All About Tenkara Nets (includes video)

April 12, 2020

Listen to audio only:

In this episode we cover all you need to know about tenkara nets. The episode is over an hour and twenty minutes, to so help you navigate it we are including the time stamps below for your reference. Tenkara nets have some key advantages over most other nets, and they can be a lot of fun to make as well. For more information visit

  • What are tenkara nets (3:10)
    • What are the differences between tenkara nets and other fly-fishing nets, the advantages of tenkara nets for fly-fishing, and how to use a tenkara net (4:30)
    • What are the best sizes for tenkara nets (6:50)
    •  How tenkara nets are made (11:00)
    • The origins and history of tenkara nets (11:40)
  • How to make a tenkara net (starting at 17:00)
    • What tree to use for making tenkara nets (21:13)
    • How to select a branch for making your tenkara net (26:40)
    • Ideal handle size for a tenkara net and how to land a fish with your net (30:00)
    •  Ideal tenkara net shape (31:50)
    • Wabi-sabi: tenkara nets with character (32:20)
    • Preventing tenkara net breakage and fixing a tenkara net (37:50)
    • When to collect a branch for making a tenkara net (38:40)
    • What tools you need to make a tenkara net (40:00)
    • How to shape a branch with steam (52:57)
    • Drying a branch to make your tenkara net (54:37)
    • Prevent cracks when working with wood and your tenkara net (56:13)
    • Splicing the joint of a tenkara net hoop (58:50)
    • How to finish your tenkara net: varnishes, sanding, etc (1:06:35)
    • How to attach the mesh bag to your tenkara net (1:15:28)
  • Teaser! New Tenkara USA net on the horizon! (1:19:40)
Referenced in this episode:

Purchase traditional mesh bags for tenkara nets here
Daniel’s early experiences and notes on how to make a tenkara net
How to connect the mesh bag to the frame of your tenkara net:

Transcript of podcast episode All About Tenkara Nets (includes video)


What Are Tenkara Nets

This is Daniel Galhardo and you’re listening to the Tenkara Cast, the podcast about a simple Japanese method of fly fishing, tenkara. It is only possible we create content such as this podcast and all the videos that we create because of your support. So we thank you so very much for purchasing Tenkara USA rods, lines and flies.

Alright folks, long episode ahead at an hour and 20 minutes, but I cover every single thing about tenkara nets in detail here. The making of the tenkara nets is gonna start on the 17-minute mark. And one hour and six minutes, I cover the finishing, and everything else that you need to know about tenkara nets is in between. For more information, visit us at Thank you and enjoy it.

Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of the Tenkara Cast. This is actually gonna be the first time I’m doing a video simultaneously, because the topic of today’s discussion is tenkara nets. And I thought that this would be a very visual kind of topic. I’m gonna try my best to convey the information just via audio as well, for those of you who are listening. Before this episode, I’ll highly encourage you to come to our website, and look at the page for the tenkara nets episode, where I’m gonna be trying to show you different things in person. So hopefully, it makes sense. I’ve never tried to do both at the same time. I’m gonna be looking a little awkward in the video, and I might be sounding a little cumbersome in the audio, [chuckle] so stay with me. Forgive me if I make some blunders today. But here I am. This is the little tenkara museum, actually, that I have set up in my house. This is where I keep my collection of tenkara nets as well as a lot of mementos of tenkara that I’ve come across over the last 12 years with tenkara, things that I’ve acquired in Japan, friends have given me here, customers have sent us, and so forth. And actually, by the way, if you’re watching this video, I might as well ask you at this point.

Take a look at this. If you know who sent me this really beautiful miniature tenkara rod with a tenkara net, which is really, really well done, let me know. Somebody sent me this years ago. It’s a wooden frame and the inside has this kinda fake moss, like miniature moss with a trout. And the detail is incredible. But if you know who sent this or if you sent this, please let me know. Because when it had arrived I couldn’t read the name. I forget now, it’s been a few years. I forget if it was damaged or if I just couldn’t read it. But it’s beautiful, and I never got to thank that person. So if you know who sent this beautiful miniature or if you did it, please let me know. ’cause I feel awful I never got to thank whoever sent me that. It’s got a… And it does have a tenkara net, which I’m gonna be covering here today about how to make it. And that person really did a good job with a miniature tenkara net. So let’s start talking first about what is a tenkara net? How does it differ from a western fly fishing net and so forth? So the first thing that you’re gonna notice in pretty much all of the nets that I have on my wall here is that one of the main things that they have that is different from a western fly fishing net or any other fishing net in the market right now is the angle between the handle and frame.

What Are the Best Sizes for Tenkara Nets

So the net that I have in my hand here, I’m holding the handle vertically, and the frame of the net, the hoop, it’s almost at a 90-degree angle from that. The angle can vary a lot. It can be very steep like this, it can be very acute, 90 degrees, or much less. This net was one that I got in Japan, maybe a 20-degree angle. So they can vary a lot. But there’s, pretty much all of the nets are gonna have a little bit of an angle to them. And the tenkara nets can be either crafted out of one branch of a tree, which is what I’m gonna be focusing on in this episode, or they can be manufactured out of modern materials such as aluminum, carbon fiber and so forth, which is something that we are actually developing at Tenkara USA, and I’m gonna talk a little bit more at the end of the episode.

And there are a couple of things that happen when you put the angle on the net. One is that when you’re carrying it, one of the most common ways to carry the net is to put it on your weighing belt, slide it, the handle into it. And what happens is you’re gonna have one little point of contact on your back. And you can walk around, you can move freely. And you just have this net sticking out with one tiny point of contact around your hip, as opposed to kinda having a flat board. It’s pretty much always cumbersome to carry a western fly fishing net. You can hang it with magnets, but I think it’s flopping. You can… There’s different ways to carry it. You can tie it to a backpack and so forth. But my favorite thing about tenkara nets is the angle that allows me to carry the net this way. If I’m wearing a little backpack, I can just slide it on the side of my belt, and the angle’s gonna conform to my hip a little bit, and it’s just gonna be carrying… And I’m gonna have this… The frame slightly in front of me and the handle is gonna be kinda tucked behind me. I have a backpack and it’s completely out of the way, I can move through brush and nothing’s gonna get caught.

So that’s kind of the two things in terms of carrying the net that make it very convenient. And then the other thing, in terms of functionality, is that the angle allows you to hold… Support the net with your knees in different angles while you can have both hands free to manage fish. So I’m gonna do a close up with the video here so that you can see it. But imagine I’m just kinda crouching down and then I’m kind of… As I’m crouching down, and I’ll show you a close up in a minute.

You’re supporting the frame or the handle behind your knee. And all of a sudden, you have both hands free, for example. Or you can kinda put it between your legs or your knees so the handle’s tucked in between my legs, and the two arms are gonna be propped against my thigh or my knee, and I can have both hands free as I manage fish. Or if I’m in deeper water, similar to the carrying the net, I can tuck the handle right here on the side. And I can have the fish right here if I’m in deeper water, both hands are free. Maybe I tuck the rod under my arm, and I can manage the fish right here.

