Bamboo Tips - Tips Area
Cane Prep - Staggering - Random

< Home < Tips Area < Cane Prep < Staggering < Random


How critical is the staggering pattern for nodes?  I just finished a 5' 3 weight blank from some bad splits I had left over from my first blank.  I made sure that I didn't have any nodes side by side, but the staggering I do have is purely random.  Is this a big deal?  How anal do you need to be about staggering?  (Lee Orr)

    If the rod is for your own use, go for whatever you  can get away with. One of my favorite rods is a 6'3" 2 wt 3 piece Sir D that was built while deployed from scraps of bamboo while waiting for a shipment.  It has a random stager with strips coming from a dozen different culms and if I remember correctly several strips even had to be flipped end for end to get the stager as it is.  The rod casts great, is my main brookie rod and has stayed true and straight up until I horsed in a huge Smallmouth and put a slight bend in the tip (totally my fault)...

    Small rod + Too large a fish + Too much force = SET!!!  (Shawn Pineo)

    The placement of nodes is perhaps a little more than cosmetic. Recently I glued a PMQ with the nodes superimposed on each other. Don't ask. The node area 14" down from the tip took a set the first time the rod was flexed. Those more toward the butt were OK. My conclusion was never to do that again! It would appear that a section of the rod that is 100% node material is not desirable.  (George Rainville)

      You have found out exactly what I have regarding quads of any sort, a spiral stagger is best. This is the only time when I think it is a real necessity. With hexes, I think it is acceptable to use random strips if you are  just making a rod for yourself.  (Bob Maulucci)

      I know I'm getting into a somewhat contentious area, and I'm not trying to start a huge flame war, just a friendly discussion, but how do you treat your nodes? Heat and then press?

      One of the main reasons I started to plane the enamel side of my strips was to avoid having to do something that seemed to be destructive to the nodes. In my mind overheating then squashing any part of a strip will make that part weaker. Most rodmakers are very careful about temperature and length of time when they heat treat, but what have they done to the nodes?  They get even more heat, and they get a potentially destructive mechanical process applied to them - pressing. It doesn't surprise me any more when some rodmakers say the node is the weakest part of a strip.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        The nodes shouldn't be "pressed", as in squishing them. They should be straightened by heating and overcorrecting the bends, then held in a vise or clamp until cool.

        I use two pieces of 1" aluminum angle, about 5" long, which attach to the jaws of my vise with magnets. One piece of angle is polished flat for the enamel side, while the opposing piece has 1/2" rubber glued on. A node is heated, straightened and clamped, and by the time another node (on a different strip) is straightened, the previous one can be removed from the clamp and the next node worked on, and so forth. I can usually straighten 18 - 24 nodes per hour. Takes a bit longer for Spey rod butt sections, but the method is still the same.  (Ron Grantham)

        I agree with Darryl & others that heating & pressing nodes is harmful.

        The process I've been using is to plane off the pith side of the node, then lightly file the enamel side of the node until it's reasonably flat. Then I rough plane the strips and heat treat. This seems to take out most of the kinks & bends. Before final planing I sand off the enamel and make sure the nodes are completely flat. The strips are never perfectly straight, but if I'm careful & use a plane with a 45 degree bevel for the last .010" I don't get any tears, lifts, or gaps.

        It works for me..  (Tom Bowden)

        I treat them at room temperature with the belt sander!   (Bob Maulucci)

          I treat them to just above room temp with a hand power planer at 4 in the morning in my underwear!

          Similar to my X rated version of hand fitting and setting ferrules...  (Dave Collyer)

          Belt sander?!!?!!  Bob, how dare you?!!!  I use a disk sander at 4 degrees below room temperature.  (Chris Lucker)

            Blasphemers.  I've been looking at a nice 4" or 6" belt sander.  Would you guys suggest the models with just the belt sander, or should I get the one that has the built in disc sander for more versatility?  (Mark Wendt)

              The disc is nice to have, maybe even better for nodes.  (Bob Maulucci)

              Get the model with the disc.  (Ron Grantham)

        I JUST DID An UNSCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT. I TOOK 6 STRIPS 2 I HEATED AND PRESSED, 2 I SANDED, 2 I FILED. EACH STRIP WAS 1/4 WIDE. I measured from the node outward on both sides 10 inches. Then I place my hands at the 10 inch mark and flexed each one until they broke.  Every one broke before the node!!!!!!! Now I'm no rocket Scientist, hell I'm still building my first rod, but I think this tells me one thing, I need to get a LIFE!!  (Bill Tagye)

        There is no intent to irritate anyone here or judgment of any method, just giving an opinion and my thoughts.

