Bamboo Tips - Tips Area
Finishing - Balloon & Bottle

< Home < Tips Area < Finishing < Balloon & Bottle


The "Bottle and the Balloon" was an article by Bob Kambeitz published in the "Planing Form" and later in the "Best of the Planing Form."  In it he described using a bottle with the bottom cut out and a piece of latex rubber (in his case a finger from a pair of rubber gloves) to "dip" a rod blank using only a teaspoon of varnish.

I bought .025" latex rubber sheet from McMaster-Carr, the motor referred to in the previous email and some PVC, electrical conduit and a couple of 2 x 4’s.  I also ordered a 6', 3/8"x24 threaded rod from McMaster-Carr.

I used two 5' PVC pipes secured between two ~1' square pieces of plywood to make the "runners" for the "dip mechanism".  The 3/8" threaded rod was exactly 1/2 way between the two pipes.  A "yoke" was constructed of a PVC "T" and a "cross".   A short piece of PVC connected the cross and T together and the free end of the cross was connected to the "dip cup".  The spacing between each "leg" of the yoke was made to be the same as the spacing between the two PVC pipes.  The spacing was adjusted so that the yoke would slide freely on the pipe.  the center of the connecting arm for the yoke was fitted with a brass nut so that turning the threaded rod would raise and lower the yoke.

Two 2 x 4’s were also added to improve stiffness and 3/4" metal electrical conduit was placed inside the PVC pipe to also increase stiffness.  The "dip cup" was make from a PVC "T".  The latex rubber was stretched across one end and secured with a hose clamp.

The mechanism works very well.  It allows varnishing the rod with the expensive varnish since only a small amount is needed.

Now for the bad news.  I was in the middle of writing a paper describing the construction and including pictures and drawings when my retirement arrived.  My stuff is scattered between Austin and Mena, Arkansas.  I can't find the CD with the pictures.  Somewhere, I have the first draft of the description.  I had only started the drawings.  I will finish moving in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully the pictures will turn up by then.  As soon as I have time I will finish the paper and/or send out the pictures to any who want them.  (Onis Cogburn)


I was wondering if someone could give me some info on the "balloon and bottle" finishing technique.

The reason I ask is that I finished my first two rods with Tru oil, and have rods 3 and 4 coated with several coats of true oil and am ready to wrap the guides.  I read in the archives about someone coating a rod with true oil, wrapping the guides, and them using the balloon and bottle method to coat with more true oil to give everything a nice cohesive look.  There wasn't any info on the technique though.

Has anyone ever tried this?  I really like the true oil look, but would like a way to blend the wraps and the rod at the end.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    I haven't done this technique myself, but I'm fairly certain you cannot do this with the guides on. The balloon has a small hole in it so that you can draw the rod through the varnish at a constant rate, leaving a  smooth coating. I can't see getting the guides through the hole without letting the varnish run down the rod as the guide goes through. On the other hand the balloon and bottle method could be something else entirely from what I am thinking it is - in that case, never mind.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Thanks.  I didn't think it sounded quite right.  What I'd really like to try is varnish in a drip tube. 

      I've almost got rod #5 ready for glue and I think I'll put together a dripping system this weekend for that one.  (Aaron Gaffney)

        I tried the balloon and bottle method, too much dust and bubbles.  Darryl Hayashida is right, you can't have the guides on the rod and you have to start at the small end & pull the bottle down towards the large end.

        A dip tube is much better.  If you don't have the headroom, you can put the rig at an angle.  Take a look at my setup on Todd's Tip Site (he has it labeled a drain tube, but it's actually a dip tube).  I pull the rod into the clear plastic tube, let it set up and then it goes in to the drying cabinet.  (Ron Larsen)

      I TRIED it on my current rod.  Not too happy with the butt section so I took the varnish off and used Tru-Oil.  *I* can't see any difference between the butt and the tip.  Very hard to pull the bottle down at a uniform (sloooow) rate -- ~ 4"  per minute.

