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     Overview of the rodmaking process

     Overview of rodmaking process by Barder

Publication:  Rod Making for the Beginner


Reading Garrison and compiling a list of 'must have' tools is a scary thought indeed to those of us who have made a rod before.  It is a daunting task indeed if one is to follow the master's advice for each and every plane, gauge, machine and contraption which EG thought a necessity for the construction of a cane rod.  Complicating that task by considering double building a first rod is too, too much!

FORGET the double built construction. Buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy of Wayne Cattanach's rodbuilding book (or Howell, or Maurer - any of these are much simplified versus The Book).

Here is a list of must have tools - you really don't need anything else to build a rod:

  • An old knife for splitting.
  • A decent vise for splitting, straightening, and other odd jobs.
  • A planing form (see Thomas Penrose's fine page or Don Schneider’s excellent instructions). Garrison's are much too complicated to make for the home builder.
  • One decent adjustable throat block plane (Stanley 9-1/2, Stanley's modern version, Record version, or Lie-Nielsen's fine version $$).
  • An adjustable heat gun.
  • Inexpensive heat gun driven oven made of cheap air duct (see 'articles at Frank Neunemann’s web site).
  • $20 imported calipers, 0-6".
  • $10 imported dial indicator, 1" travel, .001" reading.
  • Indicator base (make one).
  • Inexpensive binder made like a rod wrapper with PVC pipe for supports and wood 'v' guides at center for accessing rod to roll by hand, and a cheap thread tensioner from old sewing center or make one with springs, washers, bolt and nuts.

You can get by with these and these alone if you want to build a rod for your own use. All else is luxury. Dip tanks, multiple planes, belt driven binder, etc. You don't have to have these. Don't think up excuses to get started. Get started then get the tool you need once you get to that stage. Start with the planing forms though, after that, it is simple, simple, simple. (Rick Crenshaw)


Some comments I would make about starting out include:

  • You do not need a lathe, buy your cork handles preformed from a supplier such as Anglers Workshop and fit your ferrules using a file to round the rod section.
  • Most of the gear suggested has a much simpler option which may not look as good but will work as well ( let me know if there is anything you are struggling over).
  • My first rods were up to .010 out from the design taper, but cast well and the fish do not seem to notice. Many of the "famous" tapers come with quite wide variations from one rod to the next.
  • Stick to "classic" tapers, they are very forgiving of variations from the design taper.
  • You only use half the tools you buy, $200 scrappers are not worth it.  (Ian Kearney)


I've been a member of the list for a while, but haven't submitted anything because I'm not a rodmaker. I enjoy the repartee  a lot. I'd like to build my own rod. I've been fishing with bamboo for about ten years and have amassed a small collection of pretty good quality production rods -- Heddon and Granger.  I enjoy them, but want the satisfaction of building one. Where should I start? Are any books recommended? Where are tools, forms, etc. obtained? Is it possible to do a sort of apprenticeship? I imagine these types of questions have many answers, but any advice would be appreciated.  Thanks very much.  (James Hatch)

    A good place to get started is with one or more good books. For those just starting out, I highly recommend the books by Wayne Cattanach and/or Jack Howell and/or George Maurer/Bernie Elser. Any of the three will give you some good ideas to begin digesting. Once you've read and studied those, get Ray Gould's book. Finally, once you've built a few rods, read Everett Garrison/Hoagy Carmichael's book.

    I'm guessing you're in the Seattle area. There are quite a few good rodmakers up there who might well be willing to let you hang around and ask a bunch of questions, including the aforementioned Ray Gould. Later in the year, there is a gathering of Rodmakers from the NW. That gathering might be a good place to get some info.

    But you've already stumbled on one of the very best sources for rodmaking information. The archives of this email list are filled with almost every question  that can be asked about bamboo rods - from "what is bamboo" to the current discussion of Michael Montagne's ideas about computer generated rod tapers. (Harry Boyd)

    I second all that Harry said plus you might want to consider acquiring the video by Wayne Cattanach, available from Cabelas.  (Ed Riddle)


When I started, there was no one in my area to ask, so I struggled. Thank goodness for the Garrison book. It provided the concept and basics. From there, I improvised. One of my first improvisations was in the area of adhesives. After evaluating the standards, I decided that I didn't want to mix anything harder than Alka-Seltzer and water. I settled on Gorilla Glue.

In the fall '98 edition of Bamboo Fly Rod Magazine, my comments on it's applicability were published in Tips and Techniques under the title "King Kong Adhesives." As I read the Tips glue section, I see that some of you have tried the monkey glue, and still have questions concerning longevity and workability.

Well, I can't say how much longer it will last, but I can say that right now it's six years and counting. I have experienced no problems, no failures. As for workability, I add water. Preliminary heat treating drives moisture out of the cane, and the glue needs moisture to do whatever it is that it does. After I cut the masking tape and lay my strips out, I take a wet sponge or moistened brush and reintroduce moisture before I brush on the glue. Yes, the moisture causes the glue to foam more, but it also extends the time you have to play with your section before you hang it up to dry. On my splices (my first two rods had nodes, the rest have been nodeless), I apply Gorilla Glue to one side of the splice, I lick the other side.

As for binders, I built a Garrison binder to specs, ran a couple of dowels through for testing, took the binder apart, and put the parts in a drawer. I'm a confirmed hand-binder. I like to feel the line tension in my fingers, and I really did not want another piece of equipment sitting around that could only be used for one thing (it's kinda' like a cotton picker that's used two to three weeks a year, and sits idle the rest of the year). My solution? A fly reel. I had an old fly reel that had been  around the house for thirty years.  It doesn't even have a name on it, but it does have an excellent drag. It's mounted on a piece of 5/8 " doweling (slide bands are brass pipe fittings) which I drop into one of the dog/stop holes on my workbench. I load it up with string, tweak the drag, and bind. Yes, my wrists do tire at times, but for one that only produces five or six rods a year, I have plenty of time to recover between rods.

My binding cord? #10 crocheting thread. It's strong enough, relatively inexpensive, available at the local craft store, and works equally well for gluing and heat treating.

To all who have contributed to the tips section, thanks. I wish I had known about it six years ago.  I could have saved a great deal of wear and tear between my ears had I known about this site.

Oh, one last thing. Varnish. I didn't see any mention of my brand in the tips, so I'll just mention it myself. I use Behlens Masters Water White (WW) Restoration Varnish. It's a flexible, waterproof spar varnish available at most wood working stores. (Bob Marbert)


Let me summarize and ask a question. I've heard all of the steps below. Which would you leave out and why?

1.   Flame
2a. Split
2.   Soak
3.   Rough Bevel
4.   Bind and heat treat
5.   Soak
6.   Final Plane
7.   Minor heat again
8.   Glue
9.   Heat to set glue. (Dennis Aebersold)

You left out 3a. Straighten and flatten nodes. As I said earlier, I skip 5, but it sounds like several guys find planing wet strips to be much quicker and easier.  (Brian Creek)

That 3a would be AFTER 3 right? I soak, do the node work then rough plane. I skip step 5 also. (Kurt Clement)

RuleFor the time being, my intention is basically to more or less lurk and just see what kind of information comes up for discussion. While I've had an interest in building rods for some time, in all honesty the actual start of work is probably a few years off.  I'm getting ready to get married, looking for a house at some point and doing these sort of things while living in an apartment which isn't really conducive to this kind of work. I would however like to get an idea of where to begin.

I've seen a bunch of web pages with some good basic information and I believe that I more or less understand the core basics of rod building. I am hoping that somebody can direct me to a good book on the topic. I'd like to actually have some idea of the differences between the different tapers mentioned, the methods for calculating guide placements  as well as other technical information.  While I'm sure its out there on the web, the time available for surfing is rather minimal whereas a good book can travel with me.

If someone would be so kind as to direct me to a good place to start, I would be grateful!  (John Roth)

    One of the best starting points is the Todd Talsma's tips page (this site) just click on the Tips button and then plan to spend several hours reading.

    Another good site with lots of links is the Rodmakers site. (Claude Freaner)

    A good book on the topic, differences between the different tapers mentioned, the methods for calculating guide placements as well as other technical information.

    I found these books very helpful.

    For what you seek it sounds like Ray Gould’s "Constructing Cane Rods" will fit the bill. If you want to get even more technical try Bob Milward's "Fact, Fiction and Flyrods" And yet even more technical, pick up Garrison/Carmichael "A Masters Guide to Building a Bamboo Flyrod"

    Other good books are "The Best of the Planing Form" by Barch/McKeon, "The Lovely Reed" by Jack Howell, "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods" by Wayne Cattanach and "Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Flyrod" by Elser/Maurer

    While you are at it, pick up a subscription to the  "Planing Form," an informative periodical that will keep you abreast to what’s new in the world of bamboo rodmaking, gatherings, news, product reviews, book reviews, and sources for rodmaking specific tools and supplies.  Back issues are also available from Ron Barch. If contacted by snail mail, (PO Box 365 Hastings, Michigan 49058) let him know what you are looking for and he can find it and make copies for a nominal fee. He's a great guy and his passion for cane is infectious!!!

    Be warned my friend, neither marriage, work nor acts of God were going to keep me from trudging along towards my first rod as quickly as possible.  When the bug bites,  such it will be with you.  (Eamon Lee)

    Where do you live? The reason I ask is that there is a gathering coming up in late October in North-Central Arkansas. There are others around the Country, at other time of the year, as well. That (as would any of the gatherings) be a great opportunity for you. Also, depending on where you live, you can look over the shoulder of some pretty experienced makers (one of which I am not). I live in Memphis and will gladly share what little I know.  As a newbie myself, telling you everything I know will take less time than brewing the coffee. I do have some great resources though. This list is no doubt the greatest of them.  Also, there some great books available. Wayne Cattanach's Book is the one that I refer to most often, but there are also some dynamite tutorial web pages linked to the "Rodmakers” and the "Rodmaking tips" pages.

    Good luck, and stick around. This stuff is contagious.  (Denis Dunderdale)

    Don't forget Power Fibers. Certainly one of the best of the periodicals.  (Ralph Moon)


Recently Ralf Ladda and I visited Walter Brunner, an internationally known rodmaker, in Austria. He was a very kind and informative man who was willing to share his knowledge and expert advice on bamboo rodmaking. His shop, situated in Steyr in Austria is a Bamboo rodmakers paradise. I am sure that the methods he uses are not only used by him, but they do differ from the usual rodmakers ways. Walter Brunner is 74 and has been making rods since the second world war. He designed rods for Hans Gebetsroither and Charles Ritz  at the beginning of his career. He has been a professional rodmaker for a very long time.

The strips are final tapered in an amazing machine that he designed himself which lifts the strip on a pivoted bed into the cutters. He does not remove the pith before tapering, it is removed during the beveling process.

Then he glues.

Then ferrules.

Then varnishing is done by hand rubbing one coat of varnish with a nylon stocking and a further two coats with a brush.

The finish is perfect.

He allowed Ralf and I to cast one of his rods, he makes only short dry fly rods, called Amabile.......what a rod, so much power with so little effort. As a stress graph it looks a  little (very, very little) like Bob Nunley's 6' 0'' 4 Weight. Very stiff compared to a Sir D for instance, but what a fantastic feeling of line control.

So the most interesting part is not putting a primary bevel into the strips. Can hand planers also save this part of the process? I am making a rod at the moment skipping the primary bevel and heat treating strips bound to a pipe in my Neunemann oven. I have removed the nodal lip and will straighten and press nodes soon.

What do you think? (Stuart Moultrie)

    As far as not rough beveling before hand planing... well, before I bought the Bellinger Beveler, I used my planing forms to rough bevel. No problem with doing that except that the tips are a bit harder to hold on a good 60 on the tip side of the form... solution:  start your tip strips on the butt section side of the form, get all six of them down close to butt strip dimensions, then turn over the forms and finish them on the tip side. Shouldn't cause you any problems at all, and since you're heat treating before you bevel, then there is really no reason for you to rough bevel. You can go straight to finished dimension from the split strip.  (Bob Nunley)


I am still in the process of staring at the "tools needed" list and perusing Garrison, but I hadn't actually stepped off of the deep end just yet.  But this winters project is beginning to look like tool making 101- prepping for my first Bamboo. Talking to my Dad the other day- who grew up with Bamboo - he recalls that in his day the "best" rods were constructed using a double construction technique - He remembers them as an inner hex core with an outer hex laminated over the inner core.  I have been watching the list for a while and I don't recall having seen any mention of this type of construction- was it a passing fancy or did it just fall to the wayside?  I ask out of curiosity don't intend to try to build the thing.  (John Hightower)

    You didn't ask for this, and I may be out of line, BUT... I've been where you are and I have some unsolicited advice, which, while it may not fit you, others may see themselves in the same situation.  Here goes:

    Reading Garrison and compiling a list of 'must have' tools is a scary thought  indeed to those of  us who have made a rod before.  It is a daunting task indeed if one is to follow the master's advice for each and every plane, gauge, machine and contraption which EG thought a necessity for the construction of a cane rod. Complicating that task by considering double building a first rod is too, too much!  FORGET the double built construction.  Buy, beg, borrow or steal a copy of Wayne Cattanach's rodbuilding book (or Howell, or Maurer - any of these are much simplified versus The Book). Here is a list of must have tools - you really don't need anything else to build a rod:

  • An old knife for splitting
  • A decent vise for splitting, straightening, and other odd jobs
  • A planing form (see Thomas Penrose's fine page or Don Schneider’s great instructions) Garrison's are much too complicated to make for the home builder
  • One decent adjustable throat block plane (Stanley 9-1/2, Stanley's modern version, Record version, or Lie-Nielsen's fine version $$)
  • An adjustable heat gun
  • Inexpensive heat gun driven oven made of cheap air duct (see Frank Neunemann’s article)
  • $20 imported calipers, 0-6"
  • $10 imported dial indicator, 1" travel, .001" reading
  • Indicator base (make one)
  • Inexpensive binder made like a rod wrapper with PVC pipe for supports and wood 'v' guides at center for accessing rod to roll by hand, and a cheap thread tensioner from old sewing center or make one with springs, washers, bolt and nuts.
  • You can get by with these and these alone if you want to build a rod for your own use.  All else is luxury. Dip tanks, multiple planes, belt driven binder, etc. You don't have to have these. Don't think up excuses to get started. Get started then get the tool you need once you get to that stage. Start with the planing forms though, after that, it is simple, simple, simple. (Rick Crenshaw)

      Best list I've ever seen.  If newbies want to save about 2 years time for the first rod, heed Rick's advice.  (Jerry Madigan)

        I agree with Jerry. The only other thing I'd add (and everyone would add something) is that you can get some very cheap but good wooden planing forms from (no personal interest etc etc).  You might think you'd end up cutting into the forms, but here's a way to avoid that. You glue thin strips of material (I used steel shim material 0.005" thick and super glued them to the plane) attached along each long edge of the bottom of your plane, stopping short of course of gluing  them to the moveable mouth piece. This raises the plane a bit off the form, you'll never have to cut all the way down to the form but you'll plane the bamboo just fine. Lie-Nielsen will cut a 0.005" deep 1" wide slot in the bottom of your plane for this purpose for an extra $25, but that's a very expensive plane in the first place, and it works just fine on a Stanley or Record to do what I suggested. Many rodmakers do this. (Barry Kling)


For a first rodbuilding book would you choose "The Lovely Reed" or Cattanach's book?  (John Silveira)

    That's a good question.  I usually recommend these two books as 1A and A1.  Both are excellent. If you can have only one (and face it, most of us who get into  this stuff wind up with lotsa toys) I'd suggest Wayne's book, but encourage you to have your local library get Jack's for you through interlibrary loan.

    Jack says there are two methods of taper design, scientific and empirical. I think Wayne's book is for the scientific thinkers, and Jack's for the empirical.  Another way to look at this choice is that Wayne's book is for the guy who likes most good music, and Jack's book is for the classical/jazz fanatic. (Harry Boyd)

      Got to agree with Harry on the books!

      I’m new at this stuff also and I used the interlibrary loan system (as Harry mentioned) and did a lot of reading on cane rodmaking.  This way you can find out which book or books suit you the best without digging too deep into the pocket book. (John Freedy)

    I bought Wayne's book before Jack's was available. Doing it again, I would buy both. If I could only afford one, it would be Wayne's because he has more detail. (Steve Weiss)

    My $.02 would be to get the Maurer book first. It takes you throughout the entire process, gives you some great tapers and has a good discussion about the tools you need.  I have the other 2 books and like them both and would recommend them also, but the step by step process and detail of the Maurer book is what I feel to be more effective and much less confusing.  (Mark Babiy)

    Both with serve you fine. When I started all I had was Wayne’s book and video.  I knew no other rodmakers. With the help of the list and Wayne's book I was able to make my first rod with no problems. My methods now are different but using Wayne's book is an excellent place to start. The video was a help also, especially for insomnia.  (Adam Vigil)

    I agree on the types of the 2 books. I'm still doing my tapers empirically and probably getting it done faster. I'm not sure the "scientific" way has developed enough to represent "reality". I work from those tapers that have been good for me and my business. Should I need a taper size that I haven't made yet I try a taper from one of the classics that is close to what I think I'll need, and if it isn't quite what I want I'll play around with designing a taper from it. (Hank Woolman)


What would you makers consider to be the top ten pitfallls for first time builders? (Shane Pinkston)

    Number 1 - Not getting started...(Mark Wendt)

    1) Poor Bamboo Culm
    2) Splitting too big or too small
    3) Poor Node work
    4) Not perfect triangles, glue lines
    5) Taper not followed, different size than listed
    6) Binding too tight and getting twists
    7) Ferrule stations cut too small, loose ferrules
    8) Crooked sections
    9) Runs and drips in varnish
    10) Thinking if I only had more tools and gadgets, I could do better

    Don't ask how I know.  (Scott Grady)

    There is only one big pit, Shane.  Procrastination.  Forget all the quest for minutiae, tools, problems and build the damned rod. Use a pocket knife if that is all you have, glue it up with paper paste, and wrap it with kite string, but build the damned rod..   Forget being another Jim Payne on the first rod, because the road to journeyman rod  maker is one hell of a lot of rods ahead of you.  (Ralph Moon)

      Ironic isn't it the the number 1 mistake of beginning rodmakers is the fear of making mistakes 9 thru 10. To learn, you have to make the mistakes.

      Having said that, though, I should be a lot smarter  than what  I am.  (Tim Wilhelm)

        One of the biggest mistakes is believing you need all of the equipment to make all of the components of a rod to start with. You do not need a lathe for example, they are good for making ferrules and for turning cork handles and reel seats but at the start just buy these components from any of the number of suppliers of these. I made 20 plus rods before I got a lathe and only use it for making ferrules as I have a good supplier of reel seats and cork handles and still buy these in a made up form. I still fit ferrules by hand as shown in George Barnes' book.

        Rodmaking is still a fairly simple process and George Barnes book is still one of the best books for a new rodmaker.  (Ian Kearney)

    1.  Not using gloves/finger cots
    2. Buying inadequate tools (you're going to get good ones eventually, why buy twice?)
    3.  Not selling all of their carbon for good tools.
    4.  Not culling cane
    5.  No notebook/ note taking
    6.  Trying to get too many passes before sharpening the plane
    7.  Over lapping ferrules
    8.  Being afraid to ask questions
    9.  Not getting started
    10. Not subscribing to this list

    These were my mistakes.  (Eamon Lee)

    There is no doubt that you can get caught up in the need to have everything, but as Ian and Ralph have said it is not necessary. You just have to stop thinking and get planing. You learn so much from just doing and everything you have read starts to make sense.

    I have made most of my rods with just the following:

    knife for splitting
    1 x plane
    wooden planing form
    digital caliper
    heat gun
    components (of course!)

    Notice there is no binder, oven or lathe? I wouldn't know how to use a lathe. I bind by hand and my oven is a very state of the art length of copper pipe resting over my gas BBQ! (granted I have to make short or 3 piece rods)

    If you use resorcinol on the early rods you can heat the blank for straightening and removing twists without it failing. Bugger the way it looks, just enjoy it for what it is. Rod number one. (Callum Ross)

      This category should be divided into 2 subspecies.

