Make Your Own Dubbing Wax<br /> The real stuff - Global FlyFisher

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Make Your Own Dubbing Wax
The real stuff



Dubbing wax  Toilet ring wax
Article by Steve Williams

START MAKING YOUR OWN

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. This time I decided to experiment with making dubbing wax and learn some of the possibilities. The result was several small batches of dubbing wax, put up in twist tubes, which I sent to some of my flytying friends for them to try and to comment on. The reviews were good and some of my friends asked for the “recipe”. My response to the requests is that I’d gladly provide a recipe if I had one, but I don’t.

While making the batches of wax I learned that there’s quite a bit of variation between the ingredients that may be available in any given location, and that not everyone’s tastes or tying needs are the same.  So I decided to provide instructions for making one’s 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 tyer’s needs. The process is very simple and inexpensive and only a little tricky.

Preparation

  • Bow Rosin
  • Refined Bee's Wax
  • Olive Oil
  • Twist Tubes or other suitable container
  • Small Sauce Pan
  • Stirring Sticks

WHAT YOU WILL NEED

The ingredients are simple. The first and most important is bow rosin. It’s the ingredient that gives dubbing wax it’s tackiness. It’s 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 they’re used.

Bow Rosin Color Scale

color_scale.jpg (1203 bytes)

The rosins range in color from dark reddish brown to light honey color. They’re 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. There’s 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 bee’s wax, which I have found in both hardware and craft supply stores. It’s 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 bee’s wax is also available, but it’s much harder, denser, and heavier. I didn’t try to use it, but I assume it would be quite different than using refined bee’s wax.

The third ingredient is ordinary olive oil, available at any grocery store. It’s the ingredient that adds softness to dubbing wax and makes it easy to apply to tying thread.

You’ll also need a small saucepan. I recommend getting a cheap one, since the pan won’t 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.
The rosin and bee’s wax both melt at very low heat and over-heating them causes the mix to darken a little. Heat the ingredients enough to thoroughly mix them, but no more. The basic mix isn’t precise because of the differences between various rosins and bee’s waxes, but should be about 2 parts rosin to 1 part, or slightly less, of bee’s wax, by volume. When melted together these ingredients will, after cooling, form a hard, “waxy”-feeling wax. It’s very sticky when in liquid form, but quite hard after it cools. At this point it’s similar to the old style “Cobbler’s Wax” that is valued by some strict traditionalists. It’s certainly a useful wax, but in this form it needs to be warmed in order to soften it so that it can be used. To make the wax usable at normal room temperature (65-75 degrees) it’s necessary to add a small amount of olive oil. Again, because of the variation in materials, there isn’t a precise amount to add. I suggest starting with about 1/8 (by volume) oil of the amount of wax used. A little more can be added at a time to bring the wax to the handling quality that suits you. Use caution when adding the oil, because just a few drops too much will cause the wax to become greasy feeling and less tacky. If you mistakenly add too much oil, you can correct the mix by adding a few more crystals of rosin to bring the tackiness level back up. If you’ve added quite a bit too much oil, it will be necessary to add small amounts of both rosin and bee’s wax to correct it.

QUICK TIP

How to test your home-made dubbing wax
While it’s still in liquid form, it’s 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. It’ll 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 TUBES

Finding twist tubes to put the wax in proved more difficult than making the wax. It’s necessary to use a tube that has it’s screw mechanism in the base of the tube rather than in the sides in order to be usable. Most lipstick tubes aren’t suitable. The tubes I found most satisfactory are from Clinique. They’re 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, it’s 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 doesn’t 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 UP

The 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, you’ll be able to do it with very little time and effort. You’ll have the benefit of being able to make a wax that suits your specific needs rather than one that’s made and sold to meet more general flytying requirements.

 

Dubbing wax   Toilet ring wax


User comments
From: Henrik Thomsen · henrik·at·banana-republic.dk  Link
Submitted April 1st 2013

Just made some with Kolofonium, the resin residue from terpentine making. That and bees wax gives a wonderfull Cobblers wax. Absolutely necessary when tying flies with gossamer tying silk.


From: Dontheo - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted January 25th 2013

Jim

I have read this article for years and finally decided to try it. I was happy to see a recent post. I may try mineral oil rather than olive oil though. Let me know how you batch works out. I got my rosin and wax off eBay.


