Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

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William Anderson
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Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by William Anderson » Mon Oct 26, 2015 1:23 pm

Something rather unique and special for this crowd in particular. While in Roscoe this Spring our good friend John Shaner (Greenwell) visited the "Trout Trailer" where we were staying and arrived with something none of us have heard or knew existed. On a trip out West he found something that he knew would pique our interest. It did mine.

Apparently the technique of creating a pre-spun dubbed body on a spinning block which was promoted by Pete Hidy into the 70's must have had a following that carried on further than we thought. It seemed such a marginalized technique, certainly one of individual craft and executed one a homemade block. Pete Hidy and Dick Clark were generous in sharing blocks with a few friends and like minded flymph tiers here and there. It wasn't until Lance decided to create a batch of blocks based on one of his father's blocks, that a spinning block had ever been mass produced or offered to the public. Making a small batch of these things certainly seems like mass production by the time you finish. I know Lance was not interested in doing it again. While I began producing blocks at the same time and fussing with variations, we thought we were making history by making the blocks available to the public on a much larger scale for the first time.

While there remains some truth to this, we were very surprised to find a small company in Massachusetts who thought there was a market for a product to sell in fly shops, likely in the 80's. These must not have sold well, as no one we've talked to has ever heard of the gadget, and Mr. Shaner, who has plundered every fly show, shop and artifact for 30 years had never seen one either. Kudos to this little company who devised a very well made and thoughtful dubbing block. Whoever owned this Dubber was very well practiced as the bodies found inside are remarkably sparse and nicely tapered. I have spun about two dozen bodies on the block to find if I could reproduce the results found on these existing cards. With mole and beaver, I was able to manage a match, but for anything with a longer staple, or requiring a spikier body, I couldn't do it. I'll explain as we go. So here it is...The Dubber.


The Dubber
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The inside contains pre-sized and notched cards for storage. Very nicely done.
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These cards stored inside the block were spun by previous owner.
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A comparison of a more traditional block that I made and The Dubber.
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I wanted to show the difference between to the two, especially the resulting bodies. Here I wanted to show the difference in how the silk is attached.
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The catch and pin for the pre-waxed silk at the top. Silk is trapped at the top and brought down to wrap around a post on a crank.
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A significant difference is the tiny crank at the bottom of the block to spin the silk.
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I've chosen a darker blend of hares mask with a bit of the underfur. It creates a very lively body with some density. I set aside two equal amounts of the dubbing and spread it out some in identically. I placed the dubbing in a matching taper and density configuration on each block.
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The second length of the silk is brought back over the dubbing. On The Dubber it's brought from the bottom back to the top, while the traditional block brings the silk back around the pin and down to the notch in the bottom.
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A fundamental difference. Once you start cranking the handle the dubbing and silk are bound down against the block itself and creates a more intertwined body. You can't manipulate this as the silk is locked in and cranking is your only option. With a more traditional block, I usually take a couple twists between my fingers while the silk is held in the bottom slit so when I lift there is already a bit of trapping and spinning in effect. I maintain the body lifted off the block surface and continue to roll/ twist the silk between my fingers allowing fibers to extend perpendicular to the silk cord being created. I know everyone has a different way of spinning the body, some use hackle clips or other techniques, but this is how I do it.
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The bodies once carded.
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Granted I'm biased toward the traditional block, because as I practiced with The Dubber I felt helpless to let the bodies bind on themselves and I prefer a much livelier result. But aside from that, how freaking cool is it that this thing exists and was at one time produced and offered for sale? There is no patent on it, just the town where it was made. The large pin in the top is a steel framing nail filed down, which made me happy to be using a solid brass brad.

If anyone out there has any further information about this object I'd definitely love to hear more about it. I'm just excited that the technique was so popular after the second edition of The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph that something like this was feasible.
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Ruard
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by Ruard » Mon Oct 26, 2015 1:46 pm

Thank you William, nice post and very interesting too. It reminds me in a nice way to my own block. The difference is that I can lift the handle that I use to twist the threads and the dubbing to make a more buzzy dubbing brush.

Perhaps I shall make also two clips on my block to hold the threads.


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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by zen leecher » Mon Oct 26, 2015 2:07 pm

I wonder if it would be possible to make/find a hooked handle for the bottom of the wooden blocks.
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by Smuggler » Mon Oct 26, 2015 3:48 pm

Nice write up on the infamous Dubber. How cool is that? I wondered what the difference would be between this and the traditional method. Interesting, it really presses the thread together and melds all the materials into one. I think that would be more desirable with finer furs, IE mole and beaver. Being that it's limited to a static position while being spun, the blends with more guard hairs would probably be twisted and trapped into the rope.

