There are certain vises that develop almost a cult-like following, and near the top of that list is the Wilton Baby. Technically, they are called a model 820, 920 or No. 20 depending upon age, and when they were cast, but most folks just call them the baby. Regardless of how they are marked, they all have 2″ wide jaws and are the smallest production vise Wilton made. There is also a 2.5″ jaw model that many consider a baby as well since they’re not much larger than the 2″ model, but there can be only one true baby, right?
For whatever reason, Wilton babies have developed into one of those things collectors go crazy for. In practice, the only people that probably want/need a vise this small are people doing jewelry work, or maybe small electronics, but everybody seems to want one. For such a small vise (they fit in one hand) the prices have gotten ridiculous, with nice examples starting around $300 and going up from there depending upon condition, whether they are on a swivel base or adjustable Powrarm Junior (yes, that spelling is correct, if awkward) and how original they are.
I think a few things led to the rise in popularity of the Wilton baby. One, they really are cute little devices that can actually be put to work, if on a limited scale. Two, anything on the extreme small or large end of the scale sells in the vise collecting world. Third, they aren’t made any longer, and haven’t been made in decades so the supply is limited.
An interesting thing to note about the baby is that most of them were cast at the Wilton factory in Chicago, which means 1957 or earlier, because Wilton moved to Schiller Park, Illinois in 1957. They must have loaded up a couple of trucks worth of babies that were cast in Chicago and took them to Schiller Park, because they were being sold for many years after the move, with date stamps to prove it. There were some babies cast in Schiller Park, but they seem to be far less common.
I never gave much thought to the Wilton Baby, but always figured I would buy one if I got it at a good price since people are always asking me if I have one. I’ve watched the prices they go for on eBay and saw a few pop up on Craigslist, but the prices were always way too high and most weren’t in great condition. I certainly didn’t expect to stumble onto one the way I did!
I was at my desk checking e-mail and surfing the web while having my coffee on a typical Saturday morning when I got a text from a coworker who is as much a friend as a coworker. It said “need any more vises?” and a couple of pictures popped up. The pictures were of a table covered with Wilton vises, and smack dab in the middle were two babies on Powrarm Juniors. I also noted my personal “holy grail” Wilton in one of the pictures, a model 450SJ which is 4.5″ wide jaws with the rear jaw having swivel capability. That vise will be the subject of an upcoming post in the near future.
The incredible thing I noted in the pictures was that one of the babies still had the factory sticker on the dynamic jaw, just above the spindle. That meant it was original paint, and original stickers, just like the model 9450 I featured in Saving Private Wilton https://mivise.com/2017/01/saving-private-wilton/! To find any older Wilton with original paint and original stickers is rare, but a baby puts it off the charts!
Luckily, my buddy told me he was at an auction he stumbled upon just driving by near his home and it was less than a 30 minute drive for me. It turns out an older gunsmith passed away and the auction was for all of the equipment in the shop, and there was a lot of it! I checked the website for the auction to look up the terms (times, payment methods, etc), grabbed my vise cash and jumped in the truck. The auction was already under way, but they weren’t going to get to the tools and equipment for another hour or so when he texted me, so I was able to get there in time.
I got to the auction, found my buddy, registered, and found the table with the vises. As I recall, there were nine Wiltons covering the table. I swear my heart skipped a beat when I saw them in person. They were all in extremely good condition, and I honestly would have bought every single one of them if I could have. The baby with the original sticker was just as nice in person, maybe better, than the pictures. I didn’t have much time, so I pulled out my notebook, wrote down a target number for each vise and double-checked all of them to make sure I hadn’t missed any damage on my first look. Then it was time to wait while people filtered by the table one after the other talking about the vises. I knew there was going to be a lot of bidding, but I also knew at least two of them were going home with me!
When the auctioneer got to the table with the vises I was set up next to shelving unit so most of the bidders couldn’t see me, but I was right next to the auctioneer, so he would hear and see me easily. Luckily, the bidding started on the vises I was least interested in and while I bid on them, I didn’t go over my maximum, and actually let some get away in the hopes the buyer would stop with just one, leaving less people to bid on the two I wanted most. When we got to the first baby I was locked into a battle with a guy I’ve seen bid on vises at other auctions, so I know he’s either a collector, or flipper. We ran the price up pretty quickly, and I think I could have still gotten it at the high end of my limit, but I let him have it, again hoping it would eliminate him from the other baby.
