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I know most of the content on this lists deals with the construction of rods but how about a quick discussion on the business side of the culm so to speak.  Some questions that come to mind are:

What do the full timers do for health insurance?  You know caneman has got to have some or he would go broke buying bandaids.

How do you market your rods?  Dealer or no dealer what are the advantages and disadvantages.

What is the most common length, line weight, and action.  Do you make these in a group or one at a time?

What are some of your worst experiences dealing with customers and how did you handle it?

Has anyone that offers an inspection period have someone send a rod back that was not in the same condition as sent out?  What happened?  What do you do with the rod?

How is the market out there?

These are just a few things that come to mind.  If others have questions throw them out there.  (Pete Lawrence)

    Interesting questions that you raise.

    I am a relative newcomer to rod building (5 years, 30 rods), and regard myself primarily as a hobbyist, but like so many builders would like to sell enough rods to help finance the hobby.

    The rods that I build are well-made, no glue lines, no bamboo blemishes, accurate  as to taper within limits that I expect apply to just about everyone except the real pro's; and to continue the spirit of honesty, some of my earlier rods were not as cosmetic as  the master rodmakers' rods, nor as good as the ones I build now.

    I use mainly REC components, some Tony Young ferrules just lately; and in the rods of which I speak, Gudebrod silk. I used have a lot of problems with my guide wrapping, and that is where the cosmetics failed me a bit. That and that the varnish in my earlier rods was less than perfect.

    A year ago I decided to send a consignment of  five rods, selected across the range of lengths and weights, to the US to be sold by a dealer on my behalf.

    This dealer subsequently passed them on to another dealer, and at this date NONE has been sold. And, believe me, they are being offered cheap!

    Now these rods are not perfect in their appearance, but they are bloody good in construction, in integrity, and in quality of fittings; and I cannot bring myself to believe that in the cosmetics department that they are the worst in the US either.

    So, in one man's opinion, the market is pretty tough to nonexistent, and as far as health insurance is concerned, if this was my livelihood, I would have two options - (a) don't get sick, or (b) die quickly without amassing any expenses !

    Alan Thramer seems to me to be the man who has it best organized, and the message that comes through to me from reading everything AJ puts on the list is that this business is no different from any other, in that the man who does it professionally, reliably, and predictably will do well if he works bloody hard. The dilettante sector will do it hard.

    Just my opinion.  (Peter McKean)

      I have sold a few rods in the past and have traded some for Classics. Usually when someone wants to buy my rods for $600 (my going price) I suggest they buy an 8' or less Heddon or Granger for the same price. Now, I feel my rods are better made then both Heddon & Granger but I tell the customer that he can always sell the Classic for at least what he pays for them. If he buys my rod  and  goes to resell, he won't get half. There is a real glut of bamboo out there!  (Marty DeSapio)

    Worst prospective customer was a guy who just had to have a "custom cane rod" that I met thru the sales department at work. When he made it by the shop after I got home  from work, he looked around the garage/shop and wanted to see a few rods (I had shown him a rod that I had with me at work, he had seen another of my rods laying in the sales offices).  I showed him three rods, two blondes and a flamed.  First thing out of his mouth was that he didn't like any of the color schemes on the rods, the green was too dark, the red was not dark enough, and was not sure if the blue was blue or purple.  From there it just got worse. Next thing he wanted to know was what type of glue was used in the construction.  I said Epon 828 and Epicure 3140.  He replied " that FAA approved?"  "No" said I, "are we needing type certificates for these rods?" Another question was" do you have a smuggler rod to fit in the plane of mine?" After a few more rounds of Q and A, I told him to "get in touch with a professional builder and leave us amateurs to our tinkering..." Next morning, the sales department VP came by and wanted to know if I had made a sale.  I said "no".  Rick told me that it was probably for the best as the guy nit picked his plane to death when he took delivery of it and had flown to the factory to make his point. It was so bad that I hope never to have another sales call to the shop.

    I hope some day to meet up with him below Possum Kingdom on the Brazos and wave as I put my rod together.  (Brad Love)

    I will try to answer as best I can from my own limited experience one question at a time.

    I know most of the content on this lists deals with the construction of rods but how about a quick discussion on the business side of the culm so to speak.  Some questions that come to mind are:

    What do the full timers do for health insurance?  You know caneman has got to have some or he would go broke buying Band-Aids.

    You have to buy a lousy individual policy for a ton of money, no extras, no drug coverage, no dental or vision. Then you can listen to public employees complain about how abused they are by the system.

    How do you market your rods?  Dealer or no dealer what are the advantages and disadvantages.

    I have chosen to market my rods almost exclusively through dealers. If reputable dealers can be talked into handling your rods then you are relieved of the time and cost of marketing the rods. In exchange you will give up some control and about 25-35%. I am NOT a people person and suffer fools with extreme prejudice. IF however you have the gift of gab then you can promote and sell the rods yourself. Plan on it taking twice as long and cost twice as much to become established.

    What is the most common length, line weight, and action.  Do you make these in a group or one at a time?

    7 to 8’ 4&5 wts. Depends on my mood. Try both and see which one works best for you. You DO NOT have an infinite amount of time to spend on the rod unless you are trying to capture the extremely limited 3K market as an unknown. So, set goals and stick to it even if you go past the normal 10-11 hr day. If you cannot build a 2/2 rod up in less than 20-25 hours INCLUDING dealing with the inevitable problems you need to wait until you can.

    What are some of your worst experiences dealing with customers and how did you handle it?

