Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Panavise Model 301

I recently received as a Christmas present a Panavise Model 301.  For many years I've wanted one of these, but they are very expensive.  My shop has had a smaller, similar type vise that has served me well, but I still wanted a Panavise.  Let's take a look at it.

Here is the vise I've used for 20+ years.  Like the Panavise, it has a ball head and is easy to position.  This one is much smaller than the Panavise, and the jaws are not quite as smooth.  I don't know the make or model, but remember paying only $12 for it at a tool outlet similar to Harbor Freight.  In fact, Harbor Freight has a similar one that might work for you for $16:

The only reason I don't already have one is the price.  They are $49 on Amazon, without shipping. Also, this one is much bigger than my old one.  The ball latch is much stronger, too, which is a big plus.  Let's put it together.  First I take them out of the boxes.  They are packed in heavy shipping boxes, and wrapped in paper.  They aren't oily like some tools and have a nice silver finish.  There is no flash or rough edges.  They come from Reno, Nevada USA, just so you know.  The clamping system is huge and very heavy.  One problem I can see already is that it has a big handle on the back that sticks out from the workbench, which I don't like.  I don't want to mount the vise to the work surface because sometimes you need the whole surface. Clamping is much better in my opinion.

The mounting clamp #311 is $45 on Amazon, which is not cheap. Using the screws provided (very high quality) I mounted the vise onto the bracket.  The machining of this tool is excellent...much better than the old one. is really big.  Much bigger than I expected at seven inches from the work table.

I put the 3M rubber feet on the bottom to help protect the wood surface.  Once that was done, I locked it into place with a smooth moving screw turn.  My file drawers underneath wouldn't open where I put it, so I had to move it around to get a better location.  There are lots of other parts to Panavises such as soldering station tools, wide jaws, vacuum bases and other things that make this tool very popular with model railroaders.

This is a really nice vise...but very large.  My left arm will not like it I'm sure.  Can't wait to try it though.  I don't usually keep the vise this close to the work area, so I'll move it out of the way, and then move it back when needed.  All the mechanisms work very smoothly and without grinding or binding.

I went to register the gift on line with Panavise at but the site was down.  It's Christmas, so maybe they are doing work on the site.  I'll just send it in the old fashioned way with a card.  In the comments section I did let them know that price was the issue why I didn't have one already.

The form will get mailed this week, and I did look through the colorfull calendar.  Will it serve my needs, probably so.  Do I REALLY need a Panavise brand vise?  Probably not.  Since I spend a great amount of my time and dollars with model trains, I feel I should have the best equipment, so I'm glad to have it.  But consider the $16 Harbor Freight variety before shelling out $94 + freight and tax on a Panavise.  Honestly, I would have never bought this and would have settled on a cheaper model.  But now that I do have it...let's get it dirty!

1.  Christmas is a great time to get the tools you need, just be sure to give your family the model numbers.
2.  Amazon is getting to be a very cost effective place to get modeling tools
3.  Beware of tool brand envy as it can mean you spend too much for something that is similar and a lot less costly.

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