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Cane Prep - Straightening

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The more time invested in straightening strips, including taking twists out, is really worth it.  (Winston Binney)


Straighten, straighten, straighten.  (Martin-Darrell)


As a novice, I have lots of trouble with straightening strips.  I would overheat them, scorch them or simply break them by applying too much pressure before the strips were “plastic.”  After lots of searching through the archives, I made two changes that fixed me up.  First, I purchased a high quality heat gun with a wide range of temperature settings.  Second, I started soaking the strips in water overnight before heating them.  The heat gun gives precise control over the temperature.  Soaking the strips actually steam bends them from the inside.  The high moisture content makes it hard to overheat the cane and the strips don’t become brittle if you need to reheat a section several times.   (Ken Jacques)


Straightened 18 strips last night.  Takes about 60 t0 85 minutes to do all.   I soak the strips in water for 12 hours then straighten over my heat gun.  Soaking makes the strips much more flexible and has no later effect on the strips.  Rough planing is also much easier when the strips are wet. I hold the node area very close to the gun and heat the pith and sides, and occasionally the top.  When the cane is warm enough to make you want to say "ouch" when you touch it is right.  There is little charring when done this way.  You want to straighten the node area and the sweeps leading into the node for a distance of about 1 1/2 to 2" on either side of the node.  I do the heating beside my bench vise and use the vise jaws to get leverage on the node area.  I do the flattening in the vise at the same time.  A pair of sheet metal protectors over the jaws prevent them from marking the cane.  (Ted Knott)


You guys talking about heating, pressing nodes and straightening strips the last few days made me get off it and actually do something I've been thinking about for well over a year.

Ever have a set of eyeglass frames fitted? They heated them so they could be formed didn't they.

So, I stopped by a restaurant and ask them for a gallon can, Picked up some table salt, checked with a eye doctor and that is what they use, at the store.

Drilled two 1/2 holes opposite each other about 1 1/2" from the bottom. Set the can on a hot plate I have in the shop and poured in the salt till  there was a mound large enough to cover a strip about 3/4" when pushed though the holes.

Turned on the hot plate, put my barbecue thermometer in the salt and waited till the temp got up to 300°. Inserted the strip, which I dished out on the pith side and prepped,  turned to mush in about 1-2 minutes. Note: Put a piece of sheet metal protruding out from each side at the bottom of the can so the heat coming up around the can doesn't scorch the strip.

Put the strip in the vice and presto, perfect!

I need to refine this crude device a little, need a grommet or something to keep the salt from spilling out the holes, It is not much but....

Interesting thing I noted, something caused the salt to stick together slightly, I think some of it was moisture drawn out of the strip but something else caused a slight discoloration of the salt. The volatile oils? What do you think?  (Don Schneider)

    A very novel approach, Don, and quite intriguing. I wonder if clay would suffice, since it too holds heat well. Kitty litter, without all the scents, clumping, etc., might work. There is some compound, and I can't think of what it is, that might work well if it will withstand that much heat. Ever see one of those gel packs used for heating?  (Martin-Darrell)

      In the laboratory, we use glass bead sterilizers for small surgical instruments.  The glass beads are very, very small and sit in a stainless steel basin.  They heat up quickly (sufficient to sterilize) and don't stick to anything we've ever put in them.  I'll hunt up sources if anyone is interested. It does seem to me, though, that the relative speed benefit of the salt/glass beads, etc. is due to the relative effectiveness of the materials in transmitting HEAT to the cane.  You can achieve this similar effect (without scorching) by use of a tea kettle and steam.  (David Smith)

        The glass beads for bead blasting cabinets might work, too, as they are available in various sizes, some quite fine, more so than sand.  (Martin-Darrell)

          One common desiccant is Drierite (no interest), from W.A. Hammond Drierite Co. in Xenia, Ohio.  It is 97% anhydrous calcium sulfate.  We use an "indicator" type extensively in the lab that turns from blue to pink when it has absorbed it's measure of moisture. I have been told you can reuse it by heating in an oven to remove the water.  So, I guess, it should be able to handle some heat. (David Smith)

      The idea of using glass beads sounds like it is worth a shot. I think glass beads are readably available, they are also used for "Sand Blasting".

      There may be a beneficial side effect in using table salt, extracting water from the strips as what ever else is in there is being liquefied. I would think this would be a good thing.

      Let me clarify my observations of the salt sticking together. The salt did not stick to the bamboo, it formed a crust so to speak to itself. This was easily taken care of between heating nodes with a putty knife to break up the crust. Interestedly enough the crust started from the bottom and worked its way up as the salt heated. Cause? I'm guessing, but it may be nothing more than moisture in the salt, we'll see.

      The reasons I used table salt are:

      • It’s what the Eye Profession has been using for years.
      • It’s readily available at any grocery store.
      • It’s cheep as dirt.
      • There is nothing else in it but salt.
      • It holds even heat for a long time.

    The temp 1 hour after heat removal was 140° even with the small amount used in this test.

    There was no scorching of the bamboo covered by the salt. I'm going leave a test strip in the salt to see how long it takes to burn. Will let you know.

    Lot more R&D to do on this project.  (Don Schneider)

        I believe that you will find that glass beads are not as good a conductor of heat.   I think this is a brilliant idea.  (Timothy Troester)

    What about sand?  The pet stores sell a sand for reptile cages that has been washed and is a fine grained structure.  I'll bet silica gel would work also.  (Onis Cogburn)

    Very interesting approach. The only downside to salt that I can see is that through spillage or sticking to the cane or whatever it may eventually get transferred to your tools and promote corrosion.  (Jon McAnulty)

    If memory serves me correctly, heated salt tanks are a preferred method for heat treating and tempering custom knife blades due to very even and controllable heat.

    I envision a shallow heated salt tray, say 3" or 4" high x 30" wide and 6' long with a hinged lid, sectioned like a silverware drawer that would hold 12 strips. Remove the heated strips, drop them in a press of similar dimensions and press/displace and straighten all at once.  Two marketable products besides the rods.  (Wayne Kifer)

    Do you think this worked better than a heat gun for heating the bamboo?  I haven't yet straightened any nodes, but the idea sounds intriguing.  (Jason Swan)

      To me it seemed to do a better job, or more even, because the hot salt in completely around the strip. There was no scorching as there is sometimes with a heat gun. I have to say, the temp of the salt is uniform and once hot it stays hot for a long time.

      I'm thinking an expansion of this idea could be heat treating the whole section. Who knows, it could called a "Salt Rod"!  (Don Schneider)

    Bernard Hills used to use sand in his shop.  Whenever I was there, there was always bamboo sticking out of hot sand on top of the woodburning stove.  (Bret Reiter)

    Perhaps try silica sand -- ash tray sand or Savory (sp) Island sand -- instead, or next time you play golf at a course that uses crushed marble instead of sand, fill your golf bag with the stuff.  (Chris Lucker)

    You mean like using half of a length of pipe so that you could push the entire piece under the salt all at the same time?  Hint, hint. Of course after blocking the ends of the pipe first.  (Mike Shaffer)

      Are you talking about heat treating the entire section of a rod or just the doing the nodes? (Don Schneider)

        I'm thinking of the nodes first then the residual heat may help to remove any 'sweeps'.  Whatcha think?  (Mike Shaffer)

          That would be two steps; One to press to nodes prior to planing and two to heat treat the bound strips after the initial planning which would also take out the sweeps.  (Don Schneider)


Talking with a fellow from Tennessee about soaking bamboo before straightening at the Guild Conclave led him to an idea.  He called yesterday and asked, "What if you boil the bamboo for a while?  Could you then  straighten it as soon as it came out of the water?"

