Bamboo Tips - Tips Area - Nodes - Straightening

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Take as much time as necessary (if you're not building nodeless) to get nodal areas perfectly flat, and recheck every strip before starting to plane.  (Winston Binney)


Much of the "stress" of straightening nodes might be relieved if you:  1) reduce the dimensions of your strips as much as possible before heat straightening:  2) realize that straightening nodes should not be thought of as a "once and done" task -- repeated heating while the dimensions are still large can damage a node unnecessarily;  3)  even the most troublesome nodes can be straightened quickly and effortlessly after the planing  is underway -- all the way up until the final .020"

Do not use a vice to press nodes, as vices cannot recognize plasticity, or how much pressure may be "too much."  Learn to work with your hands.  They are capable of learning what a vice cannot.  (Bill Harms)

    This is one of my methods of straightening nodes, adjacent nodes after planing is started; especially for a dimple at adjacent node.

    Prepare a brass or NS (or any) round bar stock with around 0.78 diameter, 2-3 inches long. Turn it on the lathe using threading byte (60 degree point byte). Just make two or three straight V channels (not a thread) around the middle part of the bar stock with different depths (for a tip and a butt strip), each V channel is apart about 0.4" to each other.  Ask SWMBO to use her clothes iron.  Put the bar stock on the flat table. Put a node (dimple) part of a triangle strip to be straighten, in the appropriate depth of  V channel of the bar stock with enamel side up. Put the well heated iron on the dimple and move the iron forward and back until the dimple part is well heated.    The enamel side of the dimple will be aligned (straighten) with the sole of the iron. For a pre-planed strip, use flat part of the bar stock in a similar manner. The completed strip tend to bent at the node since adjacent dimple is straightened.   Then put the strip in the V channel of planing form and press with clothes iron from enamel side of the strip to straighten the bend.

    Though this is not perfect, it works sometimes. Using heat and hand is of-course quicker than this. <G>  (Max Satoh)


Tony's article on node displacing in the latest issue of Power Fibers has me interested enough to give it a try, but I still don't get how to proceed after flattening the nodes.  On most nodes, the crooks in the strip going side to side are much more pronounced than the bumps in the vertical dimension.  After flattening the node, don't the bumps come back when you reheat the node to straighten the strip?  How about when heat treating?  I haven't tried soaking strips yet, but I've heard that soaked strips shrink by nearly 20% when heat treated.  Doesn't this make the string so loose that the nodes go back to their original shape?  (Robert Kope)

    I have two small vises. One is set up much as the one pictured in Tony's article. The other has two wooden blocks of hard maple on one side, spaced approx. 5/8" apart. On the other jaw is a single wooden block of hard maple that will just fit between the space on the opposite side. I use this vise and its jaws to straighten by displacement the doglegs at the nodes. I've been thinking for some time to make a curved set of jaws, as this would allow me to straighten a wider area. Maybe something like Ray Gould has in his book.

    What I do is heat the node, work the sides of the node, and quickly put the strip into the other vise for flattening the node. It really only takes me about a minute and a half per node to heat and straighten, though invariably some nodes take longer.

    Soaking the strips for an extended period of time has a great affect on how well the nodes stay displaced. By soaking a minimum of 3 days, though I think 4-5 is better, the nodes stay as they were when I began the heat treating. The only time I've noticed nodes popping back is from not having soaked the strips long enough. I believe this is due to the lack of  moisture content of the bamboo, and it not providing a good heat transfer into the strip. The greater moisture content, coupled with extreme heat seems to get deep into the strip, and all the displacing stays put, yet the strip seems to suffer no damage.

    Yes, the strips shrink by a considerable amount, and yes the string is somewhat more loose than when put into the oven, but no the nodes don't pop back.  (Martin-Darrell)

      I have not measured a strip before soaking, but I bet it swells during soaking, then shrinks again during the heat treating.  Of course you have to take this into consideration when rough planing, but I would think that if a strip was measured, soaked and heat treated, that the final dimension would be very close to the original.

      I too soak and displace.  Struggled a long time on my first rod trying to straightened strips dry until the list suggested soaking.  (Kurt Clement)

        The strips certainly swell while soaking. I tie tip strips together, and butt strips together when soaking, and the thread is always tighter when I remove the strips from the water. I've never measured dry strips vs. wet, as I only cared about the final outcome. Without doubt the strips after heat treating are smaller than before. I suspect that  is  the  case  for  nonsoaked  strips,  as  well.  (Martin-Darrell)

        I don't know if anyone else has tried this, but I thought you mite like to know this.

        I soaked my strips for 48 hours,  then planed using a Morgan Hand Mill. I decided to take a strip all the way to final dimension and see how much shrinkage I would get.

        I wiped the strip down with a towel and started planing.  I took my time, around 15 minutes, to get to the final dimension.  The strip seemed fairly dry by then. I took measurements at different locations and wrote them down.

        I came back out 24 hours later and measured again. No change! I came back out another 24 hours later (48 hours total) and measured again.  No change in my measurements.

        It looks to me, that the strips can't be swelling too much when soaking, or shrinking much when drying. As the dimensions were the same when I planed them wet and rechecked them 48 hours after drying.  (Dave LeClair)

          That's interesting, Dave. In the drying tests I did, it took 26 hours to go from complete saturation to original weight of a test piece. Granted, this was but a small piece, and certainly it would take longer for a complete strip to dry.

          I know, only from observation, that the strips do swell while being soaked but not by how much, and have no idea what happens after that. Now you've given me something else to which I must pay attention. ;o) I just today heat treated some strips, and I know what the dimension was prior to heat treating. I'll check them tomorrow and see how much they might have shrunk.  (Martin-Darrell)

            Yes,  I think the strips will shrink some when heat treating.  I rough out my strips with my power mill and then heat treat. Then I soak them prior to the final planing.

            I was usually taking them down to around .020" oversize and then let them dry for a day or so, before taking them to final size.  I decided to take them to final size, when wet and see what difference, if any, it would make.

            What I came up with was a surprise to me. I thought the strips would shrink, at least a little. But, from what I can tell, they didn't shrink at all, from wet to dry.

            So, from now on, I will plane all the way to final dimensions with wet strips. It will be a lot faster than what I was doing.  (Dave LeClair)

              Tony Spezio soaks his strips before heat treating, then rough planes, binds, and dries/heat treats. I'm trying this method and I'll try to remember to measure and weigh some of my strips before and after soaking.

              It would make sense that heat treated bamboo does not change dimension much (at all?) when soaked, given what we know about the effects of heat treating. I'll bet that's not true for untempered bamboo but we'll see...(Barry Kling)

                In some of the testing I've done the strips were completely saturated, then allowed to return to their original weight, then heat treated, then reimmersed in water. They achieved the exact same weight after heat treating as they did prior to it. Now, I could only measure in grams and grains, and I suspect that when we say that the heat treated cane can no longer hold as much moisture that we are applying this on a molecular level, or bound moisture. Everything I've done on a "free" moisture level shows that heat treating has no effect. What I've done, however, is in no way conclusive. Other testing has shown a change in measurements prior to heat treating and afterward of: width -- 4% -5%; depth  --  2%  -  6%,  and  length  --  <  1%.  (Martin-Darrell)

          I wonder what might happen if you were to pop the strip you mentioned into the oven at 225 degrees for half an hour.  It sure would be great if there were still no change.   (Bill Harms)

            Many years ago, when I first got into rod making, I measured several test strips, baked at different temps, then remeasured when cool.  I found up to 10% shrinkage!  Also accounted for why the butt sections were undersize in my first couple of rods.  (Ted Knott)

            I've been heating strips at 225 degrees. F. for 30 min., then 325 degrees. F. for 20+ min. and have noticed no shrinkage.  (Hank Woolman)

          Very interesting. At what point were the strips heat treated, if they were at all?  (Barry Kling)

            I rough mill the strips, then heat treat, then soak for a day or two, then final plane them.  (Dave LeClair)

          At 48 hours, its likely that the strip isn't getting soaked all the way through and planning to final actually takes you past the soaked cane into mostly dry.  This is good to know. Perhaps soaking for 3 to 4 days for handmill users is not in our best interest. When doing the final planning I don't soak, only soak when I'm roughing,  but I'm starting to rethink this based on what you've learned.  (Bill Walters)

            You may be right. That it isn't going all the through the cane, only down to about where I. Finnish planing. Which is good!  That's probably why the dimensions didn't change after I let it dry for two days. It sure makes planing a lot easier when they are wet.   (Dave LeClair)

              I'm not so sure about this one.  I believe that a very large strip probably needs to be soaked longer than 48  hours,  but  a  strip that  has already  been rough-beveled to 60 degrees is considerably smaller and will very quickly absorb about as much water as it can within 48 hours.

              Moreover, when a wet strip is planed (or milled) to final dimensions, the enamel side would not have had its saturated surfaces removed -- and this is mostly what remains after planing.

