I use Spar Varnish thinned 30% with Artists  Turpentine, unheated, 3 to 4  coats, to seal my wraps.  They come out perfectly clear.  Formerly, I used unthinned varnish and "thought" they were perfectly clear, until I started doing white silk wraps and discovered that there was some faint frosting in the wraps.  With the thinned spar, the white silk completely disappears.  I had someone at the FFF Conclave ask me if I mounted the guides on one particular rod, with epoxy.

Nunley, Bob Clear Wrap

Can't get much more clear than that. 

I think it's also important to emphasize that if you use too much thread tension, the wraps will resist soaking up the varnish.  This again, isn't so noticeable with colors, like red, brown, etc., but when you go with white silk to get the invisible wraps it becomes painfully obvious. (Bob Nunley)


Let me ask you all about a frequent problem I have had with my rods.

I usually coat the wraps with varnish (4 coats or so), then dip the sections.  When I put the first coat to the silk, it gets that lovely transparency.  When the first coat dries, though, the evaporating thinner creates mini voids in the thread which refuse to fill upon application of the subsequent coats.  This makes a weird kind of iridescence in the wraps.  It is not what I want, I want that nice transparency!

I have tried real thin varnish, and it didn't help.  Today I tried unthinned varnish, and that didn't help either.  I was told by a buddy to always put the second coat on an hour after the first, but that didn't help.  Funny thing is, the very first rod I wrapped (from a professionally made blank) has absolutely no problem.  That was a few years ago and I don't remember what I might have done differently.  Can anybody offer a suggestion of what I am doing wrong?  (Peter Collin)

You get better transparency with Tung oil varnish than Poly. Thin the first coat by  20 to 30 percent. Even on the rods I finish with Poly I use Tung Oil Varnish on the wraps.  (Marty DeSapio)

I have had the best luck with Man-O-War warmed, not thinned. I put the second coat on as soon as the first coat sinks into the wraps and make sure to fill the voids along side the guide feet and where the tags tuck under. I like Last&Last spar varnish for the finish on the whole rod after the wraps are coated, but have had the worst "shimmers" with it on the wraps, it says on the can that it is 10% tung oil, M-O-W doesn't say how much tung is in it.  (John Channer)

I believe the MOW is a spar, while the L&L is a spar-urethane. (Martin-Darrell)

They make both a traditional spar varnish (which is what I use) and a spar urethane, they also have a bunch of water based finishes. (John Channer)

Thanks, John. I wasn't aware of that. We don't have either of those varnishes in Arkansas.   I did once order some L&L. Stuff goes on really nice. Wait, I did see some MOW in WalMart recently, though nothing useful for rodmaking.  (Martin-Darrell)

It's called Last'nLast Marine and Door Spar Varnish. I've ordered some, but haven't used it yet. Plain Last'nLast is a urethane.  (Bill Hoy)

I wasn't aware there were two types. The Marine and Door Spar Varnish is what I ordered, and it is a spar-urethane, which   is  not  to  be  confused  with  a  polyurethane.  (Martin-Darrell)

I wasn't aware there was a difference. I've always used the term spar to mean a natural resin-based varnish as opposed to a "plastic" resin like polyurethane. I didn't know there was a difference between polyurethane and urethane. I just thought people used the two terms interchangeably. I'll admit that I didn't look closely at the can when I got it... I haven't gotten around to using it yet. It was recommended on the list because it apparently doesn't build up at the corners like some varnishes. I've had that problem with Epiphanes.

Here's the description about marine and door spar from the absolute coatings web site:

"Marine & Door Varnish contains a unique blend of resins and ULTRA VIOLET SCREENING AGENTS to help prevent fading and peeling caused by the rays. When used on doors or boat woodwork you'll find the product provides protection from the harsh sun and weather.


  • Interior and exterior use includes boats, doors, toys, patio furniture, garage doors and other wood surfaces that should be protected against weather to retain their beauty.


  • Dries quickly. Recoats overnight.
  • Free flowing and self leveling. Does not show brush marks.
  • Contains Ultra Violet screening agents for longer lasting sun fading protection.
  • Highly resistant to weather, abrasion, peeling, chipping, cracking, flaking.
  • Meets V.O.C. requirements in most states including NY and NJ  (Bill Hoy)

Okay, I don't profess to know a whole lot about this, but I have tried to glean enough to be conversant. John Zimny has been very informative in this regard, and much of what I write here came from him. Perhaps he may care to embellish this. What I personally refer to as a spar varnish is one containing phenolic resin. These were the first plastics, are very dark, have natural UV resistance, come in a variety of flexibilities. The higher the resin content the glossier  and harder/less flexible is the finish. Examples would be: Z-Spar Captain's Varnish, and Epiphanes. A spar urethane is a blend of alkyd resins and polyurethanes. These combine the best of several attributes: clarity, ease of application, durability. These must have UV additives introduced into the mixture, both absorbers and stabilizers. These are added in very specific proportions to the moler weight of the resin. Thinning the varnish renders their effectiveness useless. Examples: Minwax Helmsman Spar, Varmor R-10, Last & Last Marine and Door.  A polyurethane  varnish may, or may not be an alkyd/urethane blend. Some are moisture reactant, some have their own catalysts which react either with the moisture or the atmosphere,  probably oxygen, some require the addition of flex additives. All are toxic. Examples:  U-40 Perma-Gloss, automotive finishes.

This could go on for a while, but I think you get the idea. Certainly there are those on this list more knowledgeable than I in this regard, and perhaps they will correct where I may be mistaken, or add to.  (Martin-Darrell)

A spar varnish penetrates better than does a polyurethane for doing wraps, though I can't vouch for a tung oil  being better than a linseed oil in this regard.  I've used 25% thinned with good results, though each varnish will be different. The range Marty gave should be sufficient. Also, it may be that your varnish is draining out of the wrap to the low side, which is unnoticeable until you apply the second coat. Are you turning the section until dry?  (Martin-Darrell)

This is now my method and it I owe it to all of the rodmakers who chose not  to keep secrets in the interest of bettering the hobby/profession as a whole. God bless 'em!

