Q: Dear Dave, when I use steam on shrink tube the black fibres on my 12lb ultra soft Silk-worm become distorted and appear to lose their shape, have I got a faulty batch?
A: Regarding your difficulty with braids the answer is very simple, it is steam that is the problem.
To avoid losing the braids integrity and its structure being compromised (i.e. black fibres becoming loose from the main body) do not, I repeat, do not use steam to shrink your tubing. It amazes me that so-called experts who write in magazines continue to use steam to shrink tubing on their rigs.
To be honest it does not surprise me at all.
Getting back to steam, why anglers use it is beyond me. The temperature of steam is extremely dangerous to all brands of nylon and braids because it contains far more energy than hot water. The reason why they use it to break down caked on oil and grease from car engines because its scouring effect is many times greater than hot water. For instance food cooks far quicker in a pressure cooker than in boiling water.
A steam scalding burn is a great deal worse than a burn from boiling water.
A boiling water burn can be easily treated because it burns the skins immediate surface area. On the other hand steam penetrates and cooks the flesh beneath the skin, often this type of severe damage requires immediate professional medical treatment.
The temperature of steam can continue to rise well above 100 degrees Celsius and additional heat energy continues to be added, but water in liquid form will not go above 100 degrees as long as it does not have any impurities in it assuming that standard pressure remains constant.
If you still insist on using steam the safest way of protecting braids and mono is to protect it with an overcoat to act as a buffer. The ever-inventive Jim Gibbinson who I believe uses hot water to make his line aligners uses something as simple as a piece of drinking straw for the more delicate braids and is perfect for the job.
The straw can be easily slid over the braid or mono next to the tube and protect it from steams Damaging penetrating vapour. Simply slide it off when the job is done.
Some brands of shrink tube are better than others. Good quality shrink tube will shrink between 50 and 70% when using nothing more than freshly boiled water and unlike steam will not damage nylon or braids. For a rig making session when on the bank pour hot water into your cup, shrink the tube and then pour the water back into the kettle ready for your next rig.
If you make your rigs at home good quality tube can be shrunk perfectly well using a hair dryer but again for piece of mind protect the braid or nylon with a drinking straw, thanks Jim.
Regarding your Silkworm 12lb ultra soft the dark fibres that have shrunk and become distorted are made from extremely fine Polyester. They are there purely for balance and also to make the pleasing patterns that anglers appear to like.
However importantly they only contribute around 2% of the braids full strength. 98% of the strength comes from the Spectra or Dyneema white fibres. So should the dark fibres become loose or move out of place do not worry about any significant drop in strength.
The 12lb standard Silk-worm uses a heavier gauge polyester and because of this its brown fibres are more resistant to steam than the black finer fibres found in the 12lb Ultra Soft version.
Both versions break around 13lb when tied with a four turn grinner knot and if all of the coloured polyester fibres should break or shred on a snag the breaking strain would drop to approximately 12 and a half pounds.
Because you have sufficient skill to land carp on a 12lb hooklength as opposed to the 25lb breaking strains that many use the next step up is our 15lb Silk-worm. This braid surprisingly is as thin as our 12lb Ultra Soft and thinner than our 12lb Standard. I mention this to you in case you need to step up when encountering heavy weed growth, which occurs on many waters as the summer progresses.
Do try the drinking straw method or any tubing that protects the braid from steam, better still use quality shrink tube and just use hot water.
Hope this helps.