Bamboo Bonzai

Constructing Cane Rods

Why Bamboo?

Excerpt from Chapter 4: Constructing Cane Rods
By Ray Gould
Published by Frank Amato Publications
Thanks for use permission!

One of the most asked questions is why use bamboo? It's a good question and the answer comes in several parts. It involves the unique cellular construction of the cane itself, the art of making fly rods, the physical properties of bamboo, the characteristics of the material and tradition.

Cellular Composition

The unique characteristic of high-fiber density right next to the enamel can be seen in Fig. 30. [below] This photograph is an enlargement of an actual bamboo fly rod cross section clearly showing its cellular construction. the six pieces making up the hexagonal-shaped rod can be seen tightly fitted and glued together. Notice how dense the fibers are right next to the surface of the rod. In these fibers resides the strength of the bamboo.

Typical bamboo rod cross section

The Art

There's nothing quite like working in your own workshop with your own tools to produce from scratch a lovely handcrafted cane rod. It is substantially different from building a fiberglass or graphite rod where the blank is already produced. The bamboo-rodmaker does all of the work starting with the raw materials. With only a modest investment in equipment and supplies, the fly fisher who wishes to can create a personally satisfying work of art.

Most of these rods are one-of-a-kind models each designed to fit a specific need and constructed in a particular way. The builder's individuality often shows in the trim work or hardware on the rod. Some craftsmen are able to make their own reel seats and rod cases, some even make their own ferrules. But most often the artistic touch of the maker shows in the cork grip, the wrappings and the signature system used. It is not at all unusual to find that between 50 and 100 hours of careful handwork went into each of these individual works of art, not including time spent designing the rod taper.

Then, too, if the builder has a scientific bent there is much technical data that can be applied in the personal design of the rod taper. The taper of the rod is the factor that determines what line the rod will cast and what specific type of action it will have. Major satisfaction is attained by being able to control from the beginning just how a particular rod will act. When rodmakers gather, the topic of taper design is often heavily pursued.

The popularity of bamboo rod building is growing rapidly. On the west coast of North America alone there are at least 130 dedicated cane-rodbuilders, some of whom have developed sophisticated tools and methods of construction.

Physical Properties and Material Comparison next time! ~ Ray Gould

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