    As I mentioned before the pitiable condition of the flaccid mind of the general public is a never ending source of grating irritation for me so as you might expect I am at my best when dealing with inanimate objects. I have learned to 'back' into any deal. If ANY red flags are observed then you can simply slam the deal into 'D' and go like hell.  Whatever you are promised, cut it in half, twist it 180 degrees and deduct the remaining 50% to find out what will really happen.

    Has anyone that offers an inspection period have someone send a rod back that was not in the same condition as sent out?  What happened?  What do you do with the rod?

    Of course, the number of people who are willing to take advantage of you are legion. I have had dealers, fly shops, and individuals steal the rods, especially in the start up part of my career (1980-1990).). Even receive the rods in for refinish and repair sometimes (with a different owner) Smile . refinish. hope they enjoy the rod,  after all They paid for it. The solution is easy, have a MO or a cleared check prior to sending the rod. You then have what Seinfeld called 'hand'. NO exceptions. NONE. NEVER. EVER. I almost certainly have been scammed out of more rods than you have built, it still doesn't make me feel good. It seems like there are two problem areas, one is a large number of problems from one as yet unnamed state of our Union and the second is people who have forgotten what it is like to need $500 to pay the mortgage. Imagine if you had received a flattering call from the thieving SOB who ran the bamboo magazine. If you were foolish enough to send along a rod or two for inspection then they are now gone! He probably didn't donate them to 'Toys For Tots"  but instead sold them. He even had a member facilitating this deceptive scheme, I would quickly add though that in my opinion he was an ignorant patsy and in no way participated knowingly. Irritating nonetheless.

    How is the market out there?

    Wide open for high value rods delivered on time with consistent quality. We just popped out of a dismal 6 months period when you could hardly give them away.  So make  sure that  you have 6-12 months of money to live on at all times. If you start immediately then the dealers will give you the time of day in about 4-5 years and then you can begin your meteoric rise to just above the poverty line in another 5-8 years as you build your reputation.  (AJ Thramer)

    I've been lucky enough to have sold a quite a few rods not all have been problem free and some have been problems of my own making due to inexperience of what's out there.  The classic was a batch of nodeless rods the glue failed on every one of.  One of these in particular was one sent to a guy in the US. I compounded the problems with this poor guy by sealing the tube I sent the rod in with fumes of the PVC glue used on the bottom cap still strong (I didn't smell them but they were obviously too strong anyhow) so the finish was turned to jelly by the time it got to him. I knew there was a problem with scarves within about 2 weeks of sending this rod to the guy in the US and wrote asking him to return the rod and why. He wrote to me telling me I was a crook selling him a rod with a jelly finish. He had a real rodmaker refinish it and there was no way he'd return it me in it's new condition for fear I'd keep it. If you're out there please contact me, the offer still holds though it's likely long ago been sold off.

    Anyhow, I understand the guy's feelings on this and I also think about it a lot and feel pretty bad about it all BUT I also learned the lesson that until you make a LOT of rods you shouldn't sell them because even when you think things are going well there may be something you miss and I can tell you replacing 5 rods for failed scarves knowing I'd made more than 12 that hadn't failed at all previously, some with almost constant use with the same brand is quite a shock.

    Don't ask me for details of the brand, it's not worth going into because the problem was with a local supplier who altered the mix without telling me.

    When you start it's very hard to break into the market and it's probably fair enough.

    But once you do start selling a few the problems haven't gone away either. Until you're a "name" you have to deal with people who a lot of the time don't really know what they want which is something I get a lot of.

    There are also the collectors thinking all rods will escalate in price and hopefully yours in particular and these are the hardest to please because they want to tell you what they think looks best but have your name as the maker just in case in 10 years you become a "name". These also want the very best of finishes and expect rods worth $1k more than you are offering it at.  This is a big problem and is the only point TA ever made that I agree with. If you like taking 100 hours to do the finish on a rod that's OK but sell it for more, don't sell it for the going rate of rods without a super terrific finish. It drives the prices down and expectations up which.  I know competition is said to be a good thing but there is a limit that can be sustained if you plan on hanging around. Look at any small computer retailer. You can count it's life span in months though they can give a very long warranty with much fear of having to honor it I guess.

    I've had some problems with competition white anting too, it's to be expected but it's not any help either.

    Occasionally you'll get a guy who wants a bamboo rod to use and these blokes are real honeys of which there are a lot but too few. These people quite reasonably want a decently made and finished rod but not a jewel.

    We also bring all this upon ourselves in some other ways.  Almost everything I sell from ferrules (and soon to be other goodies too) to rods is sight unseen being over the internet and some word of mouth. This implies a certain/lot amount of trust on both parties, mostly by the buyer because I have the CC details and use it to take a deposit so know if it's all OK and live in a different country most of the time to the buyer so I have to expect an approval on sight way of doing business.  I ALWAYS tell prospective buyers I make fishing rods for use. I also tell people that the only way they will get a T&T is to buy a T&T and they wont be getting one like it from me at my price in $Aust which makes the whole thing a bargain basement price in $US or what ever.  I have to say here I do think my selling rods are well made and finished, my personal rods are not terribly nice though.  There are better finished rods around but the finish is up there for the sellers.

    I do get rods returned, sometimes because the buyer wants a different color binding which is paid for by the person and while I think that's crazy it's his rod. Sometimes it's because the person simply doesn't like it for some reason, possibly he really did want a T&T and took a punt which is valid from their point of view considering it's bought sight unseen.

