Notes on Making My Portable Fuji Style Line Machine

This is a conglomeration of notes from a forum thread early on in the Tenkara-Fisher timeline. I was conversing with John Vetterli and Eiji Yamakawa on making handmade taper lines. The following makes no sense when the conversation was cut out from the group. 

I kind of like the mess here, lots of good info and it reminds me of the fond couple of months it took me to make the machine.

Anyway, I am taking my notes from the following threads: Eiji Yamakawa's "Handmade Taper Line" and John Vetterli's "Tenkara Line Building"

I will build my line furling machine for portability, so it will have a few more pieces added to the materials list.
  • Motor (ordered July 28)
  • Line connectors (given to me from Eiji)
  • Weights .5 oz Eagle Claw casting
  • Cup hook
  • Battery Pack
  • On/Off Switch
  • Wire (to extend Switch)
  • Offset aluminum angle for switch plate.
  • Set screw line hook (made by Tom Smithwick)
  • Premium clear (knot less) Pine wood
  • 3/4" square hardwood stock
  • Rubber Pads for the legs
  • Sm split rings
  • Plexiglass
  • Velcro
  • Mending plates and hardware

Eiji's Line Recipe

Eiji Yamakawa: I usually use the following rods depending on line length.

Nissin Pro square Multi Tenkara 3.6m, 6:4, 8 section, 65g
Nissin Air Stage Fuji-ryu Tenkara 3.6m, 5:5, 9 section, 75g
I think they are very light and flexible comparing to your tenkara rods.
Fluorocarbon monofilament threads used for tippet and taper line are #1, #1.5, #2, and #2.5 in Japanese size, and by my research, they correspond to your Tippet sizes as follows.
Japanese size - diameter - Tippet size - diameter

#1 - 0.165mm - 4X - 0.007inch = 0.18mm 
#1.5 - 0.205mm - 3X - 0.008inch = 0.20mm 
#2 - 0.235mm - 2X - 0.009inch = 0.23mm  
#2.5 - 0.260mm - 1X - 0.010inch = 0.25mm 

Constructions of my taper lines are as follows: 

2.4m line: 1.2m twisted three #1.5 + 1.2m twisted three #2 
3.6m line: 1.2m twisted three #1.5 + 1.2m twisted three #2 + 1.2m twisted three #2.5 
4.8m line: 1.2m twisted three #1.5 + 1.2m twisted three #2 + (1.2m twisted three #2.5) times 2. 
6.0m line: 1.2m twisted three #1.5 + 1.2m twisted three #2 + (1.2m twisted three #2.5) times 3. 
7.2m line: 1.2m twisted three #1.5 + 1.2m twisted three #2 + (1.2m twisted three #2.5) times 4. 

5:5 rod is used for 2.4m through 4.8m lines. 
6:4 rod is for 6.0m and 7.2m lines. 
One meter long #1 tippet for all the lines. 
As for 2.4m and 3.6m, only the tippet is in touch with the water surface. 
 As for 4.8m, just a small portion is on the water surface, but the drag is negligible.
As for 6m and 7.2m, a good portion is on the water surface, and the drag is not little. 
For 80% of my fishing time, I use 3.6m and 4.8m. 6.0m is for a big stream, and 7.2m is just for a big pool and a big plunge basin.

The motor came today, big surprise, you have to build it.

The bags containing the parts.

Parts out of the bag, I use a small dish (my kebari sushi wasabi soy dish) to contain all the gears and screws.

The assembled motor, takes about 30 minutes of moving slow, directions are good.

Make sure to use the right combination of gears to get the ratio of 32.9:1 for a 191rpm as suggested by Eiji.

Phew, glad that is out of the way.

It is the G2 (ten tooth) pinion gear with the proximal (axle closest to motor) axle bearing and right side Final Gear placement combination to get the 191rpm that is called for.

I'll have to visit a Radio Shack to source a Double AA holder and inline switch.

You find out a lot of things when you do it yourself.