      1. Serious rod making efforts

      2. hobby only (rods for oneself..)

      If you want to make rods at all, rather than grope in the dark for 20 rods or 5 yrs.


      Understand that this is not a cheap pastime, although you can get by with cheap equipment, likely as not you will make cheap rods..

      If you want to make only one rod and can't afford to take lessons, go by one, or go by a $36 dollar graphite 'cause that's likely what you will end up with, even with the help of this esteemed forum.

      Learn (do) enough to weight the tips (including this). Many of the tips you see are out of context and are one piece of another persons complete process. One can't always pick 1 from column A, B. etc.  (Jerry Foster)

        I agree about taking lessons.  I took the class John Long and Ron Barch offered in 2000, and I enjoyed it so much I took it again in 2001 and 2002. You meet a great bunch of people, and it's a week of good food, good fun and good fellowship. I know Wayne Cattanach has offered a class at Grayling MI in past years too, probably much the same kind of thing but I don't know from personal experience. If interested in Ron and John's class,  check out the Nettie Bay web site.  No financial interest etc.  (Neil Savage)

      This is so true! Working on rod number one has been a real learning experience. Some of the things that you do wrong, you can figure out how to fix and the things that you can't fix you will always remember not to do that again. But you will never know unless you start on that rod.  This rod with all of its flaws will have a place of honor on my rod rack because without it I would never be able to say, the next one will be better. (Gary Jones)

    Assuming you have the basic gear like bamboo, a form, a plane a micrometer and some string:

    1) Self doubt, it's just some bamboo after all.

    2) Fear of the outcome, just how bad could it be?  There was likely never a rod made that was a completely useless rod.

    3) Confusion about which person to take notice of amongst all the differing ideas, if there are so many ways to do it there must be NO right way. Stands to reason.

    4) Spending too much time on list. (Tony Young)

    Thanks for all of the thoughts on Beginner mistakes. I have taken most of the advice in advance. I recently finished rough planing and binding by hand the butt section of No. 1 with a thorough lack of planning. Nobody has ever accused me of rushing headlong into complex problems fully prepared. All of the strips are +- 60, are all the same length and I suppose I should make the tip section the same length. I have gotten this far without

    1. Tonkin
    2. Good Irons
    3. Binder
    4. Cotton Thread
    5. Major Injury  (Shane Pinkston)

    It would probably be just as easy to list this one by itself. #1  At some point you have to stop building tools and gadgets, stop reading books ever second, and start to build a  fishing rod. (Bill Taylor)

    Being a relatively new rodmaker, I couldn't agree more with your comments.  I found myself caught up in this situation, and said enough is enough, bought an extra box of Band-Aids and now I build rods.  (Don Bugg)


Does anyone have a sequence list of which step is done in which order in building a bamboo rod ? From raw cane to finished rod ? This may sound dumb but I find it easier if I have a system of what is supposed to happen in which order. (Jimi Genzling)

    My routine changes sometimes depending on what the rod is and how many I may be building at a time. It goes something like this.

    1. Pick out 12' culm and cut down to butt and tip. (Or choose culm already cut into 6' lengths.)

    2. Split the butt section of the culm using an 8 way splitter. Split the tip half into 8 strips.

    3. Flame the 8 butt and 8 tip strips.

    4. Stagger your strips. Sand the back sides of the nodes flat (nodal dams) on the disc sander.

    5. Split the butt section to 16 and then to whatever you feel up to for the tips. I split the strips by clamping them flat to my bench and having about 4" of overhang. This way I have both hands free to tap the froe into the butt end. After the split is started, I unclamp it and finish the split all the way down the section using Bob Nunley's hand splitting method.

    5. Soak the strips for 24-48 hours in water.

    6. Heat and straighten nodes side to side and flat top to bottom.

    7. File the remainder of the node flat.

    8. Optional - Run the strips through the straight bed of my Medved beveler. It will make them very straight. You can also square them in a simple square  trough form and using your plane.

    9. Rough your 60 degree bevel into the strips using a beveler or roughing form. I do the butt and tip sections to the same size so that the heat treatment is the same. This is also why I usually split only to 16.

    10. Heat treat the triangular strips. I use M-D's fixtures at this point. 375 for 8 minutes and then 225 for 2 hours. Put strips in desiccant tube if you wish to.

    11. Set the forms for the butt strips while the rods are heat treating for the 2 hour portion.

    12. Sand the enamel off all 18 strips.

    13. Taper the 6 butt strips in you forms. I start half way and slowly move them towards the tip end of the forms. I flip every two passes, and later start to flip every pass. I use my bench planes for the first 75% of the removal, then my Record 9.5, and then the 212 for the last passes. Measure strips and stop when you get to the forms.

    14. Roughly (quickly) taper the 12 tip strips in the same (butt) side of the forms.

    15. Set the forms for the tips.

    16. Final plane out the tips (same as #13).

    17. Mix glue and bind the rod. Roll the glued up rod out on a flat surface.

    18. Sand the string of the rod and straighten with heat if needed. Then finish the sections with 100, 200, and then 400 grit.

    19. Cut sections to size. Mount tip tops.

    20. Cut ferrule stations and mount ferrules with golf shaft epoxy or Ferrule-Tite.

    21. Fit ferrules by hand or in lathe (or buy them pre-fit).


    21b. Salvage ferrules from rod in 21a.

    22. Glue up the cork rings and let sit 24 hours in the  cork press. (Figure out where the reel seat will go  and tape  off first).

    23. Turn cork grip.


    24. Dip all sections 2 or 3 times, steel wooling and cleaning the sections with mineral spirits in between. Let the sections dry the recommended time between coats as per your varnish.

    25. Mark guide placement on blank. Wrap guides.

    26. Coat guide wraps with 3 to 4 coats of spar varnish. The first two go on 50/50 thinned mix and the rest full strength.

    27. Sand all guide wraps and flats with 1000 grit.

    27. Dip all sections one more time stopping at the guides.

    28. Let dry for a few weeks.

    I would be lying to say I do it this way every time, and I probably forgot something. BUT, this is most of it. I would recommend you get Wayne's book. I think it has a list in there as well. (The part I change every time is when I stagger. I do not know why.) There are several other steps I do, but they may or may not interest you. Some are quad rod specific, and some are not. The one thing I have always practiced is to never rush through any of the steps. If I don't feel up to the task at hand, I simply do not do it at that time. I simply wait and come back tomorrow. It is a good excuse to go fishing. (Bob Maulucci)

    Try this site it has a steps link that prints out.  (Peter Van Schaack)

    In Wayne Cattanach's book he has a sequence which is a good way to start. Many of us are using different methods to accomplish the same thing. But Wayne’s book is a good place to start.  (Adam Vigil)

      Just about every book on rodmaking that was ever written has a sequence in it!

      I think that the most lucid are those by Wayne Cattanach, George Maurer, and the man in the antistatic underpants, Jack  Howell.

      The most obfuscatory is that by Hoagy Carmichael, and I believe that Lyle Dickerson's comment about the difficulty involved in following the Garrison plan were spot on!

      Jimi, you should get Wayne Cattanach's video before you cut any cane. I live here in the arsehole of the world, where there are no other rodmakers, and I could not have grasped more than about 50% of the handling concepts if it had not been for (a) the helpfulness of Tony Young, and (b) Wayne's video. (Peter McKean)

    We all have our own sequence and mine may be different than others. I use 12' culms, with six foot culms you just have to use a half culm for each section.  A 12' culm is measured the length needed for the butt section on the bottom of

    the culm. Measure the tip section on the top of the culm. I have to take into consideration the node spacing.

    This leaves me a section in the middle that I use for three piece rods. Not much waste that way. The culm is split in half (if I am going to flame I do it now) and the strips needed are split from top and bottom section, twelve from the top and six from the butt. I don't do anything to the inner or outer nodes at this time. The nodes are then staggered and the strips cut to working length. I have a rotary rasp in the drill press and rasp out the inner node leaving a 1/2 moon depression for displacing the outer node. I used to do this on a small bandsaw.

    The strips are then put in a tube of water for 5 days. After 5 days the strips are removed two at a time and the nodes displaced. The 1/2 moon behind the node leaves room for the node to displace itself. Soaking the strip keeps from heating it too much , that would harden the node and may chip while planing. The displaced nodes have a little ridge left on the outer node. A couple of passes with a mill basted file cleans it up. When the strips have been soaked for at least five days, most of the sweeps can be straightened by hand without heat. This saves time and also keeps the bamboo from hardening. The strips are then rough beveled to 60 degrees while wet and go right to the metal form and a partial taper is started. When all 18 strips are done they are put in a set of MD's fixtures, bound with the pith side out and dried in the oven. After the strips are dried, they are bound in the normal way in the fixtures and heat treated. Without the fixtures, they would be bound in the gluing sequence and dried and then heat treated. After heat treating, the strips are final planed, just before the final passes, I turn the enamel side up and scrape the enamel off. The strip is slid down the form a bit so the scraping can be done right down to the metal. I feel this gives me a smooth even surface. The strip is then moved back up the form to just short of finish taper and one side is scraped to the metal surface. That done, the strip is moved to final taper and the other side is scraped to finish taper. I use single edge razor blades for all my final scraping. The strips are then bound for gluing, they are run through the binder and checked for any possible glue lines. Being satisfied with the fit of each strip, the strips are laid out for glue. I am using Epon at this time, the glue is mixed and applied, the sticks are bound and hung for 18 to 20 hours. After that time the binding thread is removed, the soft glue is scraped off. The sticks are rebound and are heat set. When they come out of the oven they are coated with a coat of Tung Varnish to seal them.  (Tony Spezio)


Been thinking that a thread of never-ending stories might be some fun. Cane rod building/making/construction seems about 2 forward and 1 back.  What I would hope is that others just add their stories to the ones below editing off everything but the name of the submitter and his email address. The thought is this may help others keep out of trouble or at least let them know they are not alone. As I worked mostly in isolation long before the Internet and gatherings, I accomplished [if it can be called that] a lot of idiot mistakes. The mistakes or horror stories continue today. Still building rods - don't expect they will go away soon.

What I'm thinking is like an "ever ending story". We just add our comments to end of the email.

To start:

Binders - have had binding cord bust 1/2 way through the job. You gotta be quick now. Change cord before glue dries. Switched to Dacron 50 LB line. No breakage since.

Binders - cotton binding thread had a break in the spool. Was going along just fine - whoops - out of binding cord. No breakage - just a joint that someone didn't knot

Grooving planes - set up Stanley 9 1/2 in mill. Measured here and there to get it flat and square - ran groove. Mill had an imperfection I didn't see - left swirls in groove. The swirls sanded cane just fine. Set it up again. Didn't get body locked tight enough in the mill vise. Canted off slightly.  Now groove  is 0.002 on one side and 0.005 on the other. Milled off again. Last time milled the groove too deep. Plane now sits up above the bench. Not enough plane sole left to use it.

Forms - got my first set built for me. Took them home. Dropped a previously planed strip in them. Whoops - something wrong here. Measured the groove and it was 0.025" too deep. Checked drawings - they were OK. Phone machine shop. Delivered forms. They took another 2 months to get it right [they thought]. Checked them again and they were 0.005 too deep. Draw filed off the form. We got into a slight heated discussion - they told me that they had lost over $ 1,000 building the things the way they were now and not to come back.

Electric Oven - tried the electric strip oven. Flipped and turned and still the cane came out darker in the middle than both ends. Not a lot but you got to remember that this is a truly anal exercise. Designed new oven with convection chamber and strips are now a even color.

Pipe Oven - used a piece of 1" aluminum conduit c/w pipe cap ends tapped to accept 0>400F dial thermometers. Worked OK as long as I didn't sweep the propane torch from side to side [center got hotter than ends] but down one side, lift it off conduit and return to start point. Worked OK.  Had temps read by my daughter. She ran from end to end for about 10 years. Finally she went off to university. Hence the need for a different oven.

Binder - finally figured out that the binding cord was the problem with twisting. Most of it is gone now I made a different tensioning device.

Guides - All are not created equal. Some of them do cant left or right. Put all of them on a flat piece of ceramic tile and see if they are straight up. Toss the ones that aren't.

Cane steady in the lathe - read Garrison's book - wasn't going to make up a fancy device. Thought I'd run the cane in the lathe without a steady. Only took a dozen revolutions to figure that one out. Use a cardboard box with a hole in it now. Is cheap and done about 90 rods without replacement. Got a bunch of 50 cal. lead balls in the bottom of the box for ballast.

Delaminations - Have used Borden Glues for years [same stuff as URAC]. Had 2 rods delaminate a couple of years ago after about 80 or so rods built using the product. Finally figured out that the cane was too dry. Sucked the water out of the glue. Now I mist the cane 24 hour & 4 hours in advance of gluing. Was pushing the time between tempering and glue up to 1 day. I live where it's dry with relative humidifies less than 40%. Takes a while for the cane to accept water from the atmosphere @ these humidity levels. Cane need about 8 % or so to glue up properly.

Ammonia toning - got some info from some of the guys who have tried it. Don't store it in plastic juice jars. The ammonia ate the jars. My wife couldn't figure out what the smell was in the garage. Good thing I had put them inside of another plastic pail that was still solid. Can't imagine the fun I would have had with a Fire Dept. Haz. Mat. team while the neighbors watched the whole performance upwind if it had leaked onto the garage floor.

Climb Cutting Cane Strips with a router - they do fly real well. Only went part way through the basement wall.

Dip Tanks - the motor assembly has a jack shaft where the removal cord is wound. Figured I would machine up a neat brass knurled knob for the locking screw. Finger pressure didn't tighten it enough. Only took an hour or two to get the varnish off the butt section when it sank out of sight.

Ferrules - the newest plague is galling of female ferrules. Been going on for 2 years now. Had 4 rods do it. No reason is apparent. Have set over 100 set of ferrules without  this problem.

Double lacquer finishes - I blue the metal parts occasionally. Have used various over-treatments to protect the bluing. Figured a good jewelry lacquer was the answer. Mixed up a batch, did 1 coat, let it dry for 10 minutes and attempted another. What a mess - the next coat "melted" the first one. Polished the whole thing off with steel wool and started over.

Gluing brushes - once had a bristle break off the tooth brush I use for gluing. Lodged between butt strips. Great ugly gap. Rod fishes OK though.

Binding cord for heat treatment - looked around town. Local hardware was still wrapping parcels. Got them of their cord. Melted real well. Switched to macramé cotton. Everything fine since.

Winding checks - usually machine them and install after the ferrules are on. Was building a 6' 2 wt. and found out the ID of the check was a tad smaller than  the OD of the female ferrule welt. Took some off the welt with a file.  (Don Anderson)

    I keep thinking I've made every rodmaking mistake there is, yet new ways to foul up seem to slip into my shop each evening. Friday I had a friend down here from Little Rock.  I was going to show him how  to split  cane and  had bragged how I could get 28-32 strips from any decent culm. Well, we split his culm out and were lucky to get 18 useable strips.  I wish I could say that my bragging days are over, but that'd be a lie. My excuse -- the stuff was green and watery <g>.

    Oh yeah, in case anyone is wondering, the cork grip on your butt section WILL float it in the dip tube.  (Harry Boyd)

    I too use a cardboard box with a hole in it to prevent a rod section from whipping in the lathe. Happens to be next to our laundry area, so use one or two 4L detergent jugs to hold the box in place.

    Fumed one of my early rods with aqua ammonia "borrowed" from the drafting room. Suspended the splines in a stove pipe over a can soldered to its bottom. After two weeks the splines were chocolate brown. House reeked of ammonia for days. Lost the tip section first time I went fishing. Dropped it over the side of the canoe and the weight of the shop-made ferrule took it to the bottom. Have purchased all my ferrules ever since.

    Thought that the center flue in my natural gas water heater would make a great heat treating oven. Suspended the splines in the flue and turned the water temp up. Got smoke, flames and charcoal in less than a minute.  (Ted Knott)


I would like to attempt to make a bamboo rod from scratch and I am getting some mixed messages as to the difficulty and the amount of equipment I will need. A friend of mine who fly fishes a lot seems to think that there is just to much involved in equipment and cost to start making a rod. What I have found looking around at web sites seems to confirm and deny what he has told me. I'm going to assume that this is like any hobby and you can get enough little gadgets to fill a dump truck,  but what  are the bare essentials? Also, it seems that most of the information I have gotten from my research on the internet has said get a good book, any suggestions here? Have any of you taught yourselves how to make bamboo rods from a book? I imagine taking a class would probably save some time in mistakes made but with the obligations I have a class is out of the question for me.

By the way, if I can get the things I need to make a rod (both information and materials) I really only have one expectation for the rod that I will make and that is that I can fish with it. Do you think that is a reasonable enough expectation  for a  first rod? (Sean Morris)

    As you surmise, making bamboo rods can be as simple or complicated as you choose. I have an entire set of shelves in my workshop devoted to good ideas that didn't work for me. Most of those probably belong in that truckload of gadgets you mention.

    I made my first several rods with the help of Wayne Cattanach's "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods" and the generosity of some fine people on this list. If I can do it, anyone can.  Another good book if you just want to make rods as simply as possible is George Barnes' "Fly Rods Galore". Well actually, that's a good book for anyone... not just those trying to keep things simple.

    What are the barest essentials?

    A knife and mallet for splitting
    Heat source for straightening. (alcohol lamp or heat gun)
    a vise of some sort
    A good Stanley 9.5 type hand-plane.
    sharpening system
    Roughing forms (wooden)
    Ball of cotton string
    Oven for heat-treating (can be borrowed)
    Final forms (can be wooden)
    Glue, Ferrules, Cork, Guides, silk thread, reel seat.
    Varnish system -- from simple brush to elaborate spray rig.

    Of course, there are thousands (tens of thousands?) of dollars worth of other things you can get, and some of them will make the task easier or quicker. But I think this is most of the essentials.

    Where are you, Sean? Chances are good that there's a rod maker near you who would be glad to have you poke around his shop and ask questions. If you're anywhere near north Louisiana, stop by for a cup of coffee and a few hours worth of talk, or to borrow some stuff you might need.. (Harry Boyd)

    Yes, you can make a rod with a minimal amount of tools and you can make some of them yourself, but it takes time and other tools to make those tools. You can get started with a cheap heat gun, a set of wooden forms(either homemade or those from Golden Witch), a block plane and some miscellaneous such as files, sandpaper, some rudimentary home shop tools, and one of the now fairly many books on the subject. If you have questions the book doesn't answer, try a search of the archives for this list, or just ask here again. But, be warned, you can't just make one, before you know it, you'll have a closet full of rods and a wallet full of tapped out credit cards.  (John Channer)

    I taught myself from a book and from reading this list. I think I now have all the books and the best is Wayne Cattanach's "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods". I started 3 years ago, it took a year to build and collect the tools I needed. Most of the time was spent first building wooden and then steel forms. I still fish with my first rod. It doesn't take a lot of tools. eBay is a great source for old Stanley planes. Bamboo is available in 6 foot lengths that are shipped UPS for minimal cost. Look on the internet for Penrose steel planing form building methods and for blade sharpening using the "scary sharp" method.  (Bob McElvain)

    The most important tools are the final planing form (I use one from Colorado Bootstrap - about $350 3 years ago & has worked very well for about 20 rods), and a good quality plane and blade. The rest of the stuff can be made easily, purchased locally, or you can improvise.

    Rod making is a lot of fun & isn't that difficult. I do it on a 6' X 20" bench in the garage. I have very limited shop skills and no power equipment. If you live in the Northwest, let me know if I can help.  (Tom Bowden)

    1) if you live in the right area, some of the folks who do formal classes will teach you evenings or maybe on Saturday. It makes the class a bit longer than going somewhere for a week, but it might work out for you if you can't string a week together. 

    2) Golden Witch has starter sets of tools that aren't too expensive if you can't hook up with an instructor. They also have a beginners bamboo package, one piece to practice splitting (and flaming if you want to do that) and two to make your rod from.

