Wednesday, December 12

Your granddad's weird shit: Thompson Wing Former.

Not pictured: Sea King.
I don't know where I saw this thing first (actually, not true, but I'm not giving them the traffic), but I knew upon seeing it, I wanted it.

I love your old school wet flies. I bought Bergman's trout strictly to have access to plates upon plates of painted wet flies I knew I'd never actually be bothered to tie, and I enjoy trying to tie them. I also have a hard-on for stupid gadgets, so a press that would shit out perfectly formed quill slips?

Fuck yeah, Sea King.

And with that, I started on a quest for a D.H. Thompson Wing Former, so, I enlisted the help of fellow forum degenerates, and within a few weeks I had one winging its way to my door.

The patent for the Wing Former dates from 1951 (and is viewable online), and can be found on EBay in remarkably great shape, and for minimum amounts of cash. I think I paid about $20 for mine, with three combs, and with all pieces in impeccable shape, including the box.

Clamp feather.
Cement and add comb.
Original units include the press, a number of combs, instruction sheet, and two bottles of what was once liquid, one cement and one thinner, all encased in a red cardboard box. The only real difference in the models is the number of cutting combs included. I've heard of units with from one to seven combs, with the bulk of them having three or five.

Its a pretty clever idea, you lay your feather down into the press, and use the clamp to lock it in. Lay what was once the cement (head cement, Sally Hansen's, etc) over the quills by the rachis and then slot the comb into the cut on the press.

And there you have it.
Let dry, remove comb and release press and.. well, that's it. Perfectly formed little slips, with conveniently set spaces to clip them off.

Its actually pretty ingenious, and like many other oddball shit from the past suggests at first that a really great idea was lost to time. The reality of it is that, well, maybe its not much simpler to operate than just clipping off slips.

Tell ya what, though, I've used the shit out of this thing since I got it. I've been using lacquer based head cement in lieu of the original cement, and it seems to work remarkably well.


  1. Seems pretty awesome to me!

  2. I scoffed at these things when I figured out how they worked. Now I kinda want one. Glad to see you're still alive. Hope you had a good holiday.