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I am struggling with a change in temp I think. My dip tube worked fine until this week. It is giving me runs and drips. I have filter the spar urethane with nylon stocking. It has a lot of bubbles. I tired again but waited over 15 minutes and still got runs. I am going to move to a room over 50 degrees. I am guessing the garage gets down to 40 this week and up to 65. I want to try your polishing idea. I found 3M Finesse-It II and Perfect It Foam Polishing Pad glaze.  Is that close to what you use? Specifically how do you use it?  (Rex Tutor)

    Why don't you bring your dip tube into your home and let the varnish warm up to about 70 degree's. Then you can take it to the garage for the actual dipping process. A three piece rod can be dipped in less then an hour and the varnish won't have time to cool down before you've completed the  dipping process. Bring the dip tube into the house between coats so as to not let the varnish cool down and cause problems.  (Jim Bureau)

    I've always wrapped my tube in that low-heat no-freeze electrical pipe wrap you can get for pipes which are in unprotected areas of a home. It's thermostatically controlled (though I've never seen any where you can adjust the thermostat) and it raises my dip tube to about 90 degrees or so in a basement that's probably at about 60 or so. I think it's named Zero King or some such. Check a Home Depot or Lowes or someplace like that.  (Art Port)


I have a 1.5" copper dip tube in which I keep filled within 1" of the top with Varathane 900,  the cap has a rubber seal that compresses with a screw.  Today I was preparing to dip and I noticed that I needed to thin the finish a wee bit.  I removed about 3 ounces and to my shock the clear finish was now a deep green, this is after only 7-months.  When I made my tank, I made sure the residual flux was removed by washing the interior several times with Acetone.  There seems to be some kind of reaction with the finish and the copper as the interior walls of the tube are bright copper.  Was this possibly just surface oxidation that was removed or do I have a more serious problem.  Anyone else have this situation in the past?  (Mike Hoffman)

    I thought it was just MY luck that this has happened! I used a copper tube for a dip tube and Helmsman. After a while it turned a beautiful emerald green, even cast a slight tint of green to the finish of a rod (not what I wanted)!! I tried the cleaning route, also Bloxygen, and even a little bit of mineral spirits, without any luck. Seems like the copper at the top would tarnish a bit (but, not what you could see), then the finish would wash it down into the tube when the level was raised either by a rod section or topping off the level. So, I ended up with PVC tubing. I wanted to try stainless steel, but this works OK for now and much cheaper! I still don't know just what caused it!  (David Dziadosz)

    I noticed the same effect with Varmor R10.  Spar varnish doesn't react in the same way to the copper tubing. I would assume its something in the construction of urethane varnish possibly the driers used.   (David Rinker)

      It also does this with Man-O-War. My first dip tube was copper, it took about 3 months for the varnish to turn green. PVC is cheaper anyway.  (John Channer)

    Same thing (using Helmsman) happened to me a couple of years ago.  I have since switched to using the clear plastic tubing used to protect florescent light tubes.  (David Van Burgel)

My Helmsman is kept in a 1" copper pipe (tube?) and have never had a problem such as this. Could it be different grades of copper?  (Ron Grantham)


I have just transferred the varnish from my dip tube into a new tube using a paint filter to clean out the varnish.  The first day after doing this I noticed some scum starting to form on the edges at the top of the varnish in the new tube.  The varnish is about 12 to 15 months old.

The  question that I have is how long varnish should last before you replace it.  The varnish I am using is Formby's Tung Oil Varnish.  (Tom Peters)

    Well how many rods have you dipped in it? When I do arrows I can get maybe 10 dozen then have to throw it all out start fresh. The other question is did you clean out the dip tube good before you changed the varnish over? If not you may have gotten some cross contamination that does happen once in awhile.  (Paul Amschler)


Do those of you that use Helmsman in a dip tube thin and/or heat it before dipping your rods? If so what ratio do you thin it and what do you thin it with?  (Joe Esther)

    I use it straight from the can till it starts to thicken a bit. Thin with Mineral Spirits  when I do thin it. I try to bring to back to where it was when I opened the can for the first time.  (Tony Spezio)

    I use a dip tube with Helmsman thinned 10 % with mineral spirits.  It gives me glass smooth finishes but requires maybe one or two coats more than if not thinned.  Care must be taken to pause at the bottom of each wrap/guide to prevent runs.  I use propane from a standard propane torch bottle to flood the top of the varnish to exclude air.  The propane is heavier than air so it stay in place after I put the cap on.  After 1 1/2 years I still have no thickening.  (Al Baldauski)

    I'm using Helmsman and thinning about 20% since I was told by a rep that "rodmakers are thinning up to 50% for dipping". I went with the 20% on a dare and am happy. If you want more info, lemme know and I'll elaborate.  (Art Port)

