5. BUILDING A FORM

       A form makes building a net frame much easier and more precise. I have seen pictures of simple forms that are  metal pots, or metal and plastic pipe, being used to make full or partial circles. You should make a full size pattern of the desired frame and handle shape by drawing half the outline on a folded piece of paper or cardboard, so when it’s cut and unfolded it will be symmetrical, or use two halves for the form, temporarily fastened together face to face, so that when cutting and shaping them you will get identical mirror images when you take them apart . Double sided carpet tape, screws, or hot melt glue can be used to hold the pieces together when shaping. Try to minimize any sharp curves, or re-curves, and have fair, smooth lines in the design. The frame only needs to have a form, up to the point where it contacts the handle, and the transition from frame to handle needs to also be a smooth and fair line, so be sure when cutting the profile on the actual handle, it matches the lines on your original template that was used for the frame. You can have a gap between the form for the frame and the handle, but it means you will have to make a pair of cauls for use on each side of the frame on the inside, that are cut to the same length of the gap between the top of the handle and the bottom of the form for the frame, when gluing that section. When you are bending the wood it should make a pretty fair line on its own, and the extra support from the gluing cauls won’t be needed then. A little planning will allow you to use the same form to make other nets with longer or shorter handles, and you can easily increase the size of the net opening by laminating more layers to the form itself.

       I use either 3/4” (20mm) plywood, 3/4” (20mm) particle board, or 3/4” (20mm) MDF (medium density fiberboard), to make the forms. Thinner sheets can be stacked, or solid wood can be used also. Thicker form material is also usable, but I find that having the laminations protrude slightly above the top of the form allows me to push the laminations down when steam bending and gluing, so that all the edges are aligned and flush (assuming all your laminations are the same width). A band saw or saber saw, files, rasps, and sandpaper can be used to shape the form’s contours. Make sure the edges are flat and square at 90 degrees to the base surface, to prevent the laminations from twisting, or sliding out of position when they are glued and clamping pressure is applied. You need to be careful that the inner and outer surface of the laminations for the net frame do not become imprinted with marks caused by rough  surfaces on the form by sanding and smoothing the surfaces that come into contact with the wood.

        A section of 1/2” - 3/4” (10mm-20mm) plywood, particle board or MDF (medium density fiberboard) can be used for the base of the form, and can be coated with  2” (50mm) clear packing tape, or waxed, to prevent the glue from sticking to it. “Melamine”, which is particle board coated with a high pressure laminate, and commonly available at hardware stores, works well also for form use and has a non-stick surface (except for the edges). I use lots of medium size 2” (50mm) spring clamps when steaming and bending to temporarily hold the wood to the form, and then C-clamps for gluing; so I make the form shapes with a parallel cut about an 1”-1 1/4” (25mm-30mm) inside the outer cut, and then use lots of screw fasten the form to the base. Space screws about 2”-3” (50mm-75mm) apart. Alternately, you could just drill a series of large 1” -2” (25mm-50mm) diameter holes on the inside of the form that parallel the outside shape, for the clamps to attach to, instead of the thinner parallel shaped form. I prefer using lots of clamps and thin “cauls” to better distribute the pressure on the outside of the frame and allow more flexibility for different shapes and forms. I like having more clamping positions available that the fully cut out form offers. The base should also be cut to follow the frame outline with a 1 1/2” - 2” (30mm-50mm) wide lip or shelf for the laminations to rest on. Cutting away the rest of the base allows easier application of the C-clamps.

       Forms that try to use matching male and female pieces made from the outer cut off part of the form material to act as a caul, need to be cut exactly so that the gap between the inner and outer part is equal to the width of the frame being glued, in order to distribute even pressure on the laminations. Inevitably there are always slight gaps where the outer pieces don’t make perfect contact, and thin wedges inserted between the frame and the outer caul may apply enough local pressure to put the laminations into contact with each other. I don’t recommend this approach though, because I find that it doesn’t really save time, material, or the need for many clamps to make it work. I like using pre-bent and shaped cauls made of 3/16”-1/4” (4mm-6mm) thick Ash because they are flexible, durable and distribute pressure well with the use of C-clamps.

       The form should be screwed or clamped to a stable base when bending, and possibly while gluing. I use some recycled aluminum and plastic pedestals meant for boat seats, because I can adjust the height, making it easier to work on, and they can be locked in position or swivel, which makes it very handy for gluing.

 

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These pages were last updated 3 April 2008

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Steam bending forms for making and building custom wood fly fishing landing netsThese are samples of jigs or forms for shaping fly fishing landing net frames. The frames on the left are shown with the pre-bent ash strips, or  “cauls” that are used when gluing, to distribute pressure, and eliminate clamp marks on the frame surfaces. The same jig is used for both bending and gluing the laminations. The form on the left is made of particle board and melamine coated particle board, which prevents the glue from adhering to the form. I’ve covered the particle board surfaces of the forms on the right with plastic, to resist glue and increase their durability. The plywood form is more durable if you plan to make lots of nets. This one is covered with 2” clear packing tape to keep glue from sticking. Lots of screws are used to fasten the form to the base.

These are samples of jigs or forms for shaping fly fishing landing net frames. The frames on the left are shown with the pre-bent ash strips, or  “cauls” that are used when gluing, to distribute pressure, and eliminate clamp marks on the frame surfaces. The same jig is used for both bending and gluing the laminations. The form on the left is made of particle board and melamine coated particle board, which prevents the glue from adhering to the form. I’ve covered the particle board surfaces of the forms on the right with plastic, to resist glue and increase their durability. The plywood form is more durable if you plan to make lots of nets. This one is covered with 2” clear packing tape to keep glue from sticking. Lots of screws are used to fasten the form to the base.

How to build a custom wood fly fishing landing net

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