So the net that I’m holding in my hand, kind of small. This is a very common kinda size if you’re fishing a mountain stream, where you’re catching fish up to maybe 17 inches. And believe it or not, this net here, it’s got a diameter of roughly 9 inches, 9.5 inches. And because the fish is gonna be curving, you can fit the fish very easily in this up to 16 or 17 inches, even. But the frame size can vary a lot. This one is about 9 inches diameter. This one here is probably about 11 inches. Very commonly those are the main extremes. I’m gonna show you here in this video one that I never got to finish, which it is a larger one that I’m hoping to make. This is gonna be something for fish maybe up to maybe 20 inches or so. ’cause I have a net that I’ve developed, a prototype, before, roughly, I think it was like a 13-14 inch diameter, and I’ve had fish up to 22 inches in this. So fish are gonna curve. They’re gonna be sitting in there.

So I’m gonna cover one more thing that you might notice is kind of different on these nets. There’s two things, actually. First is that the mesh bag is usually like a basket, usually kind of firm. It’s got a little bit of a firmness to it. Not a super soft mesh, even though there are some ones that are really soft like this one. Most of them have a little bit of a structure to them. And the other thing that you’ll notice is that the mesh size, the little holes, are really, really, really small. This one here, I think the size of the little diameter between each little hole is about a millimeter. And typically these are handmade. So it’s a super labor-intensive process. There’s a reason they’re very expensive. Largely I think the mesh bag is what contributes to a lot of the cost, ’cause they’re so labor-intensive to make. But the very fine mesh size, what it does is that it cradles the fish really gently. So sometimes we run across people saying like, “Oh, it’s a nylon, not a bag,” but because the holes are so fine, it’s almost like a cloth. We’ve never seen a single scale on any of the nets that we use. And that’s because it’s just such a fine mesh material.

And typically, even though they are knotted, the knots are superfine, but they’re also on the outside. So that’s the rougher part of the net more often and not. So just a little bit about the net. What I like about the mesh bag, the very fine holes, is that there’s nowhere for your fly to get stuck. So the fly is not gonna get through a hole and then just get tangled like it does with nets with a larger size. And also, like some nets with very large hoops or large hole sizes, they can even damage a fish by… I’ve seen gills of the fish getting damaged, just hitting the hole of the mesh, ’cause they can fit in there. Not super common, but that happens.

So I like this mesh style a lot. I’ll talk a little bit about it in our making part, but just since I’m talking about the mesh size, we have a few mesh bags available for sale at But it’s hard to find a really good consistent source. And they are expensive. They are like… I forgot what the price is. I should’ve looked it up. But they’re not cheap, ’cause they’re very, very labor-intensive. But if you’re watching a video, they just come in this little basket, a couple of sizes, depending on the hoop size that you’re making a net for. And that’s available on our website. We still have a few. We don’t have a ton of them. But you might be able to use other materials or other mesh bags and that kind of thing.

A name that you’re gonna be seeing thrown around for tenkara nets very commonly, it’s gonna be tamo, T-A-M-O. So tamo, it’s specifically a fishing net, whether it’s ayu or a tenkara. And that’s gonna be known within fishing circles. The other name that people use for nets, and I just learned that recently, is ami, A-M-I. That’s a general term for nets. People that don’t fish may recognize that term, but anglers will call it tamo. So oftentimes, when you’re looking at tenkara discussions, people are referring to it as tamo as a way to differentiate these style nets with the angle and that kind of thing from other nets. So those are a couple of the main differences between tenkara nets and other ones, but let me talk a little bit about where they come from.

So tenkara nets, one of the most fascinating thing about them is that they were essentially developed by people with what nature gave them. They were not necessarily designed. I think people, over time, started kinda picking up little things that made that net a little bit better than others. But this is something that nature gives the angler to make. And what I mean by that is that the way the traditional tenkara nets are made, they’re made from one single branch of a tree. So if you imagine a branch coming out of a tree, and that branch coming out is gonna be your handle, and it’s gonna keep going. And you’re picking a branch that has two parallel arms somewhere in the middle. And you’re gonna be hooping that into your frame. And I’m holding the net in my hand here, so if you are watching the video you can see that very clearly…

More commonly, and I’ll talk about how to select a branch, if you visualize a plus sign where the branch keeps on going, and you have two parallel arms, that’s the ideal branch. You cut off the very middle and then you kinda have a hoop. And that’s what nature gave anglers to make nets with. And I love the fact that it’s just like something that is so well-designed, so functional, yet is just something that nature provided us. And that’s a beautiful thing. So the nets, we don’t know exactly when they were developed, by whom and so forth. But there’s a very, very strong chance that the tenkara net was originally not made for tenkara. And the reason I say that is that as far as we know, tenkara anglers back in the day, the professional anglers, they were not really catching… They were not needing a net. So they had the rod, line, fly. They caught fish. Most of their fish were under 15 inches or so. But even the bigger ones that they caught, they would just bring it, they were eating the fish. They were just taking them for food. So they would just kinda take ’em, kill ’em, put ’em in a creel and that kind of thing. But they didn’t use nets as far as we know, back in the day.

However, there’s a different style of fishing in Japan that is called ayu fishing. And there’s a couple of ways that people catch ayu. But one of the most common ways is that they’re using a live decoy fish. And they have these super long rods, 20 plus feet. And the ayu are really small fish. They are like 7 inches. A 9-inch one is actually a big fish. They’re really prized for the eating, the flavor of the fish. But the way that the angler will catch an ayu, 20-foot long rods. They kinda feel like they have a fish, they lift it really quickly. And the objective that they… The way that they’ll bring the fish in is that they would lift it quickly and the fish will kinda come flying towards them, and they try to get it in the net. So that’s kinda how we still see nowadays people using or catching ayu in Japan. So when you go there, see these people with super long rods, chances are it’s nothing cod, it’s gonna be ayu fishing that you’re watching. They have very large nets, very large hoops, and they bring the fish in. And they have the large hoops, not because of the size of the fish, but so that the fish can go in very easily. They don’t have to aim quite as hard.

But I think the tenkara angler probably took the design. And just kind of when we started looking at tenkara more as a sport, probably in the ’70s, maybe a little bit before that, then they started using tenkara nets. I think that tenkara nets have been around for much longer for a variety of reasons. We don’t really know. But primarily, the nets became more common when people started fishing for sport. So that’s where I think the nets come from as far as I discovered in my research.

How to Make a Tenkara Net

So let’s talk about making the tenkara nets. So, I was holding in my hand, a little earlier, the branch that you make a tenkara net out of. So the first thing is gonna be… Let me describe the process as a whole, just to kind of give you an overview. You go out to the woods, you look for the ideal branch. That might be half of the work, especially in the beginning. You look for the branch, if it’s gonna work well, you kinda test, you know, see if it’s gonna form a hoop and that kinda thing, you cut it. I’ll talk about when to cut it and how to select a branch, but you form a hoop, let it dry for a long time in the shape, and then you’re gonna splice the arms of the net in the middle here. You’re gonna glue that together, so the splice is gonna be really fine, hopefully very strong. It’s gonna be a long splice, as long as possible, and then you finish it if you want to. Oftentimes, I like to use a tongue oil finish, and I’ll talk a little bit about that, as well… About finishes. Let it dry, so it’s a little bit more water-resistant, put a mesh bag, and that’s it. So that’s a process, the overview of the process, which is, “How long does it take to make the net?”

