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Cane Prep - Selection

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I have some left over 43" strips with identical node spacing.  I'd like to use them to make the butt section of a 7" 2 piece.  What's wrong with reversing every other strip butt for tip?  This will give me a perfect 3 x 3 node pattern.

Comments please.  (Dennis Bertram)

    I have done it twice before on hex rods (once for a quad), and it worked fine. I checked for a spine just in case, and could not find a real jump. The three-three should balance it out well. I would worry more if it was a 9'. Go for it.  (Bob Maulucci)

    I've done it.  It works.  It was one of the few virtually spineless rods I ever built.  (Timothy Troester)


I'm making a three piece rod.  Using the lower half of the culm for the butt section makes sense as does using the upper half for the tip section... but what about the middle section?  I was thinking of using three strips from the lower culm and three strips from the upper culm, and alternating them.  Is this a bad idea, or does it really matter?  (Kyle Druey)

    Use 6 strips from the butt. More power fibers and you will have more of these strips  to pick from.  (Marty DeSapio)

    For most three-piece rods of 8' or so, the midsection doesn't need special consideration as to strip-selection from the culm.  Larger rods, yes.  The half-dimension for the largest part of a midsection is usually no greater than the depth of the power fibers at the half-way-point of a good culm, so you're safe enough.  On the other hand, you should have plenty of cane available in the butt area of the culm to take all six strips for both your butt and your mid sections.

    Having said that, there is also no good reason why you couldn't do as you suggest -- use three strips from the butt and three from  the  tip.   The only  consideration here  would be  that node-spacing would be quite different in strips taken from the two areas of a culm.  You would need to do some "jockeying" to achieve a good staggering pattern, but I imagine you could work that out.

    In all, I wouldn't worry much about the issue unless you are building a large rod.  (Bill Harms)

      Or you could either order your culms for 3 piece rods cut to 4' lengths instead of 6' or cut your 12' culms to 4' yourself. just a thought.  (John Channer)


I was just going through my collection of half culms thinking that I might want to make a blond rod. Then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but not a one is suitable for a blond rod, or so it would seem. Are blond rods even made anymore? If they are where are you guys getting cane clear enough to make one?  (Bill Walters)

    I choose the clearest culms in my collection, then split judiciously.   I often split the tips to more than 24 strips per culm.  Butts are usually split to 18 - 24 strips.

    Then I choose the 12 best tip strips, and the 6 best butt strips.  Butt strips are the biggest worry.  In butt strips there's much more cane to show the watermarks, and on those butts the marks stick out like a sore thumb. Tips are small enough that a small cosmetic blemish isn't so obvious.  (Harry Boyd)

    I dunno, jeez!  I always regarded bamboo as a natural material whose surface would would not be perfect.  I don't mind little "blemishes" in coloration at all -- any more than I do in natural woods.  These little "blems" add character and personality, in my view.  Of course, it's true that some markings can be downright horrible in a blond rod, but otherwise I have always thought the little watermarks and so forth are rather attractive.  I never look for perfectly clear cane.

    It's a matter of taste, to be sure, but just don't assume that in order for a blond rod to be "good," it must also be perfectly clear.  (Bill Harms)

      The only 2 Leonard rods I have seen were both blond and both had more than one water mark.  FWIW  (John Channer)

    I like making blond rods, although, as you found out, the selection criteria tends to lower the number of acceptable culms quite a bit, I make noded rods only so far. I have noticed that some of the surface stains, etc. are only skin deep, so to speak, and that removal of the enamel does 'clear' things up in some cases. Blond rods can be a cosmetic challenge to say the least.  Some times when I have a culm which is a likely candidate but has some 'water' marks, I will lightly sand the offending areas with fine grit paper to see if the areas will clear up -- some do, some don't- it's all in the cards.  (Mike Shaffer)

    "Clear" is the cane we all want to see.  Arguments exist with concerns as to exactly what is clear but I think that the cleanest cane we could imagine is cane that would make a blond rod with zero visible watermarks/blemishes.

    Go to the "organic" section in a produce section to find the apples and try to find one with ZERO visible marks on it.  Bamboo is organic and its marks are inherent.  I think the job of any importer of Tonkin is to find and sell the best bamboo available.  That is all any of us can do.  Virtually blemish free bamboo does exist.  I've seen approximately 50 pieces of it while sorting through over 30,000 poles.  Seriously.  Less than two pieces per thousand.

    I hear as many stories of "the perfect cane of yesteryear" as anyone and note a few things.  First, that history is pliable.  You should hear about how good looking some of my ex girlfriends get as the years go by.  Second, companies in the business of producing cane rods may use more than one culm per finished rod; even if they only get two strips per culm they could make a rod void of blems.  Also, there is more Tonkin being farmed in southern China now than ever before.  In the 1920's, when F.A. McClure first saw and named Tonkin, there were  approximately 15,000 acres on Tonkin growing in that region.  When L. Marden went to that same area in 1972, there were over 40,000 acres of Tonkin being farmed and there are now over 70,000 of this crop grown in the same region.  When traveling through the Tonkin growing areas, I have seen a lot of Tonkin groves that look ill.  Entire hillsides of sickly looking Tonkin.  This is a commodity farm crop in a very poor region of the planet.  Many farmers will grow the bamboo without working to grow very good bamboo.  Remember that for 90% of the Tonkin market, the appearance of the pole is not important, a cheap price is what is of paramount importance to the buyers.  Thereby focusing some farmers on quantity, not quality.   More bamboo grown by eager hands equals, in my opinion, more bamboo of poor quality.

    On my fist visit to China in '97, many of the poles I inspected still had "farmer's" marks on them.  Over and over again, I found poles of very high quality and upon closer inspection, saw the same farm's mark on it (this mark is a brand, noting the farm or land from where the bamboo hails).  This farm (actually a collective of farmers from a family or village) seemed to be getting something right and was growing very nice bamboo.  Again and again, I saw the same mark on the best bamboo.  When I returned to the states, I visited a production rod company who had a large collection of bamboo from the 1930's.  Upon inspecting some of their poles, I saw one in a pile that seemed of above average quality.  I pulled it out of its pile and saw, on the lower third of the pole, that very same farm's mark!

    I do not know what causes the marks in discussion here.  I do believe that water is not the most common villain.  My theory is that most marks are scratches and bruises which occur in the first year of the bamboo's life. In this first season, the bamboo is growing very rapidly and has a very high percentage of water content, making it very pliable and prone to marking. Tonkin grows on steep, crowded and often windy hillsides, the poles get knocked around an awful lot.  When I told the Chinese that people wanted cane without marks on them they laughed and told me that perhaps they should ask their wives to knit sweaters for the bamboo growing on the hillsides to protect it (yes I considered it but we couldn't agree on a thread colour).  Once harvested, the cane is not babied; it is manhandled and striped of its branches, it is thrown down hillsides, dragged up and down rocky trails, splashed down rivers, banged around on tractors and generally treated as a commodity piece of lumber would be here in the states.  And then there are the shipping companies here on this side of the equation...

    Again, it is the job of the Tonkin importers to sell the best cane available.  "Perfect" cane is just too incredibly rare to focus our businesses on.  For me, constant input from my customers is necessary to continuously take into account what is needed from the cane I sell. "Clearness" is slightly ambiguous since so little cane is perfectly clear. Keep in close touch with your seller and let them know what you need.  (Andy Royer)

      I would add one thing to what Andy has said. The big production companies of days gone by bought this stuff by the railroad car load, with that kind of quantity you can afford to cull like crazy and pick your best bamboo for your top models.  (John Channer)

    I guess with all this feedback I'll have to reassess a few of my culms, might be able to make a blond rod after all.  Thanks for all the comments.  (Bill Walters)


In my modest collection of culms, I have encountered two that had walls that were twice as thick as what you usually see. A 1/4 inch strip was higher than it was wide. They were a pain to split, and even more challenging to bevel. The first rod built from one of these culms was a Para 15, which turned out to throw a 7 weight WF line beautifully, although this taper is rated by most makers as a 5 or 6 weight.  I do want  to note that it was one of my early rods, and I may have made it a few thousandths oversize due to "fear of going too far".

Has anyone ever encountered this? Did you reserve that culm for a heavy taper, or did you adjust the taper a bit to offset the apparent exceptional strength of the culm?  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I've had a culm or two like that over the last several years.  In fact, I'm using one right now for a couple of 8' 7 weights.

    I never really thought about adjusting the taper for the size of the culm, though it might be worth considering.  And I guess I'm too stuck in my ways to use the culm "upside-down".  (Harry Boyd)


Have any of you ever worked a rod from green cane? Is it possible to split, flatten and rough while green, and then heat treat/cure/straighten in one operation? What kind of difference would there be in the behavior of the cane if it was heat treated while green as opposed to heat treated after curing (drying).  (Shane Pinkston)

    While I haven't tried green Tonkin, I have tried fooling with local stuff that's green.  It doesn't split well.  A few days or weeks in the sun will dry that cane right out, and make it both better looking and easier to work with.  (Harry Boyd)

      I was also thinking about exercising it for a while before I cut it. By that I mean flexing it extremely in a few directions and giving it a week to heal , and repeating that process a few times. I know it's not Tonkin, but it' looks pretty choice to me. This grove has a few pieces that are large diameter, very thick walls and about 40' tall, also it feels much harder than some of the other local cane I've found.  (Shane Pinkston)

    Your green cane is probably 2 years old. It will work just fine and don't need to be seasoned before you can use it. It just don't have that bleached look which comes from the sun and aging. I've used new cane like you have and although it splits just slightly different from the old cane, the end result is still the same. After it's taken out of the oven the moisture content should be basically the same with either, unless you're splitting hairs.  (Jim Bureau)

      I was thinking of whacking some out of the forest and torturing it that day.  (Shane Pinkston)

    I have heard Mr. Demarest say on several occasions that the color of the cane has nothing to do with how dry it is. When the cane is stacked in China it is stacked like a teepee the cane on the outside gets more sun and it turns brown those on the inside do not get the sun so they stay green. To get the cane brown just put it in the sun for a few days it will turn brown. It won't necessarily be any dryer but it will be a different color.   (David Ray)


If I had a chance to personally select from a lot of bamboo culms what would I be looking for in regards to quality - how would I select good culms from not so good ones.  Is it color - somehow being able see density, stiffness, thickness,  grain?  Do most people just put in an order from Demarest and just get what they get and hope it's good?   (John Silveira)

    The very best bamboo will have the least cosmetic blemishes, with no farmer marks. This is the first thing I'd be looking for if I was sorting through a pile of bamboo. Obviously, I wouldn't want any mold or rot in the culm, nor would I want any bamboo culms that had been straightened with heat. Most bamboo simply isn't perfect in every way, and needs to be worked with in some fashion. Another check I'd make is to heft the culm. If I had a choice between two culms that are cosmetically the same and one of the culms seemed heavier then the other, I'd take the heavy one. Heavy culms are considered to have denser power fibers. You can't prove this theory me and I use every culm I buy, but many of the old masters felt this way.  (Jim Bureau)


I have started working on rod #2, 3, and 4.  On #1 I had no problems at all, no lifting nodes, chipping, nothing! other than too much single malt while trying to do some wraps.

2, 3, 4 will all be single tip rods. I have roughed out 10 of my tip strips and on three of the strips  I'm getting chips and tear outs through out the strips. They all came from the same area in the culm, so I'm thinking that this area was bad for some reason. The culm looked great, and the nodes didn't need to be pressed very much. Other than the above problems the culm looked like it was very good. It was one of Golden Witch's A grade culms.

The questions, should I just ditch the strips and use the extras that I have or try working with them? Also, how does one go about picking up on what may be causing this to happen (before I split and get to the roughing stage) in a culm that looks almost perfect, (remember I'm still new to this) or at least better than the one that I made Rod #1 out of. Third, if I use the strips, will it haunt me later?

On to a different topic. I have a cheap boo that I picked up on eBay. A fishing buddy "broke" it this past Friday after our trip. The ferrule on the tip came off in the female when he tried to take it apart. It looks to me like the maker took too much cane off when he/she put the ferrule on in the making process. I'm thinking there is no way to fix this, am I right? The cane is very dark under the ferrule, looks like it was burnt almost. Could this be from the glue used, or was this section cooked more for some reason?  (Robert Hicks)

P.S. I'm going to strip the parts off the "broken" rod and use them later. Nice components, cheap rod, it's signed and the tube was nice, but I'll not call any names. I haven't seen the name on this list, but who knows. I wouldn't want to insult anyone.

    Don't throw away those strips quite yet.  Chances are very good that your problems lie in one of three areas.  Make it four.  First, it's possible that you did not get the node pressed quite flat.  The solution?  Press it again.  Second, the node may have a serious crook to the  side where  things are  tearing out.  Solution -- straighten.  Third, your plane blade may be dull.  Solution -- sharpen.  Fourth, your blade MAY BE DULL -- sharpen <g>.

    One more thing.  Rather than rebuild that cheapie rod, why not repair it?  You'll learn some things worth knowing and wind up with your rod fishable again.  Use some hotmelt glue to reinstall the ferrule, and use a ferrule puller to disassemble the rod.  Then remove the ferrules and mount them correctly, etc.  (Harry Boyd)

    No need to chuck those strips, I have found this problem when I was rough planing dry strips . As Harry said, your blade may not be sharp but if it is, here are a few things you can do. Check the throat opening on your plane. If it is too wide, it will lift the bamboo. Soak the strips for several days and try planing again. There will be a big difference. If you prefer not to soak don't. You can also try planing from tip to butt till it cleans up.  If the lifting is only on one side, plane the good side till you get it smooth, flip the bad side up, move up the form and plane as above. I assume you are planing the final taper. Move the strip down to form to a wider area than the finish size, finish the good side as you would the final taper. Move the strip up the form, still larger than finish size.

    Scrape the bad areas with a single edge razor blade till the area is lower than the rest of the surface. Hold the blade between your thumb and first finger. As you scrape let the blade flip back and forth in a scraping motion. When you plane that surface the plane blade will pass over the dip in the surface and not lift any bamboo. Keep working up the form till finish taper. The strip can then be finished with a scraper or single edge razor blades. I prefer the razor blade.  Scrape till you are scraping the metal form. Flip the strip and scrape the other side If you have already scraped the enamel side, the strip will be ready to glue. If you have chipped the strips too deep that they will have dips in the finished strip I would not chuck them, there will be smaller rods you might be making later on. I am not cheap, just frugal. LOL  (Tony Spezio)


Is the infamous pre-embargo cane any better than what we get "off the rack?" And if it is, why? Also, how long should cane season before it's at it's optimal condition for rod making? And, doesn't heat treating serve to make up for the lack of seasoning, IE: kiln drying wood? Is the difference appreciable in rod making?  (Eamon Lee)

    Remember - The Following is Opinion and Only That - I have had access to a pile of pre embargo cane - and the observations are this - the longest lengths I have seen are - about 8' - which would add some challenge to completing one rod per culm - the pile I saw was from just after WW II - and there were some qualities that you won't see today - in those days Tonkin for rodmaking in china was a much larger market - and the Importer (the Demarests) had more leverage than what they have today with the reduced quantities that they import - the pre embargo cane was allowed to grow for a couple more years - which allowed it to produce a bit deeper power fibers - which may be a moot point considering the usage - remember that ALL rods were made of bamboo in those days - and it took a piece of cane with deeper power fibers to make a tuna rod then than it does today to make a trout tod - the aging I feel is not an issue - proper storage in more of a factor than the longevity of storage - remember that at a certain point the moisture level stabilizes - that varies from locale to locale - I suspect that no matter how much is written - that the Myst will continue - but finding the pre embargo would be almost impossible for most - with the only remaining holdings kept very secure - Gee - how many have seen a piece of Tonkin that is 3 1/2 " at the butt???? They do exist - but  . .  . rare.  (Wayne Cattanach)

    I would agree with Wayne on this one, but take it a step further.  I think the quality of pre-embargo cane took on mythic proportions only because of the difference between it and what we got right after the embargo was lifted.  Basically, though, while pre-embargo cane is wonderful stuff, I really doubt that it's any better than what we are getting now (except for building Wayne's tuna rods).

    I still have a dozen or so half-culms of pre-embargo cane that came from the old Sewell Dunton operation.  Originally, I had a pickup truck full of the stuff, but much had to be discarded because of worm holes, scrapings, mold,  grotesque twists, forced-bending injuries and other problems.  I don't have any way of knowing whether my supply was typical or not, but if it was, the quality control of today's cane is far, far superior.  Among the culms that are good, they are very, very good.  But they are not better than the best coming from our present supplies.

    As to the "curing" process, I doubt that pre-embargo cane has any significant advantage over one's contemporary "stash," since it's doubtful that there would be any measurable changes in the internal structure after the first couple years or so of air-drying (perhaps even less time).  And subsequent flaming and/or heat treatment would surely be a great "leveler" in the comparisons of old-to-new cane anyhow.

