About 3 weeks ago I soaked this wrap in Mike's walnut/amber oil and on Tuesday I began coating  it with Helmsman's Quick dry poly.  After the 2nd coat yesterday, everything still looked fine - no bubbles, cracks or whatnot.  Then, beginning last night I noticed a tiny spot of this 'cracking' or separating of the thread from the blank. Since then it has grown to what you see here.  It has happened at 2 places on this guide, both on corners, and it's just starting on the stripper guide.

Now normally I'd be looking suspiciously at the poly, but I also had this exact same thing happen with some Sutherland-Welles spar varnish.  Only in the case of the SW, it took over 6 weeks from the application of the final coat of varnish for the cracking to begin.

My thought is that I'm not letting the walnut oil cure long enough (3 weeks!), and as the finish over the top is curing, it's separating the threads from the blank.  The walnut oil felt dry to the touch before I began the finishing process and there are no glue lines under where this is taking place.

I'm in Alaska and the temperature has been averaging in the 60's with the standard ~60% humidity.

FWIW, this blank is currently sealed with 3 coats of Mike's Stuff, and the other was impregnated.  (Chris Carlin)

For what its worth, this is my guess.  really, I have two.  The Mike's product is not dry yet therefore not allowing the top coat to stick to it. Second the top coat has a large amount of dryer in it causing it to dry too quickly to stick to the Mikes stuff.  Another guess is that the walnut oil may some how be reacting with your top coat causing it to slide as it were. Usually though it is a good idea not to put a fast drying product over a slow drying one. Sorry you have that problem those wraps look really fine. Hope someone smarter than I can come up with an answer.  (Daniel Durocher)

Don't rule out two different problems.

The walnut/amber oil is great stuff, but it must be applied with the thinnest possible coat. My thought is that it really wasn't dry when you put on the Sutherland-Welles, and I think that the Poly may not be compatible with your walnut oil, Mike's stuff, or both. Different polys react differently when applied over "natural" finishes, I once had a disaster with Varathane over a tung oil finish that made me redo the entire rod.

I use the walnut oil as sparingly as possible, then put it in the rod dryer for two days. Then in a drying cabinet for about a week. It takes forever, which is why I only use the stuff on clear wraps.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

I think Jeff is on the right track here. I just looked back at some comments from Mike on this stuff and he suggests either (1) using very thin coats so it will dry,  (2) mix it with spar 50:50 to get it to dry, (3) add some Japan Drier to spar and overcoat it to make it kick, or (4) just leave it alone until it dries on its own. He does say however that "If you put on a really thick coat, though, it will buckle just like a really thick coat of spar or any other paint" and I think that's what happened to you, it buckled.  (Larry Puckett)

That is exactly why I don’t use walnut oil on wraps, you have to put it on in very thin coat and then you have to wait a couple of days before you put on varnish to kick it to dry. Actually only 1 coat of the walnut oil is needed, then apply varnish.  (Dave Henney)

Have you ever tried Behlen's Water White Varnish?  It is a long oil varnish that sets up slowly.  SW spar, or any long oil, Really slow setting varnish should work well.  Fast setting and wraps are to be avoided unless you have used a really good color preserver first to seal the wraps completely.  (Brian Creek)

Thanks to everyone for responding with suggestions.  I have been out of town for the past several days so I'm just now getting caught up.  Below are some replies to your comments and other information.

I usually put on only one "medium" thick coat (which is difficult to quantify - it's not thin, but also not thick enough to build up and/or buckle the finish).

The SW spar wraps that cracked on me had the walnut oil mixed 60/40 with SW so that it would cure faster.  It seemed to, but I still got the cracks in the wraps well after the final coats of finish were applied.  The set of wraps with poly was done with straight walnut oil.  I recently purchased some Japan Drier, but I haven't gotten around to trying it yet.

From what I've seen, the Minwax poly is compatible with the walnut oil.  Since the SW exhibited the exact same problems, I can only assume that it has something to do with my application of the walnut oil and not the final finish.

It was interesting to see the cracks progress though.  At first everything looked perfect, even when the poly appeared to be cured and was dry to the touch.  Then, a tiny white spot appeared and over the next 24 hours it (and others) began to spread, horizontally and usually over edges, through some - but not all - of the wraps .  Looking closely at the cracks, it appears the wraps were pulled up and separated from the blank.  Delaminated as it were.

In addition, it seems that several of the cracks began where the tag ends are located.  A few extend for just the length of the tag end.  And, since the finish is necessarily thicker where the tag ends are located (2 layers of silk, not 1), I think that everyone is correct when they say the oil wasn't completely dry when I began brushing on the finish coats of SW or poly.

