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Enamel

There are some truisms in rodmaking that everybody knows. One among many that I have tested is:

"Don't Touch The Power Fibers"

Power fibers are the smaller, supposedly stiffer and stronger fibers just under the enamel on the outside of of a culm.  They are supposed to be only about 3 thousandths of an inch thick.  This is where the universal technique of planing only the inner two sides of a strip got it's start.

I have made many rods where I planed the inner two sides on a strip until the pith was gone, then planed all three sides more or less equally. Consider what this does for a rodmaker - it is much easier to keep the strip "trued up" in an equilateral triangle. If the strip is starting to skew off lopsided a few light passes on all three sides and it's corrected. Surface blemishes and water marks are planed away, so if you are rejecting strips because of these more of your bamboo is usable. And, it's always been a wonder to me how people can be so picky about thousands of an inch tolerances and still try to fit a strip into the form with a rounded outside surface.

Planing the outside surface is done more than most people might realize. Once you do this you will be able to recognize the appearance of a strip that has been planed on the outside. Then go to a rod shop and look at all the name brand bamboo rods. Every one of them that I have seen has had the outside surface planed or sanded away.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    <Sharp intake of breath...>  Sacrilege!  Pure sacrilege!  Next piece of blasphemy - has anyone ever made a rod without staggering the nodes?   Did it  break at one of the nodal locations?  OR, is it done because "that's the way it's always been done, and the old makers always said that the nodes were the weakest part of the strip!"  Technique, or procedure?  (Mark Wendt)

      I must admit I've gone from being very picky about this issue, using the Garrison each node in a different place, to not so picky 2x2x2, to 3x3 without any noticeable differences, but I haven't tried no staggering yet. 3x3 is the most convenient, because all I do is take 3 of the strips and swap them end for end. I've never had a culm with a node in  the exact center yet.  (Darryl Hayashida)

        That's an interesting technique.   I was wondering out loud if anybody, either by accident or design, had made a rod with no stagger, and the end results.  Anybody willing to 'fess up?  (Mark Wendt)

          I have a rod that I am re doing for a friend that has a good number of nodes next to each other. No name on the rod. Does that count?  (Tony Spezio)

            Heck yeah!!!  Claude Freaner got me going this morning, says I ought to take one of the tapers I've already used, and build a no-stagger rod.  Then compare the two, and see what they're like.  I'm seriously considering it, after I finish up my hollow built cannon.  (Mark Wendt)

    You really seem to be very bad ;-)) Here in Germany every one how touches the Power Fibers will be lynched at the Marketplace.  No other German Rodmaker will even talk a word to you if you use a router or a mill and your picture will hang right beside Osama Bin Laden.

    But now end with the jokes. I really agree to you that putting a strip with a "round" edge in the planing form is really not a good idea and I believe that a careful use of a router will also do a good job.  (Rainer Jagusch)

    aaaaaaaaaaaanndd.............I am quite happy planing away the nodes on the strips because I believe all the effort one has to put into straightening and flattening nodes is the stuff used to create myth and legend?

    I have been doing this (to the absolute horror of a few other builders) for the last say three years and have never yet had any complaints on what few rods I have passed on to my friends  or experienced any failures with the rods that I have kept myself. Some of my own fly rods are fished three times a week (I am lucky in that I live almost on a river) once the trout season has kicked in.  My recommendation to 'you' is therefore plane away the nodes. It's  easier and a quicker way of building and the rods will be perform and last just as long as those that have been subject  to the traditional ways of building.  (Paul Blakley)

      I think heating nodes & vice pressing them is a pain in the ____ & may even damage the cane. On my last few rods, I've simply filed the nodes flat before rough planing. After heat treating, I take a couple passes over the enamel with a scraper, then sand the outside surface (including the nodes)flat before final planing. Fast & simple, and the rods I've built this way have held up to lots of abuse.  (Tom Bowden)

    Here's some more about cutting power fibers.  The old truism that says sawing strips instead of splitting is supposedly bad because it cuts the fibers is also wrong.  According to "Mechanical Properties of Bamboo", by Jules J. A. Janssen:

    A 1980 study by Tamolang, F.N., "Properties and utilization of Philippine erect bamboos" looks at 13 different Philippine bamboos. The length of the power fibers vary from  1.45  mm to 3.78 mm, with a diameter varying from .014 mm to .200 mm

    A 1972 study by Ku, Y.C. and Chiou, C. H., "Tests on fiber morphology and chemical composition of important bamboos in Taiwan" looks at seven species of bamboo.  Fiber lengths vary from .8 mm to 6.5 mm, with diameters varying from .004 mm to .060 mm

    A 1971 study by Chao, S. C. et al, "Measurements of fiber dimensions and analysis of chemical composition on Taiwan hardwoods" looks at six bamboos.  Fiber lengths vary from a minimum of 1.00 mm to 6.00 mm, with diameters from .004 mm to .060 mm.  These are from culms with average diameters of 47 mm to 91 mm, which is right in the neighborhood of the diameter of the culms most rodmakers use (50 mm to 62 mm)

    What we see when we look at the end grain of bamboo is not the power fiber ends, but the ends of the vascular bundles containing the fibers and surrounding material.  The vascular bundles average around 2 per square millimeter...

    I could also explain at great length with geometry how it is impossible to plane a taper into a bamboo strip without cutting the "power fibers" (vascular bundles), but I won't <G>.

    Bottom line:  cutting power fibers does absolutely nothing to the strength of  the bamboo.  So - saw your strips, or split your strips - neither one is better than the other, as far as strength is concerned.  (Claude Freaner)

      I think it's pretty obvious if you think about it that the power fibers must be cut during the planing and wind up with what is known as grain run out in wood except there is no grain to run out.

