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I built a few strip canoes a while back and have had a gallon of West System 105 Epoxy Resin and some 207 hardener sitting out in the garage for three years now, and have been wondering for some time if it would be a useful product for rodmaking.  Potentially it would impregnate the cane, act as an adhesive in glue-up and totally seal everything so that the rod would be totally waterproof.

Well yesterday I glued up a test tip section and was very pleased with the results. I had plenty of working time, and easy cleanup using latex gloves and small rags. After binding I wiped with rags again and straightened and left it to cure for five hours or so. I then removed the string and sanded the not quite hard covering and put it back in the string till this morning. Another light sanding and a coat of thinned MOW varnish and it looks great. 

I am happy to report that the lamination is excellent as far as I can tell at this time. I seems stiffer than the sister tip which was glued with Titebond II. I gave it several test bends and there is no sign of failure or delamination.

In the future I will test its impregnation and waterproofing characteristics with the cane and report if anyone is interested.

So my question is: have any of you had any experience with this procedure and what were your findings and responses.  (Dick Steinbach)

    I too have some West System epoxy remaining from my boat building efforts. Had thought of using it but haven't wanted to deal with the cleanup. George Barnes in his book Fly Rods Galore talks about using West System for a number of rods, which he states are still in use.

    When I built my drift boat I had to scarf the gunnels, for which I used the West System epoxy. Of the four scarfs (one each inner and outer rails) two have failed. The worst one was on the outer rail unfortunately at the point of maximum bend (read stress). After trying to figure out how to reglue the scarf securely without making it ugly I simply used Gorilla Glue and clamped it as a temporary fix as it was in the middle of the season. I planned to undo the repair and make a proper fix during my winter maintenance. That temporary fix has lasted six years or more and shows no sign of further failure. I have even stopped carrying a C clamp for use if the scarf failed again while out on the water.

    Not sure what this says other than that I am a firm believer in Gorilla Glue and use it to glue my rods. The West System will have to wait until I have built enough rods that I get bored and start looking for new things with which to experiment.  (Steve Shelton)

      Careful guys. If you look at the west system web site (or at least the site they had up in 1999 when I built my boat), they tell you the stuff right out of the bottle isn't recommended as an adhesive. You need to add a filler to thicken it up (mine came with mahogany wood flour) to make it work as a glue.

      I don't know if it's still up, but the web site was a wealth of information regarding boat building epoxies and boat building in general.  (Chris Obuchowski)

      West System isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Here is a link to Gougeon Brothers, the manufacturer of West System. You can get to the West System info from there.  (Larry Blan)

      The problem that Steve mentions with his scarf blowing out brings something to the forefront of my mind  that's been lurking there a while.  I've read the many threads on glues here and in the archives and Tip site.  It seems that for just about any glue you'd care to mention, there's a horror story.  Folks swear off using this or that glue because they've had a failure.  You know - "Glued my last rod with TBII and it delaminated on the  first cast.   Never again."  But it should be remembered that HOW THE GLUE IS USED can make as much difference (or more) than the glue itself.  I've only made a handful of rods, but have done a lot of small boat building.  In the case of the epoxy glued scarf, if there wasn't sufficient thickening agent (micro fiber) added to the epoxy, you'll end up with a weak joint.  If too much clamping pressure is used, the glue is squeezed out and the joint is weak.  If you don't wet the gluing surfaces with unthickened epoxy so it can penetrate the grain before the glue is applied. You guessed it, weak joint.  Then there's the mixing ratios, scarf ratios, and temperature factors, etc.  You get the idea - plenty of things to trip over.  I guess It's always bothered me that the glue gets a black mark when the problem may have stemmed from the overall gluing technique used.  I mean, if other makers are using the glue successfully, why didn't work for you?

      Of course if I ever have a glue failure, I'm sure it'll be due to the glue being bad.  (Bill Benham)

        True.  On the other hand, when you hear of other makers having trouble with glue type X from vendor Y, and you have had the same trouble, and your past experience with the glue has been good, you begin to think there's a problem with the vendor, not the glue per se.  (Neil Savage)

          Or, you may be trying to use an adhesive for an application for which it may not have been designed.  Not all laminating adhesives are designed to take the stress of the tension and compression that we submit or rods to.  (Mark Wendt)

    I used West system with the 209 (Super slow hardener) on some early rods of mine, when I was living in an area where the daytime temp averages well over 100F. I was very happy with the results. I liked the lowish viscosity, as you could really see the splines take on that "wet" look as the resin soaked in.

