Day 6 (11-23-13): Finish Initial Planing – Entirely

Today was an 8 hour day of finishing all the initial planing that I had left, 8 strips for the tips.  I found it smart to take a break after 3 hours or so again, breaking for lunch after doing 4 of the strips.

I timed myself on a few strips – one I did in 22 minutes, another in 25, the last in 24. It’s very possible to get stuff done without wasting time “being careful” while still being careful.

I messed around with a plane a bit since one strip took nearly an hour to get through; I was only getting about .001” at a time.  Normally initial planing is done best at 2-3 thousandths.  My initial adjustment was .00 4-5” which was taking a heavy bite and way too much for the tips – a heavy bite, open mouth (on the plane), and/or dull blade will bite too far in to the cane and take chunks of fibers with it, leading to low dimensions, gaps, and large, open curls.  I never got large curls thanks to the small mouth, but it was risky, and I got lucky.

The tips are especially susceptible to overly-aggressive planing because the light dimension can be lifted out of the form when the plane bites too deeply.  Butts aren’t as much an issue because they’re more rigid due to the extra thickness, but tips… eh…

If the blade is not level to the bottom of the plane, the backside of it can be tapped on the same side that’s too deep – it will help correct the angle.  Good angles = good strips.

Post add: My wrist was sore after all this planing.  Not so much in the muscle of my forearm (which was a little knotted up but was massaged out easily and quickly) but rather the tendon sheath on the back of my wrist, right between the two bumps of forearm bone.  It felt very tender to the touch, like it was bruised.  A somewhat sharp, annoying pain when I touched it.  I could feel the inflammation – it felt somewhat like a muscle knot but the pain signal was different.  It took until now, morning of 11-26-13, for it to feel mostly normal.  Still slightly noticeable to the touch, but there is barely any tenderness remaining.  Whew, note to self, don’t plane for more than 2-3 hours, tops.  Repetitive stress injuries are NOT worth the risk.  There was a recent thread on the Classic Fly Rod forum about injuries – it seems that shoulder/ cuff injuries, as well as “tennis elbow” and carpal tunnel are common builder injuries.  Knowing my dad’s history with this, I don’t want to risk going down that road.  Getting a week’s work done in a day is not worth being in pain when I no longer heal as fast as I do at 25 or 30 anymore.


Day 5 (11-9-13): Start Tips

Nothing special, just a lot more planing.  Jerry set up the planing form with the initial tip settings on 0.010” over the final dimension. It was fun, again, and I did a lot in the 6 hours or so I was there.  I noticed though that I can only plane for so long before my wrist and forearm are stressed.  I have to be careful – much over 3 or 4 hours and I really have to watch my form carefully.  Music would be nice to have…

Midweek (11-5/6-13): I caught myself thinking…

…about having my own rod company.  At this stage nothing would be for sale, and after coming up with this idea I teased Dad the next morning a bit, saying that my waiting list was awesome, approximately 3-5 years at this point! But I do want to put a brand on my rods, and with a bit of thought on what mattered to me and what I liked of current manufacturers (Sweetgrass, Sweetwater, Otter Creek (Jerry’s name), among others) along with a crafty but neat way of hiding the derivation, I came up with Plumbrook.  Plumbrook Rods.  It seems fitting, especially considering that I seem to have this thing for putting a deep purple on my rod – dark purple trim wraps, accents, and a purpleheart seat insert are only appropriate.

Day 4 (11-3-13): Finish Initial Plane of Butt Strips

((I ran off to Minneapolis from 10-18 through 10-27 getting married, hence the delay.))

I took care of the butt strips for the initial planing.  Jerry and I looked around online at a bit, talked a bit, and kinda shot the breeze for a while so I only got the 4 remaining butt strips done.  Initially, anyway.  The form was still very much in alignment with where it needed to be so adjustments were very minimal, which made planing easy.  Jerry had sharpened the blades for me prior to my arrival.

Day 3 (10-12-13) – Finish sanding enamel, Second Bevel of Butt Section, Heat Treating 1, Setting the Planing Form and Beginning Planing

As noted above, today the enamel sanding was finished but using 220 allowed me to get it done fairly quickly.  The rest of the strips were done in approximately 3 hours, which included a good amount of time involved with researching my taper on Hexrod and RodDNA.  I discovered that standing over the form and applying a little more pressure gave me better flats faster and I didn’t inhale as much dust because I was further from the source, so sneezing was somewhat reduced.