Just for my satisfaction, I'm going to put together a set of test wraps and see what I can learn.  I'm also going to experiment with straight SW spar and transparent wraps to see if I can get a good finish that way.  (Chris Carlin)

I called Mike Brooks and talked to him about this. He said that the walnut oil is compatible with Minwax Poly and that it may have been that the walnut oil  was too thick.  He suggested putting on the oil and then wiping all the excess off so only very little remained on wraps.  He also said that the wraps should dry fairly fast if the oil is applied this way.  He said that this oil is compatible with MOW as well and that if using varnish instead of poly it should help to set the oil.  Now mind you I am trying to remember all we talked about but he had bad reception as he was going through the mountains and we kept losing each other.  He is supposed to email me this week and give me all the instructions for his finishes which I will pass along when I get them.

He is planning on coming to SRG so if any of you are there you can pick his brain.  He is giving a talk on his products and he may even divulge how to make some of them.  (Bret Reiter)


Anyone using Alchemists thin walnut oil on wraps that is willing to discuss, please let me know.  (Chris Raine)

I have a bottle of it that I will give to anyone who wants it. Free. It is a slow curing varnish designed to eliminate "the shimmers"- the air bubbles that get trapped in the wraps and mess up transparency (I know that you know this, but many new folks don't). I hate the stuff. It takes forever to dry, and if you put on more than a microscopically thin coat it never dries. Ever. And you need multiple coats.

There are all sorts of tricks you can use to kick it, but the easiest is to avoid it all together and use flex coat cut with acetone to the consistency of milk. Just get the  wrap saturated. No need for a big drop of the mix rotating around the blank. You will get the same look in 1/7 of the time (let it cure 24 hr). Then varnish the wraps. The bonus to the flex coat/base coat is that if the rod ever needs to be refinished, you can brush it with most finish removers and the wraps stay intact!

Now, before I am flamed, there are folks that enjoy and believe strongly in traditional approaches and finishes (I do believe in spar). Many of them make rods that are far better than mine. I just got fed up with spending a full month redoing wraps after the varnish didn't dry, or it got dust in it, or waiting for it to cure, etc.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

I use Mike Brooks walnut oil and amber and it produces perfectly transparent wraps. As mentioned this stuff dries very slow but through the magic of chemistry you can fix that. I had applied 2 coats of walnut oil to the wraps and they were not drying at all. Following Mike's suggestion I made a solution of 50:50 MOW and Japan Drier. After applying one coat of this stuff the walnut oil kicked and was dry in a couple hours. I followed that with several coats of straight MOW and let that dry as usual. I couldn't be more pleased, especially after all the times we have discussed this topic on the list and complaints from folks about silvering.  (Larry Puckett)

Here are Mike's comments:

Mike Brooks here, one 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 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.

Some users have remarked that if they put on a heavy or moderately heavy coat of the walnut oil that it can take days or weeks to dry. There are two workarounds for this - (1) mix it 50-50 with a standard spar varnish (you  will still get the transparent look, no hazing, and the thread will be completely hidden - more spar than that and you are on  your  own, though - I used Daley's SuperSpar for my experiment and it worked fine, chemically MOW ought to be even better) or add 1 teaspoon of Winsor and Newton JAPAN DRIER to a one ounce bottle (NOT the purple stuff, the stuff that looks like really thin varnish). This will set up a fairly heavy coat in under 24 hours without buckling. If you already have a coat on your thread that is taking forever to dry. Dip a brush in a 50-50 mix of spar and Japan drier and overcoat. It will be dry the next day. Or, if you are not in a hurry, just allow the walnut oil varnish to dry on it's own. Even a fairly thick coating or three will dry eventually..... If you put on a really tick coat, though, it will buckle just like a really thick coat of spar or any *

So let me get this straight. This is mainly to apply to the wraps so that the final varnish coat will not have any bubbles trapped underneath right?

I have always just done 3 or 4 coats of spar (MOW) applied by a pin tip to the wraps and haven't had any problems with varnish bubbles. the first three coats soak in real deep to the wraps, then the following coats build up to the final coat which has a glass like appearance.