      I do have reservations about taking them off the surface though. The "guts" of the bamboo is at it's most dense near the enamel and you want as much of this left as possible. As you look towards the center the density reduces.  I think you want to keep as much of the denser fibers intact as possible if only for the same of repeatability of the rod action between rods of the same taper. For my part I take the barest of enamel off and leave the outer sides alone as much as possible.  (Tony Young)

        I, like Darryl, now have adopted the practice of sanding or planning back the nodes. Likewise I am not concerned about sanding the enamel side of the rod. As Darryl says it is obvious that a lot of the "great" rodmakers worked on the enamel face of the rod to tune it. Hardy had a team of guys who "tuned" rods by shaving the blank to give it the right action.   (Ian Kearney)

        I reason that if the strip is planed down to almost to final dimension then the enamel is scraped off to flatten the enamel side there will be very little scraped off the power fibers. If the enamel is scraped off while the strip is wide, making it flat will cut into the fibers more than it will with a narrow strip due to the curve in the surface of the strip. We all have our own ways of doing things but no way is written in stone. There is the traditional way and there are new ways. There are also Odd Ball ways to some. What matters is, if you are happy with the way you make rods and enjoy what you are doing then there is no right or wrong way. It is great that we can share ideas and find our own way of using them. I for one like small nodal areas and don't mind taking the time to work them.  (Tony Spezio)

          Agree 100% there are a great many ways to skin a cat and it should be so. I just like my power fibers intact is all, can't hurt.  (Tony Young)

    I agree. Plane them off. Makes life easier and haven't seen anything to indicate a lesser functioning fishing pole.  (Don Schneider)

    What ever happened to craftsmanship? I'm not going to argue that a "straight grained" rod is stronger than a cross grained one, and Bob Milward has addressed the outer power fiber issue in his book. Yes, you can remove them without harm, up to a point.

    BUT, I can recall walking into a shop a couple years ago and seeing a rod from a major manufacturer. I looked like it had been skinned, It was a pale uniform color, and you could see the "arrow point" markings at the nodes, indicating a lot of material removed. They wanted a big buck for it, but I wouldn't have given them a nickel.

    I'm not knocking professional builders or their methods. If I was building rods professionally, I would use them. I greatly admire the efforts of many of the professional builders on this list, and count them as friends. But if you are going to make a rod by hand, why not make it look like a hand crafted rod? If you plane a rod, you don't lose time by doing a proper straightening job on the nodes, you gain time by eliminating planing problems. I prefer the look and character of the outer fibers, and its not that much trouble to preserve them. ##

    On another subject, I recently bought a Clifton #4 plane. It is superb in every way, I can't recommend them highly enough. I love my LN's too, but if I were to start from scratch, I think I would take a LN adjustable block, and a Clifton #3.  (Tom Smithwick)


For a number of years I've used a Lie-Nielsen scraper for enamel removal. A continuing problem has been the lock nut on the front side of the casting towards the blade. It backs off - about every 1/2 hour. The casting where the 1/4" bolt passes through is not flat and the lock nut had very little bearing surface. Played around with "0" rings in an attempt to lock the thing. They didn't work well. Was grubbing around in a junk drawer for some inspiration and there it was  - a washer for a water faucet. Froze it so the bit wouldn't grab, drilled it out to a tad better than 1/4" and put it between the casting and the lock nut. Problem solved. The faucet washer is somewhat compressible but not enough to allow the blade to cant forward under pressure.

The $.45 cent fix.  (Don Anderson)


What is your favorite method for enamel removal?  I was going through one of the local hardware stores and found a 1" paint scraper.  It has a  replaceable blade which can also be resharpened like a cabinet scraper.  It works great for removing enamel and also for glue cleanup after taking blanks out of the string after the glue has cured.

I have to admit that this isn't an original idea, Jeff Schaeffer talked about another scraper some time ago for glue cleanup, but this works great for enamel removal also.  (Todd Talsma)

    I like to use a file.  (Timothy Troester)

    The best scraper that I have found for glue removal is a 1 inch red devil scraper that fits in the palm of my hand. I can keep it straight and level to remove glue and follow the flats very precisely. Cost about $2.00.

    Best thing to remove the enamel and truly flatten the nodes is my poor man roughing beveller. Prevents any rocking in the forms and flattens nodes like dream.

    Sounds like heresy, courtesy of some very experienced rod making friends who shall remain nameless to protect their reputations.  (Gordon Koppin)

    I use a Lie-Nielsen scraper and it works like a charm and flattens out the nodes also.  (Patrick Coffey)

    With great hold downs the roughing beveler would do a wonderful job. Mine is home made does not hold down tight enough and if I stop I get a dip.  For nodes and enamel a 3x21 inch belt sander with 120 grit does a wonderful job. Clamp it down do half and then flip. It all depends on how much power you want to use.  (David Ray)

    I still like my triangular scraper.  See Golden Witch catalog for information.  (Ralph Moon)

      I second that. Just used mine this morning, and it works like a charm. Easy to resharpen as well.  (Bob Maulucci)

        How do you resharpen your triangular scraper?  (Tim Wilhelm)

          I have some EZ Lap diamond sharpening hones. I simply stroke each grit (they came in a three grit pack) down the face a few times catching both left and right edges. Then I flip and repeat for the other two sides. Works like a charm. I just did that today when I came up from the shop and saw Ralph's post regarding the tri scrapers. The ones I have look similar to these.