I don't know the answer.  Anyone ever tried this?  (Harry Boyd)

    This is not boiling but I find if I soak four days or more I can straighten the strips without any heat at all. I just use heat on the nodes. After rough beveling the strips are bound, pith side out, rolled straight and dried in the oven. I get straight strips every time.  (Tony Spezio)

    I don't think boiling would give a sufficient amount of heat to adequately do the job, not to mention that the entire strip would be cooling as the nodes were being worked, etc.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I believe it was Bernard Elser in one of The Planing Form newsletters that uses a technique similar to this. If I remember right, he lays the a piece of saran wrap down then boils a wet towel in the microwave, then lays it out on the saran wrap, lays six strips (6 nodes lined up) on the towel, then wraps the towel and saran wrap over the top,  sort of like a towel / node sandwich, lets it stew awhile then pulls out a strip at a time to work on each node. Apparently the steam evaporates almost immediately after flattening.

    I have been meaning to try this technique as it seems to be less damaging to the strips, (especially on blonde rods). Seems like it would work to me??  (Shawn Pineo)

    For my $.02, I don't think boiling would get the lignin hot enough to permanently straighten it but I have not tried it....212 just doesn't seem like it would be hot enough to me.  (John Long)

    I would think boiling might change the properties of the cane and boil out the lignin, similar to boiling out the starch in noodles. Sounds like some testing on the horizon...(Dave Collyer)


Recently Ralf Ladda and I visited Walter Brunner, an internationally known rodmaker, in Austria. He was a very kind and informative man who was willing to share his knowledge and expert advice on bamboo rodmaking. His shop, situated in Steyr in Austria is a Bamboo rodmakers paradise.  I am sure that the methods he uses are not only used by him, but they do differ from the usual rodmakers ways. Walter Brunner is 74 and has been making rods since the second world war. He designed rods for Hans Gebetsroither and  Charles Ritz at the beginning of his career.  He has been a professional rodmaker for a very long time.

Straightening: The bends and curves between the nodes are straightened and then the nodes themselves are straightened using a heat gun. At this point the enamel and the lip on the node are STILL INTACT. There has been no filing done. He then presses the node with a vertical press which has a jaw with a small recess cut into it to accommodate the nodal lip!! The strips are now flat and straight with only the lip to file off before beveling.

This means that his strips do not receive a primary bevel and nodes do not pop back out during heat treating because it is done before the node is pressed.  (Stuart Moultrie)

    I do like the idea of pressing the nodes without filing the lip.  Hmmmmm... may have to run to the hardware store and buy a vice I can mill a recess in to give this a shot.  It would certainly seem that it would decrease the visible size of the node, which, while small nodes may not be a necessity for a fine rod, I think we all certainly know it is desirable by many collectors/buyers.  This method, if I'm understanding it correctly, would definitely make the nodal area on a finished rod VERY small... I like that idea.  (Bob Nunley)


You guys talking about heating, pressing nodes and straightening strips the last few days made me get off it and actually do something I've been thinking about for well over a year.

Ever have a set of eyeglass frames fitted?  They heated them so they could be formed didn't they?  So, I stopped by a restaurant and ask them for a gallon can, picked up some table salt, checked with a eye doctor and that is what they use, at the store.  Drilled two 1/2 holes opposite each other about 1 1/2" from the bottom.  Set the can on a hot plate I have in the shop and poured in the salt till there was a mound large enough to cover a strip about 3/4" when pushed though the holes.  Turned on the hot plate, put my barbecue thermometer in the salt and waited till the temp got up to 300°. Inserted the strip, which I dished out on the pith side and prepped, turned to mush in about 1-2 minutes. Note:  Put a piece of sheet metal protruding out from each side at the bottom of the can so the heat coming up around the can doesn't scorch the strip.  Put the strip in the vice and presto, perfect!

I need to refine this crude device a little, need a grommet or something to keep the salt from spilling out the holes, It is not much but....

Interesting thing I noted, something caused the salt to stick together slightly, I think some of it was moisture drawn out of the strip but something else caused a slight discoloration of the salt. The volatile oils?

What do you think?  (Don Schneider)

    A very novel approach, Don, and quite intriguing. I wonder if clay would suffice, since it too holds heat well. Kitty litter, without all the scents, clumping, etc., might work. There is some compound, and I can't think of what it is, that might work well if it will withstand that much heat. Ever see one of those gel packs used for heating? There's something else that might work, too, but I'm having massive brain farts this morning, and an acute case of CRS. (Martin-Darrell)

      In the laboratory, we use glass bead sterilizers for small surgical instruments.  The glass beads are very, very small and sit in a stainless steel basin.  They heat up quickly (sufficient to sterilize) and don't stick to anything we've ever put in them.  I'll hunt up sources if anyone is interested.  It does seem to me, though, that the relative speed benefit of the salt/glass beads, etc. is due to the relative effectiveness of the materials in transmitting HEAT to the cane.  You can achieve this similar effect (without scorching) by use of a tea kettle and steam.  (David Smith)

        The glass beads for bead blasting cabinets might work, too, as they are available in various sizes, some quite fine, more so than sand.  (Martin-Darrell)

          Back in the early 70's our small group of rod builders tried using water and steam and Fabric softener to straighten cane. I settled on building a quartz heat box that heated the cane for straightening. Have been using it since then, you don't get any charring of the cane and you can leave the cane on the heater until it is pliable and ready for straightening and node pressing.  (Hal Bacon)


I picked up a Coleman Sportcat catalytic heater in the camping department of WalMart and tried it. You need to check this one out. I only have done a few sections with it, but here are some observations:

  • It seems to be the perfect temperature. Heats much faster than my heat gun, but does not burn the cane. The heat seems to penetrate better than other methods I have used.
  • It is almost completely quiet- no real flame to speak of. I hated the noise of the gun, and have been using an alcohol lamp to minimize interference with the music.
  • The heat is dispersed, and you can heat a three inch section easily. I tried it on a badly kinked node and it softened the entire area. Straightened right out in the vise.
  • It is stable, and very tough to knock over.
  • One propane tank will last for up to 18 hours (their claim).
  • You could actually use it for its intended purpose.
  • Cost is 29.99 at WalMart.

John Long gets credit for the propane heater idea, I just noticed this particular brand.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I've been using an 8 inch propane heater to straighten my nodes ever since I started making rods. I learned this technique from John Long's buddy, Bill Waara who was demonstrating his node press along with the heater at the second ever Grayrock's Gathering. My propane heater will soften a 3/16 strip so it can be straightened and pressed in about 25 seconds and will do a full 1/4 inch strip in a minute or less, with  very little charring. It's great for node work but no good for final straightening after glue up. For that I use an old toaster, about $3.00 at the Good Will Store. I bought the model 1000 heater from:

    B.P Products Inc.
    4780 Beidler Road
    Willoughby, Ohio  44094  (Jim Bureau)

      Watch using these in a closed area because they DO eat up the oxygen and people DO die every year from asphyxiation from using these things.  (Bret Reiter)


I just finished an experiment with node straightening. My brother and me are building our first rod and are trying a different technique. Instead of using a flame or heat gun I tried using a hot plate with a pie tin filled with salt. The salt reached a maximum temp of 312 degrees F. I laid a strip of bamboo in the salt and covered it with more heated salt and let set for 15 minutes. Then I removed the strip from the salt and tried to bend it. It was quite hot to the touch but the strip did not have any additional flexibility. I then placed the strip into a device that looks like a special vise that really seems made just for straightening strips. (Some day maybe we can post a picture). As you might guess, it just did not work. I suspect that a higher temp is needed. Anyone know the answer? 

