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Planing - Final - Enamel

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Don't forget to clean up the enamel side before planing close to final dimension.  (Ralph MacKenzie)


I've studied most of the bamboo rodmaking books from Garrison on, and they all assume that the enamel will be left on until after the sections are glued. Some even talk about how, when you finally remove the enamel, you must suck it up and throw it away if you discover wormholes or other flaws. I have never understood why a person would wait until such a strip was permanently glued to five other perfectly good strips before taking off the enamel. I have always removed the enamel from the strips prior to planning, and discovered several bad pieces (with flaws hidden under the enamel) that would have ruined a section. By the same token, I've discovered strips with nasty looking marks on the enamel, but absolutely no trace of any flaw just below the enamel. So I wonder what others are doing, and if there is some reason I'm missing for keeping the enamel on until the sections are glued up.

I can think of only two possible reasons to keep the enamel. One is that glue might not stick as well to enamel, making removal of excess glue easier. But I've never had a problem with that. I've used Titebond, PU and URAC glues. I do wipe down the glued up section before hanging it up to set (using a rag damp with whichever solvent is right for the glue in question), but I think most everyone does that.

The second reason would involve Morgan Hand mill users, whose anvils (for non-Morganites, the anvil is the high density plastic rail on which the strip rests while being planed) have slightly concave surfaces to accommodate the curved outer surface of a bamboo strip. But I've never had any trouble with this even with strips having the enamel removed with a scraper plane which makes that surface flat. Of course, anyone concerned with retaining the curvature can remove the enamel in a way that preserves this - just as they otherwise would have to do when the section was glued. Also, when it comes to tip sections it is much easier to control the removal of enamel on an unplanned strip than on the tiny surfaces left near the tip of a finished section.

So, do many of you leave the enamel on until after gluing, have you had to discard glued sections as a result, and is there some reason to retain the enamel that I've missed?  (Barry Kling)

    I remove the enamel after the rough cut and tempering.  Use a Sanderson scraper and a sharp filet knife.  With a hand mill I feel it is just a whole lot more accurate to remove it before setting the final taper.  (Jerry Young)

    I think, "don't ever plane off the enamel" is one of those old things that was said way back when. Never did make much sense to me. I plane it off for all the reasons you said. To me, the strips also fit better in the forms for final planing.

    So, do many of you leave the enamel on until after gluing?  (Don Schneider)

    Garrison removed enamel before gluing, actually before final taper, after heat treat. This is what I do.   He used a scraping plane, like the 212 or something, I sand.  I thought Wayne C. and Maurer sand theirs before gluing also.  Not real sure on the last two, I've only skim read them.  Garrison is the only book on rodmaking I own.  (Tom Ausfeld)

    Perhaps "If" to remove the enamel. I was casting a very nice Leonard Catskill (7'6" 3/4 wt) the other day when the owner pointed out to me the enamel left on the cane. There were many patches of enamel showing on this exquisite rod. They stood out as blemishes to me, but obviously the Leonard folks thought nothing of them.  (Reed Curry)

    I leave the enamel on until I am approximately .015 - .020 away from final.  This gives me plenty of allowance for errant nodes.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I remove it before final planing.  (Bret Reiter)

    I don't necessarily think that this is the "best" time to remove the enamel, but I do it when I am about to final plane. I find that if I don't remove the projections associated with the nodes prior to planing it is impossible to get accurate measurements  anywhere around the nodes.

    I set my Lie-Nielsen scraping plane to the thickness of a cigarette paper (incidentally, I am a nonsmoker, and boy, do I get some funny looks at the tobacconist  when I buy the papers. The proprietor seems to think I am the oldest pot smoker in the world) and get rid of the nodal humps.

    That seems to me to be an appropriate time to make a pass or two and get rid of the enamel haze. With the plane set so fine, I really find it hard to believe that I am doing any harm to the power fibers. Apart from anything else, if you still have enamel on your strips, then you are measuring it as part of the working substance of the rod, which I don't think you ought to do.  (Peter McKean)


I've followed the list for about 3 years now and don't remember the topic of scraping the enamel off your strips prior to heat treating discussed. I'm building a blond 7613 and was curious if anyone is using or has tried this method of heat treating. Will it impart more color? Will it allow the heat to more evenly penetrate the strip? Does the enamel shield the power fibers some reducing the effects of the heat?  Or,  will I just fry the cr@p out of my strips? My regular routine is to bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees then unplug the the (mica strip) oven and crack open the door some to allow the heat to slowly (15-20 more minutes) come down to about 150 degrees. I then remove my strips to cool to room temp. I think the slow cool down will allow the strips/fibers to stay in alignment better. Maybe it's all a bunch of hogwash too. Anyway, I definitely think with no enamel that the moisture will be removed more quickly. So, maybe lower the temp and shorten the time, but then has anything really changed besides a quicker heat treating process? Milward may say there is a difference but, any input/ideas from you more experienced makers would be much appreciated. Maybe I'll make one tip from the old method and the other with the enamel off, same heat...(Brian Smith)

    I usually heat somewhere between 350 and 375 in a heat gun oven for about 20 minutes with the enamel on.  Then scrape it off later.  I have heated the cane much longer and have really darkened it and sometimes have even fried it.  There is some discussion about heating it at those temps for too long.  The Milward book discusses the effect of too much heat on the cane itself.  The cane does in my experience become much darker, but more brittle.  I have on some rods gone as long as 35 minutes to get the color I want.  At about 1/2 hour the color I get is pretty close to an ammonia treated strip.   (Mark Babiy)


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