Bamboo Tips - The Journey

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Here are some comments made by first time rodmakers on the process of making a bamboo fly rod.  Below are comments by Mark Wendt. 

Click here to see comments by Todd Enders.


A first-time rodmakers journey
(Comments by Mark Wendt on making his first rod)

Cedar & Mister Stanley:

Gents and Ladies,

Last night in the shop was a Neanderthalithic experience.... A few days ago, I meandered over to one of our local Amish furniture makers, in search of some pretty type wood to build my drying cabinet. A fruitful search of his wood rack coughed up four planks, 8 1/2' to 9 1/2' long, roughly 9 inches wide and a full inch thick, of lustrous cedar wood. After watching the good Amish craftsman plane the boards down to 3/4"s of an inch  thick, I asked what the damages were. He digs out his trusty old wooden ruler to figure out the board feet, and comes up with a total of 21 board  feet (This after tossing in a board for free, because a very pretty knot smack dab in the middle of the board popped out and got crunched in the last planer pass), and tells me the total is $49.... Incredible!!!!!!

We load the boards in the truck for the ride home, and I take off.  Weather that day was sorta nasty, so I had all the windows closed with the heater on. The boards lined up between the front seats and stretching to the  back of the inside of the SUV started giving off a wonderful perfume. There ain't nuthin' like fresh cut cedar. One of my buddy's that I work with calls  it "Aromatherapy" for the Neanderthal....

Got home that day,  and started cutting the boards to size for the  drying cabinet. The bandsaw was making short work of ripping and crosscutting the boards to size (one of the advantages of having a 1" resaw blade on an 18" bandsaw - it don't slow down for hell or high water....). After all the pieces were cut to size, I called it a night.

I wasn't able to get back out to the shop until yesterday after work.  I opened the garage door, and was again greeted by my Aromatherapy from the previous cutting extravaganza (I'd gotten a little pooped, since it was almost midnight when I quit working the other night, and didn't sweep up or vacuum when I was done. Shame on me.... But then again, there was that  marvelous little tincture in the air).

I popped one of the planks in my new wood vise - thanks guys for all the info on wood vises, by the way, I settled on a Record 7 1/2" wood vise, and it works beautiously!!!! After monkeying around with the wood vise, I drug out Mister Stanley #9 1/2, whispered the required mantras, and proceeded to start planing the edges. I wasn't happy with the way the curls were coming off the board, so I starts ta do a little investigatin'. I rips the plane apart, and looks at the blade. I says to me self "Self, sumtin' ain't copasetic here. The blade was coated with what looked to be a cover coat of clear finish of some sort. So, I grabs me my can of Oops (available at your local Wally World, or Kmart if their still around), and wipes down the blade, removing the clear coat. Inserts the blade back into the plane, and ahhhh, muchy smoother, GI. Progress a little further, nicer curls coming  off, but now I notice that the curlys are a bit tapered to one side. Sooooo, I moves the little blade skew management device, and now the curlys are better. Buuuuuut, I looks down at the blade through the top of the plane, and notices that the blade angle ain't perpendicular to the mouth openin'.  Scratchin' me head, I thinks a little more investigatin' is required. I pull the plane apart again, and start looking at the blade, using a square to check the angles. Nope, everything looks just ducky there. Okey Doke, must be something in the blade holding arrangement. Played around with the frog, the blade skew alignment lever and the blade adjustor nut. Nope, everything hunky dory. So I pull off the adjustable throat plate, and stare down the throat of the beast (Yes Virginia, they will bite....). Aha, the veritable light bulb is lit..... The angled ramp where the blade exits the body of the  plane has been machined, but not correctly! The angle from back to front on  the plane is just fine, but the side to side cut is not parallel with the bottom of the plane. So, whilst the plane is still stripped of its  particulate matter, I pull the board out from the vise, and secure the plane body in said vise, with a decent enough angle that I can see both sides and still work on the ramp with a file. I get it filed nice and parallel (at least by the Mark 1 eyeball method), blow out all the metal swarf with an air hose, and proceed to reassemble the plane. Said plane now reassembled, I pop the plank back into the vise, set the plane to take a nice shallow cut, and proceed to make beoootyful music on them cedar planks. The floor littered with aromatic cedar shavings (had visions of doggy beds, with the SWMBO sewing up covers. Nah, too much like household work....), I shaved and  shaved the boards to my own level of perfection. Nirvanic. Neanderthalithic.  I was in the zone......

Looked at the clock, and OH MY GOD! It's like 1:30 in the morning....  I gots to get up at 0500 hrs to go to work!!!!! Ah well, so I close up the shop, meander into the house, take off the old clothes and climb into bed.  My wife rolls over and says, "What in the heck were you doing out there until the wee hours of the morning?" I smiled and said, "It's a guy thing.  Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh, Arrrrrrggggghhhhh."



