A Fantastic Early Hand Vise!
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  1. #1
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    Default A Fantastic Early Hand Vise!

    This I think is the cutest little hand vise I have ever held in my hand....... I am guessing it dates from about 1650 - 1700 and maybe was made in France or Germany. I showed it to a few other specialist in early tools and they had similar feeling. The wing nut appears very Continental as opposed to English. I just love the engraving and the outlining on the outside of the jaws.

    Now for the big question..... What was it for? Notice the tapered sleeve unscrews exposing a "wood screw"....... there is also a small thread at the bottom of that tapered sleeve, did it fit into a handle?..... now the search will be on to find others of this pattern and maybe they are identified as to use...... one thing I know for sure is this would be right at home in even the best of museum collections!












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    I believe this to be a horologists hand vice. The course threaded stem was for attaching to a wooden handle. The socket was possibly mounted in a bench at one time. I lean towards Prussian origin, but during this period, highly skilled craftsman were known to frequently work outside of their homeland on contract. I.E it could have been made by an Italian, or.... working under contract for the Electors of Saxony, or a Prussian or Frenchman working in London. You can pick the nationality. the top skilled craftsman could work anywhere they wanted and usually did. I believe this to be a piece once owned by a highly skilled craftsman and your dating not to be too far off. It was common for the works of such craftsman to have a small identifying mark or initials, not always in an easy to see location and sometimes worked into the engraving. Are there any such identifying marks, other than the collection ID?

    This is a fine piece!

    Tom

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    That is just killer!!! Thanks again for sharing.

    Mel

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    Thanks guys...

    This came from a collection of Horological tools so it may be just that. The sleeve on the handle is odd and I have seen nothing quite like it in printed books of the period, but then again a number of things I have I have never seen a printed illustration of a their particular style.... also no identifying marks on it..... Windmillman, if I may ask, do find many interesting early tools in China? Are they of Western patterns? Maybe you could post some of them..... also you seem to have a good knowledge of old European ways of working as everything you state is quite correct..... where did you pick this up?

    One friend suggested this could be a fly tying vise? It may date from the time of Isaac Walton's "The Compleat Angler"....... maybe one screwed to a near by log or tree stump when not in it's handle?

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    Is it just junk on the thread, or was the `wood screw' welded/brazed/glued onto the clamp (right where the thread pitch changes? To me the wood screw looks almost manufactured as compared to metal smith's hand cut thread. I know those guys were great in their work, but the photo makes it look too perfect.

    From the mounting tube, to me at least, it looks like the wood screw might not be original since there is the cross hole looks ready for a cross wedge for use on a thinner table, or the end thread for a thicker workbench. In use the tube would stay in the bench and the clamp would be removed and placed in the toolbox when not needed. Then again I could be reading too much into it.

    Nice find.

    Rich C.

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    Very elegant piece! The screw and socket are a puzzle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by windmillman View Post
    I believe this to be a horologists hand vice.
    -Not only that, but I'll bet clockmakers used it too!

    Nicely made little thing. I might have to make one for my own teeny parts...

    Doc.

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    The screw is all original and hand filed from one piece ..... it goes from the metal screw thread into the wood screw thread and that is a chunk of dirt in the photo. I think the square hole might have been used in tightening it some how..... in the photo with the leaf engraving you can see the seam where the tapered tube is put together.

    The only problem I have thinking the socket clamped to a bench is why didn't it stay with the bench? also since benches are made of wood why wouldn't you use the wood screw to attach it to the bench? I just keep thinking this whole thing fit into some kind of handle or was the tube separated from it during use and used for something else related to the work at hand but not necessarily in the vise? Or was the little thread at the end of the socket just used to mount this in some kind of tool kit....... picture a Studley Tool chest like thing with a row of tools mounted in it??????? There is a similar table with tool set made for the Elector of Saxony.......

    Once again we wish these tools could talk and tell us there stories...... let's keep thinking on this one.

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    wow that is one heck of a little vice you got there, it is probably used by a watch or clock maker, or may have even been used by a locksmith as they were (and still are) great for cutting bit keys.

    I think the metal sleeve once had a wood handle or possibly leather which was held on by a butt cap and a nut which would have went on the machine thread on the end of the sleeve, the handle could be unscrewed and the wood screw put in a bench, or perhaps if used by a locksmith in a log or other piece of wood on site to make a key.

    i'd make a wood handle for it, it's too nice of one to use, but these things are great to sit with in front of the tv and fit small parts and the like.

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    I have a fondness for old watch tools, and I have a drawer full of hand vises and associated tools. I have none as cool as Bill's, but here is what I do have, to show how the design evolved over the next two and a half centuries or so after his wonderful example. I am most fond of the one with the hinged joint. It is elegant and I am guessing it is English from around 1800. But I would welcome opinions from the real experts. The last two vises on the right of the group are marked Germany (dark finish) and Lampe...& Sons Germany (bright finish). The others have no markings. All of the one-piece body models have hollow handles and a cross hole in the jaw screw so that they can hold long wires while filing a tapered pin, for instance. The hinged vise has a solid handle. They all have cross-hatched jaw faces.

