Here is a trick: the problem with Pearsalls gossamer is that, even after spending weeks learning to wrap the stuff without breaking it or overwrapping, you can still end up with a wrap that looks perfect when dry, but shows flaws when varnished. I keep a bottle of extremely dilute varnish on my wrapping bench, and put a drop on each wrap as I finish it. Any flaws show up immediately, and you have about a minute to hit it with the burnishing tool before it begins to tack up. It is rather surprising what can be fixed.

25% varnish, 75% thinner.

It also tacks everything in place and gives a beautiful clear wrap that allows a clear view of the guide foot and the pencil marks you forgot to erase.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


I have an odd thing that has happened to a rod that has never happened to me before.  After about the third coat of spar on a set of wraps.  It suddenly has developed "dimples".    Unfortunately, they are not cute.  They are evenly covering all the wraps.

The only thing that I did differently was to place a small space heater in the room to keep the temp up during the night.  It is an older can of spar.

Thoughts?  Get rid of the space heater, new spar.  (Doug Hall)

I'd try thinning the varnish with mineral spirits and warming it prior to applying it to the wraps if you are working in a coolish environment.  Keep the heater.  (Brian Creek)

I would also try straining it with a small mesh to remove dust.  (Rich McGaughey)

That has happened to me, but it was not as a result of the space heater. I found that when I put the rod together and tried to cast too soon or before the wraps were totally cured something similar happened to me. I wound up redoing the damaged wraps, and as hard as it was, waited until it was fully dry before stringing it up and casting it. I only mention this as a possible cause. Did you flex the rod too soon? Just a thought.  (Bill Bixler)

Did you sand between coats?  Could the surface have been contaminated from wiping it off?  I think I may have done that with a previous rod.  I'd be interested in what might work.  (Greg Kuntz)

Only after the third coat or so. I use a thin mixture for the wraps of about 25% mineral spirits 75% spar. sand very lightly just to get the bumps. When the wraps are done I then finish the entire rod in my drip set up.  (Bill Bixler)


I get a pretty nice looking finish with a drain tube on the blank itself but I'm not happy with the wraps.  Larger wraps are not level after a sufficient build is reached.  Get a sort of bumpy appearance.  Am I missing something?  I thought about sanding them down between coats in order to keep the build level but I'm afraid of getting crap buried in the finish.  Any suggestions?  (Lee Orr)

I use a couple coats of wipe on varnish, then wrap, finish the wraps, then a final dip

I like to have the wraps barely covered, with almost a starved look before dipping. But if I apply too much finish, or I decide the rod needs two dips, I sand the wraps.

I take a half sheet of sandpaper and spray the back with 3M spray adhesive. Then press popsicle sticks on to the wet adhesive and cut them apart with a razor blade. A lot of folks use 1000 grit, I have found that 600 grit makes it go much faster and you end up with the same result. Make sure that your varnish is dry- two days for poly, and a week for spar. It will look rough as all get out, but the next coat of finish makes it all go clear. I am sure that it is possible to get crud in the finish, but you can always blow or wipe the dust off the rod before the next coat.

If you sand the wraps while wearing an optivisor, you can really control the popsicle stick well and make sure that it goes flat without going too far into the finish and boogering up the thread. I probably have more tolerance for slight bumps than most, so as long as the surface is reasonably flat I am OK with it. But it works best if I pay attention to the wrap finish and don't let it get to the point of having to sand.

Another trick: try finishing your wraps with flex coat epoxy dissolved in acetone. It produces a beautiful transparent finish with no air bubble shimmers, and you won't need to keep reapplying coat after coat of wrap varnish. It takes longer than varnish to tack up, but it seems to harden up much faster after the initial drying. If you thin it out well, you get complete coverage but with no build up. Start with an equal volume of acetone and flex coat, and add more solvent if you need it.  (Jeff Schaeffer)


About 2 years ago, I made a rod based on the Martha Marie taper and it turned out quite good. After only a couple hours fishing, however, one of the thread wraps on a guide had cracked and began to peel off like a section of tape. I went back to the shop and put on a new wrap. Several weeks later, I used it again on a fishing trip, and this time the wraps on 2 different guide cracked and began to peel off. I dutifully repaired those wraps and put it away for the winter. I recently took it fishing and guess what? 2 more wraps began to peel off. I've now stripped the rod of guides and varnish and plan to refinish.

