The Bamboo Roller is a fabulous little tool that was introduced to us by Merv Groff, one of the fellows who worked for Golden Witch when we were making rods commercially. This tool is featured in our DVD “Making Bamboo Blanks.” Usage is simple, and effective. After glue-up, while the bamboo rod sections are fresh out of the glue binder and a bit noodlely, you lay the section on a sturdy, flat surface such as a butcher block maple benchtop, and you roll down each flat of the rod section in turn. This helps the individual triangles of cane nest together perfectly and it goes a long way toward working out any odd kinks and bows in the rod section before it is allowed to cure.
Each roller features a synthetic head that won’t swell, warp, or split like the old wooden ones did if you weren’t careful. Rinse the tool in hot water (Resorcinol or Urea Formaldehyde) or a mix of alcohol and dishsoap (Epoxy), to get the tool cleaned up after a gluing session. If you take care of this Bamboo Roller, you’ll only ever need one.
The Bamboo Roller pays for itself with the first rod you make, simply in terms of the time you’ll save after the glue cures and you don’t spend as many hours carefully straightening the blank sections. It’s not a miracle cure, but it does help considerably.
Sean H. wrote: Question about the roller. After the blank is glued up and comes out of the binder is that when you roll it? The binding strings don’t get in the way of rolling it out smoothly? I guess if you did it without binding the glue would just squeeze out and the strips would separate and flatten.
I responded: Great question about the roller…Yes, you roll after binding. The roller is bumpy over the criss-crossing threads, but it still does the job it is intended to do. You’re right, if you were to roll without binding first, you’d squash your hex and have an unaffiliated mess of strips on your bench.
Steve B. asked if I had other tips related to gluing…here’s that blurb (which mentions the bamboo roller):
As for other post-glue up advice, two things immediately come to mind. After you’ve bound your sections and carefully wiped off the bulk of the squeeze-out, you want to straighten the blank as much as possible before the adhesive cures…this will save you hours of straightening later. 1) Use a bamboo roller and gently, but firmly, work down each flat while the blank is laid out on a level bench surface. 2) Make a curing board…sheet of heavy, smooth (finish) plywood…use a large drywall square and set out a series of perfectly parallel lines using an indelible marker, at least an inch apart…further apart if you have space because a few inches on either side of every parallel line makes your life easier. Mount the curing board to a wall in your shop. Immediately after the blank has been rolled out, pick one flat and tape it to the curing board over top one of the lines…add two pieces of low-tack painter’s tape, creating an X, every few inches, always ensuring the same flat is facing up when you tape. Cure for a day. This process ensures that there is no slow twist over the length of the blank sections, and it helps to eliminate bowing over the length, too. In the GW shop, we originally hung the sections to cure after rolling, and that worked well enough…the weight of the sections mostly prevents bowing (and some makers will dangle a weight from the sections as an additional aid to keeping them straight while curing), but this method didn’t mitigate against the slow twist from one end to the other the way the curing board does. Bear in mind, you will ALWAYS have to do some heat straightening after the adhesive cures. The two steps mentioned here just help to minimize the time and hassle.
Once you’re glued up, and ready to straighten, you’ll need to decide between an alcohol lamp and a heat gun. Most makers use the latter; I prefer the former…but perhaps only because that’s how Mr. Whitehead taught me to work (in silence).
A few weeks later Steve wrote back:
Russ, … I used your idea to tape glued sections on a board with parallel lines while they dried. Worked like a charm – sections are straight as an arrow! Thanks, Steve
After you roll out the blanks and let them cure, you’ll need to scrape them down. There is a proper tool for this endeavor: