Selecting the wood

The very first stage is choosing the right woods and parts of the board for the hoop and handle. The Ash and Sapele used for the hoop are both strong and flexible, which combined act like a spring to cushion any exuberant fish. The creamy white of the Ash and the reddy brown of the Sapele make for a striking contrast, whilst maintaining durability.

The handle can be made from almost any wood. I often make a run of the same species depending which boards I have available at the time. Woods individually requested are always fun to work with, learning the different grain patterns and characteristics of the wood. No two handles are ever the same.

Bending the hoop

After the wood is chosen, the boards are run through the planer to a consistent thickness. I will then rip them into strips at the table saw. The bigger nets get a slightly thicker strip to account for heavier fish.

Polyurethane wood adhesive is used to glue the strips together. They are bent around a solid form and the outer sections are clamped in place, sandwiching the strips together resulting in the bent laminations.

Shaping the handle

Once the glue is set, the hoop is released from the form. Using a router, a slot is cut into the outer edge of the hoop, this is for the cord that stitches on the mesh.

The chosen handle is then cut out on a wooden bandsaw and sanded to fit the hoop. A thin leather strip is glued between the handle and the hoop, this fills any small gaps and adds a nice contrast between the two sections. The parts are then clamped together in another form and once dry are it starts to look more like a net.

With the net now fully glued up I start roughing in the lines and curves. My favourite tools for the shaping are a curved sole spokeshave and a cabinet scraper. Simple and efficient, they allow for a good combination of speed and accuracy, whilst still leaving a smooth base finish ready for the sanding process.

The finishing process

There’s not much that can be said to glam up hand sanding. Course 60 & 80 grit paper is used to refine the shape and remove any facets left by the spokeshave. Once happy with the shape and feel I then start to work up through the grits.

120, 180, 240, 360, 400, 800, 1000 and finally 2000 grit paper is used. Each grit is repeated 2-4 times and de-nibbed after each sanding. This involves wetting the surface of the wood with water and allowing it to dry, this raises the grain, which is then removed on the next sanding.

The finish sanding is all done by hand and is the longest part of the whole build. It’s certainly labour intensive but very rewarding as the grain and pattens in the wood are revealed. I believe it is the best way to get the best quality finish.

The single most satisfying part of the build is applying the oil and finish. The colours and depth of the grain that are brought to light are simply beautiful.

Fitting the mesh

Before the sanding starts I drill a series of holes through the hoop and inside the slot. This is to allow the strong, rot-proof cord, to be threaded through, stitching the rubber mesh to the net. The holes are carefully worked out and transferred from a template to ensure they line up with each tab on the mesh.

Once the mesh is attached, two pairs of 1.2mm holes are drilled in the top of the handle to allow the copper staples to be glued and tapped in, securing the last tab of the mesh in place.

Multiple coats of homemade beeswax and boiled linseed oil finish are applied over the next few days before the completed net is packaged up and posted out. Finally ready to be put to use on rivers across the world.