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Just curious. How many coats of varnish do you all put on a rod? The common practice, I think, seems to be two on the tip and three on the butt for a two piece rod, which brings a few questions to mind of your preference.

If two coats on the tip is OK, why do you need three on the butt? How many coats do you put per section on a three or more piece rod? Do you wrap the rod before any coats?

When do you sign the rod?  (Don Schneider)

    One good coat of varnish is probably plenty to provide the protection and moisture barrier we need.  But it's quite difficult to get things to look good with one coat.  If I'm lucky, I get away with two coats for tips, and three for butts. Imperfections in sanding and prepping the cane for varnish show up more readily on larger butt sections, thus the additional coat.  If the wraps are color preserved, I wrap after the final coat.  If not, I wrap before the first coat.

    And FYI, you should sign sometime after the first coat, and before the last coat of varnish.  (Harry Boyd)


Just got done varnishing a rod - I am thinking about quitting at one coat because it looks pretty good....what are the reasons to consider doing a second or thrid coat?   I don't have much experience with it, but the spar I used seems to run on the thicker side of the viscosity scale.

What standards or guidelines do you all use to determine when to say when on adding coats?  (Matt Baun)

    I use 3 coats on the wraps prior to dipping and 3 (dipped) on the entire rod after the wraps.

    Basically, the number of coats is personal preference.  (David Gerich)

      For what it's worth, I just finished 3 nice mid-weights for our upcoming show. The rods are all impregnated, eliminating a need for varnish or urethane at all. My preference is to dip to get the wraps and blank into the same smooth level. I was pleased after a single dip... they were beautiful... I decided one more dip would do it. They went from beautiful to exquisite. The extra coating leaves a dazzling, smooth finish that is well worth any extra time. A little cleaning around the edges, buffing and we're done. A word of caution, though, the dip sauce needs to be as thin as you dare make it. This avoids drips and runs,  and keeps the nice sharp edges on the hex.  (Mike St. Clair)

        I coat the wraps with a small brush (child’s water color brush).  I think I bought 200 or 300 of them for $1.99 USD.  After 3 coats I clean off all of the coating on the cane right up to the edge of the wraps.  Then I begin the dipping, sanding lightly between coats with a very fine paper.  This gives a very nice finish, especially on gossamer thread.  (David Gerich)

    I don't think there are hard and fast rules to answer your question. Here are some things to consider:

    The thicker the coat of varnish, the longer it takes to cure before you can apply another coat. Sanding varnish before it cures can be a disaster.

    The thinner the coats the faster it will cure and another coat can be applied.

    More than the number of coats to get the look you want is not necessary.

    You stop when you are satisfied.  (Don Schneider)


I have dipped two rods this week (Monday and Tuesday) and each has only one coat of varnish. I used Epiphanes Spar Varnish  for both rods.

I inspected both very carefully in bright sunlight this morning and the finish on each is almost skips, no dust particles, no fissures in the bamboo, good edges!

Would  another coat of varnish be at all beneficial (after sanding with 1000 grit paper) or should I be content with what I have.  (Ken Rongey)

    I haven’t used Epiphanes so I don’t know about its viscosity.  If you’ve got a flawless finish after one coat, then you’ve applied a fairly heavy coat of varnish, and I’d say it’s enough.

    I’m using Helmsman poly spar and after one coat I still see some sanding flaws.  I’ve  measure  the  thickness  of  this varnish at 0.0005”  per  coat.   You’ve  probably  got  between  0.001  and 0.002”.  (Al Baldauski)

      Out of the can, helmsman has the same viscosity as Epifanes cut about 30%, maybe more, would be my guess.

      Both are tough finishes. Helmsman is a little more plastic like and less resistant to scratching.    (Jim Lowe)

        Sorry, I meant to say Helsman is more resistant to scratching.   (Jim Lowe)

      I'm using Helmsman, too.

      I knew the finish was thin, but I never really measured it. .0005 per coat, eh.  That explains a lot.  (Paul Julius)

        My measured value is per side, so 0.001” on the diameter, straight out of the can.  And that’s at a draw rate of 2 inches per minute, about the max rate I could get without runs.  If you use a different rate and/or viscosity, you’ll have a different build-up.  (Al Baldauski)

    That would be fine, but varnish shrinks over time, what the rods look like today is not what they'll look like a year from now. If they're for yourself, friends or family, go with it, you can always give them another coat when they need it, but rods I was going to sell I would give another coat.  (John Channer)


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