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At the hardware found a test plug.  It's made out of steel and rubber.  With a wing nut that compresses the rubber between the two steel plates. No need for threads. Just glue a 11/2 inch coupling on your pvc pipe.  Makes a good seal when you need to open the tube just loosen the wing nut. can do by hand.  (James Bailey)


Could those that use fluorescent light tubes for dipping explain how to take the top off of the tube?  I haven't tried yet, and thought I could learn from those past good/bad experiences from others.  (Darrin Curtis)

    We aren't using the glass tube.  We are using the clear plastic florescent light tube 'protectors' that you buy at the hardware store. There is a black plastic spacer that fits on the end, but no real top.  Go to the plumbing section and find the PVC fittings that fit the clear tube. 1-1/4" fitting I think.  (Rick Crenshaw)

      Rick is correct on the 1 1/4" PVC caps, I bought a set of them yesterday along with the tube at the local "Home Improvement MegaloMart" that just open in town.  They also have the 8' tubes if you want a tube longer then 4'.  When you are at it you might want to get an empty gallon paint can in the paint department to drain the varnish in to.

      How much varnish will be needed to fill a 4' tube?  (Brad Love)

        It takes about 1 1/2 quarts. If you have room under the drain for a larger container that would be a good idea to use one. I don't have that luxury. I drain back into the original quart can. When it is full, switch to the partial filled can. Oh yes, do this after you shut off the valve. LOL. KEEP a careful eye on the can, I have almost had a disaster. I guess sometime or other I will have a overfill. This is one reason to do it by yourself, no distractions.  (Tony Spezio)

          Go down to the nearest Marie Callanders (or equivalent restaurant) and buy a pie to take home.  Eat the pie.  Rinse out the pie pan and use it underneath your varnish can. If you do have a spill over, it will all be retained by the pie pan and not spread all over the floor.  (Claude Freaner)

            The pie pan thing must be a good one. Have had several list members mention it. I am using a shallow plastic bowl at this time but I think I need to see about getting a pie pan.  (Tony Spezio)

        The tubes aren't a full 48" long, 2 quarts will fill 'em.  (Chad Wigham)

        Some formulas for you to use:

        Volume of the tube:  

        V (in ounces) = [(ID x ID/4) x PI x length]/1.804
                                   where ID is inside diameter in inches of tube
                                         PI is the constant 3.1415926
                                         Length is length of tube in inches

        For example, a 4 foot tube that is 1.5 inches across is

        • V =  [(1.5 x 1.5/4) x 3.14 x 48]/1.804   =   47.019 ounces which is just under one and one half quarts or three pints.

        If you don't have a calculator handy and have to do it on paper, use this one:

          V = ID x ID x Length x .435
                where ID is inside diameter in inches of tube
                      Length is length of tube in inches.

        Also, 1 gallon = 4 quarts = 128 ounces
              1 quart = 2 pints = 4 cups = 32 ounces
              1 pint = 2 cups = 16 ounces
              1 cup = 1/2 pint = 8 ounces

        Just in case you're part of the majority of the world who use metric measures,

               V (in milliliters) = [(ID x ID/4) x 3.14 x length)
                    where ID is inside diameter in centimeters
                          Length is tube length in centimeters

        Short form is   V = ID x ID x Length x .785

        Same example as above ( 122 cm tube, 3.8 cm in diameter)
              V = 3.8 x 3.8 x 122 x .785 = 1383 ml = 1.38 liters 

        (Claude Freaner)

          Don't forget to leave space for the varnish that will be displaced by inserting the rod in the tube. It is surprising how much the varnish will rise in the tube.  (Tony Spezio)

      I used a 2 inch diameter cover and PVC cap. I still only do one section at a time. I use water bottle caps or similar,  with center holes, tapped on the bottom of the section, to prevent the rod from touching the tube when extracting the section. You have to have long arms.  It is limited to 4 foot sections with my current tube. I glued the cap with epoxy and  broke the cover to remove the PVC cap.

