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First I want to congratulate Mark, Jerry, Bob, and anyone else who has managed to design and build a functional CNC mill.  It is an amazing accomplishment and I don't say this lightly.  As a mechanical engineer with a 35 year career in machine design behind me I understand the challenges involved.

In my own process of learning the ins and outs of what makes a good rod I am striving to control all of the variables I can.  If I had a machine that can produce strips accurate to .001 at whatever interval I choose and repeat it whenever I want then I could say that particular variable is pretty well controlled.  Also If I had an oven that held +/- 1 deg. I could repeat whatever heat treating regimen I use time after time and consider that variable well controlled.

Now, if I can produce identical strips at will, all heat treated the same, why not go on and investigate some of the other variables that are not so well controlled including the properties of the bamboo, effect of different glues on stiffness, varnish thickness, to name a few.  If I had the tools, I would certainly pursue these issues but then I am not trying to earn a living making rods.  In any business there is only a certain amount of time that can be devoted to R & D.  I can only hope that the guys with the capability in hand will do some controlled tests and pass along a few tidbits now and then.

In another vein, I am not yet convinced of the necessity of designing and cutting strips based on 1" increments but I don't see any reason why one could not build a set of planing bars adjustable on 1" centers.  I can do that a lot cheaper and faster than build a CNC mill.  (Rick Hodges)

    Thanks for the kind words Rick.  Sure, you could make a set of planing forms on 1" centers a lot faster than it would take to make a CNC mill.  But it would take you the length of time to design and build a CNC mill to adjust the 1" center forms for your taper...  ;-)  (Mark Wendt)

    I don't see any reason why one could not build a set of planing bars adjustable on 1" centers. 

    Well for one thing the a standard set of bars uses a 3 part set of tooling for each station.

    1/4" Push Screw-1/4" Pin Dowel- 1/4" Pull Screw with about 1/2" separation between centers of each element. So each station covers 1-1/4" end to end. Its the physical separation of the elements that is the problem.  It is possible to squeeze them as close together as 1.5" centers though. But then you lose the 5" option. That would be on 6" centers with 2 adjusting stations between.

    Probably the only option that would be acceptable is 2-1/2" centers. That's another station halfway between 5" centers.  (Larry Swearingen)

      OK, so Jerry go out & mic a rod by one of the masters @ 1" centers & build this rod on the mill.  Then go out & mic it on 5" center & build this rod on the planing forms.  Good forms like Bellinger or Wagner's, not one of the less expensive one's or homemade ones.  After you do this mic both rods @ 1" centers & see if they come close or are the same on the 1" centers.  Let a bunch of guys cast them & see if they can tell any difference.  I am curious as to the outcome. 

      Here again I am not trying to slam anyone who is trying to make what they think will be a better rod on their mill.  If I had a mill I would use it myself. I just would like to see if it makes that much difference.  (Bret Reiter)

        Great discussion, all!  I'll just throw this out there and duck: One of the variables in the basic casting characters of any rod that always seems to be overlooked in these wonderful in depth analyses is the fly line;  one need not change line weight to make a recognizable difference, only the taper design or even brand.  My hunch is that tiny variations in rod taper are somewhat minor compared to fly line choice.  ("Hunch" is the operative word here, since I'm still very early in my cane rodmaking and pretty much the standard-bearer for village idiots everywhere.)  I'd be interested to hear what any of you think about this supposition. (Bob Brockett)

      We would also still have the vagaries of hand planing. Remember that the sole of a block plane or even a bodied scraper is several (4"-8") inches long, perhaps causing it to ride right over the top of some subtle (read "one inch") swells and dips. Maybe if we used only precision card scrapers, held level with training wheels, we could follow 1" centers on planing forms.

      Interestingly, no one seems to dispute that a mechanized binder, whether Garrison, Crompton, Smithwick, or powered like the various 4 string binders is easier and more efficient. Few hand planing advocates tout the benefits of binding by hand. But there's something romantic about hand planing that we hold to rather tenaciously.

      My skills at hand planing are not bad after several hundred (260+) rods. I can usually come very close to my measurements. But never would I claim to be as accurate as a well designed, built, and operated machine. My rods are good enough. But I believe they would be better with a high end machine cutting the strips.

      Disclosure -- I am trying to make a living at this. As soon as the bank account allows, I'll get some sort of machine to cut strips. I love hand planing and will always advocate it as a wonderful method of making rods. It's a good method for making good rods. For the part time maker or hobbyist, hand planing is the way to go. But I never will say that it is as precise a method as a good machine.  (Harry Boyd)

        The only thing I would take issue with us this...

        But I believe they would be better with a high-end machine cutting the strips.

        I think the rods would be the same.

        Its just that a mill would allow for doing different tapers.  Not necessarily better.  (Ralph Tuttle)

          There is no argument that a good machine is capable of more subtlety in taper than hand planing on a 5-inch center form.  But a lot of variation within the family of cane rods are pretty large-scale, and you can at least get this part with a planing form.  I like rods with a strong middle (a 2-humped stress curve).  This kind of general target can be achieved by hand.  Or features like the Cattanach hinge.  There are plenty of interesting taper variations that can be explored with hand tools.  But yes, of course there is a limit.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

            Wayne makes a good case for having his hinge, but is it at the best possible place? Would it work better 3 inches forward? Should it move an inch or two when the tapers are lengthened? You can not easily explore that with 5 inch centers. The hinge has to have its apex on an adjuster. All hail the 5-inch form and bow down to its uniformity!!

            Additionally, in my stab at documenting how to go about making one version of a BOB ferrule, I describe how to sort-of work around the swell placement issue with 5 inch center forms. Ideally the length as well as the position should change with the taper, but it is fixed at 5 inches because we can't do anything else with a standard form. Sure, It works, but it is often longer and heavier than necessary. It detracts from the whole point of a light weight, easy to use connection... no! splices are not an easy to use connection.

            There are advantages to manufacturing to as much precision as possible, and that same kind of precision is useful when working on better configurations than we had in the past. I don't see either the manufacturers or the experimenters saying that the artists and jackknife builders have to follow suit. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot of denigration of the needs of those want to do something better. I don't wanna do it, so's you shouldn't either, or I might be tempted by those evil 1 inchers. ;-{)  (Larry Lohkamp)

        Good point Harry.

        "We would also still have the vagaries of hand planing.  Remember that the sole of a block plane or even a bodied scraper is several (4"-8") inches long, perhaps causing it to ride right over the top of some subtle (read "one inch") swells and dips.  Maybe if we used only precision card scrapers, held level with training wheels, we could follow 1" centers on planing forms."  (Larry Swearingen)

          Actually, No it isn't a good point.  What was I thinking?  The taper to be planed is IN the planing form.  You are just trying to plane the bamboo DOWN to the flat surface of the form.  All the taper magic takes place BETWEEN the bars.  The top should be FLAT (within reason).  (Larry Swearingen)

        Nor do I.  My main point was that yes a machine should do a better job than by hand, but you still have to have the machine set right.  I had a teacher back when I was in 5th grade that always told us: "Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent."

        So if you set the mill wrong or the forms wrong you will still get a rod that will cast but the one inch thing does not really make that much difference & most would never be able to tell even if it did.

        I am not sure either Harry if you having a mill is going to make that much difference in the rods you already make, faster to make maybe but you already build a mighty nice rod by hand planing.  (Bret Reiter)

      Well for one thing the a standard set of bars uses a 3 part set of tooling for each station.

      1/4" Push Screw-1/4" Pin Dowel- 1/4" Pull Screw with about 1/2" separation between centers of each element. So each station covers 1-1/4" end to end.

      You just have to think outside the box a little.  I can think of a couple of ways to beat the 3 part problem.  One way would be to only have the push screws on 1" centers with dowel pins spaced between.  You could tighten the form against the push screws with an external clamping arrangement pushing against the outside of the bars.  Another way would be to make the push screws hollow and internally threaded for the pull screws.  (Rick Hodges)

        Maybe you missed it earlier, but I pointed out how you could adjust forms between 5" centers without any extra drilling and tapping. What you need is a set of gage pins which are hardened steel. They come in diameter steps of 0.001". A set of them that goes from 0.011" to 0.250 would run around $200.

        So how to use them? Set all the 5" stations by your favorite method. Now suppose you want to change form depth part way between 2 stations. Use the pin gages to  find  the go/no-go pin pairs at the 2 stations measuring between the bars. That will tell you the range of useful pin sizes. Work out by proportion based on position and depth to be achieved the spacing needed to get that. That size pin will be inserted at that position. If the dimension of the pin at the position is greater than the spacing of the bars that the basic 5" adjustment has imposed, the forms will have to be loosened to get the pin in and then retightened.  If the dimension is less the forms can be tightened there with a C-clamp to hold the pin.  The end of the pin will obviously have to be below the apex of the cane strip, so some clearance below the form will be required. This may sound a little complicated, but don't tell me that setting up a CNC system is not.  (Mike McGuire)

        Well let's see..... 1" station centers.  That means 70 station on a 6 ft set of bars. On my 6 ft. Planing Forms the labor on 15 stations is right about at half the total labor for making the forms.  That's right Half.  There are a lot more operations than you might think to drilling, reaming and tapping a single Adjusting station.  I just penciled out, OK I did use a calculator, the cost to make a 6 ft set of forms with stations at 1" centers.  Using undersized screws and dowels set closer together. 3/16 Steel Dowel Pins, #10-32 Socket Head Cap Screws for Pull Screws and set screws for Push Screws.  You can squeeze these together with a 1/16" separation and get the 3 holes only covering 9/16".  So the sizing works. I think you need a dowel pin between every push / pull screw to keep any torquing to a minimum.  I would have to do some testing to see if #10-32 screws are strong enough to hold up. So if any of you guys that think 1" stations are a good idea then I have a price for you:

        6 ft. long Planing Form with 1" Adj. Stations as described above = $1121.00 + shipping + $16 shipping Tube.

        If you want a set I'll get the tooling that I lack and the hardware, dowels and screws, and make you a set.

        Any takers ?

        You just have to think outside the box a little. One way would be to only have the push screws on 1" ctrs with dowel pins spaced between.  You could tighten the form against the push screws with an external clamping arrangement pushing against the outside of the bars.

        So you would need 70 clamps to hold the bars against the push screws? Let's see, sharpening pencil, that's 70 clamps X $5 apiece = $350 ?

        OR ?

        Another way would be to make the push screws hollow and internally threaded for the pull screws.

        If the Hollow Pull Screw has an internally threaded Push screw (would have to be very small size to fit) then what does the Push screw Push against?  (Larry Swearingen)

          I don't think I said it would be cheap.   Just cheaper than a CNC.  Having made my own steel forms I surely appreciate the labor involved in drilling and tapping all those holes.

          On the external clamping arrangement I wasn't visualizing individual clamps.  That would definately be a PITA. More like a channel iron that you set the planing bars into with conventional push screws thru one leg of the channel.

          On  the hollow screws, the blunt end of the larger external screw would push against the bar as usual.  The internal screw would tighten it up.  Some possibilities here for buggering up the rim of the hole for the pull screw but it could work.  Also, the screws can be made larger if the bar is thicker so we don't infringe on the depth of the v groove.  3/16 dowels and 5/16 screws maybe.  (Rick Hodges)

            I've thought some more about using 3/16" Push Pull Screws in 3/4" Sq. Bar based Planing Forms and I think that trying to drill those small diameter tap drill and dowel holes straight through 1 1/2" of steel would be a thankless task. Previous Offer rescinded.  (Larry Swearingen)

              All your points are valid for sure and your focus on time, material and difficulty is natural if you are looking at it from the point of view of producing them for sale.  That is not what motivated my initial comment.  For all of your reasons and more I am sure 1" increment adjustable forms are not going to suddenly set the rod making world on fire.

