Toxins/Tying [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Toxins/Tying

01-08-2001, 08:31 AM
This question probably should be in "gear Talk" but I am to used to using this board catagory. I have not looked back in the index to see if this has already been adressed ,but I am a bit concerned with the use of the 5 min. apoxy. Also, I used the clear acrilac cauking this weekend and the direction forced me out on my porch to do the applications, but it takes 24 to 48 hours to set and I let it dry in the house. As I mix the apoxy I can smell the "fumes"( it's the 50/50 variety). Can anyone shed some light on the obvious and how do they apply this stuff---outdoors, do you use a type of surgical mask, will that help, am I over reacting since the amount is small, what about the long term concerns with limited use... I really want to get opinions about how others really feel about this. Juro, Roop, Bob Pink, Tom D. Al, Terry, anyone? As you know I am new to this and just want to check out this area as best as I can. Thanks.

01-08-2001, 09:20 AM

Good question.

5 min epoxy - I don't really consider the odor fumes - just stink.
When you walk into the shop of our local famous rod builder, you can smell the epoxy and he doesn't seem to be effected by it.

So, I'm not too concerend either. I just try not to eat it until it sets.

RE: Softex - I had to send my daughter out of the room the other night because she started coughing whne I was utting it on rather heavy & had left the top off. I don't know if it was due to the Softex but,I didn't want to take any chances.

I'm impressed by your use of the acrylic caulking - where did you find it, I searched once at Home Depot and had no success. How do your flies look? Please tell me you're using colors other than chartreuse!


01-08-2001, 09:44 AM
Roop, thanks for the thoughts... The cauking idea came from a one of the two special guests at the UFT meeting this past week.. I found it at my local hardware store and it's called "LEXAL". It seems to be the only one where you can see right in the tube. All others Set to a milky white instead of Clear... Home depot is also a place I am told... It must be popular since I picked up the next to last tube at that store on Saturday. It is very tacky but soft and you have to be sure your fingers have some soapy water on the tips to be able to mold it the way you want... but not two much.. you need a small bowl of the soapy water to keep it from becoming tacky again... But you have to see these squid flies I did.. I used a permenant magic Marker to dot the hackels and dot the acrylac body, which works perfectly. The hooks were to small but I still had to experiment. I covered the shank with a sparkly type braid which you can see right though the cauking. looks so real, and the eyes are easy to stick on.. After about 30 hours to set, give or take ,I covered it with a thin coat of apoxy and it made the fly come alive . I will show them to you at the clave. This stuff works great to cover other large fly types and with the ability to draw on the acryac, the gills etc. can be detailed par excellence. The apoxy then makes it shine.

01-08-2001, 09:54 AM
Try clear silicone glue instead of caulking. It's available at HD or your hardware store. I find it easier to work with and it seems to be more durable. I use it in place of Softex and also to build crab flies, etc. For as long as Softex has been around we've been speculating about how toxic it might really be. Look at the label, those ingredients will kill ya.

01-08-2001, 10:27 AM
Could you give me a little decription on how you apply the glue, drying time ., etc.

01-08-2001, 10:36 AM
I squeeze a dab onto some scrap cardboard and then apply small amounts to the fly using a bodkin. Put a small amount just behind the eye of the hook and then drag it back toward the bend. Work your way around the fly one small strip at a time. You can use wet fingers to smooth out the silicone, but if you are careful you can do it all with the bodkin (I don't like touching glues).

Silcone glue takes a while to dry. I'd guess that you have about 8-10 minutes of working time. It does not sag, so just get the fly the way you want it and set it aside to dry.

Silicone gives the fly a nice "wet" look and is quite tough. You can add adhesive eyes and then silicone (carefully) over the eyes.

01-08-2001, 12:28 PM
John -

I use epoxy and softex fairly often, silicone on rare occasions. For epoxy, I use a two-part Devcon primarily because it comes in large ketchup squeezer containers.

