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.


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