              My only point is that there were several comments made in the long "interesting question" thread essentially saying you need CNC if you want to design and build rods based on 1" settings because you just can't do that with planing forms.  I just asked myself "why not" and came to the conclusion that I could figure out a way to do it if needed.   It may not be practical, economic, or much fun building the thing but if I ever get to the point that I want to play with designing at those increments I might just cobble together a set of forms to try out before I invested 20 grand and a couple of years designing and building a CNC mill.

              Just kicking around ideas here.  (Rick Hodges)

                Even if you had a planing form on 1 inch centers, I still do not think you could accomplish the tolerances of a well built machine.  And it would take you 2-3 times longer.  I know the old story about "what's time to a hog." But if a blank takes 15 hours with planing forms and 4-5 hours with a good machine, then experimenting becomes less impractical with the machine.  (Harry Boyd)

                  If a guy wants a  CNC  mill  and  has $18,000+ to spend, then that's what he should buy. High production, quick repeatability and finer taper increments are its advantages. The downsides are its staggering cost and relying on electronics and machinery you can't understand. Sort of like driving a Lexus.

                  If a guy wants a planing form or a MHM, then this is what he should  have. Hands-on attention, reasonable cost and the feel of a plane biting into the cane are their advantages. The downsides are a slower building schedule and rather less adjustability. Sort of like driving a Volvo 240.

                  Neither tool will build a good rod. This part is up to the maker, his understanding and skill. As to which tool is "better," it's just personal inclination, money and talk.... (Bill Harms)

                    About the only thing I'd disagree with below is your downsides on the machine, but only for folks that design and build their own.  Having to make this sucker from scratch, as did Bob, I can tell you without a flash of doubt, I'm intimately familiar with the electronics and the machinery itself, as I'm sure Bob is too.  But then again, you did preface that paragraph with the person who has a bunch of money and wants to buy one, rather than taking Bob's or my path.

                    As I mentioned in an earlier post, whether you're using planing forms or a CNC machine, the final product is the sum of all the variables that go into the process - Garbage in, garbage out.  (Mark Wendt)

                    Neither tool will build a good rod. This part is up to the maker, his understanding and skill. As to which tool is "better," it's just personal inclination, money and talk....

                    No more true statement has been made throughout this thread. I don't care if you have a pair of old cold roll planing bars that you got from a scrap yard with a little bend in them, or if you have a $12,000 to $25,000 CNC mill. The plain simple truth is that it's the maker  who makes the rod, and even though I'm partial to the way I manipulate rods on 1" stations, the maker's skill has a LOT more to do with the final product than does the method of making the strips.

                    There is a discussion on Clarks right now about "10,000 hours to be a master." Not going to get into that here, but will say one thing. In that thread, someone quoted the late George Maurer as saying "There are cooks and there are chefs". Very few ever become chefs. Nothing wrong with being a good or even great cook, though. My point is, that regardless of how you make the strips, it's what you do with them afterwards (and before cutting them) that makes the rod... and the rodmaker.

                    Personally, I'd rather be as meticulous as I possibly can on each stage of the process. That's why, some ten or so years ago, I went to a saw beveler. I could produce a more consistent product more easily than I could hand planing. That's why today I've gone to a CNC Miller. I can more easily produce a consistent product on the CNC machine than I could on the Saw Beveler. BUT, CONSISTENT PRODUCT is also why I use a particular thread, and a certain brand of varnish and why I buy virgin solvents mineral spirits at an auto paint store instead of getting the stuff from Wal Mart and why I buy oil free steel wool from Woodcraft instead of your standard steel wool from the local discount store and why I make my own hardware instead of getting cookie cutter stuff. Consistency, quality and uniqueness are what this game is all about... and YES, IT IS A GAME!!! It's not a career. I've been doing this for 22 years and I can promise you, the only way to make a million dollars making fly rods is to start out with 2 million dollars. After shop rent and materials cost and insurance for my equipment, I could make more damn money flipping Hamburgers at McDonalds than I do making rods. Do this because I love the game, and because I love chasing perfection! And chasing perfection is why I have the CNC mill and why in another year, that mill will probably have a dozen or so improvements made to it.  (Bob Nunley)

                      I just remembered!  Early in 1978, in the interest of building a hand planed bamboo fly rod, and having access to some school shop equipment, it occurred to me that a Herter type planing form would be a useful tool. But Herter type forms were a thing of the past and not readily available, so if I wanted one, the thing to do would be to make it. So I made it ~ by plotting a machining program on paper, based on the Garrison 209 taper, plugging into a computer program and using a CNC Hurco Vertical Milling Machine. So the question is: What limitation is there to making a planing form with even infinite taper adjustments?  (Vince Brannick)

                        The length of yer draw bolts  and  set  screws?  ;-)  (Mark Wendt)

                          With the Herter type form, there are no 'nuts and bolts' Just us chickens. Reminds me of the news flash in a local newspaper. "Inmate escapes from State Hospital and commits rape." ~ "Nut, bolts and screws."   (Vince Brannick)

                It'd be real interesting to watch somebody adjust planing forms on 1" stations for a taper that was really designed for 1" stations.  Remember now, we don't have the 5" distance on either side of the bolt to flex the metal anymore.  We now have 1" either side.  I can envision a buncha stripped bolts or holes here as someone tries to gorilla a certain station to wring that last .001" out of the measurement. It's a lot easier to flex 10 inches of 3/4" or 1" sq cold rolled than  it is to flex 2".  (Mark Wendt)

                  Okay here's a challenge for all the 1" advocates. Can anyone, give us an example of a taper (one that has real merit) that is designed at 1" stations and which cannot be approximated on 5" forms - approximated such that the two would feel indistinguishable.  (Steve Dugmore)

                    You are correct.. the greatest difference I could find in a viable taper was .0013. So I guess you guys are correct after all. That negates the value of 1" centers. I will immediately run out to the shop and re-program all my tapers to 5" centers.

                    And you are correct about the effective change required to effect a bend angle change in the finished rod. It takes quite a bit more than we would believe to overcome the averaging effect during deflection. Thats why a rod with as much as .010 difference on a flat doesn't feel any different than one that is on the numbers. So why do we try so hard to hit the numbers?

                    Now it's time for one of my annoying little comments....  All of the augments, so far are valid, but when amassed amount to: how can I build rods the cheapest way I can with the sloppiest tolerances so I can and sneak inside the " I can't feel any difference" barrier. You can make a rod and be .005 off on every station on every other stick and no one could tell the difference. So by all the preceding logic, that proves that numbers don't matter at all and I can make any kind of crap I want and no one can tell.

                    I'm not saying anyone does that on purpose or anyone here makes crappy rods. It's just where the logic runs.

                    What I have been saying for a week is that the rod knows. THINK about the power flow within the rod. The most efficient path to get power to flow  from  our  charged  up little lever-spring to the line. Conservation of energy.

                    Listen to yourselves. I respect every one of you. But all of your arguments run against what I know you are truly trying to do which  is make better rods.

                    No one has said you must go get a CNC machine right now because you make crappie rods. What most are saying is that CNCing has opened our eyes to a whole other world of  possibilities. Things we could get close to with bars, but never quite achieve.

                    But we could have the same argument about the validity of something as primitive as stress curves. You can ignore them and your rods will be the same. But they are a tool to help make them a little better.  (Jerry Foster)

                      All of the augments, so far are valid, but when amassed amount to: how can I build rods the cheapest way I can with the sloppiest tolerances

                      Not at all. The arguments actually amount to "I don't have to spends thousands of dollars I don't have, in order to build precise, beautiful, well designed and wonderful fishing instruments."  (Steve Dugmore)

                        Again you are correct Steve..

                        So the non sequitur answers the first part "cheapest"

                        I think I was asking a broader question about the  power  transfer part....which has nothing to do with planing or milling.  (Jerry Foster)

                          What exactly would you have us think about 'power transfer' in the context of a discussion about the merits of cnc mills vs planing forms?  Or are you starting a new topic completely?   (Steve Dugmore)

                            I think somewhere way back, a few days ago. The conversation was about the sawtooth in the stress curves, 5 " measurements, nothing to do with planing forms... may not be the most efficient way to transfer power, from there we went on to the "can't feel it" discussions.

                            Mike took me to task for disparaging Mr. Garrison. And the original question has been perverted, diverted ever since.

                            This isn't about what I would have you think, it is about, what do you think about..  (Jerry Foster)

                        Have you ever given any thought to what Saint Everett Garrison would do today if he was alive and in his prime? You know what an engineering nut he was right?  (Larry Swearingen)

                          Nah, he'd stick with the old fashioned, imprecise, and inefficient ways of doing things.  Engineers are like that...  ;-)  (Mark Wendt)

                  I had a similar question yesterday so I went down to the shop and tweaked a set a forms as far as I felt comfortable. They went 0.090" over a 5" span.  That's 18 thousandths per inch. And yes, the forms did go back straight when relaxed.  That was with 1/4"-28 screws with T-Handle Hex keys. Just how much do your 1" tapers distort over short distances?  (Larry Swearingen)

                    Yah, but how much required torque at the 5" spacing, versus required torque at the 1" spacing.  And remember, with all them bolts and dowels spaced at 1" stations, betcha a dollar you don't get that much flex in the steel at 5" because you no longer have the 5" either side of the bolt to play with, you now only have 1" either side to flex.

                    Then think swelled butts.  Most of the forms that can do swelled butts have a stress relief hole drilled through the form from top to bottom to give ya some more flex in the bar.  (Mark Wendt)

    I can't imagine many rodmakers, provided they had the space for it, saying no to a free CNC mill if offered one.

    That said I don't believe CNC mills would necessarily produce better rods. I am sure with a bit of care you can make any rod on a planing form with 5" centers well enough that it will feel no different to one made on a CNC mill - or at least no different than two rods of the same taper can be.

    I don't believe being able to set 1" increments makes that much difference either - you can after all reset forms during planing and/or slide your strips in the forms to achieve less than 5" changes, but even this would seldom be necessary - as Bob Norwood’s 'zig zag' experiment aptly shows.

    I also don't believe the finer tolerances you most certainly could achieve on a CNC mill would make a significant difference to the final rod. Especially when you consider that you are still left with scraping/sanding on the final blank which will destroy those fine tolerances faster than you can blink, and more importantly, the vagaries of the material itself (difference in MOE from culm to culm for example) would also override those sorts of tolerances.

    The advantage with CNC, and it would be a huge one, is to be able to produce any design freely and easily and to repeat them  easily. I do not need to be convinced that a CNC mill must be a far superior tool for producing accurate, repeatable strips than a planing form. But I believe a CNC mill will neither produce a superior nor inferior rod than can be produced on a planing form with 5" stations.

    I'd love a CNC mill - it would be great for experimental design and for producing accurate strips quickly. But I am sure I would still find excuses to plane strips in forms - for the sheer pleasure of it.  (Steve Dugmore)


Many of you on the list are making assumptions about CNC mills.  The number of machines out there is small.  Very small compared to planing forms.  There is only one person that truly knows CNC milling of strips, and that is Jerry Foster.  Only one.  Soup to nuts.  Others have the machines, others use those machines, but when there is a problem, Jerry gets a call.

I think he does this for selfish reasons.  He wants others to see what he sees in the CNC mills.  This is very important to him.  And we users benefit greatly from this.

