Friday, October 31, 2014

In Stock: Hand-Forged Holdfasts

We have another small run of hand-forged holdfasts available. If you missed out on the first run, now's your chance to pick one of these up. These are completely made by hand, no trip hammer, no power hammer, just a forge, anvil, hammer and human. And they are beautiful. Made in rural Georgia exclusively for Benchcrafted.

$189 plus actual shipping.  To order, send an email with your shipping address to

For more info, click.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

La Forge Royale Price List

Ever on the hunt for vintage French woodworking stuff, we recently scored a 1949 price list for Pierre Feron's A la Forge Royale woodworking tools catalog.

I haven't had much chance to translate any of this (I need to learn more French. Louis, are you there?) but I did try to translate some of the prices from 1949 francs to 2014 dollars. I found this chart which lists several currency conversions since 1948. Then I went to this site to see what it would cost in 2014.

So let's try to price a toothing plane, a "rabots a dents" from the second page of tools in the La Forge Royale catalog reprint from MWTCA. The price is 525 francs for the shorter toothing plane in beech (the least expensive wood). IN 1949 one U.S. dollar was worth 3.3196 francs. Divide 525 by that and you get $158.15, in 1949 dollars. In today's dollar thats $1581.71. Unless "Hètre" is French for "Stanley #1", something is definitely wrong here. (Hètre means beech, Charme is hornbeam, Fruitier is obvious)

So let's assume the prices are in cents, or "centimes". So 525 centimes would be 5.25 francs. That translates into $17.42 in 1949 dollars, or $174.22 in 2014 dollars. That seems more realistic.

Here are a couple links to download the price list and catalog. The catalog document has been around for some time (Schwarz posted it years ago) but this is the first time the price list has been online to my knowledge.

La Forge Royale (Feron era) Price List 1949

La Forge Royale Catalog (Feron era)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another STR Update

Late last week the printers delivered the updated Split Top Roubo plans (they are beautiful) and we uploaded several updates to our downloads page. Here are the details.

Glide M/C Instructions and Crisscross instructions (click any of these for direct download)
As before, the installation instructions for the Glide M/C is the same document as the Crisscross instructions. We've updated the instructions and made clarifications to the templates (really just measured drawings) so those building a Split Top Roubo according the plans aren't confused by additional measured drawings at the end of the instructions.

Split Top Roubo Construction Notes
We've rewritten portions of the notes to further clarify the installation of the Crisscross. We've also added pictures of the new Glide M in a bench. Previous pictures showing the bench with a single-knob Glide are still there since we know some folks with those vises may have not started their builds.

Split Top Roubo eDrawing
The new eDrawing has also been uploaded for free download at any time. Yes, we get many requests for a Sketchup drawing of our bench. Sketchup is great, and we use it frequently, but the eDrawing serves its purpose allowing one to view the bench in 3d at your computer (the printed plans are what you want in the shop) And one huge feature that the eDrawing has over Sketchup is the ability easily view components as transparent without having to actually assign a transparent material to the component. Simply use the pointer tool, right click on a component and select "make transparent". Very useful to see exactly how everything fits together.

If you're building a Shaker bench, you can use the eDrawing to see how the Crisscross would fit in the "leg" of the Shaker bench. The dimensions will be a little different, but the configuration will be the same.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The New Bench Plans Are Here

After a long slog we've finally updated our Split Top Roubo Plans to include our Benchcrafted Crisscross.

Couple reasons this has taken so long. First, we made some other changes along the way that we thought would justify a delay on doing a major update. Second, while we were making the updates we lost all our files that make easy updates possible. Several hard drives, and even backup drives were corrupted. This happened right on the cusp of being finished with the big update. So we had to rebuild the plans from the ground up. And of course this meant going through all the dimension yet again to make sure we hadn't made any errors (there are a LOT of numbers to consider.)

