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Cane Prep - Staggering - 3x3

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I've only made a couple of three-piece rods, but it seems like there's no way to make one with the 2x2x2 staggering and still get at least five inches from the tip to first node, and from last node to ferrule.

Am I stuck with 3x3 staggering, or am I brain-dead today? I'm playing around with internodal spacing from 12 to 18 inches in the culm.  (David Van Burgel)

    Can you place a node inside your ferrule? That won't hurt anything. And why no nodes 5 inches from the ferrule? Why not 4 inches, why not 3 inches?  What would happen if there was a node right under the ferrule wrap? Wouldn't the ferrule and the wrap "protect" the node? Who said nodes would break if they are too close to the ferrule? I've never seen it happen, and since the ferrule is stiffer (and stronger in my opinion), wouldn't that prevent the dreaded casting fracture?  (Darryl Hayashida)

      On the subject of nodes (here we go again) I've never had a rod or strip break at a node-they always break between 'em. This tends to make me think that the nodes are stronger. I know that the nodes are a discontinuity in the power fibers of a strip but is that a weakness? My experience tells me "NO".  Let's hear some opinions.  (Hank Woolman)

        I'm with you Hank.  (Ralph Moon)

          If you use anything but a 3x3 stagger wouldn't that cause the rod to flex with a twist (no matter how slight)?  (Dave Norling)

            Staggering is one of those  . .areas for those polite disagreements - several makers feel that the 2 x 2 x 2 staggering is best - using the illustration that if you take a piece of paper and scribe two slashed line on it - and then curl the paper so that the slashes are opposite that the average of the two would be a line that runs straight - and that this is an example of inborn tensions - that they are better neutralized with this staggering method - Just a thought.  (Wayne Cattanach)

        First, I think we use the wrong words in describing what's happening.  I don't think stronger or weaker are the proper terms to describe what is going on.  Instead, I think you need to look at the issue in terms of how the material fails.

        Between the nodes, the power fibers are lined up parallel to one another and therefore provide a greater resistance to bending.  This area is stronger than the nodes but since it resists bending so well it fails by breaking.

        The area of the nodes, where the power fibers are not lined up parallel, has less resistance to bending and therefore can bend more before reaching its breaking point.  This area fails by additional bending rather than by breakage.

        It would seem that on a rod, by putting all your nodes at one point and  not staggering them, you would have a point that had less resistance to bending (i.e. a soft spot in the rod) but would not break as quickly as the area between the nodes.

        Well, you asked for opinions and that is mine.  Keep in mind that the extent of my engineering background coupled with my knowledge of bamboo and bamboo rodmaking, uniquely qualifies me to be a greeter at WalMart.  (Tim Wilhelm)

          In my experience the nodal areas do NOT bend as easily as the areas between nodes. Just my observations over the last 25+ years of rod making.  I'm not certain if the nodes are actually weaker, just that they are stiffer and cause the splines to bend more in the areas between 'em.  (Hank Woolman)

          After talking with Tim, he added the following:

          I still think we are using the wrong words to describe what is happening.  That has to do with how the bamboo fails.  Between the nodes, all the fibers are parallel hence the bending force is the same on each fiber.  When one fiber breaks, that increases the force on each of the remaining fibers causing them to break.  At the nodes, because the fibers are not parallel, the bending force is not evenly distributed.  When one fiber breaks it's load is then distributed to the other fibers but some for some it is a tension load and others it might be a compressive load.

          Well, I got that off of my chest and it seems plausible.  I'm just not sure it is 100% accurate.  (Tim Wilhelm)

        Milward's destructive testing showed him that nodal areas are 15% weaker than non-nodal areas, so if you use a spiral stagger a node will decrease the cross-section by one-sixth of 15% or 2.5%... nothing really to be concerned about.  (Kyle Druey)

        This has lead to an interesting series of comments but I have to say that I'm with you from practical observation.  I wonder how the Milward’s strength testing was done?  If strips were tested to destruction was this by repeated loading or just increasing the load to failure.  What was classed as a failure, snapping or excessive deflection?