      Don't use acetone to clean your tube.  It crystallized the tube.  (Rex Tutor)

        I haven't found any solvent which will clean the clear tubes without making them brittle.  Has anyone?  Not mineral spirits, nor denatured alcohol, nor acetone....(Harry Boyd)

          I used to clean with cheap paint thinners. Then I got to not bothering with it. A little thinner is poured in the tube with the valve open to drain in a small disposable cup. This usually clears the valve. The valve is left open till I use it the next time. Have had over 35 rods through the tube, can still see the rod and guides.

          I would guess I can use it for about another 20 or so rods.  (Tony Spezio)

          Me neither but I can still see thru mine pretty well.  When it becomes unusable I bought 2 tubes on my last visit to Home Depot. I will replace as needed. I use 5 minute epoxy on the cap so it's a only few minutes to rebuild.  I do rinse the tube with 1/8 cup or so of mineral spirits and let the spirits set in the bottom until next use. If there is more than a week I usually have to clean the exit more thoroughly.  (Rex Tutor)

          I seem to remember cleaning some plastic tubes years ago with Efferdent Tablets and warm water.  Any thing else caused the tubes to shatter, melt or something equally bad.  (Brian Creek)

    Home depot has 1 1/4" x 4' tube protectors that have black inserts that just pull out.  You have to get creative as to how to plug them -- I used some CPVC pipe fittings through the black caps, filled the gap with some clear silicone, and sealed them by wrapping the exterior of the joint with black electrical tape.  Worked great.  (Greg Kuntz)

      I used a 1 1/2" round plug cut from a piece of 1/2" plywood. It threads easy too. It is a tight enough fit, I did not even have to use a glue or sealer. After the first use the varnish sealed the plug. It never leaked a drop.  (Tony Spezio)

    I use fluorescent light covers not bulbs, which  have very loose end covers. The covers slip right off with no problem.  Then I glue a PVC cap with the spigot on the bottom to drain it. I have 5 inch marks  and drain at 1 minute per mark. It is an easy inexpensive way to produce great finishes. You have to clean the spigot so I put threads in the PVC, to remove the spigot. The tube covers get cloudy after a year of my use, which is a number of restored rods up to 40 or so.  I simply replaced the tube at about $2-3 after the first year of use.  You have to clean the spigot with mineral spirits periodically.  I clean the finish by pouring it through panty hose periodically, too.  (Rex Tutor)

    To keep the blank from touching the tube as I withdraw it [or, if you drain it], I use Scotch Magic tape [a tip from the list], extended about 3/8" past the ferrule end, smash it closed, use 1 5/16 straight pin pushed thru the tape flap at 90 degrees to each other. Keeps the ferrule sealed, and won't let the section touch the tube. Quick & disposable.  (Chad Wigham)


A clear plastic tube allows a 360 degree view of the rod with the drain method. I actually let the rod sit in the varnish until I can see zero bubbles. If there is a persistent bubble I simple pull the rod out "pop" the bubble and reinsert the rod. Check to make sure no bubbles are present and drain away.  I then put a cloth over the  top and a remove the drain and put a sock over the bottom. It will dry with NO dust and no runs. A clear tube make it easy.  (Adam Vigil)


Having spent some time recently thoroughly reviewing the archives on rod finishes/drip-dip tubes, I finally built a drip tube using the plastic protective tubes as has been described by many of you (initiated long ago by Sir Darryl) and most recently Tony Spezio.  Using Helmsman Spar Urethane (stock, unheated, and yes, it has been criticized in the archives as an extremely THIN varnish) I was surprised in running some 48" hex test strips (no guides,  ferrules, etc.) that it only added about .001" per coat (at 4.0" per minute). Since most of you state that you use 2-3 coats this seems to not provide the ca. .004-.006" some claim with other varnishes. With my wipe-on oil/urethane (General Finishes heavy duty Arm-R-All at 7 coats) I get .004" protection and seemed to have better control of application, dust, etc. Also, I could get the job done in a similar amount of time with somewhat less mess and much less preparation. On the negative side (one of many, I am sure), the wipe-on does not contain UV inhibitors.

