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Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

A place to discuss tenkara nets. Techniques for making it, woods used, designs, etc.

Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:18 pm

For several weeks now I have been looking up at every tree, here and in Japan, that may offer the possibility of a good branch for making a tenkara net. I have not seen many at all until a couple of days ago. And so the experiment begins.

I have little experience working with wood, mostly limited to a couple of small carpentry projects. So, here I'm describing the experience as a complete novice in this area, with no experience making nets or working with raw wood, and based on information about woodworking and net making found on the web. I also do not have a wood shop and have few tools to work with. So, this will be a SIMPLE project. Suggestions for woodworking are welcome, but I'd appreciate we don't get into discussions on whether it's right to cut a wood branch or not.

I have been doing a lot of research on the appropriate woods I could use (those with good durability, good steam-bending properties, availability, branch shapes, etc.), and mostly using the resources on the "good links" post.
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Found a tree, Jeffrey Pine, and branches (06/24)

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:28 pm

At the very end of the day, on my drive back to San Francisco from Shasta, I stopped to checkout a stream. It turned out the stream was too high, but on my hike back to the car I found a tree that seemed to present good possibilities. The branches seemed appropriate for a net, so i started looking around.

Now I learned, with a certain degree of confidence (but not yet 100%) the tree is a Jeffrey Pine (pinus jeffreyi)
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The Jeffrey pine seems appropriate for the task. Steam-bending is okay, durability is not great but okay. The branches are not super interesting visually and aesthetically, but appropriate. It's widely available and seems very easy to work with.

The most difficult aspect of making a tenkara net is branch selection. Not many trees have branches that are appropriate. It's important to find the branch with the right diameters and angles. The tree I found had many branches with thinner sub-branches coming out at a slight angle. I spent about 40 minutes analyzing every branch that looked suitable, grabbing the sub-branches that would make the frame and bending them to see the shape, flexibility (I wanted one that wouldn't be flimsy), looking at the diameters that would compose the handle and the frame to make sure they would be appropriate. 2 branches qualified in the entire tree. The tree was in public land. It was a healthy adult tree. I cut each branch about 1/2 way, just a little pruning, barely noticeable. Interestingly there were a few other Jeffrey pines nearby but none with suitable branches that I could see.
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2 branches would yield 4 possible nets. Notice the 2nd branch, it actually had two great branch pairs for making up the frame, I decided to leave the 2 branch pairs on until I got home and was able to decide on the best one (I chose the thicker of the 2 pairs).
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It is recommended the branches be selected in the winter/end of autumn, as that's when they will have the lowest moisture content. Indeed, the tree branches were very wet right now, but I figure I'll just let them dry a bit longer. The bark could easily be peeled off, allowing me to see the raw wood. The best diameter for the frame, based on the nets I have, is approximately the diameter of a sharpie pen with the bark on (9mm to be exact), and about the diameter of a regular pen about 7.5mm with bark stripped. Handles may be of different diameters, suiting the person, mine range from 24 to 29mm with bark on (about the same as the handle of a tenkara rod).
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Preparing the branches for drying 06/26

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sat Jun 26, 2010 8:45 pm

With branches selected and their look "analyzed", it was now time to prepare the branches for a couple of weeks of drying. According to one of the links, it's good to tie the branches that will form the frame together for this period. This will allow the wood to retain some of the circular shape more easily when the time comes to put it all together.

I took each of the branches and bent the frame arms together. They didn't get perfectly round to begin with (I suspect that's very rare). So, I not only tied the two branches together (each one at 3 pointt: middle and sides), but also pulled and tied the branches to different parts of the handle to get as close to a circle as possible. I used some heavy nylon material I had, but I think it's best to use rope at this point to avoid damaging/cutting the wood with the thinner nylon.

The Jeffrey pine, at least at this time of year, is very malleable, so I could put a lot of force bending and pulling the branches in whatever direction and they didn't snap. I put a LOT of force on shaping a couple of the branches, and hopefully that'll be okay, they didn't seem to be even close to breaking. In a couple of cases I also used a dowel to force sides apart and get a better circular shape.

Here are the frames tied together:

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The middle one was a manzanita branch I had found earlier to test the manzanita for this purpose.
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This branch is my favorite, but it was difficult to get a circular shape out of it, it was more naturally square and the branches had to be pulled out a bit. I thought of using a metal shelf I had as a frame to pull the arms out. I believe with steam bending it will be fine:
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Tied to a frame with arms being pulled out to form a better circular shape.
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:42 am

The frames are drying, and I'm now reading on what to do next.