Splitting Strips:

Mornin' All,

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.



Splitting Revisited:





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...

Awright 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 the 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 Nunly-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.

Awright you guys, what else is in store that you haven't told me  about? Oh yeah, straightening.... Ah, the online journal will continue. Same Bat time, same Bat channel....


Nodes, Nodes, Nodes....

And now, for the next installment...

Finally got to go out to the workshop last night at about 9 PM. It was a tad warm yesterday.... The temperature had worked  it's way down to 90 degrees by that time, so I figured it was time.

I soaked. I pressed nodes. I straightened. I rough planed. I intermediate planed.

That's the  Hemingway version,  appropriately titled,  "The Old Man and the Cane." Not what you were expecting based on my  previous tales of excitement and horror? All right, here's the long winded  version.

After making my way out to the shop, I opened the garage door, and was immediately greeted with a wall of heat... One a 'dese  days, gotta get AC installed in the shop! Seems the back wall of the shop is also the front wall of the crawl space, and the heating and cooling duct runs under the floor joist just inside of the crawl space. Note to self: Get  hold of an HVAC guy, and have him run a vent from the duct into the shop....  Anyway, back to the story. I turned on the fan to try and drive out some of the hot air (course it was displaced by more warm air, but hey, at least it felt like a breeze...), and in the mean time, I uncapped my soaking tube.  Eeewwwwww! Tony S., you were so right! 'Boo soaking water does tend to take on some odors!!!! As Sir Charles Barkely once stated in a totally dignified commercial, "One must not be malodorous to ones chums." After determining that it was going to be at least another few minutes before the major part of the heat was going to be forced out of the shop, I went back in the house and grabbed a tall glass of ice cold water and pushed myself to get back to the shop. By now the heat in the shop was bearable, so I dumped the water from the soaking tube out into the lawn - hope it don't kill the grass. I pulled two strips out of the tube, laid them on the bench, and set up the work bench for the pressing and straightening portion of this session. Put Tony Spezio's nifty little node pressing vice attachment in the vice (I use a wood vice that's faced with maple, so I had to craft an opposing plate out of aluminum angle stock to ensure enough pressure went to the node that I was pressing. I felt that the wood face would compress more than I wanted and wouldn't give me the optimum compression. Set up the heat gun near the  vice, and started heating the strip at the node. Gave it about 30 seconds or so (Thanks Bret for the time factor, it worked out very close to where the cane became plastic. It's an interesting feeling when the strip goes plastic, almost like holding on to a stiff wet noodle), and then cranked the strip down into the vice. I says to meself, "Self, if this works, it's too easy..." While the first strip was cooling in the vice, on the suggestion again from Tony Spezio, I started heating a nodal area on the second strip.  Approximately 30 seconds later, I took the first strip out of the vice and clamped the second one in.  I looked at the first strip,  and lo and behold!  The node was flat! The fibers were compressed! And it all smelled like some Asian stir fry ingredient!!! Oh, sorry about that, my wife musta been cooking something odd for her brother and his friends.....

Now, I'm thinking to myself, this is COOL! And  so easy! So, I pressed on.... My daughter says my sense of humor is pretty  corny. She's 16 going on 29, and at that stage where Dad just ain't cool no more. And she used to laugh at all my jokes.... Ahem. Back to the saga. I finished pressing the nodes on the first two strips, and looked at what I had wrought. I was pretty pleased with my self at this  point,  and  felt like a cane master.  Uh oh,  still have to straighten the strips.... So,  I chucked the strips in to the vice again and filed all the nodes down, and that went  pretty easily. Geez, a fella could get overconfident here real fast. Cranked up the heat gun again, and sighted down the first strip. OH. MY. GOD. Looked like what's that street in San Fran? Oh yeah, Lombard St. The crookedest street in the world? My Dad drove down that street when we were kids. In a motor home... Tight.... So our family's a little nuts, what can I say? Off track again, back to the 'boo. I pick one of the lesser curves, and put it  over the gun, and heat it up, putting a little side pressure on the strip while it was over the heat element. All of a sudden, it turns into that stiff wet noodle. Pliable. Bendy. HOT! So, I hold the strip, bent the opposite direction, with a tad more bend to overcompensate for the original crook. It cools off enough to let the strip go, and I sight down the area where previously there had been a bend. Hallelujah! I have a straight section of cane, which previously had a nice little bend. Okay, lets tackle  something with a higher degree of difficulty. I should mention something I previously forgot. I used the same technique for side straightening  the  nodes as I did for  pressing the nodes,  and that took about 95% of the jog out of the nodal area, but since I couldn't overcompensate for the bend, it sprung slightly back into a crook. This was the next step. I could handle simple bends, now it was time to work on a complex bend. So, I picked a node  that had a slight "S" curve (more like an "S" joint..), and heated the first  little bendy. When I felt the cane going "plastic", I bent the first curve, again with a bit of overcompensation and let it cool in my hands.  Release the pressure, sight down where the previous crook existed, and now had been sent to the gates of Purgatory. Okay, pretty darned straight there. Now, for the other part of the compound crook, which was about an inch away from the  first bend. I heated up that area to the requisite temp, and proceeded to straighten that one. Cool off, sight down the strip. Aw nuts. The heating and bending allowed the first crook to come back in a bit. So, back to the gun for a short bit at the first bend, and restraighten the first bend.  Cool off, sight the strip. You guessed it. Second crook crept back in a bit. Repeat procedure. Okay, doesn't look bad this time.  Guess you have to sneak up on it,  bit by bit. Looks pretty straight now. Went through the rest of that strip and the other one, heating and straightening. Not knowing what it's like to straighten strips that haven't been soaked before, all-in-all, this way is pretty doggone easy, if you take your time and work the grass.