From: Bob - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted January 11th 2013

I have a need to perform some "touch dubbing", and I found this post. As a formulation chemist, I would approach making dubbing wax a little differently. But I don't have prior experience with "Wonder Wax" to guide me, but here goes. For the stickiness, I'd start with liquid pine tar...the kind baseball players use. You can get a few ounces for $4. The toilet wax seems fine, but I might recommend thinning it with mineral oil (any drug store). Mineral oil is liquid paraffin. But maybe olive oil is just fine. Proportions? Well, I'd mix the wax and mineral oil to get the right consistency first. Then I'd add the pine tar a little at a time until I got the right tackiness. I just may do this...


From: jim morris · admin·at·treeneflyfishers.com  Link
Submitted May 4th 2011

teo you are missing the whole point..most shop sold stuff here in europe is too soft...making your own is a very viable idea, even more so if done as a group and shared..

Thanks for the info fellas..off to find some bow resin!


From: Ian M Paltridge · impal·at·bigpond.com  Link
Submitted April 12th 2011

I have tried to melt the rosin in a s/s steel container sitting in a pot of boiling water it won`t melt may be this due to the particular type of rosin, any solutions to this. Ian M Paltridge, NSW Australia.


From: Johnny Utah · stoaks320·at·gmail.com  Link
Submitted January 31st 2011

This is a fantastic recipe for making cobblers wax! works great and it makes tons, with a nice pine smell. You can make it super tacky. And touch dubbing is as good as wonder wax. Fantastic.


From: Jim · flycaster·at·msn.com  Link
Submitted October 21st 2010

be VERY careful when heating bees wax..it DOES NOT boil, but will ignite to a very hot fire. you should use a double boiler. aluminum (and all metals except stainless steel) will darken the beeswax. I use a 2-dup glass measuring cup to melt the wax in a small pan of simmering water.


From: Umberto Gladys · umberto_gladys·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted June 15th 2010

I have 5 new tubes + 1 that is in use of Overton's that I got back in 1997 (not selling BTW, my nephews are learning to tie and it will go to them when I am no longer able to). Long story short is that I was in the right place at the right time when a shop was reorganizing some older inventory. I got the whole lot for less than $10. There has been nothing that even comes close to this stuff (at least not the stuff that is commercially available). The smell of a new tube of Overton's has a slightly pine resin smell to it. Not at all overpowering but enough so that there is no doubt that at least one of the ingredients has some pine derivative. Prior to scoring the Overton’s I tried the toilet bowl rings melted down and that was not even close. It made a mess. My wife was not happy. This recipe looks very promising even though I have a couple lifetimes worth of wax. In a thread a read a while back someone mentioned castor oil as one of the parts to Overton's. I am surprised that no one has tried to crack Overton’s recipe by mass spec or GC.


From: Larry Warner · lgwarner·at·excite.com  Link
Submitted June 5th 2010

thanks for the recipe. Apparently, no one here has had to make things for themselves in order to save costs! You can buy a small aluminium pan for less than a dollar at the grocery store to heat things in. I use old Old Spice stick deodardant tubes that were ready to be tossed in the garbage. I keep them all now, since they clean up nicely with hot soapy water, cost $0.00 . You can buy in bulk on the internet for the bees wax and bow rosin. My total cost was about $4.00 per tube which provides about 5 times the volume of tacky wax. I made enough for 4 tubes and gave three of them out to fly tying friends. That was 4 years ago and I still have about 60% in my tube, and I ty about 600 dubbed bodies per years. The friends I gave them to still have about 3/4 of their tubes left. Making your own wax may seem like overkill, but so does tying your own flies if that is the way you look at things!


From: Dave Hansen · ddllah·at·charter.net  Link
Submitted March 6th 2010

What I found I like is a 1/3 each mix of the following: rosin, bee's wax, and toliet seal wax (very cheap, $1.24 for a big block, found at any hardware store). To vary the softness, just add more toliet seal wax, as it is a lot softer than bees wax. You can make a wax that is plenty tacky, but is not so soft like Overton's, which I felt was too soft.


From: Steve · wolflake740·at·aol.com  Link
Submitted February 10th 2010

I have a recipe which many call 'Overton's Wonder Wax formula.' I am still tetsing it out, but can anyone tell me if Overton's wax had a certain scent to it. Someone once told me that it kind of smelled like licorice or a faint root beer smell.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.


