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Head Step by Step


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22 replies to this topic

#1 Jeff Dickey

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 05:23 PM

Rich and a couple of other guys have asked me about heads on flies, and this has been a question that has come up in a few recent threads, so I thought I would re-post some pictures from a step by step I did a while back. Please understand I do not claim to have the only answer, this is just ONE way to do it, but I have found it works for me. Hope you find it useful!

Attached File  head1.JPG   501.41K   1861 downloads
Here is the fly just before cutting for the head. While I may have put a dab of cement on the horns or cheeks at the tie-in point (in order to stabilize what will be cemented later anyway when I cut the stems), I HAVE NOT gotten any cement on the materials forward of the wraps of thread. This is because If everything is stiff from cement before cutting and shaping the head, it is difficult to compress or get smooth wraps an hard, jagged edges. If everything is un-cemented them it will compress a little after cutting and give you a better shape. I tie everything in before cutting, except sometimes topping and horns. On a fly with no topping always everything first.

Attached File  head2.JPG   344.2K   1859 downloads
Here is the head after trimming. I cut the stems with scissors, and then use a scalpel to cut the wing fibres. You can get a scalpel and 10 blades dirt cheap online, and I highly reccommend it. It is sharper than a razor blade, and the handle turns it into an easily manipulated tool. I cut on an angle on purpose - this gives me a slope to put the thread. If you cut straight down you will be in a pickle. Remember it is easy to cut more but once it is cut you can't go back, so less steep is better at first, until you have practiced a bit. A sharp blade makes it easy to "carve" the shape you want all around, so to speak, without messing up the fly behind. Of course, when cutting, the wing and materials secured at the head tie-in point are secured in a firm pinch with the other hand. I have found that using a scalpel or razor causes the wing to move around less than using scissors, but that is just me.

Attached File  head3.JPG   299.46K   1709 downloads
Here is the head after wrapping thread. I do not wrap straight forward and back, as you can see there are all kinds of angles to the thread to keep it from slipping down the slope. Of course, good wax is a must - you can see it on the thread. I flatten the thread and try to get everything covered - a few little gaps are ok if you use black varnish for one of your coates, but I try not to have any gaps. Flat thread, lots of wax and the minimum number of wraps, then a couple of whip finishes and cut. Also, once you have wrapped and cut, if you have a lot of wax on your thread it will have built up at the head and you can catually "mold" the shape of the head to a degree with your fingers or the handle of the bodking to smooth everything out and make sure the shape ios consistent. This will only smooth out, not change the shape you already have. In any case, monkey with it as little as possible because if you get too rough or try to do to much you can push the whole thing out of kilter.

Attached File  head4.jpg   61.53K   1436 downloads
Here is the finished head. Note that the shape of the head is from the shape of the head, so to speak. It is hard to make it look good with cement if it doesn't look good beforehand. I will use one coat of thin cement to penetrate everything, and then two or three coats of thick varnish and call it a day. If you are going to put a fly in a fram it is a good idea to let the varnish cure completely (24 hours) and then look at it again, because the varnish will contract a little as it dries and may give a funny shape when it is fully dries, in which case one last coat will help. I try to use as little as possible on my thick coats, just a drop on the end of a bodkin as I rotate the fly around and apply it to the head. I have the vise angled up at about a 30 degree angle when I apply the varnish, which keeps it from running down the slope and into the eye (or I feel like it does). Too much varnish in one coat will seep around the head before it dries and leave a blob underneath the head that throws off the shape.

And there you have it. Hope this helps someone!

-Jeff

#2 ZiaFly

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 05:42 PM

Thanks for this tutorial Jeff. As I have learned, the head finish is an easy way to make or break a nice fly. I'll keep this lesson in mind on my next fly. I've been practicing herl heads, and I think that a nice button of a thread head is my next head challenge. Thanks again!

Buenos Rises,
Spencer
"If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business."

~by Alfred W. Miller~

#3 Dave Carne

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 06:00 PM

Grey SBS - interesting to see you tie everything on before trimming - I trim after the sides are on, but before the roof cheeks etc - I also use a pair of scissors - never got round to using a scalpel for this though I use one for shaving down the rachi on toppings.

Dave

#4 speyflyfisher

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 06:28 PM

Dave, I would love to see the same sequence of pictures from one of your flies.
It is nice to exposed to different methods to acheive the same results. It allows one to experiment to find out what works for each individual.