I met Lloyd, another builder.  Nice guy, very VERY meticulous. 

Jerry and I talked about reel seat inserts for a bit, and I learned how the recess was formed on sliding band seats (either a router to take out the mortise or an off-set mandrel).  A neat, convenient lesson that I may have to take advantage of when I get back from the wedding.

I operated Jerry’s binder, which was an interesting piece of machinery.  I guess Vince Marinaro designed that style.

Our heat treatment today was getting the strips up to 360-375 and holding them there for 40 minutes, which toasted the cane slightly.  I noticed a slight burning odor for the last 5 or so minutes the cane was in the oven. It was kind of glorious, actually.

While the cane was in the oven we set our measurements.  Initial planing is done to 10 thousandths over final.  The “final” numbers are HALF of what the flats measurement is because of how the math works out.  Take that half, then add the 10 thousandths.  Example: my butt measurement on my first rod was 0.271; final dimension is therefore 0.1355 and initial dimension was .1455.  Easy, right?

The initial planing allows for the blades to be sharpened again for the final plane, which makes rods immensely accurate.

Setting the planing form was fairly easy with a well-calibrated depth gauge.  Jerry noted that the biggest thing with getting accurately planed strips was getting your gauges and planing forms to agree on what was standard. His depth gauge was consistently over by 0.400, so a measurement of 0.108 would read as 0.508; it was up to me to finish setting the form knowing that bit of knowledge.  The forms were adjusted fairly easily, but because of the springiness in the steel (don’t over-tighten the bolts!!! No ratchets!!) they had to be rechecked, at least once.  I checked my measurements 3 times total, once initially while setting and then twice afterward.  Many of the measurements were off the first time I checked.  Several were off a bit the second time I checked them for accuracy.

I used two of Jerry’s Lie-Nielsen planes to do my planing, the first was a grooved bottom plane (3-thousandths recess) and the second, for final planing, was a flat bottom. The models were 91/2s  and were just amazing.  Especially the flat-bottomed one. 

Jerry told me he did his sharpening with an 8000 grit whetstone, and had this neat holder for his blade that I believe he got from Lie-Nielsen.  He said it ran him 65 bucks.  Worth at least another hundred: this holder held the angle of the blade proper when sharpening, so no convex edges (in Dad’s words, a radius on the blade) formed while running it over the stone.

Planing requires the plane to be held very level, which a mirror helps with.  You watch the gap under the plane and keep it level; rocking the plane back and forth will allow the formation of glue line.  Use an angle check (60 degree, possibly also a micrometer) to verify that your angles are good and consistent. Check frequently.

Make sure you flip the strip from side to side with each planing pass to keep the strip even.

I got 2 butt strips done.  Jerry and I talked about how the rest of the build would go – having a wedding and housing transfer will make our lives interesting but we should be okay.  At this stage, I’m thinking my light-caramel rod will be finished with white wraps and lavender accents, a burl cork handle (one piece! No rings!), and purpleheart seat insert.  Ferrules and guides and seat hardware will be blackened nickel.  Jerry will make the ferrules for me; this morning (morning after planing, 10-13-13 AM) I picked up the cork block and seat hardware via eBay.  I’ll order guides and thread from Jeff Wagner later.  Jerry did have a question about the style of ferrule to use, because my fairy rod has so little material at the ferrule spot – there’s a noticeable drop – that we want to talk to Harry Boyd about the style he used / suggests.  Note to self, learn more about ferrules.

At this stage I feel I am hopelessly addicted to making a bamboo fly rod.  It was way too much fun planing strips out.  I was hooked on this before I began planing, once a strip was out and I could see that it would be turning in to a rod, I felt the excitement build deep inside me.  This is so very rewarding, moreso than nearly anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

Day 2 (9-21-13) – Pairing (2x2x2), Cutting to Length, Node Work, Beveling and Sanding Enamel

The strips were reviewed for straightness and a few tweaks were made. 

From the numbers, we took strips 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6 as “sets” to be set opposite as staggering for the nodes.  They were paired side by side and staggered by about 4-5 inches, determined the ferrule placement (not right on a node!!), then measured and marked for 1) overall length, and 2) 3 inches from each end. 

Once arranged in pairs and marked so the marks would not be cut off, the waste was cut from the ends of the strips using that neat Japanese saw again (it’s a Dozuki saw, I believe).

Jerry gave me the option of pinching the nodes in a small vise and filing them flat, or carefully using a sanding drum on his drill press.  I opted for the sanding drum, taking care to “feel” my way around with a gentle touch and checking on the nodes to chart my progress.

