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The brand of tack cloth that I've been using for years is known as Surgical Blue. None of the bad stuff in these. They will, if you press them onto the blank rather than wipe with them, leave a mark, but nothing that will affect the finish. On the contrary, the stuff is compatible with the finish. They are available from auto finishing suppliers. I get mine from a discount tool supplier. Can't remember the cost, as it has been a while since I've bought any, and I buy them by the dozen, but they're not going to break the bank.  (Martin-Darrell)


Does anyone have experience with the Gerson® Tack Cloths?  I purchased some from Grizzly and in the catalog it said that they were silicon free, but the packaging makes no mention of that.  It does read that they are safe on any surface with any paint and that they are nontoxic.  I single dipped  a small test scrap after wiping down with this cloth and it seemed okay, but thought I would see if anyone had thoughts or experiences with it.

I was also wondering if those of you who wrap before you dip have any suggestions about wiping your rod down with something like mineral spirits (suggesting that I don’t do it is a welcome suggestion if that is the case).  Guess I am really wondering about the effect of spirits on the wrap varnish (Helmsman poly-spar).  (Carl DiNardo)

    My experience with the Gerson cloths is that they seem overly tacky, and will harden in time, rendering them useless. I have never seen them as a source of contaminants, however.

    I would recommend that you not use mineral spirits for wiping down. Most of what we buy has been recycled and potentially contains contaminants, as it leaves behind a residue. Use denatured alcohol for wiping instead. Sand whatever needs sanding, wipe down several times with the denatured on a clean, cotton cloth, then wipe/pat lightly with the tack cloth, and you're ready for the final dip.  (Martin-Darrell)

    I have just had a HORRIFIC experience this Sunday with a tack cloth, and no, it had nothing to do with a ... never mind.

    I, like most everyone else, use a tack cloth as well immediately prior to dipping/dripping. I made the mistake of leaving the cloth out on the bench from the previous weekend and of course it mostly dried out. I folded the cloth to expose two new sides and found that the "tack" was still not very tacky, so ... I wiped really hard!

    NO varnish stuck to the rod in those areas with the most pressure applied. Yes I cried and cried and then sniveled a while. Now to wait a week or so before I can sand all that sh*t off! and try it again, perhaps not so vigorously.

    I love bamboo.  (Mike Shay)

      Sometimes you can "recondition" a tack cloth with heat, if you're desperate.  I usually grab a new one once the tack starts to harden though.  (Mark Wendt)

    I like 'em and use 'em.  I cut off a section suitable for my needs, and unwrap it and rub it between my palms to lower the tack a bit.  Then I 'roll' the cloth along the rod rather than dragging it.  Keep them in a zip-lock bag between uses.

    After steelwooling I rotate the rod sections over a big magnet to remove any larger particles of the wool,  then tack-off, and sometimes use compressed air or a dry paint brush.  Whatever seems appropriate.  (Brian Creek)

    This might of been covered before, but...

    I read somewhere you can make your own Tack Cloth with Tung Oil and Cheese cloth...

    Never tried it but sounds like it will work without the conflict issues.  (Dave Collyer)

    Don't know anything about the Tack cloths, but I stopped wiping down the rod with mineral spirits.  On Bob Nunley's suggestion, after sanding I now use Dawn dishwashing detergent in a mild, warm soapy water concentration.  I was having all sorts of problems this past winter with the Helmsman pulling away from the corners.  Rinse it off with water after washing it, then dry it with a soft towel, or an old diaper, something that won't leave little stringy's.  This, along with mixing my Helmsman with Penetrol, has eliminated the pulling from the corners, and the Dawn makes the surface squeaky clean, leaving no residue.  (Mark Wendt)

      That sounds like a good process.  Just be sure the cloth you use hasn't had fabric softener used on it.  At least the SHEETS contain silicone, which will also screw up a finish.  (I don't know about the liquid.)  I've been using paper towels marked for microwave use -- no color to bleed, and hopefully no silicone.  At least, I've had no trouble so far. Use them for almost everything I have to wipe down in the shop, not just rods.  (Neil Savage)

        I've been using white shop cloths that I get from the local auto body supply shop.  They're guaranteed not to have any nasties in them, and I can buy them by the box. I think I have an almost lifetime supply of shop towels...  I'm a convert to the Dawn dishwashing soap routine.  It really works.

        The auto body supply shops have some really neat stuff that's useful to us as rodmakers.  I got a trial paint filter from them when I was having my tribulations with the corner pulls.  It's funnel shaped and sized, and it has a micro mesh filter that will filter out the tiniest chunks  of crap  that  will  get  into  your  finish.   Some  kind  of non-stringy plastic type of fiber.  The varnish goes through it like water, but nothing else.  I'm going to head over and get a box of them before I finish the next rod.  I think they are made by 3M.  When I get the filters I'll post the manufacturer and part number to the list.  (Mark Wendt)

    IMHO the very best tack cloths are made by Meguires for auto body work. Following sanding, I wipe my rods with a paper towel, rub well with a lint-free nylon stocking to remove all sanding debris, then wipe down with Meguires tack cloth moistened with paint thinner. (The Meguires tack cloths are fairly hard and must be softened first with hot water, squeezed, then dipped in thinner.) I dip my rods in Helmsman and have no problems whatsoever.

