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I've had a couple of spinning rods, unfinished, hanging in the finishing cabinet for, I don't know how long. I'd gotten busy doing other stuff, other than rodmaking! I know, I should be reprimanded! But, rebuilding that Old Logan Lathe was sure worth it! When I opened the dip tube, the varnish level was way down and dried up, (ruined). I had been using a 1" Schedule 40 PVC tube with a 3" fitting and rubber "J" cap on the top. Well, it didn't seal very good! So, now's the time to try an idea that I've had for a long time. I don't have it filled with varnish yet, but it's holding a full tube of mineral spirits just fine, once I got the right sealant. I didn't know that mineral spirits will eat up Goop (plumbers) sealant!

I'm using a 1" PVC tube again, but this time I'm using a 8 oz. wide mouth clear glass jelly jar for the top reservoir. I cut out the bottom of the canning jar and turned a fitting out of PVC, on the lathe, to join the tube and jar. Lids are cheap and easy to replace when the seal goes bad. The lid can be fitted with a valve, to let the air out. You can see the rod through the glass. You can see, at a glance, what the condition of the varnish is in! Just a lot of good attributes!

I'll let you know how well it works with varnish, but right now, it's turkey call making season!! I'm busy making glass and slate friction calls and diaphragm mouth callers. Turkey feather collecting season is almost here, in Missouri!  (David Dziadosz)


This afternoon just after withdrawing a section from my dip tank, the motor I have used for the last several years died on me.  Actually, I think the controller died since that was where the smoke came from. <g>

I got this one from another rod maker, so can't go back to my source.  Might anyone know a good source for a slow rpm, variable speed, reversible motor?  I used one of the slip clutch pulley mechanisms for several years and never liked it.  When I changed to this most recent iteration it sure made life simpler.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  I'm a electronically challenged, at best.  If there are more than two wires to connect I can't handle it.  (Harry Boyd)

    If it's simply a DC motor and it's the controller maybe a controller from a train set would fit the bill. I use one on my turner, when I need to put varnish on a wrap or two and it works great. Hobby shop? Just food for thought.  (Joe Arguello)

    Microwave ovens, last time we discussed it!  I've still not got round to it, mainly because there’s a great granite slab under where the tube has to be dug in.  (Robin Haywood)

    Do you have a surplus store such as Minnesota's Axman handy?  If not, may I suggest trying a rebuilt electric appliance store (or garage sale)? What you're looking for is an old electric rotisserie motor.  If you force a one-inch thread spool on over the spit, you get almost exactly a 4 ipm withdrawal rate.  Adding a rheostat (light dimmer) might give you some latitude (never tried it myself).  And adopting an electrician who really wants to learn about fly-fishing may be a good idea, too.  (Steve Yasgur)

    I'd suggest poking around in the Surplus Center web site under electric.

    I got my variable speed lathe motor and controller there.  (Neil Savage)

    Here is what I used.


    Power Supply

    Variable Speed Control

    In addition to that all that I needed was a double throw / double pole toggle switch to make the motor reversible. By using the Variable speed control I can easily control the speed from less than 1 RPM up to "full speed."  (Jim Brandt)

      I followed up on your links for the motor, power supply and variable speed control. That is a 12vDC motor and a 6vDC power supply?   Shouldn't the two match voltages? How do you control the motor speed with this speed controller?  Do you plug the wall wart into it and twist the pot to control motor speed?  What does that do, change input voltage?  (Larry Swearingen)

      As I said, I'm electronically "challenged" at best. Ignorant might be a better word for it. Where did you wire in the double throw double pole switch? Is it wired into the "wall wart" hot line?  (Harry Boyd)

        The wall wart is wired to the DPDT switch and would be the "Load" in the picture below, the rest I think is self explanatory. You can buy the switch at any home depot or similar store.  (Jim Brandt)


    A easy way to handle this is to go to an HO Train Hobby Store and get a variable power supply (this assumes you are using a DC motor since you said it has two wires and you had another controller).  This will let you to apply a variable voltage to the DC motor so you can adjust the withdrawal speed. If you are using a variable speed AC motor, then you can get one of the variable speed controllers for an AC motor at any of the electronics companies.  (Frank Paul)

