Recently I was fortunite to have a long weekend and fish on the McCloud River. While hanging out at our campsite at Ah Di Na, a fellow fly-fisher was making the rounds sharing candy saying "trick or treat", it was Halloween! Also with him, under his arm, was a camera case that he opened. In the flickering light of our camp fire, he shared the bounty of his craft. That craft was making handmade fly-tying vises. To say the least they were stunning! I asked if he, Marlo Dipietro, would be interested in doing an informal discussion with me about his Vises for my blog. In the morning we met at his campsite and this is a synopsis of our conversation.
What sort of metallurgy craft background did you develop before you began making these?
I started out real basic in a c-clamp style with the goal to make a custom vise for my tying needs. I never had tapped a hole in metal or used metal in projects. I had made a bunch of wood items up this time. Benches, tables and other small nick knacks.
After starting my third vise, learning from the two before, I wanted to use wood with a c-clamp style, to give it an old brace and bit type of look. Then I gobbled up any material I had to use and and would 2 or 3 at one time. These early ones are modern art looking, with acrylic and purple heart wood. Very out of the box looking.
I evolved to a point of adoring the metal and expanded that direction with a classic type floral style.
I always enjoyed engraved firearms and even as a kid I thought it was cool. So I studied that and began to learn the process.
looking at your vises they have an aesthetic that makes me think about a Victorian style. How did you develop the vernacular, or language?
I love building handles. I spend time chasing the possibilities of what it might look like and what I feel I might be able to complete
Furniture, firearms, themes art in general inspires me. An item can have great art as well as function. That’s the way things were made for centuries. CNC items are a cold snap shot on our societies tempo. It's really quite out of whack with the true nature of pure individualism.
To make a part I see a rough image in my mind and find a chunk of metal that will work. I execute the necessary machining and trim parts away. Hopefully the betterment of the whole. Sometimes not. I'll have to scrape the part and try again from another direction. Always looking for a balance and a statement at the same time. Some vises of late are spartan with and brief on purpose to shift gears abit. The less is more kinda thinking.
What do you do to pay the "bills".
I work at UPS, as driver in oak-town up around Rockridge to pay the bills. They cut into my vise time.
How long does the building of a unique vise take?
Right now I'm working on just one vise. In the past I would be juggling 3 at once. A series with similar construct.
I always seem to have several lined up for the future. Themes vises with marble, ebony and few hundred bucks of silver. They take some time to complete, all depending on how much free time I have and other stuff in my life. like a week of fishing at the Mc Cloud!
Vise 26 on your website almost seems like a crescendo of craft. You really feel that you have an exquisite handle on the language of, as you say "Florentine" adornment". The attention to detail and every part is considered. Have you spent time in Italy, Florence the birthplace of the Renaissance? What are your favorite European cities?
Both my parents are from Italy but I've never been. I've always freaked at Michelangelo and Rembrandt, those guys were the essence of versatility to me when art held a great value compared to today.
On your website, vise #33 the McCloud has a real turn of the century nautical sense, like maybe the vise Captain Nemo would use... your thoughts?
#33 is a theme vise using a ball and socket construct. It’s a dream to tie on. Many people see different thing when they look at it. It is one of my most mechanically pure and artistically balanced favorites. I see the mc cloud when I’m on it.
I’d like to think I can control all the elements of building one but faith in direction and purpose seem to have me on a leash and pull me forward.