Using Xylene, Goop, and Paraffin Wax by Dennis Stead

by Oct 3, 2021

In this blog post, Dennis Stead shares how to make a solution to waterproof dry flies and hair bodied bugs and flex cement. As the current President and Librarian for the Missouri Trout Fishermen’s Association (MFTA), Dennis has tied flies in a number of shows, for Bass Pro shop, and at the Branson Fly Fishing Expo. His journey as a fly tier began on a Saturday in 2105 while visiting the Missouri Nature Center in Springfield Missouri. There MFTA was demonstrating fly tying and invited him to attend their meetings. Liking the idea of tying his own flies, he purchased a vise, some material, and used the large library of DVD’s from MFTA to learn. Still fairly new to the art of tying flies and fly fishing, Dennis believes the more flies you tie, the better you get and likes every opportunity to pass along what he has learned. As he says, “I am mad about fly tying and fly fishing”!

The waterproofing solution was an article originally published in the book Herter’s Professional Fly Tying, Spinning and Tackle Making in 1941. In the book, they talked about waterproofing their dry flies and hair bodied bugs before selling them. In the article, they recommended dissolving three-eighths of an ounce of paraffin in a half pint of carbon tetrachloride. ….They said to dip the fly in the solution and take it out after a short pause. Then, without delay, place the fly on a rack in front of an electric fan. Dennis states he could not buy or find carbon tetrachloride, but remembers using carbon tetrachloride aboard the ship to clean electric panels when he was in the Navy. He said, ‘Boy, you can get high on the fumes”. Some of the recommended ideas he has tried are dipping the dry fly in a solution of Rain-X or using Hairline’s Watershed. He states “these just did not work as he would like, sometimes the old ways are better”.

Dennis recalls the time when he got a visit from Larry Wegmann, who was going to try some of his flex cement that Larry said something magic. After filling a little jar of my flex cement for Larry, I gave him a small bottle of Xylene. I told Larry that when and if the goop and Xylene get too thick, to add a little more Xylene. It will thin out the cement. It was then that Larry said something magic. He said that he used “XYLENE IN THE LAB TO DISSOLVE PARAFFIN WAX”. I could not believe what he was saying. So, I got out some paraffin wax, put shavings in a small jar and filled the jar ½ full of Xylene. After a few hours, the paraffin wax was dissolved. The solution was nice and clear. The materials you will need for the flex cement and the waterproofing solution are:

  • 1-quart of Xylene
  • 1-tube of Goop
  • 1-16 ounce (oz.) box of Paraffin Wax (contains 4 – 4 oz. bars)
  • a small kitchen scale
  • 1-8oz Mason canning jar with lid or something similar
  • Measuring spoons
  • Stirring spoon

To make the waterproofing solution:

  • Shave about 1/8 or 0.50 ounces (oz.) of paraffin wax onto a scale. (Editor’s note: Dennis says “if you cannot obtain or do not have a scale a good rule of thumb to remember in determining the number of shavings needed is each bar of wax weighs 4 ounces. If you divide the wax bar into 4 equal amounts, you will have 4 1/8


Now I have an old fashion solution to waterproof my dry flies and hair bodies dry.   Here is how to make it.  Shave about 3/8 to 0.40 oz of Paraffin in an 8 oz mason jar.  Add about 8 oz of Xylene.  The wax will dissolve overnight. Then just dip your fly in the waterproof solution for a second or two.  Shake off the excess.  Then let it dry in front of a fan.  You only need one coat.  With one coat, you do not see any wax build up and it did not change the look or color of the fly.

I know some of you are thinking, if one dip and dry works, a second dip and drying will work better. 

So let me tell you this, I dipped and dried my strike indicator big ugly, then dipped and dried my strike indicator big ugly for the second time, then dipped and dried my strike indicator big ugly for the third time.  After the third time you start to some changes to your fly. Once should be enough.  Good luck and hope you try it.

Here is how you make the flex cement.  Purchase a tube of GOOP from Ace Hardware $3.95 and up depending on the tube size (it must be GOOP) and a pint of Xylene from Ace Hardware for $10.00.  I used a 1 to 3 ratio, 1- Goop to 3-Xylene.  The Goop will dissolve in the Xylene overnight.  I like to mix it so that it is not too thin and the drop of Flex cement will stay on my Bobkin.  Whenever it gets a little too thick, just add a little Xylene.  I mix it up in an 8 oz Ball jar and would estimate it costing me less than $5.00 for the whole 8 oz jar or $0.63 per oz. Give it a try and share some of your 8 oz. with another fly tier

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