Custom rod builders are always seeking new techniques to make their handcrafted creations truly one-of-a-kind. While thread work, wood selections, and reel seat designs allow for some personalization, many builders have started experimenting with powder coating rod guides to take customization to the next level. One rod builder at the forefront of this emerging trend is Mike Ward of Back Creek Custom Rods and Custom Colored Guides.
Ward has experience crafting rods since 2020 and has been powder coating and anodizing guides since 2021. On a recent episode of the Mastering Rod Building podcast, he sat down with host Bill Faulkner to discuss the various processes involved – from anodizing titanium to powder coating stainless steel; as well as some tips for maximizing the longevity of your coating.
Whether you’re looking for functional durability, snazzy customization, or a little bit of both, powder coating provides a great way to take your next build up to the next level. In learning about Ward’s techniques and applications, listeners will gain insight into taking guide customization to new heights.
Powder Coating Rod Guides Process
There are two main methods for customizing rod guides – anodizing titanium and powder coating stainless steel. As Mike Ward explained, anodizing aluminum involves a dye-based process using different chemical tanks and temperature-controlled baths. The metal is opened up to allow dye to penetrate the surface layers before sealing.
The anodization of titanium is a simpler electrochemical reaction. Ward prepares the titanium pieces before submerging them in an electrolyte solution. By running a precise voltage through the solution, an oxidation layer forms on the metal’s surface. The thickness of this layer, determined by the voltage level between 10-90 volts, dictates the color that emerges.
For powder coating, Ward uses a specialized gun to apply ultra-fine powder particles to stainless steel guides. This powder is then cured in an oven. Ward notes certain precautions must be taken like proper ventilation and mask usage due to airborne particles.
“It’s something where you definitely need to be careful and be using some rubber gloves when you work with the anodizing chemicals,” he says. “And with some of those chemicals good ventilation is important as well.
He continues, “On the powder-coating side of things, I think it’s more of a matter of being aware that you’re working with very, very fine powder particulates, and you want to make sure that you’re wearing a mask and have good ventilation to pull those particles away from you.”
Both processes require experimenting to achieve consistent, high-quality results. Ward has perfected techniques like masking off ceramic rings to leave clean finishes. His expertise comes from years of practice, testing different metals, voltages, and powder coat formulations.
Custom Coloring Options
While powder-coating and anodizing are commonly mentioned as a way to protect parts, the truth is that many stainless steel and titanium alloys used for rod hardware are pretty well-protected as-is. The real benefit of the process is the wide spectrum of stunning hues that builders can color their components with.
Mike Ward has perfected anodizing titanium in a variety of hues. He notes that “on the titanium end, I personally really like the teal color. It comes out really well – it’s something a little different than the ubiquitous blue used on many rods. The teal has a little bit of green in it, almost like rain, which to me is really sharp.”
Powder coating also allows for unique color schemes. Ward’s “Dark Side” coating has become extremely popular – it features “a really dark gray candy base with a fine holographic flake. It looks like the Milky Way…kinda like outer space. It’s very cool.”
Ward enjoys experimenting with new color combinations. In addition to solid shades, he creates patterned “Mahi-Mahi” sets blending blues, greens and golds down the guide line. Neon hues cater to catfish anglers too. With titanium and powder coating, Ward expands builders’ palettes to truly customize each rod.
Powder Coating Durability
Aside from the almost infinite level of customization that powder coating brings to the table, it also provides an extra level of protection to components. Imagine you’re fishing in a rocky area, where your rod might constantly bump against sharp rocks or get dragged along rough surfaces. This is where powder coating’s resistance to chipping and scratching becomes super valuable. The tough layer it forms helps protect the rod’s components from getting dinged up. Rods are also likely to get a lot of sun exposure. Powder coating is great here too, as it resists UV rays, preventing the color from fading. So, not only does it keep your rod looking new, but it also maintains its structural integrity.
Anodization is a great choice in saltwater marine environments. Saltwater can be really harsh on gear, causing corrosion and damage over time. Anodized components are fantastic in this scenario because the anodization process creates a layer that’s highly resistant to corrosion. This means your rod parts are less likely to degrade, even with constant exposure to salty sea air and water. If you’re someone who enjoys surf fishing or deep-sea fishing, anodizing your rod’s components is almost a must.
Another scenario where anodization is a win is in areas with high humidity or frequent exposure to water (like river fishing or fishing in damp environments). The protective layer formed by anodization helps prevent water from seeping into the metal, which can cause weakness and damage.
One thing to note is that both powder coating and anodization can be applied in different thicknesses and qualities. So, the level of protection can vary. High-quality, thicker applications generally offer better protection but might come at a higher cost.
In summary, if your fishing adventures often lead you to rocky, rough terrains, or if your rod is frequently exposed to sunlight, the durability and UV resistance of powder coating are hugely beneficial. On the flip side, for those braving the salty seas or fishing in humid or wet conditions regularly, anodization’s corrosion-resistant properties are a major advantage. Both these methods extend the life of your custom rod, keep it looking good, and save you from frequent repairs or replacements.
Powder Coating Rod Guides Services
Powder coating your own parts can be expensive, time consuming, and difficult to get right. If rodbuilders want an easier alternative, Mike offers a wide variety of options on his website.
As he explains, “On my website, I have multiple style options where you can go on there and select the style, model, and size of guide, as well as the color you want and the quantities of each option. That way, you can specify if you want all one color or if you’d like to order a multi-colored guide set for your build. So you can do that and order directly there, and we have most components on hand so that they can be turned out fairly quickly.”
Alternatively, Mike notes “if there’s a different type of guide that you might wish to use, you can reach out and we can coordinate a way for you to send me those parts to work with. Mike works with customers to customize their orders through various convenient options.
Final Thoughts On Powder Coating Rod Guides
In conclusion, Mike Ward of Back Creek Custom Rods and Custom Colored Guides stands as a pioneer in this field, bringing over two decades of experience to the table. His mastery in both anodizing titanium and powder coating stainless steel allows for a dazzling array of customization options, not only in terms of aesthetics but also in enhancing the durability of the rods.
Ward’s unique color schemes offer rod builders an opportunity to truly personalize their creations. Beyond the visual appeal, these processes also impart significant functional benefits when it comes to protecting components from scratches and saltwater spray. This dual advantage of beauty and durability makes these techniques highly desirable for both amateur and professional rod builders.
Moreover, Ward’s services, accessible through his website, provide an easy and efficient way for builders to incorporate these customizations into their rods. He offers a wide range of options, from selecting styles, models, and colors to coordinating custom orders for unique guides. This approach not only streamlines the customization process but also ensures a high-quality, personalized result for each rod.
As the community of custom rod builders continues to grow, pioneers like Mike Ward are leading the charge in bringing innovative, durable, and stunningly beautiful options to the forefront.