Creating The Bamboo Net Pole
Carrying on from my last piece on the construction of steamed Ash landing nets, I will now try to explain my way of making a net pole to compliment the nets.
The construction is relatively easy, although it can be rather time consuming as each part is either individually made by hand or is a part that is adapted from a previous use by cutting, soldering etc.
First, the pole.
A trip to the Bamboo suppliers in Colne, Lancashire provides me with the opportunity to select the Bamboo poles, the poles are imported from China, and as I am quite well known at the suppliers I am allowed to take some time and am left alone in the warehouse to select the most suitable poles myself, which sounds easy, but if you saw the volume of Bamboo I have to wade through you would see why I put a day aside just for this. I wear leather gloves to select the poles as Bamboo can be as sharp as a razor if it splinters. The poles are packed in bundles of about 20 and fully wrapped in hessian. When I open a pack it is pot luck as to what’s inside, occasionally I get lucky and the contents are what it says on the label, other times, well, lets just say a lot of the time is wasted opening unsuitable bundles.
Inside the bundles the poles can be in any condition, bent, twisted, misshapen, you name it I have probably seen it. Anyway, once I have the poles selected, paid for and driven the 25 miles home its time to start the real work.
NextI I will deal with the poles, then the metalwork .
The poles are made of the Bamboo, some people think of Bamboo as being wood, it is not, it is actually similar to common grass, and grows in clumps. Bamboo poles are hollow, but not throughout their length, the lengths are split into individual “air cells” separated by thin nodes, these “cells “ can cause problems when the poles are heated, as the air inside expands and can in certain cases cause the Bamboo to explode, in fact in years past, the Chinese actually made “bangers” for their children using bamboo, they would cut a short length of bamboo, with an air cell intact, then throw it on an open fire and wait for the bang.
Back to the construction.
Each pole is checked for straightness, they are hopefully not too far out, but sometimes there is a bend that needs sorting using heat (remember the comments above re heat) this will be done later.
Before I can do anything, the poles are cut to length. Once that is done they need to be hollowed out, the nodes need to be hollowed to allow the hot air to escape, which entails removing the inner node, for this I use a length of steel studding, which is about 3 feet long , and is fully threaded for its whole length.
The studding is pushed into the hollow end of the bamboo, when it reaches the node, I give it a sharp tap with a hammer, this pushes the studding through the node that butts up to the next node, another sharp tap etc is required because the steel studding has a thread its whole length I can use it as a file to expand the hole where the inner node was, using this technique from either end of a 6 ft pole I can fully hollow out the bamboo.
The next thing is to file the exterior of the nodes down flush with the surface of the bamboo, the pole is held in a vice with soft jaws and each node is filed smooth.
Once the pole is hollow, and nodes filed down, I move on to heating and “scorch patterning “ the pole , I can make either self coloured net poles or the more popular and in my mind more attractive mottled or scorched poles, the patterns are endless, tiger tail bands, leopard spots, mottled or clouded, each is formed as follows. To do this I use a simple blowlamp ,the chosen pattern is applied to the pole, using the blowlamp flame to create the desired effect , taking care not to hold the flame in one place for too long.
Sometimes even on a straight pole, the heat from the blowlamp will cause the pole to bend, I straighten the pole whilst it is still hot , the heat makes the bamboo pliable and the poles can be straightened by gently flexing them in the opposite direction to the bend, loosely trapping the pole in my bench vice makes it easier. It takes a bit of practice, sometimes I leave a minor deviation from the perfectly straight as it does no harm, and gives the pole a bit of individuality.
Once the pole is scorched and has been straightened, I take some sandpaper and smooth the pole down, from end to end . I can now stain the bamboo pole, I use a spirit based stain and apply three coats to even out any inconsistency.