When the auctioneer got to this baby I let people start out with small increments, and low bids and then I jumped it up over $100 which caused a bit of a pause in the action and even got a bit of a “wow” from the group. Two more bids and everybody else stopped…right at the number I had written down before we started. Needless to say, I was thrilled, but kept my auction game face on because we were getting down to the other vise I knew I had to have. That turned out well, and I’ll write about it soon, but on to the details of this great little Wilton Baby!
As the pictures show, it’s really in amazing condition. The slide is date stamped 12-3-66, so it’s been around for just over 50 years, and the paint and sticker survived! I don’t keep many vises, and I originally didn’t give much thought to wanting a Wilton Baby, but I think this one is sticking around a while.
This first picture shows the view from my “hiding spot” next to the table…the shelving unit is to the left. You can’t even see all the vises from this angle!
This picture shows how small the baby is next to the 450SJ on the left and standard 4″ machinist model on the right.
Here’s the baby!
Tom Hoyle says
Nice Website. I also like vises. I have rebuild a few. I currently have a 1946 Wilton which is my daily user. Love that vise. I also have recently completed Prentiss Bulldog 513 and 59. I have a very small Athol and a very small Yankee vise to clean up and paint. I also have a dozen or so mavhinist /drill press vises and several Palmgren milling attachments which are vises plus a verticle slide. Most other vises I have sold as my shop is a two car garage which is completely overfilled.
Thats awesome. I love old original stuff. Its so nice to see you can still find stuff like that. I have 2 indian chief post vises and a small littlestown bench vise. So those are the names i’m goin after slowly. I saw you posts on I forge iron and thats what brought me over here.
Thanks for the note, and kind words Kevin! I really do enjoy finding old vises and getting them back to work. I only wish I liked stuff that wasn’t quite so heavy!
Hey I want to buy the Wilton baby from you. What’s the price. I need it big time, Let me know. Please!!
Thanks for the note! Unfortunately, the Wilton baby is one of just a couple of vises I won’t sell. I can replace most others, but finding another baby with original paint and stickers would take far too much luck to let it go. Still, I appreciate the offer! Thanks,
I have a baby Wilton vise original paint like brand new I might be willing to get rid of for the right price
Sorry for the delay…I missed your note. Are you still looking to sell your baby Wilton? I’m down to just this one now, and haven’t seen any in quite some time!
Cindy Smith says
I have a baby Wilton. If I send pictures can you tell me the worth? My husband was a collector of everything and I found one.
I can certainly try to help with the value. If you send me a note through the Contact page I can give you my direct e-mail so you can send me some pictures!
Susan Shaw says
Hi Chris, I just bought a Chicago baby bullet, but the date stamped is simply 173. Is it possible that the body casting is pre-1957 while the shaft was made in January 1973? Regardless, I love my baby!
Thanks a lot,
Thanks for the note!
It’s actually pretty common to find Wilton 2″ babies with a Chicago casting and a key date well after the move to Schiller Park in 1957. It’s unlikely that your vise has a body made pre-1957 and a slide/dynamic jaw from 1973.
There are two possible theories I know of that would explain why we see so many of the 2″ vises with bodies that say “Chicago” and key stamps well after the move to Schiller Park in 1957.
Theory one is that they cast a huge pile of babies and took them with them to Schiller Park. From a time, effort, and logistical standpoint that doesn’t make much sense to me, but it’s possible.
The other theory is that they made so few of the 2″ vises that the moulds used to make them didn’t require replacement until well after the move, and Wilton didn’t bother making new moulds just to reflect their move to Schiller Park. In the common sizes that they sell in large quantity the moulds probably got replaced frequently enough that replacing them when they moved to Schiller Park would have made sense. I suspect something along these lines is the real reason, as opposed to Wilton making thousands of baby castings and dragging them to Schiller Park.