      I use a drip tube and thin Helmsman very little, about 5%.  I do make sure the varnish is warm, about 75.  The temp of the varnish makes a huge difference given my circumstance and equipment.  So you might want to watch this  variable. It has always surprised me now much a difference temp makes.  (Bob Milardo)

        I use Helmsman and don't thin it at all.  I do stick the dip tube in my drying cabinet at 80 degrees for a couple hours before dipping.  (Ron Larsen)


I have been using a dip tank filled with Tung Oil Varnish and have developed some scum on the top of the varnish.  I have been using Bloxygen to try and keep the scum from developing but for some reason it did not work the last time I used it. I think it was out of gas and just blowing air into the tube.

The question that I have is what do you use to strain the varnish when you move it to another tube.  I have tried a paint filter, panty hose but now in the winter the varnish is so thick that it will hardly run through the filter or the panty  hose.  (Tom Peters)

    If you warm the varnish with a heat gun or hair dryer while in the tube you’ll be able to filter it better.  If you get it warmer by only 20 degrees it will make a big difference.  (Al Baldauski)

    Warm the varnish.  (Peter McKean)


Perhaps someone in the forum has experience using Epifanes varnish in a dipping tube. Specifically, I am seeking advice on the % of thinner to use with Epifanes when dipping. I have read of some thinning the product by as much as 40% and then brushing on the Epifanes. I use a heated dip tube and suspect the Epifanes will need to be thinned differently. Any knowledge of this product used in rod finishing will be greatly appreciated.  (David Margolis)

    The manufacturer says not to thin it more than 10% one time only. I can tell you it is wonderful stuff but never dipped with it.  (Timothy Troester)

    I remember Mike Brooks stating that Epifanes was a tremendous brushing varnish when thinned at 50%. However, I don't think he was referring to brushing on bamboo rods. Just applying varnish in general. When I used it on my boat I wish I had had that insight. Straight out of the can it is like trying to brush molasses.  (Steve Shelton)

    I have used Epifanes for. .awhile (about 20 years). I dip with it at a rate of about 5.5"/minute. .BUT the varnish tube is not heated. .and a normal  ambient  temperature is about 62 degrees. . .I thin at 85% and it takes 3 dipping to get the kind of surface where a landing mosquito can slip and bust his @$$.  One huge insight is to use the Epifanes thinner. .which is a specially distilled or better filtered turpentine. . . what I might suggest if you really want to heat the varnish. .which I would point out will cause crystallizing. .but hey it's your rod. . formulate a very small amount to the percentage that I gave. Do this in a 1 oz medicine cup. .I would hope that isn't a problem. Then take a plastic spoon and as accurately as possible drill a 1/8" hole in the center of it. . . .Then with your watch ticking time how long it takes to pour the 1 oz mixture through the spoon and into a empty medicine cup. .do this at the suggested temp. Then Start from scratch with a 40% mixture raised to the temperature that you think you wish to dip at. .and then slowly dilute until you achieve something in the same drip down time as the first sample. Good Luck . . . (Wayne Cattanach)

      I use Epifanes for dipping, thinned at 40% with artist turps. I've never taken the temp when I dip but I dip in a copper tube which is heated to a point where it's just about uncomfortable to hold (90 - 100 degrees). I've only dipped 4 rods but have only had problems (flaking) with the rods that have been dyed. What's this crystallizing of which you speak?  (Jim Lowe)


My dip tube is five feet of 1.5" in diameter PVC pipe.   How many quarts of spar varnish is needed to fill it up?   And if its not asking too much -- how much would be needed to fill 2.5 inch diameter, five foot PVC?  (Matt Baun)

    Volume of a cylinder = Pi x (the radius squared) x the length of the cylinder. In your first example (1.5" tube) the radius is 3/4", so:

    Volume = 3.14159 x 0.75 x 0.75 x 60 inches

    = 106 cubic inches, or 58.7 ounces (see the converter here).

    That would be roughly 1.9 quarts

    A 2.5" tube would need just over 5 quarts.  (Rich Margiotta)

    About 1.8 quarts to fill a 1.5” diameter 5’ pipe. About 5 quarts to fill a 2.5” diameter 5’ pipe.  There are 57.75 cubic inches per quart.  (Aaron Gaffney)

    Don't believe either of the answers you received. Neither accounted for spilling half the varnish as you try to pour it out of the can without benefit of a funnel. Buy more than you think you'll need.  ;^)  (Harry Boyd)

      Or forgetting to push the plug in nice and tight on the bottom of a drip tube...  BTW, my shop floor still looks splendid!  (Mark Wendt)

      And, don't forget you need an enlarged section at the top of the tube to catch the varnish displaced by the volume of the rod itself.  (Or a bucket under the tube!)  (Neil Savage)