    I frankly didn't want to spend the $300+ or 6-12 months on tooling until I was sure I wanted to make more than one rod. I was able to take a class from Ron Barch and John Long and use their tools for the first rod. I'm sure I also avoided a lot of mistakes through their assistance. (Neil Savage)

    Having just completed acquiring most of the stuff needed to do what you're asking, let me give you a little first hand and recent advice. First, if you only want to make one or even two rods you can probably buy them for about what it will cost you to make them. Now, if you want to get into rod building then that's a different matter and you can put together a set of tools and get into it for under $1000. In that I'm including everything you will need to build two rods including cane,  reel seats, ferrules, guides, etc. and I assume you don't already have the tools such as a good plane. If you have access to a drill press you can even make your own forms and save some money. I was able to get a set of used forms at a good price and decided to forgo the frustration of trying to make a really good set. There are lots of good web sites and as suggested by others the Cattanach book is a good source. However the best one is the rodmaker's archives managed by Todd Talsma. And of course there's tons of good advice right here. One option you might try is to buy a set of blanks and finish them. That way you'll get something of a feel for at least half  the job. (Larry Puckett)

    I think that the most important thing is to convince yourself that you can do it, and start getting your shop together. The way to become a great rodmaker is not to have the best gadgets, but to spend time in the shop working with the tools and materials you have. It is customary for new list members to post an announcement upon completion of rod # 1- I will look forward to hearing from you. A good book to get started in Maurer and Elser's Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Fly Rod (I think that is correct, my copy is on loan). It provides a great overview of the process. (Jeff Schaeffer)

    It really doesn't take that much. Once I started reading about it, I started making and collecting tools and would up finishing my first rod within a year.  I still love to fish that rod.

    The best casting rod I've ever made is a 2-strip quad. The only tools you need for that are a plane, a dial caliper, a file, and a heat source (heat gun or even a stove for straightening strips). I know this is heresy, but you could substitute a belt sander for the plane.  (Robert Kope)

    This is the bare minimum in my opinion: knife to start splits, Planing Form (either adjustable or non adjustable, wood or metal), Block plane (#9 1/2 in either Stanley, Record, or Lie-Nielsen), 0"-1" Micrometer, Gloves, Glue (URAC, TiteBond II Extend, Gorilla, etc.) Binding thread & fly tying bobbin (button hole super strong cotton), 5' Black steel pipe for heat treating, mill bastard file, fine tooth hack saw, Vise, razor knife, tape measure, masking tape, sand paper, PROZAC. With this stuff and a good book (The Lovely Reed (Howell's), George Maurer book, Wayne Cattanach's book) you could make a very nice rod. (Marty DeSapio)

      Ahh, Please add--- Heat Gun, Propane torch.  (Marty DeSapio)

    I did not know any other cane rodmakers when I started. I did not even fish cane before my first rod I made. One day I decided fly tying did not cut it anymore and decided to learn how to make bamboo fly rods. I mean it is the last and greatest step in fly fishing as a lifestyle.  I bought Wayne Cattanach's book and did it. The only difference is I made a nodeless rod because I did not have access to an oven  for cane. With what I know now I would go with a heat gun oven and skip the nodeless part. It took me 3 months to gather tools and finish my first rod, which I still use on a  regular basis.

    So get a book and read it several times before you start. Begin to gather tools. I recommend buying from business that supports cane rodmakers such as Golden Witch, Jeff Wagner, Snake brand guides, Lie-Nielsen, Rush River Rods, Demarest (cane), Andy Royer (cane). I have done business with all of them and they are above reproach. I still do business with them.

    Use this list you will get the answers. It may come between  20 e-mails about beer, grits and politics but the answer will come. By the way where do you live? You might be surprised to find a rodmaker in your back yard. I found two close to me and one of them drinks a lot of beer! Hi Mike! Who am I kidding most these guys on the list are probably drinking a beer as they read this email. (Adam Vigil)

    My advice is not from experience or from years of knowledge, I have almost completed my first  rod and my advice is to just do it!

    Rodmaking is like fly fishing itself, it is an accessory hobby. You can spend as little or as much money as you want, you still end up catching a fish (or end up with a bamboo rod).

    The list/archives and Todd’s site are excellent references, and all the books by rodmakers such as Maurer, Kirkfield, Cattanach are excellent as a first book. All of them have tapers as well so you can choose your first rod. I was lucky as I had access to all those books because I lived close to a rodmaker in Tassie, Australia (Thanks Mr. McKean!). If you can find someone who is willing to mentor you, it can save time and heartache. (Andrew Chan)

    When I was looking into getting forms I contacted Golden Witch and they said that they were holding off on the above forms because they wanted them to be more accurate. I went with a set of Lon Blauvelt's forms, ($350 + shipping). They are only $100 more than the Golden Witch wooden forms, and I have made rod #1 and working on 2,3,4 at the moment. I think they are more than enough for someone just starting out.

    I read Wayne's book and had by my side the whole time I was working on #1. It's simple and to the point. I'm using an old butchers knife and rubber mallet for splitting,(practice on some not so good culms before you kill a good one), a cheap Stanley 91/2 plane with hock iron, the above mentioned forms, Mitutoyo depth gauge, Starrett mic, the Stanley blade that came with the plane as a scrapper, PVC dip tube, wrapper I got off Ebay ($20), heat gun, bench vise, and a bakers oven.

    In total I would say I spent just over $1400 to get started. This included two rod kits from Golden Witch and the sample pack of cane. I'm sure you could get started for less, and I know you could get started for more. I must say that catching my first native brookie on a fly, and rod that I made has been the highlight of my fishing year. I sat down stream side took a sip of single malt, fired up a cigar and reflected on the 2 hour hike back to the truck, and the 80+ hours that went into the rod. Rod making can be very frustrating, but will also be very rewarding. Stop thinking about it and just do it.  (Robert Hicks)


I just took possession of my first order of bamboo. I bought a 10 culm bale from Andy Royer. Also picked up some CRS stock today and will start building my planing form.

Bought a whole bunch of crap from Enco last week to build the forms with. Picked up another Stanley 9 1/2 to supplement the one I already had about a month ago. Waiting on delivery of a used Starrett 6" Dial Caliper that I got on eBay this week.

What else do I need?  I don't know. I'll just do it as I go along.

Heat Gun, some sort of binder. I'll use the heat gun in a jury rigged oven for now.

Etc. etc. etc

I'm looking forward to this.

The first thing I did after I got the bamboo home was to cut the bale open to inspect it all. I slid a culm through my left hand to move the piece over.  Sliced about a 1/4" x 1/4" (that's 0.250" x 0.250" for you experienced rodmakers) chunk out of my left index finger near the knuckle on a split. Well it's not completely out, it's still hanging on by the flap. I think its stopped bleeding now 3 hours later. Is that a record for the first cut? 15 minutes after getting my first culm. Then I went ahead and made the drying splits in the culms that hadn't already made their own.

Many thanks to Tony Spezio for giving me the 3 dollar tour of his shop and rodmaking in general a little while ago in Arkansas. Thanks to Chris Raine for showing me what he does  in Dunsmuir, CA in early June. And thanks again for the quick repair on my old Heddon Chris.   (Larry Swearingen)

    Welcome to the wonderful world of cane cuts, cane splinters, planing blade slices, burnt fingers, and other rod making disasters. For a true tale of woe, get a hold of  Bob Nunley's book, "Extreme Rodmaking."  Brutha Bob takes simple rod making mishaps to new levels. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll say "Damn, that coulda been me..." [:-)]  Have fun with this great hobby/life's work (for some). It's a great way to get in touch with your "Tim Allen" self. (Mark Wendt)

    Congratulations Larry. I have a question though. Like all makers, I need to know. Did the cane slice all the way through to the blood vessel, or did the final few layers of skin burst from within?

    It is rumored that true rodmakers are born at the moment cane slices through the 4th or 5th layer of epidermis. Blood, pregnant with anticipation; boiling and willing like a bride on her wedding night, straining against the cell wall, rushes to the point where the pressure of your hand met cane. The lower layers of epidermis are always torn, not clean cut.

    I believe you may have set some kind of a record for seriously giving up blood. I would be curious to know if any one out there has come close to matching Larry's bloodletting. Of course Nunley need not respond because I have heard tell in late night rodmaking sessions, when glasses lie on the ground, shattered, and empty like an Orvis T3.  And the air, thick. Thick enough to strangle a person, like  size  A nylon  come   unwound (OK Claude?).  When the fog hangs over you like the memory of a small brookie and an old bamboo rod and you're looking across the dying embers of a small fire, into the eyes of a man who you know can only speak the truth.

    I've heard men say, that Bob Nunley bled before he ever touched cane. some say it was the shipping order, others say he heard the truck coming down the highway. one suffered stigmata on seeing his first bamboo rod.

    Hey Larry, thanks for sharing. (Mike Canazon)

    Congratulations, it will be a great journey. Now you've got to cuts yourself on the first rod your making, it should be your goal to cut yourself with each new step which you undertake, you know, you cut yourself when you inspected the cane, next cut yourself when you split, then when you plane etc.  and keep lots of Band-Aids.

    On a serious note,  what are planning  to  make  for your  first rod?  (Tim Stoltz)

    Congratulations! It is always a pleasure to meet someone else who has just ruined their life. Seriously, I often suffered from cuts and splinters when working with cane, but this seemed to occur less often once I had some experience. It is customary to announce to the list when you have completed your first rod - we will look forward to hearing from you!  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I would say one of the most detrimental obstacles to beginning rod makers is thinking that they MUST have this tool, or they MUST have this material, or so and so said you MUST build using this technique.

Until I stopped working to afford only the best plane and the fanciest binder and realized that, hey, sometimes you can cut a corner and still get where you want to be, I had a hard time getting going.  Once I threw caution to the wind, built some forms, franken tools and stopped trying to keep up with the Jones, things got easier and I started putting out rods.  At first, not of the best quality, but it left room for improvement.

Sure, there are standard tools, techniques and materials that we all use, but if it gets you building, go ahead and use the Polyurethane glue instead of the Urac, use upholstery thread instead of binding cord, take a small guy’s ferrules or reel seat instead of the “Brand name ones,”  and build some of your own tools!   Heck,  if you get real adventurous, you could even use a run-of-the-mill $10 block plane.

Don’t expect perfect dimensions, flawless finish and a timeless classic on your first rod.  What you can expect is a perfectly fishable rod that you can take great pride in knowing that you built it and you will have lessons learned for your next rod.  (Shawn Pineo)


Recently Ralf Ladda and I visited Walter Brunner, an internationally known rodmaker, in Austria. He was a very kind and informative man who was willing to share his knowledge and expert advice on bamboo rodmaking. His shop, situated in Steyr in Austria is a Bamboo rodmakers paradise.  I am sure that the methods he uses are not only used by him, but they do differ from the usual rodmakers ways. Walter Brunner is 74 and has been making rods since the second world war. He designed rods for Hans Gebetsroither and  Charles Ritz at the beginning of his career.  He has been a professional rodmaker for a very long time.

  • Heat Treating:  The culm is split by hand and then the nodal dam is removed with a disc sander. Then all the strips are strapped to a solid metal pipe. The metal pipe is then hung on a slow revolving hook and an electric oven consisting of two elements about a foot in height and mounted either side of the pipe is moved up and down parallel to the culm by a motor and chain setup while the culm is rotated. The entire (split) culm is then heat treated until a certain brown tone is achieved (it is a very light color). I suppose the process is a bit like electric flaming.
  • All treated strips are kept in a warm box at 40°C.
  • Straightening: The bends and curves between the nodes are straightened and then the nodes themselves are straightened using a heat gun. At this point the enamel and the lip on the node are STILL INTACT. There has been no filing done. He then presses the node with a vertical press which has a jaw with a small recess cut into it to accommodate the nodal lip!!  The strips are now flat and straight with only the lip to file off before beveling.
  • This means that his strips do not receive a primary bevel and nodes do not pop back out during heat treating because it is done before the node is pressed.
  • The strips are then final tapered in an amazing machine that he designed himself which lifts the strip on a pivoted bed into the cutters. He does not remove the pith before tapering, it is removed during the beveling process.
  • Then he glues.
  • Then ferrules.
  • Then varnishing is done by hand rubbing one coat of  varnish with a nylon stocking and a further two coats with a brush.

The finish is perfect.

He allowed Ralf and I to cast one of his rods, he makes only short dry fly rods, called Amabile. What a rod, so much power with so little effort. As a stress graph it looks a little (very, very little) like Bob Nunley's 6' 0'' 4 Weight. Very stiff compared to a Sir D for instance, but what a fantastic feeling of line control.

So the most interesting part is not putting a primary bevel into the strips. Can hand planers also save this part of the process? I am making a rod at the moment skipping the primary bevel and heat treating strips bound to a pipe in my Neunemann oven.  I have removed the nodal lip and will straighten and press nodes soon.  (Stuart Moultrie)


I started my rod making adventure about six months ago using the George M and Wayne C books. Various steps were modified/changed for my convenience as I poured through the archives of the Tips page. Since I wasn't going to cut any holes in the floors of my house, the Sir D drip method really came through for me. I have obvious flaws in my first rod but I made a second one as I went along and it is a little better, but none the less, not perfect. The problems for me have been:

1. Getting 24 tip strips from a culm
2. Wrapping ferrules
3. Gaps in wraps
4. My own weak eyesight (55 years old) guys/gals in the same boat know what I mean
5. Getting that last couple thousandths on tip strips

However, all that aside, the rods both look good. (to me). this is rather lengthy way to get to a question but George M says 3 to 6 months curing before fishing. Is this what everyone does? I am getting itchy to try them out. I used MOW spar.  (Bill Bixler)

    Have you read about the Bob Nunley way of splitting by hand? Make a search in the archive, and you'll find a description there. I too had problem splitting, but when I start using my hands, its no problem getting 24 or more splits from a culm.

    Before You glue the ferrules to the blank, make sure You sand the tabs down, paper thin. You can also apply a little drop of epoxy, give it a sec over a heat gun or alcohol lamp, while You turn the blank. The epoxy will get thin and float to make a nice transition from cane to metal. When it is cured, You can lightly sand to make it even better.

    Use plenty of light, magnifier if You having problem to see the gaps. Using light color silk also helps "hiding" the flaws.

    What is the problem, doesn't the plane cut? Try a cabinet scraper or plane blade and give the strips a couple of stokes. If that doesn't help, Your form probably needs to be closed a couple of thousandths.

    If the varnish is tack dry, go fishing today:-))  (Danny Twang)

    A week or two, if you can stand it that long, on the varnish works good enough for me. Oh, you might get a crack at the base of the ferrule, but you might get the same crack even if you wait a year. I don't know about anyone else, but the most indispensable tool I have for rodmaking is my pair of 3.25x bifocals. When you get the culm split down to quarters or sixths, try starting the split with a knife, then tuck it under your arm and pull the strips apart, use your forearm to leverage the split to steer it. I find it works better for me to start the split with a utility knife when they get small enough. I generally split to double tip strips, then plane the pith side flat, then split once more. Welcome to the list, have fun!  (John Channer)

    There were several printing errors in George's rodmaking book, one of the being the comment about curing for 3 to 6 months.  3 to 6 days would be OK.  (Bob White)

      I "talked" to George about this and he said that the book indeed was incorrect on this.  He stated that the time you should let the varnish dry IS 3 to 6 days.  (Todd Talsma)

      Varnish, poly or others, take more than 3-6 days to cure.  If You wrap after varnishing wait at least 14 days before doing so, or You wont be able to have the turns lying close together, as the silk/nylon makes marks in the varnish.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

    Check out "Rat" Nunley's hand splitting method (check the archives). If you can make Grayling or SRG there are a number of us who could show you how to split by hand. Splitting just takes a little practice. Also, you don't HAVE to split to  24 strips unless you have to make two rods out of a culm. I frequently get less because of leaf nodes or makers marks, etc. Thicker strips just means more planning. Regarding wraps, make sure you have a bright light. I don't think you can have too much light. Magnifiers work great they're available up to 3.5x, Orvis is carrying a set of 5x but they're about 50.00. Last couple of thousandths, make sure your plane blade is really sharp and take your time. I wait at least 48 hours before lawn casting a rod but try to wait a week to 10 days before fishing.  I have a nice 7', 4 wt that I put in a tube 3 days after varnishing last year so I could bring it to SRG.  You should see the chips & chatter marks in the varnish.  The edge of the tube really chewed up the finish.  :-}  (Dennis Higham)

    As soon as the varnish is dry to the touch, fish it.  (Tim Stoltz)

    Bill, splitting will get better the more you do it.  Get a trash culm or two and practice different methods until you find one you can do more efficiently and practice it until you get it down.

    Getting that last couple of thousands off of the tip strips is dependent on a smooth planing stroke and a VERY sharp blade.

    Wraps... on the ferrules, be sure to feather the tabs down as thin as you can at their tips and they'll wrap much smoother.  Gaps in the wraps word... OPTIVISOR!  Middle aged rodmakers best friend.  I use a 3.5X Optivisor to wrap with and it makes it much easier to see when the wraps are going on right.  Just like the splitting, the more you wrap the better they'll get.

    As for the varnish curing, I think someone on here  a couple of weeks ago said that if they could press their thumb against the varnish and it didn't leave a thumbprint, they would cast it.  There are a lot of members out there that know more about varnishes than I do, but I use MOW spar on restorations and I put them in a drying box for a few days and have never had trouble with the varnish after I take them out.  I have NEVER waited 3 to 6 months to cast a rod or fish with one.   (Bob Nunley)


Slowly getting up off my duff and proceeding towards rod #1.  Still playing with "practice" cane at the moment, sorting out all those devilish details.  Certainly more fun to make shavings than reading about it.  [:-)]

Meanwhile, I'm getting some of this down, I think.  More or less happy with splitting.  Fairly happy with my planing technique.  Not exactly happy with straightening/nodes, and how to deal with them.

I've tried the following on dry strips -- alcohol lamp, hot plate, steam from a tea kettle, and the trusty heat gun.  Maybe I was somewhat too impatient trying to get the rough strips up to temp over the first two, but even when I forced myself to slow down, there was some degree of scorching/discoloration.  Reduced some of the worst charring by planing off the "fluffy" innermost layer of pith along with the node diaphragm.

Ran out of patience trying the tea kettle.  Filled it, fired the burner up, got a good head of steam going, and proceeded to warm up a strip. Strip dimensions about 1/4" x 1/4".  15 minutes later, no sign of the strip "softening".  Maybe this works better with smaller strips, but it wasn't cutting it for larger ones.

Heat gun seems to work the best, but still get "browning" on the pith side, and to some extent on the enamel side, depending on how "enthusiastic" I get in the application of heat.  Slower is better, but I don't see how one can get the strip flexible in the 1 1/2-2 minutes of heat time Wayne Cattanach cites in his book w/o some discoloration of the area. Again, maybe I'm still a bit too impatient here, but it seems to take a lot of heat to get the strip to "melt", as it were.

Have seen a lot in the archives about soaking strips, and the relative merits thereof.  Would certainly seem wet strips could take a heavier hand with the heat (or perhaps reduce the need for lots of heat) during straightening w/o cooking them.  Clearly some experimenting left to be done.  [:-)]

Also been playing with scrapers.  [:-)] As far as bodied Vs. the naked blade, I rather prefer the blade.  Much more tactile.  I like being able to really feel how much material I'm removing, and that sense is muted in the bodied scraper.  Had some difficulties with chatter, but if one stops right away and gives the surface of the strip  a going over with 400 grit sandpaper to take the chatter marks out, one can resume scraping (with a lighter touch!  [:-)] and not have a repeat performance.  If you try to scrape out the chatter marks, it's pretty much a hopeless cause, unless you're real careful, and even then it seems like you never do get rid of them completely.  Much better to sand them out before resuming scraping.

Of course, where a bodied scraper has some advantage is in consistency (IE: you tend to remove the same amount of material per pass, and all cuts are the same depth).  Then again, with the naked blade one can remove anything from a long curl a couple thousandths thick to sandpaper-like dust with the appropriate pressure.  With no body in the way, one can be more precise in where they scrape as well.

Never seen it discussed, but does anyone use their heat gun for flaming a culm half (or large strip)?  From what I've seen in playing with strips and heat guns, it would seem one would have more control than with a big torch.  Will have to experiment...  (Todd Enders)

    The heat gun is fine for the job.  My best advice is not to worry too much about the charring; you will be planing it all away a bit down the track anyway.  Even some discoloration of the enamel side is quite OK, as, unless you are going to turn into one of these curmudgeonly old pedants, you will be scraping that off as well before you finish the rod.

