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What do you use when you sending nodes,  if you don't press them? Bob Maulucci used a 12" disc sender, is this a good idea?  (Olaf Kundrus)

    I have a sanding disk attached to my lathe head. Works real good.  But you can plane the nodes off with a fine set block plane. Take your pick I use both methods.  (Gary Nicholson)

    I always press my nodes but for sanding I like to use a belt sander.  (Joe Arguello)

    Is this a good idea? LOL there's a can o' worms!

    IMHO...there's nothing wrong with sanding nodes. A million Heddon rods can't all be wrong.

    I flame rods normally. I like to sand the nodes before flaming to keep the nodes a bit darker and smaller looking than they would be if sanded afterwards.  But that's just me. I use a combo sander made by Delta. 8" disk, one inch belt.

    I use 220 grit on the belt and the older the better. I still heat and press and after all that, they still aren't flat. I then use a scraper to flatten and then more paper to smooth. In my case, the sander simply replaces filing the nodes.  (Mike Shay)

      Sanded, Filed ,Planed ..........

      I have used them all without any bad effects.  (Paul Blakley)

    Many times I have watched one well-known builder use a hand file after flaming. (mjo)

    For those who do sand like our friend Eamon here, what kind of node pattern do you use? I mean, that it would seem that a 2x2x2 would be better than a 3x3 since that would place fewer sanded nodes together. Of course this assumes that you believe the long accepted rule of thumb that sanding nodes weakens them. Has anyone ever really tested the strength of glued up blanks with sanded nodes vs. heated and pressed nodes?  (Larry Puckett)

      "Of course this assumes that you believe the long accepted rule of thumb that sanding nodes weakens them."

      Sanding nodes does not weaken them, heating and pressing them does. Nodal fibers get broken when they are heated and pressed. I have proven this so many times and various shows,  talks, gatherings, and at every workshop I hold. Nodal fibers do not run straight. They bend and twist in various directions interlocking with each other.

      Take a split strip and place the unpressed node at the center or apex (highest stress point) and try to break the strip at the node. 99% of the time it will break to the side of the node. The node is actually the strongest part of the strip/culm. Now take a strip with a heated and pressed node and do the same thing and 99% of the time the strip will break at the node. You can even place the pressed node away from the apex and it will still most likely break at the node.  (Jeff Fultz)

        HEAR!! HEAR!!  (Ralph Moon)

        Interesting.  The testing I did proved the opposite.  January 2006 edition of Power Fibers.  (Gary Marshall)

          Just a note and opinion from a biology major, there is no such thing as proof in scientific method. Remember when working with a natural material, absolutes are funny little things. Never say  never   and   never   say   always.  Sometimes  we  can over-engineer these things.  (Phil Smith)

        I understand what you are saying - so does this suggest that those who recommended sawing straight lengths of cane as opposed to splitting also end up with stronger rods?  I am yet to make my first rod and am still gathering information and this area is one that confuses me.

        If I can cut straight lengths with a fine bandsaw (and I acknowledge I will have some wastage) then I do  not need to be flattened with heat but only sand / plane rods?  (Darcy Geale)

        Everyone is somewhat different on this and equally correct.

        I flame, split, cut to length, split again, heat, press, file, sand, maybe press again, maybe sand again, plane, oven heat, plane, glue and call it a day (or a week or two).  (Robert Clarke)

      I have never tested it, but then I never saw a rod break caused by a weakened node.  I am of the opinion that while you can remove too  much of the strength by overly vigorous sanding, it really takes a whole lot.  Remember that there were rod makers who tuned their rods up after gluing by sanding the flats. I am inclined to think that this whole affair of sanding power fibers has turned into an urban legend.  (Ralph Moon)

      I prefer to soak the strips and "displace" the nodes. That leaves just the small ridge to file off after the node is displaced. Did an article of this for Power Fibers issue # 6. I have gone to a 3X3 spacing to keep the nodes as far back from the tip end as I can. Just my way of doing it.  (Tony Spezio)

      I have done it both ways pressing and sanding or just plane them off. And I can honesty say it makes no difference. I have been making bamboo rods since 1987, that's selling them and I have never had a rod break at the nodes.

      So I do it the easiest way sand them off.