So, start talking about the walking in the woods, finding a branch. That might be half of your time right there. Could be a couple hours, could be a day, could be a couple of weeks. I don’t know. That’s gonna vary a lot. Then, the actual making, we’re gonna strip the bark, we’re gonna form the hoop, and we’re gonna let it dry, and that’s really really important. I’ll talk a little bit more about drying in a second, but for the most part, that could take from three months up to a year if you’re living in a very humid environment, but you don’t wanna skimp on the drying part, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that in a second. That’s really important, so that could take a long time. Once it’s kind of done drying, you have most of the shape done, it depends on your skill level at that point and how much work you wanna put into it.

The hardest part for me was always splicing the branch right here. I didn’t have a lot of experience, had to learn some tricks along the way, but splicing the branch kinda took me a little bit of trial and error. After a while, I became a little bit better, but that always took me an hour, two hours to make it kind of properly. Then I spent a… You know, glued it, let it dry, let it cure, and then I spent time either carving the branch, kind of finishing the handle, shaving it, that kind of thing. That might take me from an hour, if the branch was primarily all done. If it was a really good branch, very smooth and so-forth, or I’ve had branches, like the juniper one is a very hard wood, I kind of remember spending, at least like, probably about 10 hours of working, like carving, kind of shaping it and that kind of thing. So, that’s kind of the answer for how long it takes.

Let me preface this whole next part here about making tenkara nets that I have no woodworking experience whatsoever. I mean, I’ve made a couple of projects at home, but really, no woodworking experience, so if you do have experience with woodworking, and I say something that makes no sense, that’s why, ’cause the nets were actually the first project that got me interested in woodworking, and that’s actually the only project that I work with wood. And it just became kind of… Became interested in making my own, and I started learning a few things and made a bunch of mistakes. I kinda tried to register my making process in the beginning on our website, and I’ll put a link in this episode to a couple of posts that I’ve made in the past about how I kinda went about making them, but no woodworking experience.

And, to share a little bit about my history with woodworking, making nets, became fascinated with them, and I lived in a small apartment at the time, but the first part of it was finding the proper branch, and that actually took a fair amount of research because you can read the Japanese information, but we don’t have the same trees as they do in Japan, so it might read that the trees that are often used for tenkara net-making in Japan are Kaia, it’s a type of tree called a Kaia, K-A-I-A. In the states or other countries, we don’t have that tree, so when I started becoming interested, first thing I was like… I started looking at trees all over the place, first of all, to see if I could find the right shape.

And then I was doing a little reading about water resistance and that kinda quality, durability, all this other stuff that I was reading, and to me, it became clear that the most important thing is gonna be having trees that have the right shape, that provide the right shape for you, ’cause you might have trees that are really good for water purposes, but they don’t have the right branch configuration. If the branches are… The different arms are not parallel, it’s not gonna work really well, so the first, the main most important thing, and pretty much the only thing that I really take into account, is finding the tree that provides the right shape and the right diameters, as well. And I found that primarily pine trees tend to have this configuration where you have one arm, one branch sticking out with two kinda side branches sometimes parallel or in line with each other, I should say, not parallel. A branch is going to the left and to the right and are completely in line with each other, so you can make a hoop.

Not all of them are gonna have it, but in my experience in America, it has been Jeffrey Pines and Ponderosa Pines have been the easiest trees to find those branches. On my wall here, if you’re looking at the video, you’ll see this net here, this is actually made out of a Juniper Tree. So Juniper Trees tend to be really narrow, the branches are all over the place. It’s not completely in line, but I literally, and I’ll talk about how I started visualizing that, but I literally saw that branch when I was driving and I spotted it, and I cut it, and I made it into one of my favorite nets, actually, right there. Another net that I made, it was a different tree or different plant, is a Manzanita. But I will say that right now that I’ve never found, never been able to find another Juniper branch or another Manzanita branch that would work as well. So they’re very rare to find the right shapes out of other trees especially Manzanitas and Junipers. You might be able to, but it might take a lot of looking.

So when I kind of first identify that Jeffrey, as a matter of fact, and I’ll share this right now as well, the Manzanita branch by the way was my very first net and actually it is one of my favorite, I’ve never used it ’cause it’s just so cute and pretty, but it is my first net so I was just kinda lucky that we spotted it. Actually, I think my wife spotted a branch when we were looking at a bush and I cut it and made a really nice net.

But Jeffrey Pines and Ponderosa Pines, let’s talk about branch selection. So when I first started, I started looking at those trees primarily, and I would see sometimes that they would have the right configuration and most of what it took was walking in the woods a lot. And you also wanna be mindful of a couple of things. You do not wanna be cutting branches out of private property or national parks, those would be illegal. Private property unless you know the owner, you have to ask for permission obviously. Definitely don’t cut it in any National Park. Most state parks wouldn’t allow it as well.

So be mindful of where you can legally cut a branch. National Forest, different national forests might have different regulations. The ones, the times that I cut branches, these were in national forest in California, primarily, although I had some in Colorado as well where I contacted them or I went to their website, and it specifically said something about if you’re collecting less than, I don’t remember the numbers now but less than five pounds or less than a certain number of branches, you can do it as long as it’s a hobby and you’re not doing it commercially. If you’re doing it commercially, you start having to get licenses, and permissions, and that kind of thing.

So for the most part, there’s a lot of places you might be able to collect a branch and you’re just trimming a tree. But I will mention when you’re cutting a branch off, try to cut the branch as close to the tree as possible, or as close to where the last arms of the tree are gonna be coming out, you don’t wanna cut the branch that the part that’s gonna form the handle in the very middle because that’s gonna be a little harder for the tree to heal.

So that’s… Once I started looking at those trees in the beginning, it took me a ton of walking like hours of walking and luckily, I really enjoyed that part of it. I’d just spend just a lot of time in the woods looking for the right branch. And that just kinda got my mind really focused, it was just a very pleasant way to spend time in the woods learning about trees. And with time, I started noticing that I was finding those branches quicker and quicker, it didn’t take very long. Like in the beginning, it was really hard to spot them ’cause I was kind of learning. But with time, I started spotting them really quickly when they were around to the point where maybe just after like 10 outings or something, I started spotting them when I was driving, even.

Because you just kinda see what you’re looking for, and you kind of key in on that. And that’s how I started kinda picking and branches. But what do you wanna look for when you’re making a tenkara net out of a branch? First thing is gonna be the configuration that I mentioned, you wanna get the plus sign shape branch coming out of the tree with two little arms to the sides. As in line as possible, and you also wanna look at the diameters that that branch is gonna provide you because that main branch is gonna be the handle. So you wanna have something that’s kind of gonna be nice and just nice to hold that, keep in mind though that the tree is gonna have bark around it, and I’ll talk about that in a second, but you wanna get something that’s slightly fatter than you want for both the handle and the frame, because you’re gonna be removing the bark, doing some sanding and that kind of thing. So, you know, handle size that’s completely a personal preference. For the hoop size, for the hoop, the thickness of the arms here, they’re gonna form the hoop.