The reason we are trying this is to  avoid scorching.   (Randy Tuttle)

    Why don't you try to add some water. I think If you get some steam going it will help penetrate the cane. I'm not sure you want to mix water and salt though.  Maybe glass beads with some water and some kind of lid????  (Bill Tagye)

    I remember someone on the list talking about doing the same thing with salt sand or beads better than a year ago. They were using a pie pan with slots cut opposite sides of the pan. You might dig around in the archives a bit.  (Timothy Troester)

      If you wish to straighten without scorching the bamboo,  try steam from a tea kettle. I have an electric kettle I screwed a slotted piece of galvanized steel to (to shape/control the steam).  Heat is more effectively transmitted via water (compared with air) and the bamboo will bend/straighten like it's melted.  Each node takes  about 30 seconds (15 seconds for thin tips).  The steam will not "flame" the bamboo.  (David Smith)

      That was me that tried salt, later salt & talcum powder mixture. The salt/talcum mixture is what Optometrist use in a very expensive heater. One word sums up the experiment, "disaster". Took a long time to get up to temp without insulation around the meat loaf pan I used and worked as far as getting the bamboo hot enough but salt deposits from the vapor & salt got on everything in the shop and took along time to clean up. Tried silica sand, uneven heat. Not hot enough on the surface, to hot an inch down. By the time I got this far into the experiment I gave up and didn't try glass beads. As far as I'm concerned, a heat gun on wet strips is the best method.  (Don Schneider)

    Might it not be easier to experiment with the distance one holds the strip from a heat gun?   Or the temperature of the heat gun itself?  I find that 30-35 seconds of heat about one inch from the fish tail nozzle on the highest setting of my $25 heat gun gives me soft bamboo with no charring.  Your mileage may vary.  (Harry Boyd)

    You will find lots of techniques that work for somebody else won't work for you.  I wonder why that is?  Straightening nodes with steam didn't work any better for me than the hot salt method. (Makes the basement nice and humid, though) Neither did coloring nickel silver hardware by boiling in transmission fluid (sounded so good).  I don't like planing cane with a bench plane either.   But its fun to try all these things.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)


I was up late (really,  really late)  straightening a huge pile of strips. My normal routine is to heat the nodes/strips with an alcohol burner and then place the strip in a flush-mounted bench vise. Placement in this type of vise allows the strip to run along the outer edge (2X4) of one of my workbenches. I then pull the strip away from the front edge of the bench and hold until cool enough to maintain the new shape. So I thought to myself, "self, if you made a wedge to push the strip away from the bench, your hands would be free to drink coffee or heat the next strip, no drink coffee sounds much better!" So I cut a wedge out of some scrap wood and lo and behold a new straightening jig was born. The wedge allows me to apply as much or as little pressure as may be needed to get the strip straightened out. I am now leaving my strips longer in this position and I have already noticed they are staying straighter then when doing this by hand. I probably never held the strip long enough for it to really cool down before, but now I just sit back, sip some joe and wait for the magic to happen. If anyone wants to see a picture of this in action, check it out here.  (Jeff Fultz)


I rarely ever heat nodes anymore and have not heated any nodes on the two quads I'm working on.  I split with a Wandishin splitter which splits fairly wide uniform strips that are cut pretty much straight through the nodes.  I then belt sand the inner and outer nodal areas flat and soak the strips.  After soaking 4 or 5 days, I square up the strips using my JW beveler which produces even sized strips and further reduces any crooked nodes I may have.  I follow that by beveling the strips to 60 or 90 degrees and then remove the enamel using the beveler, which also knocks down any nodes that weren't sanded totally flat.  At this point the nodes are straight and the strips are flat on top but the cane still has curves/swails between the nodes.  To eliminate the curves, I  bind the strips in the M-D aluminum extrusions, heat treat at 225 degrees for an hour to remove the moisture that remains from soaking the strips, followed by heat treating at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  After the strips cool they come out straight enough to plane using forms or the Morgan Hand Mill.  I don't do any additional straightening until the after strips are glued up and the binding string has been removed.  Therefore I have reduced and in some cases eliminated the part of cane rod building I hate the most, hand straightening the strips and filing/heating/pressing the nodes.  A lot of the steps I mentioned have come from recommendations from other members on the list and to them I say thanks again.  Additionally, thanks to the creative minds that devise tools, machinery and jigs that make rod making easier and more enjoyable.  (Bob Williams)

    I had a horrible time trying to heat and then press nodes and maintain the structural integrity of the nodal area.

    Step #1. Before I ever started building my first rod, I cut two unusable culms (due to worm holes, hack marks, etc.) in half.  Two of the sections I flamed and the other two I did not.  From these sections, I split out as many strips as I could get.

    Step #2. I heated and pressed nodes in a vise using low heat, then higher heat and then very high heat.  During test bending of each strip,  about 2 out of ten strips would snap cleanly at a node.  Being an engineer, this bothered the hell out of me.

    Step #3.  Two things improved this situation for me.  First was reading Tom Smithwick's method on nodes.  After using Tom Smithwick's method of straightening and flattening nodes, not a single strip snapped during the test bends.  Also, Bill Harms wrote an article in the archives on removing as much mass as possible from the split strips before attempting to straighten.  This made sense to me, so i followed his advice.

    I have wasted a lot of bamboo testing strips this way. I had such a pile of broken strips, I had to use my trailer to haul them off. I still find bamboo splinters in my wok shop.

    I want short nodes, but not at the expense of compromising the structural integrity of the finished rod.  (Dave Alexander)

      Since Dave mentioned "my" method (which I did not invent), I guess I should weigh in. I still prefer the method I illustrated at Todd's site. I think it's the best method for a hand planer because the nodal areas are well straightened, and become easier to plane. I also like the following side benefits:

      • It's quiet and quick when you get the feel of it.
      • You can feel the strip give when just enough heat is applied. and so avoid overheating.
      • An overnight soak of the strips is sufficient to get the job done without charring, if that's your preference.

      I like the looks of the node in the finished rod. The fibers entering the nodes are nearly straight. Since I am hand planing, I want the rod to look hand planed, even if no one else cares.

      Having said all that, I am not knocking other methods. In fact, I believe some of the other methods are superior if you are machining or sawing the strips to finish taper. It's all about what works best in your process. The method I use works best for me. (Tom Smithwick)

      Another thing I noticed when I stopped heating and pressing nodes - a lot less lifts and chips at the nodes. I equate that to heating and pressing separated some of the fibers from each other inside the node, allowing the plane blade to wedge between them instead of cutting through. (Darryl Hayashida)

        On the other hand, even though I still heat and press nodes, I haven't had any lifts, chip outs or tear outs since I increased the angle on my blades to 35 degrees, with a 2 degree micro bevel. (Mark Wendt)

      I gotta believe that if you were snapping that many nodes while heating and pressing, you weren't doing it correctly. Some things take some time to learn.

      Again, short nodes seem like they should have more structural integrity than long ones. At least to me. (Harry Boyd)

        I have a lot to learn and improve on. Working on shorter nodes is one of them. I just could not get the heating and pressing thing to work right. The thing that bothered me about heating and pressing the nodes was that I (being a green beginner) could not see (or feel) any indication of when I had crossed the line. That is, when the damage occurred or exactly what the damage was. I feel confident it was due to one of the following:

        1.) Too much heat causing the nodal area to become brittle.
        2.) Crushing the fibers during the "pressing" process.
        3.) Fracturing the node during the "pressing" process.
        4.) Combination of all of the above.

        I will have to have an answer for this before I can ever feel confident in using this method in a rod, that is just my nature. I welcome any comments from anyone who can help me understand exactly what going on. Looking back, I think my strips were a little oversized and, at that time, I was using dry heat (strips not soaked). However, I discovered that it is possible to cause irreversible damage to the node, and that scares me. Using the method outlined by tom, seemed to eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) that possibility.

