Rodbuilding Books from J.D. Wagner

We are excited to have in stock Ed Engle's book, Splitting Cane! If you'd like us to send you a copy, please send us a check for $29.95 + $5 U.S. shipping to:

J.D. Wagner, Inc.

6549 Kingsdale Blvd.

Parma Heights, Ohio 44130

We were very fortunate to have been interviewed by Ed, and his review of our rods was very complimentary. Help support a true lover of cane rods, trout bum, author and all around great guy.


Conversations with Bamboo Rodmakers

Ed Engle

6 x 9 - 224 pages - 17 b/w photos - 21 illustrations

$29.95 Plus shipping

Read About How Wonderful We Are!

-Interviews with 16 contemporary rodmakers

-Tips on caring for a bamboo rod

The old school bamboo fly-fishing rod, with its irresistibly warm, natural, and romantic tradition, is explored through conversations with 16 bamboo rodmakers. Profiled in the book are Carl-Johan Anderberg, Joe Arguello, Glenn Brackett, John Bradford, Walt Carpenter, Mike Clark, Robert Gorman, Jim Hidy, Charlie and Steven Jenkins, Homer Jennings, Ted Knott, Dwight Lyons, George Maurer, Bernard Ramanauskas, Don Schroeder, and Jeff Wagner. The author test-cast the rods and then interviewed the makers to get the story behind each rod's making. The in-depth stories, along with clear, detailed descriptions of bamboo rods, and a chapter on rod-making basics make this an excellent read for all who appreciate a fine bamboo rod.


The following books are offered in association with By clicking on the pictures you can order books through them and they send us a nickle for the referral...every little bit helps! I'm offering capsule descriptions of each for your amusement, and every one of these books is in my personal library and recommended. Keep in mind that every book has something to offer, and if one little tidbit from each becomes incorporated in your building scheme you can easily recoup the cost of each book....and a nice personal library is such a joy for builders and cane aficionados alike.

The Amateur's Lathe by L.H. Sparey

A fantastic introduction to running a lathe. Covers a wealth of topics, including choosing and installing a lathe, lathe accessories, measuring equipment, tooling, work holding, marking out, turning and boring, screw cutting and much much more! Presented in clear, concise language and well-illustrated, this book will provide you with a nice foundation to getting a lathe and getting started making chips! Nice!

A Master's Guide to Building a Bamboo Fly Rod by Everett Garrison, Hoagy B. Carmichael

This has long been considered the 'Bible' of the craft, maybe because of the not so very humble title. Just the same, this is a must have for every rodbuilder's library for no other reason then its collectibility, and it was the first book that really opened things up for the resurgence in cane rodbuilding for the home craftsman.

The b&w pictures are great, as are the plans for binders, etc. Sadly, Garrison was an engineer, and as a result seemed to feel cane rodbuilding was akin to rocket science. Thus, the methods presented include some of the most complex and dumbfounding ways to build a rod imaginable. Lots of pseudoscientific mumbojumbo, complex mathematical formulae for tapers that are more easily and reliably copied directly from other rods, unnecessary tools, etc. add to the impression of complexity when simplicity and forthrightness would have sufficed. This is a shame because after reading this book many are too intimidated to attempt the craft that Garrison so obviously loved and wanted to share.

This in no way detracts from Garrison's accomplishments. We take learning the craft for granted today as there is so much information available, and this is due in large part to the resurgence in the craft this book virtually created. Despite my misgivings about recommending this book for one looking for a primer on how to build their first rod, it's an essential part of every rodbuilder's book collection.

Fundamentals of Building a Bamboo Fly-Rod by George E. Maurer, Bernard P. Elser

If the Garrison book sets the example of unnecessary complexity, then this book provides the antithesis. In this book Bernie Elser(a technical writer) teamed with George Maurer(a full time professional builder with substantial experience) to create the clearest possible example of how to build a rod. Each step is clear, well-illustrated and everything is presented in a logical order. The reader gets the benefit of George's years of experience and Bernie's concise writing. The taper listing is quite extensive and the tapers are (rightly) attributed to the original rodmaker. There are nice drawings of a binder, beveler, forms etc for those that want to build those for themselves.

Perhaps most importantly, the book goes a long way towards demystifying the process by cutting out the BS, and also has a fantastic 'can do' attitude that's infectious.