              I just don't think the "48-hour-factor" would play into (or against) your observations. (Bill Harms)

          I've been heat treating before soaking, then final planing and I, too, have found no shrinking after the strips dry. Of course, being an old f--t, what do I know?  (Hank Woolman)

            Given the contemporary thought that it is the moisture in the cane that sets up the conditions conducive to rods taking a set, not being as stiff, etc. do you guys who heat treat, then soak and plane, notice any adverse effects in your rods?  (Martin-Darrell)

              SOAK FIRST -- Then do the nodes -- rough plane -- and THEN heat 'em up.

              And I put the finished strips in the oven at 150 F or so for a while before I go to glue up now.  What I usually do is turn the oven on, let it heat up, put the strips in, wait for the thing to stabilize again, unplug the oven and go to bed.  Then I glue the nest day.  Seems to help where set is involved.  (Brian Creek)

                I've experienced a few delaminations when the root cause seemed to be cane that we too dry and now you're confusing me with a possibility that something else may have failed.  I even mist my rods with water to make sure that the cane is not too dry. Have been told that cane should be about 8% prior to gluing.  (Don Anderson)

                  You're right.  John Zimny suggested that I mist the sections prior to glue up and I always do, and have had no trouble.  I just want the moisture to be on the surface and used up in the gluing process.  I also cure my strips (use Perkins L-100 glue) in the oven once they are straightened as well as I can get them, again on 150 degrees, unplug the box and go away for a day.  I've had some tips that were really prone to taking a set before I added the drying stage before glueup.  I know other guys do it different and don't have trouble.  This is just what's worked for me.  (Brian Creek)

                    When talking about moisture content and gluing, I think it would be appropriate to mention the type of glue being used as to eliminate confusion.  I know URAC needs moisture to cure, I believe epoxy doesn't (not sure, I'm sure someone will correct me).  Not sure of other types of glue, (Titebond), as I use URAC exclusively.  Misting the strips seems like overkill, but John Zimny is more of an expert than I.  (Tom Ausfeld)

              I don't notice any difference myself. I think once they are heat treated, then soaking, it doesn't seem to make any difference.  Now, if you soaked the strips before heat treating, then I think you would see a difference in the softness of the cane. But, then once you heat treat the strips, everything is stiff again.

              It seems to me, that the heat treating does something to the cane and even soaking it and then letting it dry, doesn't seem to bother it, once it is heat treated.  (Dave LeClair)

                I wondered about that. Having been told of one rod that had remained submersed for a while, then dried out, with no apparent difference in its action, even when compared to a new rod of the same taper, I really have to wonder about some of our thinking. I do think you're correct about when the cane is wet and being softer, but when it dries out it doesn't seem to really matter.  (Martin-Darrell)

                  If one heat treats the bamboo in the right manner (not above 180° Celsius) the bamboo is undergoing a process called hydrophobic. I don't recall the correct data but roughly spoken: the heat treatment conditions the bamboo so it'll be only be able to regain a certain amount of humidity (which is less then before heat treatment).  (Michael Mueller)

                    Indeed heat treating does condition the bamboo to regain less moisture than it previously had.  Ranges of moisture regain ran the gamut between  .2g - .5g, with most being .3g. Considering that the thought-to-be original moisture contents ran from .2g - .9g, with most running .6g, it follows that we've done something to the bamboo to cause it to have a reduced ability to hold moisture, and that something is a crosslinking of molecules within the lignin, brought about by the liberation of the moisture and volatile oils,  leaving -OH (hydroxyl) groups, which are strong bonders, that seek out the proper molecular chains with which to bond. At least this is what happens with other cellulose products, and there's no reason for me to believe that bamboo is any different. Besides, who cares as long as it works, right?

                    Soaking strips is an entirely different thing though. In my experience they will attain the same weight after heat treating as they did before. The primary difference is that they apparently will dry to the same, or nearly the same, level of equilibrium moisture content. It does, however, take several days to achieve a saturation of the strips, and one or two days is not sufficient to achieve this saturation,  in  my  experience.  (Martin-Darrell)

          Are the strips that much easier to plane when wet?  Also is there less  problems with chinking and gouging of the strips?  (Mark Dyba)

            You can't believe the difference in planing wet strips from dry ones. I can only take off around .002 " at a time with dry strips, as the strength it takes to push the Hand Mill down the length of the bed is quite a bit. Being I only weigh 125 lbs.

            Now, with wet/soaked strips. I can take off .006-.008" at a time with very little effort.  You won't believe it, until you try it. You will never go back to dry strips.

            And there is no gouging or chattering or anything else.  (Dave LeClair)

    All of this is based on  unflamed rods. That is all I have made. It seems that it works on flamed rods from some of the recent posts. I found that soaking for at least four days and cutting the relief the back side of the node keeps the bump from coming back up. I soak for five to six days. This may not be traditional but it is a lot easier on my old hands. After displacing the node, the only thing protruding is the little ridge. That is filed off with a few strokes of the file. If you have to take a kink out of the strip at the node, do that first then flip it to the enamel side and displace the node, all in one motion. Leave that strip in the vise and start on the next strip. Keep the strips that you are not working on it the water. While the strips are wet, they are beveled and partial tapered. I guess I have said it a hundred times, once you plane wet strips you will never go back to dry planing except for the final taper.

    I do two strips at a time, displace, bevel and partial taper. When the 18 strips are finished, they are bound ( as they will be glued) with the pith side out and put in the oven to dry. They can be air dried also. I believe with the pith side but they dry a lot faster and more complete. After the strips are dried they are pretty straight, I don't find the bumps  re appearing. I re bind in the normal way to heat treat. The binding cord will be somewhat loose after drying.

    Now on heating the nodes, the wet strips only take 30 to 45 seconds to be soft enough to displace. Not at all like dry strips. There is no burning or hardening of the node. When you plane over a wet node it is not felt at all unless the strip is dry in the middle.

    I do believe the sticks need to be DRY before final planing. I try to heat treat, final plane and glue all in one session. Next session, heat set, sand and apply a coat of Tung varnish to seal the blank.

    Hope I shed some light on your questions.  No pun intended, I may be all wet on this deal.  (Tony Spezio)

      This does help.  Reading this and rereading your article in Power Fibers made me realize that I've been using a variation of "node displacing" for a couple of years, but without soaking.  I have been splitting, and then carefully filing off the enamel, just down to the fibers, at the nodes. Then I run the strips between a wood screw protruding from a block of wood and a small sanding drum in my drill press to make the strips a uniform thickness at the nodes.  I can't remember who originally posted this idea, but it works great.  With the strips a uniform thickness and the power fibers intact, when you clamp the strip in the vise, it displaces the node rather than compressing it.

      One additional touch I've added is that I made a pair of covers for the jaws of my vise from a piece of aluminum angle. The covers have a couple of 45 degree V-grooves in them that match up so when the jaws are closed there are square channels between them at a 45 degree angle running across the jaws of the vise.  The 2 sets of grooves are different depths for butts and tips, and they allow me to straighten the nodes and flatten them by just clamping them once in the vise.  This works most of the time, but sometimes I have to go back and do some additional work on them by hand, and once in a while I wind up crushing a node.

      It sounds like soaking the strips will make straightening and rough planing much easier, regardless of the methods used for straightening.  I will certainly give it a try.  (Robert Kope)

        I have been using a trick that was posted a while back. I filed a small notch in my vise. Split the cane, but leave the nodal ridge alone. Heat and press in the vise, and the ridge fits into the notch. You are left with a tiny ridge sticking above a very flat surface. A few hits with a small file takes it off. It really works, and I do not remove any material on the pith side. The real advantage is that I never have to worry about gouging the cane with the big file that was needed to do the nodal ridge first. And you hardly need to remove any material.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

        The 45 degree grooves in the vise covers is an idea I got to try.  I'm going to try soaking first as well.  Node work is my least favorite part of the rod making process.  I'm all ears to anything that makes the process faster or better.  Thanks! (Jim Harris)


Having made two cane blanks now, I'm still not comfortable with how well I'm straightening nodes, and would appreciate the list's input.

I rough with a router-beveler (version of the Medved), bind and heat treat, then start straightening. Using a heat gun with broad flat nozzle, with the strip probably 2 - 2 1/2" above the nozzle. I can straighten sweeps just fine, but nodes are still giving me problems. I heat the node till it feels a bit soft, and almost shows some slight charring in the edges, then quickly into aluminum jaws on a vise; mostly with the enamel side against one jaw, to flatten the node. Jaws are about 1 1/2 or 2" wide. Problem is, if I get the strip hot enough to press the bump out, when it's cooled I've overcooked the strip there, and it easily breaks at the node, doesn't bend evenly anymore. I probably broke 12 strips this way out of my last culm. And the keepers still don't lay as flat as I know they should, in the final forms.

I'm not soaking strips at all, because 1) I'm using maple forms which wouldn't like to be wet, and 2) that's too many variables for me right now.

