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fly rod finish

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6 replies to this topic

#1 bullhead



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Posted 05 January 2020 - 06:07 PM

Hi All,


I have just about finished with my first fly rod build. Perhaps this is a silly question but what do you use to create a glossy finish on the entire rod?  and what is the difference between thread sealer and epoxy for the guides?



#2 Pyme Fisher

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Posted 05 January 2020 - 09:43 PM

You don't want finish on the entire rod, just the threads.

#3 Pyme Fisher

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Posted 05 January 2020 - 09:50 PM

Thread sealer "locks in" the color of the thread wraps, so that the epoxy (which actually provides the covering protection) doesn't alter or bleed the thread color dyes.

Put the thread sealer on, allow it to dry, and then apply the epoxy over that.

Many here, including one particular, with lots more experience than me, so I'll leave the finer details to them.

#4 Dave G.

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 05:58 AM

Don't use ordinary epoxy, it's actually a polymer that is used for the thread wrap finish. Several brands out there that work similarly. Mixing is key, it has to be very equal portions.


It's unclear to me if you really mean sealer or if you actually mean color preserver. People used to seal thread with spar varnish back in the day, which we don't need today. Color preserver does as the name indicates. I tend to use ProWrap color fast threads myself which needs no preserver to maintain it's color but the spin off is the colors aren't quite as sharp. When color preserver goes wrong you can get blotchy color, this generally is due to oil contamination, probably human skin oil lol ( we jinx our own work and blame the thread or the preserver). I'm not building commercially so I just take the easy route with color fast thread generally speaking.


I believe total clear coat of a rod blank is done with two part urethane clear coat. Steve ( forum member steeldriifter) would know the answer to that.

John 7:38 ESV  is about "Rivers of Living Water"

#5 Capt Bob LeMay

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 11:31 AM

I've been building rods for many, many years - and coating thread wraps on rods by a variety of means... If you want the color that shows on your thread spool to remain after you apply finish of any kind then you're going to need a color preserver - if you like the idea of the thread color going darker and becoming a bit translucent then you do without the color preserver.  For a beginner I'd do a test wrap on a piece of scrap blank in two parts (short half inch wraps x 2... spaced apart a bit...).  On one wrap use color preserver on the other leave it alone.  When the color preserver has dried (wait a full day... and not in freezing conditions...) then coat both wraps with whatever finish you desire... when dry (another day later... ) take the test piece of scrap outdoors in good sunlight to see which you prefer... Me, I long ago quit using any color preserver at all... believing that the full saturation by rod finish into the thread is preferable from a durability standpoint...   


Color preserver has its problems but you'll have to use it a bit to find them out (uneven preservation at times, occasional clarity problems with the end finish, etc.).  I can actually make color preserver if needed by using ordinary Elmer's Glue (cut 50% with tap water and mixed very carefully before applying... -if anyone tries this make double sure to allow the treated wraps to dry for a full day - longer if you have the slightest suspicion that the wraps aren't yet dried... One other point about color preserver... make a point of using a separate brush to apply color preserver since it tends to accumulate in the base of any bristles no matter how you clean the brush... Bits of old color preserver that flake off into new finish will become a problem otherwise...


Now for the finish end of things.... Every manufacturer uses their own finish on the rod blanks we buy -and it's tough to replicate on your own...  Some blank finishes are so good that they'll last the entire life of the rod - others... not so much... That's a topic for another day (particularly when re-wrapping or restoring older rods...  As a general proposition, with a new blank only use finish on the thread wraps (extending it a bit onto the rodblank on each end of each wrap, trying to be as neat as possible...) Many will choose to inscribe a name or builder logo or other decorations onto a rod they've built.   You'll want finish over these kind of decorations to preserve them - otherwise I'd leave the rod blank surface on a new rod with the original finish on it.. 


