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Smalblaar afternoon

December 2, 2010

An overcast afternoon on the Smalblaar. Fishing was slow and lesiurely to begin with but picked up later in the afternoon

Fishing the Upper Olifants

November 22, 2010

Fishing with a fellow bamboo rodmaker

November 22, 2010

Some pics of an outing with fellow bamboo rodmaker, Bill Lamberson, out from the USA.

What a pleasure to spend a beautiful day on the water with a consummate rodmaker, an accomplished angler and an all round good guy. Bill fished a Gillum 3 pce 5 wt. I fished a 2 pce 7’6″ 2 wt.

The mortise’s first outing

November 22, 2010

Here are some pics of a recent outing into the nearby Cape mountains. I fished my recently completed mortise handle bamboo rod for the first time.

The rod is a treat to fish and will be going on many more outings!

Multiple rod turner

November 22, 2010

For some time I turned my rods for varnishing wraps , one section at a time, on a gizmo I made with a spitbraai motor (braai is the South African equivalent of barbeque and almost a national sport ). The motor’s  gears gnarled and gnashed their way into the ears of the family, driving my hardwon popularity stakes for washing dishes etc. down the drain of irritation. And then I would have to do the next section. And then the next section. And then the next of the 5 coats. And ….you get the picture. I was ‘persona non grata’ every time I approached the final stages of a rod.

So whilst looking for a much needed replacement  motor at a kid’s science expo shop I stumbled across some plastic gears that  were begging to be  linked together into some sort of gadget. The begging crystallized into “please can we be a multiple section rod turner”, which is what is shown here.

The dimensions of the device and the spacing  of the gears, position of the motor, cradles etc. are all determined by the sizes of the various components so it is not possible to dimension these meaningfully here without those dimensions. I can however describe the construction and assembly process.

motor holder stand


support stand


rod holder

motor gear


  1. Calculate the spacing for the 6 ‘holder gears’, the ‘motor gear’ and the motor. Bear in mind the motor gear can be placed alongside any of the gears.
  2. After determining the basic layout make the two timber T-stands
  3. Measure and drill holes for the 6 gears and for the bushing for the motor arbor into the motor stand. The gear holes should be the same size diameter as the machine screws.
  4. Measure the position for the holes for the cradle pit son the supporting stand and drill these. The pit hole size should accommodate the felt lining thickness and the rod section.
  5. Cut slot openings from the edge of  the supporting stand to the cradle pits. Make sure the throat at the mouth of the pit is wide enough to accommodate the felt lining and the rod section
  6. Cut felt to size and glue as a lining into cradles
  7. Fit the arbor bushing into the motor stand. The bushing is not essential but nice to have – you could simply drill a very slightly oversize hole
  8. It may be necessary to make up an arbor that is threaded on one  end and shaped to fit the motor on the other unless the arbor that comes with the motor is useable as is. Insert the arbor through bushing and into the motor.
  9. Fix the motor to the stand.
  10. Fix the motor gear to the arbor. I epoxied and bolted the motor gear to the arbor
  11. Turn the maple rod holders to size and cut to length.
  12. Drill a hole just larger than the machine screw diameter through each maple holder .
  13. Increase  the hole diameter of one end of the maple holder to a dimension large enough to take the largest female ferrule you envisage using  ( mine is approx 3/8”) . This hole must stop short of the end of the maple holder by 3/8” or so.
  14. Tap sideways through the maple holders  to receive the holding bolts. Position the tapped hole so that the holding bolt will meet the shortest ferrule you envisage using allowing the ferrule wrap to be outside of the holder.
  15. Glue and screw the gears to the maple holders
  16. Slide the machine screw with a washer into the large hole of maple holder. Slide a washer onto other end and fit a nut. The nut should tighten the washer up to the gear but leave just enough play so that the gear and maple holder turns freely on the machine screw. The nut can be locked in place with nutlock.
  17. Fit washers so that the holder gears line up with each other and with the motor gear.
  18. Slide the end of machine screw through the stand, slide a washer onto the other side and tighten on a nut. The nut should be locked in place with nutlock.
  19. The holders should have their gears enmeshed with the holding bolts orientated so that they won’t bump into each other as the turner rotates
  20. That’s it ready for action

NB : The maple rod holder component  should be turned on the lathe to a diameter where the fastening bolt will not bump against the adjacent maple rod holders as they all rotate. This should be worked out with the fastening bolt screwed in to the maple component to  a point where it just does not enter the hole in the maple ( the hole that will receive the rod) . Be careful to accommodate the motor size itself in planning the height of the stands and the location of the gears.

The device should be bolted together so that the parts that are attached are held firmly and the parts that are required to rotate are allowed to rotate freely but with minimal play.

Hopefully the drawings provide  an adequate explanation.


When turning the rod sections  I first wrap the ferrules in layers of masking  tape to the approximate diameter of the hole in the maple before inserting them and tightening the holding bolts.

The stand that supports the other end of the rod sections must be moved to a point where all wraps on all sections are well clear of the felt lined cradles. The pit of the cradle itself should really be made a little deeper than shown here to avoid having a rod section attempt to climb out and escape from the cradle as it rotates. I currently prevent the possibility of this unacceptable behavior by wedging short  dowels into the cradle openings.