    So, don't go all orgasmic over pre-embargo cane; it wasn't THAT wonderful.  (Bill Harms)

      Even with what you and Wayne have said, there is enough allure to the stuff  that I  think all  of us  would like  to  make  one  rod  from pre-embargo cane.  If it is for no other reason then to say we did.  (Tim Wilhelm)

        Well, sure!  Why not?  Nostalgia is a powerful nostrum in our hobby, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that!  (Bill Harms)

    I have a small stash (nine culms) of pre embargo bamboo.  There are two things that strike you when you look at it.  First, all the culms are at least 2" diameter, with one about 3".  Second, the culms have darkened slightly to a honey color from aging, and not unlike heat treating would produce. I've only made one rod from it for a customer and at the time I didn't think it's action was much different from another with the same taper.  I'm saving the culms for the next big rod I make, say a #8, or #9, mainly because of their size.  (Ted Knott)

    I have five culms of pre-embargo cane remaining from a bundle I got from Dunton in the early 60's. It's been in dry attic storage and looks OK. This is not the 3 inch diameter stuff described on the list. By the 60's Sewell was saving that class of cane. Mine are 1 1/2 inch diameter, and 6 feet in length. The rods I made from this lot are still performing well.  (Bill Fink)


I did not find this until the straightening process so the lengths for the rod are already cut, but I have an internodal area that is pliable without the addition of heat.  In other words I can simply grasp the section firmly in each hand and straighten, period.  While this is nice as far as simplicity and finger burning goes, I know that most consider this a bad spot in the cane and should not be used.  My question is one with many facets.  First of all I would like to know if anyone knows what is happening in the plant that causes these spots.  Second, is this something that is permanent?  Will the application of heat serve to make the spot not just more rigid, but also something approaching similar to the rest of the spline when heat treated?  Do you feel that I should go ahead and plane out the rod in the interest of discovery in how it will be affected or should I simply cut it off (it is in the very butt of the tip sections) and go for that 6’6” 2 wt. I have on my to do list?  Is there a sacred cow here that needs a good shove, or is this one genuine.  This kind of thing worries me deeply.   (Carl DiNardo)

    I think everyone who's careful about checking their strips before planing has had this experience at one time or another.  It is something of a mystery why this occurs in an otherwise healthy looking culm, but happen it does.  To the best of my knowledge, there's nothing that can be done with such a culm.  I've tried different heat-treating regimens, but have had no success in "resurrecting" the affected area.  (Typically, it's an entire internodal area, and also, typically, only one.)  Unfortunately, if you go ahead and build with this cane, you will almost certainly have a ruined rod.  But,  as you say, "in the interests of discovery," you might go ahead and see what happens.  There's nothing like one's own experience.  (Bill Harms)

    Just last month I made a Dickerson taper 7613 for a fellow. I test cast it and it was a just a piece of junk. Mic'ed the blank and no problems. Cast it again and it was worse than I remembered. Behaved a bit like a para which it really aughtn't have but not para enough to be useful.

    Basically junk.

    When I took the butt from the string I noticed the butt was a bit wimpish but made the mistake of finishing it. When the results were so poor initially I thought it may have been old UF that had failed so I performed an autopsy but the glue held so well all I did was break the rod up trying to get to the bottom of the problem. The tips are fine but the butt has no guts to it. The problem appears to have been weak bamboo just beneath one of the nodes and as the strips are matched this weakness is all round the rod in two places along the length where the nodes match up on the bank following the pattern.

    Makes me think the old guys who randomly placed nodes weren't just being slack, they thought it didn't matter and avoided the chance of matching weak spots like this.  (Tony Young)

      I check each strip as use it. Each strip gets the bend test several times as the work on each strip progresses. I have found that when a weak spot shows up, strips from the same culm show the same weak spot. So far I have been able to trim out the weak spots and use most of the culm, usually for the shorter sections on multi piece rods, or just sliding up or down on the culm and trim out the weak spot completely.  You do have to be willing to toss out strips or even culms. It's not worth completing a rod with bad strips.  (Darryl Hayashida)


Those of you who responded will remember Wayne Caron's first rod, a rod with workmanship surpassed by few, that broke at the ferrule, not once but twice. Wayne made his first rod at my shop. A wide range of possible reasons for the failures were suggested, but after minimal testing, we decided it was a poor piece of recently purchased bamboo. Visual inspection said it was fine. After the breaks we prepared two identical test strips, one from the new bamboo and one from an old supply of mine. Simple deflection tests with varying weights showed the new bamboo did not compare favorably with the older sample. The strips were tested to failure. The new broke square across with only minor splintering of the bamboo. The older  splintered several inches as I would expect good bamboo to do.

The second indication developed as I continued with the six strip nodeless trirod, written up in the last Planing Form. After the forms were made, theory still prevailed, especially concerning whether or not it would be possible to glue up the strip section of the rod. A tip was constructed and the results surpassed my expectations and those of several others who visit the shop frequently. Since that top was made with random pieces of bamboo left over from other rods, it seemed advisable to have two tips for that first six strip trirod.

A culm of bamboo, purchased four or five years ago and stored in our attic was visually selected. It was heavy, appeared to have a good supply of outside fibers and proved to be straight grained.

The only thing that might have provided a clue to its true quality came when straightening individual nodeless strips before gluing them back together. At times it seemed less heat was required to straighten the strips than usual. At others it seemed only imagination.

One other possible clue was missed during selection. A substantial "dent" was evident near the butt end of the culm but at that point was viewed simply as the result of straightening the entire culm when first cut.

After all the strips for both the butt and tip of the rod were reassembled, ready for finish planing, one had a decided bow. For some unknown reason, I picked that one up, applied a bit of pressure, without heating and the strip easily straightened. There was no spring back as would ordinarily occur under those conditions. The strip remained as straight as when I applied the pressure.

Checking the other strips revealed the same condition although to a somewhat lesser degree, so it was back to square one. Luckily the discovery was made early in making the new rod.

As an experiment, one of the reassembled strips was tempered again. It may have slightly increased the stiffness of the bamboo but did little to improve the Tight Bond II joints.  (George Barnes)


I live in Nashville and began making rods this past winter.  A few days ago I split some strips, cut to length, and pressed nodes or straightened modestly with heat gun. I am making a 6'3" 3 piece blonde rod.  I flexed each strip to make sure that they were springy and not taking a set. I returned to the strips today and began to plane.  After 4 strips I realized that every strip (except one) was taking a bend and not springing back to shape when I flexed it.  A couple of strips could bend in half without breaking.  The humidity today in Nashville is oppressive, 84 to 100 percent (often raining).  My workshop is inside, entry through a built-in garage that is humid, but without air conditioning, so it is quite humid even if the temperature is around 80 in the workshop but 92 outside.

Might humidity be the cause of the problem with the cane?  I'll try bringing the strips inside to see what happens, but I would be interested in other options, too.  I thought about leaving in the oven at very low 110 degree heat, but I lack confidence in leaving a homemade oven unattended.  (Paul Franklyn)

    Humidity is a part of the problem, but not all of it. You must keep the humidity out of your unfinished wood -- which means strips, planed strips, glued sections, and treated culms. I built an 8-foot plus tall cabinet.  You'll need 6 feet at least,  even for 2-piece rods, because you'll need space to hang things, etc. I hung my glued sections, as well as finished strips, from close pins (and you'll find, that merely under their weight, in the cabinet, some straightening will transpire). I insulated the cabinet, and its doors were relatively tight. The heat of a light bulb in the bottom of the cabinet should keep everything inside warm enough to drive off humidity. But that won't solve your problems.

    None of those strips in my cabinet were straightened. I final straightened glued-up sections with a special apparatus. Typical methods of straightening nodes substantially damages the strength of the nodes. But proper technique does not require straightened nodes, and since, in the natural cane, the node is actually the strongest part, why take any risks with it, when in fact the contiguous fibers between the nodes terminate there, and are only attached to the section above or below by their enlarged ends? Does it not stand to reason, if not experience, that rearranging the structure of that node then will damage it? It is not plastic. Its geometry can only be rearranged by damaging it --  you break down the structure between the bulbous, attaching, overlapping terminal ends of the fibers.

    So how you build a straight rod comes down to your gluing technique. What happens when you glue that section up is, side R (right) is longer than side L (left), comprising a curve from left to right in that strip of a given subsection of the assembly. When you took that strip from the culm, the one opposed to it should be taken from the adjacent position in the culm (next to it). Thus its set is virtually exactly opposite, on the opposite side of the rod.

    When you glue the rod together then, twists or bending of those strips is taken out of the glued section by twisting, and your binding method therefore must both apply enough pressure to hold those strips however you have to bend them, and give you adequate indications (light-reflection-wise) to do this right.

    You must glue up the sections as close as you can to straight. The flats will be straight, because the twisting you do to take out the curvature of the opposing strips will straighten them!

    Anyway, that's how an old rectangular builder I know straightened some of the toughest strips (widest flats) you could ever come up against. I might add, that particularly to straighten such a wide strip, would have been particularly damaging to it.  (Mike Montagne)

      I'm somewhat less than convinced about the need to keep cane free from humidity throughout the building process.  If the cane is truly good at the start,  it will remain so at the end, and whatever "limpness" may develop in the meantime can be reversed prior to binding.  In addition to one's heat treating regimen (which dries the strips to a rather extreme degree), it's certainly an easy matter to pop the cane in an oven shortly before gluing.  But apart from that, I don't know that there's much to worry about.

      Once our heat-treating process has driven off the so-called "bound water" within cellular structures, those cells become sealed and that form of moisture will not return.  On the other hand, the "free water" (moisture located between and amongst the cells) will always come and go as the ambient humidity changes, and there's not much we can do about that, either during or after construction.

      We can keep our cane super-dry, but to what end?  As soon as the cane is returned to a natural environment it will adjust to ambient humidity regardless of our efforts to prevent the process, and this remains the case even after a rod has received its final finish.  Impregnation changes that picture, of course, but otherwise, none of our finishes can do more than retard that inevitable "breathing" process.  So, all our fastidious efforts to keep strips super dry during the construction process are really for naught.

      Certainly, selecting strips from opposite sides of the natural culm does no harm, if one feels like mucking about with that, but I doubt that this really addresses the cause of a crooked rod section.  I believe more problems result from our binders and the string itself than from any other single cause.  Despite our best efforts, the wrapping process itself often induces twists and bends, and even the best wrapping machine is not perfect.

      In addition to inadvertent problems of uneven tension, string itself is not an absolutely uniform material and it will dry and shrink at unpredictable rates.  As we've all seen, a perfectly straight section will often show bends and twists upon curing that were not there before.  Probably, we'll never know for certain, but I do not believe this is caused by individual strips wanting to resume their natural shapes, but rather by the many vagaries of the binding process itself.

      After a section has cured, minor bends can be removed, but sometimes the more serious ones are likely to return.  One preventive measure is to "slap" freshly bound sections repeatedly on the bench, though this takes some practice.  Another method is to roll out each of the flats with firm pressure, using one of those little wallpaper seam rollers.  Still another technique is to remove the string carefully from each section as soon as the glue is set, but well before it cures.  I do all three, and while I'll often have a minor bend to remove later, I've never had a rod stubbornly resume that shape.

      Different strokes for different folks.  (Bill Harms)

        As an amateur rodmaker, I am mentally challenged as to the effect of humidity on the strips. But some of us who use the MHM  soak the strips for days before planning with no adverse affect on the rod. I soak and rough plane, then heat treat and soak again before planning to final dimensions. Also, depending on the adhesive I use, sometimes I will spray the strips with water before gluing.  Works for me.  (Larry Fraysier)

          I think that this problem is a real one that supports the need of the drying cabinet. I always maintain my rods in process in any stage into my DC. (Marcelo Calviello)

          If you measure the damp strips immediately after final planing, then again after a week or two, you'll find that they will be slightly smaller when dry. If you are copying the taper for another rod, you may find that yours will use a line size smaller. Shrinkage of .002" - .003" on a strip will definitely affect the line size.  (Ron Grantham)

            Yes, that's true. I didn't mention that I do allow for the shrinkage in the final planing. Just wanted to indicate how much humidity that the strips were subjected to in the process of making the rod.  (Larry Fraysier)

        I wonder if even impregnating keeps free moisture out of the cane. I'm sure it would slow the process, but I know fiberglass boats absorb moisture (my canoe must weigh 50 pounds more in the Fall than it does in the Spring.)  If the impregnating went all the way through, maybe, but maybe not even then.  Has anyone ever done a study on this?  (Neil Savage)

        I don't have time to argue with you, and neither am I convinced that any part of the cane is somehow rendered absolutely impervious to water absorption. But I'll say this. I've never had a rod take a set; and I'll stand by the principles, not as you stated them, but as I did, of placing adjacent strips on opposite sides of the section. Again, twisting at glue-up will make that section straight; and you don't have to worry about all this other stuff. Moreover, consistent humidity (when working with wood), as is consistent temperature (when working with any material), is merely conducive to good practice -- even just measuring your work. I hold it dear to adopt good practice. So it is no matter of different strokes for different folks for me. When I see the better practice, I don't resist it.  (Mike Montagne)

          Yes, of course consistent heat and humidity are best.  But I thought we were discussing the need to keep one's cane particularly dry.

          And if you obtain good results from taking strips from alternating sides of a culm, or to twist your  glued sections, there's certainly no reason not to continue doing so.  These practices do not, however, necessarily constitute "good practice" to the exclusion of others (nor become particularly compelling) just because you prefer them.

          Sorry to have offended you, but there are a great number of superb builders out here with other practices.  (Bill Harms)

            I've been making rods for less then 10 years and haven't built several hundred like the two of you have, but I've been able to figure out that any of the accepted node patterns will give excellent results. If there was any node pattern that would have kept sets from happening  I'm sure that the major manufactures of the past would have quickly adapted to the superior pattern, and we'd have all have jumped in line with them.  We know that this isn't the case and those companies made hundreds of thousands of rods with many different node patterns. As for the sets in rods, I'm convinced the problems happen from bamboo that's not heat treated properly, poor gluing job with to many stresses to be straightened, or on a rare occasion the bamboo is of poor quality. With today’s rodmakers, and the somewhat simple heat treating procedure's that are being used, I hear of very few makers who are experiencing sets in their rods, no matter what node pattern they choose to use.  (Jim Bureau)

        Regarding the selection and placement of strips, I'm not sure, but I think you misunderstood Mike.  Mike advocates taking strips that were adjacent to each other in the culm and placing them opposite each other in a rod section.  I agree completely with this, and have always done the same for the reasons that Mike stated.  Bamboo has an alternate branching pattern, and if you look at the grain in a culm you will see that it has a zigzag pattern in  the plane that the "leaf nodes" are in.  If you take strips from opposite sides of the culm and place them opposite each other in a rod, the pattern of crooks an kinks in one strip reinforces the pattern in the strip opposite it.  This will tend to make the rod section crooked to the extent that any of the bends in the original strips tend to return.

        If you take two strips that are adjacent to each other in the culm and place them opposite each other in a 2x2x2 stagger pattern (or 2x2 stagger for a quad) , the crooks and kinks in one strip are almost exactly the opposite those of the strip on the opposite side of the rod.  The only problem is that the twists go in the same direction and reinforce each other.  Once the twists are removed, the rod section will tend to remain straight.

        I take advantage of this in heat treating strips for 2-strip quads.  For hex rods, I stagger strips (2x2x2) before heat treating.  I staggered the strips for my first PMQ (1x1), and wound up with very crooked strips after heat treating, even though I had straightened them before heat treating them.  When the strips have nearly zero moisture after heat treating, they are very difficult to straighten.  Since then, I've take adjacent strips from the culm, placed them pith sides together with the nodes matched up, bound them very tightly with nylon, and they've come out of the oven just about as straight as they went in.  (Robert Kope)

          Yes, I see.  Indeed, I did misunderstand Mike's procedure concerning the selection of adjacent strips.  And I do understand the reasoning behind forming opposing sets in the finished section.  The theory seems very sound, and the practice may be very wise (as, particularly in the case with your PMQs).  I would not contend otherwise.

          But, as the offending twists and kinks are those formed at node stations, and as we heat-straighten these (assuming we know our beans, here) and then glue the assembly into a laminate, I continue to believe that a greater number of straightening problems attend to the binding process than to relentless and unforgiving grain configurations.

          But, finally, I also do not believe that any one of us can argue the matter either way for very long.  And certainly none of us is in a position to claim with justice that one way is simply "good practice,"  while others simply are not.  (Bill Harms)

    Don't put a $100 saddle on a $5 horse.  What glue are you planning to use?  Chances are very good that the strips will be fine when you heat-set the glue.  (Harry Boyd)

      You may be right.  I put some strips in the oven at 250 for a couple of minutes and they are fine.  (Paul Franklyn)

    I've done some small tests of short sections that have: 1) been untreated; 2) that have been varnished (two coats of MOW ends coated with paraffin); 3) that have been impregnated with Deks Olje (see archives), or 4) that have been impregnated with paraffin (see Best of the Planing Form Volume 2).  The sections were suspended in a sealed plastic container above a small amount of water for a few days.  I assumed this resulted in a saturated atmosphere.  Weights taken before and after treatment indicated that the untreated section absorbed the most water, the varnished section absorbed less, but more than the impregnated sections, the impregnated sections both absorbed some and similar amounts.  (Bill Lamberson)

    I live in Northeast Tennessee and in the summer months where the humidity is high, it can cause those kinds of problems.  I am fortunate that I have central heat and air in my basement with a special return air cut in for the basement.  Even with all that I still run a dehumidifier.  (Joe Byrd)


Rod # 3, a PHY Midge, is being planed out. This is the second rod out of one culm, so there are no spare tip strips. Working on the second set of tip strips I found that one strip has a gouge that along one edge. When I test-bend it there is no change in the curve at that point. It causes a step-off of .008 that goes back to correct width in an inch or less.

