Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The French Oak Roubo Project Part Deux—Registration Open

In the autumn of 2015 a small group of Roubo enthusiasts will gather to once again build benches based on the famous Plate 11 engraving from L'art du Menuisier. And once again, you are invited.

Like last time (read our original announcement here for FORP I) we will get to work with amazing slabs of French oak, in the pastoral setting of Wyatt Child's brick-and-pine joiner's shop in rural Georgia. Child's shop is outfitted with machinery perfectly suited to process these large slabs quickly and efficiently, from the Woodmizer bandmill to the 36" Oliver Straitoplane. Would Roubo have used these machines to process his own bench parts? If he were with us in Georgia last summer, I don't think there'd be any question.

The Enthusiasts

Bo Childs Our gracious host and gentleman extraordinaire
Benchcrafted  Us, obviously
Raney Nelson Daed Toolworks' infill plane maker, yes, he's still alive
Jeff Miller Chicago furniture maker and woodworking ergonomicist
Chris Schwarz Grits provider and pocket hole technician, he also writes now and then
Jon Fiant The Human Saw Stop. Also builds custom workbenches to order in his Atlanta shop.
Ron Brese Local Fishing Guide
Will Myers So good he cuts mortises with a butter knife. Also teaches at Underhill's Woodwright's School.
Don Williams The guy who used to work at a famous place that rhymes with "Smythsonian"

The Format

This is the same crew from FORP I. Almost all of us built a bench to take home during FORP I, and were occupied doing our own work during the week (when we weren't in production mode) but this time around all of the enthusiasts will be there to help and assist the participants in building their benches. So for FORP II we're changing the format a bit. You don't need to be an advanced or even an intermediate woodworker to sign up. There will be plenty of help and instruction. However, this event is not a class, and there won't be any group instruction or formal techniques taught unless you ask. But again, plenty of help and expertise will be available. If you're more of a beginner, you will have over a year to advance your skills and prepare.

The Material

Bo has once again unearthed a cache of 24/4 French oak over in the old country and has shipped it over to his shop in Barnesville. These will become massive, one or two-piece tops.  We mill the tops with the Oliver Straitoplane and finish out between 5" and 6" thick. We'll also be using 16/4 French oak for the legs and rails. Some of the material for the tops will be somewhat green in the core of the slab. This is natural for 24/4 material. Roubo's tops were like this, and the tops we made in 2013 were like this. Once your bench is built and installed in your shop, the tops will settle down fine. To read more in-depth info check out Schwarz's French Oak posts over at the Lost Art Press blog.


Barnesville, GA. Child's shop is an hour south of Atlanta just off I-75. Bo's shop is ideally suited for building massive benches, and Bo himself is an incredibly generous and enthusiastic host. You'll find Wyatt Childs a fascinating place on its own, replete with acres of historic French architectural salvage and antiques. It's like walking into Roubo's boneyard. And if you're in the market for building some great furniture after your bench build, bring a trailer. Bo has a warehouse full of tens of thousands of board feet of everything from chestnut to swamp harvested cypress. And they are all flitch sawn and wide.

The Bench & Accessories

We'll again be building the bench from Plate 11 down to the last detail. We'll cut the joinery close with the machines, then fit everything precisely by hand. If you prefer to cut joints entirely by hand, feel free. The leg vise will be made by Lake Erie Toolworks and the iron fittings (ring ferrule, handle) forged by blacksmith Peter Ross, as will the toothed planing stop, all meticulously modeled from Plate 11. One hand-forged holdfast will also be included.

The Plate 11 bench does not use a parallel guide on the leg vise. This may annoy you, or you may not mind. Read Schwarz's take on his blog (see above link). He built his without a parallel guide. The rest of the FORP I participants used a Benchcrafted Crisscross in their leg vise, and it works seamlessly with Lake Erie's screw. If you'd like to use Benchcrafted vises on your bench, contact us for more info.

The Date

November 8-14, 2015

Sunday evening: meet and greet at Bo's shop, presentation on the Plate 11 bench, history, and more. Light refreshments.

Monday-Friday: We build from about 8am-6pm, or until we drop.

Saturday: Last year Bo kept his shop open for anyone wishing to stay through Saturday and keep working on their benches. Hand tools only, no machines.

Thursday night: BBQ at the shop and open house for friends and family.

The Price

$4800. Includes enough French oak to build the entire bench as illustrated in Plate 11, the French oak leg vise screw and tapped leg from Lake Erie Toolworks, the hand-forged ring ferrule, vise handle, toothed planing stop and holdfast from Peter Ross.

