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bugatti vice


Oct 8, 2005
western washington state
not much information about designer of Bugatti vice is found
at least one reference links Ettore Bugatti as originator

they are attractive--pics of old, recreations for sale at lofty prices and image rendering from desk of skilled cad operator


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special mention regarding Bugatti restoration house Tula Engineering of Gloucestershire

this firm offers standard and baby sized Bugatti vices created based upon original factory drawings


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Years ago, on one of my "diverted" visits to the public library when I was a schoolboy, I read a history of Ettore Bugatti and his ideas for design. Bugatti based his work at Molsheim, in Alsace-Lorain (if I remember right). Bugatti was probably what we would today call OCD or something like it. Bugatti claimed Alsace-Lorain was the ideal place for his automobile shop as it combined the artistic nature of the French with the craftsmanship and methodical nature of the Germans.

Bugatti made a practice of studying horses, as he considered race horses to be the ideal or optimal "design". He supposedly studied the bones of race horses which he got from slaughterhouses, and modeled some of the parts of Bugatti engines and the car suspensions using race horse bones as his guide. Bugatti liked the humerus bones of the race horses, in particular. His other quirk was never handling finish-machined parts with his bare hands. He always wore thin leather gloves when he'd inspect or handle finished parts. Whether he was ahead of the curve in realizing that his fingerprints and sweat might have acids that would etch into the finish-machined or ground surfaces, or whether he just had a fetish was never made clear. He was reportedly a very exacting and fussy individual, and expected a high degree of finish on anything in his shops or anything going onto his engines or cars. I recall reading that the bench vises were made to his design, highly finished, as Bugatti was not happy with any commercially available bench vises.

Aside from a high degree of finish on the parts, Bugatti's design for a bench vise seems to be somewhat parallel to the familiar Wilton "bullet" vises.

Bugatti did not like certain existing machine tools and vises, finding their designs to clash with his ideas. The result was Bugatti built certain grinding machines in-house, and were best known for the vises. An original Bugatti vise from the Molsheim shops is highly collectable. I do not think that, in the days when Ettore Bugatti ran his Molsheim shops, the Bugatti vises were made for re-sale.

Nowadays, the Bugatti "label" finds its way onto all sorts of things, "designer" items for the most part. If Bugatti's name is on vises in this current time, it is not because the vise is unique or anything special. It is the "name". I do not think anyone in their right mind would buy one of these new Bugatti vises with the intention of actually using it. At the price for these new Bugatti vises, it is likely they are bought by rich folks as art or something like it.

As was well said, a Wilton Bullet vise will do the same job as the new Bugatti vise, and no one will lose sleep if the paint gets chipped or a nick or ding on the vise body happens with use. A vise is meant to be used. Even with copper jaw caps and the best of intentions and care, some wear is going to happen.

I was always more partial to what I call the "classic" American machinist vises. Nice husky rectangular ram, plenty of iron, and to my way of thinking, a bit more rugged than the Wilton Bullet design. I've seen a heavy Wilton Bullet vise with a busted round ram from heavy use. A vise like a Reed, Morgan, or Prentiss would never have failed in that same type of service. My own favorite of the "classic" machinist vises is the Parker vise. The story was that Parker, a maker of very fine shotguns, custom shotguns for the most part needed to keep the shop working steadily. The vises that Parker made were fine classic machinist vises.
They held up well in service. A man could take a hammer and cape chisel and do some chipping on work held in one of those vises and not think twice about it.
Somehow, I cannot imagine anyone doing real machinist's bench work in one of these fancy new-generation Bugatti vises. One slip of a file or hacksaw, let alone using a hammer and cold chisel in a new Bugatti vise is something the people likely to buy those vises are incapable of doing, let alone would they risk dinging or scarring their new "collectable". The jaws of my own machinist vise, a 4 1/2" Rigid (same as a Columbia in design) swivel base vise have become magnetized from filing and hacksawing in one direction. The repetitive motion set up "domains" in the vise jaws and the ferrous filings cling to the jaws. I give the jaws a rap with a hammer and chunk of copper bus bar to kill the magnetism, but sooner or later, the jaws magnetize again. The paint is worn off the castings on my machinist bench vise from use. I can't imagine blowing a substantial wad of cash on a "designer" Bugatti vise only to use it as a vise is meant to be used. a good solid machinist vise from the likes of Wilton would do the job handily and leave enough cash on the table to buy a lot of other tools.

