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I use a drip tube system which requires filling the tube prior to every coat of mow spar.  The one-gallon plastic bottle I use for storage is also used for catching the varnish below the tube.  This system works with my limited garage ceiling height.  The problem is that with all the pouring and filling and open space in the storage bottle, the varnish gets put in contact with a lot of fresh air.  Living in Phoenix doesn't help matters.  My bamboo is provably dryer than most and in the summer I can varnish wraps in a day, but keeping my varnish in good shape is tough.  Because I've have to replace a fair bit of it this issue is a real concern.

Now... with that said, I've received a lot of good info from the list.  Thank you all.  I really liked the idea a few of you had about home made CO2.  I have decided however, based on my system and circumstances that it will be most effective to get a small bottle of nitrogen and fit it with a regulator as suggested by Troy Miller off list.  Nitrogen is dry, clean, inert and safe.  It's only slightly lighter than air and will effectively purge air with the insertion of a tube near the bottom of  the container.  It's a cheap common gas used in numerous other purging processes.  Several list members also expressed concern about tediously regulating  the flow from Bloxygen and other products.  An accidental blast into the varnish with the resulting spray is not something I want to contend with.  The regulator will eliminate this potential. 

The down side here is the initial investment.   A filled, 25 cubic foot bottle, (about 4" X 18") with a low pressure regulator costs about $120.00.  That equates to 10 or 11 cans of Bloxygen and that's provably enough to last most of  us the rest of our rod making days.  However, with a little help from my friends, I've manage to scrounge up everything I need for next to nothing.  I do think though, that even if I had to buy everything over the counter, for me, it's a cost effective addition to my shop.

This is my own personal conclusion and may not be the best choice for many.  (Jim Harris)

    Instead of draining your varnish from your drip tube into an empty plastic gallon jug, why not drain it through a tube into a collapsible plastic water bottle (that could swell on filling)?  The drip tube could fill with CO2, stored in an inflated plastic bag, using the vacuum created by the varnish outflow.   By using a couple of bags, a couple of valves and some tubing wouldn't you be able to minimize the exposure of your varnish to air for only a few bucks?

    Just a thought.  (David Smith)

      You may not be aware that there are accordion-like opaque brown bottles made for darkroom use which would do exactly what David is suggesting. They come in quarts, half gals and gals.  (Art Port)

      That would work, or just drain the varnish into a container and drop marbles into the container to fill the space.  (Tony Young)

    When I was storing the varnish in a plastic container I had a lot of problems with the varnish jelling. I was told that plastic breaths. Since I started draining back in the original can and add a little bit if thinner on top of the varnish before closing the can, it more than tripled the life of the varnish over keeping it in a plastic jug. The plastic jug may be a big part of the problem.  (Tony Spezio)

      If that's correct it's most certainly a big part of the equation!  I will change it regardless. Thanks,  (Jim Harris)

    My answer to this may sound stupid but it works for me. I dip my rods in my bathroom (no jokes please), I have a second one so it's not a problem. I take everything (except the blank) in I run the hot shower for a couple minutes (the steam holds down any dust) left after the thorough cleaning I give the bathroom, dip tube and heated drying cabinet. I have a sheep wool glove that I rub the Plexiglas on my drying cabinet with to build a static charge with to attract any left over dust to the outside of the door. When all that is done I bring in the cleaned rod sections and dip them then put them immediately into my drying cabinet.

    Not the most scientific method but, works well for me.  (Shawn Pineo)

    In addition to use nitrogen, as James suggests, I use bottled CO2 in my home brewing.  The two most common types are the gas container and regulator that James has described - and you can also get a smaller  sized one that uses the pellet gun sized CO2 bottles.  I think these are used to pressurize growlers and so forth.  Same thing you see in old movies for creating and dispensing soda water.

    Take a look in the yellow pages for home brewing supplies.  (Claude Freaner)

    If you store the varnish in the original tin after firmly closing the lid, store the tin upside down so the film forms on what will be the bottom when you open the tin up again, or add marbles to fill the space.  (Tony Young)


Does anybody know of a common, readily available gas that could be used to evacuate the air out of a varnish container. (for the purpose of keeping the varnish fresh during storage)  I was thinking about looking for the aerosol version of the varnish I use and just spraying it into the container to drive out the air.  I'm not sure if this would screw up the chemistry or if it would even work.  I know there is an existing aerosol product made especially for this purpose, but its expensive, and as I recall, the gas is not a common one.

Any ideas on this one?  (Jim Harris)

    The commercial product is known as Bloxygen. I believe I have seen another one too. How about CO2? A bit of baking powder and vinegar in a container, and then "pour" the gas into your varnish container.

    The Bloxygen really is economical, it doesn't take that much of a squirt into a container, especially a dip tube.  (Larry Blan)

      I was wandering how long a can of Bloxygen would last.  You certainly don't get a feel for it's quantity/volume by hefting the can.  I'll take your word for it's economy though.  (Jim Harris)

        I have been using the same can for the past two years.  That tops the dip tube for about 25 rods each dipped three times.  I think the can is getting nearly empty, but have been thinking that for a little over a year!  (Bill Lamberson)

    Here is one that does not work. The stuff that you buy at office supply stores to blow dust out of cameras and computer keyboards.