So while I hate to do this, an analogy is in order.  Do you have electric seats, and electric mirrors in your car?  Don't you love it when the wife uses your cars and then you spend 15 minutes trying to get everything back to your "normal".  And then it doesn't quite feel right, but you gotta go?  Mercedes makes cars that when you have everything just perfect, you push a button and the car "knows" just where to put everything.  That is what Jerry is talking about with the CNC mill.

His goal is to have your personal tastes programmed so that when you want a 7 footer, an 8 footer, a 3 weight or a 6 weight, or whether you want a rod that casts at 50 feet or then one that casts at 25 feet, it will feel the same to YOU.  Also, the same software he has been excited about, DynaRod, is a great analysis tool.  And it is not cheap.

The graphite guys can't offer this in their way of construction.  CNC bamboo mills can.  I think that is way cool.  (Chris Raine)

    Just a comment on all this rod discussion. The ability to cast is based on a system that is composed of a fly rod, fly line, and fly caster. While we can reproduce fly rod tapers, select different fly lines, we can not reproduce fly casters - they are human. Until someone can characterize the human arm-body structure, strength, and mobility it will not be possible to precisely customize a fly rod for a particular person. While some efforts have been made by work at 3M and U. of Michigan (and fly rod mechanics by myself while still at Clemson) to build a casting analyzer that could be used for customizing a fly rod design, that has not become a reality in the fly rod making or manufacturing world - bamboo, glass, or carbon.

    It is great to see all the efforts that improve bamboo flyrods from the taper design and making to the automation of the making process; all those that have or do support these efforts need to be applauded for their efforts and commitment to improving the bamboo fly rod. There are many folks on this list that do that and many past who added their improvements - the old guys of historical significance. Still, when all is said and done, the process of fly rod casting is a complex one based on a system of fly rod, fly line and fly caster.  Hopefully as rodmakers progress in ability, our rods will be better and better for the user but always a choice based on the human sense and ability to cast a particular rod.  (Frank Paul)

    I think the biggest variable in this great bamboo rodmaking equation is the caster!  (Larry Swearingen)

    Only one?  I do believe Chris Bogart may have something to say about that.  (Will Price)

      I may be mistaken, but Chris has the same mill that I do which is the same one Jerry and JW collaborated on. Again, I may be off base here, but Jerry taught us the machine operation and I know we all call him!!! I have no doubt Jerry knows and understands it the most thoroughly out of all of us. Just my opinion.  (Paul McRoberts)

        Paul I agree with that I'm just saying that more than 1 person knows CNC and while Chris was taught by Jerry he does know what he is doing. That's all.  (Will Price)

        Yes, Chris Bogart is as knowledgeable as anyone I know about CNC'ing bamboo, take a look at his advancements in bamboo ferrule design. And thanks to you guys for the kind remarks but I'm just having fun. (am I having fun yet?)

        One of my friends told me " Yes, I think everyone should have planing bars with 1" centers but in honor of Mr. Garrison they should be required to have differential screws."

        I guess I just got back from another planet.. the last time I was here there was a consensus that there was no requirement for 1' steps. Where is the "if you can't feel it, it doesn't exist crowd" when you need them. (Jerry Foster)

          Where is the "if you can't feel it, it doesn't exist crowd" when you need them.

          Okay Jerry I am more than happy to bite on this one - but with a slight rephrasing

          "if you can't feel it, does it matter?" I'd say no.  (Steve Dugmore)

          PS. Despite my belief in the above I'd absolutely love to have a CNC mill - seriously. Maybe fitted with a laser cutter that heat treats as it cuts - not so seriously.

    Well said Chris.

    As far as the caster goes...well, that goes without saying.

    That is why Jerry made the series of test rods. Most casters (particularly me, someone who does this for a living) really have no idea of what a rod based on a set of numbers felt like when the rod breaks at 8 inches from the tip, 10 inches from the tip or 15 (or whatever) inches from the tip. What that break feels like with stresses of 150,000, 180,000, or or 200, 220, or 230 or 40. Or whatever.

    But a potential customer know what feels good to him at the distances he fishes. The guy can just say, "I like this one!" You can stand to the side and watch him cast. Does he struggle with one rod but relaxes with another? You can see it happen right before your eyes! I am one of the 'hundreds' who have had a chance to run down the line of rods laying on the grass and feel for myself and it was an eye opener for me! Now I KNOW what I like and why. Now that I know I can TRY and duplicate this on a set of forms. I know what I like for high numbers and where and I know what I like for low numbers and where. So what if Dynarod is pricey? What damn tool in your shop didn't cost you some money?

    As for Mr. ask him where he got his mill from. The circle comes back around to Jerry and JW I believe. I could be wrong, it wouldn't be the first time!  (Mike Shay)

      If youse yoots can't see the benefit of designing on one inch or less centers. I don't know what to say or do you even at all see the benefit of designing? Would you just rather say to yourself. "It was good enough for the old dead guy so I'll do it too."

      That's fine I suppose but why? A good CNC will take you steps further than ANY of the dead guys tapers.    (Mike Shay)

        If youse yoots can't see the benefit of designing on one inch or less centers

        100% agreed.

        But I believe the taper plays itself out in 'feel' over longer distances than 1". Changing the taper every 1" would not have any real benefit. Again refer Bob Norwood's zig zag experiment.  Only distinct changes  in the taper such as hinges, shoulders etc. and particularly (if not exclusively) those that occur in the tip are dependent on a more precise location than 5" settings would allow.

        Eg. moving a distinct shoulder/rate change/hinge etc. from say 20" to 17" from the tip-top will certainly make a difference in the feel of the rod.  But then adding another step (shoulder/hinge or whatever)  at say 19" or 16" respectively would probably be negated by/negate the first one. There would be no gain in adding the second change that close. I am convinced considerably more distance than 1" is required between two steps/hinges/rate changes etc. to make a difference in feel. Even 5" is probably a little too close.

        As for curvilinear tapers, see the below. The first column represent a theoretical taper designed at 1" intervals. It describes in taper terms a fairly steep arc (small radius) - the example could just as easily be performed with combinations of arcs, parabolas or whatever curves you like. One would not often want to produce a more pronounced curve in a taper over 20" than is described here. It is not possible to set these dimensions on a form with only 5" stations. But if you take the 5" points and set those you would effectively arrive at the second column (which describes straight lines between the 5" stations). The third column represents the difference between the two tapers. It is never larger than 0.0005". There is absolutely no way you will feel that. Even were you able to actually build such tight final tolerances.


        one inch   5 inch    difference

         0.06        0.06         0
         0.0652    0.0655    -0.0003
         0.0704    0.0708    -0.0004
         0.0756    0.0761    -0.0005
         0.0808    0.0812    -0.0004
         0.086      0.086        0
         0.0908    0.0912    -0.0004
         0.0956    0.0961    -0.0005
         0.1004    0.1008    -0.0004
         0.1052    0.1055    -0.0003
         0.11        0.11          0
         0.1142    0.1144    -0.0002
         0.1184    0.1188    -0.0004
         0.1226    0.123      -0.0004
         0.1268    0.1272    -0.0004
         0.131      0.131        0
         0.1348    0.1352    -0.0004
         0.1386    0.139      -0.0004
         0.1424    0.1428    -0.0004
         0.1462    0.1464    -0.0002
         0.15        0.15          0  (Steve Dugmore)

          Unless you wanted to move that hinge 1" or 2" either side from where it is now to zero in on a real "sweet spot"  as you mentioned in the first paragraph.  But in the second paragraph, where you make the negation happen, it's probably not a practice  taper designers would do anyway, so that's kind of a straw man argument.  It's also much easier to create the "correct" amount of swell as in the original Dickerson tapers on the butt section near the grip using a machine with 1" stations than using planing forms, because the swell can get pretty severe in some cases at some points in the swell.

          But like Bob said earlier, each to his own preferred way of doing things.  Whatever you or I or anybody else is comfortable with doing, and is happy, and even more important, if the customer is happy with the finished rod, then that's the way to go.  You're happy with the 5" stations, I'm happy with the 1" stations, and some of the old timers are happy with 6" stations.  Then there's the 'tweeners.  (Mark Wendt)

            I am not arguing against designing at 1" intervals. I am arguing that any taper of merit can be built 'as near as damnit is to swearing' on a 5" form, sweetspots, butt-swells and all.  (Steve Dugmore)

          I have stayed out of this so far because I don't build that many rods and I do things like hand bind. I'm not much into tools and equipment for this HOBBY of mine. However, I can see that there could be some benefit in making the changes somewhere other than every 5". Stephen's figures below may well change my mind, but I'm just thinking out loud, no, on paper, no, on e-mail here. I'll stick to the basics, but I can see value in going the other way.

          As to the "ring of fire" I was wondering if you could just make a jig to hold six or more propane torches with tanks attached.(think Bernz-O-Matic here) If you didn't run it too long it seems like you could flame a culm or two without getting things so hot it would blow up. If it did, well it is the 4th of July. What do you think? From the time I discovered Paul H. Young's rods I've wanted a "ring of fire" with apologies to Johnny Cash.   (Hal Manas)

    His goal is to have your personal tastes programmed so that when you want a 7 footer, an 8 footer, a 3 weight or a 6 weight, or whether you want a rod that casts at 50 feet or then one that casts at 25 feet, it will feel the same to YOU.  Also, the same software he has been excited about, DynaRod, is a great analysis tool.  And it is not cheap.

    The graphite guys can't offer this in their way of construction.  CNC bamboo mills can.  I think that is way cool.

    Well now.  You guys are trying to sucker me into the conversation and I'm not feeling to good this week.  Summer cold or Summer flu or some such.   I've done a lot of thinking about bamboo and rod building over the years.  The material's an enigma at best.

    Anyhow,  one of the basics about rod building is do you really want a rod that's a 7’ 3 wt at 25’ to feel the same as an 8’ 6 wt at 50’?  I'd suggest that you don't.  At least I don't.  A lot of fly fishing is "feel"  It's one of the things that sells bamboo for that matter.   I depend on feel when  I make a back cast or a roll cast.  I depend on feel to know when I need to add a little hall to my cast.  In other words I don't want rods that "feel" the same.  A big river rod should feel different than a small stream rod. (In my not so humble opinion.) 

    As for those of us who plane to 5" numbers,  If we set the form carefully and if we plane with a sharp plane till we're taking up metal and not bamboo, then we'll get good 5" numbers.

    And don't think the Graphite guys couldn't offer this "different rods, like feel" thing if there was a lot of money in it.  Graphite fiber is a much more constant  substance than the natural fiber of bamboo.

    Having said that, I'm not jumping on someone who holds high heat treating tolerance or someone who uses CNC.  My hat's off to them.  They take the art to a level of science. And if it sells more bamboo rods I'm all for it.  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

      I think your questions, opinions are germane at this point in the conversation.

      1. Sorry you are feeling ill.

      2. I hadn't gotten there yet, but you see, to have jumped to the conclusion that by feel I meant that they would feel identical. So far my intention Is to show the path I used to be able to evaluate rods and develop enough feel to look at some paper and make some conclusions about whether a rod may be a hanging curve in my wheel house, or a damn screwball. The fact is that I can't make an 6 wt rod that "feels" like a 2 wt.  The weight alone dictates that to the hand they cannot feel identical. But when we get an appropriate amount of line out, the action of the rod can feel similar. Like a family. And as you point out, I may not want to have the same features in a small stream rod as a Tarpon rod. But then common sense (experience) tells me I need to do something different. The ability to roll cast better is a feature, without it a rod will roll cast, but not as well.

      As and example Terry within the range of tapers.. what do you want to feel that is different between a 4wt and 7wt?