        I have been sanding both the inner and outer nodal areas on all strips for simplicity and for the reasons previously mentioned. To further irritate the traditionalists, I use the beveler to remove the enamel after roughing. (Gasp!!!!) I have found that after a fairly precise few roughing passes, I can get it set very close and take off a very small amount of bamboo with it and the smoothing characteristics that gives me allows my final planing to be more precise. I only press the nodes that are obviously crooked. I agree with the previous poster that it seems that unless the node is obviously kinked, I shouldn't put it through an additional heating regimen. It also seems to me, and this is purely conjecture, that removing the enamel prior to heat treating should allow easier removal of the moisture and a more thorough job. I will say the strips sit nicely in the forms. I have no evidence to truly support this, it has just become a way that I prefer to do it.

        I have not tried soaking strips. My primary thought process on this (although it may be completely wrong, *G*) is that I allow the bamboo to season for a while which I have always believed is drying out, then I heat treat to temper and remove additional moisture. It just seems to me to be defeating the purpose to intentionally add moisture to the strips for any purpose. I do understand the easier planing rationale but just cannot bring myself to soak bamboo. *G* I simply keep the plane blades sharp and figure if that won't do it I need to find another solution. Not criticizing anyone else’s way of doing things, just explaining my rationale. Maybe someone who does it the other way can convert me. (big *G*).  (Dewey Hildebrand)

          I've been wondering if it would be possible to grind a slight concavity in a router bit and then resharpen, for the purpose having a bit to remove the enamel side of a strip. That is, of course, for those that use a router based beveler. My question to you, is how do you keep from removing too many power fibers when you do it this way? The few times I've tried it just took off too many.

          A personal observation on seasoning/tempering cane. I think what is going on during seasoning is indeed the removal of moisture from the lignin in the cane, making the cane tougher and more prone to split straight, but the real tempering comes when the cane is either uniformly flame or heat-treated and the cross-linking takes place in the lignin. Its my opinion that this cross-linking that doesn't allow the cane to absorb as much moisture from that point on, but heat-treating is not about driving out the moisture, its about achieving this cross-linking. Without the cross-linking the cane is more likely to take a set.  Also, without the cross-linking the lignin is still able to reabsorb enough moisture to cause more problems. Think about it, when you create the rod and then varnish it with spar, the rod continues to absorb moisture through the varnish. If heat-treating just was about moisture removal, a rod should be limp as a noodle in a matter of months after being finished, but that just doesn't happen, why not?

          IMHO, soaking, before heat-treating, really doesn't cause damage, as long as the cane is dried-out before heat treating it. Just my .02 worth.  (Bill Walters)

            Good points and thanks for the crosslinking info. That is a really good point.

            The slightly concave router bit may be a good idea also. Just to clarify, there are times that I do not get all the enamel with the beveller due to the potential for fiber removal. Many times I am not trying to get all of it. If I feel a strip has been cut a bit too much (yes, I realize this is subjective, but isn't most of this subjective?) I toss it and lighten up the cut.  Also, for the folks against enamel removal; Don't you sand it off after the strips are glued? As lightly as I take it off by doing it my way, I seriously doubt I remove much more than a diligent sander does. Or possibly even as much. Not having actually measured each way, I am not certain. I am certain that I do not bevel into power fibers. If I do, that strip is gone. I will also agree with one of the previous posters that the strip does set in the forms very nicely after doing this.

