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Charles Murphy was one of the earliest American rod-makers to work with bamboo. No matter who made the first one, most people agree that Murphy was probably the first maker to build a rod with all sections made from 6-strip bamboo and also the first rod-maker to produce 6-strip rods for sale in the commercial marketplace. Only 15-20 of the 200 rods Murphy made are know to exist.
He was a colorful Irishman, a professional firefighter in New York City, and a consummate woodworker. He moved to Newark, NJ in the late 1850s. In part, it’s hard to tell who did what first, because Murphy, Ebenezer A. Green, Thaddeus Norris, Samuel Phillippe, and J.C. Conroy and even William Mitchell lived reasonably close together and visited each other’s workshops.
Marty Keene first discovered some very early 6-strip rods with unusual, tiny cupped areas in the shaft above the grip. Other rods have what A.J. Campbell referred to as 12 mysterious blackened pin pricks in the same area. That one is no mystery. Early rod-makers would plane their hardwood rod sections on a special plank that had 1-2 sharp-pointed thin nails driven through from the bottom side of the plank. You simply pushed your rod section down onto the nail to keep it from sliding during two-handed planing. The black pin pricks are shown here.
From the Steve Patten collection.