building bamboo rods

Has anyone here built their own bamboo rods? I don't have an extreme desire to use a bamboo rod--I would like to try it, though. What I do have is an extreme love of both flyfishing (I'm VERY new to it) and of woodworking (I've built my own furniture, that kind of thing, but never professionally).

If you've got experience building your own (and I'm talking about starting with bamboo stalks and cutting the strips yourself), what advice would you impart to me? "Turn, run, and forget about it" is a valid answer :) But mainly, I just really want to know what you think, pro or con.



Active Member
I haven't actually built one myself, but plan to sometime in the not too distant future. The first step I took was buying Wayne Catanach's book "Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods". It's a great resource and is something that I think you'll want to have around. It has rod patterns as well as lots of helpful tips that will aid you through the process.

There are individuals on the board who have built their own rods, hopefully they'll give you some more detailed advice.

Good luck,

No experience here, but this is something I've definitely been considering as well & reading up on. I'll be interested to see the responses. I too am interested in doing everything from the "ground-up" -ie, I want to split my own bamboo and everything. I think most people buy prepared bamboo blanks, but that would take out half the fun of it for me.

Sorry no help from me, but I'm glad you asked the same question I was eventually going to ask.

Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Besides Catanach's fine book, also look for Maurer and Elser's 'Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Fly Rod' and 'Constructing Cane Rods - Secrets of the Bamboo Fly Rod' by our own Ray Gould of Edmonds, WA. Ray is a wonderful man and quite willing to share his craft and love of cane rods. A phone call with questions will most likely result in an invitation to tour his shop and discuss the finer points.

You may also want to visit Clark's Classic Rod Forum and the section on Making, repairing and restoring bamboo rods at Like this board, you can lurk anonymously but posting a question requires you to register.



Well-Known Member

I built a couple split bamboo rods over 30 years ago with the late Dawn Holbrook. He and Andy Hall used to offer a class each winter for a dozen or so guys.

Building cane rods is a very satisfying experience, but doing it on your own will require that you obtain some uncommon tools and devices for select parts of the process. If you can find a class situation, the instructor is usually a professional builder who has those tools available for you to use. If you don't mind the expense, or can make some of the special things you need, then by all means, give it a try. You'll probably love it.


Salmo g.
I started out collecting and restoreing old bamboo rods several years ago and have evolved into building my own. I have built several for friends and family, perhaps in the future it could become more than a hobby. If you see a bamboo rod out there with "Curlew Cane" on it its one of mine.
Building bamboo rods is not extremely difficult, however it is time consuming, and requires some specialized tools that one can often make themselves and one needs to also be anal about detail. If you look at the work of some of the well known builders out there you will see how flawless their work is.
Even with fabricating some of the tools you need there is still a fairly substantial expense involved. The tools aren't cheap and the materials and components can get expensive. You can't scrimp on them or you won't be satified with the end results.
Be prepared for frustration, I have more than my share of Tomato stakes that have lots of time invested in them.
But if you like working with your hands and creating something that is as nice to look at as it is to fish. This may be it. You will find wonderful Karma in a rod you have created from a stick of grass. I am certainly biased but there something special about catching a fish on a cane rod you built yourself.
Go to the Web and start searching, there is a large subculture of cane-heads out there with a wealth of info.
Send me a email if you would like more info.
If I could offer any advice it would be this: you will need to spend around $2000.00 or so to get the proper tools. The most expensive item will be a planing form which will run about $800.00. Contact Bellingers down in Salem, OR and ask for Chet and he can help you out. You will also need a good hand plane i.e. Stanley or Hock, a band saw, a depth gauge, a binder, a heat oven for tempering the cane, some type of node straightener, and some other items I'm forgetting. It would be incredibly beneficial to become friends with a local rod builder and ask tons and tons of questions. Or ask the rod builder if he is willing to teach you the basics, maybe help you build a rod from start to finish. In the end though, it's not so much the equipment you use as it is the person's skills and willingness to try and fail over and over again until you learn.

Scott Behn

Active Member
Yeah someday I hope to be able to start one from scratch, but for now I just refurbish the ones that our customers bring in and I'm doing a couple of South Bends that I own. I'm having so much fun doing this that the only thing I can compare it to would be buying premade flys and using them, then learning to tie your own and sticking with those.

Someday though I'll learn the making process...