      Hey! He didn't ask how much he needed to seal the floor. Mark Wendt can answer that for him when the time comes!  :)  (Larry Blan)

    Pie are squared times how tall the tube is!  you might look to use the inside diameter of the tube.  (Timothy Troester)

    How many times can you reuse the varnish - is that against the rules in this business?  I assume you don't just cap off the tube and leave it until your next rod is ready for dipping, which could be months or even years.  (Tom Key)

      If you have a nice tight seal and use Bloxygen religiously, your varnish will stay fresh for a long time. My current tube has varnish in it that's over a year old.  (Rich Margiotta)

    I use a test plug that plumbers use which has a rubber expanding seal and a wing nut that expands the plug, this unit goes down into my varnish tube about an inch or so and nearly touches the varnish. When you put this into the dip tube it pushes most of the air out, I have been using this system to seal my dip tube and I never as much as even got a skim on my varnish. So yes, I reuse the varnish and simply add to it when the level goes down some. You can get these at home depot or ACE hardware. Here's a link so you can see what they look like the one I use is the one with the wing nut and is the 2" size I believe. Hope this helps. (You will probably have to copy this and paste in address bar.)  (Joe Arguello)


I have been using a dip tube to varnish my rods.  I made the mistake of putting too much varnish in the tube and I now have a ring of scum near the top of the tube.

I want to transfer the varnish to a new tube and was wondering what members of the list are using to filter the varnish when making a transfer to a new tube.  (Tom Smithwick)

    You can use a funnel with a nylon stocking over it (panty hose will work). I have been using disposable paint filters that fit in a funnel, purchased at Home Depot. I pre-warm the varnish to reduce the viscosity so it goes through the filter easier.  (Steve Weiss)

    If you have access to a home center like Lowes or Home Depot, they will sell you a paint/varnish filter that fits over an empty can, also for sale.  (Paul Franklyn)

      I use the wife's panty hose (with permission, of course).  For very thin varnish, the thicker seat part will filter out the smaller particles better than the leg material.  I like it because it fits snugly over the top of the tube, secured with a rubber band.  The toe part is also a finer weave.  One pair yields a lot of pieces.  (Carey Mitchell)


I was reading back through the archives the other day and ran across a series of posts discussing the fact that several makers had problems with their varnish turning green when left in in copper pipe used for dip tubes. There never really seemed to be any resolution as to why this happened, just that it had happened to some folks but not others. There also was the suggestion that it happened mainly to those using Helmsman spar but not non-poly spars. Can anyone on  the list remember whether a reason for the corrosion of the copper was ever determined or any resolution ever decided?  (Larry Puckett)

    I had it happen with a Aussie made high oil spar varnish. It not only went green it never cured properly once the green tinge was apparent. It may have been a reaction with something in the varnish and copper possibly the driers in the varnish which are minerals of various kinds. Possibly it could have been avoided had I filled it with varnish then emptied it again and let it cure so there was a coating of cured varnish to protect the liquid but I just got rid of it and got a polypipe that cost like a quarter the copper and was easier to set up anyhow using the fittings that are made for them.  (Tony Young)

      It's good that you didn't coat the inside of the tube with cured varnish! I did and what a mess! Looked like it would work, but after a while the coating of varnish  softened and then I had, what looked like, gobs of snot hanging from the guides!  (David Dziadosz)

    The green color is the reaction product of the copper from the tube, and a fatty acid from the varnish.

    The fatty acid could be released from oil such as linseed, tung or other oil in the formula, or, if the manufacturer had a portion of alkyd resin in the formula to improve the drying, it will have traces of acid, and that would give the green color also.

    Normally, when the varnish dries, the polymer chains cross link by adding oxygen to join midsections of chains together, resulting in a 3D network. The copper poisons this reaction, so it doesn’t dry properly.  (David Kennedy)

      Can you clarify "doesn't dry properly"? This happens to my varnish and I've continued to use it. It doesn't seem to be a problem for about year, then the varnish doesn't seem to flow properly and I replace it.  (Jim Lowe)

      That certainly explains the chemical reaction side of the question however, any idea why it  might happen  to some folks and not others? Could there be different quality of copper in the pipe? Also, it just occurred to me that it is interesting that all the VOCs in our dipping mixtures don’t react with the PVC and other plastic tubes we use. Actually, maybe they do react and that’s one reason they go bad in plastic tubes in much shorter times than has been reported for metal. With all these variables it is a wonder anyone ever manages to make a cane rod in the first place.  (Larry Puckett)

        Time probably has something to do with it. My varnish didn't turn the first year but that second batch turned almost immediately.   (Jim Lowe)

