The “957” Fly Tying Vise


It’s a puzzle that has intrigued me for months – how to build a really cheap fly tying vise (like less than $25) out of readily available components. This last weekend I was wandering aimlessly through Staples when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the primer – the soon-to-be-infamous X-Acto Knife #2. I quickly hopped next door to Home Depot, picked up a few more parts, and rushed home for assembly.

Introducing the Model 957 fly tying vise…

homemade fly tying vise

The parts

– One X-Acto Knife, size #2
– One 6-inch Parson’s Table leg
– One Waddell Straight Top Plate #2751
– A piece of scrap 1×4 out of the 50-cent bin

Total cost…$9.57 (including tax).

I made a big mistake along the way, but nothing that’ll cost me more than a few bucks to rectify. I used a 3/8ths drill bit for the angled hole, but I should have used a 7/16ths instead. The hole in the table leg was just a bit too narrow, so like any impatient engineer I took a rubber mallet to the X-acto handle – in the process I split the wood AND bent the knife handle. Further, I didn’t account for the head rotation when securing the hook. A snug but not jammed in fit would have allowed for that – now I need a pliers handy to twist the X-Acto handle after the hook is secured.

But heck…it works! I ran through a number of Gamakatsu SC15 #1’s without issue, and think this particular setup would probably work from 1/0 down to about #14. If I used an X-Acto #1 (which is a bit smaller) I could easily hold hooks down into the 18-22 range. The next mod will probably be fixing the mess above, as well as adding an additional hole for that smaller handle.

It will of course be a different model number, and labeled deluxe.

MG signing off (to tie some flies on the cheap)


gary says:

I’m willing to $12.39 for the full rotary version, but not a penny more.

You know….a full rotary wouldn’t be that hard. In fact, if I had found the delrin and/or brass compression fittings I was originally looking for in 7/16ths, it probably would have been a rotary. Would have had to cut the knife handle though – I don’t think that aluminum will bend on command (at least without the rubber mallet).

that’s awesome. When’s the traveling vise gonna be available?

Take a saw to the ends of the base – instant traveler! Just carry a $1.49 C-clamp with it.

Jay says:

Mr. Gracie,

You better watch your back. I am worried that the Regal/Anvil/Peak cartel may send some of their “special” forces in black helicopters your way. OR, they will manipulate government power to find you guilty of securities irregularities. Just keep Preston Tucker in mind and proceed very carefully. LOL

Actually, NICE job- Look forward to seeing the full rotary version.

I knew there was an insidious, underground fly-fishing cabal, but I didn’t know they were responsible for those black helicopters that are always following me around. Now I’m really paranoid.

I’m kicking myself in the ass that I didn’t think of this. Well done sir, well done. I got some finger-paints if you want to come over later and jazz it up a notch.

Can’t imagine what you’re doing with finger-paints.

PS: Tell Ms. Kasey I said hello.

This is spectacular. Spec-fucking-tacular.

Now I want to see you make a tree stand out of X-acto knife handles. 😉

SwittersB says:

Putting people out of work! Next you will be marauding craft stores; stopping for road kill and grabbing old feather dusters at estate sales. No shame.

John B says:

Re: “De-Luxe”, you could drill another hole on the other side of the table leg for the midge “jaws”, then sell the entire set-up for around $15.27. Plus, you could sell just the midge “jaws” as part of an accessory kit (jaws + drill bit) for $8.25. THEN, you could sell the single jaw version you’ve created as the “Classic” and charge $22.50, to account for nostalgia and such.

Just a thought.


You’re going to be the marketing director!

slavetotheflyrod says:


This is what you’re doing when you’re “working”?

Remind me to kick you in the nuts next time I see you.

No, this is what I decided to do after I ran out of printer ink. And if you actually had a weekend day free I’d show you how to put those cartridges in the printer.

[…] 3. Michael Gracie and his 957 vise. […]

Router a couple hook trays and a whiskey cup holder into the base and I’ll give you $17.99 for one.

Router bits are pricey, and I know I’d have to do fancy rounded corners or else get sued for splinters. What do ya’ say to a little chiseling?

Bjorn says:

That is pretty cool MG… pretty cool indeed.

Thanks buddy. The fact is this “broken” model has now gone two sessions on sizable hooks without problem. The X-Acto handle, which is pretty soft aluminum, bites nicely without marring the hooks.

[…] Michael Gracie has a more viable option for me… That's $9.57 […]

Kevin Kelleher says:

My fishing hemostat clamped to the edge of a table with a C-clamp (quick release best) works too.

Gotta use the shop counter hemos though!

robert says:

%@&#ing brilliant!

Thanks! But more like bored. 😉

grasshoppa says:

wow, a floating vice. tie it to your float tube and be able to whip up new patterns on the ‘fly’

class it up with a little duct tape

Duct tape…to lash the styrofoam pontoons to it so it’ll sit upright in the water…right?

jake says:

Free rotary with built in stand.My cordless hilti hammerdrill!!!!!

If I can find one at a swap meet, I may have to integrate.

JGR says:

What a great idea for a production tying system. Awesome!

Now you need a carrying case with a rotary verson that comes with 2 sets of jaws!:) And sell it for 25$

Tom Mulligan says:

It looks like the table leg has a piece of metal that the end of the Xacto is inserted into. Am I just seeing things? If I am just seeing things, did you just shove the xacto directly into the hole? If it is a metal piece, how does it stay solid? Seems like if it was metal on metal it might not be a tight fit.

Nope – it is just the Xacto handle forced right into the hole I drilled in the table leg. You might be seeing the fact that the handle is bent, a product of not having a big enough drill bit and then taking a rubber mallet to it.

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