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The closer you can get to your finished strip size in a rough strip the less planing you need to do. For a 2 inch in diameter culm I can get 32 strips, which I do for tip strips. I split to 24 for butt strips.  (Darryl Hayashida)


Well, last night I got my culm split into six sections each for the tip and butt pieces.  Before I proceed any further, I wanted to find out how wide I need to split the pieces for the roughed out strips before rough planing and heat treating.  Since I'm planning on making a Payne 98, and the tip strips at final planing are .094" at their widest point, and the butt strips are .156" at their widest point, how much fudge factor do I build in to my stripping width?  Is an additional 40% enough, too much or too little?  I don't want to split the Chinese Gold into too narrow of a strip and not leave enough for heat treating and planing, and yet, I don't want to make them too wide, and leave a lot of the cane on the floor.  (Mark Wendt)

    I agree with other folks that 1/4 inch is a great goal to shoot for when splitting. I suspect that the tradition of narrower strips for tips may have been started by production rodmakers who wanted to maximize yield from a given culm, and perhaps thought it was a waste of time and tool wear to start with more cane than they needed. For beginners like me, I find that 1/4 inch gives me plenty of cane to recover from bad angles, slips of the hand, bug holes, popped up nodes, and all the other bad juju that seems to occur. Starting with wider (1/4) strips means that you will spend more time planing, but it seems a small price to pay for all the benefits. And as you become experienced with your plane, you will find that it is possible to take it down to close to final dimensions rather quickly. So you don't even lose much time. I started with 1/4 inch strips, and have stayed with that dimension in perpetuity.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    Is this your first time around?  If so, I'd plan on splitting the strips to about 1/4".  You can get away with smaller than that, but leaving a little extra will makes things easier in the long run.  Besides, you'll build up some muscles planing away the extra! <g>

    As a guideline, I split strips to about .060" over the largest diameter of the butt section.  Allowing that much oversize will give you plenty of room for dealing with nodes that just wouldn't quite straighten and any charring that results from the straightening-flattening process.

    I try to split butts and tips the same size, and rough them to the same size.  Doing so eliminates the need for different heat treating regimens for butts and tips.  (Harry Boyd)

    Also don't forget that the width of the strip is larger than the height of the strip.  The factor I use 15.5%.

    If you shoot for .060 over, as someone suggested, then the butts would need to be .249 wide (pretty close to Harry's suggestion) and the tips .178 wide.

    I use a worksheet to calculate widths at .002 increments because I get tons of unwanted splits in my stored cane and so I split at those points and then calculate what I can get from each piece.  (Jerry Madigan)

    As a beginner I find 1/4 wide square strips are the best to work with. Anything less becomes a problem holding in the form.  When the thickness of the strip exceeds the width there is a tendency for the strip to twist in the form and it is hard to establish and hold the 60 degree angle. Sometimes this can be overcome by planing the pith side of the strip to

    reduce the thickness.  It seems that splitting the 6 foot culm in half, then splitting each in thirds (6 pieces now) and then splitting each in half, and in half again, giving you 24 potential strips works best for me. I usually end up with at least 21 good strips and 1 or 2 that can be salvaged if necessary.  This should give you strips running slightly over 1/4 inch in width.  (Bob McElvain)





      Bloody sharp wood.

      Dammit, go straight.

      Aw, sh*t, ruined that piece.....

      Oooh, that one's a little better.

      Hey, that one's better yet.

      Starting to get the hang of this...

      All right you guys, don't tell the newbie he's going to be hating life, whilst splitting culms for the first time...  Not too bad, only 4 'boo slices on the fingers and hands.  Started out with the gloves, and just couldn't feel what the wood was doing, so off they came.  Actually, the first and second cut happened while knocking out the internodal dams with a gouge.  Picked up a Swiss made Pfeil #8 Sweep Gouge, 20 mm wide (Tool Gloat....) from Woodcraft the other day, and got to use it for the first time last night....  Arrrgghhh, Arrrrgggghhh, Arrrrgggghhh!  What a sweet little tool!  Went through the nodal dams like butter!  And man, what an edge that puppy has and holds.  For those of you that have a Woodcraft catalog (what?  You don't have a Woodcraft  or Lee Valley  catalog in the library or reading room?  For shame....) look on page 94.  The metal of the gouge blade is truly amazing.  It has such a deep shine, you look like your going to fall right into the blade.   Shamefully, I started out looking for just a cheap gouge to knock out the dams, but no such luck.  Everyone carries some beautiful, expensive/cheap straight chisels, but try to find a gouge!  Ended up driving over to my local Woodcraft store during lunch on Friday, and let them talk me into one of these Swiss gouges.  Ah, smooth talkers those Woodcraft sales folk.  If they'd just pressed a little harder, they would have had me purchase the store....  But that's another story.  Back to reality. 