      3. I agree

      4. Some else brought up the market share issue... Plastic rods can do anything we can do but not as cheaply. The only thing that stops us is our inability to evaluate the customers requirements, (they have the same problem) and sometimes the mentality that locks us into "TDGRS". They would never consider tooling up for a one off, well, except maybe for the owners son.

      5. That's nice

      Jeez, I just went back and read your snippet, and realized, I never said that, but after all this typing, I'm not going to throw it away..  (Jerry Foster)

    For some of us the "light bulb has come on" and we have CNC machines with Max's software.  There are a lot of you on the list lurking and posting that are thankful for the light's illumination.  Then there are a lot of you who are screaming, "Turn off the light, it's hurting my eyes!"

    On a personal note, I like the build method because it does allow you to build a rod that casts similarly to a longer, shorter, heavier or lighter rod that the customer likes.

    If you could set your car seat, mirrors, etc, to give you a great fit, and had the opportunity to store those settings in a thumb drive, and then take that thumb drive to different sizes, and models of cars, and get the same or as close as possible setting wouldn't that be great?

    I don't like analogies, but like Frank said, it is up to the individual caster.  And I think having the CNC machine along with Max's software is the best way now to REPEAT the same action in different line weights and rod lengths.  (Chris Raine)

      I agree with what you've written. I myself would like to have the time to learn CNC, and then have a machine also. It would help my production, which right now is pretty slow.

      By the same token, I do believe though that not having a machine has forced me to learn things about design that I wouldn't have learned had I had a machine and software to do it for me.

      Case in point, the Cary Special I designed for fishing soft hackles and flymphs is an 8'6" 3 wt., 3 piece. I was asked to build a different configuration of the rod, with the stipulation that it have the same action and feel to it. Thanks to the teachings I received from Bob Norwood early on, I was able to do just that for the client and he and his wife liked the rods so much that they each had to have one.

      It would've been nice to key in a serial number into a computer and spit out exact replicas of the original, but I'm sure that my satisfaction with myself was more because I had to do "the math" and figure out how to produce what it was the customer asked for, which still doesn't come easy to me.

      Again, I agree with you in that they're great machines to have, it's just that for now, I probably need to get to a point where I'm comfortable with my designing abilities.

      My hats off to all who can do it in this new and different way. (Ren Monllor)


OK, maybe this has been gone over before and I just missed it but how was the decision made by those of you making your own mills, CNC or otherwise, to go with either a 2 saw type of cutter or the 2 double angle milling cutters? Mark is making a saw type machine and Bob Nunley, who HAS a 2 saw type mill, is making or has made a double angle milling cutter type?  (Larry Swearingen)

    I can't answer for Bob, but my idea started five or six years ago when I saw Hal Bacon give a presentation on the Leonard and Payne saw bevelers.  I was making some back-of-the-cocktail napkin drawings based on his pictures of the machines, trying to figure out how I'd make one of those for myself.  At the time, I hadn't even considered making it CNC.  I was also trying to figure out a way to minimize the foot print of the machine, since they required a good bit of space.  The drawback for me, was they took up about 12' or more since they had to pull the strip and the taper bar through the cutter heads, so with the infeed and the outfeed I was looking at roughly the same foot print.

    I then moved my design considerations to a moving gantry type machine, which would have approximately 1/2 the foot print of the feed through machines.  Then I started thinking about the mechanism that would be required to keep the taper bar stationary, and ran into a bunch of road blocks, all mechanical in nature.  Then somebody asked me, "Why don't you use CNC to control the machine?"  Well, back to the drawing board (figuratively - all my drawings, concept, working, detail and assembly drawings are done using AutoCAD), and a whole bunch of reading to try and understand how CNC worked, and how I might be able to implement it.  My finished design is the result of thousands of hours drawing this, drawing that, reading this, reading that, assembling this, finding out that it wouldn't work and back to the drawing board, and finally, my final design.

    One of the things I wanted to do was to connect the old way with the new, and preserve some of the tradition with the old time saw bevelers.  I hope I accomplished that with my beveler.  Using old techniques for cutting tapered strips (with saws), with a newfangled twist (using a CNC program with G Code rather than a taper bar).  I also changed some things in the cutting head from the old style, making adjusting the angles available if I ever decide I want to cut a cross section other than a hex.  I can cut quads, pentas or just about any other cross section just by rotating the spindle housings and then moving them closer together or further apart to get the right gap between the saw blades.

    So, it's a little bit of old, a little bit of something new.  (Mark Wendt)

    I can't speak for Mark, but the type of rods I make are much easier to make with a milling cutter setup. I know Marks machine is well thought out, but saw bevelers do have restrictions.

    Example: Look at the swells on a Kusse rod or a Thomas and Thomas. VERY steep sharp swells. Do they do a great amount as far as the action of a rod... not a great amount, but the length of the swell does make  some difference.  My saw beveler used 2.25" blades,  side cutting, cobalt... they cut like butter. However, due to the amount of blade in contact with the bamboo, saw bevelers are NOT capable of makine extremely short sharp swells of 80 or 90 thousandths. They can very easily make a nice .080 swell over 4 inches or so, but if you try to go much shorter, you start to get a little bind on the blades, which burns your bamboo, heats up your blades, shortens the blade life and actually will over cut your angle a little (you want a little rake in the blades so that the entire blade is not cutting, but only the lead in teeth).

    Another consideration is, at least in the case of my saw beveler, is the amount of bamboo used. Yeah,  I know... bamboo is cheap, but still, I HATED wasting 8 inches of bamboo before my start of cut. Now, my machine could be modified to reduce that waste down to 4 inches or so, which is what I have with the miller (2 inches on each end).

    Again, particular to my saw beveler, it would only cut 48 inch sections. I don't know that I'll ever make a rod section over 48 inches, but if I want to, I can with my miller. Mark's machine is set up differently than mine, so the waste factor is much better on his than on my old beveler. Again, my saw beveler could be easily modified to cut sections 10 feet long it you wanted to do that, but I have had this idea for a miller in my mind for 15 years and with the advent of CNC millers (thank you JW), I decided to go ahead and build it.

    Another consideration for me was that the saw beveler required 1/4" wide strips for tips and 5/16" wide strips for butts. This isn't something that concerned me over how much bamboo I was using, rather, in my case, it was a concern over how much time it took me to insure that all of my strips were the proper width for the saw beveler. Again, I don't think Marks machine is that particular about strip width, but mine is.

    Finally, again, particular to my machine, ADJUSTMENT AND TUNING. I've made a lot of modifications to that saw beveller since I bought it some 10 years ago, but when I started work on the miller, it would still SOMETIMES take me half a day to get it tuned in and cutting the right dimension. Also, blade changes were a bear, because when you started twisting on the arbors to change the blades, rake angle and blade clearance would get out of whack and I'd spend quite a bit of time setting it up after a blade change... 15 minutes to change blades, sometimes 3 or 4 hours just to get it set up again. I fixed that problem, but still, with the bamboo mill, 2 minutes to change blades and set up time is the time it takes to cut a taper on a small test station to make sure the initial offset table doesn't have to be adjusted... that can be a matter of only a couple of minutes and it's done. Cut a test strip, measure it, if it's off a little, change the offset by the same magnitude and start cutting finished strips.

    In short, what prompted me to make a miller rather than CNCing my beveler was the fact that I wanted to do so many improvements on the beveler if I CNC'd it (which would really be very easy to do) that I was better off just building a miller. I could have reworked the beveler in a couple of months and had it going just fine, BUT I do this for a living and I couldn't afford to be without the beveler for that long. I had to have a machine that could turnout rods WHILE I was working on the miller.

    While I'm on this subject, I want to point out something. Mark will be at an advantage with the saw beveler in that if he has a little kink at node, the saw beveler will cut right through it straight as a string. The miller will NOT. Well, actually it will cut straight through the kink, but due to the nature of the hold down wheels centering the strip AT ALL TIMES on the cutting board, I'd have a mirror image of the kink on either side of where the kink originally was. My double angle miller based machine requires VERY straight strips... close just won't get it... even very close won't get it. (Bob Nunley)


I have found the recent discussion concerning CNC based finishing mills rather interesting, but such a device would never be practical for me in terms of cost, expertise required to operate, as well as fundamentally being overkill for my purposes.  However, the modest roughing beveler has certainly saved time, and the amount of time/money to build is certainly feasible for the hobbyist builder.  I was thinking about the next step such as a machine that would assist in the tapering process without spending thousands of dollars on something like Bellingers' Hand Planer's Friend.  The utilization of a bench top planer offered by David Bolin comes to mind.  Also, Milward's end face mill found in his book as well as in the archives in the contraption section by Adam Vigil would be a possibility as well to consider.  Any suggestions on automating the process of tapered strips in terms of getting closer to a finished strip that ultimately would require less hand planing?  (Ron Delesky)

    Any suggestions on automating the process of tapered strips in terms of getting closer to a finished strip that ultimately would require less hand planing?

    Dennis Bertram makes a router based beveler with rough taper capabilities. Take a look at his web site.   (Larry Swearingen)

    Easy answer to this one.   A very good friend of mine, Harry Boyd, has a Bertam Beveler.  It is fantastic for rough tapering very close to final taper.  Makes hand planing a breeze!  We use it for the Ozark Rodmakers School to make life easier on the students and it's worked out great!  I won't quote Dennis's prices, because I'm just not sure (I'd go to his site, but busy trying to post a video), but I KNOW it's much less than other popular rough tapering bevelers, and even has a hollow fluting option, I believe.  Dennis could best answer this... or Harry.  I know Harry uses his religiously (no pun intended there, preacher man).  (Bob Nunley)

      I want to second what Bob says about the Dennis Bertram Beveler.  I bought one and like it very much.  You can find more info here.   (Doug Alexander)


I have looked at CNC for a while. I dumped most of my electronics stuff when I retired... except for the Fluke meters I was given for my brilliant development work, then they sent my job to China... but any way, I have read that windows and Linux don't do well as controllers for CNC because of issues with the task switchers. What are you guys using for controllers and operating systems. And what are you using for control buses? Back when I did some of this stuff we used 1722 instrument controllers that we grabbed of the production line.  (Larry Lohkamp)

    Actually, Linux does very well with that.  The developers of EMC2 use a real time kernel (or a patch to the kernel) that takes care of all that stuff.  Right now, EMC2 depends on a parallel port to deliver the signal to the control box for the simplest set ups, however there are motion cards you can mount on your PCI buss that allow more communication pins to be available without having to add another parallel card.  Though parallel works pretty darned good.

    The developers are also looking at some kind of real time ethernet capability to talk from the computer to the controller too.  With gigbit ethernet, a pretty good chunk of data can be moved pretty darned fast from the computer to the control box.  This would typically be used on a dedicated connection between the computer and the controller so as not to be interfered with by normal LAN traffic.

    I can't answer as to Mach and Windows since I don't use those.  Bob and Jerry would be able to tell you a whole lot more about them.  (Mark Wendt)

    Right now, my interest is more academic right now, but it is getting more and more tempting. I dislike stepper motors. I think its the bait-n-switch nature of them. The little motors are inexpensive, until you start trying to drive them. A robotics site that I was looking at claimed servo motors are replacing steppers in  many CNC applications. At first glance they look like they would much easier to drive. Is there any truth to that idea?

    I was also wondering what kind of torque you need from the traverse motors? I suppose that it would depend on whether the strip was being fed or against the cutter rotation or with it.

