Bob has asked me to write a piece on making a split cane rod, as some of you may know I still live in a bygone era when it comes to fishing tackle, using old centrepin reels and home made split cane rods.
It was way back in the 1960s that I first wrote to Richard Walker for advice on making my own split cane MK1V carp rod. It was the start of a friendship that was to last many years, until his untimely death in 1985. During that time I was fortunate to gain so much help and advice from him.
The first batch of Tonkin bamboo I purchased was from Jacobs Young & Westbury of Haywards Heath. These were hand selected, 13 foot long poles that I had to cut in half to get home, ideal lengths to produce a top & bottom section for a 10 foot Carp rod. (apologies to those of you that have succumbed to metrication, but for the purpose of rod building I am still a feet & inches man!)

   Split Cane  - John Harding   

When the glue is set (the next day) the clamps are removed, and the cane is carefully planed flush with the former. I use 3 small block planes which I re-sharpen after every piece of cane. The planed cane can then be heated to release the glue, and carefully stored until the other 5 pieces have been prepared for the section.

Removing the planed cane from the former.

The first task is to heat the poles over a bunsen burner, from the centre to the ends, to drive out any moisture and toughen the cane. The poles can then be split along the length into approximately half inch widths.

All of my sections are hand planed, so the next job is to make a triangular former, approximately 6 foot long, 2 inch sides, made of beech or oak, and exactly 60 degree angles. It is then marked off at 6 inch intervals and one of the apexes is planed off to correspond to one of the 6 flats of the finished blank of the bottom section. Another apex is planed off to correspond to that of the top section. These measurements, kindly supplied by R.W., are checked with a micrometer every 6 inches.

When the glue is set (the next day) the clamps are removed, and the cane is carefully planed flush with the former. I use 3 small block planes which I re-sharpen after every piece of cane. The planed cane can then be heated to release the glue, and carefully stored until the other 5 pieces have been prepared for the section.

I ensure all the knots on the 6 pieces are staggered so that none coincide, machine produced blanks usually have 3 knots together, on alternate flats. The former can then be carefully cleaned, ready for the next piece of cane.

When all 6 pieces are done, the other planed apex of the former is used for the top section, a more delicate operation, as the planed cane can be thinner than a matchstick at the top.

The next stage is to glue the 6 prepared pieces together, with the un-planed flat to the outside. They are bound tightly together along the length with a spiral of thread. A further spiral of thread is wound in the opposite direction to counteract any tendency for the section to twist. It is then rolled on a flat surface to make the section as straight as possible before the glue sets

Preparing the former.

Strip of cane glued & clamped to former.

Gluing & binding the 6 pieces.

The finished rod is then ready for action (I get someone else to make the bag!) There is nothing quite like the screech of the centre pin ratchet, as the cane takes on the battle curve from an Avon Barbel!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  John Harding

After a couple of days the thread can be removed and the section cleaned up of excess glue. Final straightening is achieved by gentle heating and bending.
Ferrules can then be fitted, after building up the flats with strips of cane first, if required.
The handle is the next job, with the corks glued to the butt section allowed to set, then sanded on the lathe, the final piece of cork then fitted and shaped after the reel seats have been fitted. Followed by the butt cap.
Then the rod rings and intermediate whippings are marked out, and the laborious task of whipping on the intermediates every 3/8 inch, with 5 turns of tucked thread. A total of 220 whippings in all, including the rings and ferrule, for a 10 foot, 2 piece Carp or Avon rod, more for a 3 piece Kennet Perfection or Avocet style rod.
After sign writing, the rod is given 6 coats of varnish, with a couple of days drying time between coats.

Bamboo poles ready for splitting.