Building A Cane Rod, Part V
In our last column
we discussed how the cane strips that compose a rod
section are tapered and prepared for gluing. In this installment we will
cover how rod sections are glued together to form a rod blank.
Over the years a number of adhesives have been used. Prior to the
introduction of synthetic glues, animal hide glues were used. These glues
could be tricky to use as both the glue and the rod splines had to be
carefully warmed to the proper temperature and the glue had to be carefully
monitored for degradation. Because hide glues are not water-resistant
improperly glued or cared for rod sections were subject to delaminating.
Unfortunately, the occasional failure of hide-glued rods earned this adhesive
a poor, yet undeserved reputation. If the glue was properly tended and
applied, and if the requisite care taken with the rod, hide glues are
remarkably strong. Witness the large numbers of rods well over 100 years old
that still function perfectly as well as millions of pieces of antique
furnishings that are still with us today.
Then introduction of synthetic glues largely halted the use of hide glues.
Over the years rodbuilders have used urea and phenol formaldehyde glues and,
more recently, epoxies. Each adhesive group offers various advantages and
disadvantages, and a rodmaker must weigh these aspects into their selection
of a proper adhesive. For instance, resorcinol resins are waterproof and very
elastic thereby making them ideal glues for fly rods. However, these glues
are a dark red or purple color that accentuates each glue line and some folks
find this aesthetically objectionable. Urea formaldehydes are strong and easy
to use, but are not as water and craze resistant as epoxy and resorcinol.
Epoxies are very strong, but cleanup requires solvents.
In addition, each type of glue has unique parameters for pot life, gluing
pressure, application temperature, cure time, shelf life, moisture content of
the cane, etc. All of these factors must be considered, but properly stored
and used synthetic adhesives are very durable and will give satisfactory
The process of gluing involves measuring and mixing the components of the
glue and applying it to the splines. Gluing the six individual splines into a
bamboo blank is a messy and sticky proposition. We have found that it is best
to glue several rods at a session and not allow any interruptions during the
process. Rodbuilders typically apply glue to the splines with a small brush
(a toothbrush works well) and the section is then rolled into the familiar
hex shape and bound under pressure using a binder. The binder serves to
rotate the rod section and apply a binding cord in a spiral fashion along the
rod shaft. The section is passed through the binder twice, which applies two
opposing spiral wraps. This cross wrapping assures good clamping and also
helps to minimize directional torque that can cause twists in the section.
After the rod section has been bound the maker sights down the section to
assess the blank for straightness. At this point the section can be rolled on
a flat surface to eliminate bends and kinks in the section. (Invariably some
straightening will still need to be performed after the string is removed and
excess glue sanded from the blank) The blank is then left to cure in the
appropriate environment for a time period specified for the type of glue
used. The blank is referred to being 'in the string' at this point in the
After the glue has cured the string removed and excess glue is sanded, filed
or scraped off of the blank. The sections are again straightened and cut to
the appropriate length. This is finally the point at which the work begins to
resemble a fishing rod and is now the time for a rod builder to take a
~ J.D. Wagner ~
© 1999, J.D. Wagner, Inc.