January 4th, 1999
"Getting Organized, Part 3"
"Tinsels, Floss and Thread, and Other Things We Dread"

by George Emanuel (aka Muddler)

Photos by the author

Does your bench still look like this?

Things wound on any sort of spool it would seem, just love to come unwound, and then coil themselves about anything just to aggravate the fly tyer. Yes, I have been the frequent victim of the insidious snare of tinsel, floss, thread, lead wire, chenille and other "stringy" assassins of efficiency and good order.

But, take heart, we have the technology, we have the means by which to triumph over these kinky little devils. There are several methods to tame these unwieldy materials. This is but one, which works very well.

First, separate them into groups. Tinsels here in this pile, 3/0 thread in this one, 6/0 in that, floss over here, and so on. There, we have several nice groups of similar materials. What's that, you don't know if the thread is 3/0, 6/0, 8/0 or 12/0? Well join the club! For a long time I couldn't tell either. It seems the thread companies in an effort no doubt to amuse themselves greatly, fasten the little labels in a fashion that is bound to fail at the first revolution of the bobbin.

The solution for this deficiency is very simple. When you get the spool home, use nail polish, or some other fast drying paint, or a marker pen to color the end of the spool according to size. Mark out a color scheme, i.e. red for 3/0, black for 6/0 etc . . . Write it down, I'll show you where to put the note in a minute. You can use a similar system for the other materials as well. Just mark down what color is representative of which size or type of material.

OK, we have all of the thread marked.

Sandwich Box and Wire Can

Now get yourself a thread container. This can be home made, store bought, or even rescued from a trip to the town dump. I use these little plastic sandwich containers obtained from the dollar store at about 3 for $1. they are just the right height for the thread to stand upright. They are also good for another reason which we will see in a minute or two.

Lead wire can be kept quite nicely in a 35mm plastic film can. Cut a slit, or drill a 1/4 hole in the can and feed the end of the wire through. This gives you something to hold while applying weight to your hook, and using it right out of the can means no waste. This also works well for tinsel.

A label on the top of the can, and the contents thereof will never be a mystery again.

Floss is better kept like the thread. Of course you can also store the wire and tinsel as you did the thread also, which has an advantage as we shall see.

OK you get the picture, little boxes, each one as specific as possible to a type and size of material.

Having made your color key to identify your material, fasten a copy on the top of each container. You will never have to guess which thread or tinsel or wire size you have again, it is right there where you need it!

Got a bunch of other little clutter gremlins in that mass of supplies in front of you. Well sort them out. You know eyes here, beads there, etc. Put each of these in it's own little box, according to type of material and size. If you only have a few eyes, put them in with the beads, or whatever makes sense to you.

After you have all of these little things done, (we will do feathers, furs and such later) stack your boxes and set them aside to make room for the next part of our project.

Using address labels, or plain paper and cotch tape, make a label for each box. Don't go nuts here, just mark it "eyes," "foam ant bodies," "3/0 thread" etc.


Now if you put them on a shelf with the name facing you, you are way ahead of where we started. You could if you have the resources, make a rack like I have pictured here to hold your little sandwich box organizers. This has a carry handle, but can be hung on the wall or just stood up on the bench.

You may be tempted at this point to try to list the contents of the little boxes somewhere so you do not have to open the boxes to see exactly what they contain. Avoid the temptation at this point, we have a system for that too. And after trying many we can save you the frustration of constantly improving on yours.

Winter is unfortunately long so we have plenty of time to refine our system, and still have time to tie all of the flies we will need for spring.

Next week we'll do the feathers and furs and etc.

Write me with your suggestions! (hell, I stole a lot of these from other people, might as well steal yours too!) ~ George Emanuel

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