    My own feeling is that Wayne's 1 - 1 1/2 minutes is very conservative.  I am sure I manage to get plasticity in a lot less  than that,  but have never timed it.  I am actually straightening some strips and node pressing tonight, so I will time a couple and if I am greatly out in my assumptions, I will let you know.

    Most authors of books on how to  build rods will include pictures of their prepared strips, and I'll  bet you that most of them have the same coloration as Siamese cats!

    CONTROVERSY TIME!  Don't waste your time soaking strips , unless you have figured out some way of distilling potable intoxicants from the vegetable soup produced thereby!  With a little bit of attention to detail you can do the job at least as well with dry cane, and possibly by doing it that way you can remove some of the dimensional  uncertainty associated with wet planing.

    Having said that, I know that many of our brethren use the soaking technique and find it practical, but my point is that it's not any better, just suits some styles more than it suits others.

    SCRAPERS.  All  that you say about scrapers is true, but remember that what you are trying to do with the whole process of planing strips for bamboo rods is to produce accurate, tapered equilateral triangular strips with perfectly flat sides.

    I use a Lie-Nielsen scraper, and while I do not believe that a scraper is a good tool for final planing, I would not like to be without my L-N, especially (a) for scraping the enamel side, including flattening nodes, and (b) for dressing problem nodes.

    Unless you are a very skilled woodworker, I do not believe that you can do this as accurately with a freehand scraper.

    Last point to make here is that I really do not like the sound of what you say about correcting  your chatter marks with sandpaper.

    One should never criticize without being prepared to offer a better alternative.

    Here is my better alternative - there is no substitute, at ANY stage in the rod making process, for a really, really sharp plane.  If you were to find that you had to resharpen every 40 or 50 strokes to keep your plane properly sharp, do it.  You can take unbelievably fine cuts with a truly sharp plane iron, and you cannot do it as well with any other tool yet devised.  You can certainly get rid of chatter marks.

    I, for instance, would love to have a Morgan Mill, for a variety of reasons, but I am absolutely convinced that I could never do with those scraper-configuration blades the things I can do with my Records and L-N's.

    I also accept that some production-style makers achieve very good results with power milling tools,  but I would contend that the great advantage of these machines is their speed  and repeatability of production,  and that neither can they achieve anything approaching the satisfaction of seeing (and feeling) a long .002" curl of  bamboo roll off the strip, unbroken from the butt to the tip.  (Peter McKean)

    In many instances I agree with you 100%.  But I do worry about charring.  Using my cheap heat gun on its highest setting, I rarely heat any strip for more than 25-30 seconds.  Over the course of 70+ rods, I've learned that the "plasticizing" of bamboo is much more subtle than I first thought when I read the instructional texts.  Here's an idea... one might heat for 20 seconds, then try to bend and hold.  Next try 25 seconds.... then 30, etc.  My guess is that the bamboo will bend and hold its new shape much sooner than many of us might think.  At the first hint of browning on the pith, the color of very light toast, the strip is warmer than is really necessary to straighten.

    I don't sand strips very often, but on those rare occasions I do, can't see that it hurts anything.  (Harry Boyd)


A fella out of Oregon seemed to say that it would probably take 6 years and about 12K to get all of the right equipment to build my would be hobby, sounded a little skeptic and thinks that there are a lot of "would be" makers out there that just wast time from teachers or the like. Also I was told that there are so many trade "secrets" out there no one wants anyone looking over his or her shoulder. Best advice was to buy a few books and start from scratch or to attend a few thousand dollar class in whereverville. He was well versed and made a lot of good sense out of what he is proud to make and wield. I would like him to know that I respected his opinions.

I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day or what ever phrase i can coin, but I am willing to learn this from right now to the day of my own demise. In short I found out that there is no secret handshake for rodbuilders, and competition is a good thing, it is what makes and defines an individual. I own all the 'self kick start' attitude in the world and hope this man I spoke with is a little wrong. What I mean is that I learned flyfishing and tying from a very old man that was just glad as hell to see that he could show the world what he knew. So what I also mean is that you can patent an idea, but not good intentions.

Yea, I know what it is like to make a thing of art (myself-degree in art welding) hold it, show it off and sign my name on it. I just still think that out there are people that have a cooler attitude to teach, like I do and love the heck out of it. What comes around goes around. I hope my 1st rod is ugly and crooked as hell, but if I make it I will learn to use/master it often and keep it in its own shrine-because I made it.  (John McFarlin)

    Stop, do not buy that whole 6 year and 12k to get started, in polite terms, he is incorrect. Okay here is a little list that will get you started.

    1. Forms Colorado Bootstrap $400
    2. Plane - Stanley block plane $28 Lowes
    3. Blade for plane- Hock $35
    4. Sand paper to sharpen with $5
    5. Dial indicator- 20$6. Dial indicator base- make one
    7. Sharpening guide- $308. Caliper - $20
    8. Glue 3$-30 depends on choice
    9. Torch for heat treating $25 Harbor Freight’s
    10. PVC pipe for dip tube and valve $10
    11. Buy cane Demarest or Andy Royer $100-300
    12. Build a binder or buy one from Jeff Wagner $225

    This will get you on the road to building a rod. Many have done it for cheaper. If you want good advice go to Jeff Wagner’s site.

    And shame on the maker who told you six years and 12K. If you have any wood working skill or metal skills you can make a rod. If you follow directions you will finish it in about 100 hours for the first one maybe even less.

    Bamboo trade secrets? What ever! These rods are made by hobbyist mainly and their work often rival the best makers ever. There is nothing you can not figure out, or can not find on bamboo rodmaking on this list. Yes, there maybe a secret impregnation recipe out there, but then again if I wanted a plastic rod I would fish with my GLX.

    John, just start collecting your tools and start reading, anyone who tries to discourage you is simply afraid, and that is sad.  (Adam Vigil)

      I agree with Adam about being able to get started for a few hundred $. On the other hand, even that is a considerable investment if it turns out that you really dont want to pursue the hobby.  I took a class and I'm sure it reduced the learning curve a lot.  Besides, it's FUN.  Check out the Nettie Bay Lodge web site, go to "Craft Schools", and then "Genesis School Split Bamboo Rodmaking".  Next year's class is $1250 (slightly higher if you want a private room) and includes room and board, materials, and the use of the tools.  Not bad for a week at a nice place, even without the class.  At the end of the week, you will have a rod blank with ferrule installed and ready to finish.

      The only thing I disagree with is the suggestion to buy a new block plane.  IMHO, the new ones are pretty much junk.  If you can find an old Stanley #9 1/2, or an old Craftsman one, they are a lot better made, so require less tuning.  The Craftsman I have is painted a kind of gray-green.   Any way, you are looking for one with an adjustable throat.  (Neil Savage)

        My old gray greenish Craftsman is what I use. I like it better than the 9 1/2  (Tony Spezio)

        I agree with Neil. I would add that you don't have to pay over $10 for a plane either. I see used and sometimes new 9 1/2s, 18s, Records, Sears, and even a Wards at flea markets. When in Ohio over the summer, i broke my rule. I got an 18 and 9 1/2 that had all the components except the body and blade made out of brass. Can't find it listed anywhere. For those 2 I paid $25.  (Rich Jezioro)

          There are always a bunch of 9 1/2 Stanley on eBay.  (Dave Norling)

            I'm using an old Record 9 1/2 that Gary Lacey let me borrow's a hell of a plane. I have looked around and can't find one cheap. If you are going to go for something  along  those  lines,  go  ahead and get the Lie-Nielsen. With the older planes, and surely with the new ones, you'll need to tune it, and buy a HOCK blade. Let's see’ $60+ for the Record, (seeing that they are not going to be made again,  everyone is going crazy for them), $30 for  the  blade,  almost  the  cost  for  the Lie-Nielsen and no tuning needed with the Lie-Nielsen. I used a modern Stanley on my first rod then got the HOCK blade to go along with it. I now only use the Stanley for roughing and the Stanley blade for scraping. Nothing like a finely tuned tool.  (Robert Hicks)

              On a similar note:  Does anyone use, or has anyone tried the  Veritas Standard  Block Plane from Lee Valley?  (Chris Carlin)

                Robert Kope wrote an article about the Veritas Low Angle Plane for Power Fibers.  It was in Volume 14.  It sounded like he was pretty happy with the plane.  (Todd Talsma)

                I use the standard and the low-angle Veritas planes. I also now have an older Stanley 9 1/2 to compare.  The Veritas planes are superior in my opinion. They are heavier and machined mirror flat and square out of the box. The blades are equal to or better than the $30 something Hock replacement blades needed by many to update an older Stanley with a blade that holds an edge. So the $99 cost of a Veritas plane is within reason when a replacement blade is not needed.

                By the way, the $16 Kunz  squirrel or palm plane, which is the same as the Stanley 101, is the most cost-effective tool that I have purchased for rodmaking. Garrison used the Stanley 101 to rough plane the strips.  When I tried it, I was amazed at how quickly the little 101 could hawg off the material to create the first angle.  I'm still amazed enough to slow me down on tool lust for a beveler.  (Paul Franklyn)

      Adam has given you some great advice.  If you are more patient, more thrifty (read "cheap"), and a little more skilled at scrounging and borrowing, you an get by for even less money.  One item Adam didn't mention is a good book.  I'd suggest Wayne Cattanach's book as my favorite, but other folks here like other books as well or better.  For a few additional tips you might look at a few articles I wrote at:   Global Fly Fisher, Rod Building - From Graphite to Split Bamboo.   (Harry Boyd)

        Harry's tutorial is one of the best. For what it is worth, I made my first few nodeless, and I think that is a great way to start a rod. No oven needed, no nodes to worry about, no rush, so why not go sans node. I love my nodeless Driggs, in fact it is the only trout rod I have kept to fish after 7 years of making rods.  (Bob Maulucci)

      12k and 6 years, eh? I started about 4 years ago for around $1500. And I purchased most of my tools. Start with the basics, and work your way up. BTW, you never have enough tools, there's always a "bigger better" tools out there. I agree with Adam, whoever told you that is full of himself or something else!  (Robert Hicks)

      Adam is right, but you can get by with even less than he specifies if you do a little of your own gadget building.  With metal skills as you apparently have, the planing form might come  in at less than $100, Hock blades are great, but the Stanley blade will work OK.  Forget the dial indicator and use the dial caliper, and I built my binder for less than $10.  That alone will save you nearly $600. As for instruction there is the whole rod list that will always give good (although often conflicting, advice.  My total outlay for my first rod was less than $50 (although this was 30+ years ago, and there was no rod list only a few rare books available and no close rodbuilder to ask questions from.  It was a horrible looking rod, but I fished happily for a number of years.  Your attitude will get you .  don't ever let some lying kook mislead you.  You can always upgrade as long as funds and will hold out.  I still don't have a computer driven milling machine and I don't care if I ever do.  (Ralph Moon)

    I forget who it was said at some point the most important tool a rodmaker must acquire is a scoop shovel for all the B.S. he might hear.  Sorry the fella in Or. was so discouraging.  Though it's true the stuff to make hexes will take some doing (and the guys are suggesting economical ways to do this), one can start out on 2 Strip Quads for a lot less, learn a lot in the process, and be fishing a bamboo rod in 4-6 weeks for under a hundred dollars.  ~ $25 for an old Stanley plane (old iron will perform well), ~ $20 for calipers, some clamps,  at least one of the books - Cattanach or Maurer, and , heck, you're now close to Andy Royer so you can drive up and get your cane for ~ $20 a stick.  Meanwhile, haunt the List, etc. and the stuff for hexes will turn up by and by.  Ralph even says he knows a guy who makes rods with a hunting knife.

    You've already got the most important ingredients, drive and some humility.  Keep looking, somebody up there will help.  Hang in there.  (Darrol Groth)

    Don't let this discourage you at all.  If you want to make a rod, go ahead and make a rod.  If you need some starter cane, let me know, I have some culms that I can send to you.  As far as a planing form goes, take a look at the instructions that Don Schneider has here and give it a try.  These are the best, most understandable instructions that I've seen.  It takes a lot of the guesswork out of making your forms.  I have a set of the form tools that Don writes about in this article, I can't remember off hand where they are right now, but we can get the tools to you so that you can make your own forms.

    Remember, you can always bind by hand if you don't want to build or buy a binder.  I've done it and it builds character, as well as your forearms.

    Don't let one person's skeptical response dissuade you from trying to make a bamboo rod.   If you really want to, you can do it.  Just make sure that you use this list to guide you through the process.  (Todd Talsma)

      I bought one book and used Todd's site (the one you're reading now) to educate myself on building rods.  I have been at it for a little over two years and have made 20 rods.  It isn't nearly as hard as people make it out to be.  There is nothing that you "have" to do.  I have spent less than $1000 and that includes a $500 lathe - which you don't need to buy.

      The most valuable advice I received from this bunch was to just do it.  I know that doesn't make much sense but just wade into it and it'll make sense.  You'll never make a rod by reading about how to do it.

      You don't have to buy expensive tools, you can make your our forms and binders.

      There is an infinite amount of valuable advice available here.  Just remember that you are talking to a bunch of fisherman.  (Lee Orr)

      One other thing.  I've never talked to a rodmaker who wouldn't walk you through every aspect of rodmaking.  This would include guys like Hal Bacon, Wayne Cattanach, Tom Morgan, Bob Nunley, Harry Boyd, John Zimny and others (in no specific order and I'm sorry if I left anyone out).  I don't think there is much that is a mystery about rodmaking anymore.  We have tapers, heat treating regimens, machinery descriptions (if you want to get into that), instructions on how to construct forms, binders, heat treating ovens and anything else you'd need to make a bamboo rod.  We have instructions on how to make insert swelled butts on rods and making reel seat hardware.  We have Dave LeClair's snake maker and you can get kits to put together your own agate stripping guides.  The only thing we might not be able to do is make our own thread for wrapping, but that's inexpensive enough that we can go out and buy it.  I just can't think of anything that is now a mystery, other than what draws us to want to do this.

      My personal opinion, but I'll bet there are others out there who would say the same.  (Todd Talsma)

    I would add one other thought - make your own tools where possible.

    You can make your own forms for probably $50 plus time (including the cost of the metal, bolts etc.  I am not a metalworker and eventually made forms good enough to make a passable rod.

    As for a binder, I bought one and it jammed halfway through binding, so I wrapped by hand.  There are others on the group who only hand wrap.

    That said, I would not be surprised if you continue gathering gadgets over the years and invest more than $12 in time.  But, that is your choice.  I got ramped up for about $1,000 Canadian - including a $400 drill press that I just had to have  :)

    Other than that, Adam gives a good summary.  The tools can cast as much as you want - I have seen some amazing gizmos that I would live to have.  Don't need them though.

    As someone said to me - just get going.  (Greg Dawson)


Rodmaking highs and lows today...

First the lows - hopefully someone will give me some insights

Low number one -

I was final fitting the ferrules on 2 rods today and in the process pulled the ferrules clean off the rods.  I used Pliobond to put the ferrules on.  Not very happy to say the least.  I also used Pliobond on rods 1-3.  Hopefully they don't fall apart during fishing this summer - I guess I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

What should I do about these rods I'm working on?  Try Pliobond again or go with something else.  I've heard people mention Golfsmith Shafting Epoxy and also polyurethane glue.  Any suggestions.

Low number two -

I was taking some pictures of a couple of completed rods tonight when I sat on a tip and broke it.  It's a 1 tip rod so I'm kind of up a creek.  The break isn't clean - more of a fracture.  It's still together.  I can flex it and see the splinters.  Can I fix it without making a whole new tip.  Its the tip section of a 7.5 ft. 3 piece.  The break is almost exactly at the 1/2 way point.  I was thinking that I could flex the break and try to inject as much glue as I could and then bind it really tight.  Then I could wrap the break with silk.  Will that work?  I guess I don't have anything to lose.  Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Highs - I finished a rod for a neighbor that looks really nice.  I also made a walnut hex case for it that turned out incredible.  I made the rod for the cost of the components, so he's getting a really nice rod and case for pretty cheap.  Hopefully the ferrules don't fall off. 

Any suggestions on ferrule glue and fixing a break would be great.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    Sounds like you had a bad day. I have found there are some days I don't touch rods in the shop. Days I feel uncomfortable I do something different. On the break, spread it apart, wedge pins in to separate the splinters enough to get glue on everything, fill with glue, put back together easily making sure every splinter goes back into place, bind tight, when dry wrap with white silk or some say fine mono and varnish. I would use silk. Don't skimp on varnish, fill it well. I have seen some bad breaks fixed forever on hard fished rods. Try it and make a new tip if you want.   (Timothy Troester)

    I can give you some insight on low #1. Up until 3 weeks ago, I was one who raved about golf club epoxy for ferrules. However, I had my first failure with it as the male came off when separating one of my latest rods. In all likelihood, this was my fault in that I did not pay enough attention to cleaning the inside of the ferrule and roughing up the inside in order to create a better bond. I cleaned and roughed it up reset and have not had any problems. Lesson learned: Do not take any shortcuts in procedure and make sure the inside of the surfaces are clean as well as the rod ferrule station.

    2. I also owe you an answer to your question a week or so ago about the Dickerson 8014. I fished one I made last weekend and liked it a lot. However, it was the first Dickerson I have ever made so I really have nothing to compare it to. Also, for some reason, I only fished # 14 dry fly patterns and never tried weighted nymphs or streamers to see how it was. So until I try them my report to you is incomplete. In short I really liked the rod and how it handled dries.  (Bill Bixler)

    I recently broke a rod tip in a similar fashion only mine fractured near a weak node.  I messaged epoxy into the fracture, bound it with white silk, varnished it and Viola.  Had to look with a magnifying glass to find the break.  Then some months later I was playing a four pounder and it broke clean just below the repair.  So I scarf spliced the rod and silk wrapped and varnished it as before and have been fishing the rod thru the winter. I've since landed numerous fish in the 2-3 lb range and it's still holding.

    So, yeah, fix it carefully and no one will ever know and it will be as strong as new.  (Al Baldauski)

    In cold weather golf shaft epoxy may come apart. JB Weld will hold ferrules on and it's cheap and can be found at most hardware stores. As for the break... I had one break very much like that.  You'll need to get as much glue in the fibers as you can.  Flex the section a little to help with this. Once the glue is in,  weave the fibers back into place as best you can, bind it tight, and let it dry. Once cured scrape the excess off and clean it up. wrap over with white gossamer and make it go clear. This is about all you can do, unless you scarf  the tip. The rod that I broke was one of my brookie rods. So, it doesn't get a lot of pressure, and the fix seems to hold up well.

    My latest OH S%^&!! was spinning a ferrule station on a tip section in the lathe. I'm working on the replacement tip at the moment.  (Robert Hicks)

    Look on the Bright Side Aaron...

    With Pliobond, if it's going to fail, it will do it from the jump not 3 to 6 months later on the river...

    Pliobond is a contact cement so your cane/metal fit must be good with no play...

    On the fracture Gorilla Glue works very well as it will expand into the areas you can not reach...

    I use straight pins to hold open the fracture...

    Hold the area under running warm water, then shake off access...

    Apply Gorilla Glue as best as you can, pull the pins and bind from the center of the fracture out to the edges driving the glue deep into the fracture...

    Next day... Remove the binding cord and scrape the glue/varnish off from guide wrap to guide wrap, then wrap with Gossamer Primrose Yellow also from guide wrap to guide wrap. Put the rod on a rod turner and apply a good coat of spar, the repair will be very hard to detect...

    Hope that helps...(Dave Collyer)

    What I can't understand is why anyone would use Pliobond (a contact cement) for any joint on a bamboo rod...

    For best results when using a contact cement, you apply the cement then wait until all tackiness is gone (pretty much let it somewhat dry), then allow the two surfaces to make contact, where upon the to contacting  surfaces are bonded to one another. There just ain't no time for minor adjustments...

    With this in mind then, when can contact cement be used in the building of a bamboo rod? I just can't see I not even gluing the cork rings together would it be okay, because of the seam it would leave.