    And for a hat trick. A while back I asked, and got no response, if any of the CNC guys had considered laser cutters. They make them for wood and they wouldn't have any deflection forces like a cutter does. I can't find any pictures of laser cut surfaces so they may not be clean enough to glue. It would seem to me that adding rotation  to the cutting head would allow cutting of 4, 5, 8, or any oddball collection of sidedness.  (Larry Lohkamp)

      With laser cutters, perhaps you can combine CNC milling and heat treating.  Sorry, people, I just could not resist!  (Tim Anderson)

      Servo setups are nice, but they have two cons - they are more expensive to purchase, and they are a lot harder to tune.  Now, once you get them, and get them set up correctly, they are very nice to have, since the encoders give positive feedback to the CNC software, and there is much better positional awareness inside the controller software with them.

      On the other hand, steppers are relatively inexpensive, and require no real tuning other than getting the driver's parameters set correctly in the CNC software, and on a properly set up  and configured machine, you really don't have to worry too much about losing steps.

      Course, the cost is all kinda relative.  I got my stepper set up for less than $500, whereas the servo setup would probably have run me anywhere between $1500 - $2000.  And I'd still have to purchase the motion card (PCI based) that would drive the servos.  My decision at the time when I bought all this stuff was to go with the steppers, and possibly upgrade at a future date to the servo stuff if I felt like it was necessary.  (Mark Wendt)


      Doesn't matter..except

      Been there..

      From the bottom... My first intention was to do this with a laser..  many problems..  Expensive stuff..  talked to a few laser physicists and they agree that it can be cut but even with a balanced amount of heat it will burn the edges.. the mirror systems are touchy.

      It takes less torque than you think.. 240 in/oz or so on the Z and 600+ or so on the X. all of this is dependent on the design and weight.

      Now about the Stepper vs Servo wars...there is a difference but it is not bait and switch as you characterized.

      Servo motors are great but they cost more..they generally require a closed loop feedback system (encoders)(more electronics and much more expensive software to implement properly) greater power requirements typically 130v+ up typically.. the big advantage is that they can have huge torque output... look at any of the large mills. These are not common AC motors. And they are still stepped, pulsed.

      Steppers, a lot cheaper. drivers are cheaper and with like USD I can get up to 256 microsteps/step/ a ten turn lead screw / any ratio pulley system that will fit... how much more resolution does one need. Steps are not an issue.

      Now exactly why do you dislike steppers again? If it's a morality thing (hehee) then certainly think about servos... but do some more research.  (Jerry Foster)

        Thanks. I knew it looked too good. It would be nice to be able to cut different configurations without having to change cutters, and lasers could auto zero themselves easier than spindles, but I've had aggravations with lasers in the past. The tube in the Florod CO2 laser in the analysis lab would go bad over time, even if it wasn't being used.

        My dislike of steppers may no longer be true. I haven't seriously priced anything out for years, but... The last time I had a project I had several little steppers sitting around. Even now you can pick them up for a song. But try to make the things turn! The driver for a couple of little motors was the better part of a $100 bill, or I could  spend even more building something from scratch. The promise of a low cost motor is a lie, and if you don't need numerical control and gnats precision, you might as well buy much more expensive gear motors and put in robust limit switches. My last experience with servos was way, way back in school, and I always thought they needed feedback electronics to make them work. It sounds like I was right about them.

        Right now I have the choice of making some rods with what I've got, or go back to electronics as a hobby. Now if you guys ever get a CNC node smasher working, that would be more attractive. Nodes have had it in for me the last couple of rods and I'm seriously considering just amputating them and going nodeless.

        You guys keep us up on your achievements. I rather enjoy watching the transition from idea to production. The 'can do' mentality is something this country can do, and do well.  (Larry Lohkamp)

          Here's a decent cost comparison.  I used the NEMA 23 motors at 425 oz-in, the 4030 drivers and the 24 volt power supply (I'll be upgrading to at least a 36 volt power supply here in the near future) and the entire kit was $379.  It's on this page.

          Here's the servo kit, but he only offers 350 oz-in servos which would be a bit underpowered for my machine:

          About $900 for less oomph.  And then you have the fun of tuning the PID or PWM loop to get the most performance out of the servos in the system.

          I'd love to have a servo system on my machine, but it's not really necessary.  (Mark Wendt)

          Yes you are correct, and as in all things, stepper technology has improved a lot over the last few years. Better magnetics, better internal design..better alloys etc.

          Geez, I feel like a fool.. CNC node squisher.. If I steal that idea will you run to Yaz.?

          Here's the lowest cost CNC thingy I have made. The dip tank..

          • Start with a $30 XP Dell from EBAY
          • A new .09 deg NEMA 17 stepper also from the BAY $8.95
          • A used APC controller, 200 microstep resolution.  $34 eBay
          • 2 6ft  3/8 steel rods and a 3/8ths treaded rod..ACE
          • 4 Thompson bearings... on hand..don't remember could be made of any bearing material, not critical
          • 2 1/4 in ball bearings.....  couple of bucks.
          • A 24V power supply  don't remember
          • an interface card  $24
          • 2 pulleys and a timing belt... MSC... $15
          • screw, bolts, ingenuity.. worthless. (Jerry Foster)
          • I assume it pauses at the bottom of each wrap.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

              I need a better motor for my dip tube, so I just may try the stepper route... something to do while the varnish dries, eh. For a stand alone setup I'd just turn it on and off at each wrap, but it doesn't seem to present an insurmountable programming problem. I'd know where the guides were put on the shaft, their size, and how long the whipping is.

              And if that works, then its on to a mechanical puller for my 4-string binder.

              Are you going to write a module for Hexrod to generate G-code? ;-)  (Larry Lohkamp)

                I just sent Larry Tusoni a program that takes the planing form export text files from RodDNA and converts those into G Code rod section files.   If Frank's Hexrod has an output similar to RodDNA's I might could make that work too.  (Mark Wendt)

                If you want to do it by just measuring your rod you have to do a little volume displacement math or  you  will  end  up  stopping  maybe 1/4-1/2" below the guides on the butt..  (Jerry Foster)

                As long as we're doing the blue sky thing. It would be nice to have wrap-recognition optical technology, like digital cameras have face recognition, or now smile recognition, so you wouldn't have to input all the points to stop. Or compensate for the varnish level displacement caused by the rod.

                I can add G-code output to Hexrod if anyone wants it.   But if you want points closer than 1 inch (without just interpolating), that would be a major rewrite. Now everything is done to the inch.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

                  That's funny, I actually looked into that technology.. I may go back there.. The superficial problem was to coordinate the input back into the CNC control software. G code is somewhat real time in that it doesn't like to see a foreign input and run off to do a timing macro and also continue with the pulse stream.  Maybe Ralph can help with that.. (Jerry Foster)

                    If I were going to do that I would optically scan the section first then generate the Gcode and then run it rather than  trying to do it interactively.  (Ralph Tuttle)

                      Then you still have the problem with volume displacement. I think this is not a practical approach (not what you said Ralph, the whole idea) because the scanner head has to be able to scan the surface of the varnish and stop like an 1/8 of in after the wrap emerges. I have my own pitiful solution if I want to go to trouble. You might be able to do it  with sound. ha.  (Jerry Foster)

                        Picky, Picky, Picky,

                        Then I would create an optical probe that signals for a minimum time (5 sec) then:

                        secLen=inputMsg("Enter SectionLength","Section Length")
                        While getOEMCode(802)>-secLen do
                          code('G31 F2 Z'+str(secLen)) ; start probe
                          while IsProbing<>0 do ; check for signal
                          Sleep(60000) ; wait a minute for varnish and continue

                        Some of the syntax is wrong but it should work if you can make the optical trigger.  (Ralph Tuttle)

                          Geez Ralph, optical probe? This stuff IS rocket science!

                          I was trying to follow the CNC thread, but I give up. I thought our plasma cutter software was complicated...

                          I gotta tell you what I tell the guys in our IT department when they try to talk to me - "can't you see my eyes are watering, I'm starting to sweat, and my hands are shaking? Quit talking to me and go eat the Cheez-It's I just brought you!" ;)  (Tom Vagell)

        I hope no one minds If I ramble here about CNC in general... If you do please hit the delete button right now.. Larry's server won't be insulted and I'll never know. and I guarantee I wouldn't be insulted if I did know.

        CNC Machines are like planing bars. They cut vectors (straight lines between two points). X is the long axis, Z is the vertical axis.

        So if I tell the machine to cut 1" along the X and to go between .030 and .040 on the Z the motion control software plots a straight line between those two points and coordinates the stepping to get the the two motions to arrive at that point together. In this case X 1   Z .040. Just like planing bars but your co-ordiates are mechanically plotted for you 5" apart. No difference, just more resolution. So all that means that we can vary the rate of change at 1" points instead of 5. If we had the software that could plot 1/64 intervals we would use it. The main reason that I use Dynarod right now it that Max lays a smoothing algorithm on 5" intervals (if I put the rod in that way) and the output is then recalculated to the curve. So I get true deviation from the 5" linear  input.( the code breaks up the 5" straight lines into 1" segments that reflect the curve). So that output becomes the input to the mill. If i left it as is I would be cutting the same exact taper you cut on planing bars. Why would I have a CNC mill.. except to speed up the overall process and get pretty good numbers consistently. Plus all the benefits that Bob and Mark wax on about.

        Does that make sense?

        Now I will get into the Dark Territory again.. As Chis has been stating in his own style, that is not the only benefit we get from Dynarod. This is not a blast at anyone else's software. Al Baldauski has done some great work with the deflection stuff. As I understand Larry is doing so also. Before I go into this little rant about deflection...let me be clear.. it is not a panacea, it is just another way to look at a rod that we haven't been able to do before. Deflection simply shows us another dimension. Gives us another tool to attempt to understand how rods work. Static deflection is not a true picture of the rod because rods are never statically deflected while casting. You can compare rods statically I agree, I'm not sure what you have when you do it that way, but you can do it.

        The learning progression for me was : dimension graphs (rate of change), stress graphs, dimension graphs.

        The way I use them in rod design is:

        Dimension graphs, I paint a picture of the deflection I want using the "Genome".

        Stress graphs: This gives me a feel for my sense of where the tip and butt stress areas are

        Back and forth between those two until I the shape i want with the stress values I want. And adjust the rod angle for speed.

        Then to the output. This gives me the dimensions (rate of change) and I may have to adjust a little more to get the tip values I want.

        I never consider the rate of change anywhere in my evaluation.  It is simply the product of all that has gone before.

        This is for a from scratch rod.  (Jerry Foster)

          I have to take exception to this just like I did 4 years ago (or so) when we talked about this at the Dunsmuir Gathering. Planing form bars do NOT hold a straight line taper between the station points unless you set it up for a Straight Line Taper.  How could they?  Would you expect to see a zero radius bend at the adjusting points assuming a Non Straight Line Taper?

          No.  Impossible. You have fixed depth at the station locations separated by 5" station to station.  The bars take a relatively smooth curve between the points depending on what happens before and beyond the station points. Lets say you have 2 stations in the middle of your forms at 30" and 35". If you set station 40" so that it puts pressure OUT on the bars then that puts a curve IN on the bars between 30" and 35".  It's the same when you change the previous stations before 30"   This makes your bars a sort of self acting Bezier Curve.  The Stations are your fixed points and the bars curve smoothly between them. Of course there will be some small amount of deflection over the push and pull screws that would not happen with differential screws.

          Now CNC does what you tell it to do. 4 years ago I asked you if you had a program to do this Bezier type curving of your input data to the Mill and you said that you did not.  Has that changed? Is this what DynaRod does?

          I have nothing against CNC I just don't agree with the implication that Planing Forms are no good.  (Larry Swearingen)

            Whoa Larry, ease up.  I think I have read every post on this subject and I don't recall anyone saying or inferring that planing forms are no good.