Would you:

A - go ahead and use it knowing it will leave a glue-line?

B - Make another strip from a leftover butt strip knowing the nodes won't match up right?

C - make a one-tip rod?

A is the most tempting but if folks feel there will be a performance difference I'd go to B. Option C would make me paranoid about going ahead and enjoying the rod.  (Henry Mitchell)

    Oh, the shame of it,  using a bamboo rod with a glue line, oh wait, many of my favorite rods have glue lines many of the rods we praise from the past had glue lines.  Henry it all depends on how much it will bother you, the rod will cast the same either way.  It is a personal thing.  Like a fly tier who uses his rejects, as a rod maker I have no problem using some of my earlier rods with glue lines or mistakes I make now,  for my own personal use. Rod have been and are being made with strips from different culms. Winston does today. If it is going to bother you the rest of your life go with the one tip if not it really does not make any difference, in my opinion.  (David Ray)

      Where would Phillipson be in the scheme of things with their "purple" glue line.  (Leo deMonbreun)

    Dennis Higham has a little cheater technique that may save the day for you, but I think he had better explain it to you.  I have never used it, but I saw him fix an open glue line so that it was not detectable.   E-mail him and tell him I sent you.  (Ralph Moon)

      This is a way to save a strip that is structurally sound but has a little divot out of a node or a gap caused by a tearing node. I go to the stack of split strips that I didn't use and pull one out. I use my froe or a pocket knife to shave off some strips just to square up one edge of the strip. Then I cut/whittle off 4 or 5 strips about 1"-3" long and maybe a 64th on an inch thick. I don't measure just whittle off a few short pieces. I pick one that fits the divot pretty well, then, curved side up, I hold it flat on my bench and sand it smooth with 220 grit sandpaper. I either place a drop of super glue on the patch and hold it against the divot or usually place the patch against the divot and hold it in place then put a drop of thin super glue on the bamboo where the two faces meet and let capillary action pull the glue into the repair. I spray it with super glue accelerator and the patch is permanently part of the strip. Two important sure to place the patch's enamel side just a little higher than the strips enamel side and very careful not to super glue your fingers to everything :-}  ..(might be a good idea to have some super glue solvent handy just in case). I then place the strip enamel side up in my planing forms and sand the patch flush with the top of the strip. Then flip the strip over with the patch side up and sand and/or scrape  the patch flush with the strip.  I use a small unbodied scrapper or a utility knife blade to scrape from the center of the patch out and then sand with 220 grit until flush and smooth. Dry fit the patched strip against another strip and check the fit. Sand or scrape a little more until everything fits seamlessly. After glue up I can usually find the patch if I know which node to look at and use a 5x magnifier but just looking at the blank in the sunlight it's not visible.  (Dennis Higham)

    It is just a fishing pole. I say this in jest as I am one that goes to pieces with glue lines. I would not hesitate in using a strip from another culm or the butt even if the nodes don't  come up as 3X3 or 2X2 or what ever staggering you are using.   Glue lines are just in the eye of the beholder. Yes, I know what you mean about having them. I am one of the worst that preaches about glue lines. I would make another strip, it is still going to bother you almost as bad as having a glue line. As far as one tip rods goes, my first five rods are all one tip rods. The best thing to do as far as I am concerned is finish the rod with one tip. Fish the heck out of it. If it breaks, make a second tip and keep using it. The fish don't care at all, They don't seem to care about the replacement tip on my rod # 1.

    How did the tip # 1 break, I was standing on the leader when I offered it to a friend to cast.

    If you have not read the article on The Twisted Miss, let me know, I will send it to you. It was made from leftovers from about twelve different culms.

    Just had another thought, If you are using 2X2 staggering, Make two new strips and you should be able to stagger the nodes evenly.  (Tony Spezio)

    Marrying in another strip from a culm that has a similar node spacing. Works fine.  The cane chip works OK as well - have used epoxy to hold it - blends well.  (Don Anderson)


I've been building nodeless rods for a few years.  After an 18 month hiatus from rodmaking to remodel the house and enjoy our brand-spanking-new son,  I decided to get back at it and work on a few new rods, this time leaving the nodes in.

So I'm in the garage the other night checking out the node areas preparing for final planing, and I flexed a strip.   I heard a cracking sound and flexed a little more, and the strip snapped at the node.  Being concerned that I had overcooked a node during straightening and pressing, I then flexed the strip at another node and snapped the strip again.  Tried it again with two other strips in the same lot.  Same result: Snap!  Followed by a couple expletives.

So I called it quits for the night, annoyed and assuming that I had probably overcooked a number of nodes and would need to start with a new culm. 

Last night I started splitting out a new culm.  Out of curiosity, I flexed a strip and again it snapped at the node.  More expletives... this time with some head scratching.  

These are clean breaks right at the node; none of that "interlocking power fiber" thing for me.  With less force than it would take to snap a pencil, these strips are snapping at the node.  I took two more culms out of storage and split out some 1/4" to 3/8" strips.  Flexed these new strips and the same thing happened.  When flexed to breaking between the nodes, the strips do not break clean across... there is some splintering.  But not at the nodes.  Even tried it with a strip over 1/2" wide.  It took a little more effort, but the result is the same.

Is this normal?  I really have no idea since I've been nodeless thus far.  Am I just trashing perfectly good bamboo?  I hope not. These are poles from a bundle I purchased in 98.  All poles have been store indoors with central AC/heat.

Any advice or insight?  Tomato stakes?  (Eric Koehler)

    I think your wasting good cane.  When pressing and straightening I have snapped several just as you described.  Usually because they weren't hot enough.  I don't see where it is an issue as the the staggering of the nodes will result in the nodes resting in between two internodal sections.    (Lee Orr)

    It doesn't make sense to me that you also had the same problem with the second culm before heating, pressing, and straightening the nodes. When I teach classes, I always demonstrate how strips break. When I try to break a strip that has just been split and the nodes have not been touched except for some filing, the strip always breaks somewhere besides the node. I then do the same demonstration on a node that has been heated and pressed and the strip always breaks right at the node (fairly easily to).  Did you flame these culms first? If so, are you flaming the nodes more than the rest of the culm?

    I have found that without any heat treatment, the nodes are the strongest part of a strip but with even a little heat, snap goes the node. I have a theory that because nodal fibers are shorter, when the lignin is heated it no longer has enough power to grab these shorter fibers.   (Jeff Fultz)

      It doesn't make sense to me either... After the first couple breaks at the nodes on the 60 degree strips I decided to try two other culms. 

      One had been flamed, the other one had no treatment other than the split I put in all the poles upon receiving them.  On the flamed one, I tried to be as uniformly consistent as I could be across the surface.  No more or less heat at the node.   

      After finding the same symptom on the untreated culm, I pulled another culm and had the same thing happen. 

      So:  One set of untapered strips (snap);  strips from three more culms, two untreated, one flamed (snap, crackle, pop).  It's really surprising to me how easily and cleanly these strips are breaking.   

      Maybe I should soldier on with these strips and see if they'll make a rod that will make a second cast. 

      There are too many whitetail deer in our neighborhood for me to bother with tomato plants.  Anyone have another alternate use for bamboo of dubious quality?  I guess I could practice my splitting technique.  (Eric Koehler)


This question is based on my current supply of bamboo culms.  I seem to have more tip sections in my inventory than butt sections.

The question: "Is there enough power fibers in the tip part of a culm to use to make a butt section for a rod?"  Has anyone tried this and what has been the result?  (Tom Peters)

    As long as there is enough fiber density across the apex of each strip you should be OK. Would try making a 9' 9 wt butt though.  (Pete Van Schaack)

    Check the density and thickness of the fibers in your culm and the 1/2 diameter of the butt you're preparing to make. If the fibers look OK in density (compare 'em to another culm-butt) and run deeper than the 1/2 diameter, you should be fine. I  wouldn't build a 9 ft 8 wt with it, but a 4 or 5 wt in 7 or 7 1/2 ft will probably be fine unless it has a swelled butt. If that's not what you're looking to build right now, put the piece aside for that PHY Smidgen or some such in your future.  (Art Port)

    Go ahead and use them for butts.  I wouldn't worry about the depth of power fibers even.  EC Powell preferred culms with shallow power fibers.  The scarcity of such culms was what inspired him to remove the inside of strips and, laminate softwood to them, to make his semi-hollow rods.  Also, if you read the results of the structural tests that Bob Milward published in his book, the fibers from the 10' level of a culm were stronger and stiffer than those  from the 1' level of the same culm.  (Robert Kope)

      Robert is correct, I believe, as long as the cane itself is very good.  When building hollow we often  preserve a wall thickness of only .070" --  and that's thinner than the  power fibers in the butt of a culm.  There must be a point, however, where this line of thinking is no longer advisable, as I believe I'd worry about building, say, a spey (or tournament casting) rod from the tip of a culm.  (Bill Harms)


I know this was discussed a few weeks ago, but I can't find the thread anywhere. So, since it's really slow lately...

I'm about to cut a culm for a three-piece rod. Would I be better off trying to figure out where to cut three pieces, or should I just cut in half like a two piece and  make the  mid from the butt section?

I'm inclined to go with option two. I usually leave 5" on either end of each strip. This will be an 8 1/2 foot rod.  (Bill Hoy)

    I find it easier to make a multi piece rod by keeping as many of the pieces together as I can (two sections) until just before putting on the ferrules, then I cut it into the number of pieces I am making. Planing and sanding are easier on a longer section, binding and straightening might be easier on shorter sections.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    It depends on what length rods you plan on making. I make most 7' rods so this is how I cut my culms. First I figure how much node spacing I need. Say if the node spacing on the culm is 15" I figure about 7 1/2" I do 3X3 staggering. Will not go into why but I find it the best for me. The same is done for other node staggering.

    On a 7' rod I need 42 1/2" plus working ends. With the staggering, that is usually around 52" for tips and 49" for butts. The female ferrule makes up the difference in length on the butt.  52" is cut from the tip section and 50" from the butt section. The tip section may vary some depending on how close the node ring is to the very end of the culm.

    Normally that would leave 40+" in the middle. This is enough length for three piece or short two piece rods, it utilizes most of the culm with very little waste.  (Tony Spezio)

    I just finished up an 8'9" 3 piece and a 6' 3" 3 piece rod and I just took the mid from the butt  section.  Don't know if this is what others do but it has worked for me and I also have 2 more 3 piece rods that I am working on now that I have done the same.   (Bret Reiter)


Just got a call from a friend of mine (I made a Martha Marie tapered blank for him last winter) and heard these dark words "It's broken...". It was indeed, pure clean snap about 10 inches from the tip. He told me it happened without a warning when he was just slightly bending the tip in his hands. I've got no reason to doubt what he said, he's a friend, not a customer. I've had two similar clean breaks, but they were near the ferrule which was poorly tapered and crowned. Anyway, that was third broken rod from 25 pieces I've made, and that's a helluva lot in my opinion.

What do You suspect, is  the bamboo itself a piece of crap?  Is it me, is it the glue, is it just bad karma?  How often that BS had happened to you (it feels really, really bad)

Bamboo is from Centrecane, England and it looks OK.  Not a AAA+ grade, but usable, I guess. How about Demarest cane, should I order my next bales from there? Pros & cons?  (Pekka Hyvonen)

    Maybe it's too much heat or bad cane. A little experimentation and I decided it was the heat.  (Jim Lowe)

    Some specifications more:

    • Staggering was 3x3 (as usual for me) , breakdown point was not at node point.
    • Nodes weren't pressed but filed away,  there wasn't much straightening, most of it made with planing away...
    • The culm was flamed (tiger striped)
    • Heat treating (if you can say so) was only 10 minutes at  120 C (250 degrees F)
    • The glue was epoxy based. (Pekka Hyvonen)

    Was the cane from different batches or all from one order? Also was it A. amabilis or another species? It doesn't sound as though you overcooked it or created problems in your nodes. Can you describe your flaming process? Also was the cane heavily charred in the process or just cooked to a darker color?  (Larry Puckett)

      I have seen those straight fractures even on classic rods.  I have always been bewildered as to the cause.  While heat treatment seems the most logical, Pekka's problem from his description does not seem to be heat caused.  I think also that bad cane can be a cause, but again I have never seen that much bad cane.  I admit I have no solution, except to say that I do not think that is from flexing the rod.  Something else is amiss.  (Ralph Moon)

        I wonder if it could be from the flaming?  There's not much thickness of power fiber left at the tip after planing, and if it got too hot during the tiger striping it could have weakened the cane that was left.  Just my idea, it's the only thing I can think of other than bad cane.  (But I certainly don't claim to be an expert!)  (Neil Savage)

          I've often wondered if our thermometers were all that accurate. From 250 to too hot is, admittedly, a long way but we've had discussions by fellows who cook their cane for relatively long times at 375 and others who scorch/burn it in short periods at 300. The only reason I can come up with for those variations is thermostats and/or thermometers which differ wildly.

          I'd try to stick another thermometer in your oven and make sure the one you're relying on is reading what it says it is.  (Art Port)

            Another thing about temperature measurement is that sometimes we forget that there are differences between oven types. The heat gun ovens are the equivalent of convection ovens. SWMBO's new convection oven bakes 15-30% faster (at the same temp) than a conventional oven. I also expect that the cane dries much faster with constant hot air flow. So, I think one has to be careful in comparing heat treatment regimes between oven types.

            Milward states that over-heat-treatment leads to degradation of the cellulose power fibers. On page 15 of his book he has a table which correlates the degree of heat treatment to the length of fibers at the end of a test break in a strip. Untreated cane leaves 1/4 in long fibers The same cane heated 15 minutes at 320 F in his oven gives a light straw color and the fibers are 3/16 in, treatment at 320  F for 20 minutes + 10 at 360 gives an amber color and fibers 1/8" long. Treatment for 40 minutes at 350 + 15 at 400 gives brown tone cane and 1/16 in fibers. The longer one heats and the higher the temperature, the more brittle the cane becomes and the greater the tendency for the cane to break straight across.

            I have had only 3 classic rods break straight across. One was Calcutta cane and broke because someone  tried to  double hall the poor old thing. Age, over stress and an over cut ferrule station accounted for that break. The second was a really dark toned rod and when I tested the broken tip by deflection till failure, it broke straight across again. The last had suffered the injustice of being stored wet and had mold at the ferrule station. So, in every case there was some mistreatment of the cane which made it weak or brittle:  Age, heat, and moisture are the enemies of cellulose. SWMBO is a sometime textile conservator. She says the same things apply to cotton fabric.

            I soak my strips before roughing on the MHM and heat treat, after roughing, in my heat gun oven by  bringing air-dried strips to about 150 F for about 45 minutes to dry them and then bring them to 300 F for and additional 15 minutes and then allow them to cool down in the oven from 300 to about 80 over about 15 min. I have then tested these strips for color and resilience. They are light straw color, the have a nice bounce and  are resistant to set. When broken they produce shorter fibers than the untreated cane.  They are also hard enough so that, as David Ray has pointed out, they can be difficult to plane on the MHM. They do fine if I take only 2-3 thousandths per pass.  Now only time will tell if this is the "right thing" to do, but it seems like what one does to the cane is going to have a great deal of influence on its toughness and longevity. Of the older rods around, I think we only have exact knowledge of the heat treating regime for Garrison's. Is there any indication that his rods have suffered clean fractures?   (Doug Easton)

            I know my thermometers are way off.  While cooking strips (short, for a nodeless rod) in my kitchen oven, 350 on the stove dial was anywhere from 380 to 330 on a digital meter.  The digital checked  out at 212 in boiling water so I use that meter as my standard now.  Is it 350 when it reads 350?  I don't know, but it's probably consistent I don't care about the absolute value as long as I can hit the same temp consistently.  I'm sure there is an even wider variation between all our thermometers, hence the difference in recommended 'ideal' heat treatments.

            Ralph probably has the most meaningful method.  He cooks cane in an iron pipe until he stops smelling steam and  starts smelling the oils cooking.  But then, he has a better sniffer than I do.  Maybe he'll describe his method for us.  (Ed Berg)

      If you are getting breaks, then you have weak areas in the cane.

      It could be from flaming- the culm does not look overflamed, but check the rod to see if you may have had a weak spot where a couple small overflamed areas ended up in the same place. If the cane under the enamel is darkened, that could be the problem.

      Could be the cane: flex your strips during construction- once after splitting, and again after the nodes have been prepped and strip is beveled, and once (gently) more toward the end of planing. If something is going to break, it's better to have it break then.

