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Cane Prep - Sawing

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I have a question for the group. I'm getting ready to split my second rod and remember reading a few places of some builders that saw their strips after the initial splitting. I know it's said splitting follows the initial grain of the boo but in planing don't we remove that edge grain? In sawing the strips do you cross the natural flow of the grain and have grain run out in the length of the strip? Can one really tell the difference between a sawn or split rod? Anyone out there that saws their strips or am I peeing in traditional waters by even letting this thought enter my head?  (Mark Heskett)

    In my opinion, sawing the bamboo after initial splitting would just be a pain and a waste of bamboo.

    I think the issue of "grain runout " and "straightness" come into play more when the bamboo is "sawn" for a finished product, i.e. a saw beveler, which is a whole different story that could be debated at least the average life of all list members  combined ;^)  (Shawn Pineo)

      Actually, with a saw beveler you don't get grain runout unless you saw your strips.  With my beveler, you cannot tell one of my machined rods, from my hand milled rods or my hand planed rods.  A split strip will give you grain as true as the straightness of the strips. By that I mean, the line of power fibers do not run out from one edge of the strip to the other as they do if a strip is just straight sawn and pulled through a saw beveler. Where you see severe runout is from strips that are sawn straight with no regard to the way the bamboo would have split "normally".

      Does the "runout" hurt anything?  Well, although I straighten my strips rather than sawing, I have made a couple of rods on the beveler by straight sawing the strips.  What I've found is that after they're glued up they're just fine.  You can tell NO difference in the feel of a sawn rod and a split rod, however, the sawn rod does lack cosmetically quite a bit, and, before gluing, on the smaller tip strips, it's real easy to break one because the power fibers can easily run from one side of the strip to the other in only a few inches, making it easy to "split off". However, after they're glued up, they're strong, as can be evidenced by the many 50 year old HLL rods that were straight sawn, yet are still serving their owners well today.  (Bob Nunley)

    I think the main purpose for sawing is the desire to get straight (or relatively so) strips right from  the get go. IMHO, probably a better method would be use the Nunley hand-splitting method and then use a thickness planer and wooden form (see previous post by Bob M.) to square up the edges, reduces the amount of straightening required.  (Bill Walters)


About a week or so ago, somebody inquired about a jig for sawing cane.  Tonight I was looking at my copy of "The Wise Fisherman's Encyclopedia" and found plans for a pretty simple jig pictured on page 985. Looks like you could build it from two 2 by 4's if you have a table saw.  (Steve Dunn)

    Okay, I will spill beans on my latest project. I have been sawing strips, flattening nodes, soaking them and planing them out. They don't chip out on the Hand Mill so far, and they are the straightest blanks I have had in a while on thicker quad butts. (The inability to properly straighten a quad steelhead rod butt section was what gave me the impetus to try sawing). I use a table saw with a 1/8 hp Delta power stock feeder and a fence. I use a 3/32 kerf 7'5" circular saw (and a 1/16" kerf would be even better). I have made the Wise Fishermen's jig, and it is fine if you have in and out rollers (or get some help). The reason why I abandoned that jig is simply because the power feed keeps my hands far far away from the blade. It does create a good bit of waste, but not that bad. Just saw through enough to get through the outside of the culm, but leave the diaphragms in tact so the culm stays in tact. I saw into quarters and then to 8 then to 16 (plenty for quads). I have found the middle of the 12' culms to be the straightest and easiest to use. It helps to sand or file down the nodes so that the culm will glide over the table a bit easier. Not every culm will be a good candidate. You need straight culms with as little as possible variance on diameter over their length. Radical thick to thin culms do not work well because the angle caused by this gives you an uneven contact with your fence.

    You might also try this (I will soon enough). Make a jig with two spring loaded wheels that hang down from above. You can offset them so that they will guide the whole culm centered over the blade. This will also eliminate kick back from the spinning blade.  This is sort of backwards from the Leonard saw,  but it might work. I will try to post a picture of the Leonard saw for those who want to see it.

    I am hoping to have a Leonard style saw soon, but we will see. So far so good. I am only using this on experimental blanks, and not for sale rods. We will see how these strips hold up, but I am sure they will be fine.  (Bob Maulucci)


I would advise everyone to avoid sawing strips. It is not only because of run out on the strips or waste, it is for me a matter of safety and speed. Cane and saw blades are not two things I like to mix. You could easily send the bamboo flying if you mess up. It could get ugly. Spilt by hand.

I use a combination of methods. I have two vices on different tables. After splitting the whole culm into 2,  I figure out how I want to finish it off. Making quads, you really need less strips, but they need to be wide enough to make up the whole depth of the rod. Generally .350 or .4 might be needed on a bigger 5 or 6 weight. Anyway, I mark of the splits with a pencil on the end. I start the spilt with a froe and mallet at the butt end. I take the culm to the first vice which holds a thin knife, and I push the split past the first node. On bigger sections (or the first few splits) I can easily control the split all the way down. When the splits get smaller I repeat the same process, except that after getting through the first node, I move over to the other vice. I clamp the tip (far) section into the vice tightly (but not enough to crack or split the strip. It happens if you clamp down too hard). Then I take each side of the split and pull evenly with both hands away from the split/center.  If the split strays, I return the strips to the center. I then pull on the thicker side only, until the split returns on target, and then I use even pulling to finish the strip. It works just fine. I don't know how this compares to what Bob Nunley does, but I think it may be almost the same. Bob may very well have told me about this a while back. Give it a shot.  (Bob Maulucci)


I was very interested to read Ron Kusse's current missive on his techniques on The thing that interested me most was his description of how he saws his cane on a table saw instead of splitting it by hand. According to his article he splits the culm in half then presses the edge against the guide on the table saw and that allows the blade to follow the grain instead of cutting across it. I did notice from his photos that his sections are cut pretty wide and he doesn't explain how he reduces them before planing however I would guess that he uses a mill of some kind after he mills them to a constant thickness. How many other rodmakers around here follow this procedure and/or what are your thoughts on this technique? I have read that the old production shops followed this procedure. It seems to me that you'd lose a lot of cane just because of the width of the saw blade itself. However, if you're trying to turn out a bunch of rods at a time you may make up for that in volume. In reading through the bamboo archives on the same web site I found a series of articles by J.D. Wagner that debunks a lot of the current conventional wisdom of rodmaking using manual techniques instead of mechanical such as sawing the culms. Seems like a potentially interesting discussion topic or one that could lead to a lot of arguments so lets try to avoid the flames.  (Larry Puckett)

    I think you have to be careful about that interpretation. An increase in strength to weight ratio doesn't necessarily mean the strength increases.  It can mean the weight decreases, and in this case since the pith is thicker at the base, I think that is exactly what is happening. Planing away the pith should be increasing the strength to weight ratio.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I'm probably the last person that is qualified to comment on this, but it sure appears that the power fibers are more dense farther up the culm, so that would make it more than just a pith versus fibrous material thing.