I use a square of tin foil 4-6" square after being folded over for strength, curl up the edges if you like. Then I use a Starbucks wooden stir stick to blend the two parts together. A scientist at 3M informed me that the two factors that yellow the glue are mixture and UV. You want to get the right mix, then keep them out of direct sun. The wood affecting the color is a myth, 3M provides a wooden stick with their package.

If using 5min, use small batches due to fast dry times. Roll up the tin foil and stick and throw it out - EZ cleanup.

Softex - I only use this to dab, and I close the jar partially after every dip of the starbucks stir stick. Don't leave it unattended, if you do even if it threads ok that day you'll never get it open another day later. Try not to get the stuff on the outside threads of the jar mouth. I dip the stick and remove excess so that it stays on the inside of the jar mouth. I currently have three jars: 1) the one I was careless with, still half full but can't open... 2) the one I was careful with, almost empty and can still open the jar... 3) the one a friend gave me after he read what Tolulene can do to your prospects for having children.

Suffice it to say, the solvent in Softex (also for neoprene repair glues like aquaseal) is highly toxic.

I haven't been using silicone as much as I used to but I suppose it's the safest of the lot. It is not as durable as others but it ls light as a feather and lets you build some really large profile flies with great action - kind of like a plug you can cast with a fly rod.

You need to know about another glue called Zap-a-Gap. When tying coastal SWFF flies, I use it instead of head cement in many cases, including the deep eel. It is tough enough to secure the threads around the weighted eye. Much different than the lacquers I use for steelhead and salmon flies, but in an instant the threads are hard as stone. Don't get any on the fingers, or you'll feel like the kid who put his tongue on the swingset on a cold winter morning.

Tie on!


01-08-2001, 12:35 PM
I've been a long-time Devcon devotee. Last week HD was all out and I bought Lock-tite brand instead. So far I like it much better. The 5-min epoxy sets up very slowly -- its very liquid -- right until it sets up at 5 min. It dried extremely clear and hard. It also did not "build" up very much on the head of the fly. It almost looks like "Hard as Nails."

Worth a try. sR

01-08-2001, 12:57 PM
Juro and Steve, thanks again. have you heard about a product called E-Z Body or something? E-Z Sparkle? or something like that. I will try that Zap -a -gap. I will check at home but I think that That element called Toueline or whatever may be in the Acrylak cauking.

01-08-2001, 01:36 PM
E-Z Shape Sparkle Body. I use it. It's basically (exactly...) fabric paint with sparkle mixed in. You can find plain fabric paint at most craft stores. I mostly use E-Z Shape Sparkle Body on the underside of crabs to hide my construction. This stuff is painfully slow to dry. The product and some examples of flies are available at:

01-08-2001, 01:47 PM
I try not to be hyped in but since I was working at a fly shop when it came out, I bought about every color of sparkle body ez stuff. I was very unimpressed working with it although it does produce some nice results for the patient person. I have several different colors if you would like to try it. Don't buy any unless you are in a rush, I won't be using anytime soon so you can experiment with mine. I'll bring it to the clave.

01-08-2001, 02:15 PM
OK.. 0nce again thanks... a lot of good information in one day and I will try a number of things at the clave, and also put together my 6 flies for the fly swap from what I have now or from the clave.

01-08-2001, 03:03 PM
Wait just a minute, John. A few more things to consider.

Here are a few more tips to fine-tune your epoxy artistry.

When measuring your epoxy, lay out parallel beads in the same amount. Just make sure the applicator doesn't touch the other substance. Easier to thoroughly mix this way. Puddles are two hard to mix completely. Improper mixing will cause the epoxy to stay soft and sticky.

Whether you use a stir stick or a bodkin, just make sure you don't lap the material. Avoid folding the mixture over each other. This will trap unsightly air bubbles in your mixture.

When you mix your epoxy and it clouds, get rid of it and buy a new set of bottles. There is a shelf life once you open the containers. I have yet to ever finish one completely.

If I'm going to apply epoxy in my basement where it's much cooler, the material becomes sluggish. Usually I keep in a warmer place in the house. Added heat will delay the curing process. This is good and bad. Good is you want to do more flies per batch. Bad because you have to tend to them longer.