Anybody tell from this what I'm doing wrong?  (Rick Funcik)

    In the interest of passing on information that has eased this road for me, not exactly paved it, but smoothed it some.  And also being a part time builder (between surgeries) that has benefited from the friendship and knowledge of Bob Nunley (three marriages and a rod maker, talk about a glutton for punishment), this next very simple item made initial prep work much simpler for me.

    There are probably as many good ways to split a culm as there are makers.  Having said that I split mine over a machete held in a vise. I have read many methods also for removing nodal dams. I believe my approach is the simplest in this area-ignore them!

    I knock out whatever a hammer blow will get of the dams and don't worry about the rest, I suffer when I read about people filing them (my former approach). The remaining dam will not affect the splitting process. When I have a dozen or so long strips I flip on the band saw and in about three minutes all of the dam areas are undercut and ready to complete splitting.  (Steve Trauthwein)

    I'll tell you what I do, and you must realize that this is not exactly expert opinion!

    I file my nodes before I flame my culms, and that way the pale bands left by the filing are partly disguised by the subsequent flaming process.

    Once the flamed culms are cool, I split them into strips. I knock the nodal diaphragms out as completely as I can as soon as I can, and that actually varies from culm to culm, and from strip to strip.

    When I have the strips split (I use the method of "Nunley the Scourge of Newbies", and Richard Nantel,  and split them by hand) I immediately plane off the bulk of what remains of the internodal diaphragms, and if they are particularly nasty looking buggers I countersink them a wee bit using a curved rasp.

    Next I plane the SIDES of the strips, using a Stanley block plane on a pretty coarse setting (yes, that's correct; here, finally, is a legitimate use for your modern Stanley plane) until  they are fairly smooth and look to be at about the right angle for the rough forms.

    The strips look pretty tidy, actually, at this stage, and there are now no nasty big surprises like mega-splinters to spring up when you are planing away later, only to impale your flesh like a demented kebab!

    Ask why I started to do this if you like.

    Then I do the node staggering thing, and cut the strips to the length I have decided, which is half rod-length plus quite a bit for slop. Again, this depends on the strips, and will vary from rod to rod.

    At this point I have the absolute minimum number of nodes and internodal sweeps to deal with.

    I then go along each strip very slowly and  carefully  and press each node and straighten each bend  and curve, paying at least as much attention to the up-and-down deviations as to the side to side ones. My preferred method is to use a hot air gun, as I am absolutely buggered if I can use a spirit lamp without setting the damn things on fire!

    I tape each bundle of six, plus one spare to each bundle, with masking tape, and hang them in my drying cabinet until it is time to rough plane.

    When rough planing is complete, and they all  have their 60 degree angles established, I bind them tightly and heat treat.  (The spare strips I just bind to the outside of each hexagonal bundle.)

    I then rehang the bundles in the cabinet until I am ready to final plane.

    Hope something in there is of use to you.  (Peter McKean)

      Peter mentioned something I was about to. Planing the sides of the strip makes a very good base to place in the intermediate form to enable you to get good positioning in the groove. The little time it takes to square the edges of the strip is well paid off later.  (Tony Young)

    Not seeing what you are doing I can't say for sure. My guess is you are getting the nodal area too hot and in fact heat treating and hardening the node. Try holding the node up higher above the nozzle than you do now. Rotate the strip and move it back and forth (side to side) over the heat. The nodal area should soften up without charring. Even though you are using wood forms, you can still soak the strips to do the nodes before planing. I do the initial taper with wet strips but that is not really necessary, it just makes life easier. If you soak your strips first, do the nodes and straightening, bind the strips with the pith side out. Dry them in the oven. You now have dry strips to plane. I use 90 degrees to 100 degrees for a couple of hours. They dry pretty quick and come out pretty straight. If you are displacing the nodes, it is a lot easier to get the strips straight. The node is displaced instead of compressed. See my articles in Power Fibers on displacing nodes and one on soaking strips. Before I started doing the nodes this way I had all the problems you are mentioning here. Soaking strips is not traditional but it makes rodmaking easier for me.

    Hope this helps some.  (Tony Spezio)

    Then stop pressing nodes!

    You have a Medved style router beveler - let it do the dirty work for you.

    I gave a demonstration at Roscoe this year on this procedure. BTW, all the strips for the gathering rod were prepared w/o heating, straightening, or pressing. Nobody was the wiser and the rod turned out fine.

    Next time try this:

    • Split culm to quarters  - knock out dams, stagger, and cut to length.
    • Using a belt sander - sand your nodes flat!
    • Heat treat these sections - add an extra minute or two to your normal time
    • Split quarters into quarters - you end up with 16 sections.
    • Now run these through the Medved beveler to get triangles
    • When the strips are about .050 - .060" oversized then after you run it though the beveler - run it a second time with the enamel side up!
    • Repeat the previous step until the strips are down to just over the dimension for putting into your form.

    You will end up with 16 strips for butt / mid and 16 for the tips - if you screw up the planing then you will have a heat treated prepared strip to take its place.  The router has done all the work for you.  (Chris Bogart)

      Inquiring minds want to know.  If we split our culm out into 16 strips, where do we obtain the two missing strips to build a two piece rod with two tips?  If we pirate 2 strips from another culm, we now have strips whose nodes won't match, and whose flexing characteristics are also not likely to match.  Additionally, now that other culm is down to 14 strips.

      I got a D- in "Intermediate Algebra" (my last math course in high school), so I just don't seem to be able to do the numbers, here.  (Bill Harms)

    If I read correctly you are roughing and heat treating before straightening and flattening.  If that's correct, then you aren't leaving yourself much leeway.  I straighten and flatten freshly split strips, then rough bevel and heat treat.

    If you're working on already heat-treated strips, any additional heating is more prone to produce the brittleness you describe.  (Harry Boyd)

    I'm not sure you are doing anything wrong, but I went down the same road you did.  I followed the advice of the books, and cooked my nodes with the heat gun,  turning them crisp and black! 

    On advice from this list, the three things that made the difference were soaking, cutting away much of the pith side of the node, and the MD heat treating forms.  My nodes are fine now, because I apply heat mainly from the pith side, and less heat is required because the strip is not as thick under the node.  Soaking the strip also seems to protect the cane from the heat somewhat, and also allows for a deeper penetration of heat.  The soaked strips are also very pliable, and after beveling in a machine such as you are using they are put in the heat treating forms for straightening, and heat treatment.  I don't have to straighten nodes, sweeps, or bends anymore because of the three techniques mentioned above.  (Kyle Druey)


Anyone on here using steam to straighten nodes?

I am curious about methods, and what you are using to do this (steam pot, etc.)  (Joe Byrd)

    In Herter's book it talks about using steam from an ordinary tea kettle to straighten rods. The opening was reduced in size. That would increase the temp. of the steam. I would think that you better have  a hell of a good coat of finish on the rod before you do!!!! But, it describes doing the straitening right after the glue cured. Even with superheated dry steam, I would think there would be a little bit of condensation forming on the rod shaft! I've thought about experimenting with steam at the steam plant at work where it's fairly dry superheated steam, but haven't gotten past the thought!!  (David Dziadosz)

      One of the first bamboo rods I owned, a Horrocks Ibbotsen Roosevelt, had a fishing set and I used steam from a tea kettle to straighten it.  It's certainly an effective way to soften the rod without burning it, but I don't know if the moisture is a detriment.  I haven’t used steam since, and that rod is long gone.  (Chris McDowell)

        I use steam to bend net frames but IMHO wouldn't ever use it to straighten a rod because it is introducing moisture into the rod. My business is 90% restoration & repairs and there is call for a lot of straightening.  Having originally used a hot air gun I have moved to a Bunsen burner and the rod held high above it.  This followed a long conversation with John Chapman at Chapman's in London who has been making cane for many, many years and does so for some very well known names, as Paul Blakley has said before.  His opinion was that the hot air gun dried the cane out too much too quickly in relation to the cane around it IE: it was not an even drying and went on to say that there is some moisture created in the burning of the gas but only very little - an acceptable level in his opinion.  I also never ever wear gloves when I am straightening so that I can feel the temperature of the cane on the premise that if its too hot to hold it too hot!  Anyone who wants to make a steamer - get yourself an old wallpaper stripper, a length of tube the diameter you need and two rags.  Stick the tube from the steamer up the pipe and plug it with a rag.  Put whatever you want to bend or straighten in the tube and plug the top with a rag.  As simple as that and I have bent loads of boat frames in exactly this setup.  You just vary the tube size to suit whatever you are doing.  (Tim Watson)

          Very good information Tim.  I have like you always believed that the best test of too  much heat when straightening was when it was uncomfortable to hold.  Steam would never be a consideration, and hot air gun is too aggressive.  I still like the alcohol lamp.  Thanks for your perspective.  (Ralph Moon)

