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I am a simple man. I use a clear acrylic drain tube. No motor, wire, spools no nuttin!. Drain varnish, cover openings with a cloth. With a couple of clear tubes and the drains set for super slow I go in for dinner and watch some T.V.. No dust, no runs and if you want to get fancy a set of fluorescent lights dry it right up.

I always wonder why you would pull a perfectly good wet varnish blank out into the environment were all the shop gremlins are? Letting the blanks sit in the clear tube I can see if any runs occurs, bubbles or whatever.  Letting it dry in its tube is like keeping it in a "force field"

Acrylic tube from a plastic supplier $7 Drain from home depot $4, piece of mind...priceless  (Adam Vigil)  (this idea is original to D. Hayashida, thanks Darryl)

    I get a cap for the tube where  they sell the tube. I attach a pet cock valve (I think that is what it is called). I drain the varnish into the varnish can and then close it up. I reuse the varnish over and over again. The way I get my tube dust free is first when I got it it washed it out and ran a lot of water through it. I let the tube dry and inspected it for dust. Then keep it capped! both ends. When the rod is ready to finish I take the top cap off, put on the bottom cap with the valve and fasten with a hose clamp. I then pour in the strained varnish into the tube.  Put the cap back on top and let all the bubble come to the top. I set up the tips or butt on  plastic cut outs to keep it from touching the sides. Now you can either lower the sections into the tube with a little string and eye hook or you can stand on a ladder and insert the sections. I have the sections attached to a dowel and string. The dowel rest on top of the tube and the string to the section. You can then unroll the string from the dowel to lower the section to exactly the level of varnish you desire and I then masking tape the dowel and string so it can no longer advance. I cover the top of the tube with a cloth or newspaper to keep dust out. I open the valve at the bottom and let the varnish drain into the container. I use to stop at every guide and wait. I no longer do so, it is unnecessary. Since you can see exactly how slow the varnish is moving I set the drain to go very slow about 2" per minute. This allows the varnish plenty of time to catch up over the guides.  After dinner and TV I then check on the sections when it is done I take off the hose clamp holding the cap and valve and put it into mineral spirits. I then put a sock over the bottom hole to keep dust out. The rods sections dry undisturbed. If need be  have more then one tube and use the same varnish. You can actually have 2 tips in one tube and a butt in  another drying at the same time.

    Some of this I figured out for myself the rest I learned from the list.  For this reason I am here to stay through the good and the bad.  (Adam Vigil)


I like Darryl Hayashida's idea of draining the varnish out vs. pulling of the rods.  Since the varnish will drain out, I assume one would want to dip more than one section at a time. So what diameter. tubes are people using? How much varnish does one of these things hold? Must be a big can to catch it all?

I use a 2 in. OD PVC pipe. 50 inches long holds a gallon of varnish.  Pour the varnish in the pipe, use the can you just emptied to catch it as it drains.

Would the ability to strip the unit down for cleaning be worth the effort or do most people just flush with a solvent after each

I tape a rag around the top of the pipe to keep dust out, and let the varnish set up inside the tube without removing the section. Instant dust free clean room. To make sure my valve doesn't clog, I pour some mineral spirits in a coffee can and submerge the valve in it from the outside of the tube. Use some scrap wood under the can to prop it up and let the valve sit in the solvent. There is some varnish that builds up on the inside of the tube, but it will be a long time before it gets in the way, and besides, it's only a couple of dollars to replace the pipe.

Lately I've been using a pipe with a hole drilled in the end cap. A 3/16ths hole drains at about the right rate. sometimes it's clogged after a section is done, all you have to do is drill it out again for the next time.

Has anyone tried using some "canned" air for cleaning off guides etc. after dipping?

Don't see why it wouldn't work, except its hard to get to all the guides if you use the drain tube method.

Is there a FAQ for constructing a dip tube somewhere? I didn't see one.

Wayne's book has a good  description on how he made his dip tube.  (Darryl Hayashida)


For some unknown reason I'm getting a resurgence of interest in the "drip dip tube" with several people contacting me via private email asking questions about it. I have no idea about what stirred up the pot all of a sudden, but if there is interest in it, I thought I would post some of my improvements.

