Winston Bamboo (2 of 3) – A Virtual Tour of Building Split Cane Rods

Our bamboo shop in Twin Bridges, MT is a modest place, but rich in tradition. Walking through the front door, one is greeted by a deep sense of history and a familiar hum of a workshop. We’re currently working on orders coming in from all over the world — from Hungary to New Zealand. One will notice quickly that bamboo is not dead.

The building process starts at sourcing and selection of the finest cane available. Bamboo, also, known as Arundinaria amabilis or “The Lovely Reed”, is a grass and not a type of wood. Our cane stocks come in 11 foot sections, sourced from the Sui River region in China.

As illustrated below, the bamboo culms are sorted based on node spacing. A node is a growth ring (solid joint). These growth rings occur at various lengths along the culm. Each culm of bamboo is unique. This is a large part of the reason why building bamboo rods is such an extensive process.

Unlike graphite, bamboo is not standardized in its density of power fibers. The grain, node spacing, wall thickness, and fiber density are unique to each culm, which is why they must be individually tailored to fit the specifications of the various rods and their individual sections.

After the culms are cut to 5’ lengths, they are split into strips using a specialized splitting tool, as the photo below demonstrates. We will take these strips and begin the work of building a Winston bamboo fly rod. These split strips will make their first of many passes through the milling machine to be cleaned up. After milling, the strips are then heat cured to set the natural resins in the cane and impart a warm honey-colored look.

Once cured, the strips begin a long process of milling each one to its finished dimension. We then take six perfect strips, assemble them with alternating node spacing and prepare the assembled strips for gluing that cures for a minimum of 10 days.

Once the glued strips are cured, we remove the cross wraps, sand off the enamel and sand to finish, ensuring that the Winston tapers are held. If our measurements are incorrect, we will scrap and restart. Good enough is not acceptable here at Winston.

After the parts are milled and sanded, it’s time for the aesthetic finishes. The finished sections are fitted with ferrules. We then set our tip top, guides, and grip.

Each rod is hand inscribed with the rod model, length and line weight. And, if there are any custom requests to do so, we can inscribe a name or short phrase on the rod. Finally, the rod is cleaned and prepped for a final varnish which seals the cane in a UV protective, beautiful gloss finish. After applying the final varnish, we allow the rod to hang for two weeks to allow for complete cure and drying.

Each completed Winston Bamboo rod comes with two matching tips, German silver uplocking hardware on an elegant wood reel seat, a Winston logo embroidered rod bag, and a powder coated aluminum rod tube. The finished product is a handcrafted, truly unique rod and a beautiful tool for fly fishing. A fine work of art and the result speaks for itself.