Bamboo Tips - Tips Area - Planing - Rough

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Pay attention to your 60 degree angles when you rough out the strips - everything falls into place afterwards based on them.  (Ralph MacKenzie)


Two gizmos that DO work for me, to make hand planing less error prone, are Max Satoh’s “slash” jig, which is basically a 6 foot long vice that holds your strip for the first 60 degree angle and the plane leveler training wheels that I think John Bokstrom invented.

I modified Max’s Jig so it closes with a set of hand toggles about 10 inches apart, instead of bolts.  Just takes a minute to clamp a strip in place then get that perfect initial angle.

The training wheels look a little dorky, but when you get those full length shavings every pass, with no effort to keep the plane level, you don’t mind so much.  Just think of it as a (very) poor man’s milling machine.

Like everything else, if you hand plane a lot, you get good at keeping angles etc, but if you only make a few rods a year like me, these sorts of jigs help eliminate some mistakes.

Make sure to click on the “English” link at Max’s site, unless you can read Japanese.  My modifications are:

1)   Mount 1 “jaw” on the edge of a flat wooden base (like a 6
       foot x 1 foot piece of plywood.
2)   The second jaw closes to it sliding across the base.
3)   Several pieces of metal rod pass through the sliding jaw,
       glued into the stationary jaw for alignment.
4)   Several wooden levers push the jaws shut.

(Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    For the first angle form, I have been using a big, Japanese plane, which has a sole made of hardwood.  I made a groove about 1 inch wide by chisel about .03 to .04 inch deep on the sole of the plane.  When using the grooved sole plane, it will not plane on the wooden forms.  Just a few passes will make a a good 60 degree angle on a strip.

    Next is an adjustable wooden planing form which is also displayed on this page.  It is the roughing form, not for final planing.  I would like to have had a beveller, but that is too expensive. Because of this, I use a power plane on the wooden form.  Do not make this form of metal, as using a power plane on a metal form is too dangerous.  There is a V groove on the sole of the power plane.  It works similar to a groove in a hand plane and will not plane the form when  I set the dial of the toe to zero.  The groove isn’t wide enough for some of the wide strips, so to get a wider groove, add a thin plate next to the existing groove and then adjust the height of the toe to the same depth as the thin plate.  This allows me to plane the bamboo strips to just above the wooden planing form.

    The reason why the two wooden forms themselves have a wider width (7 cm) is for the use of the power plane.  It is safer to use wider wooden forms if you use a power plane.  It’s a lot steadier for you to use.

    I rough by this method and bind right after for heat treatment.

    I have another wooden form for final planing which is made of hardwood.  I referred to Tony Young’s web page to show how to make it.  I use Lie-Nielsen’s grooved plane for this.  There are some photos on this page.  Ignore the odd characters around the pictures, they are Japanese characters which your PC may not be able to display properly.  Click the thumbnails to enlarge the photos.  (Max Satoh)


Note:  The following tip was in response to what type of roughing form should be used.

I started out using a Garrison type initial planing form, but switched to using a set of maple forms with symmetric 60° grooves of different depths. With any of the asymmetric forms, you are assuming that you can split your bamboo perfectly perpendicular to the surface of the culm for the entire length of the split.  You can't.   I find it easier to just use a symmetric groove, and be careful to hold the enamel side of the strip against the side of the groove for the first few passes.  If you alternately take 2 or 3 passes off each side of the apex of the strip, it only takes a few passes the length of the strip before it will rest solidly in the groove.  If you think about it, the geometry of the strip and the groove tends to force the enamel against the side of the groove as you plane away the corners on the pith side of the strip.

This approach also means one less form to make, and that you don't have to switch forms as you plane. The straight 60° forms are also much easier to make since you can just cut the grooves with a 60° veining router bit.

However, I think the ease of getting accurate angles in a strip depends far more on getting all the twists out a strip before you start planing than on what type of roughing form you use.  (Robert Kope)


I use an adjustable 60° no taper starter form. Depending on the size strips is the reason for the adjustable part. For me, I've found it much easier if all of the strips are the same thickness prior to establishing the angle.  I run them through a power planer pith side up and make them slightly thicker than largest dimension of the section at hand. The weight of the plane now has less of a tendency to cam the enamel side of the strip out of the form during the initial passes. After a few passes they settle in. I plane all 7 strips to the same dimensions and life is good.  (Don Schneider)


I use a set of 6 foot preliminary forms with a 60 degree angle in each side, one for tips, one for butts. I flip the strips when beginning and by the time my cuts have peaked through the pith I have true sixties. I have found this the simplest and easiest way to rough plane.  (Steve Trauthwein)


I don't think accuracy is all that important at the rough planing stage. The main thing is to get a 60 degree angle, take off some bamboo, and get the strips reasonably close in size for binding & heat treating.

When I started, I built a rough form out of maple. I made a scraping tool to get a 30 degree groove on one piece, cut the other piece to about 90 degrees (it's actually somewhere between 80 and 100!) with a hand-held power saw, and screwed the two pieces together. Works just fine for me.

For the secondary form, I just hogged out grooves on both sides of a piece of 2" maple with the scraping tool. One side is about .250 deep for butt sections, the other is about .150 for tips. I took my time & made sure the 60 degree groove was true.

If I had a table saw or a router, I'd have probably made better initial forms. But my crude ones work OK. I know I don't get a precise 60 degree angle with them, but everything seems to correct itself with a few passes in the final form. (I bought this from Colorado Bootstrap).  (Tom Bowden)


Roughing forms are necessary if you wish to make the most difficult method possible. I mean if you want to chase angles and have problems with inaccurate angles look to the roughing forms. In Wayne Cattanach’s books he talks about inaccurate strips and he then points you in the direction of the roughing form.

I took some advice from others on the list and this is what I found out. There was an easier way of not getting so pissed off at chasing angles when roughing a strip. Take the strip nodeless or straighten, what ever trips your trigger, and set it on its edge or make a jig to hold it. Run your plane down the edge of your strip and square it up. Flip to other side and repeat. You now have a long rectangular strip. No 7 degree angle on the strip to juggle. Take that good looking straight 90 degree strip and put it in the butt section of your planing form and have at it. Flip it every pass and you will find the cane will develop the 60 degree you are looking for.

My idea of a good time does not include roughing out 18 strips. If you have minimal mechanical skills you can make a Medved franken beveller in about 4 hours. It takes me about 5 minutes to rough a strip. I swear it is easy to build and will save your wrist from arthritis. The way I look at it for every rod I do not have to rough out by hand is about 4 more rods my hands will last longer. We all know the real fun and art is putting the finishing angles on.  (Adam Vigil)


One of the real problems of getting old is the disinclination to try new tricks.  What was good enough 30 years ago is still good enough, NOT!  Darrell, mentioned some time ago that he used a jack plane for rough planing.  I paid little attention to it until not long ago, I found an old rusty jack plane at a yard sale and bought it.  I spent a bunch of time getting rid of the rust, redoing the wooden parts, flattening the bottom and adjusting it for a cut.  It is fantastic!!!  It removes cane rapidly, but under perfect control;  using it takes far less effort, and is kinder to the hands and shoulders.  , but most of all it will save me hours of work.  Thank you Sir D. As far as I am concerned you deserve another chevron on your banner.  Now I wonder about this soaking bit.  (Ralph Moon)

    The Stanley No. 3 size is my bench plane of choice. Pick an old one up on eBay. You should be able to get one for under $50.00.  There seems to be a marked difference in the blade steel on the ones made around 1932. The blades got worse after that year. If you are going to get a Hock replacement blade then get a plane made before 1964. They got real cheap after that.  (Darryl Hayashida)


I may well be the only one who has this problem. I just KNOW that none of you blokes who run these Bonsai pulp mills in your basements would EVER have such an annoying irregularity, but I am a hand-planer, and I surely do.

