I have been making fly rods for over 20 years and making bamboo rods for 5 years. I make traditional six sided bamboo rods the hard way by making the blanks from a single culm of heat treated bamboo whose moisture content has been reduced to 7% or less. I make the blanks by hand with traditional planning forms and extremely sharp block planes.
I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have been mentored by John Bradford, who is arguably one of the finest bamboo rod makers alive today. John once told me that his secrets of building rods would cut 50 years off of the learning curve. I’m sorta glad, as I don’t probably have 50 years to give to learning the art of rod making. I will be forever grateful to John for sharing his knowledge and process of making rods with me.
All of the culms I use have been aged and then “cooked” in an oven for 90 minutes at 360 degrees. That process produces a beautifully colored culm that is more responsive and can produce a faster action rod with the right tapering. All of the rods use a staggered node pattern and the rod tips are matched to have identical node patterning.
While time is a factor, others have said that there are more than 1400 steps in the making of a bamboo rod (I’ll take their word and not count them), I am of the opinion that an owner would rather have quality than a quick build. Since each of the rods I build will bear my name and be fished by the owner, I really don’t cut corners. I will produce somewhere between 20 and 30 rods a year and I firmly believe that a customer’s satisfaction is far more important than a quick delivery. No rod that isn’t of the quality that I insist on leaves the shop. Sections that are not of that quality are destroyed.