I tried the "French style bamboo brush" featured in The Planing Form on some windings today. If You're looking for a neat way to apply varnish on wraps, You better give it a try. It works better than all the different method I've tried like flat, mohair and foam brush, dubbing needle, match sticks, tooth pick You name it.  (Danny Twang)

I don't receive The Planing Form.  Would you mind elaborating a little?  (Harry Boyd)

Shame on You guys, send Ron B. a check and subscribe for The Planing Form!!  I was forced to do so myself, thought it was required, to call myself a rodmaker....

Anyway, bamboo brush is easy to make, take a cut off split and taper the end (from the pith side) to a thin, translucent spatula. Viola a 'boo brush!! (Danny Twang)

That's exactly what I'm using!! I invented it  myself. What I do is saturate the wrappings with varnish. I spread it evenly on the whole wrap with the 'brush', and, while turning the rod around, put some more varnish on so it makes a 'tear' under the wrapping. I make the tear flow around by turning the rod until all is really soaked. Then I hold the rod still until a drop forms under the rod. I then pick it up with my 'bamboo brush'.  Works quite  good for me.  (Geert Poorteman)


I have been applying varnish to my wraps with a brush, but I have been applying finish to graphite with a Spatula.. So I got the spatula thing figured out on plastic so I just started applying varnish with a spatula and I tell you what you have more control of the varnish and you can square off the edges real nice.  You can get these spatulas very cheap at Flea Markets and Gun and Knife shows.  (Dave Henney)


On my latest rod I tried something different, probably has already been tried,  but new to me.  To apply the finish (thinned Helmsman), I used a small head cement applicator bottle. It has a long needle like spout. While the rod is turning hold the bottle slightly at an angle and a light squeeze till the finish starts to run out. When you get a good excess before it drips off the bottom, move it around with the needle spout tip while holding the bottle more upright. You can move it around where you want it, but the neat thing is, after the thread soaks up all it needs, the excess drains back into the bottle! My rod turner turns 6 rpm. This process took less time and fewer coats to finish and less mess (for me) than with a brush or with a needle. So, has anybody tried this method, is it in the archives someplace, or is this just plain old news?

One more thing,  would head  cement make a good color preserver? I don't use color preserver, because I just can't get a good even color using it. But, if it did, it would give more options to wrap colors.  (David Dziadosz)

I use Japanese silk and since I switched to it I have had no problems with keeping the colors true without blotches. I like your method of applying the varnish to the   raps.   I   use   a Stim-U-Dent for the first two coats and then switch to a brush. The idea of a small bottle would certainly help keep the varnish fresh.  (Mark Dyba)

I've used Griffith's thin head cement as a color preserver on a couple of restorations..(old Grangers) and it's worked well. A fellow list member warned me that head cement might crack but so far the Griffith’s is doing well after 6 years. Some head cements might crack if they aren't flexible but the thread wraps don't flex much anyway.

The head cement applicator bottle idea is cool ..I'll have to try it. I'm using a piece of drill rod sharpened to a point right now. I can put a drop or two on the wrap and move it without running off the wrap. I'm wrapping after varnishing the blank. If I do slop over a little a 6" piece of fly tying thread wrapped around the rod and pulled into the spill wicks it right off.  (Dennis Higham)

I have been using the glue bottle for years and it works great. The wicking thread tip is a real winner. Will give it a try on my next rod.  Never heard of it before.

Thanks Dennis for sharing.  (Tony Spezio)


I've noticed recently some comments about applying varnish to the wraps; some use a brush, some a matchstick, some a piece of bamboo, and the rest use other stuff.  For those of you who use a piece of bamboo: how big is it?  How wide  -  1/2 inch,  1/8 inch, or???  How thick is it - 1/8 inch, .050 inch, or ??? Is it tapered to a chisel point on the end, or left blunt?  (Claude Freaner)

Approximately 1.5 mm wide. The thickness is tapered over a length of 10 mm from 1 mm to almost 0 at the tip.  See a photo here.  (Markus Rohrbach)

Mine is a bit narrower than the wraps (about 1/8") and "sharpened" like a chisel.  I like to be able to wipe and move excess varnish with it.  I also use a small knitting needle.  (David Van Burgel)

I use a piece of bamboo about the width of a tooth pick (~1/16") and chiseled.  Being that small makes it easier to prevent large drops of varnish from being spread.  Works perfectly while the rod section is being rotated.  (David Smith)


Those of you that brush varnish onto guide wraps, what kind of brush do you prefer?

I'm using an artists natural bristle brush with short stiff bristles but I think the stiffness makes it prone to leave bubbles which I have to chase around the wrap.  Maybe a softer brush, or a finer point?  I tried a needle once and it didn't work for me.

This is with a solvent based poly varnish.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

I use a round, birch, tooth pick.  I believe Wayne showed that to me at Grayrock one year.  Works great, and if you apply too much you can remove the excess from the bottom of the wrap with another one.  (Brian Creek)

I have used a dubbing needle with good results but have gone to a brush now. I found some inexpensive brushes at Walmart in the Hobby Dept.  There are three or  four in a package for about 4.00. They have green handles with a gold band I think. If you need more info I can go down to the shop and check.

The brushes have different size tips Two have very small tips. They work the best.

Just a tip on applying the varnish as not to get bubbles. I apply the first coat and wipe it off. This seems to smooth the threads. I let the varnish dry for an hour or so, then apply the next coat.

