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Well I finally assembled all the tools I need to complete my first rod. I am about to get started and have been practicing splitting, filing, straightening, flattening nodes and rough planing.  I do have one question.  When flattening nodes I keep running into a problem with getting them completely flat.  As a result when I am rough planing they don't always fit tightly against the form.  Although I have been able to still get a nice 60 degree angle I'm concerned this may lead to problems down the road.  I don't want to make too many mistakes when I begin working on  a good piece of cane.  Does anyone have any suggestions?  (Jim Brandt)

    The node problem you are having will indeed cause problems when you glue and bind the rod.  At each node there will be dips and/or rises that will have the effect of ruining the desired taper.  Nodes must be dead flat before you complete final planing.

    Depending upon the particular culm of cane itself, the split-out strips will need both filing and heat-straightening at the nodes.  Sometimes a node will be humped, and will show a little depression on one side (sometimes on both sides).  The ridge of each node must be filed away, but don't take the node down much farther than just below its surface.  Now, rough plane the strip down toward a 1/4" in width, and reduce its thickness as well (taking care that you don't go beyond the intended half thickness of the taper).  Rough planing to smaller, "squared" proportions is advised for ease of heat straightening -- which follows.

    Next, heat straighten the node by bending upward, against the hump.  This will cause the strip to take on a rather severe, upward (concave) curve. When cooled, then heat straightened the area(s) where the depressions occurred, by bending each of them downward.  The enamel side of the strip should now have become quite flat, and any remaining unevenness can be filed.

    As a side-note, perfect flattening of the node areas becomes increasingly easy the more the dimensions of a given strip are reduced.  (Bill Harms)


Has anyone studied the strength of nodes. I read in books the claim that nodes are the weakest  part of the bamboo shaft yet I also note that those who repair rods say that few rods that break are at the node. I have yet to see this apparent contradiction discussed.  (Mark Dyba)

    I, for one, do not believe that the node is the weakest part of the bamboo shaft.   (Timothy Troester)

      I think, like most rodmaking myths, the idea of nodes being the weakest area came about as a misunderstanding. Somebody thought that the staggering was needed because of a strength issue when in fact it probably was more a matter of evening out the stiffness that nodes introduce. Just my humble opinion.  (Bill Walters)

      I agree, for what it's worth.

      I think that the huge amount of effort directed at nodes has more of its basis in cosmetic appearance than it does in strength. I fish my rods pretty hard, for a geezer,  and a lot of the ones I fish most are pretty early models from my bench, so the node treatment is far from minimal; and I  have yet to be able to distinguish the rods with the big nodes from the rods with the little nodes either on the basis of action or of durability.

      I must say,  though, that having tried using the V-block for pressing nodes, and following up by sanding the nodal ridge later, I must agree that, stronger or not, it DOES look better to have very small nodes.

      Although  I must confess that, after filing the nodal ridge off, I do get out the torch again  and using a very hot flame for a very short exposure, re-darken the nodes where they have been sanded down to paler cane.  (Peter McKean)

    Nodes may or may not be the weakest part of a fly rod.  In its "raw" state, a bamboo strip will not break first at a node.  But in preparing strips for a rod, the nodes are subjected to much more heat than is any other area. And, as some nodes straighten easily, while others require repeated applications of heat, there is no way to know how strong or weak a node may become once the strip is ready to be glued to its neighbors.

    The idea of staggering is principally to dissipate whatever unevenness in flexing-strength a node area may present.  So, whether weaker or stronger, a node is at least going to be "different" from the internodal areas.  It is for this reason that I prefer to use the spiral staggering system.  That way, I know that each and every node is buttressed by five, straight-fiber partners.

    I know, building nodeless obviates all these issues.  But it raises others. You other guys can go "snip-snip" if you like,  but I prefer my rods to be thoroughbreds rather than geldings.  (Bill Harms)

    I flame my rods with a propane burner, and I take a fair while to do it, so there is probably a fairly deep and fairly even layer of dark; the only bit, though, that I would say was actually "black" is  the rind, which bubbles and lifts  while heating. The outer layers of fiber are heat-toned to a very dark brown through to caramel.

    When I file off the nodal humps, I retouch the pale bits with a smaller nozzle on the burner, just for a second  or two (well, you know, not for long) just to remove the harsh striping effect.

    I am one of those heretics who doesn't mind touching the sacred "power fibers" with something more substantial than a flea fart, so I flatten the nodes and remove the crap and charred stuff with my Lie-Nielsen 212, then as I have said, touch up the nodes,  and finish the dressing of that side with a hard rubber block and about 400 grit Al2O3 paper. That gives me the flat enamel surface that is so essential for the proper fit of the strip into the groove on the planing form.

    I believe that adequate flattening of this surface not only makes for accuracy, but tends to remove most of the tendency for problems with dimensions at the nodes and with node "chipping". If you don't flatten out the enamel surface, you can feel the plane going over the nodes like a roller coaster (well, a pretty piss-poor roller coaster, maybe, but you get the idea)   as you plane, and no matter how sharp you keep your plane irons it is difficult to avoid problems  at the nodes. And I am quite anal about the edge on my planes, I assure you!

    I stress  that I am not  getting into the substance of the "power fibers", just pulling off  the crap.

    But I cannot keep it anywhere near "black". I can get mottled from very dark brown to honey colored, but my feeling is that if I were shooting for black I would probably finish up with the ultimate portable rod - it would crumble into ash and you could pack it in a small screw top bottle!

    Reassembly might be interesting, though.  (Peter McKean)


I have heated and pressed and straightened my nodes. They have been rough beveled thru a beveler. They have also been wrapped and oven baked. Now, before I plane them to taper, I noticed there are a few nodes that still need to be pressed more. I am afraid of reheating them, is it possible to moisten just the node with a wet rag or something then reheat the node? Is that even going to accomplish anything? I have been reading some of the threads pertaining to  guys who soak their strips before they press. Any other options. (Mark Bolan)

    Just file it flat.  (Marty DeSapio)

    If they have already been beveled  and heat treated and do not wish to apply more heat you can file them down or set your beveler to knock off the enamel and it will also take care of your nodes.... FAST!   (Adam Vigil)

    P.S. I do not take responsibility for this heretic teaching Chris Bogart told me to do it...and it works. LOL


Doing my first "noded" rod and after heat treating the six strips of the butt section I noticed that the nodes still popped out a little even though I did use the relief method of pressing the nodes. What is the best way to deal with the nodes now, before final planning?  (Bill Walters)

    That's a good question.  You could just file them flat, but that would defeat the purpose of flattening them in the first place.  After heat treating the moisture content is so low that it's difficult to straighten them at all.  I've toyed with the idea of trying to mill a 60 degree V-groove in a piece of aluminum to place over one of my vice jaws so I could heat the node, put the apex of the strip into the V-groove, and just clamp it to flatten and straighten it at the same time.

    Instead, I found something I'm reluctant to share with the list because I know if I'll ever be able to get any more of it.  I believe that nodes pop up during heat treatment because the strips lose moisture and shrink when they're heated.  The problem is that the cotton thread, that can take the heat of heat treating, doesn't stretch, so when the bamboo shrinks the wraps become loose.  This loosens the string binding the strips and allows the nodes to return to, more-or-less, their original shape.

