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Finishing - Blank Cleanup


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I'm finishing the wraps on a rod right now.  I hand-rubbed the finish on the blank and do not own a dip tube.  I put 5 coats of varnish on the wraps, but was not as neat as I could have been.  My question is this:

What's the best way to clean up the area around the wraps and the wraps themselves, knowing that I won't be doing a dip afterward?  (Joe West)

    I use dry pieces of thread and use them to clean up or wick away "spills" that go beyond the edge of a wrap  (Bill Bixler)

      Try using fly tying floss instead of thread it wicks better. Gives a nice clean edge on the varnished wrap.  (Dennis Higham)

    I dip my rods without guides, and then wrap them on.   After the guides are wrapped, the last step in finishing the rod is to varnish the wraps.   A very narrow brush (~3/16) with fairly stiff bristles works best. The bristles are no longer than about 5/16 or less.  Among artists the brush type is called a 'flat'.   Flats have a flat ferrule with squared end and medium bristles.  For very narrow signature wraps, use a smaller flat, or a brush with a small pointed set of hair (often called a "signature" or "liner" brush in shops).  Once I have three coats of varnish on the thread, I can usually apply a 400 grit sanding stick and in doing so remove any blems and polish the finish with a 600 stick.   (A sanding stick is a Popsicle stick with sand paper cut to size and glued on, and I actually cut them in half lengthwise to get a narrower stick.)  Some blems I remove with a more lethal and very sharp razor blade, like wayward thread ends.  When using the sanding sticks, the trick here is to be sure you don't wear through the varnish and fray the thread.  Using a combination of stick and blade you can correct lots of typical blems.  One or two additional coats of varnish and I'm done.  (The aim is a smooth coverage on the thread.   About 5 coats, more with a thinner varnish.)  (Bob Milardo)

      I agree with Bob. I do it the same way except that I use a small piece of bamboo witch I formed like a small

      brush. Do you know what I mean? It looks more or less like a screw driver with a very thin and flexible tip.

      The advantage in my mind is, that you produce less bubbles than with the brush. Also you can work the varnish exactly to the edge of the wraps because the tip is more stable than the brush.

      If some varnish spills on the cane, I use a piece of thread to remove it.

      Keep the thread under tension and move it aside the edge. The thread will suck on the varnish.

      Make sure that you use always fresh threat.  (Markus Rohrbach)

        The other thing you can do, if you catch it while the varnish is still wet, is to use the straight edge of a coffee filter to sop up the overrun.  The coffee filters work pretty nice, they sop up well, and don't leave any fuzzies on the rod. (Mark Wendt)

          Those of you that apply varnish to thread with a brush or bamboo sliver or whatever, do you turn the blank by hand or motor during the process?  (Frank Stetzer, Hexrod, Taper Archive, Rodmakers Archive)

            I turn mine with a Webber grill motor and apply varnish with a Stim-U-Dent tooth pick.  (Bill Bixler)

            By hand.  Once I get the wraps saturated, I flip to a new flat every 10-15 sec. until the varnish tacks (15-20 minutes), then back off to one flat/minute. after that for another 40-45 minutes.  Usually stable enough at that point that I can leave it sit without anything running anywhere.  (Todd Enders)

              Any reason not to put one's rod on a rod turner after the varnish is applied?  Assuming one can chuck it in the rod turner without making a mess.  (Joe West)

                I have my setup from when I used Flexcoat on wraps, using a 4 RPM turner that I built with a regular drill chuck to hold the blank. I apply varnish by turning the blank by hand while  it  rests  in  two V-block stands that are just slightly lower than the chuck. After coating just move the blank a couple of inches into the chuck and tighten lightly.

