This is chapter 1 of 4 in my review of cement, epoxy, and UV resin used by fly tyers in 2020.
I hope you find these remarks interesting reading in this time of the pandemic. If you stumble upon this blog post in 2030, ten years after the catastrophic event has swept over us, then take comfort that even in difficult times, we fly tyers were and are a resilient lot, able to amuse ourselves with these relatively trifling matters.
Here we go.
When I began tying in the early 1960s with little but an already outdated instruction manual and my teenage enthusiasm, I had one option: a bottle of petroleum-based cement offered by Universal Vise Corporation. This fly tying materials company had a proud rooster on its logo, and was the source for most of my supplies, other than the occasional treasures I purchased from Audrey Joy, professional tyer at the Meier & Frank Company.
I used my bottle of stinky clear cement in two ways: 1) to harden the parachute posts and the entire base of the parachutes I often tied, and 2) on the whip-finished head of my flies. For at least two decades I didn’t understand the different ways one could use cements of various viscosities indifferent ways throughout the construction of different kinds of flies.
While I was working mostly alone, crafting my bucktail caddis and blue uprights, other tyers were already longtime experts with multiple coatings, high-gloss varnish, and sturdy saltwater-resistant epoxy, long before I discovered the diversity of cements and why they were important in fly tying.
General thoughts regarding fly tying cement, epoxy and UV resin – for the moment, I will refer to all of these as “cement.”
If your cement is thick, lumpy, and difficult to apply, it is time to replace it. This will occur with any of the materials we use, because of exposure to the air, bits of dust and fly tying materials contaminating the material, and sunlight exposure.
Any fly that you tie, from a #22 Adams to a #4/0 albacore streamer, will be more durable if you use a little cement to secure the elements of your fly along the way. This is not to suggest that you must use cement throughout your fly’s construction, but it is something to consider.
All of the “Super Glues” are difficult to work with. You must be careful, because it is easy to glue fingers together, cement fly eyes closed, and make irreparable wads of gunk in carpets and on desks.
It is worth your while to develop some sort of system to secure your cement on your desk so as to make it “spill-resistant.” I use a 3-M product intended to hold poster paper up on walls, but this tacky, malleable material that is the consistency of silly putty really works for me. I secure my cement to my desk with this stuff and it is protected from. My clumsy hands sweeping across the desk and knocking the cement over.
Small flies require thin cements, large flies require thicker, more substantial cements.
Epoxy vs. UV Resin.
Epoxy is wonderful material. It also takes time and experience to use it properly. If you are an epoxy tyer, you might be surprised to use a product like Solarez Thick-Hard UV resin.
On UV resins generally.
The UV resins we have at our reach today are amazing, far better than I used ten years ago.
As good as modern UV cures are, be forewarned, they have their own properties that require practice and patience.
Be willing to practice and learn as you begin using UV cures.
Objectivity? What’s that?
Brand Loyalty is a distinct human character trait. Some people develop and allegiance to one cement type over others, based not on the superior qualities of the product, but on their sentiment. This is fine, as long as it does not prevent the person from testing other products that may be better in b the long run.
The ambient temperature of your fly tying environment makes a difference to your fly tying cement. This is true for Epoxy, petroleum-based cement, or UV resins. If you are tying flies in a garage (like me) and it is a cool room, your UV resin can be warmed by use of a glass of warm water on your fly bench. Make sure the glass is narrow enough that the UV bottle will not tip-over, and it will make your resin flow more easily.
Glue your thread.
I learned how to run my super glue brush along my thread from Bruce Berry. His technique involves keeping a wet drop of Super Glue handy near his vise and applying it to his thread with a bodkin when needed. Greg Senyo makes liberal use of super glue on his thread during his. Fly construction, and often does not even whip finishes flies, relying entirely on the SG-treated thread to hold his fly together. Greg’s flies are the best, so if it works for him why not?
Glue on small flies?
Objectively, I’ve decided that it is irrelevant to apply glue at any point of my small flies (#10 or smaller), but the habit acquired during my construction of large saltwater flies is so entrenched, that I find it difficult to shake. Do it if you want to, or if you feel you must, but it is not necessary.
This is handy to have on your bench, because it will cover up many of the last-minute scraps of material and places where our thread wraps fail to cover up brighter materials underneath. I first discovered how helpful black cement could be when I was tying bucktail caddis flies. It is so easy to have an errant fiber of deer or elk hair left not quite covered by the thread – and these gaps in the otherwise neat thread head do not look professional. Voila! A dab of black cement covers up the deer hair gaps and the finished product looks great.
We have an awesome portfolio of colored cements and UV resins these days. These make for attractive heads on our flies as well as color spots on materials of all kinds, including of course on popper bodies.
Epoxy versus UV Cure.
I know good tyers who claim that old style epoxy can’t be beat for toughness on saltwater flies. Although I have not put this claim to the test myself, I doubt seriously if the time advantage of the UV resin can possibly be diminished by any slight reduction in durability. I also wonder if their belief is based on the newer formulations used by companies like SOLAREZ or if they are thinking back to the “clear cure goo “days. For my money, sanity, and experience, the UV resins are superior. If you are an ardent believer in traditional epoxy, I salute you.
Small bottle versus large bottle.
The large bottle usually gets you more quantity per penny. If you use it up before it gets lumpy then fine. If you loose value through dried out or too thick to dilute, then consider the smaller bottle next time.
Water-based versus petroleum-based cements.
I have been using the stinky cements since about 1963. Look at me, what a mess it has made. Joking. I have never been a fan of water-based cements, except for Tear Mender. That said, for anyone under the age of 70 might do well to consider water-based cement, super glues, or UV resins in place of petroleum-based products. Me? I’ll probably continue using all of these at various times.
So ends chapter 1.
Best wishes to you all.
Jay Nicholas, May 2020