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As I learned, the very best polyurethane for split cane rods is Varathane and here in Czechia  only water-thinned poly is available. Well, so I went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in January with an address of the Lowes store in my pocket. I have received this info from official Flecto Corp. internet web pages. I was surprised, gents in the store had no idea what Varathane would be, they actually had no Flecto products. So I’ve bought Valspar polyurethane and Minwax polyurethane. Should I throw them away?  Have you, guys, any experience with these lacquers?  (Peter Pavel)

    As for the varnishes, I use Varmor R-10 and can only get it through Sherwin Williams Paint stores here.  I've never seen it at a Lowes or any other of the big chain stores.  Now, I can't advise you on Varathane, but I have tried Minwax in the past and it definitely makes a good varnish.  Maybe others on the list have tried Varathane for finishing a rod and can advise you on that.  (Bob Nunley)

    I’ve used Minwax Polyurethane  Spar Varnish and had good results, both on the wraps and on the rest of the rod. In general Minwax is a pretty good brand.  (Barry Kling)

      I think you will like the Minwax Polyurethane Spar Varnish . I thin it with mineral spirits . I have restored over 60 rods and built 18 mostly using clear or satin types. It keeps the water off , looks nice.  (Rex Tutor)


About 4 years ago I did a review of water based polyurethane.  I didn’t have much or even anything good to say and that’s the way it sat for 4 years while I used solvent based poly.  But those of us who only make a few rods have a problem with solvent based varnish if we dip or drip.   Between drips or dips the varnish will set.  Even with using inert gases like Bloxygen, some air gets to the varnish; especially if we ‘drip’.  The cans of water based poly from my first experiment had sat around four years and appeared to be the same as when I bought it.  Now this hadn’t just sat on a shelf for that amount of time.  I used it to finish reel seat inserts and other small jobs without any of the normal varnish jelling.  So I bought a fresh gallon of the same brand (General), that I had used the first time.

I have a drip system.  I have to comment Darryl for his invention.  It is simple and it works great.  I like the ability to screen out dust by leaving the blanks in the tubes until they are dry enough to touch.  This is also helpful with the water based poly as you can let the rod dry for a couple of hours and then pour the varnish back in and add another coat before the surface is to dry.  3 or 4 coats can be applied before you need to sand.  For ease of application, water based poly excels because you can clean with water.

How does it compare to solvent based varnish?  To get the same finish as solvent based, you will have to do a lot more work.  The finish of two or three coats of solvent based varnish is smooth and clean looking.  Without sanding, I couldn’t get a finish comparable to solvent based varnish with any number of coats.  The consistency of the newer water based poly is creamier than it was 4 years ago but it doesn’t flow like the solvent based does.  The finish is friendly to sandpaper and steel wool however so if you do a final sand then polish, you can get a really nice finish but you will have put in a lot more work than the solvent based stuff.

The one outstanding advantage for guys like me that was buying new varnish every two to four rods is water based poly doesn’t curdle like the solvent based stuff between rods.  (Onis Cogburn)


What is the best polyurethane to use? Oil? Water Based? You guys like any particular brand?  (Dave Damon)

    By far, the old formula Helmsman Spar Urethane was the best I'd found. I used it religiously. It's no longer available, as far as I can tell, in most of the country. The new formula, along with almost all of it's counterparts, is so bereft of drying agents that you will spend days waiting for simple wrap finishes to dry.

    I am in the middle of a wrap finish project that will document the result of different mixes of spar varnish and spar urethane... oil and water-based (urethane). I would not dip in the water based (No thinning agents that I know of aside from warm water, which doesn't do the trick really.)... however, the preliminary result of using it on wraps is really encouraging. It acts very much like a color preserver, though it does darken the wraps to an extent. However, drying time with the water-based is about 15 minutes to the touch... and hour to hardened finish. As for dipping, I've found a good mix for spar varnish, penetrol and japan drier that leaves a gleaming finish and is dry to the touch in less than 6 hours.

    I plan to assemble a PDF of the wraps project and will send it to anyone wishing to look it over. Should be ready early next week.  (Mike St. Clair)


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