The Drying Cabinet
Bamboo rod making begins with a controlled
atmosphere,the first piece of equipment required to
build a quality rod is the drying cabinet. Not only will
it protect your finished rods from accidental breakage
it will be a dry comfortable place for the rod
components to live while you construct the rod. If the
"unfinished" rod components were allowed to just sit
around anywhere they would absorb moisture from the
air and be subject to a dimensional changes. Bamboo
will expand and contract by as much as 3% to 5%
when in an unprotected environment. If the rod were
not protected from potential dimensional changes
during fabrication, you might end up with a rod that
could become crooked or one with erratic physical
This rod cabinet maintains an average 90* temperature
and about 22% relative humidity. I like to store my
rods in the cabinet during all phases of construction or
reconstruction, even after they are finished.
Halving The Culm
Shown here is the cane being measured, halved and
divided into segments. I try to keep the segments
between 1/4" and 5/16" wide, marking the culm is
easily accomplished with a flexible rule made from a
xerox copy of an architects rule
Bamboo Rod Making
Spliting Into Strips
The culm is spilt in half and again into halves again and
so on until you get down to the last two strips. I like
to split by hand instead of using a knife, for me it is
much simpler to do. You start with a sharp knife
blade and a mallet, make sure that the knife is
perpendicular to the round edge of the cane, give it a
good tap until the knife penetrates the cane, twist the
knife blade in a circular direction as opposed to prying
to left or right, stop when the split in the cane
advances down several inches. Now use your hands and
grip as closely as you can to the sides of the strip,
pull the pieces apart. With practice, you can steer the
split down the length of the culm by applying more
pressure to the side in which you want the split to go.
Removing the Pith at the Node
The pith is removed at the apex of the cane node with
the band saw, I like to make a concave cut which will
facilitate straightening and flattening the nodes later
on. You will need to have six strips cut for each planned
Staggering the Cane Nodes
Now that you have six split strips cut, lay them out in one of the patterns described below. A good
painters masking tape will help considerably as the strips will be anything but straight at this time. This is a
45" section, it was marked for a cut at the left end of the rule and at 49" to the right. The nodes are
the weakest point in the cane, as a result they should be separated or arranged in a manner that maximises
the distance between them. Typically, the strips are arranged in one of three ways, spiral (as shown
above), a 2x2x2 pattern and 3x3x3 pattern. In the spiral method, the strips are laid out so that no two
nodes will be adjacent to each other, while at the same time keeping the maximum distance possible
between them. This distance between nodes will generally be between 1 2/3" and to a little over 2".
For the 2x2x2 method, the strips are arranged so that each strip is separated by two strips without nodes,
this results in having a node on the opposite side of that node.
For the 3x3 method, the strips are arranged so that there is a clean strip between each node
Rod makers all differ in there preference as to what is "the best method", the debate still continues.
What is important about all three methods is the node spacing at the tip, since this is the weakest point in
the rod it is desirable to have the greatest spacing possible, 5" minimum, between to tip and the first node.
Spiral Strip Pattern
Dressing the Nodes
Take a look above at any of the above layouts
and look at the height of the nodes, it is easy
to see why they need to be removed. I first
file away the majority of the bump and finish
with 220 grit paper. On most nodes there will
be a crown at the center of the node, we will
heat treat and press it to a level surface in the
Heating and Straightening Nodes
Bamboo becomes flexible when exposed to a high
heat source. Traditionally the cane would have
been heated with an alcohol lamp, I feel that this
damages the internal structure of the bamboo and
will leave a darker finish on the rod than you might
want. Today most modern rod makers use heat
guns to heat up the cane. I use a 2-speed heat
gun set on the high heat setting, my gun came with
an optional accessory pack which included the "duck
bill" heat diffuser seen above. This accessory
concentrates the heat right were you need it. The
cane is held a bit above the diffuser and rotated
between you fingers, after about 30-45 seconds
the cane becomes flexible. Now quickly place the
cane in a vice and clamp down on the strip until it
straightens, you will want to leave it there for
about one minute. You will want a smooth surface
on your vices jaws. I replaced the jaws with a
couple of pieces of fiberglass. Often it requires
several trips to the heat gun to get the strip
straight since you will have to straighten the strip
in several different directions.
Rough Planing in Power Beveler
Now that you have straightened out the strips it is
time to put rough 60* bevel on each strip. Having
an equal rough 60* bevel on the strips will help
later on and it is a great time saver. I used to do
this by hand but now use a Medved power beveler.
Each strip is run through this machine several times
rotating from side to side until it becomes
triangular. With the aid of an adjustable depth
stop at the end of the beveler, it is possible to mill
all of the strips to the same size.
Binding Strips Together
Now that you have straightened out the strips and put
rough 60* bevel on each of them, its time to bind
them together. There a several methods available to
bind the strips together, I like the "Garrison Style"
binder. This one has a modification that I think
improved its performance. I use an old fishing reel and
it's finely adjustable drag to supply the proper tension
to the binder. I still use the traditional spring
tensioners when I loading the spool with the glace
cotton binding thread. Using a fishing reel drag easily
allows me to accurately set the tension to where I want
it, for each rod section, with the confidence that it
will not change. I also use different weights, 24 oz
for mid sections and butt sections and 16-20 oz for
The straightened rod segments are carefully placed in a
convection oven where the will cook at 180* for three hours.