    I do not use Bloxygen, but if I am not going to be dipping, I drip about twenty drops of mineral spirits on top of the varnish. Seems to keep it from drying out fairly well.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

    I have two tubes filled all the time, one with MOW Spar, and one with P&L Varmor. Both have been stable and do not film over or congeal after more than a year. I keep them fairly full and cap with a neoprene cap That has a steel hose clamp screwed tight. I got the cap from Home Depot. Since I warm the varnish before dipping, I cap and seal the still-warm tube. I think that creates a partial vacuum in the tube and tends to lessen oxidation.  (Steve Weiss)

    I tried this with a gallon jug, baking soda and vinegar to generate the CO2. I tried to do a thorough job by overdoing everything (length of pour, etc). It did not work for me.  (Jon McAnulty)

    I've been using the product from Office Depot for several years, the current can does not have the specific formulation, but I recall its that same stuff as Bloxygen. I punch 2 nail holes in the varnish can lid on opposite sides.  Insert the tube in one and very, very gently add gas for about 15-20 seconds.  I also have similar holes in the screw top of my dip tube.  Cover with strips of duct tape.  Probably cheaper than Bloxygen at 2 cans for $7.95 on sale - also works for cleaning the mouse and CPU.  (Carey Mitchell)


If anyone happens to have any contacts in the paint manufacturing game, you might hit them up for a few ounces of an item called MEKO (Methyl Ethyl Ketoxime) This is the product that is in all oil based varnishes, added just before it is packed off in the original tin to stop skinning. It has several commercial names, but your mate will know what you are talking about.

The problem is it evaporates when you take the lid off the varnish, hence the skinning. If you make up a 5% solution in mineral turpentine, and then add about a tablespoonful to the varnish (float it on top of the surface) when you put it away, it won't skin.

Remember to shake up or stir the varnish before you use it next time.  If you add too much, it will slow down the dry of the varnish next time you use it, so don't go overboard.  (Dave Kennedy)

    Don't shake any varnish as you will only make bubbles in it.  Only stir it so this doesn't happen.  (Bret Reiter)


To prevent finishes from skinning over in the container I have used Bloxygen and more recently have simply used the cans of stuff from Office Depot sold to blow dust from computers, etc., which works just fine.  I  invert the can lift the lid slightly and gently blow it in liquid form.  This evaporates instantly, insuring ample volume to force air out.  Went to the garage for a can of enamel tonight (still remodeling, will get to start on the new shop in a couple of weeks) and found the lid loose and a thick skin on the surface.  Removed the skin carefully, filtered and realized what had happened.  When the duster can is inverted and the contents exit as liquid, it becomes very cold.  If the can is sealed immediately and the liquid warms, pressure builds and off pops the lid.  I watched it happen on the new can.  The lesson here is to allow the pressure to escape a bit before final sealing of the lid.  Almost lost a gallon of  of the wife's custom color by failing to think ahead.

BTW, I have also used it to prolong the shelf life of Gorilla Glue, by gently squeezing the air out of the plastic bottle, inserting the the little tube into the spout and gently releasing the grip, allowing the gas to fill the bottle.  It has worked for a year, which is about 4 times longer than ever before.  (Carey Mitchell)


Some time back I remember someone saying that you can mix baking soda or baking powder with something else, possibly vinegar to make a substitute for Bloxygen.  I tried to find this in the archives unsuccessfully.  Can anyone help me with this?  (Hal Bacon)

    You can bet that vinegar and baking soda will make a lot of CO2. But just how you control it to make use of it in a varnish can or tube is a different problem. I have heard stories about some of my hillbilly/redneck relatives filling a gallon glass jug 1/2 full of sand and adding 2 cups of baking soda and 2 cups of vinegar, screwing the cap on very quickly and chucking it into a deep hole full of fish and getting behind a tree before it exploded. So be careful in your attempt to capture the gas. (Don Greife)

    I was the guilty party! I read the formula in a Wood Magazine issue a couple years back. I don't think the ratios are critical. I believe it was about a tablespoon of Baking SODA to a 1/4 cup of vinegar. Do it in something big like a half gal or gal milk container and make believe you're pouring a liquid (after it fizzes awhile)  which you can't see, out of the jug and into your dip tube. Obviously you don't want the "mixin's "to escort the CO2 into the varnish. <BSEG>

    I've since tried Bloxygen and I think the old way worked better! I can't be sure as the old tank had a rigid cap and the new one has a flexible rubber one. But it seems to sink in from oxidation whether I use the Bloxygen or not!!!! And I AIN'T real pleased about maybe losing a couple of quarts of Man o' War when I paid an additional 10 bucks for the Bloxygen!  (Art Port)

    If you can find a rubber stopper to fit the top of your tube, it is an easy matter to pour a teaspoon of turpentine on top of the varnish in the tube, then squeeze the sides of the stopper as you put it in the tube to let out any air, the turpentine vapors will keep your varnish good as well as anything else. turps works better for this for some reason than mineral spirits do, though I have used both. I currently have some L&L varnish in one tube that is well over a year old and some old formula MOW in another that is around 4 years old.  (John Channer)

    I have struggled with this issue since I have been making rods (a little over one year) and have tried the commercial Bloxygen, and the homemade stuff using vinegar and baking soda. Neither of these had given me satisfactory results as I was still skinning over. Someone on the list (I believe Mark Wendt) turned me on to the computer air duster sold in a spray can. The brand I use is FELLOWES and can be found at Walmart. You spray the stuff from the can holding it upside down, just a little squirt or 2, and shut the lid quick. I use this on the quart size can of varnish and not the varnish tube since I use a drip system and do store my varnish in the tube (no skinning since I went to this). I will add that if you read the cautions on the can it says not to spray upside down or to inhale the stuff so proceed at your own risk.  (Bill Bixler)

      The stuff in the computer duster cans is the new supposedly environmentally safe air conditioner refrigerant. It says not to spray upside down because the liquid can freeze things that it gets on as it evaporates so quickly. It's the same stuff that powers the hand held air horns. So if you have one of those and don't mind the noise spray a blast in to your varnish. The gas is a lot heavier than air, I filled a party balloon with it once and it dropped like the proverbial lead balloon.  (Darryl Hayashida)


