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New idea for a dip tube and dust free drying chamber:

This is for the folks who like to dip their rods with the guides already on.


  • PVC pipe - 2 lengths, both as long as the longest section you think you will ever make, plus the length of the handle and reel seat.
  • 3 end caps - To fit the PVC pipe.
  • 4 hose clamps - to fit around the PVC pipe.
  • Wood Screws - fairly large sized, to attach the hose clamps to a wall or ?
  • Transparency film - From any stationary store. Or any clear plastic sheet.

Glue an end cap on one end of each pipe. In one end cap drill a hole just big enough to be able to thread a string through it.  Mount the hose clamps on a vertical surface somewhere. For me it's along an exposed stud in my garage. All you need is a wood screw through the slots of the hose clamp into the wood.  Put the pipe with out the hole end cap down. This is going to be your dip tube. Put the other pipe (with the hole) end cap up above the dip tube. Leave about a 4 inch gap between the two.

This is how you use it. Take down the top tube, thread a string (use a fairly stout string - nylon monofilament might be the best choice - no potential for adding dust inside the drying chamber) through the hole in the top end cap, and tie it to your  rod section. Pull the rod section up into the pipe, and mount it above the dip tube again. Tape the clear plastic sheet between the dip tube and drying tube - this is your viewing window. Lower the section down into the varnish, and draw it back up. You can use your favorite method to pull the section up, by hand, rod turning motor, stepper motor, rotisserie motor, etc. The advantage to this is if you like to dip your sections with the guides already wrapped you can see when your guide clears the varnish and stop to let the varnish drain off.

When the section is drawn all the way into the top tube, let it sit for a while so all the drips are gone (if you draw it out slow enough there will be no drips). Then remove the plastic sheet and tape a rag on the bottom of the top tube. Use a rag so that the section will dry. If you seal it entirely, the section will dry, but very slowly.

This gives you a low cost dust free space to dry the section.

Your varnish can stay in the tube if you want - that's what the third end cap is for. Wayne C says he has kept his varnish in his dip tube for years. I usually take it off the wall and pour it back into the can. 

One other thing, if you rub the outside of the upper drying pipe with a soft cloth, it gets rid of dust inside. It builds up a static electricity charge, but I don't know if it repels the dust, or sticks it to the PVC pipe. Either way, there is no dust drifting around inside.  (Darryl Hayashida)


Here's how I built an idiot proof combined drying/dipping apparatus:

I have a cramped shop and it has always been a pain to assemble a temporary plastic enclosure for dipping in my garage so I was playing around with making a "space efficient" one for my shop. I don't know if anyone else has made anything like this before, but I hadn't heard of it.

I had the local Home Depot cut me 4 pieces of 0.0I built the drying box from 250 Plexiglas, 6" X 52" long and a top and bottom piece 6" X 6.25". I also bought a 52 inch length of 2" ID clear PVC pipe, a bottom cap and top fittings for an outside screw and screw on cap to fit it. If you use the inside screw fitting, the threads will quickly fill up with dried varnish!

I simply glued to bottom to the PVC and the screw frame to the top, filled it with varnish and put the cap on. I supported this by boring a hole through the back of my work bench and  inserted it. Directly over this mounted the Plexiglas box I constructed as follows. I used metal shower edging to support and ensure a 90 degree angle for the sides and glued 3 sides together, creating an open box. The final piece forms a door. I attached to that to the "open box" with 4 metal  hinges and latches  to keep it closed.  Then, I glued on the top and drilled a small hole through it for my pull cord and after cutting a 3" hole through the bottom plate I glued it on, too. (On my unit I also installed a 2" extension/skirt to the box with a slide to close off everything after I finish pulling the rod.) Then, I drilled two 2" diameter holes through the sides at the top of the box and installed round metal shed vents that I lined with cloth to allow for evaporation of the varnish, but keep dust out. I also drilled small holes for four 7 watt short "candelabra" lights (@ 1" long) that I installed 6" from the bottom - two on each side - of the box for both heat and light to see what I am doing. I mounted a barbecue rotisserie motor next to all of this on my work bench (draws @ 2" per minute - perfect). I made an arbor for the rotisserie by taking a piece of square brass stock that fit into the square arbor hole in the barbecue unit and machined it so it was round and about 1/2" in diameter. Finally, I ran a length of braided nylon cord from an arbor in the rotisserie up over the sides and top of my drying cabinet through small pulleys (also from Home Depot).

Now, all I do is wipe down the box with tack clothe which static charges it and draws all dust and bugs to the walls for several hours, blow off my rod, attach the rod to the draw cord, close the door, uncap my varnish, lower the rod into the varnish exactly where I want it (you can see!) and start/stop  the motor. When done, I cap the tube and No dust! No chance of dust because all of the dipping takes place in a completely enclosed environment! You can even see any drips or sags developing, lower the rod and correct them "on the fly"! Total cost, under $120. If you only make shorter rods, you can make a 48" box and dip tube and fit the whole unit in a room with an 8 foot ceiling.  I attached a large treble hook to the end of braided cord and can varnish an entire rod in one "pull"!  (Mike Brooks)


I just made up a new dip tube and I have worked out a configuration that takes just under one quart of varnish and can handle a 2-piece 8-foot rod.

