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Contamination; Prior, During and After a Build
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: September 04, 2019 01:13AM

Tom Harder’s recent topic,”U-40 Dura Gloss Supreme” described the unfortunate evils of contamination while building a rod and the resultant nightmare. After some pondering, his ordeal has prompted me to offer all of you some lessons-learned through my observations and experience in the composite and auto body industries in hopes of minimizing, hopefully eliminating the possibility of such occurring to you. While I am certainly no Ralph O’Quinn, much of what I have learned is the result of collaboration with industry professionals, especially concerning composite epoxies. Some of what I am offering are reciting issues learned from this site. It may be considered a collaboration of contaminate concerns.
I assume all of us practice good, clean building methods; washing hands regularly, keeping thread in a sealed container, never spraying lubricants in the shop and such. Be aware that air-borne contaminates come from all sorts of sources including your neighbor or even further away. I learned an invaluable yet expensive lesson from ruining the last coat of a mold, actually a buck, for a composite project; if I can smell the burger-joint which is a block away, I close-up the shop and cover/hide everything! But, at least, we have some control over our building environment and building methods.
We build custom rods which are sold to discriminating and demanding anglers, rarely your average fisherman. Chances are we will get that rod back if a repair is required. Without knowing how the rod will be actually treated after it leaves our shops, a little informative instruction of operation and caring-for the new rod is certainly in-line; I do. Such instruction should not stop at what high-sticking is and avoiding ramming a swivel into the ring of the tip top; maintenance and care should be included as well.
There are those who think they are helping their rod (and reel) by spraying-it-down with WD-40, wiping with furniture polish like Pledge, applying products such as Armoral or waxing with just any automotive paint polish. In most cases, the opposite is true.
First and foremost, ANY PRODUCT CONTAINING SILICONE HAS NO PLACE BEING ANYWHERE NEARS A ROD BUILDING STATION! GRT RID OF IT!!! Eventually, it WILL get on a build (It must be one of Murphy’s Law). It takes a miniscule amount of silicone to contaminate a surface and once it has, it is iffy at best to eliminate. Silicones have also been linked to making plastics more brittle. Many if not most lubricants, furniture polishes, and auto preservatives/waxes contain silicone; it is extremely slippery, nothing sticks to it, wipes on and off easily, provides a brilliant shine, has a higher melting point than other waxes = durable = lasts a long time, among others. In our case, all those seemingly positive aspects are overwhelming overshadowed by the fact that once you got it, you may never get rid of it!
When getting-right-down-to-it considering the possibility of repairs in the future, the best rod maintenance is to simply, yet thoroughly, rinse with fresh water and wipe dry. But there those, myself included, who prefer to keep their rods protected and shining-like-new with a coat of wax after each trip, especially when used in saltwater. A compromise is needed. The application of a pure carnauba (auto) wax, preferably not a cleaner/wax, is the best choice. My only hands-on experience with applying new thread finish over existing (with a minimum of 5 coats of carnauba wax) occurred when adding a decal to the opposite side of a rod from an existing decal. Obviously, I could not sand the existing finish so I wiped the area three times with acetone while rotating on the wrapper, waited 20 minutes, applied the new decal and coated with finish; it turned-out fine. I am sure Tom K. and Roger W. will cringe when they read this as it is contrary to their method of never directly coating over a solvent-wiped surface without sanding/scoffing after. I have adopted and agree with them but could not apply a decal over a sanded surface without the sand marks showing between and around the text. Apparently I was luckier than Tom H. The point being made is that carnauba can be removed if needed. I sincerely doubt such would have been the case with silicone.
Although not the case with Tom H.’s ordeal, Amine Blush is another, if not rare, sort of contamination but has been discussed previously and will not be an issue after our customer receives their new rod.
It would behoove all of us to spend a little time with our customers explaining care issues of their new rod rather than spending a lot of time fighting a possible nightmare later such as Tom H. encountered.