    Am I nuts???  (Ren Monllor)

    I don't use Pliobond, but I can see the sense in the technique. The heat from the flaming off of the carrier solvent softens the glue long enough for the ferrule to be set. Once it cools the ferrule is stuck as well as it will ever be. The only problem I can see is Pliobond won't fill gaps, so unless the ferrule is a tight fit the bond won't be optimal. The advantage is that with some heat the ferrule can be removed if needed.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    It is really difficult to answer why you may or may not understand something. Maybe you should read Denver Dave's treatise on Plio usage. Darryl put forth some of the basics. It has worked for 40 years or more. Epoxy wasn't even around when makers were using contact type cements. The main reason this cement won't work is sloppy processes.

    If I were you I would question why people use adhesives that the manufacturer suggests a .004 to .006 thickness for optimum joint strength.  (Jerry Foster)


I have been lurking for several months while I made tools, machines and messes. I have just finished sanding Butt #1 and 2 and 3 tips of my first attempt bamboo Sir "D" 7642. I took the list's advice and choose the worst culm for practice. I tried splitting and sawing. Practiced planing both soaked and dry sections. Used the practice stuff to make the above. (Boy are they ugly........)

Figured I needed to do all of the steps of the process/s to be prepared for the real first rod attempt. Decided that my practice stuff was good enough to make one or two first attempt rods. Now doing familiar work of guides and wraps.

Have more bamboo and will be sawing and planning and cursing and cutting more fingers and screwing up more tips in a few weeks.  (George Hills)

    Harry Boyd did a several part article of the process of making a rod. If you haven't read it, I think it would be a must. Can't find the URL but Harry can point you to it. Harry????  (Don Schneider)

    Sounds great. My first rod, I still fish. It's actually a great action rod though the tolerances are all over the place. (well actually my attempt at keeping tolerances was what was all over the place.  (Martin Jensen)

    Since my progress so far pretty well mirrors yours, I will use your post as the opportunity to express my thanks to the entire list as well.  I am currently planing the strips for Rod #4 ( also a Sir D), and although the first three are not perfect or real pretty in some ways, when I caught my first native brookie on Rod #1, I was one grinning dude!  None of it would be remotely possible without Wayne C's Book, this List, one Catskill gathering,  and Mr. Garrison's book, pretty much in that order, and I want all to know I love this list, even the occasional OT irrelevant topics, like mice and gr***,  and the occasional diatribes and venting are somewhat humorous when all is said and done.  I may be on Rod #20 or #50 before the posts about stress curves and tapers really sink in, but in the meantime, keep the stuff coming for us new guys.  And as many of you apparently feel (ALA Mark W.) just possessing a LOT more tools now than I did two years ago makes a man feel good.  (Jim Rowley)


I have decided to take the plunge and build my first bamboo rod. I need to acquire the tools necessary. After adding up the total cost I think I need to buy used equipment or build my own so I am starting here. If anyone has functional equipment that they would be willing to let go of, please let me know. I am starting from scratch and need forms, oven, beveller, binder, drying closet, etc.

I visited a friend's shop last night and that basically did it for me. He had maybe 20 rods that were absolutely beautiful and that sealed the deal. I think he is on this list but I am not sure. He let me borrow several books and I read a large part of The Lovely Reed last night. Please let me know if you have equipment that I can buy. I live in Greensboro, NC and would be willing to drive to pick up or obviously pay for shipping.  (Chris Womack)

    There has been several posts lately from folks wanting to try their hand at rodmaking but having problems obtaining all the necessary tools.  As I, and others have tried to preach (sorry Harry!  :-)  before...YOU DON'T NEED ALL THE STUFF TO MAKE A ROD!  You can make rod that will fish like a dream with a minimal amount of stuff.

    * You can heat-treat with a simple propane torch ALA Darryl Hayashida.

    * Split the cane - all kinds of techniques folks have come up with using just a knife, or a screwdriver, or even a nail driven into your bench. All work great at little or no cost.

    * You need a plane, and something to sharpen the blade.  As Neil recently posted, you don't need the latest, greatest, most finely finished tool on the planet - any plane that that has a halfway decent blade will work. The MOST important thing is having a properly sharpened blade - learn how to do that first before you attempt anything else.  A good test of a properly sharpen blade is if you can shave the hair on your arm.

    * You'll need a form.  Just a plain ol' piece of wood, about 3 - 4 feet long, with a few 60 degree grooves of various depths scraped into will do.  Just something to stabilize your strip while planing.  The form doesn't have to be adjustable, and grooves don't have to be tapering, or anything like that - just a straight 60 degree groove:

    .......  .....     ......      .......
    .......\/.....\  /......\    /.......
    ...............\/........\  /........

    * Something to measure your strips.  A caliper or micrometer will work just fine.  You will take one or two passes with your plane, stop and measure. Turn your strip, take another couple passes, stop and measure.

    * Though not necessary, have something with a fairly accurate 60 degree notch in it to verify the angle on your strips helps when starting out. Draw an accurate 60* groove on a thin piece of cardboard, metal, or plastic and notch it out with a scissors.  Works great.

    * Bind by hand - just run some thread between the pages of a book for tension, and wrap the tread on the rod by hand. 

    * Ferrules - prepare you sections with sandpaper or a file.

    * Varnish - you can put a beautiful finish on your rod with just thinned varnish and a brush.

    That's it folks...everything you need to make a cane rod.  Don't keep putting off starting your rod because you don't have all the "STUFF".

    Just put your Plane to the Cane...  (Mike Biondo)

      I thought it seemed as if there was a lot of "newbie" traffic lately.  Todd says the List membership is now at ~700 so that's about 100 new folks wanting to make bamboo rods.

      To Mike's excellent advise I would also add that it isn't even necessary to make forms, wooden or otherwise, as one can make a dandy rod with only two strips of bamboo, a plane, a mic and some clamps if one makes a 2 Strip Quad.  Practice cane can be found in some garden shops sold as fence posts.  It's no secret I guess that that's how I started out and I think it's great advice.  Also, if one makes a 6' one piece rod you don't even have to buy ferrules.  Cheapest rod I've made using this design was $15 - and it's still my favorite to use in Colo.  I think 2 Strip Quads are very nice rods and kinda special in their own way.  It's rather unfortunate that they have been tagged with the moniker "Poor Man's Quad" as it seems to put a lot of folks off.  But, to my way of thinking, it's still proof that the deity must still hold a soft spot in his/her heart for the Poor Man.

      One can find the original instructions in Best of the Planing Form II.  There has also been quite a bit of talk about this subject on the "other' Rodbuildingforum, lately and someone has been kind enough to post instructions there.  If anyone else is interested they can email me off list and I would be happy to send some instructions and humble tapers as well.  As they say, just put the plane to the cane.  the biggest impediment in the beginning is hemming and hawing around too much.  Heck, these are fishin' poles, not the Holy Sacrament.  In fact, I think Nat Uslan made the remark that anyone that can sharpen his own pencil can make a rod.  I'm sure living proof of that!  Heck, half the fun of this is the scrounging. Not to mention the dear, dear friends I've made.  (Darrol Groth)

        I'm glad to see that the subjects have turned from politics to Rodbuilding, I was beginning to think I was on the wrong forum and needed to sign off. One thing I want to say is that the process of making your own tools is not all bad, you sure hone your hand working skills that way. One of the hardest things I had to learn when teaching rod building is to resist the urge to say "here let me do that for you" and just show the student once how to do it and then tell him "OK, give it a try, I'll watch and advise." If you are going to learn it has to be your blood :>) really!  (Joe E. Arguello)

        As usual, you put it very well!!  I, along with a lot of others I'm sure, spend far too much time worrying about doing it right and not nearly enough time enjoying the process.

        Even the practice is fun if you relax.  (John Dotson)

        Darrol is right. Information about the PMQ, building wooden forms and most anything else you want to know in general or how to make can be found here.

        Power fibers also has a tremendous amount of information.  (Rich Jezioro)

        I can make a fair rod but I am not sure about pencils.

        What kind of knife do you use to sharpen the pencil?

        Do you sharpen away from you or in a controlled cut coming back at you? What angle do you sharpen the blade to and what angle do you sharpen the pencil to?  (Gordon Koppin)

      Hey! Obtaining and making the toyls is just as much fun as making rods.  Don't go and try to spoil everything with this practical approach!  (Larry Blan)

        AMEN (to both!)  (Neil Savage)

      That's a great post and one of the most important tips a new rodmaker can get.  You are 100% correct.   (Hal Manas)

      Mike pretty summed it up, not much needed to make a rod.

      If you don't have a torch or oven, strike up a friendly conversation with the local pizza shop or baker, their ovens will accommodate most three piece rods sections and even most two piecer's.  (Pete Van Schaack)

        Do like I did and make your first rod a nodeless rod, cut the pieces and use the kitchen oven to heat treat, not only did this get my first rod done, it also made enough of a mess that SWMBO strongly suggested that I build a workshop out behind the house to do my rod building in.

        Mike really hit it on the head; you can get so into getting your tools together and trying to follow Garrisons directions that you will never get a rod done. I think that Ralph Moon make the statement about taking a pocket knife and whittle your tapers if you have to but make the rod.  (Gary Jones)


I think this kind of thing has been done before, but with all of this talk of "needed" tools etc. I think it would be timely to start a thread to post what YOUR needed tools are.

I am not thinking of things like block planes and binders.  I am thinking of the little stuff that makes your rod making life a little easier.  Stuff that doesn't normally make the list.

I'll start off with two that quickly come to mind for me:

-8" mill bastard

-Masking tape

Couldn't make a rod with out 'em!  (Carl DiNardo)

    I'll throw a few out...  a really cool little sanding block, single edged razor blades or utility knife blades,  cheapie digital calipers.  (Harry Boyd)

      I've been having a supply problem with the single edged razor blades and sharpening throwaway scalpel blades is a bit tedious.

      There certainly nothing like them, wherever they are!  (Robin Haywood)

    Hands down, it is my Optivisor.  (Larry Blan)

      If you're making your own forms, a Vixen File. Handy to have around the shop too.  (Ren Monllor)

    Acetone & alcohol. After a few years you remember which one to drink.  (Don Schneider)

      However,  it's not a real good idea to put acetone in your alcohol lamp!  I now keep them in separate cabinets.  (Neil Savage)

    That's easy, the roughing and tapering mill, now if only I can come up with a way to flatten and straighten 18 strips at one time.  (John Channer)

    A Gear Wrench for setting forms and a belt sander with a table mount frame.  (Chris Carlin)

    1. Dowels of every size, pieces of plastic rods (fun to cut up)

    2. Mary's little commandeered potpourri pot (keeping varnish and glue warm)

    3. Craft popsicle sticks for sanding

    4. Paper matches for varnishing wraps

    5. Bulldog clips

    6. Urine cups and disposable medical droppers compliments of LabCorp :^) You can get medical droppers free @ pharmacy - tell 'em it's for your kid.

    7. Plastic spoons compliments of fast food places

    8. Saved cork dust.  (Darrol Groth)

      What about the nonmaterial tools such as this list, Todd's site, Jerry's, Frank’s and other helpful sites, RodDNA, Power Fibers and The Planing Form etc.  (Rich Jezioro)

      Two little items I rarely see anybody talk about that I cannot do without.  One is a Tamegi and for those who don’t know what it is look at Todd's Tips under contraptions.  The other is a bandsawed two tined fork for pushing cork rings down on the rod.  I can't build a rod without them and they take about 10 minutes to make.  Unless you want the super duper brazoiam rosewood model, then it takes 10 minutes longer.  (Ralph Moon)

      Oh Yes  PUT THE PLANE TO THE CANE!!!!!!!

      Good list, but as I drink a lot of tea I do find that urine cups are inadequate.  May I propose a set of plastic gallon cans, as in ex oilcans?  Some of you big boys may also need a funnel or your workshop will start to smell like a geriatric ward.  What you do is half fill the can, then top it up with water and chuck it all into one or other of your composters. People will admire your vegetables, they will want to know your secret, and whilst I don't generally hold with secrets, a little discretion doesn't hurt.

      My grandchildren appear to eat things which come in little aluminum cups, like the old paper ones around cakes in what were once called teashops. These are very useful for mixing up glue, prior to reciting incantations over it or whatever some of you do.  (Robin Haywood)

      The patience of a Monk if that qualifies as a tool.  (Jack Follweiler)

        Wow this is great!  I am going to end up spending loose change on odds and ends, bits and baubles, and maybe a beveller (Not really.  Not in the near future, anyway).  This should increase my clutter factor by 5, at least!  (Carl DiNardo)

      Sounds like your shop must look a little like mine. Now I know I had that things around here somewhere!  (Gordon Koppin)

    For me it's an old paint brush to whisk away all of the bamboo shavings and dust from the bench and the planing form.  (Scott Bahn)

    I can't make rods without single edge razor blades. They are my scrapers.  (Tony Spezio)

    Tip gauge, burnisher, bamboo wedge for varnishing, plastic bags (among other things I keep my calculator in one.  I can use it without removing it and it keeps the dust out of the keys.)  And indeed the Optivisor.  (Neil Savage)

    I wonder, what do you use the 8'' file for?  For all the uses I use files for it would either be too short or too coarse. But I do have very big hands indeed.  (Robin Haywood)

      For me, the 8" mill bastard is probably useful for the reasons you are wondering why I would use it... it is a good "average" file that I keep handy for everything from smoothing out the edges when I cut a blank to knocking the corners off of aluminum whatevers.  I do agree that when a certain file is called for (I have very small files I use on my guide feet, for example), that you should use the proper tool.  But the 8" just ends up in my hand too often to ignore.

      I think I like files in general, come to think of it.

      And with the non-tangibles mentioned, I feel it is only right to acknowledge that going to the gatherings and meeting so many great people has been the best part.  Lisa thinks of you all as my good crowd of friends.  Go figure.

      Wishing I had a #6 and #8 for ferrules.  (Carl DiNardo)

        Ah! I see, its a GP tool. In fact I've just found one in the general tool rack, I keep all my rodmaking stuff separate in toolboxes with those little antirust canisters in them. We can get Swiss Grobet files here at a price and these seem to last longer. If my sainted grandfather had been half as fussy about his files when I had to use them I'd have liked them a lot sooner! Making two water cooled outboard cylinders with a load of files worse than anything on my scrap metal pile is an experience I should not wish to repeat. I used to leave them out in the rain or leave them in a saltwater soaked bag when he wasn't looking! I invented tool etching  you know!  (Robin Haywood)

    Planing forms: $800.00

    Sherline Lathe: $850.00

    Lie-Nielsen grooved plane: $175.00

    Jeff Wagner Binder: $225.00

    All the other stuff: $$$$$????

    Having someone minutes away that really knows how to build rods: PRICELESS!

    Being a new rodmaker in progress I am on my way to completing my first rod. I started it in Jan of 2007. As far as tools go my issue was time. I wanted to get into the building process quickly. So.....I chose to purchase most of my tools. Planing forms & binder from Jeff Wagner, planes from Lie-Nielsen, dial caliper from Starrett, Sherline lathe from Jeff Wagner. I did build my own heat treating oven out of "B" vent, 3" 26 gauge pipe and a Weldy heat gun. Sandpaper & masking tape from a local automotive paint store. Even though I didn't try to make everything (except for the heat treating oven) or scrounge to save a buck I have enjoyed setting up shop and seeking out and purchasing the "stuff".

    I know I would not be near where I'm at now without the help and encouragement of Joe Arguello. He has been my mentor through all of this. I count myself extremely fortunate in that Joe lives 5 minutes from my home. He has been very generous with his time, tools, supplies and a few items he just gave me to help me along.  (Frank Drummond)

    Ah, I may have missed it a post, but the one thing you must absolutely have is......

    coffee...  (Leonard Baker)

    Haven't seen this indispensable tool listed yet. TWEEZERS kept next to the box of band aids. They're nice to pull those bamboo slivers out of your hide.  (Will Price)

      Finger cots or leather gloves.

      A small vice.

      PVC tubing.

      An answering machine, especially about glue up time.

      Sand paper and block.


      Newspaper or waxed paper.

      A small hand held vacuum cleaner.  (Ren Monllor)

        Each of my benches and my apron have a tape measure, a sharpie marker and a utility knife.  I suspect that in some hands those might be all that are needed to build a serviceable rod.   (Bill Lamberson)

          In addition to the 8" file, the 12", 10", and 6". On the 12 & 10 I have the tang cut off and the end rounded and the corners softened and the edges ground smooth. No need to cut corners on bamboo! I learned this the first time I tried to file ridges on a culm.

          I like the two 60° notches on one jaw of my 4" dial calipers. One for tips, the other for butt strips. They still measure accurately even if the 60° angles are off a little. That's how I found out they're off, without crushing the fine corners!

          Paper towel holder. Box of rags. An assortment of dust brushes. Shop vac. Window A/C for summer, electric heat for winter, and windows for in between. Small sanding blocks, some are really small!

          A 1/2" X 5" X 8' varnished particle board with hash marks every 5", mounted on a rigid aluminum frame. Works great on spreading out rod sections to line up ferrules.  (David Dziadosz)

            A small block (about 2"x2"x2") to clamp to my drill press table with a corner about 3/16 - 1/4" away from a 3" drum sander. I learned about this from John Channer and it's really neat to use.

            You run your strips through BEFORE taking the outer nodes off, enamel against the block corner, and it makes the inside conform to the outside so that you don't compress your nodes when straightening, you deform them into the gap below them!  (Art Port)

            A very large workbench with storage drawers and shelves to keep all of the "needed tools" on and a larger workshop to keep all of the unneeded tools in.  (Gary Jones)

    How about those little orthodontic rubber bands?  (Bill Bixler)

      I don't like fumbling with leather gloves while planing, somewhere at one time someone posted using a "Pinky" school pencil eraser as a holder for your strips while planing. Keeps the finger tip cuts to nil and when the blade is getting dull it will allow slippage of the strip so you don't take a big dig out of the strip which I found will happen with a tighter type holding clamp.

      It's also handy to have when you need to erase the marks made for you 5" intervals and guide placement .  (Pete Van Schaack)

    Don't forget flux brushes for applying glue.  (Al Baldauski)

      All the flux brushes I have ever used shed bristles pretty easily. Are you finding good ones somewhere?  (Larry Blan)

        I buy all of the $-.25 toothbrushes I can find.  Throw away then.  (Ralph Moon)

        I don't know really what a flux brush is, unless its a bristly thing you use in soldering and brazing.  I have some little metal handled throwaways for that sort of thing but they are a bit too soft for rodmaking.  (Robin Haywood)

          Same thing, just trim the bristles back shorter and they will be plenty stiff enough to glue with.  (John Channer)

        I find that if you're using Epon, toothbrushes work best and THEN I wish I could find a way to shorten the bristles to make them stiffer!  (Art Port)

          That is one of the things I like about flux brushes, they can be cut into just about any configuration!  (Larry Blan)

        I use standard flux brushes but I crimp the metal with pliers or diagonal cutters to get extra bite on the bristles, then, Robin, I cut the bristles to about 3/8 inch long.  Flex the modified brush briskly a couple of time and any loose bristles fall out.  The shortened bristles are perfect for applying Epon.  (Al Baldauski)

          Exactly. A short bristled flux brush is really stiff. I use them for a lot of tasks,  but I never thought of crimping them.  (Larry Blan)

          Sounds like the demon tweak to me! I'll doctor one up next time I get down and sticky.  (Robin Haywood)

        Shed easily! Man. I'll say!  Thought I was really smart using those @#$@&* things until I had one completely apart between strips right at the end of glue up.  Not bad enough picking the bristles out w/ tweezers & bodkin but then looking for blonde and clear ones that blend nearly perfectly w/ Epon - sheesh.  Never, ever again.  Toothbrushes are OK but what I like best is 'Stencil brushes', alas, now discontinued @ Wally world.  (Darrol Groth)

          I've always used toothbrushes, no problem with loose bristles.  Oh and white vinegar cleans Epon up as well as anything else I tried. So just keep your brushes in a cup of vinegar.  (Tom Kurtis)

            I get my tooth brushes when Homier Sales are in town. They have packages of 25 for 1.99.

