Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Win a Hayward Bench at Handworks, But Only If You're Short

We wanted to do something special for Handworks 2017, so here's what we came up with. A bench for kids!

Vol. 4 of "The Woodworker" features a basic bench as its first article. We had three planks of yellow pine gathering dust in the corner, so we tossed together this bench over a couple days last week. It's 24" high, which should be perfect for a wide range of kids. To scale it down, we drew the major components in Sketchup full size, then scaled the model down based on the shorter height. It scaled great. Joinery is half lap dadoes on the front and read skirts, and a pair of 10mm Dominoes in each joint.

It's outfitted with our Hi Vise, which makes an excellent leg vise for smaller full size benches, or obviously for kids' benches too.

The bench will go home with one kid, free of charge, courtesy of us!

Here's how to win the bench (parents, read this to your kids).

We'll have a piece of clear, easy to plane basswood chucked in the vise. With a sharp Stanley #3 that we'll leave on the bench, the kid will try their best to make a full width, full length shaving from the edge of the board, under the coaching of their parent or us. They should practice making the best shaving they can. Once they are ready to make their final excellent shaving, they'll write their name on the edge of the board, plane it off, and put the shaving in a box. On Saturday afternoon at 3pm we'll draw one shaving and that kid will go home with the bench.

There are only two rules:

1. The kid must not be taller than 54".
2. One shaving per kid goes in the box.

Parents feel free to make the final perfect shaving for your kid if they can't. Hopefully that kid will win the bench so they can practice back home.

Thursday, May 4, 2017 the Midwest just too far or remote?

Handworks is now just 2 weeks away.  This will be the third bi-annual event and as we've said many a time before, you never know when there will be another.  Though we've followed the bi-annual pattern so far, we literally never know if there will be another one until some months later.  So if you are on the fence, better act if you can.

In the past, and probably still now, there have occasionally been some comments like "why Iowa?" or "it's too far from the coasts".   To be frank, we never really doubted that people would come to the Midwest, or anywhere really, if the event had the right spirit.  That said, we can understand some of the apprehension concerning travel and expense.  With that in mind here are a few points of interest:

- It's free
- It's in an historical village with a rich woodworking history
- It offers something for everyone, literally, if you or someone with you can't find something of interest in Amana or at one of the event venues then you probably have a hard time finding interest anywhere.
- It's low key (yes it can get crowded but in a good way)
- It offers a chance to both handle tools and learn quite a lot from a group of vendors that overall are more interested in craftsmanship than they are money.  You would be hard pressed to find another event that offers the same kind of hands on with so many experts short of a lot of dedicated, costly and time consuming classes
- There's even a dedicated section of the camp ground set aside for HW attendees

As for travel and attendance.  Yes, it can get crowded, registration is well over double the previous event, but we've spread things out this year into 5 venues, which should really make things nice.

As for travel, few of us in the States can complain (although we do have some people coming from AK).........Internationally we have registrants (aside from vendors) from Canada, British VI, UK, Germany, France, Norway (10!) Australia and get ready for it.......Indonesia.  So if these folks think it's worth the time and expense the least we can do is appreciate that the Midwest is equally far from everyone ;-)

See you there.

Monday, April 10, 2017

UPDATE. Miter Jack Kits: Metal Bits Now Available

Nick at Lake Erie is taking pre-orders for another small run of wooden bits. We've got a handful of the metal bits left from the first run. You can order the metal bits from us anytime (see our store page), but to get the wooden screw and threaded nut block, you'll need to pre-order through Lake Erie. More info here.

We've sold out of the La Forge Royale Miter Jack kits, but there's a silver lining. We made a double run of the metal bits which we're offering for sale. All you'll have to make is the wooden screw, and tap the nut block. The inexpensive wood threading kits will work (if you have a lot of patience) but we like the Beall products. The 1-1/4" is the one to get. If you don't want to bother with the threading, we recommend you contact Nick at Lake Erie Toolworks, who makes the best quality wood threads in the world.

The contents of the Miter Jack Kit Metal Bits are pictured above (minus the wood screw and nut block of course.) All the metal bit are manufactured in the USA by us. You'll also get a pouch with all the various screws needed to assemble the jack.

SOLD OUT: We have just 3 kits left, they do not include the various small wood screws and the groove pin (see below). Price is $30 plus shipping. If you want one just shoot us an email and we'll invoice you. Domestic shipping will be assumed unless otherwise noted.