    In fact, a customer lost one of my rods while wading across a treacherous spot in a river and the rod was found one month later, a mile downstream. The finish was scuffed but totally intact. BTW, all the glues held as well and the rod is quite usable after drying out.  (Ron Grantham)

    All you need is a cotton rag or piece of cheesecloth. Soak it thoroughly in rosin or something else that will stay tacky, like spoiled shellac. Squeeze out the excess, and presto, you have a tack cloth.  (Ron Rees)


I've been doing woodworking for a long time, and cane for about 25 years, but I never heard the info I just read in June's Woodworker's Journal! In answering a question about dust in finishes, an editor said that he never uses the commercial oil-based tack cloths as they build up a static charge due to friction on the surface and actually ATTRACT dust to it drying the next coat! He uses a water-dampened cloth (something I learned in darkroom procedures, but never transferred to my other work!) which actually lessens static.

Holy cow!

I hope it helps someone to keep their sanity when finishing the next rod.  (Art Port)

    Good tip Art!

    What about using turps or mineral spirits on a lint-free cloth.  I would think that might gas off quicker than water.  I guess it would depend on the finish that you're using,  eh??  (Todd Talsma)

      3M makes a product they call detailing cloths. They are micro fleece and work like a tack rag without the goo. I've used one for quite a while and they work.  (Dave Norling)

        Well I just looked in Wikipedia and it says Kimwipes contain silicone, so maybe not so good after all.  I know John Long uses them though and his finishes are as near flawless as any I've seen so the silicone can't be all that bad.    (Neil Savage)

          I don't think the ones I have contain silicone.  I know there are several kinds and grades, so checking is prudent.  I got mine at Smart and Final, but I've seen them at the local electronics store.  I use them to wick a finish as well.  They are in my "go box" along with a couple of 9 1/2's and a 12k grit waterstone.  (Leonard Baker)

      I wipe down with turpentine on a Kimwipes.  That has resulted in a better finish for me than when I used a tack cloth.  (Bill Lamberson)

        I just picked up a 3M Microfiber Reusable "Tack" Cloth from my less than favorite major retail chain.  It says it contains no adhesive is residue free and non - linting.

        Anyone tried one??  (David Van Burgel)

          I have been using 3M detailing cloths for a year or so. No goo I don't know how they work but they do.  (Dave Norling)

      I couldn't say, Todd. I just know that we used to "spritz" the walls of the enlarger's cubicle with water to "keep the dust from flying". I can't say what's in the commercial rags that's doing the static. I always thought it was varnish and turps,  in a "it can't set up" formula. The guy who mentioned this said it was the friction that caused the static, but my physics classes didn't seem to ascribe static to friction alone. You may recall the catskin on the pieplate trick that'd REALLY cheer up your neighbor if you brought it close enough to his ear!?  (Art Port)

      That's what I do after steel wooling and getting ready to finish. Dampen a lint free cloth with mineral spirits. It evaporates in less than 5 minutes and your ready to go.  (Will Price)

    If you can find a source, "Kimwipes" are a lint-free paper product intended for one time use (more or less).  We used to use them in cleaning various parts of computer equipment that had to be lint free.  (Neil Savage)

      Hey, they are made by Kimberly-Clark.

      Thanks for the tip!  (Scott Bahn)

    I use the commercial tack, goo cloth then follow it with a square of paper towel soaked in rubbing alcohol.  (Timothy Troester)


    That is going to come as a shock to an awful lot of auto body painters.  (Larry Blan)

      The difference might be that most of an auto body is conductive (steel) so not subject to static buildup like nonconductors (wood).  On the other hand, I've never had a problem with the standard tack cloth on wood, so.  (Neil Savage)

        In a former life long, long ago I was an auto body repairman. These were the days when we used to paint with alkyd enamel, this stuff dried to dust free in about a day! Anyway I have used tack cloths since then and always will. One thing is don't use a new one every time, then they aren't so sticky yet will still do the job. I keep mine in the plastic bag it came in and then in a coffee can with a lid. (Good luck finding a  coffee can!)

        One trick I used to use to get rid of static charge was to attach a length of chain to the underside of the car and let it hang to the floor, don't know if this worked but it was taught to be by an even older experienced body man, made me feel better!

        Now that I thought of that trick I'm going to attach a log chain to my next rod! he, he  sometimes I crack myself up :>)  (Joe Arguello)

          A second outer bag (zipper, freezer type) will work just as well as a coffee can if you either don't drink coffee at all, or buy the exotic kind that comes in a bag.  Your local friendly grocer will have a good selection of coffee in cans with plastic outer lids, which probably seal better than the old metal lids ever did after the can was opened.  (Neil Savage)


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