What many do not realize is that wiping/scrubbing a solvent on a contaminated area may reduce the contamination by (I am just picking numbers everyone can relate to) say 50%. A second application will reduce by another 50%, or 25% of the original; a third application by another 50%, or 12.5% of the original and so forth. The point being that while reducing the amount of contamination with each application of solvent, one may never get rid of it entirely. Silicone is on the top of the list concerning difficulty to dissipate/eliminate. The severity of Tom H.’s particular instance may have resulted from not eliminating but only diluting the presents of silicone or another contaminate. Do not get me wrong; Tom’s and Roger’s (others as well) veteran insistence of scoffing AFTER the application of a solvent is point-on and I have, since learning, adopted the procedure as well. IT SIMPLY JUST MAKES SENSE! Personally, I have only experienced one instance where a wipe-down with acetone prior to laminating did not provide perfect results; that one time was an epic and expensive butt-kicker, ultimately much worse than Tom H.’s tribulation! Sanding after the wipe-down might have eliminated the situation.
Mixing epoxy, which includes thread finish, can introduce contaminates. Make certain to use a new cup which has been stored in an air-tight container (zip-lock) and wipe off the stir-stick with acetone or DNA just prior to mixing. A metal stir-stick which is only used for mixing epoxy is a good idea. I use a designated flat-blade screwdriver with deburred edges which conform to the bottom corner of the cup to insure no unmixed epoxy/hardener is left in the corner. If your cups have a rounded corner, use a stir-stick with a matching radius. About half-way through mixing, wipe off both sides of the stick on the side of the cup, pull up mixed epoxy, from the bottom, over what you just wiped off of the stick and finish mixing. To further insure your epoxy is thoroughly mixed, pour the mixture into a second cup and stir again. While this is an industry standard while mixing a surface-coat for a mold with its subsequent days or weeks of adding layers of composite fabric, I admit not employing the double-mix for thread epoxy. When finished coating your wraps, ALWAYS SAVE THE LEFT-OVER EPOXY and place it next to the rod in the same environment (left on the wrapper, placed in a heated curing cabinet or whatever) so both cure equally. This helped to diagnose Tom H.’s problem. Additionally, poking with a tooth pick easily reveals the state of cure without having to touch the wraps themselves.
Concerning multiple coats of epoxy applied to a wrap, it is best to recoat as soon as possible after the “no -fingerprint” stage of cure. Testing the epoxy left in the mixing cup is preferred over touching the wrap to avoid contamination, another reason to save the remaining epoxy in the cup. Curing rates of different thread finish varies widely from 6 hours to over 30 hours. As if saving time were not enough, recoating just after the no-fingerprint stage of cure also affords a “chemical-bond” between the two whereas sanding the first cured coat only affords a “mechanical-bond”. While possibly not as critical in rodbuilding verses structural composite fabrication, it is better so why not?
In the event (hopefully never) you notice your epoxy acting strangely (fish eyes, repelled from certain areas and such), STOP!!! You have obviously upset the rodbuilding Gods. The situation will not get better but only worse. Cut-your-losses and bite-the-bullet by removing the fresh epoxy, all of it, including thoroughly wiping if not scrubbing with acetone or DNA, certainly not a pleasant task considering guide legs. I prefer acetone as it is the standard in the composite industry but many veteran rodbuilders seem to prefer DNA. From there, you are on your own as I have not been afflicted with the nightmare while building rods. May I suggest that, hopefully, a thorough scrubbing with strips of ScotchBright to achieve Tom K.’s “Water Break Free” surface will be sufficient. Apply new epoxy on an easily removable portion of a wrap and inspect; if the situation seems to have disappeared, cautiously and carefully continue. If the same situation persists, stop and remove the fresh epoxy. As a last resort, an additive such as “Smoothie” may be required. Be advised though that it is a silicone-based product which permeates the new coat of epoxy, and any additional coats will require the addition of Smoothie as well. I was glad to learn from Tom H. that his brand of Smoothie seems to be compatible with thread epoxy as its original intent was for automotive urethane finishes. I am even gladder to learn it solved his contamination woes.