Labels on the enamel if not there already!!! (Post-beveling, labels go on the wood side since the enamel will be sanded off.  Then the labels are replaced on the enamel side.)

Then we beveled them.  Took them down to an appropriate amount to achieve a nice 60 degree angle on all the strips.

The strips were then mounted in an old planning form and sanded to expose the power fibers.  Initially I used 400 grit paper but it clogged easily, so I attempted to use Jerry’s orbital sander – do not use power tools for this!  Day 3 I used 220 grit paper to finish, which was the way to go.  On day 2 I only got through about 6 or 8 strips before having to call it a day, the 400 took way too long (6 strips took about 2.5 hours).

I noticed that the nodes were not always perfectly flat – actually a lot of the time they weren’t.  I touched them up with a medium flat bastard file and they flattened nicely.  I stopped flattening when I was starting to take off enamel (that’s the sandpaper’s job, not a file’s).

Day 1 (9-7-13) – Culm Selection, Flaming, Splitting, Straightening

We found a culm that had power fibers to a depth slightly exceeding the radius of my butt section and good internodal distance, in my case 17-19 inches, with few watermarks and other blemishes on the culm.  The culm was cut in to 2 lengths using a neat Japanese saw whose name escapes me as I write this. (Edit: it was a high-quality Dozuki saw.)

Flaming was done outside with a propane torch – a big one, the nozzle opening was about an inch, hooked up to a 20 pound gas tank.  Starting at the middle, rotate the culm and work your way out toward the ends, one at a time.  We did not flame the inside of the culm for this rod because I was “dressed inappropriately” to get as dirty as I would hashing out the inside of the culm. 

Once the culm cooled, splitting (initial, anyway) was done with a pie splitter and wooden mallet to get it started.  It fractioned off pretty easily. Once the initial split has begun and the culm has split a foot or two down, LABEL THE PIECES to keep them in order.  The strips that come from each piece (probably 2-3 per piece) will need to be kept in order as well, to keep the nodes together.

The butt strips came from the butt half of the culm, numbered appropriately, and same for the tip strips (made strips for 2 tips). 

Splitting the pieces in to useful strips – lightly clamp the strips in a padded vise right behind a node, to protect it.  Split off the width of strip needed using a froe and mallet to start the split, then work it – gently – using your fingers to push and thumbs to pull the strips apart.  If the split starts to walk to one side, pull on the HEAVY/ THICKER side to bring it back.  It is possible to split 3 strips from one larger strip this way, but 2 is typical.  Review the numbers on your taper (this will be a common theme) to make sure you have appropriate material to bevel off and then plane away (dependent on your beveller, if using one).  You will have to spread the tips to pop through the node but the vise prevents the split from running wild down through the next internodal section.  Go at it gently to watch the width from getting out of control. 

Straightening was done by using a heat gun set to about 350oF and heating the affected area for about 30 seconds.  Jerry’s rule – let the heat do the work, flex against the fault just enough to feel resistance BUT NO MORE, and be careful with the nodes.  Many “nodal bends” are outside of the node and not directly in it, so use care when figuring where the bends and kinks are.  I called it a day after a handful of strips was started at Jerry’s and took them home, along with a heat gun and clamp. At home I set a stovetop burner to Medium/ Medium High and used that as a heat source, since it was much wider than the gun and by hanging to the edges of the burner I could isolate a smaller strip of heat for localized areas.  The rest of my strips were straightened at home prior to day 2.


To Whomever May Be Reading This

 Hi, I’m Nate, and you’re following along with my own personal adventures in building bamboo rods.  As of this writing I’ve just started this journey but it’s become obvious that this will, in all likelihood, turn in to a lifetime love affair. 

This first entry is but a mere introduction and hello.  The next few are copies of my notes to myself following my building sessions.  Admittedly I put this page together a few weeks after coming up with the Plumbrook name (which you’ll see a little note on later), so the entries and the dates I’ve stated them to occur will not line up entirely.  I suppose that will typically be the case, as this is all reflection anyway.  Because of this post-add I’m short on any pictures for you to see.  Those will come later, when I have my current rod in the finishing stages (at this exact moment it’s a bunch of rough-planed skinny sticks awaiting final planing and glue-up) and likely the varying stages of future projects.

I hope you follow with me, and feel free to ask any questions.  I’ll be happy to answer them.

NJG, 11-26-13