So what is next on Benchcrafted's drawing board?
We get this question frequently.
We're usually pretty secretive about what we're planning, and that's not to protect our ideas so much as it's a defense mechanism to prevent embarrassing failures. Like these.
But last week at WIA we were pretty open about what's on the horizon. We placed the prototype right on our demo bench between our Glide Leg Vise and Tail Vise. And not a few attendees took notice. Ben from Ben's Brooklyn Build-It Blog at Tools for Working Wood (that's Ben's pic above, from his blog) wrote a short entry about the vise. By the way, if you haven't already, make sure to bookmark Ben's blog. It's worth following just for Ben's clever animated gif's.
The Royal Forge Carver's Vise is owned by Louis Bois (yes, that Louis Bois) who was with us this year in the Benchcrafted booth. Louis was kind enough to bring the vise from Canada just for the show. I should say also that Louis is of French heritage and speaks French fluently (his name is pronounced without the "s", and Bois is pronounced "Bwah".) A couple nights last week during WIA Louis and I stayed up late as I picked through his volumes of L'art Du Menuisier. I wonder how many people are lucky enough to have their own, personal Roubo translator? Thanks Louis.
The vise is a gorgeous piece of hardware, reminiscent of the classic tools you'd find in old engravings, like Roubo or Diderot. But the thing is, this vise isn't necessarily that old.
The vise was manufactured by the Royal Forge company in Paris sometime in the late 19th to early 20th century. The catalog page above is from a 1920's era version. We can't be exact on that number, but there is a telephone number in the front, so that's narrows it down somewhat. We've done a fair amount of late night Google Image searching, as well as perusing lots of on-line library photo records in search of a picture of the vise. Below is the only image we found.
Louis' vise jaws are lined with cork. It looks like the lady carver above is using a piece of leather to provide a fantastic grip on her delicate carving.
Aside from sculptural work, the vise would be useful for working parts with a spokeshave or drawknife, such as working chair parts. Not everyone has room for a shaving horse, and this vise could serve well for holding a variety of chair parts. Clamped to a bench, the vise would hold work at a convenient chest height. The late, great John Brown used a metal machinist's vise for a good portion of his workholding needs in building Welsh stick chairs. The wooden jaws of the Royal Forge vise would be much more friendly to an errant tool movement.
Right now we're in the prototyping and design phase. If we end up producing this vise we will be doing a small, one-time run. If there is enough interest after the first run, we may produce more. The plates, which strengthen the wooden components and provide for smooth tracking as the vise is opened or closed are fairly detailed, with several inside chamfered corners. Not a detail that rotary cutters do easily. In other words, there is going to be some fine hand work involved in producing these. We also think hand-worked details will better capture the classic look of the original.
Your feedback is appreciated.