Fly Tying Tip: Use Contrast Colors For Your Tying Desk

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

It doesn’t matter if you have been tying flies for one week or thirty years.

Chances are, right now, your tying desk is a chaotic mess of thread, feathers, furs, hooks, and beads. It’s just a fact of the tying life. Despite all of the drawers, containers, and custom pieces that are made to organize all of your tying materials, there will just about always be the scattered remnants of last night’s bourbon-fueled tying session still fluttering around the table top. And, inevitably, that one thing you always need when that new “it fly” idea hits is always missing amongst the piles of marabou trimmings and bucktail clippings. Do I have the end all solution to always keeping your desk spic and span? Nope! That’s all on you. However, I do have a great little tip to help you find the things that you need when cleaning up that tangled mess just doesn’t jive with your mood.

IMG_9330I own a cool roll top desk that is no doubt circa 1983. I purposely purchased a roll top desk because A) they have a ton of drawers to keep stuff in and B) I can close it up and hide the mass destruction that even a taxidermist might gawk at. However, one of the things about my roll top, as well as many others I’ve seen, are that they are often stained with dark tones to accentuate the wood. This makes for a pretty desk, but when it comes to finding a #20 hook amongst the clutter, it’s a damn nightmare.

There’s an easy fix for this. 

Just grab a quart of light blue or seafoam-ish green paint and change the color of the surface of your desk. These colors provide a great contrast and allow you to view what’s on your desk much easier. The lighter color will also brighten up the dark corners of your desk. This will make finding hooks, beads, and tools much easier when that next binge comes around. It’s an easy project for a rainy day and will certainly make life at the vise a little easier!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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14 thoughts on “Fly Tying Tip: Use Contrast Colors For Your Tying Desk

  1. Contrast help significantly!

    Another option is a section of linoleum. Inexpensive. Protects the wood; also a benefit.

    It can be glued on or simply laid on the wood. It really does not move easily (depends on the woods finish)

    Don’t forget a sewing light from you local fabric store

  2. If you don’t want to ruin your beautiful wood top, go buy a two tone Fiskers (or any brand really) cutting mat. You can flip it over for the best contrast depending on the material you’re trying and when it comes time to clean up, pick the whole thing up and dump the trimmings in the trash.

    Bonus points, is nearly indestructible. You can cut zonker strips or synthetic skins on it with an exacto, spill glue on it, doesn’t phase it and you save your desktop.

  3. Or use something like an Alvin cutting mat, its green on one side and white on the other and it comes in many sizes. As a lover of a good wood grain, I hate to see paint brought out on oak, maple etc.

  4. I’ve been using a cheap 18 x 12 drawing pad. White but no glare surface and desk protection. Clean up and a fresh surface is simple.

  5. I don’t have a desk but use a “folding breakfast in bed tray”, Has a white base and wooden edge which keeps those beads from rollling away, plus its portable!!! Could even tye in bed with your morning coffee.

  6. I’ve had great results simply using the “thicker version” poster board. Cost you a few dollars at your local craft store and comes in a multitude of colors. And when you spill your resin, super glue or whiskey on it, just go spend another $3. Problem solved

  7. I use a blue silicone baking sheet. It adds contrast and gives traction to hooks and beads when picking them up. Think of it as the inside of a Tacky box as your desk surface. And it was free, as long as the wife doesn’t notice it missing from the baking drawer.

  8. Go to a craft store and pick a large magnet mat. Many are white on one side and black on the other. Drop a hook – it sticks to the magnet. I use one that is about 12×18. Works great and not expensive. Painting the top of the desk – I hate to paint…..

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