My first thought was that it was the  thread that  I used  (YLI #100-228) or the varnish (Helmsmen). Last winter I made a different rod using this same thread and varnish and fished that rod extensively this summer - no broken wraps.

The breaks normally occur right at the glue line. Although these lines are tight, they aren't particullarly sharp - no more so than on other rods that I've made. I've dismissed that as the problem.

The only difference with the Martha Marie rod is that I used Potassium Permanganate to darken it slightly. I noticed that when I removed all of the guides, the varnish sometimes peeled away from the rod surface for 1/2 and inch or so beyond the guide. Is it possible that the Potassium Permanganate is the problem?

Any insights that you would have on this problem would be appreciated.  (Mark Lenarz)

Did you rub out the varnish before wrapping the guides?  If so, maybe something in the polish you used kept the wrap varnish from sticking?  Some car polishes FEEL as if there's silicone in them.  (Neil Savage)

I had a similar problem recently of varnish de-bonding from blanks that had been treated with PP.  In my case this was no problem as the varnish was a sacrificial protection whilst waiting for ferrules but more than I would expect detached when masking tape was removed after ferrule fitting.

I put it down to the fact that I had varnished it in a hurry shortly after the color toning and perhaps the water had not fully dried out before the varnish was applied.

I've just applied the first coat of final finish after stripping the old varnish so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I'm using Schooner by the way.  (Gary Marshall)

My experience with delamination came from using color preserver (the water soluble kind).  Yeah, it preserves the color but it has NO adhesion to varnish.  After I threw that stuff out, no problems.  (Al Baldauski)

Me, too.  I thought it might be the FlexCoat not sticking to the Tru-Oil I used, but it could certainly be the C.P.  That's the only time I used either FlexCoat or C.P. and I've not had a problem since.  (Neil Savage)

It's the CP.  I've used Flexcoat over varnish with no problems as long as the varnish is cured and scuffed with steel wool or sand paper.  (Al Baldauski)


I am using Tru-Oil for the wraps (over a Tru-Oil blank finish) and I guess I have been putting the coats on too thick as I found several wraps had “alligator’ed”.  How can I get rid of this (maybe apply very, very thing coats over them and see if they blend)?  (Louis DeVos)

If you haven't waited to long between coats the alligatored finish will probably dissolve and blend, but it is a slow process.  (Greg Shockley)


I wrapped a rod with Pearsalls Gossamer in the Olive color and noticed that the color is not continuous along the length of the thread.  The color will be consistent for a length then will bleed out to white for a short length then back to a solid color.  These alternating lengths seem to be random with the colored length running from ~ 2 to 10 inches and the white spots from ~ 1/8 to 1 inch.  I have not noticed this "feature" on any of the other Gossamer or YLI 100 that I have used.  Is this typical for Pearsalls olive?  I have purchased 2 spools at 2 different times and they seem to have the same "feature". (It is possible they are out of the same lot.)

I put some finish on a test wrap (no CP) and it is definetly noticeable.  Looks like a missing thread or a gap.

I wouldn't mind trying a YLI in a similar color.  Anybody have a suggestion as to what the equivalent YLI 100 number would be?  (Gary Young)

Sounds like you found a defective spool of Pearsalls.  I'd try another spool.  (Harry Boyd)

Several years ago I asked Tom Morgan why he chose nylon thread over silk and he said one of his main reasons was that it did not have the problems you mention. I have found nylon to be very consistent color wise and stronger than silk. Usually the second or third coat of varnish and the thread goes translucent rather than opaque. I personally like the effect; I think it is easier to work with so I use it exclusively.  (Dick Steinbach)

I never thought I'd say this in public, but I use silk as a matter of tradition.  I know several very well thought of, high quality, high end, high priced makers that use nylon.  They use it because it's easier, quicker, simpler and looks just as good as silk if done correctly.  As one said, if Hiram Leonard had known about Nylon silk would not be the tradition.

