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Greenheart Rods

I've got this notion I'd like to build a greenheart rod someday. I've looked for a source for greenheart online, and so far all I've found are a couple importers of big planks for dock & deck construction.  Does anyone know of a source that would sell me just enough for a few rods?  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    Not to be a smart ass, but, Where can a person find out more about greenheart wood as a rodmaking material. It sounds interesting to me. Like where does it grow? What type of wood is it? Is it light in weight? Hardwood, softwood? Are the rods made like a six strip hex? A quad? Or just a one piece, no multiple strips? Tell me more, please!

    I've wondered about hickory or osage orange, or materials like a traditional long bow is made from.  (David Dziadosz)

      Greenheart is an evergreen from northeastern South America (mainly from Guyana), remarkably dense and water resistant. The wood must be worked carefully as it is toxic if inhaled.  Greenheart is extremely limber, but tends to break at the ferrule, so the best greenheart rods were made with spliced joints.  Greenheart rods are heavier than cane, but considerably more powerful.

      Usually, greenheart fly rods were much cheaper than split cane, which probably reflected the fact that they were solid rods which only required turning. But the Scots violinist Alexander Grant applied techniques derived from violinmaking to his greenheart rods, matching joints in frequency to the note of a tuning fork. Grant's designs allowed him to cast extreme distances on the Ness, and he set records of 165' casts without shooting any line.  Grant's "Vibration" rods sold at prices equivalent to split cane and are still preferred for salmon fishing by the current Prince of Wales and by myself and my wife when fishing wading in big water or when needing to reach out.

      A greenheart rod feels like a lance in the hand, but it will flex in your hands as you hold it. Greenheart rods tend to use lighter lines for their length than cane. A 14' Grant Vibration (our favorite) uses a 7 wt line, and will pick up and lay out a full fly line, pulling backing off the reel on the out cast. Greenheart rods spey cast better than rods made of any other known material having a superior capability of storing and releasing energy. Though heavier, they are much more agreeable to use than graphite because they possess the live feel characteristic of fly rods made of organic material.

      My belief is that the design and technology of greenheart rods has been forgotten. I own a number of examples which persuade me that more than one design philosophy used to exist, that significantly differing actions are possible, and that greenheart rods can sometimes be very little different in weight from split cane.

      Wood Magazine Greenheart Information.

      Wikipedia Information  (David Zincavage)

    I found some a few years ago and made a 3 piece 2 tip 8' 6 wt. rod that surprised most who cast it as it was fairly fast and very accurate unlike most Greenheart rods and could easily cast an entire length of line. When I attended the 1st European Rod Makers gathering in Sansepolcro, Italy last year I donated it to them for their museum.

    The Greenheart was from piers that were removed in Philly, and presumably very old wood. I had them saw it into planks for me and most of it was usable, still a little oily.  (Larry Tusoni)

      I have a number of greenheart rods in my collection. They range from a couple of delicate little 8' rods to some at 17 ' monsters with spliced joints. I think somewhere in my notes I have a copy of a section from an old book explaining about how to make them and some of the features of the woods and rods. I could look it out if anyone is interested. Also I can measure some tapers if anyone is interested.  (Ian Kearney)

        I don't think there were a lot of American makers of greenheart rods. D.H. Scribner of New Brunswick, Canada, however, did produce a lot of greenheart salmon rods.

        Greenheart fly rods in trout fishing lengths were made from some point in the first half of the 19th century.   Early rods are often hollow, jointed with brass, and come in many sections often with fine tip joints of whale bone, cane, or various other woods.  Grant Vibration rods can be recognized by a raised knob at the end of the splice. They are also usually numbered on the splices.

        Modern (20th century) greenheart rods in trout fishing lengths were an inexpensive alternative to cane rods, and should be regarded in that light.  I would not necessarily turn down an interesting ferruled greenheart rod, but those proposing to fish with them need to remember that greenheart rods were notorious for breaking at the ferrule.   

        Greenheart rods have been out of fashion, to put it mildly, for many years, and typically command only very small prices.  The workmanship on the best examples can be very nice, and personally I prefer Greenheart salmon rods for spey casting situations.  My wife and I both enjoy using one also in  canoe fishing, as a change of pace.

        In my view, Grant Vibration rods (made by Charles Playfair under Grant's license) are the most desirable. Before the Grant Vibration came along, the premiere rod was the Castleconnell model of John Enright.  Rods by major British makers like Malloch, Forest, Hardy, Farlow, and Ogden Smith are worth considering.  There was more than one sort of action, but no one alive has played with enough of the old rods to really understand the rival philosophies of action.  (David Zincavage)

          I found David's comments interesting and I agree with his comment that most greenheart rods are British origin. I have a 12 ' spliced rod with nobs at the end of the splice so will check to see if it is one of those vibration rods. I will put together some information and pics over the next few days and post it on Todds site and advise when I will do so.