Okay, now the fun continues. Time to start the  rough planing. I've been practice planing on cutoff strips and rejects over  the last few days, and was a bit trepidatious. Always wanted to use that word in a sentence in one of my stories. My dictionary has two definitions for the word, 1) trembling movement, and 2) fearful uncertainty. Looks like I was covered by both. This was the real thing. The "rod" strips. Don't mess these ones up, boy. I chunked the roughing forms in the vice, and started planing that first 60 degree bevel in a real rod strip. Hyperventilate, slow the breathing down now, just take it slow and easy. Place the plane on the strip, as flat to the form as you can get it. Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket.  Wow, the planing soaked cane is like planing balsa! The keen edge of the  Stanley 9 1/2 was going through the strip like a hot poker through a  marshmallow. Nice and easy, and so smooth! Oooooh this is fun! Not quite the  same aromatherapy as planing the cedar, but something more! I was actually in the first stages of creating something, the history flowed through my veins... Okay, maybe it was the caffeine from all the coffee I'd drank yesterday, but it was something! Eventually, after working the strip, I started clamping the strip into the form. Much easier on the hold down thumb. So, for a bit, it was snick, curl, snick, curl. Ahh, this is the way  it oughta be. Uh oh, a node snuck in there. Okay, just work the plane  through the node nice and easy. Hey, it works. Gotta like that "Scary Sharp"  system. I was gonna shave with my plane blade this morning but my wife talked me out of it. Said she wasn't ready to collect my life insurance just yet. Got the first strip roughed out, and moved it to the intermediate forms. Same smooth action through the cane, and work the strip nice and slow. No need to hurry, this is supposed to be a learning experience, and it was. Tony Spezio, thank you for the soaking! What a difference between wet  planing and dry planing the strips. It is so much easier to plane bamboo when it's soaked, versus the dry planing I had been practicing. Okay, get a semblance of a 60 degree side, flip the strip and take a couple of passes to get a true 60 degree bevel. Slide the strip up the form, clamp both ends and repeat the process. The first strip came out pretty darned good if I do say  so myself. Course, damned near separated my shoulder patting myself on the back after completing the first strip. Okay, on to the second strip. Same methods, same procedures. This time though, about half way through the strip, the plane blade catches on one of the nodes and tears it a bit.  Arrggghhh, gotta get me a Hock Blade. Only thing you gotta watch out for wet  planing, is the sharpness, or lack of it doesn't show itself as readily as it does planing on a dry strip. There wasn't any of the increased "grabbiness" you can feel as the blade dulls planing dry cane. So, knock down the plane, strap the blade to the Veritas jig, and hit the sandpaper again. Start at 320 grit, go to 600, then 1000, then finish it up with 2000 grit. Hey, I can still see my nose hairs reflecting off the blade! Okay,  reassemble the plane, check the blade alignment, and back to planing.  Hmmppph, goes right through the node this time. Guess I'll just develop a feel as time goes on as to when the blade needs to be resharpened. Finished up that strip, and set the form aside.

I picked up the first strip and notice a couple of little "wows" over the length of the strip. Checked the second strip, and  noticed the same. Fired up the heat gun, and worked the kinks out of the first strip. Ditto for the second strip. Straightening is much easier and quicker on thinner strips.... Took out the trusty caliper, and started taking dimensions at different points along the strip, and most were within 1 - 2 thousandths of the form setting. Do I like this technique? DO I LIKE THIS  TECHNIQUE! Uh, yeah.

Well, by this time, it was almost 11:30. So, I  figured what the heck. I don't have to get up tomorrow very early. Pulled two more strips out of the soaker, and repeated the process. I'd like to say things went perfectly, but, not exactly. In my short experience planing cane, I've come to find out that, much like wood, there's a definite grain to bamboo, and it likes to be planed one way more so than the other. Ahem.  Thank goodness it happened on a thicker strip. I planed down this one strip, and all of a sudden this big peel came off. Ooops, lets get just a little  less aggressive with the depth of cut here. Crank the blade back a tad, and try again. Okay, much better.