But that is all water under the bridge. The good news is the updated plans are at the printer and should be available to ship by the end of the week. The new plans show the Crisscross, the new Glide M/C as well as all the drawings for Crisscross-related joinery that we've been supplying at the end of the Crisscross and Glide installation instructions for the past couple years. Here's another nice bit. If you're installing a Classic Leg Vise instead of a Glide, you can build the bench exactly from the plans. Both vises fit the bench the same way. The only difference is that the Classic mounts to the chop with wood screws instead of machine screws. That's it.

We'll also be updating the Crisscross and Glide installation instructions so the additional templates aren't included any longer. That would just be confusing if you're building the Split Top Roubo. The plans show everything you need to know.

Special thanks to our tireless draftsman Louis Bois.


I'm selling my set of L'art Du Menuisier. I bought this set three years ago directly from Jacques Laget, the son of Leonce Laget who published this version in 1976 in Paris. Jacques was kind enough to sign the inside cover of Vol. 1-2. There have been other versions of Roubo's original work published over the years, but they are mostly excerpts. This is the only version that's arranged like the first edition. If you want to read Roubo as it was originally published without spending $10k on a first edition, this is the only way to do it. This edition contains the extremely fascinating fold out plates, which no other version contains, again, other than the first edition.

The books are in excellent condition. There is some musty smell to some of the pages. The binding are all intact and strong. The slipcovers have a bit of creasing on the corners, and just a couple very small tears. I've stored the books flat.

If you're interested in the set, drop me an email at jameel at benchcrafted dot com.

Monday, October 6, 2014

For Sale - Benchmaker's Package With Wood - SOLD

We have available a Benchmaker's Package with wood. We milled this with the intention of making a demo bench for an upcoming woodworking event, but our plans have changed. Oftentimes we make a bench to display our vises at a show, then sell the demo bench. Since we now have three different leg vises (and soon to be two wagon vises) we're rethinking our display options.

Here's the nitty gritty.

The package includes everything (really, shelf boards, deadman, dogs, everything!) you need to build our Split Top Roubo. All components are precisely milled to final size, but left overlong to cut to final length. The tops are glued up from jointed and planed boards, then finish planed to 4". I lopped off the ends of the tops to a consistent length after glue up (a few inches past 84"), but the cut isn't a finished cut. They will need to be cleaned up to look and feel smooth (of course you'll need to join the end cap.) With careful construction, you'll be able to flatten the tops with a couple passes of a jointer plane. Once you cut the parts to length, all you'll need to do is cut joinery and install the vises. There is no milling to do. For a person with a hand tool-only shop, this would be a great way to build our bench with a minimum of heavy work.

The package includes our Glide M Solo Benchmaker's package, which includes all the hardware (barrel nuts, Spax lags) and vises (our new Glide M with Crisscross Solo, Tail Vise) plus the printed plans. The only material you'll need to finish your bench is a little glue.

Species is hard rock maple.

SOLD: Price is $3349, plus freight. Due to the great differences in freight by location, please contact us for a quote.

If you'd like to purchase, send an email to

Cut The Dovetails In The Deutschland

For a double dose of dovetailing delight, we highly recommend the following video. We never tire of seeing our products in use in our homeland. Ironically, we don't speak German, but this video has subtitles.

We would also subtitle our videos in German, but the only phrase that our grandmother taught us growing up was "ist das nicht ein fine malt brew?"

The video features David Barron's dovetail guides (we like them) and our Moxon vise, although the latter is not talked about specifically (we like this too.)

David will be at Handworks next May.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Glide C Leg VIse - Now Available

Late last week we finished packing up the first of the Glide C leg vises.They are now available to purchase.

The Glide C is different from the Glide M in two ways. First, the C handwheel is sand cast in gray iron, and then only machined to accept the acme screw and infused beech knobs (the Glide M surfaces are entirely machined after casting.) Secondly, the C uses Beech knobs instead of the deep red Dymondwood of the Glide M.

Each vise performs identically.

Why would you choose a Glide C? Two reasons. First, cost. The C is $70 less than the M. Second, looks. The C has much more of a vintage, traditional look if that's your style. It looks perfect on a Roubo bench, especially when made from ring porous hardwoods like ash or oak. It would look outstanding on a beech bench. My personal vises at home usually change pretty frequently during testing, but I currently have a C on my ash bench. I love the look.

