Our good friend Charles Mak wrote in to suggest that the hand vise shown here might be a useful addition to the automaton-maker's toolbox. Funny, I was looking through the Lee Valley Tool catalog just two days ago and thought the same thing!
Based on the design of a tool more common in the 1900s, this little hand vise is helpful for holding all manner of small objects. Because there is a hole in the handle, wire can be threaded through and then worked above the jaws -- a nice feature. The handle can also be clamped into a larger vise allowing you to hold smaller items than normally possible.
[ Thanks Charles! ]