Soaking Quills Effectively & Conveniently

 above photo: I made a simple test tube stand with a block of Koa and a drill press. A very effective way to soak large quantities of quills with no color bleed using very little space on your table. The footprint is that of a 4x5 index card.
Many of us fly tiers love using quills for bodies, but the problem has always been manufacturers over bleaching quills or not effectively creating a stop bath. The result is quills  that have a tendency to crack while you are winding them up a hook shank (even after soaking for a few days). I have bought many packages of quills over the years only to find that a large majority of them really are unusable.

About 17 years ago I purchased a crate of feather dusters from China. The feathers were all made of Chinese rooster with beautiful long quills! I now have a lifetime supply of quills. So if your looking around hardware stores or general stores always look for feather dusters! I have gotten over 200 quills out of one feather duster that costed me only three dollars. A packet of roughly 20 quills will cost you between four and eight dollars depending upon what country you buy them in. If you do the math its a very expensive proposition to tie with quills purchased at retail.

Soaking quills effectively is also part of the problem. I built myself a wooden test tube rack and I can fully immerse and soak multiple colors of quills. Using up valuable space and time with dishes and wet paper towels really is not the way to go if your cranking out a whole bunch of quill bodied flys. I built a test tube rack about four by five inches that holds eight test tubes. With this set up you can soak multiple colors without color bleeding and hundreds of quills if need be.
I hope this is helpful for anyone wanting to tie with quills.

*Also Check out A.K. Best's book Production Fly Tying the 1st edition. This book is great to learn how to strip and dye quills.

~Clint Joseph Bova