          This is about the only thing these are useful for in my shop!  (Bob Maulucci)

            The EZ Lap hones are also good for sharpening carbide tipped lathe bits without even removing them from the toolpost.  (Harry Boyd)

    I like the replacement blades for Box Cutter knives. Easily controllable, readily available and the price is right. Gets dull, just get another one out of the pack.  (Don Schneider)

    I make a couple of passes on each spline with my Lie-Nielsen scraper just before finish planing to size.  After glue up, curing, and pulling the string, I scrape the residue glue off with a spare plane blade, holding it upright between my thumb and fingers and inclined slightly forward.  (Ted Knott)

    I use a parer cutter knife. It has cheap replaceable blade which can be snapped off bit by bit. I found a hobbyist version which is a lot sturdier than the usual office knife. Actually I use this knife for most of the cutting work in rodmaking too.   (Geert Poorteman)

    I use a 2" paint scraper... works well for me... easily sharpened and the blades are removable... I also have a 1" that I have trouble keeping straight on the flats... so I use the 2" most of the time...  (Mike Lajoie)

    I've been using something like 300 grit and a sanding block.  (Lee Orr)

    I use a paint scraper, I always have.   Sounds like what you found. (Robert Kope)

    I bought a carbide replacement scraper blade from Home Depot and mounted it on a hardwood block, sanded a 0.003 inch relief groove down the length of the block and adjusted the blade so it clears a flat surface by about 0.001 inches.  This does a super job removing enamel and also serves to scrape that last little bit off my strips in the final planing form.  (Al Baldauski)

    Recently tried Tony Spezio's method of scraping with a razor blade (boy did I!) and must say it's very effective at getting those last thousandths (nay, ten thousandths) off the strips but still like the old card scraper for enamel and rough stuff.  God bless George Barnes and the card scraper!

    Incidentally, this reminds me of a fairly good tip, source for cheap card scrapers.  Recently was in a Steel building suppliers on other business and noticed they had scads of color chips, IE: squares of sample steel which apparently is cut or stamped out and comes with a burr already on it.  The price is right - de nada, free.  Works good.  Don't know how the burr holds up yet - still using the first one.  (Darrol Groth)


Is there any hard and fast rule as to when and how to remove the enamel?  It seems to me that if one is using a beveler which will allow him to safely remove five thousandths of an inch with accuracy, then when he is finished making perfect 60 degree strips he could do one more time thru the beveler to remove the enamel with no fuss and very quickly and accurately.  He could then go from there to the binder for heat treating or the planning form or hand mill anvil for tapering...

Is this not so? Or, are there greater problems later on like when removing string and glue???  Has anybody tried this method??  (Dick Steinbach)

    I know a few fellows who do exactly what you suggest, and apparently with no adverse effects.  That is, provided the enamel side is dead flat right through the nodes, and the process removes NO MORE than the enamel.  There's something about the idea of it that continues to bother me, but in the end, the only negative thing may be wincing at the thought of it.  (Bill Harms)

    First of all there are no hard and fast rules for any of this.  I think that everyone does things their way and that is a little differently for each of us.  I remove the enamel when I get close to my finished dimensions.  I am very careful not to put the strip in with the enamel side inside as this looks bad when you are removing the glue and string after glue up.  Your idea sounds good, but I would suggest that you mark the enamel side in some way to prevent this kind of mistake.  (Hal Manas)

    I, too have heard of several fellows who remove enamel in the manner you describe.  What worries me is that the thickness of the enamel varies from place to place on the culm.  Near the nodes it might be .005" thick yet .002" thick in the internodal areas, for example.  Bob Milward's book makes a pretty fair argument that removing a few thousandth's of power fibers isn't a big deal, but it still worries me.

    I make a coupla passes down the center of the enamel side with a scraper, then carefully remove all the enamel with a Supr-Sandr and finally 400g sandpaper.  I think this is probably my least favorite part of rod making, but a necessary evil.  (Harry Boyd)

    I agree with you.  I use a belt sander to round the nodes and get a flat place to better run it through my beveler. Then I put it in my planning forms enamel side up and hit it with the belt sander again to get a flat strip.  The flatter the strip the easier and more accurate it is to plane.   Glue does stick better on raw cane than enamel.  Titebond falls off enamel but it hard to remove on raw cane.  Everything is pluses and minuses.  (David Ray)

      I have never seen any rod by a "famous maker" which had the enamel intact and, ergo, a curved flat. And of course, once the enamel IS off, it's anybody's guess just  how much has been removed, as all you can see is the longitudinal pattern of the bamboo fibrils.

      So I remove the stuff so as to get a good fit in the final forms.

      I do it in two stages. First, when doing the initial rough planing of angles I knock a bit off with my L-N scraper, as much to even out the surface of the strip as anything. I do all of the enamel removal, by the by, using long smooth full-length passes with the scraper. (The nodes, of course, have been dealt with before this stage as part of the strip preparation.)

      Then, when I have done my heat treating and am final planing, I have another go at the stuff with the L-N, again in full-length passes. My aim here is to have a perfect fit, or as near as I can manage it, between the enamel surface and the planing form.

      Ideally the enamel removal should be done as late in the process as possible, as the narrower the strip, the less power fiber needs to be removed from the apex of the radiused side to yield a flat surface.

      Does anybody know  how a maker like Lyle Dickerson, for example, handled the enamel side of his strips?  Or Jim Payne, or PHY, or any of the other makers who did it all with a mill?  I have never personally seen a Dickerson, and only a couple of examples from the other two, but have never seen one yet with a blotchy green curved outer surface.  (Peter McKean)

        From what I have gleaned from books and conversations with Ron Kusse, removing enamel before final dimensioning is a hand planer thing started by Garrison, it seems all the classic makers filed the enamel off their glued up blanks. No wonder tapers measured from old rods aren't reliable.  (John Channer)

          A few thoughts on removing enamel:

          1.  In the book  "A Master's Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod", Carmichael said "Remember, do not plane the enamel side of the strips!" (pg 74). He only meant that we should plane two sides of the strip, not all three.

          2. Carmichael mentioned that Gillum left the enamel on because the Resorcinol glue was then easier to remove (pg 77).

          3. Garrison's method of enamel removal was to use a
          scraper. That doesn't mean that planing, filing or sanding won't work. Use whatever method works best for you.

