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Here's a real newbie question:

The thicker the final coats of varnish on your rod, the more likely your rod will be:

a) Stronger, because the finished measurements are now larger than the unvarnished  blank.

b) Slower, because now the blank has more weight to swing with the same amount of cane.

c) Conflicted, because now the rod doesn't know if it's a cane rod coated in plastic, or a plastic rod with a cane center.

All kidding aside, do multiple coats of varnish slow down the rod?  Would I be better off

stopping when I've put enough varnish on to protect the rod or should I put on coat after  coat for  cosmetic reasons.  (Reed Guice)

    I think Garrison postulated that the rod would be "faster" due to the  additional varnish coats.  (Vince Brannick)

    The rod will be faster.  (Ren Monllor)

      I've heard, in the newsletters and at meets, that more coats will indeed slow down a rod.  My limited experience would seem to confirm that, although it may be that my preexisting expectations led to the subjective confirmation of the prejudice.  (Lee Koch)

        I am with you, although I do not think it slows it down, but instead loads it down making it seem slower.  (Scott Grady)

    The total weight added to a typical 8 foot rod if you build the varnish to 0.003 inches thick is 0.1 ounces and the vast majority of that is in the butt where additional weight is not a significant factor.  So I’d say that it has almost no effect on the action of the rod.

    If you increase the flat to flat dimension of the rod by 0.006 inches because of the varnish build of 0.003”, you could argue that that is equal to about one line weight BUT varnish is nowhere near as strong as bamboo so it won’t add any noticeable stiffness.  Probably about what you’d expect if you added 0.001 inches of bamboo.  So, again, I’d say that it has almost no effect on the action of the rod.

    As far as cosmetics are concerned, if you’ve done a good job of sanding the blank with 400 then 600 grit and use steel wool between coats, you won’t need to put on more than about 0.0015 to 0.002 inches of varnish.

    That’s my experience.  (Al Baldauski)

    Varnish is useless weight that doesn't contribute anything to the rod, use as little as it takes to make it look good. If you make the rod too fat with bamboo, the extra bamboo will contribute stiffness which will alter the line weight, any weight that doesn't add stiffness will just slow it down. jmho  (John Channer)

      I've made two rods that were dipped in Mike's Sauce as a finish, then later dipped  in varnish just to learn the process, both were slowed down some. Marinaro, as well as his mentor, Brampton, felt you should use as little varnish as possible. I like a good reason to not do something I'm not very good at.  (Henry Mitchell)


Is there a amber dye for spar vanish if so who makes it.  (Richie Westerfield)

    Just thinking out loud here to myself, while still in a fog of ignorance, but maybe you could add some amber oil from an art supply store. Would that be possible?  VARNISH GUYS! ARE YOU OUT THERE?  Is there some reason one could not add some pigment to the varnish?  What about the powdered stuff from Tandy?  (Timothy Troester)

      You can go to the local paint dealer & he may give you some samples or sell them to you for universal paint colorants.  I used to have a kind of milk crate looking thing that I carried with the colorants in it.  I just kept track of the amounts I used for whatever I was doing.  (Bret Reiter)

    You can color varnish with any oil based stain or with universal colorants made for  paints, your local paint store will probably be happy to give you enough to experiment with for nothing, mine did.  (John Channer)

      My experience in mixing oil-based strain with varnish has not been a good one.  It take FOREVER to dry and never gets as hard as the varnish without the stain in it.  (Al Baldauski)

    Your best bet is Trans Tint.  Not stain but dye -  in many colors including a nice amber.  A few drops added will do ya.  Available from mail order wood working suppliers such as Highland Hardware.  I don't patronize Woodcraft any more, but would if they had more guys like Rick Funcik working for them.  If you don't want to spring for a whole bottle of Trans Tint I could send you a vial of it.  I have some red/brown and some golden/brown.  Hope this helps.  (Darrol Groth)

    Dye is available I think from Golden Witch or find a violin maker, they mix their own colored varnish. The dye you seek may be available from an advertiser in Fine Woodworking.  (Ross Smith)

    One of the best amber varnish on the market is from Alchemist Varnish Co out of Virginia there phone number is 540-789-5444. This is the company that Golden Witch gets their varnish from. They do varnishes for violin makers and oil painters.  They have a very interesting web site with a lot of info.  (Jeff Van Zandt)

      Another place that has dyes. If you want to take it to the extreme and make your own varnish try here, they also have all the components. Although they are right here in town with me, I've never done business with them so I can't speak to their quality or service.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

    If you are trying to tint bamboo remember that bamboo has a lateral grain/fiber and does not take tints or "surface coatings" very well. Even after sanding the surface texture of the bamboo is still very solid and has little to no mechanical grab.

    Since it appears that you are trying to duplicate some feature of a "tinted" rod why don't you try using Penofin in one of the tinted colors. You will have to build a dipping tube for this application before you wrap, but the Penofin does a very nice job of "staining" or "tinting" the bamboo fiber and even makes it a little stiffer. The rod does gain some weight but it is so insignificant to measure.

