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With this talk about drain tubes and bubbles, I thought I would put my .02 worth in. To get the bubbles out from my tube I just run a hair dryer at  medium heat up and down the tube. The bubbles rapidly move to the surface and burst. If I get a guide that seems to take too long for the film to break, I use the hair dryer again. Just warm the area of the tube where the guide is and it will pop.  (Tony Spezio)


I need to find out how much varnish fits into my dip tube (before I buy it). Is the formula  to  work  out  the  inside  area  of  a  pipe.  3.142  x half the inside diameter squared  x  height of pipe? what does this give me? Is it cubic centimeters and how do I then convert it into milliliters?

I spent most of yesterday evening trying to find a book with the formula in it, but to no avail.

Has anybody had any experience with Epiphanies boat varnish? Can I use it in a drip tube setup?  (Stuart Moultrie)

    The calculation for the volume of a cylinder is (Pi x r ^2)h.  The units are whatever you measured the radius (half the diameter) in.  Just make sure you measure the INSIDE radius of the pipe.  To convert from cm3 to ml multiply by 1.  They are the same.

    I'm not familiar with that varnish though.  (Dennis Haftel)

    Although PVC pipe has slightly different tolerances then steel the following is still pretty close:

    2" Sch 40 (std wt) .174 gal per foot of length
    2" Sch 80 (XS)     .154      - do -
    2 1/2" Sch 40      .248      - do -
    2 1/2" Sch 80      .220      - do -
    3"     Sch 40      .384      - do -
    3"     Sch 80      .344      - do -
    4"     Sch 40      .661      - do -
    4"     Sch 80      .597      - do -

    All pipe is referenced by "nominal size" which means, in effect, forget all you ever knew about sizing. A 2" pipe is actually 2 3/8" OD Its ID will vary according to its wall thickness and the tolerance. applied to it. The above should cover PVC readily obtainable at "do-it to-it" home supply places. If you need more information on other sizes I  can furnish them. (Jack Tucker)


I was dripping some blanks last night and realized that I am sick of making a mess while transferring varnish from paint-style cans to the drip tube.  Even with funnels, paint cans drip and spill when you pour things from them!

What do you drippers keep your varnish in?  How about a 2L plastic bottle?  Will it disintegrate?  There's gotta be a better way than varnish/paint-style cans!  (Joe West)

    With your address, I'd have thought you'd come up with this idea on your  own!  Put  it  into  photochemical  bottles.  The accordion-type ones so you can eliminate the air without resorting to $10 worth of Bloxygen. They come in 1/2 gal size, don't they?  (Art Port)

      You've nailed me dead to rights, I gave up on the darkroom years ago and have been all digital for a long time.

      If I never have to smell stop bath again it will be too soon (though it does smell a great deal like Buffalo chicken wings...hmmmm?)

      The accordion is a great idea.  For me, it is the pouring that is the pain.  Perhaps you and the other handymen on the list know something I don't about pouring things without spilling them?  (Joe West)

        Nope. I use a dip tank and NEVER empty it.

        A leetle Blox, a leetle cap, a leetle seltzah down yer pants! I fashioned a sliding mount for my "puller" so that the unit collapses to about 6 1/2' for storing and sets up in my basement stairway (about 13' headway there) when I'm dipping. The rack slides up in a slot on the back of the 6' high base, I plug in the heater wrapped around the 1 1/2" PVC tube, and an hour or so later I'm in business.

        Anyway, you're supposed to be straining that goop occasionally, no? So go to an Odd-Lot store and pick up a couple of cheap funnels that'll hold the strainers you get at the paint store. Then you can pour like a slob and not worry about anything!  (Art Port)

    First, you can't use just any old plastic bottle since most are not impervious to air. You have to get bottles that are truly airtight. That means either the photo chemical storage containers or other chemical storage bottles. However, if you go to your paint store and ask for the no-drip lip attachment for your varnish cans it will make using them a lot easier. These are plastic and clip onto the metal can preventing all that nasty spillage. I think they even sell them at Home Depot  (Larry Puckett)

      No drip lip attachment, that is what I use.  Not perfect, but a huge improvement.  (Robert Cristant)


I tried doing a 2.5 hour drip - looks really good, but NO better than 1 hour drip that I can see.  This was with unthinned Helmsman.  (Joe West)


If you do drip tubing and like to dry the rod section in the tube, PLEASE don't forget that the varnish will run slowly down the sides and pool at the bottom of the tank.  Therefore, when varnishing LONG sections that touch or almost touch the bottom, you MUST extract them within a few hours.  Otherwise, you run the risk of the varnish pooling enough to run up the rod.  Had this happen and it was a real pain to have to fix the resultant mess on the bottom 3 inches of my rod.  (Joe West)


I'm in the process of finishing my 1st rod in a drain tube. 

