Bamboo Bonzai

Building A Cane Rod, Part V

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In our last column we discussed how the cane strips that compose a rod section are tapered and prepared for gluing. In this installment we will cover how rod sections are glued together to form a rod blank.

Over the years a number of adhesives have been used. Prior to the introduction of synthetic glues, animal hide glues were used. These glues could be tricky to use as both the glue and the rod splines had to be carefully warmed to the proper temperature and the glue had to be carefully monitored for degradation. Because hide glues are not water-resistant improperly glued or cared for rod sections were subject to delaminating. Unfortunately, the occasional failure of hide-glued rods earned this adhesive a poor, yet undeserved reputation. If the glue was properly tended and applied, and if the requisite care taken with the rod, hide glues are remarkably strong. Witness the large numbers of rods well over 100 years old that still function perfectly as well as millions of pieces of antique furnishings that are still with us today.

Then introduction of synthetic glues largely halted the use of hide glues. Over the years rodbuilders have used urea and phenol formaldehyde glues and, more recently, epoxies. Each adhesive group offers various advantages and disadvantages, and a rodmaker must weigh these aspects into their selection of a proper adhesive. For instance, resorcinol resins are waterproof and very elastic thereby making them ideal glues for fly rods. However, these glues are a dark red or purple color that accentuates each glue line and some folks find this aesthetically objectionable. Urea formaldehydes are strong and easy to use, but are not as water and craze resistant as epoxy and resorcinol. Epoxies are very strong, but cleanup requires solvents.

In addition, each type of glue has unique parameters for pot life, gluing pressure, application temperature, cure time, shelf life, moisture content of the cane, etc. All of these factors must be considered, but properly stored and used synthetic adhesives are very durable and will give satisfactory results.

The process of gluing involves measuring and mixing the components of the glue and applying it to the splines. Gluing the six individual splines into a bamboo blank is a messy and sticky proposition. We have found that it is best to glue several rods at a session and not allow any interruptions during the process. Rodbuilders typically apply glue to the splines with a small brush (a toothbrush works well) and the section is then rolled into the familiar hex shape and bound under pressure using a binder. The binder serves to rotate the rod section and apply a binding cord in a spiral fashion along the rod shaft. The section is passed through the binder twice, which applies two opposing spiral wraps. This cross wrapping assures good clamping and also helps to minimize directional torque that can cause twists in the section.

After the rod section has been bound the maker sights down the section to assess the blank for straightness. At this point the section can be rolled on a flat surface to eliminate bends and kinks in the section. (Invariably some straightening will still need to be performed after the string is removed and excess glue sanded from the blank) The blank is then left to cure in the appropriate environment for a time period specified for the type of glue used. The blank is referred to being 'in the string' at this point in the process.

After the glue has cured the string removed and excess glue is sanded, filed or scraped off of the blank. The sections are again straightened and cut to the appropriate length. This is finally the point at which the work begins to resemble a fishing rod and is now the time for a rod builder to take a well-deserved break.

~ J.D. Wagner ~
© 1999, J.D. Wagner, Inc.

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