I'll let these dry for about 10 days, then will peel off the bark, cut off the unwanted knots with a very fine Japanese saw (a detailing saw for cutting dowels and other details, it cuts on the pull and is flexible to allow for close, delicate cutting) and a bamboo knife (made for allowing one to cut wood without scratching it). Then steam bending it, etc.
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby CM_Stewart » Sun Jun 27, 2010 3:55 am

Looking good!

Perhaps you mentioned this before, but if so I must have missed it - if the bark is easy to peel off now, why do you not peel it all off now? I would think that would help the branch dry out.
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby wrknapp » Sun Jun 27, 2010 6:39 am

Great post, Daniel. I am also wondering if there is a reason for not peeling the bark off prior to the drying process?

Randy
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby rsetina » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:08 am

Great post so far Daniel. I look forward to the rest of the build. So far they look really nice and the manzanita will look beautiful when done. It could easily be the most interesting with the branches that keep the loop from being completely round.

One note though. I don't know if it's different when drying branches vs. drying rough cut lumber but I do know that if rough lumber is dried too quickly it will split on the end, sometimes quite a bit. Moisture will escape from the end grain more quickly and slower from the long grain of the wood and that's what causes this splitting. Woodworkers use a waxy liquid that helps prevent the moisture from escaping from the end grain and thus preventing the splitting. The drying process is longer though. If the end grain splits on your test tamos, I suspect this would be the reason why.

A friend and I cut up a fallen oak tree here years ago and I used the waxy liquid, the name escapes me at the moment, and none of the 2 foot logs split more than a couple of inches into the end grain. The branches being smaller in diameter may not end up splitting, I'm not sure of that, but even 5/4 lumber, 1 1/4 inch thick, will need the end grain sealed to prevent splitting.
Rick

テンカラ。小さなストリームのシンプルさ。
My Tenkara Rods:
13' Ayu, 12' Yamame, 11' with a conversion handle, and an Ito.

My Wife's Tenkara Rods:
12' Ebisu and 13.5' Amago, 12' Iwana with a conversion handle, and an Ito.
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sun Jun 27, 2010 10:43 am

Thanks for the notes guys.
For one thing I was a little afraid of damaging the actual wood with the ropes. The wood seemed to be a bit soft because of the moisture in it, and I thought wrapping rope/nylon may cut it. Also, on this site (http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&tl=en&u=http://www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~hrtsuka/sub3.htm), he says he'll leave the bark on the wood and the branch tied together for 4 to 5 days. Then, he'll strip off the bark.
On this site he also says that after he strips the bark off he'll put tape or candle wax on the wood (I guess the ends) prevent splitting. Thanks for the tip, as I had not paid attention to this part.
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby rsetina » Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:46 pm

I noticed in the article he said to dry the branch for a month. That would sound about right for a branch cut in winter though I think for the time being, since this is your first net Daniel, and an experiment, a few days of drying would probably be fine.

What kind of water proof glue are you thinking about using? I think Titebond III would be a good choice if that's the waterproof type from Titebond, but you might think of trying Gorilla Glue. It's water proof and I tried it once on a wood project. You apply the glue a bit differently. Water on one side of the piece and the glue on the other. It reacts with water and since your piece might still be a bit moist it might be a good choice. Not sure, but since you have several experiments going you could try it. Keep in mind that Gorilla Glue foams during the drying process so you'll have to do some shaving afterwards.

These are just a couple of the things I've been contemplating before starting my own experiment. I've been looking for branches but haven't found anything yet that I like.
Rick

テンカラ。小さなストリームのシンプルさ。
My Tenkara Rods:
13' Ayu, 12' Yamame, 11' with a conversion handle, and an Ito.

My Wife's Tenkara Rods:
12' Ebisu and 13.5' Amago, 12' Iwana with a conversion handle, and an Ito.
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Re: Experiment in making a tenkara net, journal

Postby Daniel @ Tenkara USA » Sun Jun 27, 2010 5:21 pm

It took me a few weeks of hard looking to find a tree with the appropriate branches. It was one of those nice things to do on a couple of hikes I took. "Make sure to smell the flowers" as they say...

I was probably going to use the Gorilla glue, since I already have some which I used in the past with success, but haven't thought much about it.

Also, I had a couple of twigs that I left aside as test pieces for this wood, one half peeled. I tested some cutting yesterday, and the twig (diameter of a pen) was already pretty dry. While the twig held up pretty well, one of the cut pieces split pretty easily, so it makes me wonder if the wood will be all that good, or what I may have to do to avoid splitting.
I'll be peeling one of the branches today and will apply candle wax (I have it at home and don't need to go buy something new) to the open cuts of the other branches.
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