Tom's Handmill Content

Milling Strip

With the two carbide inserts mounted in the cutter head, the Hand Mill cuts both sides of the bamboo at once while maintaining the correct bevel angle, so you never have to stop during the cutting process to make sure the angles are correct. The taper, which is set by the user in the adjustable bed, raises the bamboo strip into the carbide cutters resulting in a perfectly tapered strip when cut. Once the taper is set, one can cut as many strips as needed that are consistently the same resulting in glued sections that are amazingly accurate and consistent. With these advantages, the Hand Mill finishes strips very quickly, saving considerable time compared to traditional hand-planing. The plane easily allows you to bevel a rough strip split from a culm--a job that is normally difficult with other methods of hand planing. The plane is supplied with a regular plane handle providing another big advantage of using the Hand Mill: one uses the large upper body muscle groups and legs to do the cutting, rather than the forearm and wrist, which is much easier.

With both hand-planing and Hand-Milling the bamboo strips need to be straightened at the nodes prior to cutting for best results. Even with this straightening cutting a strip with a hand-plane sometimes results in a node chipping out resulting in a damaged strip. The Hand Mill effectively eliminates this problem.

Hand Mill Plane

The adjusting head assembly, slide, and lead screw are fabricated from stainless steel for durability and rust resistance. The height adjustment is clearly marked with a calibrated dial indicating movement of .002". By careful adjustment, vertical accuracy of .001" can be achieved. Instead of hand-fitted slides, it has a traditional dovetail slide with a gib for positive tension adjustment, and it is easily adjusted whenever needed. The plane side rails are black anodized aluminum with replaceable inserts made from reinforced nylon impregnated with molybdenum disulfide that provides a very slippery, long-wearing surface for it to ride on as it travels down the bed. In addition, the aluminum insert holders can be adjusted with a jig supplied with the Hand Mill to take out any excessive side-to-side clearance caused by wear. In the unlikely event that the inserts wear too much, they can be easily and inexpensively replaced.


An innovative new design is used to eliminate endplay in the lead screw. If the endplay changes after substantial use, the user can easily readjust it. The backlash has also been eliminated from the slide making the depth adjustment feel very positive. Because the plane is a little heavier than the previous models it feels very substantial and solid.

Joe Byrd, a Hand Mill user, invented an accessory for the original planes called an adjustable hard stop. With Joe's generous permission, I have incorporated a hard stop into my new Hand Mill plane design. This stop allows the user to set the cutter head travel to the finish depth dimension for exact repeatability on every final cut without checking the dial setting. Therefore, every strip is cut precisely the same resulting in glued sections that are amazingly uniform in flat-to-flat dimension. We, along with many other Hand Mill users, have found this to be a significant improvement. The new design is quick and easy to set with a thumb screw adjustment and a brass locking screw.

Hand Mill Plane with Hard Stop

The newly redesigned plane is available to current Hand Mill owners separately. Please write to me directly regarding availability and cost.

One distinct advantage of the Hand Mill is the option to cut 8-, 6-, 5-, or 4-strip rod sections by merely changing the cutter head, a quick and easy task. The standard cutter head is for 6-strip rods. This versatility has greatly increased the interest in making both 5-, and 4-strip rods. 

Normally bamboo rod-makers plane or bevel strips for 6-strip rods with a 60-degree angle. Before inventing the Hand Mill my extensive bamboo cutting experience was always with a milling machine using cutters with the slightly larger included angle of 61.5 degrees. This experience proved to me that you greatly reduce the chance of having visible glue seams when strips cut with the 61.5 degree angle are glued into sections. When inspecting rods glued up with the larger included angle, I have found that they are structurally very strong and just as sound as 60-degree cut strips with no noticeable increase in internal glue space.

Cutter Head with Carbide Inserts

As a result of this experience I introduced to bamboo rodmakers cutter heads that have this slightly larger included angle and they have been very well accepted by Hand Mill users. My cutter heads for 8-strip rods are 46 degrees, 6-strip rods are 61.5 degrees, 5-strip rods are 73.5 degrees, and 4-strip rods are 92 degrees. For users who would like a cutter head closer to the traditional 60 degree angle I offer a 60.5 degree head. The photo of the glued-up section was cut with a 61.5 degree cutter head.