      Make certain that all the strips were glued up properly. I am convinced that on tip sections the glue makes a significant contribution to strength. If the pot life of your glue will allow it, let the glue soak in to the strips for a couple minutes, then reapply a second layer. That will make sure that all surfaces have a good bond and you have no missed spots.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

        There is one other possibility I've not seen anyone mention. How are you storing your cane? I found out that if mold gets into the cane it can cause a dry rot that will cause the kind of fracture you describe.  (Bill Walters)

    I really doubt it would have been the cane itself, but maybe the way it was heat treated.  Either too high a temperature or too long a time can do nasty things to the fibers.  I'd check out the tempering regimen carefully, 'cause breaks of the sort you describe really shouldn't happen.  When they do, it's almost always because either something went wrong in the building process or the rod was mishandled.

    (As as additional thought, I wonder about your staggering pattern, and if the breaks occurred at a set of nodes.  If the cane has been weakened through heat treatment, a likely spot for failure would be at or near the nodes.)

    You should always test one of the strips you've split-out from each culm before using it.  One strip will be the same all the others in the culm, so you needn't test them all.  Occasionally we find a culm that looks great, but upon test-bending a strip, we find that the culm is just junk.  In these cases, however, the failure isn't a tendency to "snap," but rather to bend too easily (like someone forgot to put the power fibers in a certain area).  (Bill Harms)

      I beg to differ with Mr. Harms on the point regarding the quality of all of the strips in the culm. After 18 years of building bamboo fly rods, I have NEVER found a culm that has 100% usable bamboo with respect to testing it for resiliency!! EVERY culm as weak areas.  This is why I started building nodeless rods years ago. I test every inch of bamboo for resiliency before proceeding to use that strip of bamboo in a rod. I am not saying this is the cause of the break of the rod in question, just trying to provide some insight into using natural materials.  (John Vorndran)

        Well, your comments are surely interesting to me, and I'm wondering what experiences other fellows on the list have had with flex-testing.

        Building nodeless certainly avoids trouble-spots in a culm, but when you say that in 18 years of experience, you've "NEVER" found a culm with 100% useable strips, I'm more than a little bit puzzled.  Of course, there might be any number of problems one could find in a given strip (cosmetic blemishes, splits, surface damage, leaf nodes, water marks, worm holes, mold, and so on), but if we're discussing only flex-testing to discover areas of weakness, then I don't quite get it.

        Like you, I also have been building for quite a long time, but I've always found that a weak internodal area in one strip will be replicated by all other strips in the culm through that same area.  Conversely, I've not found that if one strip is strong throughout its length, another from the same culm  will be weak  (provided we're flex-testing strips of identical dimensions).  The only exceptions to this have been in those culms that have been damaged in some way, or "field-straightened."  These latter will always show a dent somewhere along their length, and while the dented area cannot be used, strips taken from other areas around the circumference are usually OK.  (Bill Harms)

        I have to agree with Bill Harms, in the treating of the bamboo with heat, because as you I have been building rods for about 20 years and never had a rod break at a node or at a ferrule station. The only trouble that I have had is with a split in the tip section of a rod and that was due to a lack of glue between the strips. I reglued the split in that rod and it is still in service after many years.  (Jack Follweiler)

    That does seem like a lot of broken rod sections.  I've been fortunate and haven't had one break yet.

    I would suspect too much heat or bad cane.  Heat from node straightening seems unlikely, since it sounds like all 6 strips broke cleanly.  That leaves the possibility of straightening after glue-up.  Bad cane could also be the problem, but I don't think you need to look for a new supplier.  The differences in quality of cane from different suppliers are primarily in cosmetics, growers marks, heat straightening, and possibly the density of fibers in the cane.  Problems I've seen that will affect the structural integrity of a rod are things like the tiny borer holes you sometimes find through the fibers, and fibers that for no apparent reason will tend to break cleanly.  These are not things that can be easily detected by inspecting an intact culm, and I doubt that there is a lot of difference in these characters between suppliers.

    You could try checking the quality of the bamboo by breaking scraps at various stages of construction to narrow down the possibilities.  You could also try breaking the broken rod sections at other locations to see how they break.  I've been amazed when I've tried to break scrap sections.  In my experience, you can put pretty sharp kinks in a glued-up section well before it will break.  This pretty much destroys the integrity of the cane and permanently weakens it.  However, normal use would never bend a rod as sharply as this requires.  (Robert Kope)

    It look like a vary deep flaming. I think that the reason of the break of the tip is connected to this type of flaming and the staggering 3x3. It is possible that the carbonization of the culm - may be to much flame and a particular structure of the fibers of the culm - have created a point of potential breakage in the strips. If you add the 3x3 staggering, in the same point you have 3 strips with the same problem and...crack!  (Marco Giardina)

    Something I have been thinking about concerning this, is guide spacing.  Too few guides can cause a lot of problems as well as having that first snake guide set to far back from the tip top. I learned this the hard way snapped the tip off very neatly. I imagine this could be true around ferrule stations as well.

    Too great a distance between guides and they can act like little pulleys. The bigger the strain the closer they pull together, until pop. As always the shortest distance is always a straight line. (Gary Lohkamp)

    The culprits might be  the owners.   Bending a tip section by hand?  Why? Breakage at the ferrules:  Casting the rod as though throwing a baseball as hard as they can?  Double, triple the "input" necessary to cast the whole line when attempting to cast 40 feet? Of course, NONE of us have ever seen anybody do any of the above, right?  (Chris Raine)

    I got some photographs of broken section. What do You think about those snakes, any effect?

    Pekka Crack

    Pekka Crack 2

    Poor thing, sniff...  (Pekka Hyvonen)

      Very interesting that the break is just above the guide. How far from the tip is the break and how many guides are above it? How long is the rod and how many guides are on it? Was this rod being flexed by hand, whipped about without a line, or cast with a line on it? From the color of the cane it does not appear over cooked. What a painful picture.  (Larry Puckett)

      It could have been the guide if the rod was bent to its limit??????  The guide could cause the break.  However, I'm guessing you did not do that. If you did, then it was obviously the guide.

      I'm guessing over heat treating!!!!!!! All the way.  Bamboo is tough.  In the hex form it takes a lot to break it with a bend. (IE: normal bend/fishing)  Over cooking can be done way before the cane looks burnt. But, by looking at the pictures I noticed I could see power fibers on the flats of the hex. I know some people get carried away on the enamel side with scraping and sanding. Any chance you did that?  (Tony Miller)

      It's hard to tell for sure from the photos, but the power fibers appear very wide. If you have not sanded deeply into the cane, I would suspect the initial quality of the cane. I would suggest that you break a scrap piece of the cane with the enamel still on, and send us a picture of the break.  (Tom Smithwick)

      This looks to me, as if someone was trying to test it like an Ugly Stick.  If you look at the piece without the guide, the cane section just above the break, has a slight bend in it. It looks as if the section was "flexed" with one hand at each end and kept going until it snapped. I've seen quite a few rods broken while fishing and they didn't look quite like that one does.  (Dave LeClair)

      I'd almost bet good money that this rod has a hook-keeper and/or a long leader on it.  My strong suspicion is that what has happened here is one of two things:  Best guess is that the rod was broken while trying to place a fly in, or remove a fly from, the hook keeper.  Think about it a little, and you will see that pulling straight down towards the grip on the fly line places the tip in a tight curve.

      Now everyone understands why I hate hookkeepers.

      If a hook keeper was not at fault, then a long leader was.  The gentleman using the rod was trying to yank a bulky fly line to leader connection out of the tiptop guide, and snapped the rod right at the guide.

      I send rod care instructions with each rod.  One line says "Be extremely careful any time the line leader connection is inside the tiptop."

      I see no fault with the rod or rod maker.  I think this is 100% user error.  (Harry Boyd)

      It seems that others are seeing things that I can't see.   I don't think that the cane shows too much heat so I do not think that it is heat treating causing your problem.   I don't see evidence of over sanding, but what I do see is a major trauma.  The splayed condition of the fibers, even the coarseness of the fibers  make me think that the section received forces far and  beyond what the material is suited for.  I also have a suspicion that the guide configuration may be at the fault.  On the down side you have a tightly bound segment of the rod, but above the guide to counter reinforcing wind.  I am no engineer, but I would not use such a guide on my rods, just because.  (Ralph Moon)

        We all see slightly differently. Looking at the original flamed culm picture, I ask if there is one or more sections of cane that is dished, rather than smooth. If so,  could this be not the right quality cane, or perhaps not A Amabilis. Secondly, like Ralph I imagine a large footed single foot guide would not help, particularly if just above it is the node section of a 3 x 3 configuration. Two stiff sections right together?  (Sean McSharry)

        I recall that 90% of all breaks in fly rods happen within 9 feet of a door.  (Gary Lohkamp)

      Flexing the rod, the rod would have broken while under tension.  Your pictures though, look to me as though the rod broke in shear.  The upper piece almost seems to be a clean break and doesn't seem to have splintered at all.   Just looking at the pictures I would have assumed that something pinched the rod just above the guide shearing off the top and smashing flat that short section just above the guide.

      I am assuming that you will be throwing the section away rather then attempting to repair it.  If that is the case, why don't you flex it to failure in a couple other spots to see if you can cause it to break in a similar manner.  Let us know what you do.  (Tim Wilhelm)

      Seems it is single foot snake in picture not guide ring. Have anybody had breaking problems with single foot snakes?  Is it better to use classic two feet snakes in cane rods?  (Kossi Rissanen)

        It seems a lot of us are fixating on that single foot guide. I have no love for them and don't use them, but hasn't it occurred to anyone that if the rod took that kind of strain (from whatever it was) that it would have broken above the foot of whatever was at that spot? I don't think the number of guide feet at that point would have made a difference; the wraps below the strain held together and would have whether they were on a guide, a ferrule, or just a signature, no? Wanna  chime  in  here   Darrol?    And   condolences   on   your cane-astrophe.  (Art Port)

          This sure is informative.  Probably the most in depth discussion of breaks since I've been on.  This comes at a dubiously auspicious time  as I've also  encountered my first failure as well - 4" below the ferrule, just above the first guide in a PMQ spinning rod.  I'm sure mine is a result of my early experiments with heat, though, as the interior of the stick looks pretty crusty (though not burnt at all) - kinda like a broken milk weed stalk - not fibrous like Pekka's.  IMHO on Pekka's rod I'd have to side with the abused camp.

          This is particularly interesting, however, because of the effect of the wraps in both instances.  The wrap on Pekka's rod seems to have arrested lower damage.  I wonder what might have happened if his guide had been double footed and had been wrapped right where it broke.  The break in my rod, weakened by heat at the breaking point, began to run up and down the rod - but was abruptly halted at the wraps for the first guide and ferrule.  Even the Gossamer tipping held the cane intact.  I had no idea that wraps could be so reinforcing!  Sorry I don't have a web site to share the picture.  Still, sure am learning a lot tonight.  (Darrol Groth)

      I finally looked at the picture of the broken section. From an engineering point of view it looks like a brittle fracture since there are not long strings of fiber that connect the sections as one usually finds in bamboo failures. Graphite rod (composite material) failures often look like this because of the material properties - high tensile graphite fibers with little straining (elongation) ability. I had an old bamboo rod that failed that look kind-of-like yours, but in that case the cane material had deteriorated from age and was very soft and brittle. I would guess that what ever makes cane more brittle, would be the problem. There are others on this list who can answer that question better than I.  (Frank Paul)

      Looks to me like the rod was flexing either backwards or off at an angle. What were you doing when it broke?  (Pete Van Schaack)

        Me? I was in my shop feeling like king of the rodmakers. <G> 

        Kidding kidding...

        I just made the blank, my friend did the rest. Wrapping and breaking. I asked him to break it couple times more (he and the tip are 150 miles from me), and take some photos more. And here we go.

        Pekka 2 Inches

        Pekka 4 Inches

        Pekka 7 Inches

        Pekka 13 Inches

        Seems quite obvious that the breakdown is combination of weak point of the bamboo and muchos muchos power in casting.

        Well, I have learned lot of this mess, hope this improves my "skills."  (Pekka Hyvonen)

          The follow up photos sure look like what I would expect a broken bamboo shaft to look like. This seems different from the original photo break to me. I wonder if you supported the rod blank at that original broken point with some metal support when you were heat treating and the bamboo was overcooked locally by high conduction into the bamboo material, making the bamboo locally brittle.  (Frank Paul)


I have had this problem occur twice now and I hope someone can help.

Both times just before I am ready to varnish a section I notice a slight bend that I did not remove during straightening. I push the bend with my fingers and find that the bend is removed and an opposite bend is placed in the section.  I then try this on another area of the section and find that the entire section has lost (or never had) its ability to return to its straight position. No matter where I bend the section it results in a permanent set.

This has occurred on 2 sections out of the 15 rods I have made.

Rod One: blond/heat treated 350 degrees 13 minutes/nodeless/ splices with Titebond/strips glued with URAC

Rod Two:  flamed/soaked 5 days/heat treated 2 hours 175 degrees then 350 degrees for 15 minutes/glued with Epon.

On the last rod I heat treated again just to see what would happen and the permanent sets were not affected.  (Joe Mondro)

    This has happened to me too. I think there are four possible causes:

    The most obvious would be bad bamboo.

    Another simple explanation would be that you didn't allow enough drying time for the glue. Opinions vary on this, but when I use URAC I always let the glue dry for at least a week.

    It could be that the strips were overcooked during heat treating. I've done this before by rough planing tip strips down too far & then heat treating them along with the much larger butt strips. The result was weak tip sections that would take sets or break during final gluing. The solution was to keep the tip strips at .180 - .200 for heating, and make sure the oven stays below 350.

    Another possibility is that the strips were too dry when you glued them. When this happens, the bamboo absorbs all of the moisture out of the glue and you end up with a weak bond. Try moistening the strips before gluing.  (Tom Bowden)

    After I got all the replies from my question on rod sets I did some testing.

    Since I keep a record of the culm I used in making each rod, I was able to go back and examine a few strips from rods that were successful and those that showed sets.

    What I found was that the thickness of the power fibers (examined visually) showed no difference from a good result v a poor result.  I got good and bad results from both thick and thin culms. What I did find was that the strips that resulted in good rods, upon breaking, showed the typical pattern of long power fibers projecting out from both sides of the break.  On the rods where sets occurred, (the culms were purchased from two different suppliers Royer and Demarests), breakage resulted in very short power fiber projections and in some cases almost a clean break. 

    I now sacrifice a strip from each culm to bend and break to observe the power fiber breakage pattern before using the culm.   (Joe Mondro)


I have noticed that final planing strips from one bamboo vendor is different than from another when subjecting the bamboo to the same processes and sequences.  In particular, I have noted that the nodes behave much more difficulty on one vendor's bamboo than on another. I have only used bamboo from 2 vendors, so I wonder if others have had any similar experience.  I have not been doing this for that many years, so I am not talking about long term bamboo use from a single vendor where sources may change. Curious and looking for thoughts.  (Frank Paul)

    When you say venders, do you mean importers. Some who selling (vending) bamboo are simply resellers.  I know of only 3 people who import bamboo. 

    Great question. I, like all, have observed that some culms act  differently than others. I have always attributed this to:


    A different part of the hill, different light, wind, water, etc.


    I have noticed this difference in the same bundle, I would guess from  the same grower.

    I was talking to an importer yesterday and he said that all the  importers are getting their cane from the same source, (distributor).  (Jerry Foster)

    I've worked far more with cane from Harold and Eileen Demarest than from Andy Royer or anyone else.  To echo Jerry's comment, I think there is variation among the culms in each bundle.  If  any difference is discernible, the cane I received from Demarest in my last bundle was the best I have ever had.  But I bought out another supply of cane which included a couple of bales from Royer.  It's good stuff too.  Maybe not quite as dense as the bundle from Demarest, but plenty good for making rods.  All of what we get today is better than ten years ago, in my opinion.  For that we can all be thankful.   (Harry Boyd)

      I can echo Harry's reply.  The cane I got from Demarests was better than what I had gotten from Andy Royer though his was good too.  I can build heavier rods with the Demarest cane.  (Bret Reiter)

    Thanks for the replies I got on this question. My thoughts; there are culms that have difficult nodes (I know the nodeless guys are smiling) and I will have to deal with whatever shows up on a given culm. Since there are a limited number of importers, most bamboo resellers are selling cane from limited China source(s) and any difference probably just reflects the particular cane acquired at some point in time. Thanks again for your comments.  (Frank Paul)


I think there are more positive  reasons for mixing the use of culms.

One is you can get around the staggering of the nodes when you use two culms with very little waste. Also if there is a defect and you don't see it. The defect will be minimal with the use of two culms or more. If you did not use two culms the rod would be useless.  (Gary Nicholson)

    So I gather no-one agrees with Schott's findings on the strength of  the culm. So I guess if it boils down to the abstraction of AJ's  brochureware blend comment,  then the preference is SM.

    Gee Gary, you'll have to explain sometime how mismatched nodes help  with the stagger. hee hee  (Jerry Foster)

      I think what Gary is saying is that its easier to get something like a 3X3 stagger when you use two culms that have different spacing. I've done it that way and you easily have enough material to reject strips that need to be thrown out.  (Bill Walters)

        Most of the British rod makers mixed culms when building rods including  makers like Hardy and Farlow whose rods were considered the ultimate in  their time. We may not like some of the British tapers but the skill  and knowledge which went into their rods was top quality.

