When you go to your local fly shop to select your
vise, compare the various models. Listen politely
to the salesperson as he expounds on all the advantages
of his favorite vise, but don't forget your own needs
for a second. Do you tie mostly streamers? Then you
need a sturdy vise with large jaws. If you tie a lot
of deer-hair Bass Bugs, I recommend that you get a
heavy-duty vise that clamps to the tying bench. Pedestal
types slide all over because the pedestal is never heavy
enough. 6/0 thread will move most of them before the
thread breaks, and Monocord will move all of them. To be
heavy enough, it would have to weigh in excess of ten
pounds. A good C clamp that will accept a 2-inch-thick
workbench is the best choice. Another advantage of the
C clamp is that the vertical standard or rod that holds
the jaws is longer, thereby allowing for more height
adjustment. I've never found a pedestal vise with the
jaws far enough from the pedestal.
If you tie a little of everything, you'd be wise to
select a vise that will accept size 2 streamer hooks
down to a size 24 dry-fly hook. Only a few vises will
do this adequately without changing jaws, which I believe
is a very important feature.
Open and close the jaws several times. Is the action
smooth? If you feel roughness, the mechanism has not
been finished properly. There are burrs on the moving
parts. Do the table clamp and its adjustment operate
smoothly? If you can wiggle anything, do not buy it.
Remember, you're paying hard-earned money for something
that's supposed to work right, not almost right.
Check out the jaw adjustment to allow for different
hook wire diameters. If you need two hands to make
this adjustment, it's one hand too many. Jaw
adjustment should be quick and simple. Are other
adjustment knobs large enough to snag materials as
you tie? Don't buy a vise with oversize adjustment
knobs. At the same time, beware of the vise whose
adjustment knobs are too small to use comfortably.
One thing that I really dislike in any vise is a
highly polished chrome finish on the collet and jaws.
An hour or more of trying to focus your eyes on a
dry-fly hook next to all that reflection can create
a headache from eyestrain that will last into the
next morning. You can take nearly all the glare
off the highly polished and chromed parts by buffing
them with a strip of very fine emery cloth. Clean
all the grit from the jaws and collet opening before
you begin to use your vise after the buffing process
with a couple of blasts from a container of canned
air. If you don't keep the jaw shoulder and collet
opening clean, the grit from the emery-cloth operation
will cause unnecessary wear on those surfaces. If you
tie on a daily basis, these surfaces should be cleaned
once or twice daily. No lubrication is suggested,
since any oil or grease will only collect grit.
If it makes you feel better, you can use "nose oil"
from your face. It works great and doesn't collect
If your vise's collet has any small Allen-head screws,
you should put a small drop of rubber cement or
Pliobond on the edges of them. This will prevent
the screws from working loose and falling into your
waste bad, or worse yet, on the floor. In either case,
the screws will be lost forever, and your vise will be
nearly useless until you can find the exact replacement.
Be careful that you don't get any of the cement into
the hole where the Allen wrench is inserted or you won't
be able to get it in.
No matter which brand of vise you choose, I suggest that
you purchase one that has at least partial rotation of
the jaws. Complete 360-degree rotation is best, but
you can probably live without it. It's a lot easier
to roll the jaws to examine the other side of your fly
than it is to change your entire upper body position and
probably scorch your forehead on a hot lamp in the process.
You should have to buy only one vise in a lifetime, and
you ought to buy it from your local tackle dealer. The
reasons for purchasing all your tying needs from your
local fly shop should be so obvious that I'm not even
going to mention them here. Buy the best vise you can
afford and one that accepts a wide range of hook sizes.
You may think that all you're going to tie the rest of
your life are size 12 and 14 trout flies, but you
couldn't be more mistaken. ~ AK
Credits: Excerpt from Production Fly Tying
by A.K. Best and published by Pruett Publishing Company.
You can find a review of the book:
Please check out the Fly Tying Section, on the Bulletin Board, here at FAOL too.
If you have any questions, tips, or techniques; send them to