The original post is in the archives under September 1995

I have since reduced the "drip tube" since I posted the description to not even using a valve at all. I drilled a 3/16 hole in the bottom cap and got a cork that fits. Put the cork in, fill the tube (use a paint strainer), position your rod - for me it's a blank, I don't varnish my rods with the guides on.  As a matter of fact this method isn't too good for varnishing with guides on since you have to stop and let the varnish drain off the guides as they come out of the varnish.  Put your varnish can under the tube, and pull the cork.

The drain rate is entirely dependent on the viscosity of your varnish (some of them tend to be fairly thick), and the size of the hole you drill. Some experimentation is required. I have found the slower the drain rate, the better. I am operating in the one to two inches per minute range right now.

When the varnish has drained completely, drape a rag over the top of the tube, and let your rod set up in the tube. This keeps dust off.  Remember to cover your can of varnish also, otherwise it will skin over and you will have solid pieces the next time that will clog the hole. Putting a few drops of paint thinner on the top of your varnish helps also.

I also use a smaller in diameter PVC pipe now. A 45 inch long, 2 inch in diameter pipe takes almost a whole gallon of varnish to fill. A 1 inch in diameter pipe takes about a third of that, so you can buy a couple quarts of varnish instead of a whole gallon.

This is a very cost effective, space saving way to get a professional looking finish.

Another trick that will help - after your varnish is thoroughly hardened, buff it with some Turtle wax Polishing compound. The same stuff they use on cars. As varnish hardens it leaves a haze on the surface. The polishing compound takes off the haze and really makes the varnish shine.

Let me go out on a limb and say drain rate doesn't matter. As long as it's reasonable, and you are finishing a blank - not a rod with the guides on.  With a rod with the guides on go as slow as possible, 1 to 2" per minute at the top. That gives plenty of time for the varnish to drip off of the guides as the varnish drains.

I think because I let the varnish set up inside the tube, and since it's enclosed, the varnish takes a lot longer to set up, giving it time to level out.

One thing that  helps viscosity control is adding thinner.  Slower drain rates because of colder temperatures doesn't seem to matter either.  But living in Southern California I don't get really cold temperatures as others might .

Filtering the varnish is a must. The drain hole will clog if you don't.

I'm happy you are getting good results with this method.  The best feature? A professional finish and spending only about $30 including varnish.  (Darryl Hayashida)

    I've run oh a dozen or more trials with the Sir D Dip, and ran into most of the problems you and others have mentioned.  To avoid "kissing" where the blank snugs up against the side of the tube, I constructed a frame that holds the tube perfectly vertical, then I carved a plug to fit in the top of the tube.  The plug spans the top of the tube like a spoke in a wheel, but does not cover it.  In the center is a hole in which fits a dowel.  The other end of the dowel is inserted in the female end of the ferrule mounted on the section being dipped.  This holds the section rigidly centered in the tube.  For the female section, the ferrule end is inserted directly into the plug.  Same effect.  There are other solutions including using copper pipe ((PVC is cheap), or a bigger diameter tube (silly, requires too much varnish), or attaching "stars" at the end of the section being dipped to prevent "kissing" (works well too, but I found the above method easier).

    The other problem is mastering the drain rate.  This turned out to be very interesting.  First, different brands of varnish vary enormously in their viscosity, and this really surprised me.  Some sure, but I found huge differences as they effected drain rates.

    More interesting, was the discovery that temp. also had a surprisingly big effect.  A perfect drain rate at 80 degrees. was entirely too slow when the same varnish was at 65, or example.  So now I dip with everything at 80 degrees, varnish, tube, rod, and room.  Without controlling temp you won't be able to control the drain rate quite as easily.

    Finally, the other feature I found regardless of the temp. I was working at, is that the drain rates vary widely depending on how much varnish is in the tube, which makes sense when you think about it.  Varnish is heavy. Basically the first 25" of the tube might drain at 4"/minute, while the last 25" at 1"/minute.  This variation was a huge surprise to me.  So, I tried various methods to slow the drain rate on the upper section.  You can and it's a big pain in the butt, because it's messy and guess what -- it doesn't seem to matter at all.  With a 4"/minute drain on the upper section, and 1" on the lower I got perfect results -- a nice blemish free light coat of varnish, and a much unexpected set of lessons in a whole mess of stuff.

