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For me, one of the great things about Rodmaker Gatherings is the opportunity to see all great  tools/gadgets folks come up each year.  That set me off thinking about some of the great innovations to rodmaking that we all take so much for granted.  Ever wonder who was the first one to come up the a particular idea and apply it to rodmaking? 

One of my all time favorites that is in widespread use is the idea of the DRIP tube.  As I recall, it was about 10 years ago, Darryl Hayashida posted the idea.  So elegant in it's simplicity!

And right up there at the top should be Al Medved's idea of the router-based beveler.  Geez, how many different bevelers has that idea spawned.

Anyone know who was the first to come up with push-pull planing forms, and forever doomed the differential screw forms ALA Garrison.  We all owe that person a debt of thanks!

The earliest example of a 4-string binder I can remember was a rough drawing by Bob Milward.

Wayne Cattanach's oven has pretty much become the standard.  The other being the Heat-gun oven by Frank Neunemann(sp?) from Germany.

Then there's the idea to use a dial indicator and a 60* point for setting forms.  Whose idea was that?  The first I saw it was in Wayne's first book.

The first time I saw the leather-covered wheel and diamond paste for sharpening plane blades, it was shown by Harry Boyd.  Harry, was that your idea?  Great idea!

And what about nodeless building?  Who can we attribute that to?

Anyone else know the history of some of our other rodmaking 'toys.' (Mike Biondo)

    I agree, the leather covered wheel is a great idea, but it was not one of my ideas.  Tom Smithwick posted it to the list.  He learned it first from George Barnes, I think.  (Harry Boyd)

    I can answer one!  Garrison built the first nodeless rod I ever heard of.  One of my students was right along there at about the same time.  How about whose idea was the grooved plane?  (Bob Clark?)  Great idea to toy with.  We owe so much to so many.  I sort of believe that  Bob Milward may have the edge on Al Medved, but I am open to correction.  I think Bob Clark first proposed the idea of a latex screen on a sawed off bottle cap for varnishing. That is a great way to conserve varnish.   (Ralph Moon)

      Let's not get too modest here I have been around this rodmaking gig for more years now than I would like to admit and one of the greatest additions to the bamboo craft was and still is this list. Many provide great notions to the list but let's not forget who started the list:>) Thanks Mike and others!  (Ronnie Rees)

      And let's not forget regrinding spade bits for use as splitting wedges.   I believe I got this gem of an idea from you Ralph some years ago.  

      Basically a 3/4 inch spade bit is reground  with the end point removed.  The edges on the bottom of the bit and both sides are rounded.   With a handle slipped on the end which you would normally insert into a chuck, the bit now becomes a great splitting tool.   I use two to work the initial splitting of a culm into six sections (one 3/4 inch, and one 1/4 inch).  

      Incidentally, I first saw mention of the use of a 60 degree center gage in a book on rodmaking published in the early '20s.   Some of the tools and methods we use have a long history.   (Bob Milardo)


    Speaking of creative tools and since some of you have asked me off list for more info on the JW CNC Beveler... That's the last promo..

    Wow is it fun, Since i got back from the GW i have been trying to get it to its best tune. This morning i cut a tip to .018. I was astounded.. A really neat machine. You can change tapers as fast as you can open a file. The new bit is part of the answer.  1 pass, +- .001  (almost always,  depends on the cane and the prep), perfect angles, and the big thing to me is 1" increments, which opens the door to a lot of taper experiments.

    I wonder if we can make Hexrod print in 1/8th inch steps. (Jerry Foster)

      For those without beveler and MHM's.  John Bokstroms' plane with training wheels.  (Olaf Borge)

      Don't forget the Morgan Hand Mill.  (Olaf Borge)

        The Morgan Hand Mill would be at the top of My list. Tom is a great asset to our community and no mater what it seems he always has the answer and will take the time personally to talk to you. His mill has been in my shop from the early stages and he keeps upgrading it to meet our times. I have no financial interest in Tom or his business but consider him a great asset to our community and also a great friend and neighbor.  (Ronnie Rees)

          Yes, the beauty of dealing with Tom Morgan is that he does keep us updated.  I remember that he wanted to do an upgrade to the planes, and sent each of us the cash to mail them back to Montana.  Now that's a class act.

