Bubble Problems

By Tom Kirkman, (RodMaker Magazine)

Here's a question from the May/June 2000 issue of RodMaker magazine:

"I have been using the new U-40 LS2000 epoxy wrap finish. I think it is the most beautiful finish on the market and is much more clear than any other epoxy finish I have ever used. The only thing that seems to be a problem for me is the amount of bubbles it produces. I am finding that it continues to produce bubbles for almost 2 hours after I apply it and if I am not careful to get these out, they mar the final finish. Would thinning it help prevent this problem. I am using color preserver, if that makes any difference. ~ Sam, RI

RodMaker Magazine

The bubbles you mention are not being produced by the LS2000, rather they are the result of air which is introduced into the mixture during mixing and brushing. The LS2000 is very good at allowing this introduced air to escape in the form of bubbles, to the surface. In your case, we need to try and find a way to eliminate as much of this introduced air as possible, as well as letting what does get in, to escape easily from the finish.

Fortunately, LS2000 is exceptional when it comes to releasing bubbles. No matter how careful you may be when mixing your finish, some air will be introduced. Although the larger bubbles tend to rise and escape quickly, there are often thousands of microscopic bubbles, almost invisible to the naked eye, which can become trapped in many epoxy finishes. In the worst of cases, these tiny bubbles appear as a distinct haze, which many rod builders mis-diagnose as some sort of contaminant. Even when these microscopic bubbles are not so bad as to cause a haze, they do undermine the overall clarity of the finish. In fact, the extreme clarity of LS2000 is due in large part to its tendency to completely release these bubbles, leaving a truly crystal clear coating behind.

After you mix your next batch of finish, try pouring the mix out onto a flat piece of aluminum foil. This will help facilitate the release of bubbles as well as extending the pot life of the mix. Now instead of immediately applying finish to the wraps, allow it to sit on the foil, undisturbed, for about 10 minutes. During this time you will no doubt notice how the finish becomes more and more crystal clear as these tiny bubbles escape. Allowing most of them to escape before you begin applying finish to the wraps should help your problem a great degree. (The fairly long pot life of LS2000 will easily allow you to let it sit for that brief time period without any real loss of working time.)

Another thing that might help is to change your application tool from a brush to a spatula. Brushing introduces air to the finish. Using a spatula does not. While I do not use one personally, many rod builders, including Ralph O'Quinn, the man who formulated LS2000, prefer the spatula. Just an idea you may wish to try for yourself.

Because you have applied color preserver, there should not be any air coming from the threads. Be warned however, that applying finish directly to threads which have not been treated to color preserver will nearly always result in air displacing from the thread into the finish. Using a brief application of heat will allow these bubbles to successfully exit the mix, but there are many variables as to how much heat should be applied and when is the best time to apply it. In the instance of LS2000, however, the manufacturer recommends that heat NOT be used to facilitate bubble release. If you find that they are not exiting on their own, you might try exhaling through a straw on the surface of the finish. Sometimes this will convince truly stubborn bubbles to leave.

Finally, I can assure you that thinning of LS2000 is neither recomended or wise. You'll have to trust me when I say that doing so will not help in any further reduction in bubbles. ~ Tom Kirkman

Publishers note:

If you have any tips or techniques, send them along! Help out your fellow rodmakers! ~ Publisher, FAOL

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