      Coupla problems with that.  First, Winnsboro, Louisiana has about as many HO Train Hobby Stores as it does elephants. <g>  I'd have to drive 150 miles to find a Train store.  Second, even when I got there, I would not know what to ask for.  As I said before, I'm electronically challenged to say the least.  (Harry Boyd)

    I use a 24 vdc gear motor from Rex Engineering & run it on 5 vdc to draw the rod out of the dip tube.  The great thing about dc gear motors is you can vary the voltage without a noticeable loss of torque.  A simple switch reverses it.   (Ron Larsen)

    How about a paper shredder motor hooked up to one of those variable speed deals for routers? I have the set up but have not tried it yet. Reversible, and should work.  (Rob Clarke)

    I'm not sure about the "reversible" part, but you can plug any 120 source through a variable speed router control, and accomplish the same effect as a rheostat (dimmer switch) without the wiring necessity. Harbor Freight has 'em. You can use a 6 or 18 rpm turner motor and achieve any rpm you want with it.  (Mike St. Clair)

      Someone recommended a motor and controller which is exactly what I've been using.

      Any ideas about a specific power source?  I'm wondering if the one I've been using will still work...  (Harry Boyd)

        The same power supply should work.  All the controller does is to break up the current into little pulses that each move the motor one step.  The controller doesn't change the voltage, just the speed of the pulses.. My stepper motor is 6 volt, and a 6 volt DC power supply run thru the controller works it.  The stepper motor is totally different than motors that are controlled by changing the voltage.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

          Maybe you can help ME!

          I have the same motor and controller as Harry. Mine also burned up. 8 or so years ago I asked the same question as Harry. I've been cranking sections out of the dip tube by hand on an old reel.

          If I recall right, I asked how to find out what piece of the puzzle actually went bad and got a lot conflicting answers. Basically no one knew and I still don't know how to find out. It was tossed in the garbage when I moved. At that time the controller, motor, and power supply ran me well over a hundred bucks. The kit Harry was shown is 'only' 40 and wasn't available at that time.

          My question is...if his unit burned up...what would cause it to do that? I've read that converters aren't a reliable source of power. A battery would be better. If Harry (or me) kept the power supply and changed out the motor and controller wouldn't he still risk the power supply burning stuff out again assuming he got a surge or sumptin'?

          I'm clueless?  (Mike Shay)

            If you're using a stepper (DC) motor you need to run some kind of controller.  The battery size would have to depend on the input voltage/current requirement for the motor controller.  Some controllers may not be able to handle a 12 V car battery.

            On your old controller, it's likely one or more of the MOSFETs burned out.  This happens occasionally, even to the controller boards on the mini-lathes and mini-mills.  Most times those MOSFETs can be replaced.  The hard part sometimes is figgerin' out which one is burned out.  MOSFETs bought through Mouser or Digikey are usually a coupla bucks or less a piece.

            I burned out a MOSFET on my milling machine Digital Read Out, and had to replace it.  Course, when it went, it took a capacitor with it, so I needed to troubleshoot and find that too.  I built the DRO a few years back, so I was familiar with it, but you can usually get a schematic for the controller boards too to help troubleshoot.  (Mark Wendt)

            Regarding this stepper motor controller, I bought the one from Herbach as well, but in a fit of insanity I bought the kit.  (I thought it would be fun to solder up.)  Well, mine doesn't work, thanks, it appears to a bad component.  (I have been able to confirm that I soldered it properly.)  I am not savy enought to figure out which one, and Herbach is telling me they don't support the kits.  Lovely.

            So I look up the manufacturer of the actual controller chip on the board and call them.  I talked to a very friendly engineer who had NO business helping me with my dinky project, but was kind enough to do so.  (He's probably given me $200 worth of his time to help me with a $30 kit.)  He had me fax him the circuit diagram of the controller board.  When he got it his response was, "Who designed this?  It'll work but it sure is a bad design."  Maybe that has something to do with the Magic Smoke??

