Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bill Bailey's tying wax.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a generous offer from Stateside angler Bill Bailey to try out some of his own specially made fly tying waxes. Bill makes white and cobbler's waxes using original 19th century recipes and when the samples turned up earlier this week I was eager to try them out.


I have to confess to not being a big user of tying wax in the past. I've only tended to use it to darken the colour of Pearsalls silk occasionally and for this purpose, an old stick of Veniard's tacky wax has proved adequate ( I did buy a small block of cobbler's wax once, but it turned out to be, well, crap really). 

However, I found Bill's stuff to be a different proposition altogether; the initially hard pellets are easily softened between the fingers and a minimal application to the silk has some pleasing effects: application of dubbing to the now slightly tacky thread becomes unbelieveably easy - especially touch dubbing of very sparse quantities of fine fur such as mole. I was also surprised how much stronger the finished fly was with waxed thread - when I took the razor to one badly proportioned attempt, I found it a bit of a struggle to strip the thread wraps off the shank. The wax seems to add a certain cohesion to the dressing.

Finally, it was interesting to compare the effect that the two waxes had on the colour of the silk. Pleasingly, the white wax seemed to have negligible effect, merely removing the characteristic sheen from the Pearsalls....whereas the cobbler's wax - as expected - darkened the silk significantly. Bill tells me that the block wax (which I haven't yet tried), darkens the thread gradually depending on application; that will prove useful also.
In the photo below, I tried to produce three whips on the same hook shank to illustrate the different effects which can be achieved. Using red Pearsalls, the left hand whip is untreated, the middle has received the white wax and the right hand one, the darker cobbler's wax. Click on the image to enlarge:

So a big thanks to Bill for taking the time to send me some of his wares to try. I can fully recommend these waxes to anyone who ties north country spiders.....or indeed anyone who wants to give their tyings a bit more durability.
See this link for details, or Bill can be contacted via email here:

1 comment:

eaustin said...

I've used Bill Bailey's wax for some time now, and I'm wondering how I did without it all these years. It's invaluable for getting materials to stay put as you tie them in, and makes wet flies and full dress salmon flies so much easier to do. I used no wax for years, and now, use Bill's on every fly I do. The best wax I've ever used by a mile.