Up till now I have worked with impregnated blanks so this question never concerned me much. Normally I end up with about 6 coats of MOW on my wraps to get a nice smooth finish. However I am now about to dip a rod that I have already wrapped. Now if I plan on 3 dipped coats of varnish on the butt and 2 coats on the tips does that mean I should give my wraps 3-4 coats before dipping?  (Larry Puckett)

I coat my blanks with two coats of varnish them rub out, then wrap and apply 5 coats to varnish to the wraps.

Then dip the rod once if all is OK, that’s it.  (Gary Nicholson)

I don't dip (snuff or rods....)

When I finish a rod, after wrapping, I give the wraps 3 or 4 coats of varnish.  Just the wraps.  Some care has to be exercised to make sure there are no drips or varnish lines next to the wraps.  I draw off and/or blend in any surplus.  This is done with an artist's brush as the varnish begins to get tacky.

Once the wraps have been well sealed, I give the whole rod, wraps and all, a couple of coats.  (Paul Gruver)

I do 3 coats of tongue oil that are rubbed in, then wrap, then do 3 coats of spar on the wraps, then do one dip of spar that is not diluted.  That has worked for me so far.  (Rob Clarke)

I always wondered about excess varnish on the guides when you finished them first. I think it does not matter if you sand the guides flat after each coat or two. But yes, I once had a rod that had to be redone because it just got too much varnish on the guides. I would say to keep the wrap coats few, thin and sanded flat as possible because you do need to allow for one or possibly two dips.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

I've always used a piece of cane to scrape the varnish off the guides, per "The Book's" suggestion. I found that the thicker it got the easier it peeled off!  Surprised you'd  have to REDO a rod over that.  (Art Port)


I have been trying to get a quality wrap on my guides and am having a difficult time achieving any thing like I see on Joe's or Harry's rods. So here go the questions. How many coats of varnish/urethane are you using to get such a fine finish? are you using a diluted mix for more than 1 or 2 coats? Do you sand between coats, or wait until you have a good build up then clean up the wrap? Any step by step help would be appreciated. By the way, I have watched the DVD from Russ Gooding, it helped, but I still don't get the same results, no matter how hard I try. (Jon Holland)

I start with gossamer silk, a thinned (50/50) mixture of "Flex Coat" and denatured alcohol, then apply 3-4 coats of  Helmsman PU applied over a 2-day period with a small round nosed "#3 - red sable" water color brush. Let it dry at least 1 day and sand wraps flat with 600 grit, if it looks like I am going to far down towards the wraps I will stop and add more PU and sand again later. When all of the wraps look good  apply 2 coats of PU to the tips and coats 3 to the butts.  (Don Green)

It doesn't much matter what size silk you use or what you put on it, the only thing you really have to do is get the finish built up enough above the thread to sand it flat. You want to use a hard surface to back up your sandpaper, I just use a cut off piece of wood that's roughly the same width as my wraps, call it 3/8" or so thick, and wrap the sandpaper(1000 or 1200)strips around that so I get the wraps flat, that means sanding until the whole surface of each flat is dull, all bumps taken off and the surface sanded down to the level of the lowest point. I do this just before I dip the rod the first time and inbetween dipped coats, I just use 2 coats on the whole rod after the wraps are done. I also sand each flat the same way, until the whiole surface is evenly dulled.  (John Channer)

You've already got some good advice.  There will be about as many answers as there are finishes.  I've found that the common denominator is...THIN COATS!  I can't remember if Russ mentioned the varnish he was using in that video.  Believe it or not, it makes a difference.  You can do exactly what he was doing with a different varnish and get poor results.  Not that one varnish is any better than another.  I'll leave that to the varnish experts.  What really made the difference for me was the viscosity of the varnish.  That stuff that Russ is using in the video is Southern Wells Marine Spar Varnish.  It has the viscosity of milk.  I use several coats (enough to even out the ridges in the wraps) as thin as I can get them.  I've also used Waterlox Original High Gloss tung oil.  It's has about the same viscosity as the SW milk.   It's got to go on in several thin coats.  By thin, I mean it just gets the wrap wet.  Whatever you use, it's got to go on thin.  You can't do thin coats with thick least I can't.  The varnish has got to be thin if the coats are going to be thin.

One other thing you might find helpful is the varnish for the first coat.  Several different recipes have been mentioned here on the list.  The one that I get consistent results with was passed along to me by Alan Kube.  The varnish is 50% walnut alkyd medium (not walnut oil) and 50% Waterlox original high gloss varnish.  This mixture has the viscosity of water.   It's applied in two coats.  Soak the wraps starting at the tip of each guide foot working back to the center of the guide and then around the remainder of the wrap.  It's important to start the first coat at the tip of the foot to force any  air out from around the guide foot.  Wipe off the excess with a lint free cloth.  Wait about an hour, soak them again, and wipe off the excess.  It takes about 24 hours for this stuff to cure in my drying closet.  That will give you shimmer free transparent wraps.  I've been building up from there with straight Waterlox Original or the SW spar and dipping in Varmor R10.  Generally, that's the way Alan told me to do it.  (David Bolin)

Gary Nicholson sent me a note from Mike Brooks on the Walnut recipe.  See Gary's note below.  It doesn't surprise me that this is one of Mike's creations.  Kudos to Mike Brooks!  (David Bolin)

I think this came from Mike Brooks originally David.

From original letter.

Mike Brooks of the many hints from the forthcoming book by Steve Kiley, maybe Gnome, and myself..... Make your own walnut oil varnish. Here is the formula. Buy a 4 oz. bottle of Walnut Oil Medium (NOT straight walnut oil, this is a mix of Alkyd resins and walnut oil - I like Graham Artists version but Winsor & Newton, Shiva, and several other companies make this, also, and all work just fine; cost around $5). Mix this 50-50 with your MOW in an 8 ounce bottle. Stick this in a pan of boiling hot water (capped, of course) and allow it to just sit there until the water cools. Stick this on a shelf for two or 3 days. Shake and use. If you want to be really authentic and use the EXACT same formula that is sold as "amber and walnut oil" at $30 plus for a 1 ounce bottle, forget the MOW and just mix with 1 ounce of amber OIL (buy from Kremer or other artist supply house; it will cost you around $20) and mix, heat in the boiling water, etc. as above. Then, you have five ounces of genuine amber-walnut oil varnish. The plain varnish-walnut oil mix works the best for me.

To apply. Brush on a good, thick coat using a brush. Then, cleaning the brush in lacquer thinner and drying it on a clean rag, wick up all of the varnish that you possibly can. Really be fanatical about this and leave the wraps just barely damp, not wet. Repeat all of this in a couple of hours (1 to 4 hours later). Then, just leave it set overnight. Do this again and let set overnight. Then, simply coat with straight MOW or any other good grade of spar varnish. The wraps will be dead clear, no bubbles, no frosting, just perfect. In addition to clear wraps, this makes for gorgeous translucent colored wraps if you use fine, lighter colored silk thread for wraps. Try Pearsalls Gossamer Hunt (looks like red candy when done), or YLI #100 Rose (turns a gorgeous deep burgundy). If you want to duplicate that transparent olive color seen on many older Leonard's, use it on YLI #100 pale olive thread.


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