Bamboo Bonzai

Part 6 in our Historical Rodmakers Series

Morris Kushner - The Rodmaker

Our thanks to Cententenial Publications for use permission.

November 2nd, 1998

Morris Kushner was one of several talented Michigan rodmakers who each developed their craft in relative isolation from the rest of the rod making fraternity, and strangely enough, in relative isolation from each other.

Paul Young and Lyle Dickerson are the best known early rodmakers from Michigan, but they seldom shared either their craft or their fishing.

Morris Kushner followed but never really worked with either Paul or Jack Young or with Dickerson. Bob Summers is the other notable craftsman from Michigan and he is the one common thread who weaves the Michigan crowd together, since he worked at one time or another with all of them.

Kushner was a Russian immigrant who owned and operated Kushner Engineering, a tool and die shop located within a couple miles of the Young operation. He had a brilliant engineering mind and converted his understanding of machine operations into a successful business.

He was an avid fly fisherman and had been interested in bamboo rod construction for many years. He often visited the Young Company shop and during the early 60's became close friends with Summers, who worked building rods for the Young Company for 18 years.

After Kushner's retirement from his tool shop he converted the garage at his home in Birmingham [Michigan] into a rod shop and began designing and building a milling machine and other specialized equipment needed for producing bamboo rods.

He became obsessed with building rods and spent every spare minute, when he wasn't fishing, working in his shop.

He was a meticulous craftsman and experimented extensively with rod tapers and heat treating cane for optimum performance. As a result his rods show considerable variation in taper design and color of cane, He used mostly Super Z ferrules but at times he did experiment with making his own. He also crafted his own reel seats. His rods exhibit a variety of grip configurations, evidence of his willingness to innovate to achieve his desired result.

It is estimated he made approximately 200 rods during his brief career, before his death in 1973, which accounts for why few collectors are fortunate enough to find one and why few fishermen are willing to part with theirs.

Kushner's equipment was purchased by Bob Summers and provided him the opportunity to start his own rod making operation.

The late Robert Traver, the witty and insightful fishing author from Michigan, devoted a delightful chapter entitled "Morris the Rodmaker" to reminiscences about Kushner and his rods in his book Trout Magic.

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