Figure 4__Tilt

Figure 1__Montana Mongoose ViseGuest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, Fly Fisher & Author, FreeFlight Publishing

[. . . Continued from the first installment of my review of the Griffin Enterprises Montana Mongoose fly tying vise. . . . ]

Basic Vise Form Factor
It looks massive but nothing seems to get in the way. Sets up as a right-hander or southpaw, as you like. The top makes a good hand-steadying rest for your off-hand.

The vertical stalk is tall enough for a bobbin to hang but not a lot taller. There’s a supplied 2. 75-inch vertical stalk extension which seems to be intended mostly for table clamp (rather than pedestal base) users. If you put some kind of lock washer on the stalk extension, I think it could be useful with the pedestal base as well and would raise the fly closer to eye level. . . easier than buying a tall table or cutting the legs off one’s chair, anyway. More on the usefulness of this vertical stalk extension in the next section on “tilt. “

Once it’s in the jaws with its shank level, why would anyone want to tilt a hook? Well, so many of us tie scud, shrimp and emerger patterns, most of which call for curve-shanked hooks (the kind that slouch–the kind I call “hooks with poor posture”). These patterns often require dubbing or tail material to be tied far down the hook bend. Thread bobbins won’t hang nicely as you wrap down to where things get more vertical; the thread tends to slide and disrupt the alignment of whatever feathers or fur you’d wrapped on. What do we do? We tend to loosen the hook and reposition it in the jaws, risking stuff moving and opportunities to swear in front of the kids.

But if we could tilt the whole thing forward–hook, vise jaws and all–well anyway many (most) rotating vises won’t do that. This one does, although doing so lowers the hook down to where there’s less room to work. But tilt you can, if needed (see Figure 4). The stalk extension mentioned above might give you more vertical to work with. . . or you could maybe let the bobbin hang off the front of the bench until you un-tilt.

Figure 4__Tilt

The main problem with doing such a tilt with this vise is that the bolt you must loosen has an Allen wrench head! This is an oversight in my opinion, given that you must not only loosen it to tilt but also to put the vise back into its case. Myself, I set up on a table, tie a few flies, and pack my kit up. Every time. I don’t have the luxury of a tying bench left all set up and ready to tie. . . not unless I want my small kid to play with the hooks and my hackle to end up in the vacuum cleaner bag.

And so with that Allen-head bolt, I have to repeatedly fumble with the supplied Allen wrench. Don’t want to, so I replaced this bolt with one I can turn with my fingers–so much more convenient! There’s room for a bigger diameter or wing-nut head, and after all it doesn’t need any real torque. Now I can set up and break down at will, without tools, and also tilt and un-tilt the hook whenever it’s useful to do so. I may not use the tilt ability on every fly, but I like it and will tilt away as needed. Figure 5 shows the supplied M5 0. 8 12mm bolt that controls (dis)assembling with the wrench, as well as the finger-adjustable bolt I replaced it with. Note that you must get the right thread, diameter and length! I also added a small cardboard washer so the pressure would be applied in the right place. )

Figure 5__Head Bolt

Pedestal Base
The base is big enough and the stalk-mounting hole is front-to-back centered. (The vise itself is effectively forward of that line, the way it mounts on its vertical stalk, but my math says most force vectors during use won’t care much. ) The pedestal base is also massive. Cast iron. Too heavy, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong–I appreciate the stability. But I think they may have gone a half-step down the wrong road with the weight. Obviously they don’t want the thing to move in use. . . but it still does, sometimes. . . a little. . . depending on the table and how you’ve tuned the rotation tightness. Why? Well, the bottom of the pedestal base is completely covered with a soft flat rubber mat. Protects fine furniture, but also does exactly what wide skis do: It spreads the weight across many (in this case 24) square inches of surface. That’s what you do when you want to slide downhill fast. I don’t want my tying to do that.

Perhaps better, in my humble opinion, would be to put some small pointed rubber feet on the base’s corners–that is, get all the weight onto a few narrow points. Still grippy rubber, but now the PSI is significantly greater. Of course it’s incredibly easy for the end-user to make this modification, and I did so, and I think it’s an improvement (see Figure 6). Personally I think the pedestal’s weight could be cut a lot with the use of such rubber feet, but then I haven’t done any calculations, and it may well be that the ubiquitous rotating friction necessitates it. And there have been others who said their earlier pedestal base was too small & light. I just know my other rotating travel vise has a much lighter pedestal base and still never slips. . . because all the weight is on four small points. (Technically the best for levelling would be three rubber feet instead of four, but that configuration could tip like a tricycle, so assuming a level table and opting for four feet is surely the best choice. )

Figure 6__Rubber Feet

[See the rest of my comments in the third installment of this review. ]

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