Building a Halibut Gaff Not so hard to do!
A few months ago, somebody posted on IFish about building a custom gaff. I have been contemplating building a custom six foot gaff for several years. A few of the guys followed up by posting photos and brief how to comments as well as showing off some gaffs built by custom rod builders.
Needless to say, I was intrigued and followed the thread with great interest. Well, to make a long story short, I started accumulating the odds and ends to actually build my own. I started by purchasing the gaff head. I settled upon a Mustad unit with a three inch hook. The most common gaff heads available were two inch, which to my feeling just weren’t big enough.
Gaff heads run around $8.00-12.00 plus shipping. After searching the Web, I ended up purchasing one from the Terminal Tackle Company. With shipping, I ended up spending about eighteen bucks including shipping. It is my understanding you can also get them from Englund Marine at any of their locations.
Next, I needed a handle, so a quick trip to the local farm supply was in order. You can also get a suitable handle from one of the big box building supply stores, but the farm store was close and convenient. I settled on a six foot ash handle intended as a replacement for some sort of implement.
The handle had been coated with varnish and the finish was pretty rough. I clamped the handle in my woodworking vice and sanded it down with my palm sander, removing all of the finish and leaving a nice smooth bare finish. I then cut a slot on the handle to allow the gaff to recess slightly into the handle. I used a micrometer to determine the center and set my table saw to a quarter inch depth. The final slot was about 1/4” x 1/4” by the length of the straight portion of the gaff head.
Next I bored a hole for the tang on the gaff head. The tang is tapered, so Indirilled a hole completely through the handle the width of the thickest part of the tang. I used a piece of masking tape to seal the bottom of the hole and the end of the slot for the gaff head then I mixed up a small amount of epoxy and filled both the hole and the slot with epoxy.
Next, I placed the gaff head into the slot with the tang in the hole. I cleaned up the excess epoxy squeeze out with a paper towel. Once all of the squeeze out was cleaned up, I let the handle sit in my rod building jig for twenty four hours.
The following day, I wrapped the handle using tuna cord. The criss cross on the handle is made by marking off every three inches using a yard stick and a felt pen. You then wrap diagonally crossing both directions with tuna cord. Once that is completed, you tightly wrap over the diagonal wrap with more tuna cord.
Finally, I finished the ends of my wrap with a Turks Head knot. It took me a couple of tries to get the knot right, but after using Grogg’s Knot app, I was able to make passable knots.
Once the Turks Heads were complete, I coated the entire wrap with epoxy using a small acid brush. You can buy a bag of them at Harbor Freight fo a few dollars. The epoxy is fluid enough that it penetrates between the wraps, bonding the wrap to the handle.
Finally, the entire handle gets coated with several light coats of UV stabilized Polyurethane spar varnish. By applying light coats, you avoid runs and sagging leaving you with a very serviceable and professional looking gaff!