          4. The curved enamel must be removed before final planing; it is very difficult to achieve perfect 60-degree angles when one of the edges is round.

          5. A flattened surface will have more strength because there is more surface area than if the curve is left in place.

          6. Remove only enough enamel to flatten the top of the finished strip from edge to edge. No more than that is required.

          7. The enamel is about .002" thick. There is no strength in it.

          8. Remove the enamel as soon as possible when planing the strips. Waiting until just before you have reached final dimension will waste your time and energy if a flaw is discovered just below the enamel.  (Ron Grantham)

            4. The curved enamel must be removed before final planing; it is very difficult to achieve perfect 60-degree angles when one of the edges is round.

            Exactly.  The round face has a tendency to rock under the forces of planing.

            5. A flattened surface will have more strength because there is more surface area than if the curve is left in place.

            I have to disagree that the  surface area of the flat is "more", for indeed it's less.  Shortest path between two points is a straight line, so thus further around the curve, and so greater surface area.  On the other hand, at the dimensions we're talking, the difference in surface areas probably makes little difference in strip strength.

            6. Remove only enough enamel to flatten the top of the finished strip from edge to edge. No more than that is required.

            7. The enamel is about .002" thick. There is no strength in it.

            Ah, but I would wager the distance from the face of the enamel at the peak of the curve down to the bottom of the enamel at the very edges of the strip is somewhere north of 0.002", and to get the enamel at the edges, it's likely one is removing cane in the middle, especially as the strip gets wider. Out at the tips, where you're working with a narrow face, you can remove the enamel with little sacrifice of underlying cane.  At the bottom of a butt section strip, I suspect one is going to be cutting into some power fibers, like it or not.

            8. Remove the enamel as soon as possible when planing the strips. Waiting until just before you have reached final dimension will waste your time and energy if a flaw is discovered just below the enamel.

            True enough, but, on the other hand, waiting until closer to final dimension minimizes the amount of material removed in the thinner parts of a strip.  Six of one, half dozen of the other.  Personally, I remove enamel a station or two short of the last.  Leaves enough left  that the strips clean up to perfect 60's by the time they've been planed and scraped through that last station or two.

            All depends on what works for you.  Narrower the strips, the sooner you can take the enamel off without removing too much underlying cane.  Short light-line trout rod strips can have their enamel off sooner than say the strips for a 13' Spey rod, at least in my opinion.  :-)

            One does wonder though how much difference removing that swath of power fibers down the center of a wide strip would really make.  Again, depends on how wide the strip is when we flatten it.  If you had say 0.250" wide strips, ready for rough planing, that were destined to become a tip section with a 0.030" width at station zero, and removed the enamel before starting to rough them, my suspicion is that you'd end up with a somewhat "softer" tip.  How much so is really the question.  Is it enough to make a noticeable difference?  If it does, then we have a problem, otherwise it'd make precious little difference when the enamel was removed, once one was to the point of having rent the culm into strips for roughing.  (Todd Enders)

    In Russ Gooding's Golden witch video he recommends flattening the enamel before going through the beveler. He makes the cast that one can be off on the 60 degree angles because the strip will roll in the beveler. I am sure there are other opinions from others more experienced than I.   (Frank Paul)


Do you remove the outside layer of the cane before you put your blank for the first time in the oven, or will you remove that after the heat treatment.  (and can somebody tell me how you call this layer in English)

I want to make my rod  a little darker, I do not know if that has anything to do with this.  (Jaco Pronk)

    Most people heat treat before removing the outer layer which is called the enamel; some people call it the rind.

    I don't think the presence or otherwise of the enamel will make much difference to the final cane color, that is more directly related to time and temperature but the enamel shows a color change quite visibly.

    It is straight forward to experiment by trying smallish sections in a domestic oven in the way that nodeless rods are heat treated.  From this you could see the effect of having the enamel on or not and the timing required for the color you want.

    I think in general most people remove the enamel as late in the rodmaking process as possible so as not to cut into the power fibers when sanding a flat, although in theory you could scrape or sand at any stage so long as you matched the curved surface or the cane rather than creating a flat.   (Gary Marshall)


I have a very nice piece of cane so I'm making a blonde rod after making twenty-five flamed rods.

How should I remove the enamel from a strip...

-after heat treating?

-with sandpaper?

-with a scraper?

The rods I have examined in the past have had the power fibers exposed and all the yellow enamel removed.  (Ken Rongey)

    After/as you bevel.  I like to take all my pieces and bevel then flip and sand off enamel as I bevel then the strip sits even better into the form groove (flushes the nodes).  Then I can see spots in the cane that would make it unusable or limited to a certain size of rod.  "Can i plane around that rot spot and save the piece or not".  Why waste time planing when you can't even use it but didn't find out until it was too late.  Before heat treating so to watch the color your going for as you heat treat. Sand paper(block)/ even better(my techniques are my own opinion) I use a Dewalt 5" orbital with 150 grit on my roughing out form.  Very fast, very flat, and sanding out the swirl marks(before final taper) is easier than you'd think.  I rarely have a single glue line. I love the look of power fibers and they look awesome through your transparent wraps.  I haven't used a scraper.  You mean like a spoke shave? Two handle thingy?  I have seen some Japanese carpenters pull the tool towards them and get this monster shaving the length of the work.  But I like my Dewalt cranking out the dust.  Can build a glued blank in one weekend from splitting to glued and finished blank.  No hardware mind you.  Just the blank.  (Geremy Hebert)

