I know a lot of you guys varnish your rods dip method and do so after the guides and ferrules have been wrapped ...  My question is has anyone varnished the rods first and sanded etc. to final finish and " then" wrapped the guides and ferrules and "then" finish varnish the wraps.   In anyone’s experience does wrapping and coating the guides and ferrules "after" the rod has been varnished cause any kind of reliability problems IE, weak guide integrity or more cracking at the guides etc. that kind of thing ?  (John Silveira)

I dip two to three coats of spar urethane, I then allow the rod to sit a few days. After drying I wrap my guides and starting with a very  thinned out mixture of spar Urethane I completely saturate the thread making sure it soaks in all around the feet, the next coats I apply unthinned until the wraps are completely smooth. Once this happens I hang the rod in my drying cabinet for up to a week before dipping one final coat. Why the long drying period you ask??? Well lets put it this way, after putting so much effort into the rod it really makes you want to scream when you sink the rod into the tank and you watch the wraps go to goop!!! That's right, give the built up wraps lots of time to dry before dipping one last time or you'll end up with a big mess! Don't ask how I know ;^)

My theory is that if I do my rods this way I know they are good and sealed even under the feet!  (Shawn Pineo)

I dip my rod sections, allow at least a day to dry, and then glue on the ferrules and wrap the rod.  I put on three or four coats of unthinned Helmsman spar varnish, and allow them to dry for at least six hours before recoating.  I don't do a final dip, as I don't like varnish in my guides.  (Roger Fairfield)

I varnish before doing the wraps, then do the wraps on the rod revolving on an old rotisserie. I have no seen any weakness doing it this way.  (Hank Woolman)

PS: I wrap the guides by hand, not on the rotisserie.


My first rod is ready for finish, grips, and wraps. I'm clueless on wrapping so I'm going to Alex Wulff's house next week for help.  Before then I want to complete my grip and think about finish.

Finish.  I've read some tips where it says to apply a couple of coats of finish to the rod before the wraps are applied?  This seems like a good idea to me since it will be easier to sand between coats.  What are your experiences?  How long should I wait to let the finish dry before applying the wraps?  (Aaron Gaffney)

As far as finish before wrapping, it's your choice, I find it harder to burnish and pack the wraps as the varnish is soft and the thread digs in if wrapped too tight. Use little rubber bands or masking tape to hold the guide, and give it a try, it's not as hard as you think. Try a few wraps without a guide to adjust your tension.  (Pete Van Schaack)

Yes, you want to have the rod nearly finished before you wrap.  In fact, I like Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil, and I completely finish the rod before wrapping, then varnish the wraps as carefully as I can to keep from getting too much on the rod. (Neil Savage)

I use 2 wipe on coats of varnish sealer/finish before putting on the guides. Lightly sand between coats with a block and 600 grit paper to level out the varnish surface.  (Frank Paul)

If you would like an alternative to varnishing you might want to try Birchwood-Casey's Tru-Oil. It is a wipe on finish that was originated for gun stocks which receive far more abuse than bamboo rods. It is very simple to use, will give your rod the same look as if you had varnished it, can be done in far less time than varnishing and it eliminates the need for a drying cabinet. All the rods I have done with it have not needed to be polished down afterwards and you really can't tell the difference. It will protect the rod better than varnish and (in my opinion) lasts longer than varnish. If you do varnish and have trouble finding rottenstone, Birchwood-Casey also makes a product called Stock sheen and conditioner which is nothing more than premixed rottenstone and oil. Both of these products can be bought in small bottles for under $5.00 and you can finish 4-6 rods with one bottle of Tru-Oil.  (Will Price)


To those on the list that use the Waterlox Sealer/Finish, Is there another varnish on the market that can be used to coat the wraps after the rod has been dipped.  The reason for my question is that it is the first time I have used this product and I am satisfied with the results it leaves on the rod but  because it is a very thin product, it takes many coats to complete the wraps.  For example, I am on the 6th coat on the wraps and it still hasn’t covered completely.  My concern is that I know certain varnishes or polys do not react or stick well to other products.  (Robert Cristant)