Made of the white plumbing pipe, from bottom to top:

One 3/4" cap end
29" of 3/4" pipe
One 3/4" to 1-1/2" adapter
One 1-1/2 to 1-1/2 connector
17.5" of 1-1/2" pipe
One 1-1/2 to 1-1/2 connector

You only need the 1-1/2 pipe to handle the stripper.  This should handle any reasonable stripper configuration.

Also, since the pipe lengths are short, you can clean them out well with a strip of rag prior to assembly to get rid of the worst of the gremlins.  (Jerry Madigan)

    I have been using this one for about a year and a half. Works great, the following maybe a little more detailed.

    Parts List for PVC Dip Tank for Rods Up To 8'6"

    Which can be built for about 20 dollars and uses just one quart of varnish.

    PVC Pipe

    4 inch diameter pipe 3" long
    2 inch diameter pipe 21 inch long
    1 inch diameter pipe 12 inch long
    3/4 inch diameter pipe 6 inch long
    1/2 inch diameter pipe 9 inch long


    2 X 4 inch pipe increaser- reducer
    2 X 1 1/4 inch bushing
    1 1/4 inch couple
    1 1/4 X 1 inch bushing
    1 inch couple
    1 X 3/4 inch bushing
    3/4 inch couple
    3/4 X 1/2 inch bushing
    1/2 inch end cap


    4 inch Test Plug seal


    The Tank is wide and deep enough to dip up to an 8' 6" two piece rod (51 inches) including the butt section with its guides.

    The Test Plug Bolt should employ some type of seal (I use a rubber washer) between the bolt and to the bottom metal pad to make an airtight seal.

    The Test Plug rubber gasket will need to be reversed when the tank is used after a non use period of two weeks or longer. You will see that the gasket looks larger on the bottom than top, just remove the nut, top plate, and flip the rubber gasket over and reassemble. The Test Plug makes an airtight seal that really holds. I use Helmsman  Spar Urethane.  (Bob Norwood)


I'm in the process of building a new dip tank. Couple of things I'd like your comments/suggestion.

What retraction speed would you prefer. I'm thinking of 1"/minute to 4"/minute by use of a 3 step pulley or motor speed control.

Don't have heat in my garage so have built one with a PVC pipe around the varnish PVC pipe heated by a hair dryer.

The other way is to heat the dip tube/varnish with circulated hot/warm water. This, in my mind, would require a water heating tube with a fish tank heater, a pump to circulate the water and a tube around the dip tube.  (Don Schneider)

    Checked my dipper again and it withdraws at 4"/minute and works just fine. If you dip with the guides on, it's important to stop after the wrap on the bottom of the guide comes out of the varnish for about 30 seconds or longer. While stopped blow out the film across the guide. For a stripper it helps to blot around the frame with a bit of rolled up paper towel since quite a bit of varnish  accumulates  there  as  well.  So your  speed  range  of 1-4"/minute should be fine.  (Ray Gould)


I have a question and hope to get some good advice.  I am wondering which list members use PVC for dipping and which use copper.  I would also like to know your arsons for your choice as well as what is the best method for closing and storing the varnish when not dipping.

The reason for my question is that for the entire time I have been rodbuilding, I have used a "drip" system with a clear plastic tube so I could see the varnish.  Well I have recently moved into a new home and with some minor renovations (SWMBO will go crazy!) I can go to a more conventional dipping system.

To be honest with you, I was originally sold on copper, but in experimenting with the copper or steel screw plugs to seal the tube, I noticed that it left shavings behind.  The last thing I need are metal shavings getting in the varnish.  (Robert Cristant)

    I started with a copper tube 10 years ago and found that it eventually turned the varnish green. Not that it seemed to hurt anything, in the thin coats on  a rod the green doesn't show at all, but when it was time to replace the tube I went with PVC and have had no troubles (other than those of my own making) with it at all.  (John Channer)

    Why change from what you currently have. I assume that you have used a tube protector for florescent bulbs with your drip system. That is what I have used for 3+ years and like it. PVC end caps will fit and glue on with PVC cement. I use a threaded piece on the top end and a threaded cap. I like it because of the ability to see exactly how far into the tube to insert the butt end and to watch for any problems with excess varnish on guides. Since they are inexpensive I simply replace them if and when I change varnish, which I haven't had to do since I started topping off the varnish with a tablespoon of turpentine and a blast of Bloxygen. I have gone as much as 6 months without opening the tube and there is no skin on top of the varnish. Just invert the tube several times a couple of hours before dipping to mix the turps with the varnish.  (Steve Shelton)

    I use the clear plastic tubes similar to what you have used with a drip system.  My reasoning is that it makes things a lot easier to see.  When a guide clears the varnish you are peering at it through the tube rather than holding your head over the top of the tube shaking dandruff into your varnish.

    Should you choose to stay with the clear plastic tubes, the 1 1/4" pvc fittings work well.... IF your tube is typical.  I once bought a coupla clear tubes which were about 1 7/32".  The glue would not hold the fittings on, and the results are in the Extreme Rodmaking portion of Todd's Tips site.  (Harry Boyd)

    PS -- a large rubber stopper makes the best top for the tube that I've found.

