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Finishing - General

I remember finishing some of my early rods by simply masking off the ferrules and then taping a hanging loop to the handle of the butt section and tying a loop to the tip ring/guide of the top.

I then POURED the varnish from a jug down each rod section and collected the excess varnish in a glass jar (for recycling).  Make sure the floor area is well covered for the inevitable mishap, I used old newspapers.  Then promptly hang each section in your drying cabinet (which should be very close to where you are working  to  minimize  atmospheric/airborne contaminants (IE: bits)!).  After blowing off any excess varnish that may/will collect in the guides/rings.

Have no doubts that this method, despite its crudeness, produces a very acceptable finish and one that after three coats with a little rubbing down in between is very, very acceptable to all but the most discerning eye.

Go on, give it a try, I can almost guarantee you will not be at all disappointed with the end result.  Make sure the wife and kids, dogs and cats are aware of what you are doing and make sure they keep well away from your work area during the pouring.  (Paul Blakley)


What works for me is to put my left hand inside a plastic shopping bag (with no printing on it), then drip varnish into my palm with a screwdriver. I then pull the rod blank, one section at a time, through my palm with my right hand. After about three passes, I have applied a thin coat of varnish to the entire rod. I do this 2-4 times, steelwooling between coats and it looks great. I know it sounds hokey....  (Doug Lasher)


Okay guys - another one of my experiments that seemed to have worked out. If you thin out polyurethane varnish a lot - I mean by about 50/50, (I used artist grade turpentine - experiment first because there are so many different formulas for polyurethane varnish), you can actually rub it on with a rag. Or use a brush, this mix is so thin brush marks don't linger. You also get a lot of time to fill in, etc. before it gets tacky. I put a rod  section on my rod turning motor, brushed on this mix as it turned, let it continue to turn as it dried, put on three coats, and the results were excellent. No brush marks, no runs, no drips, no errors. (Darryl  Hayashida)


I just got finished refinishing a dresser, and after a little experimentation I got an excellent finish which virtually glows on it's own. I don't see why this wouldn't work on a rod.

I started off with tung oil, three applications. Let dry for a week using the hair dryer trick mentioned a little while ago on this list. When no more oil weeps out, apply a 50/50 thinner and polyurethane varnish mix. Let dry overnight. Apply three coats of straight polyurethane. Let dry thoroughly, at least a week. Sand lightly with 400 wet dry sandpaper and water. Then sand thoroughly with 600 wet dry sandpaper and water. Then buff completely with Turtle Wax Polishing Compound. The sanding and polishing removes that slight dulling film that forms on the surface of dry polyurethane. Be sure to get Polishing Compound, not Rubbing Compound. Rubbing compound is much more abrasive. Any automotive store will have Polishing Compound.

Also, don't get too vigorous with the sandpaper.  You don't want to sand through down into the (wood in my case) bamboo below. All you want to do is take off the surface layer. The finish on my dresser is very impressive. I think it will be equally impressive on a rod.  (Darryl Hayashida)


One thing that woodworkers know instinctively is that glues will not allow stains or finishes to enter the wood products.  I've been playing around with mineral spirit types of stain on a rod I working on. Although I thought the cane was glue free - such was not the case. There was still little bits here and there and were not discernible to the naked eye but a coating of stain picked them right up. So if you want your blank to be glue free and the OD you intended, give it a rub down with a very dark stain. The stain sands off easily. The stain I'm using will not enter the  cane pores.  (Don Anderson)


I found a Phillipson Peerless impregnated rod, the butt section is badly water damaged, tips are perfect. I can get a butt section from the fly shop I got the tips from, mic'd one out that is almost exact, but not impregnated.

As far as value goes, I know rod won't be worth a whole lot, but was wondering if there would be performance degradation using a non-impregnated butt?  (Paul Hamm)

    There are those that would consider a non-impregnated butt section a performance improvement.  :-)   (Timothy Troester)


Has anyone been successful staining bamboo blanks?  If so, how was it done, and what products did you use.  I was going to flame this rod black, but chickened out thinking that my Home Depot variety torch was not hot enough.  I would like to have the rod look like black walnut when done, but not sure how to get there.  (Kyle Druey)

    It can be done, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Just finish this one out as it is, and make the next one dark, IMO.

    Should you choose to stain it, be aware that oil based stains are not the best choice.  They don't penetrate very well.  Seems like someone mentioned using aniline dyes with good results, but I have no experience with that.  Ammonia toning can produce a deep walnut color, but will not have the mottled look of flaming.  Of course, neither will a stain....(Harry Boyd)

    I've tried ordinary wood stains & aniline wood dyes, but I've had better success using Pantone (Tria) markers.  You will need a color much darker than you think at first, because bamboo doesn't really want to absorb the ink.  After coloring the blank, let it dry then "go at it" with alcohol on a rag to even up the color.  Most of the color will come off on the rag.  You then repeat the whole process until its dark enough.  There really isn't too  much to go wrong; the color moves fairly well with the rag.

    Do this late in the process, just before you wrap the guides and/or varnish, because any final sanding or steelwooling will remove more stain and leave lighter spots.

    Once you've found a color you like, you can buy the Pantone inks in 4 oz bottles, if you look on the web.  Maybe that would be useful once you have a color you like.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    How did Wayne Cattanach go about purpling the rod for his daughter? Was it the Pantone marker route or did he do something else?  (Gerald Buckley)

      He used the Pantone marker.  He thought about using potassium permanganate but settled on the marker.  I tried the potassium permanganate.  Produces a dirty brown.  Looked like mud.  The best way I've found is using aniline dye.  The kind that Woodcraft sells that can be made up using alcohol.  Get a section on PVC pipe long enough for the strips and put the strips in and add the alcohol/dye mixture and let sit overnight or make a chamber using galvanized pipe and put about 100 psi and dye it in about 5 minutes.   This dyes it all the way through.  No backing out and sanding it off.  (Onis Cogburn)

    The only sure way of staining Bamboo I know of is with Potassium of Permanganate Solution !

    Some  people  say  it  stains with a purple tinge......not quite true......the color is a brown tone effect.

    You can get potassium permanganate from any Chemists (Pharmacy) and it is generally used for the treatment of foot disorders (as in Chiropody). It is also extremely cheap........the down side is it will stain your hands like you are a 100 a day smoker so take care with the stuff.  (Paul Blakley)

      You might mention that it is not advisable to use potassium permanganate mixed with glycerin, although I'm sure the terrorist's handbook approves of it.  (Reed Curry)

    Has anyone tried Potassium Dichromate? We used to use this on mahogany, but it works on many woods. It interacts with the tannic acid in the wood and thus creates a permanent chemical change, not just a covering  with pigment, like so many stains. We used to make a saturated solution, then use half to get 50%, 25%, 12.5%, etc.  (Reed Curry)

      Potassium dichromate is photosensitive. It hardens organic material it is mixed with on exposure to UV light. It creates a yellowish stain, which can be removed chemically.  It's the active chemical used to make gum prints around the turn of the century. Mixed with gum arabic,  and pigment, it hardens any gum exposed to UV. You can wash away the unhardened gum, leaving the pigmented image behind.

      I've heard it's used by gun makers to stain maple gunstocks  to achieve that rich red/brown, and I've considered using it on reel seat fillers.

      I have no idea what effect it would have on cane, but if exposed to UV, it might toughen up the outer layers. I still have some ammonium dichromate (its more reactive cousin) left over from my artsy photo days. Maybe an experiment is in order.  (Bill Hoy)

    You may want to find a quart of Watco Danish Oil.  Danish Oil is similar to tung oil, but it's not nearly as oily.  The phenolic resins get into (rather than on) the fiber and harden, so it may change the action of the rod a little, but I doubt it.

    I have used it to seal blanks before I lettered anything or started wrapping.   I have planned to use five or six coats as a final finish, but haven't got around to that yet (got to use up this $60 a gal. varnish first).  I have used the Danish Oil on furniture that I made, and it gives a beautiful hand rubbed finish.  And, I do mean hand rubbed, palm down, and rub 'til it gets too hot.

    You can get the Watco Danish Oil in clear, teak or walnut.  You can control the tone of walnut by the length of time you leave it on before wiping it off, and by the number of coats.  If you have some scrap strips or blank, you may want to test it.

    When I used it to seal rods, I had no problem when the rod was varnished.  I can't say that this would be the case if many coats were applied before varnishing.  The varnish I use is Behlens (Masters) Water White Restoration Varnish.

    One of my next projects (when the spirit moves me) is to soak my strips in Danish Oil.  Since it gets into rather than on to the fibers, and hardens, this will be a poor mans attempt at impregnation.  Wes Jordan did it with phenolic resins and pressure.  I would stick to heat treating to drive out any lingering moisture.  After all, I'm not Wes Jordan.  (Bob Marbert)

    I may very well be wrong here, but it seems to me that for practical purposes one butane flame is about as hot as another butane flame; bigger burners produce more heat in total than small burners, but at the point of maximum temperature in a butane flame, the temperature will be about the same in all of them.

    Even if you flame bamboo with a small burner, as long as you pay attention to detail and move it about sufficiently, taking care not to dwell on any one spot past the time needed to achieve the color you want, you should be fine.

    It will take you a bit more time with a small burner, and you will need to be careful of local overheating; but remember, this stuff doesn't go black in a second or two,  so you won't stuff up a culm as fast as you think!

    Personally,  I think that taking the staining option is in the same league as rubber grips and shrink-wrap guide binding.

    Just take the torch and get into it. When you have done your first one, you will wonder what you were worried about. If you are determined to have it black you may be disappointed first time around, but you will know more about flaming bamboo than you will know after staining one, and somewhere down the line you will get your black (-ish) one.  (Peter McKean)


I built my second rod and there are bubbles in the spar urethane. What  is the best method to remove the bubbles or imperfection?  (Gary Young)

    You can sand them out of the finish and then polish the rod.  You can touch them to the flame of an alcohol lamp but will still have to sand or polish. how did you varnish the rod?  (Timothy Troester)


I've been studying some web sites on different brands of varnishes.  One thing I found in common is that almost all the Product Data Sheets recommend 5-7 coats of finish, not matter whether poly or spar.  That got me wondering... how many coats should I use?   Typically I use 4 coats on butt sections, three on tips.  But I sand away 90% of the first coat, and 75% of the second, leaving really only one or two full coats - give or take a little.

So, how many coats of finish do your rods get?  (Harry Boyd)

    I dip four on both butts and tips.  I also sand (1500, then 2000 grit) a lot of varnish off, but from the looks of the first sanding I don't ever completely remove the layer.  That leads me to believe that I'm only thinning the varnish (physically), while breaking the gloss for the next coat.  I could be wrong here but I think all four coats stay on the rod to some degree.

    After the last coat and more sanding I use 3M's Perfect It II to bring up a gloss that you can't get by just dipping.

    Hope this helps.  (Dennis Haftel)

    PS:  I've used this method with both Poly and MOW.

    Depends on the viscosity of the varnish. Mine is leaving about .0015" film per dip. I dip blanks twice (one right after the other), light sand with 800 or 1000 grit. Using a magnifier light (I don't want to knock off the finish off of the corners).  Wrap guides, finish wraps, sand with 1200 grit between coats. Vacuum, wash with mineral spirits, dip one final time to blend everything together. If it comes out baby butt smooth, I leave it alone, if not,  sand with 1000 grit and dip one more time.  (David Dziadosz)

    2, sanded lightly in between, just enough to flatten the bumps. I don't see any point in putting something on, then sanding it all off. Of course, that is after 3 -4 coats on the wraps.  (John Channer)

    What a coincidence.  I was going to post the "How many coats" question this morning but thought I should check in some of the rodmaking books first.  I checked Maurer, Howell's and Gould and it seems that they all agree on three dip coats.  I'm currently dipping two rods now and two more in the next two weeks.  I've settled one dip coat to as a filler (which I sand off), 4-5 thinned coats on the wraps and then three dip coats, sanding/steel wool between coats.

    I've changed from vanishing the blank first then wrapping to wrapping first, varnishing wraps and then dipping wrapped rod.  I've found that burnishing wraps is easier on a unvarnished rod.  (Bob Williams)

    3-4 coats. First coat is a very thin coat  (tung oil varnish) of sealer applied with my fingers and rubbed very thin on the blank. Once dry it is rubbed out but not removed with #0000 steel wool. Guides are then wrapped and coated, followed by 2-3 coated of either Tung Oil varnish or poly (Pratt & Lambert #61 or P&L Varmor) depending if it is a new rod or restoration.  Between coats, I rub out each coat with #0000 steel wool. Prior to the last coat I sand  lightly with #800-1000 paper.  (Marty DeSapio)

    One coat is sufficient. The more varnish You apply, the slower the rod because of the weight of the varnish.   (Carsten Jorgensen)

      Hooray Carsten!!!.  I was just too chicken to say it myself.  Like John Channer,  I see no reason to put it on and sand it off.  (Ralph Moon)

        Must admit I saw off half of the tube on the tiptop, I shorten the feet of the snakes, just to keep the weight down. (shorter feet, less thread and varnish)  (Carsten Jorgensen)

      In theory, I agree with you.  But why would the varnish manufacturers recommend 5-8 coats???  Isn't it possible that they know their own product better than we do?  Again, I know a fly rod isn't subject to either the exposure or the strain that a ship's mast is, but there must be more to it.  (Harry Boyd)

        Harry, let me answer Your remarks one at a time:

        "In theory, I agree with you.":

        Milward’s makes the, non-confirmed, statement, that half of the power applied to the rod goes to move the rod itself, the other half moves the fly line. Why should I waste even more power to move surplus weight of the rod? More power needed  means less refined control achieved. I prefer smooth casting as opposed to brute power.