          I had some MOW in a copper tube for about 10 - 12 years, never a problem. Then I decided I needed a larger tube to dip both tip sections at the same time, So I bought a section of PVC tube and new MOW varnish. Long story short I think the old stuff worked better. Never even thought of a change in formula! And maybe that is why some of you have had better luck before and maybe not so good now. Just a thought. I dunno!  (Joe Arguello)

            I was looking back at a thread on the Rodbuilding board today and saw a post by AJ that he uses conduit tubing instead of copper. I also have some extra aluminum rod tubes that may get pressed into service. I’m glad now I didn’t go out and buy the copper — MOW is too hard to get and too expensive in this area to have it turn green on me.  (Larry Puckett)

              This is, of course, a silly question, but what is wrong with plastic tubing?  (Robin Haywood)

                Actually, plenty of us are using PVC dip tubes (a decade now and now complaints). Cheap, and when and if you decide to change the varnish, you just throw out the whole shebang and make a new set up (for around $5).  (Chris Obuchowski)

      For those who had not guessed David is chemist/manager for an international company that produces lots of glues and other finishing products.  (Ian Kearney)

    I don't recall of any reason or resolution. All I can add is that I've been using Helmsman spar for quite some time and it was in a copper dip tube until this past spring when I ran over the dip tube with my truck. The only reason I went to a PVC dip tube is because the cost of copper has sky rocketed. I never had any problems with my varnish turning green and it was always easy to warm the varnish if necessary because of the fact that it was in a metal tube.  (Will Price)


As soon as it warms up a bit I will be giving my new dip tank a trial run.  I am switching from spar urethane to spar varnish (cut 15% with turps)  and I am wondering about the best way to fill the tube.  I know that spar varnish is quick to react to oxygen so should I just use a funnel to fill the tube or is there some trick to minimize oxygen exposure?  Also, any advice on getting the longest use from the varnish?  I am cutting it with turps and will use Bloxygen (spelling?) after each use.  (Matt Draft)

    My dip tube holds a little less than a quart. I empty a quart can in a plastic pitcher where I mix in the thinner. Then I tilt the tube and pour in the mix. Like pouring a glass of beer from a pitcher to minimize a head of foam.  (David Dziadosz)


I am considering setting up a second, low volume dip tube for Tung Oil. I know most simply do their oil coats by hand, as I have previously, but it has occurred to me that I could probably get a much more even coat by dipping.

I'm sure, however, there is probably a pretty good reason why I haven't heard of anyone doing it and it just hasn't occurred to me yet so I figured I'd bounce the idea off y'all. If nothing else it should be good for a laugh or two. (G)  (Wayne Kifer)

    It might take too long (weeks or months), for a dipped coat of pure Tung Oil to cure. (Paul Franklyn)

    Based on what I have read, pure tung oil is the poorest of all finishes in sealing out moisture.  (Steve Weiss)


I’d appreciate advice on varnish and thinning or additives for use in a dip tube set up.. The availability of many varnishes has changed here in Canada, with environmental concerns cited as the main reason,  so I purchased some Epiphanies clear marine varnish. I was about to dump it in the new tube when I read that the manufacturer suggests first coat be thinned 50% with mineral spirits or turpentine, then second coat thinned 25 % and third coat 15%. For a fellow who drinks his scotch straight up, this sounds like rather a lot of “thinning”!  What do you all do in terms of thinning varnish for the dip tube?

To further compound the picture, I have some Penetrol additive and was going to mix a small amount (5% or so) of that in as well, but have decided to seek your collective wisdom/experience before doing anything rash, as the varnish is now getting  quite expensive and I sure don’t want to have to re-do a rod as the result of a bad varnish mixture.

(I was using Pratt and Lambert “Varmor”; no longer available in Canada.) (George Deagle)

    In my limited experience I've learned the following two things:

    1. Nothing beats testing out on some scrap material while you dial in your varnish

    2. Main variables include temperature (preheating varnish and your drying cabinet), varnish type (regular, quick-dry or combo), thinning, additives like Penetrol, extraction rate, climate.

    So for your climate you may have to mess around to get things right.  Or maybe you'll stumble on something that works right away.  I think most varnishes you can buy at Home Depot thinned say 15-20% heated  to  80  degrees  and  pulled  at  say 3 - 4"/minute should generally work.  The directions on the can are for things like varnishing boats and houses so you have to take that with a grain of salt.

    The other possibility is to find somebody who lives near you and, if you can get information, copy what they are doing.

    Also, for my own sanity, I choose to not worry about small dust etc, in other words I don't shoot for the perfect finish out of the dip, I get a good finish and then sand and polish the finish to get it near perfect. 1200, 2000 grit wet dry sandpaper and automotive rubbing compounds work great for this.  (John Rupp)


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