Days 7 (11-30) and 8 (12-1): Final Planing, Gluing, and Sanding – Part 1

My lovely wife Kristin decided to come with me for the final planing since I’d told her it would be a short day, a few hours at most, and would give Jerry someone new to talk to.  It would also let her see what a good rod shop looked like – a secret motive, heh heh heh.

Final planing was rather straightforward, it involved setting the planing form to its final dimension, resharpening all the blades, adjusting any angles, and letting yourself get a fresh mindset for a new day.  The break also allowed a chance to warm up the glues if the epoxy resin had crystallized. 

This time, however, only .001″ or less came off with each pass of the plane.  When it got close, the last few passes were made with only the gentlest of pressures – I used my fingers to push the plane along little by little as only wisps of cane were coming off.  Each side was done that way.  It went fairly quickly despite the small cuts.  Jerry had done the butt and first tip for me to save some time, but it really wasn’t necessary – it all went easily enough that a couple hours would have been more than enough time to get the final planing done.  But then the fun came: glue-up.

In getting ready to glue up the rod, before I ever touched the blank today, I was told that attention to detail would be the greatest yet, and that all the gremlins seem to come out in the glue-up, because if today goes bad, all the detail and hard work from days previous go out the door. 

Glue-up prep: We laid out thin strips of masking tape (1/4″ wide) about a foot apart on a long, flat surface free of dust.  Mandatory strips are 1″ from the tip and butt of the section. My 45″ sections had 5 strips of tape on them.  Jerry uses a piece of slate about 5×1 for all this.  A glossy varnished board would do the trick too. Bind the strips of 1/4″ with some wider masking tape (we used a 1 inch long strip of 3/4″).  Lay your FIRST strip down, #1. You should have labeled your strips the whole time prior to help with node placement; you’ll use these numbers again now.  (This is where it gets detailed and kinda tricky.) Since you should have a witness mark on the outside (enamel side) of the cane from planing yet, make a small mark on the planed surface of the strip at the same point – so you can see it when it’s laying on the board, since the enamel side of the strip will be face down.  Make this same mark on all the strips at the same point.  Lay the strips down in successive order, pressing them down on the tape.  Don’t worry if the ends or tips are slightly off.  It doesn’t really matter. That’s what the witness marks are for – to keep everything at the same point, somewhere. The few inches of excess at each end are going to be cut off.

Butt strips should be placed about a millimeter apart on the tape.  If there is a midsection, place them a little closer but not quite touching.  Tip strips can barely touch.

When they are all taped down and ordered, cut the tape with a single-edged razor flush on the side nearest you, with maybe a 2mm tag allowed on the other (far) side.  Do this for all the strips of tape.  And don’t nick the cane or it’ll be an instant glue line.  You also don’t want tags on both sides for reasons that will come apparent later.

At this point you have the strips with the enamel side all bound to short sections of tape.  Pick up each section and hold it by the butt end, letting it hang in your hand.  Take the outside faces (the 2 planed faces of strips that were not facing another strip) and place them together.  It might take a little fanaggling but they should come together.  Verify all the enamel sides are facing out – easy to do since they are labeled on the butt ends, so they all have writing (planed sides don’t have writing on them at this point).  The strips should have formed a nice hex shape.  If the strips are a little loose, peel back the tape and squeeze the bundle together, then lay down the tape again to tighten them up a bit – this is the reason for having 1 tag of tape to pull on; 2 tags would have adhered together and been a bear to separate.  Work your way down the blank to tighten and secure the tape all the way down the section.  Repeat for each mid and tip section.

With each section tape-bound, find the junction of strips 1 and 6, and then gently run a razor up to slice the tape.  Again: be careful not to nick the cane, or it will be an instant glue line.  Slice the tape on each section to expose the pith-side of the strips all the way up.  Be exceptionally careful doing the tips….

Lay the sections down on your gluing surface (we just paid newspaper down on the same board we taped up on). Take a small, soft brush (a good paintbrush or toothbrush are both good choices) and dust off the strips, butt-end working to tips of each section, to remove any dust or loose fibers.  Your sections are now ready for glue.

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