Rod Making

The many steps…

It all starts with a bundle of Tonkin Bamboo. The bundle is shipped with 10 , 12 foot “sticks” of bamboo. These “sticks” are called culms. Each culm is used to make a single bamboo rod.

The culm is first sawed into two 6 foot pieces if it is to be used to make a two piece rod, or into three pieces 4 feet long if a three piece rod is desired. Then each section is split or sawed into 18-24 strips.

Then the nasty nodes or “dams” in the bamboo need to have their first bit of attention.  The nodes are sanded, filed, or pressed flat into the body of the cane, to make them flat in respect to the plane of the surface of the rest of the cane strip.

Now the strips are straightened (for the first of many times). A heat source , either a heat gun or alcohol lamp is used to warm the cane so that the kinks can be eased out in an effort to straightened the strip.

Next all the strips are beveled or planed into a perfect 60 degree full length strip. This is traditionally done with a Stanley hand plane and a 60 degree roughing plane and a whole bunch of elbow grease.

Heat treating in a 6 strip, 60 degree aluminum fixture is next. Once the straight taper strips are bound into the fixture or simply bound together, they are placed in an oven for a total of 8-10 minutes at 350 to 375 degrees. Not only does this process aid in straightening the strips, it also aids in tempering and drying the strips.

Hand planing the final taper for each rod section comes next. There are literally thousands of tapers or rod designs that have been created over the hundred or so years this art form has existed. Some of these tapers have stood the test of time, and have become “standard” tapers from the Masters of the craft. These tapers ,are a set of numbers that a planing form is set to for each 5 inches of length of each section. This is the really delicate step in the creation of a bamboo rod blank. This is the process that separates the rookies from the masters. Each strip of bamboo is tapered in the planing form to exact measurements to the 1/1000 th of an inch.

Gluing the strips comes next, and is accomplished with a string binder tightly binding the 4. 5 or 6 strips for each rod section together with the glue of choice. Mostly epoxy of one sort or another is used today because of its strength, temperature tolerance , and flexibility.

All that is left once the glue cures is the finishing process, sanding, grip, and reel seat fitting, wrapping of guides and finishing the rod with a choice of many different varnishes.

Each rod is as unique as the cane that is used to construct it. Some cane makes the job easier, sometimes the cane makes the job a nightmare. In general the entire process takes 60-80 hours.