            Try Denatured Alcohol instead of white vinegar, I find it works a lot better and does not make the glue into a white milky slime.  (Tony Spezio)

          Try the dollar stores. They often sell packages of ten or so  hog  bristle brushes from China etc. for a buck. They are used for oil  painting, have long wooden handles & can be cut down with a scissors  or sharp blade and don't easily loose their bristles. Squeeze them in  the vise for good measure if necessary and Just to be safe prepare  them by scrubbing the daylights out of them a few days ahead of time  just using water to get rid of any loose hair. Dry them and then they  will be ready when you need them.  (Dick Steinbach)

        Order them by the gross from Garret-Wade, they call them something else, but they are the same thing, I bout a box 3 or 4 years ago for about 17 bucks, iirc. They shed a few bristles, but nothing you can't easily brush out before you start gluing.  (John Channer)

          The other name for flux brushes that I've heard is acid brushes.  (Mark Shamburg)

          Hah, they're on sale, and they are 1/2" brushes too! Thanks John.  (Larry Blan)

        Instead of flux brushes I use the epoxy glue brushes from Hobby Lobby. They come in a package and don't shed the bristles. At least the ones I have gotten haven't. They actually look just like the flux brushes, but since they are for epoxy I'm assured there are no residues on them.  To make them stiffer I cut the bristles down to about half the original length. They work great. Since I use Epon I also keep a mason jar of 91% rubbing alcohol, and drop the brush and binder belt in it, The alcohol removes the glue. Leave them in the jar for a day or so; take them out to dry and they are ready to use again.   (Floyd Burkett)

          Heh, I have a trash can that accepts the binder belt with no complaints whatsoever... I would just as soon poke myself in the eye as to go back to a spliced, endless belt.  (Larry Blan)

    A ferrule puller.   Just like the one in the old Golden Witch catalog, but with little side pieces to stop the jaws twisting.

    there is probably a better design.  (Robin Haywood)

    Sandpaper from 80 to 2000 grit for a variety of jobs.  (Frank Paul)


I would like to get an idea of how much it would cost to start making rods for myself.  I am not talking about  just the basic equipment but what you experienced guys would feel comfortable with, to build a couple of rods for yourself. Also what specific tools you would have.  (Jim Zeigler)

    Rock Bottom   -  if you start with 2 Strip Quads (no forms required) - would be about $60 for an old block plane (with good iron), Harbor Freight Micrometer, inexpensive alcohol lamp, some plastic clamps and cane from the garden store.  As for components, cheapest rod I've made was 6', one piece for $12.

    With no effort at all a real toolaholic can pump that figure up to $6000 easily getting into hexes and the like.  (Darrol Groth)

    I started building rods about 2 years ago, so I'll share my thoughts. Take it with a grain of salt, but this is how I see it.

    Planing forms will be your largest single-ticket item, assuming you buy premade. Mine are from Lon Blauvelt and I'm happy with them. Cost about $400.

    You can get by without a rough planing form by just opening up the butt side of your regular forms and use that. Some people love rough planing forms and others hate them. I don't use them.

    Planes and blades can add up, too. You can get by with one plane and iron, but you'll find that you are constantly having to adjust the blade setting, spending more time doing that that actually planing. Depending on the quality of the iron, you may have to resharpen 2-5 times for one rod. If you are really, really good at tuning old planes or buy an already tuned plane from a fellow board member, you're looking at $25-50 for a plane. A Hock iron will run another $40 or so. I use 3 planes for my rod work: an old Stanley for rough planing, an old Millers Falls adjustable throat to get it close and finish up with a Lie-Nielsen standard angle. I might have to resharpen between the butt and tip sections. The Lie-Nielsen will run about $150.

    After hearing horror stories about depth indicators, I bought the complete set from Jeff Wagner for $100. Can't speak for any others, but this one works for me.

    I heat treat using the late Darryl Hayashida "inside flaming" method with a cheap plumbers torch. Works fine for me and none of my rods have set problems.

    I use an old hair dryer as a heat gun. Probably get a good heat gun when that bites the dust, though.

    I hand bind, but a binder is high on my list of new toys.

    I use the scary sharp method on my irons with the Verities jig. Cost about $45. If you are good at getting a good edge by hand, that's great. Don't skimp here, though. Sharp (very) irons are a must in rod building.

    Depending on how you choose to finish your rods, equipment will cost you between $0.50 and $100. I use a cheap foam brush.

    Figure on another $100 for assorted wrenches, files, brushes and tools.

    Let's see what that adds up to:

    One good plane and one old
    Dial indicator with base
    Propane torch
    Jig and sandpaper
    Finish supplies
    Assorted tools

    If my math is correct, that comes to about $920. That's probably in the range of what I spent initially, but I did already have a small woodworking shop. This is just for the tooling. You'll still need rod making supplies such as cane, cord, glues, finishes, etc.

    Keep it simple at the start. Your rods may not be perfect, but they will be fishable! You can always grow into more expensive toys!

    Hope this helps.  Feel free to contact me and I'll give you  my two-cents worth.  (Rob Holland)

      One thing I missed: Never handle split bamboo without good quality leather gloves on. It will slice you up badly! We're talking a trip to the emergency room badly!  (Rob Holland)

        That's why my fingertips are riddled w/ cuts. They're just about healed now which means it's prolly time to get splitting.

        Actually, it's time for wrapping.  (Michael Johnson)

    If you let us know where you are located we can probably hook you up with a local rodmaker. An afternoon or two in the shop with a rodmaker can really grease the skids on getting started.   (Dennis Higham)

    This is a loaded question. I have always had to scrape to get what I wanted so I go cheap. You can spend a bundle or get by with very little. One old book I have shows how to make a split cane rod with a pocket knife and a couple of boards. I use my old plane I bought in the 40's that cost less than 5.00. I made my own metal forms from some metal bars I got in the salvage yard. No roughing forms are needed. Wood forms are really not hard to make. Razor blades make as good a scraper as you can get. Still using a heat gun I bought as a second 18 years ago. Binding can be done by hand, any type of string can be used as a binding string. Heat treating can be done with a propane torch. Nodes can be displaced with a cheap 10.00 vise from Harbor Freight. Homier Sales had them for 6.00 yesterday. Splitting fro, with length of 1/8"x 1 1/2" steel flat stock with a wood handle. Just file taper the one side to a blade edge. Not as sharp as a knife blade. Indicators for 4.99 at Homier, just bought two at their truck sale yesterday. They also had some nice calipers for 12.00 Indicator block can be a piece of hardwood. I have seen a well known maker use this. If you find rodmaking is for you, then invest in what you will "USE" and not what you think you have to have.

    I have tools collecting dust thinking I needed them to make rods. I have known more than one person that invested in rod making stuff only to find out it was not for them. One I know made two rods and quit. You don't need a lathe though it is nice to have one. Ferrule stations can be done by hand. I have use a razor blade and a file. Ferrules can be bought ready fitted. You can get seats and grips ready to use. Making your own can come later.

    I go along with others on the list, try to contact a maker near you and see what you can learn from him. My shop is open to all, if you happen to be close enough to come by. I am in north central Arkansas. If you do decide to go with it, there are list members that have tools that they might want to dispose of, that would be a good start unless you have a load of cash to spend.

    You mention you just want to make a couple of rods for yourself, it would not pay to invest a bundle for a couple of rods, It may be that you end up making 100 rods, then it will pay for itself by adding what will make rodmaking simpler.

    My advise is make a rod with you can muster up, from there you will know if you want to go further.  (Tony Spezio)

      That's excellent advice.  (Hal Manas)

      I have tools collecting dust thinking I needed them to make rods.

      Not that there's anything wrong with that...  Hey, ya never know!  You might just need those toyls some day!  (Mark Wendt)

        That is why they are still in the shelf collecting dust, never know when I might need them. Besides, thems are toyls, and you can never have too many. I would have some more if I had more shelf space. LOL  (Tony Spezio)

          Ah Tony, you're a man after my own heart.  (Mark Wendt)

          I'll bet you could buy a toyl to make those shelves.  Maybe even one or two to hang them.  Of course there is that finishing bugaboo as well!  (Todd Talsma)

            You have been to my shop, I think you there is no more room for shelves to put the Toyls on. Maybe Dot will let me put on an addition with shelves. Then I would have to make dust in that addition so that the toyls can be covered with dust.  (Tony Spezio)

              See?  You'd surely have to buy more toyls to make dust to cover those new shelves where you've put the new toyls that need to collect dust!!  (Todd Talsma)

              I've been to your shop and your right, you have no room. So, being the nice guy I am, I will offer you some room on my shelves for your toyls. I'll even cover them with dust for you.  (Tom Kurtis)

                Now that is an offer that is hard to refuse, I will have to think on that for a while. Come out again and we can talk about it. LOL  (Tony Spezio)

                  I got no room I got no toyls but I got lots of dust! Seriously, I've gone at the tools thing in a different way than most- I think. I picked up a  used Morgan Hand Mill for a very reasonable price. I prep ferrule stations by hand, I bind by hand, I shape grips with a variable speed cordless drill and I varnish with a brush. Either I'm cheap, stubborn or overcome by the luxury of having a Morgan Mill or  maybe all three.

                  Merry Holidays to all and may Santa and Tim the Tool Man be one and the same.   (Doug Easton)

                    You are not cheap, just doing it the way that works for you. You are making rods are you not? If not, where does the dust come from.  (Tony Spezio)


    • planing forms:  make-em yourself or buy em cost about $400+ for pre-made....about $100+ for making them.
    • rough planing form: make it yourself if you have a table saw and a'll need a 60-degree router bit (about $20).
    • heat treating:  a propane/mapp gas torch will work (about $30) but an oven would be nice (about $50 and up to build).
    • heat gun:  get a good one ($60 to $100).
    • dial  calipers  and  a  depth  gauge  w/a  60-degree  point:  ($30-$40) build the depth gauge base yourself.
    • binder:  (build it yourself for $20-$30 or buy one for $250+)  you can bind by hand (see archives for the positive and negative aspects of that).
    • block plane:  a Stanley is about $30 and can be used with some serious tuning (a $40 - $45 blade for it helps greatly).
    • sharpening   system:    (this  is  a  source  of  great controversy...anywhere from $30-$40 for Scary Sharp with a honing jig to several hundred).
    • a bench vise of some sort: ($25 - $50).

    Of course, bamboo, glue, etc.  but the above should get a blank made.

    Components:  (reel seat, ferrules, guides, strippers, silk, grip, etc) run from about $150 to $250 on average for a rod.

    There is a very good thread on this on (Bruce Johns)

      I agree with the prices on most of the items…

      My heat gun 30.00 at Lowes and it’s been running for a t least a year

      My whole set of Stanley plans  (I’ve got 4) $33 (includes shipping) on ebay and the old blades work just fine if they’re sharp.

      Scary Sharp ***Sand paper $10.00 Ace hardware (cut the paper into four strips and you’ve got enough for a lot of sharpened blades. (Ren Monllor)

    You may want to think about a rod building class that a good maker is giving then you will see the tools and what works best for you and you will find out if this making of cane is really what you went to do at lest after the class you will have one nice rod built under someone that can help and guide you it will save you a lot of money in the long run.  (Jeff Van Zandt)

      Taking a class or finding someone close to go see, even if they have not been doing it long,  would shorten the learning curve considerably, I think.  It also might help avoid repeating some of the more expensive errors. I emailed Darrol last night. I had about a dozen questions about something he made reference to. A simple picture made "all" clear.  (Timothy Troester)

      I agree that taking a class or finding someone to guide you will greatly help learning.  I took a week in Dunsmuir with Chris Raine and I definitely recommend it.   (Do I have to say no financial  interest, etc.?)  OK, it was a big chunk of change. It was really good for me.  It made me believe I could do it, with a fine rod as proof.

      So then I spent close to 2 grand on tools.  Yes, you can do it for less, but I like tools.  Planing form & binder were the big specialized tools. Oh,  and I built a dip tube in the dust free cabinet and a heat gun oven, not expensive but big. But there are the little ones that I really like: the froe & the curved gouge. To say nothing of the planes; a grooved L-N and an old Stanley 9 1/2 with a Hock blade with diamond sharpening stones and a Japanese honing stone. I don't have a big income, but it is all cheaper than a shrink.

      But what I disagree with is that you will avoid expensive mistakes.  I am always fighting chipping when planing.  I continue to slice my fingers despite 3 pairs of gloves.  I have planed the wrong end of a strip (tip wide, butt narrow) then glued it up with the other 5 normal strips, amazed that the node stagger was screwed up.  I glued up a tip section with this node stagger: 1,2,4,5,3,6.  I forgot to halve the taper measurements and had trouble setting my planing form to the taper, then planed a couple of strips before I realized I was building a monster rod: 7 foot 16 weight?  I glued up a butt section on a cold day/night with no heat and then pulled the string off  12 hours later to find the glue was still liquid and the whole thing fell apart.  (Talk about glue lines!)  Need I go on?  The expense of course is time.  But it is a hobby, so spending time is rather the point.

      Chris Raine warned me about a lot of things, but I keep finding new ways to screw up.  I have built only 4 and a half rods (#5 is ready for gluing), but I have the parts for another 2 or 3 in my scrap archive.  Yes, I keep my mistakes.  I also keep a written log of my building.  Some day I'll throw them all in the fireplace and pretend I am a great maker.

      Nunley defined extreme rodmaking.  So far no trips to the hospital.  So I guess I am just a beginning rodmaker.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    I've spent about six grand on new equipment, an easy six.

    This is to make rods here and there for my family with an option to sell them if I ever ramp up production.

    I bought cheap where I could (China made drill press, lathe etc) and the best where needed (Tormek Sharpening System, Mitutoyu Digital Calipers, components and rod materials) to keep the quality high and the manufacturing cost as low as possible.

    Many things I made on my own (oven, dip tube, shop stuff etc) and other things I chose to purchase.

    I think you could purchase everything for less than what I did, I was a bit sloppy in some of my choices and had to purchase twice not liking the first time choices in equipment.

    Some of the best choices aren't the most expensive, I enjoy Stanley planes, you can find them used cheap and put some time into them and you have a fairly high quality tool, they are a whole lot less than LN planes of which I bought their scraper as there was not a alternative choice in that tool.

    In hind sight, I could have purchased a couple of collector rods for my money but for me, that is not a good choice. I can now replicate the actions of those rods as there is a tremendous supportive community that WANTS you to make bamboo fly rods. It sucks you in and you become part of it and it is a fantastic feeling.

    I do not regret spending a little money to start up, I still have not purchased the last $1,500 in raw materials (rod tubes, bags, printing etc.) as some of the items you can purchase as you go. Rod #001 is in it's final stages of finishing and already I am on to rod 2 and 3.

    I am satisfied.

    A friend who has helped me (a couple of you here) and I are building a online community, a forum of which many makers have joined (by word of mouth, you need a invitation code) and we discuss things like we discuss them here. It is not meant to replace and or be better, it's just another stop on the information highway, a little out of the way stop, you got to know where to pull over and it's quite a hike to get into and you have to know the guy who will let you in, me.

    My startup is detailed there. I've been fishing for a long time, fly fishing for a long time, promoting other fly fishers writing for a long time, long time, long time...

    Anyway, good luck and get after it.  (Adam Trahan)

      Hah! Easy to dump some cash into this little diversion ain't it! A little here, a little there. Next thing you're divorced (again) and paying for it all over again! LOL

      You good gents who have been doing this 10+ years and are still married (to the original model), my hat is off and tilted in your direction!

      That must be like balancing a marble on a bowling ball!  (Mike Shay)

        Yes, but the bowling ball has been sawed in half, so it is easier to balance.  (Ralph Moon)

          When one of my fishing colleagues passed on, his widow asked me to look through his tackle and books to help her get an idea of their worth.  There was some wonderful equipment!  I asked her if she had ever objected to his buying several copies of the best hobby equipment.  She said, "I only asked him about it once, and he said, 'Listen woman!  My hobby is fishin' or blonds.  You choose!'  I never mentioned it again." 

          Turn the bowling ball so that the thumb hole is up; drop the marble in.  (Grayson Davis)

            Now that’s Funny...

            I'm going to use that one..."-)  (Dave Collyer)

              On the same note, when I had my fly shop I used to tell my customers who were having trouble getting their wives to understand the cost of fly fishing to go out and get falling down drunk, come home in the wee hours of the morning, and when the wife came in the next morning he should tell her "I'm thinking of taking up drinking or fly fishing, which do you think I should do?" ...................Nobody every told me how successful this method was!  (Joe Arguello)

          Some of the graphite guys make reelseat inserts out of bowling balls!  (Scott Grady)

        I will see what happens next year, I am only nine years making rods. Still married to the same lady, in fact it will be 57 years this coming Sunday. She has gone along with my building airplanes, race cars, furniture, boats, tying flies, my darkroom photography, and a lot of other things I have forgotten about.   (Tony Spezio)

          'and a lot of other things I have forgotten about.'

          Well if Dot is like MY wife you  can bet SHE hasn't forgotten!  (Larry Swearingen)

            Yes, Larry and she don't make me forget either.  Let me know when you will be back in this area.  (Tony Spezio)

        Sometimes it's more like balancing a bowling ball on a marble!  (Neil Savage)

        In February I'll complete my 10th year building cane rods and in May I'll celebrate my 28th wedding anniversary.  For me the key to balancing the marble on the bowling ball has been diamonds, amazing how those sparkling stones keeps the wife happy.  (Bob Williams)

          I consider them the "Great Stabilizers."  (Mark Wendt)

        Well, my wife has horses and so can't complain about my puny expenses.  I also got out of a horse-related trip I didn't want to make because it conflicted with SuperBoo!  (Henry Mitchell)


I'm a young fly fisherman who decided to dive into bamboo rod building (a childhood dream). I have absolutely no business ambition, I just want to do it as a hobby. But I tend to take my hobbies quite seriously... And I don't like to botch things.

This is why before investing in tools and material, I would like you to give me some advice on how to start. Books and documentation you consider as indispensable.  (Jean-Phillip Tessier)

    It may also be welcoming for you to know that there are many of us (or at least myself) that are far from masters, at least at bamboo rodmaking.  I think the mix of young and old, experienced and neophyte are what make this list great.  I am working on my 3rd rod in two years, and it took me about 3 years to get tooled up before I started.  That's just me.

    I would recommend "Master's Guide to Building A Bamboo Fly Rod" by Garrison (Carmichael) as a text to read to understand the history of the hobby rodmaker, and just as an overall text on the subject.  I would recommend getting this from the library, you won't need to own this one.

    The book I have found most useful as a beginner is Wayne Cattanach's "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods".  Everything you need to know to build your first rod is there.  Actually everything you need to know to build ten rods is there, but by the time you get to the tenth, you'll be trying different things ;o)

    The tips section of this site is a treasure trove of many different ways to accomplish the many steps to making a rod. You can pick which methods fit your tools, your budget, and your way of doing things. This community is so strong because of all of the incredibly bright folks  who do it AND are willing to share it.   (John Wagner)

    Don't forget to have a  look in the archives of the list. Once you lean your way around there, you can find everything you need to know about rodmaking that’s worth knowing. A least I did, and the Bible, Garrison’s book, was nice to have afterwards, but didn't learn me anything I didn't know yet.

    Good advice, make a rod as quickly as you can scratch the basics together. Eve if its not super, it will be sooooo rewarding you will not be able to stop...

    You do need a planing form and a plane, but there are lots of things you can do by hand.  I do most by hand.  (Geert Poorteman)


Newbie wants to know: Concerning the Garrison tapers in "The Book", should one assume this is an unvarnished rod?  Should one add (subtract) for glue in the finished blank?  (Reed Guice)

    The tapers as published in Carmichael's book are "ready to go", and you do not need to account for varnish when setting your forms.  (Chris Obuchowski)

      One exception that I know of.  On the 209 (p.280), the 55" station should read .224 not .234.  Thanks to Tom Smithwick for pointing this out.  (Darrol Groth)

        Actually there are a few more corrections that I would make. The 209 @ 15" .121 and @ 55" .224  (as you said) the 215 @ 85' .323 and the first ferrule should be 11/64.