    I've actually been thinking of going back to it on a couple of trial rods of my own.

    From the look of the specs on the web (under the "typical physical properties" page), the 207 hardener has similar bonding properties to the 205, 206 and 209. Keep us informed of how you go.  (Nick Taransky)

      I've seen many threads stating WS epoxy as unusable for rod building.  Morton Lovstad and I have made many rods with west system epoxy, the oldest about 7 years old now.  I used that rod this summer catching many rainbows up to 20" on the San Juan.  Never had a problem with it, never have.  (Mark Petrie)

    I had experience with the West system glues a number of years ago when using it to bed bolts into laminated beams. The important characteristic that made it suitable for this use was that the mix we were using softened at considerably less then the boiling point of water and therefore if the alignment was slightly out it was possible to soften the glue and realign the bolt.

    I think there are a number of different mixes of West system glues but it important to check the spec for the mix you have. I doubt I would use use it for rods , particularly if the rod could be left in the back of a car on a hot summer day and when gorilla glue is readily available, cheap , and easy to use.  (Ian Kearney)

    I haven’t used West’s brand of boat building epoxy, but have used RAKA brand on a Para 15 with good success.  I’ve also used Epon on a few.  I suspect that boat building epoxies are very similar in characteristics so that the comparison is the same (not suggesting Epon is a boat building epoxy, just a comparison to a commonly used rod epoxy).  Raka epoxy is definitely thinner than Epon and in my opinion, therefore, easier to apply.  You do have to be careful to apply and even coat, then reapply a second coat after the first one soaks in a little.  As long as there is enough excess to ooze out when binding, then you won’t have a starved joint.  The Epon, being thicker, is more difficult to get a thorough first coat, but otherwise, I consider the two about the same.

    Upon heat setting, if mixed to the ratios recommended for maximum strength, they both give very strong bonds resistant to straightening.  I have used the “iron straightening technique” and achieved success  only to find a day later the “sweep” is back.  The same thing happened when I heated a tip in my oven at 210 degrees F, and held it in a reverse curve till cool.  This suggests that if you achieve a straight rod after heat treating, it will be straight FOREVER!  Hot cars in the summer be damned.

    The clean up is easy if scraped after 12 hours and before heat set.  (Al Baldauski)

    I’ve never tried bending a section before heat curing so I can’t speak from experience.  The set you put in the section could be from:

    1. poor quality bamboo
    2. non-heat treated bamboo
    3. improper mix ratio in the epoxy
    4. non-heat-cured epoxy
    5. some or all of the above

    If your mix ratio is 2:1 like mine and you measured reasonably accurately, then after heat curing at about   220 to 230 degrees F  for 1-2 hours and you used good heat treated bamboo, it should stay straight.  You’re gonna need to make sure it stays straight during the curing process.  (Al Baldauski)

    Don’t bother stripping the varnish.  I’ve quick cured a lot of varnish coats by baking at 210 degrees F with no problems.  (Al Baldauski)

    Regarding “Poor”’ bamboo.  It’s not the supplier, it’s mother nature.  And the supplier can’t see some of what mother nature does to us.  I’ve had a bamboo strip that was seemingly good except for one section between two nodes.  The rest were fine and resilient but the bad section would take a set with almost no effort  (Al Baldauski)


I've rather a lot of West system epoxy doing nothing here, so it might be used for rods, two questions:

1) Should I use the slow (406) hardener or is the normal  405 OK?

2) Can I thin it  with  Meths  (denatured  alcohol,  about  80% ethyl).  (Robin Haywood)

    Hardener is strictly dependent on ambient temperature.

    This is from Gougeon Bros. web site:

    There are epoxy-based products specifically designed to penetrate and reinforce rotted wood. These products, basically an epoxy thinned with solvents, do a good job of penetrating wood. But the solvents compromise the strength and moisture barrier properties of the epoxy. WEST SYSTEM epoxy can be thinned with solvents for greater penetration, but not without the same compromises in strength and moisture resistance. Acetone, toluene or MEK have been used to thin WEST SYSTEM epoxy and duplicate these penetrating epoxies with about the same effectiveness. If you chose to thin the epoxy, keep in mind that the strength and moisture protection of the epoxy are lost in proportion to the amount of solvent added.

