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Buff willow soaking times & tips

12 October 2021

Buff willow requires soaking before use. Soaking isn’t an exact science and it can be tricky to get right. There are many variables to take into consideration. The weather, water temperature and the length of time that the willow has been stored will all play a part. That being said, follow these simple guidelines and you should enjoy soaking success!

Tips for soaking buff willow

Willow takes longer to soak on a cold winter’s day than on a hot summer one. The times below are a guide to soaking buff willow in clean cold water on an ‘average’ day. Using warm or hot water will shorten the soaking time. If the willow has been stored for a long period it will take longer to soak.

Soaking times for buff willow

Length of rods   Soaking time
3ft ½-1 hr
4ft 1-1½ hrs
5ft 1½-2 hrs
6ft 2 hrs
7ft 2-2½ hrs
8ft 3 hrs
9ft 3½ hrs

A soaking bag has the advantage of being easy to empty and the willow can then mellow in the bag.  Our heavy duty soaking bags are available in a range of lengths and widths and are supplied with simple instructions.

How to soak buff willow

Alternatively, willow can be soaked in a bath, trough or old paddling pool. Always ensure that the water is clean! The willow will need to be weighed down to keep it submerged. Be wary of soaking willow in your finest bathtub. You may end up with tannin stains.

Once soaked, drain the water and leave the buff willow to mellow overnight in the soaking bag. Hessian, a damp blanket or plastic sheeting do the job equally well. Mellowing is a really important part of the soaking process as it enables the inner parts of the rod to become fully pliable.

Buff willow leftovers

When working with buff willow, do keep it covered to prevent the rods from drying out. Leftover buff willow can be kept covered for a day or two and still used. After this time, the willow will need to be dried thoroughly before being stored.

Things to watch out for

Keep buff willow damp for too long (especially in warm weather) and the willow will turn greasy and/or mouldy. The rods may also squash if used. At this stage, it may be possible to thoroughly dry the willow out before re-soaking. The mould will need to be wiped off first.

Repeated re-soaking will cause the willow rod to lose its colour. If a rod starts to get black spots, it is no longer usable. However, if only a few rods are affected, pull these out to stop the mould spreading. The rest of the rods should still be useable.

If rods split while being worked this could be down to oversoaking or the rods not being given enough time to mellow. To remedy this, stand the rods up to drain and when touch dry put them back under a damp blanket/hessian/plastic sheet to mellow.

 

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