Snedden: Maker of Rods

by Dr. Frank P. Gilley

A bamboo rod will take eighty to ninety hours of painstaking work to build, with sixty five percent of this time spent in the preparation of the cane- by putting the blanks together; straightening, heating, and straightening again.

George Snedden and his wife Lucille live in a beautiful modified ranch home overlooking a one-acre farm pond. Their home is located above the center of Hermon, Maine, on a hilltop. He lived in the Cape Cod area until 1951 when he was moved to Vassalboro, Maine by his employer, the Narragansett Brewing Co.

The Sneddens moved to the Bangor area in 1957 and spent the rest of his active business years with the Pepsi Cola Co.

In the Cape Cod area early on, George fished and made some rods used by salt-water fisherman. They were fairly simple rods, but worked well and he and his friend sold quite a few. After George moved to Bangor, he began to learn the art of bamboo rod making. During World War II, bamboo or Tonkin cane was not imported. After the war it came from China by way of France.

George was a good student and learned a great deal from George Barnes book "How To Make Bamboo Fly Rods." In those days, each employee had a separate job in preparing a rod. George supplemented his process of learning rod making by reading his Garrison's book, (a master guide to building a bamboo fly rod), and by trial and error.

He spent time with Wes Jordan, top rod maker at the Orvis Co. and tried unsuccessfully to get the formula for staining the ferrules, although later George did discover this method. A piece of bamboo twelve feet long is known as a culm. George likes the larger culms, two inches in diameter. The bamboo is split by hand to start, and then the cane is stored at the proper temperature and humidity and the rest of the culm will split by itself with a loud bang. The pulp is then removed and raised rings are flattened out.

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After president Nixon visited China, and the bamboo market opened up again, other rod materials came along such as, fiberglass, graphite and for a while, boron.

The process of sectioning the bamboo strips, or culms, and heat treating and cementing the pieces together is very complicated and very necessary in order to turn out a superior product. George's basement is full of equipment for the above-mentioned steps and for winding the completed section. He designed some of this equipment himself. As one watches and listens to George, his dedication to the art of rod making is obvious.

A bamboo rod will take eighty to ninety hours of painstaking work to build, with sixty five percent of this time spent in the preparation of the cane- by putting the blanks together; straightening, heating, and straightening again.

In the best rod all six segments of a section comes from the same culm. or a piece of bamboo. And likewise, all of the sections should come from the same piece of bamboo.

After the sections are completed to George's specifications, the ferrules have to be placed, the cork grip fashioned, and the guides placed and wound with thread. Prior to that the sections have to be varnished and George has a twelve foot circular concrete pit made into the floor of his garage that has another smaller tube inside full of varnish. A system of pulleys allows the sections to be lowered into the chamber so a uniform coat of varnish can be applied.

When one sees the extensive process the rod maker goes through, it is easy to see that the process is a labor of love. It also explains the price of two thousand dollars for each custom-made bamboo rod.

After watching George work, I can see why he is so successful. The coordination between a mind's dream and the hand's creation is very finely tuned.

George formed his own company, "Lucky Scott" named for his two sons. A national outfit used the name in California and threatened suit. The matter was settled when George was able to prove that his company pre-dated the California outfit.

When one visits George's home, you immediately see some beautiful carved and painted birds, a hobby George has taken up in the last two and a half years. After a visit to the Wendall Gilley Museum in Southwest Harbor, George watched and worked with Steve Valleau, resident carver, and began his own program of carving.

George has spent time with Floyd Schultz of the Vermont Raptor Academy, where he took extensive courses in painting his carved birds.

He has donated several rods to many conservation organizations for their fund- raising events, and he has volunteered in the community in such groups as the Penobscot Salmon Club and Anah Temple Shrine, which benefits crippled and burned children.

George is still active in rod making and has rods available in his home on Mountain View Drive, Hermon, Maine. The Lucky Scott Shop is off Route 2 west of Bangor. Telephone: #207-848-2375.

Believe me, you will enjoy a visit with the talented and personable individual.

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