Question 1: Any suggestions/comments/(friendly) criticisms re: the above?

Question 2: how do most of you treat the few dust motes, etc. on the finish between coats? Non-oily steel wool? Only fine grain sandpaper? Other?

My final treatment, with wipe-on or with the drip tube is to lightly sand the occasional dust mote with 2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper, followed by a  mineral oil/rottenstone treatment of the entire shaft, followed by a treatment of fine cut rubbing compound. After wraps are completed and varnished, I then wax  the entire rod with Briwax.  (Jerry Snider)

    Myself, I spray my rods with an air brush. I've never gotten into the dip tube or drip tube finishing. I find spraying works good for me. I spray the blanks, before I install the guides. I spray three coats and wet sand the first and second coat with 1,000 grit paper. The third and final coat, I let dry for a week or so, then remove any dust with 1200 grit paper and then use fine rubbing compound over the entire blank. Then I install the guides and use Spar varnish on the wraps. Usually around 5 to 8 coats. Lightly sanding them, after they are dry, with 1,000 grit, to remove any dust.  The last coat is left as is.

    As far as the thickness of  the varnish some of the guys are using, some varnishes are thicker than others. Also, the removal rate will effect the thickness.  If the blank is removed faster, the coat will be thicker.  (Dave LeClair)

    I use the Minwax, lightly thinned and use about a 3-5" draw. It is very thin. I use 600 or steels wool on between to get any irregularities out. My drying cabinet has black lights in it, and it really cures quickly. I can do two coats in 12 hours. I do three, sanding between each and leaving the last. I use Meguires swirl remover and hand glaze to rub out any nasties. Then I use almost the same procedure as Dave for the wraps, about 5 or more coats of Man O War from the red can. Light steel wool seems to work nice in just before the last coat. Sometimes I give the whole thing another final dip of the Minwax, but only when I feel lucky. I think the Minwax is great for bamboo. If you like the wipe one, why don't you rub on a few coats, sand, and then dip in Minwax for a final coat? I have tried that with rods and it acts as a good filler, one coat of Minwax looks great.  (Bob Maulucci)

    I was also impressed with Sir D's post about drain dipping several years ago and am still a fan of dip tube.

    Question 1: Any suggestions/comments/(friendly)criticisms re: the above?

    I heard that some type of thinner such as alcohol might melt the glue like epoxy  between PVC and cap, in case.  Is Spar OK? I once varnished over the floor of my bath room.

    Question 2: how do most of you treat the few dust motes, etc. on the finish between coats? Non-oily steel wool? Only fine grain sandpaper? Other?

    For the dust floating in air, I put a piece of panty stocking of SWMBO at the top of the tube while draining and drying the rod in tube, which vacuums only fresh air.  After drain is over, I take the bottom cap off and put another piece of

    panty stocking at the bottom for drying.

    For the dust and small pieces of garbage mixed in the varnish, I also put a piece of panty stocking over the mouth of drain bottle while draining, to filter dust for the use of same varnish next time, .

    As for the surface of the rod, I use thin grid of water proofed sandpaper, or #3000 crystal stone (might be same to your rotten stone) with water and wipe the surface off thoroughly after that.  Sometimes, the small pieces of sanded varnish or sands are left over the rod.  (Max Satoh)


I have been using fluorescent bulb protectors for several months and wanted to share my experiences with them.

They have several advantages: they are narrow, so they require less varnish. Since they are transparent, you can look into them to watch the rod as it comes out. You know how long to wait at guide wraps, checks, etc. because you can watch what is happening. I was able to prevent some problems, and correct some other things that would have really messed up my finish. and they are cheap and easy to make. So you can have a dip tube for each type of varnish you use.

You have to clean them thoroughly when you get them home because they tend to have little pieces of plastic inside them that adhere to the side of the tube right up to the point where you dip a rod. Then they all migrate to the rod's surface. Even a hard rinse will leave little plastic bits stuck to the tube wall- treat them like a gun barrel and run a soapy patch through them. Rinse with water , then two alcohol rinses to get everything dry before gluing the cap on.