Either way, it’s a safe bet your vise is all original. Keep your eye out of a 2″ baby with a Schiller Park body…they are very rare!
Jerry jamie says
I have a few Wilton’s I would consider selling I can send you some pictures tomorrow. Thanks Jerry
Thanks for the note! I’m always interested in taking a look. You can send the pics to email@example.com Thanks!
Harold Ross says
I just bought a baby 820 vise very cheaply at a out door swap meet. The only thing missing is the end cap. It those have a swivel bottom and one of the adjusting levers is froze to the bolt but think I can can it loose. What value would this little cute be? It has some rust, too.
Thanks for the note. Value is really hard to determine without pictures because condition makes a really big difference in what people will pay. If there is no true damage and the only part missing is the dust cap, it’s probably worth at least a couple hundred dollars in the current market. I’d take a look on eBay and check the sold listings to see if there are any that appear similar to yours in condition, and use that as a ballpark guide.
I have a baby Wilton that looks identical the one you have pictured except the stickers not on it brand new with the power arm and a hold down clamp
Just got my first baby Wilton as a compliment to my C3, these things are like Doritos… would like to find a nice swivel base for it…
For some reason one does lead to another pretty easily! I can’t recall ever seeing a swivel base assembly for a baby by itself and I know a lot of folks are looking for them, so it will take some luck to find one. Mine is on a Pow-R-Arm and I sold the two I had that were on swivel bases (probably a mistake!). Good luck either way!
I’d like to buy a Wilton 2 “ baby vise , if anyone is selling I’m in Michigan. Thanks Steve.
I haven’t seen a baby in the wild in years at this point. I used to occasionally get a note from someone looking to sell, but now I think most folks are going straight to eBay where they’ll get the best price.
John R says
Hi was there a point where the baby vise was produced without the sticker on the jaw?
The sticker size and location seemed to vary a bit over time. I’ve seen earlier examples with the sticker over the tail cap area rather than the front jaw, so I think some definitely were sold without a sticker on the jaw.
Thanks for the response
Hi again, I JUST got myself a beautiful baby! and it has the Schiller markings, not the Chicago. does anyone know what reference number this is? looks like 10100 (or the like? I’ll have to look under better lighting) it doesn’t look like the other numbers I normally see associated with this model (it is in fact 2″ jaw)
So exited to finally have one of these! like having a “centerpiece” on my workbench .
Congrats on the new vise. The Schiller Park examples aren’t terribly common so that’s a nice find. I saw one with a PowRarm in NOS condition go for $1,600 recently…pretty wild. That makes me rethink passing on one for $350 a few years ago!
The 10100 number (or similar) is just a casting code used at the foundry. It’s not a model number or part number that Wilton used. Sometimes people refer to particular models using those codes but that really isn’t correct. In most cases there will be one number like that on the static jaw and another one digit different on the dynamic jaw so picking one or the other as a model name wouldn’t really work well.
Hi, that was ME who bought that. It’s such an iconic vise I couldn’t pass on it! A little rich for my blood but at my age, I like things I could not have afforded earlier in my life. I waited because it was originally listed at about 2k
It’s the pinnacle of my bench now. It’s a gem!
Yes, it came with the power arm, and it LOOKS to never have even been mounted ( no paint indents where you’d expect).
With that purchase we’re going to officially have to call you the Wilton Wildman! It certainly appears unused and I’m pretty good at spotting restored vises that are claimed to be original. Unfortunately there isn’t a mechanism for other folks to upload pictures and since it’s just a blog I don’t get much storage capacity that would be necessary for others to add pictures.
Is there a way I can post a picture?
Hahaha thank you, I’m honored!
Yes it certainly looks new. I think I could spot a re-paint although I’m no expert.
I was hesitant but knew I’d kick myself later on if I didn’t buy it.
And now, I’m gonna “baby” my baby Lol.
Steve Bossio says
Was that the one on eBay ? NOS I believe
Yep, that’s the one.
Yep it is. Not something I ever thought I’d come across. Had to get it.
Steve Bossio says
It looks nice.
Thank you. It’s beautiful in person.