            The software that I use does 'Bezier type curving of your input data to the Mill'.  It does because I realized that if I wanted my mill to do as good of a job as planing forms I would need to get the mill to generate a curve as do planing forms between centers.  It's the cubic spline and includes all data points given unlike Bezier which does not necessarily have to include but can include all data points.

            I came to this after trying to develop tapers from data I mic'd off of existing rods.  If I used 5" increments the actual data points wouldn't be included if I used linear interpolation.  Had to get my math friend to point me in the right direction.

            People are reading things into this discussion that don't exist.  (Ralph Tuttle)

            Gee I will have to reread my last 10,000 posts, I don't ever recall saying that "planing bars are no good" or even the inference of that. My friend I think we are a little over sensitized right now. I'm putting the lines in my posts as close together as I can so no one can read between them. I stand by my previous statements that you can make just a good a rod with planing bars as any method. The finished rod is the craftsmanship involved. My favorite quote of all time is from Larry Blan...."Ten years from now no-one will care how the cane that is not there was removed".

            I actually don't recall the conversation about Bezier curves.. and that must have been before Max's software was debugged. But yes, that is the technology that he uses. I think.  It may be something else that he wanted to protect from piracy. And I am sorry for my incomplete knowledge of the language.. I was attempting to point out that whether it is a straight line or a curve, you have no control of the intervening points. They are what they are. I don't even think I said that was bad. just the way things are. So every time I say the word linear relating to 5" stations on planing bars...please correct it to "some kind of curve depending on the thickness and mailability of your bars."  (Jerry Foster)

              Polynomial, spline, and bezier curves will all give similar results for the curves involved in rod making.  In fact, a Google search indicates that various forms of these curves are often used to approximate each other.   Planing forms and the steel bar under the anvil of an MHM will yield smooth curves because of their stiffness and elasticity.    It  is  interesting  to   note   that   a CNC-controlled round cutting-head could produce sharp "peaks," but (due to the radius of the cutting head) not sharp-bottomed "valleys" along a strip.  Another reason for spacing even closer than 1"?  (Tim Anderson)

              If as you say "So every time I say the word linear relating to 5" stations on planing bars...please correct it to "some kind of curve depending on the thickness and mailability of your bars."" then you need to rethink your statement in the post that started this all up, "We now have thousands of rods measured at 5" intervals. That produces the sawtooth output we see on dimension and stress graphs." The sawtooth is an artifact of linear approximation in the computations, and not the physical reality of the rods produced with planing bars.  (Mike McGuire)

                Mike that's a great argument, and I makes me have to think, and I'm too tired, and can't decide where we are going...if we are talking about my bad assumptions or rodmaking. If it's about me then  I'll  concede  the  point  you win...but let me think about it first.  (Jerry Foster)

              Sorry I jumped on ya for that Jerry. I didn't really mean to come across as a A-Hole.  These emails have been coming along pretty fast with not much time to process everything. You are right about one thing of course.  The part about "some kind of curve."

              I may be wrong about the Bezier thing, at least Ralph says so, as it's been a few years since I did my Solid Modeling in AutoCad of Furniture Designs.  There are a few different kinds of Compure generated curves that vary in complexity. My original point, I think, from 4 years ago, was that the Stress "curves" you see in the Taper Archives with all the sharp points are False.  They should really show as Curves where the sharp points are.  The actual bamboo rod, at least one made with planing forms or CNC Mill with DynaRod smoothed data points, does not go from straight line to straight line.  Unless of course it is a SLT.

              I am sure the same could be said of a rod made from strips on most any Analog Milling Machine where the pattern bars were fine tuned with a file. By the way Jerry,  I am definitely an advocate of a "Smooth Transfer of Power" in a fly rod. Who could want anything else?

              About a year ago a rodmaker whose name I will not divulge (OK it was Mark) sent me a page of measurements of a Taper bar from a famous rodmaking dynasty as illustration of a taper that could not be duplicated on 5" center planing forms. These measurements were on 1" centers. I plotted it all out in Hexrod and they were NOT all increasing measurements tip to butt as expected.  There were a few that got smaller. My comment was "Why would you want to reproduce those measurements exactly?" They should be corrected. I have since torn up the sheet of paper and swallowed the remnants so you don't have to send out a hit squad to Off me for revealing these sacred dimensions.  (Larry Swearingen)

                Ya divulged my initials again...  ;-)  My only question is, if the original Famous Rodmaking Dynasty designed that taper with the peaks and valleys, (and it  was a very nice taper, BTW), why wouldn't you want to replicate those peaks and valleys if you are trying to have a rod taper that would exactly imitate that taper?  If you smoothed out those dimensions, you'd have a rod that was similar, but it wouldn't really imitate the action that was desired from  the original  taper, would you? (Mark Wendt)

                  Not that Sweetgrass Rods are any kind of standard bearer for the rod making community but they did sell 250+ rods at about $2,000 each last year.  Last week I just happened to take their tour when Dave the business manager and not Glen the rodmaker, showed us a pair of calipers they use for measuring rods.  So I had to ask ... what are your tolerances?  Dave the business manager said on flats 2-3 thousandths and from station to station no more than 5 thousandths.

                  So I think it very cool that you can realize such a tight tolerance with CNC but on the other hand when maybe a flat, or two, or three, might be .002 or so out that means there is no other rod in the world exactly like it and that is kind of cool too.

                  Just for conversation it would be interesting  to build two rods, one with a station or two and some flats out of tolerance vs. CNC where "why wouldn't you want to replicate those peaks and valleys if you are trying to have a rod taper that would exactly imitate that taper"  and see if there are any differences to casting and feel.

                  Don't get me wrong I think CNC absolutely has it's place in the rod making community and applaud those interested in  volume.  (Doug Alexander)

                    It just goes to show that all rod makers have individual variances in their tolerances.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I know lotsa guys using planing forms that strive for a much tighter tolerance on their dimensions than .005".  It could be that Sweetgrass, because of production reasons, doesn't press their quality control as much so as to be able to meet their production quotas or deadlines.  Or maybe, they just don't have the time to keep up the maintenance on their machines that would allow them to keep tighter tolerances.  Who knows?  That's a question that would have to be answered by Glen and his coworkers.  (Mark Wendt)

                      It's probably a combination of many things Mark. One thing I'll add to this is that despite his being revered in the world of bamboo rodmaking and having started with a company so steeped in history as R.L. Winston, Glenn himself as said (to keep things in perspective) himself "that we are building fishing poles,  not saving the world."  (Will Price)

                        Could very well be.  Like I said, it would be a question that could only be answered by Glen and his coworkers.  (Mark Wendt)

                      Regarding flat to flat tolerances and measurements of finished blanks: I believe that even if you have 6 strips of the exact same dimensions there will be some variation in flat to flat measurements do to the binding and glue up process. Not to mention the glue cleanup and enamel sanding.  (Larry Swearingen)

                        Maybe so, but I certainly wouldn't be very pleased with a .005" difference.  I'd be looking at my binding techniques, and how I do my final cleanup to minimize that kind of difference.  (Mark Wendt)

                        To your point, following are some actual measurements of a Thomas - Fairy rod butt section.  I still want to make mine with closer tolerances regardless of whether I mill or plane.

                                       --- Measurement ---
                                         Flat A
                        Location  (Guide)  Flat B   Flat C

                        2.625       0.166     0.173    0.177
                        3             0.165     0.172    0.173
                        4             0.164     0.175    0.176
                        5             0.170     0.176    0.177
                        6             0.177     0.177    0.181
                        7.125       0.180     0.180    0.183
                        8             0.181     0.182    0.188
                        9             0.183     0.191    0.194
                        10.5         0.185     0.189    0.191
                        11           0.189     0.192    0.194
                        12           0.196     0.197    0.198
                        13.125     0.195     0.198    0.198
                        14           0.200     0.197    0.202
                        15           0.204     0.203    0.206
                        16           0.205     0.206    0.211
                        17           0.208     0.210    0.213
                        18           0.213     0.212    0.220
                        19           0.217     0.217    0.219
                        20.375     0.220     0.219    0.226
                        21           0.222     0.221    0.226
                        22           0.222     0.225    0.229
                        23           0.224     0.228    0.234
                        24           0.226     0.228    0.229
                        25           0.224     0.229    0.229
                        26           0.230     0.230    0.240
                        27           0.232     0.233    0.243
                        28           0.235     0.237    0.239
                        29           0.237     0.241    0.243
                        30           0.238     0.245    0.247
                        31           0.247     0.253    0.252
                        32           0.248     0.254    0.258
                        33           0.246     0.252    0.256
                        34           0.249     0.254    0.256
                        35           0.253     0.254    0.258
                        35.625     0.260     0.262    0.271
                        36.37       0.306     0.306    0.306

                        (Ralph Tuttle)

                          I would bet that rods coming out of the production shops having tolerances as sloppy as that were made at or near the end of the periodic maintenance cycle those folks followed for their machines.  A little snugging here, some lubing there, and I would bet a dollar those measurements flat-to-flat would tighten up a bit.  Or, it may have been near the end of the life cycle of the machine.  Or it may have been the machine operator tippled a few too many during lunch that day.  Or...  ;-)  (Mark Wendt)


                            They could have used the 'Fultz' method of binding string and glue removal. I remember seeing Jeff use his plane to accomplish that task in a rather vigorous manor.  (Ralph Tuttle)

            OK, you are absolutely correct when you say the bar bends rather than have a linear path between bolts. This really has nothing to do with the 1" center in terms of rod design I was trying to discuss. I will also throw in that if I use 5" centers on the mill and do nothing else( by my standards) , your rods will probably be a little smoother than mine..I don't know if I could tell the difference. But your rod would know it was better, if rods could talk to each other.

            I think everyone agrees that measuring on 5" centers produces the sawtooth artifacts that show on stress charts? It is also obvious, I think, that this may be an approximation of the rod, within, a couple of thousands. Reproducing that accurately will reproduce an approximate rod. A great rod...planing bars can make great rods. My argument has never been that mills make better rods. Someone else may want to argue that but not I.

            One of the first things I did and I hear others do is they modify the taper...generally that means that i go in with my design program..nominally a stress curve program (not Dyna) and I get rid of some of those nasty high and low spots. It turns out that this may be the right or wrong thing to do. Depending on the taper, the 5" measurement  may have caught the ascending or descending part of a compound the the original maker intended, and you have just done your best to modulate it.  You are still making a wonderful rod, Just a little farther from the original.

            I was just sitting in  front of  my bars  and was  recollection is, I seem to recall that I had the impression when I was using them that I was doing a lot of bending sometimes at the space between the push and the pull bolts and not so much between the longer gaps. I think that was what Larry was eluding to honestly when he mentioned differential bolts. So in all cases my point was you have no control over the in between points. That isn't bad, just a fact.

            Now I may not make as good a rod as ANYONE on the list but the mill gives me the opportunity to make different ones. Ones that if you measured or  if I gave the the taper you could only approximate and we are back at the starting point.. I submit .... Your rods are better.  (Jerry Foster)

            Point of confusion.  If you are cutting on 1" centers or less, why would you need to have some type of bezier curving, which would basically not cut the real taper?  When you measure inside the 5" centers how close does it plot out to the smoothing algorithms used in many of the rod design programs out there today?  You mention one end spread and one end closed.  What happens inside the 5" station when you have one end closed, and one end effectively closed because even though it increases, it increases less than a straight line taper?  What happens to that 5" section when you have one end more open,  and the other end effectively more open, for the same reason mentioned previously?  How true to the taper do those stations stay in those instances, especially if the taper is from one of the old dead guys?