The last rod I wrapped came out damn near perfect. Take extra time grinding the guide feet as well as you can to avoid massive gaps between metal, thread and bamboo. I use Pearsalls Naples, tip with gossamer. Distilled water applied with a Q-tip (not my fingers) keeps the thread from slipping on tipping and starting wraps. Cinch every 5-10 wraps and burnish. I use Last and Last spar varnish (thanks Ron K.), heated to about 90 degrees unthinned on all 4 coats applied with a clean bodkin. First coat, 1 hour, second coat, 24 hours, third coat, 24 hours, fourth coat, 1 week. I then sand bumps and tits with a series of emery boards, starting with what I believe is 600 grit (pink), then 1000 (white) then 1500-2000 (gray). Dip away.

The real epiphany came with the emery boards folks.  Beauty supply store, dirt cheap.

You ever see JD Wagner's site. The wraps came out almost as good as his, no kidding! I say almost because I don't want to sound like a prima donna ass. I really am psyched that I FINALLY got a respectable wrap. It was bothering me too.  (Eamon Lee)

I make sure to clean my hands thoroughly prior to doing my wraps. Burnish with my fingernail every 2-3 winds and I use Gudebrod 822 rod varnish to coat the wraps. I like this because it dries quickly, is water based and creates a flexible coating when dry. It creates a nice gloss look in a shorter period of time. It's all I use EXCEPT when doing clear wraps, then I use spar varnish. Thinned. I think removing and preventing finger oils from contaminating the wraps is critical.  I know of other rodmakers that do this as well so it is not MY original idea.  (Randall Gregory)

I use Naples or nylon for wraps (egads!). I burnish and pack the wraps with a metal burnishing tool from Golden Witch. I thin Man O War about 25% for the first coat, and the rest go on at full strength. I usually put the second on within 3-4 hours, and the next two coats after 24 hours. Works for me. I apply it with a Stim-U-Dent toothpick. They are 150 for $1.59 at Target and work better than anything I have ever tried. They are tapered and can be utilized in many ways. I have a Sully's rod turning jig that spins faster for applying the finish and slows down when you are just drying. It is nice, but the attaching the rod sections is not ideal for bamboo.

I think the MOW works better than the Helmsman PU for me, but I know other guys who get great results (if that is what you are using). I hit the next to last coat with steel wool (2000 grit equivalent. Works nicely. I dip before wrapping the guides and do a final coat over everything if needed.

Based on John Zimny's presentation on varnishes at Grayrock, I am trying something new on the next rod I wrap. I bought a small black light fixture and tube. John said that varnishes will cure very quickly under UV light, so I am going to set the black light next to the sections as they turn and get an even dose of UV. I am just curious as to what this will do to the wraps. If it works well, my next step is to hang a shop light with them in the new drying cabinet I got the other day. I insulated the bejeebers out of it and can get 107 degrees in my cool basement. I can hang 10-15 sections at once! It is just an old metal wardrobe that a friend gave me. I used the new Reflectix insulation inside, and wrapped a hot water heater blanket around the outside. I used the Styrofoam insulation from the packaging of Bret's oven and out some insulation on top from my old heat gun oven. It works great.  (Bob Maulucci)

I use Minwax Helmsman spar.  It also is a urethane but not a poly.   (Timothy Troester)


There is a wealth of info out here so I am asking for some. I have not been able to get the translucent look I want on some wraps. Here is what I have tried so far. I am using Fishawk Silk 3/0 thread. I have tried thinned varnish, thinned Poly, thinned shellac, and thinned tung oil varnish. Is it the thread or is there is something else I can try.  (Tony Spezio)

I also have just begun to experiment with translucent wraps, and have little experience, about all I've learned so far is that the lighter the color the more transparent it becomes when a finish is applied (ie) white becomes just about invisible,,, yellows, tans, pastels become translucent and black stays black.  Don't know anything about FishHawk Silk. I use YLI and Gudebrod.  (Don Greife)

Let me make a few suggestions.  I'd suggest using the best spar varnish you can find.  Use it full strength, or if you absolutely must thin it, use only the very best artist's quality low odor mineral spirits.  First suggestion, don't wrap overly tight. Second, nuke the varnish for a few seconds.  You want it hot, but not boiling.  Third, flood the first coat on.  Use more than you think you need.  As soon as you finish the wrap, wick all the excess varnish away with a dry brush.  Finally, an hour after the first coat, hit it again.  Same procedure, flood it on, then wick it off.  Keep all varnish coats after the second as thin as possible.

Try it on a test wrap or two before you make the commitment to do an entire rod that way....  (Harry Boyd)

This is what I got.

  • Thin, Don't thin
  • Use varnish, don't use varnish
  • Use heat to dry fast, Dry real slow
  • Use Tung Oil, use TruOil
  • Use Shellac
  • Poly don't work good at all.
  • Wipe off varnish a few minuets after applying
  • Apply heavy varnish and let sit

The list goes on. Had about 28 replies.

I took a butt section and made a dozen wraps.  Tried all the combinations and this is what I came up with using Fishawk Silk thread # 242 (beige) and 223 (brown) for trim wraps. The brown did not change, the beige did.

  • I found that thinning the varnish did not give me what I wanted, I may of thinned it too much or did not give it a fair try.
  • Tung and True oil will give the translucent look with a slight dark cast.
  • Formby's Tung Varnish will also do the same without the dark cast.
  • Helmsman High gloss will make the wraps translucent with some thread color cast
  • Helmsman Semi Gloss gave me just about a clear wrap with a very slight thread color cast, it can be called Transparent
  • Shellac did not give me the translucent look.

