Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rare Opportunity: Shaker-Style Bench For Sale


When we started Benchcrafted we never intended to build workbenches. But funny things happen when people half-way across the continent become your friends and ask you to build for them. I have a soft spot for this, and it's hard for me to say no. It's safe to say I've made Burger-King wages on almost every bench I've built. It's the intangible payment I get from these relationships that I really value.

But this bench is different. I didn't build it for anyone. I built it for me, for my personal shop. When I first helped Ron Brese create his Shaker-style bench early last year I knew immediately I wanted one for myself. Evidently, lots of other people wanted one too. So much so that they asked Ron (and us) for plans within a few days of the bench's completion. No exaggeration.

After we decided to satisfy woodworkers clamoring for a Shaker bench with Benchcrafted workholding, I set to work on building my version of the bench, a version that I thought would appeal to a wide range of woodworkers and shop sizes.

The offspring of that idea came to fruition about 10 months ago. And I couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome. I immediately fell in love with the piece and started daydreaming about how I could shoehorn it into my 600 sq. foot shop alongside an already enormous 100" long, 500 pound Roubo bench.

Winter dragged on and we had to deal with some product changes at Benchcrafted and the inevitable delays they cause, and progress on the Shaker Bench plans slowed. Finding room for the bench in my personal shop became a fading dream and was relegated, for fear of damage, to a safe corner in a storage area, hibernating until earlier this week when we moved the bench into my shop for a photo shoot.



And that's when I realized I had to sell this bench. The only option after the shoot was to put the bench back in storage. And that's something that I just couldn't do long term. This bench needs to get used and enjoyed by someone. And it doesn't look like that person is me.

I hope someday to build another Shaker style bench and use it alongside my Roubo. Workholding capabilities aside, there is something about a Shaker bench that just oozes inspiration, and that's something we all could use more of in our shops.

So this bench will make the long trip this summer to the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks 30th Anniversary Open House, July 15-16 in Warren, ME, where it will be for sale and available for pickup Saturday July 16th. If you are interested in acquiring this bench please contact me directly at jameel@benchcrafted.com for details or questions.

Update: The bench has sold. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Economaki-Brese-Imai-Lie-Nielsen Melange


This post marks the first for a new category at the Benchcrafted blog: Personal work.

In the past year I have been scaling back content at my other blog for no other reason than I haven't done much luthiery work for a couple years now. And much of my recent work has more to do with workholding than luthiery. So look for more personal work here in the future, interesting or not!

It's firmly established now. We are living in a woodworking hand-tool Renaissance. And yesterday I experienced it yet again.

I'm building a small chest for a friend using some of the hardest, densest, gnarliest maple I've ever come across. It's like working a tropical exotic. But yesterday everything clicked.

As many know, Andrew Lunn is no longer making saws. Like others I was on the list. So I'm still looking for ultimate performance. I've found that in John Economaki's Jointmaker Pro, which I now use to cut almost all of my dovetails, and especially the critical, joint-as-design-element dovetails. The JMP was simply awesome for cutting the joints in this chest. And they all fit together, without paring of any sort, right off the saw. And setting it up for the cuts was easy. If you can line up two marking knife lines, you can cut perfect air-tight dovetails with the JMP. I recommend using the cross-cut blade for this operation. I've found, oddly enough, that it tracks better than the ripping blade, especially in ornery woods.


Smoothing this wood was a physically demanding task. I have a Shelix head on my planer, but the traces are always removed and flatness always tweaked with hand planes. For me, machines are my shop's apprentice. I expect them to do the grunt work perfectly and without complaint, and leave the precision to me. I spend very little time in my shop setting up machines. To smooth this nasty wood I used a Lie-Nielsen #7 followed by a Brese 132-50P panel plane, both bedded at 50 degrees. The L-N got things flat, and the Brese polished the surfaces. But both planes needed honing after each side of the panels was smoothed.


But I was most impressed with my new Fujihiro chisel by Chutaro Imai. On the recommendation of Raney Nelson I purchased a 12mm Fujihiro bench chisel from Hida Tool a couple months ago. I chopped all the joints for this chest with this chisel. And I didn't go back to my stones once. That's right. The edge retention simply blew me away. That's about 5 running feet of continuous rock-hard, abrasive birdseye maple end grain work. And for fun I took some wispy thin end grain basswood shavings after I finished the last socket. Simply amazing. I think Raney has hooked me on Japanese chisels.

The chest is almost done. With all the difficulty of working this wood, I'll admit I have a soft spot for it. It's just too beautiful a material.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Meet Us (and a bunch of other toolmakers) In St. Louis May 13-14

Lie-Nielsen Toolworks' traveling tool show will be stopping in St. Louis, MO on May 13-14.

If you like hand planes, especially hand-made hand planes, this is the show to be at this year. Period.

Here's the lineup of incredible planemakers (besides Lie-Nielsen obviously!):

Matt Bickford--Beech and Cherry moulding planes of the highest order

Konrad Sauer--Infill planes in the classic style

Ron Brese--Infill and precision stainless steel bench planes like no other

Bob Zajicek--Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Maybe not woodworking planes, but he does make some mean edge tools.

Time for a shameless plug. All of these planemakers use Benchcrafted vises. Well, except for Matt. Matt, we need to talk.

If you're not much for hand tools, come anyway and drool on host Kent Adkin's European machinery.

And its all free. The only other place I'd rather be in St. Louis for free is on a tour of Anheuser-Busch. Not that I like Budweiser, but the tour is cool (the Clydesdale pen is as clean as the brewery, and that's as clean as an operating room--no joke) and at the end they give you free beer. If Bob is absent from his bench, this is where he'll be.

We'll also be bringing John's Split-Top Roubo from The Benchmaker's Apprentice that he recently finished. Here's a sneak preview.