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I'm having some varnish problems and it's got me stumped. I thin my varnish 60 percent varnish and 40 mineral spirits. I built a new dip tube and that’s when the problems started. The finish dries kinda rough and in some places doesn’t adhere to the blank. So I thought my dip tube was contaminated, so I went and bought another section of pipe and then I attach a rag to a piece of rod and saturated rag with denature alcohol, I then let set for about an hour then I glued the butt cap on and then a cap for other end, so I let that sit for about 2 hours then I poured 2 quarts of  new varnish in tube then added some mineral spirits, well I have same problem. I  used the same varnish and mineral spirits as on first tube, so I have to go back and use old varnish in old tube for the pieces come out right. I guess I should just strain old tube through cheese cloth and then pour back in old tube. This has got me stumped, I’m wondering if I should thin varnish with something else any suggestion.  (Dave Henney)

    Is the new tube and old tube the same material? It does sound like the varnish is contaminated by the tube material or glue used to attach the end caps.  (Marty DeSapio)

    The cheesecloth really isn't that great of a strainer.  Head down to your local auto body repair supply store, and ask if they have a 3M extra fine strainer.  Comes in a box of 100, if I remember correctly.  It's a very fine particulate strainer, lint free, and will take the smallest nasty out of your finish.  Anything smaller that sneaks through these finish strainers is too small for the eye to see.  Definitely sounds like you got some dust or other nasties in your finish.  (Mark Wendt)


Has anybody experienced failure of the top finish to adhere to the lower substrate?

I see a lot of guys are dipping/dripping/brushing on finishes after the guides are wrapped. I've done this as well and with the finish I used earlier seemed to have no problem with adhesion of the final coat to the previous coats. But, the finish I switched to now [ Minwax Spar Urethane ]  requires that the previous finish be abraded with 200 grit to set up the "tooth" required for adhesion. This is quite difficult of accomplish particularly in the guide foot area. Is there reason to be concerned or should I make up the required sanding picks to do the job.

PS - I really like how the trim wrap looks after the varnish covers it completely and over to the blank. The trim wraps seem to "jump" out @ you if this is done. Looks great.  (Don Anderson)

    I use Minwax Helmsman, and I do not go overboard on sanding every tiny little spot. It could be how I thin with Penetrol, but I have never had a major problem with adhesion of coats. I am a bit careless about when and if I dip, so for not having a good routine, I have either been lucky for the last 5 years or it really does not matter. I use 0000 steel wool 90% of the time. Quick and easy, like instant grits!  (Bob Maulucci)

    I too use Minwax Spar Urethane and do a final dip or two with the guides on and wrapped.  I just dull the finish with 600 grit (400 is probably fine enough) before I wrap the guides.  Coat the wraps a few times and then dip the whole rod.  I did have some problems in the past when I was using much finer grit (1200) to take the gloss off.   (David Van Burgel)

      I have just started using a poly finish.  I would love to tell you what it is, I get it from the caretaker here at work.  They use it to recoat the gymnasium floors.  I have spoken to the manufacturer and it is a Canadian product, but basically their instructions are thin the first coat 10% to 15% and scuff up the finish.  I've even sprayed the finish by thinning it 50% and it works fine.

      I know for a fact that the caretakers do not sand the floors well here when they recoat the gymnasium floors and the stuff adheres well.  They use scuff pads to dull the finish only.  Like Bob M., I  use a fine #0000 steel wool only and have not had any problems in the past year using just the steel wool.  I have also tried the scuff pads in fine and extra fine and they seem to work well also.

      My dipping process is dip once for tips and twice for butt sections, wrap the guides, two or 3 coats of spar or poly on the wraps and then dip once more.  After this is done, I polish the finish to remove any specks, dust, dog hair etc  using steel wool, rottenstone and then some car stuff.  I find I get a nice semi gloss finish.  (Mark Babiy)

    Sounds like Johnson GYM finish.  (Patrick Coffey)

      This one is made by a Canadian company called Solignum.  From what I understand they don't sell the product outside of Canada, but I am sure that every varnish manufacturer makes an industrial floor finish.   I remember that Pratt and Lambert used to make one.

      This stuff dries to a high gloss, but I have never had the very smooth finish that I used to get with Spar.  Since I go over the finish with steel wool, it has never bothered me. The rods that I have seen finished with a poly  like Helmsman have dried to a very high gloss and smooth finish.  (Mark Babiy)


I have a new mystery that I'd like some help solving.  Yesterday I applied a second coat of gloss Helmsman Spar (fully mixed) using the a drain tube (same one for two years) at a drain rate of 2"/minute and stopping at each guide for 2-3 minutes.  The section was then placed in the drying cabinet (85 degrees) and left until this morning.  The resulting finish was perfect - no runs, sags, or dust - in fact I'd have to say it was one of the best I've been able to produce.   Except, isn't there almost always an except, for the small places where the finish is dull and seem to be random the full length of the section - these spots are narrow, mostly on the apexes.  If I didn't know better I'd say the varnish was not fully mixed, but that is not the case.  Before I applied the finish I used the same prep procedure that Tony has pounded into my thick skull - lightly rubbed out the entire section with 4/0 steel wool to remove the sheen from the first coast, when over the section with a strong magnet to remove any residual steel wool, blew the section off with compressed air, and finished by wiping the section down with a clean rag soaked with denatured alcohol.  In the past I've had runs and sags, but this is the first time I've experienced these dull spots.

Is there a simple explanation?  (Tom Key)

    Your corners may have been too sharp? If you didn't already do so, on the next coat lightly dress the corners and pay particular detail to them when cleaning up with alcohol. It sounds like the varnish pulled away from the corners, which is a problem I had a year ago. Really sharp corners look good, but make it hard for the varnish to adhere to. It tends to wick away to the flats. Tony Spezio offered the same advice then and it cured my problem.  (Scott Bearden)

    Sounds like your finish pulled from the corners.  Best way to fix this problem with your varnish is to run down to your local paint store and pick up a can of Penetrol.  This stuff helps your finish "flow" and stay "flowed."  Varnish tends to pull away from the sharp corners.  Mix in the Penetrol to about 10 - 15 % - it works a bit like a paint reducer, in that it thins down the varnish.  (Mark Wendt)


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