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DIY Spool Tenders

Fly Tying Recipe: DIY Spool Tenders
  1. 1/4-inch Soft Stretch Elastic braid
  2. Clear plastic tubing, 3/16 outside diameter and 1/8 inside diameter
  3. 1/4-inch heat-shrink tubing
  • Scissors
  • ruler
  • bodkin
  • candle
  • hot-glue gun
  • xtra-fine Sharpie
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Video Transcript:

I’m often asked about the spool tenders I have for tippet material. They’re homemade, cheap, easy to construct and work exceptionally well. allowing you to either pull leader from the spool or put it back on. They use just a few readily available, cheap materials: - 1/4” stretch elastic braid - clear plastic tubing which you can get at most hardware stores and home centers, 3/16” outside diameter with a 1/8“ internal diameter works well - Heat shrink tubing - the 1/4” stuff that shrinks to 1/8” is what you want, it looks something like this To get started, first remove whatever tender came with the spool. Then measure the circumference of the spool with the 1/4” elastic and pinch that measurement between your fingertips. With good sharp scissors, cut the elastic off square. Making multiple tenders of the same size at the same time is the way to go. So measure the cut elastic to determine it’s length. You can then cut however many segments you want to the same size. We’ll cut the heat shrink tubing next, about 1/4” will do. I usually snip a whole bunch into a waiting container. Although you can use a lighter for the rest of the build process, a candle will allow you to keep both hands free. Get hold of one end of the clear plastic tubing and lightly melt it in the candle flame. Press this on to the tapered end at the butt of your bodkin or over a half hitch tool, which will hold it securely. Then, with a pair of wire cutters, snip the tubing off square to about 3/4” in length. Next, lightly melt that cut end in the flame. The melting helps soften the edges so delicate tippet won’t be damaged. It also creates lips at either end which help the elastic to keep from pulling free. Once again, I like to do a bunch of these at a time. When you get rolling, you can get a lot done rather quickly. To avoid burned fingers, use the wire nips to remove the finished segment from the bodkin. Do be careful not to burn the tubing too much. Sliding the tubing onto the bodkin simply makes it easier to cut off square at a consistent length. The lightest touch to the flame is all that’s required to create a small lip or rim on the tubing. Do use the nippers, as the tubing and the bodkin will be hot. Plug in and warm up a hot melt glue gun, you don’t need anything fancy. This one was less than 3 bucks. To start building, lay out one of the lengths of elastic flat on your work surface. Place one of the plastic segments back onto the bodkin. Apply a small bead of hot melt glue to the top of the tubing and then pick up the elastic and secure it to the tubing like so. Its end should come right to the back lip of the tubing. Flip the tubing over and apply a bead of glue to the other side. Making sure the elastic isn’t twisted, fold the other end over onto the glue. Everything should be roughly evened up, like so. Pick up the folded end of elastic and slide one of the heat shrink tubing segments over top of it. Then run it down the elastic to the bodkin. Slide the tubing all the way down to the ends of the elastic. It should look something like this. Now, very carefully, heat only the shrink tubing over the candle flame. The heat will not only shrink the tubing but also re-melt the glue, so don’t pull apart too hard. Because everything is still in a pseudo-molten state, you don’t want to mess around with it too much just yet. If you’re impatient like me and can’t wait till it completely cools, again, use the nippers to push the plastic tubing from the bodkin. This way things don’t get jostled around too bad before the glue has time to set. This is what the procedure looks like in real time. You do need to be a little careful with the hot melt glue as it does like to stick to flesh and burn. Once cooled, these things are amazingly strong. The heat shrink tubing really helps in this regard. Run the tippet through the tubing, place the elastic around the spool and correctly identify it with permanent ink if you plan on stacking spools, and you’re ready to go. Keep in mind, some spools are larger than others so one size doesn’t fit all. I’ve found some tying materials that even benefit from their own little spool tenders. On taller spools, you can use wider 3/8” elastic for better coverage. I hope you find these things as useful as I do. Happy crafting!