          I have dealt with some others that made modifications to their equipment, and wouldn't even give me the time of day.   (Joe Byrd)

            And don't forget John Bokstrom's idea of soaking cane.   (Ron Grantham)

      I guess I'm old school. But the idea of a CNC Beveler takes away from the heart and soul of rodmaking for me. I'm all for gadgets, I love making my own tools. But when we get into CNC and speed, we introduce  MASS PRODUCTION into bamboo rodmaking. This could spell trouble for the maker that wants to sell 10 rods a year to support his rodmaking habit. I'd hate to see someone making 500 rods a year and selling them for the price of your average Graphite rod. Is it paranoia, maybe. How far do we go until the human aspect of rod making is gone? I was shooting Sporting clays last weekend and was put in a squad with an old time gun maker. He was using an over and under that he built. I had a mass produce over and under that was laser etched with a wonderful hunting scene. His gun was hand engraved with a similar hunting scene. WOW, what a difference. Not just in the quality, but the story that the gun told. The walnut stock that was painlessly checkered. The barrels that were turned on a lathe. The hours of hand etching the receiver. I could go on and on about this gun, my gun, well it shot just as good. Broke as many targets as his, but what story does my gun have to tell. "You should have seen that CNC laser etcher. 2 minutes and it was done".  So the question is, how far do we go until it's all automated?  (Bill Tagye)

        My sentiments also. I enjoy planing and making each strip with my hands. I built a power beveler just to say I made one. It sits on the shelf collecting dust till I need it for a strip I might need to replace in a hurry. That does not happen often.

        I could go on but I think you know what I mean.

        On the other hand, I am not smart enough to make a CNC beveler, we do have to give credit to those that can do it.

        As I have said often, we do what works for us.  (Tony Spezio)

        Point well taken Bill. Let us look at it another way, though. I am sure that shotgun was stocked with a lovely piece of wood, that might very well have been shaped and inletted by hand. If that same piece of wood were turned on a multi-axis machine to near dimensions, and then the final fitting, finishing, and checkering were applied by the stockmaker, by hand, what is the difference? Yes, there is a bit of a learning curve to being able to plane accurate strips, even with the MHM, but does that make the rod better? I'd rather see the time put into the rod, or the gun, where it counts. How the waste material came off the outside of the stock blank, or the outside of the strip doesn't really increase the workmanship that goes into the finished product.

        As far as someone producing and selling inexpensive rods, well, things evolve despite our longing for the "good ole' days". If I were trying to support myself building rods, I would be looking at anything with a motor, and if there is a confuser attached to the equipment, so much the better.

        A quick trip to Jaqua's will prove that there is a ready market for high grade shotguns. Must rods be any different? Or, put it another way. What would you be taking to the range if mass produced guns were not available? How many people would you meet if everyone had to shell out $20k for a shotgun? Isn't it possible that less expensive bamboo rods might well serve to broaden the market, not injure it. The engraving on my 3200 is machine cut, to be sure, but that gun has plenty of stories of it's own to tell, albeit not of the manufacturing process.

        Certainly no disrespect is intended for your viewpoint. Emotionally, I agree wholeheartedly!  (Larry Blan)

          Ah yes, the good old days.  When rod makers like Leonard, Payne, and others hand planed their rods.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy hand planing too.  But do folks really think that makers of the past and present that don't have some level of automation in their factory could ever make a living at it?  I don't hear of anybody complaining about the quality of AJ's rods, yet he runs his through a taper beveler.  Same with Bob Nunley.  I'm a tool junkie and freely admit it, and I also enjoy the neanderthalithic methods of rod making too.   The hand plane, the scraper, sandpaper and the like will always have a special place in the shop.  If I ever decide to go into rod making full time, rather than the part time work I'm doing now, that special place would be a shelf.  (Mark Wendt)

            I couldn't agree more. some of the craft is gone with this concept. I'm having a little Oppenheimer moment here. But its really just shifted a little. Now the onus is on the crafter to use the tool to create a better taper, if possible.

