The Woodworking Life

The Woodworking Life

Splittin' Cane

comments (2) June 24th, 2009 in blogs

Ed_Pirnik Ed Pirnik, Senior Web Producer
thumbs up 4 users recommend

Bamboo fly rod by John Cameron. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

Bamboo fly rod by John Cameron.

It has always been my experience that the woodworkers I've counted as friends over the years tend to have an eclectic background that touches on a variety of crafts. A woodworker isn't necessarily just a furniture-maker or a framing carpenter, and Jonathan Binzen's recent audio slideshow on craftsman John Cameron is a perfect example of that phenomenon. Cameron's work runs the gamut from custom furniture and wood block prints, to metal engraving and even bamboo fly rods.

Years ago, when I was a lanky 14-year-old kid struggling to cast a fly on Connecticut's Hammonasset River, I happened upon a book in my father's library that I continue to refer to for inspiration to this very day. Written by Everett Garrison and veteran bamboo rod builder Hoagy B. Carmichael, "A Master's Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod" is widely respected as a sort of bible for rod-building enthusiasts. The book is loaded with black and white photos outlining the construction and use of bamboo planing forms, custom built rod wrapping equipment and information on everything from how to properly split cane - to the placement of the craftsman's signature on a newly-built piece.

Cameron's work brought back some good memories and sent me in search of building supplies and inspiration for what is - for the most part - a forgotten craft. For starters, have a look at this segment of "How It's Made," which outlines the basic process used in the production of a bamboo rod. The method shown in this documentary - although labor intensive - isn't quite as arduous as Carmichael's, but it's still pleasing to watch.

Once your creative juices begin to flow, head over to Thomas Penrose's site on rod building. Penrose's methods seem to closely follow those outlined by Carmichael back in the seventies, right down to the production of custom-made cold-rolled steel planing forms. Next head over to "Golden Witch," a custom rod building supply house that's been around since 1998.

Although I may never get around to building my own Tonkin cane fly rod, the process is a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

Show us the fruits of your labor!

If you've built your own bamboo fly rod, let us have a look by posting photos in the Fine Woodworking Gallery.

posted in: blogs, tool, jig

Comments (2)

Ed_Pirnik Ed_Pirnik writes: Hi shrogers4:

I strongly recommend getting a hold of Hoagy B. Carmichael's book. It is very detailed! I've been reading and re-reading it for nearly 20 years now! A little on the pricey side - since I believe it's long out of print - but really well put together.

Good luck!


Posted: 5:32 pm on June 25th

renaissanceww renaissanceww writes: I started fly fishing long before I discovered woodworking. I have restored several bamboo rods and this post got me thinking about making one from scratch using my new woodworking skills. Thanks for the post and the reason to synthesize my two passions!
Posted: 3:03 pm on June 25th

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