        I have been thinking of changing my current 3x3 stagger so I have been thinking about this issue.  From my perspective the nodes seem to have little effect on the rods performance, in other words they do not form soft spots in bend tested strips.  The only time I have noted soft spots is at the early stages when local filing has reduced the section at the node.  Perhaps the additional heat treatment they receive makes up for their poorer structure?  If they behave with the same stiffness as the rest of the cane the rod should not tend to twist due to uneven staggering.  The nodes will however remain areas of suspicion and possible cracking from repeated loading so I'm going to try the 2x2 system despite not seeing any failures.  (Gary Marshall)

        I'm a little curious on why this is directed at me, as if I was the node expert?

        If is my opinion you are looking for, then that has been my experience also. The only bamboo rod I have had break was a spinning rod, and it was one spline on the top, between the nodes. I don't think of nodes as weak spots, I treat them as stiffer spots. I can see someone saying they were weaker if they were trying to bend a node until it broke because it breaks before it bends very much, but in a typical cane rod the nodes don't flex as much as the area between. If the whole rod (in my case it was a strip) were bent until it broke it would be between the nodes because that is where the strip or rod was bent the most. My experimentation with nodeless only went as far as making a nodeless strip. That strip broke so easily at the scarf no matter what glue I used that I decided nodeless wasn't for me.

        By the way, I don't heat and press my nodes. That weakens them and leads to more lifts and chips at the node. Remember, I am the one who advocates planing the enamel side flat.

        As far as node staggering, I have been trying a 3x3 lately and putting a group of nodes right at the ferrule wrap. So far no casting fracture, and I have used the rod all this fishing season.  (Darryl Hayashida)

          Perhaps I should explain what I mean by casting fracture. That is the little white line where the ferrule wrap - usually at the bottom of the ferrule - cracks after being cast a while. Every single rod other than brand new has had that wrap cracked, and I was looking for a way to prevent it.  (Darryl Hayashida)

            I spoke with Glenn Brackett at Winston and he told me that all their bamboo rods get that little crack as well as every other rod that he has seen. Mine do it too.  (Steve Weiss)

          As a very, very subjective observation indeed, the thing that seems to be raising is ugly head time and time again is that every now and then,  when I have a bunch of odd assorted strips, left over from other, culm- integral rods with their 2X2X2 node spacing, I decide to make a "Scraps" rod in which I utilize all these odds and sods, using a loose Payne-style stagger. I have now built about 26 rods, and the natural proportion suggests that I would have done about 5 of the "Scraps" jobs.

          I am blowed if, on the whole, they are not the best performed rods of the whole bunch, crisp, responsive, quick-damping and able to handle a line well in  excess of my ability to handle a line.  (Peter McKean)

            I started out staggering 2X2, made a number of rods with that stagger. I got away from the 2X2 because there would two strips with the nodes close to the tips. In planing those two strips it got real hairy at the nodes. Yes, I did break some strips at that point in planing. I have been satisfied with the 3X3, makes things a lot simpler. Like Peter, two of my best casting rods were scrap rods with nodes where they fell, even turned strips upside down to stagger nodes. I am not advocating breaking away form tradition, don't know anything about stress unless it comes to Airplanes. After reading Wayne's post I may just go back to the 2X2. For my personal rods, I will just do what I can with leftover strips.  (Tony Spezio)

              You have brought up a point.  How much of what we call "Gospel" in rod building is just the perpetuation of a comment some unknown (and possibly unknowingly) rod maker made a dozen or so years ago.  I am thinking particularly about the rigid requirement that all strips for a rod be split adjacently.  I too have made a few trash rods, and also like you even reversed a strip or two.  Still they were good rods.  I really think that we all get a bit anal in details.  Myself included.  (Ralph Moon)

                It appears to me that over time "gospel" and "marketing" have been confused and/or misrepresented on several issues in bamboo rod contraction. like art sometimes the "truth" is in the act or in the journey and sometimes the craft is making "it" work. some issues, like node spacing, will never be settled between us. for me, like in fishing, the issues make up the ""search", the "journey" and the 'issues' are the lubrication that not only make the "craft"  possible but give it all meaning. I have built rods with a variety of node spacing and I'll be damned if I can sort out which is best. if I find it I will do it.  Till then I will keep looking, discussing and searching.  (Timothy Troester)

                  I see nothing wrong with a random node staggering. The reason I am playing around with 3x3 is usually all you have to do is flip half your strips around. Ever hear of the theory that you should make your rod upside down in relation to the culm because the larger power fibers are at the base of the culm, so then the larger fibers are in the tip of the rod? Half of my strips are like that, half are normal. The other advantage is none of your strips have to be trimmed. Full culm length is useable, and node placement - either avoiding them or using them - is a lot easier.  (Darryl Hayashida)

