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I've been giving some thought to producing 61.5 degree strips. This can be easily managed with a mill using two carbide lathe tool inserts and setting them at the correct angle. However, It would be nice to have a set of steel forms with the correct groove to produce the same results. Other than having it done in a machine shop has anyone managed this?  (Wayne Kifer)

    I know 2 guys that are using these forms. But, actually would not the groove itself be 58.5 degrees?  That would make the apex of the strip 61.5 degrees, sort of?  (Timothy Troester)

      I believe you are right Tim. The groove should be 58.5 degrees. There's a pictorial on it on Todd's site. Question is, how would one get that groove. You could have a tool bit ground to that and cut the groove but how would you clean it up like you would normally do with a triangle file? It would be interesting to find out if the guys you know had  their forms made or did it themselves.  (Wayne Kifer)

        What if you cut one bar at a time and tilted the table? i am not a machinist. would it be possible to attain any accuracy doing this? or could you make 2 passes and tilt the table first one way then another?  (Timothy Troester)

          Correct you are Timothy, You then have to scale your bars for each  taper.  (Jerry Foster)

          I don't have the machinist skills nor the equipment either which is why I was wondering about a hand method. It may just require a machine shop to get it done. Maybe we don't want to make it too easy anyway.  (Wayne Kifer)

    Can't be done with steel forms, unless you want to make 3 bar forms like quads and pentas take. If you have 61.5 degrees on one side, then you have 58.5 degrees on the other side, no way to avoid it, milling cutters can do it because you're not flipping the strips from one side to the other.  (John Channer)

      I know the math doesn't work but over that distance there is less than a hairs breadth difference. It is just enough to tighten the corners. There are a  couple of guys out east I know are using them. I am not sure I recall who made them.  Now, I have never seen the forms. I have seen pictures of the rods. Anyway, this is how it was explained to me.  I think it is a curiosity. If I had access to a pair I would certainly try them out.  (Timothy Troester)

    Would you need right and left hand forms as the triangle would no longer be equilateral?  (Henry Mitchell)

    Are you thinking of a Morgan Hand Mill?  You can get cutters for the MHM that will make 61.5º strips, but I think that using some kind beveler or mill is the only way.  (Hal Manas)


I am new to this cane rod building game and I thought it might be informative, and helpful, to be part of a forum dedicated to the craft.  A little background - I have made my living as a woodshop teacher for 35 years, have built close to 100 graphite rods, and am not totally without hand tool skills.  This interest in building a cane rod is a result of my wife's boss giving me the book "The Perfect Cast" and was followed by her (wife) giving me three Tonkin Culms and a video from Golden Witch Technologies.  That being said I've got a few questions:

1.  A machinist friend of mine has volunteered to make me a set of steel planing forms.  Can any of you email me a detailed set of plans so he can get them correct.  I thought once all the "push - pull" screws were done, all that was needed was a 60 degree chamfer on the inside edges.   But then I saw an article that talked about the chamfer depth being progressively less from one end of the form to the other.  Can someone help me with this? (I assumed the tapers were achieved by adjusting the gap between the forms.)

2.  Is it possible to make planing forms set up for hex rods on one side and quads on the other?  If so, details please.

3.  Not having an oven, I flamed my three culms with a roofers torch to a rich caramel color and have begun splitting them.  Do I still need to find an oven?  My Golden Witch video claimed flaming was just as good "and a lot more fun."

(It was!)

4.  I have no idea if my 6 foot culms were tops or bottoms of 12 footers, so will it be a problem choosing butt strips vs. tip strips?  I plan on my first rod being a 7'-6" 2 pc.

5.  The grade of my culms are 2 pc. of "A-", and 1pc. of "A".  Since this is  my first, and hopefully not last, cane rod, will it make any difference which one I use?  I hope to make at least one rod from each culm.  (I just finished reading about 20 postings about the great "to mix, or not to mix" culms debate.)

6.  Is there anything else I need to know?  I've got my video and I purchased a copy of Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods - along with all the info I've found on the Internet.  (Tom Key)

    Tom Penrose's site has a good tutorial on making tapered forms.

    Most forms have a tip taper on one side and a butt taper on the other so you'll need separate forms for quads.

    Let's hope your flaming worked.