The glossary is a nice addition not often found in rodbuilding books, and the sources list is quite complete. All in all, a fine cane rodbuilding primer. If I can offer one cautionary note: the book offers directions for brown toning cane with Ammonium Carbonate. The authors provide good advice to only do this process outdoors, etc. but a light flaming gives an almost identical cosmetic effect. The fumes of the ammonia are so corrosive/noxious I can't find any reason to expose myself to this vaporized chemical.

The Lovely Reed: An Enthusiast's Guide to Building Bamboo Fly Rods

by Jack Howell, Glenn Bracket, Rod Walinchus (Illustrator)

A wonderful book, from the Forward by Master builder(and all around fine person) Glen Bracket to the Bibliography by the author. This book has all one needs to know about building a rod and it's hard to quibble with such a fine effort. The taper listing is exceptional and includes quite a few Dickerson tapers that prior to this book were rarely found in published form. Well illustrated w/ b&w photos, beautifully and tastefully layed out.

One very nice and long overdue chapter deals with some of the aspects of selling rods. This is one area not present in other books and provides some insight and guidance to the hobbyist builder that may almost inevitably be faced with the possibility of selling their work. Another chapter offers some much-needed safety information and insight...and if I may be so bold as to offer one further piece of missing advice: buy a fire extinguisher for your shop.

One more thing: Jack, wherever you are, thanks for the kind listing in the Sources section!

Handcrafting Bamboo Fly Rods by Wayne Cattanach

Along with the Garrison book, this book probably got more people started in the craft them any other. Wayne's first edition came along at just the right time, with just the right tone. The Garrison book had been out of print for some time when this book first came out, and further, Wayne made building a rod much easier by eliminating confusing steps and greatly simplifying the process.

The book also comes with a computer disc that uses the Garrison formulas so that interested builders don't have to do the complex math the hard way. I'm not a big fan of designing rods with math/computers- especially for new builders- but it's there for people that have the time to play around a bit and like to experiment. In my opinion only two things can happen with a computer designed rod. #1) you get lucky and it works well, and in this case chances are that the taper or similar was done years ago and you've just reinvented the wheel, or #2) you can end up with a not so good rod for all your time and trouble. Keep in mind this is my opinion, much preferring to stay with traditional tapers that represent years of empirical development and modifying them as desired...which is not the same as doing it by the seat of one's pants.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Wayne for his first edition: way back when I was delivering some wood rod cases to a local flyshop, I saw his book and thought it made rodbuilding look like fun and a challenge, and here we are today. So I think that says something about how well the book is done and the attitude that Wayne brought to his effort. So kudos to Wayne for being the first to do the hard work of getting the info out there in digestible form when the Garrison book was well as our thanks for his kind words about us.

Idyl of the Split Bamboo by George Parker Holden

Now available in a special leather bound reprint edition of the classic that started the entire home rodbuilding movement! Originally published in 1920, originals go for $200+ in excellent condition. (My lovely wife bought me one for my 40th birthday- the only one I've seen with an original dust jacket!) Garrison was said to have consulted the author when he got started in the craft.

It's amazing to this reader that although this book was written 80+ years ago, the basic methods of building cane rods have changed little. Although parts are somewhat 'quaint' today, I consider this a must have historical document. Included as a bonus, the final chapters deal with making silkworm gut leaders at home and setting up a fishing camp.

The Bamboo Rod and How to Build It

by Calude M. Kreider, James W. Schaaf (no picture)

Originally published in 1951, this small book has a wealth of information that belies its size. Kreider includes a number of tapers(mostly big sticks that were fashionable at the time, as well as some spinning and baitcasting rods) and there are quite a few in his preferred 5-strip configuration. This book is currently out of print, but you can special order one new or used. Its modest cost makes it well-worth having for your library.

The Angler's Bamboo by Luis Marden

Another essential book for the libraries of both cane builders and collectors, Luis Marden takes the reader on a tour from the historical roots of angling, through the evolution of fishing rods into the crafting of rods from Arundinaria amabilis to the present. Along the way we find how this lovely reed was first described in scientific literature and how it's grown and processed. The author's color and b&w photos bring the cane and the growing area in China into sharp resolve. A beautiful little book.

Classic and Antique Fly Fishing Tackle: A Guide for Collectors and Anglers

by A. J. Campbell

Probably the best single reference source for the history of classic fly tackle, this think book is exhaustively researched, annotated with footnotes and is heavy with b&w detailed photos. Not a value guide and more akin to scholarly research, you can find information about classic tackle companies, the history and evolution of tackle, care of rods, etc etc. Fantastic!