The Hand Mill bed assembly consists of the base that the plane rides on, the adjustable bed for setting a taper and guiding the plane, and a plastic anvil that the bamboo sits on during strip cutting. The base and adjustable bed are cold rolled steel and are chrome plated to protect them from rust. The adjustable bed for setting the taper has easily adjusted push/pull screws every 5", the standard for hand-planing. The taper is set using the adjustable bed, not the anvil; as a result, the bamboo sits on top of the anvil that doesn't wear as the strips are cut. A precision dial indicator with 0-1" travel and .001" accuracy is provided for accurate bed adjustment. Re-setting the taper is a simple and fast procedure taking less than fifteen minutes.


The dial indicator for adjusting a taper was originally affixed with a special holder to the rear of the plane in lieu of the plane handle with the dial indicator sticking out the back. This put the dial indicator at the opposite end from the cutting head and separated by the length of the plane. This method of attaching the dial would sometimes result in slightly inaccurate readings. It was also cumbersome to use the dial indicator particularly when truing anvils. As a result of these observations I, along with my assistant Bill Blackburn, designed a combination dial indicator holder/shaving tool that not only holds the dial indicator but also provides a method of truing the top of anvils. The new unit mounts in lieu of the cutter head and puts the dial indicator just ahead of the point where the bamboo is cut resulting in very accurate measurements. Another feature of the new design is if you are truing an anvil it's easy to remove only the dial indicator and to readjust the truing cutter for precise anvil shaving. 

The dial indicator holder/shaving tool holds a regular carbide insert perpendicular to the anvil so that when the anvil is trued the top is flat. Since the anvils are flat on top they will accommodate bamboo strips that have the natural outer curve of the bamboo or, if the user flattens the enamel side of the strips, they will also accommodate flat strips. In the event that an anvil eventually wears or gets damaged, it can be easily redressed with the new shaving tool. Under normal circumstances an anvil will allow several hundred strips to be cut before redressing is required.

Flat Cutter Head

NOTE: The original Hand Mills came with either a round sanding disk or a round shaving disk for truing anvils that would leave a radius on top of the anvils. After hearing from customers and our own experience I am now convinced that having anvils flat on top is significantly better. There are two primary reasons for this. First, if the anvil has a radius on top the dial indicator must be perfectly centered or you could get an incorrect reading when setting a taper. Second, if the anvil has a radius and your strip is flat or has a bigger radius it will be held above the bottom of the anvil and you won't be able to accurately set a taper. Therefore, I have had some special aluminum flat cutters made that original Hand Mill users can order free of charge to flatten their anvils. Since these cutters will rarely be used they come without a carbide insert or insert screw. They use the standard carbide insert and screw that comes with any cutter head. 

The new dial indicator holder/shaving tool is made from aluminum and is clear anodized for good durability. The standard dial indicator supplied with the Hand Mill fits into the tool and is held in place with a stainless steel set screw with a nylon tip to prevent damage to the indicator barrel. Included with it is a carbide insert and screw along with two flat head screws to attach it to the Hand Mill plane. The new shaving tool can be used for limited shaving of bamboo strips to flatten them on the pith side but won't hold up nearly as well as the tool steel flat cutter head for long term use.

This new dial indicator holder and flat shaving tool represents a significant improvement in the use and operation of the Hand Mill so they will be provided with all new Hand Mills. Ingvar Nilsson, a Hand Mill user in Sweden, designed the original dial indicator holder that fit on the front of the Hand Mill and even though it was somewhat different from ours I appreciate and acknowledge his creativity.

The Hand Mill comes with two tip and one butt-finishing anvils for tapering both types of strips. The two tip anvils are supplied so that very fine tips in addition to regular tips can be milled. It also comes with a tip- and a butt-roughing anvil for preliminary beveling of strips. The anvils, which can be quickly and easily changed, are machined from High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. The anvils have brass inserts melted into the bottom that provide long lasting threads for the screws to attach them to the adjustable bed. The bamboo strips are held onto the anvils with a screw that threads into brass inserts pressed into the anvils.

A substantial number of rod makers use a power beveller to rough out strips prior to planing them with the Hand Mill. By removing the head of the regular hold down screw and fastening the strip to the remaining pin, these strips can easily be held for Hand Mill planing. I also offer as an accessory a hardened steel hold down block to hold pre-milled strips. Another note for those bamboo rodmakers using a power beveller: I will provide any combination of five finishing anvils instead of the standard package of two tip-finishing, one butt-finishing, one tip-roughing, and one butt-roughing anvil.

