Sealing lures is perhaps the most daunting step of the building process. With so many potential methods, choosing one and practicing it properly is often times overwhelming. The purpose of this list is to give you a broad overview of the potential methods that can be used. Each has its advantages and drawbacks which should be considered.
It is impossible to prevent any water from entering your lure. Knowing this, the point of sealing lures is to prevent as much water as possible from entering the wood. The better this is done, the longer the life of the lure.
Propionate is a perhaps the most unique option available, and fairly different than the other options. Propionate is sold in a solid form, typically as small pellets. In order to use propionate you will need to dissolve the pellets using Acetone. Propionate is a particularly popular option among freshwater lure builders.
Opinions differ, but most builders will suggest that you submerge the lure in the dissolved propionate for anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes, and many suggest dipping multiple times. Drying times with propionate should be less than a day.
The big downside to using propionate is that Acetone is a dangerous chemical. If you choose to use propionate, be sure to use it either outside, or in a well ventilated area, with the use of a respirator.
Epoxy heat-sealing is a craze that has swept the lure building world, and for good reason. While this method is more labor and time intensive than other methods, it seals wood well, while also providing added durability.
When using epoxy as a sealant you want to choose an epoxy that has a high viscosity, which flows easily. Perhaps the most readily available and widely used epoxy for sealing is the bar top epoxy, Envirotex Lite. E-tex, as it is commonly referred to, can be found at most craft and hardware stores. The craft shop Michael’s often runs 40% off coupons which can be used to purchase e-tex.
When epoxy heat-sealing you need to preheat your lures, opening up the wood’s pores and allowing the lure to absorb as much of the epoxy as possible. This can be done with a heat gun, over a heat lamp, or in your kitchen oven, if done at low (below 200) temperatures. (Using your oven may cause moist wood to split. Also note that wood may contain any number of chemicals, which can be released into your kitchen oven).
Likewise, you may want to heat up your epoxy, as well as thin it with denatured alcohol. This allows the epoxy to absorb into the wood with greater ease.
While epoxy sealing may give the most durable results, it is by far the messiest and most time consuming option. Understand that you will need to inject the epoxy into the through wire and swivel holes as well as the lip slot. Each lure needs to be coated and injected by hand (be sure to wear gloves!!). While other methods allow you to seal the lure in seconds, using epoxy will require you to spend time with each lure, ensuring the epoxy flows into and over the wood evenly.
Epoxy should only be mixed while using a respirator in a well ventilated shop, or outside, as the fumes can be hazardous.
One upside however, is that once the epoxy has cured (typically 24-72 hours later), you are free to paint and finish your lure.
Oil based primers are one of the oldest and most used methods in the hobby. While there are a number of options available, the most commonly used are Boiled Linseed Oil, and Tung Oil. Oil based sealants should be thinned with mineral spirits, up to a 60/40 split to ensure that the sealant adequately penetrates the wood.
What’s good about oil based sealants is that they allow you to seal a lot of lures quickly. Once the air has escaped from the lure, it only needs to be submerged for about 30 seconds to be properly sealed. While some builders insist on submerging the lure for up to a half an hour, this is overkill.
Oil based sealants do have a few big drawbacks. First and foremost, they are a fire hazard. Rags used in the sealing process will need to be properly disposed of. Since these oils trap and hold heat, improper disposal of the rags can result in spontaneous combustion in some cases, posing a serious fire hazard. Before using oil products, make sure you know how to properly dispose of excess sealant and rags. Beyond this, once you expose boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits to open air, they begin to evaporate. You will need to continually add mineral spirits to ensure that you are maintaining the proper ratio of oil to mineral spirits. Over long periods of time, the oils will lose their viscosity, congeal, and become useless.
Oil products are also known for having a long drying/curing time. While the exact timing will depend on the ratio of oil to mineral spirits, it can take up to a week for the lure to properly dry. Oil based sealants are also known to bleed with lighter color lures. If the lure releases any of the oil after the lure has been painted/topcoated, light color lures can sometimes develop a yellowish tint.
Home Depot Sealers
This fourth category I created to simplify some things. There are a staggering number of products at your local hardware store, which will work quite well for sealing lures. The most common of these are sanding sealers, and urethane products, like Helmsman’s Spar Urethane. These products range in cost, but can often times be found on sale, or purchased with a coupon.
Similar to oil based sealants (note: many of these sealants are also oil based, or some combination) these products are intended for dipping use. While they can be used uncut, you will get the best results if you mix them with Mineral Spirits, up to a 60/40 split of sealant/mineral spirits.
The appeal of using products is similar to oil based sealants; they enable you to seal a large number of lures quickly. Since these products are also marketed for various woodworking projects, you may very well already have some in your home, basement, or woodshop.
As with every other available option, these types of sealants should be used in a well-ventilated area, or outside. Care should be taken with disposing rags to prevent any potential fire hazard.
Like oil based sealants, these products may evaporate or congeal over time. You must also be careful to ensure that any added mineral spirits do not evaporate.
The drying times needed for these products is most similar to that of oil based sealants.
This is by far the least appealing option available, but I feel compelled to list it for the sake of posterity. Some primer paints are designed to be waterproof, and will act as a sealant, if only barely. Many brands such as Kilz or Zinsser offer waterproofing primers.
I would not advise using this method, as the primer itself acts as the sealant, and does little in the way of penetrating the wood. You are simply creating a barrier with the sealant, while doing very little to seal the wood. If, and when, the primer on your lure is damaged or penetrated, water will be allowed to enter. It is also very difficult to ensure that the primer coats the entirety of the lip slot, and through wire and swivel holes.
Waterproofing primers are a great option to use in addition to another sealant. They should not be used on their own, especially if you are fishing around rocks or for toothy gamefish. Once the priming coat is compromised, water damage can occur.