For finish - many, many years ago most of us used some kind of varnish on our thread wraps  -I used polyurethane (UV enhanced) with multiple thin coats being the way things were done -allowing the wraps to dry completely between the three or four coats of finish (this was back when fiberglass rod blanks were all we had)... Finish was applied (then and now) with the newly wrapped rod still in the rodbuilding lathe (or whatever cradle you had the rod in when wrapping it).  Done carefully, turning the rod by hand, you could do an outstanding job if you were careful... Polyurethane didn't have a long life in use - gradually the finish would begin to yellow and start to crack - it was far from ideal.  By the end of the seventies most rodcrafters switched to two part polymer finishes for a better, more durable finish that appeared to be applied with many coats to give depth to the finish... Initially we used Envirotex (a bar or furniture surface coating.  When FlexCoat came along it was a much better product that many switched to -I'm still using it today... For fly rods I always try to do just one coat... for other rods two coats will do nicely.. If you get into building heavy ocean rods - then you might just need three coats of finish (here I'm talking about trolling or big game rods - all the way up to the 130lb class gear..). If you build and repair rods here in south Florida you're just as likely to be making a rod for bonefish - as you would a rod for sails or even bigger fish... Fly rods, spinning rods, plug-casting, and/or conventional rods... so you learn that each type has its own requirements... 


You have to carefully mix the two parts in a 50/50 ratio (it comes with syringes for small uses or a two pump dispenser for larger amounts).  For mixing most of us use medicine dispenser cups - and, if possible avoid using wooden (popsicle) mixing sticks since they'll add a slight tint to your finish... I much prefer dental or sculptor's spatulas for mixing finishes (stainless steel - very easy to completely clean after each use - long term...).  FlexCoat and similar products have the consistency of honey (with a definite pot life - so you have to use what you've mixed within about 30 minutes or it becomes too thick to apply...) and that's what you're working with when you apply them.  That means that after a coat of finish the rod needs to rotate for two hours, roughly, in a horizontal fixture to even out until it stops flowing and begins to cure out.  Most that I know use slow turning motors attached to timers for this.  Old or replacement barbecue motors are perfect for this kind of application.  It's pretty easy to build a simple wood stand to attach the motor to and a flexible attachment on the rod end of the motor to mount the butt end of the rod to...  When I started - all those years ago we had to make all the gear we used.. Nowadays there are rodbuilding lathes with driers readily accessible to anyone - from a basic unit - all the way up to professional production gear... Mudhole.com is just one of several...


Hope this helps.  I long ago quit making rods for anyone other than myself (and the folks who use my rods during a day or night on the water).  I still do a fair amount of repair work for my anglers and other guides, though... 

Tight lines Bob LeMay (954) 435-5666

#6 Bryon Anderson

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Posted 06 January 2020 - 03:04 PM

Echoing what others have said above, I would recommend applying epoxy finish to the guide wraps only. There is (or used to be) a one-part finish that went on really thin; I think it was called Permagloss. Some people--including me-- have used it to finish rod blanks, but you want to be careful doing that. You need to lay down a very thin, uniform coat and rotate the rod in a horizontal position as it dries, or you'll get drips and runs and globs and whatnot. It's mostly used on old blanks that the original finish has worn off. If you're building on a new blank and it has a matte finish, that's by design. The matte finish on blanks has been popular for quite a few years now. If you put gloss finish over it, you're adding finish on top of finish, which means increasing the weight of the blank. Not by much, but with fly rods, fractions of ounces count.


A word of caution about thread sealer/color preserver (I think they're basically the same thing) -- if you use it, make sure it penetrates all the way through your thread wraps to the blank and completely coats the thread. If the sealer/preserver penetrates unevenly, when you put your finish over top of it, you'll get little dark spots anywhere the sealer/preserver didn't seal completely. Ask me how I know. :) I used it one time and decided I was a finish-only guy from that point on.


As others have indicated, forum admin. and highly accomplished professional rod builder Steeldrifter is the ranking authority on rod building in these parts, so if anything he says contradicts anything I've said here -- believe him! :)


A last word of advice -- I've built a lot of rods and, for my money, the best how-to book and reference guide out there is Rod Building Guide: Fly, Spinning, Casting, Trolling by Tom Kirkman.


Good luck and post pics!

"... trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience." -- John Voelker (aka Robert Traver), Testament of a Fisherman

#7 vicente


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Posted 06 January 2020 - 11:29 PM

I used perma gloss on mine it's held up well, I would definitely use it again.