Bamboo Fly Rods

Bamboo Fly Rod Refinishing

Wear and tear on a bamboo fly rod can take its toll. Refinishing your worn-out fishing rods can help keep it in great working condition to last many more years. Whether you have an old antique/vintage bamboo fly rod or just a regular overused rod, it might be good idea to look into refinishing. The process of refinishing a bamboo fly rod can be time-consuming, especially if the rod needs more work than some light retouching. In the end though, taking the time and care to restore your rod goes a long way to extend its lifetime, making sure it looks good and works well for years to come.

Materials and tools required:

  • Razor blade
  • Pencil
  • Masking tape
  • Vice
  • Planer blade
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • 400 or 600 grit sandpaper
  • Tru-Oil or similar finishing
  • Rubbing compound
  • Jeweler's rouge
  • Inspection

    To figure out whether you really need a good refinishing or just a little bit of touching up, inspect the bamboo fly rod first. Conduct a quick visual inspection of the rod by looking over all the parts, checking if anything has cracked, peeled, or chipped. Sometimes you might not spot all of them at first, so run your hands up and down the length of the rod and feel them out as well as any overall roughness that has accumulated.


    First off choose a large enough workspace to work with and one you don't mind getting a bit messy. Also ensure that it is clean and without any dust. To begin, locate the rods and measure their locations and write them down. Using your razor blade, remove the guides from the rod. Use a pencil to mark down on the rod the spots where the guides were attached.

    Next you will use the vice to hold tighten and hold the rod still while working on it. Make sure to use masking tape to tape the part of the rod that will be inserted inside the vice. Place the rod into the vice and secure it so it holds the rod in place without moving.

    Remove Varnish

    After that, you can remove the old varnish. Gently scrape the varnish off of the rod using a planer blade, for about two passes. Be extra careful so you don’t cut any of the bamboo fibers. You want to refinish the rod, not damage it. Sand it down further by using sandpaper, first with 220 grit and then up to 400 or 600 grit sandpaper. Again, do this lightly without damaging the fibers.

    Oil Application

    Next is applying some oil. Take some Tru-Oil using your fingers and rub it over the bamboo, working from the larger end down towards the tip. Then let it dry for about three hours. Make sure there is no dust in your work environment. Once it is completely dry, apply rubbing compound finely mixed with water. Rub it all across the rod up and down.

    Now you can apply another coat of Tru-Oil, and another round (after drying) of rubbing compound with water. Repeat these steps about 3 or 4 times.

    Finishing Touches

    Finally, finish it off with polishing with the jeweler’s rouge. This helps give the rod a sleek glass-like appearance. Now just reattach the guides with the help of your markings. And you’re done refinishing your bamboo fly rod!

    Razor blade