I kind of think of it as a little… Kinda like the thickness of a Sharpie pen or a pinky finger kind of worth for most people, I suppose. But you can’t go too wrong if you get a little bit fatter, you can always cut some off. If you get it too thin, then that might be a little bit harder to… It might not have quite as much strength. So that’s the main part in there.

While the trees… While the branch is still on the tree, you want to get the side arms and bend them so that you can see that it’s going to form a hoop, more or less naturally. So you kind of want to give it a little flex. You want to make sure that the diameter is going to be appropriate, that the thickness is consistent throughout until the two branches meet and that kind of thing. So you want to just test that before you ever cut a branch. I have had branches that look beautiful, the handle was really nice. Branches were… The side arms were in line with each other, and when I bent them, one just wanted to come in a straight line, the other one formed the nice hoop because maybe one side was very thin, not quite as strong as the other size, so I let those be. You don’t want to go cutting things that you’re not gonna be very proud of because it’s going to take a while for it to make the net. You’re going to put a lot of effort into it. Talking about handle size, by the way. A lot of people think that an ideal net will have a long handle. In my opinion, that cannot really be farther from the truth because with proper technique, when you’re fishing with tenkara, your technique is bringing a fish in is always going to be similar.

You’re gonna either angle the rod if you have a short line, or if you have a long line, you’re going to handline the fish. But at that point, you want to bring the fish as close to you as you possibly can so that you can calmly have control over it, and you can scoop it. So I bring my fish… If you’re watching me, my hand that is holding the line, and the fish is below it, is maybe 12 inches away from my hand holding the net. That’s how close I want to be. I don’t want to be with my hand holding the line, extended up, several feet up and trying to net the fish with the long handle because then I’m gonna have less control. So if you’re watching me on a video, long handle, not very useful. And if I’m here, it’s really awkward.

So for me, the ideal handle size is roughly ten inches. Something that gives me a little room to play with my hands, but never more than 12 inches for me. Ten inches is a really good size short handle because I’m always scooping the fish in close to me. And that’s a huge technique tip right here that I want to give you today for tenkara fishing. Just bring the fish as close to you as you can. I know a lot of people are going to have hesitation to do that ’cause they think the fish is going to break the line, but if you do it gently… If the fish wants to run a little bit, you let it go, but do it gently. You’re bringing this really stubborn dog to you. That’s how you want to approach that. One thing that I mentioned a couple of times is that you wannna pick a branch that’s going to be a plus sign shape. And I mention that because the most common…

When people start becoming interested in making tenkara nets, what I see the most is that people will pick a Y-shaped branch. It’s much easier to find that kind of branch. You just have this branch coming out. You’ve, maybe one branch going off a similar direction and forming this Y, and then you form that into a hoop. But there’s a few reasons that I… Couple of main reasons really that I recommend you stay away from that kind of branch. For one, when it’s a Y-shaped branch, even though it’s easier to find and you can make it, you can still form it, there’s a high likelihood that you could have a split in the middle as the branch dries or throughout use and that kind of thing because there’s a fair amount of stress going on in-between those two branches that wants to force it out sometimes.

The other thing… And it’s going to be harder to form a circular shape. So that’s another thing that maybe I didn’t to talk about, but you’ll notice that almost all tenkara nets have a circular shape as you can get. And part of that is just that you’re gonna put the fish here, you don’t have to worry about orientation. But one of the biggest reasons is that a circle is going to be one of the strongest shapes that you can make as a net. If you have something that’s Y-shaped and little bit more rectangular, if you hit it, or if you weigh it, it’s going to have stress in different areas. A circle tends to distribute the forces a little bit more evenly. So if you have a large fish here, and let’s say your branch is not particularly thick, a circular branch is going to take the pressure much better than a thin branch that is not circular. So that’s something that you wanna keep in mind for sure. Now… So I think I talked about most everything. I want to talk about the branch selection. Takes time. Enjoy walking in the woods. That’s my main advice.

Actually, and one more thing. Let me talk about the aesthetic part of it, which is one of my favorite parts of it. The tenkara nets are just so beautiful that… And one of the things that really can make them very beautiful or absolutely stunning, in my opinion, is finding branches that have character to them. That’s why I love this juniper branch. I thought it had a lot of character to it. For those of you watching the video, you’ll see a little bit of the pith exposed in a couple of areas. That’s natural. I didn’t do that. It’s as circular as I was able to get it and as uniform, but the branch is gnarled. It’s got a little bit of a waviness to it. So that branch has got a lot of character. It’s just beautiful, beautiful wood as well. Some nets that I’ve seen in Japan, like this, for example.

Some nets that I’ve seen in Japan will have what some people might think of as flaws, in the handle or throughout different parts of the net. So the net that that I’m holding in my hand right now, the handle has this gash in the middle. And you can see it’s natural. It’s not hand-made, you can’t quite get that kind of shape if you try to make it. This is a little bit of going to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi. Looking at beauty and the imperfect, just what is given to you and so forth.

But after my first couple few branches that I picked primarily based on a shape, I started looking for branches that would have more character to them. And you just have to look. But one insight that I had, and I was able to find a really good branch actually, one of my favorite branches. It’s this one right here which has also the exposed inner layer of the branch. I forget if it’s got a pith or not. Sorry, English is not my first language. But you can completely see the exposed part right here. I did not make that, that was natural. It’s got this gnarled stuff, and it’s got another really nice gnarled part on the underside of that branch.

And the insight that I had… And there’s a couple more here as well, which is really cool. But the insight that I had on this one is that I started looking at branches that were gonna be really, really low, close to the ground, thinking that they would have a high chance that some animal came and chewed at it. This branch is kind of exposed, it eventually got healed, but it’s something that… Something chewed on to this, and the branch healed around it in some way. Things are smooth and that kind of thing. But finding those kind of branches is one of my favorites now, that I collected after my first few ones.

Something like this one actually in particular, or maybe it was… No, it was this one actually. This one in particular. It was a very low hanging branch in an area that I had seen a lot of cows hanging. And I just had a hunch. I was like, “I wonder if a cow ever chewed on it?” It could be a deer as well, but you had this kind of chews on the handle. Unfortunately, this one. You’re broken, I have to fix it. I fell on it. That’s one of the downsides of these crafted tenkara nets.

My very first tenkara net I bought in Japan. I had it on the back of my belt and I was walking down a steep bank, and I slipped and I fell onto it, and I broke it. So that’s a downside to the crafted wood. It can break, and you have this angle. Might be making the breaking a little bit more easily. I just completely got in the habit of every time now, now that I learned that lesson the hard way, every time I’m gonna go down something, even if it’s not very steep but if there’s any slight chance that I might fall, I have removed the net from the back, and I hold it in my hand because if I fall, I’m just gonna toss it. Very low chance that I’m gonna break it. So something to keep in mind about these as well.

