On The Vise IS Fly Tying
Clear Coat Durability Test on Panfish Poppers
by Kirk Dietrich on Nov 14, 2013 in Fly Tying, Fly Fishing

Clear Coat Durability Test on Panfish PoppersWhen I began making poppers for bass and bream back in the early 1980’s, two of my mentors, Ted Cabali of south Louisiana and Walt Holman of Huntsville, Alabama, used 30 minute cure epoxy as a “clear coat” finish on their bugs. Those poppers looked and fished better than the store bought ones I had seen and used, so,  I followed suit and have been using epoxy ever since as a clear coat to protect the color on my bugs.

Over the last few years, UV Resins began showing up on the fly tying scene with claims of being a substitute for epoxy. Tiers that were not comfortable with mixing epoxy and turning their bugs while it cured were pleased to see these new products. However, I never did have a problem working with epoxy and the exorbitant price of the UV resins made it easy for me to leave those alone.

Then, on some of the fly tying forums I participate in, I began reading debates between those comfortable with epoxy and those preferring to use the UV resins.  After joining some of the debates and pointing out the economic practicality of epoxy over UV Resins when clear coating the number of poppers I was producing at the time, I was often countered with claims relative to the ease of use, lack of waste and speed UV resins afforded. I was challenged by many for not having tried UV Resin and taking exception to my comments on the cost; although you don’t have to try something to calculate the costs associated with its use.  However, I decided it was time to “bite the bullet” and see what all of this hype was about; maybe it was time for me to join the 22nd century after all.

I acquired the following UV Resin products that I felt would be representative of the various UV products readily available: Clear Cure Goo, Deer Creek, Solarez and Crystal UV Resin. Also, I decided to try Liquid Fusion, a water based urethane adhesive, that I had read about in some of the debates and discussions I mentioned above as being a comparable clear coat.

I wanted to test how well epoxy and UV resins protected the coloring on my bugs from fish. I chose bream for counting the number of fish caught per bug to determine coating durability. For my tests, I went with the commercially available hard foam WAPSI Perfect Popper size #10 as the body to ensure consistent density and shape as well as for the convenience of not having to shape a bunch of bodies. Therefore, these results could vary, if you use materials that have different properties, or if you use UV Resin for other epoxy applications such as a streamer with a clear adhesive head, flies for toothy fish, and amount of time in the water or type of water, etc.

I began making up poppers and coloring them using one coat of Gesso and two coats of metallic pearl acrylic paint, over which I used Copic air brush markers for the coloring. I noticed that when I used the UV Resin and Liquid Fusion as coatings, the marker colors would bleed; to cure that, I applied two coats, lightly misted, of Krylon Crystal Clear indoor/outdoor acrylic clear coat on the bugs allowing to dry thoroughly between coats and before applying the UV Resin clear coating. When I applied the clear coatings for the durability testing, I also recorded and compared the time it took to apply the coatings.

I created a spreadsheet, see below, to record the times required to both coat the bugs and for the coating to cure. I quickly found out that epoxy required the least amount of my time during the curing process; Liquid Fusion came in second only because it needed two coats. The reason for the epoxy taking the least amount of time is that the rotisserie held them during the curing, freeing me up to do as I pleased during the 30 minute cure time.

The UV Resins took the longest amount of my time because they needed to be cured with a UV light, which required me to stand over each individual bug and hold the light and turn the bug by hand in the vise while it cured to a tack free finish. However, two of the resins required additional UV exposure to become tack free after being set with the hand held light. For this, I used a light box I constructed using the electric UV light offered by Solarez. You could also set it out in the sun if you’re doing your clear coating during daytime hours. This did not require my undivided attention, so I did not count that time. I mention it here and more detailed in the spreadsheet for the readers information. Additionally, the UV resins required two coats like the Liquid Fusion to equal the finish that the epoxy provided as indicated in the spreadsheet below.

In the caption accompanying each set of images of the tested bugs, you will notice the number of fish caught on each bug. Two of these bugs have a higher number than the others as I was experiencing a good bite and didn’t have my flybox with me, which would have enabled me to switch it out for a non-tester. Additionally, those two had shown the least amount of wear amongst the others tested so I figured I’d let a few more fish eat to see if I could notice more wear on the finish.

UV Resin PoppersThe numbers of fish stated only include fish that made it to hand or threw the hook at my feet, I did not count the number of strikes I missed, as that would have been near impossible to keep track of, as I missed two or three times the number of fish I hooked. The testing took several months to reach this stage, and with so many other products out there, I hope to one day get around to testing another batch in the same manner.

In summary, all of these finishes are extremely durable. They withstand the abrasive sandpaper like teeth of panfish and sitting in water that is clear to slightly brackish water for approximately 5 hours that it took to catch the number of fish on each bug. I make that distinction of sandpaper panfish teeth as I don’t have the time or opportunity to do a comprehensive testing with the razor sharp toothy critters in the coastal waters or ocean. Also of note is the time spent coating a batch of poppers with UV resin increases exponentially as the number of bugs coated increases but decreases with each bug coated in a batch when using epoxy or Liquid Fusion.