    I was at Boeing Surplus a couple of months ago and found some Nomex thread.  This is the stuff that fire fighter's clothing is made of (at least when I worked to the US Forest Service nearly 30 years ago that's what our fire shirts and pants were made of).  It's a synthetic fiber that can take the heat without melting, and though it doesn't stretch as much as nylon, it does stretch more than cotton.  The stuff they had a Boeing Surplus was in spindles with 4 threads wrapped simultaneously onto them, so I had to respool it onto regular thread spools.  I've tried it out on a couple of rods and it seems to keep tension on the strips while heat treating and to substantially reduce the amount that nodes pop back up.

    I've got some strips soaking right now that I intend to try straightening wet on Friday or Saturday.  I've been concerned that they will have more moisture in them when I put them in the oven and thus will shrink too much for even the Nomex thread to accommodate, but time will tell.  (Robert Kope)

      Nomex is Kevlar, and if it weren't so horrendously expensive, the fly tying Kevlar thread would work.

      I have a V-groove cut into a block of aluminum, attached to an aluminum angle, so that it slips over the front of my vice jaws. Inletted into the aluminum block is a rectangle of approx. .625 width, into which fits a wooden block for pressing those errant nodes after heat treatment. As you said, it is very difficult after heat treating to get the nodes to work, and I have to be especially careful when trying to work them, lest I break the strip.

      Soaking for a sufficient number of days helps tremendously the problem of nodes popping back, but so does over bending the node, rather than merely pressing it flat to the vise jaws. I only rarely have nodes that try to return to their previous position.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I take the enamel off just before final planing, and in doing this I use a 10" fine cut mill bastard file angled so that I have about 4" of file on the cane,


    and also a little 3" scraper plane that I made.  I work on the node areas first, get them smooth and level, then go the length of the strip.  This gets everything flat so that it will sit in the final form accurately.  I have this file labeled for "bamboo only" and also use it for filing the nodes slightly before flaming.  As long as you stroke the long dimension of the strip (never side to side) it cuts smoothly.   I then go to 400 grit paper.  Final sanding is done after the string comes off the glued up rod and I use the file again for that.  (Kurt Clement)

    I just heat and press the offending nodes if they are popped out too much. If not, then I plane or scrape them down in the planing form.  (Steve Weiss)


Probably will have my hock blade purchasing privileges revoked for saying this,  but can anyone tell me why  nodes have to be small, or for that matter why they have to be pressed? Last night I was starting a rod for myself and I decided that I would just plane off the nodes and sand to feather the edges. Looks good and seems to work fine. Sure was easier than cutting a recess on the back and pressing the nodes into it. Also, I'm not expecting the nodes to "pop" when I'm doing my heat-treating. After planning off the humps I stressed the strips to see if it created any weaknesses and the strip behaved normally with the usual smooth curve.  (Bill Walters)

    You heretic. What were you thinking?

    Of course it works. So does sawing strips and sanding the nodes off. Do whatever works for you. I think that many people forget that the masters did all this sort of heretical stuff and no one holds them to task for it. I could reread it, but I don't recall Mr. Garrison pressing his nodes flat. He filed them flat.

    A plane would work fine if it is razor sharp. The heat used to press the nodes flat may in the long run be even worse than planing or filing them flat. I press mine, but I don't think there is necessarily a great reason for it. If anything, it is done to escape the stigma placed on those who would consider planing or sanding them flat bad.

    Is there a possible benefit to pressing, yes. But like the continuous fiber argument against sawing strips, I doubt that most casters would care or notice.  (Bob Maulucci)

    Lie-Nielsen agents are seeking you out now as we speak , how dare you! LOL

    On my last rod I tried what you are thinking. I have made 19 rods and wanted to see if it I made a difference. I just planed the nodes. They were bumpy when I got done gluing it.  I took time this round before I started node treatment

    to review the node process. I looked in Garrison and Wayne’s book. To my surprise Garrison speaks to straightening nodes . Wayne speaks to  pressing them which I reverted back to on this rod.  I think you can tell the difference by appearance but I am sure it is a controversy as to how much this impacts the rod. I know other guys are not pressing nodes and like their rods just fine.  (Rex Tutor)

    Your procedure is "heretical" only in the sense that planed or sanded nodes usually reveal quite a bit of runout fiber on the surface of the finished rod.  Some might think that this translates into a weakening of the strip  (or section) at that point, but I'm not so sure that's actually true. (Someone would need to do some "A-B" tests, but not I.)

    And I think it's because of the impression that runout fibers "mean" weakness that we have gone the next step in deciding that the look of a planed or sanded nodes is aesthetically unappealing.  In the end, though, I think you should build the damn thing any way you like,  assured that if you're a good maker, your rod will cast as well as the best rods built by anybody else.  (Bill Harms)

      I think I remember you saying that you never saw a rod break at a node. I have never seen one break there likewise so I guess that the nodes must be pretty strong.  (Jack Follweiler)

    Look at the Pezon & Michel site that somebody pointed us to recently. There's a picture of a fella apparently sanding a node on a $1,500 rod.  (Bill Hoy)

    I have done it both ways, I just get more satisfaction having small nodal areas. Rod #1 had the nodes sanded off on a belt sander. No problems with the rod, have taken close to 300 fish on it. It is still in great condition even with the wide nodal areas. BTW I also used Elmer's Carpenter glue on it too. Now that should start another tread. Do what suites you, if you are satisfied with larger nodal areas, just do it. I for one like the small nodal areas and the power fibers at the nodes left intact.  (Tony Spezio)

      I'm sure there's no reason why anyone would care, but "just for the record," I too like the looks of the small nodal area.  And as for the Elmer's Carpenter Glue, I used nothing else from the mid 1970s until about four years ago.  The only reason I changed was because of the devilish time I had in straightening after the glueup.  The Elmer’s just breaks down too easily under heat, but otherwise, those old rods are still going strong.  (Bill Harms)

    I've been planing the enamel side of my strips for years. Yes it flattens the nodes, and most of the water marks are gone. No I haven't noticed any loss of stiffness.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I, too, have been planing nodes and filing and planing enamel for years  with no discernible weakness in the rods' actions. If you have good depth of power fibers there's no need to worry. Some people have put too much store in Garrison's tome.

      Remember, nodes are a discontinuity in the strip's power fibers no matter how much you straighten things.

      Just this old farmer's not so humble opinion.  (Hank Woolman)

      I've had several e-mails asking to elaborate on my comments. It's all in the archives, but here it is again.

      The way I heat treat, split, and plane strips, start to finish.

      I take a split in half culm and torch it using a propane torch. For blonde rods I only torch the inside. When you first start torching it you will notice a swirl of orange  flame around the  blue propane flame. I move the flame slowly back and forth over about a 3 to 4 inch section until the orange swirl goes away. At that point you will notice that the pith has turned to charcoal and where the propane flame hits it, it glows red. That section is done, move slowly on down the culm overlapping your 3 - 4 inch sections. The goal here is to get an even amount of heat down the length and side to side, but try and get a bit more heat on the nodes - they are thicker. Item of interest - when you get to the end of the culm, watch the end grain. You will see a liquid bubble and foam out. If you continue to heat this liquid it will turn black and harden. Must be what happens inside the bamboo too. Sometimes you will ignite the edge, have a glass of water handy and just dip your finger in the water and swab the edge to put out the flame. For dark rods, flame the outside just for color. Note: No oven necessary.

      Wire brush the charcoaled pith away when cool and start splitting. I split by hand, using a pair of end nippers to start the split. Anyone who can't split a 2 inch diameter culm to 32 even strips hasn't practiced enough. 32 for tip strips, 24 for butt strips.

