Bamboo Tips - Tips Area
Finishing - Precautions

< Home < Tips Area < Finishing < Precautions


Laundry fabric softeners all contain silicone therefore any cloths, shop rags, etc. which will come into contact with your rod or any surfaces the rod will contact should NEVER be exposed to laundry softeners.  All of my shop rags get washed eventually, that's OK, they just don't get exposed to softeners.  The reason for this is that silicone will mess up the finish being applied to a rod like you wouldn't believe! (Mike Shaffer)


I'd hoped that re-sanding and another dip in the tube would correct the problem I'm having with my varnish.   There are three places on this new rod butt which look like inch long slivers, wider in the center, on the flat near the apex on the guide facet, where the varnish just won't stick.  I dipped the rod three times without the guides and it looked great. I put the guides on and dipped it again, and these bare spots suddenly appeared. They weren't there before.

I thought re-sanding and re-dipping were worth a try.  No luck, again.

I'm using Helmsman spar urethane.  The guides are Snake Brand.  The stripper is a GoldenWitch agate.

The tips didn't do it, just the butt.  Other than that, the finish looks great.  I'm about ready to try to touch it up using Minwax wipe-on poly.   (David Van Burgel)

    Is it possible that you sanded through the previous coats and left an edge that the varnish can't quite fill?  I've done that, and my only solution was to sand back down to bare fibers, leaving no edges for the varnish to over.

    Or, is it possible that the cleaner you used left some sort of residue?  I've done that too.  (Harry Boyd)

      No, the blank looked great.  (David Van Burgel)

        If you are using spar varnish, you can fill the void with a tiny drop of varnish, let it dry, sand it flush then dip the rod again and the lines won't show. This won't work so well with poly because it dries too hard too fast.  (John Channer)

    Sounds like you may have picked up some silicone contamination or grease or something.  If it only happened to the butt section it can't be the varnish.  Did you use any medical syringes to mix something?  They have silicone in them - I guess to keep the plunger from sticking while in storage.  (John Long)

    I've heard about the silicone problem so I have avoided anything I'm aware of.  I have been making little sanding sticks from wooden coffee stir sticks and 1200 grit sandpaper glued to them with a glue stick.  I've used them to flatten the flats on the guide wraps between coats of varnish. Maybe I am getting some contamination from the glue stick.  (David Van Burgel)

    Sounds like something got into your cane (like oil or something) that is preventing the spar to adhere properly.  Did you wipe the rod blank down with thinner or something before dipping??  (Tom Ausfeld)

    You could also have tack rag contamination.  Some of them out there are not right for our work.  I now use a paper towel dripping with alcohol and like it better.  Martin-Darrell put up a post not too long ago about tack rags.  (John Long)

    A number of us have had that varnish problem. Ken Rongy and Al Medved & me to name three. We've never found THE cause or the perfect answer (yet). There are two theories about what's happening. First is that something's getting on the blank and acting as a release agent preventing the varnish from sticking. Might be mayo from the turkey sandwich at lunch or silicon from a rag or an additive in your mineral spirits or as one rodmaker theorized the heat from sanding was causing something in the resin that holds the grit to the paper to release silicon or something similar. Second theory is that sanding between coats with  too fine a sandpaper will burnish the old varnish coat and not give the new coat anything to hold on to. Varnish, unlike shellac, doesn't dissolve the surface of the old coat to form a chemical bond but rather forms a mechanical bond and so needs the old coat roughed up to give the new coat something to grab on to. 1200 grit may be too fine to allow the new varnish to bond well and surface tension would pull open areas on the wider flats leaving them free of varnish.

    I don't know which of these is true, maybe neither, but sanding with 400 or 600 paper then scrubbing the blank with either denatured alcohol to acetone and after blowing off any dust putting the blank into the varnish dry (no mineral spirit wipe down) pretty much eliminated the problem for me. I do check the butt while waiting for the varnish to flow off the stripper by shining a bright light on each flat to see the reflection of wet varnish, any open areas get scrubbed with a brush dipped in varnish and the butt section lowered back into the varnish and reextracted. Sorry I don't have a better answer for you but the above stuff works for me. 

