(1) Read the directions. It seems obvious, but not reading the instructions carefully is the single biggest mistake that novice rod makers commit. Go over them again and again until everything makes sense and is well ordered in your own mind. (2) Beware of corkscrews. Graphite fishing-rod blanks are made of a fiber-resin matrix wrapped around a tapered, solid-metal mandrel. After heat-curing, the mandrel is removed, leaving a hollow tube. Due to various manufacturing screwups, some finished blanks aren't as straight as they should be. These usually go in the factory reject pile but sometimes make their way into rod kits. Inspect yours right away by putting the sections together (for rods of two or more pieces) and sighting along them. If you see a twist, curl, or corkscrew-like bend, return the blank and ask for a replacement. (3) Find the spine. All graphite rods have what's called a spine, where the graphite wrap ended around the mandrel. (The word spline is often incorrectly used for this.) The wall of the blank is marginally thicker and consequently a little stiffer at this point. Your line guides should be aligned with this spine. If not, the finished rod won't cast straight and will drive you nuts. All kits give directions on how to find and mark the spine for guide layout, but most don't tell you why.