When the strips have been through the primary rough form, and are starting their stint in the 60 degree untapered  forms, does anyone find that they have a bit of trouble bringing the triangles down from a very elongated isosceles triangle to the equilateral shape they are aiming at?

Usually happens to me where I have gotten a bit carried away with my hand-splitting and split the strips a wee bit thin (sheer bloody greed, I know), and they have a  very annoying tendency to twist and lie flat in the groove. It actually gets to be a bit nip and tuck whether you run out of strip before you get the 60 degree angles.

A year ago or so, I sort of worked out a fix for the problem, which is so simple that I guess everyone knows it, but which works very well for me in any case.

What I do is flip the strip onto the enamel side, pith side up, and get into it with a block plane and plane away the pith until I have a strip which is wider than it is deep. Then flip it back again, and go on with the normal planing.

So far, so good.  (Peter McKean)

    The roughing forms account for so many problems with angles. I have learned to get away from having problems controlling angles is to start from a consistent point in my planning. This is a few more strokes with a plane but it is worth it. I plane off the pith until it is flat. I plane both edges of the strip until they are at about 85 - 90 degrees to the enamel. Then when you place the strip into your form you start making passes and flipping. Quick enough the 60 degree appears and no more chasing angles with the roughing form. I now use a roughing beveller and prepare the strips in the same manner before sending them through.

    If you use this method you can get rid of the 1st form and 2nd form ala Wayne Cattanach.  You can go right to your finishing forms and do all your roughing on the butt section side. The only thing I use my roughing form for now is as a holder for sanding off the enamel when .040 oversized.

    None of the above was my original thought some of it came from the planing form and some from my good friend rodmaker Mike Shay...Hi Mike!

    Try it, you'll like it.  (Adam Vigil)

    I use the Hand Mill, but you reminded me of a thought (yes) I had last week.  I noticed that sometimes the HM has trouble with tear out at the nodes and following a strip that is not dead straight. If I take the flat cutter and plane the strips flat to just about the final depth it serves a few purposes. One, I get a visual cue as to when I am almost done. Two it gives me strips that are easier to take out of the Hand Mill and straighten again. Three, it saves the edges on the upper end of the cutters so that I do butt sections first and get started on grips and such while the tips are soaking or whatever. Four, less cutting surface means less effort. Five, it is easier to measure with a flat pith sides.

    I should add:  I straighten and flatten before roughing the strips into non tapered lengths in the JW Beveller. I soak. I plane the strips wet and taper before heat treating.  (Bob Maulucci)


Today's question concerns rough and preliminary planing forms, particularly rough planing.  Garrison's book indicates that the rough forms should have a 30 degree and a 57 degree bevel resulting in an 87 degree planing groove.  Penrose’s web site says 82 degree; and the forms at Golden Witch are patterned after Garrisons.  My question is- how critical is the 57 degrees?  If you plan on using a preliminary planning form with the 60 degree groove doesn't the 87 degree rough form work just fine at 90 degree (30 + 60)?   I laid the two shapes out on an AutoCAD drawing and it looks like pretty  small difference.   (John Hightower)

    I don't think accuracy is all that important at this stage. The main thing is to get a 60 degree angle, take off some bamboo, and get the strips reasonably close in size for binding & heat treating.

    When I started, I built a rough form out of maple. I made a scraping tool to get a 30 degree groove on one piece, cut the other piece to about 90 degrees (it's actually somewhere between 80 and 100!) with a hand-held power saw, and screwed the two pieces together. Works just fine for me.

    For the secondary form, I just hogged out grooves on both sides of a piece of 2" maple with the scraping tool. One side is about .250 deep for butt sections, the other is about .150 for tips. I took my time & made sure the 60 degree groove was true.

    If I had a table saw or a router, I'd have probably made better initial forms. But my crude ones work OK. I know I don't get a precise 60 degree angle with them, but everything seems to correct itself with a few passes in the final form. (I bought this from Colorado Bootstrap).  (Tom Bowden)

    You can get as precise as you want with the preliminary form, but unless you are an expert at splitting, what good is the theoretical angle of a perfectly split 2" diameter culm?  What if your culm is 1-5/8" diameter.  Set up your table saw for 30 degrees.  Saw one half of your form to give a 30 degree cut and turn the second half of the form to leave a 60 degree cut. (see Howell's book if you are confused)  When you put 'em together you'll have a 90 degree groove tilted to one side ready to plane your first edge.  Close enough.

    Or skip the preliminary form and just use the adjustable form.  Flip every cut.  (Rick Crenshaw)

      I use a set of 6 foot preliminary forms with a 60 degree angle in each side, one for tips, one for butts. I flip the strips when beginning and by the time my cuts have peaked through the pith I have true sixties. I have found this the simplest and easiest way to rough plane.  (Steve Trauthwein)

        I do the same as Steve, just use the fixed 60 degree form.  The only hard part is the first cut (or cuts).  I find it necessary to be as careful as possible to hold the enamel side against one side of the form, the strip tends to want to drip into the form.  Then I actually take several passes on that first side to get a partial cut at 60.  From there it is really quite easy to flip the strip, if your first cuts were at all good, the strip will rest easily at the right angle, and you can start cutting and flipping, one pass per side, until you have well established angles, then 2 or 3 passes per side until you have a triangle.  It works even for this newbie.  (James Piotrowski)

    As a relative newcomer to this game, I am struck by the number of other novices who do exactly what I did - buy and read everything available, then spend an  age trying to sort out which is the best advice.

    I have 3 comments here:

    [1] Garrison - if you were trying to learn how to train an animal, you wouldn't start by reading St. Francis of Assisi. I mean, he's certainly very venerable, but a bit sort of roundabout and not entirely focussed.

    [2] Howell - the best book of all to read, beautifully illustrated,  and I wouldn't be without it.

    [3] Cattanach - all in all, if you are building an early rod, you should probably settle for this one, and become a "Wayniac". If I had to keep only one book, it would be this one;   and I don't  even have the new edition!  (Peter McKean)


After thinking that I had roughed out my strips well enough I find that all but one are "fatter" in the middle than at either tip. Will this be a problem for me? Or should I rough out the middle until they are uniform? I have good 60's  all the way through the strips, just wondering if the fat sections in the middle will hurt the heat treatment or make it harder to final plane. I have placed them in the final forms and they fit well enough to plane. I'll be using a walk in bakers oven to heat treat until I build my own oven. It's a high quality oven with very good air flow and no cold spots, judging from the way it bakes out bread [:)]  (Robert Hicks)

    I don't THINK it will matter that the rough sections aren't uniform, the butt sections are usually bigger than the tips and it doesn't seem to matter when heat treating.  HOWEVER, I'm still pretty new at this.  Anyone else have a thought???   (Neil Savage)

    Good question. Heat treating is always a mind boggler when making your first rods. Some makers actually heat treat their cane once they have tapered the strips. They are heat treating tips that range from small to big.  Others flame a whole entire culm and we know that they range in different thickness.  Just keep in mind that when heat treating your goal is to dry the cane and then heat it until there is a intracellular and intercellular change. If using an oven you can heat treat safely by drying your cane at 225-250 degrees for about an hour and then heat treating it for 20-30 minutes at 325-350 degrees. This is just a guideline. Just keep in mind the darker the cane gets the weaker and more brittle it gets. On the other hand cane can get rather dark brown and still be used in a fly rod. Are you thoroughly confused now? Good, Just stick your sticks in the oven, you will be fine.  (Adam Vigil)

    PS: to make matters more confusing if you soak your heat treated strips in water for 3 days and plane them wet, your cane will cut like butter. And when they dry out (don't plane totally to final dimension) they will be good as new.