    In the plumbing department of any of the big box stores, you can find rubber caps that fit over the tube. They are sealed with a hose clamp. I've had mine on the same tube for a couple of years without any ill effects to the rubber, and it leaves no residue in the tube. I do use a shot of Bloxygen in the tube before I seal it.  (Larry Blan)

    PVC - because If I ever have to replace the tube, varnish buildup, leaks, whatever, it's only a dollar or so.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I use schedule 40 PVC because it is strong, inexpensive and I don't believe there is any reaction between it and varnish. Also think it is essential to use the primer when assembling to prevent unintended future floor varnishing.  (Don Schneider)

      I too use PVC. As Don said, you have to use the primer.   (Dewey Hildebrand)

      I use a 1/2 inch copper pipe, 5’ long and flattened into an oval over the top half its length.  A reservoir made from a 1/2 pint shellac can is soldered to the top.  It only takes 18 oz. of varnish to fill and I can dip a 5-ft 1 piece rod with the guides on.  Since I only do a couple rods a year, I store the varnish back in the original can when I'm done.

      In terms of dipping itself, the only thing that matters is the point where the rod leaves the varnish.  The rest is just varnish storage, as far as I can figure.  So why store 1/2 gal of varnish when 1/2 quart will do?  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    I use schedule 40 PVC and store the varnish in the tube. I've tried pouring the varnish back in the can, and it usually gets a bunch of dust in it. I cap the PVC tube and seal with some of the varnish, and it stores a lot better. The cap on the bottom of the tube is glued on with the primer and PVC glue to avoid leaks.  (Tom Bowden)

    I use PVC for exactly the reasons that Darryl Hayashida and Larry Blan pointed out.  I use a 4' length of 1" PVC with a 1"x2" reducer on the top to allow a couple of inches of 2" diameter pipe sticking up on the top end.  I cap it with one of the 2" rubber caps that Larry described.  The whole setup costs about $5 and it takes 1 qt of varnish to fill it.  It can accommodate a butt section, or 2 tip sections, with guides.

    The 2" section on the top end of the tube allows you to see what's going on, keeps the rod sections away from the sides of the tube as they exit the varnish, and reduces the fluctuation in the varnish level caused by displacement when you dip a butt section.

    I leave the varnish (I use Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane) in the tube and cap it for storage - no Bloxygen or anything special.  A quart of varnish lasts a couple of years in the tube.  When the varnish starts to thicken or form a crust, I drain the tube and let it cure well before refilling it, or I just throw the tube away and make a new one.

    I attached mine to a post in the garage, and have the bottom of the dip tube resting inside a small pail to contain the spill when I have an accident.  I haven't had one yet, but I know it's just a matter of time.  (Robert Kope)


I plan on putting together a dip tube this weekend and picked up several clear plastic tubes and plastic end caps. The type that fit inside the tube. My question is what type glue to use to glue in the end caps. I plan on using one tube for my varnish and the others to pull the varnished rod sections into to be transferred to the drying cabinet I'm also putting together this weekend. :>) I know most glues do not adhere well to plastic. Input appreciated.  (Wayne Kifer)

    I'm not a glue expert, but I would think that it depends on what type of plastic the tubes and end caps are made out of. Some plastics have specific types of glue, like the glue for PVC pipe.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I have made my dip tubes using fluorescent light tube protector tubes (clear) and PVC end caps. The 1 1/4" PVC fittings fit the tube quite well. I have glued the PVC caps using ABS cement, the black stuff. Works very well. I always give the glue at least 8 hours to cure before loading the tube with varnish.  (Steve Shelton)

      It's the plastic tubes florescent bulbs come in but I have no idea what type it is. I figured others have had success gluing end caps in these tubes so could tell me what they used. Hopefully.  (Wayne Kifer)

        Five minute epoxy. I have found that my varnish tends to gel when stored in fluorescent tube protectors. I empty it back into the can and flood with propane when finished. A pain, but not as painful as buying new varnish. The only problem is that a significant amount of varnish adheres to the sides, even if you let it drain for, say, 1/2 hr. When I put the cap back on and store the empty tube there is always a tablespoon or so in the bottom the next morning. So you will lose some...  (Jeff Schaeffer)

          My interest was piqued by Frank's comments and pics a couple weeks ago of much smaller diameter dip tube, requiring much less varnish.

          It so happens that they make clear PVC in smaller diameters. for pumping operations requiring visual inspection at ~ $ 18 per section (one section would do about 2 dip tubes) and would glue up with common PVC glue.  Has anybody out there tried this stuff?   (Darrol Groth)

          You are right. What I do is leave the valve open and let the residual varnish drain into a small container for a while. The main container lid is closed. After most of the residual varnish is drained, I pour some mineral spirits in the tube and drain into another container. I save this for thinning later on when the varnish starts to thicken a bit. After it is done a few times, it is not really a hassle any more.  (Tony Spezio)

          Polycarbonate works well, and the stuff I have doesn't seem to get more than minimal buildup.  (Peter McKean)

    I used a 1 1/2" plug cut with a hole saw from 1/2" plywood for the past seven years. Drilled and tapped the the plug for a 1/4” pipe petcock valve. The plug fits the tube real tight, I applied some varnish to the plug and pressed in the end if the tube, did the same with the threads on the valve Let it dry for a day. Never had a leak of any kind. The first tube did over 50 rods. I am on the second tube now. I can send you a photo or you can check an early issue of Power Fibers for the article I did on the Drain Tube. I think it was issue # 3.  (Tony Spezio)

    My system uses this draw from one into another as well.  One of things you have to watch out for is to make sure that you have the rod sections stabilized at both the top and bottom so that as you withdraw the sections, the tips in particular since they flex more easily, they don't touch the sides of the tubes as they are being withdrawn.  (Ralph Tuttle)

    Be careful which type of tube you use. I started dipping a couple of months ago. I used a plastic tube (don't remember the type) and it crazed and cracked over night.