A really good cap for these is a 1 1/4 inch pvc end cap. You can hold the lower cap on with 5 minute epoxy- don't scrimp on the glue or it  can leak. The top cap seems to fit very tightly, or at  least tight enough to make a good airtight seal. Drill a tiny hole in the center of the top cap, and give it a shot of bloxygen after  you put it back on after the dipping session. A small square of duct tape will seal the hole. I have had little if any skimming after doing it this way. In fact, I store varnish in the tubes.

Make the tube length at least three inches longer than the longest tip section of the longest rod you plan to dip- that will give you enough room so that as the varnish level rises during insertion it will not overflow. If you get varnish overflow the cap sticks, and dried bits of varnish end up in your finish. so give yourself some extra length. And fill your tube using a long stem funnel to keep the varnish down where it belongs. I go to great lengths to keep the top of the tube clean and transparent.

They seem to work great!  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I've been using these tubes for some time too, though apparently not as fastidiously as you.  I can't imagine going back to tubes I cannot see through. One warning I would offer is that more than one type of tube is available for purchase.  One tube fits 1.25" pvc fittings almost perfectly.  The other works with the same fittings, but there is a little slop.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use the smaller tubes.  There's no way to get the standard pvc caps to fit.  Remember Nunley's story of the varnish in the carport?

    The simple answer is stop by the hardware aisle first.  Pick up a 1.25" PVC cap and try it on the tube in the store.  The fit should be snug.  (Harry Boyd)


I liked the finish on Mike Ealy's rod so well that I had to try a drip tube.  Worked good except that it took a lot of poly and I didn't like my first choice of valve.  I decided to make another using clear hose from the hardware store.  Got everything together, built the tube in short order and filled it to the right spot, using less than one pint.  Added a little thinner to try that out.  Stuck the tip section into the tube and used it as a stir stick.  It worked great.  Then I let the tube drip dry. 

When I took the tip section out it was a nice "browntone."  Not only that but the poly seemed to barely touch the cane.  No dark luster.

Okay,  I've got a nice brown town tip.  I'll run the butt section through for the same color treatment and worry about the finish later.  

No go.  This time the tube worked as advertised. 

Now remember, I'd used this poly in the original drip tube with no problems.  After the one tip section, it seemed to go back to normal...

Any idea what happened???  (Terry Kirkpatrick)

    Is the tip section still brown-toned?  I would guess that you floated the thinner on top of the polyurethane.  Then as you lowered the tip section into the varnish, it soaked up the thinner causing the varnish to run off the surface.  The butt section was submerged in the varnish after it was mixed so there was no impregnation with thinner.

    Just a guess.  (Robert Kope)


What is the optimum size varnish drain tube valve that y'all use?  What is the best flow rate for the varnish to flow back into the varnish can?  What diameter and length is best for a drain tube?  (Mike Fennell)

    Others who are much more expert than I will weigh in on your specific questions...

    My experience with drain valves has been fraught with this problem (that relates to your question):

    It seems to be almost impossible to reproduce flow rates using a valve.

    Perhaps it simply doesn't matter, but...

    Also, I've been thinking that an inherent problem with drain tubes is that there is no way to have a truly constant drain rate (and this is possible with a pull tube setup).

    Even with a specific-sized hole, there will always be the effect of less and less weight governing the flow rate (or am I missing some fundamental scientific law--- If I am, please be kind, for goodness sake I've got the science background of a lowland gorilla)  (Joe West)

    I made my tube from clear 48" fluorescent light tube protector available at home improvement stores. Bottom cap is glued-on PVC from same store, threaded into the cap is a brass petcock with bottom fitted screw-lever for adjusting the flow.  I added a clear tube, 12", extension to the exhaust port to avoid drips on valve.  I bought all items at Lowes. I drain at approximately 2" per minute, faster is OK and leaves a thinner coat (I think). Check the Archives for more details.  Tony Spezio has written extensively on the subject.   Works for me.  (Ed Riddle)