When to collect the branch. When you read forums in Japan, you might come across people saying that you should collect the branch in the winter. Because that’s when there’s gonna be less sap going through the tree. I’ve actually collected all of my branches in spring or summer. Potentially, fall. I don’t think I’ve ever collected a branch during the winter. A couple of reasons for that. The main reason is that spring and summer you might find branches… Depending on where you are really… But definitely spring, you’re gonna find branches that are a little bit more flexible. Not only can you test the tree a little bit more before you cut it, but it’s gonna be much easier to form the hoop when the branch is flexible. It’s got some sap flowing through it. I guess it’s greener. I think those are better than trying to pick something that’s dryer. A dryer branch. And I’ll talk about shaping, but you might have to steam it and be really careful not to break it. A greener branch is gonna be better.

The Japanese say winter. I don’t know that much about trees, to be honest. Don’t know if there’s a downside to cutting during the winter, in terms of the tree healing. Maybe that’s something I’ll research next, put a note. But if you know about that, just let me know as well.

What Tools You Need to Make a Tenkara Net

Let’s talk about what you need to make a net, now. And this part is actually one of my favorite parts just because as I mentioned, I didn’t have any woodworking experience when I started making nets. I didn’t have, and I still don’t have a wood shop like a lot of tools and that kind of thing. And I also didn’t have much space at all, when I first made my first nets living in a really small apartment with my wife. All I needed was a tiny corner of the house that I put a tarp and I’m gonna guess, it was like four feet by four feet. I had this tarp and I had a couple of tools on the floor. I could get shavings in there. Some sanding, some sawdust, and that kind of thing. Not a bunch. I tried to be careful and vacuum as often as I could. But you really don’t need much space, and you don’t need many tools.

The first thing that you’re gonna need is a little saw. Some kind of saw for collecting your branch. I tried a bunch of different sizes. In the beginning, I think I wanted something super light weight.

As lightweight as I could, because I didn’t wanna carry much when I was going out and finding the branches. With time… And I also tried just a wire which is good ’cause you can have that with you. But if I was dedicating myself to looking for branches, if I was going somewhere with that intention, I loved having a really sturdy, small… This is six inch blade. Very sturdy saw to cut those branches with really kind of aggressive teeth, ’cause I could cut it really quickly and just be done and be on my way, as opposed to just kind of spending a lot of time on the tree.

The other two things that I really liked having on the field when I went to look for branches were a pair of gloves, because you’re gonna be dealing with sap. So, a pair of gloves, for me, was really important. You don’t wanna deal with all the sap in your hand and to go along with that, a plastic bag as well, because if you’re gonna be putting it in your car just to kinda keep the sap kind of from going around. So those are the three tools… Three things you need when you’re gonna collect a branch.

And then when you get home, and you start doing other things the first part of the process is gonna be removing the bark of the tree. And here’s a pro tip: You wanna do that as quickly and as soon as possible because actually the branch that I was showing earlier in this video, if you were watching… Part of the reason I left the… Part of the reason I left the bark on this partly it was to show people the stage which this branch was in, but mostly it was actually because I left it on, started letting to dry to see what would happen and it was a pain in the neck to remove the bark. So I just kinda did a little bit and I left it at that.

So remove the bark soon after you get home and to do that, you can use a variety of things like a carving knife can be good. And when the branches were wet actually, all I had to do was usually… You don’t really need to use the tools that much. As a matter of fact, you can get away with having no tools at this point ’cause all you need to do as you can, kinda with your fingers, when they’re green, you can either cut a little slit or force it with your fingers, force it apart and peel it. That’s a huge advantage to picking those when it’s green. The knife would come in handy once in a while to open it up a little bit more, kinda pry it. Might be better to not have a particularly sharp knife at this point just because… So, you don’t cut into the tree… Into the branch, but it was pretty easy just kind of using something to scrape. If there’s a little bit of a pithy… If there was an inner bark kind of layer sometimes, you can use something to kinda scrape it off right away, or sand it down the road. So that’s the first kind of step when you get home. Take the bark off maybe using a little tool to scrape it off or help you peel the bark.

The other tools that you’re gonna need, basic ones… A fine saw. So a fine saw is gonna be either used to cut parts of the branch that you may not want, but you wanna make it too rough ’cause then you have to spend more time finishing but primarily the most important thing you need a very fine saw and that can be the more common, the more easier to find kind of saw would be a dowel saw. Something that’s just designed to cut something fine because you’re gonna need that for your splicing. When you’re gonna join the two arms together, you don’t have a ton of room to make errors there. You can do a little bit of shaving later, but that’s gonna be a thin branch, so you wanna use as fine, as delicate a saw as you can find. And this is the only… It’s a Japanese saw, the one that I’m holding in my hand. It actually works the opposite of most saws, where it’s a pole saw. So you just cut a really fine, very effortless, just gonna go slowly, but works beautifully for making the splice. A dowel saw can work. The other ones, not too sure.

Although, I will mention this. I spent some time learning from a teacher in Japan where he was one of the master net makers in Japan and made hundreds of hundreds of nets probably over the years. His process was a little bit more industrial for the making the splice, where he used a belt sander, actually. So he would get the branch kind of like the size that he needed and he just belt sanded it so that it would be perfectly flat and he had the skills to make them so that it would match perfectly. I don’t have the skills. I’ve tried that on a couple of ones. I find that using a saw worked better for me, but just to kind of give you something to think about. But mostly, a sharp knife. I like this for carving away some parts of the branch.

One thing that you’ll notice in the design of all the branches or all the tenkara nets as well, is that the bottom end of the handle is gonna be pointy for the most part. It’s gonna have a taper to it. And the reason for that, it kinda goes back to the functionality where we’re sliding this on to our belt very often. So, the point just kinda makes it easier to slide onto your belt, as opposed to if you were to leave it flat. So, a carving knife was really nice. Sometimes I use a saw, sometimes a carving knife to kinda give it some detail, but it’s very nice to kinda end the frame.

In my hand now I’m holding a… Actually, this is probably the last branch frame that I made before I kinda took a break from it and I wanna resume work on my branches… On my nets, ’cause I haven’t done that in a while, and I… Really surprised me because I have a box with branches that have been drying, for at this point, years, and this was in that. And I looked at it and I thought it was so beautiful and then I went to look at the splice.

And I’ll try to get a close-up of the splice as well, so you can see in the video later. I could barely find it. This is probably after I made, I don’t know, 10-15 branches, nets, and had this really beautiful kind of curvy handle. And I thought I must have bought in Japan, I didn’t remember it, but then, I had my stamp on it. I made this.


So I just wanna share something with you that I’m getting a complete kick out of. You can see the… Part of the reason I just picked it up was to show you the taper, a very nice taper. But I couldn’t believe that I actually made this frame and I never actually got to finish it, putting a net frame on it, just ’cause I… I think maybe I moved, I was in the process of moving when I finished that, I think, but… So yeah, after a while, even if you have no experience making nets, after a while you can become okay with it. I think I made, it must be about a dozen to 15 nets. That might have been close to my last, and it is the most gorgeous one maybe, that I have, just in terms of the technical aspects of it for sure.

