Published Feb 15. 1998 - 26 years ago
Updated or edited Jan 11. 2017

Ib Olsen's cane rods

How Ib Olsen builds his beautiful rods ...and some elementary notes.

First splitting of the bamboo

The marked bamboo after splitting

Different stages of node 'removal'

The 60 degrees tool

Heat tempering using an electric toaster

The vice with inserts for planing out bamboo nodes

Different stages of node 'removal' in the vice

The reel seat is cork

Ready for the ferrule

It is highly important that the bamboo is always kept on a dry place, and during the whole production to have this in mind. One can even - when the humidity outside is high - keep the splits hanging in a plastic or metal tube and underneath at a short distance from the end, an electric carbon-filament bulb.
The best thing to do is to mark the end of the pole with a speed-marker and then with the same tool make a wide spiral around the pole - then one can always later on place the splits exactly in the same relative position as they were in the original pole! To us it's of great importance that the splits in the final rod are positioned so that opposite sections in the original pole are also opposite in the final rod!

As usual make a split along one side of the pole to open the cells between the node diaphragms. Then split it in halves.

Now we come to the splitting, that can be a very difficult job - but we use a method learned from Bjarne Fries - another clever Danish rod-builder. In a vice we place a knife-blade with the point upwards and protected by a metal-ball (so that one doesn't harm oneself during the splitting). The edge of the knife pointing towards you. In preparation one has with a speed-marker drawn short lines along the whole bamboo-piece, where it is to be be split. Then the end is pressed against the edge of the knife and during the whole splitting-process the surface of the bamboo must be exactly at an angle of 90 deg. to the knife. Then one presses the bamboo against the knife and as a start it can be needed to make a short 'rap' at the other end of the bamboo. By pressing the bamboo against the knife the bamboo is split: One keeps ones hands as close to the knife as reasonable, and following the marks the total length is split. Should it move out of range one presses with one of the hands at the side of the bamboo just to the side of the knife, so that the split goes back on the right course.
OBS! Never try to make corrections by twisting the bamboo or moving the end of the pole to one side or the other!
With this procedure one can with a little experience split the bamboo very close to the measures, and by this spare a lot of work later on. One will very early learn, that it's much easier to split a piece of bamboo in two equal parts, than to split a section in three - the broader strip will have a tendency to 'eat bamboo' from the more narrow part.
The splits are tied together and hanged away on a dry place for a week or two. Why? Bamboo is a natural material and by this has its own life. Taken away from the connection with the other splits in the pole they start to find their own 'position of rest' - and first then one can continue the building.

As Ib is a carpenter by profession, he has a natural sense how to work with bamboo in the best way. Just after the final splitting he uses the mounted knife to make the 60 deg. planes by pressing the sides of the splits against the edge of the knife in the 60 deg. angle.

We more normal persons have to use a knife and a 60 deg. measurement tool to make one of the sides - then we make the other plane in the planning form. But before all this we heat the splits to temper them.

After heat-tempering the remaining parts of the diaphragms are removed and we remove a little bit more bamboo, so a small grove is left (see why later on!).

On the other side we remove a small part of the nodes - only the very sharp edge is filed away - the rest of the nodes are pressed down in the way the famous Jim Payne did it. We do it between the jaws of a vice after having heated the node. One has to place some softer blades of metal between the jaws, so that no unwanted marks are left on the surface of the bamboo. (As Ib works with splits with the final 60 deg. planes, he has to use an insertion between the jaws of the vice like a small planning form on the one side and a flat one on the other). By this procedure he 'removes' the nodes and in the same process correct any bends etc. in the splits...
Most rod-builders remove the enamel layer before they start the preliminary planning in the form - they even make the side totally flat and by this remove some of the vital power-fibres in the middle of the splits. We don't do that. We plan with the enamel layers on. The curve of the surface is so small on these narrow strips that it doesn't harm the precision of the planning. Moreover it has the advantage, that we can adjust the planning form to the same measures we got, when we measured a lacquered rod!
First when the splits are glued together we remove the outer enamel-layer and by this preserve the convex surface of the bamboo - showing that we have not removed a single power-fibre!
On some of his last rods Ib has even let the enamel-layer be and by this protected the final rod even better. Some people will perhaps not like the appearance - then they can't see anything of the fibres!

We never - never - remove anything of the bamboo from the places for the ferrules (Garrison did). Why make a rod weaker? In stead we make a few serration's of the edges with a small hacksaw and then wind some cotton-thread around the rod and then put the glue on and press a ferrule on with an inner-diameter like the outer-diameter of the rod. It gives a tiny more metal-weight; but one can gain it back using a little shorter ferrules - many ferrules on trout-rods are too long and heavy - and are you for the sophisticated - then use a female ferrule of titanium (and a male of nickel-silver).

Ib uses most only cork for both the handle and the reel-seat. The cross-section at the reel-seat is not round, but a little flat on the side that shall come into contact with the foot of the reel. Opposite this he inserts two narrow lancet-shaped pieces of the utmost layer of bamboo in the cork - so that the rings don't cut into the cork, when the reel is tightened to the rod.

Ib Olsen
Engvej 30
DK-9620 Aalestrup



A truly engaging web...

A truly engaging web site for the beginner - just like myself. With that in mind, I'd be very grateful for any information on where to purchase bamboo culms, specific tools, etc. in the UK. Also, any 'gatherings', classes offered in the UK or discussion groups that are UK-based. I've been looking at the US-based sites and groups and find them immensely useful and positive, but would like to know if there is something a little closer to home.

Many thanks again to all who have put something into this web site.

All best wishes.



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