      Since I build hollow with walls of .065 to .070, I sometimes wonder if a higher part on the culm wouldn't better.   I start  from the top as it is.  (Jerry Madigan)

    My question is this; after he planes the strip, how many strips does he get out of one planed strip? They look pretty wide as to accommodate more than one. And, if the strip is planed on the pith side, doesn't the natural curvature on the rind side make for a thinner thickness on the sides than in the middle? Maybe if you only get one finished strip out of a wider planed strip this wouldn't matter, but I can't imagine only one strip coming out of that wide of a strip. Maybe it's the photography.

    My other question is this; how does he temper his strips? I never saw an oven boys......

    Mega thanks to QC for sharing his shop and thoughts. I learn so much from seeing someone else’s shop.  (Eamon Lee)

    I think he is saying that the cane becomes stronger as you move from the bottom to the top of the culm.  This supports Milward’s findings also, which also means its OK to make butts from tips.  (Kyle Druey)

    Everybody who ever planed or milled strips will have their own opinion on how the "grain" of bamboo is affected during milling or planing but as far as sawing strips goes it would be wasteful as you need to make sure the strips are wide enough so you don't have problems directing them through the saw in the first place and the kerf of the saw is also a few mm which really adds up after a few strips are cut.

    I watched a video of how Hardy sawed the strips on a bench saw. The white coated guy sawing didn't look as if he was having any problems sawing at all.  (Tony Young)

      Likewise, in the new Golden Witch video, Roughing and Tapering under Power, they saw out the strips on the band saw. It looks remarkably easy, but it is not something you will do right the first few times. The benefit is that you can have exact width strips for the beveler or milling machine. That is a significant benefit to someone setting up the machines for beveling.

      For those interested in trying it out, Russ recommended a 14 TPI or more blade. It appears to me that the blade width is about 3/8 or more. Others on the list who saw have recommended a 10 TPI 3/8" wide raker tooth blade. It does indeed work very well (and I have not tried the 14 Eamon because I got that advice later and see no reason to change right now). I have found that using 1/4 culms is about the best size to handle (and this is about what Russ recommends). Obviously it depends on the size of the culm to begin with.

      When you set up the fence, it seems that you need to have a bump in the fence where the blade will be. If you try to use a long straight fence, you cannot guide the strip through. The point is to cut the strip square and of equal width, not to cut the strip straight. You are actually following the grain more or less.*** Jerry Wall of JW Fly Rods sells a great little jig that appeared in The Planing Form a while back. It uses a router bit "wheel" and a small block.

      For me, this is still a work in progress. I am no expert on it, but I have sought out advice from those who possess great skill at it, and they are telling me of its benefits first hand.

      I think that if you use a roughing beveler and/or a finishing mill that equal width strips are the way to go. ***However, because I am still working on sawing out the strips, and because my band saw is so small (9", 3/4 HP), I have continued to use split out strips. I use an 8 way Hida splitter and split to 8 and then 16. After splitting, I remove the nodes on the belt sander. I straighten strips that are really bad at the nodes. Then, I use the squaring bed of my Medved style JW Beveler to square the strips and make them of equal width (I cut on alternate sides until I get to the upper stop which I set for butt or tip sections with a test strip). This also takes out just about every problem with the nodes side to side. The strips are then perfect for beveling the 90 degrees or 60 degrees angles in. (Or even 72 degrees, Hi Bill!)

      One day, I hope to settle on one process and keep to it. Until then, I am having fun trying new stuff like sawing.  (Bob Maulucci)

      What is the name of that video?  (John Freedy)

        I wish I knew because the copy I have is poor quality. My dad was watching a show on strange and obscure crafts like bodkin making, cribbage board construction and the ins and outs of cricket bat willow tree growing. He told me he thought bamboo rodmaking would be on so he grabbed the first video cassette he found and bunged it in the machine and taped what did come on. It wasn't much and the tape he used was pretty bad. The segment ran as a short section of the show for about 15 minutes but it showed enough to see using the bench saw wasn't a problem which bandsawing is in my experience. As with all bench sawing make sure the first edge used against the fence is square and all the rest will be too. The splitter to prevent close-up past the saw was very long compared with what you'd use for ripping timber but that was the only thing that struck me as different. I've made a few strip constructed boats like canoes and rowboats and ripping Meranti and WRC into 6 mm strips is no problem, this looked the same to me.

        Personally I don't hold with the theory of grain run out in strips. There is no grain as such which is obvious to anybody who ever used the Nunley method of splitting which everybody should try before wasting their time with any other method including sawing. When you use the Nunley method you can see how easy it is to alter the way the spit is taking place just by applying more pressure to one side or the other. If there was significant grain you could not do this.

        Wood should be split for maximum strength but it does have grain but the two should not be confused.  (Tony Young)

        I recently borrowed a copy of "Mechanical Properties of Bamboo", by Jules J. A. Janssen, ISBN 0-7923-1260-0 through the interlibrary loan program.  This book is a summary of many studies of bamboo in Japan, China, and the Philippines.  One study, published in Singapore, and labeled "Anatomy 2" in this book lists 13 different bamboo species and has their fiber lengths and diameters.  Fiber lengths range from 1.36 mm to 3.78 mm, and diameters from 0.014 mm to 0.200 mm.  Another study, "Chemistry 2", performed in Taiwan, lists 6 bamboo species with fiber lengths ranging from a maximum of 6.0 mm to a minimum of 1.0 mm, with means around 2.75 mm.  Fiber diameters have mean widths of around 0.015 mm.  In a third study, "Relations between properties 1", Philippine scientists found on two different species fiber lengths of  2.5 mm and 1.8 mm,  diameters of 0.014 mm and 0.016 mm.  They noted that "the dimensions of fibers and vessels were determined after maceration in 60% glacial acetic acid and 30% hydrogen peroxide, and then shaking in 50-75% ethyl alcohol.  Dimensions were taken under a micro projector with 40X magnification.  The number of vascular bundles has been determined with 20X magnification, and 20 observations per sample."  The number of fibrovascular bundles per square mm are around 1.7 at the bottom of a culm and increasing to around 3.8 near the top, for one species, and 1.1 to 2.1 for the other.

