Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Are You A User Or A Program?


The question arises from a simple idea. Do you feel like less of a woodworker if you follow a set of plans?

Or more accurately, do you feel like awkward when building a project that you didn't design? I used to, until I started developing plans for others to follow. That changed how I view plans. When I follow a plan, I immediately feel like a neophyte. And it's not because the project is necessarily complex, but rather I seem to slip into the mode of program versus user. I assume everything has been figured out for me, and all I need to do is the bidding of Master Control. We all need a Dumont to help us gain access to Master Control and break free of the bond that plans and cutlists can impose on us. 

Here's what I do when I follow a plan. Before I cut wood, before I even order wood, I study the plan, nearly memorize the plan to the point that I know and understand every aspect of the project. Doing this, I make the plan my own project. It becomes my design, in effect. Nobody is holding my hand or a conductor's wand. I am in charge. I am the conductor. It's not a fun process though. It takes discipline. But so does developing your own idea. The beauty of following a plan is that you can be assured (if you trust the source) that many of the mistakes have already been worked out. 

The plans we're developing for the Classic Workbench will reflect this philosophy. There will of course be schematics of the bench, like our Split Top Roubo, but there will also be succinct construction notes that will tell you the why of the design, not just the how. We want this design to become your's. 

Some may question why we're releasing a bench design that doesn't include more of our products (like a wagon vise) and will cost about half of what it costs to build a Split Top Roubo. It's a valid question. And here's the answer. We're in this for the craft first. And we think if you're just getting into the craft, you should have the option to build a sweet bench with Benchcrafted functionality without emptying your wallet. This is that bench. If you've got the means, go all the way with our Glide and Tail Vise packages. But if you're just dipping your toes in, and you want to sample the wares without that little nagging in the back of your mind, the Classic is the bench to build. 





Friday, January 22, 2016

Excuse Me, I Spelched


When I build a laminated benchtop I joint the faces and edges of every laminate. It's much easier to build flatness into a massive slab than make it flat later.

Nevertheless, there is always some minor plane work to be done after the glue cures. And its entirely across the width of the benchtop. In fact, if you joint your top laminates like I do, the bench will end up totally flat along its length, meaning you only have to traverse across the top to clean up it, taking perpendicular strokes as you march from one end of the top to the other. This top took four light passes to clean up.

Spelching can be a problem when planing directly across the long axis of wood fibers where they are unsupported at the back edge of the bench top. The preventative medicine is a chamfer. But sometimes even it fails.


Today I tore a chunk from the back arris of this bench in an area with reversing grain. The chamfer wasn't strong enough medicine, and a stronger chamfer would provide no cure, so surgery was required.


To begin the procedure, first prep the area with an application of router. I made this as small as possible so as to make an inconspicuous scar. Yes, it didn't quite get the entire wound. I can live with some scarring.


Next, layout the incision with a combo square and pare away the errant flesh to a 45 degree angle at the extents of the injury site.


Now prepare some donor tissue using material of the same species and origin. Dress the surface of the donor tissue with a smooth plane so its flat, then miter the ends precisely to length to match the shape of the scarred host area.


Check the fit of the patch and prepare and apply the adhesive medium.



Apply the clamping apparatus and allow the newly grafted tissue to assimilate to the host body overnight.


Retire to the physician's lounge, crack open the Taylor Rye, then unmold (for the first time) your Death Star Ice Cube Ball and realize in disappointment that the designers were far too stingy on the greebling, and by the time it hits the glass, what little greebling there is, along with the too-shallow concavity of the Superlaser Focus Lens is melted away.


Once the site has healed the clamping apparatus can be removed, and any excess scar tissue removed by planing.




Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Visit England, Build A Moxon Vise


This fall you can join Derek Jones at West Dean College in West Sussex England for a class in building a set of bench appliances, with our Moxon Vise as the center of the course.

You'll build a rebated bench hook, a shooting board and dovetail alignment board, in addition to building a beautifully dovetailed Moxon Vise.

The hardware for the course is being provided through our friends at the only Benchcrafted dealership in the U.K., Classic Hand Tools.

For futher details on the course, click here.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Holdfasts in Stock (going fast), Plate 11 Leg Vise Forged Parts & HANDS videos Xmas sale extended


UPDATE:  Only a few left now.

