building/finishing bamboo

Discussion in 'Rod Building' started by Northern, Oct 20, 2010.

  1. Northern It's all good.

    Posts: 86
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +19 / 0
    Hey y'all,
    I picked up what seems like a nice, finished, 4-piece, two-tip (no brand name) 4wt, 7' bamboo blank, complete with installed ferrules and loose components. Got it pretty cheap on ebay. I've built a few graphite rods, and I'd like to put this one together just to see how bamboo feels in a small stream setting. They certainly look cool.:cool:
    My main question is, other than tradition, is there any reason that bamboo needs to be finished with varnish rather than epoxy? I'm pretty sure the blank is already lightly coated with varnish of some kind...i.e, ready-to-wrap. Can I just wrap as usual and epoxy the wraps with Flex Coat Lite? Is a final total-rod overfinish necessary?
    Also, I'm planning on starting with standard graphite guide spacing and doing the run-a-line-thru-it-and-check-how-well-it-follows-the-loaded-curve test. Should that work? (Little tricky to space the guides with the 4-piece.)
    Any other mysterious bamboo-only wrapping suggestions I should know about?
    Any tips appreciated,
  2. bitterroot Love vintage graphite!

    Posts: 1,428
    Ratings: +214 / 1
    Hi Northern,

    As you said, bamboo has traditionally been finished with varnish, including the wraps. It is common to dip the completed rod, guides and all, into a dip tank of varnish 3-4 times. That being said, there is nothing that says you can't epoxy your wraps, and I know several bamboo rod makers that are doing just that, sometimes with a thinned out epoxy.
    The important thing to remember here is that bamboo is not plastic and it needs to be protected from the elements in some fashion. There is some disagreement among makers about how much protection it really needs, but it does need some. The glues used in the assembly of the bamboo strips is another issue. Some makers use epoxy based (like Nyatex), and this would require less protection than a glue such as URAC which is only water resistant, and would need to be completely sealed to prevent failure (it's also one of the most commonly used glues in the bamboo making world).
    Bottom line, If your bamboo blank has already been varnished then there is nothing stopping you from finishing out the rod and using epoxy to cover the wraps.

    Oh, almost forgot, bamboo rods traditionally use silk as the thread to wrap the ferrules and guides. Not saying you can't use something else, but silk is the norm.
  3. Northern It's all good.

    Posts: 86
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +19 / 0
    Thanks for the info, Bitterroot. I think I will go ahead and use thinned epoxy. If I fall in love with the bamboo, maybe I'll do the next one in a more traditional finish. I am going with silk, though; the variegated jaspar. And I picked up an agate stripping guide in a matching color.
    Thanks again!
  4. bitterroot Love vintage graphite!

    Posts: 1,428
    Ratings: +214 / 1
    Sounds really nice! Post some photos when you're done and give a report of how you like it.
  5. herefishynm Member

    Posts: 76
    Las Cruces, New Mexico
    Ratings: +1 / 0
    Where did you find the jasper silk?
  6. Northern It's all good.

    Posts: 86
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +19 / 0
    J Stockard has it in both Gossamer and Naples. Sorry, I haven't gotten around to this build yet to let you know how it went (not too big of a hurry since most small streams here are out until next June.)
  7. NVswitch Member

    Posts: 37
    Sparks, Nevada
    Ratings: +0 / 0
    There is another forum devoted to bamboo fly rods. It is Clarks Classic Fly Rod Forum. Check it out if you have not done so already.
  8. Tom Bowden Active Member

    Posts: 446
    Black Diamond, WA
    Ratings: +72 / 3
    You need to use color preserver with jasper thread; otherwise the colors run together. Thinned epoxy would probably work good over color preserver. Some rod makers use clear lacquer as a color preserver for the first coat, then spar varnish to finish the wraps.

    I like the looks of black/white and black/orange jasper thread and have used these on a few rods. However, I prefer the durability and translucency of varnished solid color wraps. When you use color preserver or epoxy, the finish coats the wraps but doesn't soak in to the thread like varnish on untreated silk or nylon does.

  9. Northern It's all good.

    Posts: 86
    Edmonds, WA
    Ratings: +19 / 0
    Thank you - that's good to know. I was intending to use CP because I was hoping to not get the translucency that one usually sees with the silk, but it hadn't occurred to me that the colors might run without it. The cane on this rod is sort of caramel colored and I think the orange/black jasper will look good as-is. Not sure about durability; I guess time will tell. Thanks again!