        I am currently building a flamed Payne 98 (on a taper from Al Medved) and I will strive to improve my node work using the method outlined by Tom. I do agree that short nodes look much, much better. However, I must have absolute confidence in the method that I have employed in obtaining that end. Maybe after I have a better understanding and more experience, I will try it again.  (Dave Alexander)

        I am with heat is bad crowd on this one. I saw my strips to eliminate the need for straightening crooked nodes, and use a Coleman Sportcat heater that gives slow even heating over a wide area for the humps. I put the nodal ridge in a vertical notch on my vise, and try to use as little pressure as needed. You can flatten successfully when the cane is just beginning to soften. It does not need to be "limp" at all.

        I came to this conclusion after heating test nodes until they were flexible, then I kept heating them. Within a surprisingly short additional time they were brittle and totally ruined. I felt that if I was that close to the "time of irreversible damage" the heat had to be doing bad things. At that point I was using an alcohol lamp, and may have been heating them too fast, and too long given the heat source. But it made me very cautious about heat... (Jeff Schaeffer)

          My nodal technique is amazingly similar to that of Peter's. Especially in the use of the scraper plane to remove the last vestiges of nodal humps. To keep the scar as small as possible, I place the scraper plane blade barely behind the node and make a pencil mark at the front of the plane, move the plane barely beyond the node and make a second mark at the front of the plane. When scraping, I stay between the two marks. The resulting nodal scars are well under 3/4", most at 1/2" or somewhat less. The only difference in the pressing of nodes is that I do remove material from behind the nodes to provide room for "displacement" (or whatever the node does with that space), and also use a cheap drill press vise with a filed vertical groove for pressing.  I have found that the latter is far better (for me) than the small Pony type vises. I don't pretend to heat/press the nodes completely flat, or heat to the point of "browning" the pith. I only file/scrape after heating/pressing!

          Heat/press just enough to "relax" the nodes, and the final touch is made with file and scraper plane. The result is beautifully small node scars. On the occasional node that raises during heat treatment I retouch with the scraper plane. I suspect that with some soaking of the strips prior to heating/pressing, the results would be even better. After several years of doing the sanding only procedure, the heavy heating/pressing procedure, the latter seems to be a great compromise and very repeatable from node to node. Of course, like most things in rodbuilding, you have to find what works for you, within reason of course. This works wonderfully for me. (Jaz)

          Don't think that the only reason for sanding is that you cannot heat straighten them correctly. In other words, I am not sanding the nodes only because I am admitting to be a failure at straightening rods with heat. (Bob Maulucci)

            Thanks, I understand. I do not think that at all. I was just surprised when I had strips break after heating and pressing the nodes. I understand that I was apparently not doing it right, but this seems to indicate to me that the process has some inherent hidden dangers.  I thought, being the beginner I am, that it was more straight forward, completely safe and predictable. I would like to gain an better understanding of what was happening and why.

            I think it is past time for me to order Bob Milward's book. (Dave Alexander)

            There is probably no one correct way to do this. Certainly there are individual preferences, and some techniques will work better in the hands of some people than they do for others. What's new?

            I like to file the nodes on the culm before I flame it. This removes the worst of the hump at a time when subsequent flaming will impart some color back to the filed nodes. I like to file deep enough that the intense black fungal bloom which often occurs in the nodal groove has been removed, at least nearly completely.

            I then flame to the desired color, and go on from there to the splitting. I split by hand, but I know that Bob is a power tool aficionado, and more power to his arm.

            Having split the strips, I plane the pith side down to a nice flat sort of surface, and then do the heat pressing and straightening thing. I don't apply too much heat, and certainly I don't have cause to worry about excessive charring here. I press each node and straighten both dorso-ventrally and laterally, and at the end of this process, which incidentally is a pretty tedious one, I have pretty straight strips with some slight brown discoloration in the areas of maximum heating.

            I tend to check the flex integrity of each strip at this stage and obviously if any fail  they fail and I do replacement strips.

            Next I use my L-N #2 and plane the sides of each strip, plane off more pith if necessary, and huck off the nodal humps on the enamel side (no, they DON'T just go away when I press them,  no matter how hard I try) with my L-N scraper. I also pull off as much charred rind and enamel with the scraper at this point as I judge I have to.

            So I guess I use a synthesis of the saw-and-mill and heat-treatment regimes, and each achieves a specific set of goals, resulting straight,  consistent, strong, even-sized strips which are a delight to plane.

            I also heat treat in a fan-forced convection oven after initial triangulation and binding. It is my strong subjective impression that the heat treatment at the very least dries the cane.  It certainly makes a palpable difference to its planing characteristics! I am very much a hobby builder, and can never see the point of doing measuring and weighing trials as the maximum number Of data I could possibly collect and collate would never achieve anything even vaguely approaching statistical significance. Does anybody who does measure physical "changes", by the way, ever run an analysis of variance on their figures? I feel that our sampling intensity would be so low that the confidence level in the outcome of analysis of variance would be so low as to be laughable in a statistical sense.

            Whatever works for you -

            "Not in  the clamor of the busy streets,
            Nor in the plaudits of the throng;
            But in ourselves are victories and defeats."

            Cheers, and I hope this helps somebody.  (Peter McKean)

      Those of us who do it swear by it, and for good reason, that is soaking strips, heating and displacing nodes. The soaking and heating is equivalent to steaming. The difference between moist heat and dry heat is dramatic. Moist heat does not char the cane and the cane does not appear to be damaged from the process. As for strength just take a look at any of the wood chairs that have had their legs and backs bent in a steam box.  I have a chair from IKEA that has the legs and back as a single piece and was bent in  a steam box and is as strong as ever. cane or wood can not be bent and shaped with dry heat to the  extent of moist without breaking. As for pressing the nodes, displacing the nodes is working better for me.

      Some rodmakers still thing soaking strips is taboo. Well the fact of the matter is all cane is soak at one time or another. Cane is floated done the river and sits there for days soaking. All cane will dry once removed from water and reach equilibrium with it environment. Plus once strips have been soaked, nodes treated  you can place them in your hot box for a couple days and it will be as good as ever.

      Soaking strips and then treating nodes provides a stronger nodal area in contrast with being treated with dry heat.

      So if you wish to have the cosmetic look of a small node without the weakening of using dry heat I suggest soaking and displacing nodes.

      Sanding or planing nodes works fine but looks rough.  (Adam Vigil)

        I agree.  The more I've tried soaking the better I like it. Friend of mine, William Servey, not a list member, soaks strips in hot water. Shortens up the process considerably. Being the extremist I am, I tried boiling water. It was like cooking spaghetti. Fast and you can bend it any way you wish.  (Don Schneider)


Just finished splitting out some bamboo for the next rod.

The butt section of the culm I have found after splitting has a thick middle to it. The culm came in two 6' sections, the top (tip section) very nice and even for thickness, yet the middle of the bottom is thicker than the two ends.

This makes straightening and node pressing difficult. I am thinking of planing this down from the pith side, anyone else have this problem? Is this the best solution?  (Pete Van Schaack)

    With six foot sections figure out your node spacing and cut on the butt end. You will find that a lot of the butt end that is so thick will be removed. When you have the strips look at the dimensions of the strips and make sure you do not plane down to far. Be sure to allow enough to work with. But by all means plane that pith garbage off.  But always measure twice and cut once.  (Adam Vigil)

    PS: You can also bring those strip to size on a belt sander or electric hand plane.

