I have worked closely with bamboo rod-makers since 1995 and am forever learning from them. It is my customers that tell me what works and what doesn't work in a piece of cane. I have learned a bit since then but I still listen to each and every person who cares to discuss their preferences and needs from this natural product.
At the same time I've learned what to expect from the bamboo. There are pieces that I come across during my process of selection that have virtually no visible marks or flaws, are perfectly straight, beautifully straw-yellow with 18+” spaces between nodes and feel as heavy as iron (an indication of thick/dense power fibers). These I hold and think, “now here's a pole that a maker could use with virtually no problems.” Those pieces are VERY few and far between. Almost every piece has something “wrong” with it. A bug bite here, a water mark there, a curve, short node spacing, thin fiber depth, oval shape, uneven nodes... These all represent something for the maker to either work around or to knowingly work into the design of their rod.
The trick for me is to understand where to make the cutoff point between those pieces of cane that I think a rod-maker can and cannot use. To clarify, “cannot use” means that a piece could not be used without great difficulty or one which would definitely result in a rod with a lot of visible and potentially undesired patina.
Over the years my suppliers have created a niche within a niche in the bamboo forests of Southern China. Bamboo for fly-rods does not constitute a large percentage of the regional bamboo market in China but through our hard work and constant presence we have succeeded in securing a consistent high-quality line of raw material.
When we came into this business it was difficult to procure the level of quality that is now more widely available. One of the major issues that rod-makers had with the poles they bought was that almost each and every piece of cane was scarred with a “slash” or “farmer's” mark.
This mark, cut into each young bamboo plant is indeed the mark of a farmer. Each farmer controls a finite amount of bamboo forest and Tonkin Cane is a valuable commodity in a poor, rural area. Hence, thievery is not uncommon. These slash marks are the farmer's “brand”. They provide security as marked poles are not easy to sell by non-farmers. The mark is made high enough up on each pole so that if a thief were to simply cut off the pole above the mark, he would loose the bottom section of the pole. Since bamboo is sold by weight, the bottom, heaviest section of the pole is the heaviest
and most valuable.
This mark which protects the farmer is cause for frustration by the maker. The mark, strategically placed in order to ward off thieves is in the prime “power” spot of a bamboo pole and not something that a rod-maker wants to see in their shop.
Since the beginning we have offered poles that have not been scarred by these slash marks.
Another headache for the rod-makers through the mid 90's was the fact that most poles were straightened by use of heat.
A bent section of pole would be heated until the bamboo softened a bit. The pole is placed under a hook and above a fulcrum. Pressure is applied until the pole is straight. This is a simple way to ensure straight poles but the heat and pressure also caused irreparable damage to the bamboo fibers. This is not a concern for a garden stake but a rod-maker can not use a section of compressed fibers!
Our bamboo is spared this heat-straightening process. This means that some of our poles do have a gentle curve in them but it is rare that they cannot be worked with. We recognize the amount of work and passion that goes into building a split cane fly-rod, we supply bamboo that has undergone similar scrutiny. The same integrity we put into our bamboo for fly-rods exists in all of our bamboo endeavors. Our wholesale poles and stakes are the same high quality, thick-walled species we sell for fly-rods. We also offer larger diameter Moso poles that range from 3-6 inch and are available anywhere from 5-35’.
We believe in our product and we stand behind everything we sell. If you honor us with your business, The Bamboo Broker will work hard to meet your needs and to make sure that you are satisfied with our work.