I have a piece of interesting news! I just got my Wood magazine today and there's a question on varnish and paint skinning over. The "finish expert" (Bob Flexner) says the skin does absolutely nothing adverse to the underlying finish and if removed carefully and after straining, the varnish may be used with abandon! He says "It can skin over 5 times in 5 years and the varnish underneath will still be usable."  (Art Port)

    That's been my personal experience with paint.  I have some my grandfather left in his shed at the cottage, must be 60 or 70 years old by now (my first real memory of him is his retirement party at age 70, March 1946).  Some of it is a little thick, but works fine if thinned to proper consistency.  Never tried it with varnish though.  (Neil Savage)


I just had to throw away a quart of Last N Last Spar this morning because it had globbed up (hardened).  I had always used Bloxygen when closing it up and am confused as to why it has done this.

Has anyone come up with a way to store varnish that has been opened up and closed for long terms without this happening?  (Joe Byrd)

    I have six cans of Helmsman that have gelled. I have used it one day just fine and a couple of days later it is a gelled mass. Can't tell you why. I feel if I got five or six rods out of it, I am still ahead. My problem is disposing of the stuff, the dump will not take it, the pickup center told me to burn it out of the cans before taking the cans to them. Anyone wants six cans of gelled Helmsman.  (Tony Spezio)

      I think you can leave the lid off and let the varnish harden into one solid mass. Then they will take it. An old painter told me about that trick.  (David Dziadosz)

    Varnish in my dip tube is pretty old, (measured in years) and all I've done is spray in Bloxygen and thin with mineral spirits.  I guess I've filtered it a time or two as well.  Old painters I've talked to tell me to dribble a couple of tablespoons of mineral spirits on top of the varnish before sealing it, and make sure that the mating surfaces of the can and the lid are clean.  I also turn the can upside down when storing, figuring that'll heal over any holes.  Don't know if it's scientifically sound, but it has worked for me.

    My Sutherland Wells Tung Oil (the thick stuff) gelled on me no matter what I tried.  I'm guessing that the tendency of a varnish to gel is directly proportional to it's price.  The costlier the finish, the shorter the shelf life!   (Brian Creek)

      Here is another idea.  When I was in university, the photo students would store there chemicals in brown plastic accordion bottles with a screw top lid. As the chemical was used they would just make the bottle smaller by pushing down on the jar, screw on the lid and bobs your uncle. No need for Bloxygen.

      Good photo supply shops may still sell this type of bottle.  (Daniel Durocher)

    I leave the varnish in the container it came in. As I use it up, I drop in the container large glass marbles (1" in diameter) to take over the space used. As you add the marbles the level will come up. I now have about 25 marbles in my container right now. Like this the level is always near the top of the container  and it never, never goes hard of make a crust on top.  (Michel Lajoie)

    It seems to help a bit to keep the interface between the can and lid scrupulously when resealing, and to store cans upside down.   (Bill Fink)


I have far too many flammable substances in my basement.  Will freezing ruin stains and varnish?  Would love to move that stuff out to the garage.  (Lee Orr)

    I wouldn't want to say for sure, but I know I have old oil base PAINT in the Upper Peninsula (of Michigan) that's still good after 20 years.  Anything water base shouldn't be allowed to freeze.  I'd start by reading the labels and not put anything outside that specifically says not to store below xx degrees.  Then, try a few and see how they weather the temps.  Also, if your garage is attached, I don't know that you would gain much. 

    Fine Woodworking has an article about shop fire safety, including flammable storage, in the Winter 2004-2005 issue.  I think that's the latest one, Issue #174.  (Neil Savage)


I thought some of you might find this interesting. Especially if you can't get Bloxygen in your area.

"For only a few dollars more than a can of Bloxygen, the truly obsessive compulsive can buy a several lifetimes' supply of oxygen displacer in the form of a small bottle of Argon from a welding supplies vendor. Argon is totally nonreactive and heavier than air, and probably what's in Bloxygen anyway. If you happen to have a MIG welder, it's already available. Just crack the valve through a piece of poly hose to the paint can."  (Wayne Kifer)


I was given 3 previously opened gallons of Last-n-Last varnish by a Rodmaker that was discontinuing his rod making.  What I'm wondering is would this varnish be OK if it had been stored in a barn that with below freezing temperatures? Is there a way  how to determine if the varnish should be used or if I should chuck it and by fresh vanish?  If anyone else uses Last-n-Last vanish, I'd be interested to here their pros and cons about it?  (Wayne Daley)

    A couple of things;  1) is it oil base?  2) does the can say "protect from freezing?"  3) has it scummed over, or worse is there a solid layer on top?  I have oil base paint that my grandfather left in the woodshed up north that's 60 or 70 years old and still good.  I'd guess that varnish is ok too.  I'd take a throwaway foam brush and put some on a scrap board and see what happens.  If it dries OK and looks good it's probably OK.  Water base is another story, I'd probably throw it out.  FWIW (you get what you pay for!)  (Neil Savage)

    Well... It's called Last n' Last..."-)

    As long as it's not snotty, it's probably fine...(Dave Collyer)

    "Opened gallons." That's not good. At a minimum I would buy some of that canned Nitrogen to spray in on the top of the varnish. It displaces the oxygen with an (inert?) gas so that the air can't dry it (or react with the varnish) out. I have no idea about the temperature question. All I know is "cool is good", I don't know anything about "below freezing" temperatures on varnish though I would think it wouldn't be good. I will be curious to see if anyone has done that with varnish too.  (Martin Jensen)

    In case anyone else was interested here is the response I received from the Last-n-Last varnish manufacturer.