      After I'd knock out the dams and gouged the dam humps down to something workable, I got our my trusty mallet, and splitting knife (designed after the infamous knife of Nunley - I know, taking my life in my hands...  But hey, I flew fighters for Uncle Sam, how dangerous could this be?)  The first piece, I marked off 1/4" pieces on top of every node, so as to be able to track the split as it progressed.  Okay.  Big breath.  Set the splitter on the end of the culm section at my 1/4" mark.  Went to reach for my mallet - where the heck did I put the mallet? Oh yeah, down at the other end of the bench, when I got done knocking out the dams...  Move the mallet a little closer to where I'm working.  Replace the knife on the 1/4" mark, grab he mallet, and start the split.

      Okay, now I consider myself pretty handy around wood working tools and such, and since the split started dead on to the next mark on the first node, I'm thinking, "Hey, this can't be too difficult..."  Right after the first node, the dang split starts to wander.  Hmmm, I remember from a few posts that I need to apply pressure to one of the sides to bring the split back.  Which way was it now?  Aw, nuts, wrong way.  More pressure the other way.  It ain't goin' back!!!!  Gets thinner and thinner.  Okay, one piece to the fire starter bin.  So, I start the process all over again, setting the knife on the other side, on the outside 1/4 inch mark.  Start the split, everything looks good to the first node, then, here we go again...  I'm a wanderer, Yes I'm a wanderer.....  Somehow that old song was playing in my mind - well not actually, there were a few choice things going through my mind at this point, but it wasn't singing for joy.  Good thing I started splitting on the butt end of the culm.  I tried Bret's suggestion of putting the screwdriver in a block of wood, found my technique sucks pretty bad at that, though the strips came out a little better.  Then I tried the Rev's technique of placing the knife sticking up in the vise, and ended up pretty much the same.  Then tried Nunley-san's hand splitting technique, and ended up pinching my fingers many times.  Frustration was growing.....  Sooooo, I said there's gotta be a way that fits me, and works.

      Finally, I decided to just take the knife, split and re-split the pieces in half, until I got down to the near the size of the strip I wanted.  The first attempt came out much better than my previous attempts using the other methods, but still needed a bit of polish.  So I combined Nunley-san's technique with my own, holding the strip in my left palm and fingers, and sloooowwwwly worked the splitting knife down with my right hand, pushing the knife here, twisting it there, while applying the appropriate pressure with my left hand in the requisite direction to keep the wandering in check.  Second split worked out beautifully.  Two bamboo pieces, each purty darned close to half the original piece each.   At this point,  both pieces were about 1" wide, so, lets try it again.  Sure enough, the technique works again.  Two pieces, each roughly half as wide as the original piece.  Okay, two successes in a row, lets try it again on the two smaller pieces.  Hey, this is working!  Too bad I had to figure this out after almost ruining the bottom culm.  Thankfully got eight pieces out of the bottom section that are workable.  Again, after starting with a glove on the left hand, I ended up taking it off.  Just couldn't get a feel for what the bamboo was doing.  After all the splitting was finished, only one more 'boo cut, and that was pure carelessness on my part.  Didn't happen during the splitting, happened while lining up the pieces on the workbench after each split.  Don't try to slide the pieces even when there is a tool of some sort lying on the workbench near the top of the strips.  Guess what happens when the bamboo stops moving and your hand doesn't....  Slice!!!!!

      So, all in all, I finally ended up with about 8 or 9 usable butt strips, and 14 or 15 tip strips.  This could be an expensive education....  Towards the end,  when I was working on  the tip strips, I was thinking, why didn't I come up with this technique earlier?  Ya just gotta try what works for others first, then find your own niche, what works the best for you.  For me, it was a combination of things.  Thank goodness for this list.  If I'd been stuck with just my wits and the "Bible", there would have been bamboo stuck in the wall, in my car's tires, the dog (yeah, she came wandering over, once.....  Then ran for her life!)  But, at least I'm past this first hurdle.  (Mark Wendt)

        You’re funny.