Now, other tools that you’re gonna need. Sorry I keep going on tangents. A file, a coarse file is kinda good, and that goes along with sandpaper. So, this one had like super aggressive teeth. You don’t really need this. It was nice to have sometimes, but what you do need is a set of different types of sandpaper, different grits of sandpaper. Something really coarse. In my hand, I’m holding one that’s kinda like a sponge, kinda block, I can hold it. You can just use sandpaper like paper, and sometimes you put it around a piece of wood, so you have more of a kind of a uniform sanding. And you wanna get as many grits as you can, get a full set of it. And it might start at 200… 200 or 220, I forget, and then go down to the next one, 320. 400. I think you can get away with those three. But you may wanna get also an 800 grit as well. And those are gonna allow you to make finer, finer, more polished kind of finishes for your branch, for your net.

I had a set as well that I bought of incredibly fine grits. These go to… I wanna say like 6,000 grit, I mean these are like really fine polishing sandpaper, and I found them really beautiful to work with. Primarily at the finishing stage. You apply a coat of something and then you wanna polish it up a little bit before coats. Just using really fine ones, you kinda get a glossier, more finished kinda product. So those three materials primarily. I’m gonna go back to this: Fine saw, a carving pen and knife, sandpaper. Those are the only three materials you really need to make your net. And maybe some kinda cord or something, so you can tie the frame together as it dries. I used, later, in my nets, from what I learned from a teacher in Japan, I started using inner bike tubes, just cutting strips of it because you can stretch it really hard and wrap it around and it keeps it in that shape. So that’s what I have in my hand right now. Forced it into shape, put the bike tube in there, let it dry.

A couple of optional materials, again, some file, and one that I kinda liked, but it’s not really necessary for a lot of branches. This one has some little thorns growing. Weird. But a thing that I found useful for some branches when I was making a lot of them was a wok holder, which is something that you would find… A wok, W-O-K. Something you would find in a restaurant supply store. Coincidentally, the wok holder usually has two circles, like a smaller one and it kinda funnels up into a larger one. And coincidentally, they’re really close to the diameters that you need for most tenkara net mesh bags. One is roughly 9 inches in diameter, the top one is a little over 10. Those are the more common kind of net bag sizes. But what you can see here, this was probably a very stubborn branch that I was having a hard time kinda getting into circular shape, so I used that wok holder to force it into the circular shape, and I tied string around it at various points to kind of force that into the shape that I wanted.

And that’s gonna be useful during the drying process. Talking about circular shape, one thing that you can do if you feel like you have a really kind of good branch, you wanna work with it ’cause it has a lot of characteristics that you like, but you have a hard time bending that into a circle, like the manzanita branch that I showed earlier, it was really difficult to get this into a nice circle. I used a lot of steam to do this. Woodworkers are gonna be familiar with the process, but for me it’s completely new. I would just get a kettle, heat it up, have a really solid jet of steam coming out, and I would apply that to specific spots along this branch, kinda flex them a little bit and hold for a while, kinda let it cool. And with enough steaming, enough shaping, and letting it cool, eventually I got to a nice circle.

Or, you can just boil a large pot of water, let the branch sit there for like 10 minutes with the lid on top, so that that frame is gonna be absorbing more moisture and you can work with it a little bit more easily. So some techniques you can try there for shaping your branch. I’ve never had to shape a handle. A handle’s kinda like a very important thing, it’s gonna be really hard to shape. Never had to do that. But you can use steam, you can just kinda use slow pressure. I’ve never actually broken a branch, probably because I used to work with them when they were very green. But I’ve bent them and been lucky that I’ve never broken a branch. So the drying process of a net. So you shape it into the circle, now you have to let it dry.

And how long you’re gonna have to let it dry is gonna depend a lot on where you live, and what kind of humidity you have where you are. So in Japan, the forums that you read might talk about letting it dry for a year or two years even. I know some net makers in Japan, they might let it dry as long as two years, but Japan is incredibly humid, so that’s a huge difference. They try to put it in the place in their house like an attic or something where it’s gonna be a little dryer, but it’s still a very humid place, it’s a really hard… It takes a long time to dry a branch. In Colorado, I can probably get away with about three months, two to three months even in drying a branch.

When I was in San Francisco it used to take me about three to six months. One way, I don’t know too much about testing the branch, and the first ones, I was going by feel, just kinda erring on the side of letting it dry more than less. Later on for some of the later branches, I bought a moisture… I think it’s a wood specifically for wood but I wood moisture meter, which has two little prongs and you put it in the wood and it tells you roughly the percentage, and if I remember right, about eight to 10% is kind of what you’re shooting for, it’s always gonna have a little bit of humidity there, but that’s a good level of humidity to work with.

Now very important in the drying process, there’s a very good chance that the parts that you have cut, the parts are kind of exposed, they’re gonna dry faster, and they could crack. So there are two things that you can do with it, in my experience. What I prefer to do is cut the parts that are gonna be cut away. The parts that I don’t really need, cut them longer than you need by four inches, three inches. Give them a good amount of room. So for example, looking at the plus-shaped branch, imagine the bottom of the plus coming out of the tree, the two arms are going to the sides of the plus sign, the top part of the plus sign is the branch that keeps on going. And you might have other little branches out of that. The part that keeps on going, you’re gonna cut it away as close to the… Eventually, as close to the arms as possible just to kinda have a nice finish, but in the process of drying out, leave a three to four-inch stabbing here ’cause it’s gonna happen in this one. It kinda cracks. It may potentially go into the tree, into the handle. I haven’t had that problem. So, I just cut everything longer than it needs to be. So, the handle exaggerated in this net that I’m holding in my hand, I like a short handle. I would leave several inches there that could potentially crack, this one never did.

Same thing with the arms, several inches, room for error here, but this could break and you can do that. The other thing that you can do is put white glue or wax. I prefer white glue when I was making these, put a coat of white glue, let it dry or wax material and all that’s gonna do is it’s gonna slow down the rate of drying of the extremities, the ends to kind of match the rest of the net. So what causes the cracking is when the extremities they’re exposed, they’re gonna dry faster than the rest, they’ll crack. So if you put wax or glue, you might be able to prevent cracks as well, as your branch drys, but very important, you select a branch, you’re gonna be anticipating that you wanna avoid chances of having the break. Let me talk a little bit about splicing the net.

I’m not the best person to talk about this, but here’s my process, you shape the frame into a hoop, the side that is opposite from the handle, the other end of the circle, that’s where roughly your splice is gonna be made. And a splice… What I mean is just that the two branches are gonna be cut in a diagonal. And both of them are gonna be matched so you can glue them together, and it’s a hard part to work with. There might be different techniques there that work well. One technique that I made, I think I was making that with most of my nets. I got some kind of cotton line wrapped roughly where I was gonna cut it, wrapped it around kinda tight, and I actually put white glue all around it, covered it in white glue and let it dry.

So what that does is essentially makes a cast right around here, and it kind of holds the two branches together, and once it dries, you start cutting the two branches in line with each other. And your goal here, is when you’re cutting it, your goal is to make your splice go for roughly at least two inches, you wanna make a very long splice. So what that means is that the angle that you’re cutting the branch is gonna have to be very high. If you cut it 90 degrees, they’re just gonna be joined together like this, not quite as strong. If you cut it a little bit less you’re gonna have a tiny little bit of overlap between the two. Not quite as strong. If you cut it at 60 degrees roughly, that’s kind of a guess, eye balling. You’re gonna have a good long splice, like a couple of inches overlap. I think as a rule of thumb, I don’t remember what it was, but a multiple of the diameter of what you’re trying to join together. So if this is a quarter-inch, maybe I think it was like a two inch thing, something like that, but I don’t remember what the rule of thumb is. My goal is to make a long splice.