Kind of like the difference between a rich person and a regular person. A rich person will go hog wild in how they have a bathroom put into their homes- imported marble, gold plated fixtures, custom glass for the shower enclosure.... and a regular person goes to the local building supply or plumbing supply and gets a stock sink, vanity, shower base, and toilet. When you are taking a shower or answering the call of nature, imported marble and gold plating don't make a difference in the end result. A fancy new Bugatti vise is in the same league as imported marble and gold plating in the bathroom.
Guys, I'm seeing a market opportunity here, Caddillac, Cord, Deusenberg etc etc vises, .............hey maybe even a Shelby vise.

There's just gotta be enough car muppets out there with more $$$$ than sense. :D
Apparently only the originals have the radiator shaped logo. And the new ones don't even have a good way to fasten it to the bench?

And here I was all set to buy one :D

I seem to recall that Bugatti also made CI front bench legs, for wall benches, for these vises to go on.

It's been a long time since I looked at photos of Bugatti vises, so it did not occur to me before now that there may well be a "connection" between the Bugatti product and Wilton clones.

Basically, Wiltons are clones of a Czech design from the early 1930's that was patented in 1934 by "Mr. Dohnal" & produced by the York vise co, still in business over there. It was sold by a merchant who emigrated to the USA and decided to patent it here in 1941 since no one would be the wiser or much care during the war years. It was apparently named after the street he lived on or possibly had a shop on, Wilton street.

So, very early 1930's euro design change from the square/rectangular stem common until that time. Who originally copied who? before the known journey to the new world? Is the timeline of the Bugatti vises known for certain? Did he copy the not yet patented (or maybe even patented) Czech design, or did they see a Bugatti vise that was not patented, decide it was a good idea, create a market, and later have the same design re-"stolen" from them? (Did "Mr. Dohnal" ever work for Bugatti?) Were the originators merely coincidentally thinking alike, or is there other Euro precedent for a round stem?

smt, 6" York "bullet" vise
I have also read that thick book about Bugatti. The vises are also in the book.

Bugatti started out as a sculptor and got into making cars. As beautifully made as they were,they were not very practical in engine design,to say the least!! You were expected to remove the engine's oil on cold mornings,warm it on the kitchen stove,and pour it back into the engine!You would also often find yourself on the side of the road juggling hot spark plugs. Arriving to your fancy occasion,looking more like a careless mechanic than a rich man in a tuxedo.

It is said that the engines running sounded like a lot of small parts being vibrated down a chute.

His factory was kept spotless.

Anyone who complained to Bugatti about the unreliability of his engines was dismissed as stupid by Ettore!
Bugatti started out as a sculptor and got into making cars.

You must be thinking of Rembrandt Bugatti his brother. Love his stuff!

His dad built all the weird furniture with the wheels & rondels everywhere. Poor Ettore crawling around as a baby could hardly not grow up to build things with wheels, lol! I don't think he was ever a sculptor by intention, he started early and often in the design offices of carmakers, and one early success was the Peugeot Bebe. Very successful and practical for the time (1904).

Bugattis are often small displacement distributed over a large number of cylinders, so depending on the exhaust system don't have a deep sound compared to large bore American cars. But similar perhaps to Millers, which Ettore studied and arguably copied elements from.

Here's one at the local Walmarts.


rat rod in the paddock


Sunday morning Bug line up for church, next town over.



Another local gathering, the famous Bugatti El Camino/Ranchero prototype:


The only sort of weird thing about the engines is Ettore thought they should clean "appliances" and most are rectangular boxes, hand flaked all over.