Slotted Flat Head Wood Screws

#14 x 3" Qty: 4
#12 x 1-3/4" Qty: 8
#8 x 3/4" Qty: 3
#12 x 3/4" Qty: 1
#12 x 2-1/2" Qty: 2
#10 x 3/4" Qty: 1

3/16"dia. x 1" Center Groove Dowel Pin Qty: 1
Dowel pin available from McMaster Carr. Part # 98400A245

Monday, March 27, 2017

Crisscross Solo Blems

Just a heads up in case you're in the market for a Crisscross Solo and you're coming to Handworks.
We'll have a few blems available at the event for a discount price of $79. We usually don't have to offer blems or seconds because we usually catch them early on in the process. This time a few Crisscross arms made it all the way through powder coating. Here's the issue with these. During the casting process the moulds get transported from the mould-making area to the pouring deck and every now and then a mould gets jarred and makes the lines in the castings you see above. It's completely cosmetic. The arms function as intended. A few of the arms got the royal treatment at the powder coaters as well. The middle one above shows the result. You may need to run a file or drill bit through the holes to get the pins to pass. These will be priced at $79 and are available only at Handworks. If we have leftovers, we'll post them here for sale after all the hubbub is over.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Benchcrafted Swing Away Seat

After over a year of development, we're excited to announce pricing and availability of our Swing Away Seat!

But first a few words about this product in case some of you are wondering what road we're headed down. When we started Benchcrafted it all began with a product that, although made of wood, was not a woodworking tool. The Mag-Blok. Only after we got a wild hair to build a new workbench for our shop did we take the leap in manufacturing our own woodworking vises. So, although we've become known as the "men of vise" we have our roots in making stuff we like to use, period. The other tools in our line reflect that philosophy too. We use everything we make, often on a daily basis. The Swing Away Seat is no different. And it just so happens that it's an incredible workbench accessory as well.

In early 2012 we began researching these seats after discovering a vintage example at a local food market. We were intrigued by the whole concept. How sweet would it be to have a seat for your bench that was always there, but also "never" there? We began compiling designs and searching the old patent record. Fast forward to last year. Prodded by our customers, we decided to put the Swing Away Seat at the head of the line. As is typical, it took way longer than we anticipated to complete the first run. A dead simple device, but there's more here than meets the eye. We also wanted to spend some time designing the thing so it didn't only look like something old.

The Swing Away Seat is cast in gray iron and powder coated in satin black. When you buy the seat you'll receive two castings: the larger part called the mount, and the smaller part which bolts to your bench, called the bracket. You'll also receive two black oxide-finished steel pins that marry the parts together. They are loose pins, just like you'd find in a door hinge. So if you need to remove the mount from the bench for whatever reason, you simply lift the two pins and the mount comes off.

Mounting the seat to your bench or table is easy with two 1/2" lag screws or through bolts. Bolts are the stronger option, and if you've got 2" or less of wood to bite into, we recommend bolts. Lag screws, driven into properly-sized pilot holes in hardwood are extremely strong. However, since we can't control your mounting situation, we can only make general suggestions. As such, the Swing Away seat does not come with mounting hardware. Beware of hardware store and home-center lag screws. They are usually total junk with soft steel and shallow threads. We source ours from the excellent The 1/2" square head lags in black oxide work very well with the Swing Away seat. We also recommend their rub washers under the head of lag screws for a smooth connection. These aren't so necessary with through bolts.

The Swing Away seat will be offered two ways. Castings only, for us woodworkers who want to make our own seats, or packaged with a finished, ready to mount wood seat. The wood will be offered in one species only, quartersawn white oak with a chestnut stain and satin lacquer finish. The seat is 11" in diameter and 1" thick. Each wood seat will include three screws to attach it to the mount.

Like our vises, the Swing Away seat is overbuilt. We haven't done any testing on how much weight the casting can take before it breaks, but our empirical knowledge tells us its more than anyone need worry about. Since the seat is cantilevered off its mounting surface, one does have to be mindful of the mounting structure. Obviously a free-standing structure could be prone to tipping, depending on the weight of the structure and the sitter. Again, there are lots of variables at play here that we can't possibly anticipate. Our Classic Workbench (pictured here) is not a super heavy bench, being somewhat narrow at 20" with a 3" thick top. Yet it supports a 250 pound body (me) without tipping.  If you're planning to use one of these on any free standing object, keep this in mind.

The Swing Away seat will pivot a bit over 180 degrees in total.

