How to make a dip tank for cheap.

Written by RJ Bachner
Pictures by Jason Farrell



As I am sure most of my loyal readers know by now, I am painfully cheap when it comes spending money. I also hate being cheated and I am certain that the prices involved in purchasing fletching equipment is what my friend once called a "profit oyster".

Dip tanks are another example of this price gouge in action and so I decided that if I was gonna have to make arrows, I would need to make some dip tubes so that I can stain and seal them.

So I thought to myself, how can I make a dip tank that is simple, easy to use, elegant and cheap. I came up with a number of ideas using tubes, hoses, pipes etc then trotted off to the local renovation center to see how my theories stood up to the bright light of reality.

One thing to remember here is that there are lots of options in tubing around, from PVC to plain white plastic to copper and steel and aluminum. The PVC is best as it is cheapest and it will not react with most of the thinners out there but you should test to see first ( white electrical tubing will melt right off the bat so forget it.). Copper will react with some of the thinners and it is way more expensive than PVC. Steel will not react but it weighs a ton and is also not cheap. Aluminum may work if you can find the right size tubing but again, $$$$$$$$$.

Try number 1:

try #1

I First decided the the cheapest way I could do it was the best. It involves a 30 inch section of black garden hose with a plug in one end and a 1 inch to 2 inch hose adapter as the reservoir. It worked, well it did to a point. The hose would not straighten out on it's own and even if it did, it would not stand on it's own and would require a stand. So I duct taped it to an old level I had and voila. It is not what I had wanted but it works. It is not elegant or so easy to use but it is simple to make and cheap. In Canadian funds:

  • 30 inches of Black PVC garden hose= $3.60
  • 1 end plug= $.67
  • 1- 1inch to 2 inch adapter=$1.27
  • Total: $5.54
the resevoir dog

Try number 2

Ok that was the quick and dirty way to do it and there are a lot of less that optimum design concerns but it didn't take much to fill the hose, something like 23 cubic inches of liquid.

Now I am gonna show you my next option, I used hard PVC Pipe which made it self supporting but I could only find the 1.5 inch id pipe. Which annoyingly enough doubles the volume of the tube to more than a single pint can of whatever finish you chose to use, somewhere around 53 cubic inches.

I found a selection of caps and adapters that fit the PVC pipe so I could pick and choose the best options available. On the bottom I put a press fit cap (which you need to glue in place with abs cement) and on top I found an adapter that allows you to fit a screw top to the pipe which also functions as a reservoir but it is the same inner diameter as the PVC pipe so you have to be careful how high you fill this one. With the screw top you can store your finishes in the pipe without worry (Just make sure you mark what is in each tube) and it is easy to fit a rubber squeegee to the top with a minimum of fuss and muss.


Me and my creation, see how elegant it looks.

It works wonderfully and fits most of my requirements nicely. It is simple to make, elegant to look at and use and is quite cheap. I can buy the PVC in 6 foot or 12 foot lengths at my local hardware store but you may find other options locally.

If I could, I would find and use 1 inch id PVC pipe with a 1 inch to 2 inch screw top adapter. but I was told that that is not a common item and hard to find, however this way works fine.

  • 6 foot 1.5 inch id PVC pipe=$3.82
  • 2- 1.5 inch end caps=$1.34
  • 2- 1.5 inch screw cap adapters=$3.42
  • 2 1.5 inch screw caps=$2.00
  • total for 2 dip tanks=$10.58=$5.29 each.
  • 1 small can of ABS contact cement=$4.00

Making a squeegee.

Ok by now you all are going "hey this is fine as far as it goes but I need a squeegee too don't I?" and you would be right. On the commercial models, most have a threaded reservoir that accepts a screw on Mason Jar lid®. This allows us to insert a rubber plate with holes in it, this scrapes all the excess finish off the shaft and keeps it in the tank.

This does a number of things for you, first of all it is an elegant looking solution and there is no dripping and no uneven run off that could dry into odd drips on your shaft. In fact the shaft is dry almost instantly and only slightly tacky for a short while before completely drying. The other thing this does is keep the finish in the tank from evaporating it's thinning agent too quickly which is also a good thing as you do not have to inhale so much of it.

Now this would be a good solution if I could do it but I have not found a way to do so on my own. Finding a pipe adapter with that thread style and size would be difficult and probably expensive not to mention having to replace those rubbers often as they wear out fast (I only know of an American distributor for them so it becomes expense on top of expense).


Ta da a squeegee

What I did was to cut up a section of Mountain bike inner tube into about 4 x 4 inch sections with a 5/16th hole in the middle and lay that over the top of the tube reservoir and clamp it in place with a screw band clamp or a couple of winds with a rubber band.

I do not think these will last as long as the rubbers you buy for the commercial dippers but at 3 bucks for 8-10 of them, I doubt if that will be a problem and I can go to any place that sells bike supplies to find them so I do not have to order them from a distributor. For that matter any sort of thick rubber that you can cut into a 4 x 4 square will work so old truck inner tubes or the like is probably fine.


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