So with that cast, I was able to cut it diagonally, both of them would have the same line already going, so I could kind of, even if they were to split apart, I could just kinda continue going in as perfectly a straight a line as I could. Try not to have any angle on your saw, you’re just gonna keep that angle uniform between the two branches so they can then join them together. And then in terms of joining them, I’ve tried a bunch of different things. So I tried primarily, I was using some strong wood glue, I don’t have a name to recommend right now, but a good wood glue essentially. Glue them together, wrap it with some line or wrap it with bike tube or something that’s gonna hold it together until it really cures.

But here is… After I made a lot of nets, I went to Japan and I spent some time with a net maker over there, Yoshimoto-San. And I was actually the only person he’s ever, besides his staff, that he’s actually ever taught his secrets. I spent a day and a half learning different techniques from him. And he passed away a couple of years after I met him, unfortunately, I was supposed to go back and spend more time learning about net making with him, but the day and a half was absolutely magical ’cause I saw all kinds of techniques like things that I never expected. As I mentioned earlier, using a sand belt to make that splice, for example, where he just had the touch, I couldn’t quite make it, but he would get that. Pretty simple concept you get one arm, put it on the sand belt, quickly just kind of as long as you’re holding the right angle, quickly kinda shaves it off, do exactly the same angle on the other branch and you’re done, your splice is done super quick.

With some practice I’m sure I could get there but I just prefer the sawing technique. But here’s the other thing that he taught… That he did that was really surprising to me. And actually here’s one of his nets, really gorgeous net. I’ve got a couple of them here, beautiful net. Kind of like gnarled here, he used some rattan to decorate the net, probably an urushi finish, I can kind of feel it’s a little rubberized, it’s very rich, deep color. But here’s how he did the splice, he shaved it off and he used super glue. He actually showed me the… He had a chemical name to it, I forget what it is. But I looked it up later, and it’s like just super glue. And he put super glue and he wrapped the splice area with a little bit of cellophane wrap or like your kitchen wrap, plastic wrap.

And then on top of that, he would get the inner bike tube, he’s the one that taught me that trick as well, you get strip of inner bike tube and just kind of wrap it really, really tight. So the super glue just kinda glue it together. Incredibly famous, he had been making nets I think for 40 years, so that was his technique, not using wood glue which I was really surprised by. So it just gives you something to think about if you’re a woodworker and you have some downsides to that, let me know, I’d love to learn. But the guy was making incredible nets, very well-renowned and that’s what he used.

The other thing that you could try as well, and possibly you might wanna start getting sometimes is some rattan, like rattan strips. You can get a little roll of it, you can get thicker or thinner. I think thinner the better, it just looks better and you can use that to either decorate your net, like the one that he made. Potentially he was trying to hide a flaw in there and he used a little bit more to decorate it. I’ve used it before to reinforce my splice. So the Manzanita branch that I have here in front of me, I used the super fine rattan, wrapped it really tight. And this was a very thin joint here but I really wanted it to work so I kind of wrapped that to reinforce that part.

I don’t remember, on this Juniper branch, don’t remember exactly why I put rattan here but I put two strips. They’re a little different sizes so my guess is that in the banding process or the drying processes maybe they developed tiny little cracks. So I probably reinforced those with some rattan. So that’s another handy material to have for some net making. And this one here, this is the one that I mentioned I broke when I was going down a steep bank and I had some rattan here already, that’s where the splice is. I never got around to fixing it, I broke this a long time ago, but I’ll probably just try to reinforce it, or re-glue them and reinforce it with some rattan to kinda hide that scar, if you will. So that’s a handy material to have.

How to Finish Your Tenkara Net: Varnishes, Sanding, Etc

Let’s get into the finish part. That’s gonna be tools as well, in a certain way. But let’s talk about specifically about the finishing of the net. There’s a lot of materials, some tools that you can use, but the primary tools are gonna be your finish. And I’ll talk about the finishes that I use or have tried in the past. But sand paper, I didn’t bring here, I think I ran out at some point, really fine steel wool, I really like that. So that kinda goes along with fine sand paper as well, but I like steel wool, like a triple-zero steel wool. Don’t absolutely need it but it kinda goes with my sand paper kit usually, when I work on nets. Brushes to apply the finish, depending on the type of finish that you’re using.

Nice to have gloves as well when you’re handling this stuff, so you just don’t have much things going on to your fingers and you are not getting sticky hands from different things, but brush and gloves are really nice to have. And depending on the finish that you use, maybe a mask. I never use that ’cause I didn’t really use toxic, really really toxic materials. So that’s it for kind of the finishing tools: Some sand paper, steel wool, and potentially brushes. I like a really thick brush that holds a good amount of finish. But for the most part, I actually never even used the brushes because I’ll talk about the finishes and what I like to use.

My favorite finish was always tung oil finish. And that’s different from pure tung oil. Similar, but different. Tung oil is something that a lot of people like. I’ve tried that on a couple of nets as well, or at least one actually… But it just took too long for it to dry in my opinion. So I don’t even know what they say, but in my experience, the one that I made, if I remember right, it was basically a whole day for it to dry, so I could potentially apply another coat and then another day. And I was typically doing about three coats of finish, pretty much with all the finishes that I wanted. So it’s just a little too much time for me, so that’s why my bottle is still completely full, because I never used it. I can’t even open it right now.

But one really good advantage of tung oil, pure tung oil, is that it’s really natural as far as I know, as far as I remember, non-toxic. You can apply it with a soft cloth, with no gloves. Some people even use their hands. You definitely don’t want to consume this or put it in your mouth. But that’s a big benefit of the tung oil. It smells pleasant as well, it’s not an unpleasant smell. I wanted something that would dry a little faster between coats, so it just kinda got it done a little quicker. So tung oil finish is what I used to use.

Now, when you’re using those oils. And actually, let me talk about why I selected tung oil finish as one of my primary ones, one of the two main things that I liked about it, very water-resistant, if not completely waterproof. But if I ever felt the need to re-coat a net, with tung oil… As far as I know again I don’t have too much woodworking experience, but with tung oil you don’t have to strip any of it off. If you have some kind of, I don’t know, you scrape it or something and you wanna re-finish, all you have to do just apply tung oil on top of that and they kinda combine, they fuse. The layers are gonna just combine nicely and you’re not gonna really notice a difference in your finish if you kind of do it properly. So those are the two main reasons I used tung oil, but specific tung oil finish because it dries faster.

Now, a tung oil is gonna give you a clear coat on the net. So the juniper net that I’m holding in my hand, completely clear coat. Three coats of tung oil finish where you can completely see the wood as it is. And I like that. Some people love it. This little net that I made, the Manzanita, incredibly beautiful colors. I mean, that’s my favorite thing about it, ’cause they removed the bark. But there was this kinda inner, really thin bark, that it was hard to remove. And I couldn’t completely remove it so there’s got this beautiful marbling of red spots around. And definitely to conserve, to preserve that characteristic, a clear finish was best.

