care of split cane rods

mike Gibson

New member
Can any one help?Over the last few years I’ve acquired several old split cane rods from jumble sales and boot fairs and have attempted to restore them. After stripping off the old varnish I have re-coated with several layers of matt yacht varnish and although I say it myself, they look pretty good. While a few have been complete duds and not much good for anything other than pea sticks, a couple have been well-balanced with a lovely ‘feel’ and good fun to fish with. However, an old boy I got chatting to while fishing the Medway at Tonbridge a few days ago, said that excessive varnishing could dry out the cane and make it more likely to crack or split. He advised rubbing in linseed oil linseed oil instead and only using varnish on the whippings.Advice appreciated.

Peter Jacobs

Staff member
All of my split cane rods are varnished and mostly over 40 years old. None of them have ever shown any signs of cracking or splitting, and they all get an 'airing' on the river bank once or twice a year.

These include: A Wizard, MkIV's Avons and Carp, SU Carp MkIV, Avondales, and an old cane stalking rod made on a Walker blank.

Modern versions equally varnished include a Merlin and a Carp Perfection, again no signs of cracking or splitting.

Sounds like you might have met Donald Effingham Mudde to me . . .

insert U-No-Wot - - - > HERE

Ron 'The Hat' Clay (ACA)

The enemy of split cane is a dry atmosphere. Split cane should be well varnished. However it may require in dry climates that the varnish be removed and the cane dipped in water. After drying the cane is re-varnished.

I had a Sharps Scottie impregnated fly rod crack like a bit of thin carrot whilst on a trout fishing safari in the Drakensberg, ca 1973.
In the so called "hey-day" of split cane rods linseed oil wasn't recommended as a replacement for varnish it was used to rub a thin layer over your rod prior to fishing to cover up any minute cracks in the varnish protecting your cane rod from water damage.

Laurie Harper

Agree with others' comments re. varnish, which should seal them and actually prevent moisture loss/drying out. It's certainly worth avoiding standing them on the floor leaning against something -to prevent their taking a 'set'. Sew a tag on the rod bag and hang them from a hook.

At home I'veinherited 3 split cane rods. One is R. Chapman andsons and is custom built. The other two are French and were made in the Loire Valley. Any help on the care and value?