        Just to clarify, in my post below I'm not advocating the use of steam to straighten a rod, if that is what it sounded like.  I've only tried it on the one rod, it worked very efficiently, but without knowing how much moisture remains in the rod after a drying period I can't say what the long term affects are to the rods propensity to take a set. It would probably depend on several factors, that could be measured if someone were so inclined, but I'm not, and after that one experiment decided that dry heat (electric stovetop) works fine for me, without the concern of moisture.  I hope that's clearer.  (Chris McDowell)

    I have used a combination of steam (a tea pot) and a hot-air gun to nodes. The hot air treated steam seems to transfer the heat more effectively (no measurements!) and it prevents the node to get burned. I can use the higher power of the heat gun to make the process faster!  (Tapani Salmi)


Some time ago, someone mentioned that they upon squaring the strip up, then also plane down the node side, I believe to even things up. They said that they did not even heat and straighten node prior to this. I have my butt strips soaked in water for several days and an going to start working on them tonight, and am wondering about this node thing. I have a Wagner heat gun that goes from 200 to 1200 degrees, I guess this would make it hot enough would it not. I guess

I would like a little more pro and cons about this node straightening thing. I suppose ideally you want to straighten the node as straight as possible, but then the comment the other day, it did not seem to make much difference at all. Any comments. (Lew Boyko)

    Look up Tom Smithwick's comments on Todd Talsma's tip web site.  Tom has a very down to earth method, but more importantly his philosophy of node straightening comes through loud and clear.  I think that his method is the best, and apparently so does Tom.  When builders start trying to be too innovative and come up with a hundred different ways of doing things, there are bound to be a few good new ideas, but for the most part the innovations range from bad to disastrous.

    Inch your way up from the tried and true.  (Ralph Moon)

    I'll offer my version, and others can chime in with theirs.  I split my culms, stagger the nodes for each section, and cut all to length.  I heat-treat these rough strips and the soak everything in water for 3-5 days prior to squaring-up and straightening.

    I do the squaring-up first, including planing off the little ridge on top of the node.  When squaring-up, my intention is to reduce the dimensions as much as possible before straightening, following the line of fibers rather than that of the strip itself -- especially important when entering and leaving a node area.

    Then, I fire up the heat gun and straighten the nodes.  Do not be satisfied that you have actually straightened the cane just because a little heat will be sufficient to counter-bend the wet cane.  The objective is not to use the least amount heat to bend the cane (because this does not produce permanent results), but instead it is to use the MOST heat your cane can stand, short of scorching.  You shouldn't need to worry about this, however, since the water-saturation will keep you safe.

    I think that cutting through nodal fibers is not, in itself, a significant factor affecting the strength of a fly rod, because the fibers within a node are a tangled mess anyway.   On the other hand, a crooked node requires you to cut through the long, internodal fibers just where these enter and exit a node, and I believe this MIGHT become a problem of reduced strength. You won't ruin a rod, but it may not be as crisp as the taper could have yielded otherwise.  (This issue seems open to opinion, however, and I wouldn't argue the case very long one way or the other).

    Aesthetically, many of us builders just don't like the "looks" of a crooked node area that has been ignored and planed through.  And, too, not insignificantly, you will cause yourself untold headaches when planing a strip with nodes that have not been properly straightened.  (Crooked fibers typically mean "tear-out" and chipping when planing with anything less than a perfectly sharpened iron--  as most irons are after their first three or four passes).

    After heat straightening, you can either go ahead with the rough triangulation (while the cane is still wet) and then dry the strips at 215 degrees in your oven, or you can dry first (as I do) and then triangulate. Dealer's choice.

    But whatever you hear from one builder, be prepared to hear a dozen alternatives from others.  It's all good stuff.  (Bill Harms)


I tried something new today (for me) that really helped, I used a propane torch to heat nodes for straightening.  Took about 15 to 20 seconds per node and went much faster than with a heat gun or alcohol lamp.  I saw Ron Kusse doing this in one of his FAOL articles... try it you might like it.  (Kyle Druey)

    I'm not knocking the technique, but once I stopped heating and pressing the nodes I get a lot less lifts and chips at the nodes. But then again I started using a bench plane instead of a block plane about at the same time, so it's hard to tell what was the greatest contributing factor.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I never tried that but next time around I'll try it.  What do you do with the torch while you're pressing, stick it in your pocket?  (Mike Shay)

      I would be very careful before about putting that much heat on a node. About two rods ago I had trouble with a difficult node and I ended by over heating it. The interior of the node looked like dried sawdust.  (Mark Dyba)


The recent thread on nodes got me thinking.  The rod I'm currently working on is the first noded rod I've tried.  I sanded the nodes flat and straightened the splits dry using a heat gun with a spreader.  The culm was heat treated with a garden torch before splitting.  I noticed that some of the nodes ended up a caramel color rather than a color lighter than the adjacent enamel.  The nodes that darkened all seemed to be in the same place in the culm.  I don't recall any excessive charring on the underside of the strip when working the nodes.   I got a little burning on the corners, and the pith area that was heated did brown somewhat.  Anyone seen this before?  Did I screw up - maybe over heat the nodes?  I've give the darkened nodes a good bend test, and everything held together.

As an aside, the recent posts about soaking got me thinking about trying it (sans mouse(s)).  I put a tube together and, since I had beveled strips, dropped those in the tube.  The initial planing of the taper went well - the wet bamboo does plane easily.  My only problem was that I had to restraighten my previously straight strips a bit - they came out of the tube with a few of the node wiggles and dips back in place.  Being wet, the straightening went fast.  Next rod, I'll soak the splits.  (Bill Benham)

    I was rereading what Milward says in his book about heating treating. He seems to say that if you heat enough to change the color you are damaging the cane. At that temp you are producing microscopic cracks in the cane parallel to the enamel surface, and in time these can turn into big cracks.

    Everybody disagrees with Milward on this or that, but I don't think you can deny that he has done a good job of looking at the properties of cane in a systematic and rigorous way.

    He also says that nodes are 15% weaker than the rest of the strip.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)


I was wondering, do we all feel that laborious node flattening, by heating and pressing, really adds anything to the end product rather than the much quicker filing and running the whole lot through my revoltingly crude, but cruelly effective, Medved-ish beveller?  I mean I don't even straighten anything any more, I just whack the triangular sections onto the planing form and plane away. They end up more or less as I'd expect them to having been planed on my anything but state of the art wooden form and I just adjust them back a bit when they are seriously wild, but its not ever by much. To be fair, you get a bit of enamel left in the final product, but when I asked my utterly meticulous boat builder and fanatically fussy rodmaker chum to show me where it was he scored one out of three and this was on a rod I'd knocked up quickly, with four sections to inspect.  One thing is for sure, its not the quality or precision of my workmanship, which is, at best, approximate, we are discussing.

I'll come clean here, sometimes you have to do a bit of dressing down on the final section, some of you will revolt about this, saying that it attacks the integrity of the "Power Fibers". I can take your point, but inevitably, have to say that you will never hear me call them that since they never have, or ever will have, any power. What they have, to a greater or lesser extent, is stiffness. When you have finished a rod ,you can test this, as I have frequently and laboriously explained by testing its deflection with a known weight, or vice versa, as I do it. When you have done this you know, as a mathematical and physical fact, what line that rod will ideally handle, plus or minus one depending on the caster. My rods for a six weight are some peoples sevens and others fives. When they think they are fours I don't fish, I ask them to criticize my casting and I listen to everything they say, they are casting Gods. Few, and very far between indeed. Geoffrey Bucknall was the last, preceded by The King, Richard Walker, he was very rude about my casting. This is for distance work, of course, but amazingly, these people could also hit a Dandelion head at thirteen yards with depressing ease, its taken me about 40 years to emulate them, sometimes. So, perhaps what I am saying is this, are we inadvertently intimidating newcomers by suggesting that they need to comply with quite excessive perfection, when the very nature of the raw material throws one off variations which make this a futile exercise? Those of you who have tried to check the assumptions made by the Great God Garrison by actual experiment, and I've had a small go at this myself, will nod your heads sagely, I imagine. In essence, a good taper design, made out of a rough culm, with a few thousandths variation here and there, a bit of enamel showing, and knots not exactly aligned with a micrometer, and certainly not staggered in the Garrison fashion (which, strangely, I always use when I can), depressingly often produces a rod which is pretty well as good as you are going to get it, even if it induces spasms in the perfectionists.

In fury, because I did not want to do it, and had not the time, I whacked out a tip for a Richard Walker carp rod recently in a long afternoon. The sections were whatever I had lying around,the node spacing was all over the place, the planes were in the latter stages of acceptable sharpness, I could have been much more careful with everything.  I bound it up and went to bed. The other day I cleaned it up, straightened it, and, as an afterthought and more for amusement than anything, stuck it on my deflection test bed just to see how bad it was. The test bed has records of many of these tips, ranging from a Richard Walker original, through various B. James samples, to a properly made version which is better than any of them. The nearest example to the one I had made was the RW version. Perhaps this just shows how far we have come and corroborates the view of some, which I share, which is that the Golden Age of Cane is NOW.

