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The Edward Barder Rod Company

General presentation

Edward Barder developed his love for angling from his father, Richard, in the 1960s and 70s. Aged nine, Edward is seen here posing at one of his father’s favourite stretches of the river Kennet in Berkshire (UK). The photo illustrated the cover of Richard’s highly regarded book, “Dry-Fly Trouting For Beginners”.

At this time, split cane rods were still commonplace, although fibre glass was in the ascendant. Edward and his father fished with rods made from both materials but it was split cane that they liked for its looks and tactile qualities. Edward was a child who always had to dismantle things that interested him. This habit led him to investigate the construction of split cane rods. Inevitably, attempts at making rods followed.

While working for Hardy’s in Pall Mall, London, he continued to refine his rod-making craft. He also contacted a number of the old masters who passed on secrets of the trade and provided him with priceless raw materials. These included large stocks of vintage Tonkin bamboo, whipping silks, best grade handle corks and appropriate rod rings.
In time, working for Hardy’s by day and making rods by night was too much. The catalyst for the founding of the Edward Barder Rod Company was when fellow cane enthusiast, Chris Yates, did Edward the honour of co-designing a new range of rods. Like him, Chris felt that there was a growing body of anglers who would welcome a fresh source of hand-made split cane rods.

By 1990, with the purchase of the original workshop equipment used by Constable of Bromley, the Edward Barder Rod Company was firmly established. Since then, Colin Whitehouse, a near equally avid angler, has added his skills to the business.

Describe your profession, your finished products and your particularities.

We have taken great care to make rods that sympathetically utilise and fully express the incredible qualities of Tonkin bamboo.

Conceived for the contemporary fly fisher, Barder split bamboo rods are anything but old fashioned in performance. Through long term analysis at the riverside and in the workshop, we have arrived at precise proprietary tapers for a series of rods within the optimum range for split bamboo –from a 6½’ #3-weight to an 8½’ #6-weight.

Actions are typically smooth and progressive, best described, within the context of split bamboo, as medium fast.

Ours is a beautiful, graceful sport. We think our rods do justice to the fine art of fly fishing.

What materials do you use?

Bamboo, olive wood, Portuguese cork, silk, nickel silver, Titanium, agate.

Describe the knowhow, the techniques, the tools and the materials you use in your work.

Each stage in the making of a Barder rod is carried out with fastidious attention to detail. Every part of a Barder rod (guides aside) is designed and made in-house.

Perfectly seasoned and selected Tonkin bamboo culms are prepared entirely by hand, from flame tempering, grain-splitting and straightening, through to node pressing. The strips are tapered to precise tolerances of +/- .001” on our purpose built mill. The six 60º triangular strips are pressure wrapped with an advanced adhesive to make up each solid hexagonal bamboo section.

Seasoned, straightened and cleaned, the sections are fitted with accurately proportioned ferrules made from hard drawn nickel silver tubing.

Only the best Flor grade Portuguese cork is used for handles. Each ½” disc is cut in two; only the best half is used. Our ergonomically correct cigar-shaped handles are turned to an exceptionally fine, firm and velvety finish.

The distinctive and beautifully executed swelled butt of a Barder rod stops the action just ahead of the hand, adding precision and authority to the casting stroke.

Mortised reel seat inserts of highly figured olive wood are furnished with precisely turned, finely knurled nickel silver or titanium cap & ring reel fittings.

All nickel silver components are blued and lacquered. The ferrules are fitted with traditional hand-turned olive wood & cork stoppers.
Guides are pewter finished hard chrome plated fine wire snakes with matching tip-tops and nickel silver stripping guides that are lined with highly figured Brazilian agate. Whippings are perfectly transparent Pearsall’s Gossamer silks with extra fine tan or black tippings. The final stage of construction is the application of several coats of marine grade varnish. The flawless finish of a Barder rod is truly exceptional.

What is your “ideal” client’s profile?

A passionate angler (fisherman or fisherwoman) who appreciates beautiful hand made fishing tackle.

At what age and under what circumstances did you start this job?

I started my business at the age of 25. I am now 53. I made fishing rods as a hobby until I was 25, when I decided to turn my hobby into a full time career.

Where and how long have you been trained before you were ready to start your own business? In a training institute, with a craftsman or both? What do you think is the best way to learn your job today? Schools, training with craftsmen …?

I am a self-taught rod maker. I think that the best way for someone to enter my trade today would be to spend as much time as possible making fishing rods as a hobby. Then, if they are completely sure that they have the necessary skill and passion to take up their hobby as a full time job, they should perhaps seek some employment, either full time or part time, with an established and respected professional.

What role do “talent” and “creativity” play in your profession?

Talent plays a part, as does creativity, but my trade is a craft, not an art, and the most important qualities for success are dedication and a very high standard of skilled workmanship.

And what about innovation, what are the changes since you started? Do you use new materials, tools, or processes in manufacturing and marketing? What is the impact of innovation on your performance? How could your profession be even more innovative?

The essence of our craft was firmly established and codified well over one hundred years ago. We make improvements in our work by very small increments and an endless search for subtle improvements in our working techniques and materials.

What is the best way to learn your profession?

As there is no apprenticeship scheme that I am aware of in Europe, I always suggest that it is best for aspiring rod makers to take up the craft as a hobby. This is feasible and worthwhile.

What is your message to younger generations who might choose your profession?

To make fishing rods as a hobby. To study the craft through available literature and by studying as many rods made by as many established makers as possible. Do not attempt to enter the trade on a full time basis until you have mastered the craft to a high degree, and developed a proper business model that has passed severe scrutiny by at least one impartial third party.

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