Later on, I started playing also with some dyes, because I wanted to get some nets a little bit darker. I just kinda found that the light color net, just a little too bright so I kinda wanted to… ’cause the bark is pretty light color. But I wanted to kinda have more of a wood color, if you will. So I just used different dyes. I tried a couple of different ones, but I think the ones that I liked about most was this, well, what I’m holding my hand here, I haven’t used it in a long time, but aniline dye stain. This one is a dark fumed oak, oil soluble. So soluble, oil soluble, which I was able to dissolve into the tung oil finish, just kinda mix it into a cup, perfectly blended in and that was my first coat. Didn’t really cover it much, just a nice little stain. You can probably use wood stains as well. I just prefer to use the dye and kinda mix it in. You can do a second coat using a dye if you wanna get a darker, richer colors or just the first coat with the dye, and the other coats are just pure tung oil. It depends on how dark you want to get your wood.

One that I made is kind of interesting definitely, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite, but it’s kind of cool if you see this net close up. This is a black net, so just an experimental one, where I used some TransTint concentrated dye. And if I remember right, I did the same thing. I mixed a little bit of tung oil with the dye and I applied a couple of coats. But what I would do is I apply the coats, when they dry completely I sanded some off and it kind of revealed a little bit of wood here and there. So that’s really stunning as well. So you can have a lot of fun playing with the finishes. Read up some stuff on that online, but that’s the stuff that I’ve experimented with.

And the last thing that I will mentioned is something called urushi. Urushi is a plant actually, or at least maybe the resin of a plant, that’s very toxic in terms of allergic, that people make ink out of in Japan, traditionally. So urushi is something where some tenkara nets, bamboo nets, sometimes they’ll have the color. That’s the traditional paint, or dye or finish, that they use. It comes from a plant, natural material, but kind of toxic as far as I know, or at least you don’t wanna touch it on your skin.

I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s just I thought I would mention the traditional finishes. I bought this stuff in Japan. I’ll put a close up on our website. It’s says cashew on top. I think if you look at cashew, like the cashew nut dye, maybe you can find a source in the States. I’m not sure, I bought a set of them, when I visited Japan at one point. And that, it’s a little hard to work with. It’s kind of gooey, a little thicker. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to dilute it, definitely use a brush for it, but it gave me this really kind of rich deep kinda thick finish to the net. This one is made with that urushi, I think this would actually be a urushi imitation technically speaking, but it’s just like a light coat, you almost have this rubbery kind of quality to it, really nice. I enjoy working with that, if you’re curious about it, I thought it would be worth mentioning that kind of finish.

And then the last part is gonna be the attaching the bag. I do have a good video that I’ve made before about attaching the bag, and I’m gonna be embedding that video in this podcast page as well. And essentially, there’s a couple of ways to do it. The most common way is to get some kind of strong line. There’s a variety of lines you can use. You can use hemp, you can use leather. I bought some kind of like braided nylon line that was probably my favorite. You go through the top part of the mesh bag and you make little knots every couple of inches. And it’s similar to, at least in climbing, if you look up, if you’re curious about it, it’s really similar to a clove hitch and the arms are going to different sides. So hopefully, the video is gonna make it more clear, but there’s a lot of different ways to do it. You just have to connect the mesh bag to the frame. And another one just to kinda give you an option, I’ve only made one net this way and I think I’ve seen, actually, as a matter of fact, a net that Mr. Yoshimura made was also made this way, where you can use this really fine, what do you call them?

Super fine, like little eyed pins. I’m sure there’s a name for it, I’m blanking out, I’m sorry, but they’re just really thin, very, very thin and they have little eyes and they’re no more than like an eighth of an inch, you probably can find different sizes, but what you’re doing is you’re putting these essentially tiny screws, they’re not screws, they’re just flat or they’re straight, they’re smooth, but you’re driving them into the wood and do it every one to two inches, and then you’re just kinda getting the line to go through those. It’s a little more labor intensive on putting this screws in there or the pins, but a little quicker to connect the mesh that way. And the cool thing about it is that you preserve the top part of the frame, so if you have a particularly beautiful frame on the top, like this one has a nice scar here, it’s got some scars and curves and the reason I did this is because I didn’t wanna hide those flaws, so that’s why I went with the little pin method and usually they’re silver. And at the time I bought something to essentially turn metal into a dark blue or almost black color, just to kinda hide it more, blend it in with the mesh. So that’s another thing to give you some room to think.

And that’s it. A lot of… It’s funny because when I decided to do this episode, I thought I didn’t have much to talk about, and it’d be awkward to do it in a podcast, ’cause it’s such a visual method but here we are, an hour and 20 minutes in and it’s gonna be a long one. So you may wanna break this up into two parts. That is all to be said about nets and I think I covered it from a novice perspective.

As I mentioned, no experience with wood working, just kinda learned a few things along the way. If you have some tips to share, please come to our page,, share it on that page, share it on Facebook, if you have any tips as a wood worker. There are some beautiful, some people that have made some really beautiful nets out there that posted on tenkara Anglers. Scott Angling, for example, has made some really nice nets. If you make a net, please share. I’d love to see nets.

Teaser! New Tenkara USA Net on the Horizon!

This is literally my favorite part of tenkara I think in terms of the equipment and it’s so much my favorite part that I’m gonna drop a little teaser. We are actually working on a new net, and I’m really, really excited about it and it’s gonna come out this year, it’s gonna come out in 2020. We might actually be getting very close to it.

The design, I’m really excited ’cause the design is something that is completely unlike anything that I described here today, but also completely unlike any net in the market here or in Japan, it’s got incredibly well thought out features that our team has been working on for a while now. We are getting close to, we’re kinda getting close to our last prototype stages. My guess is that we could have a prototype in a, maybe we’ll do a Kickstarter campaign for that one ’cause there’s gonna be some high tooling cost, but potentially May even, we’ll see, fingers crossed, we can kind of pull this off. We’re getting very close. I’m very, very excited to show you what’s gonna come out.

Yeah, I kinda started driving that project partly ’cause I wanted to start making nets again, and I was like, “We gotta offer a net.” We used to have a wooden net. In the last batch that we had or the one before, it just had all this cracks on that, it’s tough to sell at volume something like that, because it can have flaws, it’s hard to warranty it, it can break. So we’re trying to address all of those things in this net as well.

So, stay tuned. I waited to kinda mentioned this in the very end, so if you listened to this whole episode, I think you are a hardcore tenkara angler, you’re very interested in the topic, so stay tuned for that and we’ll put it out as soon we can, trust me, we can’t wait to see it in your hands and you making use of it. So that’s it for today’s episode of the Tenkara Cast. Share any comments you have with us, hopefully you enjoyed the topic, if you have questions on things that I didn’t cover but I think in an hour and 20 minutes, I probably covered what you wanted to know and more, but if you have questions, don’t hesitate to let me know. And until next time, on the next Tenkara Cast.

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One Response to All About Tenkara Nets (includes video)

  1. David Noll says:

    Very interested in a new net.

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