As a last word of advice, unless you have a dedicated space far from sensitive ears, try to get the quietest motor you can.

It is a real treat to be able to varnish wraps on all sections of at least one rod (two if they are 2/2 rods) at the same time. You can of course increase the number of gears and holders ad infinitum.

Recent Bamboo Rod

November 17, 2010

Some pics of  a recently completed rod.

Agulhas Southernmost Tip of Africa

October 30, 2010

I recently was very lucky to be a joint winner of an architectural competition to design an Icon for the Southernmost Tip of Africa – a very exciting project. We spent a day out there getting a feel for the site and fine tuning the design concept. Here are some pics of  ‘small things’ that caught my attention.

Spring Flowers in Cape Town

October 30, 2010

Some pictures of spring flowers in Cape Town.

September/ October is a very special time of the year in Cape Town.

Mortised Handle Bamboo Rod

October 30, 2010

I have for a good while now been wanting to make a mortised wooden handle rod. I finally got around to it in amongst completing various orders. The wooden inserts are imbuia. The bamboo strips run right through.

Rod with Hardy Marquis #2/3 reel

I was initially skeptical about how a wooden handled rod would feel but am pleasantly surprised to find I really like it. There is a great sense of continuity with the rod and a very direct feel. The handle is finished in Birchwood Casey TruOil, which is used on gunstocks.  The advantage of TruOil is that the grip does not become too slippery to hold when wet.

The remainder rof the rod is finished with Woodoc with ‘Penetrol’ added to it. I recently found a local source for Penetrol. The addition of Penetrol has lifted the finish achievable on my rods by an order of magnitude. I am delighted with it. The Penetrol ‘smooths out’ the varnish allowing it to flow more consistently creating a level surface without ‘creep’.

When I next get the chance I am going to play around with some ideas for revealing the ‘fuselage’ inner structure of the grip, which I think is quite interesting in and of itself. The fuselage in this grip is made of balsawood. It serves as ‘scaffolding’ for the inserts whilst gluing up and binding.




Some thoughts on splitting bamboo

March 2, 2010

Splitting bamboo into workable strips is notoriously difficult initially but becomes almost second nature with experience. Here are some tips on how I approach it.

I start with the culm cut to length (a few inches longer than for the rod sections I will be making). I stand the culm vertically on the floor.

First mark off the intended splits on the base of the culm. To do so wrap a piece of paper around the culm to determine the circumference. Remove the paper and mark off on it the strip divisions with a ruler. Re-wrap the paper onto the culm and transcribe the strip divisions onto the cross-section of the culm. Alternatively you can eyeball the divisions if you have a good eye. I find I can judge relative distances fairly accurately, so often simply eyeball the divisions.

In order to keep the strip edges at the right angle it is important to keep your splitter perpendicular to the enamel of the bamboo i.e. running from the edge through the centre of the culm.

The first split into halves (or thirds)  is easy as the culm is still intact and you can visually line the splitter through its centre and through the middle of the check split.  For further splits, I stand the pieces vertically resting against a bench and draw in my mind an imaginary line through what would have been the centre of the culm. I line the splitter (a wide blade hunting knife or froe) with this imaginary line, rest it on the section and when I am sure all is aligned I then give the splitter a short sharp tap with a hammer to start the split. To ‘run’ the split I twist the knife (hence the need for a wide blade) and then slide it down the split – NEVER FORCE or DRIVE THE KNIFE/SPLITTER down the split. The twisting action is a rotational twist like you use with a screwdriver – i.e. torque. The twist should be just enough to open the split a little further and I then simply move the knife down the split. At the nodes some more force is required in the twist to break through the node. If you overtwist the splitter, the side of the split may move off perpendicular. Use just enough force to open the split and keep the splitter running through the imaginary line passing through the centre of the culm.

Once I have got strips narrow enough that it is possible to bend either either side of the split  away from the splitter as you split, it is then possible to control (‘walk’) the split down the centre.  At this point I mount a splitter (knife or old screwdriver with sharpened side) in a vice and feed the strips into the splitter rather than the splitter into the strips. Instead of twisting the knife I now push and pull the strips laterally against the knife, which is effectively the same thing as twisting the knife. Again NEVER DRIVE or FORCE THE STRIPS into the splitter. Only feed them in as far as the split easily allows before pushing and pulling again to open the split further. Doing this there is no chance of slipping and mashing your hand into the splitter as the force you are applying is at 90 deg to the strip/knife blade – not in the same line.

The big trick for getting even width strips is when the split starts to go off centre, to bend the strip as you work it against the knife. Work gently/slowly i.e. making short further splits until it is back on track. Bend the fat side of the strip away from the split. Bend the whole strip – both behind and ahead of the split – in this direction as you work it against the splitter. Once the split has been walked back into the centre carry on splitting as previously.

Doing the above it is possible to split a larger culm into 32 or even 36 pieces (for use on  lightweight rods as the strips get quite narrow).