“About varnishing, some believe, the thinner, the better. But it is not, it’s a big mistake. A fly rod is not a piece of art, but a tool for fly fishing. Varnishing is like the bumper of a car. It protects the naked body from rocks, branches, hooks, and many other hazardous things. I feel uncomfortable every time I see a bamboo rod that has thin varnishing. I even doubt it is a trick to make a rod look sharper or maybe even cooler. Varnishing is not cosmetic, but the protector.”

If you doubt that Hironobu said this as an excuse because his vanishing was not beautiful, you would be wrong, completely wrong. His vanished surface looks like a queen among other makers in my eyes. It is just stunningly beautiful.

Hironobu does not dip the rod when he vanishes. He believes hand-painting is the best way to make the perfect surface on the rod.

“The temperature of the room is the first thing you have to be concerned about. If the temperature was not the same each time you vanish, you could not make the same rod.”

Hironobu uses polyurethane for varnishing and sets the room temperature at 63℉ when he varnishes. As the temperature goes up, the curing rate will be higher. Some professional makers set the temperature up to 70℉ to speed up the process. That means you do not have much time for brushing.

“Every bamboo rod maker has their own rhythm in each process. Rhythm is one of the most important things to make the same rod. I believe a good rhythm while varnishing makes the surface flat and flawless.”

Hironobu often stressed the words “the same rod” during the interview, meaning to make all of the rods he made to be consistently the same. I think that came from his early carrier. He once was a contractor of one of the most popular fly shops in Tokyo. His rods were sold under the name of the shop’s brand. He believes he cut more strips than any other makers did. He called himself a “human beveler” in those days.


*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.



“Repulsion power is always my biggest concern. It is a caster who bends the rod, not the rod itself. The mission of the rod is to repulse the power once it is given from the caster. The solid rod has more weight than a hollowed rod, and the weight always slows down the repulsion. But the problem of the hollowed structure is when a hollowed rod is cast, there is less power left in the flattened tube than a solid rod. Some makers solve this issue by leaving inner walls with the scalloping method, which E. C. Powell did first. But internal walls add weight. Also, I don’t like to copy somebody else’s idea,” he explained.

His answer to this obstacle was the hollowed triangle. His Deformed Hexagonal Construction rod has Deformed Hexagonal tunnels inside. Hidenobu must love to make the world complicated.

“The triangle is the ideal shape to hold power. You can see it on the bicycle. Many of them have triangle-shaped frames. That is because the triangle shape can manage the forces from many different directions. You also can find it on some bridges, called truss bridges.”



*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.



“What is the most difficult process to make a graphite rod?”

I asked Hiroki Ishikawa, who took over the business from Kiyoshi in 2014.

“Not like the bamboo rod, there are few processes that need craftsmanship to make a graphite rod. I know fly fishers love the handcrafted things. They feel comfortable knowing their rods were made one at a time. That is why people still acquire the bamboo rod. I understand that feeling, and we are making graphite rods almost the same manner as when make bamboo rods. But the good news is we don’t have to cut and plane the bamboo cane each time but roll the graphite sheet around the mandrel. It is more productive than bamboo rod making, but still far from calling it mass production.”

“Okay, then let me ask this way. Which process is the most time consuming in all the process?”

“No doubt when we design the taper. It takes forever.”

Campanella is one of a few Japanese fly rod makers that makes the rod blank from the very beginning; design the taper, cut the graphite sheet and roll that graphite sheet around the mandrel. Most of the other Japanese rod makers do not do this process by themselves but consign the production to a chemical maker or contractor.

Hiroki continued.

“I know it is easier to cosign the production of the rod blank to an outsourcer. But we are a fly rod company, I mean a true fly rod maker.”

I knew what Hiroki wanted to mention by “a true fly rod maker” but needed to know a bit further.



*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.

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