Thomas Penrose's Bamboo Fly Rod Pages

Making a Split Cane Bamboo Fly Fishing Rod:

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A strip of cane being planed in the preliminary planing form. The approximately 82° angle of the groove in this wooden form helps to start the first 60° angle on the bamboo strip as it is planed. After this 60° angle is created, the strip will be placed into a second wooden planing form that has a 60° groove in it.

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A strip in the 60° groove of the secondary planing form. Planing in this form will make the strips become equilateral triangles in section.

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Checking the accuracy of the 60° angles using a center gauge (image on left).  After completing the  secondary stage of rough planing the ends of the strips have the equilateral triangle shape that enables them to nest together to form a fly rod that is hexagonal. They will next be bound together with string and placed in a heat treating oven that will dry, straighten, and temper them. Note that the side of each strip that faces out still has the original enamel layer that serves as the protective natural coating on the exterior of the bamboo stalk. The side of the strips that have this coating is never planed, since the bamboo plant's most elastic fibers lie just underneath this thin enamel layer. The enamel will, however, be sanded off with fine grit sandpaper in the last stages of the fly rod's creation.

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The six untapered triangular strips bound together with string (top image), forming the familiar hexagonal cross section that is typical of bamboo fly fishing rods. The string binding will enable the strips to heat cure in a straightened position, thus removing most of the kinks that each strip may have originally had. Most importantly, heating the strips in the 6' long Mica strip oven (lower image) drives out excess moisture, and stiffens the cane somewhat. Many rodmakers believe that placing the rod section in an iron pipe that is then heated with a blow torch serves this function as well as a more expensive oven does.

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After heat treating, the bamboo strips will be tapered on a set of adjustable planing forms made from two steel bars (adjustable wooden forms can also be used for final planing). The beveled edges of the bars create a 60° groove down the center of the form that is adjusted in depth by tightening or loosening bolts that draw together or push apart the two sides of the form. The depth of the groove at each point along the length of the planing form is what determines how much the strips will taper from the large butt end of the fly rod to the smaller tip end. This adjustment is done on the planing forms using the pictured dial indicator depth gauge. There are an infinite number of possible fly rod tapers that could be used, and to a great extent being a good split cane fly rod maker involves understanding how different taper designs effect the casting performance of any given fly rod.

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The taper being planed into one of the bamboo strips using the steel planing forms and a block plane. The side of the form shown is for planing the larger diameter butt section of the fly rod. The other side of the form has a shallower groove and is used for planing the fly rod's tip section.


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Making Bamboo Planing Forms

Tonkin Cane Bamboo for Fly Rods

Making Bamboo Planing Forms using Lawrence Waldron's Layout

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Determining Ferrule Positioning on a 2 Piece Fly Rod

Determining Ferrule Positioning on a 3 Piece Fly Rod

Turning Cork Grips with a Hand Drill



For more detailed information on split cane fly rod making, look at these books:
A Master's Guide to Building A Bamboo Fly Rod, by Everett Garrison with Hoagy B. Carmichael.
Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods, by Wayne Cattanach.
How to Make Bamboo Fly Rods, by George W. Barnes.
Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Fly-Rod, by George E. Maurer and Bernard P. Elser
Constructing Cane Rods: Secrets of the Bamboo Fly Rod, by Ray Gould
Splitting Cane: Conversations With Bamboo Rodmakers, by Ed Engle
The Lovely Reed: An Enthusiast's Guide to Building Bamboo Fly Rods, by Jack Howell
Cane Rods: Tips & Tapers, by Ray Gould

This site created and maintained by Thomas Penrose

All images and text copyrighted ©Thomas Penrose 1997, 2008