Bob

#5 Orange Heron

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 06:41 PM

Jeff,

Thank you very much. I've got two classics in the works right now and I will try your technique as I like that shape. Never tried a scalpel but now I'm going to give it a whirl.

Thanks,

RIch

#6 steelyjim

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 07:00 PM

Jeff,
I have had a great opportunity to tie with or next to you a few times now and can't wait for the next. I wish I\we had more time when you were here. You really are a great teacher and I belive that besides just tying some really whip ass flies you have a beautifull future in tying Salmon flies. I belive that we will be comming from all over to see Jeff Dickey tying at Sommerset and all the other big shows. Thanks for the tutorial Jeff, really good info there.
Jim
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#7 keyboard112

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 07:40 PM

QUOTE (Jeff Dickey @ Dec 10 2010, 12:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rich and a couple of other guys have asked me about heads on flies, and this has been a question that has come up in a few recent threads, so I thought I would re-post some pictures from a step by step I did a while back. Please understand I do not claim to have the only answer, this is just ONE way to do it, but I have found it works for me. Hope you find it useful!

Attached File  head1.JPG   501.41K   1861 downloads
Here is the fly just before cutting for the head. While I may have put a dab of cement on the horns or cheeks at the tie-in point (in order to stabilize what will be cemented later anyway when I cut the stems), I HAVE NOT gotten any cement on the materials forward of the wraps of thread. This is because If everything is stiff from cement before cutting and shaping the head, it is difficult to compress or get smooth wraps an hard, jagged edges. If everything is un-cemented them it will compress a little after cutting and give you a better shape. I tie everything in before cutting, except sometimes topping and horns. On a fly with no topping always everything first.

Attached File  head2.JPG   344.2K   1859 downloads
Here is the head after trimming. I cut the stems with scissors, and then use a scalpel to cut the wing fibres. You can get a scalpel and 10 blades dirt cheap online, and I highly reccommend it. It is sharper than a razor blade, and the handle turns it into an easily manipulated tool. I cut on an angle on purpose - this gives me a slope to put the thread. If you cut straight down you will be in a pickle. Remember it is easy to cut more but once it is cut you can't go back, so less steep is better at first, until you have practiced a bit. A sharp blade makes it easy to "carve" the shape you want all around, so to speak, without messing up the fly behind. Of course, when cutting, the wing and materials secured at the head tie-in point are secured in a firm pinch with the other hand. I have found that using a scalpel or razor causes the wing to move around less than using scissors, but that is just me.

Attached File  head3.JPG   299.46K   1709 downloads
Here is the head after wrapping thread. I do not wrap straight forward and back, as you can see there are all kinds of angles to the thread to keep it from slipping down the slope. Of course, good wax is a must - you can see it on the thread. I flatten the thread and try to get everything covered - a few little gaps are ok if you use black varnish for one of your coates, but I try not to have any gaps. Flat thread, lots of wax and the minimum number of wraps, then a couple of whip finishes and cut. Also, once you have wrapped and cut, if you have a lot of wax on your thread it will have built up at the head and you can catually "mold" the shape of the head to a degree with your fingers or the handle of the bodking to smooth everything out and make sure the shape ios consistent. This will only smooth out, not change the shape you already have. In any case, monkey with it as little as possible because if you get too rough or try to do to much you can push the whole thing out of kilter.

Attached File  head4.jpg   61.53K   1436 downloads
Here is the finished head. Note that the shape of the head is from the shape of the head, so to speak. It is hard to make it look good with cement if it doesn't look good beforehand. I will use one coat of thin cement to penetrate everything, and then two or three coats of thick varnish and call it a day. If you are going to put a fly in a fram it is a good idea to let the varnish cure completely (24 hours) and then look at it again, because the varnish will contract a little as it dries and may give a funny shape when it is fully dries, in which case one last coat will help. I try to use as little as possible on my thick coats, just a drop on the end of a bodkin as I rotate the fly around and apply it to the head. I have the vise angled up at about a 30 degree angle when I apply the varnish, which keeps it from running down the slope and into the eye (or I feel like it does). Too much varnish in one coat will seep around the head before it dries and leave a blob underneath the head that throws off the shape.

And there you have it. Hope this helps someone!