I know when I'm using my block with say.. squirrel, I like to elevate the silk as I twist to prevent the guard hair be from being trapped.

Cool little esoteric item though. I like it. Thanks for posting your findings!
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by Ruard » Mon Oct 26, 2015 4:23 pm

zen leecher wrote:I wonder if it would be possible to make/find a hooked handle for the bottom of the wooden blocks.
something like the handle I use?? see the last two pictures.

http://www.flymphforum.com/viewtopic.ph ... lock+ruard

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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by DOUGSDEN » Tue Oct 27, 2015 5:59 am

Fellows,
What a great find! A bit of dubbing history unearthed! William, excellent job in breaking down the differences in "The Dubber" vs. the traditional Clark spinning block! John, again a great find and we would be interested in knowing more history and info. on this unique block as it unfolds!
It's posts like this that make my day and give pleasant thoughts to this fascinating subject!
From the den,
Doug
Fish when you can, not when you should! Anything short of this is just a disaster.
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by tie2fish » Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:44 am

Excellent analysis/comparison, W. Your comments, plus those of Eric (Smuggler), regarding the "trapping" of the dubbing fibers emphasize a very important aspect of the spinning process -- the amount of contact (friction) between the thread/fibers and the block is a major factor in the final appearance of the spun body. IMO it is essential that one be able to vary the amount of contact to suit both the kind of dubbing fibers being used and the type of pattern one intends to mimic. Mayflies, for example, tend to be "smoother" in appearance than caddis, and stiff, wiry fibers such as seal require more compression than, say, rabbit or fox.
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by William Anderson » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:12 am

Ruard wrote:Thank you William, nice post and very interesting too. It reminds me in a nice way to my own block. The difference is that I can lift the handle that I use to twist the threads and the dubbing to make a more buzzy dubbing brush.

Perhaps I shall make also two clips on my block to hold the threads.

Ruard
Ruard, this Dubber with the crank handle reminded me of the tool you use for your block as well. I remember seeing you demonstrate it at the museum.
Ray added a rubber washer to the side of one of his blocks to "catch/trap" the silk similar in principle to the little traps on The Dubber. Maybe he'll share that little engineered step.
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by William Anderson » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:30 am

zen leecher wrote:I wonder if it would be possible to make/find a hooked handle for the bottom of the wooden blocks.
Bill, I've seen all kinds of techniques, all trying to achieve the spin function. Like on Ruard's block, you would have to allow for a loop or tie off or something to hook the silk before spinning. Bill S uses heavy English hackle pliers so no loop needed. Ray devised a very simple little tool. A very slender length of wire bent at the tip in a way the brings it back on itself forming a pinch. This grasps the two ends of silk and the tiny diameter of the wire allows for spinning nearly as speedy as with fingers.

However, and to each their own, rolling the two ends of silk between your thumb and middle finger is faster than any of the other techniques, requires no additional tools, nothing to pick up or put down. I first roll the two ends with my left hand switching to my right at the same speed and then back. If I were doing something very different, like wire bodies, a tool would be necessary. But that's a different animal.

Another limitation (in my mind) of The Dubber. When I spin the threads on a trad. block, it's rolling like 1-5, (lift) 6-10, 11-15, 16-20. Which is actually about how many revolutions I use to spin a body before carding the body. With The Dubber, it's more like a "jack-n-the-box". Crank with your thumb and index finger...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Seems tedious. But then I tease all the dubbing fibers out on the silk with tweezers, so if tedium were an issue I'd have never gone down this road. :D

Personally I'm torn. I hope the desire to improve the technique never ends and we all continue to fuss with finding something new. On the other hand, the trad. technique is really hard to beat. But the engineer in many of us will not leave it alone, which is always interesting.
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Re: Clark's Spinning Block vs The Dubber

Post by William Anderson » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:39 am

Thanks, fellas, for the kind remarks. It's such a cool thing, a missing link in a way. We've all seen Dave Hughes present the blocks, and Allen McGee showed them. Ian Whitehouse (I believe that's his name) published a book last year which featured one of the blocks I built. But these all lead to us taking a few minutes to fashion one for ourselves. The idea of an engineered, molded plastic version for retail is intriguing. I hope there's more information on this item somewhere.
"A man should not try to eliminate his complexes, but rather come into accord with them. They are ultimately what directs his conduct in the world." Sigmund Freud.
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