    Try a glued up section for testing and don't dilute the Penofin, only change the time it's in the oil to achieve the color strength desired. I cut my sections into 4" strips and then using a wrapping motor set on a rheostat, adjust for color. If you want to have some fun try wrapping the rod section with black electrical tape in a spiral style and dip in one darker color and then remove the tape and dip in a lighter color. Looks cool!

    This technique is more of an impregnation than tinting and is permanent as opposed to varnishes and stains that are only surface colorants.

    After the rod is removed allow it to dry by hanging it for a minimum of five days. Then rub down the section with a vigorous motion to open the oils and get them to polish up some. No varnish or spar will adhere now but who cares the rod is now waterproof. To get the your wraps to look good try using shellac first as a color preserver and then spar.  (Rudy Rios)


I’m not happy with all of the flaws in my varnish on the last couple of blanks.  They come out of the drip tube and hang in a “dust free” cabinet until tack free.  I then move them to my heated drying cabinet.  I believe it is time for me to strain my varnish and replace my drip tube.  I searched through the archives but couldn’t seem to find what strainer people prefer.  I know I have read the wife’s pantyhose work great but I think I remember someone talking about an honest to goodness quality paint strainer from an automotive paint dealer that would be the best bet.  Can someone refresh my memory  as to the specifics or make a recommendation?  (Greg Reeves)

    Yeah, I think a paint strainer is your best bet.  Its a lot easier to control than panty hose and I feel it does a better job.  Plus it is conical shaped which keeps the spilling factor down.  They come in different sizes which will obviously affect the flow rate.  I work with a medium size (I think its #120???) and it does just fine.  (Brian Morrow)

    I use cheap white pantyhose and filter the varnish going into the drain tube and back into the can as it drains.  That seems to be working very well.  Someone once told me that most of the fuzz in the finish was on the rod when it went into the varnish.  They recommended using a tack cloth.  I blow the rods off with an air compressor and then wipe them down with a dust free cloth dampened with mineral spirits.  Let them dry for a few minutes and then go over them lightly with a tack cloth...especially around the guides.

    Something that's unique to a drain tube is that air is drawn into the tube as the varnish drains.  I cover the top of my tubes with some pantyhose so they can breathe without drawing fuzz into the tube.

    One more thing that helps fight fuzz is the plastic door on my drying closet.  I wipe the inside of the door down with a dry cotton cloth before placing the rods in the closet.  The cotton cloth generates static electricity on the plastic door.  Like rubbing a balloon on your cotton shirt and sticking it to your forehead...done that lately?  The static draws fuzz to the door like fly's to fly paper.  If there's any fuzz floating around in the drying closet, it's going to be stuck to the door while the varnish tacks up.  It's actually kinda cool to see the tip sections hanging in the closet.  The static is so strong that the tips are leaning out toward the door.  (David Bolin)

      You are right about the tack cloth.  Use it LIGHTLY on the rod.  Otherwise you end up rubbing the sticky stuff from the cloth onto the rod and then the rod attracts dust.   Don't ask how I know this...

      Also, I've had good success rubbing down the bare cane with a mineral spirit- soaked cloth the day before I dip the sections.  It gives the spirits a chance to dry off completely so that no bubbles show up in the varnish.

      Whenever new varnish goes into the dip tube, it's strained through filters obtained at the auto body shop.  I use two filters.  Might as well be anal about it, right??  (Paul Julius)

        If you don't have a plastic door to attract the dust in your drying closet you might try a two or three foot piece of PVC pipe.  You can rub that with a cotton cloth and generate a lot of static.  Last summer I watched it even pull a few fruit flies out of the air.  They were still stuck to the pipe the next morning.   (Ron Kubica)

          Creating an environment filled with static electricity is a great idea. I would like to point out, however, that the approach you take likely will not work if you live in an area that has a high natural background humidity level, such as we experience here in the metropolitan Houston, Texas area. This should not be a problem for anyone living anywhere in New Mexico. I can't speculate about your home territory David, as I don't know where you live.

          How do I know this? I spent seven years in a histopathology lab making paraffin sections of animal tissue for pathological examination. Static electricity is the bane of anyone doing such work. On those days when the humidity was extremely low and sections could not be made due to static electricity, the solution was to put a container of water on a heat source near the microtome (the cutting instrument) and bring it just to the boiling point and produce a steady stream of water vapor coming off. By thus increasing the humidity in the immediate area, the adverse effects of the static electricity were eliminated and sectioning could proceed.

          Just a "heads up."  (Frank Schlicht)

        If you are going to use a tack cloth to wipe down the rod, make sure you get the good tack cloths.  Get them from auto body repair supply shops, and look for the "blue" tack cloths.  These are the ones the guys who shoot base coat/clear coat paint systems use, and it will not leave a residue on the surface you wipe down.

        The best varnish filters I've found so far are the Gerson 2000T or 3000T ones.  The 2000T filters can be gotten down to "fine" mesh at 190 microns, and the 3000T filters can be gotten down to the "extra fine" mesh at 125 microns.  (Mark Wendt)


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