Results so far:

A drain tube with a 1/4 turn ball valve is very easy to control and the drain tube eliminates the problems of storing a tube full of varnish.  How does it look?  Ehh, wipe on finish looks better so far.  Trial and error I suppose. 

Question:  Part of my problem appears to be that the varnish is a bit too thick.  Should I thin out the varnish a bit?  (Lee Orr)

    I use Minwax spar varnish in a dip tube which I thin with 10% mineral spirits and get great results.  (Al Baldauski)


I have a problem with my drain coating. The coating has been drying with a haze over it that feels gritty when you rub your finger over it. I'm using Helmsman spar urethane satin finish. When I pour the varnish into the tube I pour it thru a piece of cheese cloth and wait for the bubbles to rise and dissipate before I start to drain. The same varnish if I brush it on everything is fine. Any suggestions?  (Jim Tefft)

    Satin finish is just varnish with inert silica powder (extra fine sand) added. Perhaps the brush puts on a thicker coat so the particles are entirely covered and the drip tube leaves a thinner coat and exposed particles?  (Darryl Hayashida)


I was wondering what those of you who use florescent bulb tubes for dip/drip tubes use to warm your varnish? I have a single burner hot plate that I can use to heat it in the can but I was hoping I could seal the tube with one of the black rubber stoppers Harry suggested with a little Bloxygen sprayed in to store the varnish in as well. Apparently Harry has had good results with this type of storage. I was thinking of a strip heater used to wrap pipes with but was concerned with temperature. Input again appreciated. (Wayne Kifer)

    I put the tube in my drying cabinet @ 80 degrees for about an hour before dipping.  (Ron Larsen)

    The best way I've found to warm the varnish in my dip tube is to simply store the tube in the warm part of my house for a day or two before use. This brings the varnish to approximately 70 degree F which is about what I like. It's also about as simple as it gets, and should give you consistency from dip to dip. As for keeping the varnish from scumming over, I've found my best method is to simply fill the tube to a very high level during storage. Later when I'm going to dip another rod I simply remove and discard enough varnish to prevent spill. This simple method of filling the varnish to the top of the tube is no different then what the manufacture does to prevent scumming over when filling a can of varnish.  (Jim Bureau)

    That is what I use. I bought a heat strip which is for pipes in the winter. I wrap the length of the tube, then turn on. To check the temp, I just stick a thermometer in the top. I had problems when I went too warm so now I try to stick to no more than 90 degrees and usually a bit lower. (note: My setup takes may be 20 minutes to heat up no more. My basement rarely gets below 60 degrees even in winter. In summer I'm not as concerned with the heater.

    (the problem I had was that the second coat wrinkled the undercoat and I had to start over. When I either waited 2 days between coats or stopped at a little below 90 degrees that problem went away so I just stick to about 90 now and one coat a day. I just switched to MOW though and since it is a lot slower drying than Poly, I'm a little gun shy of dipping every day. My last rod, I did wait 2 days between dips. Maybe I didn't have to? It was dry to the touch in a day, but pretty soft. My drying area which is close to 100 degrees, but I still didn't push it.  (Martin Jensen)


I recently built a drip tube utilizing a 48" fluorescent light tube protector from Home Depot, And I was wondering approximately how much varnish it would require?  What are your opinions regarding Pratt and Lambert #61 Varnish? I have stripped some fly rods from South Bend and Montague, and added modern components.  (Ron Delesky)

    What is the ID of the tube. I made one about 5 ft long and it was 1& 1/2" ID. it took most of 1/2 gal to fill. I just replaced it and built one with 1& 1/4 ID and it took almost the same amount. Just under 1/2 gal.  (Martin Jensen)

    I use a very similar container.  Mine is about 54" long, but the varnish depth is only about 50".  It will take about 1 2/3 to 1 3/4 quarts of varnish to fill it.

