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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Muskoka MagnaVise

Innovation meets functionality

Muskoka Magnavise and Workstation

Magnavise with magnetic base
Last spring Curtis and I were tying at the annual Wasatch Fly Tying Expo and people came over to us to ask if we had gone to see "the vise."  This piqued my interest, so I went over to see what all of the attention was about.  The "vise" was the Muskoka Magnavise.  The first thing that struck me about the MagnaVise is that it looks REALLY cool, so the sexy factor got a big check-mark from me.  Upon talking to the vise's creator, Matt Plott, we found out that he was a mechanical engineer with a background in designing medical instruments.  Precision... check.  Then I asked him if I could steal one for an hour or so to give it a whirl.  I will preface the rest of this post with the fact that I'm pretty particular about vises, and it's hard for me to tie with anything other than my trusty Griffin

Mongoose.  I got the vise back to my station, and was immediately curious about the holding strength of the jaws.  They are of the "spring-loaded" variety similar to a Regal, but they have grooves in order to hold bigger hooks.  The first hook I put in the vise was a TMC 518 #32.  There is enough bare metal in the very front of the jaw to hold most normal sized hooks, and I found that it held the 32 very snugly.  The next test was a 4/0 Lazer Trokar hook.  This took some doing, but I got it in there and it was rock solid once I found it's sweet spot.  That's another thing that I noticed - with bigger hooks, it took a bit of getting used to in order to get the grooves to bite.  Once I had that figured out, I didn't have any issues.  The verdict?  I needed to take it home to do some more serious tying.

THE VISE

Lever inserted into the back of the vise
Once home, I made some critical adjustments to make it conducive to my style of tying.  Typically, if a vise isn't true rotary, it's not going to get used by me - BUT, I made an exception for this one.

  1. The first thing I did was adjust the angle of the vise to be a little closer to parallel to my desk.  That addressed the rotary issue well enough.
  2. As I got tying, I realized that I would have more room behind the fly if the jaw was upside down
    (as pictured).  Luckily, this thing was built with medical precision, and it was very simple to do, and upon talking to the manufacturer, it was designed to be configured either way.  Cool by me.
  3. I had to have a way to rotate the vise without twisting a "dial" so I constructed a crank assembly out of wooden dowels at the back of the vise.  I talked to Muskoka, and they said that they have something in the works to address this.  They also said that the main lever of the vise could be inserted in the back of the vise in order to rotate it.
  4. The next thing I did was tighten all the screws on the head of the vise.  The tighter you get them, the closer you will come to 100% positive lockout of a small hook.
Magnavise ready for travel
After these adjustments were made, I tied on the vise for 60 days straight, and came to the conclusion that I would probably be able to tie on this vise permanently if I had to.  What I like the most is the adjustability of all the pieces, and how much functionality you have with the magnet system.  

THE WORK STATION

I also got the work station, and immediately found out that I REALLY like the thread management system.  It's very simple to pop a spool into, and out of, the attached adjustable arms.  Very cool!  I must say that I was a bit apprehensive about the magnetic system, but it holds as solid as any other pedestal base.  I have to stand up and put my weight (A LOT) into removing the pedestal from the work station.  Another cool thing about it is that  the stem is adjustable, so you can raise the height as if it were a C-clamp.
Close up of the head

THE VERDICT

Pros:
  • I like this vise.  If I weren't so attached to my rotary vise, I might even consider making this one my every day vise due to the ease of use, and the ergonomics
  • Magnetic features 
  • The thread holders in the work station
  • Very adjustable 
  • Simple to use
  • Very sexy styling 
  • Made in the USA, and great warranty
Cons:
  • Not a true rotary (maybe just personal preference)
  • There is a comfort level that needs to be reached in placing hooks in the vise.  Once I knew where to seat the hook, it became more automatic. (Grooves vs. no grooves)
  • It struggles holding hooks of various sizes and shapes on a consistent basis. Probably the biggest downfall is just the lack of a true hook-holding consistency.
  • Lack of accessories with the kit (rotary crank, material clip, bobbin cradle

In all, this is a very high quality piece of equipment that will suit a lot of fly tyer's needs on the bench.  If I had my druthers, I think I would prefer a jaw with no ridges, or with only 1 or 2 ridges to get closer to 100% positive lockout on the hooks.  And... I would find a way to design a true rotary vise. 

~Cheech




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