You might try putting some Waterlox on a test piece of wood, then getting small quantity of a tung base finish, or poly, or a urethane, and putting that over top of it.  Is Waterlox a water based finish?  I've not used Waterlox before, how well does it work in varying temperature conditions?   Are you dipping/dripping, or brushing/spraying it on?  (Mark Wendt)

The Waterlox Sealer/Finish is a "wipe-on" or "hand-rubbed" penetrating tung oil sealer and finish that goes on in very light coats to seal and with build up, finish. To reach the finish stage with this product seems, for me, to take a number( 8-12) of coats wiped on, rubbed out and buffed. I have only gone clear to finish with this product on two personal rods as an experiment. Came out well, in my opinion, although for the look, I kind of prefer traditional spar. I used this before I started dipping rods as an alternative.

As an FYI, the contents of the Sealer/Finish are Specially Processed Tung Oil, Mineral Spirits, Ester Gum, Phenolic Resin, and Specially Processed Linseed Oil.  Don't ask what the "Specially Processed" means, I have no idea. I assume that means they cooked them. The can says that it produces a medium sheen; penetrates, hardens, reinforces and seals wood fibers beneath the surface; forms a protective finish that will not chip, peel, crack or wrinkle; is excellent for use on oily exotic species such as teak and rosewood; gives a hand rubbed look. (Sounds like miracle stuff to me, *G*)

I pick mine up at Woodcraft Stores. I know Classic Sporting Enterprises also sells it and seems to think well of it.

Hope that is of some help.  (Dewey Hildebrand)

Thanks for the info.  So I guess it's really not formulated very well to use in a dip/drip tube, being thinned as far as it is.  How long between coats do you have to wait before you can rub it down, or recoat?  The "Specially Processed" probably means the tung has been polymerized, I would guess, like you said.  When cured, is the finish fairly flexible?  I would assume that it is, with the addition of tung oil.  (Mark Wendt)

I use the Waterlox Sealer Finish on most of my rods. I use three coats, rubbed on, before my final varnish.

I have used McCloskey's Man o' War, General Finishes Gloss and Semi-Gloss Polymerized Tung Oil Varnish, Waterlox Marine Spar, and Valspar Marine over the sealer. No problems as yet.

I have also used Man o' War and General Finishes Gloss as wrap finishes with no problems. When wrap finishing I heated the varnish in a small jar on a coffee cup warmer. No problems there. (the heating idea came from Channer, to give credit where due)  (Dewey Hildebrand)

Hey, I probably got the idea from someone else!  (John Channer)

Waterlox is just thinned varnish. In fact, if you purchased your own varnish and thinned it to the extent that Waterlox is thinned it would be less expensive. You might lose the UV protection. But, that would be a negligible consideration on a fly rod. If you need to cover the wraps more efficiently, use a regular varnish. As long as the finish is cured, you could use just about anything to coat the wraps. This does not apply to the newfangled "hot" lacquers.  (John Zimny)

Woodworkers Supply (1 800 645 9292) sells J.E. Moser's Marine shield water based spar varnish. Recoating can be done within one hour. Great stuff.  (Lee Koeser)

Use any varnish with a tung oil base as Waterlox has a tung oil base. I do believe any oil based varnish will do but to be sure.   Interesting that on the can of Waterlox the suggested use is as a bamboo rod varnish. The CEO of the company must be a rodmaker. I have never tried it in the dip tube but always wanted to because  it is  extremely thin.  However it  is  more  of  a semi-gloss/satin finish product.  (Marty DeSapio)


I would like to finish the guide wraps but, not the rest of the rod.

OK, now that I said that, here is the rest of the story.  I usually apply a couple of coats of Minwax wipe on polyurethane on my blanks after they are built.  Just to keep the blank from picking up dirt and protect it somewhat.  On my latest tortoised flamed blank the Minwax looks really good.  If I add 4 or 5 more coats it will look really rich.  If I do this I won't dip the rod.  So.... How would you personally finish the guide and signature wraps?  I always swore I would never use Flex Coat on Bamboo.  Personal preference, no boo looks right to me with a build up at the guides of Flex Coat, but that's just me.