    Check you culms again. When I got mine from GW several years ago they were marked as per tip and butt sections.  (Larry Puckett)

      Don't forget Don Schneider's instructions here.  Though it says "Wooden Forms" it's great for metal forms too!  (Todd Talsma)

        If anyone is interested, I have Excel worksheets for 50", 55", 60", 65" & 72" forms to assist you to set-up the forms to cut the groove .001"/inch slope. Just let me know which one you need and I will send it to you.  (Don Schneider)

    Welcome to the "list". To start the answers to your questions (there will be many, so be prepared for lots of email),.

    1- if you Google planing forms I'm sure you will gather more information than you can possibly use, there are volumes on the subject. If that still doesn't provide the information you need, get one or all of the following books, A Master's Guide To Building Bamboo Fly Rods by Hoagy Carmichael, Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods by Wayne Cattanach or The Lovely Reed by Jack Howell, all three have detailed form building instructions.

    Forms are generally built with a taper in the groove, .001" per inch is a good taper, it works with most rods. The taper in the groove is so the strips are more fully supported by the form, a form with no taper would have to be at most the depth of the smallest end of the rod, opening that much at the large end would not only likely distort the form but would offer very little support to hold the strip at the proper angle. Make sure your machinist understands that the taper must be smooth and regular for the whole length of the form, which is not as easy as it may sound.

    2- Your forms should be 5'-6' long with a shollwer groove on one side for tips and a deeper groove on the other for butts, quad forms are a whole different geometry any way and require a 3 bar form or 2 two bar forms, doodle out the shapes involved and you'll see what I mean.

    3-flaming alone must work as there are plenty of folks who do just that, invest in an oven later if you decide you like building rods and want to continue and think you need one, there are lots of other things involved in this to spend money on when you start out.

    4- Count the nodes in each section, nodes are farthest apart at the top of the culm and the little lip at each node points up so you can orient them correctly when splitting and planing.

    5-Start out with the worst culm as there is a learning curved involved with all of this, why waste the best one if your initial attempts don't work out. Even if they do, the A- is still good cane that will make an acceptable rod.

    6-Yep, there's tons more you need to know or will think you need to know, but most of it you can pick up as you go, right now the important part is to have fun with your new hobby!  (John Channer)

      If you do get Garrison/Carmichael's book, for heaven's sake DON'T us differential screws!  Push-pull work fine, differentials will only complicate your life.  I'm a rum drinker myself.  (Neil Savage)

        When I made my forms years ago, at a vocational school class on milling machines, I made the differential screws and they work fine for me. I did however add alignment dowels, at a later date, and they greatly improved the accuracy of the form. I really like my forms very much and they are very accurate. I will say that differential screws are a real test when you install them in the form since they all should be started relatively at the  same time  (if that makes sense) in order to get the forms to pull together tightly and adjust properly.  (Jack Follweiler)

    The list is a veritable treasure trove of valuable information, but as John Channer says be prepared for a lot of replies.  My best advice is to weigh them all and make up your own mind.  Some members know not enough to help and others are masters.  (Ralph Moon)

    I have no doubt that you will get hundreds of replies in detail to all this, and many will direct you to "Rodmakers Archives" which will probably come up on any search engine.

    Don't worry about quads yet, they are of minority interest and importance and you need one side of your form for tips and the other for butts, the rate of taper on the flats is usually 1 thousandth per inch, try and get them made at 6' and take the fine end of the tip down to 25 thousandths depth. You may never need it but it does no harm.

    Using a good powerful torch was possibly your first successful decision in cane rod making!

    For the butts use the culm with the nodes closest.

    I think you really need to drink scotch, but may possibly be excused grits.  Whatever grits are.

    Lastly don't let this get too complicated, don't worry about things that don't matter, like most of the things we endlessly discuss on this listserv, and don't get all locked up and panicky about mistakes, it's not a matter of whether you make any, only how soon and how many.  You don't need to retire before you start making cane rods. Even at sixty my diary can be terrifying (certainly frightens me) but I get enough time to knock the odd rod out. You find you watch nearly no television and it helps if the workshop is warm and your wife can get to you for a chat without putting a waterproof on.

    Enough, you'll be hearing far too much from me in the future.  (Robin Haywood)

    I have over 100 culms, all gotten from the same supplier. I ask Russ to pull certain needs (overall quality, not so good but wide ring spacing, don't care about looks but must be particularly dense) and then we do another sort.  My point is that what is A+ for one application might be wholly useless for another.  Try to see the rod(s) you're going to build in the culm.

