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Cane Prep - Staggering - Spacing

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I'm looking for input on which of the node spacings on the culm people are measuring from. The longest spacing toward the tip, the shortest at the butt section, or somewhere in the middle?  I was just laying out strips that were measured on the longest spacing and found at the other end four of the six nodes were lined up perfectly. When I measured and spaced from the shortest section I had a much better spacing and use of cane.

Is there a best way or is it based on the spacing of the nodes from culm to culm?  (Gary Jones)

    I don't measure anything except the length of the strips.  I mark the length of the strips for the rod I want to make on the bench, lay the strips next to each other on the bench, slide them relative to each other until I like how it looks and there are no nodes too close to a ferrule or tip.  If it doesn't work out for the rod I had in mind, I make another rod from that culm and find a culm that works for the rod I had in mind. (Robert Kope)


I read in Maurer/Elser's book that it is ideal not to have nodes within 5 inches of the tiptop and the ferrules. I want to make an 8’ rod out of a half culm, but can't achieve this ideal. (I am not sure how often you would be able to achieve it if you follow strictly the further recommendation that an internodal length be divided into thirds and the node pairs spaced accordingly).

Is it a problem to stagger the nodes 2x2x2 not arranged in equal thirds IE: have 3 pairs of nodes clustered slightly closer together with a longer length of 'clean' cane before the next cluster? This certainly makes it easier to keep the nodes away from the ferrule and tip top. If so what would be considered the minimum distance one can go to between pairs?

The best arrangement I seem to be able to make will leave me with a pair of nodes about 2 inches from the end of the ferrule. I know it would probably be best to abandon the 8’ length and make whatever fits best but I am loathe to do this unless it is considered essential.  (Stephen Dugmore)

    I barely know what I'm doing (not to mention that I don't know what I don't know...huh?).

    I'm very interested in folks opinions on this.  If I didn't have a fine group like this to bounce this question off of, my course of action would be to not worry as much about equal spacing of nodes and worry more about not putting  a node too close to a ferrule and (especially) not too close to a tip top.

    I am working through the same situation with rod #2 (PHY Martha Marie) and decided to space the nodes as equally as possible given the 4-6" avoidance of the ferrule and tip top.  I'm giving a much longer space to the tip top actually (the rod is so SMALL up there!).

    Again, I'm still in "bamboo diapers", so listen to the sage of this list.  (Scott Turner)

    Shoot, one other thing.  I would think that changing the rod length (longer or shorter) would have a much more serious impact on the performance of the rod than a "cluster" of nodes would.  So I would think that you should maintain the taper and length of the rod as designed and work around those nasty little nodes.  (Scott Turner)

    After reading your questions, it seems to me that the real question you are asking is this:  Which is more important - staggering nodes at 1/3 or 1/2 or 1/6 the internodal length - or - keeping nodes away from tip tops and ferrules?

    I'll happily give you my opinions, though they are likely worth exactly what you paid for them.  Common sense tells me it's more important to keep nodes away from the tip top than from the ferrule.  Keeping nodes away from the tiptop avoids having the pesky nodes in the thinnest part of the rod.  Makes planing easier, may help avoid twists and bends in the most delicate part of the rod.  Truth is the top few inches of the rod don't do much work, so maybe the point is pointless.

    I'm not sure I see the logic of being anal about keeping nodes away from ferrules, other than avoiding potential troubles with straight shafts.  If nodes are flat and straight, and blades are sharp... nodes are not as big a deal as we make them seem.  Of course, that's coming from someone who has made lotsa rods and pretty well learned to deal with the $&^% nodes.

    To me, it seems more important to avoid node in potential trouble spots than to space the nodes as widely as possible.  I use 2x2x2 staggering almost exclusively.  And on 9 out of 10 rods, I stagger the nodes only 2" apart.  That lets me avoid having nodes at trouble spots.

    Another potential trouble spot for nodes is directly in front of the cork.  I work hard to avoid having nodes there.  Why?  If a glue line is going to show up, it often occurs at the lowest nodes.  If it's under the cork, it'll get turned down and not show.  If it's just in front of the cork -- well, I have to start over.

