Ron Grantham is a Canadian rod builder from the West Coast of Canada. He has been active in rod building for a long time and has had a website up before websites were de riguer. He and John Bokstrom were very active in the Planing Form sharing quality information for other builders. I have attached a link to his site and in particular a different way of Selecting and Splitting bamboo culms that I have adopted and find very helpful. Have a look for your self.............
I remember mine, it was a 9' 7 wt. Shakespeare Wonderod. It was white with red wraps and black tipping. It had the bumpy fiberglass where you could feel the bumps from where the tape was over the cloth. It came as a kit with a level line and a knock-off Martin reel. Hard to imagine knocking off a Martin but they did. I bought it at Canadian Tire, 1150 Heron Rd. in Ottawa, Ontario. My best recollection is that it was around 1971-72 and the kit was $29.95. I purchased a Hardy 9 wt. 9' rod for salmon in fiberglass, this was one HEAVY rod purchased in 1977! My third "better" fly rod was a HMG Fenwick again a 7 wt. and that was around 1984-85, this was my first rod that came in a tube and my first "graphite". Then I bought an Orvis Far and Fine graphite, this was an interesting rod, it was rated for a 5 wt. line but worked better with a 3, go figure. I then bought an 8' 4 wt. T & T graphite with nickel silver hardware. I decided I wanted to get a bamboo rod so I ordered a T & T 7 footer. I never got the real story but Tom D. was supposed to make it and it never showed up so I got a refund and put the money toward bamboo rod making forms and tools. This was around 1994 when my daughter was three and my son one year old. The rest they say is history. The first bamboo rod I owned was one I made for myself, that rod I still have, the grip way too big, the tips have sets and the varnish is a tad heavy but I love it. I still have the Hardy glass rod from 1977 and the T & T rod from circa 1990. I don't remember my first car but rods, well that is another story.
There is an old saying that "a short pencil is better than a long memory" and it sure holds true in rod making. Luckily I have always written things down and made little drawings to help myself remember. As a visual learner I find it helps to pre-plan and write out anything new. I have all kinds of notes from the Catskill Gatherings and in the last decade or so a ton of digital photographs. Whenever you see a great rod or tool, measure it, draw it or photograph it.
"If you cannot measure it, if you cannot state it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind".
This was a statement made by Lord Kelvin, the guy who gave us absolute zero. Since he is smarter than all of us we need to take heed of the premise.To gain consistent repeatable results we have to record what we do and WRITE IT DOWN.
Any machine that you have should have a cheat sheet to help with quick set ups. Recipes for glue mixing, time and temps for heat treating, all that information needs to be recorded. Rely on your notes and not your memory. What may seem simple to remember because you are immersed in it will seems foggy five years later, trust me, I have had plenty of foggy moments. Anytime you get to handle a classic rod ask permission to photograph it and measure it. The more tangible information you can archive will only help you later.
I often come across early notes and comments that are kind of silly now as a few decades of building has given me a solid foundation but in there are a few gems and I find myself saying "really, wow, I had forgotten that"........................
I am not sure how many of you will remember this classic cult film starring Peter Ustinov, Shirley McClaine, Harry Morgan, Jim Backus and Richard Crenna from 1965. "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home", as you can guess from the silly title this was not an Academy Award winner. How is this for a plot:
The Crown Prince of Fawzia gets dropped from the football team at Notre Dame; and his father, King Fawz (Peter Ustinov), demands that the US ambassador get Notre Dame to play an exhibition game in Fawzia. Meanwhile, a daring investigative reporter (Shirley McClaine) goes undercover in King Fawz's harem. To make matters worse, U2 pilot and former Notre Dame player, John Goldfarb (Richard Crenna), has crash landed in Fawzia. In return for covering up the blunder, "Wrong Way Goldfarb" has to coach the Fawzia University (FU) football team, and the CIA has to guarantee that Notre Dame loses the upcoming game. I think you get the picture.
How does this tie in to making bamboo rods? Well sometimes going the wrong way helps. There are times when a really sharp blade still "fights" with a node. The nodal area is not unlike gnarly grain found in lumber. By simply planing in the opposite direction most often the node will be smooth and ready to go. A good blade, well sharpened should render a node as smooth as the entire strip. If your nodes always feel "chewed up" or bumpy you have problems. It could be a dull blade, too shallow an angle of attack or a poorly processed nodal hump. So, in review, if the node is not cooperating remember "Wrong Way Goldfarb" if problems still persist check the strip for bumps and/or sharpen the blade.
While we won't get lost at sea or in the air building rods, our triangles have their own foibles to be sure. One would think that with good forms we will get perfect triangles, not so unfortunately. The culprit is our wrist which has a tendency to "cock" one way or another. This is why we flip the strips to help counteract the mistake. As a builder you need to be aware of lopsided triangles. Careful measurements with a micrometer or the use of a Waara V-block will help you identify a lopsided triangle. Don't worry, it is a common occurrence. Find the short side and plane that side thereby moving the apex back to the centerline.
Lopsided triangle have a real negative impact on the finished rod. It promotes twist and impacts straightness. It can result in glue lines and missed dimensions so slow down when planing, measure the strips repeatedly and get your triangles bang on. A good practice is to set your forms .010-.015" oversize and with a new blade finish your planing with an eye to fixing the triangle if they are lopsided. .001-.002 variance is fine so don't get too carried away. As you improve your strips you will get more consistency in your rods. This new found consistency is NOT the hobgoblin of little minds.
Everyone understands that you need a good foundation to build a good house. The foundation is the most critical aspect of a building. For us bamboo builders the foundation is the strips. From humble beginnings in the round we file, split, heat, flame, squeeze and plane until the desired dimensions have been reached. The better job we do now impacts many factors later on. Strip preparation impacts the critical final dimension of the rod, the straightness of the rod and the twists we often see. Visible glue lines are a result of poor strip prep or a dull plane blade. Poor node work on the strips impacts how well the strip nests in the form. All the work you do early on impacts the final product and in most cases problems cannot be resolved later in the process. You live by the strip, you die by the strip.
Here are a few things to consider. Plane the pith of the strip flat when preparing the rough strips. Inspect nodal areas for humps and dips, humps can be squeezed to a degree but dips require displacing by scalloping the back of the strips. After squeezing the node that node must be FLAT, often too little heat is used to make the strip compliant and the bump simply returns. Gently remove intermodal sweeps to help the strip nest in the forms. Inspect the strip in the form to ensure the node is sitting correctly or you will get a glue smile, not the smile you want. I know some builders are flattening the enamel side to help with these issues but I leave some of the natural curvature in the strip, I like the look. Whatever you decide it takes time to get the strips ready but the payoff is huge, less straightening, more accurate dimensioning and less visible glue lines. Take your time with each strip, plane each strip to a uniform dimension and have better looking rods to show for it.
I am a cane rod builder and co-founder of Canadian Cane