            He also suggested I use a bigger wall wart than using.  I was using a 1A, 9V, and he was afraid that would under power things.  I haven't experimented yet with another power source.  Honestly, I'd rather just order a new controller, but I don't want to give Herbach the business.  Any alternatives out there?  (Tyler Beard)

              Tons of places.  One of my favorites (besides McMaster-Carr - sorry Larry...) and one that I've ordered a buncha stuff from is Surplus Center.  Inexpensive, fast delivery, and nice folks to do business with.  (Mark Wendt)

              As you may have read, I have one of these on the way.  I wasn't aware it's in kit form.  No way I'll be able to handle all that soldering.  So if you find a better solution, please share the information with me.  (Harry Boyd)

                They sell it as a kit AND assembled,  two choices.   When I got it, the kit it was about $25 and assembled it was about $35.  You can perhaps gage which one you ordered by the price?  I'd guess that if you didn't specify they'd assume assembled.  (When I called for help I got the impression that they didn't sell too many kits.)  (Tyler Beard)

                  I bought the kit  from Herbach years ago. The chip went bad and they replaced it with no charge. It's been working ever since. My power supply is a better one than a "wall wart." It's a 12 volt one I used many years ago to power a CB in the house. I think it may have come from Radio Shack. As far as the soldering required, it's a very simple kit. I was able to put it into a small metal box from Radio Shack. All in all, a fun little project that has given me years of service for very little money.  (Steve Weiss)

    I am currently designing (fiddling around with) a step motor set up for my dip tube.  I looked at all the ideas I could find in the list and archives and decided a stepper was the way to go.  Mainly because of the high range of speed possible.  I want it to be able to go down to 1 inch/min. yet not have to take forever to lower the rod into the tube.  So here is my list of features.

    • Run off of either 12 volt battery or common wal-wart converter.
    • Handle a fairly wide range of step motor voltages and up to 2 amps/phase.
    • Rotary switch selects between 4 or 5 slow speeds. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5"/min)
    • Direction switch for up, down, and stop.
    • Push and hold button for fast speed (20 x the selected speed).

    My question for you guys that have dip tube setups is, what doesn't yours do that you wish it did?  i.e. what other desirable features have I missed.  (Rick Hodges)

      I'd use a laptop power supply, 18-24 volts. Look for a .8 degree/step motor, or a micro-stepping controller, or you will get bounce from the steps. Forget the 2A/phase, unless you want to use it for a mill also.  :) Select a motor to fit the task. and then buy a controller to handle the motor. I'd go for speed adjustment via a potentiometer, vs a selectable rotary switch, it will give you near infinite adjustment, within limits. Any controller with a 'fast down' feature is going to be expensive, and probably programmable. You can't really look for 20x the desired speed without knowing the specs for the entire package. If you overdrive the motor it will stall.

      I had a source for a very nice package, but they seem to be out of business.  (Larry Blan)

        First off, I'm no expert on this subject so bare with me.

        It's my understanding that stepper motors vary their speed by increasing or decreasing the number of step pulses that they send from the electronic controller card, not by varying the current like a DC motor.  If you use a rheostat with an AC motor and run it slower than the motor was designed for, it can burn the motor out.

        Designing a setup becomes problematic when you don't know in advance how much torque you are going to need.  It's almost always the first question someone asks when you ask for advice on what stepper to buy.  Stepper motors lose power as they increase in speed.  They also come with 2,4 and 8 wire configurations so you need a controller card that works with that motor.

        If you decide to use micro stepping, then you will need a controller that gives you that capability.  A few years back when I wanted to try this I was told that if you used the normal 2 degree step motors you would end up with little waves in your finish.  I know that Jerry Foster has used a stepper setup for his dip tube and maybe he might be willing to offer some knowledgeable advice.  (Ralph Tuttle)

          You are correct sir!

          After talking to Jerry yesterday about this, I found out there was a lot of stuff about steppers I didn't know I didn't even know! I hate electricity. So much so, I don't even own a toaster.

          One of the things I found out about that particular motor in that kit (that I didn't see in the description) is that it is about a 7° stepper! That's a hell of a jump!

          So after a chat with Jerry, I've been scouring ebay looking for   a   microstep   controller   and   a   .9°    stepping motor...among other things!

          Again my friends...thanks to youse alls for the help!

