Thomas Penrose's Bamboo Fly Rod Pages

Making a Split Cane Bamboo Fly Fishing Rod:

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Pictured above are most of the tools that are used for making split cane fly fishing rods.  Included in this photo are block planes, a scraper plane, splicing blocks, dial calipers, a dial indicator depth gauge, and three different types of planing forms for preliminary, secondary, and final planing.

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Culms of 2" diameter Tonkin cane. The protruding rings that occur on bamboo are called "nodes", and require quite a bit of work to flatten out before the bamboo can be used to make a fly rod (this image courtesy of Andy Royer). Making bamboo fly rods requires using cane of better than average quality, and most bamboo fly rod makers use tonkin cane that is specially imported for that purpose.

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A 6' long culm of Tonkin cane, before and after being split into strips. The bamboo pole is initially split int 6-8 large pieces using a specialized knife called a "froe". These large strips are then split into narrower strips in the process shown below.

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This image shows the splitting process.  A standard screwdriver with a sharpened blade is driven into a cane strip, and then the gloved hand forces the strip into the sharpened edge of the screwdriver blade, thus splitting the strip down its length into two narrower pieces.  With experience one learns to steer the split so that it does not veer off course.

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Some freshly split strips of Tonkin cane. The protrusions are the remains of nodal diaphragms, which occur both inside and outside the bamboo stalk at each node location. They will be mostly removed using a plane and a hand file, and then heat and pressure will be applied to flatten any remaining bumps. Some bamboo fly rod makers use a bench grinder or belt sander to remove much of this node material prior to flattening them with heat, to help expedite the process.

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Heating the node area with a heat gun to soften the cane.  After it is sufficiently heated the strip is firmly clamped in a vise to flatten the node area as it cools. In the past bamboo fly rod makers used alcohol burning lamps to heat the cane.


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Making Bamboo Planing Forms

Tonkin Cane Bamboo for Fly Rods

Making Bamboo Planing Forms using Lawrence Waldron's Layout

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Determining Ferrule Positioning on a 2 Piece Fly Rod

Determining Ferrule Positioning on a 3 Piece Fly Rod

Turning Cork Grips with a Hand Drill



For more detailed information on split cane fly rod making, look at these books:
A Master's Guide to Building A Bamboo Fly Rod, by Everett Garrison with Hoagy B. Carmichael.
Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods, by Wayne Cattanach.
How to Make Bamboo Fly Rods, by George W. Barnes.
Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Fly-Rod, by George E. Maurer and Bernard P. Elser
Constructing Cane Rods: Secrets of the Bamboo Fly Rod, by Ray Gould
Splitting Cane: Conversations With Bamboo Rodmakers, by Ed Engle
The Lovely Reed: An Enthusiast's Guide to Building Bamboo Fly Rods, by Jack Howell
Cane Rods: Tips & Tapers, by Ray Gould


This site created and maintained by Thomas Penrose

All images and text copyrighted ©Thomas Penrose 1997, 2008