    This was the tube.


    It cracked 360 and I ended up with two tubes. When I went to Tap Plastics to get a new tube they told me that all their clear tubes would "eventually" craze when exposed to varnish. They suggested PVC. I used copper and that works great. I place a 100 watt light bulb next to the tube and in 3 hours my varnish has been warmed to a nice consistency and ready for dipping.  (Jim Lowe)

      If you leave the varnish in a copper dip tube it'll turn a lovely shade of green.  Don't ask me how I know.  (Ron Larsen)

        I know how you know!!

        I had Helmsman stored in a copper dip tube, and a rod with a slight tint of green. I had used green wraps on it, not knowing what was about to happen. I think I still have it hanging in back of the "Rod Cabinet". You couldn't really notice it till the sunlight hit it just right! I don't know how the finish will hold up.  (David Dziadosz)

          That has to be from too much air. I never had that problem in almost 10 years with a copper tube. I did get a little oxidation (the open area at the top of the tube did turn green after 2 years of inactivity once but it didn't discolor the varnish, I'm sure of it.) just at the top of the dip tube but I use Bloxygen to displace the air when I seal it up. Never had a green rod and I'm not color blind. (not that I would mind one, it sounds kind of interesting, depending on the shade)  (Martin Jensen)

          I am really tired after a trip to Atlanta for the Mother's Day thing, 3 antique shops and then a couple of hours finishing the installing dust collection system in the wood shop - but I better go back down and get the varnish out of the new copper dip tube !!  (Carey Mitchell)

        I've been using copper dip tubes for over 10 years (MOW and P&L Varmoor) and it hasn't happened yet.  (Steve Weiss)

          After reading all the replies, I settled back down and left the varnish in the tube.  After all, I have enough left over after retiring the 2" PVC tube , going to a 1" copper, to refill it if it turns green!  (Carey Mitchell)

      I use a copper tube. Have used it for almost 10 years with no problem. I made a very secure seal and spray Bloxygen on top when sealing I once went 2 years without using it one time (don't ask) and the varnish was still good.   (Martin Jensen)

      I’ve had Man-O-War spar in my copper dip tube for since 1991, no problem!!! (Joe Arguello)

        This is interesting, Joe.  It was MOW that turned green in my copper tube in a few weeks.

        Is your copper tube somehow coated with something that is resistant to the varnish?  (Ron Larsen)

          The copper reacts with the minerals in the varnish. If you coat the inside of the tube and let it dry before storing liquid varnish you shouldn't have the problem.  (Tony Young)

            That's interesting. I just switched to MOW from Poly "one rod" ago. I never had a problem with the Poly. I will have to check the tube when I get home (I'm up in the Aleutian Islands right now) as it's pretty fresh stuff and a new tube. The old tube went through almost 10 years of service and I only changed it to go to a smaller diameter. I did get a little green oxidation right at the top after a 2 year layoff from rodbuilding a while ago) but it didn't affect the color of the varnish.  (Martin Jensen)

              I have had the same varnish in the tube all the time, don't think I have ever emptied it that I can remember. All I do is check the viscosity (35 mm film canister with a 1/8" hole in it drains in 21 seconds.) and add to it. I also use it a room temp and store it as such. No problems. You know what they say ignorance is bliss. Guess I just don't know any better!   (Joe Arguello)

    I just received an email from Tony Spezio pointing out that the blank will not dry if both stoppers are left in the drying tub in the cabinet. Of course he's correct. I failed to mention that the bottom stopper was put in place just to prevent contamination of the blank in the drying tube while being transferred to the drying cabinet, which will be in the house in the winter and the shop in summer. It will be removed when the tube goes in the cabinet to allow air circulation. Thanks again for the heads up Tony. I expect most people would have known to uncap the bottom but you never know. Also, if you're going to provide building instructions they cannot be misleading.  (Wayne Kifer)

    Well, best laid plans were made to be changed I guess. <G>  I'll have to remove the top plug and suspend the blank inside. Drill holes in the support shelf slightly smaller than the diameter of the tube for it to rest on. That'll leave it open top and bottom. Then if I rub the plastic tube with a dry synthetic rag I should get a static charge that would draw the dust particles to the tube instead of the blank. The idea was to allow minimal exposure to dust particles that will enter the drying cabinet when the door is opened. I'll figure it out. A perfect finish is unattainable of course, but I like Jack Howell's desire to pursue one. One question remaining is what type of pulling string to use to minimize twist as the blank is pulled. Any suggestions anyone?   (Wayne Kifer)

      First off I had the opportunity to see a couple of rods done by Mr. Howell, in a word WOW! Secondly use fly line backing for your winch cord it's braided and this works about best. If the rods breaks the backing you may consider making the rod somewhat lighter. (Joe Arguello)

      As Joe said, backing works well. Don't worry about twist, you'll find that it's a good thing as it lets you examine all sides of the rod as you pull it from the varnish, it lets you see air bubbles and missed lint while you can still do something about them.  (John Channer)


I'm looking for a glue or cap recommendation for my new dip tubes.  I built a new 6 x 6 varnishing room, and installed 4 clear acrylic dip tubes. These tubes came with plastic caps on each end.  I discussed which glue to use with the local Ace Hardware store owner, let him know I was using acrylic and not PVC, but he recommended the normal clear PVC cement, although I did not tell him I would be filling the tubes with varnish.  I followed all directions on the glue can, glued the caps on the bottom, in a 75 degree room, waited 24 hours (although the directions said only 15 minutes was necessary before running a PSI test), and then filled each tube with about 6 inches of varnish.