      Someday, I am going to debate you on the value of that "pith garbage."  In my opinion it is the heart of a bamboo rod.  Without it I don't think you have anything better than one of those plastic tubes.  (Ralph Moon)

        Then again, there's always the hollow built rods made by some of the classic rod makers.  Scraping, fluting, or whatever technique is used is a great weight saving way of making longer cane rods that aren't so heavy.  (Mark Wendt)


I've been using a heat gun as the heat source for straightening my strips, mostly because it's the way I was taught. I have heard of people using alcohol lamps and other sources as well.

So here's the question...

What do you use as a heat source for straightening cane strips?  And why?  (Joe Behar)

    Heat gun.  It's got a more diffuse heat than the heat of an alcohol lamp, and I'm not as likely to burn the cane with it.  (Mark Wendt)

    I have tried them all, and have settled on two methods:

    For strips, a Coleman sport cat heater. It gives the perfect amount of heat, and you can heat larger areas than you can with a heat gun or alcohol lamp. It gives a nice diffuse warmth that is just right- little waiting, but not hot enough to char things unless you are absolutely not paying attention. And it is quiet so you can listen to music while you work.

    For finished sections, I iron them. Learned this trick just recently at Grayrock, and it works like a charm. Just put the iron on high. I do use Nyatex glue, which can take that amount of heat without any problems, but an iron could be too hot for other glues unless you are careful.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      Ironing finished sections to straighten?  Sure would like more information on this method.  (Roland Cote)

        There isn't much to it. Put the iron on high, put the blank on the bench, and iron away. Do one flat, then rotate to the opposite flat and repeat. I keep my hands on the cane to make sure it doesn't get too hot. Push off the tip then lift the iron so you don't run the risk of snagging it. I have only done this for three recent rods, but they were the straightest blanks I ever produced. And one was a 5 foot one piece, which can be a challenge to straighten. Scary.  Once the blank gets hot, I will pick it up and bend it opposite a severe bend, but I let the iron do most of the work.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

        PS: no steam, just dry.

          Our good friend Max Satoh, from Japan, detailed the method of straightening with an iron on the List several years ago.  I seem to think it was about the same time that Max attended Grayrock.  Does anyone else remember Max's contributions?  Should be in the archives.  (Harry Boyd)

          Do you only use this method on unfinished blanks or on varnished blanks as well?  (Larry Puckett)

            I use it on unvarnished sections right after sanding off the glue. Another thing- it gets the end of the blank very straight for ferruling as well.

            I remember Max Satoh talking about a number of things, but ironing wasn't one of them. It may have been a thread that started before I was on the list. I spend a long time looking for a domestic source of his Urushi varnish, which came from a plant closely related to poison ivy. You had to use it carefully, but it gave really nice results. I believe that Max kept his entire shop in a box under his bed. Everything he does is geared to working in small spaces.   (Jeff Schaeffer)

    Heat gun, tried other sources, toaster, alcohol lamp, hot plate. went back to heat gun.

    When I first joined the list, there was a tread on using the heat treat oven, I have not tried that.  (Tony Spezio)

    Toaster with the pop-up thingy disabled.  Constant heat, narrow or wide heat source.  Quiet!  (Brian Creek)

    I use a Watlow silicone rubber flexible heater, 5 x 10 inches rolled into a tube.  This forms a 10" "local oven" which works quite well.  The heater is 120 volts 250 watts, no moving parts & can be plugged in to the wall.  I run it from a variable timer, tho' and find 90 seconds is enough to make most sections pliable.  (Ron Larsen)

    Heat gun, but I can't say I'm 100% satisfied with it.  Maybe I just haven't developed the right technique, but if I'm working with dry strips, it seems like it takes forever to get the strips "plastic", and if I try to hurry things along, I end up with some degree of discoloration, especially at nodes. (I use the "lip method", so I can hold the bend as I'm gauging the strip temperature, but clearly, I advise due caution here!  :-) .

    For general straightening, away from nodes, I've found it takes less heat than one thinks, as long as one holds the bend until the cane is cool enough to touch (I use the "lip method", so I can hold the bend as I'm gauging the strip temp, but clearly, one needs due caution here!  :-) .

    I guess the obvious solution for aggressive heat gunning is soaking strips.  Frankly, if I had my druthers, I'd just as soon work on 'em dry.  May change my mind, since I'm going to soak strips on #2, just to see if I'm missing something.  :-)   (Todd Enders)


I can only echo what others have pointed out about getting strips straight. I use a back light device where I can lay the strip along and get the enamel side dead flat [or just about] during the final planing.  During rough planing, I "hog" off the cane @ 0.025" cuts.

Was playing around the other day with some rough strips and measured the triangles from side to side down the cane. Found out the apex of the triangle was off some - sometimes as much as 0.010. Mostly it was off to one side suggesting that my planing technique wasn't bang on. But some times it went the other way. Sent them into the final forms and keeping the plane @ an angle trued the apex. Then I scraped the enamel with the strip in the forms, the enamel side was truly flat.

I straighten prior to rough planing and before final planing. Since doing this I've have no problems with node lifting. Also I found that I preset the forms about 0.020 over size and slide the cane along further to the thinner section of the form as I plane thereby making sure that the maximum amount of form shoulder is touching the form to reduce twisting.

One question I have is for milling machines. I've heard that the strips have to be true and straight prior to milling. Even straighter & truer than for planing.   (Don Anderson)

    My experience with the Hand Mill is that every time I don't get the kinks out and the nodes dead flat I have hell to pay later. Nodes chip, nodes don't cut straight (wavy sort of result). I screw around for a while trying to get the strips to fit together and end up making new ones or trashing a section . Bummer!!!!  (Doug Easton)

    Yes, strips need to be dead straight and dead flat for most milling machines.  My MHM, like Doug's, is very unforgiving of strips that aren't just about perfect.  So, there's added time taken for this, but not to complain -- at least we can be certain the rod will go together as perfectly as possible and will stay straight.

    I often find (especially with tip sections) that however straight the strips are when I begin, once the dimensions become significantly reduced,  the little node kinks want to show up again.  Relieving internal stresses must be the cause.  The good news is that straightening at this point takes only about 5 seconds of heat and the just slightest pressure with the fingers.  (Bill Harms)

      Would just like to support what you say, though not from the point of view of a MHM user, which I ain't.

      I do not believe that in the whole, entire process of turning a raw culm of bamboo into a finished fly rod that there is any other single thing more important, and more critical to the standard of the finished article, than time spent getting the strips a close to perfect as you can possibly manage.

      You can fudge the glue, you can fix up the varnish, you can call it a different rod if you stuff up the taper, but you can NEVER EVER get around crappy strips.  (Peter McKean)

    I agree that sawing on a MHM is best but I never could get it to work well with my band saw.  What has worked for me is to clamp a fresh strip to my planning form and sand the nodes down with a 3x21 belt sander and flatten the strip all the way but just in the center not all the way.  Then I take the strip to my beveler with a flat bed and cut the sides straight just over the size I want. This way I get a very straight strip.  It cuts out the high places and lowers the low places.  Then I cut the 60 on the beveler. I then take the strips back to the planning forms and clamp it in the V this time enamel side up and then flatten the whole strip.  This way I have a very straight, flat strip that works well on the MHM.  It sounds like a lot of steps but most of the steps only take a few minutes.  And the planning on the MHM then only takes a few minutes especially if they are soaked.  I just make sure that the strips don't have any twists on the anvil.  This takes longer to explain than to do.  I find the longer I spend in preparation the less time I spend in planning and fewer aggravations I have later.  (David Ray)


Will taking the time to get strips as straight as possible prior to planing help reduce blank straightening later?  It seems that a strip doesn't really have to be all that straight to plane as it will become fairly pliable during final planing.  But when I have problem spots during blank straightening it always seems to be at the nodes.  Any thoughts?  (Lee Orr)

    Straighter is always better, especially at the nodes. You want the strips to stay in the forms while planning. They do get more pliable as you plane them down, I find it is tougher to fix/straighten nodes after you have planed.