Catered lunch included Monday-Friday.

Participants will arrange for their own lodging (we've made arrangements with a couple B&B's in the area for discounted rates.) Participants will also be responsible for transporting their bench back home after the event. Wyatt Childs can arrange for shipping participant's benches as well.

Participants will bring their own hand tools, portable power tools (i.e. drill, router) sawbenches or sawhorses and sharpening equipment. We'll provide a list to participants of what you need.

If you'd like to sign up, send an email to jameel@benchcrafted.com and we'll send you more details. Registration opens at 10am CST today. Any emails received before then will be put at the bottom of the stack (to be fair its first come, first served) Payment is 50% down, and the rest shortly before the build.

The event is limited to 16 participants. 

To get a feel for what this event will be like, check out these blog posts:

The FORP Official Report Part 1

The FORP Official Report Part 2

The FORP Video

Monday, September 1, 2014

Now In Stock - The New Glide and More.

Here at Benchcrafted we're always tweaking our designs to make them as sweet as we can. Of course the dilemma in all this is that we risk slighting past customers when we change a product. Here's how we see it. Our past offerings were the best we had to offer at the time. There are companies out there (big ones usually) where planned obsolescence is part of day to day business. Not us. Here, we design and build for the long run, but now and then we get ideas that are genuine improvements and we can't sit on them. Our motivation is to make great stuff, and share it with our fellow woodworkers.

About a year ago we started experimenting with a Glide Leg Vise in our test shop. I've always been intrigued by ship's wheels, and the ergonomics and physical dynamics of why they work. A large wheel gives lots of leverage, and the handles provide an efficient way for a human  to transfer their energy into turning the wheel. If the wheel were without handles, one would have to grip a rather thick section of wheel and use enormous amount of energy just maintaining that grip. My Northfield 16" jointer adjusts by means of a large cast iron ship's wheel. I can rotate it with a single finger on one of eight handles as it moves hundreds of pound of cast iron.

We had a reject bronze Glide wheel from a previous run so we drilled and tapped the rim of the wheel to accept six of our rosewood (now Dymondwood) knobs. We were immediately struck by the improved ergonomics of this arrangement. Spinning the handwheel for gross adjustments was simply of matter of flicking one of the knobs. The wheel, as usual, would spin for several revolutions. We also noticed another improvement. With no knob mounted to the front of the wheel, the entire vise was lower profile--no more bumping a leg into the knob or catching a pocket as you walk by. With knobs oriented symmetrically about the perimeter, the wheel was also balanced, allowing it to spin more smoothly.

But as cool as the six-knob bronze ship's wheel looked (batten down the hatches!) and functioned, we found a problem. Six knobs was three knobs too many, so we removed every other knob. Bingo. This placed a knob at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock or any point in between. In other words, there was always a knob within easy reach at the top of the vise. Perfect.

But we weren't finished. On the heels of releasing the Classic Leg Vise we decided to swap out the standard single-lead screw (that we've always used on the Glide) for the double-lead screw we use on the Classic. The results? A turbo-charged Glide. One revolution of the wheel now yields 1/2" of travel, vs. 1/4" of the previous Glide. And there's no change in the feel of how the vise holds, due to the effect of the larger lever when adjusting the vise with the knobs (I still grab the rim from time to time.)

The Glide M features our fully-machined cast iron handwheel that is designed, cast, and machined entirely in the USA. The handwheel is outfitted with three Dymondwood knobs turned and finished to a high level in the USA, and mounted with our proprietary fasteners. The Glide M automatically includes a Crisscross mechanism (choose Solo or Retro.)

Price is $439 with a Crisscross Solo, and $479 with a Crisscross Retro.

With the added costs of the additional components, we weren't comfortable with the higher price of the Glide M.

The Glide C features a cast-iron handwheel that we're leaving un-machined to save on cost. The wheel has the same weight and feel in use as the machined Glide M wheel. Both vises perform identically. The difference is entirely cosmetic.

The Glide C uses acrylic-infused Beech knobs. The combination of the un-machined wheel and the Beech knobs not only mean a less expensive vise, but also a more traditional look. I have a Glide C on my ash Roubo bench at the moment. I love the look.

In case you're wondering, we do have a Tail Vise C in the works, so you'll be able to completely outfit your bench with matching vises. And yes, the Tail Vise C will also cost less than the current Tail Vise (which will become the Tail Vise M.)

A word on the infused Beech knobs. These are incredibly tough. They are as durable as solid acrylic, but with the feel and look of wood. They won't split or move. If you know the infused mallets made by Dave Jeske of Blue Spruce toolworks, these knobs are the same. In fact, Dave turns all of our vise knobs from the same stuff. They are impeccable in every way.

