Using heat to straighten bamboo with a "set" or curve


Active Member
Anyone have experience using a heat gun to straighten bamboo rod sections with strong "sets" in them? I think it can be done but I'm wondering if the straightening will stick or if the rod will revert back to the curve after a short time. Thanks for any tips you can share...
Did you check the Classic Fly Rod Forum about this? How bad is the set? Some sets will return after casting and fishing. If not too bad...I think it adds character! If those old cane rods could only speak...."that damn brown was so huge it bent my tip!" And that old guy flyfisherman tried to horse it in!


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I can be done, but has to be done carefully. I had a friend of mine use a heat gun to straighten and old bamboo rod that I had finished and got it fairly straight. The other thing to do is build a case that keeps the pieces straight. It was typically built out of bamboo and has a slot for each piece of the rod. The rod forum mentioned above may have more specifics..
If you want to try heat straightening, I suggest you find an old worthless bamboo rod section to practice on. It really helps to practice, so you don't over-heat the rod and damage it.

The biggest risk is weakening the glue that holds the strips together. Really old rods (pre-1940) were made using animal glue or hide glue that doesn't take heat as well as modern UF and Epoxies. If you have one of those, I wouldn't take the risk.

Another approach is to bend the rod in the opposite direction of the set. Carefully clamp the section to a bench, apply some weight, and just let it sit for a few days. Sometimes this works. Sometimes the best approach is to just leave the set alone.



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The only thing I’d add to the comments above is that it takes way less heat than you think to straighten rods.
I fuss with bamboo sections pretty regularly and if done properly it is a permanent change. It is easy to get the bamboo too hot and do irreparable damage to the bamboo or as mentioned to the glue.
Toms suggestion of applying weight could very well take care of your problem and is a good place to start.



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Thanks Guys, that is good advice. It's an old 8.5 foot Monty with lots of missing guides and the label mostly worn off. A true project rod. I'll add "straightening" to my list of things to do along with shortening the butt by 7 inches, strip the sections, reglue the reel seat and a new cork handle, wrap all new guides and lastly (and I'm worried about this part) doing a new varnishing. Fun project! With luck it will see some use at Pass Lake this spring.


Active Member
If you are going to re-wrap it why not put the guides on the other side of the blank. you will want to try and straighten as well. But should help.


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Here is a link to a resource site that you will be able to find all kinds of information related to making and repairing bamboo fly rods. This will be a big help when you are unsure about what to do or how to do it.

Thanks Mike, that is a great resource. I'll make sure to soak the sections before applying the heat…I'd never heard of that before but it makes sense.
I'm not sure about soaking the section, you might have been reading about straightening strips (during the rod making process), a completely different situation. There are lots of subcategories so be sure to look them over. I think you need to be looking at a "set" in a rod or taking out a set in a rod.

Don't soak glued-up rod sections. You'll risk damaging the glue joints.

A lot of rod makers soak strips to make it easier to press nodes and rough plane, before heat treating the strips in their oven. This occurs before the strips are final-planed and glued up to form a rod section. As Mike points out, this is a different situation than removing a set.

The rod making tips site is a great resource, but be aware that the tips come from a variety of people, and there is a lot of conflicting information. Some are from experienced rod makers, but there are also some guys who just like to write about their ideas and experiments.

Tom is right, the way that I will use the information is to read about as many methods as I can. Then decide which one sounds like it will give me the results I want with a method that I am capable of replicating. Many of the different methods have varying skill level requirements and cost (equipment requirement) factors. But like everything else you can read on the internet, just because you read it there doesn't make it true. Do your homework, it's just a opinion after all. But overall the information is pretty solid there.



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Thanks to all. I've surfed Classic Rod Forum enough to know that there are probably more opinions on any given topic than there are board members when it comes to anything bamboo. I appreciate your tips.

Ron I don't think anybody answered your original question.

Whether or not your section gets "straight" all depends on whether or not you get enough heat into it and put enough force into it for the bamboo to "memorize" the new, straighter alignment you want it to be in. It takes more of a bending angle than you think and less force or heat than you think. For a newbie at this I think a hair drier is better than a heat gun because you can't scorch the rod and it should be plenty of heat if you leave it long enough. Also remember no bamboo section is ever perfectly straight, it's usually just "straight enough". So if the bend isn't too bad you can probably just fish the rod with no issue.

In addition to bends there can be twists too so it can be a bit frustrating as certain sections you'll be chasing your tail trying to get it as straight as you want it to be. It's an important skill to be able to say when a section is "straight enough for government work".

Whether or not it takes back the set depends on a lot of factors like on how the rod was constructed and to what extend the tip has been stressed and will be stressed again, along with things like the quality of the cane, the type of glue used, moisture content, whether or not any of these things have been damaged/compromised. There is virtually no way to guarantee a rod won't take a set back on or take a new different set on if it's been stressed enough or if the original heat tempering wasn't good enough. If you have a section that takes on a pretty good set right off the bat right after casting, it may be time to retire the section and make or have a new one made.

If you fight big fish on cane rods it's a good idea to either flip the rod once and a while while you plat a fish so the guides are on top or just reverse the bend holding the rod in your hands for a few seconds. The trick is, you need to know how much to bend the rod and that takes experience - it's not something somebody should do if they don't know how much to bend it.

Personally I don't think the internet is the way to go to learn how to do all this type of stuff. It helps to give you the ground rules but all this stuff is only really learned through trial and error or being shown how to do it. Based on the posts I've seen I'm guessing you are bitten by the cane bug. So I would suggest you get networked with some cane rod makers. There is a cane rod gathering called the Metolius Rod Makers in Oregon, try seeing if you can get to that, it's in July. Find some local folks who can share their experience with you in person by networking via the vairous internet forums you've been directed to above. Buy an old junker or two off e-bay or at an antique store and fix them up, re-wrap, varnish and straighten them up. If you scorch or trash a section who cares. Over time you will learn how to work bamboo with your hands and will know exactly what to do if/when a rod takes a set. Just remember a mild set is no big deal really it's mostly in your mind if you forget about it you can't really even tell the difference when you're fishing it.

If you need more info feel free to Pm me any time.


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