The message? Well, what all of us need to do is encourage newcomers, for today’s ingenue is tomorrow's Garrison, we need to tell them that the thing to do is to just make a rod, any rod, by whatever means they can afford, both in time and cost. I hear too much about people saying they will make a rod when they retire.  It will not happen. I've had three attempts at retiring, all I do is spend all day reading newspapers and talking to the dogs. I became the best informed has-been in the world. Better than a never wosser, perhaps.

There is a limit to the intellectual capacity of dogs, but what happens is that you find yourself putting everything off until tomorrow, because there IS a tomorrow. When there is not a tomorrow,  because you have to go to ffffing work, you do it today.  So, at the age of sixty, with a quite unecessarily responsible job,  I force myself out into the workshop about three times a week and tinker with the rod building process.  I spent a whole month not making an oven work properly, recently! Twenty five quid spent on a new heat gun made the old one work perfectly, time cost, less than an hour. To newcomers, then, in the words of Mr. Sloane, founder of GM, simplicate and add lightness.  In short, make what you actually can make, in the real time you actually have and only add time consuming elaborations when you think they will add quality you can measure and time saved that matters.

Years ago, when I had a career, it was in sales and marketing, I must not be rude, for I was seriously overpaid, we had a saying.  JFDI.  I'm sure you can work the acronym out for yourselves.  (Robin Haywood)

    While I applaud your sentiments I must add a note of caution.  Yes, there is a very real intimidation factor in making bamboo rods.  But some of that intimidation is a good thing.

    In teaching others to make rods I have determined that not all wannabe's and potential rodmakers are alike.  Your post describes well one sort of novice.  He (or she) is scared at every step that something will be ruined.  My wife is like that with a computer.  She wants nothing to do with it, for fear that she will somehow accidentally format the hard drive.  His catch phrase might be "Oh no!  I've ruined it."  To this group I find myself saying "It's only a fishing pole."

    Another sort of potential rodmaker is just the opposite.  He reminds me of Larry the Cable Guy (though that might not translate across the pond).  All he wants to do is "git 'er done!"  Though I think this breed is a little less common than the  "Oh no! I've ruined it" bunch, it is just as real.  My response to this group is "Hey buddy, this is a bamboo flyrod!"

    I have met potential rodmakers who fit in each group.  Part of the fun of learning to help others is figuring out what sort of encouragement they need.  The student who was here two weeks ago was from the first group.  Which group the student coming this week will fit into is still a mystery.  (Harry Boyd)

    I am sure you are right on one level and the objective of encouraging others is important.  I also agree however that making it appear simple will not actually appeal to all.

    For my own part and I am sure for many others, the objective has become to make the best we possibly can.  To make the best requires more care, if you are satisfied with adequate feel free.

    You did ask a basic question at the start of your post and it has been asked before.  My response is printed in the January 2006 edition of Power Fibers.  From the article you will see that I have drawn the same conclusion as you in that a perfectly viable rod can be constructed either way and in fact the difference in stiffness is small.  The difference in strength is significant  but even if it was the same I would still put in the effort just for what I consider to be improved aesthetics.  (Gary Marshall)

    BTW if you ever brown tone with PP you will soon find out where you left the enamel.

      I have just reread your post, which arrived three times and I think I may have slightly misquoted you in my general reply, I misremembered you as saying that the difference in strength is small, you said it was significant.  (Robin Haywood)

      As a new rodmaker let me throw my 2 cents in.

      Some of the best advice I got early on in this adventure.  Someone on the list told me something to the effect of there are lots of ways to go about every stage of making a bamboo fly rod. 

      Whether you press, displace, file, sand, or plane nodes. Use a hand plane, scraper, mill, or single edged razor blade.  Use URAC, PU Glue, Titebond, or EPON.  Or finish the rod with Spar, Poly, Oil, or Impregnate doesn't really matter.  It's the amount of time and care that you put in your chosen method that really counts in the end.

      I certainly haven't settled on any one set method for any of the stages.  Experimenting with new ways and techniques is one of the fun parts of rodbuilding.

      Like I said above though, no matter what methods new makers like myself choose its still a time intensive process.  And probably not something for everyone.  I've shown many of my friends my first bamboo rod and some of the tools and steps that it took to make it.  Everyone's reaction has been the same.  "You're crazy.  I would never have the patience to do something like that."  And normally I would be one of those people, because I'm not the most patient person. 

      In the end though, I can't imagine putting in all the hours I have without trying to put out the best product possible.  My first rod is something I'm proud of - because it was the VERY BEST I could do.  Is it right on the taper I was trying for - not even close.  In hindsight, I really don't like the grip I turned - way too long.   My wraps need work - they're okay but nothing like some of the pictures I've seen form all of you.

      As for tools.  There are certainly some that you need.  I don't think you could make a hexagonal rod without some type of planing forms.  You really do need a good hand plane and some way to sharpen it.  I like the binder and mica oven that I made, but I know there are plenty of makers that hand bind and have other methods of heat treating that don't require a costly oven.  I don't have a lathe, but managed to turn my ferrule stations by hand and built a jig from scraps to turn cork grips with my drill.

      I'm sure as the years go on if I continue to make rods I'll invest in new tools to make things  "easier."   I just kind of like buying new toys.

      This ended up being way more long winded than I planned.  I guess my main message to other new makers out there is if you really want to make a rod - "just do it."  Just make sure you know going in that while its certainly not "hard" it is very time consuming and addictive.  Also make sure you do the best that you can.  You'll appreciate it when that first rod is something you can be proud of.   (Aaron Gaffney)

    At the risk of ticking some makers off, I think I must give Robin a pat on the back for his candor. I believe he makes an honest point here. I suspect that 80 or 90% of new makers would go on to build or buy better tools and try new and perhaps superior methods, but only if they build that first successful rod. I started down this road two years ago, ran into health and financial issues and put it all aside as I believed, after buying and reading four good rodmaking books, one couldn't build a quality rod without building the GOOD tools and using the Correct methods. Having returned to the list and resuming my tool building in the last couple of months I have begun to learn better. Please understand, I'm not attempting to censor anyone. My own perfectionism was largely responsible for my arriving at this conclusion. However, I now know I should have several rods built by now and have denied myself the pleasure and satisfaction of having done so. I suggest more discussion on less critical as well as less expensive alternatives in arriving at a satisfactory rodmaking experience. Having said all this, let me again thank all those who have contributed to this list as well as helped me personally by responding to my questions. Without your willingness to share I wouldn't have gotten started much less come this far.   (Wayne Kifer)

    There are two kinds of rod builders just as there are two kinds of boaters. There are the power boaters who want to get to their destination with the least amount of difficulty, and the sailors for whom the trip is everything.

    I'm the sailor type and don't mind spending an extra hour straightening nodes; it gives me a feeling of having done the job to my level of satisfaction. However, I won't disagree that there are many ways to do a job. To each his own.  (Ron Grantham)

    I agree, we are building fishing poles, but one can also lash some string on to a sapling and catch fish. Needs to be a mid point on quality in both tools and materials, but no compromising of the best work you can do.  (Jerry Andrews)

    Every once in a while, less-so nowadays, arguments ensued on this board that were based on "my technique can beat up your technique".   This seemed to always generate more heat than illumination.   I think every step in the bamboo rodmaking process has had proponents and detractors speak out on this board.  So what should a new rodmaker aspire to?  That to me is an easy question.  Build rods.  Finish them.  An open seam is just as detracting as a long node.  It is not realistic to have a perfect first rod.  Or tenth.  Or whatever.   "It's always something."  GM.  Aspire to reach acceptable standards.  Setting unrealistic goals usually does not create a happy atmosphere.  Rodmaking is fun.  And if you do build the absolutely perfect rod with a flawless finish, able to drop a fly in a teacup at 70 feet and cast the whole line with just one double haul, remember, the catalog guys have been selling those rods for years!   (Chris Raine)

    As has happened many times before, my comments produced many responses and as also has happened before most of them privately!  This is a shame, if this were a forum I could start a Heretics Corner! The other heretics were, I suppose, reluctant to be subjected to the opprobrium, much of it poorly thought through, that some of my posts engender.

    Those of you dedicated to making rods as slowly as possible, using as much skill as possible, but not necessarily by extension as well as possible, may be interested in a quote from some research done by the US Department of  Agriculture Forest Service.  "Splints tested with the epidermis (outer enamel) intact and up showed consistently higher values for fiber stress at proportional limit, modulus of rupture, and modulus of elasticity". As to pressing knots, which I have certainly done, by the way, we remain in the dark.  One protagonist, whose views I am not inclined to discount as he is one of the very few who tests before he speaks, thinks it makes a small difference, perhaps to ultimate strength.

