strong, it's also easy to wrap and control.
Finally for heavy duty to extra heavy duty rods, you want to use "E" or even "EE" size threads. Heavy duty rods are normally thicker and the guides are bigger, so you will need a thread that has the matching thickness and strength. Don't be afraid to double or even triple wrap the guides to prevent thread breakage during extreme stress.
You can read more on this in my other guide How to wrap a rod guide
Metallic and Trimar threads
All rod building kit is not complete without a couple of metallic threads. You have plenty of eye catching choices, but the most important ones are Gold and Silver.
The rules for metallic threads are somewhat different, mainly because they are not meant to affix the guides to the blank. They are simply for decorative purposes such as trim-wraps, butt-wraps, and under-wraps. Popular sizes are "A", "B", "C", and "D".
"A" and "B" size metallic threads are excellent for under-wraps and trim for light to medium rods.
"C" size is normally only available in Trimar thread, a popular two tone metallic/NCP thread used for under-wraps and butt-wraps. Gudebrod has the most popular Trimar thread with a variety of flashy color combinations.
"D" size metallic thread is great for trim and butt-wraps of medium to heavy duty rods.
For the most part, you won't need to apply color preserver to metallic threads, but I have experienced significant difference with "pearl" and "black" metallic threads. Try it and see!
With enough time, you will have enough of different types and sizes of threads to open your own thread store. Just make sure that when you embark on a large project consisting of several look-alike rods for the same customer, you purchase enough thread of the SAME dye lot, because each lot is different than the other and sometimes VERY different in color. Lastly, beware of non-rod building threads, because most of them contain a wax coating that repels epoxy finishes.
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