I checked the tubes the next evening, no leaks, great I thought, and proceeded to fill all four tubes to a height of 49".  The following day, I installed the 4 dip motors, and 4 switches, all seemed to be going well....

When I came home last night, one of the tubes had leaked out completely, a second tube leaked about 80%, and the other two tubes leaked about a 1/2" of fluid ... fortunately my shop is in the barn.   After  removing  and  salvaging  the  remaining  varnish, Last-n-Last Marine Spar Vanish, I checked all the end caps and found that the glue had failed on all caps although it seemed to take 3 full days before any fluid leaked.

So I'd like to still go with the clear acrylic tubes but I'm wondering what glue I might try to glue the plastic caps on the bottoms that the varnish won't react with, if in fact that is what happened?  Any recommendations would be  greatly appreciated.  (Wayne Daley)

Why did you decide on clear tubes for dipping? I have used copper for about 10 years, PVC would be my second choice.   (Steve Weiss)

I'm with Doc Weiss. I can't see any reason to use  clear tubes for dipping. This to me is false economy. With proper temp & thinning of your varnish and a slow enough retraction rate you don't have to stop at guides to avoid runs, you get a thin coats and it dries/quires faster per coat. Unless you like to refinish your shop floor on a regular basis, continue to use to cheep stuff.  Your choice.  (Don Schneider)

No financial interest, but I recently saw some long wide rod tubes for sale at REC, thought they'd make good dip tubes were it not for the inside threads.  (Henry Mitchell)

I went with the clear tubes so that I could see how if there were any bubbles in the varnish before dipping, and to more easily see the guides as they were approaching the top of the varnish level.  The clear tubes just make it easier for me.

Also I've seen several posts about the copper reacting with the vanish and turning it green, you haven't experienced that?  (Wayne Daley)

PVC glue won't work with acrylic, it works as a solvent for PVC, dissolving the surface layer.  Acrylic will require a glue that dissolves acrylic, which will probably contain a lot of acetone.


(at least to me) a vendor gave us some samples of a new hot melt urethane adhesive.  Although there maybe no practical use in rodmaking, this stuff is phenomenal.  Comes in  4 grades, 2 for wood-to-wood, 30 second and 1 minute setting; a multipurpose with 75 second and 5 minute setting.  Lab completed testing today and this stuff is incredible, appears to be stronger than Gorilla Glue.  Water and weatherproof, resists temps -20F to +275F. Although I heard nothing about price, the system looks expensive, aluminum tubes with screw tops, etc.  Tubes made by Titebond. (Carey Mitchell)

That is the HiPURformer gluing system. The gun is made by Steinel, the glue by Titebond. The tubes can be removed from the gun at will and exchanged for another adhesive. I get them at Woodcraft.  (Larry Blan)


I just finished my dip tube setup and thought I'd share it with any other newbies that hadn't built one yet.  I had several clear plastic tubes and went to town today and picked up a 4' piece of 2" PVC and a couple end caps. Used 5 minute epoxy to glue on the one end cap after roughing both surfaces with 220 grit paper. I doubt you could beat it off with a hammer. I also picked up an 1 1/4" end cap and a 1 1/4" coupler. Glued the 1 1/4" end cap on the bottom of the clear tube that I'd cut off at an inch short of 4'. Then I glued the 1 1/4" coupler to the top of the 4' piece and a 1' piece of the clear tube into the top end of that. The tube with the 1 1/4" end cap and coupler fit perfectly down into the 2" pipe with maybe a 16th of an inch around the dip tube to spare. The tube is supported bottom and top by the end cap and coupler and has a foot sticking out so I can see the top of the varnish as I'm pulling the rod. I can remove the tube, cap it with one of the rubber stoppers ( Thanks Harry) I also picked up today, and put it in the drying cabinet to store it in cold weather. I'll cap the 2" piece with the second 2" end cap to keep spiders, dust, etc. out when the tubes been removed. I have a small table (12" x 18" top) I use to set my coffee, etc. on in the shop and I cut holes in the top and the bottom shelf at one end of the table to support the 2" pipe and I'll mount the pulling motor assembly to the top at the other end. Set the little table down over the pipe, put the filled dip tube in and I'm good to go.

I have plenty of head room in the shop so I'll pulling up into a second piece of clear tubing which is rubber stoppered on the top end with a small hole drilled for the pulling string. This will prevent contamination of the varnished blank. The the pulling string runs from the pulling motor assembly up over an eye hook screwed in at the peak of the roof and down to the blank.  I'll use masking tape to temporarily join the upper and lower tubes and then remove it to cap the bottom end of the drying tube with another rubber stopper and then move it with the rod blank to the drying cabinet. It's a simple slick little setup and can be moved anywhere I need it in the shop.

What do ya think guys? Any added suggestions?  (Wayne Kifer)

    My setup has gone through several incarnations. The first had plain old string as the pulling line, and I kept noticing strands of what looked like dog hair in the finish. It was frayed string. I switched to Teflon coated ice fishing line and now what looks like dog hair is really just dog hair. They are older and slightly more sedate these days, but they like nothing better than to crowd around the dip tank during a pull and start a fight over who gets to be closest.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


OK, my lovely wife won’t allow me to break into the concrete floor of my shop (garage) to install a dip tank. I’ve looked high and low (pun intended) for a place where I can get 8-10 feet of clearance to install an above ground dip tank.  No luck. 