    In my opinion, and this if for hand planing, (mills are a different story I'm told), I'm a firm believer that in order for the final strips to turn out OK, the cane is better to be uniform when the final planing is started. If you lose one side before the other, I believe this causes the dimensions to suffer. I'd like to warn you also, that if the node area has a dip on the sides, you might chase that dip all the way to the final forms, and end up with a void at the node. Not trying to scare you, just trying to keep you from going through a little bit of the agony I've gone through early on in this mess we call rod building!  (Jerry Andrews)


I am currently finishing up the fabrication of my final planing forms (metal, never filed so much in my life), and I have a question regarding roughing / intermediate forms (which are next on the production line).  How deep should the 60 degree groove be (butt and tip side)?  I am using a 1" x 1" x 48" piece of oak.  I have been studying Wayne's excellent book (along with all the info available on this listserv and other web sites), and I was wondering if I really need (3) forms (rough,  intermediate and final), or will just the untapered, 60 degree groove rough and tapered final do?  (Dave Riker)

    I have found that you do not need three forms.  I use a 3' adjustable metal form I made which has a deeper groove in it than the final forms.  This allows me to triangulate roughly with a bench plane and spring clamp.  Then it goes into the final form set wide to get some taper and get rid of more wood. Final plane next.  You do not need an adjustable rough planing form.  Anything that is deep enough allow you to triangulate the strips.  I do not ever use that "Hybrid"  groove on my rough planing forms.  They are 60 degrees and they work fine.  (Ralph Moon)

      I've decided that since I already have the material I might as well make a roughing form (using Harry's measurements, thanks Harry).  Once I have a few blanks under my belt perhaps I'll find it's best to just use the final forms opened up a bit, as a few others have suggested  Again, thanks for the info.  (Dave Riker)


Why are rough and intermediate forms generally prescribed as being shorter than the strips? Is this because of bends and twists in the strips which might go awry in longer forms?  (Stephen Dugmore)

    When roughing by hand on split strips, I found that you don't use full length planing strokes, but rather short strokes. They tend to be on the choppy side.  As you begin to arrive at your initial angle, you simply push your already planed area ahead and out of the form and work on the next few inches. You simply are not working on long sections of your strips. As the planed section of strip leaves the form, your plane will no longer remove material. This will help you from removing too much 'boo and wrecking your angle. Once you have finished your initial angle, the strip will begin to 'nestle' in your intermediate form. This form can be longer and you will begin to take longer planing strokes on the second angle. You will likely still be slipping the strip out of the form since it is shorter than the strip you're working on. The result again is you don't over plane and screw up your angles.

    You will probably learn in time, that you will be able to skip the second form and set your finished form over size and cut your second angle on the finished forms.  (Mike Shay)

    I don't have the definitive answer for you, but I figure they are shorter simply because a longer form isn't needed.

    As you are aware, a longer form is easier to use as a final form since the strip is tapered along its full length.  A form that is shorter than the strip can be used but that would mean that only a section of the strip can be planed before readjusting the form.

    A rough or intermediate form is not tapered.  The groove or beveled edge is the same depth throughout its length.  Compared to a final form, it is much easier to move around to different sections of the strip since no adjustment of the form is required.

    I suspect the reasons, then, are related to the ease of making a shorter form, less material and therefore less costly, and lastly, easier to handle or store.    (Tim Wilhelm)


I’m approaching the completion of rough planing on rod #2 (but first rod built using a form rather than the MHM).

My question is in regards to angles.  I’m having a bit of a problem (perhaps confidence related only?) with attaining a true and precise 60 degree angle for the length of the strip. 

I used a rough planing form built with several 60 degree grooves in a maple board to rough out the strips.  It was easy to make this with a 60 degree router bit and simply routed several grooves of various depths in the board for rough planing tips and butt sections. 

My problem is that I can visually see if the 60 degree angle is off at the ends of the strips, but can’t see (visually) if I’m off  in the middle of the strips.  I know that there are places where I’m off angle as the measurements from flat to apex on all three sides are don’t agree (off up to 0.01” or slightly more in some cases). 

All the books I’ve read simply say “get the angles right at 60*”, but don’t offer a lot of assistance on how to attain this (and how close is close enough?).  I’m working on trying to figure out what action to take from my mid-strip measurements.  Thus far, I observe the following:

When you take measurements from the flats (one side of the triangle) to the apexes opposite, the largest measurement will come from the measurement of the shortest flat to the apex opposite that flat.  This means I need to further plane the shortest flat (of a non-enamel nature!) to achieve an equilateral triangle. 

Is there an easier way?  I have tried to use a Starrett 60* center gage to observe the angle in mid-strip and to be honest, it always looks close enough and doesn’t show me that the angle is bad when there is a 0.01 or 0.02 measurement difference. I’ve tried holding the center gage against the enamel and one flat as well as on the apex of the cut opposite of the enamel.  No luck in showing me my error in my ways.

Any help, observation, or advice would be appreciated. 

I’m sure one day, I’ll look back on this as a no-brainer, but right now, It’s a headache.  (Scott Turner)

    That's why they call it rough planing. Although .020" variance sounds a bit much, all you are trying to do at this stage is prep the strips for binding & heat treating. You could true them up in your steel forms if you wish.  (Don Schneider)

    Do you have the center part of the enamel side flat?  On the few rods I've made, if I didn't do that I could NEVER get the 60 degrees right.  You're going to have to remove the enamel sometime.  (Neil Savage)

    Simply planing the shorter side of the triangle will not correct your angles.  Usually when the angles are off, you have a 60 degree angle at the apex, but the angles are off on the enamel side.  The angle between the enamel side and the longer flat is too acute, and the angle between the shorter flat and the enamel side is too obtuse.  To check the angles on the enamel side with a center gauge, you will have one flat against one side of the notch in the gauge and the other side of the notch should contact the enamel in the center of the strip. If the point of contact is not in the center of the enamel, your angles are off.   When this happens to me it is either because of a twist in the strip, or because I tend to tilt my plane toward me as it approaches the end of a strip.