When I was designing the Hand Mill, I noticed that sometimes small tip strips would vibrate from side to side as they were being cut. This vibration usually, but not always, seemed to relate to the speed that the plane moved down the strip. If this vibration occurred, it would often result in slight waves in the strip itself. As a result, I designed a plastic tip finger to keep the tips from vibrating back and forth during cutting.

However, several customers told me that under some circumstances the plastic tip finger didn't completely stop the vibration when cutting tips. Moreover, some mentioned that they would like an attachment that would help hold strips in alignment with the cutter head while milling. They thought it would be helpful with quad strips, in particular, because they are difficult to cut because of the low angle and stiffness of the sections.

As a result of this feedback, I designed a hold down shoe that, once the initial apex has been cut, securely holds the bamboo strips during the entire planing process and eliminates the vibration. In addition to stopping the vibration, it has turned out that the hold down shoe has substantially improved the cutting characteristics of the Hand Mill by providing a stabilizing alignment hold down in front of the carbide cutters. 

Plane with Shoe

The hold down shoe assembly consists of three parts: a body, a pivot arm, and a shoe. The whole assembly is fabricated from 303SE stainless steel that assures longevity and rust resistance. The thickness of the main block in front of the cutters is .240". It mounts easily with just one screw in the present hole in the center of the cutter heads. The area directly in front of the cutters is flat and doesn't have any gap between the cutter head and hold down shoe assembly where chips could accumulate.

The pivot arm that holds the shoes is spring loaded to hold the bamboo strips down and to provide enough force to keep the bamboo strips centered within the shoe. The front of the arms has two slots to hold shoes; the first arm slot is about 1.80" from the cutters, and the second slot is about 1.40" from the cutters. Some rod makers prefer using the shoes in the front slot, whereas others prefer the rear slot. The attaching holes in the pivot arm are slotted side-to-side about .030" so the shoes can be centered on the cutters.

There are three different hold down shoes of 61.5 degrees, 73.5 degrees, and 92 degrees for 6-, 5-, and 4-strip rods respectively. The shoes, which will hold even the smallest tip, are beveled in front so they slide easily on bamboo strips without digging in or catching them. Because the shoe is ahead of the cutters, a final cleanup cut will always be made on the bamboo. Once the hold down shoe is mounted and centered on the bamboo strip, its use is automatic.

The hold down shoe assembly is a significant improvement over the original plastic tip finger. I am recommending that the shoe be used with all original Hand Mills and, in the future, I will supply all new Hand Mills with hold down shoes. If more than one cutter head is ordered, the appropriate hold down shoe will be supplied with each head.

I think that it would be instructive here to briefly explain the Hand Mill cutting procedure in its entirety so you can understand how easily and quickly the Hand Milling proceeds. Once the strips are split out of a pole, the nodes are prepared, and the strip is straightened you drill a hole in the center of the strip so you can mount it on the anvil. Prior to rough cutting most users have set a taper in the adjustable bed so that as they rough cut the strip it also being tapered. Since a strip is square in the beginning you are cutting only the edges and, in addition, it is generally not heat-treated so you can cut a depth of at least .010" per cut. As you cut the strip down and the surface area on each side increases the cutting depth per cut is gradually reduced. When you are rough cutting it is easy to take three, four, or more cuts per minute once you establish a rhythm to the cutting and have determined the depth of cut on each pass. The adjusting screw on the Hand Mill, with its calibrated dial, lets you quickly and accurately adjust the depth of each cut. Since you never have to check the angle the cutting is straightforward and goes quickly because you are cutting both sides at once.

Before continuing with the cutting procedure I want to interject another idea that greatly benefits rough cutting by hand. I recommend that users soak their strips in water for two or three days prior to rough cutting. This procedure allows you to take cuts up to .020" per pass in the beginning, allows heavier cuts throughout the roughing process, and greatly extends the life of the cutter inserts. This procedure was somewhat controversial in the beginning but now I believe that most Hand Mill users, including ourselves, use this method. In addition, when heat-straightening and pressing a node soaking them first greatly facilitates the process.

After the butt rough cutting is completed the anvil is changed and the tip rough cutting proceeds. Changing anvils takes fifteen minutes or less. During the tip and butt rough cutting the same taper can usually be used since the strips are still over-sized. One procedure that speeds up overall rod production is to rough cut several sets of rods at one time and finish taper them as needed.