    After I split, I like to plane the strips to square up the edges, thin out the wide end if I get one (usually do) then straighten.   (Pete Van Schaack)

      Like Pete, I like to get my components (strips) as trued up as possible before I put any angle on the strips. Fairly true rectangular strips fit in the planing form much better, too.

      Once I get the butt section ready to glue, I bind it together (dry) with the string binder; check to see how straight it is going to be, thoroughly examine all the joints, mark (with pencil) any that need extra attention, make any necessary adjustments and rebind (dry). Then I get it as straight as I can and let it sit on a perfectly flat surface while I work on the tip section(s)...straight, bound and unglued...

      Tip sections usually come out much more true than the butt sections (in my experience).

      Then when I get my tip section(s) done, I glue up all the pieces/sections.

      Things come out pretty straight and don't require much heat or torquing when the glue dries.   (Patrick Mullen)

      Like you, I rough plane the strips & then straighten.  If you straighten after planing you run an increased risk of burning the thinner strip.  I've been toying with the idea of putting the rough strip in the oven at 350 for 1 minute, laying the strip in the roughing form & putting a heavy weight on top until the strip cools.  I think I'll try this next rod.  (Ron Larsen)

        I agree with what Ron has said re: the risk of burning a thinner strip. 

        I get as straight as possible with the strips in larger dimensions.  For lack of better terms, I like that the mass of the larger strip gives me more room for error when heating.    I get annoyed when I smoke a strip that's made it fairly far along in the process...   But it never fails that I have some straightening to do when getting to the final planing stage. 

        Admittedly, my heat gun doesn't give me that much control and it's easy to burn a strip.  (It's basically got a fresh air damper-type dial on the side and drops the outlet temp by mixing heated air with ambient in order to lower the temp).  But it really just boils down to operator error.  (Eric Koehler)

          If you need to straighten thin strips, or any thicknesses, I would recommend steam.  It is faster and won't leave unwanted burn marks.  (David Smith)

    What you want most are the kinks out. Those would be at the nodes. The long sweeps between them aren't going to give you too much grief. As you point out, the strip gets very flexible as you're working it and compliantly "rolls" right into the form as the plane glides along it.  Those nodes may well "pop" again while you're planing.  Just restraighten them as needed and move along.  (Art Port)

    Yes, the straighter you get your strips prior to planing, the straighter the sections will be upon glue-up, and the less likely you are to have tear-outs during planing.  But more important still, the less likely you are to develop a set later.  That is, all other things being equal (which, alas, they usually aren't).

    Nodes are potential trouble-spots at all stages of the building process -- which is why it's important to get all the little kinks and bends out prior to planing.  It is also why I always stagger my nodes in a spiral up the shaft.  Nodes are different (in whatever manner one cares to consider)  from the rest of the cane, and I dislike the idea of locating more than one in any given area.  Personal opinion, of course, but one I'll stick with, considering that all methods of staggering are equally easy.  (Bill Harms)

    In my admittedly limited experience, it's A LOT easier to get the 60 degree angles and plane to the numbers if the strips are as straight as possible and the  nodes are as good as I can get them.  (Neil Savage)

    It's worth the effort to get strips as straight as possible before rough planing.  Kinks at nodes are the worst for tearout, but look out for twists between nodes too.  These will mess up your angles.  However, once you get strips rough planed, if you heat treat them in the oven they will be perfectly straight.  Once they've been heat treated you shouldn't have to straighten them again unless you left a kink or twist in before rough planing and need to fix a spot with tearout or bad angles.

    I soak strips before straightening and rough planing, and then bind with nylon and heat treat before final planing.  I'm always amazed how heat treating seems to stress-relieve the strips and they just lie right in the groove.  They come out of the oven perfectly straight, but as you plane away the pith side of the strips, they develop a sweep the full length of the strip towards the pith side.  (Robert Kope)

    Got to chime in here.  :-)   Kinks are bad.  Got to get them out.  Makes little difference (in my limited experience) whether they are major or minor.   They will come back to bite you as you plane, even if they are small enough to "straighten" as the foot of the plane presses the strip down into the form.  The area through and several inches either side of the nodes should be as straight as you can make it.  I find long sweeps not to be any real problem,  and a lot of these will go away during heat treating, but sharper bends and kinks through the nodes will not (at least not in my experience).

    Best investment, insofar as straightening equipment goes, was an infinitely adjustable (via rheostat) heat gun.  Throttle it back so that the air stream is 400-450F right at the mouth of the nozzle, and you can get dry strips to bend to your will without scorching them.  10-15 sec. past the point where you start smelling cooking cane (~35-40 sec. total with my heat gun set at 450F) gets a 0.150-0.160" strip nicely plastic, with no change in color.

    FWIW, I straighten the strips before rough planing, and again after heat treating.  I'm not necessarily trying for perfection going into roughing, but I do try to get the area say ± 3" from the nodes as dead straight as I can manage, plus remove any other kinks/twists I might find, before starting my finish planing/tapering.  Works for me.

    I've got a test section, made with strips that had some minor kinking through the nodes, and even though I was careful, I had nodes tear/chip out, and generally made a mess.  The kinks were minor enough that a little finger pressure on the strip, over the node, would have it laying flat in the form, so you'd think you were safe... :-/  Nope, not a chance.  (Todd Enders)

    I can only echo what others have pointed  out about getting them straight. I use a back light device where I can lay the strip along and get the enamel side dead flat [or just about] during the final planing.   During rough planing,  I "hog" off the cane @ 0.025" cuts.

    I was playing around the other day with some rough strips and measured the triangles from side to side down the cane. Found out the apex of the triangle was off some - sometimes as much as 0.010. Mostly it was off to one side suggesting that my planing technique wasn't bang on. But some times it went the other way. Sent them into the final forms and keeping the plane @ an angle trued the apex. Then I scraped the enamel with the strip  in the forms, the enamel side was truly flat.

    I straighten prior to rough planing and before final planing. Since doing this I've have no problems with node lifting. Also I found that I preset the forms about 0.020 over size and slide the cane along further to the thinner section of the form as I plane thereby making sure that the maximum amount of form shoulder is touching the form to reduce twisting.

    One question I have is for milling machines. I've heard that the strips have to be true and straight prior to milling. Even straighter & truer than for planing.  (Don Anderson)

      I own a  preliminary mill fabricated to utilize a Delta/Rockwell woodworking shaper, with  double angle milling cutters stacked to give the initial 60 degree (or 90  degree) angle for strip planing.  I use a scraper and sandpaper to get the  enamel side relatively flat prior to wiping with paraffin wax to ease the pulling  trough my mill.  After the second pass, which was done with the mill fence  moved .030 closer to the cutters, I am able to lay the strip in the forms with  the pith apex down.  I then scrape again to create a perfectly flat surface  to facilitate hand planing in the form.  Quads are a little different as I  need to get the enamel side as perfectly flat early on, since you can't lay the  strip in a quad form enamel side up.  The combination of the attention to  the enamel side, in conjunction with the stacked cutters cutting through nodes  with no side to side deviation possible, yields some incredibly precise  triangular strips for planing.  My strips show absolutely NO problems at  the pesky nodes, as my cutters have mercilessly blasted right through them  without any deviation possible.  (Tom McDonnell)

      Saw, Saw, Saw your strips
      And you'll get it right
      You can plane them right to specs
      And not lose sleep at night!

      I apologize to Peter for my poor rhyme!  (Bob Maulucci)

        My issue has been straightening.  It is a freakin, pain in the arse and every blank I make needs it.  I haven't had any problems with glue lines or lifting.  Getting the hang of using a Hock cryo fixed that. 