      Using a #3 bench plane, plane the strips straight. Plane the pith side, sides and enamel side. Yes, plane the enamel side! Plane the nodes flat, plane the enamel away. What about "power fibers"? I haven't seen much difference with or without "power fibers". Just make sure your strip has all fibers and no pith. How do I make sure I won't have any pith in my strips? - I just burned and wire brushed all the pith away. All that is left is fibrous bamboo. You now have straight, square strips.  No nodes popping out, no need to heat and press them. Rough plane the 60 degree angles, set your planing form, and final plane.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I've done this and the only difference that I noticed was that feeling that I shouldn't tell anybody about it !! The rod does not seem to mind at all.  (Stuart Moultrie)


On the subject of nodes (here we go again) I've never had a rod or strip break at a node-they always break between 'em. This tends to make me think that the nodes are stronger. I know that the nodes are a discontinuity in the power fibers of a strip but is that a weakness? My experience tells me "NO". Let's hear some opinions.  (Hank Woolman)

    This has lead to an interesting series of comments but I have to say that I'm with you from practical observation.  I wonder how the Milliard's strength testing was done?  If strips were tested to destruction was this by repeated loading or just increasing the load to failure.  What was classed as a failure, snapping or excessive deflection?

    I have been thinking of changing my current 3x3 stagger so I have been thinking about this issue.

    From my perspective the nodes seem to have little effect on the rods performance, in other words they do not form soft spots in bend tested strips.  The only time I have noted soft spots is at the early stages when local filing has reduced the section at the node.  Perhaps the additional heat treatment they receive makes up for their poorer structure?  If they behave with the same stiffness as the rest of the cane the rod should not tend to twist due to uneven staggering.  The nodes will however remain areas of suspicion and possible cracking from repeated loading so I'm going to try the 2x2 system despite not seeing any failures.  (Gary Marshall)

      I've got this sort of love/hate thing with nodes. I don't mind them as such but you have to do something with them, either remove them altogether and build nodeless which is a can of worms in itself or file and press them or whatever.

      I can tell anyone interested from hard experience IMHO you're better off with nodes no matter what you do with them than without them if you want 100% trouble free fishing pleasure in the long run regardless of what configuration you use you can imagine including random as they come order.

      The node order must make some difference to the action but it wont be detrimental nor noticed if at all unless you compare the same taper etc. with a different node stager nor are the nodes weaker or stronger when they are considered as they should be which is as a part of a completed rod and not as isolated parts of a single strip because that's not how it's used.

      Provided the splines are heat treated in the oven in the order they will be glued I don't think it makes any difference as to how they come out of the binder either as the heat treating relieves the stress and makes them settle together nicely. If you mix them after they've been heat treated they can be a menace that's true.

      Bamboo is lots different to wood of course but in wood a properly made scarf for the wood species is at least as strong as the wood, sometimes a lot stronger which can cause a hard spot.

      In my experience the only glue that comes close to good strength in scarfs for bamboo in the long run and overall is resorcinol but hide glue may be good, I just haven't tried it. I know people like Titebond II but it's got problems with heat straightening and I think sooner or later PVA glues will creep. Time will tell and I don't mean a few years and I hope I'm wrong. Keep in mind my point here is 100% trouble free node treatment, not mostly OK generally speaking but not including this that once happened etc.

      I mention nodeless rods and scarfs not because I'm suggesting you use them nor in an attempt to start another thread but because in the case of wooden boats scarfs are a fact of life for the planking of hulls and masts etc.

      Because the scarfs are trusted absolutely and are considered to be a single length of wood, actually stronger than the wood at the scarf you would think it's not considered important to take the location of scarfed planks into account in the construction of a hull but that's not the case, you can do that and the boat will be fine (I have done that on a couple of dingys to prove this to myself and my notorious dingy "Son Of Sonnet" has had a real caning and still going strong and it's got but block joints which are not as strong as scarfs) but it's bad form because it causes a visual weakness if not a physical one.

      I think it's for this reason and this reason alone staggering is necessary and the method you choose is more one of cosmetics than anything of real structural value. There are a hell of a lot of rods out there and none at all are known for breaking at or between nodes no matter what stagger is used.  (Tony Young)


OK folks, now for a series of what some may deem as really dumb questions from a newbie yet to make his first rod.

1. Do you grind or sand the nodes off of the outside?

2. Do you remove the nodes before or after splitting?

3. When you split cane,  how do you split  it evenly without run outs?

4. What is the average wall thickness of the cane when first split?

5. Would it be to much to ask for folks to reply to the entire list with technical answers ? I have seen several posts on tapers and techniques that I was interested in but never saw a reply. I did notice that if "I" hit the reply button it only went to the person, "Reply all" went to the list and the person. I don't want to sound like an ungrateful pain but there are so many here that know so much and I am trying to learn from you all.  (Jimi Genzling)

    There's a lot of us new guys just hanging out in the weeds here, learning what we can.  We slowly, decipher, and wade through tons of grits threads, and other Tomfoolery straining out all those bits of knowledge that arrive daily in the email.  I understand your excitement of wanting to unraveling the mysteries of cane building so here is a good link to start with.  Its one of the first online tutorials I looked at when I became interested in cane.  Six chapters of demystifying material that will answer the majority of your questions and give you some insight to what your getting into.  (John Freedy)

    First of all, it was not a dumb question. The list exists for these kinds of questions, and it is great to see new makers joining in and asking for information. I hope I can help you as much as the long-term members helped me when I joined about two years ago.

    I flame, then split. I heat each node, then press in a smooth jawed vise that has a small vertical V notch cut into one jaw. The nodal ridge fits into the notch. After pressing, all you have to do is file off the ridge and you are done. I like the look of very distinct, but small golden nodes on a dark blank. Besides, I  had problems filing before splitting. I would often gouge the cane. This idea came from the list archives, and I believe that it was developed by an Austrian rodmaker.

    For blonde rods, I use the same technique, but heat treat after the strips have been beveled and bound. I put the strips in a small copper pipe that hangs horizontally from the ceiling and blast it with a propane torch until  it smells done. I keep meaning to spend a weekend building a convection oven, but just can't stop making rods long enough to do it.

    After trying many methods, I settled on splitting the cane on a finishing nail held upright in my vise. That little V notch in your vise for the nodal ridge holds the nail perfectly. Control the split by Flexing the cane to the left or right as you drive it through the nail. The split will go straight-flex the cane into the path of the split.

    Be sure not to let the strip ride up on the nail or you risk nonvertical splits.

    As for wall thickness, I can't answer that one. It just varies.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Made a rod, node to node, butt & tip. Stressed the thing to death, and could not make it fail, without taking it over my knee, or some other traumatic force.

I do plane the power fiber side, to flatten the nodes, and flatten the top of the cane. The rods are flamed, and flamed hard first. I can honestly say, without prejudice to the rods I've built, it's pretty tough to make a bad one, if the glue is good, then planing is accurate, and a taper is used that is proven or decent.

In no way, shape, or form, do I build my rods the way I just described. I'm anal as anyone, but just for poops & giggles, I wanted to see what the stuff would take. It's tough stuff!!!!!!!!!!  Not telling the veteran rods makers much probably, but the new guys & gals, don't go postal over tiny mistakes, we all make em.'  (Jerry Andrews)


I'm just curious why we file nodes as opposed to cutting, shaving or planing them. I happened to be at the Berkeley REI yesterday and decided to check out the Japanese woodworking shop across the street. Low and behold it was Hida Tools!

