Cane Rods: Tips & Tapers

Reviewed by James Piotrowski

To a cane rodmaker, tapers carry a magic all their own. A simple table of planing form stations and measurements--a mere list of numbers--sends the rodmaker into a trance as he converts those numbers into a rod and imagines how the rod will feel in the hand, how it will throw a line, play a fish.

A list of tapers from classic rodmakers and a few unexpected sources will be reason enough for serious rodmakers to buy a copy of Ray Gould's Cane Rods: Tips & Tapers. However, amateur makers or those one who only occasionally make a rod will be less interested because many of these tapers can be found on the internet or in other books, and the rest could probably be acquired over time.

Cane Rods: Tips & Tapers is organized as a series of "tips" for the rodmaker. Most tips are truly helpful, or at least interesting, to a wide variety of makers. For example, two milling/tapering machines are described with complete diagrams. Substantially more effort is devoted to a design by Jack Byrd, while a shorter description is provided for a machine designed by Theron Chamberlain. Both are notable for their use of a conventional wooden planing form to establish taper, an operation that will feel more familiar to the hand-planing rodmaker making the jump to machine milling. Similarly interesting are the tips describing a simple machine for removing twists from the rod, and a similar, but more complex machine for building spiral rods.

On the other hand, some of these tips leave much to be desired. Gould attempts to treat the entire subject of heat treating in two pages, despite the fact that modern makers use at least half-a-dozen different methods and an endless variety of temperatures and times. This "tip" adds nothing to the state of the art, and provides insufficient information to be of use to the less-experienced maker. Likewise, the tip on Maker's Labels is too short to be comprehensive, but covers too much ground to be of much use.

Rodmakers who have completed at least a few rods will enjoy Gould's book despite some significant flaws in editing and sometimes spotty writing. Beginners, or those still just contemplating the art, will be better served looking to one of the several excellent comprehensive guides to the making of cane rods.