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Traditional Rod Making?

By Reedwhacker

I have been checking out some of the web sites of new rod makers and besides using the plural "we" as in "we are custom rod makers. . .", there also appears regularly the phrase, "traditionally made one at a time" or "traditional hand planed." This gives the erroneous impression that hand planing was how cane rods were manufactured and that any other method is inferior.

According to all the information I have ever read, all rod makers, from the greats like Payne, Gillum, Leonard, Dickerson, Thomas, Edwards, Young and Montague, all used bevelers or mills. The first beveled rods were made in 1868 and the beveler continues in use today. This means that whether a small batch maker or a mass producer, beveling or milling was/is the "traditional" way rods were made.

There were amateurs or semi-pros like Garrison who were hand planing but this was just on a hobby scale and would not have been considered back then as a professional method.

Another misleading claim made by the hand planers is their ability to reproduce tapers from the great names of the past. Hand planers use "forms" which are generally adjustable every 5 inches, so a copy of a Dickerson taper which had been beveled will only be a Dickerson every 5 inches! If there happened to be a taper change on that Dickerson that fell in between the 5 inch setting screws on a planing form then the taper would not be as per the original. The problem is the bevelers used by the rodmakers were set at every THREE inches. Would it be out by much? It sure as heck would be out by more than the +/- .001 standard that the hand planers claim to work to.

Cane rods were manufactured in the old days by craftsmen who had to make a living from producing them to survive. The torch has been picked up by a new breed of part timers working without the constraints of having to put food on the table with their efforts. This enables them to use inefficient methods and the luxury of unlimited time to produce "the best rods in the world" and where cosmetics has replaced performance.

Are they rod makers? Sure, just as those that enjoy "messing about in boats" are sailors. ~ Reedwhacker

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