Price is $369 with a Crisscross Solo ($40 less than the previous "Glide Crisscross"), and $409 with a Crisscross Retro.

Retrofitting your bench with a Glide M or Glide C

The Glide M and Glide C components are not interchangeable with previous versions of the Glide. We've never encouraged upgrading parts of our vises anyway, since that relegates the obsolete parts to the recycle bin. To us it makes more sense to sell your current vise, give it to a friend, donate it to a school, or hang it on your mantle as a piece of industrial art (okay, maybe that's going too far).

If you do upgrade to a Glide M or C, and you currently have a Glide and Crisscross installed in your bench, you'll have to attach the new nut, patch your square acetal bushing mortise and cut a new, round mortise for the round acetal bushing. The existing tapped holes on your chop should work just fine with the Glide M or C.

We'll be uploading the new installation instruction (see our downloads page) for the Glide M/C which also include the Crisscross instructions. We're constantly revising and improving our instructions to make your installs as smooth as possible.

Split Top Roubo Workbench Plans

Its been about two years since we did away with the Split Top Roubo's parallel guide and replaced it with a Crisscross. Unfortunately we haven't had a chance update the STR plans to reflect this.Yes, we've been lax on this and it has caused a bit of confusion. Apologies. We do address the changes in the Glide installation instructions, and the STR Construction notes (both of which have been recently updated to further emphasize the changes.) The bad news is we lost our hard drive that contained the plans as we were updating them, and believe it or not, we also lost two backup drives as well. Computers! The good news is we're back on task and working diligently to get the plans totally updated as soon as possible. They will be better than ever.

See our stuff at WIA in two weeks

We had hoped to return to WIA this year, but the location and timing unfortunately did not work out for us. Maybe next year. However, if you're planning on attending WIA, Plate 11 Bench Company will have one of their benches outfitted with a Glide M, as will the Sterling Tool Works booth. If you're in the market for a finely made bench, Mark Hicks does excellent work and will build you a complete bench, or furnish you with a kit of parts ready to assemble. And Chris Kuehn's Saddle Tail is hands down the best dovetail marker I've ever used. Crisp and precise machining, beautifully made. I have the whole set, including the leather holster.

You can order a Glide M now through our Store page. The Glide C is still in production and will be ready to ship in 3-4 weeks. Watch for an announcement here in the next couple weeks. Tail Vise C's are also still in production and will be ready to purchase, we estimate in a couple months.

Later this fall, Glides will be also available through several of our dealers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

La Forge Royale Miter Jack Hardware Update

The La Forge Royale Miter Jack hardware is officially in production. Based on response, we're going to make 100 kits. Here's what's included:

1. Hard maple screw, threaded at 1-1/8" x  4 tpi

2. Hard maple nut block, tapped to match the screw, oversized in length and width so you can cut joinery.

3. Brass ferrule. We sourced the same size as the original, 15/16" O.D.

4. Brass garter

5. Steel hook

6. Steel garter pin

7. Groove pin

8. All the screws you need to build it (not pictured). These will be plain steel, or black oxide.

All the metal bits (except for the groove pin and steel screws) are made by us in our shop, to the exact specs of the original.

Price is $198 plus shipping

For this we're going to offer pre-ordering. We'll post the "Buy Now" button to our store page tomorrow, Tuesday August 26 at 9am. We hope to have these ready by late fall, and well before Christmas. That's the goal anyway.

We're going to include some sort of brand with the kit. Still working out the details on that.

We've also updated the Sketchup drawing to show the grain direction of each part. See the red arrows on the parts explosion (Scene 2).

Nick Dombrowski's crisp work (in oak!)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mark Your Calendar: French Oak Roubo Project Part Deux

The arrangements have been made. Contracts signed. Wood procured. We've even struck a deal with the local meteorologist to all but guarantee comfortable weather.

The French Oak Roubo Project will happen again the week of November 8-14, 2015.

We've been working out many details over the summer and can say with assurance the following:

1. The original crew will be back. Chris Schwarz, Don Williams, Raney Nelson, Jeff Miller, Ron Brese, Will Myers, and Jon Fiant will all be back. Of course Bo and I will also be there, although I can't promise you won't find us fishing in one of Bo's ponds for lunker bass. 

2. We're making room for more. There are eight benches in Plate 11. Since this is FORP II we're going to double that. We'll have 16 spots available for participants. We actually built 16 benches last time around, but this time the original crew will work on everyone's benches, in the hopes of getting more accomplished during the week. 

