Hideto uses urushi for varnishing rods. As far as I know, there are only a few other makers in Japan who use urushi for the vanishing. Some use urushi, but only for the second layer beneath the vanishing surface to accomplish higher water resistance (such as Kakuhiro Rod). Urushi is a natural liquid that was extracted from the urushi tree. The English word “lacquer” originally meant urushi. Urushi is one of the oldest Japanese liquids applied onto wooden products that needed a waterproof surface such as soup bowls. The oldest urushi product in the world was found in Japan, and the recent study suggests it was around 8,600 B.C. when it was made.

As I mentioned earlier, urushi is a very difficult liquid to handle. Many people are severely allergic to urushi.

There are several ways to apply urushi onto the rod. Hideto wipes the rod with a cloth that was soaked in urushi. That method is called polishing urushi.

Hideto explained, “You can buy a bottle of urushi for $20, but you have to buy a $100 bottle if you want to make a beautiful bamboo rod. Like wines, you will pay more if you need an excellent one. I only use urushi made in Japan. Urushi is not a plant indigenous to Japan, so you can get Chinese urushi. But the climate of continental China is totally different from one of our islands’ climate. Our islands are wetter than China. I believe now the air in this room has 62% humidity. This does not happen in China except on the coastline.”

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

Kakuhiro decided to abandon Tonkin and go with Japanese bamboo. The most common Japanese bamboo is madake, the second is mosochiku, and the third is hachiku. Mosochiku was far less practical, because it has the thickest diameter with thin surface fiber, and the length between each node was terribly short.

He tried both madake and hachiku bamboo and found hachiku was better to accomplish the action that he needed.

“I fell in love with hachiku. It is lighter, but still keeps enough strength at the surface. I believed I could make the best bamboo rod ever to catch Japanese trout with hachiku.”

After much trial and error, Kakuhiro finally could make all the processes repeatable to keep the quality at the same level.

“It is never easy to make the same rod one after another. There is no bamboo in the world that is consistently the same. Every single bamboo has its own character. In those days that I used Tonkin, I never felt comfortable because I could not see or confirm beforehand what I was going to use. It was not like a carbon sheet that was under the quality control of a big Japanese chemical company. It was like a gamble. But I was released from that nightmare once I decided on hachiku as my life partner. Now I can shop for bamboo in my city.”

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

One of the most popular optional items of Maekawa craft rods is the reel seat filler. Some love the beautiful pattern of stacked bamboo, and some love stacked wood. Toshiyuki also makes landing nets along with bamboo rods. He uses stacked bamboo at their grips. Now you can find many reel seat fillers and landing nets that have the same stacked construction that Toshiyuki first started.

“I don’t care if other makers copied it. I would rather be proud of it because they thought it worthy of being copied.”

Even such a generous person had something left that he could not divulge. It was the process of varnishing. He has his own method to avoid dust and bubbles. It is easiest and simplest again, but all he could tell me was the fact that he is using two-part polyurethane resin both at the guide wrapping section and all over the blank. He does not brush. It sounded unusual to me because I do not know any other makers who use two-part polyurethane resin to varnish the whole rod surface. How does he catch up with the high curing rate of this resin? That is still a mystery to me.

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