        If you can stand the Michael Jackson remarks you can do what I do for gloves. I wear one leather glove while working. I do the handling of the bamboo with that hand - the left - I am right handed. I do the feeling fine type work  very carefully with the non-gloved, dominate, right. I have had to learn the hard way never to draw a finger across bamboo.  (Rex Tutor)

          To go with what Rex is saying. I too use a glove on the left a lot of the time when handling bamboo.  Difference is I use a PVC coated glove that stops any slipping, since, as you guys pointed out, that's what cuts you. Even leather gloves won't protect you if the bamboo slips and it cuts through the leather, ask me how I know about that one. The nastiest cut I've gotten was while wearing standard leather work gloves.  (Bill Walters)

            I refuse to wear gloves when handling bamboo, though make one exception: the milling machine. I had a pair of deer skin gloves, the remains of which now adorn the shop. Shredded is an apt description.  For pulling/pushing strips through the rough mill I use heavy, vinyl covered gloves that give me a better grip, without slippage (Harry, you reading this?). For pulling/pushing the pattern boards through the straight taper attachment I employ a pair of rough-out cowhide gloves.  I rarely have ever cut myself, and at that no more than a paper-cut, despite working in bamboo everyday. The occasional splinter finds its way into me, but all in all I'm relatively unscathed -- except my  sanity.  (Martin-Darrell)

        As most of you know I am a "bit" accident prone, and have had what might be considered more than my share of bamboo cuts!   *S*

        Seriously, I actually can't remember the last time I got what I would classify as a "cut" splitting cane, although I have gotten several small scrapes/abrasions on my hands.  Of course, I don't like to work with gloves and won't wear them except in the one step where I consider it absolutely necessary and that's vinyl gloves for gluing.

        I have, as all of us who have made more than a few rods have, sliced the living hell out of my hand on planed strips.  Sure, I know that if I had been careful and taken my time that I probably could have avoided it, but, as they say, familiarity breeds contempt (or at least temporary ignorance).  When you work in a bamboo shop every day of the week, you sometimes tend to not pay as much attention to the sharpness as you would if you were doing a few rods a year.  However, in nearly 15 years of rodmaking, I've never had a cut so severe that I couldn't grab a shop towel, wrap it around the affected finger or hand and just keep on working.  Only reason I wrap it is to keep the blood off the bamboo... hate to work so hard to get a clean strip then get blood stains on it!  I've had plenty of stitches in my life, but none from a bamboo cut. (knock on wood)

        You WILL get minor cuts (paper cut type cuts) handling this stuff if you handle enough of it long enough. In my rodmaking life, (just guessing here) I've probably handled between 6000 to 8000 strips (strips,  not sections) and if you handle that many, you should just expect that a few accidents are going to happen.  Keep in mind I said minor cuts... and as long as you're hand planing, minor is about all you'll get.  I do recall a story about Lyle Dickerson... someone came into the shop one morning and he was sitting in the shop with both of his palms cut nearly to the bone... he had been feeding a strip into a mill and the mill grabbed it and took it away from him... considering the average reflex reaction of a human is about 3/4 of a second and the mill was probably running in the neighborhood of 5000 rpm, I figure he didn't have much chance to release his grip before the bamboo was out of his hand, through the machine and stuck into the far wall.

        I also heard a story about one of our Australian list members whose name I won't mention, that had a section buckle on him in the forms and ran a piece of a strip all the way from one side of his palm under the skin to come out the other side of his palm (Tony, correct me on this if I didn't get the direction of travel of the 'boo spear correct).  From what I understand, his immediate reaction was to clinch his fist in defiance of the pain which of course broke the strip up inside his hand and made matters even worse.

        These are extreme examples, however, and not indicative of what will happen to the average rodmaker on the average day.  Accidents can happen and if you're using home made powered equipment, the probability of an accident happening is greatly increased... as a matter of fact, I think Harry Boyd saw a strip stuck in my wall when he was here a few weeks ago.  I had left it there to show him as I knew he would be there the same day it happened...  you couldn't even see it leave the machine and head to the wall... it was like it just disappeared from one place and reappeared at another.

