Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Cast Iron Cast Your Vote
When we announced the new version of the Benchcrafted Tail Vise (the V.2) we reported some quality issues with some hand wheels we were using. This unfortunately caused some delays, which we are now virtually caught up from.
In the midst of this small fiasco we started considering offering different finishes on the hand wheels, not just chrome. So a production problem ended up blossoming into a brainstorming session. Can't complain about that.
First we tried a textured powder coat, and although we liked the more subdued look, after a few weeks subtle gave way to gaudy and we decided it just didn't work. Chrome might be flashy, but it has a tendency to reflect its surroundings, which can help it to look more subdued that you might think.
We also tried a manganese phosphate coating (it's what they use to blacken the parts of an M-16), but this turned out to be quite delicate. It scuffed and scratched too easily. It was also a little too "stealth fighter" for us. The black "forged iron" look was just not working.
During a recent visit to Czech Edge Hand Tool, we noticed a few vintage machines with unplated cast iron hand wheels. A half-century of handling had given the hand wheels a wonderful warm patina that not only felt great, but also looked wonderful. The texture was silky smooth, and the look was very traditional. We thought we might have discovered the perfect new finish we were dreaming about.
In the meantime we discovered a small midwestern firm that specializes in casting iron handwheels. And the quality is excellent. So we made up a Tail Vise with the wheel to see how it would look. We were quite pleased. Take a look at the first picture above. That's the raw cast iron wheel on the left, with a stock chrome-plated wheel on the right.
So here's the tease. We may or may not offer vises with the raw cast iron wheels. This depends on the feedback we get from you. The downside of the unplated cast iron is obvious. Rust. But with regular use, and maintenance, there should be no problem with rust (we even have a good lead on a finish that should make the raw iron virtually rust free). Most shops are filled with raw cast iron and regular maintenance is common practice. After all, the rest of our vises are untreated steel, and regular maintenance on those parts is a given. So, if you think that the trade-off you get with the more attractive looks of the iron wheel is worth the maintenance-free aspect of the chrome-plated wheel, let us know by commenting below (and feel free to elaborate). Your input is highly valued. So much so that among all those who participate, we'll draw one at random and send them a free Benchcrafted Skraper.
Cast your vote: Raw cast iron, or chrome-plated.