        It may be worth trying.  (Ian Kearney)

      It shocked me to see AJ make that comment in light of the comments that most rodmakers make on their web sites about building a better rod BECAUSE they hand plane and it all comes from the same culm. Just go to about any makers web site and 9 out of 10 stress  this fact as though it's gospel. AJ's statement was not "brochureware." He doesn't allude to this on his web site and I've never saw him make this statement anywhere before. His philosophy is that he wants the rods he's building today to be indistinguishable from rods that he built 10 years ago and from ones that he will be building 10 years from now and that by building rods from as many as 6 different culms he feels that he is accomplishing that. He feels this method gives greater CONSISTENCY to the rods than building each one from a single culm. Another heresy that AJ commits is on heat treating (it's a heresy as far as most makers are concerned, not a heresy in my eyes because of the amount and quality of AJ's rods). He says that a lot of makers flame and then also heat treat after roughing. He thinks there is no basis for doing both, flame for dark rods and roast for blond and you're done.

      OK, my thoughts on Schott:  Who did the most to see that Schott's studies were made widely available to the rodmaking community? MILWARD.  Hummmmm, could there be an agenda here? Was Milward looking for verification of his own work? I don't know. But like I said last year when there was a rather heated discussion on the list about Milward's findings, not being a scientist I tend to look at things from a common sense point of view.  100's of thousands of darkly flamed Montagues, H-I's, South Bends among others are still together, still used as fishing tools and still getting the job done after 50-75 years or even longer. Common sense tells me that if the bamboo was being so severely damaged as these studies and Milward's statements indicate then these rods would have disappeared long ago.  (Will Price)

        John Long also says there's  no need to heat treat if you flame.  I did an experiment on rods #2 & #3.  I made both from the same culm, same taper (as close as I was able) same finish etc.  Both were flamed, #2 was also heat treated.  I'm no great shakes at casting, but my son-in-law is & he can't tell any difference in casting.  Neither has taken a set in 5 years.  It's only one instance, but it seems as if indeed a flamed rod doesn't need any further heat treating.  (Neil Savage)

          That has always been my contention.  (Ralph Moon)

          I have not used an oven to heat treat for a long time. I learned from Jim Reams on how to heat treat with a torch. If it is done correctly there is no burn marks at all on the cane and it is heat treated very nicely. If marks are wanted then you go back over it with a small torch for esthetics.

          I feel heat treating with a torch gives me hands on control  (Adam Vigil)

          I just wanted to throw this into the mix:

          Paul Young used his "ring of fire" to flame his rods, with no secondary tempering done afterwards.

          Daryl Whitehead at Bellinger's treats with a torch (handheld) with no  secondary  tempering done afterwards.

          Me?  I use a propane torch (weedburner) to color, then after rough tapering wet strips I temper in a vertical heat gun over using a modified Garrison recipe.  (Chris Obuchowski)

        This has turned into a very interesting dialog.

        My first thought is that making rods, or more than 1, is about  consistency. Consistency, as I view it, is process and process control.  Many of the things we do, may or may not be the best, but if the  process is repeatable the rod will be good.  My ramblings have been aimed at thinking about making the best rod  every time and not just a good rod. All of the things discussed here will of course work. My points have  been to make us think of a better rod. At some point if the process does not incorporate the best methods,  the rod will not be the best it can be. Many of the methods you are discussing are production methods.  Methods meant to produce a good rod at minimum cost in time, money, and thought.

        If we flame and do not temper, do you know that the cane is tempered evenly, or is that just good enough? As I have asked before, are you tempering the nodes into the set they grew in and not allowing them to realign?   Is this the best way? On the surface Mixing culms would appear to make an average rod every time. Good enough? Sure. Now I am not implying that average in this  sense is bad. But in light of Dr. Schott's research, is it the best  that could be made from any given culm, or mixture of culms.  Bruce Howell has accomplished the same thing by dividing strips into  windward and leeward sides. Ahead of his time.

        Does any of this matter, not at all.  (Jerry Foster)

          It seems to me that the objective would be consistency in the rods action. Now do you get that by having all splines in the section of the same or near same MOE or mix 3 of X MOE and 3 of Y MOE in a 3x3 type node orientation.   Wolfram seems to be saying that there is a difference in MOE within the SAME Culm of about 25%!  So, the best way to get a rod blank without much of a spine is to use strips that were next to each other in the culm for a smaller range of MOE. But it seems that if you do this you would end up with tips of differing stiffness.  Is that acceptable?

          I wish there was an easy, nondestructive way to determine the MOE of a strip.   Then you could match strips to be used better. Of course that means another variable to work with!      :>)

          I personally think it's a good idea to use strips from two or three different culms with a 3x3 or 2x2x2 node stagger. That way things should balance out.

          So how does Bruce tell the windward and leeward sides of the culm?  (Larry Swearingen)

            I haven't a clue, I didn't ask. I do recall him saying something  about measuring the power fiber depth around the whole culm.   (Jerry Foster)

        Simply amazing. Well, lets clear this up once and for all. The only agenda her was mine. I contacted Dr Schott early last summer and spent the better part of the next two months persuading him to undertake this paper. I was the one that posted a request on the list for interested parties to contact me so off list with questions they would like addressed, as well as help demonstrate sufficient interest to motivate Dr Schott to dig through some twenty years of research in compiling the tests he had undertaken. I was the one that stayed in touch with him periodically all summer to insure him there was continued interest in his work and I was the one that contacted Todd Talsma to ask if he would be interested in publishing another of Dr. Schott's works on Power Fibers.

        Lets make this clear as well.  Early on in our communication Dr. Schott expressed a respect for Bob Millward's work as well as an appreciation for the man's efforts in shedding a little scientific light in the midst of all  the conjecture and speculation. My words not his. Dr. Schott would have had to contact Bob Milward regarding this paper for Bob to have any knowledge of it. I have not had occasion to communicate with Bob Milward but my understanding of both he and Dr Schott is that they are fully both fully capable of independent analysis and conclusion and neither require validation of their work from anyone.

        I wouldn't  have  mentioned my involvement with this as my only agenda here was to personally seek answers to questions I hadn't yet found answers to. The same questions we all have. At least those of us that would prefer to know than speculate. I was the one to foolishly assumed everyone would appreciate seeing more of Dr. Schott's work. After all, common sense dictated to me that the more data we have at our disposal the better equipped we are to arrive at positive conclusions.

        It would now appear that common sense isn't as common as either of had thought, is it Will?  (Wayne Kifer)

          I don't think it was foolish to want to see further info on the testing at all. The better informed we are the better our rods will be.  I guess I mistakenly read into this that it was Milward who pushed to have the original findings from Dr. Schott publicized, not the further testing that you asked for. But Jerry came out with the statement that by mixing bamboo you would get 2 mediocre rods and 2 bad rods, as though it was fact. I wasn't about to let that pass without comment in light of the fact that A.J. has built more rods than any single maker in the history of bamboo rodbuilding (except possibly Pinky Gillum and he will soon pass him if he hasn't already). The fact remains that if his rods weren't top shelf in both action and cosmetics he would soon be out of business. If you continue correspondence with Dr. Schott ask him to explain why so many heavily flamed rods (and mass production rods at that, which were never given the care in building that modern day builders take). I for one would be very interested in that. At their height, Montague was turning out 100,000  rods a  year. H-I was turning out 60-70,000 rods per year and who knows how many South bend was turning out. Many of these rods were very heavily flamed, and the fact that they are still around and still doing the job that they  were made  for after 50-75 years and longer may prove that bamboo is more resilient than the scientific community gives it credit for. Due to that, I'll take common sense seeing is believing over academic science any time.  (Will Price)

            Several of us have asked you nicely not to throw other current  rodmakers into the mix. If you have an opinion of your own, or better  yet some facts feel free to voice your difference. Well, feel free to  voice it anyway, but you put everyone in the position of not being  able to respond when you throw a living god into the mix. Even if  your chosen maker made the worst rods in history I don't believe  anyone would comment. And you would feel vindicated by our silence.

            What I said initially was partly tung in cheek, I should have said  "if a chosen culm will make a good rod.. then our odds are 2 good, 2  better,and 1 best, to avoid any sensitivity about the issue. or  whatever...

            I am and was reacting to Dr. Schott's sine wave of distribution of  MOE. If it is valid we can all to the math and the probability is  that no mater what method we are using (myself included), none of the  rods we are making are the BEST that the culm has to offer.   (Jerry Foster)

              NOBODY has ever asked me not to throw other current rodmakers into the mix let alone several of you. If, in fact,  someone did before your last post I never got that email. I wasn't looking for any comments about AJ, positive or negative, nor would I feel any vindication by the lack thereof. I wasn't seeking vindication, just expressing what I believe to be true and merely using AJ and his 1800 or so rods as a good example of a backup fact to the opinion that I was expressing. Now for those of you who I have offended by mentioning a living maker please accept my public apology. In the future I'll only use dead guys for back up to my opinions.  (Will Price)

              I have been making nodeless rods for sometime now and have a box full of sticks left over from maybe 8 different culms. I decided to use these strips so I graduated them in size and thickness so as to imitate the sticks used for the butt and the tip section of a "mixed bastard" rod. The rod turned out to be one of my best rods to date, and I don't know why since there was no difference in construction, but there must be some good reason for this outcome.

              Just thought I'd add my 2 cents to this discussion.  (Jack Follweiler)

                Maybe the small nodeless splits season faster in smaller pieces or maybe, dissimilar culms really is better. Maybe using the same culm is based on a good assumption.  Maybe you should destroy that "mixed bastard" best-rod-to-date to maintain consistency.  Maybe our best guess based on experience with a perishable material is as good as it gets. Maybe you screwed up! Gad! That would be the worst if you could never figure it out and not be able to replicate it.  (Timothy Troester)

                  Certainly a lot of maybes and I don't have the answer. Also I can't replicate it, right now anyhow, since most all the splits have been used. Maybe if I live so long and make a lot more rods.  (Jack Follweiler)

                In watching the BooBoys show on VS I noticed that they apparently don't separate strips by culm. At one point they tossed about 100 strips in a large basket which then went into their oven. This was cooked at 225 degrees F for 1 hour and then the strips were flipped end to end and cooked another hour. And these strips are   for  rods  that  command  a  price  of $2000-2500!  (Larry Puckett)

                  I was wondering when someone would point that out.  (Jim Lowe)

                  Like others have written in about this, I too have accumulated left over strips that I threw together to make a rod. Seems like the mixed strip rod turned out just as good or better than single culm rods. In light or the Schott article, I have no explanation for this.  (Darryl Hayashida)

                    I have made a lot of mixed strip rods.  I was lucky to be given a large bundle of milled strips and made several dozen rods    I have also taken reserved strips and made rods.  I don't think it makes a great deal of difference.   Careful selection seems to be the key.  (Ralph Moon)

                      I agree with Ralph.  I have cast several rods through the years that have been made with mixed strips & I never saw a difference in how they cast or fished.  It makes a nicer looking rod when everything is book matched on the nodes but I don't think it makes any difference in casting.  (Bret Reiter)

                      I think that you have absolutely hit the nail on the head:

                      "Careful selection seems to be the key."

                      It's not where the bits come from it's the fact that they work.  The only thing stopping it being pure chance is the rodmakers skill in selection and placement.  (Gary Marshall)

                      What are the criteria one should use in selecting?  Not being a pest, I am sincerely interested in knowing what others think makes good cane good, and bad cane bad.  (Harry Boyd)

                        I hesitate to resort to obtuseness, but when I select mismatched strips, I am looking at density of fibers, color, resistance to bend node placement, but above all They have to feel right and I be blasted if I can define that point for you.  It is like when I draw a stress curve,  If it looks right great if it doesn't ot so great.  Can I teach you what I mean  NO!!!! because I have no idea what the criteria are that I am subconsciously using.

                        How is that for obscurity?  (Ralph Moon)

                        A few years ago, Bob Milward brought samples of three culms to the Corbett Lake meeting.  Harry you may have been there.  These were the three culms used for the tests reported in his book.  In Bob's testing, one of the culms had a greater tensile strength and a greater modulus of elasticity than the other two culms.  I think most rodmakers would consider those properties to be desirable in selecting cane.  They will produce a rod that is stronger and more resilient.

                        Bob was walking around with the three samples, asking people to pick out the best culm.  Most people got it wrong, but Peter McVey said: "That's easy", and he picked out the best culm without hesitation.  It was not the culm with the greatest depth of power fibers; it was a culm that had relatively shallow power fibers.  The difference, which Peter correctly identified, was that the fibers were finer and were packed more densely near the outside of the culm - there was less pith between them.  If you carefully examine a bunch of culms, you will probably notice that it is not the big culms that have the most densely packed power fibers.  (Robert Kope)

                      I know I'm being too simplistic here but maybe if in doubt give the method a go? I think those who do will find the difference between making a rod of one culm or 2 or 3 will be zip but you'll get all the rods made from what ever number of culms used as close to the same as possible just as AJ it seems (going on what I've read)  has found.  (Tony Young)

                      When working on new tapers, etc. I always make them from the accumulated strips in the shop. I can't tell the difference.  All that means of course is that I can't tell the difference.  (Dave Norling)

                        I mix strips for my own rods.  Never had a problem with them,  (Lee Orr)

        To deal with the last point first, most designs are so conservative and fail safe that the material is never under any great strain unless it is abused. If baking to the point of color change actually does make a rod more brittle (And there must be a point where that starts to happen) this decrease in tensile strength may only become a problem when abuse has occurred. These days cane rods are handled with kid gloves and the much more fragile carbon is abused!

        The trouble with flaming is that, unless you are doing it every day with a variety of different culms, the results are going to be inconsistent to say the least. You can bake the things in an oven to a pretty dark shade, and at least you have removed much, if not all of the inconsistency.

        Once you accept that built split cane is a laminate then the point about different culms is easier to deal with. Further,  it is a laminate which is only subjected to unidirectional load, even if that unidirection may be as much as a 90 degree arc in one direction and similarly in the opposite. If it were possible to arrange splints so that the stiffer ones gave maximum stiffness in these two arcs of bending that might be useful, but I see no way of practically doing this without approximation effects defeating the object of the exercise. I therefore remain of the view that six final splints of as nearly similar stiffness as possible is the default best solution, and these are most likely to come from the same half of the same culm.

        Although I do it the only advantage that hand planing may have is that the strips are subjected to a closer level of inspection than they might be in a tapering beveller, might be.

        My continually modified Medved can now be trusted to give me strips that require, thank God, much reduced planing and I won't mind at all when I finally get round to machining the whole strip. The glue line will be better, as in longer too. Not that I think that much of an issue.

        My next project is bandsawing out the strips, I see no value at all to this handsplitting lark, it just wastes cane. After that, probably nodeless, all this buggering about pressing nodes and straightening strips is getting me down! I may not be as young as Bernard Ramanauskas but I share his dislike of wasting time! After all I've probably got a lot less of it left than he has.

        I am also beginning to think that we should be heat treating the final splints before gluing up, all I need is the courage and time to run the experiments.  (Robin Haywood)

          Points well taken Robin. Like you, I'm going to build a nodeless rod for my next project. Listmember Chris Carlin has a great step by step method with pictures included on the rodbuilding forum that I plan on using as guidance. Being able to actually see what something that I'm trying to do should look like makes things so much easier.  (Will Price)

    I always take 2 12 ft pieces of cane, chop them in half, then use the tops for tips and the bottoms for butts, and at that point after I flame them hard, I also stagger the tops and bottoms and cut all my strips from the staggered 1/2  culms. This is faster, more efficient and I get more out of each piece of cane that way. I'm bandsawing my strips, and that makes sawing an easier deal as well.  (Jerry Andrews)

    For what it's worth, my impression of Dr. Schott's conclusions on staggering, and his comment on the inadvisability of mixing strips from different culms, were directed to those of us who do NOT have 50 or 100 culms to select strips from.

    Of course someone with that many strips to select from can produce a rod with equally strong strips. Certainly more so than can be selected from one culm. I would have thought that would have been obvious to everyone. The less culms one has to select from, however, makes it proportionally less advisable to attempt to mix and match.

    Dr. Schott's tests and conclusions are directed at generating the strongest possible configuration that can be obtained from staggering the strips from one culm and should be evaluated as such.

    Debating whether one can obtain equal or superior results form selecting strips from 50 culms and one culm accomplishes nothing. It's a given. It certainly doesn't help anyone determine if Schott's methods will produce superior results in staggering the strips from ONE culm, which IS what is in question here.  (Wayne Kifer)


I've been encountering those lovely little tunnels made by bamboo wood borers. Some seem limited to the pith, especially near the nodes.

Do you just discard these strips out of hand, or is it worthwhile to plane to rough dimensions and then inspect and discard affected strips?

I guess the key issue is the question of whether or not there is "invisible" damage around these tunnels, even if no visible evidence of a tunnel or defect remains after rough planing?