3. Another huge bench. Bo complains that one 16' Plate 11 bench isn't enough (some people!) So we'll try to build another one for him while we're there. We had loads of fun getting Bo's bench put together last time. Lowering the top onto the base with the fork truck was thrilling on the last day. I want to duplicate that.

4. Schwarz will talk Sunday night during a meet and greet about bench history, the art of the green bean casserole, and how to live without a modern sewage system. There will be refreshments (no casseroles though.)

5. Lunch. Catered lunch everyday from a local chef who studied in France and at the CIA (the other CIA.) Some of you might end up staying at her B&B. Excellent. We may also break out the grills in the evening if we feel up to it.

6. Hardware from Benchcrafted, Lake Erie Toolworks, and Peter Ross. Same as last time.

7. Personalized letterpress labels from Wesley Tanner

8. Pig Candy. 

As for price, it will be a little more. Some of our costs have gone up in the past couple years. It won't be a deal breaker for anyone, promise. 

We'll open registration on Tuesday, September 2 at 10am CST (we'll do a blog post then to announce.) To register you'll simply send an email to jameel@benchcrafted.com saying "I'm in" and we'll send you all the nitty gritty. To be fair, it will be first-come, first-served only. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Demo Vises For Sale


We recently refitted one of our demo benches with updated vises. So we've got the previous version vises available.

First up is a second generation Glide (pictured below). This retailed for $339 in 2011. The vise has very little use. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find any wear on it at all. Price is $200, including a pair of ash roller brackets (yes, this vise requires a traditional parallel guide, which you'll have to build into your chop.) But If you'd like to buy a Crisscross with this (without sounding like a salesman, we do recommend it), price will be an additional $99 (Solo) or $149 (Retro.)

The tail vise from this bench is also available. Originally sold for $359. Since we only refitted the handwheel and screw assembly, the rails, sliding plate assembly and hardware are all new. Price is $220.

If you'd like to buy one or both of these vises, drop us an email at info@benchcrafted.com and we'll send you an invoice. Make sure to include your full shipping address so we can calculate shipping.

Monday, August 11, 2014

La Forge Royale Miter Jack Sketchup Drawing

We uploaded the Sketchup drawing for the La Forge Royale Miter Jack this morning. A couple things about the drawing.

There are no plan views, or elevations, etc. We want to make this affordable as possible, so you'll have to pull dimensions off the drawing. Plenty of tutorials out there if you're unfamiliar.

There are two scenes in the drawing besides the main view. One is an explosion so you can quickly identify and measure the parts. The other shows each part that takes a fastener and what that fastener is.

You'll notice that the screw is colored green and has no threads. The nut block also has no threads. We're still working out the specs on these, so didn't bother drawing them. That's likewise true for the tenon and brass ferrule. Still some tweaking to do on those. But again, that's meaningless if you're buying a kit.

As typical with parts explosions, some of the components look really complicated to make, like the body spacer, for example. Lots of the geometry on these parts will get milled out once the base is assembled and you cut the groove for the splines on the end. We'll show the process.

We're partnering with Lake Erie Toolworks to produce the screw and nut block on these. Nick does flawless work, and he's meticulous about making sure the threads on his screws contact flatly with the threads in the nut. It's finicky work. We've already sourced enough quartersawn 10/4 hard maple for the nut blocks.

In the coming weeks we'll have pricing info up. If you're interested in a kit (no obligation) please respond in the comments section here, NOT in this post. We will only make so many kits, this won't be a stock item.

La Forge Royale Miter Jack Sketchup Drawing

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cut A Giant Lamb's Tongue And Out Pops A Moxon Vise

Customer Luke Addington sent us a link (with the nice note below) for his sequence on how he built his Benchcrafted Moxon Vise, including his steps on cutting his dead crisp lamb's tongues. Until I looked myself, I swore he uploaded himself and his maple blank into the Sketchup master program and cut those curves using "intersect with model". Incredible work Flynn, er, um, Luke.

The full sequence here.

Hi Mr. Abraham,

I just completed my Moxon vise and I cannot tell you how happy I am with it. Thank you very much for providing such incredible hardware. It works like a dream. I opted to carve the stopped chamfer & Lamb's Tongue and made a little step-by-step tutorial. I don't know if this would be useful to anyone but here it is just in case (with pictures of the completed vise):

Thank you again, I am looking forward to a lifetime of dovetails with this vise.
-Luke Addington

Monday, July 28, 2014

La Forge Royale Miter Jack Hardware Kits

The La Forge Royale miter jack drawing is just about done. I've spent the last couple weeks taking it apart piece by piece and accurately measuring every part, to the nearest 1/64". This vise was very carefully crafted, and even after about 100 years or so (that's a wild guess, but probably fairly close) the things functions sweetly.