Fitting the brass work
Firstly the brasswork has to be created..when I first started to make Bamboo net poles the biggest headache was actually finding the 3/8 BSF threaded brass end in a suitable size for the bamboo poles, not being commercially available it was down to me to either pay somebody to make them, which I did not want to do, or make them myself. I do not own a lathe , so turning the brass was not an option, then I came up with an idea that has so far worked very well.
The brasswork comes from a source which you would probably not think of, but the brass is really quite common and found at most Car boot sales disguised as Chimney or Drain rods, the rod couplings, at least on older pattern rods is exactly the right size for net poles, the hard part is changing them to fit the bamboo poles, basically this involves sawing, chamfering, soldering , drilling, tapping and polishing.
Here are a couple of before and after pictures
The main benefit I have found using these brass rod couplings is that they are always a bit “battered” and look well used, even fit to a newly constructed pole , they give the pole a vintage and used appearance.
The work involved in adapting the couplings to their new role is quite time consuming, once it has been completed it is time to fit the threaded brass net pole top, to the pole , before I can fit it, there is a bit of work to do on the pole itself, on every pole I make, I always internally reinforce the “Business end” , that is the end of the pole that the net screws into, using a length of carbon fibre, fibreglass, or a thinner section of bamboo.I have quite a large stock of both from my collection of broken rods, I find a piece about 8-10 inches long ,that is a good fit inside the end of the pole , liberally coat it with epoxy resin and permanently fit the piece inside the pole , now the brasswork can be fitted, sometimes this entails a slight reduction to the diameter of the pole, as there is a reinforcing length of fibreglass inside the pole this will do no harm.
Once the brasswork fits, I give it a liberal coating of epoxy resin then fit it to the pole and drill and fit two brass screws through the brass fitting and into the bamboo/fibreglass, this is now a strong and permanent fit for the top brasswork. The resin is then left to cure.
Now to the butt end.
Different anglers like different fittings, some like a standard type rubber button, screwed into an alloy threaded butt piece, some like something a bit more traditional, maybe a plain brass butt cap.
I have a small supply of vintage brass butt caps, these are from broken/damaged vintage rods that I have collected over the years, the caps are removed, polished and set aside for use.
Alternatively I make my own turned hardwood buttons from seasoned Beech these are finished using Danish Oi.
As I said earlier I do not own a lathe, but I have adapted my heavy duty electric drill to fit onto a jig, and using it I convert the drill into a sort of lathe which is easily strong enough to make a selection of Wooden buttons, these buttons fit onto the butt of the pole with a brass band around the bamboo , the brass bands come from a variety of sources, some come from offcuts from the converted brass couplings , some from discarded plumbing fittings etc, again I have to cut, polish and finish the brasswork.
Now all the hardware has been fitted, I start on the whippings. Usually I confine my whipping to just on the filed down nodes, and as a tipping to the brasswork, but occasionally I am asked for a close whipped finish, along the whole length of the pole, these are very time consuming, but look very nice, sadly though, they may also be subjected to perhaps being scraped over a rocky riverbank, laid upon a fishing platform or another alternative, no matter how many coats of varnish they have they will end up looking the worse for wear so I never personally advise these being done. A rebuild on a fully close whipped pole will take time , whereas a rebuild on a minimally whipped pole can be completed in less than half the time a fully whipped pole will take.
The whippings are all given several coats of internal water based satin varnish as a colour preserver, then the whole pole is given several coats of Yacht varnish. In order to get a consistent smooth finish, I set the pole on a “rod turner “ this is in fact a small motor that turns the pole at about 16 turns per minute, the varnish dries very evenly without any runs or drips.
Once the varnish has hardened off, which takes about 3 weeks, I polish the pole with wax furniture polish and it is ready for its new home.
Below is a sample of a finished close whipped net pole finished in alloy. The Large Maurice Ingham styled Steamed Ash Frame features a “stitched “ mesh and features Alloy spreader and Alloy pole fittings.
Many thanks for taking the time to read the above.
All Text & Images David Craine (OMR) Yorkshire 2021.