          And thanks Harry for getting me going on this again. I can think of better uses for a nice old 1494 reel than hoisting varnished sections out of a dip tube.  (Mike Shay)

            This stepper motor stuff is way to high tech for the likes of us, get a 1 or 2 rpm 120 volt motor and a push button on/off switch, hold the button down until you wnat the thing to stop then let go. As a matter of fact, when my motor finally gives out, I'[m gonna just go back to the old reel, it work just as well and was a lot easier to wire<g>.  (John Channer)

              I as going to use a stepper motor for mine, but i got lazy and used some old rubbish that was lying around instead.

              I cobbled it together from an old 12V motor, a small control board (for speed), a 3 position switch (for direction) and an on/off switch (push button that toggles on and off). Used some plastic pulleys as well as a larger one I turned up on the lathe for gearing it down. I used it both for a dip tube winch and for turning when drying the wraps. It can hold a speed as low as 1/2 rpm if required.

              I was going to mount all the crud in a box to make it look pretty but that hasn't happened yet. (Blake Swadling)

              A CNC dip tube?  Yes, you can do that and I could easily lose myself in the fun of contemplating all the variables but I don't see the point unless you are producing a bunch of identical rods.   I am after something much simpler. Multiple speed selection that is repeatable and a high speed mode.  The Herbach's board that has been mentioned seems to have the basic features needed but apparently isn't robust enough.  I haven't seen the circuit diagram for it but I suspect it is basically a pulse sequencer chip and a 555 timer to generate a variable pulse rate.

              In order to run step motors at higher than rated voltage, you need to be careful.  Higher voltage means higher current and that means heat.  you can get away with it when you are rapidly cycling through the steps but if you stop it with the power on to the windings, well, there is that "magic smoke thing".

              The correct way to deal with that is with a controller that limits the current.  Usually by sensing the current flow and rapidly turning it on and off.  Pulse modulation.  This is different than the drive sequencing.  The higher than normal voltage allows the coils in the motor to activate faster and you can then get better torque at higher speeds.

              What I am planning is using a driver chip that will handle up to 2 amps and provides current control.  Connect that with a microprocessor chip to generate the pulses precisely and there you go.  The driver and processor chips are each about $5,  with all the other parts, pc board and blinky lights, I should be able to do this for around $50 cost.

              I have two step motors in my junk collection that are 1.8 deg.  1.4 V, 1.9 amp, size 23.  With the current control driver chip I should be able to run these at 12 volts.  Similar motors are available from several surplus electronics sites or maybe Ebay for around $10.  (Rick Hodges)

                I'm glad to find out that the Herbach board isn't robust. After about 50 rods I guess that it can give up its magic smoke at any moment. Should I replace it now or keep going? :>)  (Steve Weiss)

                  My first rule is "If it aint broke don't fix it."

                  There are more than one way to skin a cat and if your cat is happily purring away don't mess with it.  So far I don't have a cat.  (Rick Hodges)

      Maybe I should have been a little clearer in my post.  My intent is not to purchase a motor/controller set up but to design and build the controller to do what I want it to do.  I guess I am one of those guys who just can't leave well enough alone and continually wander off into the minutia.

      Anyway, I have a mechanical engineering background along with some electronics and programming skills and have used steppers before in other projects.  If I can put together a prototype that works really well, then maybe others could benefit from what I learn.   Thus  my question about what YOU would like it to be able to do that it doesn't now.

      At the risk of boring everyone to death, here is what I am thinking would work.

      A 1.8 degree stepper running in half step mode.   400 pulses/rev.

      1 rpm = 1"/min draw rate.  This gives a step or jerk to the rod of .0025" each pusle.  I don't think this would produce ripples in the finish.

      At 50 rpm, the draw rate would be 50 inches per minute.  Good enough for a high speed mode and doable with a stepper.

      Torque is not really a big concern.  I would counterbalance the weight of the blank with a similar weight on the tag end of the lifting cord and loop the cord around the drive shaft.  a capstan.  The only torque required is that required to overcome inertia and friction.

      Motor stalling at higher speeds could be an issue because steppers have a problem at certain rpm's where the settling time of each pulse closely matches the pulse rate and it goes into oscillation.  Usually, a speed close to what you want can be found where this isn't a problem.

