Okay, the rod has really kinda been “done” for about two days now, but it technically takes a few days for the rod finish and wraps to cure before it’s fishable. As of about 6 hours ago, I can confirm that it is indeed ready to go.
I can see now why these things cost a lot of money to buy. Average price range for a rod from a reputable builder can go from $1,200-$5,000 and high-end customizable rods can even reach the $10,000 price point!
Don’t worry guys. I didn’t even get close to half of the lowest priced rod to finish this guy because I did as much of it as I could myself; however, I can see how some…SOME…of those high price points are justified. I researched the process, and consulted with a local bamboo rod builder, who does fantastic work, for several months before I even started gathering materials.
Once I gathered the blanks and build materials, I let my blank sit for about 3-4 months before I touched it. I mostly spent that time researching, but in the off chance the ‘boo was still holding moisture, and I had a few reasons to believe it was, I wanted to let it cure by sitting it in a flat dry area.
If you have noticed any reoccurring theme throughout the build process it is that this
certainly takes time. Any missteps and you’d have a very small amount of fire starter instead of a rod.
Once I decided the blanks were ready I proceeded with ferruling the blanks. I’ve already typed up a post on how fun that was. Check it out.
After the ferruling was finally over I began the finishing process. This process is the biggest difference in building bamboo rods from any other type of rod. It’s also difficult because there are a thousand different ways to do it, and just about nobody does it the same way. Varnish is a very generic woodworking term that you see repeated everywhere, but carries no real universal meaning. I constantly read and heard other’s stories about building, and at a certain point they all “varnished” their blanks. Varnished with what? There are a thousand ways to varnish.
The overall purpose of the varnish seemed to be to protect the wood from the elements, whether that be with shellac, polyurethane, etc. I settled on a process I liked better. I decided to finish my blank with Tung Oil Finish. Now keep in mind, this process was slightly similar to impregnating the blank with oils, but I didn’t have a dip, nor did I have several months to wait on the oils to fully set after soaking in the dip tank that I didn’t have. Instead I took a page out of my old wood working days at Gibson making Les Pauls. I decided to wipe down the blank once every 24 hours with Tung Oil Finish (NOT PURE TUNG OIL! Tung Oil Finish has polymers that layer-after-layer builds up on the blank once it’s saturated) until it had about 8 coats on it. This way I would get the moisture protection, and not have to worry about uneven runs of resin running down the blank.
Once the finish had set I was ready for the guides. I measured the guides several times, and attached them using painters tape. I would then run line through the guides and cast it around a bit before I finally settled on a different setup from what Jim Payne originally put on his #100 taper. I decided that taking the 6 guides and re-spacing them to add a 7th guide on the tip section was allowing me to get more out of the swelled butt above the cork grip. This isn’t an original idea. I’ve seen other builders do this with 7’6 5 wt rods, and after trying the spacing on the blank I immediately liked it.
I didn’t have the luxury of a rod bench or rod wrapper so I was fortunate enough to use my knees, vases, platters, whatever we had around the house to elevate and keep tension on the spools of silk so that I could go wrap-by-wrap around the rod. It took about 15 hours total to get the wraps on the guides. Fortunately, fly tying taught me a lot about how to get good secure wraps on a rod, and it also taught me a few useful trick too. Once the wraps were finally on, it took several coats of polyurethane (48 hours between each coat) to secure the wraps. I know that there are some epoxies that can be used on guide wraps, but I wanted to go the slower route so that I could more closely control the layering as it was being applied. Also, I didn’t have anyway to turn the rod to make sure that it dried evenly so I just used my left hand.
Once the wrapping was done I commissioned my wife, who’s hand writing is a thousand times better than mine, to scribe the specs onto the rod blank. She’s also the one who’s really awesome and remembers to take all of these pictures. After that it was time to just let the wraps cure before it was done.
These are just a few insights into how the building process went. I can’t even begin to describe to you how much I’m anticipating my next build. I’ve got thousands of notes stowed away on what I would like to try next, or how I can make the next rod better. So far, I can say the rod casts beautifully. One of the reasons I have fallen in love with bamboo rods is that my Payne 100 build and the Dickerson 7012 that I received are both 4 wt rods, but at the same time two completely different rods. And believe me when I say it’s not just the difference between slow, med, and fast. It’s a world of difference. It would take an entire post just to describe the differences, and even then you’d still just have to casts the rods for yourself. There’s no way you can compare bamboo to any other type of rod out there. It’s it’s own world within itself.