    Hi Mr. Daley,

    Yes the Last n Last Marine & Door Spar Varnish should still be good. The low temperature should not effect the finish.  It is also a good idea to test it first.

    Robert Mendello

    Absolute Coatings, Inc.

    (Wayne Daley)


Someone on the list suggested that you could use propane to top off your dip tank to keep the varnish from scumming over.  I have now switched to Ace Hardware Spar Varnish that was suggested on the list.  I tried this and it seemed to keep the varnish clear on top but when I started dipping my rods in the varnish, it seemed to cause runs and streaks in the varnish on the rod.  I thought maybe that I put too much propane on the top of the varnish and this was causing the problem.  I am in the process now of sanding out the runs and streaks on a couple of new rods.

Has anyone else had this problem and what am I doing wrong.  (Tom Peters)

    Considering how much time and effort it takes to build a rod why do folks insist on experimenting with stuff like this when Bloxygen is cheap and readily available and is made specifically for this purpose?  (Larry Puckett)

    Propane, as used in our gas grills,  torches, and other useful tools, has additives like the propane "stink" which are oils.  Even when the propane is in a gaseous state, that oil is still present in some form.  That's probably what contaminated your finish, and has contaminated the finish in your tank.  It would probably be better to home-brew some CO2, (and probably a lot safer - less flammable) using vinegar and baking soda and letting the gas dribble into your tank.  No additives to contaminate your finish.  (Mark Wendt)

      Here's a list of various common propane contaminants from an industry publication. I sent it to the list last week when the topic first arose but for some reason it appears to have only gotten back to Al. At any rate there are a number of things in commercial grade propane that could cause problems with your varnish.

      Appendix A. Contaminants

      There are a number of potential contaminants in propane that when present in sufficient quantities have been shown to cause problems. This appendix provides a brief overview of just a few common contaminants, including:

      . Water

      . Oil residues and heavy hydrocarbons

      . Solid particulates

      . Air and nitrogen

      . Ammonia

      .High butane, propylene, sulfur, hydrogen sulfide, or sodium hydroxide content  (Larry Puckett)

    I got one word to say on this. Bloxygen (it's a brand and these words don't count against me)  (Martin Jensen)

    I’m the guy who suggested propane over varnish.  I’m using Helmsman varnish, flooded with propane then tightly capped.  My varnish has stayed skin-free as serviceable for over two years, now.  I’ve never had run or streak problem except when I have not paused long enough at a guide.

    One thing I do to ensure highest propane concentration is to put tape on the air holes in the nozzle.  Otherwise you get more air than propane.  (Al Baldauski)

      I have a propane torch. I keep my leftover MOW in these snap cap pill containers put out by CVS. The varnish don't skin over until I empty out a quarter of an inch or so, so are you telling me if I spray a little propane into that space and put the lid on the container, that the propane has replaced the air  and the varnish won't skin over?

      Have I got it right or am I some kind of dummy?

      And then when I open the lid the propane being heavier than air stays right on top of the varnish until I blow it out?  I then use what varnish I want and replace the  lid after putting in some more propane?

      Would that work with any oil based paint as well?  (Dick Steinbach)

        Have you ever lit your gas grill after waiting too long before hitting your igniter?  I just goes whump.  The small amount of propane in the top of a dip tube is unlikely to do anything but a brief  flare if ignited since it is NOT well mixed with air which it needs to burn.  (Al Baldauski)

    There were a lot of post last week and I might have missed an answer to someone’s question so here’s my final answer:

    I haven’t conducted a test to “prove” the effectiveness other than to say that my dip tube hasn’t skimmed for two years.  Granted the air space is small in proportion to the volume, so maybe the propane isn’t doing that much.  But in theory, it should work.  You could satisfy yourself by placing a small amount of varnish in a large container, say three time the volume of the varnish, cover it with propane and seal the container.  After some time, if it hasn’t skimmed, you got it!

    Small plastic containers are more likely to be a storage problem since, believe it or not, oxygen does permeate plastic, although slowly.  So propane may be more of a benefit here.

    Larry brought up some information about potential contaminants in propane. In theory they could cause problems, but is my belief that the levels are so small as to be insignificant.

    I wouldn’t recommend this technique for large cans, say 1 quart of varnish in a gallon can, since that volume of propane could be dangerous IF touched off.  The air space over my dip tube is only about a half a cup.  (Al Baldauski)


I was just thinking absent-mindedly and thought that this might be a good storage container for varnish. What do you think?

Let me know, I used to keep some pretty caustic chemicals in the ones I had as a photographer.  (Ren Monllor)

    I bought a couple of these several years ago from Woodworkers Supply. My varnish gelled pretty well in one. I think Woodcraft also sells them. The one  that I have left is collecting dust somewhere in a cabinet in my shop.  (Steve Weiss)


I know a lot of people use a diluted varnish for their first couple of coats on the wraps.  I would like to know what you all store the mix in or if you just mix a couple cc’s for each application.  Right now, I use a drip tube for varnishing the blank or the rod and store that varnish in a one gallon can.  Instead of taking from that can every time I want to coat my wraps, I would like to have a smaller container that I can mix and leave in the container in between coats.  I have heard that leaving it in glass jars or small glass tubes like head cement containers allows the varnish to thicken or cure some.  Enough rambling, how do all of you do it?  (Greg Reeves)

    I get a quart of phenol/alkyd varnish just for wraps and general purpose.  I break the fresh quart into smallest baby food containers (8) filled to the brim and open one at a time.  No problem jelling.   They are cheap even if you throw away the baby food -  or get jars free from new parents.  I happen to like the baby chocolate pudding - but detest any but fresh, stone ground grits. No, Cracker Barrel doesn't count.  (Darrol Groth)