So, as any good gear head would, I picked up a Hida bamboo splitter (the 8 blade one), brought it home and went to work on the nearest culm I could find. After making mincemeat of the culm I realized that I hadn't prepped it first by filing down the nodes.

I now had about 20 splines which I didn't look forward to sanding. In taking a close look at the nodes, I noticed that it sort looked like a fault line. That is, it looked as if at the node one layer of power fibers folded under another, leaving a little ridge only on one side. So, I took my Igorot Golok (a sword Asian machete) which I use to cut wood and cut the internodal dams out with and WHACK! No node ridge.

Lowe, Jim Golock

Lowe, Jim Golock Node

I took a good look at the result. It appeared to do less damage than filing. Only one side of the node was effected, it didn't cut any deeper it seemed than I will when sanding down the enamel and it left things pretty flat.

I presume there is a reason why this isn't good and filing is better but as a one rod wonder, I just don't know what it is. Can someone enlighten me.

I want to make the best rods I can but going whack with the golok was much more fun and quicker than using a file.  (Jim Lowe)

    There are several people here who plane or scrape or otherwise remove nodes. I don't think it makes one whit of difference how the nodal ridge leaves the strip. I don't think anyone has ever espoused whacking with a golok, but it sounds like fun, and innovation is a wonderful thing!  (Larry Blan)

      I sand first because I flame. I sand because I hate to file. Simple as that. I want to take a whack at whatever the hell a golok is! Sounds like fun! Send link please if there is one.  (Mike Shay)

    Winston takes a belt sander to the nodes.  (Kyle Druey)

      Golden Witch (Russ Gooding) also uses a belt sander on the nodes.  (Jack Follweiler)

        So does Bob Maulucci.  Take a look at Issue 15 of Power Fibers.  (Todd Talsma)

        I find that when the strips have been soaked the nodes plane off very smoothly. Then I heat and press to straighten. This works well for me prepping for the the hand mill.  (Doug Easton)


Just finished performing my own test on 6 strips on which I had planed and sanded the nodes flat. I first planed off the small bump and then sanded the node flat. I didn't take any care in the process just planed flat and then sanded flat with my power sander. All six strips failed the bend in a circle test.

Will retreat back to heat, crush and file for now until I get bored with fishing or the weather gets to nasty.  (Jim Tefft)

    Interesting. I just did the same thing last week with the same results. The strips also failed with little more bending than it took to see the curve was abnormal. I was really hoping it would be otherwise.  (Henry Mitchell)

    This might sound flip and I don't mean it to be but how come when folks do these sorts of tests (nodes, tempering, etc.) it always seems to be on individual splines and not 6 glued sections. I understand that time is probably an issue but to get accurate results, shouldn't the tests be done with the splines in the same configuration they will be used? Or is this what folks do and I'm misunderstanding the tests?   (Jim Lowe)

      If we make rods with weak spots in the splines, even when those weak spots are staggered, the combined 6 splines will be weaker than a rod that doesn't have those weak spots in the strips.

      I guess another reason tests are done on individual splines rather than in the configuration in which they'll be used is that once you've glued up a rod section you don't want to sacrifice all that work by testing it to the point of failure if you can extrapolate said knowledge from a less labor-intensive test.  (Henry Mitchell)

    Trying to make two PMQ rods at the same time resulted in my gluing the strips together node to node instead of a staggered configuration. The result was a weak spot which took a set at the node/nodes in the tip section. These were of the flatten and sand variety with a flame only heat treatment. There definitely was a weak spot at the node.  (George Rainville)

      Nobody's mentioned this yet, but it seems to me that when I run my strips through my preset to dimension sander (IE: it takes the pith side down so the strip is about 1/4 in thick), that the nodes have their fibers bent outward toward the outer rind. That is, the pith indents behind the power fibers in those areas. Therefore, when you sand off the outer edge without first pressing them flat you make the nodal power fibers much thinner than those on the rest of the rod. Now you have, say 3/16ths inch fibers all along the cane, but only 1/16th where you flattened the nodes by removing the outer layer. Any wonder it's weaker there?

      Try pushing a strip, on its side, through a drill press with a 3" drum sander and a block of wood clamped so its corner is 3/16ths or a 1/4" from the spinning drum. Run the enamel against the block. The entire strip will be the same thickness, albeit, a wavy thickness. The sander will leave a hollow, and the hollow will follow the original node's terrain. Check the look of the fibers and the pith.  (Art Port)

        I don't know if we are looking at the same thing, but the nodes on my strips bulge out both ways - towards the enamel side and towards the pith side. Looking at the side of an unplaned strip the fibers fan out as they enter a node. Pith side fibers towards the inside and enamel side fibers towards the enamel side, creating the bulge that is the node we all love so much.  (Darryl Hayashida)

          I meant that when I do that sanding, it doesn't look like I'm cutting into fibers as much as I am pith, and the most powerful fibers seem to be left alone after the sanding is done - going up and over a hump towards the outside, as it were. Maybe I ought to go sand another and see if I'm talking through my hat!  (Art Port)

            You could be right, I've never have been able to tell which fibers are the more "powerful" ones. People have given me their opinions, but I've never seen definitive proof.  (Darryl Hayashida)


I was wondering what methods others have used for coloring the filed and sanded nodes on flamed rods to try and get their color close to the rest of the rods before varnishing.

Hopefully this is not a stupid question, but I never seen any comments of anyone using a colored wood stains, or why this would not work?   (Wayne Daley)

    I find that flaming after filing works pretty well for me. Jeff Fultz sells a dye, think that it is potassium permanganate or some thing like that that works well for coloring the cane also.  (Chuck Irvine)

      I'm with Chuck on this as well, File nodes and then flame. I have some of Jeff's juice as well. Both work great.  (Mike Shay)

      Thanks for the suggestion.  I've flamed as you mentioned, done some rods with ammonia toning, and used the Bic lighter method on some also.  Although the contrast between the lighter nodes and flamed cane look great on some of the rods, I'm trying to find a solution where I can get a very even tone through out a flamed rod that does have nodes.  (Wayne Daley)

        If I remember my Chem. Lab (45 years ago) you want to wear gloves working with potassium permanganate, otherwise you'll have purple fingers for quite a while.  Otherwise, I think it's as safe as any of the other things we work with.  (Neil Savage)

          Actually potassium permanganate is a strong oxidizer, however I would bet Jeff's mixture is a little on the weak side.  (Larry Puckett)

    Regarding coloring cane: I've found that Lincoln Leather Dye in the light brown shade does a very nice job and it's easy to buy at a shoe repair shop. The trick is to put it on with a swab (furnished with the dye), let it dry, then wipe it down with 0000 steel wool soaked in alcohol. Looks lovely.  (Ray Gould)

    You could file the nodes off the whole culm before splitting and flame as if they weren't there.  (Mark Shamburg)

    I make very few flamed rods. Here is what I do when I make a flamed rod. Split out the 18 strips a bit wider than I normally do. Do the nodes as I normally do. Flame the individual strips with a torch after they are dry from soaking. The strips are flamed even. Yes individual strips can be flamed without destroying them.  (Tony Spezio)

    I use  the butane MICRO-JET by SOLDER-IT. Holding the point of the flame a bit from the bamboo and passing it back and forth to get the right color. Just make sure you don't char the bamboo. Works for me!   (Lee Koeser)

    Why bother? I just flame the culm whole and file the nodes afterwards and let the nodes be lighter.  (John Channer)

      I prefer the contrast in colors and leave them as is...