          Just a quick point about greenheart breaking at the ferrules. I have heard that greenheart can dry out if stored inside and become brittle. As such the old style fishers used to leave their rod outside for a day or so to adjust to the moisture in the atmosphere before it was used.

          If you have a greenheart rod it might be a good idea to do this before you try it out with a line.  (Ian Kearney)

            Alexander Grant actually patented those knobs, which were a way of reducing the probability of the end of the splice splitting.  So if it has that knob, it ought to be a Grant Vibration.  The Playfair of Aberdeen markings do not always survive. William Garden (also of Aberdeen) seems to have also produced Grant Vibration rods. I think possibly later than Playfair.

            I've never heard about greenheart rods drying out.  I make a practice of waxing all my salmon rods with bowling alley wax. (Be sure to keep it away from the cork!).  One can get caught in pouring rain miles from shelter on the river.

            They used to use lengths of porpoise hide to tie the spliced joints together. It is not uncommon to find those old lengths of hide still with the rod. I find that taping splices together with black electrical tape is easier and works just fine.

            Greenheart rods tend to require a lighter line size than you would expect.  A 14' rod typically uses a 7 wt. line.  Be careful about overloading that greenheart rod with too heavy a line.

            Greenheart rods are heavier, but in canoe fishing typically two anglers take turns fishing a particular stretch.  I usually set up 3 rods. One with a dark fly, one with a light fly, and one with a fly the guide likes. Or some other logical combination.  I will fish two flies through completely, then the guide will take a drop, and my wife will take over.  If the anglers are taking turns fishing, the weight of a particular rod is immaterial. When wading in big water with no room for back casts, the greater power of the greenheart rod makes it the preferable choice despite the weight. My wife typically grabs that 14' Grant Vibration first. I have photos of Karen throwing an entire fly line across the Madeleine.

            I have found greenheart trout rods amusing.  You feel like you're fishing with a telephone pole, but there is so much power there that you find you have pinpoint accuracy with a dry fly. Inserting the fly beneath a canopy of overhanging bushes suddenly becomes easy. Of course, after 20 minutes or so, the arm begins to ache.

            In the old days, especially on the Aroy in Norway, they used to use monstrous rods of 20+'.  I've often wondered how much line they could put out with those. The largest I've ever found is a 17 1/2' Grant.

            Violin makers determine the proper thickness of the back and belly of a violin by matching its harmonic to that of a tuning fork (I think a note A tuning fork). Grant apparently did something along the same lines in building his salmon rods.  It was generally agreed that he was on to something judging by performance.  (David Zincavage)

      I have a greenheart rod that I found a while back that I would like to sell but am not sure of the worth. Any info would be helpful.  It is a n 8' 3 piece 2 tip 6 wt. it has never been fished and it was made in England. Any one interested contact me off list.  (Bob Venneri)

    You will have more success looking for "Lignum vitae", Greenheart's  other name and one used in the specialty trades like wood working and turning and lutherie.  These latter industries are used to fulfilling specialty items.  (Dave Burley)

      As often happens in this trade, there is more than one wood with the same name.  Ditto one called called Greenheart.  This site also says it is used for specialty uses which includes fishing rods: This also makes more sense as these trees grow to a large size.

      Here's the information.  (Dave Burley)

        My earlier comments were based on my knowledge that Lignun Vitae is called greenheart since it changes color after being cut.  Also, it is common that in many of the older trades to rename a product ( timber included) for its potential market, so it can be sold there.

        This second Greenheart from Guyana makes more sense as the Lv tree is small, very oily and very hard and even sinks in water. The size of the Lv tree puzzled me, so I decided to have a second look. This second one is large diameter, also dense and oily and in ample supply and makes more sense that it would be used as dock planks.  Both this greenheart and Lv have many similar uses in the marine world due to the toughness, oiliness and high density. Tools will need to be sharp and resharpened often, I predict, as many of these trees have high silica content.

        As I said before, I don't have any direct evidence about greenheart, but these tropical woods can have negative physical effects on your body, even being in some cases carcinogenic - especially the oily woods. Safety glasses, high quality dust masks and rubber gloves are a good start, as is a dust control system.  Wash all exposed flesh after finishing. Ditto your clothes.  (Dave Burley)

    I was interested in the Greenheart discussion and have considered building one for some time.  So I ask around and found a serious fly fisherman in the lumber business in Delaware.  He has Green Heart rough sawn 2" x 6" x 6' for $110 a board delivered to Ft Myers.  Minimum order of 25 pieces. 

    If anyone is interested in buying a board and is willing to pay cost plus shipping to your location drop me a line.  If I can sell off enough of the boards I will put in an order.

    Alexander Grant used solid lumber turned to a taper on a lath.  He supposedly used a constant taper from butt to tip and made rods up to 21' in length.  He sold out to Playfair in 1900 and they made the rods for quite some time.  I have seen the tapers that Playfair used in the 20's and they have compound tapers on the tips sections.

    See here.  (Joe Redburn)


 

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