I connected the motor and switched it on and yes, the circuit works.

I also bought a soldering iron and heat shrink tubing to keep things clean.

Now it's time to find the set screw coupler and hook for hanging the line.

I think one of the enjoyable aspects of making things is the puzzles that come from trying to solve problems.

It was suggested to me to place a switch within easy reach so that I would not have the possible line loose problem of letting go or reaching to turn the motor off. This lead me to purchase some red and black wire to extend the switch down a little way from the top. I'm shooting to be able to make five foot sections (or longer) so I will bring the switch down eighteen inches in order to reach it while I am at the bottom of the section. I needed a way to attach the switch so I purchased a bit of offset aluminum angle and cut a piece off and drilled out attachment screw holes and the hole for the switch.

If you need, I have these that I will give to you: red and black wire, battery compartment, aluminum offset angle for switch plate and a nice switch to go with it.

Everything I have purchased from the hardware store. I am under forty dollars complete. I have not purchased the brackets to join the pieces to make the machine portable. I am sourcing them now but making the machine portable is a requirement as I will use the machine to teach my fly fishing friends how to make leaders or let them make their own and when I do Tenkara classes, I will want to take the machine with me.

This is a lesson for me and I am enjoying it immensely.

Here is the line hook Tom made.

It fits fine.

It's a piece of brass rod drilled through with a ground flat on the proximal end then a drilled hole taped and set screw installed.

I am working on the frame and expect it to be up and running in a few days.

Looking at bulk spools of fluorocarbon lines today.

This is going to be an investment.

I purchased the last of the supplies to build the machine.

It has become "the machine" now.

Soon this phase will be over...

I will try to stain the wood dark, I think it will look nice. I'm also thinking of indexing line sizes and having it laminated and sticking on the back of the riser. I want the numbers to become second nature but still being able to reference.

I may make this available for people that want to try their hand at it.

I think that would be good.

I have seen them John, super nice. Worth the effort in sourcing them as the rigging (knots and such) are clean and fitting. A little spendy for a line but really nice. I have a indicator line from DAN and it is really nice, the rigging is clean.

I'll have to say that your work is just as good, in your own way.

That's what I am doing, going my way but in a traditional sense.

Hiromichi Fuji's book is awesome. There is a section on constructing lines. This book can be sourced for less than ten dollars in Japan. When I bought mine, there were several copies available. The pictures alone are worth the price and they are easy to understand. There are line recipes in the book.

I would suggest that anyone looking to see back into the history of Tenkara that wants to educate themselves on the skills, the techniques, they should source this book.

Mr. Fuji operating his furling machine.

Diagram of the furling machine.

Hand furling.


Looks nice but too wobbly.

I will rebuild it.

Not good enough.

I upgraded my wood choice to clear (knot less) pine.

I like working with this wood. My joints will have higher tolerance and it will look much much better.

The wood was just sitting there patiently. I look at it like anything, learning curve...

Here is the base legs. I finished the notches that create the crossed legs. It is tight and the wood is harder and will last longer. I'm still going to taper the ends but I will be much more careful to cut the correct sides. I am happy with this wood and am taking the construction just a little slower this time. It is the third time I am building the frame. Many will use it and I am not going to have something I made looking like shit.

This one is turning out nice.

I'm going to call my Yamakawa furling machine "Perseverance."

That's the one word that comes to mind while building it.

I did not realize that it was going to take so much time to handcraft each piece. Each section serves a function and each takes time.

This is the third time I've built the frame, the first two versions were lessons in precision and attention to detail.

That lesson is over.

It took about an hour to build the bottom line separator so that it was functional and looked nice.

Cutting the plexiglass, filing the edges, cutting and fitting the wood stops...

It is coming along but it is taking quite some time to build.

Easily twice as long as I thought.

It's ok, it is forcing me to think about each section of the process and the bottom line is that I am enjoying building it.

Eiji really did a nice job with his design.

So I continue on, finishing the separators and then I will wire/solder the fittings.

...and then I will cut it up to make it portable.

