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Splitting - Sawing

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I have a question for the group. I'm getting ready to split my second rod and remember reading a few places of some builders that saw their strips after the initial splitting. I know it's said splitting follows the initial grain of the boo but in planing don't we remove that edge grain? In sawing the strips do you cross the natural flow of the grain and have grain run out in the length of the strip? Can one really tell the difference between a sawn or split rod? Anyone out there that saws their strips or am I peeing in traditional waters by even letting this thought enter my head?  (Mark Heskett)

    From my experience you can tell the sawn strips by the wavy edges. I use a band saw quite a bit and tried sawing a strip once and it wasn't a pretty sight.  It seemed that as soon as it could the sawn strip would close up once past the blade binding things up. I then used a split divider which helped than only had to contend with trying to keep everything straight as I sawed.

    Basically it was a mess. 

    However I have seen a short documentary about Hardy split bamboo rods or built rods as they called them and a bloke with a white workshop coat sawed the strips of a culm using a table saw in pretty short order.  He split the culm in half then laid the half culm on the table edges and sawed this in half then appeared to use a fence and sawed the rest edge up. At this point it looked as easy as sawing wood. The trouble with watching these old blokes in white workshop coats is they make things look easy because they've been doing it for 50 years and started out as a 14 year old who got a clip in the ear if they did it wrong so I'll be sticking with the Nunley/McKean method of splitting.

    As far as the "grain" run out IMHO you are 100% correct. There is no run out because there is no grain to run out.  It's based on an incorrect assumption that what's good for wood is true for bamboo.  Wood does have a grain of course and if you want the strongest piece of wood from a section you should rive it, which is basically splitting it so the split follows the grain rather than cut across it with a saw.  This strength is needed for thin work like chair legs for example, especially turned ones.

    Rodent Nunley had an Epiphany in his vision of splitting and his postulant Peter McKean wrote an extremely good revelation about it so try it before bothering to saw and see the light. You'll forget all about peeing in the traditional waters after that [:-)]  (Tony Young)

      You forgot to mention that one of the best reasons to split is that it's cheaper, no saws required.  (John Channer)

        It is not only cheaper to split, as opposed to sawing, it is infinitely faster.  (Steve Trauthwein)


Just wondered, has anyone tried to split their cane using a hand held jigsaw?

The thought of using one occurred to me the other day, after I had split down my first culm, with varying degree of success. Managed to get around 8 1/4" strips, that I think I could use.

Thought the jigsaw may be of use, your views would be appreciated.  (Alistair Dunlop)

    I would not think so.

    I about wasted my first culm in splitting. Just a note on splitting, Split in halves, if the split is traveling away from center, bend the "fat" side away from the split without bending the narrow side away from the split. The split will come back to center. Once you get the hang of it, splitting is easy. This is just MHO.  (Tony Spezio)

      I couldn't agree with Tony more !

      Practically everybody wastes a culm or two when beginning, but the answer is not to go more and more complicated with the tools, but simply to LEARN THE SKILL required for splitting successfully.  You can stuff up a culm just as comprehensively using a Wandishin Star Splitter (and why oh why do I always feel like Yoda when I say those words ?) as you can with a knife or a screwdriver.

      There are a lot of successful techniques used by various people to reduce a culm.  I split by hand, using a vice to steady the culm as I work,  and I don't waste much bamboo these days - although I must admit that every now and then the bamboo gods throw you an unsplitable culm just to keep things in perspective.

      Todd's tip site has some techniques outlined;  some years ago i put a pretty detailed description on there of the way I split, and evidence of the success I experience with this method is that I still use it unaltered. But you may well find that there is another style that suits you; unfortunately, it's going to cost you a culm or two to find out.  Perhaps you should go down to the garden shop and buy a couple of real cheapies just to practice.

      That's an Australian rodmaker speaking;  Culms come at pretty close to $100 per in this part of the world, so we don't tend to waste them if we can help it.

      In splitting, as in all facets of rodmaking, I believe that the KISS principle is fundamental to success!  (Peter McKean)

      Same story here.  I got one 2 piece 1 tip rod from my first culm.  The rest got burned.  Once I got the hang of splitting though it was really easy.  Tony's right on with pulling the fatter part to walk the split back to the center.  There's some great discussion of how to do it on the tips site.  (Aaron Gaffney)


It is easy to saw strips on a band saw and you get straight strips.

I use a 14 inch Delta with a half-inch blade, three TPI. Rip fence. I quarter the culm and lay it inside up. The first pass leaves a strip with a ragged edge and some width variation, but with a broader saw blade at high tension the next strip cuts straight. Sometimes a bit of a curve, but the width stays constant. It really does work. The strips are straight. Darned straight.

I could also get fairly straight strips on my old toy 99 dollar delta saw. It was harder to do, but you could.

I won't debate the split versus sawn. That thread has been ongoing since the day the list started, and it has never been resolved. I personally don't think it matters in the finished rod, and have never seen anything definitive as to why one way is better than the other. You would have to show me two identical rods with the only difference being the splitting and the sawing, and one would have to cast way better than the other. And the casters and cosmetic perfection inspector generals (read anyone whose rods are prettier than mine) could not know beforehand which was which.

I started sawing so I could get absolutely straight strips for the MHM.

You don't get as many strips. That is all there is to it. Some very great rods have been made from sawed strips that were pulled at random from the strip barrel. I do bow to tradition by making a rod from one culm. You can get one two-tip rod per culm, and the spares go into frankenrods that my fishing partners seem to appreciate. So there isn't that much waste.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

To answer some off list questions:

A 14 inch bandsaw is one that has a distance of 14 inches from the blade to the support- it is the smallest of the "bigger" bandsaws and that number tells you how large a piece of wood you can work with.