                I have been using the small disposable brushes from Cabelas but think I will have to try the bamboo on the next rod.  (Gary Jones)

            With a brush, motorized turner at 4 RPM.  (Robert Cristant)

            Hand here.  My 12 rpm motor is too fast for this exacting science.  (Joe West)

            Good question. I had always used a rod turner, and I had often been unsatisfied. So, I stopped using the turner at first, and I apply the first three of coats by hand with a match end. Why? It forces me to only put on the smallest amount. I have told myself that no matter what, I will not put this rod in the turner, I will hang it in the drying cabinet when done. So far it has worked because I have fooled myself into using about 1/4 of the varnish I had previously used. I know that hanging a heavily varnished wrap will sag in the cabinet. I will have to start over, and I know I do not want that. For some reason, the turner always gets the best of me, and I glop the varnish on. After the first three coats, I will use the turner for a final coat, maybe two if needed.  (Bob Maulucci)

              There   is   no   man  alive  who  has  produced worse-finished wraps than me.  There have been dead dolphins found in drift nets in tidier bundles of string than some of my early wrap finishes.

              But I think that these days, in the year 2004, I do a pretty good job.  I make the following points, Bob, not for your benefit, as I am sure you do it all better than I do, but for those who are having trouble settling on a technique that works......

              What I do now is (a) use bamboo brushes of appropriate widths  (b) use a rod turner  (c) apply a first, sealing coat of natural spar diluted 1:4 in natural artists' turpentine  (d) follow with as many coats of polyurethane spar 1:1 with universal thinners as it takes  (e) don't sand the bloody things until you have something there to sand  (f) TAKE YOUR TIME.

              The technique for using the bamboo brush is to get a small blob on the end of the BB, and with the rod section turning, apply the end of the BB to the wrap so that a bead of varnish bridges the space between the BB and the wrap.  Every time the rod section completes a revolution, move the bead along a bit to cover the next untreated bit of wrap.

              Be as careful as you can not to let the bead bleed over onto the rod shaft; if it does, no big problem - take a piece of lint-free cloth well saturated in natural turps and clean off the whole wrap.  You may have to leave it alone and catch up on that coat later, but sometimes, in warm conditions you can find it possible to repeat the application at the end of doing all the others.

              With a bit of care and practice you will find that you can coat the wrap neatly and quickly.  Sometimes, of course, you stuff up.  That's life!

              The biggest and most horrible mistake that you can make in all this is to try to hurry it too much.

              The next biggest no-no is to look at the wrap and think "If I go over that again and lay down another layer, it will save time and look great.". Wrong!  It will NOT save time, and it will usually look crappy.  (Peter McKean)

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I have heard (and read) that some people spill varnish over from the wrap to the guide purposely to better seal the wrap, and others take great pains not to do so (or cut the excess off with a scalpel) if it does spill over.  If dipping after wraps, I would think the first method is better as the dip coats will cover up any varnish that spilled on to the cane underneath and won't be visible.  Or is that not so?  (Louis DeVos)

    You might think so, but if you dip over any varnish that laps out onto the blank it will show as a thicker area after each successive coat unless you take care to sand it off. I don't fuss much over what gets on the blank when I'm varnishing wraps, but i do clean it off before I start dipping, it's very hard to sand right next to a wrap without messing up the wrap.  (John Channer)

      It definitely leaves a visible hump in the finish. Sanding the edge or taper it, helps make it less visible. When I'm sanding, I hold the section with my thumb on the wrap and bump the little sanding block against the end of my thumb.  (David Dziadosz)

      I have been talking to a friend that refinishes bamboo rods, though I have not seen any of his work. He tells me he uses un waxed dental floss to wick off the excess varnish from the edge of the wraps. I tried this but really did not have much success. Talking to him the other night, he said the rod is not turning while this is being done I had the rod turning. Each flat is done separately, I would think this would real time consuming. I will give it a try on the next rod.

      Varnish will spill over the edge especially if your hand shakes a bit. To keep from it building up, I wipe off the first couple of applications to "feather" the edges. After the final coats on the wraps, I use a Exacto knife with a real pointed blade to (flick) off any excess from the edge of the wraps. After doing this, the wraps are steel wooled to taper the edges, this leaves a smooth transition from the wrap to the bamboo. It takes a bit of extra time but It helps in keeping the wraps smooth.