Fishing Bamboo by John Gierach, Glenn Wolff (Illustrator)

Perhaps no one has done more to introduce cane rods to a younger generation of fly fishers then John Gierach. I've always been a fan of his writing style: short, concise vignettes that established him as the Robert Traver of our time. This book follows that stylistic formula and is an easy and informative read.

The book begins with his introduction to cane rods, gives a bit of history about the craft, an overview of the material and building process and follows with choosing, caring for and describing some new and vintage cane rods. Throughout, his love and enthusiasm is apparent.

My only reservations with an otherwise fine book are his apparent over reliance on only a few builders for his inside information about the building process. Had he interviewed more builders he may have been able to dispel some myths that unfortunately continue to be propagated. Also, his insistence that an 8 1/2' 5 weight represents an ideal trout rod may be fine for Western fishing, but no builder I've talked to in the East ever had a request for one until he wrote that opinion....not that it's bad for business, mind you, but more an indication of the power of the written word.

The Book of Bamboo by David Farrelly

This is a very good book that is all about bamboo. Rather then describe it's contents in my own words, I'll pull the description from the book itself:

"Now available once again with a new preface by the author, The Book of Bamboo introduces us to the oldest, most remarkable resource on the planet. Part catalog, part history, The Book of Bamboo shows us how this versatile wood, which is both sustainable and plentiful, has been used for thousands of years to make items ranging from things needed for survival like clothing and housing to more exotic and luxurious objects like phonograph needles and children's toys, as well as dozens of others. With information both practical and wistful, David Farrelly tells us about the plant's biology and life cycle, gives tips on harvesting and planting, and lore about the ancient wood. Farrelly conveys the rich and timeless message that bamboo -- strong, flexible, and beautiful in both its natural and its finished states is an abundant resource that could beneficially replace many of the less sustainable materials now commonly used in many aspects of our daily lives and transform our culture in the process."

 Bamboo Rod Restoration Handbook by Michael Sinclair (no picture)

This book contains a slew of information on how to identify, restore and repair classic cane rods, with an emphasis on production rods. What I think is perhaps the best advice in this book is the author's insistance on restoring cane rods to original condition, thereby preserving their value. Just about eveything is covered, from logging in the rod, through stripping old varnish and applying new coats, re-wrapping to original specs etc. Also has a nice supplier list.

Best of the Planing Form: A Collection of Articles, Drawings, Essays & Anecdotes

by Ronald Barch (Editor), Robert McKeon (Editor)

This is emphatically not the book to buy if you are looking for a rodbuilding book to take you through the process in a step-by-step fashion. This book was not intended as a 'how-to' tome, and people new to the craft might find the information overwhelming and disjointed as the editors present a disparate collection of articles that were originally published in the Planing Form newsletter.

The diversity present is a strength, however, and the articles range from practical shop hints to waxing philosophic about the many aspects of cane rods. The contributors represent the wide range and collective creativity of the hobbyist rodbuilding community and the editors somehow found a way to organize the material into logical chapter form. This book will spark a rodmaker's creativity and demonstrates that the world is full of creative, talented and passionate people all linked through their common love of the split cane flyrod.

Moose in the Water/Bamboo on the Bench : A Journal and a Journey

by Kathy Scott, Ronald J. Barch (Editor), Michael Miling (Illustrator)

I found this book to be a very pleasant read, and I think you will, also. As the title suggests, this book is about the journey of building a rod and is not a how-to book. It's about process, time, and the passing seasons as documented in author's Kathy Scott's journal as she observes both nature and her husband David's fledgling rodbuilding efforts.

The author and her husband are both fine people, and by the end of the book you'll come to appreciate the care in the crafting of a cane rod and Kathy's supportive and loving documentary tribute to the journey.

Collector's Guide to Antique Fishing Tackle by Silvio Calabi

Although out of print, you can occasionally pick up a copy of this through Amazon's vast book finding service, and it's well-worth adding to your library. This is a coffee table-sized book, with the most beautiful photography of rods, reels, lures, decoys and angling art. The author is the first, in my opinion, to comprehend that angling ephemera can be appreciated as art and as such good photographs in large format are essential. The photos and text will get any tackle junky's heart racing and do great justice to finely crafted items. Note: this is not a value guide!

Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 J.D. Wagner, Inc. (webpage and descriptive text only, with exceptions noted)

Bamboo Garden Copyright Kim Robertson