Some of us use the "Post-em Pads" to mix on. The advantage is that they are already precut and you just rip one layer off after another.


01-08-2001, 03:41 PM
Thanks Ray... I have mixed it the way you've stated not to. I do have some bubbles . I only use enough for one fly at a time so it's just blot at 50/50. It's the Devcon ketchup bottles. I have mixed it circluar and get bubbles at time and at times do not. I will show these flies at the clave.

Bob Pink
01-08-2001, 04:11 PM
Hi John,
Boy, you've certainly found a way to keep busy this winter. Acrylics, E-Z sparkle body, Epoxies, things happen fast with flytying! The Chatham Anglers Society will never be the same!
To add to Ray's tips with epoxies; I also use the post-it pads, very easy to keep a pad on the bench with some stirrers from Dunk's. If you work in a cooler (or in my case COLD) part of your house, take the epoxy bottles and stand them in a basin of hot water (not boiling) for about 3-4 minutes before dispensing. Too hot and the epoxy will 'kick' but it helps when you are trying to put on a thin coat. ( I may have to try that Loctite version! )
Bubbles are also almost always going to get trapped, Page Rogers uses a trick where she holds the mixed epoxy up just below an incandescent light bulb and uses the ehat of the bulb to force out the bubbles, problem is you've already mixed and the clock is ticking. Add to that the heat from the bulb and you've got about three minutes to work with it.
No exposure issues that I've found with the epoxies, they don't rely on volatile chemicals that evaporate (like Softex). I'd say the best suggestion with epoxy is to keep it away from your mouth.
Softex is dangerous stuff to be exposed to for too long. If you want to use up what you have make sure you have a window open and/or a small fan to move some air. Anglers Choice has a water-based ( read: non-toxic ) version called Soft Body which sets a bit slower but is basically the same. (Available at Bears Den)

Glad you're having fun,

01-08-2001, 05:48 PM
From the days of building kayaks, the exposure to polyesters, epoxys, and nasty solvents could be pretty high even for those building only a couple boats. Generally the only effect recognized by those doing this sort of thing was that some people eventually became acutely sensitized to the materials, usually exhibiting skin problems. Of course there may be internal effects too, but I don't recall anyone documenting these. The key was that the body didn't react to initial exposure the way that it eventually did after repeated exposure.

Avoiding exposure to these toxins seems like a good idea. On a job like a kayak we sometimes layed up the wet fiberglass in a cool garage and then kicked the cure over by heating the garage. This allowed us time to get the layup correct without a race against the clock. You may be able to come up with a similar concept for working on flies.

01-08-2001, 05:59 PM
FInally thought to check the label on Softex "WARNING: Contains toluene..." Nasty stuff in high doses so I guess I won't be using it for hair gel anymore.


01-08-2001, 06:38 PM
One more note on epoxy:

I bought a rod drying motor to have smitty show me how to build a rod when I moved back to the east coast. Well, I hooked up with Smitty <!--http--><a href="" target="_blank"> at his shop </a><!--url-->but I still haven't used the motor to build a rod. I have used it for an epoxy drying machine though - and at 6rpm it's ideal.

Once you apply the epoxy, making sure the coating is not excessive - just poke the hook into the foam attachment on the spindle. The rotation keeps it from glopping (technical term). It will take several flies as you continue working.

If I recall, Sully built one from inexpensive parts. Tom Dunlap too...?

01-08-2001, 11:13 PM
John, I tend to shy away from softex,use it outside. here is a link to a discussion on Jeff's board about it
I think it was after I read this, that I stopped using it. I may go to the bears den for the water-based substitute (although water-based doesn't always mean safe) Tom D

01-09-2001, 07:56 AM
ken, just sent one to you

01-09-2001, 10:15 AM
OK, since this is what I do for a living, and with apologies for the length of this post......