These are cars from the 1920's and 30's. About the only weird thing about the cars for the era is that they still had cable brakes up until the war broke out. Other than that, people who can afford to still drive them to outings.

neilho --

Bugatti vises are clamped to the bench by a single stud. The stud, at the center of the mounting flange, passes through the workbench where it engages a sliding-T-handle nut. To swivel the vise, the T-handle clamping nut is loosened, the vise swiveled, and the clamping nut re-tightened.

None of that oh-so-unsightly hold-down hardware is visible from the top side.


Thank you for unlocking another little mystery for me. A friend has an old "York" vise that was his father's. It looks like a Wilton "bullet" vise, and is made of heavy castings. The finish on the castings is on the rough side, but the vise has stood up well since the time my friend's father purchased it. My friend's father had a coppersmithing business in New Jersey, making brewery kettles, pharmaceutical process equipment and similar. The vise was used in that shop, until the shop was closed and my friend's father retired. The vise apparently held up well, has the usual assortment of dings, gashes, and wear. My friend's father came to the USA from Hungary via South America, so may have arrived in the 30's, and the York vise may well date to the 40's. It is still in use, albeit very occasionally and for light home shop use.

Car2: Charles Parker had the shotgun manufacturing plant in Meriden, Connecticut. The vises came out of that same plant. I know a very small amount about the Parker shotguns, but have heard of the incredible fit and finish of the parts. The vises had a kind of "gusset" that went from the vertical sides of the opening for the ram to the base, incorporated in the castings. This gusset included a little decorative detail on it in the casting. The reality is the gusset probably did next to nothing structurally- most machinist vises of that pattern did not have that gusset. However, Parker may have felt the gusset made for a sounder casting by "easing" corner from the vertical block with the hole for the ram to the base. It may have been there to help control shrinkage stresses. Parker also made a kind of "universal vise", a machinist vise on a round spud which could be positioned of ways. I've only seen the "universal" Parker machinist vise maybe twice. I am guessing this was probably a design Parker had come up with for their own use in bench work such as hand fitting/filing the parts of their shotguns.

It is quite interesting to read G. Wilson's post as well. from the sounds of GWilson's post (sorry about the pun), Bugatti is probably a legend built on appearances and unfounded information. While the cars may have looked quite good and had fine finish on the parts, that may have been as far as the substance of the legend went. If, in reality, despite the hand-built approach and all the insistence on details and unique design on the part of Ettore Bugatti- and despite a price tag that very few people could afford (let alone amass in a lifetime of hard work)- the Bugatti cars were well styled buckets of bolts. Put fancy coachwork on running gear with an engine and suspension designed or at least influenced by a sculptor who studied horse bones and a bucket of bolts for the wealthy resulted. Kind of like the "emperor's new clothes".

Meanwhile, the average working stiff was going down the road in a Flivver, or perhaps a Model A, Ford V-8 or Chevy. No fancy price tag, no custom coach work, and it got him where he needed to go without having to do too much beyond a little fiddling to start the engine in cold weather, then driving.

Interesting comparison between Parker shotguns and Bugatti cars. Both made vises. Parker Vises were extremely strong and durable and practical. Parker shotguns showed exemplary workmanship, were made to fit the owners, and were fine shooting and long-lived things. Bugatti vises were not the most practical thing, not so strong as a traditional machinist vise, and their cars were highly finished, high priced buckets of bolts. Parker got it right at all levels, and their vises were made for mechanics and machinists to really use on a day-to-day basis.
The "fitting" on top of the barrel is possibly a grease fitting?

Some of you are not aware that there were two brothers: Ettore and Rembrandt.

Rembrandt was the sculptor and did an amazing series of bronzes. Truly gifted in his own right.

Ettore was certainly unique in his own way of doing things. For example, the crankshaft was assembled from individual components and pressed together.

Simply amazing at his "not standard" way of looking at mechanisms. Not all of them were successful, but he beat the pants off of everyone else that was in competition at the time. When they were running huge cars, he was running very small ones.
I forget who he was referring to, but he said that (the competitor) built a good truck.

Lee (the saw guy)