      If I were to color them,  Jeff Fultz's BrownToner  works like a charm. (Dave Collyer)

    Mark's suggestion is the way Wayne Cattanach taught me. You file the ridges off the nodes, split the culm in half, flame, and then split the strips & work them as normal. The key is to heat and press the nodes flat rather than doing a lot of sanding or filing, which lightens the color.

    I haven't flamed for a few years, but Wayne's method works great & doesn't require any exotic chemicals.  (Tom Bowden)

    Just now we heard about how to darken the nodes for flamed rods.

    Since I learnt how to split rather narrow strips, I find the heat  treating of the nodes darkens them. So that the finished node areas  in a blond rod are darker than the rest. So how do you get them to be  the same color as the rest.

    I know that the main answer is really to work more slowly and  therefore with less darkening, but maybe someone has a cane  lightening idea on this amazing list!  (Sean McSharry)

      Cane lightening or...cane lightning!

      Assuming you're not flaming the nodes on a blonde rod, everything "should" come out the same in the end. Just oven temper and remove the enamel and scrape (if you do that) the node.  It will be pretty much what you're hoping for I think? If you're not flaming, the cane after it comes from the oven will be a certain color. After you scrape off the enamel and deal with the nodes, it should be a close match.  (Mike Shay)


An area of concern that I feel is way over rated is the issue of placing the node area within 6" of the ferrule station or tip top of a section. I have seen way to many high grade classics that were fished hard for 50-60-70 years and the nodal areas (3x3, 2x2 or staggered) are within 2" of the tip top and ferrule station. They showed no problem from the makers doing this.  (Marty DeSapio)


I've also looked for a curved gouge for taking out dams preparing bamboo culm for splitting. Japan Woodworker is out of the "spoon bent curved gouge" that I'm looking for.  (Adam Trahan)

    A great place to  look  for  woodworking  tools  is  Woodcraft, Lee-Valley, and Rockler. Any one of them should have a suitable gouge for you.  (Scott Bearden)

    Try Grizzly for your gouges. They sell them by the set.   (Timothy Troester)

    My gouge came from Woodcraft, it's marked "Swiss Made 7L/20".  I think it's #O5N03, but I've had it quite a while so not sure.  (Neil Savage)

    I use a ball peen hammer on the dams. After the culm is split into 6th, I use the band saw to get rid of the rest of the nodal dams. I never could understand the use of a gouge on the dams.  (Jerry Drake)

    You simply need a gouge, any will most likely do.  That said, one with a 30mm width seems to work best.  (Ralph Tuttle)

    For the nodal dams, I whack them out with a hammer.  (Lou Martin)

    On the inner node dams. Why worry about them before splitting the culm. I just split out all my strips, stagger the nodes, cut to length and sand off the inner nodes on a small sanding drum in a drill press. I have a small vacuum cleaner nozzle attached with a clamp to the drill press table to collect the dust. It takes about three seconds to remove the inner node and you are only playing with the nodes on the strip you are using.  (Tony Spezio)

      The reason I knock out part of the dams is because it is easier for me to get a straight split.  Otherwise, I wouldn't bother.  I finish them on the bandsaw (make a bit of a hollow before displacing) after splitting.  (Neil Savage)

        I don't seem have a problem splitting with the dams still in the culm. For the most part they fall out in between the splits. When sanding the inner nodes off, I also sand the hollow for displacing the nodes at the same time. I can send you photos of the steps I take for doing this and splitting with the dams in place. I started out using a bandsaw but found the sanding drum is faster. In the article I did for Power Fibers, I showed using the bandsaw.

        We do what works for us but I try to eliminate anything that takes extra time and that I would not use in making the rod. I only work the nodes I will have on the strip section I will be using and not mess with nodes I will be discarding.  (Tony Spezio)

          I don't have a proper drum sander, though I can put a drum in my drill press and install a special top on the drill press table.  By that time I can be done on the bandsaw.  BTW, I don't saw strips I just saw the nodes slightly hollow.  Same idea as the drum sander.  (Neil Savage)

            In the October 2007 issue of Power Fibers I wrote an article, Mini Beveler/Thickness Planer, that works well for removing the pith side of a strip so that the pressed node has a place to go. You may want to look at it. If you have any question, let me know.  (Don Schneider)

    I have never used a gouge in my life, not even a chisel.  I do like Tony.  Split them out and sand off the internal dams with a belt sander.  I sand a little of the nodes with the same belt sander.  (Ralph Moon)

    Pliers are good for taking out dams.  (Stephen Dugmore)

      A hammer works too.  (Steve Weiss)


I have soaked my strips from just about the beginning, but have just come across another reason to do so. I have also always pressed my nodes after heating them with a heat gun. Strip straightening and node work has always been one part of the rod building task that I didn't enjoy. The noise of the heat gun just drives me crazy and you tend to spend a lot of time in this process. Several months ago Bill Harms posted a note to the list about using an alcohol lamp to straighten the node bump. I started using an alcohol lamp originally but didn't like the fact that it burned the cane (this was before I started soaking my strips). Well it doesn't burn the strips if you soak them first. In fact the alcohol lamp applies heat to such a small area that it is very easy to straighten one side of the node hump then move to the other side, straighten it while the other side is cooling. I then move to the next node and work the kinks out of both sides of the node. Finally return to the previous node and heat the center of the node to make the strip arrow straight. Perfectly straight strips without pressing the nodes, no noise and actually much faster then using the heat gun. You are essentially steaming the strips in very localized areas and even the nodes can be easily bent by hand into proper position. They also seem to stay better because you never reapply heat to an area that has already been worked. Thanks Bill for the tip. (Will McMurrey)

    Another trick when using the alcohol lamp is not to over soak the strips. About 12 hours is enough. You want to have the strip have some resistance to bending. That way it only bends where you apply the heat, and you can control the results. Since you are free bending without the support of vise jaws, a mushy strip might bend in areas that you do not want to bend.  (Tom Smithwick)

      Good point Tom, I have noticed that there is an optimal range of hydration.

      I usually soak for a couple of days and then pour the water out of the soak tube but leave the strips in it. I will then remove a few strips, dry them with a rag and let them set out while I work the nodes and kinks on one strip. I rough the strip, bevel it and then place it in a MD heat treating fixture. If I notice that the strips are starting to dry too much I just put them back into the tube with the other wet strips. This process lets me control how wet the strips are and I have found that after the water is emptied from the tube the strips seem to stay at a moderated hydration level. Depending on how many strips I am working at a time I can leave the strips in the closed empty tube for a week without them getting to wet to handle.  (Will McMurrey)

    I recently returned to wet planing after reverting back from conventional methods for a time I was really looking for an easier faster way to make my rods without compromising the quality. Orders were, are mounting up. And someone suggested wet planing to me, OK, I thought I have tried that. But I can give it a go anyway. I cannot remember who it was because my computer crashed and I lost all my stuff.

    But to that person, thanks it has helped me tremendously. (Gary Nicholson)

    Who carries alcohol lamps these days? The last one I owned was in my Gilbert Chemistry set.  (Doug Easton)

      Look on eBay. You can get a basic one for very cheap (about $10-12 after shipping). There are nicer ones to be had, but they all do the same job and just as well.  (Scott Bearden)

      I believe Jeff Wagner has them for sale.  (Olaf Borge)

        I just picked up the lamp sold by Jeff Wagner, it is a nice piece for the money (has a nice wide base and sits very low). Just a word of caution, I originally used a glass model sold by Golden Witch. After starting to use it on a regular basis I decided having a glass container with a flame on it was just too risky in the shop. I could imagine me knocking it off the bench while it was light hand setting myself and the shop on fire. Think about this before you invest in a glass lamp.  (Will McMurrey)

          Whether the lamp is glass or metal, it's a good idea to house it in a larger base. Just hollow a broad piece of wood, set the lamp into the fitted hole, and you've greatly reduced the danger of tip-over.