            Harry, good point on the nodal areas. I guess to each his own. Larger nodal areas do not bother me but I am certain there are those that it would. As I mentioned in my post, this way of doing things is certainly not what one would call traditional, but then again, who knows what some of the older rodmakers would do now if they had our power tools and such so easy to hand. *G*

            I will say that the rods I have made in this manner have been fished quite a bit by me and I have had no breakages and such that I could attribute to these methods. I guess only time will tell. I am also still a "new guy" so it is possible that I am screwing up mightily here also. *G* Bear with me! Again, no offense intended to anyone, I think the exchange of ideas and methods is what makes this list so nice.  (Dewey Hildebrand)

              I always remove the enamel before reaching final dimension on each strip.  I don't want the thickness of the enamel entering  into my taper measurements, only to be sanded or scraped off after the rod is glued.  Enamel is of uneven thickness from culm to culm (sometimes even from one strip to another) and there's really no way to "compensate" accurately for this in the building process.

              Also, as no enamel remains on the node areas, relatively less material will be removed there in the scraping process, leaving those areas somewhat proud of the target dimensions.  This always happens when removing the enamel, but I want all that uncertain stuff to have been dealt with before reaching my final measurements. (Bill Harms)

        After struggling with heat treating and pressing nodes, I thought there must be a better way.  Sometimes very little heat is required to treat nodes, but I can't help but think that sometimes I'm forced to apply more heat than needed.

        Russ (Golden Witch) in his new video shows how he sands the enamel side of the cane on a belt sander to take off the enamel and smooth/flatten the nodes at the same time.  I've found that I can sand until the enamel is almost but not completely removed from the centerline of a strip.  The edges of a strip still have a bit of enamel when I finish sanding.  This flattens the curvature of the enamel side and helps the strip lay flat in the forms. I get equilateral triangles much faster this way. 

        After sanding, I run the rough strips through a beveller to reduce the overall size of the strips.  I then heat the nodes to straighten them, and run them through the beveller one more time to reduce them in size to just over butt dimensions.  By heating the nodes only after they've been run through the beveller, I'm heating a much smaller piece of cane and, as a result, I'm applying much less heat to get the node straight.

        One down side to sanding the enamel prior to planing (rather than pressing) is that the nodes are much wider.  My personal preference is to accept the wider nodes, knowing that I haven't pressed them and exposed them to excessive heat.  (Greg Peters)

          If you soak your strips for the requisite 4 - 5 days, you can pretty much heat the nodal areas to your hearts content.  The high moisture content will keep the nodal area and the surrounding internodal areas from overheating.  The moisture will steam off, but the cane temperature won't go much higher than the temperature of boiling water.  You may get some charring in the external areas, but that will be planed off.  Works on the same principle as boiling water in paper over an open fire.  (Mark Wendt)

          I can't quite understand how heating, pressing and straightening nodes makes them weaker than filing, routing, planing and/or beveling them away does.  Seems to me that the more you remove material from the enamel side the weaker you make the strip.  Heating and pressing may (I stress MAY) weaken the node, but surely not so much as actually removing more and more material.

          Though a few rodmakers actually plane the enamel side, most of us concentrate on keeping the outer layers of power fibers intact.  How do sanded nodes from 2"-4" long fit into that scheme?  Looks to me like the ideas on Russ Gooding's video about power sanding nodes and enamel help us reinvent the Montague, to paraphrase another rod maker.  I like short nodes.  With good cane and good luck on good days I keep my nodes at 3/4" or less.  I throw away  some  cane  in  an  attempt  to  keep  to  my own self-imposed standards.

          To answer some questions... No, I've not done scientific testing to see if my theory holds true.  Common sense tells me if it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.  Common sense tells me the strip left closest to the way nature invented it is stronger than one with severely filed nodes.  And I know I like the looks of shorter sanded nodes better than longer sanded nodes.  (Harry Boyd)

            On my third rod I used a small vertical sanding belt (unlike Russ's long belt sander) to remove the external nodes. I think I did a much better job of creating a smooth external surface that ranged from 1/2 to 1+ inch in width. I think it created better surfaces than when I used a file to remove the external ridges - definitely more uniform. Next I will split the four quad pieces and then heat and press the nodes from inside as well on the split pieces.  (Frank Paul)

            I think it's pretty much a toss-up weather to press or file nodes. Payne pressed nodes, Granger filed (sanded) nodes. I have never cast a bad Payne or Granger.  (Marty DeSapio)

            In a good culm with minimal lip at the nodes, I have found that the sanded node is stronger or equal to a heated and displaced node when flexing the strip to breakage. The heated node is easier to break. This is when both are done with equal care. This has never been overly scientific, but when I decided that I would sand the nodes after corresponding with Russ, Daryll Whitehead, Tom Morgan, the guys at Winston, and others who I will not name because they might not appreciate their names being written here***, I broke a whole bunch of nodes before ever making a rod out of sanded strips. It is my impression that these rodmakers felt that others who have to use more than the slightest heat to flatten or straighten should use their time more wisely by buying better bamboo for their rods.