As I live in a rural area I can't get some of the varnish that was recommended so I have to go with Helmsman's for my tests.  I am pleased with what I got using the Helmsman's Semi Gloss. The wraps are transparent with a slight thread color cast except for the dark four thread trim wraps. What seemed to be the answer was to soak the wrap with varnish "out of the can." I used a trick that I use with Flex Coat on Graphite rods, (yes I still make a few). Apply the Flex Coat, wipe it by applying pressure on the wrap with a paper towel while the rod is turning. This lays down the fuzzies and  helps the Flex Coat penetrate. Then apply a full coat without waiting for the Flex Coat to set up. That is what I did with the varnish on the wraps. The varnish soaked in real even and no blotches in the wrap. Right after that, a full coat " from the can" was applied and let it rotate. In about an hour I applied light coat and let it run for about two hours. The room was about 78* all night. When I checked it this morning I was real satisfied with the results. I will go with it on this rod. Though the other wraps were pretty good, the Helmsman's semi Gloss was what I decided on. Thanks for all the tips and information. Different ways work for different people, that proves that there is more than one way to skin a cat or get translucent wraps.

Till now I felt that using a color wrap on a rod is the color you wanted to show. All the rods I made had opaque wraps. I like the looks of the transparent wraps so I guess I will change my ways.  (Tony Spezio)

I think a combination of the suggestions you got is probably what works.  Thinned and/or heated varnish soaks into the wraps more thoroughly, but if you leave it at that, then as the carrier evaporates you have less solids left to retain the translucency.  Thread size also matters.  The finer the thread, the easier it is to soak through.  So with a thicker thread, you might be best served with a coat that soaks thoroughly like slightly thinned and/or heated X brand varnish, followed a few minutes later with a full strength coat to provide the needed body  of solids.  Even if it looks kind of heavy, it will dry thin.  I've never found shellac, lacquer, or poly to go as transparent as spar.  Thread under tension is like wringing a rag, it is less receptive to liquids.  I think less tension helps, but where's the line on that one.  Sounds like you found a plan that works.  (Chris McDowell)

What I am doing may work fine with the thread I am using at this time. Another color may not work as well. I was looking for TRANSLUCENT not TRANSPARENT. As it turned out I got better than what I was looking for. It is TRANSPARENT with a slight Beige cast. The Brown tipping really sets it off. I wrapped the stripper earlier today and applied the Varnish. It really looks good and I am totally satisfied.

The Helmsman I am using says SPAR on the label. It says Urethane and not Poly urethane. I will be looking to get some real Spar on my trip to NJ and Maine in a couple of weeks. I will be on the Coast and will check the Marine stores. I have a list of different varnishes that were recommended.  (Tony Spezio)


I've seen tons of posts here about methods to obtain transparent/translucent guide and other wraps but I want to know how to guarantee the opposite effect -- solid, opaque colored wraps. I really don't want to use a color preserver but am after the appearance on Orvis rods. I am using Pearsalls Gossamer silk from Golden Witch.  (Larry Puckett)

The most dependable method I've found is to use 3 coats of Varathane 900, soak the wraps well with the first coat, make sure to fill the tunnels along the guide feet. With the other 2 coats, make sure to close the openings to the tunnels along the guide feet and go ahead and let some bleed out onto the blank on either side of the wrap. What you are trying to do is to seal any opening that varnish can get under the thread. Finally, before I dip the rod, I give it one coat of regular varnish, scrape any Varathane and varnish off the blank, making a nice crisp edge to the wraps, then dip the rod twice. I've tried all the commercial color preservers and all the recommended methods and this is the only way i have been able to get the wraps to come out right. What the new stuff doesn't take into account is the pressure of being dipped in varnish, and the old bamboo companies who used lacquer for color preserver either brushed or sprayed the varnish, nobody dipped (other than Garrison and Dickerson). If you varnish the blank first, then wrap the guides, just use Varathane for the wrap finish.   (John Channer)

Which one is Varathane 900? On their web page they don't go by the numbers only by descriptions such as "Outdoor Diamond Wood Finish (oil-based)", etc.  (Larry Puckett)

#900 can be hard to find. I ended up ordering it through the web site but the only way I could get it was to order a quart. After shipping it ended up being $27 and change. An easier way to go is to get it from Russ at Golden Witch.  He sells 1/2 pint cans for about $6 plus shipping.  (Winston Binney)

The 900 is the Professional, fast drying, it comes in a black can. For some unknown reason, it's not available everywhere.  (John Channer)

I get my opaque wraps with Gudebrod 840. No problems like using color preserver. Be sure that the wraps are thoroughly soaked and the tunnels filled.  (Tony Spezio)

If your looking for the Orvis look you have to use nylon as Orvis does. (Marty DeSapio)

I just matched the wraps on an old Orvis using Gudebrod brown nylon thread #541 and Varathane 900 (3 coats).  I then put on a top coat of spar.  I tried just spar first but the resulting wraps were way too dark.  The rod is from 1960.  I found this odd because other Orvises I've redone took just spar on the same thread, turning that kinda reddish brown.  This rod however, had no tinge of red in the wraps, so Varathane 900 was the ticket.  (Rich Margiotta)


I wanted to share a lucky accident that happened while putting on some transparent wraps.

After wrapping the rod with the usual white gossamer, a bit looser than I do other wraps, I warmed up the Mike's walnut/amber oil that I use to give the wraps their first soaking and carefully applied a medium-thick coat using a bodkin.  So far nothing new.

I have pretty good luck doing this in the past, but I can never seem to get all of the pesky little bubbles out from underneath the guide feet. Not the shimmery little micro-bubbles, but the big guys.  Invariably there are at least one or  two guides  (often the stripper) that end up with these no matter how much care I take in applying the finish.