Heh Northlake it's been awhile since you've been in the shop up here, any new sticks?
I drove to Michigan for Wayne Cattanach’s class five years ago. The class cost about $800 at the time for five very full days, and we all came away with 2/2 blanks that we made ourselves under Wayne’s watchful eye. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the tools and supplies when I got home, and have made over 30 rods in the past five years. It’s a very enjoyable and satisfying hobby.

There are lots of books and instruction videos available, forums like the classic rod forum and Rodmakers e-mail list, and publications like the Planing Form to get you started. Lots of people do it this way, but there are huge advantages to taking a class. You jump right in to rod making without all the time and money required to assemble the tools and supplies, and it’s very helpful to have someone there to show you the process, and especially to get you comfortable working with the fine tolerances necessary to make a good rod.

Five years ago I couldn't find a class on the West Coast. I contacted Michael Gallavan, who continued teaching the rod making classes after Dawn Holbrook passed away, but he told me he wasn’t able to find enough students and hadn’t taught for several years. With increased interest in the craft, I’ll bet you could find a class a lot closer than Michigan. I believe Ralph Moon puts together classes at the FFF Conclave in Idaho every summer.

If anyone ever wants to drop by and see what rod making stuff looks like, send me an e-mail and I’d be happy to show you. I live in Kent.

I took a class from one of Dawn Holbrooks students. It help immensely. the first rod was bulit on a straight grain fir planing form. Absolutely terrible, but if you could build one on that 15 inch form you could build one on anything. Following that I bought a planing form for about $300.00 from Frank Armbruster (still in business). I personally, don't think that you would have to spend $2000.00 for your first rod, but there is an initial investment both in time (100 hours or more on the first rod) and money (the form would be around $400.00 and the tools necessary maybe $50 to $100.00 or so). The bamboo is the cheapest part. I build my own reel seats so I save a lot of money. I end up having maybe $100.00 in parts or less invested in a rod. To tell you the truth, I don't know if I could have done it if I didn't take a class. I don't theink I could have learned from a book only, though I have at least three books on the subject now. Are you in the Seattle area? There are several builders in the area. I am. I just lost a rod (I left it on top of my car and drove off) and I have to build another butt section for it. If you are interested in seeing the process I can let you know when I am going to start building it up. I am in the middle of some house projects now so it wil be a while but you are welcome to come over and see what the process is, starting with splitting the bamboo, to straightening it, tempering it, flaming it, and planing it.

Tim Cottage

Formerly tbc1415
You can find cane rod making classes in almost any part of the country.
Two that come to mind, (I am sure there are more), on the west coast are:

Chris Raine, Dunsmuir Rod Company, Dunsmuir, California, on the Upper Sacramento River.

Daryl Whitehead at Bellinger, Salem, Oregon.

Last summer, I did a bit of research into classes and called a number of makers who were offering classes in various parts of the country.
They varied widely in price and content. Some are geared towards using and hopefully selling their tooling and components and some are just education. Some are strictly seasonal, some are ongoing and are held whenever they can organize enough people to attend. Some like to have only one or two people, some as many as six or more. What you end up with also varies from a blank to a finished rod.
The best thing to do is call around and pick one that fits your comfort zone, schedule, finances and expectations.


Kent Lufkin

Remember when you could remember everything?
Tim's post reminds me that several people have taken one on one classes from Mike Brooks in Coburg, OR. I'm not sure if Mike even charges a fee but it might be worth contacting him. If anyone's interested, send me a PM and I'll dig out his phone number.

Tom Bowden:
I have been fishing Bamboo rods for most of my life and still do back in the North East where I am from. I have a sister in Kent whom I will be visiting next week and staying with for about a month. I would like to see some of your rod building jigs and tools. I have a fellow fisherman on Long Island NY that is building me a 6 1/2 foot 3wt rod and I am looking forward to getting my hands on it. Perhaps we could meet in Kent and have a cup of coffee some night and chat about fishing.
Bob Studen (Sister at 253-813-3720 (Christine) and her husband Richard.Live over at 21725 111th Ave SE, Kent WA
Bob Studen I Hope to meet a fellow WFF guy.I arrive on 29 Aug-26 Sept I leave Sea-Tac from /sea-Tac on 26 Sept.


Bamboo Fly Rods
If you are ever in the N.E. Washington area (Republic/Curlew area) give me a call and I can give you a tour of my shop and tools.