    I've sanded and scraped.  Just before final planing and just before heat treating.  What have I settled on?  I scrape with a 1" paint scraper with a removable blade that can be sharpened like a cabinet scraper (the George Barnes version).  If I need to do some touch up, I'll hit the strip with a little sanding, but not very often.  I do this before heat treating and then proceed directly to final planing.  As an aside, I also use the scraper after glue-up to make quick work of the glue residue and then follow up a with a few grades of sandpaper (220, 320 and 400) to get the blank cleaned up.  (Todd Talsma)


When sighting down every bamboo rod I've ever seen they look as though there are variances and swells and waves the full length of each strip.  Looking at the topics as of late (form building with files) I'm wondering if anyone can tell me if those variances in the cane strips I see in a completed rod are a result of the unevenness of the forms or from planing inaccuracies or what?   Just seemed to me that with all the talk about form accuracy etc. that a rod should come out with the same accuracy?  (John Silveira)

    As for waves and unevenness, shame on them.  The surface should be as smooth as Mike Shays butt or as slick as a rodmakers head. It is nothing a little sanding or a better finish will not take care of.  (Adam Vigil)

      I suspect you're right.... a little better technique will fix the perceived problem.  But I wonder if it's possible that what John is seeing are compound tapers..... Now, my eye isn't that sharp, but I guess it's possible to see.  (Harry Boyd)

    I suspect what you may be seeing is small voids where the nodes are in each strip, every bamboo rod (except the nodeless ones) will have these to some degree.  Another possibility is it could be the result of glue lines from poor planing /gluing procedures. Contrary to popular belief it may still be a good rod. Do you recall the makers of any of these rods?? Some of the best rods of the past look flawed by our modern stringent standards.  (Shawn Pineo)

    P.S. Accuracy is a relative thing, don't mike the classics!

    I have seen a lot of this on production rods in particular, If you are really seeing a lot of variation, and the surfaces are very choppy, you are looking at poor tolerances. Small, slight irregularities may well be the result of the original surface of the cane being dinged up a bit. If you sight down a rod and see nothing but a smooth flow, that is telling you the tolerances are good, and the strips have been sanded.  (Tom Smithwick)

    OK - thanks guys -  not to make a big deal out of this.  What I'm mostly talking about is the waves in the flats on the strips - it does show up on the edges too but not that the edges have been sanded round or smooth -  I must have been in the auto body trade for too long - I'm used to things being "straight" - in the boating world "plumb".  When I look down the flat of a bamboo rod I usually see lots of waves and ripples -  sounds like some of those waves are transitions of the taper - again I was under the assumption the transition was even and continuous - I guess not - although some of the rods I've seen have quite a few waves here and there - one of the answers I got from the forum here was that the cane itself (enamel side) has plenty of waves and that what I'm seeing has nothing to do with planing or forms for the most part ----  anyway light has been shed and thanks to all.  (John Silveira)

      The waves could be caused from rods where the enamel side was not completely flat when it was  milled/planed.  If you have access to one, measure the flat to flat dimension [ 3 measurements]. What you might find is a difference - sometimes large that will account for the waves you see. Often these waves are located @ or near node areas. Sometimes they occur between nodes.  I've noticed the same thing myself. Usually was a construction fault. (Don Anderson)

        I thought that was what we were striving for.  Now I am going to have to figure out how to get rid of the waves.  Anyway one of the best rods I ever saw was a 7' Sunbeam Montague, that had so many gaping seams, and such irregularly matched strips that it looked like an oscillator had been shaking it since birth.  But oh how sweet it was to cast.  (Ralph Moon)

          Know what you mean about "rough" looking rods. Use one all the time that had a bristle from the gluing toothbrush lodge between the strips when gluing. Glue line LARGE. Looked like hell as well. Still, been catching fish it for years.  (Don Anderson)

        I understand that many builders wait until after glue-up to scrape the enamel off their rods.  It seems possible that waves and other inadvertent inaccuracies could be introduced if waiting until this (too late) stage to deal with the outer surfaces.  Just a thought. (Bill Harms)

          Exactly, I have experienced creating a wavy surface when I tried to scrape with a Sandvik or one of those triangular paint scrapers. I now only use a 4" x 1" hardwood sanding block. (Steve Weiss)


I'm in the process of building my first blank and was interested in getting some feedback on when to remove the enamel from my strips.  There seems to be differing opinions and as yet I have not been able to decide when is best, or if it makes any difference.  I would also like to hear about different methods for achieving this task.  (Tom Key)

    You need to remove at least enough enamel to give a flat surface before you start final planing.  Otherwise, the strips roll in the forms and it's very difficult to get your 60 degree angles correct.  Ask how I know this.  Later, if need be, you can remove more.  However, you'll be surprised how narrow the final strips are, especially the tips (smaller than a toothpick).  (Neil Savage)

    I remove the enamel after glueing the strips together.  My mentor told me removing the enamel too soon may expose the power fibers to potential damage. 

    On to flip side, if your scraper chatters while removing the enamel you can bugger up a section significantly and thus ruin your hard work.  One needs to be careful to position the scraper properly.  If the sharp edge gets ahead of the center point of the scraper it will chatter.   I try to keep the edge just behind the center point and keep the pressure to a minimum.  I was also told to never use sand paper as this can round the nice flat surfaces faster than a scraper.  (David Gerich)

      I agree with Neil.  The enamel crown on every strip is different.  How do you know what your final dimensions are gonna be after you’ve scrape it flat??  (Al Baldauski)

        I make the strips slightly oversize to allow for removal of the enamel while making a .001 to .002 allowance for the glue.  Before scraping I measure the sections with the enamel still on.  I almost always end up with a final dimension of .001.  Sometime I have to scrape just past the enamel if the section is larger that I planned.   Unfortunately, the glue allowance is not an exact science for me.  (David Gerich)

      And yet on another flip side of this (I suppose there are six) is that some of us sand with a concave sanding block to intentionally leave the surface in approximately the same contour as the original culm to avoid removing power fibers.  This isn't a big factor or hex tips, but can amount to several thousandths on the center of a quad butt.  (Bill Lamberson)