    To correct the angles you need to tilt the plane toward the enamel on the long flat, and away from the enamel (toward the apex) on the short flat.  As long as you don't reverse the strip in your roughing form, this will entail tilting the plane in the same direction on both flats.  Take only one or two passes on a flat before switching to the other flat.  Hopefully you have enough cane left to do this.  If not, you can take care of it in final planing.  (Robert Kope)


Anyone used a power planer to rough strips?  Seems like it would be a lot less tiring than hogging with a hand plane.  Thought I'd ask before I buy one.  (Lee Orr)

    I am not quite sure what type of "power planer" you are suggesting.  If just a powered hand plane it works great the problem is when you hit a metal form.  I have a nice scallop in my form and the blades shooting  around from my last experience.  In theory putting tape on each side so it will not hit the form will work but in practice it did on me and a friend of mine also.  I would suggest using a wooden form not metal.  You could also use 12" or so stationary power plane with wooden forms and get a taper.  Tony has even made PMQ's this way. In my opinion you would do well to make a router based rough planer, similar to the Medved or JW or one with cutters with a 60 degree blades like a Dickerson.  If there is a way to get around hogging cane someone has done it.  I would suggest you go to the archives and to Todd's Tips page to get some ideas.   (David Ray)

      I was referring to a powered hand plane.  My roughing forms are oak.  Just wasn't sure if it would chew up the cane.  I'm done with the tool building for a bit.  This just seemed like it would speed up getting the strips to 60 degrees.  (Lee Orr)

        Any reasonable material is going to get chewed to !$%# when you have that one "accident."  (Mike Montagne)

        I bought a powered hand planer several months ago and put tape on the bottom and using wooden roughing forms and a wooden splicing jig I made I found that the planer worked quite well both in setting the rough sixty degrees on the sticks and for making the scarf joint for the splice. I was thinking of making nodeless rods at the time and for a first rough attempt was quite pleased with the results.  (Dick Steinbach)

      I've been doing this for quite some time and it is a time saver for sure.

      My method is a little different though; I have a 1x4 piece of hardwood five feet long. I cut a 60 degree groove 1/4" deep the length of the board with a router.  I lay the strip in the groove and run a power planner down the board. Only one or two passes per strip.

      It's pretty easy to get good strips that way. Big disadvantage is the cane dulls the planing knives in a hurry.  (Mark Dyba)

        Go for it.  Just put something like tape on the bottom on each side so your plane will not hit the forms and be careful. I would not want to take off too much at a time. I bought one and it did take the cane off quickly.  If it were adjustable you could put in the taper and take it down to .050 or so of your taper and do the rest by hand.  If not just take it close to your largest measurement and it will save a lot of work.  (David Ray)

    Very crude solution to the object. One accident surely could ruin your planing forms.

    E. C. Powell built finished strips on a refined table saw. If you want to short-cut, I'd go that route. If you're halfway good at it (and thus far doing far better work than you could with your power planer), you could forego planing or scraping altogether.

    If you want even more control, you'll have to build a beveller.  (Mike Montagne)

    Lon Blauvelt taught the power-planer technique in his course, and it works well for some people. He doctors the planer by applying Teflon tape to the sole of the power planer aft of the blades to keep the planer up a little.  (Henry Mitchell)


How close to the final dimension (fat end of course) of a strip do you power bevel before switching to the planing form?  (Henry Mitchell)

    I don't think this has an exact answer because it depends on a bunch of different variables. And you haven't specified whether it was rough planing, or tapering. I have tapered a couple rods to within 20 thousandths, and am still wondering how I got away with it. Probably straight flat strips, new cutters, and dumb luck. I think 100 thousandths is more realistic and safer. You want enough cane so that you can "clean up" the strip edges with a good solid end to end swipe of the plane, and enough cane left so that if the angles are off a bit you have enough material to correct the angle before reaching final dimensions.

    The other problem is that some power bevelers leave wisps along the enamel edge, and there is a belief that you can get small cracks in the enamel along the edge of the strip. This has to be planed off, otherwise you end up with little slivers along the edge that make glue-up a horror show and usually result in seams when they come off and glue lines when they don't.

    It may seem silly to not use a beveler to its potential, but the time savings is so great that at worst you need a couple minutes extra per strip with the plane. It also seems to work better when you take it slow. The closer you get to your end point, the less cane you should be trying to remove per pass. Every problem I have ever had with a beveler stemmed from trying to hog off too much cane at once. Check out the "Medved beveler, big trouble" post in the archives.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      I agree with Jeff. How close depends on what machine. I also think that playing it safe and planing a tad more is the better way to go. Especially with the Hand Mill, tattered edges can wreck havoc on the finished strips.   (Bob Maulucci)

    I mill finals on both tips and butts.  My best mill was a converted surface grinder -- the right tool for the job.  One or two passes for  butts.  Two passes for tips.    (Chris Lucker)


I'm just getting started and am practicing splitting and planing with gardening center cane before starting on the Tonkin cane. I have a couple questions that don't seem to be directly answered in any of my books or on the tips site. Its probably obvious to anybody that's built even one rod. How close to exact 60's can the rough strips be before heat treat? Is within .01 or even .02 side to side good enough for  1/8 inch strips or would .03 or even .04 inches between sides be OK for rough planing? Also, what about lengthwise variation at the end of rough planing, is .02 or maybe .04 variation up and down a nominal 0.125 strip close enough? I can plane more accurately if needed but would hate to be too fussy where its not needed

I built my own forms out of maple, something that's cheap and available around here, and discovered something that was very useful, but was not obvious to me. The triangular file to use is called a three-square file and is not the same as the triangular files found in hardware stores or even most industrial supply places  around here.  After messing up the  maple a  couple times (wood forms can be recycled through the wood stove so that even messed up ones are not a total loss)  I got  a three square file, which is double cut  (not single cut like the hardware store files). As far as I can tell it was the only three square file to be found in the state of Vermont. Using a three-square file and chalking the file made all the difference in the last go-around with the planing form. The butt side is within 0.001 inches and the tip is within 0.002 inches at each station and between stations. I did the butt side first and was shooting for within 0.0005 on the tip side, that is why it is not as good as the butt side.  (Joe Hudock)

    I'll comment on your second question first.  Your wooden final forms sound quite nice.  I suspect you will enjoy using them.  Another tip on 3 sided files is that the angles are not always truly 60 degrees.  Back when I was building forms for myself I got some funny looks measuring all the files in the local hardware stores.

    As for rough planing, well, it's just that.  There is no need to worry too much with accuracy.  When I rough plane by hand I hog the cane off .015" per pass with a cheap Buck Brothers plane.  It actually works much better than my nicer planes.  Often the corners of the strips are nowhere near the correct angle before I bind them up and put them in the oven.  I do concentrate on getting my nodes flat and straight.   Other than that I let the oven straighten the strips and find things go much easier once the strips are heat treated.  After the strips come out of the oven I get persnickety.  But only then.  (Harry Boyd)

      Thank you and all the other folks who responded. I have not been paying enough attention to the nodes and on checking they are a little lumpy. I've been following Cattanach's book so far since he files nodes before splitting, however some of the filing I've done was a little sloppy and the node displacing on some of the strips was not too good. Fortunately this is practice until I get a couple culms from Golden Witch, week after next. After the planing form problems I had before I got my groove filing method sorted out I felt that cheap practice cane was in order. Actually one of them looks like the Tonkin cane photos I've seen but then I will not see the real stuff for another two weeks.