I did some preliminary research on bamboo borers, finding that they are often beetle larvae, perhaps the hispine beetle, "Estigmena chinensis" ? Does anyone know the identity of the critter that creates the tunnels in the cane we use? Evidently there is another bug, the ghoon borer, that eats felled bamboo and finished bamboo products. Have thought that might be a good name for the next "creative" fly pattern my daughter Raven ties up; " The Ghoon Borer" !

One on-line reference said that bamboo shoot borers cause the loss of 285,00 tons of bamboo culms (all types) in China a year; that's a lot of bamboo!

Will let you know if I find out anything of interest.  (Perhaps the larvae are better flamed than baked; certainly not good microwaved!)  (George Deagle)

    I've encountered some borer damage - especially in big culms - but it was limited to the pith.  Had no problems from it making stout rods as the holes were soon planed away..  I'm of the camp to leave things as nature intended and being an amateur (for the love it) can't afford to discard much anyway.  Many say the bamboo it the cheapest part of the rod.  Even at that I calculated it is ~ $18.00 a board ft. :^)  (Darrol Groth)

    I had one of those last year - the thing had spiraled it's way around the culm. Amazingly, I ended up getting two rods out of it, but it was a layout nightmare. I usually name my rods after places I've fished, but one of them had to be named: Big Hole? No, bug hole! It was just far enough into the pith that I got away with it.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I had three culms shipped this winter, and found borers in all.  I made my first two rods ever from them, but built nodeless, so no problems there.  On one of the culms I tried the "blonde flaming" method from Daryl H. to build a rod with the nodes in.  I planed the nodes instead of pressing them, and found that the nodes that had the most borer activity broke quite easily during the initial straightening, while they were still rectangles.  I don't know with my limited experience if I possibly planed too much from the nodes, I messed up the heat treating, or if it was the borers.  However not all nodes gave up, just the ones with the borers.  Those nodes seemed to look different, even if they didn't have obvious holes running through them.  The material between the fibers in the weak nodes seemed whiter, dry and crumbly.  (John Wagner)

      Your observations seem to be quite correct.

      In my puny 30 years of wood destroying pest "eradication" (LOL) bamboo borers are a type of beetle that reinfests only living, growing tissues. They do not infest cut, dried material "generally". There certainly are beetles that reinfest dried, cured wood. Bamboo borers generally do not.

      Of the culms I have received, most of the beetle damage was at, or very near, the nodes. It cannot be planed out. And as you found for yourself, they have irreversibly damaged the strip.

      Holes through to the enamel indicate a larva that has reached maturity and emerged to mate and start the cycle over. Holes laterally through the pith often go undetected until planing. These are caused by immature larvae simply trying to stay alive and make a living. Much as you and I.

      IMVHO...if the holes are through to the enamel and visible from the outside of the culm, that particular split strip is not of use. If the "tunnel" is lateral and is planed off and never crops up to the top of the enamel or into the "power fibers" ( the tunnel is in the pith ONLY and the tunnel is planed off,  you are the only judge) it "should" be OK.

      Some of the nodes on some of my culms looked like Swiss Cheese. Useless.  (Mike Shay)

        I completely understand that a strip with an actual beetle hole bored in it is at best suspect, and very likely useless.

        But I often see another sort of blemish in bamboo that I don't quite understand.  Often when final planing bamboo that has been darkened either by flame or oven I notice light colored somewhat circular spots.  Typically at the widest point these little circles are about 1/4".  No bamboo fibers are missing (as far as I can tell) but they are definitely a different color than the surrounding fibers.  They almost look like a spot that was particularly well insulated during the heating that wasn't affected by the heat.  I usually notice these spots on the pith apex and while they sometimes extend into the power fibers most of the time they don't show from the enamel side.

        Might any of you know what these spots are?  They don't seem to be noticeably weaker than the surrounding bamboo.  I usually try to plane these out, or at least plane in a way that removes as much of them as possible, but I wonder if it's necessary.  (Harry Boyd)

          I've seen what I think you are talking about, and these bother me more than the borers.  They seem to be more common than the borers, and I believe they are also some boring insect.

          I have examined the blemishes very carefully and though you generally cannot seen them on the enamel, if you scrape off the enamel, you will find a tiny black spot where they enter the culm.  Also, if you plane or split through the center of the light spot, there is a hole that goes  right through the fibers.  However, it is so tiny that it is very hard to see.  I generally try to discard strips with these blemishes, but because the hole through the outside of the culm is so small, and I can't see any damage there other than the tiny black spot.  I have used a few in rods.  I have had a few culms with hundreds of these blemishes and simply discarded the entire culm.  (Robert Kope)


A couple of weeks ago there was a lot of discussion about mixing strips from different culms and someone mentioned that there could be a substantial difference in the thickness of power fibers within the same culm.  Something about windward vs leeward side of the culm.

Every book that I've read about making cane rods always said that you should split a culm into 6 sections and number them sequentially.  After splitting out the strips, you are supposed to use 1 strip from each of the 6 sections.  I've been doing this unquestioningly since the beginning.

If a goal is to minimize the spine, wouldn't it be better to use 6 adjacent strips?  Or does having a spine improve the casting ability of a rod?  (Mark Lenarz)

    Depending on how the spine is positioned (if there is a spine at all) it will affect the pick up or throwing of the line.   So, if you want a cleaner pick up or faster throw the spine could/would affect the action depending on what side the guides are positioned.  (David Gerich)

    I believe that you might have me to blame for that idea, though the important part of it isn't original.  Others have said that one side of the culm can differ from another.  I have simply introduced a metaphor with something that happens to trees.  I have little to go on in terms of growing conditions other than books and videos that I have not studied with this in mind.  Wind may or may not have anything to do with it.  And I must say at the outset that I have no hard data in front of me.  And having said that...

    IF it is true about the one side/other side deal, then you are probably right in terms of a spine.  Unless you want to build a couple of rods that have as near an action as possible, in which case I think you would want to average out the culm with the six portions method.  Maybe the idea for averaging comes from a desire to eliminate the chance from building exclusively from the weaker side of a culm (again, IF there is one).

    I figured I could at least own up to messing things up for you.  This is all highly theoretical, and if someone with harder data or harder experience could chime in that would be great.  I like the topic.

    Of course, I do think at the end of the day you should build the thing.  (Carl DiNardo)


How do you use your culms? When I get mine, they are in two six foot section (lower half and upper half). It's my understanding that you should use the lower have for butt sections, and upper for tips. If I am making a 2 piece one tip rod, there will be a lot of strips left over you select the best ones to plane. Do you just mark the extras and keep them for another rod?  (Louis DeVos)

    Yep, split them out and separate into bundles of six and label, knock of the nodal dam and tape the bundles together until I need them.  (Pete Van Schaack)


Do you guys have a system for mapping how the strips come out of the culm to how they go into your rods?

Here is where I am at (this is my first hex rod).  I have taken half of a 12' culm and am making a 7'9" PY Perfectionist.  From this half culm, I have split the butt section into 8 pieces, and the tip section into 16 pieces.  Now lets talk about the tips.  I have two groups of 8 each coming from a quadrant of the culm.  Can I just select the best 6, and roll them up?  Or do I need to do some mixing of the strips from the two quadrants?  Or do I need to spilt out the other half of the culm and intermix with those strips?  I guess I think there should be some intermixing because the cane has different densities at different sides of the cane.  Life would be a lot easier if I did not have to do any mixing, but I will take your opinions on the matter.

I have read Garrison's idea of how to do it, but it takes into account splitting the entire culm.  (Matt Fuller)

    Good question, and if you ask 10 rodmakers you'll get 12 different answers (at least two rodmakers will change their minds mid-answer).

    The simple answer is pick your best 6 and go for it.. .or if you are really paranoid about the tip sections being as similar in action as possible, take 3 from each quadrant to make your two tips (that's assuming you can plane your splines EXACTLY the same dimensions with no variation; if you are mortal like everyone else there will be minimal variation and even if you built one tip each from the two different quadrants chances are you won't be able to feel a difference anyhow).

    . . .and if this is you first hex, what other configurations have you built.

    . . .and the Perfectionist taper as built by PHY is a 7'6" (it's the para 14 that's 7'9").  (Chris Obuchowski)

      Yes, that was a typo, I am building the 7'6' PHY Perfectionist. 

      I built a two strip quad last spring.  Spent most of last fall and this winter building my steel forms.  (Matt Fuller)

    It should matter but IMHO it doesn't - Here come the flames  :)

    Take the 6 or 7 best (need a spare each) and work from there.  (Pete Van Schaack)


Thanks Todd for the great Schott article, Bamboo in the Laboratory. (Download it in the “Downloads” section of the Power Fibers site.)

Well I guess that kind of explodes the myth for the people that think mixing culms is a good idea.  Practical results might be something  like 2 mediocre rods and 2 really bad ones. (Sweetgrass aka Winston  comes to mind.) Or, if luck would have it, maybe a good one.

Tony, others, do you have any easy, clever, ideas on how to measure  the MOE (deflection).

As far as heat treating goes, still looking for the bonding,  unbonding, issue at a molecular, microscopic level. Color change and  water weight loss doesn't quite explain it.   (Jerry Foster)

    What exactly are you referring to as the bonding, unbonding issues Jerry. I have some idea of the lignin issues in melting and them  re-solidifying and the differences between free water and bound water, and what it takes to remove it. Also now a better understanding of the temperatures at which this occurs thanks to Dr Schott's research. What are you referring to that I'm not seeing?  (Wayne Kifer)

      We, and lots have books, have talked about crosslinking in  discussions about tempering. The only thing Schott had to say was  that the bonds would break down. And it appears that color was his  only measure of that. Carbonizing..I just would have liked to see a  little more scientific proof. No big deal.  (Jerry Foster)

    Hi Jerry, "practical results might be 2 mediocre rods and 2 really bad ones." Here's a little food for thought on the subject of mixing culms. In the book Oregon Bamboo, A. J. Thramer said during his interview that he mixes splines from different culms as a matter of practice. His theory is that to get a good rod is like getting a good scotch, it should be blended. He also mentions other reasons for doing so. He made a few other statements that many in the rod making community would consider heresy (including one on heat treating). I've never heard anybody make anything BUT positive statements concerning A.J.'s rods. He said he's never had a rod come back for taking a set among other things. Now here' is a man who's galloping toward 2000 rods made. He is or very soon will be the most prolific one man shop in the history of bamboo rodmaking. You don't get to that point by turning out bad or mediocre rods so I guess that shoots holes in  your practical results  theory.  (Will Price)

      On the other hand, which maker would you like to say makes crappy  rods?  Much of this is subjective, who's to say that using Schott's  method any rod wouldn't be up to 18% better? I talk to AJ every once  in a while and he does do that. And he makes dandy rods.  (Jerry Foster)

      What ever AJ says is gospel. I've built several of his tapers and have yet to find one that is inferior. They all work as stated. Keep it up AJ  (Don Schneider)


All of my culms are 6 foot and I want to make a 3 pc. 8' to 8' 3" rod.  Do I make the two lower sections from the bottom of the culm (I have both halves of each culm), or the two top sections from the upper end of the culm?  Maybe it depends if I prefer a faster or slower action?   Any advice  will be considered.  (Tom Key)

    Short answer is "Yes."

    Longer answer is it depends.  If the fibers look plenty dense in the upper half of the culm more mid section strips, they will work quite well.  If the fibers look a little shallow, you'll probably feel more confident taking the mid sections trips from the butt half of the culm.  Usually we try to get 24+ strips out of any section so unless you have some really bad spots to split around there should be plenty of strips from either end.

    If it were me, I'd probably get 24+ tip strips from the top half of the culm, and 24+ butt and/or mid strips from the lower half.  That way you can make more than one rod from this culm.

    And hey,  I remember asking the list this same question about 12-13 years ago when I was getting started.  (Harry Boyd)


All this discussion of node spacing and various culm strips has me thinking about the bundles of split strips I have left over from my previous rods.  I am thinking of building my next rod using those.  I have 10-11 strips from each of two culms.  So six from one and six from another, with backups to cover my mistakes, and I have tips and butts for a one tip rod.

So I have a question.  One sets of strips is from the upper half of the culm, with nodes about 15 inches apart (in the middle.)  The other is from the lower half of  a culm with nodes about 11 inches apart.  So which set should be used for the tips and which for the butts?  The density of the power fibers is about the same.  (Dan Zimmerlin)

    I have made several rods for myself using "left over" strips with random spacing. They have no problems. "The Twisted Miss" rod I made has strips from about 12 different culms, it casts like a cannon.  (Tony Spezio)

      Sounds from some of the recent postings like there is a small and quiet questioning of the Garrison Doctrine of Mandatory and Disciplined staggering of nodes on  a cane rod that might be suitable for fishing.

      To put it another way, it sure looks like it's strictly an issue of cosmetics VS performance, in that the staggering of nodes has no real world influence on cane rod performance.

      Anyone have evidence to the contrary? (Bill Fink)

    I'd use the upper pieces for the tip.  First, the old timers seem to have done it that way, but more important:  whether you think nodes are stronger or weaker than the rest, they are "discontinuities" in strength and stiffness.  I'd think the fewer physical changes in the tip section the better.  This is worth exactly what you paid for it.  (Neil Savage)


I was given some cane that is about 1>1.25" OD @ the butt. The butts have heavy power fibers and the tips are light in power fibers. How small in ID have any of you used a culm?  (Don Anderson)

    I have made rods from culm like that. I tend to keep them for short light rods 6’ 3 wt that sort of thing. Or just use them for tip section I have not had any problems when used of these .  (Gary Nicholson)

    Don't forget what Garrison said about that, and you could turn the culm upside down so that the thinner section is under the handle, anyway that's what I took from that and it makes sense to me. Although that doesn't mean it's right.  (Joe Arguello)

    I have used culms as small as that, but, make sure you measure the depth of the power fibers vis-à-vis your finished strips apex to make sure there is sufficient.  This is a good practice on all culms.  (Larry Tusoni)


I am working on rod #3, from a new culm which looked suspiciously short of power fibers when compared to #1 and #2. While the power fibers appear to be of sufficient thickness to predominate at the ferrule station the strips are way more flexible than the others I have done so far. So I did an experiment and weighed two similar leftover strips split from the different culms; I even erred on the side of caution and used a slightly wider strip from the suspect culm and found that the more flexible strip weighed 1.6 oz and the strip from rod #2's culm weighed in at 1.9 oz. Any opinions on whether to proceed or prop up the tomatoes with the remnants of #3? (Ray Wright)

    Two things you could do, one is make a very light rod with it and the other is bake it as hard as you feel you can without making it too brittle. For the latter you may need more experience of baking cane than you have, so let us just say err on the generous side.

    What you have just learnt is that its a good idea to buy as many culms as you can and select them for the rod in question. You still get about half a rods worth left out of every culm, and these are surprisingly useful for odd sections, experimental or otherwise.  (Robin Haywood)

    I have not seen the culm, but we rod makers today are real spoiled when it comes to bamboo. I have some 3 to 4 inch culms with thick power fiber bands so that I could make 8 wts and never see pith on the butt end when I am finished planing. In years past there were many that thought that a dense thin band of power fibers was best, even necessary, for the sake of the rod and for the best performance of the rod. When I first started I purchased a bundle of 6 foot culm-top-halves with a thin band of dense fibers from tuxedo cane and made some wonderful whole rods from them. Now they were not 8 wts but 4 wts. I assuming you bought the bamboo from one of our reputable dealers. They don't sell unusable bamboo. If it's bad they will stand behind it i am certain. EC Powell used to mill the inside from the spline and replace it with Sitka spruce which in the butt half made of the majority if the diameter of the rod as well as a good part of the tip. The discussion in the past was around the quality of the thin dense band Vs the fat thick band. I personally have made a rod from the native cane my dad and I used to cut that grew in the sloughs in Southern Illinois. Now that rod is wobbly but it's not Tonkin. I would suggest you try a light weight 4 wt rod. (Timothy Troester)

      Actually, EC Powell used Port Orford Cedar.  (Chris Obuchowski)

    I once ran into a culm that yielded strips MUCH lighter and MUCH flimsier than the others (well into the triple digits) I had split.  The strips themselves were real noodles and the power fiber thickness couldn't have been more than about 1/16" at any point.  After noticing that they were still very dense I decided to continue mostly out of curiosity.  I also figured that since nobody speaks too poorly about hollow rods that this couldn't be much worse.  The end result... the rod itself was as fast and powerful as any other rod I had made to that taper.  The only difference - it was lighter.  I'll leave it to others to draw there own conclusions but that was my observation.  Since this only your third rod, I would say continue on.  You can only learn from the experience - then you can share with the rest of us!  (Bill Oyster)

    Just an update on this. I made a 6', 4 wt out of it and it awaits guides but feels like it will be OK. (Ray Wright)


Recently, I split out a culm in anticipation of building three rods.  I bent a few rough split strips between nodes to see if I had any “bad” spots.  I didn’t see anything obvious so I put twelve strips in a PVC tube to soak for five days.  I’ve come to prefer straightening wet strips and then rough planing to triangles.  WELL ------------ I began straightening and noticed that even wet the strips still had significant spring back until I got to one segment near the top end of a butt half.  This segment was truly PLASTIC.  With no heat, I could bend the strip and it would stay stay bent, virtually no spring back.  I wondered if this was just because it was wet and would be OK after heat treating.  So I finished straightening and roughing.  I power-milled each strip to a triangle each one exactly the same dimension as the next.  I then dried in a M-D fixture and heat treated at 320 degree for 45 minutes.

