Crab Instruction - Step-by-Step Fly Tying Process of Bill Blackstone
Crabs are abundant and a delicacy in my area. Everyone loves them, including the fish. You can find them on almost any structure whether it's the shoreline rocks, local piers, or kelp beds. Cruising the port jetties can be extremely rewarding using a crab pattern during a rising or high tide. These areas are loaded with fish such as Calico and Sand Bass, Perch and White Sea Bass, just to name a few species. And all of them eat crabs. Over the years I have tried several crab patterns, and was partial to one particular pattern where I used rubber legs combined with a body made of "Magic Sliders" which are used as felt protectors to prevent floor damage from furniture legs. When you cut and trim them to shape, they made an excellent looking body. However my need for a more realistic pattern again ruled out, and here is the result.
(See photo #1) I make the body out of wood using my favorite, Basswood. I draw out the shape I want and cut it out on the bandsaw. (See photo #2) Next I shape the piece into a rough outline of the body top using my Dremel Drum Sander. (See photo #3 & #4) Before I start on the legs and claws I try to complete the body details such as eyes, spines, indentations and irregularities. I use 80 pound singed mono for my eyes. (See photo #5) Next I shape the bottom where the legs will be positioned. (See photo #6) Next I drill a 1/16 inch hole through the front of the body for the leader to be threaded through. (See photo #7 & #8) During my detailing process I constantly reference my model. When I decided to attempt the realistic look, I went to a seashell store and purchased a real crab to use as a model for color and proportions. (See photo #9 & #10) Next I trace out the claws again using Basswood is my medium. I carve the final shape using my X-Acto knife and hand sand them smooth. (See photo #11) Remember,one claw is slightly larger than the other. Now it's time for the legs to be shaped. I sketch out the sizes I want and where I want the joints. Then I trim them out using my X-Acto knife on plastic base grocery twist-ons. You need rights and lefts. (See photo #13) Next I position the holes or positions I want the legs placed at with a needle. (See photo #14) Next I drill a hole through the body for a piece of wire which will pass through the body and terminate at each claw. (See photo #15) Next I mount the carved legs using superglue into the holes I made with the needle. (See photo #16) Now using my hot glue gun I apply the glue to build up the claw legs. Since the hot glue is applied in several applications it needs to be smoothed to match the model. For this I use a Hi-Heat Gun used to strip paint. This is an extremely careful step to prevent melting the legs completely. The goal is to just soften the surface or smooth it. So exercise caution, or your legs will melt causing you to backtrack a few steps. (See photo #17) For finishing I use ordinary acrylic paint bought it any craft store. It dries fast and you can buy any color. And it's inexpensive. I brush the body and claws. But I daub or dip paint the walking legs. I try to thicken or build up the walking legs with several applications to give that rounded look. If you want to add more detailing to your claw surfaces for that toothy look, paint daubing is a good method . Again I use paint to add detail rather than carving for my buildup detail. You can see where these efforts pay off if you look closely at the photos. (See photo #18 and #19) I hold the crab shape in my tying vice with a bent #6 wire while I go through the multiple painting procedures. If you need any shading or shadowing, use your permanent markers. You can blend the colors with lacquer thinner, or remove them if you think it's over done. For a final finish I use clear lacquer or acrylic. This waterproofs your unit and adds to the durability of the finish, because now you are into fish with serious teeth, and they can really tear up a fly fast resulting in starting the process all over again.
Don't even ask how long these take me. It's too shameful to say. But it's all a part of the fun, and the fly tying life. What a world! What a hobby! I'm the luckiest person alive. Keep those lines tight everybody.
Welcome to the world of "Realistic Fly Tying" by Bill Blackstone