    I remove the name it was made for and sell it unnamed.  Almost all sell without any problems at all the exception being people who read about how good paras are but have only ever used graphite until they try their new Para 15 out and think I've sent them a rod from Hell. I really tell these blokes in great detail what a para is before taking a deposit but it still happens.  So far I've never had a rod returned for what I'd call a stupid reason.

    Basically, at first you need to like making rods and take the attitude that any you sell are a bonus to help defray costs.

    Leaving your day job and making rod making a career and not having money come in from elsewhere initially will only end in tears and it's a hard way to make money anyhow. Stacking supermarket shelves is better money though not quite as satisfying. Actually, that's not a bad allegory. Imagine the customer from hell wanting to know where the 12 oz can of baked beans with the old label can be found.  The new label isn't as good because aliens have injected an insidious toxin that makes everybody who eats it turn into TV watching open mouthed zombies and he needs to stock up because TV is getting worse by the day and that would be a fate worse than death, it has to be the old label and he wont stop pestering you until you either:

    1)      Pretend to be a deaf mute

    2)      Take him by the hand and look for it just to keep him happy

    3)      Head butt the guy good and hard and without warning so he wont get up again as you calmly walk away not looking back

    4)      Tell him the supermarket next door got all your  old stock.

    Now, this is the kind of person you deal with so often mostly at long distance rates but there are as I said also a LOT of real honeys too and they make it worth continuing because it's great to know a rod you made is making somebody who understands what it's about happy if that's what you want to do but there is no short cut unless you manage to do as AJ has and that needs a "name" which has a cost that AJ has paid.

    Bob Nunley would know how to handle the people in the supermarket, I tend to tell the ones who look like trouble to try somebody else (choice 4). If the guy arrived at my door step I'd consider either choice 2 or 3 and possibly both but in the right order, choice 1 wont work in person.  Bob must be the type who likes personal contact which is what he seems to be to me so he's probably happy with this arrangement. Having that look as if he could kill with a 4" section of cut off rod blank helps a lot I'd say [:-)] but maybe Bob will chime in here if he's read this far. I don't have too much work, I just don't want the hassle a lot of the time but it can be very satisfying if you into it more than for the money.  (Tony Young)

    This is a subject most would not touch with a ten foot pole. LOL :)) I admire anyone who was brave enough to reply. However, I have a little bit of experience trying to make it as a full -timer. I tried for a couple of years. I did really well with restorations. Made quite a bit of money. I put in almost 8 years restoring. Then one day I said, "OK time to become a maker."  I make decent rods. I would NOT say I'm the best, but I definitely don't suck.  Here is what I found: 1. THE COMPETITION IS FIERCE! 2. The only thing that sells a rod is the name on the shaft. Now, I say this with some reservation. A name should stand for something indeed. However, so should quality and skill as a maker. Often these two traits are overlooked when the customer is buying a rod. I once watched a customer chose a 1 tip rod, with no case, over one of my two tip rods with all the frills. He paid double. Why? The name. I could tell this guy really admired my work, but in the end it was the name that he bought. The first time this happens you are confused, the tenth time, you become pissed. LOL :))  3. The highest I have received for a rod is $850.  Now here is the catch: If you sell your rods too low, people think they are junk. If you sell to high, you will be criticized for asking too much. What's a good starting price? Depends who you ask. Just decide now whether you want to be considered undercutting or arrogant.  Make sure you want to work 24 hours a day. If you are really good you might sell a few. If you are average, well? You will most likely spend more than you make. Do not fool yourself here, you are in competition with the biggest makers.  So, I'll bet you are wondering if I'm still in business? Actually, not at the moment, going back to college. Working on my rod making skills for a few years and plan on returning to the business in a few years. Hopefully, I'm more prepared the next time around. (Tony Miller)

    There is a term that get tossed about - Branding - that immediate recognition of a product. Branding can be through either a word or product name or through an image. Some examples of branding are the Arches of McDonalds - or the Nike Swish - or the name Garrison or that friend of a TroutBum's in Colorado. Millions of dollars and hours of time go into creating and maintaining a Brand. For those not aware of it there is a magazine on the market called Fast Company - and a yearly event for the magazine is to have an issue - The Brand YOU. It talks of how the individuals can be seen as a labeled product and shows example people. And that is the tip of the iceberg as far as literature goes as far as developing a Brand. Harvey McKay has some great books out - Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt - Swimming With Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. Both are focused at being competitive in the market place. And that is another facet of rodmaking that isn't spoken about too often. Now not everyone has the dream - but it is another challenge and some of us do like challenges. And perhaps it might show a bit . . .. . . . . hummmm - ya think?

    I am not trying to be the expert or sage - but I remember a time in life that I woke up every morning knowing I had to sell $5000 worth of work each day - and information like this is helpful.

    Now some will say that it is a cut throat world out there - the Competition is Fierce - but hey - that is life - so how does one get their slice of the pie of rodmaking. I would first ask - how big a slice do you want???  Do you want it to be full time or just a relaxing hobby that make enough for a few extra toys in life and maybe that special trip once a year.

    Rodmaking has never been and perhaps never will be the pathway to riches? I have read as most of you have about Lyle Dickerson - and how his life was a financial challenge to pursue his dream - but some may not know this - Lyle worked for a short while at the John Whiticomb company - and upon John Sr's death there was a safe opened that contained a hundred or so Dickerson rods - John had underwrote Lyle as a friend.

    So what is the balance - a personal issue - but follow along - to establish the Branding that occurs - it takes an investment of both time and some money -  A key word in business is to survive - and most don't - that is because of the over zealous dreams of those that try it - a business takes time to establish and to make profitable - very few business owners make what they could working for someone else - so why is it that rodmaking should be any different.