            Why is this the only industry that insists on making new '32 fords?

            The graphite industry is still evolving, i know they make new sticks for marketing purposes, but they are also searching for "The Holy Grail" as Larry would say.

            The single largest drawback to Bamboo is, no entry level rods.

            Here, buy my Ferrari as your first car.

            This is NOT a blast at all of us who build the great makers tapers.  I do also.

            On Second thought, isn't this where the Chinese, or Gherke (was) are taking us, whether we want to go or not, Buy American (Just kidding )

            Mark is correct, this is where it's nice to sit back with a glass of something and some friends and kick it around.  (Jerry Foster)

        With all due respect to those of you  trying to make a living from cane, I like building rods slowly.  It's about the only thing I do that isn't rushed, and for me that's a big part of working cane.  That doesn't mean I don't admire the artistry of a great mechanical tool, CNC or otherwise, just that speed is not a metric that enters into my rod building.  But then I figure if you can't smell the barbecues when on a road trip, you're probably driving way to fast.  (Bob Milardo)

          Yep, and it's a cool thing, too. As hobbyists, we can continue to build just exactly the way we want, using the tools and methods that satisfy us.

          In truth, there are few full time rodmakers out there. Just like the hobbyist, they will do what they feel works best for their operation.  But, part and parcel of CNC is a discussion of tapers. With CNC (or the MHM), we are not limited to changes across 5" stations! In fact, neither were the dead masters, with their mills. I firmly believe that we have changed many of the classic tapers by converting them to work with forms.

          Along with the speed offered by a CNC mill that can produce a finished strip comes the freedom to experiment with tapers. It also makes possible dramatic swells, or gives one the ability to easily experiment with bamboo ferrules.  (Larry Blan)

    Regarding the push-pull planing forms, G. Catalano had/has the patent on that.  His company, G. Catalano, Inc., in Roselle Park, NJ makes a fine set of planing forms as well as depth gauge bases and calipers with 60º grooves cut into them for measuring strips without damaging them.  I prefer John Long's system.  They still advertise in The Planing Form. (Hal Manas)

    One thing we should remember is that the very first attempts at rod making with split cane were spliced three strip node less sections, ¼ hardwood and ¾ split cane. One of the finest examples of a rod like this is the Furman rod in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester (circa 1843). From the massive hardwood butt to the incredibly delicate scarfed nodeless tips it is an example of some of the earliest and finest work done with cane and look at the use of a so called modern technique of building nodeless and yet it is one of the very first techniques used with cane.

    And then we have the hollow built rods by Charles Murphy and Hiram L. Leonard of the 1860s and 1870s; both built rods in the 7 ounce range that were 12’ long, the way this was achieved was by hollow building the butt and mid sections completely and even the tips had portions that are hollow built.

    Leonard And Chubb and C.E. Wheeler (the Bartlett brothers being the little recognized fourth) were the true movers and shakers due to the fact that they were the first to use powered bevelers or saws with the credit for the first generally attributed to Hiram L. Leonard and then there is Thomas Chubb; the man who miniaturized the Nasmyth drop hammer technology from the 1842 Scottish steam hammer designed by Nasmyth which were used for the cold annealing and swaging of rod components.

    That allowed the mass production cheaply of high quality components thus the tackle boom in the expansion era from 1870 to 1900.  (Jeff Hatton)


There is a guy who made a time table which is related with fly rod around us.  According to him,  there were such epochs listed below, (I am not exactly certain on the years).

  • 1850's - Split hexagonal bamboo fly rod appears in the world
  • 1853 - Perry (US gov.) came to Japan to open the country
  • 1856 - Orvis started to make bamboo rods
  • 1870's - Hardy brothers made hexagonal bamboo fly rod
  • 1870-80's - Japan exported unsplit bamboo fly rods to North America as Salmon/Trout rod.  The bamboo used was Hotei.
  • 1900's - China started to export Tonkin cane to the world
  • 1912 - Powell Rod Co. was established
  • 1915? - Hardy company started business
  • 1939-1946 - WWII
  • 1950 - Korean War
  • 1946-60's - Japanese Hex split fly rod were mass produced for GHQ.