    Ken & Al use PPG and I use Helmsman. I've tried replacing my varnish and Ken's even swapped dip tubes with Wayne C. with no help so it's not the varnish. (Dennis Higham)


I'm still having trouble polishing a rod section that I dipped when the varnish was too cold. I tried using micro mesh in 3600 and 6000 grit, and it just removes the varnish, and dulls the finish that remains. So I sprayed the area I was trying to polish and it left a fisheye appearance. I'm using a spar polyurethane. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. A not of minor interest or perhaps not, but it is only 57 days until trout season opens in Michigan.  (Gary Young)

    I polish w/ micro mesh but I start w/ 6000 and wet sand w/ water to 12000 then go to Meguires plastic cleaner (#17) and finally Meguires plastic polish (#10)..Perfect-it works well too. Leaves me with a nice soft gloss finish. If I have a drip I start w/ 4000 micro mesh. Don't get too aggressive with the 3600 - 6000 grit or you'll polish right down to bamboo! Ask me how I know :-}  (Dennis Higham)


Arrrrggghhhh!!!  Bang, bang...  (That's the sound of my head hitting the wall..)  Twice now this has happened.  I put my rod sections in the drip tube for their second coat tonight, and after removing the butt section, noticed a few places on the flats where the varnish had pulled away from the edges.  I think I've narrowed the problem down to the steel wool I use to cuff the sections down between coats.  I think the oil they put in the steel wool is either getting forced into the surface, or my degreasing regimen isn't as good as it should be.  Has anyone found a decent substitute for steel wool for cuffing the sections down between coats, something that doesn't include the mandatory oil?  I'm leaning more towards the oil being forced into the surface of the finish I'm cuffing down.  It didn't happen on all the surfaces, and didn't happen on the tip sections at all.  (Mark Wendt)

    Someone (Formby’s?) markets oil-less steel wool for finishing.  I didn't find it in the Woodcraft catalog on a quick inspection, but I know I've seen it.  You might look in the paint department of your local store.  (Neil Savage)

    There are several outlets that have steel wool that is "virtually oil free". May do the trick.  (Larry Puckett)

    No Matter what you use, wipe it down with alcohol prior to putting on the next coat.  (Don Schneider)

    I get my steel wool from the paint department. It is not supposed to have oil in it.  Before dipping the rod is wiped down with Denatured Alcohol. Have not had any problems. Famous last words.  (Tony Spezio)

    I am using tongue depressors (available at any medical supplies outlet) to which I glue wet & dry paper in 600, 1000, 1500 and 2000 grits. These strips are very useful for sanding down between dips, and because they are wooden they allow you to preserve the flat surfaces and sharp edges pretty reliably.

    You could use icy pole sticks, but the tongue depressors  are wider and more versatile. Depending on what I want to do I cut them to size and into specific shapes, using a pair of rough scissors.  (Peter McKean)

      I do the same but rather than glue, I use "double stick" tape, and use sticks of various widths (coffee stirrers, etc).  (David Van Burgel)

        I use Loctite 454 Gel for gluing the paper to the sticks. I just lie a sheet of paper face down, coat the strips with the goo, place them on the paper and cut them out when it has all stuck.

        Works well enough for me.  (Peter McKean)

          I just wrap the sandpaper around a block of steel about 3/4" x 3/4" x 2". Kind of like the sanding block I made in wood shop in 1952 only smaller.  It works for me.  (Neil Savage)

            The biggest reason I use the sanding sticks is that I can cut them to size and shape as required; I agree that a couple of billets of tool steel for use as sanding blocks represent an indispensable tool as well.

            You can also use the bare blocks as scrapers , especially for stripping the glue off glued sections,  The thickness  and solidity of these billets makes for very low chatter and consequently fewer tool marks to have to remove at a later date.  (Peter McKean)

          If you take a standard piece of sand paper and cut 1/2" or 3/4" slices off the short end, then cut them in half, that will wrap around the 3/4x3/4 diameter block with one overlay. I can use each surface, and not waste any paper, and its small enough to handle, and keep a flat surface.  (Chad Wigham)

    Had the same problem and finally learned that you have to clean the blank well before dipping. All I do is clean with paint thinner before dipping and my troubles are over.  (Jack Follweiler)


Warning to all, if you don't want to get fisheyes in your varnish/finish, and streaks where the varnish won't stick, then don't let fabric softener sheets anywhere near your workshop (if it's connected to the house, don't let your wife use them).

