Custom Rod Building

The Journey of a Custom Rod Builder

David Norton, founder of Millenium Rods, shares his inspiring journey from being a novice angler to becoming a master custom rod builder and entrepreneur. In this interview, we delve into his experiences, challenges, and passion for teaching others the craft of rod building.

From Carpentry to Custom Rod Building

David Norton, at 68 years young, has had a remarkable journey. A former Marine and custom trim carpenter, David began his fishing adventure thanks to his father-in-law. In 1989, at the age of 35, David held a fishing rod for the first time. “I actually got started as a result of my father-in-law deciding to teach me to fish! I was 35 at the time, and had never held a fishing rod. This was in 1989, he took me out to his brother little lake outside of town and taught me how to rig a plastic worm and how to cast. Using old Zebco 202 spincast reel. When I caught my 1st largemouth bass I was hooked”, he recalls.

Between 1989 and 1996, David’s passion for fishing grew, leading him to refurbish two boats. He noticed a recurring issue with casting rods twisting in his hand. After seeing an ad from Jann’s Netcraft, he decided to build his own rod. This journey eventually led him to be invited to join the Custom Rodbuilder’s Guild by Mr. Tom Greek, where he received the title of professional rod builder. In the summer of ’98, Millennium Custom Rods was born.

The Craft of Custom Rod Building

David attributes the uniqueness of Millenium Rods to their use of high-quality components often unavailable in the U.S. “We seek out unique components for our rods, which really make them stand out,” he says.

Key elements in crafting a quality rod include understanding rod blank manufacturing and performing crucial tests to ensure the rod’s efficiency and lightness. David emphasizes the importance of these tests, often overlooked by big manufacturers, to prevent the rod from twisting in the angler’s hand.

Learn more about Millennium Custom Rods

“As custom rod builders at least us old school builders, first we learn everything we can about the process. This includes learning and understanding about rod blank manufacturing.

How components fit together, and 2 crucial tests we perform to create the lightest most efficient rod possible. Now these little tests, are not used by big rod manufacturers. Why? I cannot say.

Old school builder’s such as myself know that without doing this test, and setting up a rod without the results, that rod will likely want to twist in the angler’s hand!”

Teaching and Mentoring: Passing on the Craft

In 2001, David was invited by the Custom Rodbuilder’s Guild to be an instructor. This opportunity fueled his passion for teaching. In 2014, he created his first Facebook group to teach rod building, followed by another group in 2023 focused on the fundamentals and art of rod building worldwide.

“The biggest challenge for students is learning to wrap guides properly. We demonstrate what works for us, but the student must find the methods that work for them,” he explains.

David has never built the same rod twice: “Every rod commissioned is a one of a kind” -he says.

One memorable experience was building two donation rods for PJ Burgess to be gifted to the governor and the Minister of Tourism in Sinaloa, Mexico, within a tight deadline. “I was burning the candle from both ends, but we got the rods to Mexico on time.”

An advice for Aspiring Rod Builders

David advises aspiring builders to find an old-school builder to mentor them. “It takes years to hone the skills needed. You can’t spend a few hours in a classroom and call yourself a professional rod builder,” he asserts. He stresses the importance of patience and continuous learning in mastering the craft.

The Future of Millenium Rods

Looking ahead, David is excited about the future of Millenium Rods. The company is moving to Texas and building a larger shop to continue creating one-of-a-kind custom fishing rods. He is optimistic about the evolution of custom rod building, noting that as anglers become more educated, they will increasingly invest in custom rods.

Educating Anglers

David emphasizes the need for anglers to become more educated about their equipment. He teaches anglers quick tests to determine if a rod is set up correctly. “These two quick tests will tell the angler in mere minutes whether a rod has been set up correctly,” he says.

Final notes

Luis Rod
Author: Luis Rod

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