MTN News- Nov 19

With the holiday season coming up hundreds of boxes are being handmade at Swanson’s Studio in the Great Northern Town Center.

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KTVH reportr, Sara Stinson, had the opportunity to get hands on experience to see how these boxes are made at the Alan Swanson Studio located at the Great Northern Town Center in Helena, MT.

“We make a lot of products that we ship all over the world and everything that leaves has to be of the perfect quality.”

Everything handmade, is distributed globally by Orvis which is one of the largest fly fishing retailers.  Making one of these special boxes starts with a computer design.

“We can determine what materials we are going to use. How we’re going to cut that material, prepare it, and be able to use it for our finished products.”

“We take a small piece of wood and a thicker piece of wood and they have to get married together with a high pressured glue that’s water proof.” Alan Swanson, creator and owner/

While the majority of the work is done by hand, some is done with machinery to help frame the front and back side of the box, and usually produces 48 boxes at a time.


“Cut away the opening where we’ll put the foam. The foam in the end is what ultimately holds the flies in place.”

The next step involves crafting the designs on top of the box which is made of abalone and zebra wood.


“Really high strength glue and again very labor intensive. These are done one at a time.”

“Then from here we actually have to glue in magnets and you can see these rare earth magnets.”

The boxes are closed by magnets which are protected by dots of abalone which also is added for elegance.


“Incredibly practical because we don’t want those to rust.”

Since the boxes are used fishing in all types of water, a tiny hole is drilled in.

“Very precisely with a very steady hand.”

A brass post is then nailed in before the carving process begins which is the most functional part of the box.


“As you can see I just carved this in here to make it so fly fisherman can hang it from their vests where they’re using it out there on the river.”


“This is just hand work a lot of tenacity and a keen eye and very steady hands.”

When done, Swanson leaves his personal touch.

 To check out where you can get one click this link!


Reported by: Sara Stinson.