            I think you would be surprised at how many famous makers sanded the nodes off completely. I think the Montague comparison is clever and funny, but remember that they could build good rods as well. I think those who criticize the Montague makers would be hard pressed to produce the higher end rods they did in anywhere near the quantity. They simply had a different market that dealt more with low end rods. The guy who swept the floors at Montague probably knew more about bamboo rods than some of us ever will.

            As far as the duck goes, why would we throw out bamboo heated and straightened in China, but we want to heat it and straighten it ourselves? Or, didn't Bob Milward prove in his book that excess heat was bad and that the best manner of heat treating was slow and low heat. Why would quick higher heat be better for only the nodes? I don't know.

            You bring up a good question though, what does the proper amount of enamel removed look like? What does an acceptable node look like?

            All in the hope of a good lively discussion. No disrespect intended.

            ***I know many of the makers who sand or plane off the nodes would not admit to it because of the stigma involved with the practice. It's one of those hand planed rod is better sorta things. I know that the names above have been mentioned before, so it is not news to anyone here.  (Bob Maulucci)

              I see your points.  You've made some choices based on thinking critically about what's best for your rods and rod making.   That's always a positive thing.  Because you and I come to different conclusions doesn't make one of us right and the other wrong.  As you say, lively discussion is a good thing.

              One point I should have made in my previous note.  It is not just possible, it's easy to heat nodes to the point of damaging them.  Though I've tried soaking nodes I no longer do so.  When I heat nodes for pressing, I never let even the pith get so hot that it chars.  Years ago I remember someone asking this list "How much charring is allowable?"  An eastern maker whose work I greatly respect answered rather bluntly, "None!"  Once I figured out how to heat without charring, pressing seemed to become much less destructive.  (Harry Boyd)

                I like many others, have been attacking nodes with every new technique since Wayne Cattanach introduced me to them for the first time quite a few years ago. I keep falling back to pressing mainly because I like the idea of meshing the fibers of the nodes in a horizontal configuration similar  to the fibers between nodes. This seems to keep all the fibers in a continuous plane. This logic appeals to my train of thought which is probably why I've always shied away from just filing or sanding them away. What works best for me is a combination of a lot of borrowed techniques that leave me with a pretty consistent quick result. I first use a 1 inch belt sander to remove about a 1/16" slot behind the node. I have always fought with the drops that occur on either side of the node on less that idea cane and this slot forces the cane upward on either side of the node to fairly effectively level the surface.  Next I steam the strips with a pipe cut with slots and covered with silicone rubber ALA Tim Abbott. Steaming for about ten minutes will really soften the bamboo but I still heat each node for about a minute or two over the heat gun to dry and soften the node further. I press in a vise with 3" jaws and the node is finished. The result is a non charred node that seems to hold its position. On larger rods, like some of my speys this is pretty effective for the larger strips that are buggers to straighten and flatten. Talk to me next year and I may be running the nodes through a Medved beveller like Chris Bogart with out any filing but right now I  like this technique.  (David Rinker)

                You are absolutely right, the great thing is that we all accomplish our goals in different ways.

                You are dead on when you conclude that I made those choices based on what I need to do. Mine main reason for sanding outside of the time savings is that I use the rough milling machine and flatter strips work better. I use the sander a lot in the process from prepping strips for the saw and rougher to removing both sides of the node to removing enamel. It is easier for me to leave the sander and dust collector set up and do it all at that station. It is for purely practical purposes. An analogy might be that if I were a cabinet maker, I would have a dovetail jig even though I could cut them by hand and accomplish the same thing.