        "But why would the varnish manufacturers recommend 5-8 coats?"

        The short and blunt version of my answer is: They want to sell the stuff

        "Isn't it possible that they know their own product better than we do? "

        Absolutely yes. But considering all the junk sold in this world I would not put my trust in salespersons alone

        “Again, I know a fly rod isn't subject to either the exposure or the strain that a ship's mast is, but there must be more to it."

        Honestly I don't think so. Think of the ships mast, being exposed to water, salt, heat and sunshine etc. 24 hours a day, for years, as opposed to a fly rod. We take care of our rods, use them for hours per day, for a limited number of days per year. Most, if not all, rods are never exposed to saltwater. 

        If I knew one of my rods would be exposed to the elements in a way a ships mast is, I would considered putting on more than one layer of varnish. But until then,  I’ll stick to one layer.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

          I think you are being a little too blunt here.

          "But why would the varnish manufacturers recommend 5-8 coats???"

          The short and blunt version of my answer is: They want to sell the stuff

          Actually the short answer is yes you do need this number of coats to protect from UV as much as anything else. That includes a rod though it takes longer for the effect to be seen.  The UV wont hurt the rod itself but will reduce the life of the varnish which could mean nothing more than the need to refinish the rod prematurely or allow moisture to enter the rod easier than otherwise sooner than it should.  UV may not be much of an issue in the very extreme latitudes but it's an issue for the rest of the globe.

          I know on my boat here in Perth I'm happy if I get 3 months from varnished surfaces during spring and summer no matter what brand I use from Epiphanes down including stuff I've made myself without regard to EPA laws. I'm a bee's dick from painting everything to save the hassle.  Varnish is nothing more than paint you can see through but that's why it needs the extra coats because the effects of UV aren't just working on the surface of the varnish as it does on paint (varnish with pigments) but also right through it affecting the entire layer of varnish.

          "Isn't it possible that they know their own product better than we do? "

          Absolutely yes. But considering all the junk sold in this world I would not put my trust in salespersons alone 

          "Again, I know a fly rod isn't subject to either the exposure or the strain that a ship's mast is, but there must be more to it."

          Honestly I don’t think so. Think of the ships mast, being exposed to water, salt,  heat and sunshine etc. 24 hours a day, for years, as opposed to a fly rod. We take care of our rods, use them for hours per day, for a limited number of days per year. Most, if not all, rods are never exposed to saltwater.  If I knew one of my rods would be exposed to the elements in a way a ships mast is, I would considered putting on more than one layer of  varnish. But until then, I’ll stick to one layer.

          You need to decide if the varnish is just there for looks or is actually doing something for the rod.  If it's just for looks who cares if it's protective qualities break down but if it is something of a moisture barrier which is is for short duration dunkings but not long term immersions it may be worth thinking about.

          The rods I brought with me to Grayling both times I went had only a single coat of varnish because I didn't have time to do more before leaving for the plane. Both these rods needed re coating recently because the varnish was visibly wearing thin simply through use. Not rough use, just walking through bush when I had to, drying the rod off when I needed to etc.  I do think varnish protects from submersion moisture entry if not from atmospheric moisture so I personally think a rod needs more than a single coat BUT I will say I'm not 100% happy with my finish compared to what some others can get. Interestingly the rods I've seen that do have superb finishes also have a few coats applied.  (Tony Young)

            On the whole I think we agree: Ships environment is much harder to varnish than is the fly rods. I honestly think one layer is enough, especially, as rodmakers sand of most of the interim layers anyway.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

              But it must depend on the viscosity of the varnish. If you use thinned varnish you aren't leaving very much on the rod so if you sand at all there must not be very much left where you do surely?

              Jerry Foster correctly asked me if I use a wax on my rods and yes I do so it does a lot to repel water but it wont really protect much I don't think. A hardened coat of varnish is quite a hard layer to help protect in use.  Maybe I'm just hard on my gear though.  (Tony Young)

                I thin the varnish with around 30 percent thinner and dip once - no sanding. When lucky I don’t have to do anything more. If I get little specks etc. I try to polish a couple of weeks later with finesse it (a very good product). If everything fail, I sand of the while thing and start again.  When finished snakes etc. are put on.

                I then polish the rod with furniture wax WITHOUT silicone.  (Carsten Jorgensen)

        I would think it should be obvious, they recommend 5-8 coats because that way they sell more varnish! They are also much more used to static applications, rather than use on fly rods which must flex repeatedly.  (John Channer)

          That's not really true in the case of spar varnish though it may be so for polys and other varnish that isn't intended for out door use. Also, remember the varnish instructions aren't intended for rods.

          Spar varnish is normally intended for masts and spars as well as rails etc. on boats or house exterior doors etc. For the varnish to have at least a slight chance of staying in place it needs a couple of things.

          It needs a very smooth surface to be applied to because bumps etc. sitting proud of the surface cause a reduction of varnish to be held at a bump. Imagine a cross section of a surface with a bump in it. The varnish will flow down hill from the bump and have a higher buildup on the smooth surface than a rough one.  Once the varnish thickness is reduced at the bump it's a point of entry for moisture or lifting of the surrounding area.

          Secondly it has to have a few coats in order for the UV inhibitors in the varnish to have any effect. Remember it's intended to protect what's under it as much as to remain on the surface.

          Thirdly varnish wears through friction or the effects of sun light.

          Also, you need a few coats to allow a little sanding between coats. A rod doesn't normally need sanding between coats provided it's smooth as a baby's bum to begin with but that's a hard thing to achieve in wood work. Try getting away with one coat of varnish on a table top some time.  (Tony Young)


Came up with another tip that I wish someone had shared with me when I was starting out (hell, I'm still just starting out).  The tip is, for a better finish let your varnish fully dry between coats.  My habit had always been to allow 24 hours or so between a coat and steelwooling (is that a verb?) and a new coat.  Having had a  very busy week, I allowed the last coat on the current rod to cure for 5 days before taking up the rod again last night.  I found that with the more fully cured varnish (I use Helmsman) it was easier to slice off fuzzies and drips, the steel wool could cut more evenly leaving a smoother more satiny texture, and the next coat went on much better over this smother more satiny texture.  So cure that varnish before prepping for the next coat.

Since I'm far too human to wait 5 days between every coat, I think I'll build a drying cabinet this weekend to get a better cure in a day or two.  (James Piotrowski)

    I dip my rods about every 6-12 hours and I have had no problems with orange peel. (Dave Henney)


Just a quick question. Getting a decent finish has always been difficult for me. When I put on the last coat of varnish, should I hit it with 0000 steel wool and then use the polishing compound (what is that called again- RubIt  or Polish It  or something like that? [;-)]   ) or do I have to shoot for a perfect last coat? I can never seem to get the last coat perfect and I wondered if there was a better way.

I know this has been covered before but I think I must be a slow learner.  (Jon McAnulty)

    In the days when I would rebuild a rod whose finish was not dramatically better than anything that could be bought I used to go for one really good final coat. You can, after all, steel wool or wet'n dry it down and shoot again!

    I'm afraid that the rods that I use myself no longer aspire to such excellence, although on my last visit to a tackle shopI was not impressed at all with the finish on some rods selling for the equivalent of 800 bucks. Hardy, B James, even the simplistic Sharpes, were much better. Years ago, I mean!  (Robin Haywood)

      Admittedly, I am not a perfectionist on this. I just want to try to get better at it. I seem to have plateaued on this aspect of rod building.  (Jon McAnulty)

    Rub the rod down with  0000 steel wool and touch sand the wraps and any large imperfections prior to the last coat. Dampen a paper towel with mineral spirits and use it like a tack rag . Now once dry dip the last coat. After it hardens you can sand out any imperfections and polish with whatever polishing compound you want. If you use a drying cabinet and your varnish is clean you may be satisfied right out of the tube.  (Marty DeSapio)

    If you are going to try polishing the last coat out to a high gloss, I'd strongly urge you to stay away from steel wool.  In my experience, even the finest steel wool leaves deep scratches that aren't easy to polish out.  Admittedly the scratches are small and fine, but they are deep.

    Instead, try wet-sanding only the dust specks and other flaws with 2000 g sandpaper.   I moisten the sandpaper with linseed oil, and use only a tiny corner of the paper.  I find that sanding a dust speck with extremely light pressure works best when I use a circular pattern.  I sand till I can no longer see the spec under magnification.

    After the 2000 grit (dare I use that word?) paper, I change to the light blue finishing paper that Russ Gooding sells.  Again, use it moistened with some sort of oil.  And again, I concentrate only on the specks and other flaws.  The blue paper will bring the sanded areas back to a nice matte finish.   When finished sanding, wipe everything clean with a dry paper towel.

    Finally, bring things back to high gloss with the least abrasive of the 3M polishes.  I can never remember if it's the Perfect It or Finesse It.  I've tried many things, including Meguires' #9, and the 3M works best for me.

    In no way do I mean to imply that my finish work is anything special.  But with a little time and effort you can return the gloss so close to freshly dipped that you can't find the flaws.

    One more VERY IMPORTANT point.  No dipped finish is going to be ready for polish until the finish is thoroughly cured.  With poly wait at least a week.  With spar, I try to wait three weeks.  I keep the rods at 80 degrees + F till completely tack free.  Beyond that, the temp's don't matter.  (Harry Boyd)

    I would shoot for the prefect last coat. If you still have dust, try to sand them out with 2000 grit paper lubricated with olive oil. Then use the Perfect It and Finesse It (Or the Meguires as I use) to polish that back to shiny. Use a bit of elbow grease. Make sure the rod has cured for a few days before you polish it out. How long and how well it will work depends on the varnish you use. Honestly, this works so well that I do not ever lose sleep over a few specks (but I used to!). With prudent sanding and buffing they disappear.  (Bob Maulucci)

      Or, the way to get a glossy, perfect finish on fine furniture is to rub it down with rottenstone.  (You can get it from Woodworkers Supply.)  I've used it and it does work great  (but it is messy).   (George Bourke)

        I used rottenstone on a rod before and really like the nice deep stain finish it gives.  I mixed it with Danish Linseed oil to the consistency of slurry, and rubbed it in to the rod with a piece of felt.  Gave a nice warm finish.  (Mark Wendt)

          I do much the same thing using pure Tung oil slurried with Tripoli powder. It looks so good that you really wonder whether you need to go any further.

          You do, of course.  (Peter McKean)

            What's Tripoli powder?  Pretty much the same as rottenstone?  (Mark Wendt)

              I believe Tripoli is usually used for a metal polish...I have some in stick form, for buffing wheels, probably held together with wax.  The box says "For buffing parts of aluminum, pewter, brass, copper, wood, bone, plastic and painted surfaces.  It's the second coarsest in a set of 4.  (Neil Savage)

    The main trick to a good finish is to think CLEAN! Your varnish must be free of specks of crud, your rod musty be absolutely clean, down to the last speck of dust and piece of lint, and you must keep it that way until the varnish is tack free, at least 4 hours, longer is better. The only way I can do this last step is to have my tube in the bottom of the drying cabinet and never let the wet rod be exposed to room air. In spite of all precautions and preparations, there will always be a few bumps, that's the way it goes. As Harry said, sand them out with 2000 with some sort of lubricant, I find water(read also, spit) works just fine, then polish , I like Perfect-It 11 followed by Finesse-It 11. I don't wait as long as Harry recommends, I find that I can sand  in 3 days without the varnish balling up under the paper(second worst nightmare, the worst is dropping a freshly varnished rod on the carpet). Flaws can be dealt with, so shoot for perfect, but don't be too bummed if you don't get there.  (John Channer)

    For many rods I tried to get the perfect finish out of the dip tube, and produced some pretty crappy rods as a result. I do not have a dust free dipping tube environment; in fact, mine is not even moth-free.

    I am now producing a finish on my rods that I think is pretty good, and what I do is this - after the final coat, which I try to make as dust and blemish free as I can, I go through a polishing procedure that involves Perfect It 1, followed by Perfect It 2, Finesse It, and finally Meguires Plastic Polish.