So my options are low and I believe I will have to have an external dipping area and carefully move the rod sections to an internal drying cabinet. 

My question is as follows.  What problems do you foresee from a dipping area along the outside of my home? 

I figure I’ll dig 5 feet down and have room for a dip tube and heating unit.  I’ll also have to have some sort of protected cabinet above the dip tank to protect the rod during extraction (IE: no wind, rain, dust, etc) and to house the extraction motor.

Arrrg.  I can’t see the trouble with a 12x12 inch hole in my shop?!  (Scott Turner)

    Rather than put a hole in the floor, think about putting a hole in the ceiling. build a rack to hold the dip tube, it can even be mobile.  Cut a trap door in the ceiling above where you want your tube to be, then attach the apparatus (pulleys, cams, whatever) to the joists up above.  You may need to stand on a ladder to take down the freshly dipped sections, but that's hardly a big deal.

    I would suggest not putting your system outside, since you'll have to contend with inclement weather, wind, temperature fluctuations, debris, all manner of obstacles to obtaining a good finish.  (Chris Obuchowski)

    As much as I love my dust free finishing environment, your post reminded me of something I saw, I think three years back. One of the List members came to the SRG with a one piece 8 foot long rod that had a beautiful finish on it.  I asked him how he varnished it... it his heavy European accent, he told me that he made and 8 foot dip tube, lashed it to his chimney and stood on the roof of his house and drew it out of the dip tube.  I was amazed.

    By the way, if you want to keep your dip setup indoors and not take it outside, you might look for the opening to your attic crawl space.  You can,  instead of knocking a hole in your concrete floor, draw the rods into the attic via the crawl space.  Just make a dipping operation similar to Wayne C's and wiggle it into the crawl space!  Makes it a bit more difficult to get the rods out of the setup, but at least you don't have to worry about your wife hammering you over putting a hole in the floor.  Besides, if you're lucky and the crawl space access  is in your bedroom closet, finish a couple of rods in there and the wonderful smell of the varnish MAY prompt your wife to say "Just drill a hole in the floor and get that contraption out of our closet!!!"  (Bob Nunley)

    You might consider a drain tube. I have been using one for over five years.  (Tony Spezio)

    There is a method of dipping that doesn't require much more that 6' of clearance. Most folks look @ dipping as having the rod exit from a fixed container of varnish. But Bob Kambietz of Calgary, Alberta rethought the issue and figured the way to do it was to hold the rod steady and have the varnish container slid down the shaft. He used a quite primitive non-mechanized process of a small glass jar c/w a seal made of latex @ one end. The latex seal had a small hole punched in it with a leather punch. The seal was held in place on the jar with a rubber band. He would place the rod tip through the hole, add about a tablespoon of varnish and slid the jar down the rod shaft @ a constant pace.

    Now with the cat out of the bag, Jerry Arbieter of North Vancouver  mechanized the  system using an "all-thread ready rod," a split nut arrangement, a slow speed motor to drive the ready rod, a clamp to hold the bottle to the split nut all of which was enclosed into a cabinet 6' tall c/w filtered air, glass door, heating elements,  etc.

    While I've never seen either work, from the results on their rods, they appear to be as good as the dip tank setup I presently use. The above method will not work if you are going to install guides prior to varnishing.

    Just another way to work with low ceilings.  (Don Anderson)

    You don't need such a large hole in the floor. I hung a plumb from the ceiling where the pulley would go, then drew a 6" circle on the floor. Using a rented hammer drill I cut a series of holes around the circle, then hammered out the center. Then, using a post hole digger, I dug down 36", inserted a 4" bottom-capped PVC tube with a cast iron removable top, and cemented the whole thing in place. When finished, the hole looks just like a blind drain hole. It also makes a great safe for hiding valuables.

    My varnish-filled 1" copper tube with 4" reservoir on top fits into the hole and is held centered with wire hoops. If there is ever any spillage, the 4" PVC tube is large enough to reach into.  (Ron Grantham)

    Even though I have my dip tube through the floor, (because I have my shop in a shed behind the house and SWMBO never comes out to see what kind of damage that I have done) I still have a lot of problems with dust, etc. and have been experimenting with pulling the rod sections from my PVC dip tube into one of the clear plastic fluorescent protector tubes. I figure that this will keep most of the dust from automatically attaching itself to the section. Still working on some of the final details and so far it seems that it will work but have not used on a rod yet. Might be a thought for your setup.  (Gary Jones)

    The hole in the floor only has to be a little larger than the pipe wrapped with a heat tube. After drilling a small hole you can remove the dirt with your shop vac. No need to tear a big hole in the floor. (Dave Norling)

    Do you have a stairwell in the house? Other than one with carpeting? I have mine set up in my basement stairwell and it slides together and disappears into the basement so if the President or the Pope drops in it won't offend. It collapses to about 7' and opens to almost 13 (if I need it) for the pulley system to pull the rod out of the tank.  (Art Port)

    Why not use a drain tube?  I have 8' ceilings and it works for me.  You don't draw the rod out until it is dry, so it makes it much easier when contortions are required.