      Ah ha, Darrol – That’s why I use empty marinated artichoke jars. I love those things. And besides the jars are hex shape, easy to grab without slipping!  (Tom Vagell)

    I found some ¾ oz. glass jars in the painting department of Michael’s Crafts. Put in a little Bloxygen or use the breath deep, blow into jar and shut lid quickly method. I haven’t had any problem yet.  (Gary Jones)

    I use polyurethane and use 1 oz glass bottles and put them in the freezer. Keeps for a very long time. I do not know how long since I have never had one go bad.  (Steve Kiley)


Well, I thought I'd give everyone a good laugh this morning.  I had mixed up a batch of varnish in a gallon glass jar a week ago in preparation for dipping before I found the bubbles in the wraps. 2 quarts of varnish. I also added 15% mineral spirits and 10% Penetrol. Mixed up just fine. Even added some of the heavier than air gas to keep it from forming a skim and put the lid on. The gas worked just fine. When I opened the jar and stirred it this morning it hadn't formed a skin on the surface, but I discovered that at least half had congealed into a large mass of rubbery goo. I could actually lift it out of the jar in one large drooping mass with a stick. Total loss. Understand the jar has been inside out of the cold the whole time. I've seen varnish and paint form a surface skim but never seen anything do this.  (Wayne Kifer)

    Yes, things thinned with mineral spirits will do that.  when I was in the trades we used to recycle our mineral spirits by dumping it in a 5 gallon bucket & letting it sit for some time.  There was always a mass of gunk in the bottom from the mineral spirits settling out. this is the last time I am going to say it. Thin with good turpentine!!!!!!!!!  (Bret Reiter)

      You know, I purposely bought a small bottle of artists turps to thin the varnish for my wraps. Then, of course, I went ahead and used the mineral spirits when I mixed up the larger batch for the dip tube. Brain fart. That seems to happen more often these days. The rod making gods have to be laughing. (Wayne Kifer)

        The ONLY things I use Mineral Sprits for is to thin oil base paint and clean out the brushes or remove "road tar" from my car. Never with mix it with varnish. You're just asking for trouble.  (Don Schneider)

    For those of you that may be interested about the differences in varnish, check out this page.  (Don Schneider)

    Long live Tung oil.  (Ren Monllor)

    This is the reason that I not longer use thinners or Penetrol. Had the same thing happen a couple of times. Lucky enough, I caught it before it had set and I could clean my dip tube.

    Prior to thinners/Penetrol - no problem. After stopping their use - no problem. Some of my varnish is in the dip tank for 3>4 years. All you need is a good valve.  (Don Anderson)


I wonder if there is any evidence that direct sunlight causes varnish to go bad. I'm relatively new to this but noticed that a sealed canning jar of thinned spar varnish that I was using on wraps kept well for several months out of the sunlight, but when I used it this summer and left it for several days near the window it gelled up. I have read in this forum that there seems to be a difference between clear and opaque dip tubes; could their exposure to sunlight also be a factor?  (Ray Wright)

    That looks like it could be an experiment for someone to try.

    Put equal amounts of varnish into two canning jars. One seal as is. The other, introduce some Bloxygen or CO2 (Made by combining Baking soda and Vinegar) and seal the jar. Place both jars in the sunlight. After a week check both jars by tipping them to see if either is jelled. Keep checking them this way and note which one jells first and how long it took. Keep checking until both are jelled. Report back to the list.

    Sorry, but I am traveling right now or I would do it.  (Dick Fuhrman)

      Did you use some sort of gas to displace the air in the jar? If you didn't I'd think that the gelling was due to having been opened for longer and that as the amount of air increased due to using some of the varnish there was more oxygen in the jar to promote gelling. (Henry Mitchell)

        Remember that clear glass does not give you protection from Ultra Violet Light, this is exactly why they used to put stuff (anything that needs UV protection) in brown bottles or some other color that does protect from UV.  (Joe Arguello)

          If UV exposure but also air affects varnish, would it then be a good idea to do this?

          1.) Buy a couple of bottles of good red wine, enjoy them over a nice dinner, and thoroughly wash out and dry the dark green bottles;

          2.) Get some of those wine bottle rubber stoppers with the air pump that draws out oxygen and creates a vacuum in the bottle;

          3.) Pour varnish in the bottle and use those stoppers and the pump to seal your varnish.

          This works for a 1962 Chateau Margaux.  It might work for spar varnish.   (Alan Boehm)

            Excellent suggestion.  (Hal Manas)

              What a WONDERFUL idea.

              I shall be supplying bottles to all, at a modest fee of course, and probably be able to address the labels correctly, as long as not too many requests come in per day!

              Send your requests, with $10 each, to Art Pooor  whatver,

                 37 Ardssssssel
                  Static Islllllllld
                  Nuevo yo....
                  10020003000000something  (Art Port)


I just got another quart of my favorite Urethane Spar Varnish and I am going to fill some new half pint paint cans with it, other than wiping out the cans is there anything else I should do to prevent the varnish from turning to Jell-O.  I plan to pour the varnish into each 1/2 pint can very near to the top.