Normally I hang the sections in a drying cabinet (of sorts) after applying the walnut oil, but this time, by chance, I left the rod section setting horizontally in the wrapper, with the guides facing down.  This had the pleasant effect of - I'm guessing - allowing the not-quite-liquid finish to flow down towards the guide feet and push out the small air bubbles.   When I checked them this morning, the few bubbles that had been present under the feet the night before were no more!!  The wraps were perfectly clear and consistent.  (Chris Carlin)

The way I do is apply the varnish then I take my finger and wipe excess off, this forces the varnish in. I do this on all my first coats applied to wraps.  (Dave Henney)

I do essentially the same thing with a lint-free cloth, less messy that way.   (Bill Walters)


I want to try clear wraps on my next rod. I have TiCh guides. How should I handle the guide feet once they have been ground to shape and will show a color difference where bare metal is exposed?  (Stephen Dugmore)

I wondered the same myself  and thought  maybe painting the foot a similar color to the TiCh might work but I used color preserver instead.  Well, after too many problems with color preserver and all the negative comments on its use, I’m swearing off the stuff.

So, does anyone have an answer to Steve’s problem.  We’ve had enough on 1/8 inch holes and nodeless for a day.  (Al Baldauski)

If a Sharpie comes in the right color, I'd use that.  I've done that on blued guide feet.  Otherwise, you might try a Prismacolor pen from the local art supply store, or possibly your local fly shop.  I'd suggest taking a guide with you to get as good a color match as possible.  I've seen Prismacolor pens at Michaels, JoAnn’s and Cabelas that I can remember off hand.  I've used them to color flies on occasion.   (Neil Savage)

If you mean the titanium carbide guides, then just use a black sharpie on them up to the point where the wrap will end. If you varnish over the guides, they will turn a nice black and you won't be able to tell the guide feet have been Sharpied.  (John Channer)

I think it was Chris who suggested using permanent markers. I've also had luck in similar situations using ordinary spray varnish. I like KISS, especially on Valentine's Day.    (Bill Fink)

Some use black magic marker on the shiny guide feet. For black guides I shoot the dressed feet with black lacquer. Make sure the lacquer is dry before  wrapping.  (Dennis Higham)

Use any cold gun blue, don't use any magic marker it will bleed into the wraps when you varnish, I did that on 2 rods a long time ago and had to strip and rewrap both (sorry Dennis). This will only work on guides that are not made of stainless steel.   (John Pickard)

I touch up the guide feet with different color marker pens. Works for me.  (Dave LeClair)

Be careful with the Sharpies and the popular Walnut-Amber Oil finishes used to help get translucent wraps.  Those finishes that are extremely slow drying can cause the Sharpie to fade.  Anybody wanna guess how I learned that?

I've decided to be very careful and consistent with my guide foot grinding, leaving a little bright spot on the end of each and every bronze guide.  (Harry Boyd)

I am going to try grind neatly and see how it comes out without coloring. If that doesn't work out I will experiment with some color markers.  (Steve Dugmore)

You can blue the guides with a bluing agent or even just the area that has been ground.  I actually just leave them as is.  I think a well ground foot looks quite nice under a clear wrap.  Now if your grinding lacks precision, then you blue them.  (Robert Cristant)


Has someone tried Penetrol to make wraps translucent?  (Olaf Kundrus)

I have been using Owatrol (same thing I think in the UK) to thin International Schooner varnish and this works OK.

I have not tried the Owatrol neat but I have tried some other very thin varnishes such as artists picture varnish and the results are no better than the mix I am using.

I am doing some trial wraps at present (mostly to resolve the painful color preserver problem for  a restoration) so I will give it a go.  (Gary Marshall)

I tried the neat Owatrol alongside my normal varnish and Owatrol mix (3:1) for transparent wraps.  Both worked but the varnish mixture was easier to control in subsequent coats.

I found when using the neat oil as well as with very thin varnish that it soaks in well but as it dries it leaves more voids and hence a white sheen.  On the second coat the sheen is removed and from there on the wrap is transparent apart from some problems in the tunnel close to the guide foot that can take time to fill.  The same happens with the varnish mixture but it is much easier to flood on the second coat without it running off the wrap.  (Gary Marshall)

I use Tru-Oil on white silk and it works quite well.  One coat of Tru-Oil and then a coat of thinned Tru-Oil and then I use my normal varnish until I build up enough.  (Hal Manas)


I tried translucent wraps with white thread. Never had a problem before. Mentioned it to Lee Orr,  nuther'  maker from  West Virginia, and he mentioned " frosting".  Never had a problem with it, but looks as if it's going to plague me. What causes this and can it be remedied without a complete rewrap, which will happen if it must. (Jerry Andrews)

The "frosting," also known as "shimmers" is caused by tiny air bubbles trapped in the wraps.  More coats of finish will not correct the problem.  To prevent frosting in the future, be sure your wraps are at the right tension... just enough to hold the guide firmly in place.  When finishing the thread make sure your finish penetrates fully.  That means either using a finish designed to penetrate well like one of the epoxies intended for rod wrapping, or a walnut and/or amber oil finish like those sold by Golden Witch or produced by Mike Brooks and others.  You can also heat the finish to make it thinner, rub it in with a fingertip or the butt end of a brush, and use very thin coats applied and recoated after an hour or so.  (Harry Boyd)

I gave up on the fancy walnut/amber oil varnishes. By the time they dried, the trout season was halfway done. I now mix up a small amount of Flexcoat (gasp) and thin with acetone. It should be about the consistency of milk. Make absolutely sure that you have the flex coat mix right, otherwise it will never harden. Touch a drop to the wrap, and it will wick through completely. Don't try for any build up, you just want the wrap good and wet. It will dry shimmer

free in a couple hours, and you may then finish the guide wraps with whatever varnish you are using on the rod. And there is no waiting around for a week watching dust and dog hairs accumulate in the wrap.