        Last night I taped a wet tip section down to my form.  It came out very straight except for a kick at a node.  I'm thinking about trying something other than a 3x3 stagger, that might be the source of my problems.  (Lee Orr)

          From rod #1 I've thought the 3x3 stagger probably made straightening harder.  Someday I'll try a different pattern, but I'm comfortable with the 3x3 layout, and inertia has set in.  (Neil Savage)

      I use a tapering mill of my own make and the strips need to be as flat and straight as possible, though long sweeps go thru OK Bumps at the nodes cause more problems than anything else, I  get a narrow spot anywhere the cane lifts off the pattern.  (John Channer)


I thought I should share a technique for straightening for those who struggle with it - like me.

Once glued up I roll the sections on newspaper as normal. The thick end of the sections I usually find easier to get straight in this way than the thinner ends. The thin ends often flap about no matter how I try to control them. If I roll with my fingers right on the tip the mid section often flaps - most infuriating. I find this technique helps this situation.

I work from the thick end towards the thin end rolling and straightening as I go. Once I have got a good length straight I 'hang' the remaining end over the end of the bench. I then sight along the section from the thin end and 'milk' the first 3 overhanging inches straight rolling the section onto each flat to check. I then slide the straightened section further onto the table and repeat. At the end of the process the whole section is pretty close to perfect and if not can at least be more easily rolled again if necessary.  (Steve Dugmore)

    Here is what I do. Glue up and wrap, lay section on newspaper covered 3/4" glass 6’ long 1’ wide. Roll on top of section 1/2" x 10" x 24" piece of plywood.  A few rolls and the section is straight. They I place it a a form lined with blue masking tape set to taper x .75. Lay some weight on top and wait for it to set. Hang to dry, perfect every time.

    Well almost I only heat straighten about 10% of the time, and that is usually because of tips  (Adam Vigil)


I have been reading with great interest some of the recent posts about steam boxes and I found some of the designs presented to be quite stimulating; especially so was the idea of using wood for the steam chamber since it is cheap, easy to work with and insulates somewhat. The Veritas Steam Bending Booklet contained several good tips and diagrams.

Also, it may be of benefit to some of you who have recently posted on this topic to know that Power Fibers published an article in Volume 19, Pages 17-20 on a steam box that I built using ordinary stovepipe. My design is very efficient and quite flexible but it takes up too much room if you only want it for rodmaking.

I liked the idea of using a thermometer, wood or cork plugs, and well insulated pipe so........................ I got an idea:

* BINGO! I already have (and so do many of you), an insulated pipe etc. in the heat gun oven I use for dry heat treating strips; so why not just unhook the gun and replace it with the teakettle for steam heat and have the best of both worlds?!!!! That way the chamber does double duty: either wet heat or dry heat.

Advantages? A dedicated machine that saves money, and space, and time; by golly I'm going to give it a try!

If I'm wrong, or way off base, shoot me down quickly gentlemen because I will be out in the shop tomorrow to see if I can make it work.  (Dick Steinbach)

    Um . . . rusting the s**t out of it?  (Art Port)

      Good point; the rust issue occurred to me too, so I guess what I need is a metal pipe that is the right size that don't rust and can take the heat. What's good? stainless, copper, electrical conduit?

      Since I have had some conduit outside in the rain etc. for several years and no rust & that's what I used for my oven so I figured that's where I would start. I presume a couple of hours of steam may not hurt it; but of course I could be wrong. I'm still willing to take the risk and run the test unless you have some greater light and knowledge you can share with me.

      Thanks again for the caution; I'll watch for the rust to appear and switch pipes till I get something that works.  (Dick Steinbach)

        I've tried to wake up and pay attention when the conversation turns to steaming nodes, as it seems like the way to go if you can make it work. So far, from what I've been able to gather, that's the problem. The guys who have tried to do this have all mostly said that steam alone just won't get the nodes hot enough to straighten. Good luck, please let us know if you have any success with it.  (John Channer)

          I've only been making rods for a couple of years now and my approach is somewhat different than many newbies I see posting on this list.  Rather than try to rack up a high score for the number of rods I've made/sold, I have saved a few of my practice rods for my own use, and trashed the lower quality ones (reusing the hardware). My major emphasis  has been on research and development, perfecting each stage of the overall process.

          The drawback of this approach of course is that I don't presently get too many rods finished and I often have several experiments going at once.

          Having said that, let me comment on steam: I have found that steam is for me much more desirable than soaking strips.  I use a MHM and we all know that wet strips scrape better than dry. I agree with you in that steaming nodes is the way to go "if you can make it work".

          The best tutor I have had when it comes to nodes is Harry. He patiently walked me through the process a year or so ago using only dry heat so I am going to try to combine what I learned from him using the heat gun on the fresh steamed cane and if I have any real success I will be glad to post it.

          Right now, my first concern is to build a better wet/dry heat chamber. (Dick Steinbach)

    The double wall vent pipe used for most furnaces has an aluminum inner liner. This pipe is a little more expensive than regular duct pipe but is widely available. Sizes start at 3" and go up to over 8" in diameter. Even some of the big box stores carry it where they have water heaters. That is usually the 3" size.  (Dick Fuhrman)


I am having difficulty with "twisted flats." I can't seem to get them to line up for first planing.  Any tips or tricks?  (Dan Weiman)

    Heat the twist in a flame or with a heat gun and twist in the opposite direction.  It doesn't need to be twisted a whole lot in order for it it to fit in the roughing form.  Just make sure that you find out which direction it is twisted and the length   of   the twist -- it could be as little as 1/2" or as long as half a strip.  Mark which direction the twist needs to go and twist the night away, sorry for the song reference.   (Don Peet)


Does it matter if you heat treat before or after straightening?  (Henry Mitchell)

    I straighten before heat treating as not to harden the nodes. I do the nodes soaked. I don't straighten "sweeps." They straighten when I dry the soaked roughed out strips in the fixtures. I dry them in the oven @ 125F.  (Tony Spezio)

      I can always count on you. So far I've always done it in that fashion, but I've started on a nodeless rod and figured that if I heat treat first and then heat and straighten there'd still be some moisture when I glue the strips and straighten. I'll be taking out sweeps because I don't want to heat after gluing the splices. The plan is Titebond III for the splices and Epon for the blank.

      What I'm thinking is steaming the unspliced strips before straightening them, straightening and then cutting the splices.  (Henry Mitchell)

    For my nodeless rods I heat treat the splints bound in MD fixtures.  I have not found straightening or any other heat application necessary after this.  I use Gorilla Glue for both the splices and the blanks.  Just another way to go.  (Ed Berg)


I found that I would work real hard to get my strips straight, bind them in the MD  fixtures & then soak them before mounting them on the handmill anvil for final tapering, and find that the strips were no longer straight so I stopped using the fixtures.

Question... Has anyone any good tricks for straightening particularly at the nodes of strips that are tapered?  (Dick Steinbach)

    I know this is a bit different than you do them, you are using the MM. I soak the strips, displace the nodes, rough them out then dry them in the MD fixtures. Then I heat treat in the fixtures. I don't have a problem with getting straight strips. I also re-soak the heat treated tip strips to taper them. After tapering the tip strips, I dry them in the fixtures. Straight strips all the time.  (Tony Spezio)

      When I hear of you folks talking about "straight strips", what is the definition of straight? I feel that my strips are straight but surely not perfectly straight. When you take your strips out of the MD fixture, will the strip lay flat on a table on all three sides? I'm just wondering if I should try to get my strips straighter.  (Wayne Caron)

        They need to be straight.  Reminds me about the person who is just a little pregnant.  (Ralph Moon)

    You can use a Waara node press and put a 60 degree vee in the bolt head.  Or you could use an iron and planing forms and iron then flat.  (Scott Grady)


I just started straightening strips after soaking for 7 days and discovered small splits developing at the sanded nodes.