    Perfect It 1 is quite gritty, and will cut out a lot of the major imperfections, the others progressively improve the finish. I use my Dremel tool with a felt pad using the Perfect It 1, on low speed, to smooth out the varnish on the wraps. You stuff up a few to begin with but pretty soon get the hang of it.

    The resulting finish is not as glossy/glittery as the raw PU varnish, but has a deep, lustrous sheen that is pretty classy.

    Should mention that I sand the hell out of the successive varnish coats prior to the application of the final coat with 1500 and 2000 grit wet & dry paper.  (Peter McKean)

    I am in the process of building a dipping apparatus so this thread is very timely. I plan to use clear Plexiglas tubing about 1" diameter with a valve in the bottom so  I can control the rate at which the varnish drains. My thought processes suggest that if I drain the varnish and then leave the section in the tube overnight before moving it to a drying chamber then I should get no lint or dust on the finish. My question is will the varnish setup up past the tacky point if it is left hanging in the tube 24 hours or will the fact that it is in a small tightly enclosed chamber slow the drying time considerably? If so would placing a piece of nylon stocking over the top allow it to breathe a littler more?  (Larry Puckett)

      I'd like to ask a question in addition to this one.

      What do people who use a drain tube setup do about varnish in the guides? In a dip tube setup you just clear the guides but how do you do this if the guides are 2 feet from the access?

      The original questions are good ones too.  (Tony Young)

        Using a clear tube is one way of being able to stop and wait under guides. Another way is set the drain rate ultra slow - a drip every 2 to 5 seconds, taking hours to drain the tube. I would guess it would be equivalent to withdrawing a rod at 1/4 inch per minute or so. The rate is so slow the varnish drains off the guides and doesn't drip. You do have to check on the drip rate frequently if you do it this way. The lowering of the hydraulic head pressure slows the drip rate as the varnish drains.  (Darryl Hayashida)

          What's the general feeling with respect to wrapping guides before or after varnishing? I know that some folks do wrap and varnish their guides after the rod itself is varnished while others prefer the seamless finish obtained by varnishing after wrapping guides. What are the relative merits of this?  (Larry Puckett)

          What would you suggest I use for the tube? 

          Also, presumably you clean the tube after use or do you put the varnish back in after it's been drained?  (Tony Young)

            Some on the list use clear tubes made to protect fluorescent lights, I found clear PVC pipe at McMaster-Carr, but I started out using regular white PVC pipe from the local hardware store. I don't clean the tube after I use it, the build up inside is slight. If you ever do run into a problem with varnish on the inside of the pipe a couple dollars is all it takes to replace it. I do prop up a little can full of paint thinner under the tube to submerge the valve  (valve is open) so it doesn't clog.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Yes, the small space of the tube will slow the drying, but not so much that it won't tack off, just be patient. I definitely put a filter over both ends, for the drying time; and also for the draining time when room air is going into the top of the tube. I use coffee filter paper held on with a rubber band.  (Rick Funcik)

      I think it depends on the type of varnish you use and the humidity in your area. I have been using the drain the tube technique for years, and I usually don't have a problem with the varnish tacking up to a stage where dust won't stick to it leaving the rod in the tube overnight. One time though, we had very uncharacteristic high humidity in the 70 percent range, and the varnish would not tack up for three days.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    Thanks for all the replies. It looks to be very helpful. I have a pretty good dipping set up, enclosed heated box etc, etc. but was at a lack of where to go and what to do when it still didn't turn out just right. Nice to learn some moves to deal with the reality of varnish finishing.  (Jon McAnulty)


I'd been having some problems with the finish pulling away from the corners of the blanks.  I've been using Minwax Helmsman spar urethane, and with the winter being as cold as it's been, having a hard time getting the shop up to nice, warm, cozy summer like temperatures.  After a couple of conversations with Bob Nunley, and Harry Boyd, I was able to get a good final coat on the rod.  Bob suggested I try Penetrol, mixed 5 - 10% by volume to the finish.  Since we weren't sure how it would react to the urethane, I mixed up a test batch in a small container, and let it sit for a few hours, and noticed no settling, or coagulating of the finish.  Since I'm a careful kind of guy, I decided to mix the Penetrol first at 5% by volume to the gallon can, and I let it sit for a couple of days, as one final test before I applied it to the rod.  I opened the can on Sunday, and it looked just fine, so into the drip tube it went, the sections were run though it, and viola!  Both sets of sections came out of the drip tube and into the drying cabinet in perfect shape!  No runs, no pulling away from the corners.  Also, I found another product at the local auto body supply shop that'll help get that pristine finish we so desire.  My local shop sells paint filters that are as fine, or maybe finer than nylon stockings.  The filter looks like a standard paper filter cup, but the mesh is made out of some nylon type of material, and there are no teeny thread cling-ons that can make it into the finish when pouring the finish through them.  They flow pretty good, and really filter the finish well.  The openings are measured in microns, so the mesh is pretty fine.  My local shop has  two  grades  -  fine  and  ultra-fine.   I used the ultra-fine, and it worked just dandy.  They are easier to work with than the nylon stockings, since they have the stiffness of the paper cup.  And they it perfectly into a standard sized funnel.  I had a couple of test filters that the shop gave me to try, and I'll be going back for the box.  When I get them home, I'll post the name and the part number of the filters.  (Mark Wendt)

    I had a similar problem a little more than a year ago and never really resolved the cause.  My thoughts were that in my quest for that perfect flat finish, my use of the ever finer sanding had burnished some of the sections of the flats (especially the darker bands of flaming).  The other interesting problem was that I didn't get the "pulling away" when I dipped the blank sans guides.  The problem occurred after I had wrapped the guides, finished the wraps and dipped the whole finished rod.  I thought maybe the rubber O-rings on my rod wrapper may be contaminated. 

    Here's the question -- What is the purpose of the Penetrol ?  (David Van Burgel)

      In the conversations I had with both Bob and the fella behind the paint counter, Penetrol creates a kind of wetting action, similar to the anti-fisheye additive that I used to add to enamel paints that I sprayed.  It has a minor action of thinning the finish, but the big factor is it slows the curing time a bit, and the wetting action allows the finish to stay "spread" out.  I went through all sorts of gyrations trying to make sure there were no surface contaminants - denatured alcohol rubs, Bob's technique of using Dawn dish washing liquid and a toothbrush, and other degreasing agents that I have left over from my painting days.  I was pretty sure that I had a surface that was free of contaminants.  In talking with Bob, I think we boiled a lot of it down to the temperature in my shop, over which I couldn't do much right now with the space heater that I have, not being uniformly warm enough.   We've had a particularly cold winter here for Maryland, and when I'm not out in the shop, my heater is turned off, so much of the shop was getting pretty well cold soaked.  Bob said the Penetrol would help ease the temperature issues, and it worked.  His only reservation was that he wasn't familiar with it in a urethane, so we devised the test.  Once that worked out, it was then put to the real test - on the rod sections.  And, it worked beautifully.  According to the Flood web site, Penetrol may raise the VOC of the coating, which may have a lot to do with helping the spreading qualities of the finish.  My only worry with the stuff originally, was that they didn't say explicitly, either on the can or on the web site that it was compatible with urethane varnish.  And the folks that I'd talked to had only used it with standard spar.  I was delighted to find out it worked just fine with the Helmsman.

      I don't know if the sanding with ever finer grades of paper had much to do with it.  I already had two coats of finish on the rod when I was trying to put the final coat.  I'd cuffed the first and second coat down with 400 grit, and the second coat went on just fine - no pulling.  It was the third coat, applied in colder conditions, where the problems began.  Using the Penetrol, in roughly the same conditions, I didn't have the problems show up this time.  (Mark Wendt)

      Another interesting thread in this sometimes frustrating hobby of ours. I have had the opposite situation occur to me that you did David. When I "dripped" my rods sections for the first time I had the pull away effect and I kept dripping until they were coated. I did sand between coats so as to not have too thick a buildup/I too cleaned as Mark did with alcohol mineral spirits etc. When I had it entirely covered I did the wraps, Pearsalls Gossamer, quite thin, and after I had enough buildup on them, I sanded with 2000 grit wet. Throughout the whole process my L N L spar had been treated with Penetrol. It was after the sanding with 2000 grit, that all went well for me and I have my best finished section yet. The other common factor that I had with Mark was temperature it was real cold in my work area and things seemed to work better when I cranked up a space heater.  (Bill Bixler)

      Was your problem on the raw cane?  Usually sanding with fine grit causes problems on cane.  I never heard of it causing problems when sanding previous coats of varnish.  (Jerry Madigan)


I'm almost through with a couple of equipment upgrades that should allow me to speed up the process of making blanks significantly.  My hope is to produce twice as many blanks in the same amount of time while at the same time increasing quality and tightening tolerances.  Doing so might even allow me to drop the price of my rods a little.  Maybe.

Here's the rub -- I can't come up with many ideas to speed up the finishing process.  I am completely unwilling to allow the final finish quality to suffer in any way.  Here's an outline of what I do after the blank is finished:

  • Daily coats of Tung Oil or "Mike's Stuff" pre-varnish for three days
  • Prep ferrules, glue and pin.  Fit ferrules in the lathe.
  • Install cork, wait 24 hours, and shape cork
  • Prep guides
  • Wrap guides and ferrule tabs.
  • A coat a day of wrap finish for four days
  • Lightly sand wraps
  • Thoroughly clean blank and dip first coat of varnish, wait three days
  • Thoroughly sand w/ 1000g paper entire rod, including wraps (takes HOURS)
  • Dip second coat of varnish, wait three days
  • Thoroughly sand again w/ 1200g for several hours; this time wet sanding
  • Dip third coat, and if I'm lucky, that's all
  • If not lucky, sand again, and add fourth coat
  • Make reel seat and install
  • Wait two-three weeks, sand w/ 2000 g and polish with Finesse-It.

Just looking for ideas about what can be done to make the process go a little quicker.  I hate sanding varnish.  (Harry Boyd)

    About the only thing I can suggest is to cut down on the time you wait between coats, but for this, you need a varnish that "kicks" a little quicker.  I use Mike's Stuff, but only a single application.  This coats and seals, and for me, that's my only objective at that point.

    I use Minwax "Fast Dry" poly for the wraps, allowing the first coat to dry for two days, and then two coats per day thereafter (that is, assuming reasonably controlled humidity).  The finish is the same process as you use, except I apply one coat per day, allowing the second coat to dry for two days and then sand before the third coat.  The third coat dries for three days before I polish out the finish.  For that, I use the Nova system (but only the first two grades, omitting the third).   I don't believe one can get a truly nice finish without the time consuming sanding, but I don't think it's necessary to sand before every coat -- only before the final coat., and a little touchup before polishing.

    So, you can cut your time in half if you're willing to go with the poly.  In my experience it is not possible to detect a difference between it and the traditional spar varnish after sanding and polishing to your preferred luster.  But, of course, many makers just can't bear the thought of rupturing tradition for the sake of poly.  I should add, too, that I only brush my rods, and have never used a dip tank.  Perhaps that would make a difference in one's choice of finishes, though I don't quite understand why.

    Anyhow, Harry, that's about the best I can offer.  Basically, I think we're almost "stuck" if we want a really nice looking rod.  Meticulous attention to detail just takes time, that's all.  (Bill Harms)

      With the spar I use, three days between coats is about as little as I can get away with.  Four is better.  My experience with polyurethanes has not been good since Pittsburgh Paints quit making their PPG 77-5. Guess I'll stick with spar since I like the ease of polishing once it fully cures.

      Your suggestion about using only one coat of Mike's Stuff makes sense.  I'll give that a try.  Thanks.

      And remember, I'm in Louisiana where heat and humidity are the name of the game.  Yesterday it was 98 degrees with 95% humidity. Completely miserable for man and beast.  (Harry Boyd)

    All I can think of is to impregnate the blank, skip varnishing entirely and just put 3 coats of Varathane on the wraps, but you probably don't want to hear that!  (John Channer)

    For what it's worth, here is how we finished musical instruments in the violin shop I worked at.

    (a) dry sand with 220 folded 4 thicknesses (works like a plane then, only rides on hi spots) regular  paper not the no fill. The no fill causes fish eye's

    (b) sprayed on Behlens rock hard spar varnish, flexes well, as up right basses flex and vibrate like crazy. dry in a foil lined closet surrounded by florescent UV lights. Dries in one day

    (c) Dry sand between coats with 220 folded 4 thicknesses.

    (d) after final coat, sand with 220 folded, then 0000 steel wool with furniture polish and then polish with rotten stone and furniture polish (tre bien brand no silicon) to a mirror finish.

    Start to finish after the final coat of varnish to comb your hair in mirror finish took about 3 hours for a upright bass. A fly rod takes a lot less time.  (Patrick Coffey)

    I've been waiting to see if anyone came up with a good way to speed up your finishing time. No one has so let me make a suggestion.

