Tuesday, April 24, 2012

St. Peter's Cross (The Benchcrafted Crisscross) and H.O. Studley's Handwheels



Video by: The Chris Schwarz Blog

Okay, brace yourself. I'm going to cover a lot of ground here.

First off, I need to empty Benchcrafted's inbox of the flood of questions we've been getting since last Friday after Chris Schwarz posted the above video. Hopefully this will cover it.

Last week we took a Glide Leg Vise outfitted with a St. Peter's Cross to the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Jeff Miller's in Chicago. We've been researching and prototyping this mechanism since 2008, and just a couple weeks ago we finally got to the point where everything clicked. The results were positively amazing. We knew immediately that we wanted to show this to our fellow woodworkers. We are incredibly excited to get rolling on the first batch of these.

There were quite a few questions at Jeff Miller's that I will repeat the answers to here.

Size

The vise we took to Chicago (same as the one in the video) is very tall and protrudes quite a ways above the bench height. Two reasons:

- The prototype mechanism is itself large, and dictated a rather tall vise for installation. This prototype mechanism would fit in a 36" high bench (with 8" of space above the screw), but no shorter. The production version will be sized to fit in a minimum 30" high bench while allowing about 8" above the screw. To install it in a lower bench you'll have to raise the height of the screw. The shorter prototype (we didn't take this to Chicago) works the same as the longer version, and will work in a wide array of bench heights.

- We wanted the prototype at the show to be easy to see, so we installed it higher than normal. Simple as that.

Material

The production model will be made from cast iron for three reasons. Strength, cost, and aesthetics. We can add some nice curves and details to a casting that would otherwise be quite expensive in steel or other materials. And aesthetics are just as important to us as function. This thing is going to look great in your bench.

Installation

It can be retrofitted into existing leg vises, including of course the Glide. You won't have to build a new bench. You may have to build a new chop however, to house the mechanism properly, especially if you currently use a Glide Leg Vise. Your current chop will probably be too short. And no, you don't have to buy a Glide to use the mechanism (although the Glide is simply awesome with it!) it will work with any bench screw-based leg vise: metal, wood, or adamantium.

Installation will be easy. The production model won't require machinist-level milling or drilling. Normally this would pose problems especially for retrofitting in wide bench legs, so we're engineering out any fussy installation issues. Excavate a couple long mortises and pop it in place. It should be that simple.

Capacity

The mechanism will allow a wide open jaw, much wider than any screw you'll encounter. We've received many questions about how the mechanism works, different ways of mounting it to bench, etc. We'll cover some of these details in a later blog post.

Availability and Price

We don't have pricing yet. But we can say with some confidence that it won't be ridiculous.

We anticipate offering the St Peter's Cross two ways: packaged with the Glide, and alone for mounting in any leg vise. The original Glide (without St. Peter's Cross) will still be available.

We don't have a lead time. We're anticipating release sometime this fall.

If you've recently purchased a Glide, we will sell you a St. Peter's Cross at a special discount to comfort you like a warm blanket. This will apply to orders placed between February 1st, 2012 and September 1st 2012. If you're positive that you want a Glide with a Crisscross, you should wait to order until the Crisscross is ready, sometime this fall.


Pre-Orders
We may offer pre-orders for the St. Peter's Cross. Read the Crisscross FAQ here.


Benchcrafted's New Handwheels

Our current wheels use a fairly common design, and although completely functional and aesthetically pleasing, we've always wanted to take these to the next level.

After more than two years of development and prototyping we're finally ready to announce our new hand wheels. But first, a bit of background.


We considered many designs when developing the new hand wheels. We like the vintage style handwheels of the 19th century, such as this geared wheel with serpentine spokes from a vintage grain mill.



Or this adjustment wheel from a Daniel's Planer at the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath, ME.



We dug up many interesting designs, like these from an early 19th. century machine advertised with the promise "a six-pack in six hours."