    So what is the advice - as if I could lend any - two things - be a guru at rodmaking and be a guru at the area of flyfishing that you want to market your rods to. And maybe find a buddy that writes books . . .. .

    So what does one look for . . . .opportunities - Now there is this guy I know a little about - and he seems to have 'created' some opportunities for himself - the first was that he sat in his basement one night and wonder if there weren't others like him out there - so he got on the phone and started calling - first a name he was given and then another and before long he had discovered that there were a whole  bunch of others just like him - but they weren't connected - so why not connect them? - The Planing Form was created - and even though it is never mentioned in the book - Ron Barch never even owned a bamboo fly rod when the newsletter was started  - he just happened to be the fishing buddy at the time. Then there was this book - crude - but it was the first in many years - and it opened the door for others - which if you think is lessening of the first you are very wrong - the more the information the more the interest - then there were these classes - no one had really tried that before either - but they are now popular. All opportunities for Branding. Did it work? - You tell me? - My answer is this - it allowed this  . . . .guy a chance to chase the dreams he wanted in life and in doing so it met several of his lifetime goals. It worked.

    I certainly hope I am not the only one that has sat in his workshop - the Cave as I call it - fondling a newly finished rod and dreaming of the time when I would be respected by the others in the circle in which I was trying to compete - how rarely does that get spoken about here - yet I am certain it is a dream of many.

    A part that some may miss seeing is the effort and duration it takes - the leaving home on a Thursday night after work - driving for 12 - 14 hours through winter - whatever that may bring - and then reversing that trip on a Sunday afternoon to be back at work on a Monday morning - and only losing 2 nights of sleep . Remember dreams are pristine.  (Wayne Cattanach)

    The best day in my rod making career came when I shut my business down, and went back to college. It was like it hit me suddenly. Why did I want to make rods? Why did I start this? When I suddenly realized that I started making rods because I love the way rods look, and I love to fish cane, it  became clear.  It was funny, only a half of year ago I thought that my status as a rod maker depended on how much someone was willing to pay for one of my rods. Was I ever wrong, and did that change! I now could care less if someone wants to pay $2 or $2000 for one of my rods. I really overlooked what was important to me. I just made a rod for a friend of mine, guess what I charged him? Nothing. The look on his face will be payment enough. That's not to say I'm going to give all my rods away, I'm not insane.  (Tony Miller)


I'm a new person to this list and have a couple of questions to throw out to the group. I'm sure they have been answered in the past, but I haven't gotten used to how one finds items in this group... hope I don't offend anyone but here goes.

I'm wanting to get into building my own rods and hopefully at a later date start selling them. What is the best book that I can purchase to learn this fine art

How difficult is it to build ones own set of planing forms out of metal? Is there a standard set of dimensions or prints that can be used?  (Kent Ziegler)

    When I teach classes (on computers or rod building) I tell the class that if they ask any non intelligent questions I will humiliate them. It's easier to say than the old tried and true the only stupid question is the one not asked.  Generally a lot of questions are in the archives of this list. They are not easy to search but you can do it here.

    A good book is Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods by Wayne Cattanach.  His video is helpful, too!

    Forms is Thomas Penrose's web site. (Rich McGaughey)

    Welcome to the List.  The slope you've started down is slippery and treacherous indeed, my friend.  Let me address the second question first.  Most good books on making bamboo rods have nice plans for making your own metal forms.  Tom Penrose's excellent web site has great instructions as well at Tom Penrose pages  Anyone with a hint of patience can do it.  Just be sure you get them accurate.

    I've described my tastes in books before.  For my money, Wayne Cattanach's "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods" is # A.  #A1 is Jack Howells' book, "The Lovely Reed."  Both present similar information from different points of view.

    As for selling rods, I'd suggest you do as I say, not as I have done.  Like many others, I started out selling rods too quickly.  Some folks with artistic talent and an eye for aesthetic detail will be ready to sell rods after having made 20 rods.  Others who seem only interested in turning out rods as fast as possible, with no concern for detail, really ought never sell rods.  I keep my first rod on hand at all times to remind me how really bad those first rods were.

    So don't be in too big of a hurry to sell bamboo rods.  The only rod makers I know who are rich are those who inherited money, or made money in another field.   To go further with that line of thinking, I know less than a dozen people in the US who feed their families and pay health insurance off their rodmaking incomes.  There are lots of guys out there who have a small retirement or disability income of some sort who make a few bucks selling rods.  And there are even more part-time rod makers who manage to make their building obsession at least break even.  But most of us are in the shape my wife described the other day when she said, "For what you've spent making rods in the last few years you could have bought a trunk full of rods from Garrison to modern rods."  (Harry Boyd)

      I can only echo the sentiments of the good Reverend.

      Get the books, read them gather your tools and supplies to make the first rod.  Have fun, and enjoy it.

      I started just a little over 4 years ago, and the first several rods I made ended up as gifts to friends that were not that discerning in the quality of the aesthetics.  I still have some mistake rods in my basement shop. But to make a long story short, I have only been offering rods for sale for the past year.

      Me, personally I would like to live the "dream" as well as many other makers on this list of supporting my family with rodmaking efforts.  However, I have to be a realist and relegate myself to being one of those guys (or gals) that make and sell rods to supplement my income or at least pay for the toys that I collect.  I am a self professed tool junkie.  Ask Mark Wendt or Mike "Doc" Shaffer.  I am like a monkey when it comes to tools.  If I see one that I like, I have to have it.  Thank God I have an understanding wife.  She has never called me on the carpet for purchasing a tool, shotgun (another passion), bird dog or chicken feathers.

