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The question of how to make a tenkara rod comes up very frequently. It is not my intent here to go into depth on how to make a tenkara rod. Rather, I’ll give you a brief introduction into the 2 main options for those interested in making tenkara rods as a hobby.
This is what we do, primarily working with factories that have intimate knowledge on the construction and assembly of tenkara rods as manufacturers. It is way beyond the scope of this page to talk much about that, but we’ll cover the gist of it.
The process is similar to that of making a fishing rod. We start with the design of the tenkara rod we have in mind. First we go through CAD designs and some virtual simulations (bend profiles, weights, balance points, etc) with the engineers at our factories. Then we fairly quickly move on the to the first prototype, just a rough blank to see if the design translates into a physical product. Depending on the rod there could be anywhere from 3 (minimum number of prototypes I have gone through) to 14 prototypes (maximum I have gone through). Here’s a Q&A Daniel did with Jason Klass of Tenkara Talk about tenkara rod designs and how to make a tenkara rod.
The factory then starts with a sheet of carbon fiber, cuts it into a “flag” (a piece of carbon fiber that follows a pattern established during the design), then they roll the flag onto a mandrel (a very precisely machined metal rod). Then, the carbon fiber, now wrapped around a mandrel, is put in an oven to “set”. From there it proceeds into the finishing stages of painting, cleaning, etc. Making a tenkara rod like this requires lots of machinery and expertise.
We get asked about the tenkara rods, are they made as a 12ft rod and then cut? NO. Each segment of a tenkara rod is made separately (on average tenkara rods have 9 segments, each goes through the steps above separately, and is cleaned separately and finally assembled.
Tenkara rods were originally made out of bamboo, unsplit bamboo. The Japanese angler always had the advantage of having, close to his home, wild bamboo. That allowed him to select each piece, which from the ground already looked like it would work as a perfect fishing rod. Because he had at his disposal so much bamboo he could hand-pick what he wanted and didn’t have to concern himself with “manufacturing” his bamboo tenkara rod by splitting it and then regluing it. Rather, he concerned himself with selecting the best possible bamboo, drying it for a long period of time (amateur tenkara rod makers let it dry for 2 years on average, professional bamboo tenkara rod makers have been known to let the bamboo dry for 10 years or more). Bamboo tenkara rods are typically made from 3 species of bamboo. The tip of the rod is made from “Hoteichiku” bamboo, the middle parts typically from Suzutake bamboo, and finally the butt section typically from Yatake bamboo (note, “take” is the Japanese word for bamboo). From there on he would proceed to drill the inside of each segment of bamboo to make it hollow, and thus lighter and able to accept the thinner segments.
Bamboo tenkara rods are beautiful works of art, but perhaps not super practical since broken parts are nearly impossible to repair or replace, and they are a bit more unwieldily to carry.
Part 2/3 , 9:12
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SGV8E96 … er&list=UL
Part 3/3 , 8:40
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqXvPIom … re=related
Because of the difficulty of hand-selecting the right piece of bamboo out in nature, most anglers outside of Japan are not easily able to make tenkara bamboo rods the traditional way. Additionally, because of the tradition of split-cane rod making in western countries (likely due to the same reason anglers nowadays don’t make unsplit bamboo rods), western anglers wishing to make their rod are attempting to make it in the split-bamboo rod making tradition, which involves getting a very large piece of bamboo (tonkin bamboo is the species of choice), then splitting it into long thin strips, and then shaving and sanding each long strip down according to a taper. This is certainly a laborious process, and while it works well for short western fly-fishing rod, this process results in a heavy rod, which becomes too heavy at the length necessary for tenkara (12ft on average).
A quick online search for “how to make a tenkara bamboo rod” reveals a few sources that could shed some light on this: http://classicflyrodforum.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=70332