I certainly have learned a lot about the attributes of the different resins I used for this test.  I found Liquid Fusion to be a very good product, both for its reasonable cost and high durability, which I attribute to its rubbery-like state when cured. To my surprise, I found I like the UV resins a lot for certain applications.

They are really great for clear coating a bug when you are in the design phase and want to test a bug the same day you made it or when you just need a bug to fish that afternoon or when you don’t have time to let epoxy or Liquid Fusion fully cure before putting in the water. UV resins are also good on your tying bench for coating the thread wraps after you finish tying in the dressing on the back of your bug.

The choice of poison is up to you, these are only my opinions and findings based on the most controlled way I could figure of fairly testing these products.

Resins were purchased/acquired in early 2013.  Epoxy and Liquid Fusion are time tested products where no change should have occurred in the chemical make-up of these products since their introduction. However, UV resins are relatively new to fly tying and changes in formulas are possible and may or may not result in different cure times, tack freeness and durability.

Here are the approximate prices that I have found either locally or on the web as of Nov. 19, 2013. They also do not include shipping and/or tax.
  • EPOXY – BSI (Bob Smith Industries), 9 oz. $14.99 = $1.67 per oz.
  • UV RESIN – Clear Cure Goo Hydro, 15 ml (.5 oz) $22.00 = $44.00 per oz.
  • UV RESIN – Deer Creek Diamond Fine, 15 ml (.5 oz) $21.69 = $43.38 per oz.
  • UV RESIN – Crystal UV Resin (Also sold as On The Vise UV Resin), 15 ml (.5 oz.) $14.99 = $29.99 per oz.
  • UV RESIN – Solarez Thin, 2 oz. $21.95, 4 oz. $36.95 = $9.24 per oz.
  • URETHANE – Liquid Fusion, 2 oz $5.49 = $2.75 per oz

I want to give a special thanks to Frank Schlicht and Tom Jindra for reviewing and editing the above text for your maximum ease of reading and understanding.

Time to Cure Resins on #10 WAPSI Perfect Popper Heads
Resin Name Total Time # of Coats Applied Set Time W/3V Clear Cure Goo Pro Lite * Cure Time in UV Light Box Set-up and Mix Resin **
1st Coat 2nd Coat
Epoxy, BSI 30 Min. Cure Varies **** 1 N/A N/A N/A 2 min
Clear Cure Goo, Hydro 40 seconds *** 2 20 sec w/ tackiness 20 sec w/ tackiness 6 min still tacky N/A
Deer Creek, Thin 40 seconds 2 20 sec tack free 20 sec tack free N/A N/A
Crystal UV Resin 40 seconds 2 20 sec tack free 20 sec tack free N/A N/A
Solarez, Thin 2 minutes *** 2 60 sec w/ tackiness 60 sec w/ tackiness 6 min still tacky N/A
Liquid Fusion (Urethane) Varies **** 2 N/A N/A N/A 30 sec

 

NOTES:

  1. All bug heads were coated according to their respective manufacturer recommendations. For the UV Resins, I used each company's respective "thin" formula to keep weight on these little bugs to a minimum, however, they required two coats to equal the one coat of epoxy.
  2. Flashlight for set time was loaded with fresh batteries just for this test.
  3. There was no need to record time for applying the resins as that time is the same for all except doubled when using two coats.

Set Time is the time to set the UV resin after it leveled out to prevent sagging while it finished curing in the light box. With the Deer Creek and Crystal UV Resin, the set time also resulted in a cured
tack free finish.

**  Set-up included setting up rotisserie, ice bath and mixing epoxy; for LF only set-up rotisserie.

***  This is the total time for setting the resin, I did not include the cure time in the light box for the Solarez and Clear Cure Goo as after 6 minutes they were both still tacky. When touching with finger to test for tackiness, the finish became dulled. They may have been cured after the "set-time" like the other UV resins but would require a wiping down with alcohol to remove tackiness or a thin coat of clear nail polish. The tackiness did go away after two hours in the light box.

****  The total time per bug varies as that time will decrease with the number of bugs done with the 2 minute set up time for mixing a batch, which will coat up to 30 bug heads depending on the size of the bug.

Clear Coat # of Coatings # of Bream Caught # of Bass Caught Total # Fish Caught Comments
Epoxy 1 52 8 60 Finish began showing wear around edge of face after about twenty or so fish.
Clear Cure Goo Hydro UV Resin 2 58 2 60 Finish began showing wear around edge of face after about twenty or so fish. Sometime between then and 60 panfish when it was retired a piece of the finish came off the top of the bug.
Deer Creek Fine UV Resin 2 59 1 60 After about thirty or forty fish, a small section around the bottom edge showed wear.  At some point after that, a piece of the second coat chipped off the head.
Crystal UV Resin 2 59 1 60 Finish began showing wear around edge of face after about twenty or so fish.
Solar EZ UV Resin 2 68 2 70 A little wear began to show after about 40 fish.
Liquid Fusion 2 62 3 65 Slight wear on a couple spots from the edges of the face after about 30 fish, a little more wear on the side over the next 35 fish.

