I've been fascinated by the Forge Royale catalog since I was first introduced to it several years ago by Chris Schwarz. This catalog, and others from companies like Camion Freres, serve as great inspiration for what we do here at Benchcrafted.
Part of our research into old workholding technique here includes searching out extant examples of classic vises. The etau is an intriguing vise form that appears in various versions in the La Forge catalog. It serves much the same function as the carver's chops with the added benefit of being able to mount to any bench or even a table. It's a work-site vise as much as anything, although the examples I've seen have all been in workshops.
I have mine more or less permanently mounted to the back corner of my bench, where its doesn't interfere with 99% of the bench work I do. But when I need to work on something close, sharpen a card scraper, spokeshave a curve, pare a through mortise horizontally, I turn to my etau.
I recently acquired two examples of etaux from France. Both are products of La Forge Royale, items 177-178, and 179-180. The catalog numbers are curious, as they suggest two different items, or perhaps sizes of etau per style. The word is still out on this.
Etau 177-178 uses a threaded rod and nut as a pivot point to prevent racking. The end of the rod butts into a counterbore in the moving jaw and passes through the fixed jaw. The counterbore is deep enough to house the round nut when using the vise with thinner pieces. It's a nice system, but requires adjustment when changing workpiece thickness. The etau clamps to a bench via two finger-jointed C-clamps screwed to the cheeks of the rear jaw. It's a system that doesn't hold up all that well, and one which we tried to improve on when making the version pictured above on my bench. It's rock-solid.
This vise has the very classy Forge Royale lion medallion on the front jaw.
Etau 179-180 features a very slick cast iron St. Peter's Cross mechanism. When I purchased this vise I wasn't sure of the maker. But when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find the maker's mark cast right into the St. Peter's Cross.
The overall form of the St. Peter's Cross is very similar to the vintage one we used to cast our Crisscross. Although that example doesn't have a maker's mark, the connection between it and this mini version are unmistakable. I'll have to do some research into this further.
This etau works flawlessly. The cross supports the weight of the chop, screw, and itself for truly effortless adjustment. It cranks down and holds work tight. At the bottom of each cross mortise is a metal wear plate to provide smooth movement and prevent the bottom of the arms from digging into the wooden jaws.
We may end up doing a small run of etau parts in the next couple years. Stay tuned.