Sunday, March 30, 2014



(This series of posts highlights the various HMH vises models since their entry into the marketplace in 1975.  The intent here is to enable those with older HMH vises to be able to name the model and otherwise get an idea as to its relative age.  This is especially useful in the event that you, as a vise owner, needs some repair, refurbishing, or you are interested in upgrades, new jaws, etc.)

In 1981, API (Angling Products Inc.) drew up the plans for a new version of the HMH.  It was a scaled down model of the HMH Standard in every way, meaning that they scaled down each individual part of the Standard to create a vise that was essentially a 2/3 replica of the Standard.  This vise they named the Spartan, or the "Mini Vise". 

Other than the obvious size difference, a key difference between that Spartan model, which was built from ca. 1981/1982 thru about the year 2000, and the early Standard vise models was the one-piece jaw on the Spartan vise.  The Standard vise models have always had the interchangeable jaw system (except for the HMH II, right?).

In addition to the one-piece jaw, the features of this vise that also are diagnostic include a 5/16" diameter standrod, and a down-sized cast iron base.  The Spartan cast iron base, however had a flat surface the length of the base.  The Standard cast iron base had a flat surface supporting the spindle, but the top surface then sloped all the way to the front of the base.

Two jaw styles were available for the Spartan Mini vise, the Universal, and the Restricted Use jaw.  The universal jaw, was bull-nosed and did an excellent job holding even the largest hooks.

The Restricted Use jaw (not pictured) is easy to recognize because it looks a lot like the modern Micro Jaw with a long, needle-nose profile.

So, before you call us up with questions about your "Spartan", first ask yourself:  is the Standrod of my Spartan a 5/16" diameter rod?  Is the jaw a one-piece jaw that I can only remove by removing the cam pin and the cam lever, then pulling the jaw from the collet?  Does the collet (the main 'tube' of the vise) have two bands of knurling at the front end?  If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you have the API Spartan Mini vise model.  We'll need to know that to be able to help you out with your questions about your vise.

Now, what are the key differences between the API Spartan Mini vise the the modern (since 2000) HMH Spartan vise?  Read on.

In 2000, we re-designed the Spartan vise back 'up' to a more standard size.  The primary objectives for doing so were to bring the standrod up to the industry standard of 3/8" diameter so accessories would fit on the spartan;  to enable the Spartan vise to benefit from the interchangeable jaw system;, and to enable the Spartan vise to benefit from the better, re-designed chassis.  What this meant, though, was that virtually none of the parts from the API model Spartan could be used on the new HMH model Spartan.  

C'est la vie.

API Spartan on the left.                    …and…..        HMH Spartan on the right.

API Spartan has smaller diameter standrod;  cast iron base;  double knurl bands on collet; and one piece jaw (see below).  Modern Spartan has 3/8" diameter standrod; heavier and larger-foot-print plate steel base;  no knurling on collet;  interchangeable jaw system.

The image above shows the guts of the cam lever / jaw assembly on the API Spartan vise (top) and the HMH Spartan (bottom).  HMH assembly is longer overall.  And HMH jaw and drawbar are 5/16" diameter whereas the API Spartan jaw shank is 1/4" diameter.

So, that's about it.  But having said all this, I will note here that it is not impossible to build a Spartan Mini Vise (although any of these built today would be C-Clamp versions only).  Many of the original Spartan Mini vises are still in operation today.  I mentioned in an earlier post that Sylvester Nemes, in particular, tied on one of the little Spartan Mini vises.  It is a sweet little tool that ties the little stuff and the big stuff with ease.  

Let's see how well you pay attention -- for those of you who are interested, give me a call and we can talk about whether the Spartan Mini is right for your vest pocket…

Get a Grip.


  1. Nice updates on the history and models of HMH vises. How about some flies and such for the salties in the crowd?

  2. How would one put a value to an older vice set in our possession we want to sell?

  3. I happened upon one of these vises recently. A member of our fly fishing group was given a tote of fly tying supplies by an older gentleman that can no longer fish. We were all offered our choice of anything in the tote. I initially discounted the vise as it was in bad shape, the base was badly rusted, the brass badly oxidized, etc. and seemed to be a non-standard size. After further examination, I found this vise to be one of the nicest vices I have come across. The vice has cleaned up nicely with a modest effort.
    The thing I am curious about is that this vise has 3 sets of jaws. There is wahat I would call a midge jaw, a standard jaw and a third jaw that I cannoct quantify. The midge and standard jaws are chromed. The third set was a dull, oxidized finish that I could do nothing to make it look better, so I blued it. It looks good blued and fits with the modern style of blued jaws.
    I subsequently found this website. I realize that bluing the jaws was probably the wrong thing to do but I can remove the blueing. I'm wondering about the fact that this vice has 3 different jaws. Does anyone know about a third set of jaws?