      In fact, reheating the nodes stands more chance of damaging the strip. Most of the time I use a 3x3 node stagger.  (Gary Nicholson)

    I file them with a mill file until the enamel is all gone all the way down to the divot in the middle. Then I press them the rest of the way. So I guess I do both, sand & press.   (Phil Smith)

    I soak and straighten with my node press in both directions. You can use a node press to straighten the node in the same way you press or squash the node. Instead of crushing it in a vise use the node press to straighten it.  (Dave Norling)

    So are you guys saying that you can just sand/grind/plane the nodes flat without any regard for the hooplah over damaging power fibers?  That would sure make life easier.  (Bruce Johns)

      Ahhh, but Bruce,

      Is easier always better?  There are many ways to accomplish the goal of making a bamboo rod.  The easiest is probably to buy blanks from someone else.  The least expensive way may well be to just buy finished rods, even classic rods, and save all the investment in tools, time, and energy.  The most attractive way may be to use Tony Spezio's method for sanding away just the nodal ridge.  The most efficient way may be too.....

      Well, you get the idea.  (Harry Boyd)

      I have no hesitation at all in saying yes.........

      This will however leave a rather elongated node effect on the finished rod that will be spurned by some, as a lot of admirers like to see a small node indicative of a pressed nodal area.

      I am dodging the bullets.  (Paul Blakley)

        For what it’s worth, in a couple of video clips of the “boo boys” when they were at Winston showed them sanding the nodes on a disc sander.  I do some sanding and some pressing after flaming and before roughing the strips.  I don’t seem to be able to get the nodes flat enough with just pressing.  I haven’t any problem with breakage, so I don’t think I am damaging the power fibers to any great extent with the sanding.  In my opinion it may be more of an aesthetic issue than a structural issue.  (Tom Mohr)

      It is considered a crime by some, but many rod makers  do it including some of the best known. Some rodmakers have also learnt that heating and pressing nodes can be destructive of the node and can even cause finished strips to part at the node when given a final flex just before being glued up.

      A quarter sheet vibrating sander with a thin sheet of hard plastic glued to the face under the sand paper works well and produces a nice finish.  (Ian Kearney)

      By the sound of it, yes. For some of us its the only way we get any rods made at all! If I laboriously pressed every node and straightened every section I'd need to retire. I even scraped an existing butt section down to a different size to a quite radical extent recently and the result was entirely as predicted. And it has not broken, taken a set or anything else in the somewhat abusive test treatment it has subsequently endured. There is a great deal of somewhat adipose and spurious craftsmanship going on out there!  (Robin Haywood)

    Sand, file, grind, press, heat; don’t sand, don’t grind, don’t press, don’t heat, sure is making it hard for me to decide what I should be wanting to do if I ever get that far along. I guess I’ll have to try some of each if I “ever” even get that far. Not only are the opinions and findings valuable, they are mind boggling.  I thought the decision on a 9 ½ Stanley compared to a new model was hard enough. I figured I would find one way or one person to follow as I try this art, but now I see I’ll have to try several and follow several before deciding or knowing anything for myself.

    Maybe one of you might want to adopt me.  (Jerry Woods)

      Where are you located?  My best advice on this subject has always been to pick one voice for your first rod. Obviously good rods are being built all across the spectrum of various methods and techniques.  (Timothy Troester)

        I agree with Tim.  Save the confusion for later.  Choose the book that seems to make the most sense to you and do it that way.  I am not aware of any rodmaking book on the market that in following the author's advise will not yield a fine rod that will catch fish.  Especially the newer generation of texts (Garrison through the present).  Get the process under your belt, then question things that seemed to not go smoothly for you for whatever reason.

        That being said, I am a hopeless tinkerer.  This is where the majority of my time in a rod is usually invested.  In my defense, I have to believe that someday I will settle into a groove that works for me, and that the tinkering will slow.  (Carl DiNardo)

          Tinkering is a large part of the fun unless you're a commercial maker.  Then maybe you don't have time to try out a lot of different techniques and tools with the chance of ruining a rod or having it fail for a customer.  (Neil Savage)

            "Tinkering is a large part of the fun"

            100% correct.  I love it.  (Carl DiNardo)

      If it your first rod don’t worry about it to much just pick a way and go for it. In the end we all find our own way to do things. All these methods work.  (Gary Nicholson)