        The line sizes for his rods are not given but to me they should be;

        192-3/4 wt
        201 4 wt
        201E 4/5 wt
        202E 5 wt
        204E 5 wt
        206 5 wt
        209 5 wt
        209E 5/6 wt
        212 6 wt
        212E 6/7 wt
        215 6 wt
        221 6/7 wt.

        All line sizes are +- one line size because of the poor line control of the Manufacturers and individuals preferences.  (Bob Norwood)

          Here are a few more things to think about in Garrison's first edition: P273 " - Garry always chose 1 size larger tip guide for the E rod"-. This is not true for his 201E, his 209E and his 212E.

          Also his stress curve chart in Dai. 22 does not seem to agree with his P 270 numbers.

          Also his Diameter 21 shows the 206 to be 7'9'' in  contrast to the 7'6'' given on P279

          Also his Diameter 23 shows the 212 to be 8'6'' in contrast with the 8' given on P 280.

          Also the ferrule size 13 on P 247 for the 212 disagrees with that given on P 280 which is 14.

          Also I was always curious as to why he chose a line length of 49 feet rather than his standard of 50 feet on P 241.

          But I'll bet that Al Baldauski can tell us where the constant .120 on P 258 came from.  (Bill Fink)

            As I understand it Garry died before the book was completed and Hoagy and some friends of Garry's got together and finished it. The things you point out are mostly just copy errors and were never caught.

            The question as to why 49 ft of line was used. This was Hoagy’s easy way out, the tip Impact at 50 ft was 2.55 and at 49 ft 2.50. He used 2.5 to make his calculations easy.

            I would assume the .120 on page 258 was from an engineering book on stress, but I really don't know.

            I would say that Hoagy and friends did very well considering that Garry was no longer there to help, wouldn't you?  (Bob Norwood)

              With regard to the 49' line length ~ if one does the calculations, the answer is there.  (Vince Brannick)

                I believe I did the math starting with the Sept 1998   No. 53 Planing Form and beyond. I have no problem with Garrison's basic work. In  fact I'm using his stress curves  and his math to this day on my latest penta, would you believe? But there seem to be some misleading  numbers  in the book which could confuse others besides me.

                I started making rods in the sixties and Garrison's book was a tremendous help for me, but he did seem to make things harder than they really were to make a fishable rod..  (Bill Fink)

                  First, a question. Were you at the Book Fair in Carlisle that Wayne Cattanach made reference to in a recent missive?  It would seem you may have been, and I seem to think so. With regard to the 'Planing Form', I'm not sure whether or not I have #53, and am not familiar with the contents in it, relative to Garrison's math. The answer to the question posed about the 49' line, as I interpreted is, a 'rounding off' of the tip impact to accommodate a divisor of one hundred in subsequent revisions of the initial computation. (ref. p 243). Incidentally a rather glaring error (typo?) exists in that computation which shows "437 grains per foot" when in fact it's 437 grains per ounce.  You are absolutely correct in asserting that there are numerous puzzling entries in 'the book', and in fact, very few of them have been emended in recent editions.  But, in all fairness, it needs to be acknowledged that (on page 239) Hoagy states: "And, believe it or not, there is also the possibility of human error; mine" Yes!  (Vince Brannick)

                    Regarding the 49 foot compromise I should relent since Garrison had only a slide rule but he was so dam rigorous about the rest of his math that it did earn a question mark in my volume.

                    No, I don't believe that I was at that Book Fair unless it was related to Gatherings that I did frequently attend, nor do I recall any specific missive from Wayne Cattanach. Could you update me? I haven't been to Carlisle since the hordes arrived at Yellow Britches. If you're in that area fish Clark's Creek. The trout there can be tough but that is a beautiful hemlock forest, which may be doomed.

                    And thanks for the ounce/foot correction which I missed. I'll add it.

                    I want to say that I simply devoured Garrison's book after having gone on struggling for ten or more years against a nearly blank wall of help. His book and this List are the two greatest things that have happened to the craft of cane rodmaking.  (Bill Fink)

            Thanks a lot Bill, why don’t you put me on the spot!

            I don’t have a copy of Garrison.  I read it once when my library borrowed it for me. But since I don’t have a photographic memory, I don’t know what’s on page 258.

            I just reviewed the calculations section of my design program to refresh my memory and found the Section Modulus of a Hex rod is equal to 0.120 times the diameter cubed.  The Section Modulus and the Bending Moment are used to calculate stress.  So that’s my GUESS about where the number comes from.  (Al Baldauski)

              Thanks to Al. For now I can erase another of the question marks in my Garrison book.  (Bill Fink)

            Machinery's Handbook, 12th Edition, on page 347, gives the formula for the Section Modulus of a hexagonal section to be .12 d(to the 3rd power). ~ as Al B. so correctly stated.  (Vince Brannick)

            It is interesting to observe the several notes of 'error' in Carmichael's book. I'm reminded of the time in 1977/78 when I called Hoagy to question the admonition (on page 36) to "make certain that you put the rind side against the 57 degree angle in the groove". He advised me that he had been apprised of that mistake and that it would be changed. And when I inquired whether he would be interested in my recital of a few other 'errors' that I thought may exist, he assured me that he was already aware of others.  (Vince Brannick)


I have a good deal of experience fly fishing and tying, but I'm now on this kick to build my own bamboo rod. I've never even fished bamboo, but I have a fascination with the "old ways" of most anything, and bamboo hits the nail on the head. There are a few problems though. First, I have no tools whatsoever. I also have practically no woodworking skills. Worst of all, I don't know anybody that could show me tips and tricks along the way. What I do have, though, is time and patience. I know the road to learning building will be rocky, but I'm patient and enjoy working through difficult tasks. I also have some access to basic tools, such as a planer, saws, sanders, etc because my father in law has a bunch of stuff he could loan me. Also, my wife's employer has other tools which could suffice for a while that I could borrow each night (micrometer, depth gauge, various heating tools).

I'm curious as to the amount of money I would have to invest up front to get the ball rolling. Bear in mind, I would start out doing things the cheap way as much as possible (ie no rod wrapping machine, no fancy rod oven, etc.). The first rod or few would be a trial to see how it goes, and I would obviously invest more in specific tools along the way if I'm in for the long haul.

I think I would need to BUY the following:

  • all the bamboo, threading, varnish, glue, guides, etc involved in a rod
  • sharpening stones (have no idea how much $ here)
  • vice
  • planing forms (4-500 bucks I guess)
  • iron rod tube for heating

Anything else?

I guess I'm looking for a bare-bones estimate of how much I would need to invest in starting the process. Also curious if I could eventually recoup some costs through selling some rods for cheap money, just to offset some of the cost of the tools. Really I'm just looking for a satisfying hobby to  fill my time over the years (I'm 28) and rodbuilding seems appealing.  (Greg Harrison)

    I started out in the same condition you are. No tools. No experience and darn little money. Be forewarned, it's hard to keep it "small."

    As far as $, here's what I recommend:

    You can get a set of forms from Colorado Boot Strap for around $350ish. A Stanley 9 1/2 plane can be bought at almost any hardware store for 35 bucks. Be sure to read up on tuning a plane and tune it. You will also need a depth gauge and base and a set of dial calipers.

    Sharpening: try the "Scary Sharp" method, you sharpen with sandpaper. Find a piece of scrap marble countertop to use for a base. Much cheaper than waterstones. Be sure to get a honing guide to get your angle right on you plane iron.

    For the nodes, a 4 inch drill press vise will set you back about 15 bucks, $35 or so for a heat gun.

    A roughing form can be made easily if you have access to a router table and a 60 degree V-cutter. If not, J.D. Wagner sell a roughing form for less than 50 bucks.

    You can rely on flaming with a torch to heat treat your first rod or you can build a heat gun oven  on the cheap as you will already have the heat gun. Since you mentioned iron pipe for heat treating, that is a cheap way to get started.

    Material and components. If you can find a maker in you area, buy enough to make a rod from him. If not, Russ Gooding at Golden Witch can fix you up. As far as I know, Russ is the only source I know where you can buy a single culm of bamboo. Costs a little more buying a rods worth of stuff at a time. Buy in bulk after you get your feet wet.

    A lot of the little stuff you will need like the vise, heat gun, sanding blocks, torch, etc can be found at garage sales. That's where I got a lot of mine. Garage sales are a good source of a lot of the things you'll want later like a band saw, drill press, shop vac, etc.

    Almost forgot..... a lathe. I'm told a rod can be made without one but I'll be damned if I can do it. I bit the bullet and bought one from Grizzly. The smallest one they make will set you back about 500 bucks. But, if you can find a used one.....

    They say time is money.... if you have the time to look around, you can save some money. When I started, I bought a set of used forms for 250, lathe was 450. Spent about 200 bucks making an oven. Plus another 3-400 on measuring devises, hand tools etc. It would be hard to make a first rod for  less  than 1000-1200 dollars for the tools and components. That's about what it took me. If you asked what I have invested in the tools in my shop now, I wouldn't tell ya. Word might get back to the wife.

    Reading material: I learned to make rods on the toilet. I read Wayne Cattanach's book and The Lovely Reed by Jack Howell on the toilet every morning for 2 years. Read and reread. By the time I got my tools together, i pretty well knew how to do it. Harry Boyd did a series of rodmaking articles that can be found on the Global Flyfisher web site that you will find useful. There are  numerous   internet   sources    such    as    this    site,, and a host of others.  (David Atchison)

    David gives some great advice.  I too started with Wayne's book and George Barnes’ - read both a number of times over about 18 months and used the ideas to collect tools ("toys" is a much use but incorrect spelling for that word - don't listen to Mark  :)   I was lucky to purchase a bunch of bamboo with a binder and an oven.  I have found that I like making the jigs and tools as much as the rods themselves.

    I have made the following myself:

    • Sharpening system - sandpaper on plate glass and a system from Harry Boyd - leather strops on wheels mounted on an arbor, using green paste from Lee Valley.
    • Planing form.  Wayne Cattenach made the comment in his book that the patience needed to make a form is a good test of the patience required to make a rod.  The only metalworking experience I had prior to that was cutting strips of sheet metal with tin snips.  My forms are totally adequate.  Of course, making them meant I "needed" a toy - sorry, tool - a drill press.  I used Penrose's instructions with those from books.
    • Roughing form.  I cut a 1x2 lengthwise (24" long), routed a 60 degree V in the pieces and screwed the pieces back together.  I did a similar form with a square bottomed groove to shape to the same dimensions prior to shaping the "v".
    • Wrapping stand/jig.  A couple of "v"s cut from a cardboard box at first, followed by an up-market one from scrap wood.

    I paint with a brush (foam brush) and bind by hand.

    Some things I would suggest:

    • Get a set of the MD jigs from Harry.
    • Get a nice plane with a nice blade.  My record blade does just fine.
    • Make your form(s).  Start now so you can work up a sweat outside.
    • Make a binder or do it by hand.
    • Start soon.  it's fun.

    OK, so I am of Scot's heritage - I hate wasting money.  Love doing it myself.  You will get a lot of advice from the folks here.  There are some things you need and then things you want/prefer.  There are dozens of guys on the list and we generate hundreds of different ways to each and every step.

    Most of all, take it slow, think lots and enjoy it.  Single malt Scotch is rumored to really help the mellow thinking.  I find Port does well too.

    Other than that, be warned.  This is not a hobby.  It is an addiction. There is no 12 step recovery program.  All of us revel in it.  (Greg Dawson)

      Although this might be considered by some as cheating, you may want to forgo the lathe on your first rod and use a pre-glued and formed cork handle to start. You can make minor adjustments with a drill and sandpaper.  Then if you enjoy building, and want to go further, spend the $$$ and get the lathe.

      As for port and single malt...I agree with the statement below, especially the part about taking it slow.  Single malt can be hazardous. It pains me to admit that once having had a bit too much I 'forgot' that the planing I was doing on my tip section was not to final measurements. The measurements were right on. But then instead of resetting my forms for the final .01 off, I just glued up. It was only then that I noticed the butt of my tip was fatter than the tip of my butt. I just hate when that happens.   (Andy Harsanyi)

        Wayne's book and Tom's web site will make a world of difference in cost.

        Planing forms were very time consuming, but cheap to make.  The shoulder bolts and set screws were the expensive parts.  I bought 2 of the 12 foot pieces of keystock, so I have another planing form I can make someday when I am really bored.

        $90 mica strip (can you say minimum order) was the only expensive part of the oven - don’t know what mica strips are now.  Some of my material for the oven was even donated by Tom Penrose himself, but that is another story.  More than one way to make an oven, but I think you will like having an oven.

        Bamboo has lasted a while, so I don't know what it is running now, but you can get small orders from some places like Golden Witch I think.

        You can use a book to weigh down your thread for wrapping, but I have never done that.

        I bind my sections by hand, but you can make a machine pretty cheap.

        So I think the answer comes down to time versus money.  If  you want it now, it will cost a bit, if you want to make a lot of it, it will take a fair amount of time, but fairly inexpensive.

        My 2 cents, though I did spend more than 2 cents on my rodmaking stuff.  (Rob Clarke)

      I am not a Scot, but I like rodmaking on the cheap.

      I have no lathe. I make my handles with an electric drill. It's a bit tricky, and you do need help of a second pair of hands, but i have made nice looking handles. The most important thing there is the quality of the cork. I also made handles with rattan, which I can find cheaply here. My reel seat hardware are very cheap copper and brass rings and caps used in plumbing. My guides are self made in stainless aviation lock wire. You could also use remanium, used by dentists for braces. I make nodeless, and I made a vice for planing the angles in wood. I also made a wooden planing form, and i really would recommend that. It's cheap, and makes good rods. And you can easily make it yourself. I use strands of nylon I pull out of colored nylon rope. Its a bit thick, but OK. I have several colors. Hand binding of course, and I varnish with my fingers. The results are usually OK. You could make the ferrules too, I do now, but I think that, for the first couple of rods, its easier to buy them. Reel seat filling in cork is both nice looking and functional, but I also have them in cow horn, which I have machined locally. There is much you can make yourself and really, cheap doesn’t mean it has to look cheap. I alternate flamed and blond strips, and I have (almost) no glue lines, though I really don't know how I do it, comes with experience I think, and glue lines are what makes a rod ugly. Try binding with nylon tipping material, you'll have transparent wraps. For stripping guides, I use large snake guides on small rods, or ceramic lined spinning guides. I will try for the boat guides Garrison used. Oh, and you don't really need books, though I did buy Garrison one eventually. I found nothing in it I hadn't found before in the list archives. Learn how to navigate them.  (Geert Poorteman)


I am interested and working on finding the equipment to start building rods and suggestions out there would be greatly appreciated look forward to info.  (Craig Dinsdale)

    You probably need to tell us what you have already got and what you still need to acquire, Craig.  Also some idea about level of skills that you already have in this sort of field, and to some extent what sort of budget you are allowing yourself for the venture.  (Peter McKean)

      If you've found the list, you've likely seen the tips site. There are tons of gadgets and gizmos to ponder there, as well as a myriad of ideas on how each is used. Once you've poked through those, you should have a fair idea of what you'd like to start with and possibly build for yourself... I know you're a newbie here, so welcome aboard.  (Mike St. Clair)

    Before you buy any tools I suggest you pick up some bamboo, otherwise you are putting the cart before the horse. You can acquire tools as you need them and can spread the cost and selection of tools over time. 

    The first tools you would need are for some way to split the bamboo. A butcher knife or bamboo froe and a mallet can be used to split it, or you can can use a band saw if you have access to one. My suggestion is buy a small quantity of bamboo from Andy Royer, Demarest, or Golden Witch. Before you tear into it, go to your local garden nursery and buy some of their tonkin culms. They are trashy and you are not likely able to make a rod out of one, but it will give you cheap practice before you split the good stuff.

    People go over board accumulating the tools and delay or never get around to making a rod.  (Scott Bearden)

      Your first mistake is that nobody can ever go "overboard" on acquiring toyls...  (Mark Wendt)

        I agree. When my wife found out how much I spent this year on taking the class and  getting set up I thought she was going to kill me then die. I figured that I would make the investment now, before I retired and didn't have  the proverbial pot or the window.

        The great thing about taking the class is that your first rod is a thing of beauty, something to use as a guide for future rods. Believe me your first solo rod will not come up to the class rod, by a long shot.  (Phil Crangi)

          Ah, another convert...   ;-)   but my work is never done!  (Mark Wendt)

          Let me jump in here if I may....

          Phil, I saw a rod you told me you made when I met you at the Lakeland show and it was a beautiful looking rod.

          Your first rod  isn't supposed to be as well made as your last rod, and the truth is, there's only so much you can do cosmetically with a rod.  I think the joy comes from the doing and the learning, not JUST from the end result. I have to agree with all of Bret's post.

          I don't own a Hock blade and probably never will. I do however sharpen my blades as well as I can and I can usually get at least an entire rod out without any blade problems or tear-outs or glue lines or any of that. I don't think taking a class is going to necessarily make you a better rodmaker. I think what will make you a better rodmaker is honest self-evaluation of your work and the willingness to work smart at your craft.

          I hope you all have a great day and with that, I've got wrapping to do,  (Ren Monllor)

            Heavens, Ren, what kind of blade DO you use?  I'd give my eye teeth to be able to get a rod out of a blade!  Do you have tungsten steel blades, or HSS?  (Peter McKean)

              I always get at least one rod per sharpening, sometimes I get lazy and get part way thru a second before I stop to sharpen. It's pretty simple, use a grooved pane and get to know it and it's just like using a flat bottomed plane only you don't spend so much time at the stone. BTW, it's a Lie-Nielsen with their blade and their groove, .005 deep.  (John Channer)

              I use the blades that came with the planes. They are all pretty old Stanley 9 1/2's I picked up through eBay about two years ago. As to how old they actually are, I really don't know. I can tell you their finish is just about worn off, but they do the job quite nicely.

              I use the Scary Sharp System of sharpening. I use a Veritas jig set at 30 degrees. And I don't soak my strips. Most of the rods I've sold are 3 piece, 8 1/2 footers.

              The Planes are set to take .010", .006", .003", .001". 

              Don't know what else to tell you. I try to remember to sharpen after every rod.  (Ren Monllor)

    I still think the best start is to take a class on rodmaking. Let us know where you live and we can suggest a class near you. After the class you will know what tools you need and whether you want to take this farther.  (Tom Kurtis)

      Plus you will have already completed your first rod!  (Mike Monsos)

    Don't forget the forums, here's my favorite.

    Sign up and enjoy, lots of info.  (Joe Arguello)

    I started by building a few poor man quads (PMQ). I’d strongly recommend beginning this way.

    There are some big advantages in starting this way:

    CHEAP!  Far fewer tools required.

    All you need is:


    • Some bamboo (1 culm can produce 8+ PMQ’s even if your spitting sucks)
    • Thread (any thread will do)
    • Prefab cork grip
    • Guides
    • Reel seat (or cut a ski pole to make slide bands)
    • Finish (tung oil or varnish)


    • A block plane (preferably with an adjustable throat)
    • A sharpening system (auto sandpaper taped to a flat surface works fine!)
    • A heat gun (or BBQ or electric stove)
    • A propane torch (or your kitchen oven for heat treating)
    • A vice (small and cheap with smooth jaws is best)
    • Small clamps or a bike inner tube for binding
    • Glue (gorilla glue or Titebond are perfect & readily available)
    • Sandpaper / steel wool or a scraper
    • Micrometer

    PMQ’s develop a lot of the key skills required to build hexes.  (node pressing, understanding tapers, sharpening, wrapping, finishing, sliver removal from both hands etc)

    Fast.  The first one I built was completed over a weekend (while doing other stuff).  So you can build several and figure out what you like before taking the big commitment of building a hex.  Dive it to it and you can be fishing your own cane rod in no time.

    Good rods – sure they look a bit different but the reality is you can build a great casting PMQ.  Frankly, I own about 40 cane rods and I’m not convinced the hexes (even the fancy +$1000 ones) are any better than the PMQ configuration from a fishing perspective. I’ve had a handful of fly fishing celebrities try my PMQ & well they were a bit  shocked at how good they are to cast.

