Sometime ago I happened across AK Best's book Production Fly Tying
in which AK discussed the importance of chair height and table height. AK
suggested that most tables are too high and recommended that either the
table be lowered or the height of the chair be raised.
At first I thought this was rather odd until I started tying flies commercially and discovered that alot of repetitive motion ( ie carpal tunnel ) problems arise from poor posture and using your hands at odd angles.
After some thought I realized that cutting the legs to size on my tying desk was a bit extreme and very likely I'd screw it up and either cut off too much leg or make the legs of unequal size. My solution became to get an adjustable office chair. My back has never regretted that choice.
In selecting a chair I choose one with arms. This feature is important in that I can rest my arms on the chair and remove pressure from my shoulders while still continuing to work. The chair also is pneumatic and can be raised or lowered to fit almost any position. I choose a model with casters so that I can roll over and grab some stuff without getting up. Another feature I like is a self- tightening tilt to make the back stiffer or softer. I also sat in every chair on the display floor and selected the model I thought felt the best.
My thought is that if you are uncomfortable, you won't be able to do good work. Since I assume most of you spend some time at the computer this could also double as your computer chair.
One of my pet peeves is annoying things. At the top of my list would be the constant hum of fluorescent lights. I would guess I learned to hate that sound after spending hours in library while attending graduate school. No doubt somewhere in the back of my head that humming sound brings to mind all of the tortured I hours I toiled away on various projects.
On problem with fluorescent lights is that the light cast from them is a very faint blue. This cast will color your flies and make things appear differently then in natural light. Objects may be lighter or darker than you thought.
Normal incandescent lights casts light that is soft and yellow. Objects under this light appear warmer than in natural light and will again be colored differently than you anticipated.
To improve your lighting start by getting a Halogen bulb that is 100 watts. These are made by several companies and sell for around $3.00. You can identify the bulbs because they have a flat spot on the top rather than the usual egg shape.These bulbs also have the added feature of being energy efficient.
I put this bulb into an art/drafting lamp. The lamp can be set to any height and I generally prefer the light to shine down from the top onto my work. If you are doing very tiny work, you can move the lamp very close for brighter light. This will reduce your eye strain and color all of your materials in white light. You may wish to buy a model that has a magnifier on it if you have vision problems. Many stores have sold Halogen tying lights for over $100. With the new bulb, I spent a grand total of $18.
As a side note: my Paramedic Bud warns me that these lights cause fires since they are very hot. Do yourself a favor and only use the light when tying. When done turn it off. If the lamp shade is hot to the touch, shut it off and let it cool for awhile. I'd hate to have anyone's house burn down.
To reduce shoulder strain I now use a vice extender.The vice extender allows me to lower the height of the vise and move the work closer toward me. By changing the height and moving the work closer, it improves how you look at your fly and where you rest your arms and hands. This in turn reduces eye strain and strain on your back and shoulders. Vice Extenders are available for Griffin, Renzetti, Thompson and Dyna King. Some Indian extenders are also available from Sunrise and Ty-Master. Prices range from $10 to $45 depending on the manufacturer.
( Note: to see the new Griffin vise offset click on the word Griffin above. )
I picked up a pegged bottom floor mat from an office supply place. This is a "floor" protector for carpets used for office chairs. This is a great additon for me since when I cut stuff, the clipping fall on the mat not on the floor. I can just brush up the deer hair and scraps and collect the mess, rather than trying suck the stuff out of the carpet with a vacuum cleaner. I bought mine for $10.
Nothing is more frustrating than bad tools. I started tying using an Indian vice. The jaws on these vises are soft and the vise won't hold hooks very well. This tip comes from Ron Ulhenhopp. If you have a knock- off Indian AA vice, try replacing the exisiting jaws with Thompson jaws. Also buy the jaw screw set. The new jaws have better metal and will not wear grooves in them after they are used over time. The set screw allows you to change jaws easily without removing the cotter key/pin which is a real hassle. A new set of Thompson jaws runs around $14 each. If you buy an Indian AA vice for $14, the jaw set and set screw, the whole set-up will run you about $45.
Try adding a trash basket/waste trol to your stem. The basket allows you to catch clippings, junk and loose threads. If you do much deer hair work this is a must. Trash baskets are available from Griffin and Thompson for around $18.00 to $25.
Mounting a small strip of self-adhesive magnetic tape on your trash basket is a handy way to dry flies, hold hooks and razor blades. I mount my strip on the plastic square which connects to the vice stem. Use Goop to attach the strip.
On another web site I looked at amazement at some of the flies a world famous tier from England made. I was also amazed at some of the ridiculous prices this fellow asked for his tools. First he wanted to sell a dubbing loop tool for $20. Then he wanted to sell a dubbing brush with a rosewood handle for $19. Well, I suppose PT Barnum was correct suckers are born every minute. Lucky you for stopping by I'll tell how to make these tools for less than $1.00.
To make a very usable dubbing loop tool, get an ordinary paper clip. Bend the paper clip apart so that it is "S" shaped. There is your loop tool and it works just as good as a fancy brass one. Total cost: free if you scam one from work or school. Different size clips are handy for making larger or smaller sized bodies.
To make a dubbing brush. Get a popcicle stick. Cut the toothy side of a piece of
velcro to fit the stick. With Goop cement, glue the strip to your stick. The neat thing about this tool is that you can get a treat by eating the ice cream bar to get your stick.
Actually, I use new sticks which I buy at Wal-Mart. They sell a bag of sticks for a couple of bucks and I use the sticks to mix glue. Velcro can be bought by the inch or yard and comes in many colors. When I showed my tool to a friend he said, " Well the fancy one has a real wood handle." I said," What's this?" (pointing to the stick). If you like I'll autograph one and send it to you for $9.95. This is still 50% below the retail of the other guy's tool. Sorry I don't have a video to advertise my tools yet.
For more Info Contact:
Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068