Tube Tools

Published Aug 20th 2007

This article dives into the different vises and tube fly holders


Sowing needle - The simple and extremely inexpensive solution. The orange tube shows the position of the tube on all these pictures.
Sowing needle
The inexpensive tube vise: sowing needles - The cheap solution for holding tubes for tube flies: a set of heavy sowing and stitching needles. Not the best, but definitely inexpensive.
The inexpensive tube vise: sowing needles
You will first and foremost need a tube holder for your vise. A needle-like construction to insert into the vise's jaws is a simple way, but there are dozens of other and more sophisticated solutions ranging from special holders to mount in your vise to dedicated tube vises.
My experience tells me that there is no single solution for all types, but that you need an assortment of tube holders.

Start with a needle
If you are just starting out with tubes, I recommend that you stick to sowing and stitching needles. These come in a wealth of shapes and diameters, and you can most likely find one for almost any type of plastic or plastic lined tube. They cost next to nothing and a large selection will cover most of your tube tool needs.
The smaller the inner diameter of your tubes become, the more difficult is is to find a good tool. The needle will simply become so thin that it wobbles when you put weight on your thread.

The Swedish Tube Needle (sometimes referred to as Hakan's Needle after Swedish Hakan Norling) is made for the purpose and has several tapers as well as a bent butt, which guarantees a secure grip for the vise's jaws. Metal tubes still offer a hard job, even for this needle.

A good alternative can actually be a blind eye salmon hook. These are not that common, but if you can get your hands on a package of large hooks of this type (like Partridges 1/0, 2/0 or larger), then try them.

Blind eye salmon hook - You simply push the tube over the hook until it sits tightly - maybe working itself just a little bit down the bend of the hook for even better hold.
Blind eye salmon hook
Swedish tube needle in the vise - The Swedish needle has a small bend in the thinck end that enables the vise to grip it firmly. Unfortunately the material is a bit thick for some vises.
Swedish tube needle in the vise
Really simple: a salmon hook - A large blind eye salmon hook has the diameter and the taper to make an excellent tube fly holder.
Really simple: a salmon hook
Swedish tube needle - The Swedish tube needle is a popular tube adapter for the FITS-system. It will hold the different diameters of tube tightly and has a serrated tip to hold metal tubes better.
Swedish tube needle
Cheap Indian tube tool - An indian copy of the famous HMH tool, but with very bad grip and three needles of almost the same diameter. Close to useless...
Cheap Indian tube tool
Fisker tool - Radically different with a mechanism that pinches the tube perpendicular to the tube. A bit like the classical HMH-tool, which we unfortunately don\'t have available to show.
Fisker tool
Indian tool - It\'s very inexpensive: 3 US$ or about a couple of Euros. And that\'s what it\'s worth! Just barely useful for soft plastic tubes and almost useless for all other types. Two of the mandrels are identical and all of them are so sharp that you will bleed while tying tubes unless you cut the tip off. Obviously made by someone who never tied a tube fly.
Indian tool
Fisker tool - This tool has a mandrel with no head, but will pinch the tube in stead.
Fisker tool

Falkenberg tool, straight - This version features a screw mount needle and comes with several needles
Falkenberg tool, straight
Falkenberg needle - This is the fancy version of the sowing needle with good grip on the tube and easy mounting in the vise. The set consists of several different needles
Falkenberg needle
Falkenberg tool, straight - The set features a material clip and several needle lenghts and tapers.
Falkenberg tool, straight
Falkenberg needle set - The set features several sizes and tapers of needles.
Falkenberg needle set
Falkenberg tool, winged - The same principle as the other Falkenberg adapter tool, but with an ofset needle position.
Falkenberg tool, winged
Veinard tool - This tool uses a mandrel that is tightned manually. It comes with three mandrels in different diameters.
Veinard tool
Winged Falkenberg tool - This tool comes with several screw-in needles with different tapers and diameters.
Winged Falkenberg tool
Veniard tool set - The Veniard tool comes with three mandrels in different diameters.
Veniard tool set
In some cases the wobbling problem can be solved with special tools that support the tube both on the inside with a needle and on the outside with some kind of tightening mechanism along or perpendicular to the tube. There are several tools, which will do the job, and you can even get whole vises or head assemblies for common vises, which are adapted to tube tying.

Say no to rotation!
The most important aspect of any tube fly holder for your vise is to make sure the tube does not rotate. The second most important factor is that i must provide space behind the tube to allow for your hands as well as the materials you tie on the hook. The third-most important issue is sturdiness - the ability to hold the tube without wobble enabling you to pull on the tying thread without everything giving.

Plastic is easy
When tying on plastic tubes the vast majority of tube fly holders and vises - and even simple sowing needles - will keep your tube in a very tight grip and keep it from rotating. The soft nature of the plastic ensures a tight connection between any tapered metal needle and the tube.
One thing you have to be aware of when tying on plastic on a tapered needle is that it compresses as you add thread and materials, and can end up sitting very tightly on the needle. Many a tube fly tyer has been forced to strip the just-finished fly in order to get the tube off the needle again. Find a needle that leaves just a bit of air for easier removal.

