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Species : Arundinaria amabilis McClure
 
Tonkin cane, also known as "Teastick Bamboo" and "Tsinglee Canes", was peculiarly only growing in a small village named Aozai, a rather remote geographic area along the Sui River in the northwest corner of the Guangdong province, which now is home to this special species of bamboo in the world.
 
This small village is along the Sui River , It's here that this very special cane is grown. The river is bound by steep hillsides,which provides the perfect rainy climate for this species.  The workers plant, tend and harvest the bamboo along these hills.
 
It was two American who did great job to introduce the Tonkin bamboo to the world. The first one is Dr. Floyd McClure, who was an instructor and professor at Lingan University in Guangdong, China from 1919-1941 . 'Tonkin' bamboo was assigned the scientific name of Arundinaria amabilis by Dr. Floyd McClure. Upon a visit to China in 1925, McClure was the first to scientifically describe the plant and recognized that it was a distinct and previously unreported species. At the time , this bamboo had already been in use for building fly rods and was known by a variety of different common names. The name was amended to Arundinaria amabilis McClure in the doctor's honor and translated, means 'The Lovely Bamboo.'
                                            
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The second one is National Geographic's Luis Marden , who was a student of Dr. Floyd McClure . He visited this Tonkin country with his wife in 1974. During this trip , They observed and photographed the cultivation and processing of Tonkin bamboo in its restricted growing area. When he backed to the USA , He published papers on Tonkin bamboo in Dr. Floyd McClure's book 'Genera of Bamboos Native to the New World' , culminating in his own books 'The Angler's Bamboo' ( you can find and buy this book on http://www.amazon.com).He includes in this book descriptions and photographs of the growing conditions; the cut and scrubbed culms (stalks) of bamboo; steps in processing; and the final product.
                                                                                                                        
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Location
 
Although attempts have been made to grow this species in other parts of the world, it does best when cultivated in a rather small region in China between Kwangsi and Kwangtung provinces.  Remarkably this small oval shaped region is only about 25 miles (55 Km) in length, centered in a small village of Aozai. It is here along the Sui River that this very special cane is grown. Tonkin cane grows straight and tall at a remarkable rate, reaching its full height of some 40 feet (12 metres) in only about two months. This cane grows in an area where the altitude is 1500 to 2000 feet (457 - 610 metres). It is a strong material attaining a maximum diameter of about 2 ½ inches (64 mm) at the butt. The culms for cane rods rarely exceed 2 ¼ inches (57 mm) in diameter. The plant matures in four to five years, has a life of about forty years and then blossoms and dies. New shoots grow from the seeds in six to seven years. The fields where the Tonkin can grows are clear cut when they¨re ready for harvesting and will come back with another crop in five to eight years.
                                                                                                                           
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The Culm
 
The culm is the term for the long straight section of cane that is of use. This comes from the lower section of the stalk cut just above the butt curve. Typically the cane doesn¨t branch out till it¨s high in the air. After harvesting these culms are formed into rafts, floated down a river and hand scoured on a beach with wet sand. Next the culms are again bundled , secured only at the mid point and stood upright, teepee style, This allows the cane to dry and bleach in the sun. Usually a week of good weather is sufficient for this requirement.Having been cut to length sorted for size it is then sent by boat down the Sui River to the factory. The cane is given one final treatment, one of straightening. Where necessary they are warmed up gradually and then heated intensely for a few seconds over a hot coal fire just prior to manual straightening with a notched wooden lever designed for that purpose.
                                                                                                                             
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Appearance & Characteristics
 
Now dried and bleached in the sun, the colour changes from a pale green to the familiar pale yellow. Leaf nodes showing through the enamel (the hard dense coating on the outer surface of the cane) are weak places and must be avoided. Likewise identification marks burned into the cane by the shipper usually go down through the enamel fibres and effectively spoil that part of the culm. Other exterior marking, such as watermarks, brown spots, and incidental scratches usually disappear with a light sanding of the enamel. The colour of the cane is critical as far as appearance is concerned. However, it is important to understand that this can change with the heat treating or torching processes during the actual rod construction and that the resultant product may be straw yellow or even brown toned.
 
A most noticeable feature of the cane is the series of spaced rings, known as nodes, along the outside of the canes. Where each node appears on the outside of the culm a diaphragm will be found on the inside. The node spacing varies from 10 C 20 inches and is the smallest at the butt end of the culm, gradually increasing towards the upper or small end of the culm. The wall thickness of the individual culms varies between 3/16 and 3/8 of an inch. The outer surface of the cane has a hard dense coating called the enamel, whereas the inside surface is soft and pithy. A cross section of culm reveals that the fibre density is highest just under the enamel, closest to the outer edge. Consequently the bamboo for rods is made by cutting longitudinal strips from the culm using the fibres on the outer part of the culm at, and adjacent to, the enamel.
                                                                                                                                  
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Physical Properties
 
Bamboo (Tonkin cane) has some excellent physical properties. These include lightweight, elasticity and high strength. The following table shows some comparative data:
 
Material Modulus (x 1000 psi) Strength
Alaskan Cedar 1.14 6.4
Sitka Spruce 1.23 5.7
Douglas Fir 1.35 6.8
Fibreglass Polyester 2.5 59
Fibreglass Phenolic 5 110
Fibreglass Epoxite 5.3 120
Bamboo (Tonkin cane) 6.4 165
Graphite (Low Modulus) 19.4 250
Graphite Epoxite 33 148

 

From this data one can observe that bamboo is actually stronger and stiffer than wood and fibreglass while not being as strong as some of the graphites. By way of explanation, the term `modulus¨ is a measure of stiffness and is the ratio of stress to strain within the elastic limit of the material. The elastic limit is that point to which materials can be stressed without incurring permanent deformation. Generally speaking the materials with a higher modulus also have a higher tensile strength.
                                                                                                                             
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This information has been taken partially from `Constructing Cane Rods C Secrets of the Bamboo Fly Rod¨  of Ray Gould, the author.
 
More on Tonkin Bamboo, please visit http://www.flyanglersonline.com/features/bamboo/part69.html

 

 
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