Over the past few years, I have gone through numerous vises as a result of careless maintenance, use and misuse, and a couple of fatal drops. I started out where most do: with the classic Thompson Model A, moving on to a couple of low end Griffins, and then to a Peak Rotary before discovering Anvil products. Let me first discuss my experiences with the aforementioned vises.
Anyone who has ever used the classic Model A knows that they aren't too sturdy, which really isn't too surprising considering they cost a whopping 20 bucks. Mine lasted me about 8 months of daily use before the pivot point on the handle gave out and caused the entire thing to fall apart. At this time, I was still on a pretty tight budget, so my next step was a similarly designed Griffin that lasted about the same amount of time and came to its demise in almost the exact same way the Thompson did. It was around this time that I started getting into tying large orders for K and K, so I made the decision to put the money into a Peak Rotary Vise. Long story short, mine completely crapped out on me within two or three months of the time of purchase. Now before I go ripping on Peak, I must also add that I was like 10 or 11 at the time, and I assume the failure was caused pretty much entirely by misuse. (IE incorrect jaw adjustment when using large hooks, knocking it off my desk, etc). The moral of the story: As a kid, I was pretty rough on my gear.
Shortly after retiring the Peak, I found an advertisement for the Apex Vise in a magazine I was reading. I was immediately drawn in by the fact that it came with both a pedestal base and a clamp for the retail price of only 100 bucks. I had Kevin at K and K order me one and it was soon in my hands! Right out of the box, I positioned the head horizontally in order to achieve a viewing rotary and started tying. The first thing I noticed when tying on my new Apex was how well the jaws did at accommodating the wide range of hook sizes I tie with. Its rear hook slot fits 4/0 Owner Aki hooks securely without any sort of wiggle, and the skinny tip of the jaws holds hooks down to a size 30 and everything in between. The head rotates smoothly and allows for the perfect viewing angle when tying my carp flies. I was extremely impressed by it's initial performance, but even more so I have been astounded by its incredible durability.
I can think of at least three instances off the top of my head where I have knocked my Apex off of my tying desk and onto the hardwood floor in my room. Not only did it hold up to over the top instances like that, but it has survived 5 or so years of production tying and is still going strong. It travels well, hold strong, and rotates smoothly as it did the day I removed it from it's packaging.
Aside from the Apex, Anvil also markets a few other noteworthy products. The Atlas vise is the next step up from the Apex and offers a full rotary action, as well as both a pedestal base and a clamp. The Atlas features the same jaws and hardware as the Apex, so I assume the quality to be similar even though I have very little experience with them. Anvil scissors are also pretty sweet, but not really anything special. I prefer my Dr Slicks.
All in all, Anvil has definitely proven itself as a great "bang for your buck" company. Despite the minuscule price tags, all of their products compete very well with those twice the cost. I plan on keeping my Apex until it falls apart.