    I've never used P&L #61, but hear good things about it.  (Harry Boyd)

      Is that the Satin? I used Pratt & Lambert R-10 which was high gloss. Loved it but you couldn't feather in bad spots very well. On the other hand, I just switched to MOW (Man o' War Spar) and while I can feather in spots a bit better, it seems that I have more sport which require it. I'm wondering if it's because the varnish takes so long to dry. The P&L seemed to dry to the touch in just a few hours.  (Martin Jensen)

      You know this is only slightly related but it does have to do with tubes so here goes. My first tube was 1 &1/2 in in diameter. I found that I couldn't fill it up to the top because then it would over run when the rod was dropped (especially the butt section) down into the varnish. When I dipped the tip section the varnish was so far down in the tube (had to make room for the larger butt section) that it was hard for me to see into the tube as I pulled out. What I did was solder a 3 in diameter piece of tube onto just the top part so it was a larger diameter for just the top 2 inches. It made it a lot easier to see the rod as as I was able to add varnish back up high in the tube and it didn't vary as much in level with the larger diameter. I dip the rod sections with the guides on, that's why I like to see in the varnish as I pull the rod out.  (Martin Jensen)

        Check Wayne Cattanach's book. He solved this problem years ago.  (Steve Weiss)

    I think the tubes are about 1 1/4" diameter so the volume will be (1.252/4)(48) = 18.75 cubic inches, or 307 ml which is about 1/3 of a quart.  (Mark Shamburg)

      Out of school for a week and already loosing my mind... I forgot pi.

      That should be roughly a quart. (Mark Shamburg)

    Let me tell you secret trick once shared on the list by Mr. Moon (I believe).

    1) Build your tube.

    2) Take a measuring cup and fill the tube with water.

    3) Remember how many cups/ounces it took.

    4) Go to hardware store and buy that much varnish.  (Mike Shay)

      Use thinner, a new tube needs to be washed out anyway!  (David Dziadosz)

        A note on using thinner with Pratt & Lambert varnish. I was using Pratt & Lambert R-10 Varmor and I wanted to thin it a little so I added regular paint thinner. It turned it a little cloudy. I wouldn't use it again. I mean I dipped one section and there was no noticeable difference but it's probably only because I'm blind...

        I read earlier in a different post about what type of thinner to use for this stuff but I don't remember. I would do a little investigating before I used varnish followed by Pratt & Lambert Polyurethane varnish.   (Martin Jensen)

        If you are using the fluorescent protector tubes, be more than a little wary about filling them with any sort of solvent before you add varnish.  The tubes are not nearly so solvent resistant as PVC.  Ask me how I learned that, huh?

        And if you're going to add water, do it before you glue on the bottom cap.  Otherwise it'll take two weeks to get all the water out of the tube.  Learned that one the hard way too.  (Harry Boyd)

          Sorry about this but I could never see the reason/logic to use fluorescent protector tubes for dip tubes. They are fragile, PVC fittings may or may not fit properly, solvents can cause them to fail, adhesives can cause failure. They are inexpensive, however rather than take the chance and have 2 quarts of finish on my shop floor I'll spend the few, very few, additional dollars and use Schedule 40 PVC with the proper fittings, primer and adhesive.

          Even if I didn't have the room for a dip tube and had to use a drip tube I'd sacrifice the "see through" and still use PVC.

          With the varnish at the correct temp, thinned properly for your conditions, draining the varnish or pulling the section at a slow enough rate you don't need to be able to see through the tube.

          Why take the chance?  (Don Schneider)

            I'm inclined to agree, Don, but don't forget that it also possible to purchase clear PVC. It is a bit more expensive than then the imported stuff at the big box stores, but it is certainly possible to use a short section at the top, where I assume it counts.  (Larry Blan)

        Yes, of course, the tube needs to be cleaned and water needs to be removed. The point was simply...figuring out how much varnish to buy is not a really difficult thing requiring a lot of thought unless you're just trying to kill an afternoon.  (Mike Shay)

          My set up holds a little less than one quart. The remaining goes into small bottles for wraps and topping off the dip tube.  (David Dziadosz)

    In cubic inches:

    Volume =  {(radius of the tube)squared} times (height of the tube) times 3.14159

                where: the radius is 1/2 of the diameter.