                A while back, it occurred to me that I could learn more by having a good pace of rodmaking than by finessing my way to 5 rods or less per year. When I started to do this, I tooled up to allow the most mundane operations to be done by use of machinery.  In order to do this, I had to sacrifice some of the hand work. I feel that my rods are markedly better since I went to sawing strips and sanding nodes**. They look better because they are dead flat and look more uniform, they are many times straighter, they are easier to make, and I really think they will last longer because they have not been damaged by the heat. Furthermore, because I am able to make them faster, I am able to spend more time finishing them out and conceiving the new tapers or changes in action that I want. I have learned more and made much better rods by doing this, so much so that I wish I could replace all the old rods with the newer better ones. Personally, I don't feel like I am making "production rods" by any means, just practical ones.

                **Lastly, I should have pointed out that the quads are not done right to flat by the belt, they are rounded with the disc sander and finished by hand with a round sanding block.   (Bob Maulucci)

                I just measured the sanded nodes on a few of my rods. All were around 3/4". I flatten them with a file and sanding block & I'm careful to just remove the lump. If I start seeing the crisscross fibers in the node, I stop. I imagine it would be easy to oversand with power tools.

                I'll admit one of the reasons I don't heat & press nodes is that I never enjoyed this phase of the work. The heat gun is noisy, my vise was always getting stuck, and I'd end up having to either redo or file the nasty nodes that didn't compress well.  (Tom Bowden)

                  What do you mean when you say "the lump?"  Is that the blackish looking nodal ridge or the "lump"  above the ridge?  What do you do about those nodes which have a severe dip between two "lumps?"  Or those with a 2"-3" section above  a node  which is indented?

                  The reason I press nodes is that I think doing so allows me to remove less material filing and sanding alone.  (Harry Boyd)

                    By "the lump", I mean both the ridge and the swelled  area. Usually, this area is only 3/4" or so long. If there's a slight dip above or below the node, I sand it flat. If the dip is severe, I'll either pick a different strip or go ahead & sand it and live with an ugly node. If I was selling rods, I probably wouldn't do the latter.

                    This is a fascinating discussion & I want to try some of the ideas. One of the reasons I stopped heating & vice pressing nodes is the noise & frustration.  Something  like  a Sport-Cat heater would be less noisy than a heat gun. Taking the strips down to a consistent small size makes sense, and I like the idea of heating, bending & clamping rather than vice pressing. I also want to try a notched vise.  (Tom Bowden)

    If the rod is for your use, don't worry about it, fish it! If you were to sell it, a buyer might frown on it. As long as two nodes aren't next  to each other it should be fine. 2x2 staggering puts two nodes opposite each other and that is fine, many makers stagger that way.  (Pete Van Schaack)

    Absolutely nothing wrong with random staggering. The only thing about it is it might indicate that you did not use strips from the same culm, but I see nothing wrong with that either. Others might.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I haven't tried random staggering, but I kind of think there might be less straightening to do, or it could be easier to do if each node had 5 nodeless areas next to it.  I've used 3x3, and all the bends/kinks etc. seem to be at a node area.  (Neil Savage)

        I use spiral staggering mostly and I love it. Super straight blanks and I feel good about not having two nodes in any one plane. I wonder how many other pros use this method.  (Jeff Fultz)

          I also use the spiral stagger.  Nodes are different from straight grain (however one cares to view the matter), but particularly so in flexing characteristics.  I've always believed that this difference should be minimized, and apart from nodeless construction, the spiral pattern best distributes the effects of the nodes.  (Bill Harms)

          I am intrigued by your getting such straight blanks from your spiral method; do you just descend the nodes in a clockwise [or counterclockwise] fashion every 30 degrees, I would guess.  Please let me know as i am acutely interested.  (David Haidak)

            Yes I stagger the nodes by  offsetting each strip one inch. I have a jig that I lay the strips up against for marking and then cutting. The jig looks like a staircase. I really don't believe that the spiral stagger has anything to do with straight blanks, but it sounds good. I'm very diligent when straightening my glued up blanks before they are cured. I have built a special apparatus to ensure that the blanks stay completely straight as the glue dries, I'll post a picture of this device to the list later this week when I glue up the next rod.