      I have a goal this year of making 36 rods.  That may sound lofty to some, but it is a goal of mine to make that number of rods, and with some of the tools I have that goal is attainable.  I don't expect to sell 36 rods, but it would be nice.  Whether I reach that goal or not will be seen.

      You have come across a great group of folks here that are more than willing to share ideas, thoughts, tips and tricks.  Enjoy our company, and let us enjoy your company on the list.  Feel free to post questions and suggestions.  We all learn new things from each other regularly.   (Joe Byrd)

    Welcome aboard, I don't think you can offend any of us, but some of us do become a little offensive from time to time, so I hope you've got thick skin.  ;^)

    Making your own forms are an act of love.  I had originally planned to purchase mine, but now having made my own, I can't see any other way to do it.  Pay particular attention to set up and make sure that your bolt holes are square and parallel.  After you screw up your first attempt at  making forms, you should be able to make a set that is very usable and that you can be proud of.  Don't be disappointed if things aren't perfect the first time.

    Selling?  Harry's right, don't rush into it.  I know I started out thinking that one day I'd like to sell (I think all of us might have fantasized about that) but I'm not certain that it will be in my lifetime.  Harry is a little more fortunate than the rest of us, since he has a job that requires only one days work  a week.  Hence, Harry has been able to advance at a little faster pace.  I do feel though that a rod shop should have two doors.  One to bring raw materials in and the other to take finished rods out.  With only one door, sooner or later, it gets a little cluttered in the shop.

    Cattanach's book is a good place to start but you'll own more then one book before it is over.  Everyone does it a little different, so don't get too hung up on making rods just like Wayne or Jack or Mr. Garrison.  Fit how you make rods to your personality, abilities and available tools.  You'll end up with a fishable rod.  You might have to tighten up on your process before selling though.   Customers expect more then just fishable.

    All of it is pretty much in the archive, but sometimes it is pretty hard to find.  Misspellings, the different names we use and abbreviations sometimes make a search of the archives difficult.  We also slip into lengthy discussions of grits from time to time which causes some clutter.  What you can't find in the archives, someone on the list can answer, so feel free to ask.  It is the duty of those of us that have had our questions answered, to answer your questions.  Once you have the answer, it will be your job to pass that on to the next newbie.

    Oh, and by the way, you are no longer a builder, you are a maker now.  (Tim Wilhelm)

    I would start with Elser and Maurer's Fundamentals of building a bamboo fly rod. This gives a very clear overview of the process, although it does not get into tool making.

    Wayne Cattanach's book Handcrafting Bamboo fly rods is a stand alone volume that has great detail and it gives you more than enough information to make your own tools.

    Jack Howell's The Lovely Reed is a wonderfully written work that ties it all together.

    Read Elser and Maurer to learn what to do, Cattanach to learn how to do it, and Howell's to understand why you do it.

    After you have read these three, read Hoagy Carmichael's book on Everett Garrison. This book is intimidating, and it was not designed to teach rodmaking. Rather, it's purpose was to carefully document how Garrison approached the craft.

    There are some other fine books that I have not yet had a chance to acquire or read. Other list members could review them for us.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      Once one is more familiar with the basic aspects of rodmaking, dont forget Ray Gould's excellent book, Constructing Cane Rods, and   Bob   Milward's  Bamboo:  Fact,  Fiction,  and  Flyrods.  (Martin-Darrell)

    Welcome to the Jungle (after closely listening to the lyrics of that Guns and Roses song, I'm a firm believer that Axel Rose must be a part time rodmaker).

    Books:  there are several.  Wayne Cattanach, who is also a list member, wrote a very comprehensive book on rodmaking.  As Harry said, so did Jack Howells.  I also enjoyed reading George Maurer and Bernie Elser's book, then name of which escapes me right now, but I have it around here somewhere.  Matter of fact, I try to collect every book that ever had anything about bamboo rodmaking in it, from the Garrison/Carmichael book to the Wise Fisherman's Encyclopedia.  You can never read enough or learn enough about this craft.  Wayne's book is a great starter, but were I you, I wouldn't jump right into Garrison's book.

    Also, pick up all you can on the history of rodmaking.  There are several good books out there that will give you an insight into the crafts history, like "Fishing rods by Divine", "Wes Jordan; Profile of a Rodmaker", "Dickerson, The man and His Rods", and any other historical reference books you can pick up on rodmaking.  I don't mean to sound snobbish, but nothing is more discouraging to those who have spent time in the craft than to hear someone say, "Yeah, I make bamboo Rods!  Who in the hell is Paul Young?" *S*

    As for your forms, yes, you can make your own, and they are not that difficult to make (well, at least the second set isn't! LOL).  Tom Penrose's site is a great place to start.  There are several places you can buy good forms.  Lon Blauvelt, Jeff Wagner, Golden Witch, etc...  All of these will serve you well, but one thing making your own will teach you is patience, and that is the most important thing you can possess when learning to make bamboo rods.

    Well, that's my 2 cents.  As I said, welcome to the list and don't be afraid to ask anything... even if McGaughey threatens to humiliate you! *S*  (Just kidding Rich).  (Bob Nunley)


How about some discussion on the pro and cons of  selling blanks.  Some questions that come to mind are.

How is it profit wise?

How does the selling of a rod made with one of your blanks effect your rep if the blank is not finished correctly but advertised with you are making it?