        Anyway, don't worry about the small cuts... they're going to happen and they're not going to quit happening when you've gone over 400 or 500 rods... it will STILL happen.  If it doesn't require stitches, it will be OK... if it does, try super glue first... stuff works pretty good and you can keep on working! *S*  (Bob Nunley)

          Bob is without doubt the grand master of shop injuries but I've had a few too and I can say without any doubt they only happen under a few circumstances.

          The first is blunt tools no matter what they are. You have to push or pull too hard with blunt tools and that will either pull the spline between your fingers cutting them or buckle the spline spearing you. It only hurts for a few months when that happens but you can do without it. The spline doesn't like to get backed out and you wont like pushing it right through.  It's sort of like a ringed spear bear trap and it hurts.

          Next comes lack of concentration, it's sort of like fishing. As soon as you stop doing what I like to call "fishing on purpose" the biggest fish you ever missed will take the
          fly. It's the same with planing. Make the rod on purpose and you'll get more pleasure from it as well as get less cuts AND you'll be more inclined to keep everything sharp so it's better all round.

          Lastly is what you'd have to call "Act of God" stuff. Best ask Bob about these.

          Basically, keep your mind on the job, sharpen the plane iron when it needs it and not after just a few more passes. You can tell when the iron needs sharpening because the spline will start to be hard to keep in place as you plane and the sound the plane makes as it passes stops sounding like sweet "snick" of bamboo and more of a grind as the plane is pushed too hard  along the  form and   lastly say your prayers :-)  (Tony Young)


Anyone ever split out all of the strips for a rod the same width? I know you would use more bamboo but here is why I ask, to me, roughing strips is preparation for heat treating. What ever magic heat treating does, ideally shouldn't it be the same through out the rod? The only way I know to assure that the effect is the same through out the rod is have all of the rough strips the same size initially.

What are your thoughts?  (Don Schneider)

    That's my thinking as well.  (Ed Riddle)

    That is why some rodmakers use a bandsaw to saw out equal dimensioned strips (Eeeeee gads!, he said saw strips!)

    Because you are sawing with the grain, it is very much like splitting by hand. The equal strips make every step in the next roughing procedure much easier. This could also be further reduced with a Medved beveler to ensure square and equal width strips. 

    After that, I have even used the bandsaw to thickness "plane" my strips before beveling in my Bellinger rougher. This way, I have a visual guide as to what the strips should be, and I have less material to dull the milling cutters on. The strips are also much easier to push through the machine.

    I think the extra steps are well worth it. You still need to straighten well, but my rods are slowly getting better because of these steps. All my strips are heat treated at about a .200 triangle for hex tips and butts, about .250 for quad tips, and I use .350 wide strips for quad tips. The rods seem more even toned and they are easier to handle throughout the process because they are homogenous.  (Bob Maulucci)

      I've always thought it was much easier if all of your materiel is the same dimension to start with. I see nothing wrong with sawing strips (now you've got me saying it). I've tried it on the band saw but don't have the procedure down yet, can't keep them straight. Where do you have your guide pin in relation to the blade?

      Haven't tried it but I think it was Tony Young that suggested once to put two small circular saw blades, set for the width you wanted, on the in feed of your 60° mill.

      As for uniform thickness I have run strips through a thickness planner for nodeless with great success. Feed them one after the other as fast as you please. I've had nipping problems, start & finish, with node strips. Why? I think it is my fault by not supporting the strips properly on enter & exit.

      So when I do thickness plane node strips, I add about 6" to each end just to make sure.  (Don Schneider)

      You can also use a Medved style beveler to "thickness plane" the strips, as well as squaring the sides.  (Kyle Druey)

        I do not know why, but every time I try that, I get the strip thrown outta my hands.  It is a dangerous climb cut with my JW Beveller. Plus, the band saw is rather quiet. Do you use a non climbing cut?