      I think the best thing is to find a respected maker and take a class.  You'll get one-on-one instruction, see what it's all about and you don't have to buy all the tools  and make all the mistakes on your own.  Go to and then click "Rodmakers" followed by "Makers".  Go to the web sites listed and pick one who offers classes.  You can choose from various parts of the country depending on whether you want to try the fishing somewhere (in the evening or at the end of the class)  or would rather not have to travel so far.  (Neil Savage)

      The best advise I could give you in learning to make bamboo rods is to buy Wayne Cattanach's video and to attend a rodmakers gathering the first chance you get. With Wayne's video you'll learn nearly everything needed to make a bamboo rod. There's many technique's that are shown in the video that make it easy to understand the building process. Trying to do some of these things through reading just don't compare to watching it done on video. Many of the technique's I now use in making rods differ from the video but it was the foundation of rodmaking for me. Attending a rodmaking gathering is another great way to help you with tons of questions you'd like answered. You'll also meet some of the nicest guys and gals on the planet.  (Jim Bureau)

      Used 9 1/2's are usually available  on eBay for around $20-$25. I, too, am a beginner and have now purchased 3 on eBay and had a friend groove one .003. Works like a charm when getting close to final dimensions.  (Bob Gansberg)

      I follow 3 simple rules: keep it simple, keep it inexpensive, be creative. 

      It works for me.  (David Gerich)

      I just finished my first rod (actually 2 since I made a rod out of some practice sections that looked too good to be fireplace kindling). A lot of different ways worked and doing practice strips and sections using garden center cane was a big help on the learning curve for me. Also, every piece of bamboo was different. I tried 2 12 ft 1 inch poles, a 1 1/2 inch 5 ft, and a 2 inch diameter 8 ft for practice pieces before going at a 12 ft pole from Golden Witch. They were all different. First 2 poles were just for flaming splitting, node and rough planing practice. Next 2 were taken through final planing and 5 sections glued up with 3 left good enough for a 3 piece rod. The last piece made a 3 piece 2 tip rod with a lot of left overs (but not enough for a 2 tip second rod). One thing I would do different next time is splitting the butt to 18 instead of 24 pieces due to the split wander I got even with the practice I did. This is suggested in Maurer's book. I also got a  copy of Cattanach, used Harry Boyd's articles on the internet and information on the rodmakers site. I made the planing form from a super article on that site also. Also made a binder, heat gun oven, and tools for cutting the 60 degree groove. I have only seen one decent bamboo rod (other than the one I've made) and that was about 20 years ago and half way across the Orvis store in Manchester. Not that I couldn't but every other opportunity I had I preferred to spend the time available on the Mettawee instead of in the Orvis store. I have never yet personally met anybody who has made a bamboo rod. Everything I did was over the internet. Worked great for me and all the folks I met over the internet are terrific. I could not have done it without them. Of course I did take 2 1/2 years to do it. Other than spending time in taking 2 1/2 years for a first rod I did get carried away and accumulate an inordinate number of block planes and they almost all work. In my opinion  the only ones that don't are Miller's Falls (I have there 16 and 36) because the mouth does not close tight enough. Also the late model Record 9 1/2 (the one with IRWIN cast in the back) for the same reason, in addition it has a very uneven machined bed to support the blade, but careful filing can fix that. The other older Records with Marples or England cast into the body are fine. And, finally, Ohio block planes, they proved to me that even in the good old days somebody was making lousy tools. Of course either a Lie-Nielsen or Veritas of current vintage can do a 0.0005 shaving out of the box. But most eBay Stanleys can plane a decent 0.001 shaving with minimal tuning and a sharp blade. (Joe Hudock)


Now that I’m in my new house with a full basement to play in I’ve decided to add some new tools and try some new tricks in the new shop. First tool/trick is buy a 1” vertical belt sander and sand nodes instead of heating/displacing/crushing them. The question for those who  sand nodes is what grit sandpaper do you use? Also, do you sand before splitting the culms, or after you split them a time or two, or do you sand the final splits? For those that flame, how do you deal with the blond stripes exposed by sanding the node?

The other tool/trick is to build a router powered beveller. So, does anyone soak their strips before running them through the beveller or do you just run the dry ones through? I am also assuming that you heat treat the strips before beveling them? Any specific things to look out for? (Larry Puckett)

    Congrats on your new shop.

    If your sander is like mine, there is a stiff back just above the table to sand against.  Someone here suggested moving the node up above the hard backing to get sanding more curved.  I haven't tried it yet, but I don't doubt it is a good suggestion.