          Alternatively, Jimmy Chang reports that, instead of a lamp, he's using a compact, camping cook-stove. He says the stove gives him better control because its flame doesn't concentrate into a hot point. I haven't tried it myself, but the idea sounds good.  (Bill Harms)

            I think John Long used that heater when I went to his workshop at Nettie Bay - It was similar to the SportCat they have on the Coleman web site now.  (Richard Perry)

              Yes, John thought the moist heat worked better than the heat gun.  Of course, he wasn't soaking.  (No idea what he does at home.)  (Neil Savage)

            Another alcohol lamp alternative for the chronically cheap or poor is the chafing dish warmer.  Not the Sterno ones, but the ones with the wick and  screw  top.   They  are  about $1.50 each and are supposed to burn for 6 hours.  I bet you could refill them too.  Not as elegant as antique brass or cut glass but would probably work just fine.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

            The use of a small backpacking stove that uses alcohol as fuel might work.  A Coleman type stove (naphtha) or propane stove will get too hot, and leave soot deposits. 

            I have an inexpensive alcohol lamp that I bought from a hobby shop, but it won't stay lit, so it's pretty much useless.  Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the product you buy off the shelf will actually do what it was designed to do, and, in this case, it would cost me more, in gas, to take it back than what I paid for it.  (Paul Gruver)

            PS:  Out of desperation, one day last week, I filled my cheap alcohol lamp completely full with denatured alcohol.  Where it wouldn't draw with the reservoir only 1/2 full, with it completely full it worked like a champ, and I was able to singe off my wraps and complete my project rod.

              A fire extinguisher is a must. With lots of solvents and chemicals laying around, alcohol lamps, cork dust, bamboo shavings and electrical equipment like lathes, heat guns and ovens it is an accident just waiting to happen. Keeping your shop clean is only one part of the equation. Also don't fill an alcohol lamp with more fluid than you need at one time and don't use it close to the end of the bench where it can be knocked off.  (Scott Bearden)

      Most of the rodmaking supply places carry them, or:

      Home Training Tools

      For some interesting background, including the one in the chemistry set:

      Modern Microscopy

      Or eBay, where you can often find very unique lamps or one of the burners that can be modified into an alcohol lamp similar to the ones that place in PA sells.  (Larry Blan)

        For my part I stopped using a spirit lamp when I nearly set my shop alight and me with it.  (Gary Nicholson)

      American Science & Surplus has them (check this link) for $5.95.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

        I have one like this from Golden Witch (probably paid twice as much too.)  I especially like to be able to tip it sometimes without it rolling around.   (Neil Savage)

      Last I looked, Anglers Workshop still had them.  (John Channer)

        Shore International has them for 25.99 and a 12 pack of wicks for 4.99.  They are chrome plated brass, just like a few I saw on other sites, but are about 12-15 bucks less.  (Don Peet)

      I saw one in the Lee Valley store in Edmonton, Alberta on Friday.  (Greg Dawson)

      I was recently asked that question by a friend I taught to build a glass rod. He said he tried all over town and none for sale. So I set out on a mission for the parts to make my own. Went to the spice cabinet and found a couple of bottles (i.e. Vanilla Extract) that would do. None were empty enough to confiscate. Found a small bottle with a cork stopper at Michael's (a national chain crafts store) for 99 cents. Got an aluminum sleeve at True Value for 75 cents. The sleeve is about 1" long and the ID is just enough that I can slide a piece of cotton clothes- line through it with a little effort. Clothesline makes an excellent wick.

      Drill the cork to fit the aluminum  spacer  and  glue  in  place.  Thread 4-5" piece of rope through the spacer, add denatured alcohol and you are done. When I find a suitable size item to use as a lid I will wrap the neck with electricians tape to fit and it will be completely done. You really don't need a lid as every one I have had always allowed evaporation. I don't plan to store alcohol in it so I only put in enough to do my work. The only place it could get expensive is the cotton rope. I had it on hand in about 1/4" diameter. If you can't find any at home you have to buy an awful lot to get the 4-5" you need. Not sure how I would rig it but you can buy oil lamp wicks at Walmart for $2. They are flat and 1/2" wide. Located in the Coleman Stove section of sporting goods.   (Steve Shelton)


Hey, this old dog is trying to simplify things.  After over thirty years I tried wet planing.  Now I have another idea.  I used to file the nodes and it always left a rough finish that I had to sandpaper.  took some time.  I don't like to depress nodes.    At Harbor Freight I bought a very cheap Dremel kind of tool.  It has no power and is one speed and not very fast.  I put a half inch sanding disk on in and used that to grind off the nodes.   It is fast and easy and leaves a great finish.  I don't think an ordinary Dremel would be too good, because one of the real blessing of this little gizmo is that it has no power.  If I get aggressive it stops on me.    I am leery of high speed tools.  I have seen how  quick one can ruin a work piece.  (Ralph Moon)

    You know Ralph, that's a great idea. I've got one with variable speed and I bet that if set to lowest, it would operate the same way.  Thanks, never thought of that.  (Ren Monllor)

    Not only that but they can take a finger of just as quick.  (Gary Nicholson)

      That's an interesting point to make. I started off using my Dremmel for lots of things in rodmaking like dishing out behind the nodes, cutting the bamboo strips and dressing guide feet. I finally had enough close calls to call it quits. There are safer tools to use that don't spin between 5000 and 25000 RPMS. It still has its uses, but I try to keep it as safe as possible.  (Scott Bearden)

        Actually, My machine is so low powered that you can put that whirling a/s inch sanding disc and it will stop the little bugger.  I forget how much it cost but I think it was less than $10.  I do have two Dremels with high speed  and high power, but they are too aggressive.  (Ralph Moon)

    Good lord Ralph!  Take it back!  You're beginning to work with electrical tools now?  Say it ain't so!  Oh, the humanity!!!!! <VBSEG>  (Mark Wendt)

      You know Mark.   When I was in Pennsylvania, for quite some time I could not figure out why there were three tracks in the road.  Then I saw an Amish man going to town with a one horse buggy.  The funny thing is he got there, maybe not as fast as an automobile would.  but he did get there only on two wheels.  I kinda feel like that man.  Two wheels Moon.  (Ralph Moon)

        You know I only tease ya cause I like ya so much!  You could always upgrade and get a poop catcher for your horse.  (Mark Wendt)


Chris Raine sent us a video of his air vise (very cool) needed to relieve his carpal tunnel, Tony Spezio and others make a small cove on the pith side before they press, some file the nodes down before they split, some file after, some prep the nodes before they soak and some after, and the methods go on and on.  Then I watched Glenn Brackett in the video Trout Grass sand them down on his disc sander (to many sanding is close to heresy).  Personally it's about the only part of the entire process I dislike, so I'd like node prep to be over as easily and quickly as possible without having an adverse outcome on the cane.  I know many have stated on this list that sanding removes too much power fiber, but if that is the case why does a builder of Glenn's stature power sand?  (Tom Key)

    Personal opinion: I don't think it matters.  That is, until somebody does a test where they show one method is superior to the other in breaking strength at the node.  I need to bring a node section into work and look at it under a microscope to see exactly what the power fibers are doing at a node.