      Just passing this on to who might want to try it.  (Tony Spezio)

    I am no paint specialist but maybe this product can help.  (Christian Meinke)

      That is the automotive tape they use to do striping on cars.  This would probably be too thick to work well.  It would leave the edge of the wrap dry.  Five years auto body shop experience to back that one up.  (Bret Reiter)

    I try very hard not to have wrap varnish overlap on the bamboo, but it does happen. I use a razor blade held at 90 degrees to the bamboo to very very gently remove the wrap dried varnish that has leaked onto the bamboo.  If one is careful with this technique, when one puts on the final coat of varnish, it shows a nice smooth interface with the wrap.  (Frank Paul)

      Just thinking about this a little bit.  I think Dennis Higham had suggested using Teflon tape to keep a clean, small edge for wraps when finishing them after putting a couple of coats of varnish on the blank before wrapping.   Maybe this would also be a good way to get that nice clean edge.  (Todd Talsma)

        I tried this some time ago, I found it did now work well. It was kind of a hassle getting all the Teflon wraps made. Maybe it was just me but I never tried it again.  (Tony Spezio)

          When I read your suggestion to use 'plumber's tape'(?) sometime ago, it seemed like a good idea. When I tried it, I was tempted to inquire about  how to wrap it to get the desired effect.  THEN, I started applying the tape a bit below the wrap and 'getting a grip' before advancing up to the wrap and then spiraling away from it. That worked, and in fact I found it to be a very satisfactory improvement over trying to clean up masking tape residue. So I thank you for the hint, even though you may not use it yourself. Hope you're doing well and turning out 'gems.' (Vince Brannick)

            I may of not made it clear, it was using the Teflon tape for the wrap edges. I still use it on Ferrules, Winding Check and Tip Tops. I just did not find it practical using it on the wrap edges.

            On another note, can someone that uses, floss, thread, silk or what ever to post how they use these to finish the wrap edges. Sounds interesting, I just did not grasp it when I tried doing it with the unwaxed woven floss.  (Tony Spezio)

              You just take a length of your winding thread long enough to comfortably grip in the fingers of both hands and sort of slice it toward the wrap.  You don't pull it straight into the wrap. You slide it down and across.  It picks up the run over pretty nicely.  Assuming you do it as soon as you are done putting the coat of varnish down.  Can't wait until it sets up.

              Shown to me by Chris Raine up in Dunsmuir, CA.  (Larry Swearingen)

        I have not tried that. Usually I only need to touch up a few - two or three where I have gotten some overlap in varnish wrap application. I use a metal needle that gives me good control; overlap usually comes from the varnish wicking over the edge if I get too close with my needle. Anyway, I see that Tony said he did not do so well with this approach. I think it is easier to just correct a few places than trying to wrap every guide with Teflon tape. Just my thinking at the moment. Thanks for the thought and suggestion.   (Frank Paul)

          Yeah, probably the floss routine would be a better solution anyway!  (Todd Talsma)

            I have always used strips of paper towel. Sucks up the excess like it's thirsty!  (Timothy Troester)

        "I think Dennis Higham had suggested using teflon tape to keep a clean, small edge for wraps when finishing them after putting a couple of coats of varnish on the blank before wrapping."

        Todd, I did but only at the ferrules. I used to use scotch tape at the ferrule wrap but often got a sticky residue after removal so I switched to Plumbers Teflon tape at the ferrule wrap. For the other wraps I "slop" over just a little intentionally and clean up the excess using fly-tying floss. I take about 8-10" of floss and just pull it along the edge of the wrap to remove the excess. Works better than Naples or other thread 'cause it absorbs more readily. Waxed dental floss I've only used to bind down ferrule tabs when gluing ferrules.  (Dennis Higham)

    I seal my wraps with varnish, and apply it with a smooth round toothpick.  There may be some overlap, but I like a nice clean line, so I floss.

    Not with dental floss, it's nylon and doesn't absorb I suspect.  I use white Naples silk.  I clean up flat to flat rotating by hand.  I'm a bit squeamish about razor blades so near my silk, and I'd hate to find that popped-off varnish somewhere I didn't want it.  That nice clean line helps with possible runs when I dip my rod sections.  (Leonard Baker)

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