So. In the period of about 3 1/2 hours, I  managed to, a) press nodes, b) straighten, c) more straightening, d) even  more straightening, e) file nodes, f) rough bevel g) intermediate plane, and h) more straightening on 4 strips of bamboo. Not a bad evening's work for  the first time.

Lessons learned:

1) Press those nodes as hard as you can.

2) Wait until the bamboo feels like a stiff wet  noodle before you try to straighten, but don't overheat.

3) Keep the plane blade sharp.

4) Take your time, no need to rush at this stage  of the game.

5) Keep your plane blade sharp.

6) Overcompensate the bend a little when you're  straightening, bamboo is like spring steel, it'll go back.

7) You can never have too straight a strip -  Thanks Nunley-san (Mantra - straighten, straighten, straighten).

8) Keep your plane blade sharp.

9) Anal, I know, but try to get as precise  intermediate planing as you would when final planing - it'll make the final  planing much easier - you won't be chasing that 60 degrees.

10) Did I say keep your plane blade sharp?

Until the next time dear friends. Same bat time,  same bat channel.

Planingly yours,


After some correspondence with Tony Spezio, Mark  said:


I know, I know, you warned me about the, shall I say, perfume, of the soaked cane. But hoo boy... I grew up right next to a  farm that raised cattle and pigs. Pigs really can work up a stink, but cracking open the soak tube was another story all together.....

I just wanted to give you the credit for talking  a rank beginner such as meself into a method that is easier than the old  tried and true. If it wasn't for folks like you and the other extremely  helpful folks on the list, like M-D, Joe Byrd, Bob Nunley, Bob Maulucci, and  too many others, I'd still be reading the Garrison "Bible" and wondering if I could ever do this kind of thing. You may not have originally come up with the soaking idea, but your article in Power Fibers about the node press, and emails back and forth got me going down this "slippery slope"... All I can say to you and everyone else who has helped me to this point is a big "THANK  YOU"!


And then Mark added:


I just noticed that in my last message I left  out two extremely helpful people to me - Rev. Harry Boyd and Don Schneider.  Harry for 'splainin' some of the simple to him, complex to me things, and  Don, for helping me get my forms set up correctly and other advise. Thanks  guys, from the bottom of my heart.


Skinny Sticks - The latest installment:

I've begun the next adventure - the final planing phase. Like most everyone, I started the final planing working on the butt strips first. I figured, since I've little knowledge or muscle memory of the intricacies of this stage, it would be easier to learn on the bigger strips first. I put the first butt strip in the forms with the utmost trepidation, knowing that the next few planing strokes would determine how the final product would  perform, and what it would look like. Actually, I first lit a good cigar,  and pondered about life in general... The forms were set with my depth gauge and checked and rechecked at least a half a dozen times. I learned early on in life to measure twice, thrice, etc, cut once. It's easier to cut stuff away, than to put it back on. And yes, I remembered to half the dimensions I received from Mr. Medved, who graciously sent me the numbers he uses to  create his grass wonders. So, there was nothing left for me to do, other than to make sure the plane was sharp, except to begin making curls.

I clamped the first butt strip about two inches or so farther down  from my first witness mark on the planing forms, since I planned to work my way to the final size in increments. I figured this would give me the chance to sneak up on the final dimensions, and correct any gotchas before I was to close to the end product to fix them. I got the plane in motion, and started pulling off some nice curls, flipping the stick after every couple of passes. As the butt end started getting close to the form dimensions at the  point I clamped it, I flipped the strip top side up, and scraped the enamel off, making the top side parallel to the forms. Once that task was accomplished, I moved the strip to the final dimension line I'd drawn on the forms, and planed away. The planing seemed to go relatively well. Since I was really taking my time, to make sure I was getting the angles and dimensions I wanted, I guesstimate it took me about 30 minutes to do the first strip. Once I got the hang of it I was doing the rest of the strips in  about 10 - 20 minutes, depending on how much grief the strip in question was giving me. Oh yeah, sharpening.... I learned more about sharpening doing the final planing of these strips than I ever thought I would. I was loading the blade into the Veritas honing guide, using the supplied Angle jig, and beveling a secondary angle. What I wasn't doing was checking the blade's  squareness to the abrasive plate once I cranked down on the honing guide's set screw. I just wasn't getting the blade as sharp as I thought I could, and it was showing when I had to resharpen more often. Now, after loading the plane blade in the guide, and doing the initial set in the jig, I lay the blade on the sharpening glass, and check to make sure the blade is flat on the glass surface. Back to shaving hairs again! Pretty soon won't have any left on the arm... Guess I'll have to limit my rod building to the cycles of hair growth on my arms. Good new is, I've got two arms, so I can do two rods, wait a couple of months...

