I've been working on a set of plans for a piece of furniture type tying desk for about a year now. Everytime I think I've got it the way I want it, someone posts a pic of their tying area and I spot some feature that I just have to incorprate in my desk. Back to the drawing board.
Right now I have one of those folding buffet tables that my wife graciously gave up. I put a piece of white melamine on top that measures 2 feet by 7 feet. On top go the tool holders, a small set of drawers and a thread rack that is 3 feet long. Underneath are the RubberMaid boxes of materials stacked and labeled as to the contents. If I ever get around to putting some of the stuff that's laying around on the desk top back in the storage containers it would work pretty well.
I think all of the above have some merit - even Ron's cautionary tale!
Seriously, one step I would advise is to think seriously about how serious you are about this.
My own cautionary tale is that I grossly underestimated how much "elbow room" and storage space I'd need. When I started, I purchased a nice little flytying station from a guy in Vancouver that was built over a little storage drawer, thinking that's be all I'd ever need. Wrong. Even with all the spool dowels, etc. and the storage area underneath, the "stuff" soon overflowed and the desk I was using, quickly got too small. Plus where I was working had lousy light to work from - and of all the things you can do to make your tying a pleasant and rewarding task, good lighting could be the most critical.
Since then I've added a work table (about 40" x 24") that I picked up for $25.00 at a yard sale. It has one wide, shallow drawer underneath that easily holds all my hackle. I hard-mounted a nice working light with a built-in magnifier that I got from Staples for about twenty bucks. And, I just recently got a plastic (Sterlite?) four-compartment storage container (another twenty bucks) that has two shallow and two deeper drawers. It fits under one side of the table perfectly. Plus I permanently "borrowed" a nice sewing supply box from my wife that has opens outward and has two small drawers on each side.
Now my first investment - the tying station - sets on top of the table and holds the vice and most of the thread, tinsel, and tools that I use most regularly. I suppose I could pack stuff in it and take it with me when I travel, but the only time I've really used it's portability is to load it up and take it outside on a nice day.
This probably doesn't make your decision any easier, but at least you can probably conclude that it's better to plan carefully and take it into account that you're probably going to really get into it and will likely end up with WAY more material storage, light, and space requirements, than you ever thought possible. But, that's not a bad problem to have...
And, if there's one advantage to piece-mealing it, it's that you don't go overboard and spend a small fortune upfront for something fancy. As long as you've got a permanent space and good light, you can grow into the area as your interest and the corresponding materials grow with it.
mike I started with a small littel Sterilaie tub. I out grew that very quickly. I had a small desk that i had in the living room set up just for that. I lost it t a better casue. Oldest daughter needed a place to do her hoework in her romm where it is quite and we bought a rocking chair for my wife ( wo is expecting). So for right now I am kind limited on space. I do have a space in our laundry room that might work.
I purchase my new desk for $5 from a local senior store, made in Sweden, it weighs close to 500lbs every drawer has a lock, I jointed with three other desk to make up my office. Looks kinda make shift but it works for the time-being. I would suggest feelin out some different hieghts. My first tying bench I was always hunched over gave me head aches. A heavy wood is best when bumping things around nothings moves. Where as a composite board desk from a store, you bump your knee and everything jumps. I was able mount five lights onto my desk; two armed, two stand 2.5' above and one flash arm for photography. The best part about buying a used desk is you can drill into it, spill on it, cut on it with out feeling any remorse.
I use a hard camera case for my travel along. You can buy them a lowes for $16, they will hold all you tools and about 75 medium sized bags of what ever and a 24 com. hook box. The vise can be mount to the front handle quite easy to. I tied with only the case for a couple of years.
I've got this portable tying station that's just collecting dust. If anyone wants it drop me an e-mail and it's yours (if you can pick it up cause it's heavy).
It's 24 inches wide X 12 inches deep. From the bottom of the station to the top of the tool arm is 10 inches. There are 24 spool holders with storage underneath and a drawer that measures7 1/2 by 19 1/2 inches.
If no one takes it I guess it will make okay firewood.