What is the demand currently?

Does selling blanks drive your finished rod prices down?

Do you supply instructions for finishing and support?  If so does this eat a lot of your building time up?

That looks like a good start.  (Pete Lawrence)

    I think that a blank badly finished with your name on it is not a very good idea but I think that you can show to everyone that only the blank is your work by just writing "Blank  made by .." on it.  I would not sell blanks without the finish because I think this belongs to it.  I also think that selling blank will be good for the business so people can say look at this wonderful rod I build. (Not made)  (Rainer Jagusch)

    I make blanks for people who ask for them, but I don't tell anybody that I do so. Profit wise they are great because I still buy my grips, reel seats and guides. If I don't have to buy those items that's less money I have to spend. Time wise it's not much different. Most of my time is in planing, gluing, sanding and varnishing. Wrapping on guides and gluing on a handle and reel seat is a small portion of the overall time.

    I don't sign the blanks - couldn't even if I wanted to - I don't know where the front of the handle will be when it's finished. If somebody wants to put my name on it after it's finished I ask them to write "Blank by .......' If they don't do that I won't lose any sleep over it, I wouldn't be able to prevent it anyway. Besides I'm not that famous a rod maker and probably never will be.  Most of my rods I don't sign - it's a personal preference thing, I don't like writing on my own rods that I use. But if someone really wants me to sign a rod I will.

    Instructions - Nope. Everyone I sold a blank to already knew how to wrap guides on. Support -  well... if something went wrong they know where to get me.

    Can't say much about demand, every blank I sold was to a friend or acquaintance.

    I don't charge any differently for a finished rod just because I sell blanks too. But then again I don't sell very many finished rods either.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    These are just my random, first hand opinions on  blank making.

    1. I like making rod blanks, but not ones that are earmarked to only be blanks for sale. I do sell a few because it is easier to make 3 or 4 blanks when I make a rod. I leave a few in the drying cabinet or pvc tube, and I pull them when I need the same model done. I finish them out as needed, but I can easily sell them off as blanks for someone who wants them.

    2. I impregnate the "never to be completed by me" blanks so that they will never be quite like my varnished rods. I do not sign them in any way. I simply soak them in the impregnant, fit ferrules, and lap the ferrules.

    3. I would always prefer selling a varnished complete rod over selling an impregnated blank. A blank finished out by someone else will never be like my rod. I would rather make the full $350 more for putting the handle, reel seat, varnish, and wraps on.

    4. Blank making is not as profitable as full rod making. It is sort of like trying to be a production maker. I think that the average guy is better off making fewer rods, but making better rods that they can sell for more money.

    5. This will be stupid for me to say, but I think it is harder to make an acceptable blank (especially a quad) than it is to make an acceptable rod. Try and site down a blank with no fittings and then site down the same blank when it is fit with a grip and guides. I straighten my rods against a straight edge nowadays, and even though they are straight to the edge, they never look right until the guides are added. It is some sort of parallax/optical illusion that happens when you site down a plain blank. I always feel much better about the look and feel of a rod than a blank.

    6. I do not see how it could ever help the price of finished rods to sell a blank for several hundred less. Is varnish, a reel seat, guides, and cork worth the extra $350? I do not think so. Maybe many disagree.  (Bob Maulucci)

    I sell a few blanks, but never one with my name on it.  I just don't want to take any chances on my reputation resting on someone else's finish work.  If my reputation is tarnished, I want to be the one doing the tarnishing <g>  The finish work really is the hardest part of rod making, IMHO.

    To really make it economically  worthwhile, you have to sell unvarnished, unferruled blanks.  For instance, I've got a 2/1 blank still in the string, but ready to ship that someone is paying $325 for... that's a pretty good deal for me.

    What people usually want when they ask me for a blank is similar to what Darryl H. mentioned: a varnished, ferruled blank.  When I sell them that way, they get expensive.  I ask nearly half what I get for a finished rod for those blanks.  That way folks aren't pressing me for a dozen blanks at a time.  (Harry Boyd)


I have been approached by a local fly shop to possibly sell rods thru the fly shop and was wondering what others that sell rods are doing.

The questions that I have are:

Do you allow the rods to be cast when they are displayed at the fly shop?

Do you pay the fly shop a percent of the sale or do you have a set amount that you pay them?  (Tom Peters)

    Yes, you must allow the rods to be cast, otherwise they are just wall decoration. I pay the shop 20% commission on the rods of mine they sell. This is less than most dealers, so a good deal for me, and they don't have their money tied up in the rod, a good deal for them, so it works for both parties.  (John Channer)

    Most fly shops take a percentage.

    If you don't allow them to cast your rods, your sales will be very, very, very, low.

    When working with a shop you should have a plan to deal with after-sale repairs or warranties. Discuss this with the shop. The reason for this is that your after sale actions reflect on them as well since they are selling your rods.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


While wasting time at work today, I visited a site of a bamboo rodmaker who sells rods with tapers from living rodmakers (Bob Nunley, Wayne Cattanach).

I have always believed that you should not be using tapers from living rodmakers for rods you are selling unless you have permission from the rodmaker?