Once the rough cutting is completed you change to a finish anvil, set the taper, and begin cutting. A good time estimate for changing anvils and setting a taper is thirty minutes. For most users the bamboo would now be heat-treated. Once the bamboo is heat-treated the cutting proceeds slower since the bamboo is harder and cutting is more difficult. When cutting heat-treated strips with the Hand Mill a cut of .001"-.003" per pass is appropriate. Each user has their own standard for sizing strips after heat-treating but to give you an idea we like to have our strips .040"-.050" oversized. Naturally, the closer to a finished size you can get the quicker the cutting goes.

The addition of the hard stop on the plane makes finish cutting very easy and accurate. Once the correct strip size is determined and one strip cut to that size the hard stop is set. As you change strips the cutter head is moved up until it just clears the strip then adjusted down on successive cuts until it hits the hard stop. Thereafter, each strip milled has exactly the same taper as previous ones and exactly the same height. When these strips are glued together the resulting sections are all the same and the flat-to-flat dimensions are amazingly close.

The Hand Mill comes with a detailed instruction manual complete with photographs for clarity and ease of use. It also comes with the aluminum angle described below, a swelled butt kit, extra screws, five sets of carbide inserts, a precision dial indicator, and the new dial indicator holder/shaving tool. Also provided are sample Excel spreadsheets both in hard copy and on a CD-ROM that will make it easier to set your adjustable bed for your rod tapers. There are also useful tips about various aspects of bamboo rodmaking. The Hand Mill comes complete with all parts necessary to plane 6-strip rods. Cutter heads for 8-, 5-, and 4-strip rods must be ordered as accessories.

The manual, including Excel spreadsheets, is over 100 pages long and is very comprehensive since Hand Mills are sometimes shipped overseas or to other areas where there are not other users to help learn its use. Nonetheless, the learning curve is very fast and once the principles are understood its use is very intuitive. The manual lists some bamboo rodmaking books, has some bamboo preparation instruction, several bamboo information web site URL's, specific details about the Hand Mill plane and its operation, detailed instructions for setting tapers, and bamboo milling instructions.

The Hand Mill manual is available free of charge on a CD-ROM in PDF format if you would like to learn more about the Hand Mill and its operation before ordering one. This CD-ROM and the information on the web page are what we now have available for Hand Mill information. We have also posted links to the manual PDF files on the top of the Hand Mill page on the top right. You can download these files on your computer which is faster and easier than getting a CD-ROM. We no longer offer a Hand Mill brochure. Of course, we are available via email or phone to answer any questions that you might have concerning the Hand Mill or its operation. 


Left-Hand Models

For those of you who are left-handed I offer Hand Mills with the standard base and an adjustable bed with letters and numbers on both sides to facilitate milling left-handed. In addition, these Hand Mills are supplied with an aluminum angle with holes reverse of a standard angle to accommodate left-hand milling. There is no extra charge for these models.


Aluminum Angle

One of my customers, John Miller, designed an important improvement for mounting the Hand Mill base to a bench. John mounted his base on an aluminum angle that is fastened to his bench. The angle has holes drilled through the top of the angle to allow access to the anvil hold down screws and slots cut for the adjusting screws. 

I discovered that by mounting the base on the aluminum angle, two important things are accomplished: First and most importantly, the setting and cutting accuracy is improved. The aluminum angle and base are bolted together in seven places to eliminate any flexing between the two and thus make a very rigid unit. As a result of this rigidity and the aluminum angle, the Hand Mill accuracy is no longer dependent upon how flat and true the workbench is. When your tapers are set using this method, they remain precisely where they were set. Second, you can set your tapers and remove the anvils without taking the base off the bench. This arrangement saves considerable time when setting tapers and changing anvils during strip cutting.

The new aluminum angles are powder coated to provide a clean surface that won't rub off on clothing.

One question that is often asked by Hand Mill purchasers is the recommended height of the bed. For most users the standard bench height of about 36" is satisfactory. However, there are two other considerations: one is how tall the user is and, second, how much strip cutting will be done. If the user is tall and a lot of strips will be cut then having the base about belt height definitely is easier on the back. This can easily be accomplished by building a simple plywood box to mount the aluminum angle and base. Another question that is sometimes asked is how much space is needed at each end of the base and my recommendation is approximately 18". It can be less but this is ideal.

Mounting the Hand Mill base on an aluminum angle is such a significant improvement that in the future I am only going to sell Hand Mills with this accessory. The current price includes the aluminum angle.