But this is after all the 21st century, and fascinated as we are by historical tools, we wanted to incorporate some modern elements into the look of our new handwheels, and also to set them apart from more typical designs.

And it seemed that no matter how many times we sat down at our drafting desk, we always came back to our original inspiration: the handwheels of H.O. Studley's workbench.

The vises on Studley's workbench were likely mass-manufactured, and there are versions of similar vises in extant examples. However, Studley's vises—including the iconic handwheels—were modified to a high level and nickel plated. But mostly we were impressed by the ergonomic features of the Studley handwheels. Thick, smooth rims, and spokes which transition into the rim and hub with a smooth, finger-friendly curve.

Tail Vise Handwheel


We decided to depart a bit from Studley's design by eliminating a spoke. This leaves a bit more room for fingers, and takes away from the "steam valve" look.

So how do our new wheels differ from our current offerings?

First off, we've increased the thickness of each wheel's rim by a fair margin. This will mean even smoother action (as the wheels will increase in weight, and thus provide more momentum), and more ergonomic grip when adjusting the vise by grasping the rim.


In addition to the larger rim size, the entire wheel will be fully machined much like Studley's--no sand cast surface will remain. And the rims of each wheel will be nearly fully round. This will make for a very pleasant feel in the hand when operating the vise.

The screw shaft will also fit into a blind hole in the wheel's hub. The face of each wheel will feature the Benchcrafted logo milled right into the wheel itself. Despite the images here, each wheel will still feature our rosewood knob.

Glide Leg Vise Handwheel

The new handwheels will be cast iron. The finish will be nearly the same as our current wheels, the same satin iron finish. They won't be glossy, shiny, or highly polished. The renderings here are just that, and don't identically reflect the finished wheel. Some small elements may also change as we get these through the machining process. The new wheels will take the baked flax oil finish just like our current ones. These wheels are definitely a step up in both function and looks.

Availability

We are making the patterns for these wheels now. And we anticipate pouring the first batch in the coming weeks. We don't have a hard date yet, so we can't promise anything at this point.

Price

These wheels are larger, heavier, and require more machining than our current wheels. So we'll need to raise the price on both the Tail Vise and the Glide Leg Vise. We have not had a price increase in several years, and have been absorbing material and machining costs in the meantime, even through several product upgrades like our V.2 Tail Vise, and the improved Glide nut. So both vises are due for an increase. So if you're looking to avoid this increase, you should order vises (with our current hand wheels) now. We have vises in stock and ready to ship. But when those are gone, they're gone. We won't produce more vises with our current handwheels after they sell out. We may also have a short period with longer lead times as we transition to the new wheels. If you're looking to build a bench soon, or as the summer comes to a close, you should order now to avoid delays.

Retrofitting

For those with current hand wheels who would like to eventually upgrade to our new wheels, we will offer our new handwheels for sale, as an assembled handwheel-and-main-screw unit. We do not sell parts of our vises as individual items, so if you're thinking about getting the new handwheel assembly, then putting together a second vise with your original handwheel/screw, think again! We've outwitted you! (insert evil laugh here.) Seriously, it makes a whole lot more sense to simply buy an entire vise with the new handwheel and either use the original in another bench, sell it to a friend, or donate it to a woodworking school. That is, if having the original handwheel/screw hanging around bothers you. On the other hand, they make great paper towel holders.

St. Peter's Cross

If you would like a Glide with our new handwheel, AND the St. Peter's Cross, simply wait until our new handwheels are ready. We expect to have both ready at about the same time. If the handwheels are ready first, you can always get the special discount on the St. Peter's Cross when we come out with it.


And to close out this lengthy post, here are some renderings of handwheel designs that didn't make the cut, just for fun. Special thanks to our draftsman extraordinaire Louis Bois, who does all of our CAD work.


This was the first one, born of pure imagination. Obviously quite impossible to make for less than a bazzilion dollars.


We called this one the "Ben Hur"



This was an early morning effort. A product of powdered donuts and weak coffee.