After wetting the surface of the wrap on the second coat, hold the brush a bit away from the wrap with just a drop of varnish between the wrap and the brush tip while the section is turning. The brush tip is not touching the wrap. Work this along the full length of the wrap back and forth a couple of times. It will also level the varnish.

I don't get any bubbles. I used this same method with a dubbing needle.  (Tony Spezio)

When you say

"hold the brush a bit away from the wrap with just a drop of varnish between the wrap and the brush tip while the section is turning. The brush tip is not touching the wrap."

Is the brush vertical?  That is the way I visualize it.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

I will try to explain here, if it is not clear, I will see about taking a photo in the next day or so when a friend that will be coming over to apply varnish to his wraps.

I rest my left hand with fingers folded on the bench. Rest my my brush hand on top of my left hand to steady it. The brush is now 90 degrees to the wrap. After applying the "wet" coat, if you pull the brush tip back away from the wrap just a small bit, you will see a film of varnish between the brush tip and the wrap. It is barely a drop, it is more like a thick film.. As you move the brush the film will follow the brush tip over the wrap. This leads to a smooth coat of varnish on the wrap.

Will see if I can get a good shot when this is done in the next day or so and send it to you off list. I have had a lot of compliments on my finished wraps.

Let me know if this is clear.  (Tony Spezio)

That helps.  I can see I need to refine my technique.  And maybe devise a system to help me keep my hand steady and under control as I apply the varnish.  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

At my age, I have the shakes so I have drawn up an adjustable jig for holding the brush to slide it along on the bench. Don't know if it will be practical till I get it made  and give it a try. If it works, I will do an article for Power Fibers. It will be just for us old Toots with shaky hands. LOL

It will be a while before I can get to it , I am not able to do much right now.  (Tony Spezio)

I use a board rested on the bench or turning gizmo and rest my hand on that.  My turning gizmo has 4 levels, so once you get up in the air just my hand doesn’t work any longer.

I have not had a lot of compliments on my completed wraps.  Maybe it’s because most folks just can’t get beyond the giant gaps in the glued-up shaft!  (Brian Creek)

I now use a combination of Brian's and Tony's methods... that is, I apply one coat, wipe it down, as Tony says (Thanks, Tony!) and apply another while it is still damp with a flat toothpick. I can even the coat out nicely with the toothpick and it will pick any excess from the bottom of the wrap as it turns. Spar urethane seems to work better with this technique than varnish, which can be unforgiving if applied too thick.

I have used short, sable brushes in the past and they have worked well, but the toothpick seems to me to do a better job.  (Mike St. Clair)

I like the Detail Master brushes that Golden Witch sells.  In fact, I just bought a handful of each size.  Small brushes for small wraps, medium brushes for the rest.  (Harry Boyd)

For many years I used the handle of a brush, but after I lost the brush in my shop (I guess the gremlins got it) I used a cut-off tip that was about .060.  It worked, but not so well that I wanted to stay with it so I put a large needle into a cutoff and that works for me.  (Hal Manas)

Since seeing it posted as a tip here on the List quite some time ago I began using the bottom end of paper matches.  No bristles for air to get into and works well spreading a drop as Tony suggests.  One swipe on the Levi's and they wick well too.  The only drawback was finger fatigue from pinching that little stem - but this was solved but clamping the match in an Exacto handle.   Sorry, not as romantic or reverent of cane as sable but the price is right.  (Darrol Groth)

Since it hasn’t been mentioned yet in this email, I have been using a piece of bamboo sanded paper thin on one end.  It is flexible like a brush and can be used like the way Tony uses his brush.  You can make them as long as pencil so they are easily held.  You can split them to multiple widths to accommodate whatever size you need.  Put the pith side of the split strip to the belt sander for a second or two and you have yourself a nice little bamboo brush.  I have actually only had the need for one since I wipe off the excess with my fingers when I am done.  The price is definitely right.  (Greg Reeves)

I've been using a slice of polyurethane foam as an applicator. Cut to about 1/8th inch wide, and wedge shape. Picks up enough varnish, then the chisel shaped edge spreads the varnish smoothly. If you put too much on, pick it off with a dry bit of the applicator.  (David Kennedy)

Yes and then cover two flats at once.  (Dave Norling)

I use a very soft artists' sable brush for this job, and it is probably worth mentioning that I thin my varnish as much as I need to without ant qualms.  That applies whether I am using spar varnish or epoxy.

But the thing that I find is that FOR ME it is fatal to have the rod turning while applying varnish.  I just hold the section in my hand and paint on the varnish with the brush, and I find that FOR ME that gives me better control of how much varnish actually goes on the wraps; and it seems to me that the ceaseless, inexorable turning of the section in a mechanical turner just seems to generate bubbles and overruns onto  the shaft of the section.

Having applied the varnish I do, obviously, put it in the turner to dry!  (Peter McKean)

I use high-quality oil painting brushes that I get from an artist's supply store.  I have a collection in varying sizes, but most of them have short and stubby natural bristles (camel, I think).  These short bristles don't hold a lot of varnish, which is my preference.  Their stiffness allows you to work CP or varnish into the thread.  You can get all sorts of oil painting brushes at an art store, so you can find one that suits your preferences.  They are expensive, but they'll last a long time if you take care of them.  (Alan Boehm)


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