Recently I had somebody ask me about how I go about selecting culms of bamboo for different rods. I suppose that it is not necessarily something elaborated on frequently unless you were to read up on it in the few good books written on the construction of cane rods. So I will try to put in some very simple digestible terms. That said I get all of my Tonkin cane from Charles H. Demarest Inc. whom I have had the honor of meeting in upstate NY years ago. Probably the nicest people on the planet. I occasionally get a few culms here and there from various other dealers mostly because I like to see how they are graded. I have found over the years that the Tonkin cane I get from Demarest Inc. is most consistent in quality. I have a back-stock of Demarest cane which unfortunately is dwindling and because they are no longer in business the cane is that much more valuable to me. I typically go through a bale and pull out cane that is most suitable to make rods for my clients. All of the culms that I use have been stored 3-4 years prior to splitting. I help the check along the length of the selected culms when I receive them because if I don't they will crack and pop in sometimes an undesirable fashion to put it simply. Large checks that are not running the full length of the culm can prompt other smaller checks that can often make the splitting process more difficult. Bamboo checks naturally and if I don't finish a check it will likely set off my “glass break” alarm system. This typically will happen in the dead of night with a loud distinctive pop unfortunately.
Culms are selected for a particular rod based on the nodal geometry and diameters. I do not simply cut culms in half and use the top portion for tips and bottom section for the butt. Instead, because I do a spiral nodal stagger on all of my rods, I find the most node free zone in the bottom portion of the culm for the butt section and the most node free zone in the upper portion of the culm for the tips. This means that I can cut the culm from the right or left of center anywhere from 2-18 inches depending again on the positions of the nodes and the length of the desired rod. Many rod makers make this decision based on their own methodologies and sets of criteria. Many rod makers use more than one culm to make a single rod. I always make predetermined measurements from a culm in order to get the least nodes in any one rod section short or long, 2 piece or 3 piece. I have put this in very rudimentary terms again based on my own methods for supporting the spiral node stagger. In simple terms the spiral node stagger allows the rod maker to position every node in a rod section so that it never has an opposing node directly across from it. The rod maker uses up a lot of cane by using the spiral node stagger so again measuring twice is always a good idea before splitting. With longer two piece rods the maker has to take special care in measuring as well. With three piece rods its less of a problem.
When I get orders I stick an index type card into the check of the culm with the intended owners name on it and label what date stock it was from. This lets me know when the culm was delivered to me prior to splitting it to make into a rod. Again I wait for 3-4 years before splitting cane. I also mark the card with the intended length of the rod after making the correct measurements. Selecting culms takes a bit of creative visualization and measuring but I find I actually conserve and waste less cane by going through these familiar rituals.