      You are right about lopsided files. The one I have is off 0.004 on one side over an average 0.402 inch triangle height. It looked perfect in the center gage but the digital caliper really shows the difference. This is about a half  degree off. I hope its close enough, because that's all they had at Grangers, which is the only place around here with the 3-square double cut files. I am a bit surprised because its a USA made Nicholson and not an import. I checked the one unused Sears Craftsman  file (stamped made in India) that's for hand saw sharpening and it is also off about a half degree. The Nicholson file came sealed up in plastic and cardboard. So even if they had more than one to choose from at Grangers, checking the angles might have got them upset. You must have good hardware stores where you live since all the ones around here only carry the single cut saw sharpening triangular files and trying to use them making the planing form was a big mistake.  (Joe Hudock)

        Read your post with interest because I had seen some Tonkin cane fence posts at a Garden shop too.  It looks like the roughest bottom parts of the culms that was dragged over here from China overland, with really close nodes and rapidly diminishing fibers (cut diagonally at bottom).  I was curious how it might work.  From the looks of the stuff I saw if you can work that without throwing your hands up in despair, you surely won't have any problem with the real thing. Steady on.  (Darroll Groth)

      My rule of thumb that I use is; on butts = .250, and on tips = .180.

      As Harry pointed out in his response.  Nodes are critical at this point.  Make sure they're straight and flat.  (Joe Byrd)

      My ballpark target is .200 to .225 for tips & butts.

      I know the above sounds large for tips, however I'm not sure anyone really knows what magic happens during heat treating. So, whatever happens, I want all sections to get the same magic.

      I try to get the sticks as straight/flat nodes and near 60° as I can. To me it just makes it easier to work with the strips later.  (Don Schneider)

      I've only built 2 rods but I'll echo the statement about nodes.  The only very small glue line spots I have on rod number 2 are around a couple of nodes that I didn't have straight enough before beginning planing.  It's something I'll pay 100% attention to on rod number 3.  (Aaron Gaffney)


I rough planed the butts to the 60 degrees.  On the tips, I seem to be getting down too close to the wood roughing forms, to attain the 60 degree for the rough.  When I check the tips with a 60 degree gauge, they are still a little off center. I don't have any more room on the wood rough plane form to straighten out the angle and true it. Normally, I would plane a bit on the short side to bring it all to 60.

Is this something that can be adjusted in the Final plane?? Or, should I start over.   (Mike Valla)

    We usually split tips large enough to insure there is an abundance of material to remove.  You will find that the angles improve as you progress towards your desired dimensions during final planing.  I don't want to confuse you at this stage of the game, but if you think about what you wrote: "Normally, I would plane a bit on the short side to bring it all to 60" you'll see that sometimes it takes more than just planing on the short side.  A year or so ago we had a great discussion here on how to bring the angles to equilateral.  I'm sure it's in the archives and on the Tips Page.  (Harry Boyd)

    You need to lean your plane in the right direction to correct an angle. Harry's excellent piece on it is from 30 June 2005.

    If you have enough wood (enough for at least say 6-8 passes of the plane) you can correct it in your tapered forms. You could either set your final forms straight, without a taper, and do it now, or you could do it with the taper after heat treating (presuming that is what you will be doing next.

    Whatever happens you will have to get those 60 degree angles to glue it up properly, so give it a go and see what you come up with. If the strips get too thin for your chosen taper see if you can use them for a different one, or as part of a 3 piece or something. Otherwise use them as planing practice - it will make correcting the angles sooner much easier.

    I have a sweet little 5"3" 2 wt which I salvaged from a slippery slope, so don't start over without trying first.   (Stephen Dugmore)

    If you slide the tip section down the form to a wider area, you should be able to fix the angle. What happens is the strip being wider than the groove will have a tendency to roll. This will make the angle longer on one side. It helps to start the planing in the wider part of the groove. As the angle gets a good start, keep moving up the form to the narrower part. This will help keep the angle as it should be. I am sure you can use the strips you have. You might do better if the end is getting too small, scrape the long side with a single edge razor blade. You will have more control than you will have  with the plane. Hope this helps.  (Tony Spezio)


I just glued up the butt section of my first rod, a Payne 101 from the Maurer book.   Here are some comments/tips that I noted as I went along.

This is directed at newbies and please do not consider me an expert.  I just noticed a few things that "fell through the cracks" of the usual info sources or were not emphasized enough.  These are my opinions, please do not take them as fact.

1. Make SURE that your strips have big enough dimensions that you don't start roughing and realize that you can't get an equilateral triangle AND still hit your dimensions.  I worked hard on two strips before I realized that both would not be large enough to use for the butt section AND be equilateral.  Measure thrice, plane once.

2. The three deep cuts on my fingers are from trying to get a few more passes from a not-quite-sharp plane.  Sharpen the darned thing!

3. Don't be afraid to take a nice-sized cut when roughing.  I found myself planing to muscle pain when I tried to rough with a .005" setting.  All went better when I took big chunks to start.  If you use two planes,  set one to ~.010 and another to .005 for roughing.  It'll go a lot faster.

4. BUT!!!  When taking big cuts, I found I needed to use a pony clamp to hold the strip in the form.  Then, I realized that the Pony clamp makes life a LOT easier in general.  Buy one, use it.  NO cuts after the Pony clamp.

5. Canting the plane, I found it difficult to keep the plane parallel to the forms when I canted the plane 20-45 degrees as noted in the usual info sources.  SO, I canted to start and then did a few passes straight on to make sure I wasn't screwing up my angles.

6. I started by pressing only the nodes that really seemed to need it, figuring that more heat equals more stress on the nodes.  BAD IDEA.  PRESS ALL NODES before rough planing.  Better to have the strip dead straight and 5% weaker at the nodes than screwed up later on.

7. Make sure the node is truly plastic before you press it.  Better to be truly plastic and fully pressable than not get straight enough and have to heat it again.

8. Practice your binding with a GLUE-COVERED dowel before you try a glue-covered blank.  I had only bound using a nice, clean dowel, no problem!  When I tried to glue a resorcinol covered mess, everything fell apart.  The binding cord kept wrapping around the drive spool and I finally threw up my hands and bound the thing by hand.  Luckily, I was using resorcinol, with it's long workable time.  If I was using Titebond, I'd be royally screwed as it took about ten minutes of constant twisting to get the butt bound. 

9. Remove only a LITTLE bit of the apex.  I scraped a little too emphatically and ended up with a semi-hollow built Payne 101.  Of course, I had one strip that was about 10 degrees off on one of the angles, so it is all quite academic!

10. Finish that first section!!!  I ended up screwing up three strips out of the nine I had to use for the butt section.  I almost gave up and started over, but then I thought about my first flies- Clouser minnows that looked like teddy bears and I remember being surprised when they caught stripers anyway.  So I did the best I could with the mess I made and plunged forward.   You know what, the butt section is ridden with glue lines and mistakes, but it came together, it's straight, and I'll bet that it's going to make a nice first rod.  If not, who cares, I'll make another one.

11. Chill out about perfect engineering on the first rod.  Do your best, but relax a bit.  Much of what you see on the rodmakers list and other info sources on the net and elsewhere is aimed at intermediate and advanced-level builder as well as pro builders.  Engineering perfection may not be your Zen.  Find attainable standards/goals.  As a rote novice and someone who didn't know a plane from a plain, my goal was to make a rod that I could fish with, aesthetics be damned.  Will this be the goal for my next rod?  Heck no.  I think I can make a MUCH better rod the second time through.  Am I going to instantly going to think I can make a perfect rod?  Heck no.  I'm not saying that perfection is not a quality to strive for, I'm saying that it might not be the thing to strive for on your first rod or two.  Perfection is of utmost importance to the pro maker who needs repeatability.  Since I have never cast a Payne, I really don't care.