    I use my LN plane with a good sharp blade for enamel removal. You need to flatten the node and it really helps to flatten the “flats” as well. I'm not advocating hogging off huge quantities of cane here, just take the enamel off.  It has to come off anyway, so might as well get to it. I've strength tested several blanks made this way before getting too far into this (it's in one issue of Power Fibers I think). Also, flattened out flats really do seem to plane easier and seem to be a bit more accurate.  (Jake Andrews)


In the short time I have been working on rod building, I have found just one thing I could do without - removing the enamel before final planing.  I can deal with nodes, etc., but this process is just annoying.   What methods  to you all employ to move this along?  Also, I am learning just how much to remove but that is difficult to judge.  Should I be removing enough enamel so the cane underneath matches the the color of the nodes I had filed?  (Louis DeVos)

    I've sanded and scraped.  Personally, I like to use a paint scraper with a replaceable blade.  It takes a steady hand, but take your time and it works well.  I usually scrape until it looks right to me (how's that for an answer?).  Really, I go until I have a good flat and I'm pulling some curls of cane, not just powdered enamel.   (Todd Talsma)

      I concur with Todd's method except that I prefer to use a triangular scraper sometimes called a deburrer.   (Ralph Moon)

    I use a scraper plane to remove the enamel.  Try to get it flat so it doesn't roll in the form.  Sandpaper works as well as the plane, just slower.  At this time I also double check the nodes to make sure they are also flat.  (Tom Mohr)

      What I have done and still do is put each beveled, tempered strip in the forms enamel up and use my scraper plane to take the enamel off. A couple of passes with the plane then a sanding block with 180 grit paper, being careful to keep everything nice and flat. This give you the opportunity to get those nodes perfectly flat and also the rest of the strip flat so it doesn't rock in the forms. Just the way I do it. Not by any means gospel. (sorry Harry :>)  (Joe Arguello)

    I build model radio control aircraft and found that the sander used to flatten the wing panels works great for removing the enamel on strips. The one I use is two inches wide and eleven inches long, and made of aluminum. The length keeps the strips from developing any dips. You can also purchase rolls of stick on sand paper in various grits to match the sander. I also place them in the form enamel side up after the rough beveling to do the removal. I didn't like using the scraper. You can probably get a look at one of the sanders online at Hobby Town. I might add that I cut 2 inches off one to make a small sander to remove the glue residue after heat setting. Tried a couple of scrapers but didn't care for it.  (Floyd Burkett)

      I told ya'll  wrong on the sander. Its not from Hobby Town. Its a Great Planes easy touch. Just in case anyone is interested.  (Floyd Burkett)

    Here is what I do and it only takes a few minuets. The taper is started and it is planed somewhat oversize. Before the strip gets down to finished size, the strip is put in the form groove with the enamel side up. I use a single edge razor blade and scrape the top flat. With the strip being narrow, very little power fibers are removed. You can "hear" the enamel being scraped, the sound and feel changes when the enamel is all gone. Instead of enamel chips coming off, there will be very thin curls. Now you are into the bamboo. This only takes about a minuet a strip. Then the rest of the final planing is done to finish the strip.  (Tony Spezio)

      I forgot to add...

      After the scraping, I follow up with an 8" hard rubber sanding block and 600 paper. Using the razor blade in a flipping back and fwd motion keeps from gouging the strip.  (Tony Spezio)

    Just use your plane set to take off 1/1000 of an inch as the strip is in the planing form. The first pass is a narrow strip from the top of the hump. The second is wider as you remove the arc. Keep going for two or three passes until is is flat. You can see the enamel, underlayer (the ghost) and finally the cane. I just get a flat spot on top and don't go all the way to the edge. That comes off during sanding. I do this after rough beveling.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    The first three years of building I pressed my nodes and hand sanded the enamel off before rough planing. Now I use a 6x48 Delta bench belt sander with 120 grit to gently sand the nodes as smooth as a baby butt, flip the strip, sand the pith off, flip again and carefully sand the enamel off.  This gives me a nice flat clean strip before I run it thru the Bellinger HPF.  (Mark Heskett)


I'm a new builder, so far still in the tool gathering gizmo making book reading stage and I have a question on enamel removal. If you flame the outside of the culm is there anything left to remove?  (Hugh Ruane)

    Yes. It will come off a little easier and a lot dirtier, but you'll still need to get rid of it and to flatten that side of the triangle.  (Henry Mitchell)

    There sure is. What I use is a mouse orbital sander and if you hook  up a fan to blow the dust away from you it will help a lot and you will easily be able to see the enamel being removed from surface of the cane.  (Adam Vigil)


I have always believed that the outside of a strip should be as flat as possible before final planing, yet I have noticed a number of builders who do not flatten the rind side until they remove the dried glue from the section.  I think this leads to a lot of off taper rods.  What do you think??  (Ralph Moon)

    I would agree, how ever little that round hump is, multiply it by two, then remove it and it will change the final dimensions, plus having it there, for me anyway, makes it harder to keep my 60 degrees.

    The only after thought to leaving them there, would the thickness of the glue the be  negated by removing it after glue up?  (Pete Van Schaack)

    I am one who does not flatten the rind side until the final steps of sanding/scraping off the glue and rind. I allow five thousandths for this in my rod design. In my final sanding/scraping I have no problem in removing a few extra thousandths to bring my rods to dead-nuts exact final dimensions. I believe that other makers like the late Darryl H shared the view that maintaining the taper was more important than a few thousandths of power fibers. I have miked (yes, spelled with a "K") rods from well known makers which show a delta of up to .014 measured across the flats at a given station. To me, such a rod should be a tomato stake.  (Bill Fink)

    I am of a different opinion, Ralph.  We have all said for years that the best fibers are those nearest the surface.  When we flatten a strip completely obviously some of those best power fibers are removed, especially in the center of the strip.  One of the mathematicians on the list can probably tell us how deep we cut into those fibers in the center.