We again have our hand-forged holdfasts in stock. Price is $199 plus shipping (domestic shipping will be added in cart, for International please email us.  For more info on our holdfasts, see this.

These can only be bought here, we won't add them to our Store page.  Button below:








We have two sets of iron parts intended for use with a Roubo Plate 11-style leg vise screw. These were made earlier this year by Peter Ross. They are typical Ross work. In other words, you couldn't get closer to the original if you were personal friends with H.G. Wells.

To make the rings easier to fit, we lightly machine the inside of the ring ferrule so it's truly round. If you've seen one of these, you'll be amazed at how little material needs to be removed. Ross makes these without any sort of form, just hammer and anvil with welded ends. They are gorgeous.

One end of the handle is removable. Simply tap out the taper pin, remove the ball, install on vise screw, replace ball and pin. Ross filed a witness mark across the ball and tenon so reassembly is easy.

We've only got two of these, and won't be making more. Price is $220 for the set of 1 ring ferrule, 1 handle. Shipping is extra.

If you'd like to purchase, send an email to info@benchcrafted.com and include your mailing address. We'll send you an invoice which we ask you to kindly pay promptly.




We've decided to extend the Xmas sale on these videos.  How long it lasts nobody knows!  Please visit the Videos page.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Idea Behind The Classic Workbench


This week we're building the new Benchcrafted Classic Workbench, both in the virtual world, and in reality.

For several years we've been keen on designing a more approachable bench for new enthusiasts, or those who prefer the raw simplicity of a smaller, stripped down bench. We also wanted to produce something around our Classic Leg Vise, which deserves a bench of its own!

Continuing on the design and functional aesthetic of the Classic Leg Vise, this bench will strongly echo the workbenches from the late 19th and early 20th century French vocational schools, colonial territories, and those offered by the La Forge Royale company.

For those with a Split Top Roubo, the Classic will  make an excellent, economical second bench.




The bench features only one vise for now. The Classic Leg Vise with Crisscross Solo. To round out the workholding, a planing stop and holdfasts are used for face work.

The bench uses only one type of joint. The easy to make half-lap mortise and tenon. We use this joint during the French Oak Roubo Project to joint the rails to the legs, with a single 5/8" drawbored peg. The top of this bench is joined to the base with the same joint.

This won't be a knock-down bench, so the hardware cost will be minimal. We're trying our hardest to design this bench to be affordable, easy to build, and perform to a high standard.






Saturday, December 26, 2015

Website taking a possible nap


We're doing some server updates during the period that our Store page is shut down (Dec. 25-31).  The site may be glitchy or even unreachable sometime in that period.  Email may also be hit or miss for a few days.  If you can't reach us just keep trying.

No worries, we're just upgrading not leaving town.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Benchcrafted Holiday Hours And A New Bench


In order to do our yearly inventory, clean our warehouse, and rearrange our Gobots display case, Benchcrafted will close on December 25. Normally we'd keep the Store page up so orders can be placed, but this time we're closing that down as well. We're doing this to improve our lead times and streamline our order fulfillment process.

We will reopen on January 1st, and orders can be placed at that time (we will also be closed for any shipping Jan. 6-11)

After the joyous task of inventory is complete, we're moving forward on our next offering. After six years (wow!) of offering our Split Top Roubo bench plans, we'd like to offer another set of plans for those on a tighter budget, or with simpler tastes and requirements. The Benchcrafted Classic will be based on the workbenches found in French vocational schools of the late19th and early 20th centuries. It's designed for a beginning or intermediate hand tool-centric woodworker who wants a serious bench with Benchcrafted precision workholding without breaking the bank on hardware or wood.

Expect this in the first half of 2016.







Monday, December 21, 2015

More Leftovers: Plate 11 Leg Vise Forged Parts


We have two sets of iron parts intended for use with a Roubo Plate 11-style leg vise screw. These were made earlier this year by Peter Ross. They are typical Ross work. In other words, you couldn't get closer to the original if you were personal friends with H.G. Wells.

To make the rings easier to fit, we lightly machine the inside of the ring ferrule so it's truly round. If you've seen one of these, you'll be amazed at how little material needs to be removed. Ross makes these without any sort of form, just hammer and anvil with welded ends. They are gorgeous.