This topic comes up several times a year, and the sheets have stuff in them that'll really screw your finishing, and gets airborne and transferred on clothing and rags all over the place. (cloths don't cling, but neither does the varnish).

Don't let it happen to you.  (Chris Obuchowski)

    Thanks for the warning. The original message to  Greg was off list, I would not of mentioned a dryer sheet on list. LOL

    I agree with you if you are not careful with anti static products it can be a mess. I have heard of some real bad experiences. I have done a lot of Aircraft painting and am well aquatinted with fish eye. In this case I did the wiping outside away from the shop. I did mention it was cold. I will make it a No No for next time. Your warning no doubt will help others too.  (Tony Spezio)

    There is (was?) a product that could help the situation without introducing any chemicals into your process.  It is called a Zerostat (I got mine for about $30 on eBay) was originally designed to  reduce static cling to vinyl records (pre-CD, remember them?) by ionizing the air at the surface. It does contain a small amount of radioactive material.  Or, buy an ionizer, even companies use them in electronic manufacturing to reduce the possibility of damage to static sensitive ICs, consumer models are available under $100 from manufacturers such as Bionaire.  (George Bourke)

      My air filter system has a built in ionizer. Holmes is the brand name. It seems to do quite a good job. It was about $40 at Walmart and uses a HEPA filter as well. I run it in the varnish room (sun porch) just before dipping. Then I shut off everything but the ionizer when pulling the rods. Otherwise, the air circulation cause some dust to move around the room.  (Bob Maulucci)


Well, I finally found out the way to a perfect finish. I mean even the wraps came out as good as any I have ever seen.

Be patient and leave the damn thing alone!!!!!!!!!

Actually, it’s been tough not touching…

I’ve tried the sand paper, the fine nail files, the praying to the God of Man O’ War, all to no avail.

The wraps: three shots of MOW, waited twenty-four hours minimum before steel wooling the varnish, wiped down with denatured alcohol.

Heated the plastic tube with the heat gun on low to warm up the Varnish each time I drained.

Then I did the same on the blanks and BAMMM, beautiful finish.

I just about gave up on the Man O War, only to find out it was me all along. A lack of patience (always having to look and inspect) and a heavy hand with the sand paper and/ or nail files.  (Ren Monllor)

    Kinda reminds me of back in the day of painting cars for fun and profit.  Always had somebody that was curious as hell, and decided to "touch" the finish to see if it was dry...  Lacquer finishes, no biggy -  sand out the fingerprint, rub it out and polish.  If it was enamel, it usually involved sanding and repainting..   (Mark Wendt)

      Yeah and if you were around to have seen the old alkyd enamel, it could really mean trouble, that stuff didn't cure for three months! And I dare you to try to put laquor over that stuff! Ah the good old days!  (Joe Arguello)

        Yeah, I've shot that stuff too.  Still prefer lacquer.  A much more forgiving finish to work with, though it did require a lot more coats.  (Mark Wendt)

          I remember using that back in the late 60's working on cars & then they came out with acrylic enamels.  Wow, did they suck.  On my own cars I would use lacquer & rub them out.  I had this beautiful orange Yenko Camaro (wish I still had it worth about $185K) & the paint job I put on that was amazing.  It had 6 coats of orange, wet sanded down before final finish & 3 coats of clear & rubbed out.  (Joe Arguello)


Site Design by: Talsma Web Creations

Tips Home - What's New - Tips - Articles - Tutorials - Contraptions - Contributors - Search Site - Contact Us - Taper Archives
Christmas Missives - Chat Room - Photo Galleries - Line Conversions - The Journey - Extreme Rodmaking - Rodmaker's Pictures - Donate - Store