May 19th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Easy Cutting Board Tying Bench
By Jim Hatch

A quick search on or in your tying catalogs will show you that there are many tying benches available for your desktop. Most of them share two major drawbacks. First, they cost too danged much, and secondly, they were not laid out specifically to fit your tying style.

While checking out our local Big Lots discount store, I found a nice selection of cutting boards. They were well constructed and nicely finished maple. I picked up a heavy 12" x 18" cutting board for a base for $9.00 and then selected two 5" x 7" mini cutting boards at $2.00 each to make thread and tool racks. On the way home I stopped by the hardware store and purchased a " as well as a " wooden dowel.

First thing I did was to mount my vise on the large cutting board. Many vises can be readily mounted on your bench without using the clamping device. The Danvise I use required only a " hole through the desired location on the bench to facilitate a clean flush mount. Now I could position my tool and thread shelves and insure adequate space around the vise for tying. If your vise does not lend itself to bolting to your base, you will first want to design your clamping arm to position the vise in the desired location. Make sure you consider height as well as location and ample room for working around the jaws.

After positioning the shelves to suit me, I cut four 6" x " wood dowels to support them. I also cut twelve 3" x " wood dowels as thread spindles. Using a drill press and appropriate bits, I made holes for mounting the shelves as well as holes for the thread rack spindles and tools. Take your time and ensure that your tool layout is comfortable for you.

Before mounting my shelves I took a 2 " forstner bit and drilled depressions near the front of my bench to keep hooks, beads, and eyes from going adrift as well as a depression to fit my ever present bottle of Sally Hansens Hard as Nails. Then after first assembling the bench dry to ensure fit, I reassembled it with glue and allowed it to dry before proceeding. I took a brazing rod and bent it to fit across the back of my tool shelves to provide a drying rack for my flies. A piece of metal clothes hanger would work as well. I also cut some 2mm foam to fit the recessed depressions I had drilled in front of the vice as well as four small pieces to glue on the bottom corners to keep the bench from sliding or scratching the desk top. When the glue was dry, I rubbed in a coat of Minwax oil stain. You can leave the wood natural, stain, varnish or whatever type finish appeals to you. Just ensure that you remove any glue from surfaces to be finished before it dries.

This bench suits my tying well. It may not suit your style at all. This is provided not as a sporty-do-it-all bench, but rather just food for thought for those wanting a bench that best fits them and their budget. The advantages of the cutting boards are obvious. They are already laminated, cut and routed to shapes that work well for the tying benches. They are constructed of a durable hardwood, normally maple, and are quite affordable. Many of them have a pronounced blood groove routed around the outside edge which will prevent your tying goodies from rolling onto the floor. My bench cost $16.00 and took two hours to build and finish. While my desk and backdrop are white and provide a good background for tying, you could easily mount a piece of poster board on your drying rack if needed for a brighter background. Good luck! ~ Jim Hatch

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