            Here is a graphic of what my spiral stagger jig looks like:

          Fultz Jeff ASCII

            (Jeff Fultz)

      I agree with Darryl.  bend a strip to breaking and note where it breaks.  (Ralph Moon)

        A strip will not break first at a node, but this only means that the node is somehow more flexible - perhaps as a willow is more flexible than oak.  It isn't a matter of strength versus weakness, but rather a matter of how to regard "strength."  One might regard oak as weak, since it breaks before the willow, yet I wouldn't want to fashion the framing timbers of a boat out of willow.

        A node may not break first in a strip of bamboo, but I would not prefer to position two (or more) of them in the same location in a fly rod.  (Bill Harms)

    It will work fine, just see if anything sensible works out before just throwing them all together. Personally, I see a stagger of the nodes as a sort of balancing act. Whatever the nodes do to the strip, it seems best to have them equally spread out (I will leave it to you to argue whether it is stronger or weaker).

    Personally, I like spiral staggers the best, but I use 3x3 on most hex rods because it is easiest to keep track of and save a strip in a pinch. 2x2x2 seems like a waste because when using it you might as well go for the gusto and spiral the whole thing, or just be lazy and use 3x3. If I used the Garrison stagger, I would be standing in front of my bench rubbing my head for an extra 40 hours a rod!

    In recap, it is only a fishing rod, have fun and make it!  (Bob Maulucci)

    You really should stagger nodes.  Exactly how is an ongoing debate.  (Brian Creek)

    I firmly believe that the staggering of nodes is purely cosmetic. I know if I made a rod with stacked nodes I can happily fish it for the rest of my life without fear of breakage or loss of action. That said, I would never do it though.    (Marty DeSapio)

      I've made rods with the Garrison 1-5-3-6-2-4 stagger and have been happy with that arrangement, but I agree with Marty.  I like the almost random look of the Garrison stagger.  I also made a rod with scrap strips that wouldn't allow the firing order arrangement.  I did the best I could to keep them (the nodes, that is) separate and it worked OK.  I did manage to split that rod though casting on the South Branch of the Raritan (NJ).  I remember the loud pop it made.  I must have had a bad strip with a small fracture that I missed throughout the construction process.  Oh well.  One of these days I'll repair that rod.  All I need is time...  (Dennis Haftel)

    Be as anal as you want thru the whole process, no laws of man or nature apply. If you were to examine every rod ever made, I believe you would find the vast majority made with random node staggering due to use of random strips from untold numbers of culms, followed by some few made with a discernible node pattern from 2 culms, followed by a  miniscule number of rods made with an exactly matching pattern due to all strips coming from one culm.   (John Channer)

    I've been watching this thread with a lot of interest. Nodes tic me off as well.

    I just wondered if anyone has done any testing to determine the increase in cross-sectional area that must be done to the taper to compensate for the removal of power fibers when nodes are files/sanded several inches back from the actual "hump". Power fibers are thin and the best are near the surface. The loss of them /might/should/could show up as a rod that casts less well than others whose power fibers were left intact as much as possible.

    If I was building rods to feed my family, there is no question that thickness planners and power bevelers would be part of my life. Not only that, but any culms that had troublesome nodes would be burnt.  (Don Anderson)


A while back some of the listers were confessing to mistakes they had made during rod making, here’s one to add and have a chuckle.

Life has been busy with the “better half” working overtime for the last 4 months I’ve had to take on extra household duties, besides working, doing my normal garden and yard work.  Then to top things off I started working on restoring an old motorcycle, a 1974 Yamaha RD-200.

Working on my rod project has turned into being able to devout a half-hour – hour at when time permitted. Yesterday I finally had time to set up my binder, and start taping up my butt and tip section on my first rod for gluing.  When I started to organize the tip section strips I discovered that in my sporadic building schedule I had some how missed an important step in the process.  I had forgotten to stagger the nodes before I did my final tapering!

When I first started the rod I had been using a checklist with all the steps, but I guess as I became more confident I stopped using the checklist.  So if you’re starting out on your #1 rod and especially if you have a hectic lifestyle, use a checklist or follow your book chapter by chapter.  Then you won’t end up making a big mistake like I did.  (John Freedy)

    I did the same darned thing on both PMQ #1 and Hex #1, both of which are fine casters.  If someone asks me about it, I just say, "I was testing some things."  (Joe West)

      I was thinking about staggering the nodes and then contending with the dimensions being off by doing a little extra sanding.  Even if I left the dimensions along they wont be  off by more then a few thousands.  Any other suggestions guys?  (John Freedy)

      Joe, that is how I tie flies.  Never one the same.  Just experimenting  (Ralph Moon)

      Well, I bought an old cane rod - maker unknown but looking 1920s - and on closer examination found that at the butt the nodes were arranged 5 and 1. Looks like it's fished for a long time.