    The group:


    The hinged beauty:



    Larry

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    Those are very nice and since you have more than 3 you must also be a collector, at least that is the rule I use. I think the one piece design was more popular in Europe than in England but will have to do some digging. I am pretty sure they are still being made.... that is not a bad run for a product design... at least a 150 years.

    Your hinged one appears to date from the mid 19th century...... the ones close to 1800 had a much larger "ball" on the end..... they are pretty rare.... there was a lot of 4 in the auction with 2 being early...... it was upwards of $ 700. They also made that style with a turned wood handle.........

    Thanks for sharing these. A friend of mine was visiting a collector last month who gave her a nice little hand vise.... it had a 1875 patent on it.... the scary part is she now has more than 3......... and likes the one above a lot.

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    My Name Is Mark
    I must be a collector !

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    Default You're a Collector If....

    It is simple. Rivett is correct. 3 of anything makes you a collector. I'm sure you'll all agree that a collector is someone obsessed with something.

    The proper explanation is this:

    One is an interest.
    Two is a collection.
    Three is an obsession!

    But, I have to add, that those of us that have - closets full, piles, rooms stuffed, boxes full - of something are actually ACCUMULATORS!

    Horrow!


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    Rivett,
    Do you have a copy of Ted Crom's "Horological Shop Tools, 1700 to 1900" ? This vise is shown on page 617. In the first paragraph of the chapter "Vises" he states that horological vises from 1700 to 1900 were more utilitarian. So.......he didn't really know what the original use for this vise was either. He talks about other sources of information too. There are only three pages on vises. If you want copies, let me know.

    Luddite

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    Ludite, This is the one from Ted's collection. A drawing of it was also on his personal stationary. He never really did know what it was for or exactly where it came from.

    Thank you for the offer of copies however I do have his books.

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    While at the MJD auction I perused a lot of old auction tool catalogs and found this.... It seems my little vise came from the Christie's auction of Arnold & Walkers London shop in 1979...... there description read.... "823 A tail vise with chased decoration and elegantly-shaped bow, the tail with tapered screw in a sheath for fixing into bench top. see plate 24".... their estimate was a mere £ 15 - 25........ which in 1979 dollars was $ 31 - 52........ I think it has gone up a good bit since then!!!!! I will have to call and see what it did bring that day..... who knows there could of been two people that "Wanted it badly" that day...




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    boy, this little vise sure seems to have caused quite a stir, I think I've seen three examples so far of people making replicas, and there's probably a few more folks out there that are making them and not posting about it, I WILL make one one day, but there are too many projects on the bench at the moment, perhaps once I can clear some space...

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    Default fantastic early hand vise

    Rivett,
    Thinking about your hand vise and looking at the woodscrew threads
    and the socket a theory comes to mind. Perhaps the tapered threads
    are for securing the vise to a wooden block or bench. The socket looks
    like a collet that would screw into the headstock of a lathe. Then the
    vise could thread into the socket and workpiece rotated. I have no idea
    if early lathe headstocks had tapers like the socket has but it looked
    pretty uniform in the pictures. Perhaps you could measure that part
    and see if it matches any watchmakers or jewelers lathe taper and
    threads. Just my 2 cents.
    SPAETH

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    Spaeth..... I think there is no doubt the wood screw threads are to screw into a bench or some other wood surface...... as to the taper fitting into a lathe spindle there is one problem with that..... the idea of a tapered hole hole in a spindle didn't seem to show up till about a hundred years after we think this was made......... even my one 18th c. lathe has a square tapered hole in the spindle, the round came later...... also it is not perfectly concentric...... now that is not to say that some brilliant craftsman made this with ideas that were way ahead of his time??????? maybe this was part of a larger tool kit that included a lathe?????

    Thanks for thinking about this and I think it is fun how many copies have been made.... over on the HSM site someone posted a wonderful set of CAD drawings they did of it......

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    I was looking for something else in Dover's "Decorative Antique Ironwork, A Pictorial Treasury" which is a 1920's reprint of the the catalog of the Le Secq des Tournelles Museum in Rouen France.... I have been there a few times and this may well be the most fantastic collection of early iron work in the world..... if you even remotely like the art of blacksmith's this place should be a must see!

    Anyway it seems they have a very similar vise...... the wing nut and washer below almost look to made by the same hand???? It's one in from the left and upside down...



    Now one thing that has bothered me is what the little screw thread on the bottom of the tapered sleeve is for... it is certainly not strong enough to hold this vise for any kind of work.... on another page were corkscrews with a little disc at the bottom...... was this just decorative? a stand, a seal, a pipe tamp?...... who knows BTW they did combine all kinds of odd tools together into the same instrument in this period...... anyway do you think my little vise may have had something like a little disc at the bottom??????



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