    Which leads us to a discussion on how many rods we have all seen broken that were broken in normal fishing,  IE: not by abuse. The cane rods I have repaired in the last 40 years were pretty well all broken by abuse, the rest broke because elements of their design, execution or quality of materials were appalling beyond belief. So, perhaps ultimate strength is not a major consideration? Naturally, this should stop no one from performing any of these little artisanal niceties if it appeals to them, the point I was making was that, for a beginner at least, much of this detail may be a little adipose.

    I am as guilty as any of you, I don't know how many rod handles I have made, but its probably more than Garrison made rods, both by hand and on a lathe, yet, only recently I tore off two perfectly good handles and remade them, on the same rod, because they were not quite what I wanted! I did the third one slowly, by hand, there is spurious workmanship for you! I'm as bad with whippings, not helped by a current obsession with Pearsalls Gossamer.  And I don't actually LIKE seeing bits of enamel appearing half way up a section which I had failed to somehow notice until I started putting the rings on, but I draw the line at scrapping a perfectly good section because of it.  I probably might not if someone was paying me two thousand bucks for the product however, if only! At one time, I would never, ever cut down the section to a round to fit ferrules, I used to build up with splints of cane and round it down to take an oversize ferrule. I got out of that when I forced myself to do a little destruction testing and was unable to obtain convincing results that it made any difference. I did the same with diagonal node spacing, indeed, it was no better than the sections with the nodes spaced entirely at random, although there was some evidence (this was many years ago when I fancied myself as an experimental scientist) that nodes all in the same place tended to cause breakage at the nodes rather than elsewhere, sometimes. To the best of my recollection, a test of a hollow built section with the dams at the nodes failed to replicate this effect, but that’s how the raw culms are designed, isn't it?  Yet I still like diagonal node spacing, and it doesn't take any longer than any other method, bar random.

    Nobody should take this information as read, the tests were not conducted under laboratory conditions and it happened many years ago. These observations may, however, cause a little debate and perhaps a little investigation, not to mention more personal abuse from those disinclined to think. I'd probably miss it if they all started being nice to me!  (Robin Haywood)

      I happen to agree with just about everything Robin said in the first post.

      People make bamboo rods for different reasons. The guys that make them to sell have to pay attention to cosmetics. The guys that make them to use don't have to get a perfect flawless finish or the shortest visible node, but if that's what impresses them they can certainly do that if they wish. I like to experiment with tapers, and my feeling is cosmetics is secondary. A finish is to keep water out of the cane, nodes are a natural part of the bamboo. Of course when I make a rod for someone else I strive for the flawless finish and short nodes, but rods for myself - It's a fishing pole and a few bumps in the varnish isn't going to affect the way it casts.

      I have seen the "Deer in the Headlights" syndrome with new rodmakers. The process seems so complex to them they don't know where to start. A lot of them tend to over analyze. When you see someone asking about which varnish to use before they have a planing form they have probably fallen victim to that.

      Robin is right - just get started. You don't really need all the fancy equipment. That can come later if you really think you need it. The only specialized tool that isn't readily available everywhere is a planing form. You can flame instead of using an oven, you can bind by hand, you really only need one plane. You can use a wipe on or brush on varnish. One of my first rods I bought a spray can of varnish and used that. Your fist rod isn't going to be perfect no matter how much time you take, and if you are planning on only making a couple rods you are better off buying them. If you are planning on owning about a dozen bamboo rods or more or selling them (think long and hard before you go that route) then this hobby is for you.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I will go on public record here in support of your previous post.

      I think everyone should get out of  rodmaking exactly what they want. Those striving for perfection should be encouraged in their pursuit, those looking for a craft to  while time away in happy industry, whether they actually build a rod or simply amass homemade tools, should be encouraged. Those who just want to bang out a bamboo rod to fish and damn the appearance shouldn't be denigrated.  Those who actually try to perform amateur science with controlled conditions and variables to teach us all a little more about the materials we work with should be applauded.

      It's all about different strokes for different folks.  (Chris Obuchowski)

        I do hope that those who responded to me privately have not been in any way offended by me, for this was not at all my intention.  See it as yet another of my world weary wry observations on how life goes!  In fact, their contributions were both valuable and illuminating, I should hate for them to stop just because, and for reasons I understand, their authors would rather not go public. After all, let's face facts, some of you have businesses to run, some of you have very considerable reputations to guard, and a lot of you meet regularly at shows and do not want to be walking into machine gun fire! As none of those things apply to me it harms me not at all to be a little more forthright, knowing as I do that when I get it a bit wrong I am going to be corrected by people who know something I don't. Nobody invents anything anymore, they just build on existing concepts, keep throwing the bricks!  (Robin Haywood)

        PS: I am rude, I should have first thanked you for your support, publicly, in both senses.


A steam box and a pressure cooker for a steam jenny work very well on Douglas fir.  Don't try to use PVC pipe, it will soften and sag, wood works better than metal pipe due to insulating properties (and it is harder to get burned)  Use vinyl or rubber hose to connect to the pressure cooker and the steam box. just push the hose on the fitting for the pressure regulator weight. just be sure the hose doesn't get blocked we don't want too high a pressure in the vessel.  make the steam box from 4 pieces of 1 x 4 nailed with ring nails to make a rectangular tube, leave both ends open and you can put the strip in the box where you need the heat, seal the ends with clean rags. feed the steam into the center of the box and move the strip as needed.  You can put a whole stack of strips in the box and you don't have to worry about over heating them. Make a stand to hold the box horizontal but make one end a little low so that the condensation runs out instead of pooling in the box.  I bent a lot of strips to make airplane wing ribs this way and I am think it should work on cane as well.  (Harry Walters)

    Well it doesn't, but give it a try. Time to press nodes cools the rest of the cane, if you can get it hot enough anyway. Theory and practice don't always meet in the middle.  (Jerry Foster)

      I use a homemade steam box based on the Lee Valley Kettle and plans.  Jerry your right it does cool down as you move thru nodes, although based on my personal experiences, I can get thru about 3 nodes before I need to reheat. Using a heat gun I can get the presteamed nodes up to temp quicker and straighten/press an entire strip in less time using the combo method than I can just using my heat gun.  I must also add that the excessive moisture added to the strips isn't a problem here in Sunny Southern Alberta as most times the relative humidity sits at about 20%.  The strips can dry out and cure on their own before milling, binding and heat treating.  (Ron Elder)

        Would you care to tell me where I can find the plans for a steam box. Sounds like a great idea.  (John Cole)

      John, try here.  This is the free steam bending booklet from Lee Valley.  (Ron Elder)


I like the idea of not heating and pressing nodes.  I am inclined to agree that it may well weaken the strip at the node.

My question is how do you guys deal with the lateral kinks in the nodes?  (Stephen Dugmore)

    I try not to touch the nodes, but if there is a bad kink, I will heat and squeeze in a vise or straighten by hand. My experience shows that this does not weaken the node as much as pressing a hump down does.   (Jeff Fultz)

      I agree with Jeff totally on this one.  (Ian Kearney)

        Me too!

        After about 80 rods heating and pressing nodes, I decided to stop, and the 20 or so built since seem none the worse for the change.

        I still use the heat gun to straighten crooked bits and sweeps in the strips, and if one such occurs at a node, it gets straightened, but no longer do any get pressed.

        I figure that the hillsides of China have already made the nodes able to withstand flexion and extension to a point where I am most unlikely to improve upon it with ten seconds of my time  and a heat gun!  (Peter McKean)

    Build Nodeless. Works for me.

    I think the more heat or heating attempts to bamboo the more it is damaged. With nodeless you only heat once.  Rough planed chop sticks require less heat time than rectangular cross section sticks to heat treat. Less is better, IMHO.  (Don Schneider)

      Amen to that!!

      I think nodeless, with the good glues we have now, is a lot quicker and easier than displacing, filing, grinding, sanding and torturing nodes!!!

      And you can use the kitchen oven for heat treatment, which I will do in our new gas oven.  I used to barbeque my cane.  (Geert Poorteman)

        I went the other way. I started with nodeless and made many a fine rod but once I learned to soak a strip and displace a node I threw nodeless methods out the window. Soaking and displacing nodes has made rodmaking much easier with less headaches.

        Now I have a hundred bulldog clamps that dont get used.  (Adam Vigil)

        Geert, how much stiffer does going nodeless make the rod? I'm about to start on another rod and I have a good jig for doing nodeless, but I want to be sure I choose the right taper and don't wind up with a broomstick.  (Bill Walters)

          Well, that’s difficult to measure. An unplaned strip has a pronounced stiff spot on the 'nodes', but I think this is merely from having more cane there. In a planed strip I can't see a stiff spot. Of course I also stagger the 'nodes', to distribute whatever has to be distributed along the rod. I don't think nodeless makes the rod significantly stiffer. Go ahead, experimenting is interesting!  (Geert Poorteman)

        So many little pieces... so little time.