    I have tried both methods and have never had a rod break at a node yet.  But, then again I haven't built the number of rods most of our experts have.

    You may have opened a can of worms with this subject.  For every way you are  shown something there is another way to do it.  Just like tying flies.   (Pete Emmel)

    Yes, there are many methods for flatening nodes. All of which give a slightly different look to the finished rod. Which kinda ties this into how your rod could be judged or critiqued by others. I've tried several of the methods and haven't had a rod break yet. But then, I too haven't made that many rods.  I have settled on  soak, straighten and compress, rough, heat in oven to dry, and then sand as needed before planing approach. Works for me and I like the looks.  (Tom Kurtis)

    I run the strip through my rough beveler as the last 2 light passes with the node up to flatten them. Learned this from Chris Bogart a number of years ago when we were rooming together at the Catskill gathering.

    Does not seem to matter on trout rods anyway. Have fun and try it on a rod and do the same taper where you press them and see what you think. Make sure they end up with the dimensions. (Gordon Koppin)

    I personally file the nodes before I split, then I heat and press them before I rough bevel. I have just always done them this way and I feel comfortable doing them like this. I think you simply need to find a way you like and then stay consistent in order to repeat your results.

    Take a look at this it may help.  (Joe Arguello)

      I think you have expressed it perfectly in just a couple of words - "I feel comfortable doing it like this".

      I don't think it makes much difference what you do with the nodes, but concede that one has  to do something to flatten the enamel side so that it will sit accurately in the forms.

      There are lots of opinions about the strength and/or weakness of nodes, but it seems to me that the genus would most likely, over the aeons, worked out a pretty strong structure to support leaf growth.  Too much at stake to leave a weak, vulnerable zone every couple of feet. I don't think that they are weak at all.

      I file, scrape and plane mine, and I'm blowed if I can detect a problem with that.

      You may gather that I have a huge respect for the delicacy and finesse possible using a well tuned and razor sharp plane.  I assure you that I do not huck off bales of enamel and power fibers just to remove a nodal hump.

      My belief is that it does no more damage than heating the area to plasticity and deforming it under pressure into a foreign conformation.

      How's that for heresy?  (Peter McKean)

    I watched Glenn's method and had seen other methods demonstrated... Pulled out the disc sander and "bzzzt" node gone.... works fine and it's fast. Just put a slight "bow" at the node when you hit the disc and it leaves the surrounding enamel intact. No need to find a highly specialized or complicated method when the simplest will do well.  (Mike St. Clair)

      I use a small narrow belt sander to prep my nodes on quarter culm pieces. One must use the flexible part of the belt and not the part supported by a rigid back. The flexible belt takes off the raised node without digging into the surface fibers; if you push the culm into the belt supported by a rigid back you will dig into the node and the surface fibers - experience is the best teacher in this case. Hope this information helps.  (Frank Paul)

    I think how you handle nodes is somewhat dependent on the quality of your bamboo.  In the last few years I have been using better cane and thus need to do much less with the nodes.  A little sanding to take off the ridge is usually about all that is needed.  In more serious cases, I use a Kope node press, which is great!  IMHO.  (Scott Grady)

    Some of the great makers of all time were known to grab the available piece of cane, grind or plane off the node, plane it, glue and fish it. We are making fishing sticks not sub clearing rocket boosters for return entry of spacecraft. It's why I thank God for making me a poor caster. All rods seem wonderful to me! (Jerry Andrews)


One thing that has always interested me is the discussion on nodes and how to treat or not treat them. I would ask that you take a strip of cane and treat it as you normally do, then bend it in a circle until it breaks. Then drop a line here and lets us know the results, I have done more than a couple dozen strips this way and most of them broke between the nodes. I have sanded, filed, pressed and straightened in various combinations trying to find a way that my Arthritic hands can manage.  (Joe Redburn)

    You always hear that nodes are the weak spot, yet I have always had the same results. The strip breaks between the nodes. Kind of blows that theory out of the water as far as I'm concerned. Common sense tells me that if it is breaking at the weak spot, then why isn't it breaking at the node? This is another thing that will be argued about forever. To me it's just another myth.  (Will Price)

    It seems to me, and I've heard this echoed in other places as well, that bamboo develops the nodes in order to strengthen the culm, not weaken it.  Otherwise every pole subjected to steady winds as many are would resemble giant hoola-hoops.  Those would be somewhat more difficult to straighten, I think.   (Bob Brockett)

    I've done that and sometimes the strips break at a node, which tell me

    I've overheated the node and should throw the strip out anyway.  (John Channer)

    One of the benefits with soaking your strips is that you'll never  overheat a node.  The excess water in the strip will keep the strip  from overheating.  Water boils at 212 degrees, well within the range for straightening cane and treating nodes.  (Mark Wendt)

      I believe the trick to heat/pressing nodes IS the amount of moisture in the bamboo!! Nodes seem to press better from where I have my culma stored now, compared to where I had them stored. Before they were very dry. Now they are exposed to humidity changes. I believe that to be correct, that wet nodes will only reach 212°f when heated. If the nodes are too dry they seem to get brittle because of the extra heat it takes to make them somewhat pliable.  (David Dziadosz)

        Soaked nodes only take 30 to 45 seconds of heat to become pliable, no burning or charring. I find the nodes do not become brittle like dry heating.

        Just my .02  (Tony Spezio)

          I can't soak strips without making a BIG mess! However, the cane works so much easier than dry! I even wendt so far as making a vacuum/pressure vessel to soak my strips with 100+psi water pressure. Doesn't take long to soak strips that way.  (David Dziadosz)

            Reading this reminds me of when I was talking to Betty Marla (long time employee of Phillipson) she showed me a vessel made out of an old hot water heater where they would soak strips in water and ammonia under about 5 lbs. of pressure and I think she said they would use it a little hot also. then they would dry them on the drying table (table outside in the sun) If I was going to soak strips I would put a bottle of ammonia in the water and see if I could duplicate the beautiful color of those Phillipson rods.

            I wish you guys would quit giving me all of these ideas! Two things happen in just about this order:

            1) I lose a lot of sleep thinking about these things until I do them.

            2) I eventually do them.  (Joe Arguello)

              Is the ammonia added to the water for the color change? Oh, and I do use water from the water heater.  (David Dziadosz)

                This is probably before your time, but I remember when I was growing up the hot water for use in the home was heated by a wood burning stove, the stove had grates in it that the water would run through and it was stored in a tank that stood right beside the stove! This is the type of hot water heater that was used to make the soaking vessel that they used to soak the strips. I agree about opening the vessel, you need to be careful.  (Joe Arguello)

              I would make sure that if the strips were hot and under pressure in a Ammonia solution that I had a respirator on and good ventilation before opening the vessel.  Ammonia vapors and chlorine as well are kinda  hard on the bronchial  tubes.  (Ron Kubica)

          I agree Tony.  But I only heat my dry strips 35-40 seconds as well.  My methods are demo'd on video at David Bolin's blog.  And I think there's a link to it on my site too.  (Harry Boyd)

            This is the beauty part about all of this. We do what works the best for us. My preference is soaking.  (Tony Spezio)

              I heat about the same amount of time using soaked strips. My original interest in soaking was the claim that it would eliminate the charring that I was getting. It does that, and I think there are some other benefits. My first few poles of bamboo were heavily infested with molds. I soak with a disinfectant strength bleach mixture. That pretty much kills off the mold and spores. That way I'm not breathing the stuff later during machining. I'm not a moldaphobe, but I suspect that breathing the stuff ain't good for ya.  (Larry Lohkamp)