Let me say at the outset that lots of things that we use on a daily basis can be hazardous to your health. Does that mean that we should avoid all of them like the plague? Nope- but the trick is to evaluate the risks, and figure out how best to control them. Controls (in order of effectiveness) include substituting safer materials, engineering controls to minimize exposures (mechanical ventilation, etc), and personal protective equipment. So, regarding materials that we use for tying, rod-building, etc.:

Epoxies: the biggest health issue here is the potential for sensitization- either allergic skin reactions, or asthma-like respiratory symptoms. This is the biggest problem for folks using epoxies in their jobs- I personally know close to a dozen people who have had to change their jobs (electronics, jewelry, boat building) due to becoming sensitized.

True, these folks used epoxy more than you or I, but everybody has their own threshold for allergic responses to a given agent. As an example, I'm allergic to dust- way more than a lot of people I know- but don't get hay fever as badly as some friends do. (And some people have virtually no response, regardless of what/how much they’re exposed to). Given that, whenever I work with potential sensitizers, I avoid skin contact and breathing vapors to the extent possible.

Solvents: Organic solvents are bad for your central nervous system. Period. Some can also do nasty things to your liver and reproductive systems as well. Obviously, there's a big range of toxicity here, which you can figure out in part by looking at a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which you ought to be able to get from your product vendor. If not, there are online sources below.

If you look at the permissible exposure numbers (PEL/TLV/REL), it’s generally valid to assume that something with a lower exposure limit is more dangerous than something with a higher limit. Acetone, for example, is one of the safer solvents, health-wise (also, one of the most flammable, so be careful…)

My general recommendation here is ventilate ventilate ventilate. If you start to get dizzy, or whatever, listen to your body!!

Some solvents, like toluene or methylene chloride, have been given a “skin” rating, meaning that they are readily absorbed through the skin, making it possible to be exposed even if you're not careful about contact, even with adequate ventilation. Again, read the label and MSDS.

(As an aside, I won’t use methylene chloride at all. While it’s the most effective solvents for a variety of materials, it’s also a carcinogen, and evaporates really quickly so it gets into your breathing air easily.)

The primary issue with silicone caulks is the acetic acid that’s released as it cures. This is more of an irritant than something that’s going to cause you lasting damage, but if your eye’s are watering, your body is trying to tell you something. BTW, regular vinegar has ~ 5% acetic acid content.

Here’s a couple of links that may prove useful for you- and please feel free to contact me directly with questions about this.

For MSDSs online:


01-09-2001, 10:39 AM
Tomd -

Thanks for the link to the archived discussion. The operative part of the discussion was Marvin's link: <!--http--><a href="" target="_blank">HERE</a><!--url-->.

The toxic sleuth strikes again! Nice work!

&lt;added&gt; ... and by the time I come back from reading/posting, there is an informative reply from him too! Thanks Marvin.

01-09-2001, 11:47 AM
This is in response to the E-Z Shape Sparkle Body discussion. It is basically frabric paint with one advantage, a shorter drying time. However, at the Nov. UFT meeting Jack Gartside said that he uses frabric paint a lot & said that any brand that says permanent and/or washable is OK. The other claim (from fly shops) for EZ Body is that it comes in colors that are designed for fishing, but this comes at a price of $3.00+ per one ounce bottle. I know that once you put the "fly fishing" stamp on a product the price goes way up. However, I found a very nice Alternative, the product is called "Scribbles 3D fabric paint". I found it at Jo-Annes Fabric store. It costs $0.99 per one once bottle & comes in more colors than I could count! They have several sparkle colors & a series of very nice Neon colors. Also, the bottle has a very fine applicator tip. It goes on thick & does not run at all. It dries like a hard rubber coating & seems quite permanent to me. The only down-side I can find (so far) is a slow drying time (several hours), but since heads, eyes & stuff are usually the last last step, who cares. If you had to use it at an intermediate step, say building up a body, you could do a bunch one day & finish them off the next.

The last time I went to Jo-Annes, I also bought 1/3 of a yard (12" X 60") of white craft fur, for $3.66!

I'll bring these items to SSully's Tying Clave!