I'll probably never leave silk, but I'll tell you this, I won't wrap hair either.  I'm about to  speak blasphemy on Pearsalls.  I never did understand why someone would want to put something that thin and weak (very weak compared to 000 or 00 Kinkame or YLI and EXTREMELY weak compared to "A").  And, they're hard to wrap and pack well compared to the larger threads... I just do NOT get it!!!  The only thing that I can remember (and yes I do remember when Pearsalls became popular to use for wrapping rods) is that some clown put on his web site that they had Pearsalls for "Real Rodmakers" and carried KNK and YLI for those that couldn't handle the Pearsalls.  Wasn't written exactly like that, but very close.  Well, he convinced, with that statement, a lot of people that size 000 and size 00 was not the stuff to use, that Gossamer was IT!  The way I look at it, possibly the three most popular and sought after rods in history are Paynes, Leonards and Dickersons... All of these generally were wrapped in size 00.  Occasionally you'll find the older modes of a couple of them wrapped in size A... well, fellas, all I can say is that if it  was good enough for Jim Payne, Ed Payne, Fred Thomas, Lyle Dickerson, Fred Divine, Tom Dorsey, Tom Maxwell, Gary Howells, Tom Moran, Bobby Taylor, Marc Aroner, and a host of others... then it's good enough for me.

The above statement is, of course, only my opinion and not intended to incite a heresy trial and stone throwing in my front yard... Use what you want to use.  (Bob Nunley)

Three cheers for Mr. Nunley.

I think I will keep right on using nylon size 'A'.  (Jerry Drake)

While I respect your opinion highly, Bob... :)

There is the matter of tradition. The earliest rods, not the ones made popular by Hiram later on... (ahem) were wrapped with silken threads made by a company established a hundred years prior to Mr. Leonards endeavor. Pearsall's has been around a while (since 1795)... and though I'm certain their threads did not go through a lot of consistency testing early on, they were likely one of the most popular sources for bright and varied colored wraps on the fishing tools of their time.

I happen to like the Gossamer threads, and, once you accustom yourself to the packing and burnishing necessary for a proper looking wrap, it, in MY opinion, does not have an equal on a finished rod. There is little else you can use to make a two-twist tipping that is finer than an inked line on a rod. An added benefit of silk is that it's 100% natural... unlike nylon.

Remind the stone throwers that they must be without sin to cast the first one...  (Mike St. Clair)

I certainly hope I'm not throwing stones for I consider myself among the least of those of us playing at this craft; I tried silk when I first started out & with my vision problems and my ineptness it was just too challenging for me.

I became very interested in natural ferrules (bamboo) early on, and it seemed logical to use a strong wrap like size A which was much easier for a beginner like me: but  in the final analysis it seems to me that aesthetically marvelous results have been achieved by makers in either medium. Tradition certainly has its place and I think it is an important issue to consider but I also believe that we make a mistake if we exclude other possibilities.

Perhaps there are two right ways?  (Dick Steinbach)

Perhaps there are two right ways?

Richard, One of my many teachers over the years, Ron Kusse, in his Upstate NY accent has told me many times

"There are a thousand ways to make a rod, and most of 'em are right."

I could tell you where all the wrong methods are recorded, but I just heard another rock, so not going to start that storm!  (Bob Nunley)

I understand, and more power to you if you want to use Gossamer, but Pearsalls, until these later years, was a great (and still is) fly tying thread.  To my knowledge, it wasn't until the 1980's that it became popular for use on fly rods.  Still, I'm not saying that it's not a good thread;  my two problems with the Gossamer (not so much with the Naples) is that they are very thin and much more difficult to wrap AND while it may not be a significant amount, the lower strength bothers me a little.  Maybe unfounded worry, but still a worry in MY mind!

Other than that, all I'm saying is that I can wrap a great looking rod that sells for a top price with 00 or 000 and it's a lot easier and more "time efficient" for me to use the 000 and 00 thread. Efficient use of time is VERY important to me, because I do this for a living.

Harry has seen me wrap.  I can wrap a perfect (at least to the naked eye) warp on a guide foot in about 30 seconds with 000 thread.  I don't use a burnisher and I don't have to pack.  Now a lot of that is having wrapped over a thousand rods (if you count the graphite rods I did in addition to the bamboo), but a lot of it is ease of use of material.  Once varnished, it's nearly impossible to tell whether I used Gossamer or 00.  As long as there are no gaps and good even color (uneven color sometimes comes from uneven packing techniques, which I find unnecessary with 000 and 00 threads), then it's a good wrap and it's pleasing to the eye.