Carbide Inserts

Carbide inserts with A and B laser engraved

I am changing the carbide inserts that I have been using to a new model I think are a significant improvement over the ones previously provided. They have EXACTLY the same specifications for size and tolerance so they will completely interchange in any of the cutter heads for the different strip configurations. They are made from C5 carbide instead of the present C2 I have been using so they are harder and last considerably longer. It's difficult to determine exactly how much longer but some users have reported over 50%. They have a relief angle of 15% rather than the current 11% so the edge is inherently sharper which makes for a little easier cutting. The relief edge is coated with TIN which is one reason they last longer. Also the top is super polished so the cutting edge is cleaner and smoother which is part of the reason they are sharper.

The new inserts are marked on the face with an "A" or a "B" and a "1", "2", "3" on the bottom so it will be much easier to keep track of which side of the inserts have been used.

The inserts also come with a spreadsheet you can use to track their use.


Swelled Butt Kit

The swelled butt kit allows the user to cut strips with a swell for the traditional swelled butt rod designs. The kit consists of precision plastic shims that are 1/2" by 2" of .010", .020", .030", and .060" thickness and instructions. With this kit you can make a swelled butt from .020" to .120" in .020" increments over a distance of 2.5". This kit is standard with new Hand Mills.

Hollow Fluting Cutter Tool

Lew Stoner of the R. L. Winston Rod Company invented and patented the hollow fluted bamboo rod idea in the 1930s. Lew reasoned that removing a considerable amount of bamboo in the center of the rod would substantially reduce the rod's weight and increase its performance. This proved to be true in surf, casting, and fly rods. The fluting cutters remove more bamboo in the middle than on the edges maintaining a long edge seam for glue strength.

Hollow Fluting

Even though most of the bamboo rods being made today are smaller than earlier rods, I knew that by hollow fluting rods there would be a significant improvement in the rod's performance. I knew the critical feature would be to keep the carbide insert used for hollowing exactly centered or it would slip off the apex of the bamboo resulting in a ruined strip. In order for the carbide hollowing insert to remain exactly centered the side-to-side tolerance between the insert and roller would have to be almost zero. Manufacturing the base, plunger block, plunger, rollers, and insert pocket to extremely close tolerances proved to be a challenge, but one that was achieved. The hollowing carbide inserts stay exactly centered on the bamboo strip during hollowing.

Hollowed Butts

If you look at the end of a hollow fluted rod, the inside is hollow and looks somewhat like a flower with petals. The rod sections in the photograph are approximately .300" across and are fluted from left to right with the 3/64", 1/32", and 1/16" tip radius cutters. The amount of weight reduction depends upon the size of rod and the remaining wall thickness, but the reduction will generally range from 10% to 25%.

When rods are hollow fluted, it should be noted, there is a weight reduction, but there is also a loss of stiffness due to bamboo being removed. An increase of the rod section area by approximately 2-5% is necessary to compensate for this loss. Experimentation with your individual tapers will give you an answer to the fluting/stiffness ratio.

One of my major design considerations was to ensure that the fluting attachment not be subject to rusting in humid climates. The base and block of the Hollow Fluting Cutter are aluminum and are clear anodized for protection. The aluminum block has a bronze bushing pressed into it that guides the precision ground stainless steel rod and guide wheel. This design provides a good bearing surface for the plunger that won't corrode or rust. The rollers are made from stainless steel and have included angles of 64 degrees, 76 degrees and 94 degrees for 6-, 5-, and 4-strip rods respectively. This larger included angle makes sure that the rollers don't ride on the outsides edges of the bamboo when hollowing. A shoulder bolt holds the roller so exchanging different rollers is very easy.

The Hollow Fluting Cutter comes with 6 carbide inserts that have an 11-degree positive rake for good chip clearance: 2 each with tip radiuses of 1/32", 3/64", and 1/16". The carbide inserts are specially ground to close tolerances to be interchangeable in the same pocket. Generally, the 1/32" and 3/64" inserts would be used for hollowing tips or small butts whereas the 1/16" insert would be used for larger butts. The specifications for the carbide inserts are provided with the instructions.

Hollow fluting is done after the individual bamboo strips are finish cut. There are large varieties of hollowing configurations that are possible: different sizes of hollowing radiuses, different wall thickness, and different hollowing tapers. Experimentation with the different inserts will determine which insert is best for your particular application. From my experience, wall thicknesses of .070" for trout rods and .085" for steelhead and salmon rods are appropriate and good places to start but thinner wall sections are possible on tips as well as butts.

