Before we begin the process of hand splitting the culm into tapered strips or splines that form the fly rod blank, we split the bamboo into individual strips of between ¼ and ½ of an inch wide. This is achieved using a tool called a froe - a bevelled metal tool which is hammered into the bamboo or cane to split the longitudinal power fibres. A standard two piece bamboo fly rod with a matching extra tip will require 18 strips of bamboo. With the matching tips made from the same culm of bamboo.
Unfortunately, these freshly split bamboo strips will often exhibit kinks, or warps, forming bends in between each node. Before proceeding, each node and strip must be straightened by hand. This is done by heating the bamboo gently to make it more pliant and shaping into the desired position. If the strip is held in this position until it cools it will remain straight. Once satisfied that the strips are straight, they are laid out and cut to the approximate length required for the rod section. Great care is taken in ensuring that the strips are of sufficient length to accommodate the chosen node stagger. The bamboo nodes are the horizontal rings running around the bamboo culm, These nodes are considered to be the weakest areas of the longitudinal power fibres. Therefore to ensure that there is no weak spot in the rod the nodes are staggered so that when the rod section is complete no two nodes will be next to each other on adjacent strips. The most common staggers are either a 2:2:2 or 3:3 pattern.
Once tapered on the planing form the splines are inspected again for signs of warping and to be sure that the node spacing is in the correct sequence when they are aligned together. We then apply glue to the splines with a small brush and the section is rolled into the familiar hexagonal shape of a bamboo fly fishing rod 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. Each fly rod section is passed through the binder twice, which applies two opposing spiral wraps. This cross wrapping assures good uniform pressure and eliminates any twisting of the blank. The bamboo rod maker now inspects and rolls the section for straightness sights down it to assess the blank for straightness and to eliminate any bends and kinks. The section is now referred to as being "in the string".
The section is then left to cure. Once the glue has dried the bamboo fly rod blank is carefully sanded to remove any excess residue leaving a silky smooth surface.
After the glue has cured the string is 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 finished bamboo fly fishing rod.
Depending on the commission, the fly rod is then either varnished or impregnated to give a resilient and durable finish. Impregnation of the blank using natural resins will add considerable time to the building process but provides an impervious barrier and allows for nicks and scratches to simply be buffed out of the blank. When varnishing a blank we apply 3 coats of spar varnish which give an extremely resilient and glossy finish on each of our split cane fly rods.
At this point the ferrules can be mounted. Ferrules serve the important function of joining and holding the rod sections together. Premium ferrules are constructed of Nickel Silver tubing with a male ferrule (mounted on a tip section) that slides into a female ferrule. (Mounted on the butt section). Nickel Silver is the metal of choice as the zinc in this alloy makes it naturally self lubricating less likely to stick. It is imperative that time is spent preparing the ferrules to slide together well and are mounted permanently on the bamboo rod blank.
The most popular type of ferrule is called a “Super-Z” and was designed by Louis Feirabend. This type of ferrule is designed so that the inside diameters of both the male and female ferrules are equal, as opposed to the Step-Down or Leonard style where the inside of the male and female ferrules are different diameters. Both ferrule types are designated by the inside diameter of the tubing which is measured in 1/64ths of an inch.
The Super-Z design is often considered the stronger of the two designs, the reason being that since the inside diameters of a ferrule are the same, therefore less cane is removed from the rod blank when mounting them.
The overall fit of the ferrules is determined by our rodmakers. As standard all male ferrules are supplied to the workshop oversized, meaning that the slide portion must be turned smaller in order to adjust how tightly the sections connect. The serration tabs of each ferrule must also be tapered before they are fitting to the bamboo fly rod. Tapering the serration tabs allows the fly rod blank to flex freely at the join and gives a smooth transition from the ferrule edge to the rod shaft
Once this is done the ferrules are mounted by turning the cane to the required diameter and applying glue to the inside of the ferrule and the seating area of the blank.
We are now ready to finish the fly rod blank to the customer’s specifications. Each fly rod is fitted with either one or two premium black nickel and red agate stripping guides with matching snake guides depending on the length and weight of the rod. Each guide is wrapped with silk thread and 3 coats of spar varnish to give a refined and highly durable finish.
The bamboo fly rod is then fitted with a hand turned flor grade cork handle and Turkish walnut and nickel silver reel seat. Each of our bamboo fly rods is inscribed giving the length, weight and serial number.