But, pay attention to Harry's advice  about minimal thread tension. That is still true no matter what wrap finish you choose.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

The trick to getting the walnut oil to kick is to let it sit for 24 hours, then kick it with a coat of real spar varnish.  It will be dry within 12 hours.  If you let them dry by themselves, then yes, you will be waiting a looooong time.  Mike Brooks gave me that little tidbit a couple of years ago, and it works like a champ.  (Mark Wendt)


At considerable risk to my "reputation" I need some help.  I just finished building a couple of Payne 101's  and expected to impose my criteria for finishing the rod.  However, the guy I am making the rod for flipped me a curve and stipulated wraps transparent or semi Transparent with a dark tip.  Now I have never been able to do a decent transparent wrap in my life and because it is easier for all to come to Mohammed rather than the mountain go to them (how's that for mixing metaphors?)  I just never took the time to learn.  You want wraps from me you get opaque wraps.  Now I need a sure fire, super safe, perfect way of doing transparent wraps.  I simply will not do the rod twice.  Please someone.  lead me through it.  What kind of thread, color, size, tension.  How to finish, varnish, epoxy, thin thick, smelly or odorless how many coats, how applied, how much material per application.  If I have forgotten anything to ask, let me know.  This has to right the first time.  (Ralph Moon)

I do all my wraps as transparent or what I would call translucent. I usually use a very light tan silk for my wraps.  I coat them with pure Spar Varnish (Man-O-War). Usually around 6  to 8 coats. Wet sanding with 1000 grit after the fourth coat and the next coats, leaving the final coat as is.

I like  the way the wraps look, as you can see the bamboo fibers under the wraps. They are almost clear, with just a hint of  color.  (Dave LeClair)

One way to get translucent wraps is to use Gudebrod 290 size A nylon thread and varnish it with 5 or 6 coats. I still use Pratt and Lambert R-10 polyurethane varnish. Note that this thread is light tan in color and pretty well matches what Dave LeClair tells you as well.

Do a test piece first before doing it on the rod.  (Ray Gould)

To all of you my very deepest thanks.  combining all of the information from a lot of wrappers I think I may have it down now.  I ended up with a light yellow silk and red silk tip.  I have only done a few practice wraps, but they look good enough.  This rod is a nice one.  It is a Payne 101  (no I have not compromised my standards, the guy wants the Payne taper, but built by me.  It is even dark bamboo, with a blackened Granger internal up lock reel seat.  Blackened bronze ferrule wrapped with the transparent yellow red tip.  At the time I have been doing two of these Paynes, I have also been finishing out a Phillipson which bears no name.  It is a sweet 7' 6" rod.  again one light wood and one dark wood.  More rods than I have built for a couple of years.  This will be #7 finished in the last few weeks.  (Ralph Moon)


I remember the 1st time I decided to do transparent wraps and figured that if Pratt & Lambert 61 was what Garrison used I would use it too. Having read a post by Mike Brooks (who I feel probably knows as much about varnishes and the many uses for it as well as anybody) I think was on the classic fly rod forum, this is what I learned. The Pratt & Lambert 61 that you buy today is not the same as what Garrison used in his day. Seems as though back then it had lead and other stuff in it that the EPA no longer allows. Pratt & Lambert is now owned by the Sherwin Williams Corp. Armed with this knowledge I went to the local Sherwin Williams store and not seeing any on the shelf I asked the clerk(who was also the owner of this store) if he carried this particular varnish and was told the following, his was a franchise store and none of the franchise stores could get Pratt & Lambert 61 as it was available ONLY to the stores that were owned by the Sherwin Williams. Oh well, Helmsman spar urethane thinned with mineral spirits makes Pearsalls white Gossamer go as clear as vodka just as well!  (Will Price)


Has anyone had a thread that just refused to go translucent? I've done just about everything under the sun but YLI 159 will not go transparent (or even translucent)for me. Nor will it stay anywhere near its' antique gold color. It turns really dark muddy brown looking. I've had a lot of threads get a shade or two darker when varnishing the wraps, but this stuff gets a whole different look to it. Its color on the spool is very pleasant and I think it would look great on a browntone rod if it would remain close to original. I realize I could use color preserver but then it would stay opaque for sure. I'm open to all suggestions or are there threads that for one reason or another will not go see through?   (Will Price)

I had some Gutterman silk from the local fabric shop that absorbed very unevenly.  Should have ordered Pearsalls and taken the extra time to wait for it.  (Neil Savage)

Some times the thread you get at fabric shops are either waxed or oiled so they go thru the sewing machines easier. (Scott Grady)

I had a similar disappointment using Elephant silk. On a repair job I over wrapped a scarf splice and the thread showed badly. Pearsalls is important to me because it hides the many imperfections in my wraps. Is that why Garrison used it?  (Bill Fink)

I thought Garrison used Belding Corticelli?  (Rich Margiotta)

I have no idea why Garrison used Pearsalls, but it has worked well for me every time except when I tried to use color preserver.  That was not a good idea, but we live and learn.  (Neil Savage)

I have tried and succeeded in doing the following on getting to translucence. Tire makes a very nice silk thread that goes translucent with Helmsman spar varnish. For some reason Helmsman spar gets the silk to  become more translucent than any other spar out there.  To keep your  YLI from going "south" try using Bullseye shellac first over the wraps and then after allowing to dry for 24 hours you can varnish without worry. Another test  you might try is to do a test wrap on a white pine dowel and then try different  applications of your finish materials to get the look your after. When your done, label it and use as a reference.

YLI silk does have a few quirks so you might try Tire or Pearsalls silk as these are more consistent with their color.