      So, just my thoughts.  I would still like to hear others ideas or wishes.  (Rick Hodges)

        "Back in the day" when computers had RS232 ports it was pretty easy to write a program in MS-Basic to control 5v devices that way.  You could control output to the port in fractions of a second.  Maybe you could do the same with a USB port. I don't know if the power output would be sufficient for a motor (probably not) but you could control a power transistor.  It was good to be young and have the energy left over to do that stuff.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

          When I was first introduced into rod making a short while ago, I was referred by Harry to someone in my home town that also makes rods.  I went to meet him at his work place and he told me more info than I could soak in at the time.  During that time, he told me of his dip tank that he built that used a step motor and an electronic board he wired himself.  He also wrote a program for the motor where he could input the guide placements so that it would know where to stop for each guide. When the rod would reach the bottom of each wrap, his program would raise and lower the rod in a quick jerk/step to help the bubble in the guide burst.  After a second or two it would continue to raise until it reached the next calculated guide placement.  He admitted it was probably way overkill and cost more than he was willing to tell, but that is the sort of thing he did for a living and building the tools was half the fun of rod making.   

          I get by with a 4 rpm rod turning motor that I manually plug and unplug from the outlet to control everything.  To each his own.  (Greg Reeves)

            Do you know how he compensated for the differing level/height of varnish in the tube as the section was withdrawn?  (Mike Shay)

              No.  I never got to see it and was more in awe at the time to even think about that sort of thing.  Knowing his nature, he probably had something figured out to work around that problem.  Maybe he had a very wide cap on the top of his tube so the displacement wasn’t as noticeable.   Not sure though.  I lost touch with him shortly after meeting him because he was very deep in his work and in the process of trying to sell his business.  His rod was flawless though.  (Greg Reeves)

            I put an inline switch on my rod turner.  It should work for a dip tube motor too.  (Neil Savage)

          Today's laptops don't have parallel ports anymore and those that did a few years ago no longer put out 5v.  The USB to parallel converter cards also do not put out a full 5v.  There is a company in Minnesota that has a device that converts a USB to parallel.  They cost about $155.

          I recall talking to Jerry Foster and he indicated that he was getting micro waves in his finish when using standard stepper motors.  You could gear down the stepper so that it runs smoother at faster speeds.  Just a thought.  I am not trying to discourage this development, just trying to forestall some problems.  This is definitely a worthwhile effort.  (Ralph Tuttle)

            Would one of the add on PCI cards such as the Rosewill RC303 at work for the parallel port.  I looked up their manual and it talks about 5v.  (Darrin Curtis)

        Some clarification... I have 2 cnc and 1 stepper machine. A total CNC application requires the use of a computer. My Mill and my dip tank are full cnc. My wrapper is a hybrid. I use the herbach board as a pulse and speed supply and then run that output to a drive (controller) kit, then to the stepper.

        It is true that a stepper does not respnond to a speed (current,voltage regulation) controller, the herback kit supplies variable pulse speed with a variable resistor and a 555 chip. My wrapper also has a digital wrap counter and a foot control on-off switch.

        Some basics if you care to continue on...

        Most stepper motors have a 1.8 degree step angle. The herbach kit comes with a primitive motor that has 3.6 or 7.2 deg per step.  On my dip tank I use the same motor Larry does..a .9 deg NEMA 17.

        Most stepper motors pull at least 1 amp per winding so wall warts generally won't hold  up.  I  use  stand  alone 12-38v supplies. EBA. The general rule from most experts is to run your steppers at 10 times the voltage on the label.

        In order to do CNC you need the following

        A computer with a a parallel port and about 1 ghz is fine. XP and I find Mach 3 software to be about as good as it gets for the price.

        You need:

        • a 25 pin straight thru cable.
        • a breakout isolation board.
        • a controller...I use USDigital (best resolution) and Gecko drives. You need a microstepping controller to run a dip tank smoothly.
        • 2 power supplies - 24v or whatever you need to goose your steppers and 5v for the logic level stuff.
        • misc wire and cable and connectors.