I had a couple of minor problems during this stage. A couple of nodes reached up and bit me, and grabbed the plane blade as I was going through them. Playing around with the plane, I closed the throat down a little more, and this seemed to solve most of the node issues. I also planed the tip strips on the butt strip side first, on the suggestion from Tony Spezio.  This allowed me to get the tip strips to a true 60 degrees, and also to scrape the enamel from the strip before it got too small to see....

I'm about half way through the tip strips now, and I find myself being even more careful and slower as I plane these guys. Oy, them tips are so teeny! .033 when I was setting the form didn't look quite so small. I could use the tips as toothpicks! The hardest part so far on planing the tips is making sure the blade is sharp, sharp, sharp. I really gotta get rid of this cheesy Stanley blade before I begin my next rod. I'm resharpening the blade  between every strip, just to make sure the thing is sharp enough to peel nice little curls at the tip end without leaving little "Mark's" on the strip. I've got the plane tuned up beautifully now, unfortunately the blade ain't up to the quality of the rest of the plane. I think the new blade will be either a Hock, or Lie-Nielsen A2. Since they're both about  the same price,  what does the list have to say about the two? Pro's, Con's of both  please!

Still awaiting the arrival of my Epon order from Bingham Enterprises.  Seems the shipping is a bit slow, but should have the glue sometime this  week, hopefully.

Until next time, same bat time, same bat channel...

Planingly yours,


Sticky Sticks.....

`Twas the day of the glue up,
and all through the shop,
not a tool was stirring,
not even a mop.

The tools were hung
over the bench with care,
not a curl was found,
they were as thin as air.

The glue was ready,
the binder was strung,
the bench was covered,
the siren had sung....

Saturday morning chimed in bright and early. The  temperature was a bearable 85 degrees out in the shop, and I figured it was  time to get the next phase completed. I'd final planed the last strip Friday evening, and was ready to move on to the next phase. I laid out the strips in the correct order on the bench, and bundled them up, taping the sections together as I went. Next the tape on the strips were sliced open and the bundles lay flat on the newspapers. Mix up the Epon, 2:1 as the directions, well, directed. Gotta be one of the few times I've ever read the directions before starting something... Borrowed Momma's old toothbrush, and lathered the glue on the sticks. Figured at this point you can't have too much glue.  Since all the responses on my question of working time said I'd have a bunch with Epon,  I figured I'd glue up all the sticks before binding. Epon, being an epoxy cures slower the thinner the film, and it was starting to warm up out in the shop pretty quickly. Slobbered the glue on the last set of sticks, and got the binder prepped to take the first stick. Fed the binder cord around the butt section, half hitched to my hearts content, and started turning the crank. Glue squishing out all over! Guess I coated the strips enough... Keep turning, wipe the glue mess a little, hands all nice and sticky by this point. Hey! I'm at the end of the first wrap! Okay, let's tie off the binding string, half hitch it some more. Okay, let's remove the  binder cord from the butt section... Doh! Half hitched meself to the durned binder cord.... All right, think fast. Lessee, if I hold the bound string real tight, I can untie the half hitches... Yeah, yeah, that'll work. Okay, now remove the binder string from under the binder cord this time. Half hitch it off again, whew.... Okay, re-insert the section in the binder, and let's do it the other way. Half hitch, wind, wind, wind. Remove the string from under the binder cord this time, and half hitch it off. Sponge off the  excess glue with the denatured alcohol, and sight down the strip. Kewl, no twists!

Repeat said operation on the tip strips (no, not  tying the binder string to the binder cord...), wipe 'em down, sight down the strips. Yeehaa, no twists! Wipe 'em down, and then lay them out on the bench. Okay, let see how many bends I have to straighten out here. Pick up the butt section, sight down it towards the nice shiny windshield of my car, yep, there's a couple of bends to get out. Roll the strip on the bench, pick it up, and lo and behold, nice straight stick! I'm thinking, this is getting to be too easy. Maybe the hard part is behind me. Okay, perform said operation on first tip strip. Dang, this works like a champ! The Epon has set up just a little, and straightening the sections is about as hard as rolling out a pie crust. Pardon the metaphors, it's about the only thing  that came to mind. One more time on the last tip section, and the initial glue up is complete. Roll a loop in the top of each section, and hang them up in the drying cabinet to cure, top sections up.

Cleanup is a breeze with the Epon. Big bowl filled with denatured alcohol, a sponge and a lot of paper towels. The binder was a mess, with glue drips all over the place. No problem, alcohol to the rescue! Soak the binder cord, scrub the pulleys, let 'er drip dry.  Ripped up the newspaper on the bench, and I was done for the day. Total time, about an hour and a half from start to clean up.