        I'm not sure I even understand the performance dynamics of nodeless rods. The general line of thought originally was to use a continuous length of fibers to construct the most powerful and fluid strip. So much so that machined strips are frowned upon for "not following the grain". Obviously, that is not the principle behind building a nodeless rod. As well, all that glue applied intermittently within the strip for the full length has to affect performance, whether it is stiffer or weaker. (My money is on stiffer.)

        Other than allowing one to use up smaller, mismatched pieces of cane, does it have a true function to form?

        I'm not denigrating nodeless rods, just curious if any true advantages are known that would make them superior in some respect. (Other than the kitchen oven tempering...)  (Mike St. Clair)

          First of all let me make a dumb statement, "There are the same number of splices in a nodeless rods as there are nodes in node rods."

          If it wasn't for Robert Kope's Node Press and a router jig to dish out a place for the node to be displaced I wouldn't even build node rods.

          If you eliminate the nodes you have saved all of the time you would have spent pressing and straitening. Plus you have eliminated the additional heat/torture to the bamboo and we haven't even got to even heat treating yet.

          Once the chop sticks for the rod (tips, mids and butts) are the same size they are all heat treated at the same time in the kitchen oven. This is the one and only time the bamboo is subjected to heat.

          Yes you have to add the time it takes to make all the splices but when all the chop sticks are the same size and length it is much faster than playing with nodes, especially if you use Splice Clamps. The glued-up strips are straight, no twists and don't require more heat to straighten.

          The grain is the same the entire length of the strip without the jumble in nodes.

          I haven't used small or mismatched pieces although some have just to see how it worked. Tony comes to mind. Tony?

          Does nodeless construction alter the rod stiffness? I can't tell the difference. Whatever my target weight, is the way it comes out. So I have to think the node and the splice are about the same stiffness.  (Don Schneider)

            We have not corresponded as we used to, I miss that. I have finally made three nodeless blanks. These are quad blanks.

            They are made from random lengths of bamboo scrap pieces that were too good to throw away. Two from both flamed and unflamed pieces spliced randomly both flamed and unflamed in the same strip and another from blond scraps. They are ready to be wrapped when I get time.

            I used your clamps and they work just fine. I will have an upcoming article in Power Fibers on making the splices after this next issue. Your clamps will be included in the article. I can send you the photo I will be using. I have also used your clamps to make some scarf repairs on a few tip sections.

            On my nodes, I use a 2" small drum sander in a drill press to "dish" out the back of the nodes, it is quick and you don't have to remove the inner node dams before splitting the strips. Send me a photo if your router setup, always like to see what you are doing.  (Tony Spezio)

    Check out my article in Power Fibers on "Displacing Nodes."  (Tony Spezio)

    With all this talk about nodes, I have a question.

    What about a "dip" before a node. I have a batch of butt sections that are being a pain in the butt. There is a dip just before the node. Talk about double trouble. I am just about to throw the pieces away and start over. I have spent two evenings trying to press, bend, press, bend the other way, bend, bend the other area. Not getting anywhere. The heat just seems to transfer too far and make opposite bends come back. Am I making sense?

    Suggestions????  (Barry Janzen)

      I sympathize. I loathe trying to work with those nodes. I now don’t use culms that have them. Bob Milward, correctly I think, identifies nodes with these dips as being significantly weaker than ones that don’t. This may have something to do with the nodes being damaged through all the work required to straighten them.  The layer of power fibers also looks much thinner in the dip to my eye.  I guess you could cut well away from the node if you build nodeless.  (Stephen Dugmore)

      Some time ago I posted a tutorial on how to deal with this issue here.

      This method produces short, straight nodes with little fiber loss, and no displacement. Allow the cane to cool between steps, and you will have excellent control of which areas bend, and which do not.  You do need to use an alcohol lamp, not a diffuse heat source, like a heat gun. Soak the strips overnight until you get the feel for it.  (Tom Smithwick)


Just a caffeine-induced-unemployed-with-too-much-time-on-my-hands thought here:

Has anyone ever tried straightening nodes using steam from a tea kettle? I looked through the archives and found a mention or two but nothing much.  It seems that it might heat the cane and keep it from scorching at the same time....maybe even give you a second chance if you didn't get it right the first time? I assume that steam is about 210 degrees so I'm not sure if that would be hot enough.  (Bruce Johns)

    Tim Abbott has done quite a little work on straightening with steam, and helped me for several months while I tried to do the same thing.  I had a hard time getting things warm enough to actually soften the cane.  If you try using steam, you'll need some way to actually warm the vise.  (Harry Boyd)

    I use steam. I insert a copper pipe T connector into a tea pot and stream away. I like the way it works, it's slow going if you heat a dry node but I've been soaking my strips lately and the soaked strip heats up pretty quickly. Yes, I do feel I can heat the node multiple times without incident. Whether that's true or not only time will tell.  (Jim Lowe)

      Tim Abbott made a great steaming box for nodes.  You can load a whole rod's worth of strips into it at once and eliminate the wait.  While you are straightening one node, nodes on all the other strips are heating up.  It is described in detail (with pictures) in Power Fibers 24:15-16.  (Robert Kope)

      I assume you're using about a half inch T-connector and inserting the strip  in  the  top  of  the  T  to  steam?    If   so,   inserting   the   same T-connector into the lid of a pressure cooker should produce even better results providing one doesn't use too much heat. Yes?  (Wayne Kifer)

        Perhaps, but I don't own a pressure cooker.

        The stem of the T connector is about 2 inches long and the sides are about 3 inches long. I hold the strip in place with a binder clip as the weight of the spline will tilt the connector up or down depending on which node I'm steaming.  (Jim Lowe)

        I made one 3 or 4 years ago with the T being about 6" long. Couldn't get the node hot enough unless I soaked the strip and used a heat gun along with it to boost the temp. I decided I didn't want to boost the steam pressure, my "Nunley ER Card" already has to many punches in it! My findings were it took to long and I didn't think it was worth the effort.

        Using soaked strips, a heat gun and Robert Kope's Node Press which presses in two direction at the same time works best for me. Best thing I've seen.  (Don Schneider)

    At Corbett Lake 2004, someone showed a contraption that enabled 4 or 6 pieces of cane to be inserted into a heat filled tube so that you could heat multiple pieces of cane / nodes at a time.  It was sort of a contraption that created multiple "T's", leading from, I seem to remember, a steam source.  Tim Abbott was there - maybe it was his device?  I trolled my computer and found no picture.  I suspect it may be in an old Power Fibers.

    Does anyone remember this contraption?  (Greg Dawson)

      I believe it was Tim Abbott's steamer.  Ingenious and clever - I like it. (Alan Grombacher)

        I read Tim Abbot's article and was impressed with the idea of using steam.

        One thing confuses me, though. I'm looking at a photo of this steaming contraption, and can't figure out how the steam actually gets to the cane. Are there holes in the grooved areas, if so, how does the steam pass thru the silicone?

        A few years ago I bought a commercial wallpaper steamer on the cheap thru eBay, as I'm in terminal purgatory removing countless layers of wallpaper from every room in the house. So far it's been doing a real good job of keeping me from rodbuilding.

        If anyone has any ideas to pass along (about the steamer), I'd really like to hear them, as I'd like to do something fun with this steamer unit.  (Kurt Wolko)

          If you think of the device as a shoe box with a pipe out the bottom, then I think of the steam movement as...

          • The steam source is attached to the round pipe at the bottom and fills the shoe box.
          • The box has 6 slots cut into it.  These are concealed behind the red tape/-.  I am not sure how wide the slots are, but they need to be wide enough to allow the strips to be inserted into them.
          • The slots are cut to about halfway through the box.
          • Push one strip of cane through each red tape slit and position a node to be steamed.

          The intent is that the steam is trapped in the box - some will leak out through the cuts in the tape and as you remove each strip to work on the steamed node.

          Does this make sense?  (Greg Dawson)

            I did finally figure it out. When I saw the photograph what I didn't realize was there's a layer of silicone wrapped around the steamer and hose clamps which I mistakenly thought were part of the manifold.  (See Kurt’s drawing here.)  (Kurt Wolko)

      There was an article in the Best of The Planing Form book one on steam used a microwave, bowl of water a cloth and some bubble wrap. check it out.  (Gary Nicholson)

    This has been discussed a few times previously. Before starting to soak I used to straighten with COMBINATION of a heat-gun and a teakettle to make a real hot spot by directing both to the same node simultaneously. It works very well and eliminates any charring.