Additionally, have you tried the new Rayon's. Wow! They wrap snug, don't shrink as much as silk when drying and there are some stunning colors. You just have to be careful (as with silk too) with the frays.  (Rudy Rios)

You're right about the YLI having quirks. This particular color of the YLI is the only thread I've ever had trouble getting to go translucent. I use Helmsman spar thinned 50/50 for the first coat on my wraps plus I heat it in the microwave with 3 10 second bursts. I do all my test wraps on a butt section blank from one of those old Japanese bamboo blanks instead of a dowel as it gives me a better idea of what the thread will look like on a finished rod. So far I've probably done about 15 -20 test wraps and get the same muddy dark opaque  look on all of them. I guess this is one thread that I'll just have to give up on. I generally use Pearsalls but I had 2 rolls of this gold and 1 roll of red that was sent to me from a prominent supplier of rod building supplies that offered a color matching service. I sent them thread samples off an Edwards rod so they could match the red and YELLOW wraps off this rod and that's what they sent. The red wasn't close to the sample I sent either. Needless to say I'll trust my own judgment on color matching from now on. I was just hoping to use this thread instead of having it go to waste.  (Will Price)


I have been building with white Gossamer and YLI for a year now. I love the look of clear wraps and have found that I can not consistently get clear wraps. Sometimes they are clear and other times they are milky or I can see thread wraps that are shimmery. I use Flexcoat Lite thinned 50/50 with denatured alcohol and I need HELP!!

Any tips from those who have found the keys????

I have tried thinner, thicker Flexcoat, more and less tension, fast applications and slow needle point drops of Flexcoat, what is the key?  (Barry Janzen)

I've been using Mike Brook's formula for Walnut oil for a few years now, and I've gotten pretty good results from it, as long as it's relatively fresh.  Couple of secrets to using it, heat it up before application, and after flooding it on to the wraps, gently burnish the walnut oil into the threads, forcing the teeny air bubbles out.  Those teeny air bubbles are what cause the "frosting" to show up in transparent wraps.  (Mark Wendt)

You may note from Mark's  response that  he recommends varnish - I think your problem is chiefly using the epoxy stuff (Flexcoat?) which dries too fast to allow air to escape.  Mike's Walnut/Amber oil is best -  but I've had good results with any high oil varnish such as Formby's when I couldn't get W/A oil.  The secret is thorough penetration, light coats of initial coats of high oil varnish, then transition to more normal % oil spar after first few coats.  Mark's advise for working in the initial coats is good.  Also, start applying the varnish at the 'toe' of the guide working back toward the 'heel', driving the air out of the spaces under the foot.  Also, this is one instance to use gravity and the tendency for paint to run - when each application is complete, let the section dry, guides down to allow varnish to build up in the spaces.  Remember the old painter's adage:  Many thin coats is better than one thick one.  (Darrol Groth)

Thanks for the advice. I actually don't have a problem with the guide feet and bubbles there. It is the MICRO bubbles in the thread especially at the side opposite the guide where the two "wet" areas meet and fail the push out the bubbles/soak the thread. I have tried burnishing and that doesn't seem to change anything.

Will keep trying things...  (Barry Janzen)

If burnishing doesn't work, that means the finish is curing too quickly and trapping air bubbles in it.  Try thinning it down a little more.  Thinning tends to slow the cure of most epoxies, so that'll help you work the air bubbles out.  (Mark Wendt)

It's funny Mark, I have found that too. It just needs forcing into the wraps. I also find applying another coat about hours after, stops it drying out to fast and producing frosting. (Gary Nicholson)

I took Mike Brook's recommendations to heart - heat up the walnut oil, flood it on, burnish it gently into the wrap.  Then soak up the excess so that the wraps just look damp.  One hour later, repeat procedure.  24 hours later, repeat same.  Seems to work pretty good, until the walnut oil starts to get old, and it starts oxidizing.  Just made up a fresh batch about two weeks ago, and it works just dandy.  (Mark Wendt)

You may want to try using a small coffee stirrer straw and gently sucking the air bubbles out.  (Don Schneider)

I wouldn't advise doing that if you are thinning with acetone which is pretty nasty stuff. You'd be better off following the instructions on both Flexcoat Lite and Threadmaster from Lamar products by using the recommended denatured alcohol as the thinner instead of acetone (acetone works but denatured alcohol is safer). I've found that packing the threads too tightly will hinder the finish just as much as too much tension in the wrapping. As far as the packing too tight just remember: overwraps will still show up but if there are  small gaps (hairline) these will not show up in the clear like they would in transparent COLORED thread. Here is a step by step tutorial by listmember Chris Carlin with pictures included.   (Will Price)

I use FlexCoat all the time and thin with acetone. I mix it 4 drops of each FlexCoat and 10 drops of acetone. If it doesn't INSTANTLY fill the thread it is not thin enough and you need more acetone. Acetone flashes off quickly and I keep adding it as I go along the wraps. One other thing is wrapping too tight and FlexCoat cannot soak in. Thin is the answer. (Dave Norling)

How do you drop acetone? What do you hold it in? Glass/plastic?

How do you apply the FC? Bodkin/needle or something bigger?

Do you know instantly if it is soaked or does it take time to see the bubbles?

Should the wraps be clear or milky at first?

When you say wrapping too you mean tension or closeness to neighboring thread wraps?

Denatured Alcohol flashes fast too.....hard to keep a consistent mix. Can it get too thin?

Do you finish with the thread layers showing or more wet looking?

Sorry for all the questions.....just must be my perfectionist nature gone berserk ;-)   (Barry Janzen)

Acetone should be mixed in with the FC, after you mix the resin and hardener. Don't thin your mixture before you get the resin and hardener thoroughly mixed, because it might cause an improper mix between the two.  Playing around with model airplanes over the years, I've had a bit of experience working with epoxy, some good, some not so good.  I think he mentioned tension meaning the wraps are done a little too tight.  One tip I got from Harry Boyd was not to singe the thread either.  For some reason, singeing the thread tends to cause it to glaze over a little bit, keeping the thread from getting completely soaked.  I've not used FC on my wraps, but preparation is pretty paramount when you are trying to get clear/transparent wraps to come out successfully.  That said, I've had to re-wrap more than once because I wasn't happy with the way the wrap turned out after applying the walnut oil/varnish to it.  (Mark Wendt)

I use an eye dropper/pipette.  To hold the finish I use a piece of tin foil.  Just a brush is OK. When it goes on the wraps its clear.   No, NOT milky.  If it's milky you need to mix the acetone in more. If you are using white, to be honest it does not matter if there is a gap in the thread because when it's clear you don't see them.   That's a nice spin off.

