Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another "semester" completed

Two great guys joined Bob and I last week in Mountain Home, Arkansas. We began early Monday morning with an introduction to the processes to be used and a brief survey of shop safety. In other words, we all located the bandage boxes! Next we saw what made for good and not-so-good raw bamboo, choosing a culm for each class member in the process. After learning some of the history of bamboo as a rod making material we prepared the culms for use by filing nodes, flaming, and splitting. Several hours were spent in staggering nodes, trimming strips to length, and rough planing strips to untapered equilateral triangles. We finished up the first evening with ideas about why heat treating is important and how best to accomplish the task.

On our second morning we had lessons on the anatomy of planing forms, hand planes, and sharpening. We spent quite a while setting planing forms and gently removing the enamel from their strips. Much of the day was spent setting forms, planing and sharpening. By early evening on Tuesday each class member had six butt strips and six tip strips planed to taper. Well, one had an extra strip thanks to a foul up on the part of the instructor. Sorry Tom!

Wednesday morning we studied two string and four string binders before gluing the rod sections with Urac. After heat-setting the Urac we spent several hours removing the binding cords and carefully sanding away excess glue. As the sharp corners of hexagonal rod sections began to emerge, subtle smiles began to light faces up. Wednesday afternoon found us learning about and installing ferrules and grips. By Wednesday evening a nice dipped coat of varnish coated each rod section.

Thursday morning I was the first person at the shop. I was making coffee when the class members arrived. Can you believe they hardly spoke to me before blasting into the varnish room to have a look at their work? Not a glue line anywhere. Sharp corners. Beautiful rods began to emerge from the hard work of each participants' bench. We flat sanded each section with super fine sandpaper in preparation for wrapping guides. Guide spacing was chosen and guides were prepped. Wrap colors were chosen, and wrapping lessons began in earnest. By mid afternoon all the rods were wrapped and a first coat of wrap finish was applied. As we slipped out the door, the rod turner could be heard squeaking in the background.

Friday morning saw a repeat of Thursday. Class participants nearly bowled me over trying to get a look at their rods. Lots of big smiles lit up the room. After cajun coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts, we carefully trimmed away a few "fuzzies" from the wraps and applied the next coat of finish. Because the authorities who govern water levels on the White and Norfork rivers were uncooperative, we were not able to wade fish. Rather than risk the unusually high waters, we spent some time Friday reviewing how to tune a hand plane, and how to sharpen efficiently. By that evening all the rods were signed, and a second good coat of varnish was dipped on the rod sections. Being basically finished, we sat around the shop till nearly 10 pm talking and joking. If you get a chance, ask one of the class participants about Boudreaux's cigar lighter.

Saturday morning we installed the reel seats, took some photos, and talked about plans for future rods. All of us enjoyed the week thoroughly, and even the instructors learned some things. Thanks to great students, some great rods emerged. One sample is below.

Well done class!!

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