Look, wood is without doubt the best material for lure making. It’s easy to work with, easy to get and has a magical fish catching quality that plastic just can’t match. That’s why wooden lure making is rapidly increasing in popularity…… In a world of mass produced plastic.
But wooden lure bodies do have some drawbacks…..
Raw wood soaks water up like a sponge. Unfortunately, water logging is the number one killer of fishing lure action – not to mention the primary cause of early paint failure. Plus, soft, easy carving wood tends to dent and puncture easily, reducing performance, service life and appearance. The there’s the tannin issue, grain to fill…… the list goes on.
It’s a common newbie mistake is to assume that a coat of paint and clear will protect wooden lure bodies from water damage. But clear coats are just the last line of defense. And they’re prone to chipping and tooth punctures as well. If you want your lures to be tough, great looking and long lasting you’re going to need to take an extra step, right?
Before painting wooden lure bodies they should be hardened, waterproofed, sealed and smoothed.
Options For Treating Raw Wood Lure Bodies
Even the best wood for lure making needs to be treated before you paint and fish with your lures. And there are tons of suitable products. Which one you choose is largely personal preference. So where do we start?
Well, let’s have a quick overview of some of the more common approaches. Then I’ll give full details of my preferred approach to hardening lure bodies at the end of the article. If you want more info, I cover all of these options in detail in “Getting Started In Custom Painted Crankbaits“.
1. Cyanoacrylate: The “Supa Glue” Treatment
Lots of guys use cyanoacrylate to treat their raw wooden lure bodies. Cyanoacrylate is better known as “Supa Glue” or one of its various knockoffs. Raw wood soaks it deep into the fiber, where it sets. Then the lure bodies can simply be sanded smooth with fine sandpaper. Personally, I’m not a great fan of cyanoacrylate as a wood treatment. True, it does harden and waterproof the wood. But not nearly as well as other products. It’s OK for small numbers of lures, but expensive and fiddly when you do larger batches.
2. Propionate Treatment
I rarely use this approach these days as it’s getting harder and harder to source the raw materials. Basically, propionate granules are dissolved in acetone and the lures are repeatedly dipped. You need a couple of different solutions to get maximum penetration into the wood. Allow 15 minutes drying time between dips and 24 hours after treatment before painting.
3. Penetrating Wood Hardener
This is one of the easiest and fastest ways to treat your raw wood bodies. There are various products marketed as “Penetrating Wood Hardener”. They’re designed to soak deep into rotten timber and then harden, strengthen and waterproof it. They do a fine job on lure bodies too…… just soak them for 15 minutes and hang them out to dry. A light sand and you’re good to go. Penetrating wood hardener doesn’t fill wood grain or lock in tanin, so you’ll still need to take care of that before you paint. But at least your wood is tough and waterproof.
4. Epoxy Treatment
Epoxies are two part synthetic resins that cure hard when mixed. There are some that are designed for penetrating and hardening wood. But the one I like to use is Envirotex Lite (aka “Etex”). Etex is also great for clear coating painted lure bodies and makes a very strong adhesive. That means a single product can harden, seal, fill the grain, block tannin, waterproof and clear coat! Gold!
6 Steps: How To Use Etex To Prepare Wooden Lure Bodies For Paint
1. Warm The Resin & Hardener
This is particularly important if you live in cold climates. Warm Etex is thin and runny, so it gets deeper into the wood for superior strength and water resistance. Place Etex bottles someplace warm like under a light or on top of a water heater. Don’t overdo it though, I’ve found that 120F (approximately 50C) is a good temperature.
2. Warm The Lure Bodies Too!
Gently warming the wood causes the pores to open, drives out moisture and allows the resin to penetrate deeper. The deeper it gets, the better. A temp of around 120F (approximately 50C) is usually about right for lure bodies, so I put mine in the kitchen oven on low. Don’t leave them too long or go any hotter than 120F or the wood may split. Lure bodies that have been assembled and glued are best put in ziplock bags to prevent glue fumes in the oven!
3. Prepare The Epoxy
Etex needs to be accurately mixed one part resin to one part hardener. You can see how I prepare mine here. Thinning is an extra step that improves results by getting the resin in deeper.
For example, to prepare a batch of 5-6 wooden lure bodies I mix 2ml Etex Part A with 2ml Etex Part B until I’m confident that the two parts are fully combined. Then I add 2ml denatured alcohol and mix thoroughly once again.
4. Apply The Epoxy
Take your wooden lure bodies from the oven and brush the thinned resin on liberally, getting into every nook and cranny. Then put them somewhere to dry (NOT back in the oven- Etex is toxic). Do one lure at a time so the rest of the batch can stay in the oven until you’re ready for them. This keeps the pores open and maximizes the penetration of the Etex.
Over the next 30 minutes, apply more Etex to any part of the lure that isn’t saturated. It’s easy to pick those areas because they have a matte appearance when the rest of the lure looks glossy. A rotating drying rack isn’t essential for hardening wooden lure bodies, but does help get the coating even.
5. (Optional) Laying Down A White Base
Prepare a second batch of Etex (no alcohol). Add titanium dioxide powder to the resin, a little bit at a time, until you have a bright white mixture. The titanium dioxide can get a bit lumpy, so do your best to minimize the lumps. Paint this mixture onto the lure bodies while the first Etex coat is still wet, laying it on quite thick. Then put the lures on a rotating drying rack to cure.
6. Cure And Sand
Put your lure bodies somewhere warm and dry and let the resin fully cure for at least 2-3 days, preferably longer. If you use the titanium dioxide step it’s important to keep them rotating for the first few hours for even coverage. Finally, wet sand with 400 grit paper for a smooth, hard, bright, matte white surface.
Once they’re at this stage, paint your lure bodies with airbrush sealer and finish them in the usual way with acrylic airbrush colors!