      I do the same thing that Ed does and I agree "It works for me". It is especially a great setup if you do not have the ceiling space for the dip system. I find that I am better able to see what is going on as the varnish flows from the tube with them being clear. I do not worry about cleaning the tubes and periodically buy new ones. I usually buy 8 footers and cut them for the section length I am making. I regulate the flow rate based on the thickness of the varnish by adjusting the valve. The biggest problem I have had is forgetting to put another can after the first one has filled up.  (Bill Bixler)


Did anyone ever use one of those clear plastic fluorescent light tubes to hold their varnish?  Will they be okay with the varnish and the PVC adhesives?   (Dick Steinbach)

    They work quite well.  I think it's the 1.25" pvc fittings that fit them.  One thing to be aware of... not all clear tubes are exactly 1.25" (if that's the right size).  I bought some at our local hardware store that are about 1.15", and while the pvc fittings seemed close the glue would not seal that gap.  Make sure the tubes you buy have a nice press fit with some sort of pvc fitting.

    I either squirt in a little Bloxygen or float a teaspoon of mineral spirits on top of the varnish when I'm planning to store it in the tube for more than a week or so.  (Harry Boyd)

    That is all I have used for the six years I have been making rods. On the second tube one now. No adhesive used. Cut a 1 1/2" round plug from 1/2" plywood. Drill and tap for your drain valve. Screw in the valve with a bit of varnish on the threads. Press the plug in the end of the plastic protector tube with a bit of varnish on the plug. Let it set up for a day. No leaks, transferred the plug to the new tube with a bit of varnish. Works fine for me. There has been over 70 rods done in this setup.  (Tony Spezio)

      So, how would that work? Would you fill the tube with varnish and lower the rod into it and when it was time to pull the rod out of the tube would you just drain the tube and leave the rod in the tube till it stops dripping and then mount it in the dryer?  (Shawn Hawkins)

        For those of us that do not have the luxury of a high enough ceiling to pull the rod from a varnish tube, we use the DRAIN tube. The tube is removed or tilted so that the rod can be inserted in the tube holding the varnish. In my case, I only have a 6.5' ceiling so I would not be able to draw the rod out of the tube without hitting the ceiling. The valve on the bottom of my tube is used to drain the varnish out of the tube at a rate of about 4" a minuet. I drain the varnish back into the original can.

        After the varnish is drained, the tube is tilted or taken out of the tube holder so that the rod can be removed and hung to dry.

        Some makers leave the rod in the tube to dry, it is a personal preference.  By "then mount it in the dryer" do you mean a rotating dryer like is used with graphite rods. That is not used in final varnishing of bamboo rods.  (Tony Spezio)

        FYI -- a 4' fluorescent light tube holds almost exactly 1 qt liquid.  When you're dipping, remember that the rod will displace liquid volume, and may cause a very full tube to overflow.  I've gotten into the habit of dipping the tips and mids before the butt, because on my first use, I filled the tube a little too full, and could not dip the full length without overflowing.  I ended up dipping the others first, and then doing the butt again.  I was worried that I'd get a varnish line, but it didn't happen -- I guess it was a combination of luck and enough thinner.  (Greg Kuntz)

          I kind of like the fact that I can see the liquid and the stick right through the tube without standing on my tippy-toes to make adjustments in the column and I know immediately if nothing is going awry or not.  (Dick Steinbach)

    I like the fluorescent tubes because they are cheap, and when at Lowes you can grab one and walk over to the plumbing aisle and find the right cap.

    What works best for me is to store the varnish in the can under Bloxygen. When it is time to dip I usually start with a clean tube and fill it carefully using a funnel so that no varnish gets near the cap. As soon as that dipping session is over, the varnish goes back in the can. Truth be told, I view those tubes as disposable after a week or two of use. This may sound wasteful, but it is easier for me to reach for a new tube than to spend hours polishing junk off the rod that came from bits of gelled varnish, dried drops that fell in, dust that fell off the rod, etc.  This approach gives me beautiful dips that don't require any fussing with polishing and touch ups. And of course I strain the varnish going each way. It is a pain, but in the long run it saves time. You can pay now, or you can pay later...

