Here are the answers to the questions we receive most often when it comes to custom fishing rods and their components:
I have heard the terms “Calcutta Cane and Tonkin Cane” when referring to bamboo rods, what is the difference between Calcutta Cane and Tonkin Cane?
Calcutta Cane was imported from India by rod makers all around the world during the period of roughly 1850 to 1920…or so. The earliest known example of a six strip bamboo fly rod was made in 1840 by a gunsmith/silversmith. Bamboo of various types had been experimented with for several years and the six strip model, plus the selection of Calcutta Cane was determined to be the best choice for rods by most builders of the era. At the time, this particular cane was considered the best choice for rod building due to its density of power fibers and served well with some minor issues that had to be addressed by the rod builder.
Mass production of bamboo fly rods began roughly around 1875 to 1920 where Calcutta Cane was used as the basis for the rods. Rods of this era were assembled and glued using animal based glues. Animal based glues are subject to drying out over time which leads to delamination of the six strips and rod failure. To counteract this issue rod builders instituted the use of intermediate, or decorative, wraps along the rod shaft. These wraps are indeed decorative, but more importantly they serve to reinforce the glues holding the rod shaft together. Intermediate wraps tend to be a giveaway with regard to the type of bamboo used and they also allow the rods to extend their lives to well over 100 years.
Calcutta Cane is relatively soft in comparison to modern bamboo rods due to the density of power fibers lying beneath the enamel which accounts for the belief that all bamboo rods have a slow, soft action. In fact, it is possible to create any action on a modern bamboo rod from slow to ultra-fast. When the Tonkin Province in China became open to outsiders the variety of bamboo found there, known as Tonkin Cane, became available to rod builders and was quickly adopted by virtually all as the new standard. Tonkin Cane has the most dense array of power fibers of any of the more than 3,000 species of bamboo in the world. It makes excellent rod blanks. Coupled with the advent of synthetic glues that do not require reinforcement wraps to keep the six strips together, the Tonkin Cane remains the standard today.