After 3 hours, remove the rod segments and bring the
temperature up to 360*. When it has heated up, place the rod
segments back in the oven and leave them for 10-17 minutes.
The high heat will temper the bamboo, thereby making it
stronger. The heat will also darken the cane a bit, the color
can range between wheat and light caramel. Remove the strips
from the oven and leave them bound and exposed to the
normal environment for at least one week before removing the
string. Leaving them bound this way allows moister to reenter
the bamboos cellular structure and I think keeps them a bit
Bound bundles are placed in a 60* groove and flattened out with a pizza roller, I also try to eliminate any
twisting in the rod blank.
Straighting Bound Rod Segments
The enamel layer of the cane is removed from each strip with a hand held scraper and finished with 400
grit automotive paper. To make the paper last longer, I lubricate it with mineral spirits
Some of the tools required from the left to the right are; dial indicator with a 60* contact point,
micrometer, cork pad to protect plane irons, scraping plane, Stanley low angle block plane, Starrett screw
gauge, Stanley standard angle block plane with adjustable mouth and Lie-Nielson Rod Makers standard
angle adjustable mouth block plane.
Setting the Plane Form
The plane form is set to the depth required at 5 inch intervals along the 6 foot length of the form, then
checked and reset at each station from end to end until there is no variation from the required settings.
After setting and adjusting the forms it is time to plane a strip and check the accuracy of the milled
strip. Often it requires several minor adjustments to get the form just right. When I mill a strip, I start
with the end several inches further down the slope of the taper (where the dimensions will be larger!) then
plane the strip and check the strip for the proper dimensions. If the strip is over or under the desired
dimension, adjust the station and plane again. Doing it this way gives you the opportunity to get it right
with out starting all over. When I get everything just right, push the strip up the form to its proper
location and finish planing all of the strips.
The goal is to hand plane all of the strips to within (+-)
0.0005" from the desired rod taper. A dime is .050"
thick and bond paper is 0.004" thick.
Working a Strip to Final Dimension
Glueing Rod Segments
I like to take the last 3-4 thousands of an inch off with a hand held scraper, this one was made from an
industrial thickness planer blade.
The strips are laid out waiting for a coat of "Shell Epon 826" industrial grade epoxy. When the glue is
applied, the strips are rolled up and then bound again in the Garrison binder.
Prepairing for Glue
Completed strips are squared up and laid out, in numerical order, on strips of masking tape.
Straighten Glued up Segments
Freshly glued up rod segments are placed in the steel planing form which has been set to match the rod
taper. The segment is rolled and turned until it is straight and has no twists, an old a pizza roller is
inexpensive and works well. When done they will be hung up to dry at room temperature for 16-24 hours to
dry. This is the second exception I have from the drying cabinet, I don't want the glue to set up too fast
from the heat in the cabinet.
Removeing Excess Glue
The binding cord is removed from the rod segments and then rubbed down with denatured alcohol. The
epoxy softens a bit and is scraped off with the edge of a razor. Don't take off more of the epoxy than is
necessary, you don't want to remove any power fibers.
Curing the Epoxy
The rod is rebound with new binding cord, straightened again on
the planing form and then placed in a 180* convection oven for 4
hours to cure the epoxy.
A small amount of glue will probably work its way out of the blank during the curring process, I quickly
remove it with a quick pass of 320 grit production paper and finish up with 600 grit lubricated with
mineral spirits. As soon as possible after sanding, I apply a coat of "Tung Oil" to the blank and hang
them up in the drying cabinet. Over the next several days I will apply one coat a day, rubbing out
between coats with 0000 steel wool, until I have applied 3 coats. The rod blanks will now remain in the
drying cabinet until they are wrapped and finished.
Feathering the Ferrule
Ferrules require some hand work before
they are installed. The ferrule tabs must
be thinned down to allow for a flexible
transition from the ferrule to the rod. In
the photo, I have installed a 13/64" drill
bit inside the female end of the ferrule,
it is held in place by friction. The lathe
is set at about 600 r.p.m. and started
up. Using your finger and a small strip
of 400 grit sandpaper, apply pressure to
the edge of the spinning ferrule. The idea
is to produce a smooth paper thin taper
at the edge of the ferrule, stop and check
Installing the Ferrule
The purpose of this section is to give the potential purchaser a little bit of understanding of what is
required to build a "Hand Crafted Rod" and to pass of a little bit of knowledge on to those of you out
there that may want to try and tackle a project like this yourself. For the latter, if you have any questions
contact me I will be happy to share what I know with you.
Handlaping the Ferrule
When the ferrules come from the manufacture, the male end is 2-3 thousands of an inch over sized. The
male end will require hand fitting/resizing in order to properly mate with the female end. The first step
required is to measure the depth required to fit the female ferrule and then transfer that to the male
end. On Super-Z type ferrules, this has already been done for you as there is a slight ridge on the male
end of the ferrule . Wrap this location with several turns of painters tape, the tape will protect the
adjacent finish from damage while resizing. Tear off piece of 0000 steel wool and roll it up between your
fingers forming a rope, dip it into some acetone and insert it into the female end, spin it around several
times to remove any debris and oil that may have been left from the manufacturing process. Clean the
inside again with a acetone and Q-tips and follow up with Q-tips and denatured alcohol . Cut a long strip
of 600 grit paper a bit wider than the depth you want to remove from the male ferrule. With your fingers
pinched around the sandpaper and ferrule, rotate the ferrule with your other hand. This will take off
just a bit of metal, I spin it 6 times and then move on to a new section of paper as it quickly clogs up
with metal. For the first 2 or 3 times that you spin the paper try to keep a bit more pressure on the ends
leading edge, this will round it over a bit and make it easier to fit later on. After having done a few
turns with the paper, switch to the 0000 steel wool and give it a few spins, this will polish it up. Wipe the
end of the ferrule clean with a tissue dampened in denatured alcohol, apply a bit of WD 40 to the male
end and test its fit, don't force it!. It will take some time to get to where you want to be, be patient
you want to slowly sneak up on the correct size. Clean the WD 40 off with alcohol and start the process
over again until you feel that it is just starting to fit. When it does, switch to 1000 grit paper followed
with a polish from 0000 steel wool. When it just starts to go in, about 1/4", use only the steel wool as
your abrasive. When you get the proper fit it will be snug and the male will just slide up to its shoulder,
when it is removed you will hear a satisfying Pop!
Locating the Guides
The guides are positioned and taped in place with small strips of painters tape. The next step is to install a
temporary fly line and subject the rod to a static stress test. What you are trying to do is to make sure
that the guides are placed exactly where they need to be. There are computer programs and guidelines
that will approximate the location of the guides, but they will not tell you exactly where they need to be.
Only by installing the guides, placing the rod under stress and repositioning the guides as necessary, will
you get the correct location for each.
Wrapping Line and Stripper Guides
Line guides and strippers are wrapped with Gossamer silk.
Just a few of the many colors to choose from. The final color obtained depends upon how the silk is
treated before varnishing. If the silk has a color preserver applied prior to varnishing, it will result it what
you see is what you get. It can also be treated to become translucent. As an example, if I used white silk
and treated it to become translucent, it would totally disappear. The color sample stick above shows a side
to side comparison of how each color reacts to each treatment. I know it is difficult to see here, but a
sample will be sent to you if you have difficulty deciding on the colors you like
I use a drip-tube to apply spar varnish to the rod. Using this
system of applying the finish will give you a glass like appearance
that really shows off!
Finished Rod Pictures
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Split Bamboo Rod Company
your work often. When you are close, progress on to 1000 grit and finally finish with steel 0000 steel
wool. The feathered edges of the ferrule tabs are then "crowned" with 600 grit automotive paper. The
ferrule is held in your hand and passed over a fixed strip of sandpaper until the six tabs form points on
them, the points will resemble a crown.
I chuck up my rod sections in a lathe and use a dedicate tenon cutter to prepare the end for the ferrule.
The inside of the ferrule is then cleaned with acetone and a Q-tips until it comes out clean, next clean
the inside of the ferrule with a strip of 400 grit paper wrapped around a drill bit and finally clean again
with Q-tips and denatured alcohol. Rough fit the ferrule on the rod blank and apply painters masking tape
were they meet. Mix up a small batch of "Golf Shafting Epoxy" or "Gorilla Glue", apply a small amount to
coat both the inside of the ferrule and the outside of the bamboo with a toothpick. Using a twisting
motion, push the ferrule up to the intersection of the ferrule and the painters tape. It may be necessary
to do this several times in order to keep any built up any air pressure from pushing it back off. When
everything is aligned properly at the taped edge, make sure that the serrated tabs that were thinned
down and crowned align with the flat faces of the bamboo. Wipe off any excess epoxy, then wrap and
secure the ferrule tabs with fly line backing. Allow to dry and remove any excess glue with the
Pinning the Ferrule
Pinning the ferrule insures that the ferrule will never depart from the rod section, the process of how to
pin is outlined below.
Wrap the ferrule with painters tape, using a
center punch mark the location to drill and drill a
hole through the ferrule.
Push a nickel silver wire through the hole and clip
of the wire with side cutters. It is difficult to
get the wire clipped close enough so I use a
Dremel tool shorten up the stub to about 0.050"
inches above the surface of the ferrule on both
Using a small hammer gently peen the stubs while flipping the ferrule side to side until the stubs resemble
little button mushrooms. It is only necessary to smash the wire down just a little, the idea is to stop when
the wire stops wanting to be pushed through to the other side of the ferrule.
Chuck the ferrule up in your lathe and file down
the mushroom, stop just short of the surface of
the ferrule. The painters tape will help protect
the surface of the ferrule from being scratched.
Spin the lathe up and polish down the mushrooms
with narrow strips of waterproof sandpaper until
they disappear. Start with 400 grit and work
your way up to 1500 grit.
Spiral Strip Pattern
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