-Jeff


There you go showing off again Mr. Dickey!!! tongue.gif I remember when you posted this the first time, I thought wow if he crowded that head and closer it would fall right off the gut LOL! Nice going Jeff this will help allot of people, and as I said in the past perhaps I will grow up and tie these things like you one day! smile.gif

Keith
Nija fly tyer

#8 geraldsherbrook

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 07:55 PM

Dear JEFF,

Another example of HOW 'important' YOU are far a lot of 'tyers' on this forum !

Your simply SPLENDID attitude and caracter is SHOWING 'again' ...to let profit of Your 'lessons'...

the step by step information and the nice photo's are of great VALUE !

THANKS my friend !

With lots of respect !

Geert/Gerald
Voted Sexiest Fly Tyer for 2013

#9 angler andrew

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 08:13 PM

Jeff ive studied this more than anyone on here ill bet and to be honest i still struggle at times with my heads though i must admit the time you told via a pm thats impossible to wind thre3ad down/up a vertical face made things easier for me to understand.what ive always liked about your heads is the size of em they are neither to big nor to small,how many miniscule heads do we see on here that just dont look right even Jock Scotts!!
So many times id ask anyone i could and the message was always the same plenty of wax!! but no matter how much wax one uses there has to be some thing for the thread to hold onto hence the criss cross turns you do for the stuff to grip.

I reckon you make it look far easier than what it is as i still struggle with the criss cross thing,after a good chat with Jens Pilgaard he told me he doesnt bother with thread wraps he simply ties on the horns whip finish and then build the head up with laquer.

My Mentor Mike Townend used to drive me nuts as every time i told him my heads were shite he would always say "it takes time"which also something his friend and brilliant tyier himself Phillip Glendinning used to stress he told me at the first flyfair i went to that starting from the tag upwards the head is always the last thing to get right,wise words i reckon.

Last thing someone mentioned doing the herl button heads which ive managed a few sucsessfully,id say the key is no matter how large the head it must be flat and uniform for the herl to grip ive a normal bullet shaped head is a no go for this,whilst ive never made one i rec kon a mixed wing cut square would make for a better base to tie the herl onto.

Thanks jeff if anyone has any other techniques id love to know.
another possible inductee into the slackers club

#10 Ronn Lucas

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 08:28 PM

That's essentially how I do it now. Everything from top to bottom is left on and cut the very last step before head cement is applied. You do need a steady hand with the blade and donít try to cut more than a couple heads with one blade.
Happy Trails!
Ronn


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#11 angler andrew

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 09:58 PM

QUOTE (Ronn Lucas @ Dec 10 2010, 08:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That's essentially how I do it now. Everything from top to bottom is left on and cut the very last step before head cement is applied. You do need a steady hand with the blade and donít try to cut more than a couple heads with one blade.

In Theory i like this method myself that is untill it comes to doing the roof i find the butts get in the way.

another possible inductee into the slackers club

#12 makintrax

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Posted 11 December 2010 - 03:27 PM

I need shaper scalpels apparently! thanks Jeff....

#13 Jeff Dickey

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Posted 11 December 2010 - 05:51 PM

QUOTE (Ronn Lucas @ Dec 10 2010, 08:28 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
That's essentially how I do it now. Everything from top to bottom is left on and cut the very last step before head cement is applied. You do need a steady hand with the blade and donít try to cut more than a couple heads with one blade.


I have found three is about the limit before I will chuck the blade. The sharper the blade is, the less pressure you have to apply, and the less chance you will muck something up.

-Jeff

#14 kelkay

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 05:05 AM

Thanks for the how to, I never even thought about using a scalpel before. Guess I will have to hunt one up... :-)

#15 kjaer

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Posted 13 December 2010 - 08:23 AM

Thanks, i have learned something new. I will try to cut my heards.

kjaer

#16 Mike Norwood

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Posted 15 December 2010 - 05:07 AM

Jeff, I appreciate the head tutorial.




Mike

#17 MarkWGRoberts

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 06:00 PM

My first post to this forum and I am mighty impressed with both the skills and willingness to share. Thanks guys
Mark Roberts
www.gwentangling society.co.uk

#18 DonW

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Posted 09 January 2011 - 02:59 AM

QUOTE (Jeff Dickey @ Dec 10 2010, 12:23 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Rich and a couple of other guys have asked me about heads on flies, and this has been a question that has come up in a few recent threads, so I thought I would re-post some pictures from a step by step I did a while back. Please understand I do not claim to have the only answer, this is just ONE way to do it, but I have found it works for me. Hope you find it useful!