Hollow rods must be solid under the ferrule stations for strength. When solid rod butts are glued in a binder, it normally doesn't matter whether you start gluing at the tip or butt of the rod. However, with hollow butts they must be started at the tip end that is solid in order for them to glue together easily and straight.

Included with the hollowing tool is a micrometer tip that goes on the bottom anvil of a micrometer to enable one to measure the thickness of the hollowed wall. The tip has a 1/32" radius that will fit inside the hollow of a strip.

The Hollow Fluting Cutter attaches with two 10-24 by 9/16" flat head fasteners in lieu of a cutter head.

In order for the Hollow Fluting Cutter Attachment to work properly, the shims from a swelled butt kit are usually used, and for older Hand Mills that didn't include swelled butt kits they can be ordered along with the fluting cutter.

Included with the Hollow Fluting Cutter is a detailed set of instructions with photographs.


Magic Star Cutter

Wolfram Schott described the Magic Star rod in issue #98 of the Planing Form. According to Mr. Schott, the rods made using this method of hollowing were produced by Vangen and Carlson in Norway through the middle to latter part of the 20th century. Each strip of the Magic Star section is shaped like an inverted "T" resulting in a cross-section with a set of "spokes" that support the outer wall. In the article, Wolfram suggested that it might be worthwhile to produce the tooling to recreate this design on the Morgan Hand Mill. Bill Lamberson, a Hand Mill user, approached me to design such a cutter. It sounded like an interesting project to develop a method of hollowing different from the regular hollow fluting cutter I provide for the Hand Mill. 

Magic Star Cutter Head

I agreed to make several prototypes to see how well they worked. We tried one in our shop as did Bill and two other users and they worked well. As a result, I decided to make a production model. I thought that a slight variation on the original prototype where both a triangular and square insert could be used to remove different amounts of bamboo while varying the glue seam area would provide useful options for the rodmaker. In addition, I wanted to provide a method to vary the width of the "spokes" of the inverted "T" that would allow interesting variations in rod design.

Another Hand Mill user, Brent Nickerson, who tried one of the prototypes, was interested in working on the development of the new style I had in mind. Brent, who is very creative, a retired engineer, and a machinist, is also a very capable computer CAD user. We worked together to design the new Magic Star Cutter and he drew the prints.

Magic Star Hollowed Sections

Sections from left to right: square cutters .030 spoke thickness, square cutters .045 spoke thickness, triangle cutters .045 spoke thickness, triangle cutters .065 spoke thickness.

If you look at the end of a bamboo section cut with the Magic Star Cutter, you will see the center support "spokes" along with the bamboo removed on either side. The Magic Star Cutter head also is designed to vary the width of the "spokes" from approximately .030" to .065". Naturally, the depth of cut is also variable depending on the amount of wall thickness desired. The amount of weight reduction depends on the combination of the "spoke" thickness and the wall thickness.

Below is a CAD drawing of a theoretical "spoke" cut with both a square insert and a triangle insert showing the relative material removed with each. It's evident that the square cutter will remove the most bamboo, however, the square cutter glue seam is about 80% of the glue seam cut with a triangle cutter so the joint glue strength won't be quite as great although I am confident it will be adequate.

CAD Drawing of Spoke Cut

The body, the carbide insert holders, and fastening screws are all stainless steel to ensure that the unit won't rust in humid climates. The unit comes with two 1/4" IC (Inscribed Circle) triangular carbide inserts and two 1/4" IC square carbide inserts, both with an 11-degree positive rake for good chip clearance. Both insert styles have a 1/32" tip radius. The Magic Star Cutter attaches with two 10-24 by 3/4" button head screws that are provided. I am also providing a brass brush to remove any loose bamboo off your strips after hollowing. In addition, there are special hex wrenches for the small insert holding screws, button head screws, and an extra screw for the inserts. The Magic Star cutter comes with instructions.

Because the Magic Star Cutter inserts are lower in relation to standard insert cutter heads, the regular length hold down shoe won't properly hold the bamboo. Therefore, I provide a longer 6-strip shoe with each cutter. If you also want to hollow 5-strip or 4-strip rods, you will need a longer shoe for each.

The Magic Star Cutter is a new design for me, and, even though I have made sure the cutters and concept work, I haven't made any rods using this principle. Therefore, I don't have any recommendations based on its use as to "spoke" thickness or wall thickness. Certainly, one consideration to keep in mind when hollowing is to use a combination that leaves enough glue surface on the edges for proper adhesion and joint strength.