            Just curious, not trying to bash planing forms by any stretch of the imagination.  I've not considered this until you mentioned the bezier curve.  (Mark Wendt)

              At 1" centers I don't think you WOULD need a curving program.  The bamboo will take care of that. At 5" centers I think you need the curving program unless you want the resulting Stress Curve to Actually look like the online sharp peaks and valleys.

              When you measure inside the 5" centers how close does it plot out to the smoothing algorithms used in many of the rod design programs out there today?

              I'm not enough of a Mathlete to be able to calculate a math taper difference.

              I just know and measured that there is NOT a straight line taper between those fixed points at 5" centers. The steel bars ensure that.

              You mention one end spread and one end closed. What happens inside the 5" station when you have one end closed, and one end effectively closed because even though it increases, it increases less than a straight line taper? What happens to that 5" section when you have one end more open, and the other end effectively more open, for the same reason mentioned previously? How true to the taper do those stations stay in those instances, especially if the taper is from one of the old dead guys?

              Sorry, I'm not going to try and follow all that with more hard to follow descriptions of my own. Just know that like a bezier curve in AutoCad (been using since release 10) what you do at one fixed point effects the curve between the previous and following fixed points. The type of math curve makes no difference as long as the line also goes through the fixed 5" center points. I was using the Bezier curve to illustrate. I did set a wierd taper on my planing forms that was not a usual usual rodmaking taper over a few stations and measured the resulting at every 1" on the bars. Then I drew a straight Pline at those dimensions and compared it to a straight line between the 5" fixed center points. If you zoom in you can see that it does not follow the straight line. Just visualize having a steel square bar resting over two fixed points. Now hold the bar fixed over one of the points. Say the left one. Put your hand out beyond the right hand fixed point and push down. What do you think happens to the bar BETWEEN the fixed points. It goes into a curve, right? Same thing happens with planing forms between fixed 5" centers. (Larry Swearingen)

                At 1" centers I don't think you WOULD need a curving program. The bamboo will take care of that. At 5" centers I think you need the curving program unless you want the resulting Stress Curve to Actually look like the online sharp peaks and valleys.

                Actually, I was misreading some of this.  The CNC software will "smoothen" the movement between the dimensions so that you don't end up with saw tooth steps at each station.  Which might be a good reason to use as fine a step between those stations if you want to minimize the effects of smoothing in the wrong spot.  The algorithm the CNC software I use, and I'm sure Mach uses, coordinates the linear motion of both axes so that it's pretty smooth between points.

                I'm not enough of a Mathlete to be able to calculate a math taper difference.

                I just know and measured that there is NOT a straight line taper between those fixed points at 5" centers. The steel bars ensure that.

                I was just curious if you'd measured what was inside the 5" stations.  I know I never did when planing with the taper bars.

                Sorry, I'm not going to try and follow all that with more hard to follow descriptions of my own. Just know that like a bezier curve in AutoCad (been using since release 10) what you do at one fixed point effects the curve between the previous and following fixed points. The type of math curve makes no difference as long as the line also goes through the fixed 5" center points. I was using the Bezier curve to illustrate. I did set a wierd taper on my planing forms that was not a usual usual rodmaking taper over a few stations and measured the resulting at every 1" on the bars. Then I drew a straight Pline at those dimensions and compared it to a straight line between the 5" fixed center points. If you zoom in you can see that it does not follow the straight line. Just visualize having a steel square bar resting over two fixed points. Now hold the bar fixed over one of the points. Say the left one. Put your hand out beyond the right hand fixed point and push down. What do you think happens to the bar BETWEEN the fixed points. It goes into a curve, right? Same thing happens with planing forms between fixed 5" centers.

                I'm familiar with the splining AutoCAD does, and how it works too.  I was just wondering if the algorithm used for that operation is good or bad for adhering to strict dimensioning on our tapers is all.  If moving one point causes another point to move, doesn't that kinda get away from the plot that we painted when we designed our tapers?  Wouldn't that affect the stress curves?  Wouldn't that affect our final taper?  (Mark Wendt)

    Far be it that I would stand in the way of progress. CNC in bamboo rodmaking was going to happen sooner or later. Don't get me  wrong, I embrace technology, I make my living from computers. I also embrace tradition, quality and craftsmanship. I have not yet made a bamboo rod, probably never will. I own a couple, fish them occasionally. Not custom made, no honored makers name on them, just lower middle class family heirlooms, restored and cherished. I have already accepted the fact that I will never be able to afford to make my own bamboo rod, or own any other makers Bamboo rods, unless I win the lottery... I have and will continue to build graphite rods because I can still barely afford to, for now.

    My question is,  if CNC will allow you to make rods of high quality, faster, will said rods, even blanks, be sold for less than a hand planed rod? I think not.

    If yes, then I would be very interested in being able to purchase a CNC created blank, and apply/supply the tradition, and craftsmanship myself. If I did, whose name would I put on it? The taper designer? The CNC operator? Mine?

    Relish the technology, make all the rods you can, as fast as you can, and sell them for as much as you can get, while you can get it. Soon, there won't be anyone left that can afford them, tradition, quality, craftsmanship will not be affordable.  (Chuck Pickering)

      All this CNC stuff (except for the CNC hobbyist) is commercial. The makers doing it will either sell more rods for the same price, or loads more for less. It will depend on the market they are targeting and how long it takes them to pay for the hardware. If you want a CNC blank, make an inquiry, but don't toss out buying a blank from one of the other cane carvers or even making your own. Blanks can be had for less than you'd pay for many plastic ones. Building a blank does not require that you have a lot of expensive tools, even if you go it alone, but there most likely is a maker near enough to you that could help with cooking or dipping. The only thing you must have is a form. You can make one out of wood using directions on the tips page. Even I managed to make a set of forms, so if you have figured out how to tie you shoes, you can do it.  (Larry Lohkamp)

      Traditionally, rods were not hand planed.  Payne, Leonard, Dickerson, and all the others that have revered names used machines.  It wasn't until Everett Garrison came along that the block plane and planing forms were to become the toyls of choice for the hobbyist rodmaker.  That blank you get from a CNC machine, or an AJ Thramer saw beveler, or a JW mill is closer to the traditional ways of making rods than hand planing.

      So, should you get a hold of a machined blank, you can revel on the traditionalism!  (Mark Wendt)


Can a CNC mill turn out strips for a penta or quad, or is the geometry built into the cutter head or whatever its called?  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    Yes, they can cut penta's quads, hexaganals, octagonals, whatever you want. It's just a matter of buying the angle mill cutters (or in the case of router based machines, the proper router bits) for the rod you want to cut.

    Mine will only cut Hex rods and Quad rods. That is all I have interest in making. If in the future I change my mind, it's just a matter of getting on the phone to a good machine shop supply house and ordering a new set of cutters with the right angles.

    OH, and it doesn't have to be CNC to do this. A manual mill will do the same thing. Kusse's mill runs hex and quad strips. (Bob Nunley)


The recent discourse(s) on the merits, (or lack thereof), of designing and building a CNC milling/sawing machine to produce accurately tapered strips of bamboo, may give cause to wonder why Hiram Leonard did, as we understand, the same thing with a mechanical device so many long years ago, and which, as we understand was kept under wraps of extreme secrecy. The obvious answer, of course, is that the DEMAND for quality rods, by those who could afford them, greatly exceeded the facilities then available, to meet the demand. The secrecy of course, related to the competitiveness of the beast. Once the secret was out though, there occurred what may have been an unintended consequence, as lesser quality items began to flood the market ~ such that not only those who could afford the higher quality rods, but almost anyone could afford some quality of rod. A lesson, perhaps?

Now it appears that the DEMAND isn't all that great, and the 'close to the vest'-ness has been replaced by "see what a big boy am I". Why someone, anyone, would invest, say 15 to 30 thousand dollars, in a machine to produce a thin strip of so accurately dimensioned bamboo, may only be answered by, "because I can". Admittedly an admirable enough reason, but if the answer, as it may be, is to out produce the other guy(s), then the question may give pause to wonder, will the DEMAND, at current pricing, ever match the success of Hiram Leonard?  (Vince Brannick)

    Wow.  What a complete and utter misinterpretation of the entire discussion on the benefits of CNC machining.  (Mark Wendt)

    Actually, Hiram Leonard devised the machine in the late 1870s because it was his idea to taper each strip to final dimension from the inside. Previously, strips had been beveled by hand (and with only the coarsest taper), glued, and then given their final taper on the OUTSIDE. For Leonard, achieving accuracy was at stake, but there was also the matter of preserving the power fibers.

    Interestingly, just down the road from the Leonard shop, Charles Wheeler developed a similar tapering machine almost simultaneously. One could consider these as efforts to capture the market, but "marketing" would have been a function of a truly better-built rod. Ironically, literature from the following years does not reflect that the general public realized what Leonard and Wheeler had done for the fly rod industry. That's to say, Leonard and Wheeler were exactly correct in their ideas, but the public didn't seem to know the difference -- even rejecting the appearance  of a  hexagonal shape in favor of the "traditional," rounded pole. It was Leonard and Wheeler themselves who insisted on the preserving the hex-shape, despite public disinterest.

    Now that we're casting dry flies with shorter rods, it's easy to see the differences that high-quality tapering offers. So, now we're back to wondering if hand-planing on steel bars is "as good" as using a CNC machine. To me, the tools are a matter of complete indifference, and if I wanted a good rod, I would look for the better maker EVERY time.  (Bill Harms)

      Good points.  Minor disagreement on the tools.  While a good maker can turn out decent rods on crappy tools, my only question is why would he/she?  My thoughts are that he/she, as a craftsman, would be using tools that matched the level of his/her expertise and craftsmanship. (Mark Wendt)

        Glad to read that our disagreement on the tools is "minor." This was my contention all along. But CNC milling cannot by justified by demeaning the alternatives as "crappy tools."  Not only is this contention desperate, it's untenable.

        As to cost-effectiveness, the only justification for a CNC mill would be meet large production demands. Otherwise, it's use is only for those with money  to burn  (as in "Burn, baby, burn!")  (Bill Harms)

          If you read my post carefully, I didn't imply that any tools other than a CNC machine were crappy tools.  I was trying to state that most craftsmen would not use junk tools - ie,  a warped junk plane left over from the trash bin, forms that couldn't hold their settings, a depth gauge that was inaccurate,  a set of calipers that have been beat all to heck and back, a machine that was worn out and had never had it's periodic maintenance performed, or just about any other problematic tool or machine used.  That's desperate?  That's untenable?  You're reading way too much into what I wrote.  Crappy tools are crappy tools, whether they're hand tools, or machines.

          CNC machines are also for small production demands.  I certainly don't have money to burn.  Be nice if I did, but I don't.  (Mark Wendt)

        Crappy tools?  Does that refer to tools that aren't CNC or power?  Way off base.  A recent post about the fellow who planes in nonadjustable forms, and knows when he's done by the wiggle of the cane, comes to mind.  He's recognized as a master, and yet he doesn't even have adjustable forms.  "Crappy Tools" eh? 

        I believe there are plenty of reasons personal and financial to individual makers for using less than the latest, greatest, and sometimes most expensive tools/techniques.  There are makers on this list who I personally know who could easily afford whatever equipment, and yet choose to hand plane.  I've cast their rods, and they're fine casting machines, and beautiful too!  From observation of the list, and conversations with bamboo rod makers, I'd say although we share a common pursuit, we each get our own individual rewards.  That's perfect! 

