Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Lead Times and a Shaker Bench Update
As you may have noticed, we've had to increase our lead time on vises to 10-12 weeks. One of our materials suppliers has been swamped with orders the past few weeks and are frantically trying to keep up, to the point of adding machinery to their operation, which has the ironic effect of further delaying orders in the short term. During the past couple years many manufacturers have changed the way they do business. Instead of keeping lots of raw material on hand and warehousing finished parts, they wait until they have several orders to do a run. It's like having to do a group order with a bunch of people you don't know. It's something that's out of our hands, so we're trying to deal with it the best way as we can. Couple this with the immense popularity of our vises (demand is hotter than an iPad 2!), that means increasing lead times for the time being. The upside is, we're making some significant changes to the way we work, which should, after this hiccup runs its course, mean very short lead times. If you're in the market for vises, stay tuned here for updates. As soon as things change, we'll make a post.
Now on to some good news. The Benchcrafted Shaker Bench plans have been progressing nicely. We're getting quite close to completion, and are shooting for an early summer release date. No promises yet, as we still have some issues to work out. As usual, we've changed some construction details since building the prototype, improving the strength of the joinery, and simplifying the construction at the same time.
We've answered a lot of questions about this bench in the past few months. The most common seems to be, "is this bench strong?". The Roubo bench design has become so popular that its become the benchmark for other benches. So is this bench as strong as a Roubo? We're not about to send our benches to the testing lab at MIT to be crushed under a giant hydraulic ram. So short of that, I'd say yes. In fact, I may be leaning towards the opinion that the base of this bench might even be stronger. Why? Unlike traditional Shaker benches, made with solid timbers and frame and panel construction, we've engineered the base of our bench around the torsion box model, using plywood panels which won't move and don't require joinery like a frame and panel.
The front of the cabinet is made with a 1" thick hardwood face frame joined with numerous tight half-lap joints. Once glued, these joints are incredibly strong. The back of the case, instead of frame-and panel is one unified element of 3/4" ply. The interior of the case is divided with several more plywood panels further adding weight and rigidity. The advantage of this construction method will be that you can glue the entire case together without worrying about wood movement, and use the joinery method of your choice: biscuits, Dominoes, tongue and groove, spline, or simply butt joints and dovetailed screws. We also use traditional cut nails for structural reinforcement where aesthetics is important. Once the cabinet is together, it is functionally a solid cube. One single joint, standing alone, may be quite weak, but taken as a whole the case would be nearly impossible to destruct in normal use. Of course this all depends on tight joinery and proper gluing, which should be at the top of your list when building this bench. Even a massive Roubo would be useless with weak, wobbly joints.