MASTERCLASS IN ROD BUILDING — Building a bamboo fly-rod — Part 1 — by Dirk de Villiers

I HAVE recently received a number of requests to write a series of articles on building a bamboo fly-rod, an facet of rod-building which is very challenging but most rewarding.

I have built ten bamboo rods to date, but finished the last of those about 12 years ago before young children put this very time-consuming hobby on hold. I am therefore excited to dust off the tools, clean off the rust, sharpen the blades and build another rod with you. In this series of articles I will document the process as I build rod number 11.

In order to manufacture a bamboo blank we will attempt to create 12 tapered bamboo strips (six for the butt section and six for the tip section), each with perfect equilateral 60 degree cross-sections to within 0.001” (0.025mm) of the final dimensions.

The process we will follow is:

• Select a culm of bamboo.

• Flame the culm of bamboo.

• Split the culm in half.

• Remove nodal dams.

• Split the culm into smaller strips.

• Smooth the nodes.

• Straighten the strips.

• Rough plane the strips.

• Plane the bamboo splines to final dimensions on the adjustable final planing form.

• Glue the resultant splines together to create the hexagonal cross-section that is the trademark of a bamboo fly-rod.

• Finish the blank with a rub-on finish to protect it against moisture.

• Cut the blank to length and attach the ferrules.

• Complete the rod by attaching the grip, reel seat and guides.

In this article I will deal with the tools, equipment and consumables required to finish a bamboo blank.

The best bamboo for fly-rods is Tonkin Cane (Arundinaria amabilis), grown in a 190km2 area in China. Tonkin Cane is used because of its abundance of powerful fibres which give the rod its strength and flexibility.

Until recently it was a major hassle to import cane due to the high shipping charges on smaller quantities. This changed recently because Craig Thom of StreamX in Cape Town now stocks good quality Tonkin Cane and sells it at very reasonable prices.

Apart from the information contained in these articles and the vast amount of information that you can gather on the internet, I believe that a good book on building bamboo rods is essential.

A Master’s Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod by Everett Garrison and Hoagy Carmichael is considered the “bible” for bamboo rod builders. Other books that I can highly recommend are The Lovely Reed by Jack Howell and Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods by Wayne Cattanach. These books (and many others), as well as a couple of DVDs on the subject, are available from .

Read the full story in the June 2014 issue of FLYFISHING.
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