        I telemark ski, and an alpine equipment skier might very well look down their nose at me and say my equipment isn't as powerful, accurate, etc.  They're missing the fact  that  to  me...that's me, the one riding those boards, the experience is more graceful, artistic, and rewarding.  Works for me!

        There's an unbelievable amount of knowledge on this list, and with the little I know about bamboo rod making at this point, I do know there's more than one way to skin a cat! (...but the cat's not too fond of any of them. Ha!)  You may have your preferred way, but that certainly doesn't make the other ways wrong.  (John Jazwa)

          Read what I just wrote to Bill Harms.  You guys are coming in with a bias, and reading something into what I wrote that isn't there.

          Please show me exactly where I said anything other than a CNC machine is a crappy tool.  I've saved my shekels to get craftsman's tools, like my Lie-Nielsen planes.  I had a POS Stanley plane that would never hold the plane blade at the skew angle I set it at.  That's a crappy tool.  A real craftsman wouldn't use a tool like that because it wouldn't allow him to keep up the quality work that he wants to do.  That being said, a master craftsman could probably use a tool like that and turn out decent work.  He'd hate using it, but he would if he had to.  Betcha a dollar though he'd pitch it in a minute to get a good, quality plane.  (Mark Wendt)

      If I wanted a good rod, I would look for the better maker EVERY time.

      So who is the "better" maker, a maker who flips the switch and produces 6 rods of exactly the same dimensions or a maker who can hand plane the strips and end up with 6 rods with dimensions "close???"

      Is "better" in  the  dimensions  or  finish  or  heat  treating or????  (Lowell Davis)

        "So who is the "better" maker, a maker who flips the switch and produces 6 rods of exactly the same dimensions or a maker who can hand plane the strips and end up with 6 rods with dimensions "close" ???"

        This is a silly quibble.

        It's the maker who  understands how to manipulate his tapers, handle his materials and make optimal use of his tools. It's a package, and no single component makes the difference between an ordinary rod and an excellent one. In the hands of a good maker, planing to "close" can produce a rod that's as good as machining to "exactly" the same dimensions. Conversely, in the hands of an ordinary maker, even exactly machined strips can result in an ordinary rod.

        This is especially likely since "close" hand-planing means coming within 0.001" on each strip -- and since, for both the machined strip and the hand-planed strip, we still have the glue-line,   the   binding,   the   cleanup   and    sanding, cutting-to-length, wrapping and finishing to follow. All these can affect the action of a given taper. None of our tools ensures the "better" rod.  (Bill Harms)

          It was a silly comment. Better is the word I object to in the rodmaking process. Bill said it well in his second paragraph "ordinary  rod and an excellent rod" not "better."

          I've yet to meet a bamboo rod (regardless of how it was made) that I didn't think was "excellent" just some more excellent than others.

          Bill I always appreciate your very thoughtful comments.  (Lowell Davis)

        We are also dealing with the weight of the finish, the weight and placement of guides, and the weight of the fly reel. And the caster's ability. But most of all we use the rods to cast fly lines of all weights, diameters, belly lengths, taper styles and densities, over which we have little control other than selection.  (Ron Grantham)

        Everything the rod maker does from picking the culm to packaging the rod off to the customer determines whether that maker is the better maker of not.  To narrow it down to one slice of the entire making sequence ignores everything else that goes into make the rod what it is.

        I'd say that the maker that excels in every portion of the sequence is what makes a better maker.  (Mark Wendt)

        This is a fun one.... The machinery  used is irrelevant.. Mill, Bars, Shooter, doesn't matter. The skill of the operator is all that matters here.. we are just taking off cane.

        So now we get to rodmaking skills and processes. Are some better than others?

        We have no guild, so we have no standards.. I use contact cement on my rods..I upgraded from rubber cement.

        There no disclaimers, only name recognition, which isn't all a bad thing, or a good thing

        All things being equal.. the taper is the rod..hehee  (Jerry Foster)

          First off I have been on the list since around 2001, just sitting back, and reading.  The CNC, oven theory threads have been great!

          But anyway as a past QC  tech I had to observe manufacturing processes, and determine if the machinery had the ability to produce a good product, but more important could it keep repeating the process within SPC standards.  In my opinion CNC, electronic controlled ovens, and computers can help rod makers repeat/control their processes especially if they plan to work on a larger production scale.

          So here's my question:  If 10 CNC cut blanks were heat treated, glued, etc by 10 different makers using their own processes would there be a noticeable difference in the rods casting?

          Note: I'm not saying that hand planing is not repeatable or as good.  I'm not saying that anyone is planning to mass produce blanks/rods using CNC.  I'm not saying that a maker could not produce a large amount of rods hand planing.  So please don’t start those type of emails or threads.  (John Freedy)

            This is the answer  to the question you could have asked...

            The whole process is Important.. but some parts are more important than others. imho

            One of the most important is the selection of the culm. the sticks, the node stagger and the heat treating regimen.

            Beside the adhesive the only things left after the final cut are cosmetic. But could have some impact like 6 oz of epoxy finish. hehee.

            So my answer  would be potential ...yes.  (Jerry Foster)

            I'd have to say it depends.  How's that for an unequivocal answer?  ;-)

            It would depend on the processes each individual maker uses.  If they were all similar, and each used the same kind of machinery - ie, ovens, taper machinery, etc, then I would say the final product would be similar.  It's obvious there would be some differences, since the medium itself is natural, but the differences would tend to be small.  On the other hand, if they used different machines, different ovens, different heat treating regimens, it's probably true there'd be differences in the rods.  Whether those differences would be good or bad would be up to the end user.  Differing amounts of temper in the cane from heat treating, different adhesives used in gluing up the blank, different tapers, different ferruling, single foot Vs snake guides, weight of the hardware, different finishes and other things, while small differences in themselves, might add up to significant differences in the sum to how that rod does the job it was intended to do.  (Mark Wendt)


Let me start by saying that I'm no an Engineer, nor do I play one on this list.  So my use of some terms will be in the "general public" realm rather than the engineering realm.

A CNC rod maker and a planing forms rod maker walk into a bar.  Of course they start talking rod making and how each of their processes work. The bartender says, "Hay, do you guys make bamboo rods?"  They reply, yes they do. "Well," he says, "I've been wanting to buy a good bamboo rod and I'm a little money ahead now.  Do you have any with you?" The two rod makers retire to their cars and soon return with two beautiful representations of their work.  The bartender studies each for some time...  Which one does he buy?

Wait for it....

The one with the fancy reel seat!

Bada boom.

Forms are analog and CNC is digital, that's the bottom line.   Having read most of the posts in this discussion I see a couple of things that pop out.  Stations: five inch or 1 inch?  How about the old 6” stations that were so common before Garrison?  Someone in a post said that maybe 5”tations could actually be too close.  I've thought about this over the years.  A rod that's made on 6" stations and then converted to 5" stations isn't going to be the same taper.  Think about it.  The 6" station may be just in front of a change in slope and the 5" station may be just behind that change.  A planning form doesn't know the difference.   While it might not be necessary to actually set 1" stations, it might be good to "take" one inch stations.

And as to CNC,  I've got a feeling that the more stations the better.  I'd bet that if you input 5" stations into some of these programs and let them spit out the curves, you'd end up with tapers that weren't much like the original. (.0000" or less variance)  So it's good to have 1/2" or ever 1/32' stations that are accurate to .0000 or better.  the closer you get the less chance you have of allowing your program to take you some place you don't really want to go.

But now we get to the question of why?  I'd guess that there are less than 500 makers in the US that sell their rods.  There are something like 3,000,000 Americans.  That's quite a ratio.   Unfortunately they all don't want bamboo rods (they may need bamboo rods but they don't want them.)  Bamboo is a niche market within a niche market within a niche market. People who fish, then people who fly fish, then people who fly fish and have enough disposable income and want a bamboo rod.

So what will CNC give us.  Several things.  One, as Bob Nunley said, it will allow people who like to make rods but can't or don't want to plane continue making rods.  Two it allows quick setup time for custom rods, since you're only changing a computer program. Three, it allows production products, because you can turn out one after another after another, of the same rod.

The first point is fairly self  evident.  The second depends on being able to identify the taper that matches the customers needs, by name or by careful study of the casting needs of the customer, we'll leave that for later.

Which brings us to the last point.  Recreating a strip as many times as needed. Production runs.  Turning out 120, 240, 360 or any number of identical strips in a short period of time means lower production costs.  If we're in the business our time is money. And if it's not a part time business, but the way we pay the bill, then it becomes even more important. 

I had a series of e-mail exchanges with Terry Ackland, 10 or 12 years ago about making production bamboo rods.  (How many of you remember the "Big Cigars.")  There's a lot that goes into any business and bamboo rod making has extra baggage with it.

One of the things you need to look at is the "make -- buy" question... on everything. Make your own ferrules? What are your material costs and how long does it take .  Unless you have employees that's time you could be wrapping a rod or checking the heat treating oven or gluing up strips.  Same with making cork grips.  If you get really good cork rings, the cost of buying a pre made grip is almost the same.  And you still have to add you time to making the grip.  Time that could once again be used to split, straighten, sand nodes or other tasks.   I could go on but you get the idea.

So the cost of a CNC can be paid off in 2 to 10 years, depending on volume.  It's easy to figure out what your profit/cost will be.  Cost per unit = material + time to make one rod.  Figure it two ways, one with hand planning and the other using the mill. The difference between the two is your savings.   Now multiply that by the production rate and divide that number into the cost of the mill and you'll know when it will start paying for itself.    

The other end of the equation is one that Terry would always pass over.  that's the profit end.   Is a machine made Bob Nunley worth the same as a hand made Bob Nunley?  I don't know.  There are a lot of rich people who like "hand made" whatever.  It's snob appeal.  "I have one of only X number ever made."  My friend has an M-coup by BMW.  One of only about 1,000 made.  Worth more because it's so scarce.

Whatever the cost is, the difference between cost and sale price is what keeps the doors open and the lights on.   And that means sales.  The last part of the puzzle is what do you do with all those rods you've got standing in the corner of your living room?  Is there a market?   Not only for Bamboo rods, but for YOUR bamboo rods?   I'd guess that a company could make a living wage at it if that company could hook up with Bass Pro or WalMart. 

I did the math with Terry, and found that he'd have to complete -- and sell -- 7 or more rods a week at the price he was quoting, just to break even.  No big Cigars.   If you figured in the time Terry wanted to put into ferrules, reel seats, hardware and the like he'd be working around 15 hours a day, with Sunday off.

Making a business out of Bamboo rod making is more than a CNC machine and a business license.  It means investments in a lot more quality equipment that will cut down the time.  It means buying when you might like to build.  It means competing, head to head with the plastic guys. (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    Very well put. Is it all worth it? Only if the bottom line isn't the determining factor. It's a great hobby. When you make it a business you take all the fun out of it and may even have to sell out a few friends (and yourself) along the way to compete! I was talking to a very nice guy who is one of the pioneers in rod making and at the time several years ago he said to me "I have very little interest in making rods anymore" I felt pretty sad and thought I really would like to have one of his rods just because of who he is. (Still want one) I am starting to understand what he meant more every day. Sometimes being recluse isn't a bad thing !!!! (Joe Arguello)

      I have two friends who gave up. One of them, who sold about 80-100 rods (really nice ones) said It just wasn't fun anymore. He said that at first he would wake up in the morning and couldn't wait to get to the shop. That lasted about 2 years. Added to the toiling in the shop  were customers who called him incessantly (wealthy people who wanted special consideration). Add to that, extended gossip on Clark's board. You need a tough skin or ways to market your rods that put a layer between you and the customers.  (Doug Easton)


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