Fly Boxes, The Process
All fly boxes start out by milling the wood using a jointer to make it flat and a planer to make it an even thickness. It is milled slightly oversized, then stacked it with spacers to let acclimate and reach equilibrium in it's moisture content. Readings are taken every few days until the moisture levels stabilize. This could take up to several weeks but it an extremely important step to keeping the boxes flat when a bulk of the wood is removed. At this point, the wood is milled a second time to the final thickness, cut to size, and is ready for the automated process.
Using a CNC router, the boxes are hollowed out, the magnets holes are cut, the finger slots are cut, and starter holes are made for the hinge screws. For many years I was anti CNC, but in order to keep selling these boxes and to be able to offer wholesale or discount pricing, some of the processes needed to be automated. The work done by the CNC is just a small part of the building process.
All the screw holes for the hinges are now drilled on the drill press with a 1/16" bit manually. The mortises for the hinges are made using a handheld router and jig (new process, video above is prior to this change). Referencing off the tops of the box, this ensures that each is exactly the same which leaves minimal spacing at the back of the box, a method that is more accurate than the CNC could make. During this entire process the boxes remain in clamps until the first coat of finish is applied.
After all the hinges are installed, the boxes go through a sanding process using 4 different types of sanders, then the rare earth magnets are set in with epoxy. The finish is a waterborne alkyd varnish, an Emtech product by Target Coatings Inc. These waterborne finishes have improved tremendously and Emtech is at the top for waterborne finish technology. This product can be sprayed, then recoated in one hour but still retains the same qualities as an oil based alkyd varnish. I apply two coats of gloss, then finish up with a final coat of satin.
The foam inserts are added and the boxes are complete.
For more information on Emtech coatings, visit their website Target Coatings
These boxes are very water resistant, durable, and made to be used. If the box starts to lose some sheen or show signs of wear, apply a coat of furniture paste wax to renew the finish.
If your fly box gets completely submerged in water, a gap may develop in the sides. Lay the box out open with the insides facing up and let it dry out, most of the time they will flatten back out. You may also see this happen slightly during different changes in temperature and humidity and is considered normal for a solid wood box.
The inserts are replaceable and are the standard Cabelas medium size foam inserts by Millstream. Cabelas has recently been bought out and has stopped purchasing from Millstream. If you find that these inserts are no longer available or the wrong size, please contact me and I can provide you with replacements.