One end of the handle is removable. Simply tap out the taper pin, remove the ball, install on vise screw, replace ball and pin. Ross filed a witness mark across the ball and tenon so reassembly is easy.

We've only got two of these, and won't be making more. Price is $220 for the set of 1 ring ferrule, 1 handle. Shipping is extra.

If you'd like to purchase, send an email to info@benchcrafted.com and include your mailing address. We'll send you an invoice which we ask you to kindly pay promptly.

Friday, December 18, 2015

HANDS videos: Christmas BONUS Pt. 3

In the interest of getting these into more people's hands we arranged for 3 full videos to be posted here so you can see what you are missing.  We'll post the 1st today with the rest to follow.

Until Christmas: We now have the the entire set on sale for $149.00!  That's a $50 savings The price will be reflected once you add the set to your cart.  See more details here.






While hand tools and hand work in general have taken an enormous back seat since the Industrial Revolution, there has and probably always will be a strong and dedicated cadre of craftsmen and artisans that will exist both out of necessity and desire, mostly out of necessity.  Hopefully more out of necessity, because while desire, fervor and zeal can be good things, nothing produces results like necessity, the mother of invention.  While we've not always been tool makers, we are deeply steeped in this spirit of necessity.  

It's a shame that so many things are lost.  A lot of what we lose is because of youth.  As we age we gain an appreciation for the mundane, which in turn turns to an appreciation for simpler things.  Mundanity is under appreciated.  It's also eschewed by the young.  They don't know they're doing it, much as we didn't or don't, but it's being done all the same.  The funny thing is that a lot of the world lives day to day in the mundane, perfectly happy, because they aren't wrapped up in distraction.  In fact most of the world doesn't have the luxury of distraction.  Necessity again.

In the light of what is lost, going to be lost or maybe can be saved, we are very happy to announce the addition of this set of videos to our website.  As many of you know, we don't typically sell anything we don't produce, but these were too hard to ignore.   We simply cannot overemphasize the importance of these videos.  I only wish there were more.  The videos are perfectly produced with very little embellishment, even the narration is reserved and well placed, not distracting.  Anyone who has even a passing interest in hand crafts, will not be disappointed in this treasure.

Take 10 minutes and watch the preview videos we've put together.  These simple videos are enthralling, so much so that they were requested in our household by our 6 & 8 year olds every evening until we had watched all 37 videos!  The real mastery of these videos is that they are presented so well that they make some subjects that we're not typically as interested in just as enticing as those we are.  We found ourselves enthralled as much or more by the silk, book binding and pottery segments,  as we did by the woodworking segments..........if not more so! 

David and Sally Shaw-Smith made HANDS, a unique, multi-award winning series of thirty-seven documentaries on Irish crafts for Irish television (RTÉRaidió Teilifís Éireann [Radio && Television of Ireland]). Capturing the final years of traditional rural and urban life in Ireland, during the seventies and eighties. They travelled the length and breadth of the country recording these personal and revealing films. As much about the life of the individuals, as the crafts they practised.


Observant readers will note that this is indeed a re-post from last year.  We'd like to reiterate however that our ultimate goal is not profit but the proliferation of this series.  We simply feel that there are few in any hand work oriented endeavor who wouldn't greatly enjoy this series and support the maker's in doing so. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Big Red Oak: Will Myers Shares His Source





FORP Enthusiast Will Myers dropped us a line last week to let us know of a sawmill that's cutting some large American red oaks into thick slab-style workbench kits. These would be ideal for quickly building our Split-Top Roubo, or any Roubo-style bench for that matter. This is the sawmill that Will uses when he teaches his Moravian bench at The Woodwright's School.

These bench kits are super simple. A single slab top and stock for the legs and rails. That's it. Will says be aware that the wood is wet. As in freshly cut and very green. You won't be able to build a bench with this stock for a couple years at least. And longer if you can stand it.

We don't get any kickbacks from these kits, and neither does Will (in his own words: "I would like for them not to become pallets more than anything") We're simply passing on the tip from Will. These look to be beautifully clear and straight. If you're in the market for one of these you'll be supporting a small family sawmill in rural North Carolina. Thanks for sharing, Will.

For more info, click here.