Since I mostly use my own tapers now, was wondering how others felt about this.  (Scott Grady)

    I am completely new to this and honestly have no ambitions of selling but I am split on it.  I think if a person publishes the taper it is fair game but I also feel that they should have the right to put a disclaimer and that should be followed if they want it not made for profit.  (Steve Fitch)

      I wouldn't use somebody else's taper and call it that but I would copy another rod maker's taper if I liked it. I would sell it under my name. I think that by now there is a copy of pretty well any taper out there under a new or different name. Intentionally or otherwise. I doubt if any rod maker could put some kind of legal protection on his tapers anyway. Then we have the question of living or dead rod makers. Does anybody have any qualms about building a Garrison taper for a buyer. I don't but I wouldn't represent it as something else than a Garrison.  (Don Ginter)

        I don't sell the rods I make, and I think that makes a big difference.  Still I think it is important to (1) take the blame or credit for the work so I always write my name as maker on the rod. And (2) honor those who came before or stand above.  All of my rods are based on tapers from someone who is or was much more experienced than I am.  I don't write their names on the rods, but if discussing tapers I always make sure to say, for example, "It is based on a taper by Wayne Cattanach."  (Thank you, Wayne.) I get the blame for the instantiation, but hopefully Wayne gets credit for the inspiration.

        One exception, when Daryl Hayashida died, I built a version of the "Sir D" (based on a taper by Wayne Cattanach), for myself, and wrote "7' 4 wt. 'Sir D' " on the flat above my name.  It was not a copy as it was flamed and had my own wrap choices, but it was my way of honoring his passing.  It happens to be one of my favorite rods and I think of him every time I pull it out to fish my favorite small streams.

        There is more to life than money.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

        Don Wrote:  I think that by now there is a copy of pretty well any taper out there under a new or different name. Intentionally or otherwise.

        You're right... intentionally or otherwise.  Quick story (yeah, you believe that, right!!!)  Years ago, I was working on what I wanted to be the ULTIMATE 7' 4 wt taper.  Swelled butt, fast, strong... well, I made on, sent it to a very good friend of mine in NY that's well known in the fly rod world.  He told me... "Well, it's OK, but don't you think you could lighten the tip... I'll send it back. Build another one and send it to me."  This went on for what seemed forever.  It was 6 or so rods over a period of several months.  I was CONSUMED.  When I finally got it tweaked to his liking, he sent it back and sent a hand written taper on 3" measurements back to me with it.  He told me to compare the rod to that taper and call him... I did.  It was, to within a thousandths or two here and there, just like the taper on the piece of paper.  So I called him, and asked him what the taper was.  He laughed and told me that I'd spent the better part of a year "reinventing" the rod that taper represents... the Payne 98.

        So, intentionally or not, there's not much out there that we're reinventing today that hasn't been done.  Yeah, we can make predicted improvements to compensate for the difference in how lines of other eras (ie, silk) cast compared to modern day lines, but still... it's all been pretty much done.  In the "Golden Era" there were unbelievable numbers of rods and tapers being produced... there are great rods out there without having to go to the trouble to make your own tapers.  Although, I stayed the course and developed an entire line of tapers, I'm almost afraid to compare them to some of the classics to see if I spent years reinventing the wheel!

        So, copy away.  Doesn't bother me.  But put your own name on it.  Even it I came up with the numbers, I wasn't the one who sweated over it, cut my fingers to shreds, picked those little hair like bamboo splinters out of my T shirt.

        And Scott, to answer your question:  No, I wouldn't want my name on it even if they did make it a better looking rod than mine.  I want my name on my work, nobody elses, and actually don't want to put anyone else name on something I do.  I cut my reel seats like Payne did (as far as the Mortise, cut the steps like Divine), but I'm not going to say "Nunley Rod with a Divine Payne reel seat".  Sorry, they may have been the first ones to do it that way, but I'm the one busting my knuckles doing it to these rods.

        Just my take!  (Bob Nunley)

    Scott . .at least for myself  . .I have shared so  much  . .in print and otherwise . .it would be hard not to see folks using those shared tapers .. but that sentiment is mine and perhaps others might not always agree.  (Wayne Cattanach)

      I've posted a few of my tapers and don't have any problem with people using those.  There IS one thing I do have a problem with...  One of the foreign companies reproduced one of my tapers and sold it on eBay with my name written on the shaft.  The problem I had with that is that the workmanship on that rod was really bad... I don't mean marginal or "could have used a little work", I mean it was REALLY bad.  I emailed them and asked them not to put my name on the rod, and they agreed.  Really nothing I could have done about it if they had refused, but they were understanding of my point and complied with apologies attached.  (Bob Nunley)

        What if (and it’s not possible) the rods was BETTER than what you produce?  Would that change anything.  (Scott Grady)

        I have had similar experiences . .it was at the Mid West Fly Fishing Expo a few years ago . .I took the rod off the rack and examined it . .the guy selling it asked how I liked it . .I put the rod back in the rack and handed him a card . .my comment . . "They spelled the name wrong" . . talk about not getting it right.  (Wayne Cattanach)

    I wholeheartedly agree. And make sure they know you're actually peddling some rods too.

    Good to see some integrity being upheld here. Getting to be a bit rare these days I'm afraid.

    Maybe that's just my take on things. I hope so... (Jeremy Gubbins)

    That's a tough one, Scott.  With the exception of those true geniuses amongst us, I guess that we all start with a taper from some other maker.

    In my case, I built a lot of rods to the dimensions of a number of famous makers - Dickerson (first rod), Payne, Young, Cattanach, Powell, Gillum, Leonard and others.  I used always, and very religiously, put the attribution on each and every rod, on one of the flats.

    By the time I started to  build some rods for other people, though, I had firmed up some definite preferences for tapers of my choice and made a lot of very significant modifications to the original numbers; still used to put an attribution on every rod.

    Then there came a point at which the rods I was building no longer bore any close affinity with the tapers which, in a sense, spawned them.  For a while, I still used to mark them "From a taper by........"

