Saturday, October 26, 2013

La Forge Royale Etaux


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.

15 comments:

  1. Finally, the smaller version of the Crisscross that we spoke about last year. That's one mean looking vice you have there, Jameel. This definitely looks like (another) winner. From whence doth the leg vice come? And what is the contraption sitting on the floor under the tail vice wheel?

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    1. That's an electric heating blanket powered bending form for bending lute ribs.

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  2. It seems to me more a St. Andrew's cross then a St. Peter's one.

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    1. Andrea, the term "St. Peter's Cross" comes directly from a woodworking book describing the mechanism. Although the religious correlations may not mesh, the name has stuck.

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    2. Well, Jameel, I understand, someone once made a mistake because of his ignorance on that particular aspect. What I do not understand is why you continue to pertetrare that mistake since you know that particular aspect.
      I do not know if I have explained: from immemorial time the X is a St. Andrew's cross, then someone, in one book, called it wrongly St. Peter's cross and now you prefer to follow that mistake instead of his millenarian proper name. I don't understand why.

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    3. We're referring to the historical woodworking text, not the saints, or the way either of them was crucified. We're not perpetrating a mistake, but simply using the term used by the original author (written about 110 years ago) and which much of the woodworking world is familiar. The author writes "This ingenious contrivance for keeping the inner surface of the cheek of the bench-vise parallel to the outer surface of the board that forms the front of the bench is the "Croix de St. Pierre", or "St. Peter's Cross" as it is called on the continent, where it is very generally adopted and used by all carpenters and joiners" It could very well be that he made a mistake and called the vise by an incorrect name. But there also may be a reason that it was known as the St. Peter's Cross, instead of the St. Andrew's Cross. We don't know, and as the man is long dead, we may never know. The point here is that the modern woodworking community knows this device primarily because of this text, and thus correlates that term with the device. If the original author had made the mistake of calling the mechanism a "cheese danish" for example, and we had no other printed reference to the device, we would be forced to call it the "cheese danish". I hope this puts this to rest. We mean no disrespect by using the term. It's simply the only term we have to use.

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    4. It is the same comparison that I was going to do. So if we find, in one old book, a drawing of an apple with the description that its common name is pear, rather than explain the error of the author, we should ignore all the background and subsequent knowledge and call the apples, pears?

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  3. Jameel,

    I will take one for sure. Can't wait!!!!!!!

    Freddy

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  4. Have you thought of offering a complete Etau for sale?

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    1. Not really. If we do make the metal parts, we will encourage folks to make their own.

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  5. Jameel,

    I'm not sure about the vise... But I'll take a cheese danish please!

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  6. GOOD DAY TO ALL OF YOU. MAIL THIS AND THAT I COULD SEE THE MORSE, ARE BEAUTIFUL AND FUNCTIONAL.
    SURELY I will build 'ONE TOO FOR MY WORKSHOP THAT COMES OUT OF EVERYTHING. MY DUE AND HEARD CONGRATULATIONS. BEST REGARDS .........
    P.S. I WANT TO POINT OUT TO YOU, FOR FAIRNESS THAT ARE ITALIAN AND GOWN IN THE PROVINCE OF PERUGIA, SO MY ENGLISH AND 'Translated with Google Translate. MY dutiful OSSECUI. -


    MR PHILIP LAI

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  7. Hi Jameel. Thought you'd find this interesting. Here's a video containing an etau from 1912. You've likely seen this, but maybe some of your blog readers haven't. It shows an apprentice using one with an additional screw-clamp to hold firm a chair leg while he trues and tenons the piece. A clamp added to an etau added to a bench. Very cool. Starts around the 5 minute mark. http://tr.im/4lcfy

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    1. The videos from l'Ecole Boulle are great, aren't they? Browse around, there are more at that sight.

      Jeff Miller has made one of those shoulder-sawing fixtures, along with the saw. It works perfectly.

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  8. I just found a similar cross. Its marked R. W. Thickens. Pat Aug 19, 1856. The comment at DATAMP, "not known to have been produced". I think we now know otherwise. You can see it , https://www.facebook.com/timetestedtools

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