    Build some kind of dust control to protect you and the whole family from sub-5 micron dust.

    I have the 2HP dust controller from Harbor Freight and it is only $200. I added the <5 micron felt bag from another supplier.  (Dave Burley)


For those that use a belt sander on their nodes, what grit are you using?  (Larry Lohkamp)

    I've used the original belt that came with my belt sander.  I can't find a number on it but if I were to guess, I'd say it was probably 60 grit.  It's pretty course and I have been thinking of getting a new one that has a finer grit but so far it works for me and I have not had the ambition to buy a new one.

    I just use a cheap one from Harbor freight.  (Scott Bahn)

    120 grit.  (Pete Emmel)

      I use 120 grit also.  (Tom Vagell)

    I use 400 grit on a 1 x 42 belt sander.  I use a very light touch, if not, it is easy to gouge like you might with a file,.  (Jim Sobota)


Have any of you ever used a palm sander to take down nodes? Are there any detrimental effects? pros and cons? I am still trying different methods and looking for the quickest way that gives the best results.  (Jon Holland)

    If you have a Dremel, I use the drum sander with 250 grit to take down the nodes.  Works well and quickly.  (Brian Morrow)

    A recent suggestion on the list was to use the 2" drum sander "bits" in a drill press.  I picked some up from the local Menards and the mandrel and the sandpaper drums cost less than $10.  They work really well, just sand the node down while slightly flexing the strip to make it more difficult to hit any of the area around the node.  Also this setup can be used to sand the pith side of the node also to create relief for pressing the node in the vise, ala Tony Spezio.  (John Wagner)


Although I've been on the list for years,  I'm just getting around to preparing strips for my first rod (3rd attempt).  The first attempt was 8 years ago where I put the strips in a soaking tube and had an auto accident the next day.  They are still soaking!!  When I get up the nerve to open the tube I'll find out if they are usable.  I'll let you know how that goes.  

The 2nd attempt was 2 weeks ago where I thought I'd be a bit adventurous and try Dave Bolin's bench planer technique to get the nodal dam flat and the strips all the same thickness prior to flattening the nodes.  It worked great, except for taking too much of the pith.  Now the strips are about 1/8" thick.  Too thin for the Paine 101.  At the advice of my friends Harry, Bob Nunley and Tony, I've put them aside for a later Paul Young "Midge", maybe one of Tony's "1 weight" rods.

Now comes attempt #3.  I've flamed and split a new pole, hand planed the pith side of the nodes and started to file node ridges (I would have taken them to a disk sander as Bob showed me, but I don't own one and I wanted to get going).  While filing, I realized how easy it is  to roll the file onto the rind and cut into power fibers.  Then I remembered that I own a Dremel tool which also has a cable extension.  I also have a 1/2" diameter sanding drum so I thought "what the hell, how bad can it go?". I gave it a shot and it worked great.

With the extension wand and a 120-grit drum, on 2nd slowest speed, I had great control to hit just the ridge.  It went very quickly too.

Has anyone else used this method? I haven't seen anything about on the list, but maybe that's because I was too caught up in the other stuff going on the list.

Sorry if this post is too long, but I thought maybe we needed a break.  (Denis Dunderdale)

    I have a Dremel but before I attempted using it for that purpose I bought a 1" sanding drum for my drill (like Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor, I wanted more power! Arrrgh, Argggh, Argggh). It worked so well that I never gave thought to using the Dremel for that purpose again. Same principle though.  (Will Price)

    I discovered this myself on the last rod I built. I used a Dremel (actually a Harbor Freight Clone) with a 1/2" drum running full speed. I did it on the individual strips. Sitting in a chair, I held the tool vertical between my legs so I could look down on it and see the ridge and hump in profile as I brought it in contact with the drum. I found I had very precise control taking off the ridge and relieving the pith side behind the hump for pressing, and it was really quick. I think this is going to be my method from now on. I may make a fixture to hold the tool.  (Mike McGuire)

    If you use a Dremel I think you will find you have the same problem rolling off the ridge into the part you don't want to cut. I suggest you use the file as before EXCEPT instead of filing crossed-ways to the culm, file the node up and down the culm. You may (or will) hit the non-nodal bamboo parts but you will scuff off the enamel and not cut deep into the power fibers with the edge of the file as you would filing across the culm. But, as we all learn to say, "to each his own."  (Timothy Troester)