    There is a better solution to get good penetration without losing strength or moisture resistance. We recommend moderate heating of the repair area and the epoxy with a heat gun or heat lamp. The epoxy will have a lower viscosity and penetrate more deeply when it is warmed and contacts the warmed wood cavities and pores. Although the working life of the epoxy will be considerable shortened, slower hardeners (206, 207, 209) will have a longer working life and should penetrate more than 205 Hardener before they begin to gel. When the epoxy cures it will retain all of its strength and effectiveness as a moisture barrier, which we feel more than offsets any advantages gained by adding solvents to the epoxy.  (Larry Blan)

      I made two similar tips, one used Titebond II and the other with west system 105 resin & 207 hardener (3-1 mix); the first tip was very soft and held a set after bending for a few minutes. The second was very much different. It is extremely stiff and I can bend it for several minutes and it springs right back to straight as an arrow. I assume it would make a very fast rod, it feels like a graphite

      Both were made from the same cane. The procedure was the same except for the adhesive.  I had far more time than necessary with the 207, I don't remember how much but it was hours & I removed the string and wiped it down as much as possible and rebound it, It turned the cane a lovely glossy golden yellow and looks varnished.

      I haven't had time to experiment further with it; too much gardening, wallpapering, spring cleaning etc right now, but I plan to try other things with it such as bending it in a form for several hours to see if it takes a set. I also want to see how waterproof it is.

      I like to darken my rods with potassium permanganate so I am going to sand it a bit to see if I can get any oxidation on the surface. I suspect not.

      Although I used it full strength for glue-up I plan to try some of the solvents on some wooden reel seats and handles to see the results.  (Dick Steinbach)

      West System epoxy at least used to have a low melt point to assist in boat fastener removal with the application of heat. As a rule bits and bobs attached to boats should only stay put for as long as you want them to and occasionally you want to remove them, West specialize in boats so know this and ensure you don't need to carbonize the boat to remove fittings, could be the heat of a car with the windows would up would be enough to cause a set or maybe even delamination problems however epoxy that softens with heat regains full strength again once reset . There are epoxies that would be less trouble overall IMHO. It IS extremely good for it's intended purpose however.  (Tony Young)

    I bought some West system epoxy, a while back.  I can't remember the numbers (205/6?  the standard  hardener anyway) it was the standard boat building pack and it was ok as far as time to use goes.  Like all these epoxies the key is to get it on the cane fairly quickly as once it is thin you  have time, leave it in the pot and it will get hot very quickly and set up.  With what I normally use - Internationals version - I can glue two sections from one mix but I often mix a small batch for each section and I would do this with the West's as it sets up quicker.

    Perhaps not so surprisingly good old Cascamite is  the opposite, plenty of pot life but once you spread it thin it tacks up rapidly.

    I never used the West resin for a rod as I found it too viscous for easy use.  This was before I found out about thinning with Meths which I have yet to try.

    I did use the West epoxy for the test strips I made when doing the node testing for the Power Fibers article and the glue stood up well with both failures in the cane not on the glue line.

    My advice with any glue is to make up some test sections and see how the glue works in practice in your own situation and then do some heat straightening and see how it stands up.  From my experience I would not expect problems but you have to assure yourself.  (Gary Marshall)

      All, if you spread the WEST epoxy out on a paper plate or throw away aluminum pie pan, it stays usable a lot longer.  In a plastic drinking glass I've had it smoke and melt the plastic before I got it spread.  (On a boat.)  (Neil Savage)

        Heavens, you blokes use some WICKED glues.  My old 828 epoxy seems tame by comparison - no smoke, no fire, no brimstone.  How boring!  (Peter McKean)

      West does get very hot, they recommend not mixing in large volumes and never eve user a Styrofoam cup.  (Tony Young)

    'Bin it' and use Aerolite or Resorcinol!  (Paul Blakley)

      Good point that. They work great, very easy to get along with.  (Tony Young)

    This is discussed already earlier on list:

    Ascertain the heat limits (tolerance) of your West epoxy - the heat straightening with traditional heat after gluing may make West epoxy very weak. My only total delaminating disaster was with a west epoxy.  (Tapani Salmi)


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