To determine if I had good or bad segments after drying and heat treating, I took six strips and measured the MOE (stiffness) at a spot centered between each set of nodes using an instrument that has proven to be very repeatable.  It’s based on the principle of determining the force required to bend a beam of known cross section a known amount.  The results were FLABBERGASTING!  In all the strips there showed a “bad” spot about 25 to 30% less stiff than the best section.

The conclusion is that even though I could NOT tell with certainty I had a bad segment in the dry, rough state, it showed up in wet strips and when measured.

Go to this link and either open or download the file.  It is a chart of the change in stiffness along the length of strips.    (Al Baldauski)

    This is very interesting. From the graph, I gather that it is a single spot on the culm that is showing the weakness. Is that correct? To you have any remaining strips where this section can be tested?

    Its interesting this would show up after soaking, but not before.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    If I read your chart right, all the weak spots were between the same nodes.  I take it that, if a rod were built from the culm, you would have a rod that would take a set there along with the action being affected?  Even with a 2 or 3" node stagger.

    If all that is true would flipping strips help or would you just have two "wimpy" sections of a rod?  (Pete Emmel)

      If you remember some time ago I advocated using two culms of bamboo at least to make a rod section. There was some individuals on here who dismissed it and told me I was talking rubbish. Now you know why you use two culms.  (Gary Nicholson)

        And flipping every other strip will also help to spread out any undetected weakness.

        The trouble with using multiple calms is that most amateur builders and maybe even some commercial ones do not have the inventory of bamboo to build that way.

        Another question to ask would  be how prevalent this kind of defect is. If it was common, wouldn't we have seen it in finished product? Some builders build a lot of a single taper. If it was common, then they should be seeing strange rod failures. But Al's right about it being a possible explanation for some of the rare but unexplainable failures that crop up. Maybe that broken rod wasn't the customer's fault after all, eh?  (Larry Lohkamp)

          Makes you think.  Could be the answer all those Frankenstein rods made from scraps turn out so nice to fish with.  (Gary Nicholson)

      Pardon me for butting in here Al, but Pete

      And pardon me Al that didn't come out as I intended..I was not doubting your test or the results..but the fact that 20% was a normal you had lead us to believe in a previous post. Those culms are inferior and should be trashed. And yes what you say is is more difficult to judge from a fresh split than on a rough taper were the dimensions are equal. The bad ones jump out when comparing apples to apples.

      Pete you have asked an unanswerable question.

      The set part..depends on why the culm deflects more. Only Al can answer that. If it were fore-instance just a lack of power fiber then maybe not, or all tips would take sets. But this is conjecture..who knows?

      Would it be weaker..yes, because it is.

      Flipping strips.. the "neutralizing effect" (a different conversation) only if the sections you were matching against were as proportionately stronger as those are weaker. Then you still have the real issue that those sections are weaker and superficially the rod is neutral (not even true at that level) but those three strips are still weak. Even though we discuss rods in math terms as behaving like regular polygons they are not homogeneous and those rules (the best we can do) only roughly apply.

      Node stager is another marginal variable but is mostly irrelevant in this context.

      And Gary,

      If you were referring to my comments about averaging.. I wasn't trashing the concept, I was simply dismissing it..hehee..The bad strip from any culm that gets into the rod is still bad. If you find a bad culm in either case, i would hope you just throw it out, not try to average it in. If you have a pile of strips from multiple culms and you find a bad strip, then you have to sort through the whole bundle to find all the bad ones. And how many were there from that splitting? 

      I didn't think the idea behind the averaging argument was to average in bad strips.  (Jerry Foster)

        Jerry  you cannot always spot bad strips so readily. Al has had to soak the strips to find them.   So where does that leave the rest of us?  (The conclusion is that even though I could NOT tell with certainty I had a bad segment in the dry, rough state, it showed up in wet strips and when measured.)

        But for sure if you find them bin them .Why would anyone use them.  (Gary Nicholson)

          OK, I'm not big on how to stuff but

          Grab a split by on both ends. Flex it. Now do a traveling flex. Exert more pressure and one end and then the other. The apex will travel up and down the strip. a really weak section will jump out at you. Because you are not moving your hands around recent muscle memory will help discern marginal differences. Learned sensitivity.  (Jerry Foster)

            That sounds like a good technique.  I've got six rough splits from this same culm that have not been soaked yet.  I'll give it a try to see if is more sensitive that what I tried in the first place.  (Al Baldauski)

        My apologies if I implied there is a 20% variation in all culms.  That was not my intent.

        You seem have a better recall of what I've said than I do  :)   If I made a statement about variations it should have referred only to the samples I tested, not bamboo in general.  Just as in this case, I'm referring six strips from the butt half of one culm.

        I thought the variation was significant  enough to bring to everyone's attention so that we all could be more vigilant in inspecting strips before use.  I, for one, with far less experience that you, am guilty of casualness until I'm slapped in the face.  (Al Baldauski)

    With the prospect of inconsistent stiffness along each section, how can we prepare a predictable final product- or is it just luck?  (George Wood)

      You will come close... usually. And given the slightest amount of luck it will be better than the one you're copying... or, if original, the new standard. You get what you get when it comes to bamboo... they're all different.  (Mike St. Clair)

      Not to panic, a simple flex test of the entire strip after you split will show you what you need to know. And no, no glue will compensate for a weak culm.

      I think your 20% figure is a little inflated Al. Some may vary that much, but they should be in the trash. I've done the same test, using Dr. Schotts device and the deviation was 1-5% on usable culms, hardly worth fretting about.  (Jerry Foster)

    Gee, couldn't find a defect in the strips until AFTER you soaked them for 5 DAYS!  You building fly rods or making parts for KON TIKI?

    You think a little decomp in the organic material might have something to do with it?  (Chris Raine)

      Decomposition is not an issue.  Most vegetative decomposition is aerobic.  The strips were submerged completely in a slightly chlorinated tube of water.  One segment along the culm was consistently the worst.  If decomposition were a factor, all segments would have been affected or the both end more so that the mids.  The worst section was the second form the top end.  (Al Baldauski)

        You could not, did not, detect any defects in your strips prior to soaking them.  Then you chose to soak them for 5 days.  To what end?  Why soak strips at all?  Putting some chlorine in the water to what?  Slow down what?  If decomp is anaerobic, as you claim, why the chlorine?  And again, why soak?  The strips were fine,  according to you, prior to soaking.  After ONLY 5 days of soaking, there was a problem.  The only thing you proved in your experiment was that subjecting bamboo to water over 5 days breaks it down.  Why age and dry bamboo only to soak it for....what?  Why soak?  Is it easier?  Well buy from Zhu.  Easiest of all.  If you want to throw convention to the wind.  (Chris Raine)

          I soak my strips because others on this list do so and have preferred the ease of straightening and rough planing.  I’ve tried it and like it.

          I don’t have the experience that Jerry has so flex testing strips for weakness escapes my abilities.  I didn’t notice an OBVIOUS weak spot when flexed dry but suspected a segment might be weak.  It wasn’t until the strips were soaked that it BECAME obvious.

          The chlorine in the water was to kill the bacteria and/or mold that tend to make the  water “stink”  after a few days.

          I have used this technique before without any loss in performance of subsequent rods.  What I proved was that there was a weak spot in the culm which was highlighted by soaking.  You’ll note that one out of four segments was significantly weaker that the rest.  If soaking was the cause then all the segments should have been equally affected.  If anything, the end segments should have been worse since that’s where the water enters the bamboo.

          Aging/drying bamboo was the original way to get a somewhat usable material.  It’s evident that you can’t use green bamboo to make a good rod.  But what about those guys who threw convention to the wind and started heat treating bamboo !!!!!!  I bet you’re guilty of that, too.  If we stuck to convention we would wallow in a sea of mediocrity.  Innovation is the mother of improvement.  We are all making better rods today than our forefathers because of innovation.  (Al Baldauski)

            VERY well put and thank you -- these techniques have been used for years (decades) by some makers.  Perhaps cane rod making should be understood as a varied group of methods of crafting rather than apprentice-like obsession with just one or two methods or "schools".  This goes both for the amateur who makes up his own criteria of perfection or the commercial maker who produces to sell to a sometimes critical market!  (Ted Godfrey)

            I have gone on vacation and left strips in water for 2 weeks. 3 days in the sun and they are back to before soaking weight levels. Please forgive Chris, he lives in the woods by himself and doesn't know any better. he hee. I now heat treat before I soak and I haven't seen any tangible differences in similar rods. The water only gets into the intercellular parts of the bamboo. And is easily shed.  I want my sticks to be ambient RH before I mill them.  (Jerry Foster)

              The rod making fraternity is divided between those that soak at those that don't.  Please don't knock something until you at least try it.  Soaking strips has many advantages and very few disadvantages. Try it and see for yourself  (Gary Nicholson)

                I've started soaking my heat treated strips before tapering with a bench top planer because of a note Gary posted about soaking after heat treating.  That virtually eliminated splintering caused by the planer.  Planing dry, I was roughing the taper down to about 100 thousandths over final to allow for splinters.  I can take them down to within 50 after soaking with very little  splintering and dull planer blades.  Very cool!  Kudos to Gary and all the other members of the unconventional fraternity.

                The unconventional crowd needs to stay on this water thing.  We could probably generate enough browns gas from water to heat treat.  Now, if we can just figure out how to glue them up with water.  Well, actually, I'm already using the next best thing...TBIII :)  (David Bolin)

                  There does seam some confusion on here as to the length of time you should soak your strips.

                  Point being there is no correct time…

                  If you want the strips wet to the core and you intend to take them down in one go soaking  right thought takes 5 days approximately.

                  But you can soak for a day and take them down in stages no problem.

                  Example soak for a day rough them out.

                  Soak again for another day to very near final size

                  Soak again and hit your final diameter.

                  Or do as the late and great Darryl Hayashida use to do and soak in boiling water to speed the soaking process up (see here).

                  There are no rules, all ways work just take your pick.  (Gary Nicholson)


I finally got a chance to read 'The Book'. Having read a number of more recent works, I didn't find a lot of new material, but I was struck by Garrison's salvaging of strips, or lengthening them if they were too short for his method of staggering. He had two splicing blocks. One to lengthen strips for staggering and another compound one for salvaging beveled strips that were damaged or found to be defective later in processing.

All of the recommendations  in response to  Al's defective strips has been to trash them. Why don't we still salvage cane. If nodeless rods are viable fishing tools, what is so bad about repair splices?  (Larry Lohkamp)

    Garrison developed his work habits during the Great Depression, he didn't waste anything. He built rods in his spare time while working a full time job and the labor didn't count for much, bamboo had to be bought and every penny counted in those days(sound familiar to anyone?) Another thing he had to deal with was 8' culms, the common length then. I'm a carpenter and have worked for several of his generation, not to mention my own grandfather,  and they used to drive me nuts with their "frugality", I called it just plain cheap back then, but I'm understanding them better each day.  (John Channer)


Starting out, I learned that we should use the butt of a culm for the butt of a rod, and the tip of a culm for the tip of a rod.  So I always did it that way (usually 3X3, although that's irrelevant).  I understand the theory for doing it that way, but have never seen the proof, if you see what I mean.  I followed the rules, on faith.

So recently, as I was messing around with another geometry, I tried using 3 strips from the tip of the culm, and 3 from the butt, for each of my sections.  That way, the un-tapered, roughed-out sections should all have the same natural amount of "bendability", and so the only thing that will affect the rod's final "bendability" is the taper, not the fact that strips from the butt culm are supposed to be stiffer than those from the tip...  I THINK this should lead to more consistent actions and rods over time, but I don't have any more "proof" for this theory than did anyone who advocated the butt-to-butt and tip-to-tip theory.  (And I'm not going to spend my time making parallel rods both ways to "find out" because I'd rather spend time making some tapers I've been coveting.)  Maybe it would make no casting difference at all.  (There's a thought!)  (Lee Koch)

    I have started using two culms that will have the nodes staggered between the culms.  Split these full length, The nodes are already staggered. This lets me use the butts for butts and tips for tips having less nodes in the tip section. Doing this also keeps a lot of bamboo from being wasted. I cut the length I need from the top and what I need from the butt, that leaves me a length from the middle for shorter rods for both butts and tips.  I have given some thought doing what you do. Now hearing you do this, I will give it a shot on the next rod. In that case, you use 9 strips from the butt section and 9 from the tip section. I was a firm believer in butts for butts and tips for tips till I have talked to some professional makers.  Most say a strip is a strip.I am always willing to give something new a try. If I like it, I will use it, if not, nothing lost.   (Tony Spezio)

    I tried using 3 strips from the tip of the culm, and 3 from the butt, for each of my sections.  That way, the un-tapered, roughed-out sections should all have the same natural amount of "bendability", and so the only thing that will affect the rod's final "bendability" is the taper, not the fact that strips from the butt culm are supposed to be stiffer than those from the tip...

    I have many times thought of doing what you propose, but thinking it through, I still haven’t been able to do it and here’s why.

    Power fibers always go from stiffer in the butt to less stiff in the top of the culm. When you mentioned the words “SAME natural amount of bendability”, it put up the mental image of me waving my strips in all aspects of getting them to size. What I have found is that there is always more resistance to bending on the butt end of the strip, than the tip end of the strip, it has never been the same natural amount through the entire strip.

    Someday, take a strip of cane and hold it at one end, wave it up and down with the enamel side up, then grab the other end and do the same and let me know if you feel any difference. I build by both “measure” and “feel”. The piece can be perfect in size but feel wrong, I’ll trash it.

    I kind of equate it to, cane being a natural substance and therefore it has a natural order to it. Who knows, maybe I’m just crazy!!!!  (Ren Monllor)

      Before you terst bend the strips, you are planing them to the same dimensions??  (David Dziadosz)

        I test bend the strips through the entire process.  (Ren Monllor)

      I also will sometimes use 3 strips from the top end of a culm and 3 from the bottom (butt) end.  This is not because of any carefully thought out plan involving stresses and flexing its because I am cheap.  With a smaller diameter culm I  get 18-20 strips from a tip end.  I use 12 strips for a rod in the "usual " fashion.  The remaining 6 strips get mixed and alternated  with 6 butt strips to get 2 tip sections.  The node stagger works out nicely and the rods perform just fine.  (Jim Sobota)

      While we're on this, does anyone reverse the butt splines so you're cutting the ferrule station over the butt of the butt and building the grip over what was the middle of the culm?  (Steve Yasgur)

        I have reversed 3 of the six but I know it's been done. One problem is that there is more nodes on the butt of the butt.  (Timothy Troester)

        I have reversed every other strip on a couple of my own rods as Ray Gould does in his book. The rods cast just fine. The only thing I notice on some "up side down" strips, you  have to be careful planing the nodes .It seems I had to take lighter cuts on those strips.

        It may not make a difference it they were being milled by machine.  (Tony Spezio)

      Just to find out I built an 8'5/6 wt rod using the tips for butts and the butts for tips. There was no more variation in that rod than there was between the many others I built of that taper. I had some bigger cane. I had more nodes in the tip sections. But the nodes were easier to work with in the small end of the taper. I no longer have the rod it was picked by a buddy and is making the grade some where in Arkansas most of the year. When I started building rods I picked up a bundle of top sections from tuxedo cane and made mostly one piecers but I made an 8' 5 wt and 7'9" 5 wt. It was what I had at the time. It worked out much better than the native river-bottoms cane I cut as a kid, for sure.  (Timothy Troester)

        With Tim’s reply, then I must ask, what’s all the hubbub about power fibers and their role in the make-up of a bamboo rod? “or” Are we counting just on the epoxy and varnish to hold it together and give the rod its strength?

        Maybe just for laughs, I should roll up an eight foot piece of fine white silk, (make it into a rod per say), epoxy and varnish it, throw some guides on it, so that when I fish, no one will see the rod because it becomes invisible with the epoxy and varnish and it will appear to others as if I’m willing the fish out of the water.  (Ren Monllor)

          This was my experience. A lot of yous' guys are using bamboo that is a lot smaller now than I have here. Except for big rods, most of the pith gets planed off anyway. A disadvantage of this is the increased number of nodes there are in the tip section doing this. An advantage of doing this is with the way I address nodes, which I shared the other day, node problems are easier for me to address at he  little end of the taper than at the big end. If you are making 7' rods, I doubt you would have problems but if you are making 9', 10' or spey rods then you are more likely to run into problems. There isn't anything magic here, you ought to use the cane that will work for the job. When I started building, the discussion about using bamboo from different culms or flipping end for end was a question of ethics as much as anything. There are some fellas among us who have pushed the envelope, Tony Spezio is one, and we ought to thank them. As craftsmen, we ought to discover the limits of our materials. That's one small part of the learning curve. I am not for throwing the baby out with the bath water. Politically, I lean toward anarchy but with the craft I lean toward exploration. (Timothy Troester)

            Thinking back, out of the two bales of cane I got a while back, there was only one large in diameter piece. So yes, then there was only a node spacing problem with that rod. As far as the majority of the rods I make and sell, they are three piece, 8 ½ footers, so that’s why I don’t chance it when it comes to mixing tops and bottoms. Not only that, but I’ve noticed that the power fibers are thinner on the top end and heavier on the bottom, so with three piece rods I just prefer the natural progression of thick butt fibers to thinner at the tips. I’ve never built a parabolic or anything like that, but maybe in the future I will have cause to think a little differently.  (Ren Monllor)

            As for reversing the strips, the first time I did it, it was an accident.  I just wasn't paying attention, and began tapering the wrong end of a roughed out strip.  I almost panicked, but after being reassured by an experienced builder that he had done the same thing several times with no ill results, I finished the rod, and found that... ta da ... no ill effects!