There was an article which I wrote some years back on our history of bamboo rod.  If you are interested, there are some photos in it  (Max Satoh)

    The pictures are fascinating, as is the story of Japanese rod making. I am fascinated at the charcoal burner used to heat the cane. That would be quieter than the heat gun. The bricks look as though the cane section could be rested in the V-shaped groove, or rotated there for even heating. Was the burner made of fired clay?  (George Deagle)

      Yes, the burner is made of refractory brick (firebrick). You may find it at Chinese or Japanese home center with cheap price. We are grilling fishes on the net placed over the burner. You must have a similar burner, BBQ charcoal grill. Put a big cap with a big hole at the center on it.  (Max Satoh)


Tapers - I would think that most of us would acknowledge that we rarely hit the numbers bang on. If you were to license or patent tapers, how would you deal with construction faults. And a perfect example is the Para 15 - would the real taper stand up and wave.

Tooling/Building Process - we are inventive folks always looking for how to improve our building techniques or to save time. Many of us have came up with neat and useful ideas that have been widely shared. It seems like the cane-gatherings, The Planing Form and numerous web sites have all moved the ideas around. In my mind, this is a great way to further our craft and keep it alive. BUT - there is a nasty out there. Some folks would like to be acknowledged for their ideas. Others could care less. I've pondered this @ length and wondered if a "record" of who did what when might be a good idea. It would certainly be if nothing else a history of builders and their techniques. BUT it also does have a downside. If someone is missed or his ideas purloined by others, hard feelings could result making him/her reluctant to share..

And with that, I'll go back to trying to figure out the culm from hell.  Never had one this bad where the apex just won't stay on center or as many pitch pockets, grain inconsistencies and general crap. If I didn't have 20 hours in it, I'd burn it in sacrifice.  (Don Anderson)

    Certainly an idea Don, but I wonder.  When I first began to tie flies, I had a whole bunch of guys  (I really don't remember how many, but a bunch) who claimed to have invented the Humpy.  I really doubt if any of them did.  I know personally that at least two guys claim to be the originator of the grooved sole.  I know for a fact who did.  See the problem with your proposal???  (Ralph Moon)

    You think you've come up with some original ideas till you get on the internet and start sharing it and find out it was done 40 years ago. It's still nice to share though, because lots of people have never heard of it in the first place. Do we really care who came up with it first? Do we really know for sure? History is full of misinformation and even if you are first your also the first to be forgotten. Remember you can only be lost if you care where your going in the first place.  (Ken Paterson)

      The knowledge of history is wonderful. It separates us from the creatures that can remember only what has happened to them. It makes us aware of the accomplishments, passion, intellect, and skills of those who preceded us. It also makes us aware of the errors and misdeeds of some of our predecessors. Unfortunately, some among us don't read, study, or research topics that can improve our own skills and knowledge. Learning can be as rewarding as doing. 

      I'll now get off my soap box.  (Steve Weiss)


Did Fenwick Rod Company ever make or sell bamboo rods?  I have been asked this question by a fly shop here in PA. I would appreciate any information anyone has in this regard with respect to dates, rodmakers, or whatever one would think important, including value.  (Frank Paul)

    I have seen a bamboo rod with the name Fenwick on it but know nothing more. (Timothy Troester)

    From their site:

    For nearly 50 years, the Fenwick name has been a legend among fishermen all over the world. The company’s fascinating history dates back to the Pacific Northwest in the late 40’s where men returning from the “big war” had only one thing on their minds: to get back to the sport of fishing they so loved. Washington State would become the spawning ground where names like Don Green, Clarence Shoff, Lamiglas and Fenwick would write the first chapters of the history of the modern fishing rod.

    It was 1952 in Kent, Washington that a group of five Seattle businessmen and avid flyfishermen formed a fishing rod company using the new fiberglass blanks that were becoming available at the time.

    As the young company searched for a site to build its innovative new rods they found an unused double garage at a friend’s home on Lake Fenwick near Kent. As the founders readied for production, it was suggested that their young company adopt the name of the lake where their rods would be built, and with that idea the Fenwick brand was born.  (Ron Rees)


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