        If anyone is interested I have screens and macros set up for the above applications and I will send them to you if you are interested. And talk you through the process if you call.. I will not do this via email. Email me your phone no, or call me.  (Jerry Foster)


Do any of you folks use the clear plastic fluorescent light bulb protectors as dip tubes? Specifically, do you leave varnish in one of them? I know that some use them for drip tube application but I'm wondering how they might work as a dip tube.  (Winston Binney)

    Yes, I leave the varnish in the dip tube and caped between uses. My dip tube is made of schedule 80 PVC with a petcock in the bottom cap for draining if necessary and as few PVC connections as possible. In other words, it only has a collar at the top and a cap on the bottom. Each connection is primed and then connected with the appropriate adhesive.  (Don Schneider)

    I have a t-8 tube protector that I have had varnish in since last summer.  I did have it skim over at the edges, and I strained the varnish before I dipped again.  I did learn to use turpentine instead of mineral spirits to thin, and I haven't seen any problems with gelling.  I've had previous batches gel when I used spirits to thin.

    So far, so good.....  (Greg Kuntz)

    I use 2 inch clear plastic PVC tubes from SAVKO in Columbus Ohio.  Comes in 5 foot lengths.  I use Helmsman spar, put Bloxygen in the tube after each use.  Works good, lasts a long time.  (Richard Perry)

      Anyone know how to get Bloxygen in the UK?  (Robin Haywood)

        Any one got a source for Bloxygen besides Golden Witch?  (Tom Kurtis)

          Saw some at Woodcraft.  (Brian Morrow)

          I get it straight from the company.  (Chris Carlin)

            Go into any wine specialty store and get the stuff they have to preserve open bottles. Same stuff, easy to find.  (Jim Lowe)

          I have bought the Bloxygen from Highland Woodworking. A little pricey too.

          At Harbor Freight I bought a little blow gun that uses the small co2 cylinders. Used for a dust blaster. I'm using it on top of the varnish in the dip tube. I don't know how it will work or if it will. Can you use co2 for this propose? I'm also using a new dip tube. It has a 1" schedule 40 PVC tube about 50" long. The top might be a one of a kind. I took a short, wide mouth canning jar, cut a hole in the bottom, turned a fitting on the lathe and epoxied it in the bottom of the jar. The jar is clear, so the varnish is visible, the lid can be easily replaced.  I just filled it the other night, so it's still in the testing phase. Looks like it will work.  (David Dziadosz)

          Check artists’ supply stores, such as Dick Blick in Minn.  (Steve Yasgur)

          Right down the street from you at Johnson's Workbench. also has it.  (Winston Binney)

          The last time I bought Bloxygen I got it at Home Depot or Lowes.  It's been a long time.  For those of you like Robin who can't find Bloxygen, if you add a teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of white vinegar in a jug and wait a few minutes you can "pour" out a gas that is heavier than air and will displace the oxygen just like Bloxygen.  "Pour" very carefully so you only pour gas and not the vinegar and baking soda mix.  Please, don't ask me how I know that you need to be careful.  The liquid didn't seem to harm my varnish, by the way.  If you are working on a small area to fill with something to block the oxygen you can just hold your breath for a moment and then exhale into the area to be sealed.  That's how my old shop teacher used to do it.  (Hal Manas)

            Sounds like something I did in the 3rd grade... except the object was to blow up the little bottle it was in. Yes, just remember to leave a container OPEN if you do this, don't put them in, close the lid and shake it... it creates massive pressure. Or how about rolling a ball of mercury around in the pencil tray on your school desk? Some would roll off the desk, hit the floor, and ZOWEE! A million little mercury balls! That was always cool!

            (Do you realize how busy the hazmat teams would have been in the '50's?

            But along the same lines... I use butane from the little lighter refiller bottles... no flint, so no spark and it works perfectly. I like living on the edge...  (Mike St. Clair)

        Any gas heavier than air will work .If you can't get Bloxygen go to any store that sells the small bottles of propane like the ones that are used with Coleman camp stoves and lanterns. Put a nozzle with an off /on knob on it. The same set up that a plumber uses to silver solder copper pipe connections. Works as well as the Bloxygen and should be readily available in the UK.  (Will Price)

          Difference between Bloxygen and propane is: I don't believe Bloxygen goes boom when a spark wanders by.  You might want to find an inert gas if you can't find Bloxygen.