    I gather the drying time for your rods is slow due to high humidity in your area. The overall answer is simple - dry out the air inside your drying cabinet. The details are a bit more complicated. I am assuming you already warm the air inside your drying cabinet and it still takes a long time to dry. Cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air. Air that has been cooled, then heated again will be dry. Of course you have to eliminate all sources of moisture, including the surrounding air once it has been cooled. So the question becomes how can this be achieved? One way I can see is put a heated drying cabinet in an air conditioned room. As the cool room air is heated inside the drying cabinet, relative humidity will be a lot lower and your rods will dry faster. Another solution is a dehumidifier, either a whole room dehumidifier or a cabinet dehumidifier. The problem with a dehumidifier is it is expensive. Essentially it is a portable air conditioner which cools the air, condenses the moisture and collects it in a reservoir which you have to empty or drain away. Dehumidifiers, at least the ones that do the best job are expensive - on the order of 400 -500 dollars and up. Perhaps you can find an old air conditioner and use that as a dehumidifier.

    You can use desiccant inside your drying cabinet, but you would need a lot of desiccant, and you would need to recharge it frequently - possibly several times a day if your humidity is really high.  (Darryl Hayashida)


I know this will subject me to the scrutiny of the list,  but here goes....

I have just about finished a rod for a friend at work. Her husband enjoys fishing once in a while, so I set up the Hand Mill and ripped through a quick spinning rod. Came out nicely so far, and I have been busting my hump between actual business stuff to finish off this "favor" rod.

I bought some quick drying polyurethane and did the wraps in a day. They look good, and personally I don't care if it does not have full UV protection. I did the blank with Mike Brook's "Mike's Stuff" finished off with a bit off his wipe on spar varnish. There were some goobers in the finish, so I want to try to rub them out as opposed to refinishing the rod and running out of time. I used a mix of Mineral Oil and Mineral Spirits and rubbed the blank out with 0000 steel wool, some nasty spots with 400. It looks like a classic rod, semi-gloss and level. It has no obvious transitions from where I hit it with the 400 to remove the defects. All in all, it took about 30 minutes total (not including drying or wraps) to varnish and rub out this blank. Basically, I did nothing as I normally would have. However, I think it looks really nice, and it actually highlights the glossy wraps a bit.

My question is... how come everyone likes that glossy look so much? How come no one ever suggests a more subtle finish? Is semi-gloss a viable finish for a retail rod? It sure is easier. I guess another question is whether the classic rods were ever all that glossy to begin with? Inquiring minds want to know.   (Bob Maulucci)

    I have done a couple in a very similar manner. They do look good that way, I agree.

    Just my opinion, but I think there are a couple reasons for the "glossy look". First, I think there is the shiny new toy appearance that a gloss finish gives a rod. We like shiny cars, shiny stoves, and so on; so why not shiny rods? Second, I think that the subliminal message of a gloss varnish is 1) traditional, and 2) Geez, if it's that shiny, it's really protected from water and the elements, right?

    I don't want anyone to think I am denigrating gloss finishes by any means. I dip my stuff in a couple different concoctions and like the look. Also, if someone is selling rods, you have to give folks what they want, not what you want. *G*

    FWIW, I have been fooling around with Mike's Impregnating Solution quite a bit lately. I just did one where that was all I used then buffed it up to a semi-gloss appearance and I think it looks nice that way. It really gave a nice finish.

    I also think that, as rodmakers, potentially we are our own worst enemies on finishes. As we advance in our finishing techniques, the rods get glossier and more "perfect" in appearance and we, advertently or not; condition the customer to expect that ALL bamboo rods "need" to look like that to be "a good rod". Partially due to that, I think to many, the satin or semi gloss finish, while a sharp look IMO, is going to be a hard sell. The only place I can see that not being an issue is where the impregnation stuff is used and the rod described as such. I think this will work due to the Duracanes, some of the Phillipsons, and such others from the past.

    I personally really think the glossy rods look sharp, but I also fish a  couple "hand-rubbed  tung oil finish  rods” and like them also. Guess you can have your cake and eat it also. *G*

    None of the above was meant to anger anyone, by the way. Just my opinions.  (Dewey Hildebrand)

    Let me say that I applaud your sentiment. I have a few impregnated rods that do not have the glossy finish and I fish the daylights out of them. I like the semi-gloss finish. Maybe that's because it's coming from someone who actually fishes with the rods as opposed to collecting them or using them to decorate a wall.

    It seems to me that there is a major drift among the current crop of rodmakers to outdo each other in making rods pretty for the customers. Looking at Len Codella's web site you'll see rods adorned with any choice of wood reel seats, NS hardware with fancy tooling, agate stripper guides, fancy ferrule plugs, and glossy finishes that would send every fish in sight scurrying for cover. This seems to be guided by the belief that the customers want  these gaudy bejeweled collectors items, and maybe they do - has anyone done a survey?

    Hopefully some of the high-production builders like AJ and Nunley will offer their sage opinions based on what sells for them. I'm sure there will always be a collectors market for these fancy rods but how about what the average fisherman who just wants a cane rod to fish with?  (Larry Puckett)

    Well, here goes:

    I tried rubbing my rods out before putting the guides on them and got a nice satin finish ALA Bob's spinner with the glossy wraps but I didn't have the patience to wait for the varnish to set up enough so the wraps didn't "settle in" (for want of a better term) leaving me with immovable spacing in my wraps. I couldn't burnish worth a hoot and so gave up the noble experiment. I now dip after wrapping and try to shine up everything. Patience is not a familiar concept to us type A++'s *BSEG*.

    I now offer a finding presented to me by a friend some of you may be familiar with. Wendell (Oz) Ozefovich is better known as Underwater Oz and has made some absolutely fantastic videos of fish in all their natural surroundings. If you've not seen any of Oz's stuff and you get a chance DO NOT pass it up. Anyway, for my point. Oz has filmed all sorts of fishermen using all sorts of rods and he has noted the flash, and its effect on wild fish, of the rods oscillating under stress. By far the worst he's seen are the flats of cane rods, catching the sun over a small but finite flat surface, rather than the curvature of a tubular blank! (Gloss graphite is worse than the brushed finish.) He loves to needle me when he's making a presentation, saying that we all ought to just save the finishing time and spray the things flat black!

    I know THAT ain't ever gonna happen, but its an interesting monkey wrench to toss into the discussion, no?  (Art Port)

      In the early 1900's both Hardy and Leonard offered enamel finishes.  The Hardys were gray, I think, and the one Leonard I've seen was dark green. The idea was to avoid spooking the trout.  It's also a good argument for black guides and ferrules.   Hmmm, might try this on the next rod.  (Ted Knott)

      My first shot at finishing was a hand rubbed tung oil job I did on an old South Bend.  I rather liked the matte finish I got with just the oil.  I did the wraps in gloss varnish which made for a cool effect.  On my own rods I used to knock down the gloss between coats with pumice and paraffin oil.  It made for a nice fine matte appearance.  As a finishing touch I would bring the gloss back with rottenstone and then finish it with Perfect It II.  The finish was brighter than "just dipped".  (Dennis Haftel)

      How well I know this story. Found that out years ago when I started refinishing rods. I now apply several coats of Formby's right after heat setting the glue.  This seals the blank and dries well enough overnight as not to hang up the wraps.  (Tony Spezio)

    I have two such "stealth rods" and I'd like to say I've noticed a difference... but I haven't. I think how you fish is probably more important than what you fish. If you fish standing up, waving your rod around, you're going to spook fish regardless.

    If a finish does the job of sealing the rod, then that's good enough for me, regardless of what it is. Still, it's interesting to see just what some people can do with finish.  (Jim Lowe)

      To justify the ridiculous price of some cane fly rods, the aesthetics are far and away the most QUANTIFIABLE aspect of the rod to the knuckle-head investment bankers and others who have decided to live a life totally and utterly focused toward making as much money as possible.

      Trying to quantify a great taper and its resultant great action is lost on 98% of the population.  And that means 98% of investment bankers, too!

      The same thing has happened in the guitar industry (one that has a lot of corollaries to ours).  The Len Codella’s of that industry describe the jewelry-like components of guitars more than they do things like "playability."  The guys who can afford the expensive guitars often are COLLECTORS, not PLAYERS.  Sheesh!

      It makes me happy to see guys making workmanlike, functional rods.  That's the kind I'll make, unless someone wants a fancy one.  (Joe West)

    I just took a look at my dad's Heddon Expert (admittedly not a top of the line rod, it was made for Sears).  It's about 50 years old and never been fished.  Still had the plastic wrap on the grip when I got it, but that and the bag succumbed to age.  The finish is semi-gloss in my opinion, about what I get with 6 or 7 coats of Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil rubbed out with Meguires.  (Neil Savage)

    I know Garrison rubbed the gloss varnish to a satin state on many rods as he felt the gloss finish would spook fish . The problem with using semi-gloss varnish in a dip tube is the problem of mixing prior to dipping. Gloss varnish need not be dipped.  (Marty DeSapio)

      Yes, I agree Marty. It is better to rub the gloss down to what you want. That extra particulate seems like a waste. I wonder why even bother with semi gloss out of the can? Thanks,  (Bob Maulucci)

    I've used Varathane 9000 gloss for about 15 years. After about 25 rods or so of dipping the whole rod - guides and all, I've taken to dipping minus guides. Then I rub down the gloss with a car paint oxide polishing compound. Leaves a great matte finish. I, like some of the others, am shooting for a rod that fishes. A glossy finish didn't seem to cut it in the spring creek I haunt. I used gloss as the particles in semi or matte finish stuff have to be stirred all the time to keep them in suspension. I dip.

    But the 9000 does have it's draw backs. I fish a lot. Several of the rods I use have had varnish chipping along the seams. They only appear in the butt of the rod. No idea what causes this although I suspect that it may be caused by too "hard" a finish. For that reason, I switched the dip tube over to Minwax urethane spar. Just finished up 2 rod wraps this week and I noticed that the finish [Minwax] is soft enough that the wrap thread "bites" into the finish. What I've also noticed is that it's a bitch to get the same fine matte finish on the Minwax as the 9000 coating. May have something to do with the "softness" of the material. Taking the little "buggers" out of the finish is a lot tougher.

    Anyone got any ideas how to take the "buggers" outta Minwax?  (Don Anderson)

      Thanks for your expertise. I do use the Helmsmen when I dip, and it can take a while to get hard enough to rub out. Maybe if we both like a semi or matte finish, it would be okay to simply rub on a few coats of good spar and then rub it out? That is my next try, Schooner wiped on and rubbed to semi gloss.  (Bob Maulucci)

      Rottenstone.  Works great for dulling down the Minwax.  Mix it into a slurry paste with Danish oil and rub it onto the finish with a piece of felt or other soft cloth..  (Mark Wendt)

    A vote from the "Peanut Gallery".  As a user, not a maker, I must say I prefer the mat finished rods.. even the straight impregnated rods.  My problem with the "ultra-finished" rods is similar to my problem with beautifully engraved and inlaid firearms... I have no desire to scratch the beast.  My beautiful 3 barrel gun stays in the cabinet for the most part because I don't want to mar any portion of it, and it has survived over 75 years in perfect condition... which is ridiculous since it should be used regularly... same problem with the mirror finished rods.  Love my Orvis Impregnated rods because I just don't have to worry about them.  (Ralph Shuey)

    I personally like the semi-gloss finish for fishing. I have no idea what the market is with respect to gloss Vs. semi-gloss Vs. flat finish. I have had several of my friends who fish say they like the semi-gloss bamboo finish they have seen. Of course, that does not mean they may purchase a rod with that finish. I think the plastic rod market "suggests" that all fly rods should look shiny. Just a thought.  (Frank Paul)

      I agree with you. I like a much duller finish on my rod. It seems though that everyone I build a rod for though, wants to see a blinding flash from high gloss. Oh well! I make my own rods the way I like and go fishing. I sold a rod to a fella recently and he hung it on the wall. I hate that, too. I thought of going over to his house to get the rod from his wall and replacing it with a shiny unfishable thing. but...!  (Timothy Troester)


I look in amazement at the finishes on fine arch top guitars.  I assume that someone would be using nitrocellulose lacquer on rods if it was appropriate.  Not flexible enough?  Not waterproof?  Explodes?  (Joe West)

    If you spray (which is the best way to do that finish) you really need an explosion proof fan and booth. I keep meaning to bring a rod blank to my old guitar shop to have my buddies spray it, but I am too lazy.  (Bob Maulucci)

      Speaking of guitars, nitrocellulose lacquer, and French polishing...

      A friend of mine showed me a video about finishing guitars.  Specifically, this video focused on "relicing" a guitar, a term used to describe the process of making a guitar appear to be used and/or older than it really is.  It is a technique that, if done well can look good, but if done poorly looks like a guy in a pastel leisure suit standing next to James Bond.