      Practically, the exposure is to shearing as the nodes are more brittle. So why not just try?  (Sean McSharry)

    Someone once said "S*** happens,  I have been building rods for over thirty years.  I don't even know how many I have made, but it is a lot.  I have never done such a stupid trick as you have just recounted UNTIL TWO DAYS AGO. I cut all of the strips  without ever thinking of spacing the nodes.  Now I have a bundle that have a nice ring every  8" or so.  Somewhat different from your usual bamboo rod.  (Ralph Moon)

    I have not done that but I cut my strips to 45" as I would to make a 7' rod when I was making an 8' rod.

    We all have secrets.  (Tony Spezio)

    This is not a problem.  Plane another rod with the same taper and 6 node spacing (IE: no stagger).   Just make sure the nodes are staggered from the positions on rod #1.  Then shuffle the strips and you get 2 matched rods with 3x3 spacing.  (Robert Kope)


For my sins I recently glued together the butt section of a rod with a highly inventive 4x2 node spacing! I was using the last strips from a flamed culm, destroyed my spare strip with a huge node gouge and then managed to inadvertently reverse one strip so that I ended up with a 4x2 node spacing instead of the intended 3x3. I considered putting it aside and making another strip somewhere down the line, but thought what the heck, the color might be different, the nodes would still be all over the place, and if Tony Spezio can get away with his Twisted Miss, and the rod is for my own use anyhow, and if I add some intermediate wraps, and,..........and,.......... I might as well just glue it together and hope for the best.

I am now curious to know what the chances are that the rod might survive - so the questions are:

1.. How often do rods actually fail at the nodes rather than elsewhere, and,

2.. Has anyone made a rod with nodes altogether or on a 4x2 spacing,  fished it extensively and actually had it fail at those nodes?  (Stephen Dugmore)

    Most of my rod failures have had  nothing to do with node spacing.  I have broken a lot of tips but that normally happened with me from cars, trees, other people and over stressing. I have decided I like thicker tips so I can throw what I want with it.  All my problems with nodes have come from, I believe, too much heat in dry pressing. In my opinion from a practical stand point it just does not make any difference how the nodes are spaced. 3x2, 2x2x2, or 1x1x1x1x1x1.  The rod will fish and cast just fine. There may be technical reasons some feel one is better than another but they all will work. I must admit than on occasion I have put nodes together accidentally and guess what? The rod works, no problems. In my opinion your node spacing is not your problem on rod failures.  (David Ray)

    A few years back I was asked to refinish a name brand rod, Not a cheap name brand either. In two places there were two nodes adjacent to each other. The owner got back to me a year or so later and wanted me to make a new tip. It seems the tip broke on a large fish. The tip broke in a clean area between nodes and not at a node.

    Maybe this will ease your mind.  (Tony Spezio)

      I have seen 100's of full length Vintage Bamboo Rods that are 50+ years old and fished hard with touching nodes...

      It's more cosmetics in my eyes then structural strength...

      Of course I would avoid touching nodes when ever possible and prefer the 3x3 node spacing, cosmetically and structurally...  (Dave Collyer)

        Our good friend Richard Tyree wrote up his experiments with a rod with no node spacing at all, six nodes aligned on the rod just as they were in the culm... all touching.  He published the results either here or in TPF.  Check the archives and you might find it.  (Harry Boyd)

          Can someone summarize?  (Jim Lowe)

            A brief summary.  Building a rod with all the nodes touching, no staggering at all, proved to make little difference.  I think I remember that getting the rod straight was tricky, but don't hold me to that.  (Harry Boyd)

              I made a rod like this right after Richard wrote about in The Planing Form. It is a real nice rod, never have had any problems with the nodes, and I really liked the taper. Have never had a rod break at the nodes either, I use 3 X 3 spacing and make a lot of bass rods.  (Bob Norwood)

With my rookie year of bamboo rodmaking behind me, I can confess that for the first few rods I misunderstood the node spacing diagrams in four of the primary textbooks and a couple of web sites.  I thought two by two meant that you put two nodes side by side, three times.  In fact, I did not totally "get it" until I watched the Golden Witch video on making blanks, and even then I am not sure if Russ Gooding's template is consistent with the other templates that I misunderstood.  A moving picture is worth a thousand words.