        I believe what we normally think of as "power fibers" are actually the fibrovascular bundles mentioned above - not being a biologist, I'm merely guessing that these consist of a tube (vascule) contained a bunch of fibers.  So, it would appear that cutting through a fiber does not mechanically weaken the bamboo to any great extent, since the fibers are only a couple of millimeters long.

        While I have your attention <G>, I'll also mention that "Relations Between Properties 6" provides various properties for 6M pieces of bamboo.  The top 2M are significantly better in all stress/strain properties than the bottom 2M of the culms.  Included are Tangential bending stress, radial bending stress, compression stress, tension stress, shear stress, and cleavage.  Unit mass per volume is also better farther away from the bottom (higher unit mass per volume means more fibers and less pith).  (Claude Freaner)

          Claude, or some resident list biologist <g>

          What does all this mean -- in rodmaker-ese -- please?  (Harry Boyd)

            I would suggest it means that any "grain" that is present is so short run out cannot be an issue and that as the short fibers are all "glued" together it makes not a wit of difference as to where you plane as far as weakening the strip is concerned as the fibers (grain) is so short and the "glue" so strong cutting across these fibers in a linear plane makes no structural difference. You can split it, saw it, mill it and plane it without fear of structurally weakening the strip.  (Tony Young)

              That was my conclusion also, but as I've never yet built a bamboo rod, I wanted to let someone else say it first <G>.  Also, I should mention that none of the species listed in the studies (that I could find) mentioned Arundinaria amabilis.   The canes mentioned in the studies were all primarily used for structural purposes such as furniture, housing, scaffolding, etc., where the various mechanical properties are quite important.

              Some of the studies in the book showed the strength increase of bamboo as it dried, and I think at least one mentioned curing at elevated temperatures.  I'll have to reread the stuff and make notes.  (Claude Freaner)

                Well Claude, that is why I was interested in the information in that book. Of course, I still have not gone to the Clemson University Library to see if they have the boo - they should as we have a good Forestry Department. If - a little word with big meaning - Tonkin bamboo has similar physical fiber structure to the published data of the other bamboo's, then there may not be a reason to hand split instead of sawing. It seems to me that sawing should not have an impact on the strength and performance of the final rod.

                Another thought is that heat treating could strengthen the bond between the shorter fibers and the fibrovascular bundle, creating stronger fiber bundles and stiffening the bamboo.

                Interesting thought - maybe it is better to heat treat after taper so one would not cut into stiffened fiber bundles. Of course there are changes in geometry/dimension, but one should be able to compensate  somewhat for this factor.

                I think you are on to something here.  (Frank Paul)

                  I've taken to planing to almost finished dimensions then heat treat rather than heat treat when the splines are still a  long way from finished because I think I can tell a difference in the finished rod. I can't certain of this because it's impossible to really say due to normal variations but it is something I've come to believe of late.  (Tony Young)

          Was our beloved Tonkin Cane among the species tested and if so where did its characteristic fall in the distribution of fiber properties. Having majored in botany in college and actually been classified as a botanist in my first professional job all this discussion about cutting the power fibers has always mystified me since I've always thought they were pretty short in most plants. As indicated by the excerpts Claude sent these bamboo fibers are quite short and that is fairly normal among plants however, there are some cases where they can be quite long. For example in hemp they can range from 1-10 cm and one extreme case in the ramie plant they have been reported to reach lengths of 55 cm (about 21.6 inches). Even if you cut through a fiber I personally don't see why that would effect its structural properties. After all, it isn't like they're going to unravel if you cut though them since they are physically held together by their internal structural crosslinks. I may have to drop by the interlibrary loan desk on my way home today too.  (Larry Puckett)

            If you would, please take a look at the comparison of the Philippine bamboo and the Tonkin.  I would like to know in laymen's terms just how close they are together.

            I own a 5 acre mountain retreat in the mountains of Cebu, Philippines with plenty of bamboo on it.

            If you feel that it would be a close alternative to the Tonkin, I would like to get my mother in law to harvest a couple of poles, cut them as in nodeless and send them to me.

            I can tell you this.  The bamboo on my land looks cosmetically far more superior to anything that I have seen here in the states that is being passed off on us as Tonkin.  (Joe Byrd)

            I think the information Claude has just given us should force us to take another look at a lot of our ideas of bamboo and rods.  If the fiber length is as short as Claude informed us, the whole idea of "cutting across" power fibers is ridiculous.  Secondly it brings into question the "depth" of power fibers issue.  Without doubt the depth of the vascular bundles might be different in various culms, but it makes me think that we have been pussy footing about taking fibers off the back of a strip.  You all know and I  suspect delude yourself about how deep you go to remove nodes and depressions.  Finally I ask you:  WHAT POWER DECREED THAT TONKIN CANE WAS THE ONLY SUITABLE CANE TO BE USED FOR RODS. We use it because it ideally suits our purpose, but that does NOT mean that other types of bamboo cannot be used with success.  For a number of years all bamboo rods were made with Calcutta,  I personally know of two superb rods that are made from neither Calcutta or Tonkin.  As fine as any other rods I have seen made with Tonkin.  I also know that there have been others who have tried other varieties.  I think it is time to open our closed minds and begin to admit that there may be another holy grail out there.  If  Joe as you say, the cane on your land looks cosmetically superior to Tonkin,  I would say get a few rods built with it and let the brotherhood compare them with Tonkin rods.  Go for it!  (Ralph Moon)

              I made a rod out of Moso bamboo. The culm was 10 feet long and approximately 8 inches in diameter. The pith was hard like wood. It made an OK rod.  I still use it occasionally.  Nothing outstanding about it, but nothing terribly different from Tonkin either. Perhaps a bit slower, but that can be compensated for, maybe by making the diameter maybe 5 - 10% thicker.  Or slightly hollow building - taking a little bit off the apexes of each strip.  (Darryl Hayashida)

