Friday, August 2, 2013

Step-by-Step: How to Fold a Hackle With Your Scissors

Flamethrower tubes - Folding stiff hackles is easy with this technique

I was first made aware of the scissor folding technique by my favorite Miramichi River guide, Darryl Tucker. It took Darryl but a few seconds to fold a hackle with his scissors, while it took me much longer to fold one by hand.  Darryl pre-folds his hackles by placing the tip of the feather in the jaw of his Regal vise. I have seen tyers fold hackles with scissors while the hackle is tied into the fly, but I liked Darryl's method more. The only thing I disliked was using the vise jaws to hold the hackle. The easy solution to the problem was to use a variation of the "third hand." I dangle hackle pliers from the rotary end (cam end on an HMH) of my Renzetti Traveller vise, which frees up both of my hands (see below).

I rarely remove this helpful tool

I have a set of these brass Dr. Slick hackle pliers on both my HMH Standard and my Renzetti Traveller. I just purchased a Renzetti Master vise and, unfortunately, the vise shaft is too thick to accommodate this style of hackle pliers. Luckily, I stumbled across a tool called "Swiss pliers w/spring ring." I placed the Renzetti Master's stem through the ring end of the tool. It works great and stays out of my way (see below).

Renzetti Master Vise with Swiss Pliers

Anyhow, let's get to the step-by-step instructions on how to fold a hackle with your scissors...

Step 1: Select a hackle. This orange hackle comes from a Chinese rooster cape

Step 2: Pull downward on the barbs so they are more or less perpendicular to the stem

Step 3: Place the tip of the hackle in the dangling hackle pliers

Step 5: Use another set of hackle pliers to hold the feather steady.You can use your fingers, but I find the feather rolls less when using pliers. 

Step 6: Place the tip of your scissors against the hackle stem, just below the upper set of pliers. The tips of the scissors should be at a right angle to the barbs. 

Step 7: Drag the tips of your scissors downwards along the stem. You should feel the barbs "clicking" as the scissors fold them inwards.

Step 8: When you finish one side, repeat Step 7 on the other

Step 9: Determine if the fold will suit your needs

Step 10: If you desire, the hackle can be folded over even more with moistened fingers

The folded hackle, ready for tying in only seconds after being plucked from the neck (below)

I usually fold with the scissors then, if necessary, make manual adjustments while wrapping the hackle. I tend to stroke the fibers into place as I wrap the hackle. This is a fast and effective way to fold both body and collar hackles. If the hackle is for a fishing fly, I can fold it well enough to use in about 10-20 seconds, plucked off the neck or saddle. If it's for a show fly, I usually am a bit more careful when I fold. This technique even works with very stiff dry fly hackles, which might be otherwise difficult to fold using only your hands. 

Give it a try sometime. Make sure you feel the feather "click." You'll know what I mean when you feel it happening. If it's clicking, you're doing something right!

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