Good as new (part 2)
  |  First Published: November 2003

Revamping that old favourite

SECTION: Rod Builders Corner

WITH THE blank now completely stripped of all the old fittings it’s time to dress up that old blank and bring back a bit of gloss and lustre to it. First, however, the blank needs to be cleaned and prepared.

Most of the old fibreglass blanks tend to get scaly and scabby and this is because of the varnish that the blanks were dipped into. One of the ways that this was done (and still is done on some blanks) was by immersing the rods in a tube of varnish. Usually this was a big length of PVC pipe extended into the ground and filled with varnish. The blank was dipped, then hung for the excess varnish to drip off. It’s an effective way to make the blank look good, but in time this chips and starts to peel away, giving that scaly effect.

The way to remove the old varnish is to use the square edge on the back of your Stanley knife. It’s not a good idea to use the sharp cutting edge of the blade, because somewhere along the track while you’re removing that old varnish you’ll probably end up cutting into the blank – and this what you want to avoid.

It’s quite a messy process and all those little yellow scales of vanish that you remove can make you itchy on the thighs and forearms, so take care and avoid covering yourself in this. You’d be surprised at just how much will come off a big surf rod. Use a pair of safety glasses because the old varnish will just as easily flick up and end up in your eye.

I like to glue the butt fittings on the blank before I do the final preparations on coating the blank. It just makes for a better finish as you reduce the risk of dirtying the blank or removing any of the new coating as you push the grips down.

After you’ve removed the old varnish the blank is then rubbed back to smooth it off further before re-coating. I like to use some steel wool dowsed with Prepsol. The steel wool remains wet and allows you to rub the blank back. You can use a fine grade wet and dry sand paper, and in some cases it might be necessary to lightly sand the blank.

The Prepsol or Prep Wash is used to clean the surface and to remove deposits of grease, oil and silicon, which cause those nasty little dimples that can occur in your finished varnish, and especially in two-pack epoxy.

When it comes to coating the rod there are a couple of options. If you’re just after a quick but reasonable job use some speed rod filler. This clear, quick-dry filler is really a thin varnish that’s used to seal thread work. Because it has been previously thinned it’s easy to apply with a brush, and with a couple of thin coats you end up with a reasonable finish.

Next down the line you can spray the blank with a polyurethane lacquer. You can buy a spray can from the local hardware or paint supplier for about $10 a can and this ends up in a pretty good finish. If you want to take it a step further and have access to a proper spray gun, there are single and two-pack polyurethanes and epoxy clear coats available that do a first class job.

If you want a first class job but don’t have these tools at your fingertips, you can use a good two-pack rod epoxy like Erskine’s. A few tips here though – use only glass jars to mix the Erskine’s epoxy up in and make sure they have been well cleaned with Prepsol. A glass medicine cup is good because you can use the measurements on the side to mix your equal parts of A and B resin and hardener.

Syringes might seem like the ideal way to go, and they are fine on some epoxies, but in this case the plastic syringes and the silicon/grease inside the tube and on the rubber plunger will end up giving you nightmares when it comes to trying to produce that spot-on finish.

Once you’ve mixed the two parts together you need to thin the epoxy out as you don’t want a big, thick, heavy coating over the rod. A couple of nice thin ones will do a better job. The mix should be a bit like runny gravy and to thin it down you can use methylated spirits or acetone. You won’t need to use a lot.

Because it’s a two-pack epoxy it will take a few hours to start going off so, like the finish coatings on your bindings, the rod will need to rotate for a few hours. Support the blank where a guide will go, that way you can leave a bare patch to rest the rod.

After a couple of coats over a few days you’re then ready to rebind the runners on. Happy binding!

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