        I also like the bandsaw for thicknessing the strip because the rounded enamel side riding down in a bench planer or mill seems dangerously able to crack when excessive pressure is applied downwards on it. Like a saw beveller, the bandsaw puts little pressure on the strips.  (Bob Maulucci)

          My JW uses a climb cut... the JW is sweet: square and thickness plane the strips with the same machine.  (Kyle Druey)

            I should try again, but man, I hate to throw the strip like that.  Someone could get killed!  (Bob Maulucci)

    That's the way I've been doing it, based on the assumption passed on to me by M-D.  Since my oven is basically the same as his, and I use his fixtures,  he posited that for equal heat treating, the strips should be the same size.  Since I now use a powered rough beveler, al la Al Medved, after heat treating, I run the strips through the beveler again and take them down to different dimensions for the sections - thinner for the mid and tips than the butt.  Less final planing, but the double rough beveling regimen ensures that the strips are the same size initially for the heat treat.  (Mark Wendt)

      Good idea, running the strips through the second time after heat treating. Tony Spezio got me into soaking strips and the planing goes much easier/faster plus saves my hands/shoulders. Also use M-D's fixtures, what a great tool.  (Don Schneider)

        That was another great idea I got from M-D.  He said I might as well use the beveler to it's fullest potential.  Plus, it saves time after heat treating in the final planing phase.  Works just dandy.  Much smaller pile of 'boo curls on the floor while final planing.  Much as I like to plane, less planing allows less of a chance for angle error to creep in, too.  Yup, I love the fixtures.  Not having heat treated any other way, (been doing it since the first rod) I have nothing to compare it to, but they sure do work great.  I still soak, but mainly only for node pressing any more.  Plus, it probably saves wear and tear on the router bit in the beveler.  (Mark Wendt)

        Isn't that why we temper the tips for less time than the butts? I can't fit 'em all into my oven at once anyway but if I could, I'd just yank the tips and leave the butts a few minutes longer.  (Art Port)

          I use a regimen devised by M-D, after much experimenting on his part.  With a PID controlled convection oven and fixtures, you can really gnat's arse the heat treating regimen.  I bevel all my strips oversize so I can bind them tight into the fixtures for straightening.  In fact, I use about 15 LB of weights on my binder to really clamp the strips down into the fixtures.  After binding, I stick the fixtures with bound strips into the cold oven, turn the oven on and let the temp rise to 350 degrees F.  I hold the 350 degree temp for 30 minutes, then back the PID controller down to 225 degrees F.  Once the oven has reached 225, I set the timer for one hour.  At the end of the hour, I shut off the oven, bring the strips/fixtures out of the oven, and let them cool.  The strings have loosened on the fixtures, and the sections come out of the fixtures straight as an arrow.  Plus, since all the strips are the same dimension, I don't have to fiddle around with different time settings for different strip dimensions.  Makes life easier for me, and I don't have to remember different times for different sections.  I tend to forget the little things once in a while...  ;^}  (Mark Wendt)

    I'm with you on that one. You don't have to mess around with different times and it helps to maintain more consistency. (Brian Smith)

    That's what I do - plane down to .200"-.250" (depending on size of butt section final taper) for heat treating. I was originally rough tapering down to .030" above final taper & overcooking the tip sections. Keeping butt & tips the same dimension at this stage seems much more reliable.  (Tom Bowden)


When splitting a culm, I would like to maximize the number of useful strips and also minimize the amount of boo left on the shop floor.  In reading the article on Frank Neunemann’s web page, he says to determine the splitting width of the strip, use the equation of splitting width = width + allowance for charring and leeway.  Width is defined as height * 1.155.  He adds as a footnote that allowance for charring and leeway for a tip section would be .035.  If my tip section is only .094 at the largest half dimension, I would come up with .145 for the splitting width.  That makes it too small to use in the heat treating fixtures that recommend not going smaller than .1875.   Using .145 would also make it harder to rough in my roughing form because the small groove in my roughing form is cut .1875 deep as well.   So if I want to use my roughing forms and also use the heat treating fixtures the smallest I can split would be .252.  I am getting this from .252 = .1875 *1.155+.035.  Using .250 is what I have been using for my split strips so I guess I will just have to stick with what I have been doing all along.  Is this correct?  What are my alternatives?  Roughing in my steel forms and not using the heat treating fixtures?  (Greg Reeves)

    I have milled one of Harry’s fixtures down by .050 on each flange and they work well for tip strips.  This leaves a little of the tee left on the edge.  You are of course eating through the anodized surface when you do that.  I did not find it to be any less sturdy than the unmilled fixture.  If you have access to a mill and patience it might be worth your time.  (Ralph Tuttle)


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