12. Make a 2-strip quad/poor-man's quad as your first rod.  Darrol Groth suggested this to me and I agree wholeheartedly.  I learned SO much making this relatively simple rod.  I knew NOTHING about woodworking/hand tools/rod building and I failed high school geometry (though I was the valedictorian of my university, so it just proves the theory of multiple intelligence).  Making this rod got my brain attuned to the things that were/are important in making rods.  And I ended up with a fine rod and it was off in dimensions in a number of places.  Buy the Best of the Planing Form for more info on this construction method and do some research into fitting ROUND 4-tab ferrules to quad rods.  I screwed this up, but pounded everything to shape in the end.

Hope this helps someone and thanks to all on the list for all your help.  (Joe West)

    For roughing (and final planing, but that's a different story) use a bench plane. Especially since you are already using a clamp to hold the strip and can use two hands on the plane. A size 3 or 4 bench plane is perfect for roughing. It takes off a lot of bamboo smoothly and easily. Your arms and shoulders will thank you.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Even with my limited experience, I couldn't agree more.  Many of the ideas that Garrison had are great.  Many are not.  He was only one man. 

      No reason to use delicate little block planes for a big, yucky job.  I'm getting a bench plane for my next section, any recommendation or a specific low end model?  Perhaps a block plane is good for the last pass or two, or would a scraper be even better?  Or not?

      How about a power planer?  Wasn't there just a thread about them?  (Joe West)

    I think those tips are great. You can read all the books you want and watch all of the videos, but experience is the key. I am currently working on my first rod. Its easy to get caught up in the engineers mind set. Just build the rod. Don't worry about the minor mistakes as you build, you'll find out how to over come these mistake as you move on to the next rod. The one tip that I have made taught me so much. Its also easy to get caught up in the tool craze.

    I have made all of my tools. My planing form and roughing form are made of rock maple total cost was about 120.00. I just finished a version of the Smithwick binder. I used scrap oak plywood. I made the pulleys from the plywood also, so there was no cost to make this binder. I would assume if you had to buy material it would be under 20 bucks. Tools such as planes and files and clamps I bought at the flea market. The best investment I made was a quality hock blade for the planes. I use Three Stanley 6 1/2 s My roughing plane has the original blade from Stanley. I sharpened it and it works well for initial planning. Then I use the next plane with a hock blade to size the strip for the tapered form. When I get to the Finnish form My third plane is set to take off very small strips of cane. Notice I have not used a measurement for this I'm using the KISS method for my first couple of rods. In fact I have decided not to use my dial indictor for the first rod. I used my eye And it has worked out great. By using three planes this not only helps with the quality of the strips but I don't have to sharpen my blades as often but there's no reason that you cant just use one!!!!. The total cost for the three planes and two hock blades was 100.00 I got one plane for 5 bucks. I use a Quick grip clamp to hold my strips to the form, it also holds the form to my bench at the same time and prevents those nasty cane cuts that I used to get. I found some clamps at the flea market for 10 bucks. I did buy a froe from Golden Witch. I use it to split my cane and to knock off the inter nodes. I think it cost about 20 bucks, but an old jack knife and two screw drivers would also work. The vise I got was a 4 inch for 20 bucks. I use a Schrade pocket knife to scrape off the enamel on my first tip, you can get the for under 10 bucks and it worked just fine. When I flame the cane I use a propane torch, the hand held kind. I split the culm into four section and it works well. Cost is about 20 bucks, cheaper if you find it at the flea market!!!!

    This will get you started making blanks for about 300 bucks and cheaper if you use just one plane, that's not bad. Don't get me wrong, I love new tools!!!!!! But if your on a budget and cant wait to get started this is how I did it!!!!!  (Bill Tagye)

    A quick trick for holding strips (from Wayne Cattanach Book), one of those “Pink Pearl” pencil erasures. Works great, no sliced fingers. Another for sanding blocks, Jenga Blocks, from the stacking game, not too small to hang onto.  (Pete Van Schaack)

      I used the rubber eraser before I got the clamp, but found that after hours of planing, my 26 year old hands felt like 76 year old hands.   No or little offense intended to those with 76 year old hands.

      Can't be good for the joints, but then, what the heck is other than yoga.  And I don't bend like that, at least not for some handsome dude in tights tell me to assume the posture of a Drowsy Llama.  (Joe West)

        That means your plane blades aren't sharp enough.  I put no pressure at all on my planes, just enough to move the plane forward.  The palm of my hand rests on the top of the curved cap iron, my thumb on the right side of the plane, and my first two fingers on the left side of the plane.  The only pressure exerted is to push the plane forward.  I find that if I start needing to press the plane down to get it to cut, it's time to resharpen.  (Mark Wendt)


I have finished rough planing my butt section and it turned out pretty good for the most part.  My angles are consistent for the length of the strips except for the first and last couple of inches And they are barely off.  When I ran the strips through the binder, they formed a pretty nice hex and I was really proud of myself.   It actually looks like it could become a fly rod.  On closer inspection of the roughed blank, around the nodes, there are bulges where it seems that some of the nodes are still bigger than the rest of the strips.  The angles are correct through the nodes, it is just wider across the flat.  A couple of the nodes actually looked a little bit smaller.


1. Should I worry about the first and last inches, which will be cut off anyway, and try and correct the angles?

2. Should I be concerned about the larger/smaller nodes?

3. How do I go about fixing the above two problems if they need to be addressed?  (Greg Reeves)

    The bulging of the nodes is a common, relentless problem on nearly every strip. It happens even after nodes are heated and pressed. If the bulge is significant enough to create a deviation at that point on the final planing form, try heating and pressing the offending node again, or do further filing, or some combination of pressing and filing. Sometimes I use a sharp scraper plane to make a node more level; and sometimes that works. When roughing a strip in a power beveler, as a final pass, without changing depth after the previous pass, I run the strip through to kiss the surface and remove the enamel, and that always creates a very flat surface at the nodes, which prevents further variation on the planing form.  (Paul Franklyn)

      I wondering about planing the nodes. I have read on several occasions that this is a no no, but I tried it on some scrap bamboo and it seemed to work well. The blade was super sharp and the nodal area was smooth and flat. It seemed to do less damage then a file and was quite quick.  (Jim Sabella)

        I usually plane the nodes.  The trick is plane from the smaller end of the strip towards the larger.  The surface won't tear out if you do this.  (Ron Larsen)

          Thanks for your response.  I have begun to make my first rod, although it is a PMQ (don't have the forms yet) I am really enjoying it. I don't know about others, but for me I enjoy the process, the steps and the details.  I should have listened though...split bamboo sure is sharp!!! Look forward to reading the list everyday. Thanks for allowing me to join in.  (Jim Sabella)


How close to final do you go before heat treating, I find after the heat treatment the nodes are harder to plane.  (Ron Petley)

    No offense meant Ron, but if you are having problems planing the heat treated cane, it is probably a good indication it is time to touch up your plane iron.

    If your iron is sufficiently sharp, you should slice through the node material without additional effort, heat treated or not.

    I seem to recall planing out a rod complete without, stopping to touch up the iron from time to time, the rod turned out ok, but it was a lot more work, and not one of my favorites.