    But I must say, in the interests of avoiding clutter on the rod shaft, I no longer attribute the parent taper, as they have developed to a point where they no longer resemble the originals any more closely than would any number of tapers plucked at random from, say, Rod DNA.

    So now, if I attempt a direct copy of another maker's taper, I still attribute that; but for the standard rods I build I just mark them with the length, weight and number of sections.

    When discussing the project with a potential buyer, though, I still tell him that the taper we are thinking about comes indirectly from a taper by, say, Garrison, rather than claim it directly as my own.  (Peter McKean)

      My take:

      When I began this "hobby" I purchased the books by Wayne, George Maurer, and Gary Howells. As you all probably know these are how to books with tapers included. None of mine have ever been sold but a few given as gifts. I have made rods from tapers from all of these books. I agree wih Bob on this matter. I put my name on the rod and will continue to do so if were ever to sell any. In each instance though, I have always told the owner whose taper I was trying to copy. I always thought, that if I sold any, I would include care and handling instructions which would include the originator of the taper that I copied. Thoughts?  (Bill Bixler)

      PS My most copied tapers are from Wayne and I too thank you for sharing.

      You said, "When discussing the project with a potential buyer, though, I still tell him that the taper we are thinking about comes indirectly from a taper by, say, Garrison, rather than claim it directly as my own."

      To me that raises another issue of just how informative to rod buyers are these descriptions, using old Masters rods, going to be in the future when a lot of the customers will have never cast one of those originals and only a couple of clones? Seems to me it might be more useful to try and develop a more universal way of describing a rod's action, rather than compare it to rod actions that more and more people are unfamiliar with.  (Bill Walters)

        I’ve given some thought to this, also.  After numerous protracted sessions of beer and brooding, I’ve decided that any rod designed specifically to duplicate a known taper should be marked as such, but even more important is inclusion of something identifying the maker of the replica.  Art students are encouraged to copy masterpieces of oil, watercolor, clay, etc., but write “Vincent” at the bottom and try selling it as an original and don’t be surprised when life suddenly gets very tough.  A copy is a copy is a copy and proper reference (and deference) should be given.  Think of it as a footnote of source following a quoted passage.

        Now, with all this attention given to tapers, what about hardware design?  Do we inscribe the inventor of the Super-Z ferrule on each homespun reproduction?  How about the first clever ape to come up with the cap and ring reel seat (who did that)?  These things are cranked out each and every day all over the globe in home shops like cookies in a kitchen and I don’t even know who(m) to assign credit to if I did feel like it.  Travel too far down this road and our rods will start looking like the credits at the ends of movies.  I never stick around for those.  (Bob Brockett)

          On another note, I think it is more of a crime to alter a taper a bit and then claim it to be your own! As I've said before "A Goodyear is a Goodyear."  (Joe Arguello)

            I think you’ve really touched on the dodgy part here.  First,  there’s the problem of semantics: how much is a bit?  Second, at what point in all that “adjusting” of a taper might one or more of the seven deadly sins kick in with sufficient force to make a body call something his or her own?  Me?  I can’t answer that one!  File that one under “Above My Pay Grade.”  However, ship me some beer and I will think about it for you.  Gratis, of course.  (Bob Brockett)

              Okay I'm going to stick my nose in here. Let's say your going to design your own taper for a fast action 7' 4 wt.  How many variables are there? How much can you change say a Dickerson 7012 and still be a fast 7' 4 wt. Consider that there is what, over 1000 rod makers out there all wanting their own taper. Consider also that even if you have your own taper. Miss a couple of stations by a couple thousandths and you haven't even made your own taper. Am I wrong here?  (Tom Kurtis)

                Consider also that even if you have your own taper. Miss a couple of stations by a couple thou and you haven't even made your own taper. Am I wrong here?

                I think you've struck the nail here.  I also think, however, it's a matter more of intention than skill.  Since I plane by hand on metal forms, I can only try and hope to be very close to target dimensions, not to mention compensating for whatever glue used, binding tension, final sanding, congenital stupidity, all that.  With my current level of skill (ha), it would be something of a minor miracle for any rod I make to end up dead nuts at  all  stations  (or  even half of them!!)...but, if what I intended to create was a Garrison 209e, then I guess I should mark it as such and sign myself as maker, so no one EVER blames the poor crippled lifeless thing on Master Garrison, as indescribably impossible as that sounds.  Am I making any sense here?  Probably not... (Bob Brockett)

    Granted that my opinion is worth exactly what you paid for it.........and that I don't and wont sell rods.

    If I buy a rod from any maker I want the signature to say, Made for Simon Reilly by........ and the makers name. I don't want some dead guys name on it.

    At the very least the dead guy was influenced by some other dead guy before him. Who knows he may even have plagiarized the first guys work anyway.

    We will never know and if we did couldn't prove it anyway.

    I ran into an old friend today on the river, the guy who sold me my first bamboo rod.  He was fishing a nice old seven foot Scottie. I showed him my Garrison 212 copy/clone/near-as-attempt, clearly marked as such.

    He was impressed by the fact that I was making my own rods and asked lots of questions about splitting versus sawing, planing versus milling and dipping versus impregnation. Having owned a tackle shop since Moses said, "I think its stopped raining." He knows a bit about fishing rods. The one part he was dismissive about was Mr. Garrisons name on the rod. He just didn't care, all he was interested in was how well it was made (OK) and how it cast (very nicely thank you).

    That's enough for me.  (Simon Reilly)


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