Use very little tension just the amount to  hold them in place (GENTLY).  If it's too thin after this apply another coat. Keep an eye on it for the first hour. If it's starting to dry white, put another thin coat on before it sets up.  When it's dry, it should be very clear almost GIN clear.

Reading between the line here Maybe you need to mix the acetone in more.  (Gary Nicholson)

It could be you are using more tension than you need to apply the wraps. Apply the whippings with just enough tension to hold them in position. This will allow the epoxy to penetrate all the way into  the wraps.  (Gary Nicholson)

Here is a good site with a lot of good walnut oil varnish and other items.  I use it on my cane and my wife uses it in her oil paintings. It is costly but is worth every penny.  (Jeff Van Zandt)

A BIG THANKS for all the help. I have finally found the secret I think. Redid the wraps last night and this afternoon. I hope to talk the Mike Brooks and see about some of his concoctions, they sound great. Tried things with Flexcoat Lite again. This time I counted out drops like someone said. Found that it is MUCH thicker than I have been using. I thought it was supposed to be watery, this was more syrupy. Wicks slowly around the wraps and pushes the air in front of it. Will have to wait a few days to tell for sure after varnish but I am much happier with the results so far. Thanks again for the help and suggestions.  (Barry Janzen)


As I have posted before, I'm working on restoring an old low end J.C. Higgins 3 piece 9' 8 wt. I have repaired a split in the tip section with PL polyurethane glue followed by a wrap over the length of the repair with white silk and 2 coats of 50-50 helmsman and mineral spirits. Two problems have arisen.

One, the silk wraps appear frosty instead of clear. Can I improve on this or should I start over? I am going for clear, invisible repair wraps.

Second, is placing/number of guides. I have temporarily located the guides with rubber bands and surgical tubing rings. Test casting shows a great improvement in the original condition. Remember, I said I opened the previously repaired split while test casting and also complained of tip rebound when casting. The tip rebound has settled down nicely. Is that a function of the repair? Or did my second attempt at guide placement go better?

I also added a second stripper, both strippers are now on the butt section, I added another snake guide when I moved the second stripper from the middle to the butt section. Shooting line has greatly improved. I noticed that the snakes on the middle section want to roll around the blank to the right side. Is this normal? They are temporarily attached with small rubber bands, I am going to try masking tape to see if it improves.

As this is my first restore/repair/final assembly any comments/suggestions are welcome. So far I think I'm on the right track to making this family heirloom a presently fishable rod.  (Chuck Pickering)

Alas, once a wrap is frosted,  there is pretty much no turning back. If you choose to redo it, there are two things that will guarantee clear wraps. OK, three.

Pearsalls white gossamer silk.

Very low thread tension.

The first wrap coat should be flex coat (well mixed) diluted to the consistency of milk with acetone. Just get the wrap good and wet, don't try for any buildup. Let dry, and then varnish.

I think it is cool that you are devoting time to this rod. Everyone drools over the Paynes and Youngs, but the low end rods were a larger part of our fly fishing legacy - they were the ones that our uncles and grandfathers saved their change for, for months. For that one week of the year when they did not have to clock in for a 10 hour day at the factory.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

I've refinished a few old production rods, and they always cast much better with more guides, better placement, and also by using larger guides in the butt section. It's fun, and you can discover some surprisingly good old tapers. I recently redid an old South Bend 359-9 that I found in a pawn shop for $15. It casts amazingly well.

Old Paynes and Garrisons are pieces of history and should always be restored to as-original condition. That's where their value is. With lower-end production rods, you are free to make improvements and upgrades. This works especially well when you are refinishing a "family heirloom" for a friend. You can turn Grandpa's old Montague into a nice, usable rod.  (Tom Bowden)

I also use flex coat thinned with denatured alcohol and would note a couple of things not mentioned in other replies. First, when mixing and thinning the flex coat, always mix parts A and B thoroughly, then mix in the alcohol to thin. Adding all 3 parts together and then mixing results in a poor mixture which does not work well. Second, after thoroughly saturating the wraps with the flex coat remove all that you can after about 10 minutes. I have tried various means of removal and have arrived at wiping it off with my finger. Everything else seemed to leave bits of lint. You do not want a buildup, you just want saturated wraps. After curing for a minimum of 24 hours (more is better)you can then begin filling in with thinned varnish.  (Steve Shelton)

I have found that if I do not touch white silk when I want an invisible wrap the polyurethane varnish will make it disappear. I guess that it's something to do with the natural oil on my fingertips.  (Don Sargent)

Quick question on the clear wraps:

When you guys say "Flex Coat" epoxy, are you using it as a generic term for all epoxy finishes or does it work better than others such as U-40 or Thread Master when thinning for clear wraps?  (Mike McFarland)

When I refer to Flex Coat or Flex Coat I am talking name brand. It does well after thinning about 50/50. Can't be sure of other brands. Some epoxy can't handle thinning and still be curable. You know epoxy is a two separates that make one whole. When you add another agent/thinner, it destroys the composition. Flex Coat still manages to work with much abuse.  (Barry Janzen)

Having thinned just about every epoxy I can find I can say that I've noticed very little difference. Most epoxies are best left for a week to cure, sometimes I arbitrarily increase the hardener a bit to make up for a rather too liberal dose of Meths. Meths is largely ethyl alcohol with some methyl  (for no good reason I can see) plus pyridine, which is there as a dye and to provide a revolting,  I am told, flavor. If you MUST drink it then the French version will make you go blind slightly slower and certainly smells better.

Heat will always accelerate curing.

