Brush It Off

Brush It Off

Andy Dear | Monday, 11 April 2022

Several years ago I became obsessed with dubbing brushes. However, being the frugal fly tier that I am, I refused to pay the prices that the well known brush makers were, and still are charging. So, I consulted YouTube University, and set out on a mission to learn how to spin my own.

  At the time I had a dedicated cast iron wood lathe that I managed to modify in such a way that it worked "ok" for making dubbing brushes. The biggest drawback was the fact that the dedicated wood lathe lacked a variable speed motor, which made controlling the speed tenuous at best. After making brushes for several months, I had to put the project aside, as the epoxy business grew to a point where I no longer had significant time to tie flies.

  About a year ago, a dear friend of mine named Mike Gallegos contacted me one day to ask if I would be interested in buying his hobby lathe. It took me a second to recall exactly what he was referring to, but then it dawned on me. Back in 2006, Mike purchased this "hobby lathe" lathe from another dear friend of mine named Gerald McCasland. Gerald, in addition to being the best man at my wedding, was also a veteran rod builder here in San Antonio. Gerald had purchased this lathe in 2005 with the intention of learning to turn cork grips but was unfortunately diagnosed with COPD shortly after he received the lathe. Because of his lung condition was forced to sell it. I put Gerald in contact with Mike, who has had the lathe in storage ever since. Unfortunately, Gerald passed away in 2007 from complications related to COPD.

  For the uninitiated, the hobby lathe made by the Grizzly Tool Co. was a small turning setup that utilized a length of extruded aluminum for the base, and a special attachment that held a common hand drill as the powerhead. Although it was much too light in both weight and power to turn anything substantial in terms of wood, it was absolutely PERFECT for custom shaping soft, light materials such as cork and foam. Because of that, the hobby lathe became quite popular in the rod building community back in the early 2000s.

  Because the lathe originally belonged to one of my best freinds, and then was sold to another close freind, I purchased the lathe which has now been sitting in my shop, unused for about a year....that is until my obsession with dubbing brushes was re-ignited last week. Finding myself with a lack of inventory of crab flies, I began to contemplate a better setup for making my own dubbing brushes. While looking at several commercially made models, a light bulb went off... WHY NOT USE THE HOBBY LATHE?

  A couple of quick modification to the tailstock to accept a steel eyelet and also to the toool rest add a table on which to lay material, and I AM BACK IN BUSINESS. And of course, the variable speed hand drill immediately solved the problem I had with the big lathe. Additionally, because the uses a very lightweight piece of aluminum for the base, it takes no effort at all to move the lathe around the shop. And the beautiful thing? I now have another piece of equipment in my shop that once belonged to a deceased friend that keeps me in contact with their memory every time I use it.

Hope you all are having a great week,