              I think you have made a very important observation on our 'perceived ' superiority of Tonkin cane to other varieties. It is true IMHO that there are a number of species of cane that I would not even consider bothering to split and all of them are about cosmetic and physical straightness of the culm. I think that if a culm of each of all the worlds varieties of cane were laid side by side for observation by experienced rod builders that their selection would be biased by two obvious characteristics. Those being the distance between nodes on a 12' culm and the roughness of the of the nodes. I tend to agree with those who feel that even our local, small diameter, native cane could be made into a fairly respectable rod. But the large number of nodes and their tendency to be crooked, great globular things would make the project rather more difficult However, I for (1) would enjoy splitting a culm of the ("gigantica" ?) from the Philippines.  (Don Greife)

                No need to go to the Philippines.  We've got A. gigantica growing wild all over the place here in Louisiana.

                With the methods we use, it will NOT make a decent bamboo rod.  (Harry Boyd)


I tried a friend's medium size 14 inch bandsaw this afternoon to saw strips and it worked great.  Plenty of power, thin blade, a rip fence to control the strip width.  Has anyone tried the smaller bandsaws like the Ryobi 9"?  Would the small Ryobi or Delta have enough power to saw the strips?  It would be nice to have strips that didn't require so much straightening.  We used a 4 tooth per inch blade which worked well.  (Bob McElvain)

    I have a brand new Jet 14" model that is 1 HP. It replaces my Craftsmen 9" 1/3 hp. I think you need the 1 HP to get through really thick culms/nodes. I think the 14" is essential. You will either have wander or you will burn out the little saw's motor.

    I was using a 10 TPI. blade (1/4 or 3/8) on the little one. I have been using the 3/8 6 TPI blade this week that came with the new saw. The higher TPI, the better. I think 10 TPI at 1/4 or 3/8 works pretty nicely.

    You still need to straighten, but the uniform strips are a great place to start from. Have fun.  (Bob Maulucci)

      Does your bandsaw have a fence on it... do you use something to guide the culm as it is cut or just push it through?  (Kyle Druey)

        We used a fence and because we were novices, we used a "push device" to keep the bamboo against the fence.  I am still experimenting with the pieces I cut with the bandsaw, but everything looks good.  (Bob McElvain)

    I have had a Craftsman 12 bandsaw for about 25 years and have struggled with the blades wandering. No matter what I did the wood still had to be manipulated to control the cut, even with high tensions and a 1/2 blade.

    I just bought an installed a timber wolf forged blade and it is amazing, no tension, no wander.

    After 25 years of fighting with it and making do I found that the $20 blade that was forged instead of stamped was the right answer. I cut everything with mine and bamboo is pretty thin stock so I would not worry too much about HP or size personally.  (Gordon Koppin)

      My experience has been the same as Gordon's. If the blade wonders too much and it is properly tensioned, it's probably no sharp enough.   (John Zimny)

        Another consideration is that the supports/rollers and tensioning mechanism on my 9” saw were pretty lousy, nothing like the 14” Jet. Maybe some smaller saws are better designed. Even with a new blade and proper tension (or at least the best I could manage), a good culm could stop the blade dead in its tracks. Maybe new rubber wheels would have helped, but the saw was never used enough to have that much wear. There may also be several smaller saws with better HP engines or speeds. I am not sure on this, but I can say that the differences between the 9” and 14” saw are like night and day.  (At least in my  experience with using only these particular saws).  (Bob Maulucci)

          You  might  try  a  metal  cutting  blade.   I  have  a cheap 3-wheel Black and Decker bandsaw and I have cut 1" brass rod and 1/4" aluminum sheet with it, no problem except the blade does wander.  I have also cut nominal 2" Douglas Fir on it, just takes a while to rip a 12' board that way.  (I was building a 27' sailboat at the time.)  I doubt that high horsepower is a real requirement to cut cane.  (Neil Savage)

    I use a 16" band saw, but really that's overkill and with the right blade, the 9" Ryobi will probably do just as good of a job.  I've tried every blade imaginable and I use a 3/8" wide 10 tpi raker tooth blade - cuts bamboo like butter. (Bob Nunley)

      What is "raker", is it a brand name or a tooth design?  Sounds like it might be a wider kerf blade? I am worried about the small motors on the "$100. saws".  The best for the money that I have seen is a 1/2 hp, 12 inch bandsaw made by Jet.  I think I will take some bamboo to Home Depot and Woodcraft for a saw demo of the Ryobi and the Jet. (Bob McElvain)

        Raker is a tooth design.  I'm not really sure what exactly the term means... to be honest, I bought these blades after trying many other designs, on Allen Thramer’s advice.

        I'd like a to see a picture of the salesman’s face when you carry in a chunk of cane and tell him you need to see how well his saw "cuts this stuff"!  (Bob Nunley)

          I just finished tuning my new Ryobi ($99. at Home Depot) and it cuts cane great.  I first went to Woodcraft with my bamboo and they would not demo any of their bandsaws.  This store is privately owned and the owner was afraid I would hurt somebody, he said I could "buy the saw and return it within 10 days if it didn't perform".  Home Depot is across the street and their salesman  let me try out a Rigid and the Ryobi, $450. Vs. $99.  The Ryobi with 1/3 hp motor and stock blade worked great.  I did look at Woodcraft's extensive collection of saw blades and "rake" appeared as a 10 degree slope to the cutting side of the tooth on "Hook" blades recommended for hard woods.  Two types of tooth designs, regular and hook, a hook tooth is more aggressive.

          Bamboo can be pushed through the little saw as fast as you could want.  The nodes were not even felt.  (Bob McElvain)


What about number of strips using the bandsaw?   I would imagine you might lose "one" strip per culm since removing material the thickness of the bandsaw blade per cut .  What's your thoughts and feelings on that?  Do you ever wish you had that extra strip if you'd had just "split" instead of "cut "?

Still warming up to the taste of my first rod. (have forms now etc.)  (John Silveira)

    I cut the strips pretty wide so I can use my router based beveler to straighten the strips by taking passes over each side. The benefit of the saw is that the strips are uniform when you go on to the next process. I never worry about getting more than one rod out of a culm. Don’t care. I like the added safety of wider strips.