    Of course in all other aspects of my life I repair, reuse, and recycle just about everything. And I do try to dip several blanks in a session so that I only have do do this every couple months.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I was trying to build a drip tube and can't find the clear acrylic tube. Where does everyone else get their acrylic tube from. I looked online and they seem expensive, but read on Todd Talsma's site that they were cheap? If so where can i get them decently priced. Thanks. (Brandon Shepelak)

    The least expensive clear tube I have seen is the fluorescent tube covers. They are about $8 each at most larger Home Depot or Lowes. Should be either in the lighting or electrical section. Use PVC fittings with it, but glue with epoxy instead of pvc cement. I think I've read some folks cut a wooden plug for the bottom instead of a PVC fitting. I haven't tried it, only repeating what I've read. I have seen the tube covers at Home Depot, though. Clear PVC is very expensive.  (Rob Holland)

    I could only find mine at the local Ace Hardware. I looked at Lowes and Home Despot and neither place carried them. Others on the list have found them at both of those places though. To be fair, I found some at one local Ace, but not another. If you really have to you can order them online at Ace's web site or from other web sites that specialize in lighting. Tony Spezio was kind enough to give me two of them. Ace sold them for $2.99 a piece last I looked.  (Scott Bearden)

    I bought my first one from a local Electric Supply Company. It was 8' and the cost was 5.98. My second one came from Home Depot. They are called Florescent Tube Protectors. They come in 4' and 8'. If it were not for the shipping, I would be glad to send you a couple. My Electrician Son In law gave me a bunch of them this past summer. As for the plug, Cut a 1 1/2" plug from 1/2" plywood with a hole saw. It is a real snug fit in the tube. Drill out the center hole with a 5/16" drill bit. Screw in a 1/4" pipe lever type drain valve. The type that are used on radiators. It will cut it's own threads. I used a bit of varnish on the threads when it was screwed in. I have been using it for 9 years and it has not leaked. When you replace the tube, just cut around the plug, peel off the plastic and use it in the next tube. My first tube did over 50 rods.  (Tony Spezio)


The recommended tube for drain finishing seems to be a clear cover for fluorescent light bulbs. I looked for these at Home Depot over the weekend and found something like it, but it seemed smaller in diameter than I anticipated and it was a little more on the flimsy side than I anticipated.

Did I find the right thing? It lacked backbone, that's for sure and I estimate the diameter was only about 1.5 to 2 inches. How big are the ones people use?  (Greg Holland)

    That is the same one that I use.  I wish it was a little sturdier but I haven’t had a problem yet.  (Greg Reeves)

      I used 1.25" Sch. 40 for most of the dip tube.  The top six to eight inches is fitted with a coupling and the clear plastic tubes you describe.  Top off with Bloxygen and seal with a big rubber stopper, and your varnish will stay usable quite awhile.  (Harry Boyd)

        And, if you don't like the fact that the tubes are flimsy, you can substitute clear Sch 40 pipe. It is expensive, but not if you are only using a foot or so at the top.  (Larry Blan)

    Tony Spezio helped me out a lot on this one. He did a good article in Power Fibers about how he made his. I too, don't have the ceiling height nor the desire to drill into my foundation. I had a cheapie particle board book shelf/stand laying around that I can slide a gallon can underneath. I cut a "U" shape into it to accommodate the tube. I found all the pvc connectors and drain valve in the next isle over at Ace Hardware. I hold the tube in place with two screws on either side and stretch a small bungee cord across the tube. One benefit of the thinness of the tube is that you can gently squeeze  it to raise the varnish if you need to. That's another tip that Tony taught me. Tony had dripped a large number of rods in his first tube before it started to give way from the stress of squeezing it. They are so cheap that replacing it is an afterthought. Keep some paper towels and newspaper underneath the first time you run it. I had a little varnish leak out from where the pvc connector mated with the tube. After that first time it was sealed. It wasn't a big mess, just a few ounces of varnish.

    Sounds like you are coming along very well if you are getting ready to varnish.  (Scott Bearden)


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