Make your own dubbing wax
When I recently reached the bottom of my last tube of Overton's Wonder Wax, I decided to try making my own instead of buying one of the newer commercial dubbing waxes. Like a lot of other tyers I had made my own dubbing wax years ago, but I didn't do it with a critical frame of mind.
START MAKING YOUR OWN
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While making the batches of wax I learned that theres quite a bit of variation between the ingredients that may be available in any given location, and that not everyones tastes or tying needs are the same. So I decided to provide instructions for making ones own wax rather than a specific recipe. Knowing the properties of each ingredient is the key to making a dubbing wax that suits any given tyers needs. The process is very simple and inexpensive and only a little tricky.
- Bow Rosin
- Refined Bee's Wax
- Olive Oil
- Twist Tubes or other suitable container
- Small Sauce Pan
- Stirring Sticks
WHAT YOU WILL NEEDThe ingredients are simple. The first and most important is bow rosin. Its the ingredient that gives dubbing wax its tackiness. Its refined, natural rosin from various tree species that musicians use to make the bows for their stringed instruments tacky. I learned that it comes in a variety of tackiness levels to accommodate the needs of different instruments and the climate conditions under which theyre used.
Bow Rosin Color Scale
The rosins range in color from dark reddish brown to light honey color. Theyre sold in small, hard, crystalline cakes which, when hit lightly with a hammer, will shatter. Wrap the cake of rosin in a paper towel before breaking it to prevent scattering the pieces. The price ranges from $3.50 to $12.00 each. Theres no reason to use the expensive rosins for dubbing wax. For dubbing purposes, I suggest using a light colored rosin. If a dark wax is needed to color silk thread (as is recommended for some Yorkshire wet flies) I suggest using a dark rosin.
The second ingredient is refined bees wax, which I have found in both hardware and craft supply stores. Its the ingredient that makes rosin less hard, while maintaining a level of firmness that makes dubbing wax easy to handle. It comes in small cakes and costs about $2.50 per cake. Raw bees wax is also available, but its much harder, denser, and heavier. I didnt try to use it, but I assume it would be quite different than using refined bees wax.
The third ingredient is ordinary olive oil, available at any grocery store. Its the ingredient that adds softness to dubbing wax and makes it easy to apply to tying thread.
Youll also need a small saucepan. I recommend getting a cheap one, since the pan wont be usable for cooking after using it for making wax. Wooden popsicle sticks or bamboo skewers can be used to stir the melting ingredients and discarded when finished.
MIXING AND HEATING
Dubbing Wax Proportion Guidelines
- 2 parts rosin
- 1 part bee's wax
- a touch of olive oil (don't over-do it). Approx. 1/8th by volume.
QUICK TIPHow to test your home-made dubbing wax
While its still in liquid form, its difficult to tell how tacky your wax will be after the mix cools. To get an idea of the finished product, drop a small amount into a bowl of water. Itll cool instantly and you can test it with your fingers. If the batch of wax doesn't satisfy your needs, adjust the proportions of ingredients accordingly.
FILLING THE DUBBING WAX TUBESFinding twist tubes to put the wax in proved more difficult than making the wax. Its necessary to use a tube that has its screw mechanism in the base of the tube rather than in the sides in order to be usable. Most lipstick tubes arent suitable. The tubes I found most satisfactory are from Clinique. Theyre used for a retractable face powder brush and are about 3 long by 3/4 in diameter. I simply pulled the brush out of the tube, plugged the small hole in the bottom with a piece of paper towel and poured the wax in. Before pouring the wax into the tube, its best to wipe the inside of the tube with a drop of olive oil on your finger to prevent the wax from sticking to the sides. The wax, before pouring, should be allowed to cool from a very liquid state to the consistency of syrup, so that it doesnt run between the base of the twist-up portion of the tube and into the bottom of the tube. Once in the tube, allow the wax to cool and harden. After a couple of hours the hardened wax column can be twisted up out of the tube. If it twists hard, go ahead and twist the wax all the way up out of the tube, then wipe the sides of the hardened wax column with another drop of olive oil and it should retract easily and be easy to twist up and down from then on.
WRAPPING IT ALL UPThe process of making your own dubbing wax is far easier than the lengthy instructions above might indicate at first glance. By using the little tricks that I learned, and have included, youll be able to do it with very little time and effort. Youll have the benefit of being able to make a wax that suits your specific needs rather than one thats made and sold to meet more general flytying requirements.