Glide C's are available for order now on our Store Page. They ship 1-2 weeks after placing your order, but usually much faster (that lead time gives us a little wiggle room in case the fish are biting.)

Later this fall we hope to release the new Tail Vise C, so we can offer a matched set of vises in the C style.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How To Shorten The Split Top Roubo

We get this question frequently:

"I only have room for a 6' bench, how do I alter your Split Top Roubo plans to accomplish this?"

Until we have a chance to draft some plans, here's some info that will help you alter the plans.

Option 1: Angled rails

If you want to get full capacity from your Benchcrafted Tail Vise on really short benches (less than 72") you can make the base longer at the rear of the bench. Angled rails at the top and bottom make this happen. The bench pictured above isn't a split top, but you get the idea. The tenons on the rails are also angled, so they fit into the perpendicular mortises in the legs. This is easier to cut, but it makes for a weaker tenon due to the short grain. A better way would be to chop angled mortises and keep the tenons inline with the rail. If you do the angled tenons, keep them beefy for strength, and drawbore them as well. We did this on the bench above, which is only 60" long.

Option 2: Bury the Tail Vise

Jeff Miller built this short Roubo bench above and reduced the overhang on the Tail Vise end by burying part of the mechanism in the legs and upper rail. This reduces the overall capacity of the vise, but still allows plenty of travel (I've never used the full capacity of our Tail Vise.)

Camil Milincu did a similar thing with his 53" Split Top Roubo. For more details on Camil's bench, see this post.

Option 3: No left hand overhang

This is the best option for a 6' bench without hardly any changes to the plans. Push the top overhang at the leg vise end back so its flush with the left edge of the chop. This will buy you about a foot of length so you don't have to remove it from between the legs. The plans call for a 14-3/4" overhang here, and if you make your chop the width of the leg (5-3/8") instead of the 9" in the plans (the narrower chop will hold just fine) the rest of the bench you can leave unaltered and you'll end up with a bench that's just 72-1/4" long. It will be very stable, even without angled rails.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

English Field Gates—Finished

Here's the story behind the two English field gates we built over the last couple weeks.

Traditionally these gates were used to contain livestock, but they are also quite popular nowadays for containing human livestock and livestock of the horseless (carriage) variety. We're using them to hopefully prevent deer from wandering into a garden.

I first took a serious interest in these types of gates when I stumbled on an article by Paul Sellers in an issue of Woodwork magazine (#116.) The aesthetically pleasing form of the gate, which stems from its engineering caught my eye immediately. I quickly started looking for an opportunity the build one.

I did a fair amount of research while designing the two gates, here's some of the more interesting aspects of what I discovered.

- The gates are traditionally made from air dried oak.
- The harr stile (hinge stile) was usually made from a piece with a natural bend (crook) for the most strength.
- Only the harr stile and the top rail are made from massive timbers. The rest of the gate is made of lighter, thinner stock.
- The top rail tapers in both in width and thickness to reduce weight at the latch stile.
- The joinery is robust: through wedged tenons and drawbored mortise and tenon.
- The hardware is blacksmith made

The gate is superbly engineered to prevent sag. The harr stile, top rail, and angled brace form the rigid structure, and the rest "hangs" from this structure. The top rail diminishes is both thickness and width from hinge to latch to reduce the weight at the area it can do the most damage. The drawbored joints keep everything immobile. I'm a big believer in super rigid construction. Once a joint starts to get even a little loose, there's little keeping it from getting worse.

In addition to the article in Woodwork, we also referred extensively to Alan and Gill Bridgewaters's Building Doors and Gates (Stackpole Books) This book provides loads of design and engineering advice, as well as construction techniques for building these traditional gates (plus many more styles). It even provides info for setting the posts the traditional English way so they will last longer than you and likely your children. It's a fantastic book with solid info on classic techniques. Not your typical weekend warrior "Time-Life" stuff. You can preview the book via Google Books, but if you plan to build a door or gate sometime, buy the book.