    As a disclaimer, I want to add that I have only been using the band saw(s) for a few weeks, maybe 5 culms worth of strips. I have also tried the table saw before that. There are many more experienced listers that have been sawing much, much longer. My experiences have been going well because of their help. In other words, I am not the saw Poobah and don’t want to be. Take my advice for what it is worth.  (Bob Maulucci)


Anyone bandsawing strips? And if so, how many are you getting out of a culm?  (Jerry Andrews)

    About 14 to 18 or 20 per half culm. Maybe less, maybe more, Depends on the rod, especially the geometry, IE: quads produce less strips because the strips are wider. Regardless, the benefit is that the strips are square at the edges and uniform width which makes beveling much easier. It is also pretty fast once you are set up.  (Bob Maulucci)

    For what it's worth I'll mention what I'm doing and will probably do in the future.

    Currently I'm hand planing strips and see no reason at all to use any other method than the Nunley method as it's a very efficient way to go and you get what I would think the maximum number of strips from a culm that way. In fact I have spit strips that were too narrow to use for tips accidentally. Accidentally in that I made them too narrow because of poor estimation of the required width, the width I spit was intentional. That's pretty thin.

    However I will sooner or later be using a mill and that means changing things a bit. What I'm planing on doing is still split using the Nunley method and either truing one edge that is used to position the strip as it's milled or run the split strips through a pr of circular cutters with a 6 mm gap between to get a 6 mm wide strip.

    I've band sawed strips that were split from the culm and that worked OK but had a hell of a job bandsawing from the culm. Others can do it but I would suggest it's easier to Nunley (I think the method is well enough known and proven to coin the term "Nunley") the strips then dress the strips after.  (Tony Young)


I was wondering something today about bandsawing strips.  A peek into the archives revealed to me that the general belief is that those who bandsaw their strips successfully are those who work under power.  That is to say that they are using a beveller or mill, not hand planing.  There were, of course a couple of exceptions to this, but this seemed to be the “norm.”  The reason nearly always stated was that when hand planing sawn strips bad chipout occurs at the nodes; never mind whether bamboo has true grain or not, it chips nonetheless.

I know that there are quite a few makers that saw their strips and then taper under power, but then actually hit their final dimensions by hand (block plane, bench plane, pocket knife, whatever).  My question is do those that do this experience the same radical chipout when trying to hit their numbers?  I can’t believe that they do.  If not, why do you think that is when it is evident (according to others) that chipout will happen to sawn strips?  I have read that some saw “along the grain,” but is everyone doing this?  (Carl DiNardo)

    I made an attempt to bandsaw my strips, followed by 60 degree rough plane in a 12 inch Delta planer down to a strip width of.200/.220.  I then heat treated and tried to hand plane with a Stanley #3 and a LN block plane.  I got away from a lot of heat straightening at the nodes, BUT.  The problems were more than node chipping, anywhere the plane blade crossed the grain, cutting into the grain I got a tear.  I would have to file and sand the tear out and plane only on the opposite side of the strip.  Sometimes I could do all my planing on one side of the strip and be successful.  Sometimes the grain reversed and I had to plane in two directions.  I have a large bundle of "tomato stakes", and one finished rod made by this process.  My last rod was made with hand splitting, heat straightening and power plane.  No cross grain and the hand planing is working great.

    I think you are right, bandsawing will work if you finish the strips in a mill.  Maybe if you mill the strip down to the last .005 and finish with a scraper?  (Bob McElvain)


Well, I knew it would come to this. I've been accused of breaking tradition, AND selling the inferior rods to boot. I'm not much into the history of the bamboo rods, but I know some pretty darn good rods came from cane that were hacked up on a bandsaw of some kind. Those of you that wrote the emails in question, please think about this.

If you take a strip of split cane, square up the sides, run it through a beveler, plane it, you are not going to keep all the " side " grain or running grain anyway! It's a tapered strip! So, what's the big deal about sawing? It means you do NOT have to fight the dip at the node ( and if that dip is left in there, you'll chase it forever, and glue up a rod with a glue gap). You can straighten the dip out, but really, are you proving anything? More heat, more bending, more stressing of the cane prior to gluing, I think the evil outweighs dastardly deed on this one. Plus, it's a fishing pole! It's not riding anyone into outer space, it's a fishing pole! Just my sawed up two cents worth.  (Jerry Andrews)

    I agree with you. Never could buy into the arguments against sawing for the reasons you gave. Against tradition? Yes.... Does that make it bad? Don't think so.  (Don Schneider)


I'm bandsawing cane now, with pretty good results. That first straight strip however is a killer! Anyone out there have any shortcuts for sawing that first strip straight?  (Jerry Andrews)

    Since posting that question, I did a tad of brainstorming. I took a full culm, screwed it to a straight 2" X 4" X 8' (hard to find!) by drilling a very small hole in the culm on the extreme ends, and carefully attaching the culm to the 2" X 4 " with dry wall screws, and used the 2" X 4" up against the bandsaw fence, and ended up with a straight cut. I cut opposite the check split, and it worked out great! Then, I staggered the nodes, and cut to length for the rod I'd need, (that way, I'm not sawing 6 foot pieces, only whatever is needed), and then cut tip strips & butt strips out of those. I had two straight cuts, as when cutting the full culm in half, it gives you two good edges from which to start. The only straightening that's required now is the up and down bending of the cane, as it's straight as can be through the nodes! This will plane out without leaving voids at the nodes, and chasing those little dips that you'd have to deal with if you split. I’m no longer running the strips through the table top planer, as they are now sized, but you could still do that for good measure.

    As to sawing Vs. splitting,  when planing, you lose the grain, as you are cutting across the grain, so the rod you make from sawed cane, is not weaker. At some point, you are going to lose the grain, and plane over it, whether it's when you sawed it, or plane it, but at some point, you cannot follow the grain.  (Jerry Andrews)

      Your last paragraph is so self evident that I have never been able to understand the objections to bandsawing the culm.