I'm going to do what John did and log each line that I make, what rod it was for and where it went and who used the machine. I think the log will be interesting and I'll place my formula in there as well.

I am learning many things about Tenkara from making the machine and with the help from others.

Sharing is huge, it is an attribute of this community and I really appreciate it.

Constructing line guides.

I am glad John showed me the mono doorways to hold the lines in.

I'll be finishing the line guides in the next few days and then on to wiring. At that point I will have a functioning machine.

I have the legs to taper, make the portability joints and then decide if I want to stain the beast, black, or red, maybe blue.

I'm having some fun with it.

Last thing is, I'm going to build a pine storage box using a Dozuki saw to cut the lid.

...but it will be ready to use in the next couple of weeks max.

It is fun to build but I'm tired of it. Now it's time to close the deal and get busy making lines.

I'm an hour out, two if I taper the legs which I feel compelled to do since I screwed that up last time.

I want to stain it Ebony but I would have to varnish it, I waiver in that...

So, here is the latest.

I took John's advice and built mono gates to keep the line captured during furling.

Algebra problem figuring out how to cut the thing in three pieces where the two pieces that have mending plates and the one piece of wood that does not have the plates are all even in length. So I broke it down on paper, measure twice, cut once.

I'm going to build a simple pine box (and bury the thing) for portability and to keep it together out of the way. I want the pieces to be same length for ease of storage. I'll wrap it in bubble wrap and ship it when I fly out of state...


I installed the switch plate and figured where the shorter length line guide would go.

Wiring is next then cut and instal the mending plates and finish up with the leg tapers.

Home stretch.

Wiring (soldering) complete, I now have a completely functioning machine!

Sweet, finished well, it is nice.

Two last things to do, cut it up to instal the mending plates and taper the legs.

...and make a damn box for it.

It it was easier to divide and join by using mending plates than I had imagined.

The taper on the legs is purely aesthetic but I find it necessary. I am now glad that I demanded better of myself, the first two frame versions were rough, functional but just a poor example of my skill.

This one I am proud of.

I will be happy with it for years to come.

Tired of building the thing, it's completely finished and I am satisfied with it.

So I put it away, I want to be enthused about using it.

But I could not let it go so I wipped out the box of spools and spidered up and twisted a section and yesss, it is easy and makes a really nice line. I will have to organize myself so that everything is within reach.

This is going to really revolutionize my Tenkara fishing.

I'm going to pick out a couple of you and send out one of my lines.

John, you have one coming just because.

Super stoked, dig it.

John Vetterli: It adds one more dimension of satisfaction to my personal fishing.

It does.

The lines (formula) from Fuji ~ Yamakawa are excellent. They are light and handle well. The furling system is relatively easy to work with to vary the mass and taper. I am fond of having choices for each rod and the conditions I will use it in.

In conjunction WITH the level line, I have choices.

For those that profess that level lines are the only way to go, that is fine. When I fish a level line, it is the same for me, commitment to my equipment. However, I enjoy having a quiver of rods to choose from to use for different types of streams.

Now I have a skill that offers choices for each rod in the rack.

When I fish a tapered line using the construction techniques that Eiji has taught us, this is more satisfying than just cutting a piece of mono and knotting it on. The lines work with the rods, they are configurable, the formulas have the history that supports their use.

...and there is a skill to making this type of line.

They are light, easy to cast and beautifully present the fly. All support the attributes, the facets that make up the jewel of Tenkara.

I am no longer limited to use what is available. I can create a line using a skill organic to Japanese Tenkara.

The formulas are different than other furled lines. Perhaps it is because (for lack of a better term) the lineage has been passed forward.

I don't know.

I do know that with my machine, as you have said, I have added another dimension, a skill that I find valuable. As much as I enjoy the minimalism in practicing a specific type of Tenkara, I also enjoy the opportunity in crafting a solution.

Now I can do it myself.

With options.

This chapter is finished and a new one begins.

I enjoy making the lines for myself and others.