          I know the gentleman who is the Bloxygen creator.  I'll forward this to him, maybe he has a contact for Bloxygen to the UK.  (Pete Emmel)

            You can also take a deep breath, hold it for as long as you can, and exhale into the tube/container. You have just put some carbon dioxide on top of the varnish. Probably doesn't work as well as Bloxygen, but it helps.  (Joe Arguello)

      I'm sure Bloxygen works well, but it would be something else to buy, run out of and buy again, most likely be mail order as I doubt anyone here in Durango, Co. sells it over the counter. SO, I just carefully pour a teaspoon or so of whatever I currently am using to thin the varnish with on top of what's in the tube before I close it up inbetween rods, then just stir it in when I go to put the first coat on the next rod. I sometimes go several months between varnishing rods and what's in the tube always seems to be just like I left it the last time.  (John Channer)

        What I do is keep my varnish in the PVC tube within a couple of inches of the top, then I use one of these plugs to cap it off.  This keeps the air in the tube to a minimum if there is even any at all in there. I have never even seen a hint of a skim form on top of the varnish.  (Joe Arguello)

    If you use a 2" pvc tube you can dip both tips at the same time. I don't see any reason not to use aluminium unless you have to buy it.  (Joe Arguello)

      An argument against aluminum or any other opaque material is:  you can’t see the guides easily when you want to pause to prevent runs.  I used regular 1 ½ inch, white PVC and eventually added a clear section at the top.  What a difference !!.  It’s expensive but worth it.  About $10/foot.  I used a standard coupling to glue a section on top.

      I have leftovers if anyone is interested.  I’ll ship one foot sections at cost + shipping  (about $4.50 by UPS).  (Al Baldauski)


Been thinking of changing from a drain tube to a dip tube (have more head height in new house)....Would there be any reason not to use an aluminum tube for dipping?  (Steve Dugmore)

    If you use a 2" PVC tube you can dip both tips at the same time. I don't see any reason not to use aluminum unless you have to buy it.  (Joe Arguello)

    I've used a aluminum tube of electrical conduit for 25  years. The tube is 1" c/w a threaded cap on the bottom. I put a 1">2" coupling @ the top c/w a 2" close  nipple and a 2" brass ball valve. Fill the tube within an 1 1/2" of the valve to allow for expansion when you heat it. Make sure you clean the aluminum well prior to putting varnish in it. Most aluminum oxidizes and the oxidation must be removed. I swab the internals with mineral spirits till the swab come out clean. I do the same for the pipe fittings. To date, in 25 years, I've changed out the varnish twice. Just topped it up as needed.  (Don Anderson)


I have a drain tube and am tired of replacing varnish that has got crusty or thick from being slopped in and out of buckets and tins. I am thinking of converting my transparent drain tube (fluorescent tube protector) to a dip tube by simply wrapping it in a couple of layers of black duct tape. I'll leave a small section at the top clear so that I can see what is going on as the guides get withdrawn. I'll make a plug to fit the top. Can anyone foresee any problems with a setup like this?  (Steve Dugmore)

    I'm not sure if you will be able to plug it up tight enough to keep air out, but then I don't have much experience with the fluorescent tube protectors. I don't know if the cost of PVC is prohibitive where you are but I made my dip tube for less than $15. I glued a permanent cap on the bottom and on the business end I put a threaded reducing coupler and I can put the threaded cap on tight enough to insure that the tube stays air tight and protects the varnish. The cost was certainly cheap for the peace of mind that I feel knowing my varnish is protected.  (Will Price)

      I don't know if this is relevant to the issue of crusty varnish in Steve's case but I use a dip tube exactly like Will described & have no varnish loss.  Sometimes I simply top it up when it gets low and screw the cap on tightly. To unscrew I snug it up in a vise on my bench and use a big adjustable pair of pliers or pipe wrench to open it if necessary.

      I keep my spare varnish in the original can; I carefully wipe the rim prior to tapping on the lid; I store the can in an inverted position so that no crust forms on the surface. So far this system seems to work well.  (Dick Steinbach)

        You can also try these Qwik-cap for the top of the PVC pipe.  Have not had to replace my varnish in over a year with it on.

        They are available at most of the gigantic hardware stores.  (Brian Morrow)

        It has always seemed to me that the drip tube had inherent advantages over dip tubes, but as I am a bit of a gunna have never got around to making one, though I did get as far as buying a length of clear polycarbonate tube.