      I acquired, from a garden center, some usable culms, about 8' long, and about the same quality as my apparently not famous enough carpet poles of years ago. These were for experimenting with.  Just for fun I ran the whole pole through the bandsaw, and also through the circular saw bench.  You end up, whichever machine you use, with a bit of bamboo with nice straight sides you can feed through your beveler.  Some of my British colleagues will be extremely annoyed to know that, having tested the beveler, I decided to make certain detail modifications and there the project temporarily rests.

      But I can also tell you from experience that if you have a butch enough froe you can do nearly as well.  In the sense that in the act of producing a feasibly planeable piece of cane you are going to go across a lot of, so-called, power fibers.  One of the nicest cane rods on these premises has a tip with a near disastrous piece just above the joint, and on the top too.  The so-called power fibers run at about 30 degrees off parallel.  Its a rod I sometimes abuse a bit. After 25 years it is straight and intact.

      So don't give me all this crap about maintaining the integrity of the power fibers, because the thing is a matrix within a laminate, and it really ain’t gonna make no difference. But I would still, myself, have rejected the piece!  (Robin Haywood)

      It sounds like there is no reason to split by hand unless you don't have a band saw or table saw. I have been practicing splitting by hand with some low grade culms. Then spending a lot of time making them straight.

      It makes perfect sense to use a saw. Your right when you plane the cane your basically doing the same thing a saw does??? I don't see how anyone could argue that point.  Oh, I forgot there's always someone who will find an argument!! :)

      Well, I am officially starting my first rod. The first thing I'm going to do is buy a band saw!!!!  (Bill Tagye)

        As someone who has used the bandsaw for a year now as the only way I make strips, I will make two observations.

        1. Most guys do not use the bandsaw to avoid straightening, they use it for uniform strips (which is great). The small fence gives you parallel sides, but not straight strips per se.

        2. A table saw on can is very dangerous, it can easily throw the culm right back at you, and the waste it causes is very disappointing. You can saw straight strips however, but the waste and danger seem to make it not a good choice for most makers.

        Bandsawing does follow the grain more or less, but table sawing will cut straight across the grain. Some would argue that this makes a difference, I think that you will create enough run out in planing to make this a moot point.

        I think a bandsaw is a great tool for the shop. You can even use it to rough out strips or thickness plane strips before beveling.  (Bob Maulucci)

          Ah! So its not just my crappy saw bench and deeply suspect blade that’s doing it then!  (Robin Haywood)

            Try a 14 TPI raker tooth 3/8 or 1/2" bimetal blade. Cuts like butter on my 14" Jet.  (Bob Maulucci)


Regarding the discussion on bandsawing. What size horsepower and size of bandsaw do most folks use or feel that are adequate to cut bamboo?  An interesting mind wants to know.  (Frank Paul)

    I think the blade was the most important consideration, but my Jet 14" saw does cut much better than its predecessor, a 9" Craftsmen. I would like to try the Timberwolf blades, but for now, my bimetal works fantastic. Cuts anything from rod tubes to cane perfectly. The only thing it does not like is big hunks of ebony.   (Bob Maulucci)

    I just got the Grizzly, 14" with 3/4 horse motor and with a 6 hook tooth x1/2" blade it's plenty for resawing. The price @ $375 is excellent as you get a very good fence system & a miter guide. It's a well built saw.  (Chad Wigham)

    For over a decade I have been using my little benchtop Delta three wheeler for cutting strips.  It was inexpensive, can cut thin aluminum with a proper blade, and it is easy to move around, which is an important consideration when you recognize the fact that you cannot have your band saw very close to a wall when you are cutting strips -- you need lots of room, and while you are looking for lots of room, why not just move it outside so the shop stays clean and the light is good?

    I use a skip tooth blade.  I really don't know why.  It was recommended to me for ripping (the cut that goes along with the grain.)

    By the way, I blast my culms with a star splitter that gives me twelve wide strips and perhaps nine or ten of those wide ones I band saw into halves.  I get about 19 to 22 strips per six foot culm piece.

    It does not take much of a band saw to cut bamboo.  The Delta three wheel works, but it really is a piece of crap for much else beyond roughing out reel seat fillers and making a bird house.  (Chris Lucker)


Being the tinkerer that I am I had a thought a while ago and seem to remember it being a topic a while back. I was looking at my small band saw and was wondering. Could I angle the table to 30 degrees and by reversing the cane each time get a rough 60 degrees piece to start with? Seamed it would eliminate some waste as well as speed up the roughing in of the pieces. Or am I headed for frustration?  (Jimi Genzling)

    It will work, and I have done it with success when I need a strip fast.  However, aim big, and expect a very ragged edge. I have a stick of that slick material UHWM (or whatever it is named) with a small notch in the end, and I use it to hold the strip against the fence while I push through with the other. It works, but I would not recommend  it as a  full time routine unless you need it.

    A more effective use of the bandsaw is to use it to thickness plane the strips before beveling. This saves your cutters and gives a good visual cue as to when the stop lowering the cutters in the rougher.  (Bob Maulucci)


I had some questions about how to saw the culm straight. Came up with two lines of thought.

One, attach a decently straight 2"X4" to the culm, and use the board against the bandsaw fence.

Two, Use an 8 foot or 6 foot straight edge, whatever it takes, and draw a line down the center, directly opposite the check split, with a china white marker, then simply feed it through the bandsaw, guiding it slowly to the line. Hope this helps.  (Jerry Andrews)

    Some years ago it was a couple of helpful notes from Bob Nunley and Richard Nantel that got me going on hand-splitting my bamboo strips, and I must say that I am stuffed if I can see why any part time rodbuilder would ever do it any other way.

    I, too, posted a note on hand splitting, and I  believe it is still there on Todd Talsma's Tip site.  There may well be machine production people out there who have good reasons for sawing strips, or for using some Heath-Robinsonian kind of "Beam me up Scotty" apparatus to do what is essentially a simple job, easily achievable with these things God thoughtfully provided on  the ends  of  our  thoracic  appendages,  called  "hands"  - but for one-at-a-time hobby builders,  hand splitting is quick, accurate, waste-free and easy.

    Of course, unfortunately, it lacks much opportunity to inflict wounds suitable for the workshop raconteur, but then I was never much into bleeding, especially not from my own body!

    Also, I couldn't agree more with Geert's thesis - like, how fast do you want to build these things anyway?  I have said, many times, it is called a pastime because it helps to pass the time.