The half inch blade refers to the blade width from teeth to the back of the blade. Narrow blades cut curves, wider blades cut straight lines and can be used for resawing and ripping. A wider blade is held at higher tension and makes straight cuts possible.

The TPI is teeth per inch. 3 TPI is probably too coarse for ripping cane because you want 6 to 12 teeth in the stock at a given time. But it works.

And I screwed up. When I use 1/4 culms, I use a support block to keep the edge of the culm flat against the fence. You can split smaller 1 1/4 inch wide strips and get four quarter inch strips. Those I lay flat on the bandsaw table.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


Do you split or saw your strips?  I just read Bob Maulucci's article from Power Fibers 14 detailing his process utilizing a four-way splitter in conjunction with a bandsaw, and was curious as a beginner who still needs considerable practice splitting by hand.  (Ron Delesky)

    As the saying goes, "You pay your money and you take your chances."  Both techniques work, and neither seems  to have any particular advantage, with regard to the finished product.  Splitting is probably faster and easier, and certainly cheaper.  Sawing is more precise, giving you uniform strips of a specified width, and may actually produce less waste.  Sawn strips are probably better for running through a mill, but for hand planing, split strips are good enough.

    If you are having problems with splitting, you probably need to spend some time with someone who is experienced at splitting.  I have not found splitting bamboo to be much different from splitting oak or hickory, so someone who does split oak baskets would be a good mentor.  (Paul Gruver)

    Started with a saw and ended up splitting.  Spent about 15 minutes learning the splitting craft from Mike St. Clair.  He must have exceptional patience to show me how to do something right the first time.  Once you do it with an expert it will come naturally.  Splitting will end up  saving you strips out of each culm.

    I said all that to say: Find somebody in your area who is willing to show you how to split in person.  (Pete Emmel)

    I haven't done a shed load of rods like some of the guys have, but I have done both... still occasionally do both, but strongly lean to splitting. I found splitting easier than anticipated. I mark the calm at each node and half  way between using a flexible tape so I can tell if I'm splitting straight.

    I have sawn against a pin with a band saw. Split the calm in half and run the split edge against the pin. The blade follows the grain that way. You don't gain any straightening time, but the enamel/edge angle is more consistent for me. I suppose that would be a plus if I was cutting the initial bevel by hand, but the mill I use doesn't need perfect starting angles to work. I just don't see any advantage to the method, except maybe salvaging one of those pointy, screw-up strips.

    I haven't used a gang saw like Bellinger makes, but I did try using a carriage so that the strips came out straight. That has promise if you have a table saw. It doesn't work very well running the carriage under a radial arm saw. That was nearly a Nunley moment... don't do it. Sawing is faster than splitting because you don't have to fool with measuring. Set it up and run. They all come out the same width.

    If I was doing production rod building I'd get a gang saw, but I have more time than money, so I'll split, unless I need a saw to work around something.  (Larry Lohkamp)

    For me, the biggest plus in splitting Vs Sawing, is that I am not putting more potentially toxic and bothersome dust into the air in my shop. I can split outside if I have concerns of nasties inside the culm, and breath fresh air.  (Keith Paskin)

      Yeah, me too.  I turn on the dust collector, turn on the bandsaw, and saw strips to my heart's content in the dead of winter.  (Mark Wendt)

        Yep. I use the same procedure. Much more uniform strips. Makes the following steps simpler as well, at least for me.  (Will Price)

    Two things helped me immensely with splitting - first, watch the video of Harry Boyd and Jeff Fultz splitting and secondly, Larry Fraysier gave me a pair of 6" Nipper Pliers which I use to clip each node.  These two things combined have both sped up my splitting as well as made them a heck of a lot more uniform and allowed me to get more strips per culm.  (Trey Matheu)

      I've never clipped nodes before. Sounds like something worth trying.

      Are nipper pliers the same as end cutters? If they are then I have one 6  inches long. But it has a depth of cut of only 5/16 of an inch. This would only be usable to clip nodes on the last round of splitting for butt strips and last two rounds of splitting on tip strips.  (Joe Hudock)

        They are one and the same.   I have a 6 way pie splitter I use initially, though you could quarter the strips, knock out the nodal dams, then start on the outside edge and nip strips from there.  My nipper's handle is 6" and the depth is about 9/16".   (Trey Matheu)

    The question really is which is more suitable to how you build rods. If you are handplaning, there is less chance of tearing out nodes with spilt and straightened strips than sawn. Sawn strips work well if you mill your strips to final dimensions. As not many of us can afford that kind of machinery, most handplane. If you've ever planed wood, then think of nodes as knots or places on a plain sawn board where the grain runs out the side. If you plane "down" the grain you'll get a nice smooth edge, if you plain "up" into the grain you will get tear out. That's the main reason for splitting and straightening nodes, so you can plane a smooth edge.  (John Channer)

    I split my culms with a six-way pie splitter when I buy them and store them that way until I need them; it eliminates a drying split.  Then I split by hand with a Buck knife.   (Scott Bahn)


For those who saw -- what are you using for a band saw (size, make) and type of blade (tooth number, size?).   (Walt Hammerick)

    I picked up a used Sears 12" bandsaw for cheap and have slowly been cleaning it up and tuning it. They are not available any more, but I don't think the brand or model matters so much. Mine has a 1 1/2 horse power motor, which seems to be more than enough for this. Because of the unique size and make of this bandsaw, my blade options are limited, but I have been using a 20 TPI 1/16 scroll saw blade and my results have so far been wonderful. I heard all the cons to using a saw too, but Mark Wendt showed me everything I needed to do it myself and I have been very happy with the results. My best advice is don't knock it until you have tried it.

    I just hook up a shop vac and dust isn't a worry.  (Scott Bearden)


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