Sunday rolls around, and it's time to get the binding string off. Pull the sections out of the drying cabinet, and cut the knots off. Pull the string, and zing! Grab my trusty razor blade, as per  Tony S's suggestion, and scrape off the leftover glue from each section.  Fast work, and there's a bunch of little glue gnarly's laying on the bench, with the strips looking nice and clean. Sight down the sections again, and yup, still need a little straightening. Roll a bit, sight down the strip a bit. Roll a little more, and it's time to rebind. This time the binding went rather smoothly, managed not to tie the binder string to the binder cord, and all three strips are rebound. One last look down each section, a little  bit more rolling and the sections are nice and straight. Fire up the oven, set the PID controller to 212 degrees (100 C, for the metrically impaired...), set the timer for two hours, and wait for the oven to come up to heat and settle at the set temperature. Into the oven goes the strips, click on the timer, grab the paper, coffee, and a good cigar. I've found that a good cigar can enhance the workshop session, so much that the time just seems to fly when working with said cigar in hand (well, mouth actually  - kinda hard to plane with a cigar in your mitts...). Consider it aroma therapy if you will... Momma got her bath salts and candles, I got my Dominican incense.

As the appointed time approaches, I remember I need a pair of gloves to remove the sections from the oven. Scramble to find a pair of gloves, timer goes off. Pull the strips from the oven, hoo boy that oven be hot inside. Especially when it's in the mid 90's in the shop.   Felt like I was back in the Philippines again... Lay the sections out on the bench, and let them cool down. Uh oh, Momma says we gotta go grocery shopping. Okay, the strips should be cooled off by the time I get back. Do the grocery thing, rush back home, open the shop and start peeling the string off the sections. Sight own each section, Schweeeeeeet! Nice and  straight! Look a little closer, and even better, only a couple of very small spots where the glue shows up, and the best news is, they're gonna be hidden under the grip and the reel seat! Get out the sanding block, fill with 600 grit, and sand off the last residue of the glue. Got three very pretty little hexagonal sections of bamboo! Starting to look like a fishin' rod!

Got my check in the mail this morning to Rush  River Rods for the reel seat hardware, insert, and ferrules.  Next step  is to prep the rod for the reel seat, grip, and ferrules.

Stay tuned, more to come!

Planingly yours,


How to keep your rod sections from exploding...

Mornin' All,

Finally cooled off enough to get back into the workshop last night,  and spent a few pleasurable hours working on the new creation. I'd glued up the cork rings on a mandrel, and sanded the grip down into the shape that I  wanted, so it was on to the next phase. I machined a steel rod down to the  internal diameter of my ferrules, and lapped the males to fit into the  female. Took my time, went slowly and the males fit just beautifully! Get a  nice "Pop" when I pull the ferrules apart, and they slide together real  nice. After completing that task, it was still early, so I decided to machine the ferrule stations on the rod sections to fit the ferrules. I'd read the horror stories of guys that had exploded rod sections turning their grips in lathes, and since those skinny tip sections mounted in the lathe whipping around scared me, I figured I needed someway to support the long end of the section sticking out of the headstock. I mounted a steel rod in the headstock with a portion sticking out the back end, and measured from the workbench surface to the center of the rod - 9 1/2" on my lathe. Cut a piece of 3/4" left over cedar 3" wide by 12" tall. Measured a center 9 1/2" up from the bottom of the piece, and using a Forstner bit, cut a 5/8" hole on the center. Mounted that piece to a chunk of Philippine Mahogany (nice  heavy piece for stability), chucked up the rod section with the long end sticking through the hole, moved the support so that it was about 2/3'ds the distance from the headstock to the end of the section, and turned on the lathe, and voila! No whipping of the long end of the rod section! The rod  section rode smoothly in the hole, the cedar being much softer than the bamboo, so no marks on cane from the turning, and no exploded rod section!

By the way, the excitement is really building to fish this rod! I just  received my guides from GoldenWitch, and temp mounted the ferrules and reel  seat insert, and it really is starting to look like a rod now! Joined the  butt and tip sections (both tips actually, had to see what each one looked  like mounted to the butt, and swished the rod around in the air) -  Ooooooohhhh, oooooooohhhhh! Definitely felt like a fishing rod to me! Now, if the temperature would only cooperate a little more and let me out into the shop without feeling like I'm working in a crematorium...


One of the best days of the year...

Yesterday left me speechless. I know, you guys are saying, "Yeah,  right...." But it actually happened! Really! Let me recount the happenings.

