Paradigm Custom Rod Design

Benchcrafted Fly & Freshwater Split Bamboo Fishing Rods for the Contemporary Angler
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   intro      tonkin historia
In the hands of a custom rod maker the bamboo culm goes through numerous steps in crafting a custom fishing rod. From  preparational phases of splitting, heat treating, roughing and final taper planing - right down to the finite stages of personalization. It's been said that while undergoing the fabrication process, its "maker" will  actually handle the fishing rod several thousand times prior to completion.
A member of the grass family, 'Tonkin' bamboo was assigned the scientific name of Arundinaria amabilis by Dr. Floyd McClure. Upon a visit to China, McClure was the first to scientifically describe the plant and recognized that it was a distinct and previously unreported species. At the time (1925) this bamboo had already been in use for building fly rods and was known by a variety of different common names. The name was amended to Arundinaria amabilis McClure in the doctor's honor and translated, means 'The Lovely Bamboo.'
In addition, most people assume from the common name 'Tonkin' bamboo that the species grows along the gulf of Tonkin. Actually, this species is propagated in a rather limited geographic area along the Sui River in southern China, north and west of Hong Kong. The geography along the Sui River provides the perfect climate for this species. The river is bound by steep hillsides and it is along these hills that workers plant, tend and harvest the bamboo. The area receives an average of seventy inches of rain a year and although the plant thrives with a lot of rain it doesn't do well in standing water. The steeply sloped banks therefor provide the drainage and altitude that the plant prefers.
As a family, the bamboo's are the fastest growing plants on earth and once the it sends up new shoots it takes only a month or two for the plant to grow to its mature height of about forty feet. At this point the mature 'stalk' of the plant is referred to as a culm and larger culms average about 2-2 ½" in diameter at the base and taper progressively smaller toward the top. Culms ideal for rodbuilding are those that grow straight with a minimum of branching leaves and with dense and strong walls. The culms are marked by scratching the enamel (outer surface) of the cane with a symbol (grower's mark) so that during the plant's life and subsequent harvesting each person's labor can be accounted for. The plants are allowed to mature for at least three years before they are harvested.
Harvesting is accomplished by workers climbing the steep hillsides and slashing the culms with a machete at the base of the plant. The culms are slid down the hillside to the banks of the Sui River and bundled into large floating 'barges'. Workers stand upon huge trains of these floating barges and guide the whole floating mass of bamboo downstream to be further processed.
Processing involves workers separating the culms from the assembled 'rafts' and scrubbing the bright green culms with sand to remove lichens that grow on the surface enamel. The culms are then dried in the sun, turning the color of the culm to the familiar straw yellow that rodbuilders prize. The dried culms may then undergo further processing to straighten those that have grown crooked and cut to length and bundled for shipping.
Culms that a rodbuilder receives are typically cut from the lowest twelve feet of the plant and are packaged in bundles of twenty. The walls of the bamboo are thickest in this portion, and it is the 'power fibers' present in the walls of the bamboo that give it the strength and resiliency that make it so prized for rodbuilding. Only a small portion of the yearly harvest however, will be exported and used to fashion fishing rods. The bamboo is also used to make furniture, fence posts, scaffolding, garden stakes and a whole host of other objects that make the bamboo so valuable.