H.C. Tube tool - This is by far the best tool I have used. It looks like the classical Veinard, but features screw-out part that secures the tube extremely firmly.
H.C. Tube tool
Snowbee/Waldron - This tool represents the type that replaces the jaw assembley in your ordinary vise. It holds the tube in a very strong grip and offers the ultimate hold and working space.
Snowbee adapter in the vise - Unfortunately the Snowbee/Waldron adapter is so thick in the flat part that the vise is supposed to grip, that most vises have to give up. Not even my own original Waldron vise could open wide enough to hold it and this cheap Indian Regal vise could just barely be forced open enough.
Snowbee adapter in the vise
H.C. Tube tool - The tool features a rotary threaded part that will shorten the mandrel and pinch the tube very tightly.
H.C. Tube tool
Snowbee/Waldron Attachment - The Snowbee/Waldron Integral Tube Fly Attachment comes with two mandrels and fits the Snowbee/Waldron vise as well as the original Waldron - provided you get a hold of a Snowbee finger screw to secure it.
Snowbee/Waldron Attachment
Snowbee/Waldron adapter - The Snowbee/Waldron adapter is a surdy piece of mechanichs with excellent holding power and working space.
Snowbee/Waldron adapter

H.C. Tube tool holding a bottle - The Danish H.C. tool has a very firm grip on all tube types.
H.C. Tube tool holding a bottle
Falkenberg soft metal needle - This needle is made specifically to grip on unlined metal tubes.
Falkenberg soft metal needle
Metal is difficult
Once you turn to metal tubes - with or without lining - you run into all kinds of trouble. First of all the bare tubes are very unforgiving when it comes to grip. There is none! The only way to hold a metal tube is sheer force. The vise has to have a mechanism that grips the tube itself (like the Fisker tool) or a mechanism that tightens on both ends of the tube (as found on many dedicated vises as well as a few adapters). Once the tube is lined you face the problem of the smaller inner diameter, which forces you to use a thin mandrel or needle, leading to a wobbly mount.

Falkenberg soft needle - This soft needle will hold hard metal tubes. The small sponge-like pad is used to roughen up the surface of the needle for a better grip.
Falkenberg soft needle
Adapter types - Some of the different holding mechanisms of the most common type of adapter:
1) The top one just squeezes the tube and has no additional help. 
2) The top middle one features a screw that can be turned after the tube has been mounted and has a good grip. The small edge on the head of the mandrel is another means of holding the tube. 
3) The lower middle one utilizes small conical and serrated ends to keep the tube firmly set.
4) The bottom one is a needle, which simply holds the tube by simple friction against the inside of the tube.
Adapter types
The best solution is either a very sturdy mandrel - preferably made from stainless steel - or a simple sowing needle. Needles are often very rigid and well suited for the purpose. Clip or file the very sharp point off a suitable needle and mount it in the vise using the flat sides of its head to keep it firmly in place.

Regarding the working space, the rule is roughly: the simpler the tool, the better the working space. As an exception from this you will find the dedicated tube vises or tube heads for vises, which in general leaves a lot of space for both materials and hands. The more clumsy and large the adapter is, the less space you have for your hands and for the materials you tie in. Swept back and stiff materials will be forced out in an unbecoming angle, and you will have to imagine rather than see how the final fly will appear.

A selection
Most tube fly tyers I know use a selection of different tools depending on what type of tube they are tying on.
Personally I love my Danish H.C. Tube Fly Holder, which is good for almost any tube, but the king in my toolbox is the conversion kit for my Waldron vise. The new Snowbee/Waldron vise has a Tube Fly attachment as an option, and this option fits my original Waldron vise with a bit of woodoo (You will need the Snowbee/Waldron rear screw rather than the original Waldron one. They have different threads). As a third choice I use Marcher/Falkenberg-needles (also Danish), which I have in a variety of sizes and shapes.

In a few cases I fall back on the good old sowing needle.

But no matter what method you choose, make sure that the tube cannot spin on the needle, even under stress. A freely spinning tube will unwind your thread and materials faster than you can imagine, and that can potentially ruin a whole fly in an instant.

Piles of tools - Many tube fly tyers have collected a large number of tools in their search for the best. And many use a number of different tools.
Piles of tools

For links to tube tool manufacturers and dealers, see the tube fly ressources page, but before going there you may want to go into details about tying tube flies.

More on tube flies

User comments
From: Graham Davies · g.davies77·at·  Link
Submitted December 13th 2008

At last, I've found a website that tells you how to tie tubeflies....googling around the net I have found very few websites that deal with this topic as clearly as Globalflyfisher. Plenty of garbled, badly shot info on Youtube, though.
Speaking as a British, qualified teacher in practical NVQ crafts, I have found one glaring fault with 99% of sites that deal with flytying (plus books and DVDs).
(Raise the vice up to eye level and shoot over the tyer's shoulder).
The best way for a student to see a demonstration is beside you, not in front of you.

I thank you,
Graham Davies,
(Wales, UK)

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted May 11th 2008


We try to keep the tube ressorces page updated, and you can find contact information on all the products there. Here is a link to the Falkenberg information.


From: George W Kass · gwknys·at·  Link
Submitted May 11th 2008

Where do I order the Falkenberg needle set

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