Getting Your Feet Wet

 “sometimes I enjoy the company of a mayfly 
when I start planing bamboo”
I recently had a client call me and ask me if he should “get his feet wet” and make his own split cane rod. There is a lot of interest here in the U.S. especially within the last twenty or so years in learning how to make split cane fly rods. The craft has become more accessible in regards to information, tools, and even raw materials. I always try to inspire people to take a class in rod “making”. By “making” I mean creating something from scratch like a rod blank. “Building” a rod refers to taking an amalgam of components including a rod blank and constructing a rod. There is a big difference. Learning how to “build” a rod is important to better familiarize oneself with the materials and the construction behind the craft. Learning how to “make” the rod itself and its given components is a whole other chapter that takes time, patience, passion, dedication, and yes money.

To be realistic initially one needs to invest several thousand dollars to get started in order to make bamboo rods. You need space, time, and the ability to soak in a lot of information. You need a set of planing forms, bamboo culms, decent block planes, a tempering oven of some kind if you chose, a binder, sharpening jigs, plane irons, a clean space to finish rods, files, sandpapers, a multitude of glues, a workbench, a heat gun, various rod components including everything from guides to ferrules, cork blanks or rings, nickel stock, a lathe to turn hardware, a roughing beveler if you chose to use one, a rod turner, jigs...did I mention the the part about the initial investment of several thousand dollars?

If this sounds all too overwhelming well it can be BUT if you slowly familiarize yourself with the craft over time and be patient you will make leaps and bounds.  Finding good mentors is important, read a lot of credible books, be a sponge rather than a leaky faucet, eventually you will be well on your way to picking up a block plane. Be especially careful of internet forums, there are scads of self seeking biases, late night armchair hobbyists, and avatars posing as rod makers many of which will steer you in all directions known to man. Find one or two great mentors, you will learn much more and be less confused as you move through the learning curve of rod making. Also if you want to learn about new information in the rod making world, both historical and technical, get a subscription to The Planing Form created by Ron Barch. This printed journal has very good credible information and the publication has been around a long long time. Lastly take a rod making class from a good teacher! Be mindful that you should do your research and find an established rod maker who is a good teacher and has been doing it a long time. You may enjoy the process so much you will eventually want to take the big plunge, or you may find you just want to make one rod. Approach it with an open mind when you first start and it will be that much more enjoyable in the short or long term. I started getting into rod making in my late 20's and have been driven by an insatiable passion to make rods, and practice the crafts rituals religiously. I continue to be smitten by the craft of making rods to this day. I enjoy fly fishing that much more because I make cane rods. So yes! I encourage “getting your feet wet” when it comes to rod making, it will only make your fishing experience that much more rewarding, intriguing, and well rounded.
~Clint Bova