I’ve lost a couple of half full quart cans to Jell-O due to my slow rod making speed and repeated can openings, so I hope to not waste as much this way.  (Mike Monsos)

    I use the little jelly jars by Ball. They have replaceable lids and work great for storing varnish, epoxy, guides, and any other small objects. I think mine are 4 oz jars. I use 1 gallon glass jars for storing cork rings.  (David Dziadosz)

      I've used saran wrap to cover it before hammering on the lid.  Works to create a better seal.  (Brian Morrow)

    Sounds like a good plan to me. Fill the cans so that the varnish just touches the bottom of the lid groove of the can. The amount of air left in the can shouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't use a screw top jar for anything more than the working pint. They do not seal as well as the cans, but cans tend to have seal problems  if they are opened too many times. I have had to replace the can on some problem color matches because the lid would no longer stay closed in the paint mixer. Store in a cool dry place. High heat can cause polyurethanes to start polymerization. We were selling Pratt & Lambert varnishes that had been on the shelf in the warehouse for nearly 10 years. They had dropped the P&L line and kept the remaining stock as a courtesy to a few of the commercial accounts. Some of the oil base paint was starting to have drying problems, but the varnish seemed to be holding up. Even if you loose a pint or two, a quart of varnish is less than you are paying for guides. Sometimes its hard to just throw something out, but you may end up paying more for the little cans than just buying a new quart of varnish occasionally.  (Larry Lohkamp)

      Thanks!  I was most concerned about the dry empty can kicking the varnish and starting the set up process.  I wasn't sure if I should prime the can with a wiping of thinner or something else.  (Mike Monsos)

      I guess it is a "no brainer" but finding a way to make the transfer without introducing any air into the varnish was a problem for me. I use a small ladle or a turkey baster. I am too klutzy to pour without drizzling the stuff.  (Doug Easton)

        I picked up a little brim that snaps onto the quart rim to try to keep from covering my bench with the varnish, we'll see how the pour goes soon.  I'm a klutz at times also trying to pour from a paint can.  (Mike Monsos)

          I have one of SWMBO old sheet cake pans I use when pouring varnish from can to can or to the dip tube.  (Scott Grady)

            I cut the top section off a 2 liter pop bottle and use it as a funnel.  (Greg Kuntz)

              Now store the 1/2 pint cans upside down. Then if any skin forms it will be at the bottom of the can when opened.  (Dick Fuhrman)

    I just poured the contents from the quart can into the four 1/2 pt cans and did not spill a drop!  Thanks to the "Paint'n Pal Paint Stretcher" (no financial or affiliated in any way).  This little can lip works great.  I'm sure I will save a lot of wasted varnish using it from the 1/2 pint cans in the future. (Mike Monsos)


It has been at least 6 months since I have dipped a rod or even worked on a rod.  Summer hit and things got busy and I don't know that I even walked into my shop until yesterday.  When I walked in to get things organized so I could start building again, I noticed that all of my extra splits of bamboo that I store in there were covered in mold.  After diligently cleaning everything, discarding a lot of other unsalvageable, I left the shop a little discouraged.  This morning I went back to the shop to dip a couple of rod sections that needed finishing and noticed that the top of my dip tube was cracked below the plug all the way to the coupling that attaches my PVC to my fluorescent light bulb protector.  I thought for sure the MOW would be gelled over but to my surprise it appears to be just as I left it.  I have never done a viscosity test on the varnish but there wasn't a bit of gelling on the surface and I dipped the butt section to see how it looked.  It appears that it is fine.  I topped off the tube with more Bloxygen and am now heading to buy materials for another dip tube.  Do you think the varnish is good, did I get lucky, or did the addition of Bloxygen on top of the varnish keep it from gelling over?  (Greg Reeves)

    It may be more of a testimony to MOW than anything else. I've had half a tube of MOW that I refill very small bottles with to coat wraps and I haven't used any in about a year. I tipped the tube into a strainer over a bottle yesterday not expecting to get anything, almost slopped varnish all over the work bench, it was fine. go figure.  (John Channer)

    Just FYI, Blox is actually argon (sp?) so if you know a welder, get him to put some in a container for you.  Same stuff, same benefit.  Just heavier than oxygen and displaces the ox.  (Doug Hall)

      I'm dying to find out what kind of container you're going to get a welder to use, for you to carry home some Argon?!?!  (David Dziadosz)


I use a lot of Bloxygen to top off my varnish tubes and cans but it is fairly expensive so I was wondering if anyone has an alternative that is less expensive but as effective.

I think propane might work as it is heavier than air but probably too dangerous.  (Larry Tusoni)

    Personally, I like the vinegar/baking soda procedure where you pour, tip an empty looking bucket into the top of a can of varnish. You should have been there when my "buddies" fell on the floor laughing and accused me of practicing black magic. I have yet to live it down. (Timothy Troester)

    I found this in the wine section of the local grocery store, so you can save on shipping at the very least. It is a big can that says it has 120 full uses. I have to give credit to Jim Lowe who mentioned wine preserver on several occasions.  (Scott Bearden)

      Check at Bevmo - but I think a can of the stuff is $10-14.00.  (Tom Key)

      I tried wine preserver; I don't know if the gas is equal parts vs Bloxygen.  I didn't seem to work that well for me, but give it a try, perhaps I am wrong.  I think I paid 8 bucks a can in the spirits store.  (Tim - Flex)

        All you need is a gas that displaces oxygen.  I've been using those cans of "keyboard" cleaner available at Staples.  I think they're either propane or butane based (not near a can to look at the ingredients at the moment) and their relatively cheap.  (Mark Wendt)

          Most of these "canned air" products are fluorocarbons -- butane and propane are not used much anymore due to flammability. Bloxygen is pure argon gas whereas the wine preserver is a mix of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon. Be careful not to blow yourselves up using flammable products just to save a few pennies per rod. (Larry Puckett)

            Actually Bloxygen claims to be a mix of Argon/Nitrogen/CO2. I will probably use either just Nitrogen or the mix for my wine and varnish.  (Larry Tusoni)

              This is from their web site and I have attached a copy of their MSDS — both and the label on the can say pure Ar:

              Bloxygen uses pure argon. This gas is a natural component of our air (about 1%). A full can, because it contains only a gas, feels empty. The gas is nontoxic, nonflammable, and inert. Deliberately misusing BlOxygen by concentrating and inhaling it can result in rapid suffocation, asphyxiation, and perhaps death due to lack  of oxygen.  There are no CFCs, VOCs, or added propellents.  (Larry Puckett)

                Well perhaps they changed the formulation as my cans read:

                Contains: Nitrogen, Argon and Carbon Dioxide.  (Larry Tusoni)

                  That will produce nearly exactly the same results if inhaled...

