I just wanted to update all of you on the bamboo rod I’m building for the shop and to lend some insight into the rod making process. There are five major steps in making a bamboo rod:
1.preparing the bamboo for planing
4.attaching the components (guides, ferrules, reel seat) and
5.applying the finish (varnishing).
So far I’ve flamed the culm (pole) of bamboo with a propane torch, split out the 18 individual strips that will become a butt section and two tip sections. A bamboo rod is not made of a single piece of bamboo which has been shaped into a hexagon from the outside, rather, it’s made of 6 individual pieces which are shaped on the inside edges and are then glued together to form a hexagon. This initial process involves, sanding, pressing and smoothing the nodes and finally, straightening the strips using a heat gun and vise.
Next, the strips will be run through my router-powered beveler which cuts the initial 60 degree angle on two sides of the strip. After that I’ll scrape off the thin layer of enamel (kind of like bark) from the outer edge of each strip, exposing what will become the outer surface of the finished rod. After this the strips are ready to rough plane. I usually plane to within 0.030 inches of final measurements and then fine-tune any strips that need to be straightened a bit more. After inspecting each strip for any flaws I then go ahead with final planing. I try to keep tolerances to within 0.001 in. which is not really all that hard with accurate tools and a sharp hand plane. Next comes the sticky job of gluing the strips together to form a blank. After gluing, what was previously just a bunch of long matchsticks emerges as a bona-fide flyrod.
Then I’ll cut the sections to their proper length, attach the ferrules with marine-grade epoxy, shape the cork grip, fit the ferrules and wrap the guides with 4/0 silk thread. After all of this I apply the finish (Minwax spar varnish) to the rod in several stages. The reel seat goes on last. Oh yeah, the reel seat. I make my own inserts from highly figured wood I get from my cabinet maker friend, Fife Hubbard. I usually stick to down locking cap and ring style hardware for trout rods.
So there you have it. From start to finish it takes me about 70 hours of active work time plus about 2 weeks of inactive time (waiting for glue and varnish to dry) to make a bamboo flyrod.
In the next post I’ll discuss some of the specialized tools I use and maybe even have a short movie of me running some strips through the beveler.