Extension Bed

Soon after designing the Hand Mill I started making special long beds to make one-piece rods up to 7' 3" in length. They worked but were difficult to process in our shop, a challenge to transport to be chrome plated without damaging them, and were difficult to set up so I quit manufacturing them. There has been continued interest in longer one-piece rods both for fly fishing and for bait casting. Therefore, I decided to see if there was a simple solution to making longer rods on the Hand Mill. The extension bed solves the problem of making one-piece rods up to 7' 6", or slightly longer, in length. 

To cut one-piece strips you use your regular butt-finishing anvil and regular tip-finishing anvil. The preliminary cutting on the tip portion is done with the butt-finishing anvil while the rough butt cutting and finish butt cutting is done with the butt-finishing anvil. Then the tip-finishing anvil is attached and the tip portion of the strip is finished on it. The cutting of a one-piece strip requires using two different anvils and switching the strip back and forth between the two once. This is similar to cutting the strips for a regular two-piece rod only it's done on a single strip.

On the newer Hand Mills the extension bed bolts onto the base using two 1 1/4" by 1/4-20 cap head screws in pre-tapped holes on the right side of the base. If you have one of the older units there are two ways to attach the extension. The easiest way, and one that works perfectly well, is for you to bolt it on with the single 2 1/4" by 1/4-20 cap head screw provided with the unit. This single screw goes through the extension bed, through the base end hole, through the aluminum angle, and is fastened tightly with a nut. Since the plane doesn't run down the extension bed there is very little pressure on the extension so one bolt is enough to securely hold it. For those who would prefer to hold the extension with two screws I provide, at a modest price so you don't have to locate the parts, a transfer punch, slightly oversize drill bit, 1/4-20 tap, and a tap handle to tap a second hole into the base. This tapping kit doesn't come with the extension and must be ordered separately.

The extension bed unit consists of a 36" chrome plated steel bed similar to the regular adjustable bed, a short anvil for attaching the bamboo strips with butt strip screws, a hex wrench for the anvil screws, screws to fasten the extension bed onto the Hand Mill base, and instructions.


Clamped Bamboo Strip

Many Hand Mill users pre-bevel their strips using some style of power rough cutter. This method of cutting doesn't leave a large area at the butt of the strip to fasten it to the anvil without splitting the bamboo. Therefore, I make three different hardened steel "V" blocks with slots of 61 1/2, 73 1/2, and 92 degrees to hold these pre-beveled strips. The blocks are hardened so they can be used as drill jigs to drill 1/8" and #43 holes into the bamboo strips. They also have a narrow slot on the top of the "V" to make sure the bamboo strip fits into the slot completely. 

The idea for the bamboo clamp was first presented to me by Richard Steinbach, a Hand Mill user. I am very appreciative of him sharing this idea and encouraging me to provide them to other users.


Aluminum Measuring Block

One of the challenges in cutting bamboo strips is measuring them accurately to provide glued sections that match the taper design. The Hand Mill provides a special situation for measuring bamboo strips because of the cutter heads with a slightly increased cutting angle. With the Hand Mill, I have included a chart that converts the width of a strip to the height, but it works only with 6-strip rods. Moreover, the delicacy of measuring across the flats with a caliper or a micrometer makes it difficult to achieve consistent results.

To solve this problem, I have made a measuring gauge block that includes special angles for the three primary rod designs that I make cutter heads for: 6-strip, 5-strip, and 4-strip. It has been proven that this method of measuring strips is the most accurate available. By using the measuring block, one can quickly and easily determine the exact bamboo strip height anywhere along its length. 

The measuring block sits on a caliper and is held in place by a brass screw so as not to damage the caliper. It is machined from 6061T6 aluminum alloy, is black anodized, and has the identifying angles labeled with engraved numerals coated with white paint. It comes with a .100" drill for calibration and instructions that include photographs.


Reel Seat Alignment Jig

Note. We make a special tool as an accessory to help line up reel seats during their installation. It consists of a reel foot with a 1 3/8 pin sticking straight up. You install this foot centered in your reel seat, glue on the seat, and then sight down the butt from the tip end aligning the seat with the stripping guide. It makes alignment very easy and accurate.


Ferrule Station & Reel Seat Turning Tool

When we turn our ferrule stations on our lathe we use a tool steel bit we grind with a 3/8" radius or it would be a 3/4" diameter tool if it were an insert and a 15 degree relief angle. We do this because it automatically leaves a nice radius on the bamboo where the ferrule ends and the bamboo begins.