From: Michael Piacentino · mpiacent·at·rochester.rr.com  Link
Submitted January 21st 2010

Thanks for the instructions - I'm going to try the microwave, since I have to clean it out anyway from my last experiment with scrambled eggs this morning. I cannot wait to try this out - tight lines.


From: ryan vitz · viyzryan·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted August 19th 2009

teo korihot wait to kill the mood and you woudnt need to go to the store after you have the matierials


From: Eric · kerfwappie·at·comcast.net  Link
Submitted May 19th 2009

It is about the joy of making it yourself. The feeling of being in touch with past traditions and learning a new aspect of the craft. We do it because we can. It is not about how much it costs or the time expended. It is about the pride you feel when you use it, knowing that you made it. You can not buy that feeling.


From: Thom · Thom1545·at·yahoo.com  Link
Submitted May 15th 2009

Glenn's wax or Overton's wonder wax ? this is a sticky subject. the best i've found to be close to this is Meredith Wax made in western New York. althought the wax is only made twice a year (in the fall and spring) as the rosin he uses is at it best at that time of year makes it harder to get. but well worth it... this is just a FYI..


From: Phil  Link
Submitted April 25th 2009

This is not simply dubbing was, although it can be used for that. It is cobblers wax. There are so many more reasons to use this sort of wax. It is not applied like newer waxes, rather you apply it to the thread prior to attaching the thread to the hook. Excellent article, I will make some up this week. Cheers!!


From: pepper46 · hwpullins·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted February 16th 2009

I have found that the wax used on bow strings works quite well as any dubbing wax used previously.
The costs associated are less than $3.00 per tube which gives enough wax to last quite a long time.
I comes in a plastic push up tube with a cover.


From: Neil Green · ngreen7·at·verizon.net  Link
Submitted September 2nd 2008

who or what is Betts wax? I have heard of and ordered BT's tying wax. Where do you get Betts? Loon makes two takiness - which one fills the bill (no pun intended)? I am a new tyer and will try dubbing bodies this winter. - Thanks, Neil .


From: Ray (letumgo) · ret285·at·msn.com  Link
Submitted August 1st 2008

Thanks Steve. I made up a batch of cobblers wax last weekend.


From: Sean · eleventh-warrior·at·shaw.ca  Link
Submitted May 10th 2008

What you're missing is the ability to re-create the best dubbing wax ever invented, instead of using the cheap, sticky, soft garbage other companies sell as dubbing "wax".


From: Jake · jakebundy·at·ntlworld.com  Link
Submitted August 20th 2007

There are some things in life not worth the time and expense, this is one of them. The threads and fine dubbing materials I use require no wax.


From: G zazzera · gazzer77·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted May 13th 2007

Thanks for the primer
I’ve tried it using light colored rosin and bees wax I bought long ago to make a gun stock wax I once worked on.
I have 3 tubes of wonder wax I won’t use for normal every day use. And have been tying production for a number of years. I share the opinion of many tyers that wonder wax is the finest dubbing wax ever used with betts and loon coming second but still nothing like it
The first wax I had made turned out a little hard. I reheated it and added more rosin and a bit more olive oil. Very nice I like it I feel excited that I can recreate wonder wax if I use darker rosin.
Time will tell. But I like what I ‘v made now better than any store bought product.
Many tyers are still longing for wonder wax to come back.
I often wondered why someone never studied and recreated the recipe.
I guess it’s one of those things where it ‘s far easier to buy a tube of something and get to tying.


From: Sandy Pittendrigh · sandy.pittendrigh·at·gmail.com  Link
Submitted April 19th 2007

I disagree with the first comment. What lots of us want is to re-create
the old Overton's Wonder Wax, which is no longer manufactured, and which
was so much better than anything else for sale out there today.
If this recipe is the key to re-creating Wonderwax, then this is a great public
service. I will definately give it a try.


From: ruby · rub9n·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted April 14th 2007

Thanks for this article, I'm trying to soften up a heap of old candles to be used as modeling wax. I might try it out with a dash of oil.....


From: Teo Korihot · ohirokt·at·prodigy.net  Link
Submitted September 29th 2006

Can't understand why you would go through all the bother of making your own dubbing wax! At only $3.99 for a large container/tube you certainly not saving any money. By your own estimates [not counting time] the cost of making one's own receipe $6-14.40 plus a pot that has to cost at the minimum $4. What am I missing seeing here?



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