We've decided we're going to make a short run of hardware for this vise. If you think you'd like one, post a comment below (please don't email us, use the comment form) It will help us gauge how many to make.

When we get the first batch of bits together, we'll build the first one and document our construction sequence. We won't produce measured 2d drawings for the vise, but simply post the Sketchup drawing when its ready, in a week or two. If you don't know how to pull dimensions and move things around in Sketchup yet, you might want to learn. It's easy. We recommend Bob Lang's Popular Woodworking video course. It's excellent. 

Here's what will be included in the hardware kit:

- Hardwood screw and tapped nut block. The nut block will be milled to final thickness, but oversize in length and width. You'll take it to final size, and cut the joinery. We'll likely use hard maple since its widely available. But we might use beech too, like the original. Thick beech is available, you just have to look harder.

- Brass ferrule and garter, steel garter pin, cross pin. The ferrule, screw tenon and steel garter pin will be pre-drilled to accept the cross pin. We'll provide instruction on how to assemble it, since you'll have to assemble these parts after the entire vise is built. Once the garter is in place, the screw can't be removed from the nut block without driving the pin back out.

- Steel Hook. This is the part that engages the half miter block and allows it to move in tandem with the moving jaw.

- Screws. These will be flat head, slotted, and likely unplated to fit with original.

Our version will be slightly different than the original. Here's how.

- The original jaws are fingerjointed. We didn't include this in the drawing. If you want to fingerjoint them, nothing wrong with that. But it's probably not necessary. I think an excellently prepared and glued lamination will hold up just fine. In fact, both fingerjointed surfaces in the original are loose.

- The screw pitch in the original is 5tpi, 1-1/8" dia. We'll try and duplicate this. But to keep costs reasonable we're going to source stock brass tubing for the ferrule. This may dictate that we alter the size of the screw a bit. It won't matter to you, since all the threading and tapping will be done.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Looking Back and Forward

Six years ago this month I finished my first "Roubo-style" bench. It contained the very first Benchcrafted vise. I chronicled that build on my now-retired luthiery blog.

As I look back on the past six years and ahead, I'm reminded of why we started making vises. As with many woodworkers, I get inspired to build from many directions. But it's using the tools themselves that provides the most meaningful feedback. In short, the best research I can do for Benchcrafted is to spend as much time in front of my bench as possible, using the vises, and breaking habits so I can further refine and develop our tools. Benchcrafted has always been, and will always be about the core traditions of the craft of woodwork. The more I do this, the more I find myself returning to traditional ideas and methods, regardless of my perception of speed or efficiency. Why? There is a "groundedness" in tradition. A safe harbor. A place where we can return to when we press the reset button of unnecessary advancement and improvement. With current advances in CNC machining and the wide availability of off-the-shelf precision components designed for precise movements in the industrial arena, and tempted as we are to borrow from these arenas, we inevitably steer back to rudimentary ideas, paring our designs down to the simplest, purest forms of antiquity with the fewest moving parts. This principle reveals again and again that the old ways in general are best, especially when working with a material that has been around longer than civilized man. Wood has not changed, and it could be argued that man, in all his technological and scientific advancements has lost the aspect of purity and simplicity which allowed the ancient Egyptians to erect structures that modern man still can't quite explain.

I always have, and always will consider myself a woodworker first. Making vises is a product of that work. And it should be. I never want to make vises strictly as a money-making venture. It must always be driven by the craft. So I spend as much time in the shop as possible. Everything we sell is used nearly every single day in my personal shop. I wouldn't have it any other way.

My 8-year old Roubo bench has undergone a few retrofits over the years, but its still my main bench. It's now outfitted with the latest version of the Glide leg vise, and our Tail Vise. I've also increased the size of the dog holes to 1", to accommodate our larger hand-forged holdfasts. Other than that, its the same as the day I finished it. A massive wooden clamp that does what it needs to quickly and without fuss. There is nothing more irritating than fussing with vises when building furniture. Ironic as it may seem, it's my goal that our vises become transparent in use. I don't want our vises to be enjoyed. I want them to become such a seamless part of your workflow that your mind is not occupied with their function at all, but that it become more of an extension of your body. You don't consciously have to think about breathing.

So what's in store for the next few years? We do have some new products brewing, and hope those make it to production. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I've got a flame birch side table about half done that I'm itching to work on.