So with all that tradition in mind, here's what we did differently.

We used western red cedar instead of oak. We have a small sawmill that will cut oak to order, but we couldn't wait for the wood to get even partially dry. We needed the gates before winter. So we spent a morning at (get ready) Menards and picked through their entire stock of 6x6 western red cedar. We were able to get all the thick stock for the gates (and then some) out of the 6x6 material. All but one stick was dry. I'm guessing they don't move a lot of this stuff, I bet its been sitting there for some time. We resawed the 6x6s to get the final 3"x5" pieces for the hinge stiles and top rail. The 1"x3" rails and angled braces came out of 2x6 material that we ripped and planed down. These came from 16' boards that were 90% clear and straight. When selecting dimensional lumber I always buy the longest, widest boards I can, they are in every instance better quality than the shorter stuff. The grain on some of the stock was so excellent I was tempted to resaw it into soundboards. The dark color is supposedly more rot resistant. All but one board was deeply red. And yes, we did save big money at Menards, paying just over $2 a board foot for the cedar.

We only tapered the top rail in its height. We wanted to keep the latch stile full thickness to speed and simplify construction. I wasn't too worried about the loss in weight savings with the lightweight cedar.

We cut the top of our harr stile off and glued it to the side of the stile to get the crook. We made sure to position the lag screws in the main part of the stile and the not the added portion.

We did through wedged tenons to join the top rail and latch stile. Everywhere else we cut blind drawbored mortise and tenons with straight-grain white oak pegs.

Both gates were assembled with West System epoxy, and we also sealed the end grain at the bottoms of the stiles with the same so they didn't wick up moisture from the snow or rain. West System is the only epoxy we use around here. We like to buy the quart can of resin, pair that with a pint of hardener (we use fast most the time) and finally the pump set, which meters out exactly the correct amount of resin and hardener everytime. It seems expensive, and you do loose some epoxy if all you do are small jobs, but we've found that the added cost usually evens out if you consider the higher cost of buying syringes, which eventually go bad anyway. The West System last for years, and its top quality. It's the stuff boat builders use after all.

We tried to find the best hardware we could find without going broke. We sourced this from Snug Cottage Hardware. They have a great selection specifically designed for heavy gates like this, as well as free plans to build a number of different gate styles. And almost everything is available hot dipped galvanized and black powder coated (that's what we bought.) We've bought the black painted garbage from the big box stores before. It rusts. That's not a problem if you like that look, but we wanted these to stay black and hold up. The carriage bolts that tie all the 1x3's are stainless. We spray painted them black to match the stuff from Snug Cottage. It would have been ideal to connect the hinges via through bolts, but it was impossible with the attachment at the corner of the buildings. We opted for exterior Spax lags, also spray painted black to match. We oriented the hinges so the gates hang on the lags in a shear arrangement, there is only weight on the threads when the gate is open. Overall span of both gates is 122".

The gates are finished with one coat of Sikkens Cetol SRD in natural color. We did a fair amount of research on this. The #1 choice for exterior finish is Epiphanes varnish. We have a friend who did his deck chairs with it several years ago and they still look great. The product is $45 a quart, and requires seven (!) coats. We ruled that out straightway. The Sikkens Cetol 1 and 23 is a two-step finish that is supposed to be extremely UV resistant. It's $85 a gallon, and you must buy a gallon of each. That was also out of our price range. The Cetol SRD gets great reviews, and is $45 a gallon. We were tempted to simply leave the gates unfinished, and they may eventually end up that way, but for $45 we figured we'd give the SRD a shot. It only requires one coat. Needless to say, we were pretty thrilled with how the gates turned out with the finish applied.

Next on the docket, Tony Konovaloff's trestle table from FWW #106. I've wanted to build this piece since the first time I laid eyes on it when I was 20 years old. We may have enough cedar left over to make it.

We shot some video during part of the build. No music, and little editing in this one. We wanted to show the natural pace of work more than anything, and also how sweet the new Glide is for holding big stuff. It's so great to be able to hold massive timbers with only a little flick of the wrist.