Pricing and Availablity

The Swing Away seat will be available initially at Handworks in Amana, IA, May 19-20. After the event is over, we'll post them to the website where they can be ordered any time. The Swing Away seat will be a stock item. We won't be taking pre-orders or deposits for the seats we sell at Handworks or later online. If you want to make sure you get one of the first ones, be at our space in the Festhalle Barn first thing Friday morning, May 19. We'll take credit cards, but cash will get you in and out of our space much quicker. Unfortunately we can't reserve a seat for you before the doors open, or hold one after you've paid. You'll want to take your seat back to your vehicle immediately since they are a tad on the heavy side. We will have both the seat only, and seats with wood for sale. We'll have several seats mounted to benches for you to try out at Handworks.

The Swing Away seat is $199.

The Swing Away seat with wood is $249.

See you in Amana...

Monday, February 20, 2017

Build A Bench with Jeff Miller this April

If you'd like to spend a couple weekends building a Roubo-style bench with Jeff Miller, here's your chance.

Over two weekends (March 31-April 2, and April 7-9) Jeff is offering the class at his shop in Chicago where you'll get instruction from one of today's best modern furniture makers. Jeff has extensive experience building this bench, and installing our vises. Most of the benches in Jeff's shop are outfitted with our stuff, and he has an intimate knowledge of how they install and function. Although Jeff will help you build a bench with whatever vises you wish, not just our stuff.

Jeff is also one of our favorite people. Always good-humored and cheery, two weekends with Jeff building stuff sounds like serious fun. And you'll walk away with not only a fine bench, but also a bunch of new skills and techniques.

For more info, see Jeff's website here.

Photo by Narayan Nayar at FORP II.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Lead times, Crubber and dealers

First lead times.  Many of you may notice that in the past we have posted individual lead times for most of our products, especially vise products.  A short while back we changed this to nearly immediate shipping on all products because our production times have improved.  Most orders now ship within a couple days (and many of them ship the same day).

We tend to get a fair share of complaints when things aren't shipped immediately (like when we are closed for short breaks, which is fairly rare for us).  We apologize for these sometime delays.  On the other hand we rarely get any kudos for prompt order fulfillment.......that's ok though, we're used to it ;-)  We think the vast majority of our customers would give us high marks for the speed with which we not only fill orders but the lengths we often go to with special requests and responding to emails.

Crubber.  The demand for Crubber has been high.  That said, vise orders take priority for this stuff so that's where it goes first.  You will note that the ala cart Crubber now has a lead time.  We don't produce Crubber, so we have to wait just like you do.  We encourage anyone who needs to place a mixed order to make their Crubber order separate to speed up your order fulfillment, unless you are willing to wait, we won't ship other items in an order until the Crubber is in stock.

New dealers.  We have two new dealers, one for vise products the other for Mag-Bloks.

Vises.  Though they have actually been a dealer for about 2 years! we haven't added them to our dealer list merely out of stupid neglect.  Harvey is our China dealer and we're happy too say the dealer for MANY of our peers in tool making (Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, Bridge City, just to name a few).

Australia.  No specifics yet but we may be close to establishing a dealership in Australia.  We ship an inordinate amount of vise products to AUS/NZ and it's time we had a dealer there for our customers sake.

Mag-Bloks dealer.  We're happy to add The Cook's Edge of Prince Edward Sound to our Canadian dealer list for Mag-Bloks.  Quite a few dealers up North now so seeing a Blok in person is getting easier all the time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An Update for 2017

Last year was incredibly busy here at Benchcrafted. We designed and released several new things. The Classic Workbench Plans, the Hi Vise, the Planing Stop and we made good progress on the new "bench seat" (still haven't settled on a name yet.) We didn't have much time to blog about personal woodworking projects (which are always in the works here in the Benchcrafted test shop) but we hope that will change this year.

You might be wondering about our swinging bench seat, which we started developing about a year ago. It's moving along. To produce this at a reasonable cost we've had to spend loads of time designing it for efficient machining, then building the fixture for machining as much as possible in one setup. We're working on that right now. The brackets that hold the swing arm to the bench are 75% done. Right now we don't have an ETA on these, or a price. That said, if you're coming to Handworks 2017 expect to see these for sale in our booth. And if they are done sooner, of course we'll get them posted.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Planing Stop in the Split Top Roubo

A customer recently asked where to install his Benchcrafted Planing Stop in his Split Top Roubo, as the Split Top Roubo plans do not include the planing stop.

Here's where we recommend you install the stop: between the two dogs immediately to the left of the leg vise. You'll have to move the stop a little inboard (that is, a bit past the 2-3/4" we show in the planing stop instructions) to allow some space between the stop's stock and the dogs. We don't show any dimensions because your bench may be different. Here's the basic idea behind finding the right spot. You don't want to get the stop too close to the dogs, and at the same time you don't want it too close to the leg either so it doesn't end up behind your potentially-wider leg vise chop, making adjustment annoying.