      Anyway, old nitrocellulose finished guitars have a tendency to crack over time (the finish, not the guitar) due to many factors, most notably moisture and temperature fluctuations.  To achieve this look, the gentleman who made the video used the following technique:

      First he did whatever was needed to prepare the surface (sanding, grain filling, etc.).  Then, he used the technique being discussed called French Polishing using shellac.  There was some pigmentation involved with the shellac, but I will skip that here, as it really isn't relevant.

      He then top-coated with nitrocellulose lacquer, and let harden.  I do not remember the amount of time between the shellac and nitro, nor do I remember the time he allowed for the nitro to dry before the final step (nitrocellulose takes an incredible amount of time to actually cure).  As I recall both times were important for the final step, and the final step is the really neat part.

      He took a can of propellant, attached a small diameter hose with a valve on the business end, and shot the propellant wherever he wanted cracking to occur on the guitar finish.  The sudden cold temperature of the propellant, combined with the dissimilar finishes caused the nitrocellulose finish to crack.  It looked like some of those cracked glass candle globes you sometimes see.

      I have not considered this for a rod, but intend on finishing a reel seat in this fashion sometime down the road.  (Carl DiNardo)

    Nitrocellulose lacquers won't stand up to water very well and they are very brittle. We use catalyzed lacquer to finish cabinets on the job, it makes a nice finish on the cabinets, but the overspray on the spray stand looks pretty bad after it gets rained on once. One of the reasons that most old rods with color preserved wraps have the wraps cracked is the lacquer used for color preserver, and the new lacquers are even worse.  (John Channer)


Does anyone varnish after you wrap? I've never done that, but understand it was an industry standard with some builders. What would happen if you needed to do a repair? Would it be difficult to make it all go together OK?  I'm happy with the wraps I'm doing, but it's hell to get them exactly right. But then again, a really nice finished product doesn't come easy. (Jerry Andrews)

    I have never had a problem doing repairs with the varnish with either poly or spar. Simply polish(polishing compound) it all together after it has cured.  (Marty DeSapio)

    I'm sure a lot of us varnish after wrapping the rod. The best way I have found to redo a wrap after varnishing is to run a razor blade lightly around the edge of the wrap and cut the varnish(only) so as to get a clean edge to wrap to. I found that if I just cut the wrap and peeled it off, I was likely to get some chipping around the edges that are very difficult to fill and polish out, it works best to keep the edge as clean as possible.   (John Channer)

    I now dip my rods first with two coats of thin varnish, then wrap and finish the guides. Then one final dip in very warm, very thin varnish to give it that "finished" look. Dipping on an unwrapped blank makes it easy to sand and polish out any imperfections, and the base coats are much less prone to runs w/o guides. Wrapping a finished blank is tougher, but not that much tougher.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I have made a couple of rods already, but I never dipped a rod. I always rub on PU varnish with my finger and after a couple of coats, put on the guides and varnish the wraps. I don't really care about what it looks, but I want it more or less neat. On a fly rod however I think it may be neater to dip, to have a varnish flow over the wraps. I think I would start with the usual finger varnish treatment on the blank and the bamboo brush for the wraps. Once this is done I would then dip the whole thing to get a nice varnish coat all over the rod and wraps. However, here comes the question? Do I leave the varnish on the guides? If not, how do I remove it??  (Geert Poorteman)

    The varnish is left on the guides. That is no problem, a few casts and it will be gone.

    I will add this, you want to stop at each wrap and let the varnish run off as not to get runs. You also want to stop at the bottom of each guide till the varnish film breaks in the guide. If you don't the film will break after the varnish is past the guide and leave a run. I stop at each wrap and each guide, also drain the varnish so that it does not run away from the ring on the walls of the tube.  (Tony Spezio)

      When, many years ago, I constructed a primitive dip tube and left the varnish on the rings I found that the rings seemed to wear more quickly as a groove wore in the varnish and thus the line wear tended to be in the same space. Probably, I dipped it too much in varnish that was too thick, but after that I took to sort of reaming the inside of the ring with a scalpel blade. I stopped doing this because I never liked the look of rings with varnish on and I couldn’t be bothered to scrape it off, although if you do this fairly soon after dipping its not hard. When carbon appeared I never liked to varnish the bits in between the rings, so I just did the whippings, still do unless asked to do otherwise.

      Sometimes, on saltwater rods, I use West epoxy with varnish hardener, it makes them a bit more abrasion resistant. It does add a bit of weight, and you need to degrease the piece first. I don't personally care for the result. I suppose that I am so used to the brush or finger technique that its quicker, finding a dust free environment in an old granite cottage with animals (not just me) is the real challenge.

      I'm going to make another drying cabinet, it's about job number 390 on a list that will take me another 200 years if I retire now!  (Robin Haywood)


How about opinions about varnishing the rod before putting guides on Vs varnishing with the guides, etc.  on?  I've done the rod w/o the guides.  Finish looks good and is easy to polish, but my wraps don't look so good.  Think they might look better if I dipped/dripped after they were already on.  But then it would be harder to polish the rod.  (Scott Wilson)

    I have pretty much concluded that for me the best way is to dip the blank, rub down, wrap the guides, varnish the wraps, and then dip the whole thing again. It makes the wraps look better.  (Bob Maulucci)

    I used to do exactly what you did, but I found that I was never getting a clean transition area from wrap to blank.  I would miss the wrap and get the blank and it was difficult to clean up.  Now I dip each section twice, use steel wool to clean up the blank, wrap, varnish my wraps and then do 1 more final dip.  (Mark Babiy)

    The quality of finish is exactly the same due to they are both simply passing the blank thru the meniscus of the varnish and leaving a film on the blank. It does not matter if the rod is moving or the varnish.

    As for a great looking finish dip twice, steel wool, wrap and finish the wraps (I hate that part) dip once more (hopefully) and let sit for several weeks and when it is nice and hard polish with auto body swirl remover, then do it again with a finer grade.  (Adam Vigil)

    I do not have the ceiling room for a dip set up so I only use the drip and can not compare the two methods. However I have tried different regimens when dripping. My first few rods, I finished the blanks and wrapped last. After that I changed methods. After the blank has been glued and straightened, I apply a coat of tung oil and let it dry after that I do the wraps. When the wraps are dry I drip tube about 3 or 4 coats. IMHO I get a much nicer finish and transition from wrap to blank using this method. I use quart paint cans and a funnel with a paint filter to fill the drip tubes and do admit that I get quite messy and find it a pain to have to continually clean up drips and spills.  (Bill Bixler)


Crappy paint thinner does bad things to urethane spar varnish. I used some of my dad's $1.99/ gallon junk to thin some test wrap stuff and the results were not very good (thinned 70/30).  The varnish pulled away from the flats to the edges heavily.  $7/pint Turpentine in the same ratio did not exhibit this tendency.  (Joe West)


Has anyone ever finished a rod using Varathane 900? If so, how did it turn out and how many coats did you use?  (Chris Hei)

    I can never remember if the Flexo Varathane #900 comes from the Varathane #90 or if the #90 comes from the #900 (I believe that the 900 is the new one).

    The product is a Rust-Oleum product and is a very high-gloss clear coat varnish.  This is the coating I've been trained to use and the finish is outstanding. 

    Coats:

    Butt sections get three coats.  First coat is basically sanded off (carefully of course).  Guides are added, rod is wiped clean with acetone to remove finger grease and any dirt, then signature is written.  No touching before dip number 2.  Dry for 3-5 days room temp.  Use #7 rubbing compound to smooth out finish (which also leaves the high-gloss second coat a beautiful matte finish).  Clean with acetone again and dip for third and final coat.

    Tips get two coats.  The first coat is sanded off like the butt section.  Guides and signatures are added.  Again, acetone is used to clean the rod before dipping.  Coat number two is the final coat of Varathane for the tips. 

    The finish is beautiful and hard.  However, as I'm sure you'll hear in other posts,  there are a bunch of opinions on finishes.  I only have experience with this finish.  I'm interested in the rub on finishes at some point.  (Scott Turner)

    Does anyone know where I can get Varathane 900 via mail/web order?  (Rich Margiotta)


Working on finishing my first cane rod.

Has anyone used epoxy to finish the rod as well as the wraps?

Would this be a good idea or should I stick with a tung based varnish?  (Ian Hughes)

    I suspect that an epoxy coating on the entire rod would be far too thick and too stiff.  When the graphite boys refinish one of their rods, they are much more likely to coat the rod shaft with a polyurethane rather than an epoxy.  (Harry Boyd)

      There is an '80 or '81 issue of either Fly Fishing or Rod and Reel that described finishing a rod with epoxy. I have used epoxy on a couple of reel seats. The key is multiple thin coats and plenty of sanding. I don't know that I would use a high build epoxy. The author of the article used a hardware store variety. Personally, I'd go for my bottle of Clemens Crystal Coat. While I don't have a real burning desire to try it, I wouldn't be afraid to do it.  (Larry Blan)

    Speaking of Flex Coat, how many on this list use Flex Coat on their wraps.  This is kinda of a survey.  (Tom Peters)

      I tried it on the wraps of rod #3, a 3-PC 5 wt.  I didn't like the way it looked, and it cracked on the ferrule wraps almost immediately.  That's the only rod I ever made that I stripped down and refinished.  It has cracks in the ferrule wraps again, but it has taken many years and many fish (including more than a hundred pink salmon) to put the cracks there.  (Robert Kope)

      I have used it in the past, especially on impregnated rods, but I've transitioned to dipping in Varathane.  I think it all depends on what final look you're after.  (Greg Kuntz)

      Although it is not recognized procedure in the "bamboo code of ethics" I have used Flex Coat on my wraps for the last couple of years with what I call great success. I use the High Build formula and only one heavy coat, keeping the rod in rotation till it hardens (a couple hours). Also I don't get any cracks in the finish at the ferrules, due to rod flexing, that I used to get with varnish. The rod however is dipped in spar varnish and not finished with FlexCoat.  (Jack Follweiler)

    I use Flexcoat. I feel it makes a better bond between the guide and the rod. I also don't let it build up at all. In fact I can still see the tops of the threads on my wraps before I varnish the entire rod. The varnish smoothes over the wraps. As for cracks at ferrules, I have some rods that are cracked and some that aren't. I don't think using varnish or Flexcoat makes much of a difference.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    The epoxy that was best for wraps was Clemens' Crystal Coat.  What seems to be the same product is HobbyPoxy, for which you can also get thinner. I was never happy with either of the epoxies sold for rodbuilding. Now I use a coat of Mike's amber oil followed by thinned Epifanes.  (Henry Mitchell)


My wife was showing off  her new purchase a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - supposed to clean everything from everything.

Well about a 1" x 2" piece ended up in the shop.

So far I've recoated some damaged varnish on a rod, slicked up some guide thread and varnished a reblued butt cap & winding check.

The piece I got has been cut into small/thin pieces and turfed after use.  Used a small piece soaked in turpentine to clean the rod section after it was sanded. Worked good there. No residue left. The Eraser, with a tad of Tru-Oil then varnished the rod. Long strokes with little Oil seems to work OK. Did 5 coats over the next week. While the finish is not up to Dip Coat Tank quality, the finish is very good requiring very little touch up to get it glass-smooth.

Have used it for Tru-Oil and Turpentine with excellent results.

For those touch up jobs or for the "I make one/year builders", this might just work well for you.  (Don Anderson)


I've just finished up my third rod and my second Payne 101 and was just wondering if anyone else uses automotive clearcoat besides myself. It has no reaction to Flexcoat, that was my biggest fear but it worked great and I will continue to use this process. I stand my blanks in predrilled holes in a sawhorse and give them 2 coats of clear. Let them dry for a couple days then wet sand them with 2000 grit sand paper. Add the hardware, writing and Flexcoat. Sand the Flexcoat after a couple of days with a fine ScotchBrite pad and give it 3 more coats of clear. Mirror finish almost effortlessly. If anyone tries this let me know how you make out. I've been in the auto body business for 26 years.   (Wayne Caron)

    Sounds like you're way ahead of most of us on good finishing. You've probably put on more finishes than most of us every will.

    Tell us  more about  this clear  coat stuff.   My guess  is it's a two-part urethane finish, is that correct?  What kind of equipment/preparation is required?  (Harry Boyd)

    Sounds nice, I would also like to hear more about this material and its application. Why not use it on the wraps also?  (Greg Shockley)

    One of the guys from last summer's Catskill rodmaking class clear coated his rod as well.  He is also an auto body guy and he had the finished rod at the September Catskills Gathering.  Looked nice.