    Some years back I was assisting Ralph Moon build three identical rods simultaneously, a great experience, we started off with a rather large collection of exceptionally sharp irons. Whenever it the plane started to require much effort, or required down pressure to cut, we either dressed the iron with a black Arkansas stone, or put in a new one.

    At the end of the process Ralph put a mic on them and they were virtually identical, next came Ralph's "waggle test" all three at the same time, the oscillations again were identical. Truly a wonderful and enlightening experience.

    All of these rods where completely hand planed, as were all of Ralph's rods, and the consistency boiled down to sharp plane irons.

    First of all there is no such thing as sharp enough, a minimum degree would be sufficient to dry shave the hair on your arm.

    Many of the builders on the list have made a science out of sharpening plane irons, that is how important it is. Over here, you can find what has been posted on sharpening, and pick up a lifetime of effort, tips and experiences.

    Obviously, we have to leave additional material on the rough planed blank, but the more material you leave the longer the heat treating process.

    Interesting, in the last year a number of the professional publications I get, have started talking about heat treating hardwood, not just kiln drying. I don't know where that thought came from, they are talking about an actual molecular change to the structure of the lumber, by driving out the additional water. What a cool discovery, heat treating, thank you Eustis Edwards.  (Greg Shockley)

      No offense taken, point well made, I will change and sharpen my blades more often. I have sharp blades, learned form wood working, but think I am not changing/sharpening them enough. I will give it a try and change/sharpen at the slightest hint of drag and tear out. It is not excessive but would like to reduce it to a rare event.  (Ron Petley)

        The best way to know if your blades are sharp enough is that they will cut a nice, smooth, long curl by just the weight of the plane alone on the strip.  I basically just "push" the plane along the length, with just enough hold-down firmness to ensure the blade/bottom of the plane is parallel to the tops of the forms.  If you find you are beginning to press down on either the front or back of the plane, the blade is dull and in need of sharpening.  (Mark Wendt)

    Nobody has mentioned plane angle.  I get tearout if my secondary bevel is 35 degrees.  So I use 45 degrees for final planing and 35 for roughing). I never get node tearout with a 45 degree blade. I find it tough to take more than about a 4 thousandths shaving with a 45 degree secondary angle, but that's not an issue for final planing, where I take a 2.5 thousandths shaving (just slightly less than the 3-thousandths groove in my plane).

    To answer your original question, I bake right after I split, before preliminary or final planing.  Therefore all my planing and beveling is done on baked strips.

    Agree with everybody else - the additional requirement is razor sharp plane blades, don't rest until you get a sharpening system down that does the trick.  (John Rupp)

      I always used a compound bevel with the very edge at 45 degrees. That made cutting smooth and easy without tear outs. No one's brought up the compound for a while, so it might be something the newbies have missed. Just sayin'...  (Mike St. Clair)

        From reading the tips last night I have not really tried different blade/edge angles. I have been using a Stanly #3 for roughing the strips and a Lee Vally low angle block plane for when I get closer to final. As far as the nodes being flat, this is also something I am aware of and working on, being a nubie I am still working out the bugs and getting better at it. This is all encouraging news and to the point information. I guess it is a matter of small steps to really get this down to a consistent style.

        So I will try a steeper microbevel and re check all the nodes for flat, Thank you all as this does really help to address some of my frustrations.  No other local makers around to go watch, so it is more of a trial and error thing.   (Ron Petley)

          If you're using a low angle plane, steepening the angle at which the blade is sharpened may help a great deal.  Because the low angle plane beds the iron lower, your angle of attack is different.  I haven't used a low angle plane enough to make suggestions, but others suggest as much as 45 degrees.  (Harry Boyd)

            Well this does get into all that sort of stuff, I have the Lee Valley low angle and a Record block plane they are not at the same angles, I will have to look up the bed angles and add this to the micro bevel as it is a bevel up planes, the Stanley #3 is bevel down so a different thing. It being the devil is in the details I will look into it, in the past I was doing a 25 degree micro bevel and then increasing it with each sharpening until I would have to re do the whole thing, so no real attention to these angles.  (Ron Petley)

              I'm still using a 20 degree plane with a 45 degree bevel and not having any problems to speak of, other than needing to sharpen (my perception) after two strips. However, this is just a touch up with 2000 wet/dry paper. (scary sharp method) This was Milward's advice on the plane and angle which I started with.  (Don Ginter)

          I use three low angle planes set at different depths and I also started out at 35 degrees but over the years have settled on 45 degrees on all of them as the optimum angle for me.

          I don’t get tearout. Undersize strips, well that’s another story…  (Tom Vagell)

          Well that explains a lot - your plane is low-angle, so your blade is cutting more than scraping because the blade is sitting 10 degrees lower than a standard angle.  Your net angle of attack is probably pretty low.  More of a cutting than scraping action with the blade tends to be what causes tear-outs.  You may need to go to a 50 or 55 degree micro bevel, or consider using a standard angle plane for final planing with a 45 degree micro bevel.  (John Rupp)

            OK - I'm confused. When you talk of the blade angle are you speaking if the bevel angle on the blade itself or the angle of the cutting edge relative to the plane sole? I have been using a 35 degrees angle on the blade resulting in a 57 degrees cutting edge angle relative to the sole.  (Jim Healy)

              I am talking about the secondary blade angle being 45 degrees. I hollow grind my plane blades and then add a second micro bevel, it's not really That different than just leaving whatever angle comes with the blade (often 25 degrees).  After hollow grinding I add a secondary angle, which is often called a micro bevel.  This is the angle that is seen at the edge of the plane blade.  Standard block angle is 20 degrees.  My total angle of attack is 45 degrees blade angle plus 20 degrees on the plane equals 65 degrees for final planing on my LN 9.5's. For roughing blade angle 35 degrees 20 degrees on the plane equals 55 total angle of attack on my LN 105's. I get some tearout with the 55 degree setup, probably because of the non-adjustable mouth ont he 103, but not enough to worry about, it's roughing after all.  I've never gotten any tearout period on the L-N 9.5 with the setup above, after final planing ~180 strips (10 rods).  (John Rupp)

      Apropos of nothing,  but as a discussion point - I have stopped grinding secondary bevels on my blades.  I now just sharpen the whole face of the blade at the desired final angle, which is probably the angle that most people use for the secondary.

      Certainly, this means a little bit more grinding each time, but it keeps the blade angle consistent, and the effort is also consistent.  What I found was that when I was sharpening routinely, it was certainly easier to hone the bevel than the whole face of the iron;  but the bevel got bigger and bigger by the day,  until finally the whole face was at the bevel angle, at which stage the whole face had to be reground to the primary angle, which was a real pain in the butt, especially in the middle of winter, in the wet area of my shed , with my hands saturated in freezing water for ages every time I ground a blade.

      I am seriously thinking about a Tormek grinder, but can't really convince myself that it will do as good a job as I do for myself.  Should I get the Tormek, perhaps I would rethink the secondary angle thing, but not while it is a waterstone deal.  (Peter McKean)

        If you are thinking about acquiring a different grinder check out the WorkSharp system.  Lots of folks including me have found it to be just the ticket.  Not more freezing hands and buckets of water.  (Rick Hodges)

          I truly believe my WorkSharp 3000 to be the best thing since grits.  I use the grits (the ones you can't eat) they provide, but go another step.

