Hair Stacking and Other Applicable Stuff

Hair stackers

Understanding hair
Hair scales
Deer, Elk and Moose
Calftail and Bucktail
Hand stacking
Uneven stacking
Cleaning hair
Selecting hair
I have a preference for closed end stackers. Years ago I purchased a "Laggie's Stacker" made by Jordan Lagman of Southern California. Since then I have tried numerous other stackers such as those originally made by Ed Gausdale and others that are collectively referred to as "open end stackers." Justification for the open end stacker as I understand it is:

  1. the tips go into the fluted end first and
  2. there is no limitation to the length of the hair.
I find difficulty with naturally uneven hair (i.e.,bucktail, elk neck and body) when putting the tips first into the stacker. I prefer the root end first approach since the one thing I know I will always have, at least initially, is a straight cut across the root ends of the hair. This even hair is easier to put into the stacker from the bottom of the top tube rather than from the flared end. With the closed end stacker there is no flared end, so obviously everything has to go in the bottom, thus the open end stacker has no advantage here. But isn't there a problem with stacking hair too long to fit in a closed end stacker? I have not had a problem since I never worry about stacking hair longer than my stacker will hold. If I want such hair to be evened for perhaps a large saltwater fly, I simply "hand stack." (More on this process) With such flies there is generally no reason to stack the hair perfectly even. If such hair was stacked in an open end stacker the hair would fly across the room since it would have to be vigorously pounded to even begin to stack most hair of this length against the direction of the scales.

closed model(left)
and open (right).
The dotted lines indicate how deep the top part will go into the bottom.

There is no perfect stacker, but there are some improvements that could be included to make the process more efficient. The most useable stacker for me would meet the following criteria:

  1. It would be made of a material that would resist static
  2. It would be made of hexagonal stock or something similar so that it would not roll off my tying table
  3. It would be closed end, not open end.
  4. It would be bored out of single pieces of stock for both the top and the bottom tubes.
    I have a poor quality closed end stacker made from tubular aluminum. Each end was closed by pressing in a round disk of aluminum. The fit is quite good, but not good enough. Hair tips will often catch in the very narrow gap between the wall and the end cap of the bottom tube. When the top tube is removed, the single hair or more that occasionally is captured unstacks the rest of the bunch. Very frustrating!
  5. It would have an adjustment for the distance that the top tube approaches the inside floor of the bottom tube. There is a problem associated with stacking very short hair such as Blessed Bok and Mouse Deer: the clump being stacked will often fall out just as the stacker is opened. The reason for this is simply that the distance between the floor of the bottom tube and the lowest point that the top tube enters the bottom tube is greater than half of the overall length of the clump being stacked. The principle of a lever and fulcrum prevails. As the top tube is removed, the weight of the hair extending beyond the end of the top tube is greater than what remains in the tube. Just like the fat kid outweighs the skinny kid, the tetter-totter goes down! An adjustable feature to allow the top tube to more closely approach the floor of the bottom tube would alleviate the problem. An adjustable stacker would allow the option of increasing the distance that the top tube approaches the floor of the bottom tube. For longer hair, this would allow the clump to extend further out the bottom of the top tube and be easier to grasp.
  6. The inside and outside diameters and overall length are not as critical as the aforementioned, but should be approximately .5" (14mm) inside diameter and 4.5" (115mm) overall length for reasons of balance, hand-fit, weight, and practicality. The floor must be absolutely flat and at 90 degrees to the vertical walls. The fit of the top tube into the bottom tube should be slightly sloppy. Otherwise when the top tube is pulled from the bottom tube a vacuum effect will unstack the hair. Also a slightly sloppy fit would expedite placement of the top tube into the bottom tube.

Besides the tremendous array of commercial hair stackers available, simple devices found around the home can serve as stackers. A straight edged narrow glass tube or bottle is fragile, but works well as long as the hair and bottle are clean. Tap the bottle so that the hair falls out against a flat surface such as a flattened palm, credit card, cardboard, or some other object that you can hold. (I have not been as successful when stacking against a table top or other stationary surface.) Aluminum or copper pipe also works well as a stacking tube. Some prefer to stack hair in spent brass ammunition cartridges, though I have not tried this. Plastic bottles (i.e., pill bottles, Chap Stick tubes, etc.) are not as desirable due to inevitable static problems. No matter what tool you use, if you live in an area of high humidity or are tying on the day a storm comes through, you will have static problems, most certainly with the hair and perhaps the tools as well. It is helpful to have a can of antistatic spray (the brand I use is safe, but avoid eye contact) to apply to hands, underfur comb, and stacker. I prefer not to spray the hair itself for fear of a residual scent or perhaps affecting the hair in some other way. Spraying is simpler and more effective than trying to rub cloths dryer anti-static sheets on your hands, comb, and stacker.

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