    John Zimny has talked about doing it but I am not sure if he has yet to try it.  He did look over Mike's clear coat work at the gathering.  (David Van Burgel)

    The one thing that needs to be made clear is that the clear coat coatings, the two part ones anyway, can be very dangerous in use if you aren't using the proper respirator system.  The PPG base coat/clear coat coating systems say that you should use a positive pressure air respirator.  In fact they recommend a supplied air respirator with a full face piece.  This coating can severely disable you if you breathe in relatively small quantities of the stuff if you are sensitive to the chemicals in the coating.  Most base coat/clear coat systems are isocyanate based.  There are also problems related to sanding these coating systems, with the dust constituting what they call airborne isocyanates.  Just as bad to breathe that stuff in as it is to breathe the coating overspray.  I've used this type of coating before too, and if you are going to use this coating for finishing your rods, be very, very careful with the stuff.  Some states have regulatory laws on the books that prohibit sales of this type of coating system to the nonprofessional consumer.  Here's a link to the PPG web page that describes some of the safety concerns with using this type of coating system:

    I think I'll stick with varnish. (Mark Wendt)

    Sounds like a fine way to finish, but isn't automotive clear coat a type of lacquer? If so,I would be concerned about the longevity of the finish. Of course, with your setup a touch up might be easy.

    I think that Heddon used to use a spray lacquer finish, leading to the following joke: there are only two types of vintage Heddons, those that have been refinished and those that need it.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    Me too guys - an auto body/custom paint guy from way back, custom painting cars boats motorcycles - used an airbrush for the art work.

    If you're going to spray your rods you don't have to use auto finishes obviously the other finishes out ther can be thinned enough to spray through a gun - it's a very good way to finish rods IMHO.  My opinion about spraying is that if done correctly the buildup of material applied to the rod is kept to a minimum (thickness of paint).  When you thin the material it will actually dry faster coat for coat.  I don't particularly like a build up of paint material on my rods so I've actually opted for the RUB on finishes (just my preference).  But if you're going to spray you can get an old compressor from a garage sale - and it can be a small one (only 15 -20 pounds per square pressure) and I'd recommend a "Touch up spray gun " old style - has a depressor on top of the gun for your index finger (press to spray).  They put down a nice even thin coat of paint - the pint cup is easy to use and will hold enough material to spray probably 7-8 rods - and easy to use cause they're light and less bulky than the full size automotive sprayers.  You could probably find used compressor equipment for under 50 bucks - might even find new stuff pretty cheaply - you won't need the full size compressors with 100 pounds of pressure or more unless you want that kind of pressure for other things in the shop.   15 pounds of pressure will be enough for the touch up gun with the index finger depressor. 

    If you can find a used touch up guy you're lucky (maybe 25-35 bucks) otherwise you can find one in the catalogs for probably $75 or so.

    You can thin Man 'O War to spray or any of the finishes. 

    Incidentally, I've recently seen full spray gun accessory kits at Kragen Auto parts store. It has the full size spray gun and the smaller touch up gun with the compressor, hoses, fittings, air nozzles, etc., a very nice kit perfect for whatever you'd like for if I'm remembering correctly under $70.   I couldn't believe it personally.  (John Silveira)

      I played around with this a few years back maybe ten or so. I used all sorts of guns but I also opted for the small guns. The best I came up with was small hobbies guns with finger depressor also. The small glass bottle holds more than enough to finish a rod. Acrylic's were the name of the game when I was playing and looked real nice when applied right. The problem that I had was over a short time like a few years the finish showed stress cracks just like varnish will over many years. I have not done this in years so have no knowledge of how new poly's will last. Oh yea I today rub or dip depending on mood or finish I desire.  (Ronnie Rees)

    Thanks for the response to this thread. I want to start my saying that I use Martin Senour urethane clearcoat with a catalyst and thinned. the numbers are 8888 for the clear, 8898 for the hardener and T-S3 for the thinner. The ratio is 4:2:1. I spray it with a Devilbiss GTI HVLP gravity feed gun with 20 PSI at the gun at 70 degrees F. I tried to use a smaller "jamb gun" but it didn’t work as well as the one mentioned. The fumes are harmful as any fumes would be. A respirator is needed and I don’t think I would spray it in my basement but a detached garage with a fan in the window will work. Also, when I sand I use a wet sanding method so there is no dust particles. This paint has been reformulated within the last few years so its fumes are no where near as hazardous to your health. The reason I don't use the clear on my wraps because it causes tiny air bubbles that are permanent. If any of you  are thinking of doing this seriously, give me a call and I will give you more details. I don’t believe that anyone who tries this method will be disappointed. If you spray it in your garage make sure you cover everything for overspray. (Wayne Caron)


I wiped a small amount of general cyanoglue ("super glue" Locktite super attack) using vinyl gloves on the rod. I got a nice very thin coating. Are there any UV resistance present? Are some other reasons not to use that?  (Tapani Salmi)

    Cyanoacrylates absorb moisture!  (Paul Blakley)

      I wiped paper with cyanoglue and put a drop of water on it - it does not penetrate into the paper. I think that all varnishes allow some moisture (equal to the atmosphere) penetrate to the rod. Perhaps I should take some piece of cane and measure the amount of water penetrating into it??  (Tapani Salmi)

        I used to use cyanoacrylates for bonding strain gauges for experimental stress analysis many years ago and without any doubt I can assure you cyanoacrylates absorb moisture. The maximum period we got out of an unprotected gauge installation was six months. As the cyanoacrylate absorbs moisture you will notice it starts to turn white in color.  (Paul Blakley)


Seeing a post on finishing Cocobolo made me realize that there is a huge variety of experience on the list.  My current problem is refinishing a large antique mahogany dresser which will hold 2 sinks and will go in our master bath, which is about to undergo a total overhaul - if I survive. 

Some previous owner apparently used a furniture polish such as Pledge, containing silicone.  When I began spraying lacquer, fisheyes developed, originating at the pores. This is most evident on the curved drawer fronts where the veneer is bent.  Washing repeatedly with isopropyl and methyl alcohols did not help.  Dug through some old furniture refinishing books and found a reference to "fisheye eliminator" used in auto painting, and I'll find some in the AM.  Has anyone had any experience with this stuff?  Anybody got any other suggestions? 

This project has to move forward soon, or things will get uncomfortable (funny how is seems to evolve into being our fault) and the trip to MT might be jeopardized.  See, it  does relate to fishing!  (Carey Mitchell)

    I'll get in touch with my brother tomorrow evening and see if he can come up with some sound advice as I know he's used this stuff when painting vehicles. (Will Price)

    If nothing else is doing the trick, give it a try. If there is silicone in the pores of the wood, you might not have any choice, especially with lacquer. Alcohols won't take it off, though. Ask at the body shop supply for some silicone remover and give it a try before using the fisheye eliminator. As far as I am concerned, once you put the fisheye eliminator into the paint, you are dabbling in voodoo. Fisheye eliminator contains silicone, believe it or not, and for all practical intents and purposes, it does not "eliminate" fisheyes, it makes the entire finish one big fisheye.  (Larry Blan)


Yesterday, I needed to go to the auto parts store to get a belt for the wife's car and some brake pads for my pickup truck. The store had neither in stock but they are on order and should be in Tuesday. Just my luck lately.

However, the store manager was in the process of put up a display for a new product to them.  Kimberly - Clark Professional WYPALL X 80 Lint Free Wipes. These are a very heavy duty towels on a roll. Each towel is approximately 12 1/2" wide by 13 1/4" long. There are 475 wipes to a roll. The roll comes with a dispenser stand and the combination retails for $76.05.  The NAPA Store that I was at was selling the combo for $56.00.  The manager said that these were developed for the auto body shops.  They hold up really well when wet and even when wet with solvents.  I have no financial interest in this product but thought that they might be of use to some of the professional rodmakers out there.  The NAPA part number is 41055 for the towels and the dispenser is part number 80595.  The towels are pink in color.  Hope this is helpful to someone.  (Dick Fuhrman)

    Other sources for lint free stuff is from chemistry supply stores (stuff like Kim wipes, a lint free tissue), photo supply stores (lens cleaning tissue that is much softer than Kim wipes), and clean room suppliers (usually Tyvek products, those nearly impossible to tear sheets of "paper").  (George Bourke)

    Thanks Dick!

    I'll be stopping at Napa on the way home from work tomorrow.  (John Channer)


I've been fishing a rod for a couple of hours every day since November. The butt section was finished at a different time to the tip and when I did the butt I decided to shellac it and then give it a single dip of varnish. I make my own shellac a lot thinner than you buy it it and I guess there are about 12 coats but as you may know that only takes about an hr to do because it dries so fast. I used a rubber to apply it in the traditional way. After it was completely dry for a few days I lightly sanded and gave one dip and the finish was superb. So far not the slightest sign of any problems, no crazing or cracking or anything just a nice finish.

This is exactly what I didn't find when I put shellac on wraps, they all crazed and it was a disaster though others seem to find it works OK it wasn't my finding.  (Tony Young)


I just received some finish from Penn State Industries. It is a semi gloss friction polish. What got my attention is that the finish is geared towards the wood pen makers/turners. It got my brain cranking that if a finish can stand up to the handling and abuse a pen takes, as well as the sweat and oils it will come in contact with on a regular basis..........it might be worth a try on reel seat inserts?

I will let you know how it works. On the surface it seems like a good idea. Anyone have any experience with such products?  (Paul McRoberts)

    I've tried the lacquer friction polish from Penn State Industries and it works great.  However if you are cutting a groove into the reel seat you are loosing the advantage of heat polishing the wood on the spinning lathe. I stopped using it however because of the fumes. It's a pretty lethal mix of tasty solvents that will shorten your rod making years unless you have good ventilation to pull the stuff out.  It's a good product though.   (David Rinker)


Has anyone ever used thinned Flexcoat over spar urethane? I have a rod of mine that has wraps that are a bit dry, the rod is impregnated and I would like to use thinned Flexcoat over the wraps. If I lightly steel wool them first and then clean thoroughly to get any residue off, would the Flexcoat work OK over the thin spar urethane?  (Bill Walters)


We do a lot of saltwater FF down here.  I'd like to make an 8 1/2 or 9 ft 9 wt for use in the salt (fighting butt and the works!).  I know that bamboo was used for saltwater rods in the late 1800's and early to mid 1900's.   Several years ago Orvis had a cover with Joe Brooks (?) and Jim Albrigh holding 3 bonefish with two 9 1/2 ft 7 wt Orvis bamboo rods.  So building the rod is no real problem. 

The only question is,  do you do anything extra to protect against the salt?  Spar varnish was made for sailboats and it stands up fairly well for about 6 months of hard abuse, but after that it starts getting milky (or did when I was worried about "bright work".)

Comments???  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    Unfortunately, it's not just the salt that gets to spar.  Not much salt in Lake Huron.  Spar lasts longer, but still not more than a couple of years. One difference though is that boats are typically exposed to the weather 24/7 where a  rod is not.  If it were me, I think I'd use spar and a good paste wax, then re-wax about every dozen times  I had  the rod out in the salt air.   This and $1.00 will get you a senior coffee at Mickey D's.  (Neil Savage)

    A friend has started, but yet to finish a cane rod for stripers up here in the NYC area. We didn't worry so much about the varnish and cane as the fittings. How do propose to protect the NS from the salt? Shouldn't that corrode to h*** and gone?

    (On a lighter note, to be current don't you have to impregnate your whole rod, cork and all, with TITANIUM???? - I'm still anticipating the new Gatorade, NOW with TITANIUM!! LOL)  (Art Port)

      May I suggest brass fittings??  (Ren Monllor)

        I must confess that I treat some of my rods really 'badly'. I think it is important to know just how much abuse a bamboo rod can actually endure. The result is that I think a lot of people probably mollycoddle their rods unnecessarily. A rod is made to be fished (unless it is not) and as such should ideally be able to be fished hard. Other than having to be careful about overstressing very fine bamboo tips I genuinely feel I have to be a lot more careful with graphite rods. I have shut a car door with half of a rod  in the car and the other half outside - the door fully shut. I fished the rod all day. The tip was definitely a little softer than previously but the rod was intact. Graphite would have exploded.

        I always fish one particular rod in saltwater. The rod has a nickel silver ferrule and was treated with 2 coats of tru-oil when first made. I use it to fish large and small flies on floating or sinking lines, I sometimes drift a live sand-prawn ('shrimp' to you guys?) on a floating line from a kayak in estuaries (deadly!!). I sometimes fit it with a spinning reel and spin or fish bait with it. The rod gets dunked frequently - (so do I come to think of it). I never wipe down the rod or even bother to dry it at the end of an outing. I just toss it in its bag ( if it's lucky) and into the back of the car - no tube. It can sometimes sit for months before being hauled out again. and can then be fished every day for a week or two. I find I just have to clean the male ferrule slide from time to time to remove the slight patina that builds up. I also occasionally have to twist some steel wool and clean out the female ferrule if the fit is a bit sticky - this because I don't use a ferrule plug on it. The rod probably has a permanent fine layer of salt on it but this comes off in the first dunking. Other than that it is absolutely fine and still looks pretty much the same as when it was made. Sure it has scratches and nicks but these have more to do with the abuse of bouncing around in the car and on rocks and less to do with the salt.