Should I carefully finish the wraps with spar and hope I can keep a straight line?  Apply thinned Flex Coat and hope for a low profile finish?  Is there a better way to do it? I am not sure a traditional finish on this blank will look as rich as I want it.  I will be wrapping in silk and no CP.  (Pete Emmel)

I would varnish. Use blue tape to keep the lines straight.  (Pete Van Schaack)

Try Flex Coat Lite thinned 65% with a mix of 50-50 mix of MEK and toluene. It will take about a week to set but you can get a very thin finish. Give it a try on a test stick first to see if it is what you are looking for.  (Jerry Drake)

"Try Flex Coat Lite thinned 65% with a mix of 50-50 mix of MEK and toluene. It will take about a week to set but you can get a very thin finish"

OK, this works but... Jerry...MEK & Toluene are nasty and there's another way. Cut the Flexcoat 1/3 with Denatured Alcohol. Works the same but dries/cures overnight for me. You can get a low build with Flexcoat Light and then finish with spar if you want to. You can find all you want to know about thinned Flexcoat and transparent wraps thanks to Chris Carlin here..

Chris uses Acetone but DNA works just as well and cures a little faster (IMHO:-)  (Dennis Higham)

If MEK and Toluene were bad you could not buy the stuff at every hardware store in the country. Denatured alcohol is poison and ranks right up there with MEK, acetone, toluene, naphtha, paint thinner and a host of other chemicals we routinely use in rod making. We buy hundreds of gallons of gasoline every year. That is some nasty stuff. There is a lot of nasty stuff out there that we use every day without giving it a thought. Just look at the little round label  on anything sold in California. Heck, the Flex Coat/alcohol mix is nasty stuff. People do get sensitized to epoxy products over time with repeated contact.  Like anything else when it comes to chemicals, one must be careful and take the necessary precautions when handling them.

We used to get a wonderful epoxy thinner from Clemens. I have heard but don't know for a fact that it was mostly MEK and some other solvents mixed together.

And yes, the alcohol/flex coat mix works very well.  (Jerry Drake)

Yes, I agree.  Denatured alchy to cut the Flex.  I've always used that when the stuff gets too thick in the bottle, which it will do over time.  Just warm it up a bit before mixing.  Not much, of course.  (Bob Brockett)

When I was building Graphite, on the 10 foot rods sometimes the Flex Coat would start thickening up when it was warm in the room, A few drops of Denatured Alcohol would thin it enough to finish the wraps.  (Tony Spezio)

Apply the finish to your wraps, as the rod is rotating, take a section of your binding thread, and pull it next to your wraps. The thread will absorb any excess finish next to the wrap. It works pretty good for me.  (Jon Holland)

What Jon said or you can use fly-tying floss. The floss lays flat and absorbs the excess slop-over varnish gives nice clean line between rod and wrap.  (Dennis Higham)

You can thin FlexCoat, Regular or the Thin formula, with isopropyl alcohol; which is plain old rubbing alcohol. In fact, many low molecular-weight alcohols will work. And NO!, the water in the isopropyl alcohol dies NOT cause it to turn milky! I typically make a 50:50 mix. In my experience the "working" time is only slightly changed, but the curing time is a little longer; but within 24 hours. FlexCoat does not "build-up" if adequately thinned.

For those concerned about MEk, Toluene, Acetone, etc. being nasty chemicals; DNA is just as bad. DNA is Ethyl alcohol, at least 190 proof, that has had such things as Benzene, Mineral Spirits, Toluene, etc. added to it to make it unsafe to drink! None of these various chemicals are benign; but, they are also harmless if handled properly. They are no worse than gasoline or kerosene, or the motor oils we are exposed to.  (Frank Schlicht)

That was the message I sent Pete yesterday. I just make sure to use the 97% alcohol. Works wonderfully if you can keep your fingers off it for a few hours instead of "testing" it to see if it's set. Makes a nice, low-profile coating.  (Mike St. Clair)

When using epoxies I try to remember to leave a sample out so I can test the cure on that, rather than putting my fingerprints on it.  (Henry Mitchell)

The point of a dubbing needle works fine.  (Tony Spezio)


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