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!

Physical Properties

Bamboo (Tonkin cane) has some excellent physical properties. These include light weight, elasticity, and high strength. The following table shows some compartive data:

Please note that the data shown for bamboo is for Tonkin cane which is the preferred cane type used for fly rods. From this data one can observe that bamboo is actually stronger and stiffer then wood and fiberglass while not being as strong as some of the graphites. By way of explaination, the term "modulus" is a measure of stiffness and is the ratio of stress to strain within the elastic limit of the material. The elastic limit is that point to which materials can be stressed without incurring permanent deformation. Generally speaking the materials with a higher modulus also have higher tensile strength. Perhaps an easier way to look at this data would be in bar chart form.

The bar chart Fig.32 shows the tensile strength of various materials, including Tonkin cane. It points out in visual terms that bamboo is a highly suitable, if not to say remarkable, construction material. In all fairness it should also be pointed out that recent developments with graphite have produced some even stronger materials, so graphite has its place as well.


Bamboo has other characteristics that make it a good material from which to build fly rods. It is relatively lightweight, low cost, available, has internal resistance to resonance, and resists failure from surface nicks. The specific gravity of bamboo is about 1.15 which means that it's heavier than water and won't float.

Because of its unique cellular construction, bamboo possesses a self-dampening quality thereby absorbing vibrations. It is this feature which allows the bamboo rod to cease oscillating after a cast is made, an important quality in fly-casting.

Perhaps most importantly in a comparative sense is the ability of bamboo to resist failure from surface nicks. It is indeed a sturdy material. Certainly more than a few fishermen have seen a graphite rod literally explode when heavily loaded. This type of failure usually occurs at a place where the graphite tube was nicked or scratched. What happens is that a "stress riser" develops in the very thin wall (0.025") at that point causing very high stresses and subsequent failure.

The Tradition next time! ~ Ray Gould

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