I'm told that thinning epoxy when used as an adhesive will weaken it, probably, but I bet its still good enough!  (Robin Haywood)

For Flex Coat Lite targeting invisible wraps, many recommend denatured alcohol for thinning. I haven't tried invisible wraps yet but DA is much less dangerous than acetone.  (Eric Zamora)

In the UK I just use West epoxy with the varnish hardener and a good dollop of meths, or denatured. Cures a bit slow, but I'm not in a hurry.  (Robin Haywood)

I have used Flex Coat Lite for a base coat for quite some time and have had great results. My mix is 1 part hardener 1 part resin and 1 part DNA. I put it on with a turner quite thick and let turn for about 15 minutes, then squeegee off with a spatula.  (Steve Kiley)


I recently wrapped one of my blond rods using Pearsall's white silk thread and regular Flex Coat, everything worked just fine the wraps were totally transparent. On my next rod which is flamed a dark brown, I wrapped the guides using YLI 100 white silk thread and Flex Coat Lite. Everything seemed fine on the flamed rod until I took it outside in bright sunlight and noticed that with the YLI white silk thread and the Flex Coat Lite on the flamed rod the wraps looked purple in color. Everything is still pretty transparent with no shimmers but it has a purple cast to it in the bright sunlight. Has anyone else experienced this and is there a way to resolve this without stripping the wraps and starting over. I have considered using a pale gold colored YLI thread to see if that would prevent the purple cast. Will the purple color eventually go away leaving behind the desired totally clear wraps I am trying to achieve on the flamed rod? Will hanging the rod sections in my heating cabinet at 100 degrees help to eliminate this issue?

Please help, this is making me crazy.

Thank you for any light (other than purple) that you can shed on this issue.  (Phil Crangi)

Unfortunately, the white YLI silk contains an optical brightener which gives that purplish-bluish cast.  To avoid it, use either the "Natural White" (YLI #212) silk or the very light yellow YLI #213.  The one rod I used the white on has lost most of its bluish cast over time or I have begun to ignore it.  I switched to #213 because the faint yellow looks right to me.  (Tim Anderson)

Without seeing it, it sounds like fluorescence/phosphorescence from brighteners commonly used used in detergents to brighten whites. Likely, they use it in their thread production to get a bright white for sales appeal. UV light (not visible to you) is absorbed by the brightener and re-emits light of a lower energy in the visible region, commonly bluish white. You know, this is "whiter than white".

The bright glow of your white cotton shirt you see in the dark under a black light is the same effect.

If you have access to blacklight, check it out with your rod or just the thread.

You could contact the thread producer to see if they have an alternative untreated thread. Unlikely.

It is possible to add a "quencher" onto the thread if we knew the types of brighteners used.  An alternative is to use a UV agent in the thread coating to screen the UV.  Perhaps you even have some clear coatings which, like your sunscreen lotion, removes the UV. Many modern, especially polyurethane, varnishes have sunscreen to prevent deterioration.  I don't know which ones and by what mechanism they work, but you could run a trial with a varnish which has a sunscreen to see if this diminishes the problem.

In this instance, you or someone here, could suggest a coating like this which could be applied over your current coating.  I would, of course, make a number of trials off the rod first.  (Dave Burley)

I never use pure white and NEVER use Pearsalls.  I use YLI NATURAL, not white.  The white stuff does funny things... has bleaches and other chemicals added to it to make the white look whiter.  The natural will go pure clear,  no problems.  (Bob Nunley)


A few years ago I tried to find some clear wrapping for guides that dried clear but I did not have any luck. I received some suggestions from the group and all the vendors I contacted said they did not carrying them any longer.

I was just looking at some back issues of Power Fibers and noticed a rod made with clear wraps. So I thought I would try again.

Does anyone one have any suggestions of who might carry this.  (Jim Forshey)

Only way I know to achieve clear wraps is with white thread and a good application of finish.  (Harry Boyd)

Varnish over white silk thread produces water clear wraps.  (Bill Jette)

Most clear wraps I've seen are done with white gossamer silk. Here's Chris Carlin's how to from the Rod Building Forum.  (Ken Paterson)

Just use white silk from any vendor, I use YLI. Don't use color preserver. I have good luck with just varnish.

Take a look at this.

This was wrapped with white and varnished. The varnishing technique is very important. Make sure that you get plenty of varnish on the wraps and work from one end to the other forcing out all the air. I'm sure others will chime in here and you will have more information than you know what to do with!  (Joe Arguello)

I can describe my personal experiences to made transparent wraps.

White silk threads in size 3/0, 4/0 - it is not compulsory to use Gossammer

You can also  have nice results with other light colors - straw, very light yellow, primrose

Made the wrapping with a moderate tension.

Maintain the diluted varnish hot in a warm water container.

Warm - moderately - the threads with a hot gun (or made the work in an exaggerated warm room!)

It work for me.

Have nice wrapping days! (Marco Giardina)

I have not had any success using thinned varnish and white silk thread, I have tried both Pearsalls gossamer and YLI with thinned Helmsman.

Wilmer Price suggested using Threadmaster. I am going to do an experiment with that stuff and an experiment with Alklyd Walnut Medium mixed with varnish. I will let you know how successful with those things. Will's photos of his clear wraps using white silk and Threadmaster are beautiful. Just the look I am trying to achieve.

I have followed Tony Spezio's advice of wrapping then applying thin coats of Helmsman Spar Urethane and pressing the wet varnish into the threads with a Bounty paper towel. That method works great for my other colors - no shimmers, good clear finish, but it was simply no successful when using white thread.

Thanks Tony and Will for your help. As I said I will be getting back to you when I have purchased some Threadmaster and experimented with it.  (Phil Crangi)

I don't use Gossamer, and have done clear wraps with everything from 000 to size A.  It has nothing to do with the size of the thread, rather it's all in the application technique.  I will lay odds that there are not ANY wraps out there any more clear than mine, and, like I said, it's not a matter of using tiny silk, it's a matter of using proper application techniques (proper tension, proper finish).

BTW, you'll get much better results if you can find natural unbleached silk (YLI carries it) instead of white.  I don't know what bleaching and/or dying does to the silk, but it's MUCH easier to avoid microbubbles, or shimmers, using unbleached, natural color silk.  It just simply disappears under varnish.  (Bob Nunley)


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