                  Gawd, that'd be like drowning in air...  (Mike St. Clair)

                  How about straight carbon dioxide?? I ended up with a box of the small CO2 cartridges for a pellet gun. I think it was Harbor Freight where I bought a small "blow gun" that uses the little CO2 cartridges. Handy little blow gun and it seems to work pretty good in the varnish tube, but I'm not totally sure!  (David Dziadosz)

                    That's what Timothy Troester is doing with vinegar and baking soda.  He's making CO2 and pouring it in the varnish can.  (David Dziadosz)

    I have been using propane for a couple years and I am still here. It works for me as long as I remember to tape over the air inlets to the plumbers torch when I squirt it into the varnish can.  (Joe Hudock)

    To my knowledge, Bloxygen is just simple Argon gas nothing special & should be able to be had in bulk at any welding supplies shop.  (Martin Wittmann)

    I’ve been using propane for years and it works.  Haven’t blown myself up yet, but of course, I don’t have a stogie hanging from my mouth when I open my dip tube J  Besides, what’s the worst that could happen.  Did you ever light a gas grill after you left the gas on too long?  It just goes WUFF. And that’s a LOT more gas that in the top of you dip tube.

    The proof that it works:  I keep varnish in a 1 oz bottle for coating wraps.  If I don’t use propane over the varnish, it skins up in a couple of days.  If I use propane, NEVER.

    Instead of taping the air inlet on my nozzle, I remove the nozzle so that just the tine orifice is exposed.  (Al Baldauski)

    I find it amusing that we, myself included, use all sorts of reasoning to justify unsafe acts.  Steve, that's right I know the inventor, uses an ultra pure inert gas in Bloxygen.  Now leave me alone, I have to go clean a carburetor in gas.  Think I'll take up smoking while I do it.  Maybe I am being overly sensitive but, I read about avoidable accidents every day.  Ya that's right, I am one of them: A safety committee member at a nuclear power plant.

    We spend hundreds for a small plane or fancy little tool to build these friggin rods, but we can't spring with a couple of bucks for an inert gas?  We all truly touched in the head. Break loose with the pennies guys and at least get an inert gas if you don't want to spring for the Bloxygen.  Who know what sort of crap is being absorbed into your expensive varnish that can affect the finish.

    No personal attack intended on you Al.  Since I deleted the initial post, I hit "Reply" on your post.  Its the most recent.  (Pete Emmel)

      Shocked, I tell you shocked!  But you nuclear guys better be anal!  (Al Baldauski)

    Small butane lighters WITH THE FLINTS REMOVED work well, as long as you aren't covering a large area, like a gallon can. In a tube it takes about 5 to 10 seconds to put a decent layer in.  (Mike St. Clair)

    PS - Oh please remember to remove the flint first! hahahaa

    Thanks to every who responded.

    FYI I have decided to buy a 50cf tank for $130.00 that comes filled with Argon, and regulator for $70.00 and a nozzle for a few dollars.  About that I would pay for 1 years, worth of Bloxygen, but should last at least 2~4 years for both my varnish and winemaking needs.  (Larry Tusoni)

      Far be it for me to dissuade you from spending money and thus stimulating this miserable economy(oops, probably not p.c. for this list, scuze me), but if you use a dip tank with a reasonably sealable opening, such as a rubber stopper or something similar, all you really need to do is float a teaspoon or so of your favorite thinner on top of what's in there when you're done varnishing for a while. I make one rod at a time and varnish about once every three months or so, and most of the varnish in my PVC tube is pushing 4 years old, the rest of it gets added a little at a time as the level drops. just thought I'd mention the possibility of an alternative.  (John Channer)


What is the brand name of the compressed CO2 and where do you get it? Need it for my spar varnish dip system.  (Don Anderson)

    Try Highland Hardware in Atlanta, GA - they have it.  (Frank Paul)

      That's a great store. They must have everything, well maybe not. I bought my Lie-Nielsen plane from them when I was in Atlanta years ago.  (Hal Manas)

    I use a product from Lee Valley its Argon called "finish preserve "for around 15 bucks, it seems to work for me so far. Previously I used to float a piece of cling film on top of the liquid, and that worked too but messy.  (Keith Paskin)

      I went to the Bloxygen web site as suggested by David and found that they supply the "Finish Preserve" to Lee Valley, it's just relabeled Bloxygen and it costs 12.95 instead of 9.95 for the original. Buying a case of 12 makes them just  under 8.50 each and no shipping. Perhaps a group buy could be worked out with everyone who is interested picking theirs up at a gathering so shipping would not have to be bothered with. Just an idea that I surely don't want to carry out. Just call me lazy. (Hal Manas)

        Or, you could go down to your local Staples or Best Buy and pick up a can of the stuff we call "Keyboard Duster" here at work.  All you need to do in a finish tube is displace the oxygen from the finish.  $5 - $6 or so for a can of compressed whatever, as long as it's not oxygen, is cheaper than all that stuff you guys are talking about.  Been using the stuff for years.  (Mark Wendt)

      Bloxygen is argon, not CO2, just FYI. (Henry Mitchell)

        Problem Don and I have is that we live north of the border.  (Keith Paskin)

        I believe Bloxygen is argon gas. heavier than air. settles on top of the varnish keeping oxygen from coming in contact with the varnish.  (David Atchison)

          Isn't argon used  in welding?   Just a thought.  (Neil Savage)

            Yes it is.  As a shielding gas.  I have a great big tank of it hooked up to my wire feed welder.  Just haven't figured out a convenient way to use it for varnish protection.  (Rick Hodges)

          "Bloxygen is argon gas. heavier than air. settles on top of the varnish keeping oxygen from coming in contact with the varnish."