        The system I had envisioned  was to use a semi-flexible plastic reservoir for the varnish, connected to the bottom of the tube with a couple of meters of flexible tubing fitted with a simple and infinitely adjustable clamp control valve.  To fill the tube, open the clamp and raise the reservoir above the tube until the tube fills to the desired level, and then close the clamp and return the reservoir to the low position.  Place the sections to be varnished in the tube, all three or four at once if you like, and open the valve to the desired speed.  when to job is done the tube is drained right out,  the reservoir  squeezed to exclude all air, and the valve closed.  The sections can then dry to touch dry at least without ever removing them, so no dust no flying insects etc, and best of all, NO BLOODY ELECTRIC MOTORS!

        So, any problems anyone can see with this system?  I may yet get myself motivated and build it.  (Peter McKean)

          I have never made any measurements on a drip tube to verify this but I can tell you from other industrial experience  that the flow rate through your valve will vary depending on the depth of varnish in your tube so your “effective draw rate” will be slower at the end than the beginning giving you a variation in varnish thickness.  This variation will be compounded by leaving the sections within the tube because the solvents that evaporate during the process will stay in the tube and slow further evaporation allowing the varnish to run down the section more.

          My opinion is that while the dip tube is more complicated it gives more consistent results.  (Al Baldauski)

        This is the plug I prefer (), if you keep your varnish level at appox. 2" below the top you push all the air out when you push this plug into the PVC tube. If you use a 2" tube you can dip both tips at once! I have left varnish in my PVC tube indefinitely and it keeps without skimming over.  (Joe Arguello)

    If you use the larger size fluorescent protector, it fits 1-1/4" PVC fittings perfectly. A little "Hot Blue Stuff" and it will seal tight. Use a threaded cap end with a threaded cap. Done deal... that's what I use. I can tell you that covering it with duct tape is good, as I've hade one knocked over in my garage... I now have a nicely varnished floor.  (Mike St. Clair)

    I don't know if it would or would not work. I would think it would be difficult to seal the ends. And for the cost of duct tape, I think you could do better. If it's a clear top that you want, you could do what I did. I got a fairly cheap 1" diamond hole saw from Harbor Freight that cuts glass. I ground out the hole in the bottom of a glass canning jar to fit a fitting and 1" PVC pipe. I can't remember what the jar was for, maybe jelly. It is short and fat with a wide mouth. Works good, but the varnish hasn't been stored in it long enough to see how well the varnish lasts. It's clear and you can see what's going on when the rod is in it, (I don't like the looks of varnish on the cork when it's not supposed to be there). When the lid goes bad just pitch it and put on a new one, they're cheap!  (David Dziadosz)


You can get clear pvc from Savko in Columbus Ohio - they have online sales and will ship the stuff.  Goggle Savko for info...  Much sturdier than some other choices.  With common PVC fitting keeps the liquid good for a long time.  (Richard Perry)


I am getting the dip tube and drying cabinet set up in the new shop.  I am going to go down with the tube, below the foundation.  Any pointers on a making the hole in the concrete floor?  (Tyler Beard)

    Let me tell you a story about having a concrete coring company show up at 7:00 a.m. and drill a 12" diameter hole through your garage floor without telling your wife first.

    One thing I learned, forgiveness IS INDEED easier to get than permission...  (Tom Vagell)

    I wouldn't know.  When SWMBO was out, I peeled up a corner of the carpet in the closet of my study and drilled a 2" hole in the floor board.  A piece of metal under the carpet and a piece of chipboard on the ceiling in the basement have gone undetected for more than a decade.  I installed a pulley on the closet ceiling with which I pulled rods until I changed over to a hand-rubbed finish.  If I were to do it all again, I'd try dynamite, just for the hell of it.  (Grayson Davis)

    I marked out my hole and drilled a series of 1/4" holes through the floor about a 1/2" apart then took a hammer and chisel to it

    Relatively easy and almost painless.  (Tom Kurtis)

    I rented an electric jackhammer from one of the rental places and went through old, hard concrete easily and suprisingly neatly.  This was for a plumbing job.  (C. Scott Bennett)


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