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Rod Varnishing.

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After tying your rod rings on, you need to seal the whipping thread with varnish. DANGER! This is where it might all go wrong. Practice first on a piece of scrap. An old rod or garden cane with a ring tied on.



For a repair, you can use model makers dope, or  more conveniently, clear nail varnish in a bottle with a brush, to seal your whipping thread. Failure to seal will result in your rings falling off very quickly. To make a permanent job you need to use varnish.

Professional rod builders use either two pack epoxy high build resin, or sometimes a UV curing system. The epoxy systems give a great finish and are the only type available for amateurs. Prior to epoxy arriving on the scene, all rods were built using traditional varnishes, similar to clear yacht varnishes. This air dries slowly, and needs several coats to give a decent finish, but it  remains a good option for the amateur. It is also easier to remove rings and replace them when worn, if they have been varnished in place with traditional varnish. Traditional varnishes are easy to apply so here is a quick guide.


Traditional Varnish.

First let me reiterate, practice on some scrap material, partly for experience and partly to see what happens to your thread colour with the varnish. If your thread changes colour to any great extent, you need to seal the whippings with either dope, clear nail varnish, or PVA wood glue. Remarkably PVA glue does work!

Now to begin varnishing. Take a small quantity of an outdoor polyurethane wood or yacht varnish, and dilute with thinners until watery. Use this mix as a first coat to sink into your whippings. Apply very thinly by brush. You may find holding the brush still and rotating the rod in your hand is easier than painting in the normal way. After working your way from ring to ring along a section, leave the rod somewhere warm to dry. Drying times vary tremendously, both varnish brand and room temperature effect drying time. You may be able to apply two coats in a day with some brands, and one per day with others. It is better to leave rods drying horizontally than vertically. You can make a simple jig by cutting v notches into an open topped cardboard box.

The second and subsequent coats should be thinned, but not by as much as the first. Just add a little thinners gradually until the varnish flows. You can only apply thinly because thick coats will run. You should continue to apply coates of varnish until the thread is smoothed over with a continuos shiny layer of varnish. You will not however achieve a high build with yacht varnish, though a beautiful finish can still be achieved.. 

You can easily remove sticky finger prints, mistakes and runs in traditional varnish using white spirit. Consider this traditional approach very carefully before trying epoxy based varnish. Epoxy will produce a better result in the right hands, but applied incorrectly will make a real mess.



How the result should look!

Epoxy Varnish.

Epoxy resin makes great glue, is used in composite structures, and can be used as a varnish. The formulations for these are different, so make sure you varnish with epoxy designed as a varnish. Araldite will not do! Hopkins and Holloway market a Seymo rod varnish, and the other well known brand is Flex-Coat. These are solvent free systems designed for hi-build and are different from epoxy  paint systems. These recommended systems consist of two syrupy liquids you mix together to make varnish which will chemically cure.

TIP Mix the epoxy thoroughly, and when you are happy it is mixed well, mix some more!

If your finished varnish feels sticky or is dull, you have either got the mixture wrong or you have not stirred enough.


Epoxy is great, one coat will give you a high build solid finish, but before you start, think ahead. You have two problems. One is applying the resin based varnish, the other is keeping the job safe until the varnish has set.

First, application. Again practice is important. Mix a small quantity of varnish, almost the smallest you can measure reasonably accurately. Apply with a good brush that will not lose hairs.  Paint the varnish on taking care to only put it on the whippings, as it is difficult to remove excess varnish. A hair dryer or paint stripping heat gun is a handy tool. A blast of warm air can makes the resin less viscous an easier to apply. But be careful about excess heat, as heat reduces the pot life of the varnish.

TIP  A rough guide is that for every rise in temperature of 10 C, the curing time is halved.

Whilst you are coating the whippings, keep the rod section turning in your hand to prevent runs developing. Finish each whipping with a small spot of varnish in the angle between ring leg and blank. A quick blast with your hair dryer whilst rotating the rod will make the varnish flow into one clear smooth coating. You must keep the blank turning all the time you are working.

At our factory we have special racks that rotate rods for the full duration of the curing period. The amateur will need a little spare time and devotion to the job.


To cure your newly varnished section you need that box described earlier, and a warm room. A cardboard box should have v slots cut into it to hold the rod sections horizontally. As each section is finished, place it into the slots and rotate it at intervals. As the section is rotated, sags or runs that are developing will run back. Regular rotation will result in a run free professional job. Initially, you need to rotate that section every few minutes. Room temperatures effect this greatly, you will just have to check you work regularly. As time goes by, in a warm room, you will soon be able to extend the intervals between rotations. Under warm conditions, epoxy varnish should be alright to be left alone after about two hours. Full cure of epoxy can take between a day and a week. Do not let the job go suddenly cold or expose it to high humidity before full cure. Humidity will cause a bloom.

TIP. If the finished job is slightly soft or sticky a second coat will help activate the cure in the layer below.

Excess resin can be removed with cellulose thinners or nail varnish remover, but these can damage the gloss finish on painted blanks. For your first build job, an unground natural finished blank is the number one choice. Test any thinners on a small area of blank first.


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