    So why the hell would a person who is only just about to begin to think about getting ready to start to consider the possibility of wondering about whether to get some advice on the wisdom of contemplating the conjecture involved in making up his mind about starting on his first rod, EVER want to know about moving tool bevelers and power splitting saws, binders, wrappers etc.

    Surely there are small foothills to climb  before tackling the mountain.

    I have built about forty rods now. Some were really bloody awful, most were average,  the last dozen have been beautiful, and they are getting better.**  I still bind by hand, and still plane my strips by hand. I love it!  To me there is nothing more restful, relaxing and fulfilling after a long day in the surgery than standing at my bench watching long spirals of bamboo peel away from the Lie-Nielsen plane.

    **(Interestingly enough, the more recent rods are not necessarily better than the earlier ones, either, except for the last dozen or so.)

    I am not saying that that is necessarily the BEST way to do it, but it is not a bad way, either; and if I were ever to mechanize any part of the procedure, at least I would know what it was that I was improving.  (Peter McKean)

      I split the strips for my first rod with a 2 1/2" thin blade pocket knife and a small piece of firewood to tap it for starting splits and at the nodes.  The rest of the way, just a gentle twist was enough.  Probably not the best, but it worked.  (I didn't care if I broke the knife, it's old and worn, but I'm still carrying it.)  (Neil Savage)

      I like to tinker with ideas and see if I can make life a little bit easier for myself where I can. You see I have a slight disability and I can not do a lot of things that the rest of you do, ( like stand for any period of time, bend at the waist or stop over). My hands still work as does my brain, so I try to develop ways to increase "My" productivity without causing undue pain and discomfort. Doctors told me 9 years ago I would never walk again, I proved them wrong on that one and even though I I can't do most of the things I used to, I "Refuse" to be sedentary. I work out ideas in my brain and on paper, build them, try them out and continue. It is my hope that I can accomplish what others have only with a bit more time and in some cases, ingenuity.

      No offense taken on this end, just thought that I would clarify things and answer your "Why" question.  (Jimi Genzling)

      At last a breath of fresh air.  I have built rods for over thirty years.  I tried a few high tech routers bevelers etc. but I hated them and have always done my own splitting, planing binding and building rods. I had a student who built a 12" high planing bench in the crawl space under his floor.  As Geert said why not sit on the floor?  Everyone to his own taste, but let's call it what it is.  (Ralph Moon)

        You are right lets call it what it is "Rod Building". And lets face it if Garrison had publish that he used certain machines most rodmakers would be doing it also. Don’t get me wrong I love hand planing but one of its major drawback is there is so much time invested in a single strip when a problem does occur it can be a major undertaking to just catch up on that one strip and heaven help if 2 strips need to be replace during the process at different stages.

        The final taper is what counts when it is time to glue up a rod so that is where I use my plane it makes little difference as to how fibers are removed before this one may use a knife, file, saw, sander, hand mill, bench plane, router, cane mill. The great makers of the past have proven that and I have come to understand it also. The final product is the goal but there are many roads to get there.

        The way I look at it is each maker buys their cane, tools, books, and forms therefore they are their own boss and no one has the right to tell them how to make their rods.

        In knife making there is a movement call "Primitive" where only hand tools and fire are used to create their knives. No sanders, grinders, jigs, saws, or modern materials are used. So I guess they have the right idea.  Maybe "Primitive Rodmaking" should be the correct term for those that avoid machinery in their rodmaking.  (Adam Vigil)

          If there is truly such a thing as a primitive rod making. Should we not have to make our own planes grow our own cane or sail across the ocean and back with a few culms? I hunt with a bow. SWMBO got me a long bow a few years back. (Bambie lives) I am considered a primitive archer when I go to events held by my club. I get to shoot from a lesser distance than the other archers.  I am considered at a disadvantage because i use old school technology.  Let me say this, if one knows how to use the tools at hand they should use them.  Be it power or hand tools.

          Ruskin, a critic who condemned industry was around in 1866. Let's forget about what he said.  We now live in a mechanized world, should we not use it to our advantage.

          Let's just make rods.  Practice the craft how you see fit.  Every thing else will fall into place.  I think what we really want to do is catch fish.  We should not lose sight of that.   (Daniel Durocher)

      Many of us are indebted to you for your suggestions on splitting the easy way, and I thank you.  I'm also intrigued by your statement below.  Was there anything in particular that resulted in the "last dozen" being significantly better than the first 20+ rods?  If so, that might be as interesting to lots of us as your great splitting techniques.  (Harry Boyd)

        I think that the greatest improvement in  the appearance of my rods has been the change to dipping  and finishing the blank before ferruling or attaching the guides; with a few little details like using the leather nap on my sanding block to apply the Perfect It and Finesse It, and incorporating some (10% approximately) Penetrol in the varnish mixture, it has made a huge difference.

        Being able to attack the whole sweep of the section when polishing, as opposed to having to work in between the guides, has given me a whole new confidence in the end result.

        Of course, a year or two's extra experience and an ability to tolerate self criticism doesn't do  any harm, either.  (Peter McKean)


How exactly do you saw cane in a bandsaw.  Do you split in half, then cut the strips from the halve.  Or do you split in half, then saw in half, then saw that in half, and so on.  (Lee Orr)

    You know, as a newbie, this is something I've never understood.

    What's the big deal about splitting cane? When I built my first and only rod it all seemed to go pretty smoothly. Thus far I've been shown 4 different ways of doing it but frankly, none seems to be any better than the others and the time savings seems to be in nanoseconds.

    In fact, when I meet other bamboo folk it seems to be the first topic of discussion. IE.  "Let me show you a cool way to split cane."

    It seems to me that regardless of how you do it, the principle and physics and time is the same.  (Jim Lowe)

      That’s Right Jim!!!!! Its Just A Fishing Rod!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (Bill Tagye)

    The easiest way is to use a 4 way Hida splitter, split to 4, and then saw from there. See the upcoming Power Fibers for an article with pictures.  (Bob Maulucci)

    My method is more tedious, but I split to about 1/2"+ wide, then plane one side of each piece so it is square and running with the split/grain then saw into 1/4" pieces, (squared side against the fence) which gives me nice square sides for running thru my beveler.  (Chad Wigham)


I have recently stumbled across something that might interest those of you who bandsaw your strips.