    If the tube is 1 1/2" inches in diameter and 48" high:

    Volume = (3/4 x 3/4) * 48 * 3.14159

               = 84.82 cubic inches

    Since: 1 cubic inch = 0.017316 quart [US, liquid]

    Volume = 1.47 quarts

    You can play with the online converter here if you want different units.  (Rich Margiotta)


I'm struggling to get the viscosity of Varmor R10 right in my drain tubes.  I've been heating the varnish to thin it.  That's a problem because the exposed rod section is subjected to the same heat as the submerged portion and tends to run since it's enclosed in the drain tube.  I'm considering thinning it with mineral spirits and using the varnish at 70 to 75 degrees.  But how much should I thin it?  I just finished a simple viscosity test by heating the varnish.  I compared the viscosity at 73 degrees to other temperatures.  The varnish is 18 percent thinner at 80 degrees, 24% at 85 degrees and 30% at 95 degrees.  I'm considering thinning it 24% to match the 85 degree point.  But that's just a guess.

For those of you that are using Varmor R10.  Do you heat the varnish to thin it?  If so, to what temperature?  If you thin it with mineral spirits, by what ratio?  (David Bolin)

    I've tried thinning Varmor R-10 with mineral spirits, with turps, and with Penetrol. While all of them thinned the Varmor, all of them caused the varnish to gel prematurely.

    My advice would be to thin it by warming but NOT by adding a thinner.  (Winston Binney)

      I have my Varmor in a dip tube. I thin with turps because it makes the rod smell good coming out of the tube. The same varnish has been in the tube for a couple of years. When I add varnish to the tube I add varnish thinned with turps. I can't remember why I changed varnish the last time. I been doing it this way for a long time and had a can once that gelled but never in my dip tube. I also use Bloxygen.  (Dave Norling)

    Viscosity varies as a power of the dilution, I don’t remember if its squared or cubed.  But I can tell you that a very small dilution will change your viscosity hugely.  Every solvent will behave differently as far as viscosity goes depending on how reactive it is with the dissolved solids and/or other solvents, so you have to experiment to get the right results.   I’d guess that a dilution of 5% or less will get you in the ballpark.  Most varnished, today, are thinned with a significant amount of mineral spirits.

    As far as gelling is concerned:  I think some of the conclusions about gelling are not attributed to the right factor.  I’ve used helmsman Poly spar exclusively and when I had to dilute the “old” formulation, I had it in my dip tube for three years before it started to gel.  Gelling is a function of how much oxygen is absorbed by the varnish over how much time.

    When the concentration of O2 get high enough gellation begins.  Tests conducted on small samples have a relatively large amount of airspace over the varnish contributing a proportionally larger amount of O2 to the varnish compared to a dip tube.  Additionally, when you thin the varnish you make the molecules more mobile so they can react quicker and form a gel.

    So,  I assume you used your drain tube as a viscosimeter.  You can use a small plastic bottle with a small hole drilled in the bottom for smaller quantities to evaluated solvent additions until you get the same drain time as the varnish at your previous desired temperature.  (Al Baldauski)

    Have you considered that it may be the draw rate and not the temp that is causing runs. All things being equal a thinned varnish at the same draw rate should have the same run rate?  (Jerry Foster)

      That was my first thought.  So I slowed it down to about 1 inch per minute.  As slow as I could go and still see it moving.  Still got runs.  I'm almost done with the second rod this afternoon using varnish thinned with turps.  The absence of heat appears to have corrected the problem.  The first rod came out with no runs.  But the guides were very slow to pop.  That's a problem in a drain tube.  I just let them pop on their own.  I've probably got some excessive build up at the bottom foot, but no runs that I can see.  I'll probably thin it a little more next time.

      Heat trapped in a drain tube around the exposed blank is a problem that I wouldn't have with a dip tube.  Maybe I'll knock a hole in the garage floor some day and install a dip tube.  (David Bolin)


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