    Now I am soaking - and happy!   (Tapani Salmi)


I bought an alcohol lamp and used it for my first couple of PMQ’s and maybe my first hex.  I thought it was o.k.  but didn’t like the char and didn’t really care to have to wait a couple of days for strips to soak to avoid the char.  I bought a heat gun to use in my heat gun oven and have since used the heat gun for all of my node work for the last year.  I noticed a few weeks ago that I was having trouble with my oven getting up to temp and figured it was about time for a new heat gun.  This past weekend, I flamed two culms, split them into strips, and began to do my usual node work with the old heat gun.  The first culm and first set of strips were for a 3/2.  I noticed that even though my strips were a little wider than normal, it took a long time to heat the nodes up until they hit that pliable stage.  Up until this point, I have never broken a strip while straightening nodes.  Out of the 24 strips, I broke 4 right in the middle of the node.  I thought maybe I had flamed too heavily or something even though I was going for a nice light flamed rod.  The next culm, I had planned on making 2 2/2’s.  I had split the first 18 strips and began on the node work.  The first strip broke right in the middle of the node.  Again, it felt like it was taking longer than usual to get to the pliable stage and just snapped without a whole lot of pressure.  I abandoned the heat gun and broke out the alcohol lamp.  I began getting nice straight flat nodes very fast with the alcohol lamp.  Faster than I ever could with the heat gun, even when new.   After roughing out the strips, the charred areas were gone around the nodes and all was grand.  I could even here the classical music coming out of my radio from the bench behind me.  I’m still trying to figure out if that is an upside or not.  I’m 31 and grew up on Widespread Panic and Phish but the classical music helps me slow down and focus.

Here are my observations.  Correct me if I am wrong.

1.  Prolonged exposure to heat in lower levels (from the bad heat gun) were detrimental to the node failure.

2.  Short intense heat from the alcohol lamp enabled a quicker heat up time and was better for the nodes.

I’m now left with the dilemma that I need a new heat gun for my oven or I need a new style oven.  (Greg Reeves)

    If everything else is the same as before, flaming, soaking, etc, but the strips are wider, I'd suspect that first. If the strips are too wide, yet not wide enough to split again, plane some off of the sides. Set the blade for a deep cut. It's easier when they‘re wet (yes, I'm a soaker). If the heat gun is going dead on you, it may be getting the cane up to temp too slow and drying it out too much before it gets hot enough to be pliable. Kinda like cooking a steak on too low a fire. You get a hockey puck with a pink center.  (David Atchison)

    I gave up the heat gun for straightening about 7 years ago.  I noticed I was getting a lot of nose bleeds & I figured it was from the dry heat from the heat gun.  The clincher though was when I was using the heat gun one day & it fell over on its stand & started to fall towards me.  I grabbed the heat gun to make sure it did not fall off the bench.  Grabbing it by the barrel (heated to 1500 degrees) I sustained very severe burns to my right hand over 90% of the palm & fingers.  The Drs. did not know if I would ever be able to have full function of that hand again because of the severity of the burns.  When the dead skin from the blistering finally came off it was through almost every layer of skin in some areas.  Luckily with proper medical care & rehabilitation over several months I have regained full use of the hand with no scarring or permanent damage.

    I have found that the alcohol lamp also works faster to heat nodes & I do not have that constant loud noise during straightening. I can also listen to music while I straighten & not have to wear ear protection.  Tinnitus sucks!!!!!!  Anyone want to buy a heat gun?  (Bret Reiter)

      I still use an alcohol lamp although I do have a heat gun.,  Sometimes the old ways are best.  How many of the old masters used a heat gun?????  (Ralph Moon)

        Several years ago I watched Tom Smithwick straighten strips with an alcohol lamp. It was fast accurate and did not burn the cane. So if you practice with the alcohol lamp it can speed up and improve your strips.

        Give them another demo Tom!  (Olaf Borge)

          I've never burned or broken a strip using an alcohol lamp.  I will however use my heat gun when strips are at final and have somehow become less straight.  (Doug Alexander)

            I have been known to use a bunsen bruner, same thing nice and quiet and fast.  (Joe Arguello)

          Actually Olaf, there is a tutorial posted at here. I have seen a lot of good work done with the heat gun and node press, but for me doing it with the alcohol lamp is just easier. You can concentrate the heat in one spot, and use no more than you need to make the correction. I would guess that about 80% of the strips I prepare can be planed without regard to the nodes. The rest require some sort of fussing, like planing backwards on one side, then flipping the strip and finish planing on that one side. I don't recall the last time I actually  destroyed a strip by tearing out a node. It took me a while to get to that point, and once in a while I'll run into a culm that's really trouble and requires a lot of patience in planing. I doubt if any method is perfect.  (Tom Smithwick)

    I now use one of these -- no more adjusting and trimming wicks.   (David Van Burgel)


I finally got my bamboo. True to form, UPS made a couple of extra drying splits in one of the calms.

Despite UPS creating some oddball sized pieces to start with, I managed to get some usable sized strips. So I'm out in my unheated shop after midnight, with it being about 15 degrees outside.  I set my heat gun to 700 and try to straighten the sweeps. Heating them for about 2 minutes like I see recommended, I'm sorta making progress I think... maybe they are getting straighter?? It's getting close to 2:00 and I'm still trying to get the strip somewhat straight, heating and flexing, trying to feel that magic transition. All of a sudden, the strip feels like I broke it. It surprised me so much I dropped the strip. That was enough for the night. I went in before my wife had me committed for observation.  The next day  the strip seems to be OK.  Is the transition really that apparent, or did I really damage the strip? Maybe it takes longer at those ambient temperatures to reach transition? I suppose that I should try it out when the sun is providing a few rays of heat? And just how many times can I heat up a strip before it turns brittle? Should I soak the strip to get some moisture back into it before trying again?

And the biggest question of all... How straight does the strip have to be any way?  (Larry Lohkamp)

    Hope you are having fun!!

    There is a sweet spot when straightening, much like you described. Some people soak their strips for several days in tubes of water to help in the straightening and planing. I haven't tried it yet.

    As far as damaging, it's in one piece, no? Did you hear any cracking?  (Pete Van Schaack)

    Are you straightening the nodes or the long sweeps between the nodes?

    If you are straightening the nodes they need to be straight.  They also need to be flat.  This will help you tremendously when planing.  As for the sweeps.  I don't worry about them.  Once you have them rough planed and heat treated, the sweeps should be minimal or gone completely.

    You will definitely tell when the strip is hot enough but it depends on how wide your strips are and how thick they are.  I rotate the node about an inch above the heat gun, set on high.  After about 30 seconds, I try and bend the strip.  If it doesn't budge, I keep rotating. Usually after about a minute for a 1/4" strip, I feel the node become almost plastic like.  This is when I either free bend or straighten in a vise.  Only time experimenting will let you know the feeling.  Hopefully it will get to the point, you only have to heat the node once, at most twice.  I find that if I have to heat the node 3 or 4 times,  they usually break on me.  I rarely have had to heat the node more than once but sometimes you do.  If it breaks from excessive heat treating, I think it is probably best in the end because the strip was being a pain in the  . . .

    About soaking, some people soak there strips for a day up to a week so they don't dry out or scorch when straightening nodes.  I can't wait that long.  I like to split and straighten the nodes in one session.  I have tried it both ways and I would rather get the nodes out of the way. Otherwise I lay awake at night dreading the node process for days while they soak.  (Greg Reeves)

    I find it works best for me to use a bit higher heat, I got an Ace Hardware digital heat gun that ranges from something like 400 degrees to 1200 and has 2 fan speeds, all for only around 40 bucks or so. First of all I try to split my strips not much bigger than they really have to be, then plane off as much pith as you dare get rid of and do something to the back of the nodes to get them closer to the same thickness as the rest of the strip, using a curved file just under the node bump works well. I like to hold the strip with a little pressure in the direction I want it to bend while I'm heating it in order to feel when it starts to give, which is invariably much sooner than you would think. This might or might not be of some use, in the long run you simply have to resign yourself to ruining a bunch of bamboo while you develop a feel for these things. Fortunately, in the grand scheme of things bamboo is pretty cheap when figured by the strip and you will get a bunch of them out of each culm when you get good at splitting. The good news is that you will pick up on all this stuff pretty quick and the more of it you do, the better you will get.   (John Channer)


It seems that we have many definite empirical regimens for heating bamboo strips to temper.   However, in straightening strips, it seems that it is more "subjective".  Heat it until it isn't too hot on your fingers, and don't let it char.  Is there a temperature at which bamboo plasticizes?  And, what is it?  Inquiring minds want to know.  (Walt Hammerick)

    It’s a good question, I'm always a bit concerned about over heating a strip.  I don't know what the critical temperatures for bamboo are, but there's definitely a point at which a node become suddenly workable and feels loose when you bend it.  In my experience, it doesn't take too much heat to get t o this point, and I don't tend to char my strips. I heat with a heat gun, try to spread the heat away from the node a little, sorry can't be specific, but I do thing good straightening is more in 'the feel' than anything else.  (Nick Brett)

    The answer is yes.  To the degree! Wolfram Schott in his article "Bamboo in the Laboratory” states at 236F, water is lost from the cell and that further heating begins to destroy the molecular bonding.  See Power Fibersdownload section.  (Ralph Moon)


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