        I  am not sure that Tru-Oil is necessarily better or worse than varnish. I would imagine they would be similar.

        So personally I wouldn't worry too much about the saltwater. I would just make a rod as you usually do and fish it hard. As far as aesthetics goes I think there is definitely something to be said for the 'patina of age' even if it is a bit premature.  (Steve Dugmore)

          Although my wife wasn't stopped laughing, the firemen are gone so I can report on the experimental microwave heat treating of bamboo.  I took a section of culm, dried for two years, split it in half, and weighed each piece.  One I subjected to my usual heat treatment, nine minutes at 375 degrees of continuously flowing heat.  It lost 6% of its weight.  The second I microwaved on the high setting for one minute.  After 40 seconds smoke was pouring from the microwave.  The cane had developed a black bulge in one side and a "tar-like" substance was present.  The section was hot and had dropped 3.8% of its weight.  My microwave may have a hot spot, or the heating may have been too fast.  In the usual words of a scientist, "more research is needed".  (Bill Lamberson)

            Look at it this way Bill, at least she was laughing and not chasing you around the house trying to BONK you on the noggin with a cast iron skillet for messing up the microwave.  (Will Price)

        There's a problem with brass.   Salt water tends to leach the zinc out, at least in a boat.  That's why you use bronze screws to build a boat for salt water.  (Neil Savage)

          I stand corrected. I meant to say Bronze. You're absolutely right. DUHHH.  I'll just go back to my corner and squeeze my head in the vise. (Ren Monllor)

            Well, I didn't mean any criticism.  If I remember correctly (and the older I get the less that happens) Terry used to build boats himself, so I expect he already knew about the brass/salt issue.  The brass seats in my faucets failed after a while (20 years or so) due to the salt from my water softener.  (Neil Savage)

              I didn't take it as criticism at all. I'm just glad that you caught it in time. I'm looking for a photo of Duronze on the net and I just can't find any. I am running across a lot of info on it and it seems like the ticket for those who would like to try it.  (Ren Monllor)

                I would like to see a photo of ferrules made from Duronze myself. Otherwise known as bronze 642 or 462 or something like that.  (Wayne Kifer)

                Duronze looks a lot like yellow brass but one hell of a lot harder. It's not as red as phosphor or even silicon bronze.

                If you have brass laying around make sure you don't get them mixed up, could be serious if you use brass where oughtn't be.  (Tony Young)

                Winston rods use Duronze ferrules, so see if you can find either a Winston or a picture of one.

                They look really nice.  I really had a cast of a little Winston 4 weight which was wrapped amber/gold with Duronze ferrules, and quite apart from the endemic overbinding, they were very much in keeping with the whole ambiance of the rod.  (Peter McKean)

                  I always thought that Winston ferrules are wrapped, so that beyond the slide and rim of the female you don't see much of the metal.  (Ralph Moon)

                    That's true, Ralph, and that is what I meant by "endemic overbinding".

                    But, in fact, you can still see the male ferrule and also the bits of the femae which are still exposed.

                    The most recent Winstons I saw were two rods that were bought by a (very, very wealthy)  currency trader in  Sydney, which are, by way of interest the "ultimate" and "penultimate" rods made by Glenn Brackett at Winston.  I must confess that I only had any kind of detailed look at the little light rod, but the character of the ferrules was pretty obvious despite the overbinding.  These rods were beautifully finished, and the finish on the ferrule metal was the best I have ever seen.  (Peter McKean)

          Tony Young makes the reel seats out of bronze, probably the ferrules too. I think they look really, really sharp.  The color goes great with blonde rods.  (Ren Monllor)

        Don't use brass, it'll de-zincafy. NS is bronze and may be OK. If in doubt use some kind of marine type bronze like silicon or possibly Al bronze IE. Duronze.  If you really want to be sure use titanium.  (Tony Young)

        I just returned from bonefish trip to Andros Island where I fished my saltwater bamboo, A PHY Para 17 (8-wt.) that I made with a Struble saltwater reel seat with a removable fighting butt. I fished it for several days and caught fish in the 3 1/2-4 1/2 lb. range. The rod has blued nickel silver ferrules and black guides. All is well, no corrosion. I washed the rod, reel, and line daily and dried them. No corrosion. My guide had never seen a bamboo rod in use before and tried it out, declaring that it was a sweet rod to cast and a classic.  (Steve Weiss)

    I have a Canadian Canoe 3 piece 7 wt that I made with a Struble Saltwater reel seat, fighting butt and Recoil guides that has been fished in salt several times over the past 5 years. It shows no hard affects from the salt but has a set from fishing for the big lake run browns in the fall.  It is finished with Marine Spar that was applied with a foam brush.  (Jim Tefft)

    Several current rodmakers are using automotive clearcoat instead of varnish on their rods. This might possibly offer better protection when fishing saltwater. Then again, it might just all boil down to the care you give the rod at the end of a days fishing. Wayne Maca of Beaverhead Rods has a picture on his web site (see here) of a jointed blank that he threw in the open bed of his pickup and left it there through a Montana winter and summer to test the effects of the weather against this type of finish.  (Will Price)

      I used to own a cedar strip canoe with spar varnish finish and I don't think salt water ever damaged it or the paddle they lived under cover when not in use.

      Constant sunlight on the bright work of my yacht was a serious problem but the water didn't seem to be.

      Just thinking about it, the canoe used to be in salt water a lot and never had varnish problems but the mast was never in salt water and had to be revarnished every six months. Sun was definitely the problem, not the water.  (Tony Young)

    I fish my rods a lot in Puget Sound, which doesn't have as much salinity as the ocean, but can still ruin your gear. I've used various finishes, including Tru-Oil with a coat of gun stock wax, Tru-Oil with one dip in a tube of spar urethane, Sea-fin Teak oil, and the traditional three dips in a tube of varnish. All I do is rinse the whole rod in fresh water after fishing, and let it dry outside of the case for a few hours. I've never had a problem.

    I think the most sensitive area is the guides, since little pieces of kelp can get stuck in them and cause problems if left for a long time.   (Tom Bowden)

    Last year I made a Payne Canadian Canoe 8'6" 7wt three piece, the rod was for Bass and sea trout, the finish was spar varnish, ferrules were nickel silver and the reel seat was an REC RGAL.  I used it a lot in the sea and didn't have any issues with corrosion I kept the thing fairly clean wiping it down when I'd finished but not much more than that.

    The only "extra" protection I put on the rod was a coat of gloss protection car polish, which definitely stopped dirt and grime sticking to it.  (Luke Bannister)

      NS is bronze, it only takes about 5% nickel to make it silver looking. By rights it should be OK in salt water but it will likely discolor to a verdigris due to the high copper content if you don't wash it all down very well with fresh water after.

      Don't even think about aluminum and remember that mixing metals will cause rapid corrosion so keep that in mind with the reel seat and reel foot. Wont be a problem as long as you always remove the reel from the rod when not in use.

      Some people seem to think you'll cast better without a reel on the rod at all but you can make up your own mind on that.   (Tony Young)

    I've built a few wood boats.   Polyurethane doesn't work forever, paint and spar don't either.  Polyester resins are porous, which is why you see some fiberglass boats with paint blisters.  It's the gel coat, not the paint in most cases.

    What does work is epoxy. Not the stuff we would normally use, and on a boat it's a lot thicker coat than would be acceptable to a rod maker.  I was thinking about this on my way home last night.

    There's a good article about a gent that makes upscale guitars in a recent Woodcraft Magazine.  He uses System 2 epoxy, and applies the epoxy and then immediately wipes it off.  After about three coats this way, he has negligible buildup.  He then finishes with a water based polyurethane.  That would help with epoxy's downfall, it has little resistance to UV sunlight.  System 2 and WEST epoxy both have free application guides if you want to dig in further.

    I can't give you much help with a ferrule.  Hard anodized AL works for reelseats, so maybe for a ferrule, but I don't know how you would lap the thing.  Nickel silver wouldn't be much good, bronze would be better than Stainless because stainless galls.  How about a splice?  Tape ain't pretty, but it doesn't bubble in the salt.  (Leonard Baker)


How many coats of varnish should you give a rod?

I put on 2 diluted coats, then sanded them back with 000 steel wool. Have now applied 2 coats of universal marine varnish (with the fingertip method) It is looking good, but the wraps need covered more. Just wondered what the consensus was on coatings.  (Alistair Dunlap)

    Three on the butt and two on the tips. Hand rubbed may not build up as much as dipped and may require more. You be the judge.  (Larry Puckett)

    Some of the authors of several books recommend two coats some three, but as for the wraps they sometimes put on up to seven coats (Kreider). 

    I have been successful with one coat color preserver (shellac) two coats of full strength varnish exclusive to the wraps (sanded of course with 1500 grit wet/dry sandpaper, and then two coats of diluted spar varnish. All this seems to  leave a very smooth transition from wrap to blank. I would not recommend sanding  the between coats with "steel wool" since it leave micro bits of metal behind  that can show up in your next coat, but steel wool does have a tendency to round  off the edges you have so painstakingly worked on with planing your splines. It  is better to use a block (1"x 3"x 1/2") of "Plexiglas" as the sanding form to  hold your 1500 grit. This will insure that the edges/corners of the rod remain  crisp.  (Rudy Rios)

      Don't remember who posted the suggestion but it has improved my finish considerably.

      For sanding in-between coats. Take a sheet of 1500 grit wet dry paper spray the backside with spray mount adhesive. Cover it with pop sickle sticks. Let it dry and then cut the pop sickle sticks apart with a craft knife. You have a boat load of small sanding blocks for flats and wraps that are easy to use and when the tip gets warn out you cut it back to new paper.

      Great tip, sorry I can't remember who posted it.  (Will McMurrey)


Here is a rod finish I have been using its a non tradition finish made by Rustins in the UK.  The plastic coating is a 2 pack formulated for wood finishing furniture. All coats can be applied the same day. After that I let the  last coat dry for two days rub the rod down with 000 wire wool and wax for a satin finish or burnish with a cream burnishing compound for mirror finish. There is no need to dip the rod or spray, just brush it on all imperfection will be removed with the wire wool. its foolproof fast and very hard wearing.  (Gary Nicholson)


I've been studying our procedures for finishing our rods lately.  Though I'm not sure what it is, there really must be a better way to finish than multiple dip/drip coats and repeated sandings.  Compared to many modern techniques our typical processes are really rather primitive.  I know, I know, we get beautiful results.  But doing so takes a serious investment in time and effort.

In fact many of the methods we use are the product of garage technology.  Any sophisticated woodworker would shake his head at, for instance, roughing rods out by hand.  Or sanding bare bamboo to 1000 grit.

All this points me to a question.... have you experimented with sanding sealers on rod shafts?  Seems to me like a potentially good way to seat the shaft itself and smooth out any sanding imperfections.

Just curious, and always thinking about a better mousetrap.  (Harry Boyd)

    First, I don't want to sound like I am pooh-poohing this, as I think experimentation is an excellent thing. Second, I could be way off base with all of the following comments/observations, so you may want to read with a good measure of iodized salt...

    I don't know for certain as I have only used sanding sealer on a guitar body I built.  However, from that experience I would wonder how much would actually be gained, and at what price.  My understanding is that a sanding sealer is most important with open-grained woods that soak up finishes quickly and the grain of which raises easily (I was using ash for the guitar). I wouldn't consider bamboo to be open-grained, and have never had problems with grain raising with it.

    Also, don't kid yourself into thinking that you will not need to sand the blank down, as the sealer itself needs to be sanded down/off.  It might let you get to smooth faster, but given our starting smoothness, I am not sure about that either.  We are using grades to start our sanding that are labeled "fine" for woodworking.  A woodworker's "ultra fine" tends to be a lot different than bamboo rodmaker's (unless you are in one of those wood-shops that won't even allow sandpaper through the door, in which case you are planing down to your finish).

    I probably hate sanding as much as anyone here,  and if someone finds this works well, I will probably be buying sanding sealer in bulk.  (Carl DiNardo)

      I'm afraid I have to agree with Carl.  Sanding sealer's primary use is sealing the grain on open grain woods, or woods with alternating hard and soft areas (like fir plywood)prior to staining.  That way, the wood absorbs the stain more evenly.