    You can also lay it in the corner when not in use.  (Lee Orr)

    I have the same problem, 7'6" height in my basement workshop.  I mounted a gear motor to a  floor joist and a swivel just below it.  I have a 5' acrylic tube from Enco and the 2" head on the dip tank just fits inside.  I draw the rod section into the acrylic tube, tilt it and put the dip tank inside.  Lower the rod, pull it out & leave it in the tube until dry.  (Ron Larsen)

    Remember my Nunley-ism extreme rodmaking post from a few weeks ago?  My problems started with the dip tube leaked and the varnish dried, cementing the tube to the 2" hole in the concrete floor.  I'd suggest that you do as I did... drill only a 2" hole for  the tube  holding  the  varnish.   A coffee can full of Quik-Crete will fill the hole completely should you move.

    I drilled the hole one weekend while SWMBO was away visiting my in-laws.  After I built the semi-permanent dip apparatus around it, she never noticed the hole was there.  I finally got brave and told her about it.

    Large hammer drills with 2" cutting bits can be rented from your local hardware outlet.  (Harry Boyd)

    Couldn't you get the room by going up into the garage's attic space? even if it's 3-4' that should allow a total of 10'.  (Henry Mitchell)


I have been dealing with contamination of my Varathane 900 from oxidation of my copper dip tank turning the finish green.  What are proven alternatives short of Stainless that you have had success with?

This is the second batch of finish that has turned and I really do not want to have to transfer the finish back into its original container every time I dip.  (Mike Hoffman)


    My dip tank works great and cost about $5.  My first one cost less than $1, but that was just a 4' length of 1" PVC with a cap on one end.  Now I have added a 1X2 reducer on the top to go to a short length of 2" diameter tubing.  This increases the surface area so it doesn't change the level of the varnish so much when I dip a butt section.

    This takes 1 quart to fill the tube, and I just leave the varnish (Helmsman spar urethane) in the tube and cap it with a rubber sewer cap.  The varnish lasts for a couple of years without taking any special precautions (I don't use Bloxygen or anything).  When the varnish starts to go, it costs less than $20 to replace the tube and varnish.  (Robert Kope)

    Why don't you use white PVC pipe.  It is cheap, easy to work. virtually air tight when capped.  I have a tube here that has had varnish in it over a year and I just dipped a rod the other day.  Copper and stainless steel are pretty costly products for this.  When my tube gets gooped up I just toss it out.  (Ralph Moon)

    I had a similar problem with my copper tube a couple of years ago, although the green color of the Helmsman didn't seem to color the rods.

    I have since switched to the clear plastic tubes used to protect florescent light tubes.  They are inexpensive and I can see what's happening when I dip the rod with the guides.  (David Van Burgel)

    I've been using a 4 foot clear fluorescent tube protector with Varathane for a few years.  You can get the tubes at any big box home center.  The real trick is to play with PVC fittings and silicone to seal the bottom end.  When I'm done dipping, I top off the tube and stuff wadded up saran wrap in the open end and it's worked well.  I think it's a  real advantage  that you can see the sections you're dipping while you're at it.  Since I thin the varnish, I never had any problems with skinning over.  I built a holder with PVC conduit hold-down clamps and stand the tube in a drilled-out 2 x 4.  After I pull the sections out, I let them drip off and dry in a section of 4" PVC that is covered on top with a coffee filter, but open, and standing on blocks at the bottom.  Since the solvents are heavier than air, the convection pulls them out, and the coffee filter seems to keep the dust out.  (Greg Kuntz)

    Have used a 1" aluminum electrical conduit c/w threaded ends - a 1" steel pipe cap on the bottom, a 1" x 2" collar on the top c/w a 2" close nipple and a 2" brass ball valve.  This setup has been used for Varathane 900 for over 20 years. Dumped Varathane twice during that period. Unscrewed caps and swabbed interior with a 1/2 dowel and paper towels. Valve was disassembled and cleaned as well. If you use this system, swab the internals of the conduit and pipe fittings with paint thinner to get all the crap out prior to dumping Varathane into it.

    The dip tube is installed into a cabinet with a 2" U bolt and a 100 watt bulb @ the bottom.  (Don Anderson)


I need to finish three rebuilt South Bend fly rods, and would like to utilize a dip tube to accomplish it. What would be a simple plan for constructing an inexpensive but reliable dip tube that would ultimately be used for an occasional rod? Also, I plan on using Pratt & Lambert #61 spar, and was wondering if it needs to be thinned to be effectively utilized in a dip tube?  (Ron Delesky)

    Check out the "Contraptions" section on the bamboo tips site for several dip tube ideas.  There are also several comments on drip tubes under the "Tips" section of Todd's site.  I can not help you personally as I do not use a dip tube, I prefer the wipe on method.  (Denny Reiter)

    Go to a big box home outlet, and get a 4' fluorescent tube protector.  Go to the plumbing department and get PVC caps for the base.  Seal it up with clear silicone, and tape the whole assembly with electrical tape when the silicone is hardened. I stand the tube in a 2x4 block that is drilled out.  I hold the top in a vertical position with a PVC conduit strap. probably about a $10-12 investment.  (Greg Kuntz)

    I like my "low volume" dip tube.  Its pretty easy to make and takes only a pint of varnish to fill, yet will dip a section up to 5 ft long with the guides on.  I store the varnish back in the can between rods.  It’s described here.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)


I need to make another dip tube and my aluminum rod tubes sitting in the corner got me thinking they might be just the ticket.