                    The greater density of power fibers are found in the upper  end of the culm, though their depth is less thick.  (Martin-Darrell)

                      I'm glad you mentioned that... the tip section has a higher modulus than the butt section... again from Milward and his testing.  Sorry for referencing Milward so much, but he is the only source for actual bamboo scientific - engineering testing that I am aware.  (Kyle Druey)

    Try the spiral technique.  You can space the nodes so that each "set" of six nodes makes one complete spiral, still leaving you several inches between the next set -- especially easy to arrange if you use strips taken from the upper section of a culm, where the internodal areas are greatest.

    This arrangement would have slightly tighter spacing between each of the nodes, but I have found that it works just fine, since every node is countered by the fibers of five "solid" strips.  (Bill Harms)

    By the way - quads are easy (2x2), but what do you do for a  penta???  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I think quads are best with a straight stagger. Pentas should be as well.  (Bob Maulucci)


I just now remembered what I like most about 3x3 node spacing. Ya get into the habit of doing something and you sometimes forget WHY you do it that way.

With 3x3 node spacing you can keep ALL nodes far away from the tip top and the ferrules.  It's not so bad with 2x2x2. But with the Model T Firing order and Spiral (OK Helix) configurations you WILL end up with a node very close to the tip top and the ferrule.

Another thought,  Is there any stress on a node DEEP within a ferrule?  (Larry Swearingen)

    Didn't Model T's only come with a 4 cylinder???  (Scott Grady)

      I thought so.....  (Robin Haywood)

      Okay, so that node spacing will work with a quad...  (Mark Wendt)

      Someone already called me on that, but I guess it was off-list. I checked and I misremembered the quote. The 1-5-3-6-2-4 was the "firing order of six cylinder engines", according to "The Book", no specific make or model was mentioned in the quote. I'm pretty sure Hoagy mentioned a specific car at some time in our conversations, but I guess it wasn't a Model T!  (Art Port)

        After 15 years I am rereading the book now.  I will keep an eye out for that part.  (Scott Grady)

          If you have loads of spare time, then reread "The book" by all means. If you want to improve your rodmaking however a closer inspection of Cattenach and Maurer and Elser will probably be more useful.

          In the case of the latter a close inspection of their plane blade sharpening recommendations will eradicate all your node chinking problems.  (Robin Haywood)

          Page 18 or 19, I think.  (Art Port)

        I believe it's called the "Chebby Six."  You Lawnguylanders should know that.  (Mark Wendt)

    This is the same reason I use the 3X3.  (Tony Spezio)


I have been slowly working on my initial rod when time permits, and people here have been extremely helpful.  I am going to utilize a 3 x 3 node spacing, and have a few questions before staggering as well as cutting to a working length.  The rod will be a 2 piece 7 footer so each section needs to be 42" in length when complete.  However, would a working length of 46" which allows an extra 2" on each end be enough?  Would approximately 5" clear on each end of the 42" free of a node be acceptable for the tip section in particular?  Also, what would be an acceptable minimum concerning the distance from each end to the first node be?  (Ron Delesky)

    The reason for leaving the extra length at each end of the strip is that when binding during glue-up the ends of the bundle often get a little outta whack.  So allow some extra to be able to cut off the bad sections at the ends.  2" would be more than enough.  I usually shoot for 1" to 1 1/2" at each end.  And remember that since you will be cutting that off you might as well have nodes in that allowance.  That leaves more node free cane for the strip away from tip top or ferrule.  I t probably doesn't make any real difference but I try to keep any node at least 5" away from tip top or ferrule.  That should be easy to do with a 3x3 staggering but not as easy with 2x2x2 or spiral staggering.  (Larry Swearingen)

    Personally, I have found that a bit more is better than a bit less.  Then I can measure the flat-to-flat dimension after the glue is scraped off and adjust for the best fit to the planned dimensions.  It's not as if you are wasting cane, unless you save the off cuts for a nodeless rod, and it's not that much more planing.  (Neil Savage)

      So, if you have a little extra from the cut off ends, what can you make with these??

