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Planing - Final - Processes

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I've begun the next adventure - the final planing phase.  Like most everyone, I started the final planing working on the butt strips first.  I figured, since I've little knowledge or muscle memory of the intricacies of this stage, it would be easier to learn on the bigger strips first.  I put the first butt strip in the forms with the utmost trepidation, knowing that the next few planing strokes would determine how the final product would perform, and what it would look like.  Actually, I first lit a good cigar, and pondered about life in general...  The forms were set with my depth gauge and checked and rechecked at least a half a dozen times.  I learned early on in life to measure twice, thrice, etc. cut once.  It's easier to cut stuff away, than to put it back on.  And yes, I remembered to half the dimensions I received from Mr. Medved, who graciously sent me the numbers he uses to create his grass wonders.  So, there was nothing left for me to do, other than to make sure the plane was sharp, except to begin making curls.

I clamped the first butt strip about two inches or so farther down from my first witness mark on the planing forms, since I planned to work my way to the final size in increments.  I figured this would give me the chance to sneak up on the final dimensions, and correct any gotchas before I was to close to the end product to fix them.  I got the plane in motion, and started pulling off some nice curls, flipping the stick after every couple of passes.  As the butt end started getting close to the form dimensions at the point I clamped it, I flipped the strip top side up, and scraped the enamel off, making the top side parallel to the forms.  Once that task was accomplished, I moved the strip to the final dimension line I'd drawn on the forms, and planed away.  The planing seemed to go relatively well.  Since I was really taking my time, to make sure I was getting the angles and dimensions I wanted, I guesstimate it took me about 30 minutes to do the first strip.  Once I got the hang of it I was doing the rest of the strips in about 10 - 20 minutes, depending on how much grief the strip in question was giving me.  Oh yeah, sharpening....  I learned more about sharpening doing the final planing of these strips than I ever thought I would.  I was loading the blade into the Veritas honing guide, using the supplied Angle jig,  and beveling a secondary angle.  What I wasn't doing was checking the blade's squareness to the abrasive plate once I cranked down on the honing guide's set screw.  I just wasn't getting the blade as sharp as I thought I could, and it was showing when I had to resharpen more often.  Now, after loading the plane blade in the guide, and doing the initial set in the jig, I lay the blade on the sharpening glass, and check to make sure the blade is flat on the glass surface.  Back to shaving hairs again!  Pretty soon won't have any left on the arm...  Guess I'll have to limit my rod building to the cycles of hair growth on my arms.  Good new is,  I've got two arms, so I can do two rods, wait a couple of months...

I had a couple of minor problems during this stage.  A couple of nodes reached up and bit me, and grabbed the plane blade as I was going through them.  Playing around with the plane, I closed the throat down a little more, and this seemed to solve most of the node issues.  I also planed the tip strips on the butt strip side first, on the suggestion from Tony Spezio.  This allowed me to get the tip strips to a true 60 degrees, and also to scrape the enamel from the strip before it got too small to see.

I'm about half way through the tip strips now, and I find myself being even more careful and slower as I plane these guys.  Oy, them tips are so teeny!  .033 when I was setting the form didn't look quite so small.  I could use the tips as toothpicks!  The hardest part so far on planing the tips is making sure the blade is sharp, sharp, sharp.  I really gotta get rid of this cheesy Stanley blade before I begin my next rod.  I'm resharpening the blade between every strip, just to make sure the thing is sharp enough to peel nice little curls at the tip end without leaving little "Mark's" on the strip.  I've got the plane tuned up beautifully now, unfortunately the blade ain't up to the quality of the rest of the plane.  I think the new blade will be either a Hock, or Lie-Nielsen A2.  Since they're both about the same price, what does the list have to say about the two?  Pro's, Con's of both please!

Still awaiting the arrival of my  Epon order from Bingham Enterprises.  Seems the shipping is a bit slow, but should have the glue sometime this week, hopefully.  (Mark Wendt)

    You need to understand the relationship between the depth of cut and width of the throat opening. If the throat is too wide no matter how sharp you make the plane iron you'll have problems. Adjust the opening so there is the tiniest space for the curl to pass. If it's too narrow and the opening chokes move the iron back or open the throat depending on what you're doing, rough or fine cut.

    Experiment a bit with this and you'll solve a few mysteries about the wonders of a block plane.

    As far as the iron to get goes the LN is a good choice so is the Hock. Toss a coin or get them both. Keep them sharp and replace as they dull while planing then resharpen them both ready for the next bout.  (Tony Young)

      Your choice of plane iron will largely depend on what is available in the correct size to fit your plane.  Hock blades are available to fit both US and English Stanley, Record, and perhaps other planes as well.  I'm not so sure that the LN blades fit anything other than LN planes.  I could well be wrong on this, so be sure to check me out.  (Harry Boyd)

      Five years ago or so I bought some Hock irons for my Record planes. They took a lot of work to get them set up, and for that matter, so did the planes.

      I tried single bevel sharpening, I tried secondary bevels, I tried scary sharp, I tried a leather wheel, I tried wet and dry paper on a glass sheet.  I have also tried some HSS irons and some tungsten/carbide items. I have also spent a lot of time speaking to other people who have tried all these and more.

      I don't believe that it matters a damn, so long as the method you use suits you, and that you DO, in fact, keep your irons sharp!!!