    However, the consequences have been zip.  The undercooked Payne 101 rod that I made with the wrong node spacing (rod #2) casts like a dream to me, but so does the flamed dark brown Payne 101 (rod # 7) that I made with the correct theory of node spacing.  The first rod came out of Titebond glue-up straight as an arrow; the second took much straightening after the glue (Epon) cured.  The nodes are apparently just one of the variables in a set of processes that contain hundreds of variables (or to boggle the mind, 6.5 million variables per cubic inch of bamboo, at the cellular level, per the German biology research that we recently read via the list). My intuition is that the Payne 101 taper is the key variable that puts this rod in the top 5 rods of many makers.  (Paul Franklyn)

    I made a rod a few years back out of junk strips hanging around the shop.  Dickerson Guide Special, 8’ 7 wt, and did everything wrong I could do wrong as far as the nodes go, for spacing. I did this just as an experiment, then took the thing to Lake Erie tributaries  for steelhead. I've landed a bundle of steelies on this rod, with no ill effect. I'm not suggesting you not pay attention to node spacing, just stating the fact, that we are still building fishing poles. (Jerry Andrews)


I have enough left over strips to build a rod and then I'm out of bamboo 'til after the 1st of the new year. I'm planning on building another Dickerson taper (761510). This will be my first attempt at building a three piece rod. All of the strips are all mismatched left overs from 4 different culms but the rod is for me so it doesn't matter all that much but my question concerns node staggering. No matter how I look at it I can't get a spiral stagger that I normally use. Neither can I get them to line up in a perfect 2-2-2 or 3-3-3. Now all the South bends, H&I's, Montagues etc. that I've handled just have random spaced nodes and let's face it these rods have all been around for 50 years or longer so I guess node spacing may not be entirely critical. But is there anything other than avoiding having two nodes on adjoining splines touch that I should look out for? Any serious pitfalls to avoid? Have any of you ever built a rod like this or have you just waited 'til you got more bamboo?  (Will Price)

    Just for conversation sake I had and have strips left over from culms and started to match them.  And came up with a one piece 6' Paul Young Midge rod that is lots of fun to cast.

    Also don't forget that there is no rule against turning strips upside down to come up with desired nodal spacing.  Same thing for using butt strips for tips and visa versa. Aye.  (Doug Alexander)

      There's always nodeless.  (Neil Savage)

        Thanks to everyone for the response to my question........Neil, I did consider nodeless(for about 30 seconds) but I'd like to get a few more rods under my belt before trying that. The nice thing about building a nodeless rod is the fact that Chris Carlin has a step by step tutorial with pictures on the rodbuilding forum and the old saying about a picture being worth a thousand words definitely holds true in this case.  (Will Price)

    I have made a couple of rods for myself from left over strips that do not have a standard stagger. I am making two three piece rods now from leftover pieces. Just staggering the nodes so no two are next to each other. The "Twisted Miss" has been around for several years, it has strips from about 12 different culms and random stagger. Have had no problems.  (Tony Spezio)

    Put the nodes wherever you want, Will:  they'll be just fine!

    I believe that node arrangement is like flower arrangement - it looks nice, different people like different things, but it doesn't make the flowers last any longer.  (Peter McKean)

    I can add to what others have already told you.

    Last year I made a rod from left over strips, some blond some flamed, so the rod was finished striped. I flip flopped some of the strips to get the node spacing that came out basically random with the only rule being no 2 nodes together. Rod came out fine, casts well, and even catches fish on occasion.  (Bill Bixler)


Site Design by: Talsma Web Creations

Tips Home - What's New - Tips - Articles - Tutorials - Contraptions - Contributors - Search Site - Contact Us - Taper Archives
Christmas Missives - Chat Room - Photo Galleries - Line Conversions - The Journey - Extreme Rodmaking - Rodmaker's Pictures - Donate - Store