    Yes, there are lots of off taper rods.  But that's probably more from measuring and planing errors than from rounded enamel sides.  (Harry Boyd)

      This is interesting Ralph. BTW, hope you're doing well today...

      I know I read some reference somewhere about, the first .004" under the rind being the strongest of the power fibers. I sand the rind side when I'm about .030" before final planning. I would venture a guess that I don't take off any or at least very little of the power fibers. Another note to make is that when sanding the rind side in between the enamel and power fibers there is an opaque film in there and I sand to just the point where that film is removed. I know that when looking at a strip edge on, power fibers look pretty good for the first twenty or so thousandths. The question defiantly poses food for thought.  (Ren Monllor)

    As well as missing the numbers on the taper, I think trying to plane a perfect sixty degree angle off of a curved surface is making our job more difficult.  Get them flat, then plane.  That's worth what you paid for it.  (Ed Berg)

    Yes, I totally agree with what you wrote.

    How could you even begin to get correct angles and numbers with one round side?  (Mike Shay)

      Another thing is if you keep one side round in the forms  until glue up will your finished rod will be more of a rounded hex? and in fact you could actually be loosing some power fibers.  (Gary Nicholson)

    I remove the enamel along the center of the strip and leave a bit along the edges. The amount removed varies from being wider towards the butt end and narrower at the tip. When you plane and flip the strip from side to side the enamel along the edge is removed thereby leaving the maximum amount of power fibers in each strip.  Hope this makes sense.  (Don Green)

      I agree 100%, have been doing it that way from the beginning. I do this with a single edge razor blade, then sand the scraped area with a block and 600 Paper.  (Tony Spezio)

        I run my strips over a bench/belt sander before I rough bevel them.  When I plane I stop @ .010 over & sand off the enamel side to further flatten before final planing.  tried different ways until I got the Bacon Beveler & now this is what I do.  (Bret Reiter)

    I agree with you and always flatten the outside of the strip early on. I may lose some power fibers but I don't think it makes that much difference. It does make it easier for me to maintain my 60's.  (Don Schneider)

    I agree with you.  That enamel is coming off of the rod eventually, so why leave it on at all.  I leave the enamel on during straightening, but use a paint scraper to scrape it off down the middle of the strips before I begin rough planing.  I also go over the nodes with a flat file to make sure they are dead flat before roughing as well.  This gives a flat surface down the center of the strip to help maintain your 60 degree angles, and eliminates dips in the  outside of the strips around the nodes.  After that I don't mess with the outside of the strips until after the section is glued up.  Then I file and sand off any remaining enamel.  (Robert Kope)

    Being that you're the senior member of this list, I would have thought that you of all people would know that of all the classics we try so hard to reproduce, the ONLY one who ever did anything other than flatten the nodes before the joints were glued up was Everett Garrison, The modus operandi of every other maker and company that I can find out anything about filed the glue and enamel off after the glue dried, that includes all the makers who apprenticed at Leonard, Young and Dickerson. I don't know about the west coast builders, but if one was to phone Glenn Brackett, he would probably be able to tell you. Personally, I press nodes as flat as I can get them, taper the strips in my machine to about .04-.05" over final dimension then sand the strips as flat as I can get them before final planing, but I don't think it really matters, so many good to great rods have been made both ways that I think it's just a matter of how you want to do it.  (John Channer)

    I plane my strips close to finish dimension then take the enamel off and finish to final . Think this is going to be another node spacing, look alike thread.  (Jim Tefft)

      Maybe but...to me this is ACTUALLY something that you can measure and feel as you work. No hypothesis, just what you end up with in the end. Not better or worse, just that you can tell.  (Mike Shay)

    I have been flattening the enamel side for some years now and I think my rods have improved for doing it that way.  I think the biggest question is, "at what point do you flatten the outside of the strip?"  I know that some people do it early on and therefore remove more power fibers just to make it easier to plane the strips while others wait until very close to final dimensions to keep this loss to a minimum.  I know, I know, there are some out there who wait until the rod is glued up to remove the enamel.  That's how I started out, but somehow along the way I found how much better it was to get the enamel side flat before I got to final dimensions.  It works for me, but we all know what that's worth.  (Hal Manas)

      The thing is to just flatten the center of the strip as not to remove any more of the Power fibers than necessary. At first I waited till I had the strip almost to final but found I could do just the center and have it done. Either way, I can't see how the Power fibers will really be affected. This is just my opinion, seems to work well on the rods I make.  (Tony Spezio)

        I have usually set my forms +0.002 with the outside just smoothed a bit, and after I’m done with all of the strips I set the stations to the taper exactly (what passes for exactly with me) and use a bodied scraper on the rind side, and finish up with a sanding block.  I’d use my block plane but I’m a chicken. (Brian Creek)

    A lot of you agreed with me.  Thanks, but those who didn't were (in my opinion) overly concerned with POWER FIBERS. Now, I agree that power fibers are important and should not be compromised, but jeez what are we talking about? About .005 of an inch. I cut more off my beard each morning.  After all we are only making fishing poles no Rolls Royces.  (Ralph Moon)


I hope someone can lead me to a comprehensive discourse on removing enamel from cane. Is it best to sand it, scrape it, is there a solvent? Steel wool, do you flatten or leave the round top?  (Dick Steinbach)

    I just rough the strips out with the enamel on and then put them into my roughing forms, and take 2 swipes with my LN scraper. After they are finished planed I take the remainder off with one pass of a turned scraper and 2-3 passes of 320 grit. Not the best method, but it works for me.   (Don Peet)

    Because I like to have the strips as flat and straight as possible by the time I start roughing (which I do in the final planing form, though usually not at the final dimensions),  I normally knock down the node with a file, compress/displace it by heating and pressing, then hit it with 320 grit on a block, after which it should be perfectly flat.  At that point, having sharpened the L-N 212 per Joe Arguello's terrific tutorial, I can run the scraper down the spline a few times to remove most of the enamel and finish up with the 320 block to even up any disparities.