Attached File  head1.JPG   501.41K   1861 downloads
Here is the fly just before cutting for the head. While I may have put a dab of cement on the horns or cheeks at the tie-in point (in order to stabilize what will be cemented later anyway when I cut the stems), I HAVE NOT gotten any cement on the materials forward of the wraps of thread. This is because If everything is stiff from cement before cutting and shaping the head, it is difficult to compress or get smooth wraps an hard, jagged edges. If everything is un-cemented them it will compress a little after cutting and give you a better shape. I tie everything in before cutting, except sometimes topping and horns. On a fly with no topping always everything first.

Attached File  head2.JPG   344.2K   1859 downloads
Here is the head after trimming. I cut the stems with scissors, and then use a scalpel to cut the wing fibres. You can get a scalpel and 10 blades dirt cheap online, and I highly reccommend it. It is sharper than a razor blade, and the handle turns it into an easily manipulated tool. I cut on an angle on purpose - this gives me a slope to put the thread. If you cut straight down you will be in a pickle. Remember it is easy to cut more but once it is cut you can't go back, so less steep is better at first, until you have practiced a bit. A sharp blade makes it easy to "carve" the shape you want all around, so to speak, without messing up the fly behind. Of course, when cutting, the wing and materials secured at the head tie-in point are secured in a firm pinch with the other hand. I have found that using a scalpel or razor causes the wing to move around less than using scissors, but that is just me.

Attached File  head3.JPG   299.46K   1709 downloads
Here is the head after wrapping thread. I do not wrap straight forward and back, as you can see there are all kinds of angles to the thread to keep it from slipping down the slope. Of course, good wax is a must - you can see it on the thread. I flatten the thread and try to get everything covered - a few little gaps are ok if you use black varnish for one of your coates, but I try not to have any gaps. Flat thread, lots of wax and the minimum number of wraps, then a couple of whip finishes and cut. Also, once you have wrapped and cut, if you have a lot of wax on your thread it will have built up at the head and you can catually "mold" the shape of the head to a degree with your fingers or the handle of the bodking to smooth everything out and make sure the shape ios consistent. This will only smooth out, not change the shape you already have. In any case, monkey with it as little as possible because if you get too rough or try to do to much you can push the whole thing out of kilter.

Attached File  head4.jpg   61.53K   1436 downloads
Here is the finished head. Note that the shape of the head is from the shape of the head, so to speak. It is hard to make it look good with cement if it doesn't look good beforehand. I will use one coat of thin cement to penetrate everything, and then two or three coats of thick varnish and call it a day. If you are going to put a fly in a fram it is a good idea to let the varnish cure completely (24 hours) and then look at it again, because the varnish will contract a little as it dries and may give a funny shape when it is fully dries, in which case one last coat will help. I try to use as little as possible on my thick coats, just a drop on the end of a bodkin as I rotate the fly around and apply it to the head. I have the vise angled up at about a 30 degree angle when I apply the varnish, which keeps it from running down the slope and into the eye (or I feel like it does). Too much varnish in one coat will seep around the head before it dries and leave a blob underneath the head that throws off the shape.

And there you have it. Hope this helps someone!

-Jeff



#19 Ciel Bleu

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 01:38 AM

This is my first post on this site, even if I've been reading a lot in the last couple of years. I have a question : When you are mentionning clear and thick varnish, is this a "lacquer" from the same brand ( one thin and one thick ) or different varnish ? What do you recommend ?

Thanks,

Ciel Bleu ( "Blue Sky" ) from Quebec, Canada

#20 Jeff Dickey

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 02:49 PM

QUOTE (Ciel Bleu @ Jan 18 2011, 02:38 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This is my first post on this site, even if I've been reading a lot in the last couple of years. I have a question : When you are mentionning clear and thick varnish, is this a "lacquer" from the same brand ( one thin and one thick ) or different varnish ? What do you recommend ?

Thanks,

Ciel Bleu ( "Blue Sky" ) from Quebec, Canada


There are lots of head cements out there; any that offer a "thin" and "thick" version, the thin works. For the thick, I like "Hard as Hull", but there are plenty out there. The more I do this, the more I am convinced it is more about how and how much you put on, especially with thick cement, than the particular brand. I honestly don't know what my thin brand is, I have had it for at least 10 years.

-Jeff