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Rotary Regal vice

By Magnus Angus

Has the name of any other fly-tying vice become generic? This is not a Regal type vice, it is a Regal Vice – actually the Revolution, the Rotary Regal, complete with regular jaws and wooden base. (Not shown: the base comes with a clamp so this can be fixed firmly so any table and a bobbin cradle fits to the base.) The base is stable enough without clamping, complete with holes ready for an assortment of tools, and a powerful magnet to tame hooks.

Most vice jaws are either forced together by a cam or squeezed together by screws. The mechanical principle Regal use is two jaws held tight in a heavy metal block. The side lever moves a cam, which forces the jaws apart so I can inset a hook, release and the jaws close. To my mind, that mechanism has clear advantages over any other vice mechanism: it automatically adjusts for hook size, there is no faster way to clamp a hook, and the space around the jaws is exemplary.

Consider the time spent twisting collars or fiddling with screws to adjust from one size to another. I can damn near stick a hook into a Regal and have a fly tied by the time I’m happy my hook is held ‘just so’ with some more intricate vices. The only real down side to that mechanism is I have no way to vary pressure, which can lead to the surface of some hooks, most obviously black salmon irons, being marked. Nevertheless, as a production vice the Regal is a formidable tool.

Few vices offer as much working space around the jaws. Some modern in-line rotaries can match it but offer me nowhere to rest my hand – I like to steady my hand when I’m tying and cutting.

‘Formidable’ is a pretty good word for this – think chunky. Regal boast “The Bulldog of Bench Vices” – get your finger in there and it can nip but they’re talking about build quality. Regal jaws are essentially powerful springs so the main block must be strong, the lever that opens the jaws and the cam it turns must be strong, so they are. Big bold and well finished.

Slip a hook into the jaws. By default, I want to use this vice with the head angled up. The heel of my hand sits comfortably on the main body with my thumb and fingers at the hook. Remove hook and level the head, stick the hook back into the jaws - so easy and fast!

It’s possible to set this exactly in-line but aligning the hook-shank exactly with the axis of rotation ain’t easy. Getting the hook-shank roughly in-line is easy and works well enough, I can wind the handle and wrap.

The shaft for the head runs through a substantial head containing a ball bearing. A large, finely knurled knob adjusts tension easily and accurately– it sticks out more than it needs. The whole head moves smoothly with or without tension.

Certainly a fully rotary vice, which is useful but this feels like an adaptation. Get the head at fractionally below horizontal and the handle clicks against the stem. Try to turn the head with your hand on the main block and the friction knob gets in the way; I’d put the friction knob on the far side and shorten the threads so it sits closed to the body. While I’m at it, I’d have a knob at the joint between the head and shaft so I can adjust the head angle accurately rather than using tension preset with an Allen key (Hex wrench.)

This vice has ‘regular jaws’. Regal claim these suit hooks from #18 to #3/0, and I found no problems at the large end of that range. At the dinky end, these are a little blunt but hold a tiny hook very firmly. Regal have fitted a material holding spring to the cam close to the jaws, at first I thought that would get in my way – it doesn’t.

Bowing to ‘rotarist pressure’ may have sacrificed a fraction of the simplicity and function that mark out older Regal designs, however, Regal make workhorse vices and this is no exception. Long after many more flimsy, more complicated vices have become spare parts, long after cheap copies have fallen apart or the jaw tips have flared and become unusable, this vice will still be in service.

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