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Building a Bamboo Fly Rod

Below is a brief look at creating one's own bamboo fly rod.  A few years ago I wrote a seven chapter series on making a bamboo rod blank.  The articles were warmly received and may someday form the nucleus for a book on making bamboo rods.  I have reproduced those articles here, with some slight modifications based on updated techniques I use.

Chapter Onecork and rattan

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Click here for
The full text of my Rodmaking articles  at Globalflyfisher.com  This is the originally published, seven article series on making your own bamboo rod blank, and includes much more in-depth information than is below, but basically the same information as the seven chapter above.

Several of my demo's have been captured on video and posted on the web.  Here is a twenty one minute demonstration Jeff Fultz and I did on splitting bamboo:

Splitting video

At the SRG a few years ago twelve minutes on straightening and flattening nodes were captured on video.

Straightening and flattening nodes video

This third video focuses on straightening completed rod blanks and rods.

Straightening twists and bends in bamboo rods.

Tools of the
Those interested in learning to make rods should visit my Rodmaking Classes Page
Here are many of the tools used in making a bamboo rod. Several of these items are home-made, and can be purchased in fancier versions. Pictured are a rod binder, a blade sharpening setup, a vise, two splice blocks, a ferrule puller, four block planes, measuring tools, heating tools, sanding tools, two preliminary planing forms, a final planing form, splitting tools, and other necessities.
Tonkin Cane I primarily build rods because I enjoy the process of making something with my own hands. Only the finest materials are acceptable. I use the finest Tonkin cane from China imported by Charles H. Demarest. Each rod comes from a single culm of carefully selected bamboo.
Sanded Node Each nodal ridge is carefully sanded away before the culm is flame treated or split to insure that coloring is as uniform as possible. As an example only, this particular node was sanded after flaming, in order to more clearly show the contrast between the sanded node and the surrounding area.
Flamed Cane Many of my rods are made from flame tempered bamboo. A propane torch is quicklypassed over the outer surface of the culm. Keeping the flame moving, while maintaining a constant speed and distance from the culm requires a steady hand. Although the dark color looks rough at this stage, it produces a rich golden brown color. Flaming the cane also slightly tempers the rod, giving it more spring and resiliency. The result is a slightly crisper action.
Flattening a
                        node Each node is patiently flattened and straightened with heat and pressure before the strip is planed into un-tapered triangles. Everett Garrison called nodes Job's gift to rodmakers.
Rough Planing A single strip of cane being planed into a 60* equilateral triangle. Twenty four strips are required for each three piece, two tip rod.
Ready for heat
                        treating When all twenty four strips have been planed to triangles the rod is ready for heat treating. The dark flamed enamel faces out. No planing is ever done on the enamel side of the strip. Just beneath the enameled outer layer lie the most dense fibers. The enamel itself will be filed and sanded away before final planing, but the power fibers underneath remain untouched.
Setting the
                        forms The tapered metal planing forms are accurately adjusted to tolerances of less than a thousandth of an inch. Understanding what makes a taper suitable for the type of rod desired is one of the differences between good rods and poor rods.
Planing a
                        taper Planing a taper into one of the strips for a butt section using a Stanley 9 ½ block plane. This is one of six strips for a butt section. The forms have a much more shallow groove on the reverse side for planing tip sections. Final planing is one of the most critical steps in making a quality rod. If for any reason a finished strip doesn't measure out to its exact intended dimensions, the whole process has to be re-started.
Spreading the
                        glue on planed strips Industrial epoxy glue is used to hold the strips together. One reason today's rods are better than those built in grandpa's day is that today's materials are better than those of yesterday. The high tech epoxy I use has a working time of approximately three hours, enabling me to get the rod section almost perfectly straight before the glue dries.
Binding the
                        strips Once the glue is spread, the strips are run through a Garrison style binder twice. The cotton binding cord is wound under several pounds of tension, firmly clamping all the surfaces together. Tightly binding the uniform strips insures that the glue lines are invisible. When the binding cords are removed, any excess glue is painstakingly filed away. At this stage the blank is ready for ferrules, cork, guides, reel seat, and varnish. Getting to this stage takes from ten to twenty hours.
Using the finest components available makes each bamboo rod an instrument to be treasured.
Once the blank is completed, ferrules, guides, a cork grip and a reel seat are added. Hand rubbing the varnish to a high luster finishes the rod, giving the maker a sense of pride in a job done well.

Copyright © 2000-2009
Boyd Rod Company

Harry Boyd
1211 Newman Street
Winnsboro, Louisiana 71295