    So here's my philosophy, find a stagger that let's you use what cane you want for whatever taper you choose.  Avoid nodes at tip tops, above the cork, and at ferrules -- in that order of priority.  (Harry Boyd)

      That makes good sense - as usual. (I know I have almost certainly asked a worthwhile question if it draws a response from yourself and that your answer, in turn, will almost certainly be spot on). So here's to that good looking fellow.  (Stephen Dugmore)

      I am confused by all of this, gents.

      If it has been determined time and time again that nodes (if you do not excessively heat/cool cycle them) are not weak spots, why the need to worry about their placement?  The staggering I understand, but the placement seems a great deal like "tradition" rather than sense?

      If this shows ignorance on my part, I'm glad--- I'm no expert  ;)

      I'm also with Harry on a 2x2x2 with 2" spacing.  (Joe West)

        Nodes may not be weaker, but they are stiffer than internodal cane.  Keeping stiff spots from bendy areas seems like a good idea.  I like the 2x2x2 stager because I think it spreads out the stiff spots well, also it's how I was taught, so I'm forever biased.  And I think Harry's point about cosmetics and the chances of a glue line at a chipped node being higher than other areas is a valid point.  (Brian Creek)

      Just putting in a bob's worth here in support of something that Harry Boyd said about nodes.

      We seem at this point to have a few more new rod builders than we usually do, so I will repeat the point, as I do believe it to be important.


      Never be tempted to take even one more stroke with a plane or other cutting tool after that first little nagging thought that suggests the blade may be getting a little less than ideally sharp.

      Just stop right then and there and get it sharp again.  No matter how often you have to do that, it is worth it!  (Peter McKean)

      Thanks for the affirmation.  I might add one more point though.  I find that a very sharp blade will eliminate all node chipping problems - if - that node is correctly filed-flattened-straightened.  If the node has crooks, bends and dips even the sharpest blades will have problems.

      From what I hear, even users of the Morgan Mill, with its always sharp cutters and scraping action, have problems if the nodes are not flat and straight.

      New rod makers -- sacrifice a culm or two learning to flame, sharpen, split, sharpen, straighten, sharpen, stagger, sharpen, sand enamel, sharpen, etc.  Ten years ago I was in your shoes.  I wish I had heard and heeded the above advice.  (Harry Boyd)

    I use 3x3 and hardly ever have a problem fitting a culm to a rod length.  If you can't make it work to your satisfaction with one stager, try another, or change the spacing between nodes.  (John Channer)

    There are a few reasons to stagger nodes, which pretty much boil down to smoothening out a stiff spot, and reinforcing the sides of the node section with continuous fiber. A one-inch stagger will take care of each object, and, as you want to keep that stagger to a minimum to avoid the problem you are running into, I'd recommend sticking with a 1-inch stagger.

    In the rods I built, the nodes were staggered an inch, and with no strip having an opposing node in the same position, this consumed only 4 inches of internodal segments.

    I built a single fixture to run a radial arm saw across the strips to stagger the nodes, and then flipped the strips and used a first face of that fixture (all the way across) to cut the other ends of the strips to matched length.

    You can probably get away with an opposing strip having the same node stagger, so quad or hex, you can consume as little as 2-4 inches or 3 to 6 inches respectively if you follow this precept. That will give you as much room to play with as possible.

    From there, you know what to look for in a culm to get your nodes away from the ferrules and tip. My rod tapering program calculated all that for me, so all that was left to do was to take a tape measure and look for a culm that matched what you needed well. What you are looking for, to keep the nodes as far away from each as possible, is to keep the two extreme nodes in the culm equidistant from the terminal cuts.  (Mike Montagne)


OK, conventional wisdom has it that it's unwise from a structural standpoint to locate one's nodes too close to a ferrule.  How about if the node stagger fell such that a node was inside the ferrule?  I should think that with the surrounding metal constraining it, as long as it wasn't right at the mouth of said ferrule, it'd be OK to do this.  Opinions? (Todd Enders)

    I've pondered this and think that the source of the prohibition has more to do with problems of straightness than strength.  I just redid a very labor-intensive spey rod butt section because the ferrule end was not straightened well enough and I sloppily left two nodes in the general vicinity of the ferrule.  Methinks that the chances for straightness problems are much greater where there are nodes.  (Joe West)

    How would we even know? Seriously, this has happened to me once or twice and nothing bad happened.   (Jeff Schaeffer)


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