I purchased a bigger band saw a few months ago and just added a Kreg bandsaw fence with their optional 4 ½" resaw guide. Some of you may remember that a number of years ago Bob Maulucci (whatever happened to Bob?) did an article in Power Fibers about the technique of making a fence with a "nub" the width of the bandsaw blade, and using it as a pivot point to follow the grain of the bamboo. It is a great idea that works well. This is a commercially made improvement on that concept.  

Originally I bought the Kreg for my other wood working projects, but I've started experimenting with cutting bamboo strips exactly .225 or .250 wide for my roughing mill. I found that since the face of the resaw guide is curved, or convex, placing the highest point of the face of the guide 3/8" in front of the blade works the best. I use a ½" 14 TPI raker tooth bimetal blade. I can cut strips that only require node work, and practically no straightening. It is dead on accurate, following the grain perfectly because the fence provides more surface area to work with than the "nub" design, thus provides even straighter strips. The cost for this system is about $138.00, a little more if you want the micro adjuster, which works great by the way when dealing with thousands of inch increments (for those of you who do other woodworking, their pocket hole jig is also fantastic). 

Incidentally, for those of you who are new to the idea of band sawing cane, you might be thinking why not just use a straight fence? Trust me it doesn't work, for reasons you'll figure out if you try it. That's why Bob's idea was so good.

Oh yeah, no financial interest, blah, blah, in Kreg Co.  (Tom Vagell)

    RE: cutting cane with a band saw or table saw... use a Dremel Tool to cut my cane to a practical size for tip sections. I simply hold the Dremel (tightly) with one hand and pass the cane under it.  I use a cutoff blade and it takes several passes but I end up with nicely cut/split strips.  If you get off center a little it is easy to correct and get going  down the center again.  It helps if you have a fairly steady hand.  (David Gerich)


For those who saw their strips  using a bandsaw instead of splitting, what size blade do you use?  (Greg Holland)

    I use a 1/2 in. band saw blade to cut my strips for my mill. You don't want to use anything smaller than that.  (Dave LeClair)

      What tooth count & design?  (Steve Weiss)

        If I remember right, it was an 18 teeth per inch blade, but I don't remember the pitch or rake. I will have to check and see what It is and get back to you.  (Dave LeClair)

          For those of you who saw up your own slabs into blanks for seats, what blade would you recommend for this little task? Also, sometime back there was one guys tutorial on his trails and tribulations tuning his bandsaw. I think I need to find that again. Sorry I don't recall who that was. I'm still using the piece of junk blade that came with my saw (fairly fine) and I can't cut a straight line to save my life and the saw bogs down after an inch or so of cutting. I've fiddled with the thrust bearings and guides but I think I'm just making it worse. How unusual?  (Mike Shay)

            Use any blade you have for sawing reel seat blanks but if you're out to buy one a wide one which is what you want for all rodmaking jobbies. Tooth count and rake doesn't matter unless you're sawing huge pieces of wood. As for sawing straight clamp a length of wood along the table to use as a fence. Make it about parallel to the saw blade. If the blade's dull replace it before you loose a finger trying to force wood past it.

            If the blade isn't deflecting it's probably not bearing and guides. Make height adjustments to the top guide a bit and see if that helps. Could be you have it too high up or low depending on what you're attempting. If you still can't cut it get a new blade. Read the instructions well when you put the new blade on and DON'T run it again till you have the covers back on. If you get the tension or cant wrong on the wheels the blade will fly off.  (Tony Young)

            Is the second posting on this page (see above) by Jeff Schaeffer the one you're thinking of???   (Todd Talsma)

              I had fun reading my old post! All that stuff worked, but what really made the most difference in performance was taking the new timberwolf blade off that I had installed backwards and putting it on correctly.   :)

              Trivia question: which renowned and universally loved list member also fell prey to this trap with his new bandsaw?

              The bandsaw worked, but I found that I prefer to split slightly oversized strips and square them up with homemade Medved beveler with a square bed. Man, they come out straight and you have precise control- all strips are the same size so you can do one setting on the Bellinger beveler and get them triangulated evenly in one pass.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

                Is there a prize involved?

                The answer is the Rev Boyd!  (Mike Shay)

                I'll second Jeff's splitting and router beveler approach.  I've tried the bandsaw thing but get better results splitting a little oversized and squaring them up.  I straightened and flatten the nodes before squaring them up with the beveler.  (David Bolin)

    I have done it both by splitting and using the band saw. When I get a culm that just won't steer the way I want, I use a 3/16" blade with 10 teeth per inch, it is .025" thick and works very well for me.  (Don Green)

    Use a ½” blade, 14 TPI, and do yourself a favor and pay the extra few dollars and order a bimetal blade. Those cheap blades sold at the big box stores and Sears twist and dull too easily.  (Tom Vagell)

      Sorry, I forgot to mention – I order mine raker tooth style…  (Tom Vagell)

    All this talk of band sawing strips leads me to want to know how to do it. I would assume there is a jig for this. (More Toyls.) Does anyone have pictures of how they do this?

    An interesting side note. It wasn't that long ago that sawing strips was treated as heresy. I remember many discussions on how sawing breaks power fibers and splitting preserved them.  (Rich Jezioro)

      Go to Bob Nunley’s site and look through the shop pictures.

      The jig is a block of wood with a pin. As seen on his home page.

      Maybe it still is heresy? Some rules apply for craftsmen, some for hackers.

      I enjoyed the conversation about straightening and offsetting nodes...

      For the newbies.. it's a process, you have to develop your own eventually. Everyone on this list will have some justification for the way they do it. Probably because it's the BEST way, or they wouldn't bother telling us. Every node stagger known has been used by one or the other of the major production companies. They all work. Is one better than the other, I doubt it. Do nodes have to be away from the ferrules and tip, It doesn't matter. At some level it's just a matter of craftsmanship. How do you want you your finished rod to look. (aesthetics) Same with glue lines. Personally my favorite stagger is 4x4. Someone just said that we all would agree that the nodes were the weakest part of the rod, well bunk, they are the strongest. If you mean the area around the node then yes that is true. Why, we've been there before. Heating is the greatest harm we do to nodes (a necessary evil) not the tool we use to heat or straighten, in fact doing it by hand probably requires multiple applications of heat, which probably does multiple harm.  (Jerry Foster)


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