What started as a simple DIY woodworking project turned into a full blown piece of furniture. I use the term DIY but be warned this project may require some of the skills your learned in high school shop class.
Before I dig in here, I want to share a link from Pinterest. My fly tying desks board was a great source of inspiration for this project. Keep an eye on my Pinterest page, it’s a great research tool and should give away some of my future blog posts.
It started so simple… A thin piece of junk board. It was sitting in my garage collecting dust and I thought, “Why not turn it into a fancy fly tying desk?”
Just a quick Saturday project… A few pill caps to trace some 1 1/2″ and 2″ holes for supplies. Maybe a few 2x4s for sides and tool holders…
What started as a quick sketch on a junk board suddenly got more complex. I pulled out a notebook and a ruler… Suddenly a small door opened in my brain, a door to the past… It was like I was back in Mr. Moyer’s 7th grade shop class.
For the first time in my life I realized all of the designs I had drawn inspiration from were within my abilities. I could do this! (or at least hack my way through it)
After what seemed like hours of planning and layout, I made a trip to the local Lowes to purchase some supplies. Plans were on paper… This project was too real for scrap wood.
While the selection of wood at Lowes leaves MUCH to be desired, I was able to pick up some usable supplies on the cheap. My project would be born from a pre-glued panel and some 1×3. Throw in a little trim and suddenly… you have furniture potential…
Skipping a few steps here. I will tell you that I made the cutout on this piece with a hand saw. Yea… I said I would be hacking my way through this. The picture above shows the profiled panel as well as the modular 1×3″ bases that will become the tool and material holders of the fly tying desk.
The nice thing about using “modular” blocks is that if you screw one up you can easily throw it away and cut a new piece. Lucky for me I got these right on the first try (there is a first for everything).
Here’s where you seasoned woodworkers will have a good laugh. To cut the cubby holes in the side rails of this fly tying desk a seasoned woodworker would use a tool called a Forstner bit. This special drill bit drills a round hole but also cleans out the bottom of the hole to make it flat.
I didn’t have a Forstner bit…
But that didn’t stop me. Using a combination of hole saws, a small chisel, and (lots of) elbow grease, I drilled the holes and hand carved out the bottoms. This part took FOREVER. Lesson: Buy the right tools!
For my tool caddy I decided a block with a bank of drill holes would fit the bill. To determine the proper hole diameter I drilled a few holes of various sizes and tested them with my fly tying tools. After a little trial and error I found one size that would work well for all of my tools. (No I didn’t bother to write it down)
My design idea called for dowels in the back to hold thread, wire, and anything else that comes on a spool. I decided that I wanted shorter dowels up front and longer ones in the back. I cut the dowels you see above and rounded the tips to make placing the spools easier.
I staggered the dowel holes in the back so that when you are looking straight on at the thread you will be able to see all of the colors at once. While purely functional, it also adds a nice design touch. (note: measuring for these holes was the hardest part of the project)
After what seemed like 30 years of sanding, the parts were done. Using the sandpaper I also softened all of the corners of the blocks. Cleaning up the corners makes the project look better and should keep me from getting bruises while using the desk.
I glued and screwed the blocks to the desktop from below, making sure to countersink the screws so that they would not scratch whatever surface this fly tying desk would be used on.
A piece of decorative trim was fixed to the front and side using miter joints. This was my first time cutting trim with miter angles but after a little trial and error I had it perfectly laid out.
At this point I decided to add a little finish to the project. Again, seasoned woodworkers may laugh but I used Thompson’s water seal to stain and seal my fly tying desk. Given the choice again, I most likely would not use a product for finishing decks on an indoor piece of furniture.
After the first coat I gave the piece a light sanding to knock down the wood grain that was raised from absorbing the sealer. I attempted a light 2nd coat but Thompsons is designed to be a one coat finish and my attempt at a 2nd coat was futile.
After waiting a few days I decided to add a few coats of Polycrylic finish to further waterproof the piece. This finish also gives the fly tying desk a nice bar top shine. I had to lightly sand inbetween these coats. Placing this finish on top of the Thompsons water seal was fairly difficult.
Finished and stocked with materials and tools this desk is almost a work of art. From design, to construction, to finishing this was the first woodworking project I’ve done where I felt like I had my act together. Sure, there are things I’ll do differently next time, but I’m actually proud of the final result. A piece of furniture. I’m hoping the sturdy construction lasts through the years and I can eventually pass this down along with fly tying lessons through future generations of my family.
Until then I’m going to use it to sling some sick bugs together…
What do you think? Would you tie on one of these? Do you have your own fly tying desk design you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!