Does anyone have any experience with keeping varnish in an aluminum tube, and/or do you think there would be a problem with long term storage?   (Chris Carlin)

    Go buy some PVC and don't worry about it. Just make sure you use the primer and proper adhesive with minimal fittings.  (Don Schneider)

    I've been storing varnish in an old rod tube for over a year now w/ no problems.  Basically, I epoxied a cap on the bottom (had to bore out a little from a slightly undersized PVC cap) and cut the collar off the top.  I tried to avoid the threads on the tube as they get gooed up eventually and end up being an annoyance.  I just have a loose fitting PVC cap on the top.  I keep up w/ using Bloxygen after each use and haven’t had any varnish skimming over.  Seems to be working so far.  I choose not to use PVC, like many do, b/c I heat the entire varnish room to bring my varnish up to temperature.  With a thin aluminum tube I can heat the room in a short amount of time and have the effect on the varnish I'm looking for.  For a metal dip tube aluminum seems like a great choice (stainless may be best but I can't justify changing at this point).   (Matt Leiderman)

      My situation is similar to yours Matt in that I often need to heat my tank.  I have one of Golden Witch's super-duper stainless steel dip tanks and it is fantastic, though pricey and apparently no longer available from Golden Witch.  I also have a PVC tank which works OK.  In the winter months when I need to heat my varnish I wrap the tube with rope lights and plug them in a short while before I'm ready to dip.  With the steel tank the varnish heats up pretty quickly while the PVC takes quite a bit longer, which is one reason I'd prefer to use something other than plastic.   (Chris Carlin)


I have been dipping in the clear tubes used as florescent light protectors but have had some problems gluing fittings to them.  They are also a bit light gage.  I just found a source for clear schedule 40 PVC pipe and am going to give it a try.

Here's the link.  (David Van Burgel)

    I'm interested too, let me know what is the cost/size tube you get.  (Chad Wigham)

      I ended up ordering from these guys:

      The prices are indicated and they cut the 10 ft lengths so that UPS will ship.  (David Van Burgel)

    I made my dip tube out of Fluorescent light sleeves. I used hot melt glue to glue the end caps on and it's been working fine for me. I built a frame to support the tube, so the thin gage is not an issue.  (Mark Shamburg)

      I have found that there are two sizes of fluorescent bulb sleeves.  They are very close to one another.  But if you are working with 1.25" PVC fittings, you definitely want the larger size clear plastic sleeve.  How  do you  know which  is which?   At the hardware store pick up a 1.25" PVC end cap.  Slide it over the end of the clear tube.  Now turn that end down and shake it around a little.  If the PVC end cap falls off with a good shake, that's the smaller size clear tube.  You do NOT want that one.  I found out the hard way and there's a Nunley-ism post involved.  See this link.

      You know, I wish I would never have looked up that link.  I did a little head counting on the extreme rodmaking page.  I've made that infamous page five times now.  No one else is even close.  Heck, even Bob Nunley himself only made the page three times.  (Harry Boyd)

      I am still using a 1/2" plywood plug cut with a 1 1/2" hole saw and pressed into the base of the tube. It is tapped for 1/4 pipe petcock. I am on my second tube with the same plug. Found I don't need any glue and it has not leaked. I just put a bit of varnish on the plug edges before pressing it in the tube. First tube did over 50 rods, second has over 25 rods done in it. Just a hint. I  don't put the sections all the way to the end of the ferrule wraps or the winding check into the varnish. I keep them about 1/4 to 1/2" from the end of the wrap.

      To get the varnish up to the wrap, I just squeeze the lower end of the tube to raise the level of the varnish till it reaches the end of the wrap then ease off real slow. This way I can control where I want the varnish to start on the wrap.  (Tony Spezio)

    The thing that's attractive to me about clear PVC is that it comes in diameter less that the fluorescent tubes - less varnish.  Was going to try this when I got a Rountuit.  (Darrol Groth)

      I was thinking the same thing and ordered some 3/4" as well as the 1 1/2".  (David Van Burgel)

        I was just thinking about getting  clear PVC pipe for a dip tube as well.  Instead of PVC I ordered an acrylic clear tube 1.5 inches x five feet long.  $21 shipped from west coast to east coast.  Not sure, but this may be cheaper than PVC. though I haven't tested it yet because I just ordered it.  I figure to epoxy some the regular PVC end caps.

        Take a look here if you are inclined.  (Matt Baun)

          Why not use the acrylic adhesive they recommend instead of epoxy? Unless I read it wrong they say it will work. I'd still check it out with water in the tube before risking your varnish. I found out the hard way once making up a PVC tube without using the primer. :>(  (Don Schneider)

    McMaster-Carr has it also in many various sizes and lots of fittings.  Use the search and look for "clear PVC pipe".  I use 1" schedule 40.  (Brian Smith)


I have been working on setting up a small rod shop area at home and was faced with how to set up the motor and control for a varnish dipping tank.  The solution was simple.  I purchased a 12 volt 1 RPM motor from Edmund Scientific and to run it I got a Atlas HO model train transformer that had a rheostat, forward and reverse switch and on off switch.  By using a 3 inch circumference spool I get a draw rate of 3 inches per minute at about 80% power.  I only had 2 wires to hook up. Hope this is useful info.  (Ron Kubica)

    One thing the list has no shortage of is ingenuity...

    Good job, Ron...  (Mike St. Clair)

    I use that same set up for my rod turner while applying varnish to the wraps, works great at any speed you want.  (Joe Arguello)


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