          Not true. All gases mix perfectly and stay mixed due to Brownian motion.  Check your HS chemistry book.  This especially true in small volumes like a paint can or a wine bottle and blowing in the diluent gas..

          All that is happening is the oxygen is getting diluted and the polymerization is slowed. And money is being drained out of the buyer's pocket.  Use nitrogen.  (Dave Burley)

        Years ago the Dad of a guy I grew up with was working on the Nuclear plant in Michigan just north of St. Joe.  They were welding down in a tunnel & one of the guys who was down there passed out, so they thought.  Two guys (one was my friends Dad) went down to get him & they all died from the argon gas that had built up in the tunnel.  (Bret Reiter)

          All too common a story in the chemical and wine industry. Never go into a tank without checking the oxygen level electronically, especially if you see someone else has passed out.  A winemaker friend of mine jumped into a wine tank which he had just emptied of fermenting wine and realized what he had done and was tall enough (small tank) to reach up and pull himself out in time.  (Dave Burley)

          Yeah, well, it's not toxic in the strict sense of the word, but you certainly cannot breathe it either.  Like nitrogen, I suppose.  You'd think that the contractors would know to maintain an oxygen supply in those circumstances, wouldn't you?

          I am no expert,  but  I  would  have  thought  that  a heavier-than-air inert gas like argon WOULD in fact settle out and displace air.  Certainly bottled fuel gas will form a layer in a place like a motor home, and you can smell it low down and find clear air higher up - which is why motor homes have to be fitted with bottom ventilators.  (Peter McKean)

            Being heavier than air the guys suffocated.  The ones who went down to get him did not know that there had been a leak.  Freak accident.  (Bret Reiter)

            Propane will not settle out if mixed with air BUT if done slowly ( as in a leak) it can displace still air and form a layer, which can be very dangerous, since you can get to the explosive limit.  Eventually, it will mix with the air.  (Dave Burley)

            I tried a test.  Last night I took a glass quart jar & sprayed Bloxygen as far down into it as  I  could  for  a 10-count, then capped the jar.  This morning I took a long fireplace match, lit it and lowered it into the jar.  I expected it to be extinguished as it got to the lower part where the inert gas should have displaced the oxygen.  It kept burning just fine. MYYV.

            I use Bloxygen and it seems to work for me, but now I have doubts.  I suppose a better test would be 2 jars with a 1/2 inch of varnish side-by-side.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

              I suspect when you opened the jar, you mixed in air or air reentered the jar as you were blowing in Bloxygen.  Low oxygen air can support combustion at a lower concentration than exists in the normal air.  Mixing is fast, as I have been saying. Chances are slim you can ever replace all the air with a few counts.  You need lots of counts and a way to restrict remixing from outside air.

              You could try a small hole in the lid into which you blow the Bloxygen and cork it up and put the match through this hole.  Of course, this does not replicate how you would use it with your varnish container.

              In the case of varnish, since it is eventually many molecules which are affected in this polymerization, reducing the oxygen level will help and may explain your observation on using Bloxygen.

              If you are going to do varnish, also measure the viscosity with a paint viscosity cup from your auto parts store or paint supplier in the range of the base viscosity of the varnish before and after.  This will be the real test, as it takes a substantial amount of polymerization before you can observe it by eye.  (Dave Burley)

              I forgot to comment on your statement :

              "This morning I took a long fireplace match, lit it and lowered it into the jar.  I expected it to be extinguished as it got to the lower part where the inert gas should have displaced the oxygen.

              It kept burning "

              Gases do not separate based on density.

              Each atom/molecule of gas occupies the entire volume in the container over time.  Gases are perfectly miscible into each other and stay that way as evidenced by Brownian motion.  (Dave Burley)

    The maker (bottler, canner, whatever) of Bloxygen sells it by the case at a discount. I bought a case from him last year and he even paid the shipping. Cost about a hunnertbux. Sold about half of it at a couple of gatherings for less than what you pay for it retail and got my 2 or 3 year supply for next to nothing. You can Google up his web site.  (David Atchison)

    Bloxygen was nitrogen and argon when I last used it. It works great, but if you use enough of it, a tank of argon or nitrogen is much, much cheaper.

    I have a tank of Argon that I use for my varnish and for my winemaking.  Nitrogen is cheaper, but Argon is better for wine.

    I paid about $200 for a new 55cf tank, Argon, hose and nozzle.  This will last me about 2 or 3 years, so for me, it is much cheaper than Bloxygen.  (Larry Tusoni)

    The name is least I think this is what you want. Woodcraft is where I saw it. Others will hopefully have other options for you on where to get it.  (Don Peet)

      My can of "Nothing" ie. Bloxygen, lasted about 6 months and cost over $10 by the time I got it shipped. I'd say pretty expensive for Nothing in a can.  (Larry Swearingen)

        For small containers where flow rate of diluent gas is very high (as in the case of Bloxygen) having a heavy gas gives no advantage as mixing is always 100%, so the dilution of the air is just a mathematical calculation.  If you want 1% of the original gas you have to pump in 99 volumes of the diluent gas.  Save yourself money and use nitrogen.

        I'm not sure if this is still true, but a regulator used for carbon dioxide (say for beer) can be used for nitrogen. Maybe the fitting will have to be changed.  (Dave Burley)


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