We also use a similar tool to turn our wood spacers. It provides a beautiful finish because of the large radius.

We now provide a turning tool with either a 3/8" inch or 1/2" inch shank with a 3/4" inch diameter round carbide insert with a 15 degree relief angle. The 15 degree relief angle is what we now use on the Hand Mill inserts providing a very sharp edge. These tools will last a very long time and since you only have to turn the insert a small amount to get a fresh turning surface.

Note About Honing Device:

There are some photos of the honing device I made for honing the outside of the male ferrules. It is a remarkable tool that works extremely well. Unlike most outside honing devices with large incremental adjustments for size this one adjusts in increments of .000050" or 50 millionths! Since posting the photos I have had a number of inquiries asking about purchasing one. I am not producing them but have considered it for a future project. If you are interested drop me a note and I will put you on a contact list in case I do make them.


Hand Mill List Server

I have established a list server for Hand Mill owners so they will have a convenient and easy way to communicate via email. For those of you not familiar with list servers, they function by disseminating an email letter sent to a central server to everyone who belongs to the list. In addition, all letters are retained in an archive that can be searched by selecting specific topics.

The list has become an active forum for dissemination of Hand Mill ideas, problem solving, questions, rod-building tips, rod tapers, and other ideas relating to rodmaking.

It is a private list server that I administer for owners of Morgan Hand Mills. Anyone who owns a Hand Mill may join and contribute messages to the list server even if they aren't the original purchaser. Even though contributing to the list is open only to Hand Mill owners the list is open to anyone who would like to read the archived messages.

The list server site may be accessed by clicking on the following URL:

This URL will take you to the main page. You will then see three buttons to hit for access: "Click here to enter morganhandmill", "Join morganhandmill", or "Visit morganhandmill without joining".Unless you are a Hand Mill owner who has registered you are limited to the "Visit morganhandmill without joining" button.

When you hit the "Visit morganhandmill without joining" button, you will be taken to another page. There you will find a "Read Message" button. If you hit the "Read Message" button, you will be taken to the message archive page. There you will find messages listed under specific topics that can be searched. I encourage you to go to the list server and read messages sent by Hand Mill owners.

I strongly recommend to Hand Mill owners who don't belong to the list server to join it. There is not a lot of traffic on it but it provides a good opportunity for you to share information or ask questions of other Hand Mill owners. It also allows me an easy way to contact owners for updates or information.


General Thoughts on Bamboo Rod-making

I have corresponded with a Handmill user about various aspects of bamboo rod-making and many bamboo rod makers have found the thoughts worthwhile. Therefore, I am posting it in the article section so you can read it and, hopefully, you will find the article, "Some Bamboo Rodmaking Thoughts," useful and thought provoking.

Also see: Bob Maulucci interview for Power Fibers Magazine


Closing Thoughts

Some users of the Hand Mill have consented to be references. If you are interested in corresponding with them to learn more about their experiences concerning its use, please contact me by email, and I will give you their names and email addresses.

Please feel free to correspond with me about any questions that you have concerning the operation and use of the Hand Mill, and I will try to answer them. The easiest way for me to communicate is by email; however, you may also call or write. My addresses are listed at the bottom of this web page.

The Morgan Bamboo Hand Mills have a long and productive life so it's very important to me that I provide excellent support whether you are the original purchaser or not. If you have purchased a used Hand Mill I will provide the same support that is provided to new users so feel free to contact me if you have questions or need help. I also like to be notified of a change of ownership so I can keep my owner database up to date. You are also entitled to join the Hand Mill list server.

I am very excited about the Morgan Bamboo Hand Mill. Soon after I bought the Winston Rod Company in 1973, bamboo rods began to lose their popularity in favor of graphite rods. It is very satisfying to me to see the resurgence of interest in making and fishing bamboo rods. The Morgan Hand Mill has revolutionized the way bamboo rods are planed by amateurs and professionals alike. It has also greatly increased the interest in making both 5-strip and 4-strip rods because of ease of cutting these strip configurations by just changing the cutter head. I hope that the ease of planing strips offered by the Hand Mill will remove some of the difficulty long associated with bamboo rodmaking that has held many people back from such an enjoyable pursuit.

Since there are so many accessories for the Hand Mill I encourage you to call to discuss all the options to provide you with just what you need.

Tom Morgan