      I have used a short piece of the culm for a base, a short piece of hex for a pedestal and mounted a fly for display.  (David Dziadosz)

        I've used the smaller  pieces cut (to whatever is a pleasing size), wrapped with various colored threads, and varnished for earrings for my wife.  (Walt Hammerick)

        If you make them long enough you can use them for fly tying bodkins (insert needle), bamboo ferrule blanks, pen blanks, fly mounts etc.  (Gordon Koppin)

          Hey, I'm starting to get some Christmas gift ideas! I've left every other strip ends longer than the others so people could better see the little triangles in the section.  (David Dziadosz)

        Dubbing needles, ear rings, if you get a tip section that unusable but looks nice, a band directors baton. Use a wine bottle cork for the grip.  (Pete Van Schaack)

        I have used cutoff ends to make ferrule plugs and handles for fly tying tools.  (Timothy Troester)

          If you ever give a talk to a group, have the cutoffs to pass around to show.  Polish the ends so the fibers really show.  You can also show what different glues look like.  And what different rod sizes look like (4 wt tip, 6 wt butt etc.)  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

            When I give a demo I always have a few cut offs around to show people.  I always get the question: Isn't a bamboo rod fragile?"  I always have one piece sharpened in a pencil sharpener & drive it into a piece of hard rock maple to show how fragile they are then I ask the crowd if I can borrow one of their graphites to do the same thing.  No takers yet LOL!! (Bret Reiter)

            I have a power point that I do for fly clubs, TU meetings, etc., and I do exactly what you said, except that I can't show them what different glues look like. It fascinates many to see the cut off of a 2 or 3 wt tip and realize that it's six pieces of bamboo.

            I also take a sharpened piece about 1/4" flat to flat and drive it through a 2x4 with a ball peen hammer. This usually quiets those who think bamboo is "delicate."  (Bob Nunley)

        (1) A slice off the base of the biggest bit, drilled with two holes, serves to make a hexagonal button, which is how we close our rod bags. Cut a few spares if you have an especially big one, as you don't get very satisfactory buttons from, say, 3-weights.

        (2) Ferrule plugs.

        (3) With varying degrees of turning down I use them as depth gauges for ferrule dimensions, and to hold male ferrules in the lathe while doing the male/female fitting thing.

        (4) Two or three of various diameters, sharpened to a sort of long chisel point, make excellent applicators for varnish when varnishing wraps.

        They are just handy little scraps to have around, I find.  (Peter McKean)

        They also make excellent handles for fly tying bodkins, thread burnishers and a buncha other uses.  (Mark Wendt)

    If each section is 42" you are not allowing for the 1/2 of the ferrule slide length. If the slide is 1 " you should add 1/2 inch to the TOTAL length of each section. In the butt you need to remove enough so that with the ferrules installed the total length will be 42 plus 1/2 the slide length .Just bringing this to your attention so that you will end up with the rod at 7' when assembled. The CUT length of the butt will be shorter than the CUT length of the tip section and also allowance for the tip top should be made. TOTAL length and CUT length will not be the same. It is is a bit off, the fish will never know.  (Tony Spezio)

      On a three piece would that be 1/3 of the 1/2 inch?  (Ron Kubica)

        Each piece is it's own length  The mid section ferrules have to fit 1/2 way into both the butt and tip.  The tip ferrule fits half way into the mid section but has about a 1/2" extent ion because of the tip top.   The butt ferrule, on the other hand has to take only 1/2  of the male from the mid section.  Confused yet?  (I hope I said what I was trying to say.)  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

        This can be a difficult operation to explain in writing.  Perhaps you would find this web site helpful: 

        There you will find illustrated instructions for determining the cut length for both two and three piece rods.  I know I found it useful.  (Bill Ernst)

    It's my opinion that it doesn't matter where the nodes wind up, especially in the tip section.  The area of highest stress is in the top 1/3 of most rods when you're trying to land a fish and you've got your tip bent 120 degrees or more from straight. So anywhere in the first 20 inches is going to be highly stressed and you're going to have at least two nodes in that area.  The first five inches in this situation are usually almost straight so there is almost no stress on the rod there.  (Al Baldauski)

    It's not so much the fish on the rod that I'm worried about butt the stress of whacking that small section against tree branches etc.  (Larry Swearingen)

    I'm still guessing that if a non-node area stands up to that kind of abuse, then a nodded area will too.  The nodes are only significantly weaker or more brittle if they have been overheated or overworked in straightening. This is a plug for soaking strips.  (Al Baldauski)


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