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 Blacksmithbolt.com. 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. http://www.furnituremaking.com/workshophome.html

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.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Hi Vise Instructions: Correction


Thanks to an attentive customer we've had to make a correction to the Hi Vise instructions. We spend inordinate amounts of time editing our plans, but evidently not enough. On page 4 we state that the Crisscross arms reside in a mortise that's 7/8" deep. But page 1 of the plans show the mortises as 1" deep.

The correct figure is 7/8" deep.

We're working on correcting the PDF and will upload it as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can download the corrected page above and print it out if you've already begun your build. If you've already cut your mortises 1" deep, don't fret. The fix is relatively easy. Simply make a 9/16" wide x 1/8" thick shim and glue it into the bottom of the mortise. That will place the bearing plates in the proper location.

EDIT:  Corrected plans are now on our Downloads page.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Hi Vise Now Available


Three and a half years ago we made our first "etau" or what we now call our Hi Vise so we could take a prototype to the first Handworks event.

Now that the Hi Vise is officially for sale we can say with a bit of regret: we put this off for too long.

The new Hi Vise is quite the thing. Compact, portable, versatile. But if there's one indulgence we're guilty of with this one, its making something just because its cool. This little unit has a certain charm to it that says "lets make something fun." The other side of the coin is, it's a powerful vise that will give you the opportunity for control and precision that you may not have experienced before.

The Hi Vise is like a blacksmith's post vise for woodworkers. It gets stuff up at chest height where your eyes are closer to the work, you elbows are closer to your body, and your tools can be moved in a more efficient way. I'll never forget Peter Galbert's technique I learned during a class for how to move your body when turning a long spindle. And it sounds counter-intuitive. Begin in an uncomfortable position, and end your movement at a comfortable position. We can't have the perfect body position at all times for every operation. But we can make the best of it, which is why Galbert's technique is perfect. The Hi Vise puts detail work in that zone of comfort that you can't get with regular bench vises. Once you work at chest height when the task demands, you'll never monkey around with anything less. On a personal note, my Hi Vise (yes, I got the first one off the line) is either on the right end of my bench, or sitting below on the shelf, ready to mount at a moment's notice.

One application of the Hi Vise we haven't touched on much during development: as a permanent leg vise in its own right. It's 5 -1/2" capacity between jaws is more than enough for typical furniture making requirements. And it's robust construction (overbuilt, as we like it) means it can hold its own in more demanding situations. Although we don't recommend it for a full-on bench build, we can't think of a better leg vise for a small detail bench, or even a children's bench. The Crisscross Nine's diminutive size would also allow the Hi Vise to be built into short assembly benches as well, or even height-adjustable benches like the Noden Adjust-a-Bench.

Two Ways To Buy

The Hi Vise can be built in a number of ways (see our  assembly and construction notes for all the details) but for purchasing purposes, we're offering it two ways: The Hi Vise and The Hi Vise with Mounting Screw. The  Hi Vise can be built to mount your bench with clamps, holdfasts, in our Tail Vise, or in a traditional moving-block tail vise. If that's how you'll use the vise, simply purchase The Hi Vise for $189.

Here's what you'll get in the Hi Vise box (plus a few fasteners and Crubber):




All you need to complete your build is wood.

If you'd like to build the version that allows you to quickly mount the vise to any surface without tools, clamps, holdfasts, etc. you'll purchase the Hi Vise with Mounting Screw for $259. You'll get a box with the Hi Vise, plus another, separate box with this inside:

The fasteners needed to assemble the Mounting Screw are included in the hardware kit in the Hi Vise box. Again, all you'll need to complete your build is wood.

To read more about the Hi Vise, see our Hi Vise page.

To download the assembly and construction notes, click here.

To order your Hi Vise, see our store page.




Friday, November 25, 2016

Hi Vise plus minor website update



Come Monday we should have our new Hi Vise available via our Store page.

Also, a major upgrade for us but a minor one for customers; a new cart system.  Our old cart worked fairly well but it could not calculate shipping costs for weighty items.  This worked OK for smaller orders, but alas we flipped a coin over 10 years ago, which would it be, high end thimbles or vise hardware?  The thimbles lost out to the vises and hence the widely varying costs of shipping heavy cast iron to various parts of the country and the rest of the world.

Many of you know that our kludged solution all these years has been to issue a shipping invoice after the fact.  We did this primarily to save our customers any unnecessary expense, but at the cost of time and energy to us (setting a flat rate cost would have been super easy for us but would have resulted in some pretty gross over payments for our coastal friends).  The downside of course, other than the extra work, as many of you also know, is that very often the additional invoice would cause confusion "I already paid, why am I being charged again...." and more often than not the invoice would go straight to spam resulting in some serious shipping delays.

So come Monday the new cart will be live.  It will probably cause it's own flavor of problems (hopefully not) but we'll get them ironed out in good time.  So far it's working perfectly in testing.

The rest of the website is also currently in full face lift mode, but it's going to be a little while yet.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Hi Vise Update: Video



We're still extremely busy this year trying to make good on our promise of releasing all of our new products before the snow flies (sorry folks in Northern Minnesota.) Last week we finished up the photo shoot for the Hi Vise and Classic Workbench, and here's a short video of the Hi Vise showing the different configurations it can be built in. We don't show much of the workholding capabilities because we know our supporters are highly intelligent people. This is, after all, just a leg vise. And we've made a few of those over the past decade. The function is sort of obvious. We're still holding wood the same way, just in a different position. Like all of our products, we use these daily to make stuff. It's not just another tool for us to sell.

Pricing has been nearly finalized and packing day is set for later this week, barring any unforeseen complications. If you missed out on our run of Carver's Vises back in 2013, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the Hi Vise. For nearly identical functionality, and equal cool factor you'll be able to pick up a Hi Vise for less than half the price of our Carver's vise! We really don't design our vises to meet a price point, but we do try to keep unnecessary costs down when possible.

Watch for these to become available for purchase very soon.