      That said, I am not opposed to experiment either.  I just, personally, don't want to spend the few $ a small can of sanding sealer costs in order to prove that it doesn't work.  (Neil Savage)

        Before I started my new life as a cane rod builder (hobbyist only) I taught woodworking at the high school level and built cabinets to pay my way in the world.  As Neil says, I used sanding sealer as a filler that dried quickly and sanded easily before spraying my finish of lacquer.  I have never worked with a natural material as hard as the enamel side of the cane and can see no advantage of using sanding sealer as a base coat before applying the varnish.   (Tom Key)

    Sanding sealer is generally used with lacquer and all of it I've seen is basically just thinned lacquer. When I finish cabinets, I just thin the catalyzed finish I use 25% for the first coat. What it does is set up hard quickly so the work can be sanded easily shortly after spraying. Unthinned or slightly thinned finish takes longer to cure before it will dust rather than ball up under the sandpaper. While you can use lacquer under varnish (NOT vice versa, varnish will melt when coated with lacquer!) I wouldn't recommend it for something that flexes like a fly rod. I don't sand bamboo any finer than 50 micron, which is somewhere around 300g, iirc, and I've stripped several higher end rods that after the varnish was off looked like they had been sanded with 100 grit, though they looked just fine after the new varnish.

    BTW, before you ask about the cabinet finish I use, it's pretty much toxic waste, requires a high quality respirator and will probably be banned by the EPA sometime soon. It's also an interior finish with no UV protection, it does hold up very well on cabinetry, but cabinets only get the occasional splash, they don't get submerged periodically like most flyrods do (mine at least).  (John Channer)

    I have been dipping at least one time before any guides are put on. Makes filling pits and sanding much simpler. Also keeps buildup around wraps from occurring. When I get all smooth and slick, I sand off all excess with 400 grit and then wrap.  (Barry Janzen)

    I have found, as others have noted, that sanding to 1000 grit on bare bamboo is unnecessary and if you're using more than one coat of varnish 600 grit before for the last coat is all you need.

    I recently experimented with spraying a rod (an 8 foot one piece which didn't fit in my dip tube:)) with an airbrush.  I know this has been mentioned in the past but it didn't seem to grab the attention of many. Since it was and experiment, I didn't go through a lot of trouble with the set up.  I chucked the rod in my powered rod wrapper to rotate it and traversed the length freehand.  Well, since my hand is not that steady and the airbrush spray pattern is rather small, it was difficult to keep the spray centered on the blank but when complete, I thouht the finish was SUPER!!  You can apply JUST ENOUGH varnish to coat without the excessive built-up in the middle of the flats that you tend to get with dipping.   So you get a sharply defined hex with minimal effort and time.   I think one pass took about one minute.  It worked so well that I'm thinking of building a rig with a lead screw (like a lathe) to drive the airbrush to achieve perfect results. (Al Baldauski)

      Not only is 1000 grit on bare bamboo unnecessary, it may cause finish adhesion problems.  Most "wood" finishes do not chemically bond with the surface they are covering, but rather rely on surface "roughness" to adhere to the substrate.  1000 grit sanding is approaching polishing the surface, and the scratches left by the finer sandpapers may not be deep enough to ensure good adhesion from the finish.  Most quality finishes we use today are self leveling, though multiple coats of the finish and finish sanding between coats will eventually fill up the sanding scratches.  Save the 1000 grit and 2000 grit for final sanding, then buffing and polishing.  (Mark Wendt)

        Yeup - another yea vote on this as well. 

        I've done a lot of custom painting of boats, cars, vans and motorcycles in the past,  600 grit would be about as far down as I'd go on sandpaper on bare cane.  you're definitely not going to get a chemical bond with cane so you'll need some bite for the paint to adhere to would be best.

        Good cleaning of the cane after sanding with 600 would be in order to open up and clean out the pores.

        Good to go.  (John Silveira)

          IMHO there is much to explore using the airbrush with the small bottle on it.

          This link shows one option but there are very many different models  and variety of feeds You can spray acrylics as well and you can add  colors to your varnish, and you can uses stencils etc. The  possibilities are endless really, I sprayed a couple of rods also and  plan to try some more (but you gotta love that Tru-Oil.

          Try looking up airbrushes on Google and you will be surprised.  (Dick Steinbach)

      Yes, I agree with the spraying method. It's great and it's easy.

      A guy could make a quick setup to lock the rod into a holder and just rotate the rod by hand one flat at a time to spray.  I'm still going to stick with the opinion the airbrush is just a bit small for this kind of job. As you mentioned the spray pattern is kinda small.  There is a spray gun on the market that can be purchased for about the same as an airbrush that is called a "Touch Up Gun" that would be absolutely perfect for spraying rods. The distinguishing characteristic of the spray gun is that it has a long tongue depressor type trigger on top of the gun that you lie your index finger on to press and deliver paint (the gun is small and only has about a half pint paint bowl).  

      That would be the hot ticket.  The beauty is you can reduce the paint material 50% if you wanted - the "Coat of paint" is minimal, very minimal, and dries quickly due to the thickness of the coat being so little.  (John Silveira)

        I've been looking at the HVLP guns offered from Grizzly and they have one, the mini, with an 8mm tip & 100ml cup, and another, the professional with 1.4mm tip & 600ml cup. Would the mini be the way to go for rod application?  It cost $32.95.  (Chad Wigham)

          My experience with the air brush used FAR LESS than  100 cc.  6 cc is the approximate volume of  wet varnish applied.  To get that much on the rod you have to spray a lot more, maybe 3-4 times, depending on the amount of overspray.  But it seems to me the smaller Grizzly will work.  (Al Baldauski)

          This is the type of gun I was referring to.  I've not used the new HVLP mini guns but I'm sure they'll work great.  The link below if from Devilbiss - they spray real nicely as well.  (John Silveira)


I just finished dipping/dripping a Christmas present and was wondering how long I should wait before putting it in the mail.  I used Ace Spar Varnish and it has three coats over three days with the last coat going on on Sunday night.  When do you think it would be OK to ship?  (Greg Reeves)

    I wait at least 3 days before handling a rod after the final coat, then polish out any bumps and ship it.  (John Channer)


I do all of my work in a utility shed outside the house. There is no insulation, heating, or air conditioning in the shed so I have to try and keep it warm with a small ceramic heater which I don't like to leave unattended. Anyway, I am about to start varnishing and I am concerned about temperature. It is starting to get down into the upper 30's, low 40's here in Alabama now and I am not sure what affect that will have on my varnishing in the shed. I plan on using a drip tube and have read that I need to remove the strips after I have drained  the varnish and place them in a drying cabinet. Being that I don't have a drying cabinet yet, I am wondering about heating one safely so that I can properly cure my varnish. Here are my questions:

1. Does it matter what the temperature is when applying the varnish or does it only matter during its curing process?

2. How should I go about heating the varnish if I need to before application?

3. What would be the best finish to use in my situation?

4. How should I construct my drying cabinet so that I can leave it in the shed unattended and feel safe that I am not going to set it on fire?

5. How long will it take before the blank is ready to be tack free, ready to be sanded, ready for another coat, fully cured and ready to fish?

6. How do all of you overcome these challenges?

As you can see, I'm new to finishing techniques and haven't found the answers I'm looking for in the book I'm reading or on the internet.  (Greg Reeves)

    1.  Yes it should be warm (blank and varnish).

    2.  Keep the tube inside or in your drying cabinet to warm.

    3.  Don't know as one would be better than another, try Helmsman spar poly.

    4.  Made mine out of plywood and heat it with 100 watt bulb mounted on floor on metal plate mine is about 18" X 18" by 72" tall.

    5.  Tack free you'll have to check, I leave mine over night, I fish mine as soon as I get a chance.  3 or 4 days ought to do it. Longer might be better.

    6.  Ya gots to do what ya gots to do.  (Tom Kurtis)

    Look on the can of varnish and it will give you a range of temps you can use the varnish. if you vary from those you will have problems. as the rod dries it will have to be in those temp ranges also. maybe you can set up a temporary work station in your living quarter over one of those large Rubbermaid tubs to deal with the accidental spill.  (Timothy Troester)

      Pour the varnish out of the dip tube into a quart can, put on top of a radiator until it's about 100 degrees and then pour it back into the tube. I have a drip tube and I do that with every varnishing, and it works great.  (Mark Dyba)


I would like to hear people's opinions on modern rod finishes.  Like most list members I use traditional varnishes with the greatest concession to modernity being the use of Polyurethane on some rods.  I do this out of tradition, because a great finish is possible, the stuff does the job, and it can be removed and redone as required in the future.

Recently I have had rods brought in for work that have been refinished with what looks like a two part resin finish which is completely resistant to normal strippers and far too tough to scrape off, it is also thick and ugly but that is by the by.  My reaction is that whoever is doing this has no regard for the future of the rod or perhaps is so arrogant as to think that his will be the last work ever done on it.

Am I overreacting?  Is there some wonderful material that will remove this gunk?  Or should I just accept fact that the current owner of a rod can do whatever he or she likes to it?

I would be particularly keen to hear the rationale of any professional restorers who think that using such resistant materials is acceptable on a vintage rod.  (Gary Marshall)

    That's some pretty harsh criticism don't you think? I have made several rods and while I’m making them, I never think about someone dismantling them in the future. I look at them first as art followed by beautiful and useful tools in which one can spend countless hours of enjoyment just using them to fish.

    As far as modern refinishing goes…I have worked over 30 years in the auto body and auto refinishing industry and I have also sprayed most of my rods with automotive catalyst urethane clears. I am not condemning varnish, I am rolling with the future and using a more efficient technique for me. I will most likely dip several more rods in varnish in the future, just for tradition.

    The modern clear coats are more trouble for us to remove than the old enamels but we have adapted and this is my suggestion to you.   (Wayne Caron)

      Your comments are appreciated and offer an insight into why such finishes may be used.  You note that such finishes are harder to remove, can you suggest an effective way to remove them from a rod section without damaging the cane?

      BTW I cannot and indeed don't have any objection to people employing these materials on rods they make themselves, their choice entirely, my comments relate more to vintage rods and incorporate what is generally regarded as good conservation practice.  (Gary Marshall)

        I'm assuming you're doing a complete restoration...I would try a card scraper after you remove the guides. If you get your scraper tuned just right, you could shave steel with it.  (Wayne Caron)

    Make life simple for yourself. Accept the fact the owner can do what ever they want. You have the option to either accept the work or reject the work and send them someplace else. Simple.  (Jerry Drake)

    Whether the materials are "acceptable" is only a question for the beholder. Whomever applied the finish obviously thought it was acceptable.

    Whether you choose to take on the job is your decision. Dealing with other peoples' crappy work is less than rewarding, especially when you find more things wrong as you get into the job. Can you guess whether or not I do restorations or refinishes?

    For you to refinish this thing, you would have to strip it down to the blanks, except for the grip and reel seat, and then scrape or sand the old finish off as though you were removing excess glue from a newly glued blank. I hope you get paid well for the job, maybe half the cost of a new rod.  (Steve Weiss)

      Thanks for your observations.  In this particular instance I am lucky in that the whippings and rings are fine and the lacquer is not too thick so I going to flat it back,  remove runs etc  and then over varnish.  The main aim of this restoration is for a new handle and ferrule set, why the last "restorer" ignored these fundamentals I will never know.  On the last one of these I got I just refused to touch it.

      I am grateful for all the suggestions received but knowing how painful this stuff is to work with I generally just avoid a rod that is burdened with it.

      My concern is not for my own business but for the potential loss of valuable and finite assets.  I have yet to read a reply from a professional restorer making a reasoned case for using such materials.  (Gary Marshall)


With all the talk of finishing lately I thought it might be good to mention a really good resource, again - Understanding Wood Finishing by Bob Flexner.  A very good explanation of different finishes, varnish, solvents, oils, UV factors, etc.etc.  The whole nine yards.  It is inexpensive (~$17)and there is an updated version.  Woodcraft carries it and copies may undoubtedly be cheaper on line.  N.B. - As an added bonus there is also an excellent chapter on card scrapers (Cod scrapas for you Mainers).  I can't recommend this book highly enough.  (Darrol Groth)

    Another "YUP!" for the B. Flexner book on finishing. I've had it since '94 (Rodale Press) and I think it's still the BEST! I've referred to it often with questions.

    What's REALLY GOOD about it is the specifics. Flexner names the names of the product/company/manufacturer unlike many books that speak in generalities.

    Highly recommended.  (Jeremy Gubbins)


Has anyone looked at the difference (if any) in weight gain between traditional varnish methods versus impregnating cane and no varnish?  (Louis DeVos)

    I recently vacuum / pressure impregnated a blank with a low viscosity epoxy. The weight gain was 2%. The calculated weight gain for varnish applied at 0.0015 thick (0.003 on the diameter) is 2%.

    The water loss when you dry out bamboo from a 60% relative humidity environment is about 6%.

    So, impregnation may not fill all the voids left by driving off the water but will prevent the reabsorption of that amount approximately equal to the impregnant weight. The net weight gain will be zero in the above case.  Actually you save 2% if you don't varnish the impregnated blank.

    If you use an impregnant that more efficiently fills the voids then you will have more net gain.  (Al Baldauski)


 

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