    Surprisingly tough – I’ve seen carp up to 8 lbs landed on a 3 wt PMQ and I have landed a steelhead on one! The butt section of a 5 wt PMQ can support my weight (200 lbs) when hung over a pipe in my basement (although apparently not while bouncing)

    Flexible – lots of ways to do this given your circumstances, woodworking ability etc.

    I have a good friend that build his first 2 (amazing sticks really) using only a belt sander and a draw knife –no plane.

    Recyclable – build a wild experimental taper that you don’t like & you can strip the components off and start over.  All you are out is 10 bucks worth of cane, a few hours & 10$ cork grip.  Worst case you end up with a perfectly good garden stake, back scratcher or ice fishing rod.

    Easy to figure out:

    Check out these links…

    Rod Building Form

    2 Strip Quads

    If you can find a local rodmaker & score some butt strips (generally speaking most guys have a bunch of these) you can avoid the initial cost of the cane too.

    An experienced maker and the info above will shorten the learning curve & cost significantly.

    Don’t worry about perfection for the first few – just enjoy the process of learning something new.  I’m not garrison or some fantastic wood worker.  I’m just a guy that likes to scare the hell out of the occasional dumb trout and cast bamboo.  It doesn’t really need to be that complicated at first.  After a few rods you will figure out how to make this really, really complicated all on your own!

    I’d love to take a class, I think it’s a great idea – but I’m a guy with a young family and would rather negotiate a fishing trip than a cane rod making class.  (Jon Babulic)

      The butt section of a 5 wt PMQ can support my weight (200 lbs) when hung over a pipe in my basement

      Useful experiment.  Glad the pipe was also up to it.  (Steve Dugmore)

        Cast iron.

        Funny the guy that I did it for won’t lend me his Winston boron. (probably because it’s now for sale).  (Jon Babulic)

      Thanks for suggesting again the good old 2 Strip Quad.  Bill Fink and the Jersey Boys got me started this way and I think it's a great way to get into the Craft.  Nothing really necessary other than a fairly decent plane, a mic, and some clamps.  Some have even used the tonkin fence posts available at garden shops.  The most economical one I've made was $15.  All who cast the "Smithwick PMQ" agree that it is one of the nicest casting rods they have ever cast.  It's ironic because I think it was Tom hisself who coined the unfortunate moniker "Poor Man's Quad".  I always point Newbies in this direction to start out and encourage them to hang out on the List.  Sooner or later nearly all tools come up for sale cheaper than from the original supplier.

      For me, the PMQ is proof that the Deity must still hold a soft spot in his/her for the Poor Man.  Newbies, don't be put off by the name.  As Fritz Perls said: "Some of the neatest things are found In the Garbage Pail."  Anyone who wants Richard Tyree's original article can get it from me off List (plus any help I can muster).  (Darrol Groth)

        I agree with Darrol!  Tom Smithwick's taper for the PMQ is a great casting rod.  I even used a bamboo ferrule that looks horrendous but was cheap and ultimately functional.

        Funny note:  I handed Tom the rod at Grayrock (I did not get the taper from him), he cast it and immediately recognized it as his taper.  He really knows his stuff! (Matt Fuller)

          I hope he is bringing it to Canadian Cane, I’d love to see it.  Given the condition of the grand river right now it would undoubtedly be put to good use!

          Part of the charm of the PMQ is that they are so grass roots.  None of the pretense associated with cane rods and all of the performance.  I had a guy cast one of mine at a TU work day and rave about it.  A few months later he called me and said he was in the hospital recovering from a heart attack & bypass surgery and was asked by his wife what he wanted for Christmas.  He said unequivocally a cane rod made my me!  What’s amazing is this guy could have any rod he wanted for free (he fishes for a living) & he told me (before he cast it) that he really didn’t get the cane thing.  The rod he cast was the second I had made.  It was nowhere near square or strait.  The cane had been the victim of a flaming experiment gone tragically wrong.  The seat was glued on at about a 10 degree cant from strait too and I actually missed pressing one of the nodes, leaving a large bump just in front of the grip.  I suppose the story is more of a testament to the material and simplicity of this geometry than my rod making ability (which at the best of times is a bit lacking).

          I forgot about the cane ferrule thing.  Couldn’t be simpler with a PMQ & they work great.  I live in Canada so the whole ferrule thing is brutal.  50 bucks us + 20.00 shipping = is nearly 80 bucks CAD + 12% tax if bought though a shop.  Given our income tax load up here the average Canadian needs to earn 150.00 to buy one ferrule.  Brutal!

          Is the guy that’s building PMQ’s really poor or is it the other way around.  (Jon Babulic)

            You may already be doing this but I thought I would mention it.

            The last thing I do on a rod is glue the reel seat on. Put a reel in the seat and line it up with the guides. It can be done sooner but I wait till I finish the rod to do this. I have seen a number of rods with canted reel seats, doing it this way keeps that from happening. I also install the tip tops after the rod is wrapped before I apply the first coat of varnish.The tip top can be aligned perfectly with the guides.

            On the flaming experiment, I have a  4 strip Quad I forgot in the oven when heat setting the glue. I call it my "Toasted Quad" it is nice and brown.

            I have made several PMQ's with bamboo ferrules. A couple of articles in Power Fibers on how I made them. I used a thickness planer and a router. These were linear tapers.  (Tony Spezio)

              My first PMQ I built as a 1 piece 6ft rod and it is still one of my favourite rods. No ferrules required.  (Steve Dugmore)

              I “assembled” about 25 graphite rods before building my first PMQ (and ultimately hexes) and always put the reel seat on last.  I suspect with this rod last wasn’t best because I was probably one scotch past were I should have been for proper alignment. ( it may have looked fine when I put it on!

              Good tip on the tip top – I’ve never done it this way.  Probably because I started with graphite so I glued the tip on first to mark the orientation of the spine.

              I did read your articles and found them helpful.  Thanks for contributing them!!  (Jon Babulic)

          I agree.  Darrol started me out on the 2 strip quad. You learn a lot on planing techniques, etc. without much expense.  (Grant Adkins)

            Darrol got me started on Smithwick's Z98 2SQ, and I'm still building 2SQ's.  I love them, and there's so many tapers to try.  On top of everything that's been said, the 2SQ is very materials efficient.  Out of one culm of bamboo, you can make upwards of a dozen rods.  There's a lot less waste!  They look great, they fish great, they're inexpensive to build, they take less time to build, what's there to not like?  (Paul Gruver)

      Yep, Listen to Unca Darrol, he speaks the truth. He pushed me in this direction when I first started. I was able to get used to using a plane, sharpening blades, splitting, working to measurements etc. In the end I had a very fishable, nice looking PMQ that the trout didn't shun because of it's humble origins. Now, almost 30 rods later I still don't regret taking that route while I gathered tools and other stuff related to this great hobby.  (Will Price)


Bellinger has a deal for their forms and the throw in the binder with the dial indicator to boot. For someone who is just starting out would that be a way to go rather than build your own set. Maybe I am just antsy to start I picked up some boo from Mike yesterday so what do you think?  (Craig Dinsdale)

    It's hard to beat Bellinger forms.  Bob Nunley and I use them in our rod making school.  Only the forms by Jeff Wagner are as nice as those that Bellinger produce.

    Basically the price they're asking is $150 for the binder.  That's certainly a fair price.  (Harry Boyd)

    Better include Forrest Maxwell's forms in that comparison Harry. He made all Bellingers forms for years, as well as adapting the milling machine to make them, as I understand it. I have a set of his forms and they're excellent.  (Wayne Kifer)

      I didn't think about Forrest's forms.  I haven't seen them myself, but I do hear nice things about them.  (Harry Boyd)

        Yeah, that's the thing about working for someone else. They get the credit. All Bellingers forms were made by Forrest. He's responsible for Bellingers reputation for quality forms. His pricing is better as well. He dropped off my forms on the way down to the Northern Cal gathering so I was able to meet and talk with him a bit. Seems like a great guy. Just think he should get the recognition he deserves now that he's on his own.  (Wayne Kifer)

          Forrest is a talented individual.  I have a swell butt form and I recently purchased a roughing beveler which he modified the cutters on recently, no more Amana cutter; he's got a beautiful set up with carbide cutters; this rougher now can do initial roughing of strips and then once all strips are roughed a simple conversion allows you to use a pattern board to rough taper the strips.  It's amazing how close one can get tip strips rough beveled; from there a few swipes of the plane in the planing form.  (Flex)


A recent message put me in mind to send out a simple thought for the newcomers.  Get ready.... here it is....

You can make a fine rod with:

  1. a dull blade and a mallet for splitting,
  2. a file for nodes and ferrule stations,
  3. a heat gun or even an alcohol lamp for straightening,
  4. a vise for flattening,
  5. a propane torch and steel pipe for oven... or buy some duct work if you have a heat gun and make a cheap oven,
  6. a block plane with good sharp blades,
  7. some glue,
  8. some string for binding,
  9. some varnish and a bush,
  10. a fine toothed saw,
  11. some thread,
  12. ferrules, guides, reel seat,
  13. maybe some cork
  14. calipers and or dial indicator (you can use calipers to set forms with a dowel pin),
  15. planing forms which are optional if you make a PMQ.
  16. bamboo

Don't put off making a rod because you don't have a binder, or a beveler, or a sander, or a lathe, or whatever.

Read Barnes.  Make a rod.  Tomorrow.  Don't delay.  (Rick Crenshaw, simple rodmaker with few toyls.)

    I like your message, and the encouragement it can inspire. Anyone CAN do it, and the rewards are immense when you fish with your new rod... from scratch... by hand.

    However, if you have no bush available, a small shrubery will work as well. (Sorry, I know it's only a typo... I just had to...:)  (Mike St. Clair)

    This is a great post.  Perhaps it will get some of the tool hunters to "just do it!"  (Hal Manas)

    You forgot Band-Aids. ;-)  (Dave McClain)

    To those who doubt this advice, think again. I haven't been paying close attention to postings lately. I can't make rods right now, due to a bit of brain surgery, but when I could, the materials on Rick's list were all I ever used. In fact, when I took Wayne's one day course, the only item he mentioned that wasn't on the list was a scrapper plane (which is highly optional, but very nice for other purposes, so indulge yourself, if possible). If you look at the Garrison book, you'll see that his gear was essentially limited to the stuff on Rick's list (if you're going into production, of course, all bets are off). The L-N plane is a beautiful machine, but it's overkill for the hobbyist. A properly tuned Stanley will make slices that you can almost see through. Tuning takes about half an hour, and people with barely average ability can do it.

    The people on this list are remarkably helpful. After I'd built a few rods, I decided that I just had to have a 5 ft 1wt. Getting a taper was easy, but at the time, there were no commercial ferrules available. A list member made me two beautiful sets for less than his time must have been worth. Folks can be like that.

    One other thing; have a good supply of gum rubber finger cots on hand. They can be just as important as a sharp blade.  (Gary Misch)

      And Tony Spezio's First Axiom:  "Don't waste work (time and effort) on something that's going to wind up in the trash."  I always try to keep this in mind and it's saved me a lot of work.  (Darrol Groth)


I have read accounts from people claiming that a bamboo rod takes approximately 40-60 hours to complete.  How much time on average do you spend to build a rod?  Also, has the time invested decreased that much as a function of experience?  Do you work on one rod at a time from start to finish, or have a few rods in various stages of the process?  Just curious.  (Ron Delesky)

    100 hours MINIMUM,

    No Kidding!  (Vince Brannick)

    I hear that 40 to 60 hours number all the time, and I have found no reason to disabuse people of that notion. 

    On the other hand, I can build a rod in 2 weeks, working 1 to 2 hours a day, so that's no more than 20 hours, and probably a bit less.  I work from start to finish enjoying each step of the process.  Also, I don't add in drying time, since I'm not actually doing anything while I watch the glue dry....  If I were to build a rod for someone else, I'd probably ask them to give me 3 to 4 weeks, just to make sure I wasn't rushed.  (Paul Gruver)

    I would say 40-60 hours is a good average.  Experience drops the build time, first rod took me closer to 80 hours to complete. Part of it can depend on how many fancy rod building gizmos a guy has.  At this point in my rod building adventure, I do everything by hand.  No binder, rough planer and definitely no CNC planer (Mark, hint, hint, my birthday is in August).  So it probably takes me closer to the 50 hour mark.  A snotty piece of cane can add plenty of time to a build.

    Right now, I have 5 Bamboo builds in progress.  I find it is easier to do the rods in stages.  Flame, sand/press the nodes, rough plane, temper and ferrule.  It can make for boring patches.  Rod building is not a full time job for me, so I can mix things up to avoid getting burnt out on a stage.

    Worse part for me is doing anything associated with ferrules.  I do the fitting and lapping by hand.  Hate every second of that process.  Note to self:  GET A LATHE!!!!!  (Pete Emmel)

      It's sad to say, but making a rod is quite a bit faster these days without my good friend George by my side, with that unforgettable gleam in his eyes, telling me stories along the way. I'd give anything to have him back and to have it take 200 hours to make a rod again.  (Wayne Caron)

    Depends on your experience, grade of the rod being made, varnish Vs impregnated, how much automation you have in your shop etc. Some folks, especially production shops, split all their cane at one time, cook it at one time, impregnate it all at one time, then pull from the pile. Some guys have powered bevelers that turn out a taper under power. There are a lot of strategies to speed the process if you're trying to make a living at it.  (Larry Puckett)

    From splitting to the start of final planing it feels like forever.  Final planing to fishing a pleasure and no time at all.

    My first one (a 1 piece PMQ) took 7 hours total & I still fish it regularly. Started Friday night, test cast Sunday night, fished it wed night.

    Probably have spent 60 hours on building bevelers, binder’s & oven’s so that has to be considered somewhere.

    Fastest 2 piece hex – 30 hours.  Looks like crap, fishes great. (I call it a prototype)

    Longest, 70 hours. Looks great, fishes good.

    I try to get the ugly bit’s out of the way on several rods at a time.  Bite the bullet flame a few culms one night and then press nodes for all the strips another night.  The plan is to bevel several at one time, however running a router in the evening is a problem with 2 small kids, so I tend rough one at a time by hand when I have to. (Jon Babulic)

    60 hours for a two tip rod with tipping wraps, this includes making the reel seat insert. I have worked on three rods at a time but will not do that again. One rod at a time works best for me.  (Tony Spezio)

    I split planed and glued and applied about 5 coats of rubbed finish in one day.  Now I have a  question.

    How long is a piece of string?  I am not going to count the votes.  (Ralph Moon)

    For me, 80+ hours depending.  I never felt a need to rush as I'm just a hobby maker.  That includes making reel seat insert, cleaning guide feet, ferrule fitting, wraps, finishing etc.  (Neil Savage)

    Depends on how mechanized your shop may be, how efficient it step up, how many components that you build rather than buying & the quality of your cane..

    If you were to build ferrules, snake guides, agate guides, reel seats, rod bags and rod cases add lots of hours.

    I'd suspect that I take about 70 hours for a 8' 2 tip rod. Like others here, I generally got  2>5 rods on the go @ once.

    For want of something better to do, I did count one time the number of times that the cane strips were measured. Came to over 500 from start to finish.  (Don Anderson)

    It takes me at least 40 hours minimum depending on how much of the hardware I make how many tips and what kind of finish work and  wraps it could go up to 70 hours or more.  (Rick Barbato)

    If you consider that the average US lifespan is 78.06 years x 365 days x 24 hours = 683,806 hours, and if it takes say 68 hours to make a rod, we can make approximately 10,056 rods in our lifetime if we did nothing else and started rod making at birth, and never slept, ate, had s3x, etc.. (Larry Tusoni)

      Have you been hittin' your wine? Or maybe breathing too much Argon gas? Much as I enjoy making rods, sex is still quite a few places higher on the pleasure scale than making rods, even at age 62.  (Will Price)

    As far as time making a rod, it depends on the rod. A very basic rod, like my North Fork model (impregnated, not varnished) I can do in 25 to 30 hours... something exotic, like a presentation grade rod, I may take as much as 80 to 100 hours making it. Overall, I'd say 40 hours per rod is a pretty good average.

    Yes, as time goes the learning curve gets closer to a flat line and SOME time is cut out of the process, but not as much as many might think. I didn't count the hours when I first started this, but just guessing, I'd say I've cut 5 hours out of the process per rod compared to what it was 15 or so years ago. The detail work, sanding, straightening, pressing, etc, still must be done, and the more meticulous you are about it, the finer the rod will look in the end.&nbsp; Someone, and I can't remember who it was that said it, said "It takes X amount of hours to make a good rod, it only takes a few more hours to make a great rod."

    For me, I usually have somewhere between 3 and 6 rods going at the same time. That's more efficient for me, since I work this as a full time occupation. I don't have much wasted time sitting around and waiting for one process (like glue curing, varnish drying, or wraps drying).  While rod A is coming out of the varnish, I can be fitting ferrules on Rod B. While rod B is drying, I can be finish sanding the enamel off of rod C, and so on.

    Working a multi-rod process, however, does NOT cut down on the number of hours you will have in each rod. It still takes a lot of time and a lot of attention to detail to make a really good looking rod, and that doesn't shorten doing multiple rods. Also, there are certain things that it just takes time to do right that you can't cut down on no matter HOW long you've been doing it.

    Just my opinion as it pertains to my process...  (Bob Nunley)

      I am a recreational rod maker, meaning that time spent working on rods is counted as quality time, not quantified.   I work slowly.  I savor the steps, without trying to achieve completion, but rather enjoy each step. Interestingly, I actually believe the slower I work (within reason) the faster I get done. Like final planing, the more I sharpen and the smaller the "bite" the more I more I finish to my own standards.   But there are actually lots and lots of variables, like how twisted the cane is which in the worst case results in making lots of replacement strips.  It is all recreational time for me.  I have to admit that my least favorite step is lapping ferrules, though I am not tempted to pay to have it done.  I do this for my own enjoyment.

      How many hours?  Not enough. Projects can languish while I wait for weather or free time.  I spend a lot more time setting up than others might since I don't have a shop. I need to pull out all the necessary tools and equipment, and put them away at the end of each working session, since I am working on my back deck.  Thank goodness for California weather and daylight savings time, though neither effect the total number of hours.  I don't even try to count hours, though I use the 40-60 hours numbers when talking to people.  It is a convenient estimate.

      I am sure those who do this professionally are much more aware of their hours.  An other issue, which has been brought up, is technology.  Thinking about the time spent by various rodmakers without considering what machines are involved is pretty much useless. For example, I hollow build my larger rods, scalloping by hand (actually by Dremel tool.)  Per Brandon on the other hand uses a horizontal milling machine. (personal communication, for those of you who like references.)  I suspect the real advantage for him is consistent, controlled results. But I bet that step into quicker, doing it by machine.

      I tend to have 2-3 rods in various stages at any given time.  I currently am waiting to final dip one rod. (Won't set up the dip tube just for one rod.)  I just glued up an experimental (for me) tip for a second rod.  I am also soaking two replacement strips for a bad strip on a third rod, for which I just final planed 11 good strips.  (I find it convenient to advance 2 strips for each one I need to replace.  I choose best of the two and trash the other.)  And since I had a little time this evening and I am excited about a new project in design, I split the cane on yet another rod.  I only have a bundle of split strips so far, but it is already screaming to me to get done so I can see how my design experiment worked out.  For me, having things to work on while waiting for the next step is more than good.

      Oh, I should note that I am a new rodmaker, with only 13 rods completed.  That means I don't know $%@#.  Take whatever resonates in you and ignore the rest.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

        I try to keep two in process at different stages. I’m down to 60 hours per rod and don't see myself shorting this by very much. The more rods I make the more time I spend on things like cane prep as I work towards the elusive astonishing rod. I have built two to make one and I'm sure this will occur again. Anyhow I'm old and have already forgotten why I'm posting.  (Dave Wallace)

    For me:

    • It depends on how much the wind blows or how many opportunities fish occur.
    • Or time with family
    • Or reel building
    • Or flies to tie
    • Or people to introduce to fly fishing
    • Oh yes work

    But total 90 hours including just looking at what the cane and I have done together 80 years if I am lucky.

    Thanks for sharing that one week or 2 years are the same. (George Wood)


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