            Since that time, I've reversed the strips deliberately a number of times, mostly to get a better node spacing.  I can't see as it makes any difference.  If the strips are any stiffer one way than the other, it isn't enough to matter.  As long as the finished section is at least 80% power fiber (tips are often nearly 100% power fiber) it doesn't seem to matter.

            I use butt strips in the butt simply because the layer of power fibers is thicker.  Even on a 4 wt, though, 10% pith in the butt may be unavoidable.  (Paul Gruver)

            Garrison actually recommended reversing the butt strips on any rod 8-feet or larger. Theory was to place more power fibers under the ferrule  and thus add strength.  (Larry Myhre)

    While some are using strips from the butt section mixed with strips from the tip section to make rods I am taking all the strips from the butt section of the culm. I am gluing up three 10' 6" , 9 weight, two handed salmon rods today and all were made from strips from the butt of the culm. It takes one culm per rod for these big rods. I need to make a bunch of little rods to use up the tip sections of culms that are left over.

    I also use the Garrison stagger on the nodes. If the nodes are the weakest part of the strip then I don't want them together to form a week spot in the rod section. If the nodes are the strongest part of the strip then I don't want them together to form an overly stiff spot in the rod section. So, spread them out so their influence in minimal. I don't spend any time worrying about nodes close to the tip-top or ferrules either.  (Jerry Drake)


Regarding what seems to be a concern over lower quality (?) about this theory.  With so many cane rod builders it only seems logical that suppliers are forced to go deeper into the barrel to meet the demand.  Poles that used to be destined for tomato stakes are now finding their way into the "suitable for rods making" pile.  (We've seen the same phenomenon with cork.)  Yes bamboo is a renewable resource, but there are only so many A poles (nature is what it is) that come out of the ground each season.  At least that's my take on the subject.  (Tom Key)

    I don't know, Tom.  I think that there has always been a horrendous attrition rate when selecting appropriate culms; read how many were discarded by the classic makers and you'll see what I mean.  Far higher proportion than we discard now.

    These days we seem to have come to expect to get a rod or two out of every culm we buy, but that is just not going to happen, I'm afraid.

    I think that the occurrence of "worm holes" is a pretty random event.  I sometimes go for ages without a problem, but then will strike a few in a short space.

    I could wish,  though, that the bloody things would manifest themselves a little earlier in the process than they usually do - like on about the antepenultimate plane stroke, when you don't have any spare strips left, so that you have to start the whole thing over again and waste all that careful work!  I won't use the strips, whether in rods that are for other people or for my own use - just too embarrassing to have a lot of flawed rods out there with my name on them.  When I was a real tyro rodmaker, I was pretty convinced that I was the new Everett Garrison, and sent a shipment of 5 rods to a bloke called Darrell Lee to sell for me.  Looking back, the blanks were sound  but the cosmetics were terrible, and it is a constant source of chagrin to me that the sole North American representatives of my rods are of such poor quality.  By such things are we judged.  Darrell Lee stole the rods from me, in point of fact, but the fact is that they are still out there somewhere, like a "worm in the bud"!  (Peter McKean)

    On the cork, I agree absolutely, but on the bamboo, I've actually seen it go the other direction over the past 20 years or so.

    There was a time when I got a bale of "the best" graded bamboo in and would cull out a HUGE percentage of it... all kinds of problems... excessive leaf nodes, cosmetic issuses such as deep scratches, really bad water marks, growers marks, grafitti (yes, we had a Chinese gentlemen in the shop that said not all of the "growers marks" were plantation signatures, but that some of it was kids scratching "Hu loves Lin" just like we did on the bountiful maple trees when we were kids).

    The bamboo I get today is a completely different bamboo than the bamboo of 15 or 20 years ago, but in a good way.  It's much cleaner, it's straighter, without the burn marks from straigtening in China, no growers marks, very little water marking, which in itself is a miracle considering how the stuff is transported from the plantation to the processing yard.

    We owe this, to both the late Harold Demarest and Andy Royer.  Harold was and Andy is, very active at the rodmakers gatherings and listens to what the rodmakers WANT in bamboo.  Their countless combined trips to China to visit the plantations weren't just "nice vacations"... they were going there to tell the plantation owners WHAT WE WANTED!  And they did a great job.  I don't know for sure, but I would guess that Andy still makes the occasional trip to China to work with the growers.

    In short, the bamboo we get now is great compared to what it was even 20 years ago.  Cleaner, cut a little higher off the ground, straighter, better power fiber distribution  (which is a matter of what part of the 60 foot tall plant the final cut comes from) and all in all, it's still pretty cheap!  (Bob Nunley)

      As far as I know, Andy still goes every year to China in order to select personally his rodmakers' cane.  I know two people who were with him on such a trip a couple of years ago and they enjoyed it greatly, but did not consider it a vacation.  They helped in selecting the cane and that involved many hours of work.  Andy is partly at the mercy of the growers who cut the cane and, yet, his years of contact with the same people in the growing area in China certainly help him get the product we need.

      The three shipments of cane I have received from Andy have been without the numerous flaws mentioned in this thread.  Oh, there have been the occasional flaws, but at most I have lost one or two strips in a culm to those.  And then there was one perfect, straight, heavy, unblemished culm.  My bending test (probably not as thorough as Bob's) found that the nodes had about the same strength as a stalk of celery. No way to know that until after splitting.  I almost cried, but took the next culm (from Andy) and built the rod I had planned.  (Tim Anderson)

      I certainly agree with Bob about the quality of cane.  Bamboo rodmakers are a tiny niche market compared to what they were 80 years ago, and the acreage under cultivation has increased by orders of magnitude.  But I think a lot of the credit for the improvement in quality is due to Andy and the amount of time he has spent personally selecting cane, working with the growers, and educating them as to what we want.  We are getting the best bamboo that's ever been available, and the price is really cheap.  The situation with cork is quite the opposite: the price has gone way up and the quality has gone down.  I think this is related to: 1) devaluation of the US dollar, 2) demand by other industries, 3) the increasing age and declining area and condition of cork oak forests in Spain and Portugal, 4) increasing labor costs resulting in part from attrition and shortage of skilled labor willing to perform hard manual work like harvesting cork.

      I've always thought it ironic that many of us agonize over getting every last strip out of a culm, and then using every last strip we can get, when the bamboo is one of the least expensive components in a finished rod.  About the only thing that costs less is the silk thread.  (Robert Kope)


A little venting here. This rod I'm working on has turned out to be a nightmare. The first culm  I selected the pieces did not pass the bend test that I do, lots of tomatoes stakes. Now lately I'm finding worm holes in the tip sections and have had 3 of the first 6 turn up bad as I reach final dimensions and have another 6 to go. The outer rind has all been scraped on theses sections so the worm holes are a big surprise.

Weather is starting to get nice and fishing would be in order if it would quit raining. Makes it hard to be in the cellar shop.  (Jim Tefft)

    I've found worm holes in the first 3 culms of the last batch I bought. Fortunately, I've been able to work around them. Only had to trash a few butt strips. Been thinking about going ahead and flaming the rest of the culms to make sure that all 'em little suckers are DEAD. (David Atchison)

      I guess worm holes in bamboo are more common than I thought. After my first five I found one in the latest piece I split out. The holes are only in the lower half or so of the pole and seemed to be into the pith only. After final planing there are only a few holes confined to the area that will be under the grip and are all at the apex of the strips. The holes and then some would all be planed off if I were hollow building this  rod,  which  I'm  not.  I  am  guessing the holes are a non-problem since the rod has a swelled butt and there is a lot of bamboo under the grip and hope that I am luckier than I deserve to be. There were no worms, alive or otherwise, to be seen when I split and planed the strips, just a lot of old worm do-do.  (Joe Hudock)

    I found worm holes in 2 strips the hard way on the last rod during final planing. It is a bummer. Hang in there. (John Rupp)

    If the worm holes don't penetrate the enamel side you could just use the strips and consider the rod as being randomly slightly hollow built. I have actually done this and had no problems. The caveat being that I don't sell rods and I am not a discerning caster.  (Larry Tucker)

    Must be the season. After removing the enamel from my strips I found faint longitudinal fissures in all but 5 of 22 that I got from the butt 6 feet of the culm.  (Pete Bates)

    I feel yer pain...  ;-)  A few years back, there was a bunch of us at Joe Byrd's place in Tennessee to work on the "One Day Wonder Rod," which was to be auctioned off and the proceeds used, I think, by the local chapter of TU.  Joe had saved up a really nice culm, for all intents and purposes, blemish and bend free.  We set about to work, and split all the strips out, straightened, compressed the nodes, heat treated and got ready to use Joe's old JW mill to do the strips.  The milling went fine, but when we started to put the strips together so we could tape up for glue up, every single tip strip decided it was time to be like a barber pole.  It was as if someone had taken a drill motor to one end of the strip, anchored the other end, and did about 50 rotations of the drill motor.  We absolutely could not untwist the strips, no matter what we did.

    I think we had to make all new tips strips.  (Mark Wendt)

    Make big rods like I do and the worm holes won't matter. They just add character to the finished rod.  (Jerry Drake)

    Could you please explain the not-so-general specifics of your bend test please?

    I'm really not sure what to look for in doing this or more importantly, just how do you go about doing this test for good strips? Any help will be greatly appreciated as I've heard little discussion and read even less about it.

    Is it just a flex? If so, how much? Is this test the norm in each culm? What makes a passing strip or a failure?  (Jeremy Gubbins)

      Many of us have "bend tests" although they aren't all the same.  Here's mine.  I press and straighten the nodes, then bend them... I mean REALLY bend them!  If a 4 foot piece of bamboo strip can't be touched end to end without breaking, then it needs to go in the trash!  That's MY criteria, but not everyone’s.  Some bend less than me, some bend more than me.

      When the blank is glued up, I put a good hard bend in the tips... more of a bend than it will EVER see fishing.

      Here's the tip test.

      NB Rod Tip Test

      I also do a "whole rod" test, after ferrules, handle and reel seat are installed.  Here’s  a picture:

      Nunley Rod Bend Test

      Sorry, don't have any pictures of my strip bend test... but if it passes the strip bend test, it WILL pass these two tests.  (Bob Nunley)


First off, I am inexperienced, and have not even split a culm of cane yet. I've been working off strips a local maker gave me until now, but I am running very short. Second, I'm Canadian and it looks like getting a good bundle up here is going to run me at least $600, due largly to fumigation laws.

I was perusing an online buy/sell (dangerous) and came across this ad.

They have no idea what kind of bamboo it is, but they have lots of it - cheap.

I have three questions for the group, if you are kind enough to help:

1- Other then power fiber density, how could I determine if this is Tokin? I'm a biologist, so feel free to go into detail if needed.

2- What is the criteria for rod quality cane?

3- Any makers in Calgary interested in going with me to check this out?

I figure at the very least I can get some practice splitting and have some cane for non-rodmaking use (I've been thinking about a net for a while- like I need more hobbies).  (Conor McKenna)

    Have you talked to Andy Royer lately? I did about 2 weeks ago and he says he's worked out the problem with fumigation for the most part. Still some cost but not as much.   (Don Ginter)

      You are going to invest 100's of hours of your blood, sweat and tears on your rods.  You can't afford to use inferior materials - bamboo snow fencing is NOT appropriate for anything but practice splitting.  Save your $'s and get the good stuff from Andy. $60 a culm is steep yes but still remember you can make at least 2 2-tip rods from a culm, up to 4 single tip rods, that works out to between $15 to $30 per rod, even at those prices it's still one of the cheapest parts of the rod. Put it all in perspective and the answer is clear - get the good stuff and don't look back. (John Rupp)

        With all due respect, I disagree with the idea that you should not use "inferior" cane when you start making rods. My first 9 rods were made "inferior" cane. In the process I learned how to split, how to plane, how to sharpen plane blades, how to flame, how to heat treat, how to how to glue and bind, how to make bamboo ferrules, and most of all, how to correct my mistakes. I knew nothing about any of this when I started. Total material cost was about $15. My last two rods have been made with Royer's cane. They duplicate two of my earlier rods. The major difference in the rods is that they are stiffer because of the greater depth of power fibers. Material cost about $30.

        Regarding the 100's of hours - if you are making rods as a hobby, the time you spend is time spent having fun. Commercial makers, of course, have other objectives. I do like using the "good" cane but have no regrets using the "inferior" stuff to get through the initial learning curve.  (Jim Healy)

          You raise a good point - I was wrong that inferior cane is only good for practice splitting - it's also good for any sort of practice that a guy would want to do.  That being said, cane rod making came fairly naturally to me, so I learned more by doing and less by practicing, and I'm a perfectionist, so my rods came out pretty nice from rod 1.   I am really glad to know all my rods have good quality cane in them, and would regret it if I had used inferior cane in them.  So my advice is a bit biased in that direction.

          As a side note, I bet your last 2 rods have more than just thicker power fibers and stiffer action.  The rods made with good cane are less likely to take a set, they are much less likely to get floppy from stress fatigue over time,  and they are stronger, hence less likely to break.  Point is a guy gets a lot more than just a stiffer rod when paying the extra money for good quality cane.  (John Rupp)

            Thanks for the encouragement and concern, fellas. I am 100% on board with using quality materials; I need all the help I can get!

            This place is 10 minutes from my house, and the poles are $0.75. Time and money will not be wasted. And I actually do need some tomato stakes! I'll take a look at diameter and power fibers, and buy accordingly.

            There will be some  quality cane in my shop at some point. I'm just looking for a shortcut, because dropping the larger part of a grand is not an immediate option. I'll get in order in eventually, hopefully with some locals. In the mean time I'll work with what I have. Notable that the maker who got me started with some cane has extended his generosity, again.

            Great news that Andy has made some progress with the new laws. I tried to touch base late fall, but didn't hear back.  (Conor McKenna)

              Having Tonkin cane is great, but you can make decent rods without it. Marcelo Calviello manages to make some nice rods with his native South American cane, including bamboo ferruled ones. Fango in Southeast Asia harvests his cane while fishing, then cures it for his rods. He recently branched out and built a casting rod. Wayne Cattanach made a rod from native Japanese cane a year or so ago. As a general rule, a taper will be derated one line weight with the other bamboo.

              Here in the US there are options. Golden Witch will sell you a starter pack for a decent price.

              You should be able to get at least 2 rods out of it, maybe 3.  (Larry Lohkamp)


There is among us, I'm sure, someone or more, who know a good way (the best way?) to do most anything. And occasionally, there is to some, that a challenge, is no challenge. When the 'Twist' was popular I tried doing it ~ much to the chagrin of any partner who dared trying to accompany me. Now, many years hence, I'm faced with another kind of twist.

On rare (maybe not so rare) occasion, one culm among others, will have such a twist in it, that one might consider it unusable. But I'm betting that there are those among us, to whom it is "a challenge that is no challenge." And to whomever may be willing to share his expertise and experience, this appeal is being made. What is considered a good way, (the best way?) to remedy this malady? Can it be done (to a split half) prior to splitting out section pieces? Or is it preferable to do the sections first and attempt to 'untwist' those individually? Any/all advice greatly appreciated.  (Vince Brannick)

    Split the culm into strips.  Treat the nodes in whatever way you choose.  Rough the strips into 60 degree triangles.  Bind the strips together in bundles of six, w/ or w/o using heat treating fixtures.  Pop bound bundles of strips into the oven at 360 degrees F+ for 8 minutes or longer.  Pull them out of the oven.  When they cool, remove binding string.  Voila!  No more twisted pieces.

    Removing twists and sweeps is one of the fringe benefits of adequately heat treating.

    No oven?  No heat treating fixtures?  Drop me a note...  :)  (Harry Boyd)

    A few years back, at Joe Byrd's place, we ran into one of these.  We had a gaggle together that day, as we were making  the "One-Day Wonder Rod" for the East Tennessee TU I think.  After we split the culm, we started straightening and taking care of the nodes.  Everything "looked" hunky-dory at this stage.  We ran the strips through Joe's JW mill, and that's when we noticed the trouble,  We put the butt strips together to tape them up for gluing, and noticed there was a "candy cane" twist to the strips.  It was even worse with the tip strips.  The almost tangled into a knot near the end of the strips.  We eventually got them glued up, but it was a real trail.

    Solution?  Yeah, the strips should have been tossed and we should have started on a new culm.  (Mark Wendt)


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