      Here's what I use, with a 120g belt.  It does a beautiful job.  Takes me about 5-6 minutes to sand all the nodes on a 12' culm.  (Harry Boyd)

        Harry, are you splitting the culm before sanding, or do you do the whole pole first?  (Steve Yasgur)

          I can't recall who suggested it, but someone made a 3/4" thick plywood slab with about an 18" radius circle cut onto it, so the arc was about 18" across, and stood it on edge. He attached a pair of small (for want fo a better term) shelf brackets to it near the ends of the radius, and placed the cane strip into the device so that it was under the brackets and arced with the node at top-dead-center and when you did ANY action to it, the cane "fell away" from the point of contact and was therefore protected from damage by the tool.  (Art Port)

        I notice that it provides a slightly flexible backing., I want to flatten the backs of strips for the Morgan mill. Will it make a flat surface?  (Doug Easton)

      I don't use files too much anymore, but when I started, and filing before splitting, I ground off the edges of the files and softened the corners so they wouldn't cut into the fibers. I also cut off and rounded, the wide end of the file. Now I press/sand the nodes after splitting. I use 2x2x2 spacing and the only nodes I have to deal with are the ones actually going into the rod. I have two nodes either at the very end and under the tip top or under the ferrule. These I don't even heat, I just sand them down. I made a sander from strips cut from a SuperRsander. Heat/press/ hit with the coarse side/smooth with the fine side/done!  (David Dziadosz)

    I have not tried the Dremel, but I have a Dremel or two and a few of those extensions.  I might give that a shot.  Good idea.  (Rick Crenshaw)


I got my bamboo and proceeded to prep my nodes with the file and sander... Question though, How smooth does the node area need to be when I'm finished sanding?  I think its pretty close but being new I’m just not too sure. I can still feel maybe the slightest bump or rough area around the node but the ridge is definitely gone, is that OK? I don’t want to go too far and hurt fiber but wasn't sure if I should sand down a little more.  (Chuck Smith)

    For me, I always make sure the strip fits flat in the form regardless of how the nodes are prepared.  If you have a “bump” the strip will ride a little high in the form and increase your chances of having a decreased dimension in the final strip.  I always prep the nodes, then heat, then when I get ready to put them in the planing form do a last check over the entire strip to make sure all the nodes lid flat and sweeps in the strip are straightened so the strip lies against the side of the form for the length of the strip. I personally like to scrape off the enamel prior to planing, however other builders scrape the enamel towards or at the end of the planing.  (Tom Mohr)

    I have followed the method given in Cattanach's book. Its a really great book and has been indispensable to me.

    Basically I just file away at the nodal ridge. First with a double cut(flat bastard) file and then with a single cut 10" mill bastard file. Just need to be careful to not slice up the bamboo with the sharp corners of the file. Files with "safe" edges would be better but I have not found any around here. I stop filing just as the last of the dirt in the nodal lip is filed off. The node is smooth but not flat. There is still a nodal lump left that is mostly pressed out later when I straighten the split strips.

    Using files is faster than hand sanding but does require some care to avoid gouges from the file edges.

    I have just finished rod #7 so a bit of a beginner yet. On the next rod I may try using a sanding belt on an expander wheel, as some other folks do, and expect it to be faster with less chance of gouging the bamboo than using files.  (Joe Hudock)

      The first thing ('98) I did with the files that I planned to use on nodes was to grind off the edges and soften the corners! I even cut off and rounded the tang at the end of the file. Then you can't gouge the bamboo and they're comfortable to the hand.  (David Dziadosz)

    If you're talking about prepping the nodal ring on the culm before splitting, then what I would suggest is go far enough that the black (or dark brown) line at the nodal ridge is gone. That line is basically good old Chinese dirt that's stuck in the groove of the node, so if you still see that, you still have a groove. Once that's gone, split away.

    By the way, and I know this isn't "by the book" but I don't work my nodes at all with the culm still in tact. I split the culm in quarters, work out the nodal dams then split to my final desired width, then I work the nodes from there. Still, i do the same thing. I file them until the dark ring is gone.

    Now, if you're talking about working the final strips, Press those puppies dead flat! Tom is right on that, but I think he thought you were asking about final flattening (Tom, correct me if I misunderstood).  (Bob Nunley)


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