    Also I'm now filtering the varnish as it is poured into the tube.  And, I built the fame holding the tube with space under it to hold a plastic bucket.  Cleaning up a half qt of spilled varnish on carpeting is not fun, but curiously now that it's dried you can hardly tell, just a little stiffness. Hope that helps, Bob.

    PS: The appropriate size of the hole?  Try some and quickly you'll find one to suit your varnish and situation.  (Bob Milardo)


I  used my  newly built  drip tube  (based on posts by other builders -- thanks) for the  first time  last night and it worked great!! (Of course, I've only done one coat --and that one is still drying -- but the logistics were very satisfactory.)

For the benefit of other newbies, here's what I did... I bought two clear plastic 1 1/4" diameter 8-foot florescent lamp protectors and cut them both so that they are 5 feet long. I purchased two PVC valves (also 1 1/4" diameter) and glued one to the bottom of each protector tube using PVC glue. I taped the two tubes side by side and then wrapped the dual-tube setup with the wire from an electric blanket. Even with the tape and wire, it will be plenty easy to see the level of the varnish inside the tubes. Finally, I mounted the tubes to a 6-foot by 10-inch by 1-inch piece of plywood such that I could support the tubes vertically by placing the plywood in my bench vise. The tubes were mounted such that the valves hang beneath the plywood, leaving about 1.5 feet of plywood above the top of the tubes.

I bought one gallon of Pratt & Lambert Varmor R10 varnish and poured it into an empty milk jug (careful -- might want to use a mason jar and a funnel to do this). Using a funnel, I poured the varnish from the jug into one of the tubes (valve was closed of course) and then placed the jug and funnel directly beneath the valve and adjusted the position of the plywood support in the vise such that the bottom of the valve is inside the funnel (to prevent the varnish from getting dirty or dried out). It took almost the entire gallon to fill one tube.

I turned the electric blanket on high (it was cold in my garage last night) and let everything sit for about two hours to reach heat equilibrium. Then, I attached a long piece of binding thread to the top of the blank and carefully lowered the blank into the varnish, using masking tape and pins at the top and bottom of the blank to keep it from touching the edges of the tube. Once the blank was in position, I affixed the thread to the top of the plywood support and carefully opened the valve. It took a steady hand, but I was able to control the flow of the varnish such that it dripped out at a rate of about an inch or two per minute. My understanding is that the key is to drain the varnish such that there is no visible meniscus (is that right?). I intermittently checked the flow of the varnish and made adjustments to the valve aperture to keep the flow rate relatively constant.

Once the varnish had passed beneath the bottom of the blank, I further opened the valve to completely empty the tube and then put the varnish away. Then I mounted a coffee can beneath the valve such that the top of the  can was above the level of the valve. I filled the can with mineral spirits and repeatedly opened and closed the valve and sloshed the spirits around to clean the PVC valve. After cleaning, I left the valve completely open and placed the empty coffee can beneath it to catch any last drops of slow-draining varnish.

I left the electric blanket on (although I did turn it down a bit) to facilitate drying and the blank is still sitting in there, free of dust, as I write this. In case you're wondering, since the drip machine has two tubes, I can repeat the process in the second tube while the first blank dries.  (Steve Zimmerman)


I found a simple way to construct drain tubes for finishing.

For the tube, use the plastic tubes that protect fluorescent bulbs from shattering. You can find them right next to the bulbs in the electric aisle. They are about 1 1/4 inches in diameter.

For the base of the tube you need a 1/2 x 1 PVC 90 degree elbow, with threads on the 1/2 inch opening. The one I found at Lowes was numbered 1 x 1/2 Lasco schedule 40 D2466. This fits up inside the plastic tube and can be held in place with epoxy. It even has a somewhat squared base that allows it to sit properly on a shelf.

The next part is a Questpex 3/8 barb x 1/2 MPT brass male adapter. You screw it into the PVC elbow. Also found this at Lowes in the same aisle. Questpex part number is QQMC23XPK1.

This gives you very nice base to attach a flexible plastic tube that leads to your storage container. You just push it on over the barb. You have all seen these connections on fish tank air lines.