In conclusion, surface contamination can be initiated by a multitude of sources; our job is to minimize, hopefully eliminate, that multitude. Cleanliness, common sense, confining possible contaminates to outside of the work area and coinciding with lessons-learned from the veteran rod builders can minimize, hopefully eliminate the ill effects of contaminates! Taking a moment to inform our customers what NOT to smear on their rods after it leaves our shops will further benefit any possible future repairs.

Mark Talmo

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Re: Contamination; Prior, During and After a Build
Posted by: roger wilson (---.hsd1.mn.comcast.net)
Date: September 04, 2019 10:34AM

Excellent summary.

Generally speaking I do things in a fashion similar to what you do, but contrary to your statement, I personally never sand the blank, except if I am completely stripping the blank for a rebuild of an old rod.

I also personally try to never have to use a solvent on a rod build after the build has been started. Rather than solvent, unless there is an extreme circumstance, I generally just use masking tape to tack off the rod and prepare it for what comes next.

Also, if I do have to wipe down a rod or blank with solvent - I will generally use XYLENE, since it is the preferred solvent for use with Epoxys.

But, both Acetone as well as Xylene are both extremely toxic and can cause severe injury and or long lasting negative health issues if the fumes are inhaled. So, if either of these chemicals are used, they should only be used in a well vented area, while the person using the chemicals wears latex or the equivalent of rubber gloves to prevent chemical infusion through the skin, and to also wear a chemically effective breathing mask. Also, fans should be blowing across the work bench to be vented through a stack or window if one of these chemicals are used. Or, use them outside with a breeze blowing across the work. You do not want to face into the wind, or face down wind if using these chemicals. But, rather cross wind so that the chemicals do not come up and swirl around your face to be inhaled.

For myself, I try to avoid the use of denatured alcohol - with respect to touching a rod.

By the way, for those folks who want to use denatured alcohol for cleaning or wiping, you might try an experiment. Mix up a reasonably sized batch of finish epoxy. Then, add about a quarter oz of denatured alcohol and attempt to mix it up. I think that you will find that the denatured alcohol really does not blend in and become part of the finish mix.

Then, repeat the experiment using either Acetone, or Xylene, and you will find that either of these chemicals will quickly go into solution with the mixed finish epoxy because either of these chemicals use essentially the same chemical base as the epoxy and thus become part of the chemical composite.

Here is a white paper that discusses various chemicals, etc.

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Re: Contamination; Prior, During and After a Build
Posted by: Lynn Behler (---.97.252.156.res-cmts.leh.ptd.net)
Date: September 04, 2019 02:46PM

In regard to this post, Jack's "ethyl as a solvent" post just below and countless others, (now this might sound stupid, and if it does it wouldn't be the first time I've done that). What about using grain alcohol produced for human consumption? This would eliminate the additives thought to cause issues associated with DNA. And no, I did not sample some before typing thith! Hic

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Re: Contamination; Prior, During and After a Build
Posted by: Donald La Mar (---.lightspeed.lsvlky.sbcglobal.net)
Date: September 04, 2019 04:04PM


Unless a fellow is buying ethanol on the cheap from the friendly local moonshiner, "grain" alcohol is on the pricy side compared to isopropyl alcohol. It's not that I'm especially frugal, It's just that it's hard enough to make finish perfect wraps without adult beverages in the mix.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/04/2019 04:06PM by Donald La Mar.

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Re: Contamination; Prior, During and After a Build
Posted by: Mark Talmo (71.147.59.---)
Date: September 04, 2019 04:24PM

Roger, thank you for the compliment and contribution. I totally agree with you concerning DNA and epoxy; they really do not mix. I found it strange to learn so many rodbuilders use DNA rather than acetone, even when attempting to thin the epoxy. I just figured there must be something different with rodbuilding’s 1-to-1 epoxies than structural 4-to-1 epoxies. Your simple test would be a good demonstration.
I also agree 100% in not sanding/scuffing once the build has been started; there really is no need to. If each coat of epoxy is applied within 5 days of the preceding, all should be fine, with sooner-than-later (just past no fingerprint) being the best to afford a chemical bond between the two and also to minimize contaminates from settling on the surface.
You and I have had previous discussions concerning acetone verses xylene and apparently you still disagree with me. Inspecting the Safety Data Sheets of both will reveal xylene (and toluene) is much more dangerous and toxic than acetone. I still have a mark on the back of my hand from one wayward drop of xylene (PermaGloss) whereas we used to almost bathe in acetone during my composite days. Obviously, neither is good to breathe or absorb though the skin and precautions should prevail. While not a drop of xylene can be found at any composite shop I have visited or at my epoxy manufacturer, they all use acetone for clean-up. Neither acetone nor zylene are use in the actual make-up of epoxies.

Mark Talmo

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Re: Contamination; Prior, During and After a Build
Posted by: roger wilson (---.hsd1.mn.comcast.net)
Date: September 04, 2019 09:39PM

You are 100% correct with respect to Acetone and its properties.

Absolutely correct that Acetone is much safer to use than Xylene.

But, either should be used in well vented areas with respirators and gloves to protect the skin.

Thanks for the thoughts.


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