I have a new poll on my blog regarding how you flatten nodes.  What do you think?  (David Bolin)

    I file and press nodes, but I reckon everyone files at least some prior to whatever else they do, n'est pas?  (Rick Crenshaw)

    Heh, you should have a spot that says Press, File and Sand.  (Mark Wendt)

      I agree, for me it's not a one step process! File, press, and sand in that order.  (Joe Arguello)

        That is what I do as well + a tad of scraping during enamel removal..  (Don Anderson)

          At what point in the proceedings do you usually "cuss" and "gnash?"  And/or:  what's anyone's incidence of "re-emergent nodes" following heat treatment?  (Steve Yasgur)

        Maybe I should have said, "Do you press the nodes?".  The answers were meant to be somewhat (but not totally) exclusive.  If you answer "File", then you don't press.  If you answer "Sand" (as in a belt sander), then you don't press or file to flatten.  Maybe "all of the above" would have helped.  Press, file, sand and then cut them out and go nodeless...  (David Bolin)

          How 'bout "none of the above"? I plane them, does this fall in the "file" or "sand" category?  (Ron Larsen)

            I displace them.  (Tony Spezio)

    I always start with filing the outside Culm at the nodes before flaming.  After splitting they end up going through my Multi-Track Cane Beveler.  Usually the beveler does a pretty good job of flattening but sometimes a Simonds 2nd cut file is necessary and then there are those times that it's better to heat and use a press for the up and down or the left to right node.

    Ultimately it all gets sanded so I'm definitely an "all of the above" guy.  (Doug Alexander)

    I, at one time or the other, have tried all the above and have even experimented with extremely light passes through a Medved style beveler.   (Bill Bixler)


I was looking to see if someone had come up with a real number for the plastic temperature of bamboo when I happened upon one that supports high temperature heat treating and takes a stab at what is going on in the bamboo... but I don't want to disturb anyone's belief systems so soon, so if you get threatened by research that doesn't necessarily support your beliefs, then you should probably skip the rest of this.

I found a report online that is no longer available. The short version is that samples were subjected to 160C and 200C, with a room temperature control. Two things were measured MOR (modulus of rupture, whatever that is) and MOE, which we all know is important. MOR decreased with increasing temperature 196,189, and 131 MPa for control, 160C, 200C.

The MOE increased with increasing temperature 12.59, 12.76,and 13.16 KPa. Even more interesting is that these researchers had access to chemical analysis and noted about the 200C treatment -

"There was a significant decrease in MOR, but not in MOE, after the specimens were subjected to steam at high temperature. Alpha-cellulose was very stable and the lignin content increased slightly when temperature was increased to 200 °C. However, hemicellulose content substantially decreased as temperature increased. At 200 °C there were decreases in MOR, hemicellulose and pH but increases in hot water extractives, benzene–ethanol extractives, 1% NaOH extractives and lignin content."

The paper did not mention time/temperature for the test, and it does not address what happens at 190C, or 180C, or... but the same chemical changes are probably still occurring, but to a lesser state. This is consistent with the findings of Milward, Schott, Baldauski, and all the others that have done controlled and ad hoc heat treatment testing. It supports the idea that low temperature baking is drying and not what one would consider tempering the bamboo. It also makes it obvious, to me at least, that uneven oven temperatures produce uneven distribution of MOE in the strips.  (Larry Lohkamp)

    Interesting paper.  I don't think it contradicts what most of us believe about heat treating bamboo, though.  The modulus of rupture decreases at 200C (392F)because the bamboo becomes brittle.  We find that begins to happen in our ovens above 190C (375F).  And Wolfram Schott showed that 200C is the critical temperature where bamboo begins to degrade VERY quickly.

    Relatively constant MOE for various temperatures:  Well some might not agree with this.  I've done a lot of MOE testing for various temperatures and times and found NO statistical improvement in MOE.

    I think the comments about reduced water reabsorption after heat treating are perhaps most significant.  I believe that this reduced absorption is the major benefit to heat treating in that it reduces "setting." (Al Baldauski)

    MOR, or Modulus of Rupture is the "material's ability to resist deformation under load."

    In other words, they measure the material's highest stress within the material at the time of rupture, or to borrow from the poet, "the sundering of the fibers."  (Mark Wendt)

      Thanks to everybody that sent me a definition of MOR. I probably wouldn't have gotten around to looking it up yet. I was looking for something else when I ran across the paper. Finding anything like that, that even comes close to rod building, is rare and I thought some of you would find it interesting. The references at the end of the paper may also be of interest if you can access them. Every time I have tried to use the references since I left an R/D job, I have run into lots of pay to see it road blocks. That really aggravates me, since much of US research is paid for with tax money. We get to pay  for something we've already paid for.

      I was really looking for the plastic temperature for bamboo. What temperature do I have to get the bamboo before I treat the nodes? What is the temperature where they stop popping back up when my back is turned. "Hot enough to barely hold' and 'until the corners char' are not my idea of a reproducible process. It seems that nobody, rod maker or not, has determined what that temperature is. We know that its below heat treating temperatures because our strips come out of the oven straight. And we know its more than a hot afternoon in the desert because the poles in my loft aren't sagging. There's a lot of degrees in between. If one of youse guys with chopstick bending testers would stick a TC in a sample and measure the point at which it goes floppy, it'd help a lot of fledgling node smashers.  (Larry Lohkamp)

        The problem is the internal temperature is not the same as the exterior and node width and depth thickness differs slightly from node to node especially if you split strips. I can't see that you could accurately ascertain the interior temperature of each node whilst you are working.

        The best way I think is to work both by feel and visually. I displace nodes by sanding a depression into the pith side as per Tony Spezio. I then soak the strips for 5 days. When it comes to node straightening I heat with an alcohol (meths) burner. I find that steam starts coming out of the sanded depression just before the node becomes 'plastic'. The node feels just right, 'firmly plastic' when bent across the node, at about the same time as a small trace of sootiness/charring appears on the edges. (Steve Dugmore)

          Further to the point, I flex the node a little as it approaches the right point to feel for the plasticity. If you feel a 'crack' in the node you know you have flexed too hard and too early. You will only do that a couple of times as part of the learning curve. Toss the strip if you do.  (Steve Dugmore)

    I guess these are the result of a long term heat treatment?   Given some of these components of the rod can't "go away", but are converted, perhaps. Possibly the hemicelluose?

    I gather from your summary, these results were the result of high temperature steam treatment.  So it is not exactly just a dry high temperature treatment, as steam/water can be a reactant as well as carry out steam distillation, which might explain the loss of high boiling components.

    MoR or modulus of Rupture is defined here.

    Modulus of elasticity or Young's modulus is the ratio of stress to strain. Within the elastic range below the proportional limit, this ratio is a constant for a given piece of wood, making it useful in static bending tests for determining the relative stiffness of a board. The modulus of elasticity is normally measured in pounds per square inch (PSI) and is abbreviated as MOE or E. Values for E relating to wood properties are commonly in terms of million PSI;  for  simplicity,  a  board  with  a  modulus  of  elasticity  of 2,100,000 PSI. (2.1 x 106) may be reported as 2.1E.

    Modulus of Rupture is the maximum load carrying capacity of a member. It is generally used in tests of bending strength to quantify the stress required to cause failure. It is reported in units of PSI.  (Dave Burley)


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