I used to overcoat with Polyurethane but now I am just finishing with MOW.  (Martin Jensen)

That's the deal. The walnut oil soaks in and saturates the wraps so that no air bubbles get trapped. Then the varnish goes over that. Over the last few years we've had folks put forward dozens of ways of getting transparent/translucent wraps. I am sure that many of them work - but I can say that this one worked for me on the first try.  (Larry Puckett)

I do remember having that problem in the past, especially when I was wrapping up graphite rods and finishing the wraps with Epoxy. I think that the key for me was getting a consistent even thin first coat.  (Martin Jensen)


In the year 2006 ?  Have they turned any lead or other base metals into gold yet ?

"Oil is fine for those who need it -

(The rocks in Texas  seem to bleed it;)

But when the alchemists' tale is told

You can stick the oil; I want the gold!"   (Peter McKean)

I used it and it does work, but I found that it required too much attention , I don't spend that much time at one sitting working on wraps. I also found that if I put a hot enough varnish over it to kick it, it shimmered as bad as anything else. Mike's walnut oil stuff was about the same, takes a good week or more between coats or you'll never sand it for the final coat, it will just ball up under the paper and make a mess, and if you take the wrap off a couple of months later you will find gooey varnish underneath the wrap. Thinned Flexcoat or warmed varnish work better than anything else for me.  (John Channer)

I like Mike's for the first coat, enough to really saturate the wraps and then wipe off. A second coat does take too long to dry so I go straight to my regular wrap varnish at that point.  (Henry Mitchell)


I would like to make up the formula out on the tips site that uses Walnut Oil, etc.  Part of the formula reads:

"Buy a 4 oz. bottle of Walnut Oil Medium, Mix this 50-50 with your MOW in an 8 ounce bottle."

"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 1 ounce of amber OIL, then, you have five ounces of genuine amber-walnut oil varnish."

I understand the Walnut OIL Medium, but what is the "amber OIL" that calls for 1 oz?

I've looked everywhere,  but I guess I'm not sure exactly what it is.  Golden Witch sells the Alchemist stuff that is "amber varnish thin" and I think that the above recipe is trying to achieve this.  (Scott Bahn)

Amber is an organic compound that can be dissolved like any other, and is probably then miscible with any other similarly dissolved organic compound in a similar solvent. You may then need to add driers. I don't really understand the excitement for all these weird potions, they all oxidize at a furious rate and discolor over time. None of them do all that much except make wood look a bit brighter and, short term, delay the ingress of moisture. Which is not much of an issue really, since this years tomatoes were grown up some old reject sections of cane kept together with Titebond 2 and after seven months of exposure to awful Cornish weather they remain undelaminated. I've got twenty five year old bits of cane with original undarkened unoxidized polyurethane varnish on them here.

What, exactly, is the point of all this buggering about with mindless alchemy? What is it in the human psyche that makes people so dedicated to solving problems they haven't got? Can it be the perceived difficulty of solving the problems they actually HAVE go? I wonder.  (Robin Haywood)

If you go to Searcy Sowbug, David Bolin has a tested formula for translucent wraps.  If you want opaque wraps, look up Chris Carlin's "Color Preserver Test" @  Dave uses Walnut Alkyd Medium (can get from Blick art materials) in a 1:1 mix w/Waterlox Original High Gloss (Formby's may do just as well).  Chris Carlin's is a bit more involved and I'd advise reading the whole test before deciding which products you might want to use, if you're interested in opaque wraps, that is.  Hope this helps!  (Bob Brockett)


A while back, there was a thread on making a wrap elixir and one of the ingredients was walnut something-or-other.  I am traveling and have access to an art shop, but not to my saved messages or the archives.  Now I know why 2 out of three ain't bad.

Was it walnut oil or walnut medium or... ?  (Greg Dawson)

That particular secret sauce needs walnut oil medium. Not walnut oil. Not synthetic walnut oil medium. I have found walnut oil medium that had no walnut oil in it. If it is a good art store, they will know what you are talking about. Walnut oil takes forever to dry and goes rancid over time. The medium has been treated so that it dries quicker and lasts longer.  (Larry Lohkamp)

It's Walnut Alkyd Medium, NOT Walnut Oil.  (John Dotson)

Actually, you can use either.

When Mike Brooks sent me his recipe, he called out walnut oil medium.  The alkyd is similar, but is developed from synthetic resins, and dries faster than the walnut oil medium.  (Mark Wendt)

Could someone post the entire recipe or tell where it's found?  (Henry Mitchell)

50% Walnut Alkyd Medium

50% Waterlox Original High Gloss  (John Dotson)

Here's the link...  (David Bolin)

50-50 mix of the walnut oil or alkyd medium, and true spar varnish. Then put bottle of mixture in a hot water bath (capped) for an hour.  (Mark Wendt)


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