          You buy an extra glass plate or two, put adhesive-backed felt on them, and use diamond paste from 6 micron, down to 3 micron, down to 1 micron. I lap the back carefully throughout the entire process. 

          On the angle, my secondary angle (35 degrees) on one iron just became too large, so I easily ground the blade down to 25 degrees and started the secondary angle again.  Got years of plane iron left.  (Reed Guice)

            Great source for diamond paste!  Make your own WorkSharp 3000 diamond disks by using their glass wheel and PSA felt from the hobby store. No financial connection, etc.  (Reed Guice)

            OK, so I use my WorkSharp 3000 also........but I bought this diamond plate for it and I also took it apart and machined the ramp on it so I could get a 45 deg. angle. I love it and it takes seconds to touch up a blade, it takes longer to take the blade off the plane and put it back on than to sharpen it!

            Here's the link to the DMT honing system.

            Now I got mine a Woodcrafters and I guess I should put in the regular disclaimers since Yaz might read financial interest....yada yada yada!   (Joe Arguello)

              I've had the Tormek for 3 years and I've sharpened nearly every tool imaginable -- plane blades, planer blades,   chisels,  gouges,  knives,  old  straight get it. The learning curve is more or less plugging it in and turning it on.

              I have some cast steel chisels, and a HSS blade, so I bought the black stone made for carbide and harder metals.

              What I found to be invaluable was the tallow tree truing tool. Removes any guesswork and makes a perfectly trued stone each time. I've never had to remove more than 1/32" from the wheel. If you have to remove any more than that, you are probably letting the stone get too out of round. I think this might be the only downfall to the tool.

              Now please stop talking about the WorkSharp or I'll have to buy it (for comparisons sake of course) have a good weekend everyone. (Don Peet)

            Some video or two I saw  ( or maybe I made it up) the statement was made that "a sharp edge is where two polished surfaces meet. The higher the polish, the sharper the edge."

            Sounds like this is what Reed is doing with his diamond paste.  (Dave Burley)

              Yeah, we are trying to achieve the unachievable: an edge the thickness of one molecule.  But, believe me, diamond paste does more than polish.  In the larger grits (20-50 microns) you can cut a lot of steel really fast.  (Reed Guice)

        You're making me cold!

        I have been waiting to get into an evaluation of alternative bevel styles and this may be the time to include it as part of your discussion, if you don't mind.

        I would like to hear sometime a discussion of back bevels from those that use them.  (Dave Burley)

          My little contribution -

          I tried using back bevels for a while,  but could not for the life of me convince myself that they were any improvement over just honing and polishing the back of the blade flat.

          There is not surely much difference, say, between a 5 deg back bevel and a 0 deg flat-polished back on the blade. In the sharpening process, I use 800, 1200, 3000, 6000, 8000 and 15000 grade waterstones and I hone on each stone until the face of the iron is all evenly ground.  At 3 stages in the process I flip the iron and give 15 deliberate passes on the waterstone, up and back each pass -1200, 6000 and 15000 stones.

          This is just to keep the feathered edge under control, and so that I know, for example that the feathered edge that I can feel, that tells me that I am done on that stone, is not there from many stones back.  I suppose it would be better to do it on every stone, but that water is bloody cold!

          As for the angle I use, well I have never actually measured it.  I sequentially stepped it up progressively until it was cutting well in both my two old Records and my Lie-Nielsens, then had a friend make me an aluminum jig to use in conjunction with my Eclipse  jigs so that I can reproduce the angle pretty faithfully.

          Just old and cranky, I guess, but I never had much faith that sticking a blade under the sort of gizmo that Veritas provides was very accurate, and in a procedure where we are at so many points insisting on .001" accuracy, we should possibly be more accurate about our angles.  Nor do I think that the estimate of angle that I would make after holding one of my irons up against a protractor would be very convincing either.

          Hence, at this time I am just sticking with the arbitrary and empirical angle that I know works well.

          As I said before, I don't know what the acquisition of a Tormek or similar might do to my little world. At this point, though, I am having difficulty in accepting that a Tormek can do as good a job with one stone and one leather wheel as I am currently doing with a rough diamond stone for heavy hucking and six serially finer water stones for polishing.  I think I am asking to be convinced.  At this point I  am regularly re-sharpening blades that will still "shave" hairs off my arm, so I would regard that as a minimum qualification.  I like to be able to hold a cigarette paper by one end, in the air. and slide the plane iron across it and have it cut cleanly. Doesn't always happen, but usually does!

          Experts, please enlighten us.  (Peter McKean)

            Having treated myself to four new LN planes this month I followed up on their You tube video series. They have some interesting tips and techniques suggested there that may prove useful to us on occasion: especially for those of us who are newbies. Here is a link to plane iron sharpening parts 1 and 2:   Sharpening.  (Dick Steinbach)

              The time you save in sharpening and lapping a much smaller surface angle on your secondary bevel is worth it. Even if you do the second bevel by hand with a sharpening guide, you can be really aggressive with say 80 or 100 grit sandpaper on a flat surface. That will take the metal off in no time, say 10 minutes max.  Finish up with 200 and then 400 grit.  The primary angle does not have to be super smooth like the secondary angle.

              Hollow grinding is much faster but you have to be really careful not to overheat the blade and soften it up. (John Rupp)

                I think you maybe right, you need to be aggressive regardless. When you plane Bamboo the blade gets dull and chipped right in the middle 1/2 inch of the blade. this is the spot you have to sharpen up. The rest of the blade really needs little care but must be taken down to get this middle section sharp and it is this that takes the time and effort.

                If you do a second bevel it's faster but you eventually get to the point where you have to  address the rest of the blade. I sharpen the whole blade at one angle but I use 100 grit to get it started and get the majority of the material take off, then go to the finer grits to finish.  (Bob Norwood)

                  I was going to let Richard's posted link to the Lie-Nielsen web site speak for itself, but it may be appropriate, here, to observe that I went back and watched it after Richard's note, (I looked at it last year) and it appears to be seriously great information that will save time and produce better results, more than which a guy can't ask. [;^)

                  I know, I know.  I have to try it.  But, still . . . (Steve Yasgur)

            I’m definitely not an “expert”, but I do have a Tormek and went the extra mile to get a Japanese water stone wheel for it, as well as the plane blade holding jig, that keeps the blade square to the wheel. I have not found the system all that easy to master and it has not been a time saver for me. Most telling was this past week, when I went back to the water stones on the bench and got a sharper edge on the plane blades there, using a system much like the one you describe.

            One of the challenges with the Tormek is keeping the wheel trued, which involves slowly sliding a diamond cutter across the wheel, which takes a fair bit of the stone off if you are fixing a deeper groove and also leaves a less than even surface if you go too quickly. In addition, you can peel the edge off the stone if the truing device accidentally slips off the edge of the stone (I’m still picking up little flakes of expensive water stone from the workshop floor!)

            It would probably be a good  idea to dedicate the Tormek to only sharpening plane blades. I use it for other things as well and probably would keep it for all the other sharpening it does quite well. I also like the honed edge the leather wheel puts on my shop knife.

            This all may be a reflection my relative inexperience with the Tormek system, but I have had it for about 2 years and would only give it a 6/10.  (Hell, I even read the instruction manual!).  I think your money would be better spent on trips to Little Pine Lagoon and environs!  (George Deagle)


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