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bekiu002 06-14-2010 09:45 PM

Hand Stacking
Does anyone have a good video on hand stacking? I have only been able to find wordy descriptions and when it comes to fly tying I need to see something done at least once to get the hang of it. Mostly working with buck tails and elk hair.
Thanks, Cabot

Ard 06-14-2010 11:23 PM

Re: Hand Stacking
Hi Cabot,

Are you talking about simply evening the tips of buck tail hair or are you meaning the technique of stacking a hair wing?


bekiu002 06-15-2010 07:48 AM

Re: Hand Stacking
Sadly I am talking about evening the tips without using a tool. My hands don't follow orders all of the time, which makes simple tasks much more time consuming and seeing things done helps a lot.

stimmy7 06-15-2010 10:38 AM

Re: Hand Stacking
Not really much anyone can show in a video- the one I recall seeing once ws on a Chris Helm tape, but almost all videos I've seen with harirwings use a stacker. You can use essentially anything that has a flat bottom to stack hair, it doesn't have to be a commercial stacker- I use an empty .22 casing for small amounts of hair and used to use a clear plastic pill bottle in the 'old days'.

Hand stacking is a sort of tedious process, but you can make it a bit easier on yourself by doing a couple of things. First, make sure you're starting with CLEAN hair- if you need to wash it, use something like Dawn dish detergent in warm water, because it removes a lot of oil/grease. Next, use a comb to remove as much underfur as you can while it's still on the skin. Then apply a SMALL amount of hair conditioner (yep, the type humans use) and use the comb to distribute it well through the hair, then rinse it clean and let it air dry on a stack of paper towels.

One trick to hand stacking hair is to pull the hairs evenly away from the skin so the tips are lined up BEFORE you trim it off the skin. You should be holding the hairs in the hand you'll be holding them in when you tie them down (typically this is referred to as the "off hand"; the one you don't hold your bobbin in). After removing them, use a fine tooth comb and remove all underfur from the patch you've trimmed. If you are holding the tips tightly, this action should also remove most/many of the broken or shorter hairs.

Depending on the quality of the hair you've started with, the amount of evening and stacking you have to do may be minimal, especially when it comes to bucktail for wings because you don't want an even end on the wing anyway. For elk or calf tail on a dry fly, it's a bit of a different story. For most dry flies, you're better off investing in some calf BODY hair rather than tails for winging material- it's not as kinky and it's a lot easier to get a good, even wing.

The object is to remove from the bunch the shorter hairs, so if you're right handed, you'll start with the tips in your left hand. Pinch tightly on the tips and relax the pressure a little on the rest of the bundle. Grab the ends with your right hand, and pull on them- any shorter hairs should pull out ot the bunch, with their ends roughly aligned. Now, you re-insert this bunch of hairs into the bunch in your left hand with the tips at the same position as the first bunch.

Hopefully this isn't too confusing... but like I said, you can use almost ANYTHING wioth a flat bottom and a smooth side as a stacker. A trick I learned from Al and Gretchen Beatty was to keep a used clothes dryer fabric softener sheet on your bench when tying hairwing flies and periodically run it through your stacker to make it easier to use.

Ard 06-15-2010 10:39 AM

Re: Hand Stacking

You gotta loosen up and get your self a hair stacker. I can do it by hand but would have to write an article in order to adequately describe how to do it. Hair stacker's are very affordable and they work great.


bekiu002 06-15-2010 12:50 PM

Re: Hand Stacking
Stimmy- thanks for taking the time to write such a comprehensive post.
Ard- I am sure my wife would agree that I need to loosen up but I do happen to have a hair stacker and buck tail just doesn't stack very well in it. I like to be able to know I can do things without a tool all the time and it doesn't hurt to know I am regaining some dexterity back at the same time. I'll just have to keep practicing.

stimmy7 06-15-2010 02:30 PM

Re: Hand Stacking

I'm willing to bet it's in large part because they hair isn't 'clean' to begin with, and second there is too much static in the hair and the stacker to be as successful as you'd like.

Similar to the comment I made about calf tail, bucktail is rather kinky and can be tough to stack, and cleaning out the underfur before you start is critical to success.

Try cutting a chunk off the tail (or use a whole one if you have multiples) and wash it and dry it thoroughly then see if your stacking goes easier.

ssjchar 07-21-2010 01:15 PM

Re: Hand Stacking
I have found that a piece of paper works well. I fold the paper in half, turn the paper 90 degrees, then fold it in half again (like how you'd fold a piece of paper to fit in your pocket), then i open one of the flaps and put the hair in. This helps with larger sized materials since the paper is so much bigger than a stacker though you can't really slam it like you can a stacker.

Rip Tide 07-21-2010 05:28 PM

Re: Hand Stacking
I always do bucktail by hand, never with a stacker
First of all, don't expect it to come out even. It won't ever even up like hair in a stacker and in most cases you really don't want it to.
The bucktail needs to be clean. I hold mine by the tips and blow. This is a good time to clean out the 'shorts' too.
Then I'll pick out the long ones and even the tips up with the majority. Do this two or three times if you need too.
Finally hold the hair clump as loosely as you possibly can between your thumb and fore fingers and tamp it into the palm of your other hand.
This will even it up "good enough" in most cases, just don't expect perfect.

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