Building A Cane Rod, Part V
In our last installment
we had completed an overview of the building process
up to the point of having a blank constructed, sanded and ready to mount the
ferrules. Prior to mounting the ferrules these rod sections will invariably
need to be straightened.
Straightening a cane rod or blank is accomplished by gently heating the
offending area of the rod and bending in the opposite direction and holding
it in this attitude until it cools. As mentioned in an earlier column when
cane is heated it becomes somewhat pliable and it is this property that makes
Almost any heat source will do for this chore. Rodbuilders will typically use
an alcohol lamp, heat gun, or stove to perform the work. People that wish to
remove sets from their own cane rods may do so at their own risk, but until
they have some practice in this area it's probably best to leave it up to a
competent rod restorer. If one wishes to perform this work on their own it
is important to avoid overheating the section thereby causing degradation of
the varnish and/or glue. The section needs only gentle heating and should
never be hot to the touch. I'm mentioning this here because I've read
misinformed but well-intentioned people suggest wearing gloves and heating
the cane until it's very hot, or in using steam. Neither is recommended. If
the cane is hot to the touch, it's too damn hot!
Straightening of a rod section, like all other steps involved in building a
rod is a skill. How much straightening is required is a function of the care
taken in other steps prior to this point. Taking the time to straighten the
raw cane strips can pay big dividends. This includes not only straightening
through the node areas but also removing any long bends and sweeps. Many
people view the initial splitting, node dressing and straightening of the
strips as a type of scut work, and nothing could be further from the truth.
As in woodworking, the care taken in the preparation of the material can have
a great impact on the final product.
Tuning the binder and performing some straightening before the glue sets will
also help to minimize the time necessary to do a satisfactory job. I have
found that it is helpful to view straightening not as one distinct step to be
performed after the glue sets but rather a series of processes that occur
over the entire course of building the rod. The cured sections may still have
long bends (sweeps), kinks and twists to be removed which will be apparent by
sighting down the shaft as it is held up to a source of light.
I've read that a straight rod is straight-period. In practice however, it is
virtually impossible to make a hexagonal laminate out of a natural material
'perfectly' straight. In all the rods that I've examined I have found one
that was, in my opinion, perfectly straight. If one takes the time to examine
graphite rods by sighting down the rod and rotating they will notice that
they are also not 'perfectly' straight, even though by virtue of how they are
constructed they should be much straighter then bamboo rods.
Owners of cane rods can extend the time a rod stays straight by using their
rods within their intended purpose, not horsing fish in and occasionally
rotating the rod while fighting a good fish to balance the amount of stress
placed on the cane. It is also a good idea not to leave a rod assembled and
propped up in the corner of a room. Rotate your use of the tips and do not
use a rod with fine tips to cast weighted woolly buggers! Over time the rod
will probably take a set, usually downward (in fly rods) and to the left or
right. This is just the nature of the material and will usually not effect
the rod's function. A set can also be viewed as part of the rod's history and
character rather then a cosmetic imperfection.
~ J.D. Wagner ~
1999, J.D. Wagner, Inc.