Sunday, March 16, 2008

FlexRod Download

Posted by David Bolin

FlexRod is a taper analysis tool developed by Jim Utzerath in the late 90’s. All the components of FlexRod are self contained in a single Microsoft Excel (version 2003) workbook. Following is a list of FlexRod features:

User input variables:
• Rod length
• Action length
• Number of pieces (1, 2, 3 or 4)
• Number of sides (hex, quad, or penta)
• Taper dimensions
• Line weight
• Casting distance
• Tension and tension angle (to simulate fish fighting impact)
• Load factor (i.e. tip impact factor)

Automated variables:
• Estimated line weight
• Guide spacing
• Ferrule size(s)
• Ferrule position(s)

Analytics:
• Taper list
• Taper statistics
• Garrison style straight stress curves
• Bent stress curves representing a loaded rod
• Deflection curves representing a loaded rod
• Full length and sectional taper charts
• Summary sheet for taper comparisons
• Detail sheet with a micro view of a single taper
• Hex form setup for variable station increments in inches (e.g. 1, 3, 5, 6, etc…)

Taper Statistics:
• Bamboo weight in ounces
• Total weight excluding reel seat and grip
• Counter weight (weight at the butt required to balance the rod near the front of the grip)
• Average diagonal values for the butt, tip, and full length
• Tip and midpoint deflection in inches
• Effective length (straight line distance from butt to tip of a bent rod)
• Effective length as a percent of the total length
• Tip, butt and full length slope per 5 inch station

It’s really not that difficult to wade through all the moving parts. I’ve consolidated the input fields to Jim’s program in one worksheet to keep it simple. Just about everything else is automated.

When you open the FlexRod workbook you’ll see a taper list and five tabs at the bottom of the screen representing the five user worksheets. There are several hidden worksheets that do all the automatic stuff in the background including Jim’s original worksheets. I’ve added new worksheets to organize the tapers and print reports. Here’s a brief description of each worksheet:

Tapers – all tapers and user input variables are loaded in this worksheet in list format (i.e. one row per taper). After the FlexRod calculations have been completed, the statistics for each taper are updated in each respective row. The rows can be sorted as needed to compare groups of tapers (e.g. by line weight, length, effective length, etc…). I’ve included a few personal tapers and some Payne’s, Young’s and Garrisons as examples. I have not included a database of tapers. I don’t want to add more confusion to the internet taper version chaos. There are several good taper databases already available on-line (e.g. RodDNA, HexRod, Todd's Tips Site , and the rod builders forum). You’ll need to input your own taper list in FlexRod.

Summary – A one page comparison of up to three tapers including straight stress, bent stress, deflection (bent rod) and a few statistics. The charts are updated automatically from the taper sheet and formatted for printing. This report is best reviewed in printed form.

Detail – A one page micro view of a single taper including statistics, diameter, stress and deflection values by five inch station. The charts include full length and sectional trends and a comparison of straight stress, bent stress and deflection. The taper can be modified on this worksheet and re-run the FlexRod calculations without returning to the tapers sheet. The modifications can be automatically saved to the tapers sheet as a new taper. This report is best viewed in printed form.

Forms – This is a hex planning form setup sheet. Input the adjustment station increments (1, 3, 5, 6, etc…) at the top of the worksheet and the station diameters will be automatically calculated starting at the tip top and ferrule stations.

Documentation – Lots of stuff that you probably don’t need to know. I needed to document it somewhere so I wouldn’t forget how this thing works. Its boring stuff, but I recommend that you read it before you start using the workbook.

Why FlexRod? Well, because I like to analyze things by the numbers. I’m an accountant and financial analyst by trade. The numbers thing goes with the territory. Stress curves are just about useless if you haven’t already fished the rod you’re analyzing. And even if you have, it’s almost impossible to know how another taper will perform by comparing stress curves. A lot of on stream experience is required to “read” a stress curve and apply it in any meaningful way. Said another way, you need to build the rod first and then analyze the stress curve. That’s backwards by my way of thinking.

When you combine straight (Garrison style) and bent stress curves with a deflection chart (like the "flex index" charts in the Orvis catalog), everything begins to make sense. On stream experience is still required, but you can see how the rod bends under a simulated load and how the stress values relate to the bent rod. Adding a bent rod chart to the analysis is like removing a blindfold. Really…it’s that simple. And you can thank Jim Utzerath for that. Jim’s reflections on FlexRod and the future of taper analytics are posted at this link.

FlexRod in its current state is not a taper design tool. It’s a taper analysis tool. RodDNA and DynaRod both include several taper design tools. When I built the worksheets for FlexRod, the goal was to compare hundreds of tapers looking for common characteristics without getting lost in the details. I needed a taper database that included a few meaningful statistics for each respective taper. The summary and detail reports are great when you’re analyzing up to three tapers, but most of my research is done on the tapers sheet. I've posted some of that research in the Tapers post category. I have over 500 tapers in my personal workbook. Most of them came from the RodDNA database. I can compare tapers by line weight, maker, slope, effective length, etc…in just seconds.

Feel free to download FlexRod for your personal use. Do not redistribute it for commercial purposes. You’re welcome to use it in your rod making business. The summary sheet would be a great way to illustrate your tapers for potential clients and fishing buddies. Everything they need to know is on a single printed page for up to three tapers. Just don’t repackage the program and offer it for sale.

I’ll be updating the workbook as new ideas emerge. A description of the updates will be posted on the blog. There’s a link to the updates post and the current version of the download in the FlexRod menu. Be sure to save backup copies of your workbook as you add tapers.

I'm using MediaFire to host the download file. MediaFire is a free download service that sells advertising spots on their site. An advertisement will probably pop up in a separate window when you download the file. That's a small price to pay for a fast, free download service. Let me know if the advertising is offensive or abusive.

How many bamboo rods have you made?

What type of finish do you use?

Which rod components do you make?

Do you soak your bamboo?

Which rod geometries do you make?

What kind of glue do you use to glue up rod blanks?

At what temperature do you heat treat (degrees F)?

What kind of ferrules do you use?

How do you apply finish to a rod?

What would you rather be doing?

What are your favorite bamboo rod lengths?

How do you flatten the nodes?

Do you pin ferrules?

Which tapers do you recommend for a first build?

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