Yesterday started off just like most Saturdays around here. I get up early in the morning like usual, my wife Maria stays in bed snoozing. She has an excuse this week - she turned 42 on Friday, and the "Girls" took her out for a little fun. Didn't get back home 'til the wee hours. So, I get up, toss the dog outside so she can do her thing, prepare the pot of Columbian Gold Nectar (coffee...), and turn on the computer. My typical Saturday  morning ritual, sipping coffee whilst perusing my email. I figured my wife wouldn't be up for quite a while, so I knocked out all my email, made meself a little breakfast, then prepared for the day's job ahead. I had received my grains, hops and yeast from the brown truck on Friday, the fixin's for the SRG homebrew. So, I got out all my pots, buckets, and utensils for cleaning and sanitizing. Got that portion of the day complete and set up my burner,  and drew the water I needed for the process. I brew in the old fashioned  way, from scratch, just like the big boys, only on a much smaller scale, and  I use a lot of water for the process. I usually go though anywhere from 12  to 15 gallons in the process, and it all needs to be boiled and cooled, to make it sanitary and kill the nasties. I started the mashing process right  around noon, and had the sweet, sticky wort (that's the malted grain liquid  after it's been through the mashing process) ready for the boil. Got the  boil going, and over a period of an hour and a half, add the hops, and other adjuncts necessary for the final product.

Okay, so where does the speechless part come in? Friday, I put the  "Painful 98" into the drip tank for it's last coat of finish, and hung the sections in the drying cabinet overnight for curing. While I was preparing for brew day Saturday morning, I went and peeked into the cabinet, and made sure everything was doing okay. It was. Set rodmaking thoughts aside for the brew process, and did all the aforementioned. Since there were a few periods during the boil where my attention wasn't needed constantly  on the brew,  I strolled over to the workshop, took the rod sections out of the drying cabinet, and pulled off the tape and strings. Cleaned up the sections of unwanted varnish and tape residue, and let them sit for a while, because I needed to do some things with the wort - adding hops, making sure it doesn't  boil over, adding a little more mash to the wort because of loss due to evaporation from the boil. Once that was accomplished, I went back to the shop, found my banged up old Hardy Featherweight, and took one of the tips and the butt section out to the front yard. I was actually shaking a bit as I joined the sections and strung the rod. Don't ask me why, I didn't test cast the rod before any of the finish was applied. I stripped out some more  line and began false casting. OH. MY. GOD. It cast the 4 weight line beautifully!!!!!!!!!! I tossed some 10 - to 15 foot casts, then started throwing some longer and longer casts. I swear, if the corners of my mouth could have touched on the back side of my head! My SEG was so big I looked like Joan Rivers after a nip and tuck! I was so wrapped up in the rod, I almost forgot about the brew that was boiling in the garage. I had to knock it off for a while to tend to the beer, so I set the rod down in the grass  and did what I needed to on the brew. The whole time I was administering to the brew, I was looking back out at the front yard, wanting to get my hands wrapped around the cork and line. Immediately after taking care of the brew, I ran back out to the front yard, picked up the rod and started slinging line again. I must have played total of about an hour and a half with the rod while brewing. The rod has the typical beginner things about it, a few glue lines that I didn't expect, but showed up, some good and some not so good wraps (They got a lot better towards the end - I may strip the rod this winter and rewrap the entire thing, or not...), and a few other minor deficiencies. But boy-oh-boy, can this sucker cast! Thank you Al Medved for the rod taper - I'm truly ecstatic I did this for my first rod. I love the  way this rod casts in my hands, how it feels as the line loads the rod, and how the line sings when it flows out through the guides. I really couldn't find the words to express what I was feeling yesterday. Good thing my wife was at work, and my daughter was shopping... I would have been stuttering, stumbling and muttering gibberish... I can't wait to get it on the water.

Serial #1 is now complete. I like it so much, I'm going to make  another one for my wife. She started fishing this year, and I've taken her to the local ponds for bass, gills and perch using a  spinning rod.  She came up to me a month or so ago, and asked me to teach her to fly fish. I was stunned, and readily agreed. This rod, on the streams I fish around here, would be ideal for her.

I know I've done it in the past, but I want to offer my heartfelt  thanks to all who have helped me in my journey of the wild grass. This journey actually started in 1979, with the purchase of the "bible", and had to be put on hold because of college, military service, and raising a family. In a way, I'm kind of glad I had to table the craft until now, when I could actually afford to purchase the tools, make the forms, jigs and other necessities, and have access to one of the best founts of information, this list.

The SRG brew is in the fermenter, happily bubbling away with yeasty farts, converting the malt sugars to alcohol, and the rod is sitting on soft cotton in the workshop, just begging to be taken back out to the front yard and cast again. I think I might just do that... No need for words.


Mr. Regenbogen and Mr. Braun meet #1...

Mornin' Gents and Ladies,

I have been remiss as of late on my Sunday  missives... My on line journal on creating my first rod is now more or less complete with this entry.