    Bamboo can be like a lady; the most wonderful thing one moment, superbly vexing the next.  And the same culm.  (Wally Murray)

    It is a lot of fun and you will make a few mistakes, get blood on the cane, expand your vocabulary, break a few things, etc.  Like I said, it's fun and these are all "rites of passage".

    The nodes are closer together on the butt end of the cane.  As you progress up the culm, they get further apart.  If you run your finger over the node (perpendicular to the node) you will feel an edge or ridge.  The edge of the ridge will face the "up" direction of the cane.  This is just another way to tell which way the culm grows, even if you have only one piece.

    Keep in mind, as you have seen in the discussion on mixed culm rods, there are many opinions and many ways to accomplish the same thing.  An oven can be a piece of water heater vent pipe with an electric heat gun at one end   You can hand bind or use a binder, band saw strips or hand split, etc., etc., etc.

    There are more tips than you can imagine on the tips site and a wealth of information on the list.  Probably more than you want to know!  (John Dotson)

    I should point out to you that while it is indisputable that many list members are indeed pretty "rank", it is nevertheless quite insensitive to refer to us as "ranks".

    1. A drop of  .001 per linear inch in the depth of your grooves is about normal.

    2. because of the requirement for two mirror imaged form grooves for quad rods, a "two-in-one" form is probably not within the realms of the practical.

    3. flaming is fine.

    4 & 5. Just split 'em and use 'em.

    6.  See top re ranks.  (Peter McKean)


I have a few questions, guys about planing forms. I am going with Penrose's plans, but using 60" 7/8 x 7/8 keystock, it was free so I decided to use it instead of 62" or 72". What considerations are there for the shorter length and larger size keystock, station locations, hardware length, etc. I am familiar with the 5" centers thread and have already considered adding some 2.5" stations. Would the 2.5" stations help for making mild swelled butt tapers?  (Jason Moody)

    The length is fine unless you want to make really long 2 piece rods.  I'd question the flatness and machinability of key stock though.  The larger size isn't a problem either, but it will make it harder to adjust to make a moderate  swelled butt.   I'd use the 2.5" centers on about 3' at the butt end.  IMHO, there's no need for them after you pass the area of the swell.  Remember, no matter how Garrison designed his rods, he still planed them on forms with 5" centers, and bent ones at that.  (Unless he had some secret machine he never showed Hoagy Carmichael.)  (Neil Savage)

    My forms are only 60" long. They were made by Lon Blauvelt who sells forms and they work fine. They have several 2 1/2" stations for making mild swelled butts. I posted the measurements for the bolt hole and pin hole centers on the rodmaking page at The Classic Fly Rod Forum. If you want I can send you the link to that page.  (Will Price)

    If it were me I would go for 55" that's 11 stations and 2.5 in on each end. Very few rods are over 8'6" and this will handle up to 9'. I use 5 inch stations which for me handle all rod types, if you want a large butt swell make a small wooden form for the lower butt.

    I used a regular Stanley plane to smooth the steel and it worked out really good, I had to smooth the sole of the plane but I used just one blade for the three sides.

    I used a push pull system with 10-32 hex head machine screws, you get better control the more threads you have and you can adjust using a hex wrench. I would put the 1/4" guide stock in the middle of the 5" stations.  (Bob Norwood)

    Thanks for the input on the forms. The keystock I have is 1018 CR steel, which is what I thought most steel forms are made of. I am considering going with 3/4x72" pieces.

    Has anyone tried anything other than a file to "true" the sides of the forms?  (Jason Moody)

      You might want to consider a little larger than ¾” to be able to make swells on the butt ends.  (Ren Monllor)

      My forms are 1"x 1" and I haven't had any problems setting them. A friend built them on a milling machine. He wanted to true the sides using a fly cutter on the mill after he'd done all the drilling and taping of the holes and the bar warped like a banana making them unusable for forms. I'd stick to just a light filling or just sanding on the tops for cold rolled steel.  (Ken Paterson)

      With truing the steel for my forms I found a body file was the quickest and easiest to use. Buy a body file and the adjustable holder from any body shop supplier and set the file with a slight convex bend. Once the steel is flat switch to a normal file to finish by draw filing. The body file cuts quickly and having a handle does not chew up your fingers. The final finish by draw filing goes quite quickly.

      I did find that the expensive cold rolled steel was not dimensionally accurate with 1 to 5 thousandths dips and bends that needed to be removed to get them flat. But I doubt if my insistence on this level of accuracy has made any difference to the rods I am producing. But at least I can't blame my poor workmanship on my forms.  (Gordon Gove)


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