    If the slight radius causes the scraper to miss the edges, those will likely be gone by the time I rough, and certainly be gone by the time final planing is done.  Given that I'm working on construction of a mill to rough and taper approximately, flat enamel sides become especially important (so I'm told and so I believe).  (Steve Yasgur)

    I am certainly no authority, but I flatten the enamel side with a Lie-Nielsen block plane with a very, very sharp blade set to take a very fine cut.  I used use a L-N 212 scraper, but I am convinced that it is bloody near impossible to use a scraper without getting some chatter, and I also think that nothing cuts better than a properly tuned sharp plane of reputable make.  If I HAD to use a scraper, I think I would prefer to use a cabinet scraper than a bodied scraping plane.

    I use sandpaper as little as I can possibly organise, for anything, and the plane as much as I can get away with.  I figure that what I am planing away with the plane to get a flat presenting surface is mainly just charred rind and some fibres, that it doesn't matter a damn what  take it off with, and the plane does a better job than anything else I have tried.

    And in reply to your last question, I want it flat, at least the bit that will be left when final planing is complete!

    One man's opinion.  (Peter McKean)

      Thanks so much to all who responded! I asked because I use a router based beveler to rough my strips for the MHM anvils and I need a very flat straight strip going into the tapering process.

      I square up as much as possible as do others. press and straighten and then cut the angles. I made some extra trays with 'V' groove in them to match the hex, quad, and penta configurations and then carefully run the triangular strips with a flat cutter bit across the enamel  side.  I can deepen the cut in one thousands increments to take off what I want.

      I also made some grooves of various depths in longer trays for use at the bench so they can hold the strips either before tapering or after glue up if I need to sand, plane or scrape. Of course you don't need a grooves for glued up hex and quad

      Since I had never heard anyone mentioning using the roughing machine to do this job it seemed rather radical at first but you do get superb depth control and very smooth cuts with a new sharp bit and I like getting that almost finished surface out of the way early so I can concentrate on a correct taper, meeting numbers, etc. I would assume that this preparation technique would be harmonious with using the planning forms. Commentary or suggestions for improving this technique would be appreciated

      Being the recluse that I am I guess I need a little human contact and reassurance from time to time so thanks again for your input.  (Dick Steinbach)

        I also use a router for removing the enamel, you can see my set up at www.rodbuildingforum.com under bamboo rods-general then next newbie question actually 2nd or 3rd.  (Steve Kiley)

    I use a card scraper, followed by 320 grit sandpaper.  This is done before the strips see the rough beveler.  I also flame 95% of the rods I make, so the enamel flakes off easily.  (Paul Julius)

    I use sandpaper after the nodes are pressed and straightened.  I do NOT like to do anything to cut the radius from the outside of the bamboo.  Sit down and draw it out on paper... if you flatten the outside of the cane you're removing a very significant amount of material... so, I sand with a funny kind of "swirling" motion with my hand, probably why I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in both hands :^)

    But, rodmaking is like anything else.  There are a hundred ways to do everything and MOST of them are right.  (Bob Nunley)

    IMHO, it doesn't make a lot of difference what you get it off with provided it doesn't leave marks that will show in the varnish at the end. I can tell you for sure that if you don't get the enamel side flat it is very difficult to get good angles when you plane!  Don't ask how I found that out!  (Neil Savage)

    I do it a bit different than most, I wait until after the strips are all glued up and scrape it off with an old plane blade when I'm removing the binding thread and the excess glue on the blank. This way I kill two birds with one stone and seems to work just fine so far.  (Ken Paterson)

      I use the same method as Bob. If I run into a particularly tough spot I use one of the tri scrapers that Golden Witch sells. Curious as to what flaming has to do with removing enamel? Are you saying that you didn't remove the enamel on your flamed rods?  (Will Price)

        I use a file on enamel. I have used sand paper. Enamel is not an issue for me when I flame as well. The enamel blisters off. I cut myself worse on blonde rods as result. That's why on blonde rods I have such unique signature wraps in odd places.  (Timothy Troester)

    What is the best method for removing enamel. This is the first rod I have made that is not flamed. I have a L-N scraper plane, but it seems to be scratching the power fibers. Should I use sandpaper, and if so what grits? Or do I need to adjust the scraper to take a less aggressive shaving?  (Zac Denton)

      Scratching the power fibers, that's if the scratches are perpendicular  to the power fibers, could be due to either a dull blade or too thick a cut. At least that has been my problems when I have not been paying attention to what I was doing.  (Joe Hudock)

      I remove enamel ONLY with sandpaper.  I use 200 (lightly), 400 then 600.  I try to remove the bark (enamel) only.  My personal feelings, and this is JUST my feelings.  a Cabinet scraper makes a great wall decoration and is fantastic for use on cabinets, but it has no place in a rodmaking shop.  Again, just my opinion.  (Bob Nunley)


How do you tell when you have just removed the browned enamel when preparing for final tapering?

I am flaming for the first time and am anticipating what the strips will look like when removing the enamel getting ready for my final taper CNC Stanley hand mill.  I sometimes have a challenge with the blond and brown toned strips.  This looks like the colors blend together.  (Gary Young)

    You will notice a very thin film of material which is not enamel and yet not actual fiber.

    Begin to sand what will be under where the grip will be or some of the extra material beyond the ends of the blank, and you will see what it is I'm talking about.  (Ren Monllor)


 

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