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I got the drips.  On my rod that is.  Er...well, I mean I'm getting runs and sags on my rod sections from my drip tube. What can I do?


  • I'm using Varathane Premium Polyurethane (oil based) #90 (full strength - should I thin it?)
  • I'm draining the tube at 1" a minute (very slowly).
  • The varnish is pretty warm before and during draining (at least 70 degrees, but probably warmer).
  • The runs and sags are happening on Butt, mid and tip sections of the three rods I've given a first coat to.

I think those are the relevant details.  What can I do?  It's not bad having runs on the first coat as I will be sanding it all but off the rod section. However, I don't want this to happen after I wrap the rod and dip the final coat(s).

I've read up in the archives and think I'm following the trail set by many of you (except the thinning - which I'm not sure what to thin with and by how much - if this is the problem).  (Scott Turner)

    This is something I can't answer. I have done over 70 rods in drain tubes and have yet to get a run or a bad finish.

    I have only drained one rod without the guides. I drain at about 4" a minuet, stop at the bottom of  each wrap and guide to let the residual varnish drain off. If this is not done, there will be runs. You are not draining with guides so that would not pertain to your problem. I watch the ring of varnish on the tube wall, I make it a point not to drain the varnish faster than the ring of varnish on the tube wall. I wonder if maybe you are draining too slow, I have never drained that slow. I don't thin my varnish at all, it is used right from the can. When it starts to thicken, I discard it or thin it for other projects, I feel I got my use from it. I use Helmsman High Gloss Urethane. All I can tell you at this point, try a scrap stick draining the varnish about 4" a minute.

    Wish I could help you more, I have not had any problems at all.

    I am still thankful to the list member that first mentioned draining varnish on the list. It solved a lot of problems for me.  (Tony Spezio)

    How long do you leave it in  the tube after it has finished draining? I take my rods out straight way if it is warm, as the solvent vapors in the tube seem to cause the varnish to keep draining off the rod. When I take the rod out promptly, the solvent evaporates in the fresh air, and the varnish 'sets up' without getting the sags and thin film on the flats.  (Dave Kennedy)

      This is the exact same problem that I was experiencing.  I would leave the sections in the tube overnight with a heater to speed up the drying process. Well needless to say it took me about a month to realize (after countless re-dips and a lot of cursing) that whatever vapors were being built up in the tube were causing the varnish to continue sliding right off the sections.

      So right after draining, the sections go into my drying cabinet immediately.  (Robert Cristant)

        As soon as I drain the varnish, I remove the rod section. On my first rod section done in the tube, I left it in the tube till the next day. When I removed it, the varnish was still soft. The next section was removed after the varnish was drained. I have gone that way ever since. To keep the section from hitting the sides of the tube when I extract it, I used quilt pins stuck in the masking tape that wrapped the ferrule or tip top, now I use a short length of graphite rod with two toothpicks stuck through it to form an "X".

        The toothpicks are cut off just long enough to fit in the tube keeping the rod section centered. When extracting the rod section, this keeps the section centered, all you have to do is keep the upper part from touching the tube walls as you extract. This is what I do. I have a step stool, get on the stool, tilt the tube with the bottom on the floor and slowly extract the rod section.

        Hold the tube between my knees so  that it don't fall on the floor when the end of the rod section comes out. I need the other hand to catch the graphite rig on the bottom of the section to keep the section from swinging. The section is hung on a hook above me. I do two tip sections at the same time. They are held apart by a spacer at the ferrules. It is a piece of 1/8" ply with two holes in it and just fits into the top of the tube. There is a hanging string through the spacer. The guides are lined up with one another so that only one stop has to me made at each wrap and guide. The butt section is done by itself unless I am doing a three piece rod. After I hang up all the sections, I leave the room slowly shut the door and don't go back till the next day. I have no place to put a drying cabinet.

        I find the tube economical, did 52 rods before replacing it. The reason for replacement was a crack down low in the tube. The crack developed from squeezing the tube. When a section is put in the tube, I leave about 1/4" of space between the varnish and wrap. The tube is then squeezed to raise the varnish to the wrap, I have complete control of where I want the varnish to stop and can recede the varnish at what ever speed I want back to the level I started with.

        This may not be a piece of cake for all but it works for me. I keep improving little things as I go along, I don't think there is much more I can do with it. BTW, I have never cleaned the tube. Was still able to see the rod and guides on the first one when I discarded it. (Tony Spezio)

          I've been using a drain tube for about 5 years, Tony Spezio was my main mentor.  My tube is attached to a lightweight wooden frame and is portable. After varnish is drained, I take it outside onto the deck, I stand on a chair (I'm 6'2") and extract the section.  I leave the pins and tape on and insert the section into an identical clean tube, tape the monofilament string to the top of the tube and cover both ends with a piece of pantyhose secured with rubber bands and store inside at room temp. in an upright position for 48 hours.  I never had a problem with runs or sags.  During warm weather, the whole operation is performed outside on the deck.  (Ed Riddle)

    Many of you have pointed at how long I'm keeping the section in the drip tube.  I have been keeping it in there after draining for 24 or more hours with a nylon on top of the tube to keep dust out and the valve open on the bottom (after soaking the valve in mineral spirits - by lifting a full can over the valve). 

    So I have a couple of possible solutions I'll try out.

    1. Remove the sections after draining the varnish (I also use a toothpick "cross" at the bottom to keep the sections from hitting the edge of the drain tube - per Tony S.).

    2. Slightly thin the varnish 10-20%

    3. More warmth for the varnish

    4. Faster withdrawal

    I think that #1 coupled with #2 and 3 are the solutions.  I'll report once I've tried it out. 

    To answer a couple of other questions noted:

    • I don't wrap the ferrules (or guides) until the final coating.
    • I'll stop the draining after all wraps on my final coat.  (Scott Turner)
    • One thing I did not mention.

      I set the thermostat in the room for 80 degrees F at least a day before I start varnishing. Everything I will use for varnishing including the rod sections are in the room for that period. That starts out with everything at the same temp. In the summer time, that room might get up to 90 degrees F as it has two big windows facing east. It stays at a constant temp till the sections are dry. I think this helps.  (Tony Spezio)

I used a drain tube for a while, but abandoned it for a better dipping cabinet, or brushing for long one piece rods.

    • Thin your varnish by 10 %. Check out the label on the can, and go with what they recommend.
    • Although there was a recent thread that suggested that turpentine may be better for thinning.
    • 70 degrees, in my opinion, is not that warm. If you could get things warmer it might flow better.
    • You don't have the guides on the blank, but is the ferrule wrapped? The ferrule wrap can hold a lot of varnish, and it can easily cause a run if you don't pause during draining.

One of the challenges with drain tubes is to get the rod to dry. Some take the rod out of the tube and hang it in a cabinet, and keep the rod from touching the sides with a little contraption on the tiptop. Others let it dry in the tube, but you have to have air flow. Open at the bottom, and a sock or coffee filter over the top to keep out dust. I bring this up because I once had a run when I tipped the tube to extract the rod, and it was still wet. The point is that I think that extremely slow drying can exacerbate problems with runs. The varnish does not dry, and sooner or later gravity takes effect and things start to slide. I have no scientific basis for this, it just seemed like I had more problems when things were cold compared to when they were warm.

The extraction rate could make a difference. I once tried a very slow extraction rate, and actually got more varnish on the rod than with a faster rate. If you had a LOT of thick varnish adhering to the rod the finish could break, then sag. Especially if it were cold and it isn't drying quickly enough.

I think that things will be fine once you thin it a bit, and drain a bit faster.   (Jeff Schaeffer)


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