Below are the photos I took of the bugs after fishing them. The first picture in each series, may have slightly different markings. The reason for that is that I lost some bugs before reaching the minimum 60 fish. Therefore, I made a fresh batch of bugs to photograph as “Before” bug pics to compare the fresh finish against each fished bug. I coated each one in the same manner as the ones that were fished and even did a second time test to concentrate on and ensure my times and comments were accurate.

Epoxy 30 Minute Cure Epoxy 30 Minute Cure Epoxy 30 Minute Cure Epoxy 30 Minute Cure
EPOXY (30 Minute cure): One coating applied, 60 fish caught. Finish began showing wear around edge of face after about twenty or so fish but did not deteriorate any further when I retired it after catching 60 panfish.
Clear Cure Goo Clear Cure Goo Clear Cure Goo Clear Cure Goo
CLEAR CURE GOO(UV cure resin): Two coats of Hydro, 60 fish caught. Finish began showing wear around edge of face after about twenty or so fish. Sometime between then and 60 panfish when it was retired a piece of the finish came off the top of the bug.
Deer Creek UV Deer Creek UV Deer Creek UV Deer Creek UV
DEER CREEK (UV cure resin): Two coats of Super Fine, 60 fish caught. After about thirty or forty fish, a small section around the bottom edge showed wear. At some point after that, a piece of the second coat chipped off the head.
Crystal Clear UV Resin Crystal Clear UV Resin Crystal Clear UV Resin Crystal Clear UV Resin
CRYSTAL UV Resin (UV cure resin): Two coats of Thin (only formula offered), 60 fish caught. Finish began showing wear around edge of face after about twenty or so fish.
Solarez Solarez Solarez Solarez
SOLAREZ (UV cure resin): Two coats of Thin, 70 fish caught. A little wear began to show after about 40 fish.
Liquid Fusion Liquid Fusion Liquid Fusion Liquid Fusion
LIQUID FUSION (Urethane adhesive thinned 50/50): Two coats 65 fish caught. Slight wear on a couple spots from the edges of the face after about 30 fish, a little more wear on the side over the next 35 fish.

 

 

 

5 comments
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Grandpa Nov 25, 2013 17:00:51
0

Very nice and impressive article Kirk. I also use a wood lathe to make replicas of old bass lures. Another fun hobby. I bought a bunch of green soft foam popper bodies off Ebay and was not impressed at all. I tried unsuccessfully to paint and color a few and finally used a can of sparkly gold/green paint. I used 2 coats of clear enamel over that. Looks decent enough, and I've never seen anything like them before, but I think a couple bass strikes will ruin them. I'll post a pic later. Oh... My name is Ed Gallop and created www.flytyingworld back in the 90s. I sold it and many members told me the new owner screwed it up. I haven't been there for a few years so don't really know. You were one of my favorite tiers on the site. Good to see you are still around.
Kirk Dietrich Nov 26, 2013 19:42:00
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Hey Ed, thanks for the compliment, glad you enjoyed the article. That was a cool site you started, can't even find my own self on it any more the way the new owner has it. I found my page inadvertantly but it did go down hill.
If those poppers are soft foam and you have them glued well to the hook, they should hold up pretty well. One day I'll get around to making lures with the lathe. I'm working on a book right now on making topwater bugs with a variety of materials and tools. I've got most of the text done and am working on the photos; sure is taking longer than I thought.
UTYER Dec 15, 2013 14:13:32
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I am very new to poppers, so far, most of mine have been soft foam that I simply tied on the hooks or deer hair. Since spinning any trimming deer hair is so time consuming, I go with simple bullet heads and maybe some rubber legs. These have always worked for me in the past, and since I mostly fished for cold water fish, I didn't need or use too many.

Since moving to Florida, I am starting to tie a few poppers with cork, and shaped foam bodies. This article is just coming just in time for me. No I don't have to spend a whole lot of time figuring out just what top coat to use. It seems to me from reading your article, that the three cheapest coatings (Epoxy, Solarez, and Liquid Fusion,) will do a good enough job, at least for my needs.

Thanks for the research and the article.
Kirk Dietrich Dec 16, 2013 00:09:35
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You're welcome UTYER, glad you found some benefit in what I did. It was enlightening for me doing it.
ecberr Nov 22, 2014 13:48:50
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Kirk, excellent article. Next time I am in Jo Ann fabrics i wont pass on the liquid fusion. I have to ask though, what do you thin it with? Thanks
Ed