I took #1 up to the Gunpowder River, about 30 minutes north of Baltimore Maryland, yesterday morning. I was to meet up with a fellow from another list at the Backwater Anglers fly shop and  proceed from there. Unfortunately, we never "hooked" up, so to speak, so I  headed over to the stream.

It was a beautiful morning yesterday, temps in  the low 60's, a bit breezy, but not too bad in the valley where the stream  is located. I parked at one of the access points close to the Prettyboy reservoir, which makes this gorgeous little tail water fishery what it is today. It's a good hike down to the stream from the access point. You take a zigzag path down, with about a 300' elevation change down the side of the foothill. There were two other vehicles parked at the access point so I expected to see some other folks out fishing. I hiked down to the bottom,  and saw no one in either direction, so I figured the owners of the two trucks must be hunters. I sat on a big rock stream side, caught my breath from the descent, and started rigging my rod. It was really quiet, you could hear only the stream babbling as it passed by. After stringing up the rod, I watched for a while to see if there was any surface action, and to see if anything was coming off the water. I noticed a few caddis, some trico's and  the occasional midge coming off the water, but no rises. Since most of the  insect activity was caddis, I tied on a Henryville Special, size 16 and  worked my way upstream to the dam.

The sun was just starting to climb over the top of the foothills and make its way to the depths of the valley as I came up on the dam. The water pouring out of the gates was making mist clouds, and the rays of the sun were breaking through the cover once in a while as the breeze caught the trees. Was absolutely gorgeous. I decided to take a picture of the falls, so I reached into my vest to grab the camera, and found noting but air where it was supposed to be. Damn. Must have dropped it somewhere on the trail coming down to the stream. So, cameraless, I watched the waterfalls for a bit, then waded out near a set of riffles and started casting. As good as this rod felt casting on the front lawn, it felt 100 times better with a real fly attached, standing in water, casting to a dead drop near a set of riffles. The solitude of the early morning, coupled with the sound of the water rushing over, around and through the rocks and dead  drop was hypnotic. I started out just quartering upstream, dead drifting the fly down and as soon as it reached the bottom of the drift, picking up and casting. As I moved downstream, I wasn't seeing any action, until I left the fly in the water while I climbed over a fallen tree. I must have been twitching the rod tip a bit while clearing the tree, and as I looked up with one leg over the tree, a trout came up and slashed at the caddis fly. Off balance, I tried to set the hook, but almost pulling a Sir Numbley by falling backwards setting the hook (caught myself in the nick of time grabbing on to a branch of the fallen tree), I managed to not hook the fish,  but saved myself from a dunking. Hmmm, I thinks to meself. Mebbe the way to get the lethargic late rising fish awake this morning is to add a little action to the fly.

I got myself situated for my next cast into the lower set of riffles, and began casting. Now I was casting slightly down stream, dead drift for about 5 - 10 feet, and as the slack came out of the  line, I started twitching the fly. On the third cast, just as the fly was swinging out at the bottom of the drift, a fish just slashed into the fly.  Fish ON! Brought him in and released him, after looking at his markings -  nice little 10" brownie! At this point, I was a bit disappointed that I lost my camera, and was unable to record this momentous occasion. First fish caught on my first cane rod of my own creation. I got over it quick, dried off the fly, put a little more dressing on the fly and cast it out again.  About 20' downstream from where I hooked the first fish, another slammed into my fly. This guy felt a little heavier, and he even cleared water a couple of times trying to shake the hook. When I got him in, he was a beautiful little rainbow, about 12" long, and feisty as all get out. He shook and shimmied as I tried to get the hook out, and as the hook slid out of his lip, he splashed back into the water and made like a bullet to get back to where he could hide.

I continued to work the riffles downstream, and caught three more browns, between 8 - 11". By this time, my stomach started  rumbling, and since I'd made it back to my port of entry, I decided to go grab some lunch, and stop and chat with the guys that own the fly shop (had to show off the new rod, too, along with giving a fishing report...).

After lunch and the chit chat session, I decided to head back to the stream, but in a different section, where there were more pools. Mistake. I spent the rest of the afternoon, wandering in search of undercut banks, and pockets to no avail. By this time, the air temperature had warmed up, and the cover of the stream was more sparse than the area I fished in the morning. I checked the water temperature, and it had climbed to 68 degrees in the area where I was fishing. I had one thump on a nymph in the afternoon, and caught a blue gill. That was completely unexpected. I've not seen blue gill this far up the stream before. Mostly down below the catch and release area, where the water usually warms up too much in the summer for a healthy trout population. I was pretty beat by that time, since I'd been out on the water since about 6:30 in the morning, and had done a bit of hiking to get to the spots I wanted to fish, so I decided to call it a day. Tired, but very happy that I didn't get skunked on #1's debut.

#1 met Mr. Regenbogen and Mr. Braun on the same day. You see, Regenbogen and Braun are German for rainbow and brown!



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