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Using a Whip Finish Tool to Cut Thread

Producer: Tim Flagler  |  Tightline Productions

Tim Flagler’s been using the same whip finish tool for thirty years. And he doesn’t use it just to wrap thread. By grinding the butt end of his whip finisher to a sharp, chisel-like edge, he created a device that allows him to trim thread closely and neatly.

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  • Dominick Bet

    Wouldn’t it be easier to use a single edge razor blade. Then doing all that work with a grinder and the constant touch ups.?

    • I think the advantage of having the cutting edge on the tool, versus having to pick up a razor blade, may become obvious if you are tying lots of flies–and want to be sure you cut close without nicking the wraps. But I’ll let Tim expostulate.

    • Tightline

      It really is all about speed. Since the whip finish tool is already in your hand, might as well use it rather than searching around the tying bench for another tool like scissors or a razor blade. For me anyway, it’s also very accurate and I rarely cut anything other than the thread. Also, it doesn’t need constant touch-ups, about once a month with the leather strop does the trick and I tie a lot.

  • Chuck Stranahan

    Great video that should make things simpler for many tyers.

    Advantages to the sharpened whip finisher end: (1) speed. As Marshall points out, you don’t lay one tool down to pick up another – turning the whipper slightly in your fingers is easy and quick. A few practice moves and you’ll have it down.(2) precision. With scissors, it’s easy to get something you don’t want to cut in the path of the closing blades – like the hackle on a very small fly. Hold the thread taut, touch it with the small sharp blade you already have in your hand, make a close, neat cut without damaging even one teensy weensy fiber of anything else.

    On my bench is a presentation whip finisher, a gift from Frank Matarelli. It has a handle formed from a bamboo rod blank, and it has a vee-shaped cutting edge at the end of the tool. Frank gave me this tool back in the ’80’s. It has been in constant use since and has never needed resharpening.He only made a few of them; he made others with a standard handle and the vee cutting edge for gifts, etc. Needless to say, it’s a treasured possession.

  • Dave Kollmann

    I have epoxied a small piece of razor blade to the end of my Matarelli whip finish tool. I have used it like this for 25+ years now and sharpen it like in the video. Works great!