The art of making split cane rods by hand is a long but relatively simple process. In this section I am going to give you a rough guide as to how my split cane rods, and replacement rod sections are produced. The picture shows the raw material needed to produce split cane rods- Tonkin bamboo. The culm on the right has undergone the first part of the process The flaming of the culm. This helps to drive any excess moisture from the bamboo and also tempers the cane to give the finished rod a crisp feel. It is also possible to darken the cane to the desired colour or produce a mottled flamed effect.
Nodes are one of the most troublesome parts of producing split cane, Without the the rod makers job would be made alot easier! Each node on each strip must be heated, pressed, filed or sanded flat and straightened. This is one of the most time consuming jobs for the rodmaker, but an essential one too, as without being dealt with properly the nodes can form the weak point in any rod. At this stage the strips are straightened over a heat gun and and rough planed in preparation for final planing, on either adjustable steel forms or specially milled grooved boards.
The most important tool for anybody who hand planes bamboo rods must surely be the Stanley 9 1/2 block plane. The adjustable throat and vey fine adjustment allow the strips of bamboo to be planed slowly and acurately flush with the forms. The blade must be kept razor sharp at all times to avoid digging in or picking up at the nodes
Once all six strips have been planed in the planing forms they are ready to be glued together. Once the glue has been applied to all of the strips the rod section is bound together. Many rodmakers use linen thread for this purpose as it shrinks when wetted ( when cleaning up the glue). I however prefer to use thick monofilament fishing line, this is very stretchy and if applied under pressure will squeeze the rod section together whilst the glue sets.
The next step is to split the cane into the six strips we will require for each rod section. I split all of my cane by hand, which allows the cane to split along the grain, many of the production rod companies used to saw their cane on a band saw. Whether this makes a difference to the finished rod is debatable!