I don’t recall this happening before but it could have happened and slipped by me.

The strips sat a few extra days because I had other more pressing matters at hand.  Anyone experienced this problem, or have ideas why it did?  (Lou Martin)

    I have only seen this in flamed strips. My first rod was flamed and soaked and didn't experience this. I have made more blond rods than flamed and I have not seen this in blond strips. On the dozen or so flamed culms I have processed I have noticed it on quite a few, but not all. Some were heavily flamed, some were rather light. On the ones that exhibited this effect at the nodes I simply cut out the nodes and saved the strips for nodeless rods.

    I think what may be happening is the water causes the bamboo to swell beyond the capacity of the nodes. Because of the obvious change in structure of nodes, it may not be able to handle the swelling. I have not seen the cracks close as the strips return to ambient humidity, nor would I trust them regardless if they closed back up or not.

    However, like I stated before, I only experienced this intermittently.  (Scott Bearden)

      I had splits develop in a couple of the strips in a nodeless rod. They were splines were spliced with Gorilla Glue (for heat resistance), beveled and then heat treated. To be honest I don't know whether the strips developed before I glued the rod up or not, but I don't think they happened until after I'd fished it as I finished the rod in May and didn't see the splits until they embarrassed me at the Catskills gathering. That said, the rod is a peach even if ugly - splits, nylon wraps, epoxy over them, sealed and waxed but no varnish.  (Henry Mitchell)

    Thanks to all who responded and gave me hints of possible causes and solutions to my soaking problems.

    I think the splits were caused by a combination of bad cane (rejects I was given to practice with) and multiple soakings (the strips were previously soaked and squared).

    Soaking will continue to be part of my rodmaking regimen.  (Lou Martin)


Today I learned a trick that might help out some of the other newbie's out there that are fighting with sweeps and twists in their strips.

I've been planing out some strips and they started to develop sweeps and twist.  I decided to straighten the strips out but no matter what I did I could not seem to get them corrected.  Then I got the idea to set the strip in the form, and take a close look at it.  Like magic I could see where the twist was, which way to bend the strip and in no time flat was able to correct the problems that had developed.  Much easier then when I was trying to eyeball down the strip.  Don't know if anybody has ever suggested this but I thought it was worthwhile.  (John Freedy)


I have noticed that it is much easier to straighten strips before they are heat treated than afterwards. Until now I have heat treated (using MD fixtures) after rough beveling and before milling (MHM), but because I often want to straighten strips a little more after milling, I'm considering dry binding my sections then lashing to some angle aluminum and heat treating.  Any thoughts from those of you who may have played with the sequence of heat treating and planing?  (Pete Bates)

    I also use a Morgan Hand Mill and have settled on the following sequence after a good number of variations over time.

    After rough beveling on a powered mill, I bind the strips in the MD/Harry Boyd heat treating fixtures. Go through my heating regime then after cooling unbind and scrape/flatten the enamel side. I then put the strips into a tube of water and soak overnight, maybe a little longer, but I try to keep the soak to no more than 36 hours. No particular reason except I'm still a little leary about soaking. Take the strips out after soaking and drill the hole for the hold down screw. Never split a strip when drilling while the strips are wet. Immediately go to the Mill and mill the still wet strips to about .025 over target dimensions. I'll do several strips like this (doesn't take long while they're still wet) then inspect them for kinks, etc. at nodes. Bad areas are addressed right then by heating and straightening while the strips are still damp. Much easier to get a final straightening while they're wet and the heat has much less of a detrimental effect on the nodal areas. The strips dry pretty fast so I address the straightness issues before they have dried very much. Once I've completed all strips for a section I bind them together and hang them in my drying cabinet for several days. Once fully dry I'll do the final tapering. Usually I don't have to take more than .012-.015 off as shrinkage has already accounted for some of that original .025. I'm sure there as many ways to accomplish this process as there are builders, but this is my way and it works for me. Good luck.  (Winston Binney)

      I don't use a MHM but I agree with you on all counts except drying. I dry the strips in the fixtures at 125F using a mirror at the oven opening to check for moisture. I find drying the strips in the fixtures helps straighten them a whole lot. The strips are put in the fixtures with the pith side out. In fact I don't bother at all with the "sweeps" in the strips, just attend to the nodal areas.  (Tony Spezio)

        My routine, which obviously suite me, is pretty conventional.

        After splitting, I plane  the sides of the strips square and get rid of most of the pith.

        Then I straighten.  I do that one strip at a time, as I plane the sides, so that I don't have that fearful pile of eighteen strips to heat straighten at the end.  Whatever node treatment I am going to do gets done at this time as well.

        Then on to  initial rough short wooden form unilateral , then long wooden form equilateral beveling, then bind for oven treatment.

        Then out of the oven and on to final beveling. Very boring, but it works for me.  (Peter McKean)

          There seems to be a lot of variations on this theme.  To add one more, I soak my strips, straighten and flatten nodes on wet strips and rough plane on a MHM then bind the strips wet in the fixtures I got from Harry Boyd and let them dry for a couple weeks. I then heat treat them and final plane the dry strips to the final dimensions on the MHM.  When they come out of the fixtures they are so straight I have not had to restraighten any strips.  I also believe the strips will always remember some of their original twists and bends so once the heat, pressure from the binding, and the fixture convice them to stay straight, I would avoid reheating them.  I have noticed when I have reheated a node that was not quite straight , while hot, it tends to redevelop its original conformation so assume its the same for the entire strip.  As noted the dry strips are harder to plane so I would suggest rough planing to near 25/1000 of the largest dimension of your final planing. That way much less needs to be taken off in final planing so only 1 or 2/1000 needs to be removed with each pass and the planing goes easier. Using this method I can generally straighten nodes and rough plane on six strips for a section in about an hour and final plane in hour and the strips are immediately ready to be glued up.  (Ron Kubica)

          Dunno about anybody else, but as I'm sure a lot of others do, I straighten all the way through to after glue-up and heat cure of the Epon.  Probably takes me longer to crank out a strip that way, but I just don't like a strip that doesn't nestle down in the groove when I plane.  The heat gun is always setting on the bench behind me when planing to fix unruly strips.  Stress relief from planing can cause a strip to wow out a bit and cause difficulties with it nestling in the groove.  (Mark Wendt)

    As much as I researched Heat Treating (thank you Owens Corning International for having the lab equipment I could use on the weekends when i worked for them).  I settled on a particular regimen years ago... but, that doesn't mean it's the only way to do it.  I have several friends that worked in the old Central Valley shops (Payne and Leonard) many years ago and one of them heat treats for 14 hours at 250 degrees.  This goes COMPLETELY against what I learned doing all those countless tests I did years ago,  but IT WORKS.  His rods are great ( and no, it's not Kusse) and they don't take sets.  Also, he heat treats at final dimension,  not at roughed  dimensions like most of us do... so... no telling what will work and what won't.  Most of the regimens in most of the books out there work just fine.  what I do works fine (350 for 11 minutes).  What another friend of mine does works (375 for 20 minutes).  I am beginning to believe that the key is to, regardless of temp used, temper until there is a slight color change and call it good.  Good heat treating and good glues will ALWAYS be points of disagreement and personal preference among rodmakers... but ya know, when it comes down to it, if it works, it works, and regardless of all the testing done and papers written on exactly what it takes to get the job done, there are as many right ways to heat treat as there are wrong ways.  (Bob Nunley)


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