Bamboo fly rod

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Project by NH_Hermit posted 10-23-2014 07:23 PM 2565 views 3 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I had asked my wife if the budget could handle my taking a 7-day class to learn how to make bamboo fly rods ($3,500 for the class, plus lodging and meals) now that I am retired. She diplomatically suggested that it might be more challenging for me if I bought a ‘How To’ book and teach myself. I decided to make a practice rod that I would throw away after I had gone through each step of the process, and here is the result. Although this is the first completed rod, it is my second rod blank. The first had too many problems with it to more time and the cost of hardware. Since this turned out better than expected, I think I’ll see how it fishes.

Most rods are made for Tonkin bamboo, but I made this from medake bamboo, since there is a bamboo nursery about 30 minutes from home. The reel seat spacer is from a walnut cut off from my scrap bin. The process took me about 10 weeks, since I needed to build all of the supporting jigs and forms (the binding form, plane forms, oven for “baking” the strips, cork handle press, etc). I’ll post and describe these if anyone is interested.

-- John from Hampstead

21 comments so far

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3433 days

#1 posted 10-23-2014 07:34 PM

Bamboo rods are a lovely thing to hold, use, and build. My compliments on your rod. I had the good fortune to spend some time with Ron Barch in Hastings MI (who publishes “The Planing Form” newsletter) a few years ago and have made a few rods. Those who think that graphite rods are the best available have never fished a really good bamboo rod. Besides, there’s great satisfaction in having built a really nice bamboo rod. Because the six pieces that comprise the tip are planed down to around .031 or so, bamboo rods are sometimes referred to as the most precise form of woodworking. (quite possibly true) And that’s not to mention they’re a wonder to cast with.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View CharlesA's profile


3386 posts in 2277 days

#2 posted 10-23-2014 07:42 PM

Very cool. Looks like a good project.

Roger’s words aside, I’m not going to give up my graphite rods, but I like the effort. The funniest development in flyrods is the resurgence of fiberglass. Who would have thunk?

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View stefang's profile


16717 posts in 3814 days

#3 posted 10-23-2014 07:50 PM

Impressive work on this bamboo rod John. My son tried to get me interested in making them a few years ago, but after reading up on how to make one I lost interest because of the huge effort and very precise work required and I’m not a fan of fishing, but I certainly have respect for your completed rod. Great work and quite a challenge too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3433 days

#4 posted 10-23-2014 08:38 PM

CharlesA: I’d never ask you to give up your Powells and Winstons. But, perhaps you might add a really nice bamboo to your arsenal? What could it hurt? :-)

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View JADobson's profile


1445 posts in 2590 days

#5 posted 10-23-2014 10:13 PM

Wow John looks great. I’d be very interested in knowing how you made the planing forms. I definitely can’t afford to buy new ones.

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2772 days

#6 posted 10-23-2014 11:22 PM

Looks beautiful to me, but my experience has sadly been limited to graphite—heck, guys, I’m just pleased to put my fly where I want it and catch a few trout. However, I’d love to know more about your construction process and jigs you made, including any recommendations for DIY research and reading. Thanks for a great post!

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 2028 days

#7 posted 10-23-2014 11:42 PM


View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3783 days

#8 posted 10-24-2014 01:22 AM

its beautiful john, there is nothing better to me then feeling a well made bamboo rod in your hand, the second best thing is when that brookie hits your fly….

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18657 posts in 4155 days

#9 posted 10-24-2014 06:16 AM

Looks like a very fine effort. Like Mike, I don’t have the patience. At least flies are quick little projects ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1094 posts in 2792 days

#10 posted 10-24-2014 07:57 AM

What a beautiful rod you have made here. Have you caught a fish on it yet? I hope you can find the time to post something about the build process. I made a bamboo fly rod some years ago using a prepared blank and it is a delight to fish with it. Well done.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Randy_ATX's profile


881 posts in 2921 days

#11 posted 10-24-2014 05:49 PM

From an avid fisherman – nice work!

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View Luke's profile


290 posts in 3166 days

#12 posted 10-24-2014 06:49 PM

Fly fishing and woodworking… could this conversation be any better?

I’ve made my own nets, my own ‘graphite’ rods, my own flies… but the bamboo rod, that would be neat! I bought one from a thrift store once, it was tucked away in a corner, I think I paid $15 for it. Certainly not up to the high standards of a well made rod, but I did take it to fish. And caught fish with it. Bamboo certainly had a different feel to it.

While I love the idea of making one, I am not sure I have the patience for that! But yours is stellar! Well done indeed!

View MTMan2's profile


47 posts in 3171 days

#13 posted 10-25-2014 04:08 AM

I’m interested, but would be just as happy to know what resources (books) you used to get the information. There are lots of materials out there, but it would be nice to start with a recommendation that has been vetted (and turned out a nice looking, functional rod).

-- - The most recognized name in all of recorded history was worn by a woodworker.

View natenaaron's profile


442 posts in 2277 days

#14 posted 10-25-2014 08:18 PM

I’ld be interested in books too. This is on my bucket list.

View NH_Hermit's profile


394 posts in 3576 days

#15 posted 10-25-2014 10:05 PM

I bought 3 books all from Amazon:

“Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods” by Wayne Cattanach.
“Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Fly-Rod” by George E. Maurer and Bernard P. Elser
“Constructing Cane Rods” by Ray Gould.

During the process, I found I used only the Cattanach and Maurer books, while the Gould book collected dust. I would read both regarding specific process I was ready to attack before attempting the process. At times they might contradict each other, so I attempted to visualize the end result and proceed with my best guess on how to achieve it.

I found I had to purchase three tools I did not have in the shop already. One was a pre-1982 Stanley block plane that had the brass adjustment wheel allowing for more precise adjusting. I found a used antique plane dealer on the internet. The time spent tuning and sharpening this plane was time well spent. The second tool was a 3-jaw chuck for my lathe that I purchased from Grizzly. The third tool was a heat gun I bought at Lowes. One tool I already had and relied heavily on was my digital caliper. That tool saved the day for me.

I’ll try to find time tomorrow to take photos of the planing form I constructed and write some description of what and why I did something. The planing form I finally built was probably the most challenging of the tools I developed. I was not interested in spending $800 on a form that I did not know how many times it would be used. Same story with the binding machine that costs $300, while mine was made mostly from the scrap bin.

Hope this helps.

-- John from Hampstead

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