A lure for fly-fishers: walnut hackle chest

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Project by LeTurbo posted 12-20-2018 08:41 PM 1643 views 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My dentist asked me to make a hackle box in exchange for the 5 hours I spent in the dental chair. Fool, me. Over 200 hours later – maybe 300 with some silly mistakes – I finally finished it. (Expensive dental visits. the time I’ve taken cost nearly $3000 in workshop rental.)

A hackle chest, by the way, is a fancy name for storing all the bits of feather, fur, and dingly-dangly things that are needed for tying flies for fly-fishing.

This is about 500mm X 400 X 300, or 19” X 16” X 11”

He bought the walnut from a lumber yard that sells its reject timber cheaply. There’s usually interesting figure, but it’s full of shakes, bad planing, wany edges and difficulties. First task was to re-machine it all to usable pieces. I used the table saw for that, then laminated the boards, and flattened them with a Stanley 4 and 5, reducing from 22mm to about 15mm ( It was one time I wish I could afford a thicknesser.

I made the carcass, then the doors (floating panels in m&t frame).

First mistake on the carcass: there was a small dried blob of glue on my square that threw all the measurements out by a fraction. It’s marginally smaller than I intended as I had to recut all the dovetails.

I had a plank of beech from another job that I used for the drawers and runners. There’s 12 drawers with 12 hand-cut dovetails on the four corners, plus all the dovetails on the carcass. Somewhere around 220, if I remember correctly (excluding the recut ones mentioned above).

I had to buy an extra walnut plank for the drawer fronts, because I really had used every scrap he bought. The drawer fronts I created as two bookmatched halves, though flipping the outer pieces so it wasn’t an overstated match. Then the drawer fronts were hand-sawn, so the kerf would only be 1mm and the grain would still align.

I bought the brass corners, but all the handles are handcut, filed, sanded and polished. Would be nice to have a buffing wheel!

The doors recess into pockets at the sides of the drawers, running in routed grooves with small 3mm brass rods. They then swing closed. I installed a miniature cabinet lock, but it really proved very inadequate. Over a cup of tea, I worked out the drop-down brass catches you can see under the doors. To unlock, you just slide a credit card or sheet of paper (cash will do nicely too) under the door.

The finish is Danish oil, with a final coat of Liberon beeswax polish.

And no, I don’t think I’ll make another. What’s the old advice? “It’s possible to make a small fortune in woodwork. Just start with a large fortune.”

9 comments so far

View swirt's profile


7790 posts in 4467 days

#1 posted 12-21-2018 02:12 AM

Beautiful results. Nicely done, even if you did get the bad end of the bargain.

-- Galootish log blog,

View therealSteveN's profile


10218 posts in 2069 days

#2 posted 12-21-2018 03:08 AM

Nice box. Had a lifelong trout fisherman behind us when I grew up, he had an impressive box, but no where near as impressive as this one.

Nice work. I bet you aren’t swapping dental/medical for work again anytime soon :-) Always stay with cash, preferably based on hours, but we know those are few.

Thanks for posting.

-- Think safe, be safe

View Woodwrecker's profile


4240 posts in 5070 days

#3 posted 12-21-2018 06:17 AM

Beautiful work my friend.
I’m sure your dentist is going to find more wrong with your teeth so he can get some more of your nice work…lol

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1137 posts in 3807 days

#4 posted 12-21-2018 09:59 AM

That’s a really nice cabinet you’ve made for your dentist! You ought to take up fly tying now that you know how to make a cabinet like this!!

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Peteybadboy's profile


4947 posts in 3444 days

#5 posted 12-21-2018 11:40 AM

Love it. The dentist owes you big!

-- Petey

View pottz's profile


26573 posts in 2479 days

#6 posted 12-21-2018 07:06 PM

wow that is just beautiful i think he needs to throw in a few crowns to cover that one.great job.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3672 posts in 5207 days

#7 posted 12-22-2018 06:05 AM

I hope when you delivered that masterpiece to your dentist that you got him to sign a lifetime service agreement for free dental work for you and your entire family and all your LJ friends, too. He owes you BIG TIME!


-- Voltaire: “Those Who Can Make You Believe Absurdities, Can Make You Commit Atrocities” There are 112 genders (not including male and female)

View LeTurbo's profile


234 posts in 3080 days

#8 posted 12-26-2018 07:29 PM

Thanks everyone for your kind comments! I’d have responded earlier, but have been busy doing enjoyable things like sharpening all my chisels, planes, drill bits and other paraphernalia for the new year! I hope yours is fantastic!

View Spelcher's profile


151 posts in 2346 days

#9 posted 12-30-2018 02:16 AM

Phenomenal! The bookmatching & grain alignment on the drawer fronts looks so nice.

-- Jason

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