      I use 4 Japanese water stones (800, 1200, 6000, and 8000) and I sharpen with a single 35 degree bevel. When do I resharpen?  When I first find myself with a little voice down in my brain stem saying "Maybe you should begin to start to get ready to think about preparing to wonder whether you ought to resharpen"!

      And no, since I stopped wondering how many strips I can plane with a single resharpen, I don't chip  any nodes!  (Peter McKean)

        I think you hit this nail right on the head.  It really doesn't matter a hoot how you get to the end result.  What really matters is that you get there.  I read through some of the tip sections in the tips archive and see a tremendous variety of ways to get from point a to point b.  Reading Mark Wendt's post about splitting is a great example.  He tried various techniques to split and found that a combination of techniques listed in the tips archive is what worked for him.  I think sometimes we all get to a point where we think we have the world by the tail (and we indeed may) and think that our method is the only one that is THE answer to get from one point to another.  The method that one person is using may indeed make it quicker for them to make a rod, but as a hobbiest, I'm more interested in getting a rod made, not really in the quickest time, but to get a rod made to the best of my abilities.  You're talking here about sharpening, but it could be applied to almost every aspect of rodmaking.

        Thanks for the reminder.  (Todd Talsma)


I am new to bamboo rodmaking and have been working on three rods since May of 2006.  Of course the first several months were all about making tools, jigs, etc.  But during that time I have gotten to the point where one of the blanks is ready for tempering.  I tempered it last week.  I read many different posts and lots of books and decided that 7 1/2 minutes at 375 degrees was right.  I had read about many that cooked bamboo longer, but most of the information warned against too long at too high a temperature.  The blank turned a little darker, but it's still a little green (but then again, so am I).  I did not brown tone this rod.

So here I am with one rod ready for final planing.  One butt, two tips.   I planed the butt section today down to the final taper.

Then I got to thinking. I wonder if I cooked it long enough.   So, I cooked another piece of bamboo for 8 1/2 minutes at 375 degrees just to see what it would come out like.  It came out a beautiful shade of brown that I really like.

Now for the QUESTION.  Should I cook my blank some more to get the color I want?  The strength I want?  I now have one butt planed to final taper and two tips cooked at 375 for 7 1/2 minutes without final planing.

Any suggestions on what I should do?  (Mark Temen)

    Tell me, Mark, just exactly HOW brown was this color that you like so much?  If you flame a culm before working on it, you can get it as dark as you like without causing any problems, as you are working on the rind and not to any appreciable extent on the deeper stuff;  but if you go for color change in your oven you are more likely to be affecting to whole strip, and I would worry that a rich brown would possibly be too much.  (Peter McKean)

    Okay, let me see if I can help. I do not know if you read my heat treating experiment I did several years ago. It was published in Power Fibers I think in issue #4. I did several times and temps to find what was a good regime for heat treating and then put them through breaking test. It was some pretty good stuff, and very soon after Bob Milward came out with his book and came to a similar conclusion. The information has helped many rodmakers with heat treating. It is not the only way but it is a good starting off point for heat treating cane. I learned a lot from the experiment so much so that I do not even use an oven for heat treating. I actually use a large garden torch and heat treat the whole entire culm until I get the changes I want. You can read about that on the tips site.

    Anyway, on to your dilemma. One recommendation I will make is you probably should try NOT to use cane that is green. You don't want to use it for the same reason you would not use green wood when building fine furniture. I believe letting the culms dry over a period of time until all the green is gone is good policy. If your strips are still a little green, I would place them in a clear acrylic tube with and put them in the sun until the green is gone. Bamboo is a grass, we all know this, if you take a green blade of grass and heat it in an oven the outcome is different then if the grass was allowed to dry slowly out in the sun.

    Now if you do not want to do that and still proceed with heat treatment you can maybe use this as a guideline. 1 hour at 225 degrees then 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Be careful and mindful that if your strips have been heat treat previously you should decrease the time at the higher temp. Also your strips are tapered so keep an eye on the thin ends. They should be the indicators for color change. Keep a piece of non heat treated bamboo to compare and monitor the heat treatment of your strips.

    Since I do not know your heat treating set up or the position of your thermometers and their accuracy I will not recommend how long or at what temp you should continue to heat treat your butt section, because it is already at its final numbers. If it were me though I would place my butt strips in a light box and leave them there for several days until the strips are completely dry and green free. But be warned your strips will shrink a bit. If you put them in the sun and let them dry they will grow a bit. And then you can redo the final planing.

    If you choose to go ahead and glue them up now, I would suggest using a glue that that makes the rod stiffer such as URAC, Resorcinol or Gorilla Glue. Gorilla glue with actually pull some of that moisture from the cane and use it.

    Now after all that long explanation let me say one thing more, not all cane needs to be heat treated. Believe it. Some cane is good to go once it is dry. And bad cane no matter how much it is heat treated will it become good cane. No wonder people get so confused when it comes to heat treating.  (Adam Vigil)

      This sounds good.

      I also use green bamboo, sometimes dark green, but I always put it in the full sun to dry and only use it when white or light yellow.

      I use a barbecue for heat treating. I start grilling the culm on one end and move slowly higher, being careful not to burn the cane. At the other end of the cane, sap will come bubbling out. I know when the cane is good by its small, a nice nutty roasting smell, and the color, which I like quite dark. Only yesterday I had darkened them too much, and they broke under my plane... Not very scientific, but it works. I like the different shades of yellow/brown and almost black on my rods.   (Geert Poorteman)


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