      Definitely couldn't do it with the guides on.  I guess you could rub on another couple of coats of Tru-Oil after the guides are on, but it wouldn't be easy.  (Neil Savage)


Is there such a thing as bottle and balloon varnishing? Does is work? How is it done?  (Phil Crangi)

    I have used the b & b method on one pc 6' rods.  What I did was drill a hole the size of the butt and stretch a finger from a latex glove over the bottom and outside of the cup (medicine).  You then drill a hole in a board the size of the butt to hold it upright.  You put about 1/3 of the cup with varnish.  Start at the tip and slowly push it through the latex and move it with the varnish slowly down to the bottom of the butt.  Leaves a great finish.  I usually empty the cup and leave it there until the varnish is dry.

    The method was in The Planing Form newsletter and I think in The Best of The Planing Form #1.  (Scott Grady)

    I use a similar method as the bottle and balloon as seen in this how to.   (Ken Paterson)

    I built a "tubeless dip tube"  using the "Bottle and Balloon" idea.  I've been trying to get a "How to" finished but health problems have slowed me down.  I built a frame using two 2x4's with 3/4" plywood for top and bottom.  I used 1" thin walled steel conduit to make two "rails"; same length as the 2x4's.  I made a "yoke" from a 1" PVC "T" fitting and a "4 way" fitting.  The "Yoke" rides on the rails.  The "Bottle" was constructed from a 1" PVC "T" fitting and attaches to the yoke using a 1" length of PVC.  The "Yoke"/"Bottle" is raised and lowered using a 3/8"x24 tpi threaded rod.  The rod is turned using a bidirectional~100 RPM motor.  McMaster-Carr has sheet rubber, very reasonable in a multitude of thicknesses.  I think I used .025".  A hose clamp around the bottom of the "Bottle" holds the rubber in place.  Finished, the rod blank is hung from the top and the bottle raised to the top of the blank.  The motor is shut off and a spoonful of varnish added to the "Bottle" and the motor turned on down.  The result is as good as any full dip tube and only uses a spoonful of varnish at a time.  The only Gotchas are it will only do rod blanks, obvious,  and the threaded rod must be hand made.

    I tried using a high quality steel rod but you can't keep it straight.  When you get it, it is bent any you can't straighten it.  Thick walled aluminum  tubing should work as should brass tubing.  A six foot piece of threaded steel lamp rod should be perfect but I couldn't find any longer than 3 ft. long.  3/8" aluminum rod is available at most any hardware store and it's straight and cheap.  This is what I used.  I used a 3/8"x24 tpi rethreading die that I bought from a ACE hardware store going out of business.  A threading die should work better.  I built a threading chuck from a length of scrap aluminum rod.  It was a 3" piece of rod with a diameter 1/4" greater than the die.  I drilled a 3/8" hole lengthwise through the rod and bored in about 3/8" and just wider than the thickness of the die.  I used three screws to hold and position the die.  I drilled 3/8" from the side for each hole in the die so the swarf could be removed.  I drilled and threaded 4 1/4" holes in the side of the rod at the other end of the rod and threaded so four 1/4" bolts about 2 1/2" long would make a cross to allow rotating the chuck easily.  I used my lathe to hold the rod and hand threaded the entire length of the rod.  The "die chuck" was made to prevent the die from wobbling while threading.  It worked great.

    I have one of the 7x12 Asian lathes.  Had I not blown my transistors in the control, I could have probably threaded under power but the replacement transistors reduced the torque enough to prevent this.  The lathe worked great in constructing the "Yoke", "Bottle" and assorted parts.  You do need access to some sort of lathe for the parts as the fittings have to be bored out to cut to size and finish.  For instance, the fittings to make the "Yoke" must be bored and a piece of 1" PVC glued to the inside of each leg and this bored out to fit the conduit.  1" PVC and 1" conduit are not the same size.

    I have taken pictures and am working on the text.  When I finish the directions, you can have it.  The "Tubeless Dip Tube" works well (see issue 39 of Power Fibers).  (Onis Cogburn)


Site Design by: Talsma Web Creations

Tips Home - What's New - Tips - Articles - Tutorials - Contraptions - Contributors - Search Site - Contact Us - Taper Archives
Christmas Missives - Chat Room - Photo Galleries - Line Conversions - The Journey - Extreme Rodmaking - Rodmaker's Pictures - Donate - Store