Oh, well, this is a debate that will never be closed... hmmmmm... gotta run.  I think I just heard a rock hit my front door!  (Bob Nunley)

Wrapping a rod with very fine silk is by far my least favorite part of making a rod. Hates it, hates it........just hates it.  I don't think it should be called Fine..... small diameter is more descriptive.  It's not Fine with me. Because I'm not very good at it.  Time consuming and it gives me a crick in my neck and makes my eyes go crossed. So I use 2/0 thread, nylon or silk and it goes much better. Or A size on Larger rods like a 12 ft. Two Hander. I'd use colored packing tape if I could. Come to think of it that just might work.  I mean I've test cast rods with masking tape holding the guides on.   Yeah,  that's the ticket!  (Larry Swearingen)

I have wrapped several old glass rods that had tape instead of thread to hold the guides on. These were factory rods. One had Blue tape and another had Black tape are two that I remember.  (Tony Spezio)

I would think this is a dying problem with YLI when the thread batch was colored; just a quick opinion. I would contact your source for the thread and try to swap out the spools you have.  (Frank Paul)

I've run into the exact same effect you have found with several dozen spools of Pearsalls gossamer thread.  According to the US rep. for Pearsalls it was indeed a dyeing problem they had with 'a few small batches of spools.'  However, I've run across it with antique gold, forest green, olive green and cardinal especially.  If you take a very close look at your spool (it is subtle, but it is there) you can often see bands of slightly different colors which indicate you have a spool with the problem.  I had two entire boxes of antique gold where every spool showed the banding.

The good news is (at least so far) the quality control seems to be better recently as I've had no problems with new batches of any of the thread colors, with the caveat that I get most of my thread from Chet at Bellinger and he is aware of the color banding problem and knows what to look for so it is possible that he may be catching it before shipping.

I also had a couple spools of cardinal color that weren't color-fast and bled all over the place.  I know it was the thread as I hadn't done anything different in my process and I further tested the spools afterward  and watched  them bleed.  That was a bad week...  (Chris Carlin)

Although I've had no color problems with the Gossamer, occasionally I will discover a knot in the thread (two thread ends tied together).  Usually this occurs when I'm over halfway through a guide wrap.


Still love the thread, though.  (Paul Julius)

Just a little of history.

I think that the use of Pearsalls Gossamer start with the Wayne Cattanach book. In the part dedicated to the wraps, he say that using the Pearsalls Gossamer is a "must". A tradition.

I disagree from this statement, also if I consider the book a great book to start the bamboo rodmaking.

In the real word of rodmakers, before this book, nobody used this type of silk. Pearsalls Gossamer was traditionally used by fly tyers and for embroidery.

And also today the professional rodmakers maintain a great distance from Gossamer.

The classic rodmakers of the Golden Age used silk from 000 to 0.

When I started to made bamboo rods - under the influence of Cattanach book - I started with Pearsalls Gossamer.

A true nightmare, threads broken, irregular aspect of the color - may be because it is difficult to have the same tension and distances for each turn of the silk - and the time to complete all the wraps was longer than to made the other operations to made the rod.

Now I continue to use silk, but in size 000 or 00: YLI, Rice, Tire, for example.

And I am an happy rodmaker!  (Marco Giardina)

Maybe I missed that part in Wayne's book, but I distinctly remember in his video series that he said despite tradition he used nylon for all the reasons already mentioned. Maybe he had a change of heart by the time he put his video series out. FWIW I have been happy with YLI and don't know any different. The last time I used nylon was several years ago on the graphite rods I started with.  (Scott Grady)

Wayne uses Nylon.  (Tony Spezio)

At the risk of sounding like a beauty shop:  Sounds like a bad dye job to me.  Of course we didn't answer your question before we veered off course, did we?   Imagine that, us veering off course LOL.  I can't help you with comparable YLI color, but they do sell YLI color cards on line. That may help.  (Pete Emmel)

As far as I have been able to determine, and I have bought a lot of YLI colors, there is nothing equivalent to Pearsalls olive color.  YLI 236 is olive, but much darker.  (Tim Anderson)

Thanks for the link Pete!  This is the best site for guessing at the color on the computer I have seen so far.  They have pictures of the spools and I can see the colors that I use and guess from there.  The card would probably be the best method for guessing ..................

Thanks for all of the input.  I was surprised at the conversation that broke out but found it extremely interesting.    (Hope that the rock bruises were tolerable.....snow in Arkansas?  Must have taken one in the head).  (Gary Young)

I bought one of those YLI cards last year.  Varnished half of each color.  Not as good as wrapping and varnishing on a sample piece of cane, but darn close and really lets you know what changes to expect when that spar goes down.  Plus, you can see all the colors up close and personal before you invest any further.  Unlike many things I'm stuck with, I still think it was money well spent.  (Bob Brockett)


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