The last thing is to determine how you want to control the flow. You could squash the tubing with a clamp, but I cut the plastic tubing in half and mounted a brass needle valve. I should be able to pop the valve off after each use and store it in a jar of mineral spirits to keep it from clogging. The needle valve I found had compression fittings on both ends so I mounted little pieces of copper pipe on the thing and just pushed the plastic tubing on over the copper tubing. The needle valve was in the same aisle as the other stuff.

I wish I had a digital camera, but when you hold the tube, elbow, and adaptor in your hand the whole thing becomes self-explanatory. And it was cheap. I arrived at this solution by accident after playing with a bunch of pvc parts for about two hours. By having a 90 degree exit, the drain tube can sit on any flat surface.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


The drip tube is a great technique for finishing rods, but the name drip tube is  all telling. If you are anything like me I drip the varnish everywhere. What I have done to solve the problem and it works great is two things. First I place my varnish in a large plastic squeeze bottle with a  pointed top. It is kind of like those you find in a restaurant that is used for ketchup. The second thing is I use plastic tubing and connect it to the drain valve. Now I no longer need a funnel and the varnish is never exposed to the outside air in pouring. I simply squeeze the varnish into the tube while the rod is in it.  I then place the same bottle at the drain end and place the tubing inside the squeeze bottle and open the drain. I cover the opening of the bottle  with the tube with masking tape to keep dust out. Once the varnish has drained out into the bottle I remove the tube, squeeze out the air and place a cap over the opening. Now it is ready for storage and has no air exposure. Don't forget to clean the squeeze cap and tube with mineral spirits so they are ready for next time.  I have found this to be the simplest and cleanest way in using my drip tube.  (Adam Vigil)

    So just how long have you been storing your varnish in a plastic bottle? Most plastics are porous to gases including oxygen so I would expect that no matter how tight you seal her up the varnish is going to go bad sooner than in a glass or metal container. There are some plastic storage containers that don't pass gas and are made for storing photo chemicals but I doubt these use that formulation.  (Larry Puckett)

      About 6 months now. If it starts to gel I will store it in the can again. But I will still use it to add the finish to the tube. No Mess.  (Adam Vigil)


I recently made a crude attempt at making a drip tube from clear florescent light tube protector and PVC end reducer with brass hardware.  I used a 1/4" valve for my tube.

I am not pleased with the job my limited supply of 5 minute epoxy performed, any suggestions for alternative adhesive?  also what type or container do you store your spar varnish in?  wont the drip process introduce a lot of air in the varnish?  as  crude as mine turned out I am pleased with the initial results just concerned that a weak glue joint might end in a minor  disaster.  (Jim Macy)

    I use a tight fitting plywood  plug cut with a hole saw in my tubes. I just apply a bit of varnish around the edge and push it in the tube. Have done this on several tubes. The brass drain valve is screwed into the plywood plug.  Have not had a leak in the nine years I have been using the Drain Tubes..

    I drain into the original can and try to keep as much air out of the varnish as possible by pouring slow into the tube. The varnish will eventually gel in the can. I have not tried Blo Ox

    I can't find it in this rural area and am too cheap to pay shipping for a can.  (Tony Spezio)

      I understand that a lot of liquor stores that have a large wine section carry a product that is the same as Bloxygen but for the life of me I can't remember what it's called LOL. Creeping senility strikes again!  (Will Price)

    I don't use and I haven't built a drip tube system yet but, wouldn't a piece of hose attached to the valve extending into the bottom of the catch can (leaving a inch or so of varnish in the can to start with)  reduce the exposure to the air?  Just a thought.  (Mike Monsos)

      Pouring the varnish in the tube through a funnel and filter causes more air to enter the varnish than when draining it.  (Tony Spezio)


I'm building a drip tube using PVC pipe. I'm concerns about dust on the interior surface of the pipe... PVC generating as much static as it seems to. Does anyone have a suggestion for cleaning the interior of the pipe? Is a damp microfiber rag sufficient?  (Pete Bates)

    Just give it a flush with mineral spirits before use, and cap it with a plastic baggie and a rubber band when you're done with it.  (Mark Wendt)


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