We're happy to announce that the Benchcrafted Carver's Vise is finally ready.
This whole process started seven years ago (almost to the day) when Chris Schwarz blogged about Louis Bois' carver's chops from La Forge Royale. Read more about that post here.
Then one night during a WIA conference, Louis Bois pulled his original carver's chops from the trunk of his Nissan Juke, and pitched the idea of us making the metal parts for a run of vises. We bit.
After 19 months we finally have all the bits and piece ready to sell. It was no easy task to design the parts for the vise. We wanted to basically replicate Louis' example in every detail, and we've come darn close. Our version is about 97.6% faithful to the La Forge Royale original.
The components are made entirely from cold rolled steel, and every part is machined to precise dimensions. There are no stamped parts. 95% of the vise is manufactured from scratch by us. We've even gone to the trouble of incorporating some different machining techniques to give a hint of the hand-wrought look of the original.
The rear of the vise is the part that moves, and is completely removable once the screw is unthreaded all the way. The two sliding brackets feature an integral lip that traps the rear jaw, keying it onto the slide rails that run along the base of the vise. The rear jaw traverses the base smoothly, and does not rack or shift during use. The 7/8" dia. acme screw is the same size as the original.
The base of the vise attached to a bench via a mounting screw with a large square head. This head slides up through a mortise at the end of the base, and holds the base down on two 1/8" thick steel bearing plates that attach inside the mortise. The entire vise can swivel 360 degrees, and can cantilever off the edge of a bench while still remaining rock solid. This is very handy for doing spokeshave work on chair parts, or the like. A cover plate keeps shavings and dust from fouling the mounting screw.
Engaging the mounting screw is a tapped cast iron handwheel which cinches down the vise with great pressure and is easy to adjust by reaching under the benchtop. A thick steel washer takes wear and distributes the holding pressure on the underside of the bench. Changing position of the vise is quick and easy. You can even pick a favorite spot on your bench for the vise, mortise for the square head of the mounting screw, then let the head drop into the mortise when not using the vise. You can keep the mounting screw, washer and handwheel on the bench at all times. To mount the vise simply place the base over the square head, push the screw up and engage the rails in the vise's base. Quick and easy.
The head of the main screw is branded with the the Benchcrafted name and logo, and "USA". We're proud to say that this vise is manufactured (like all our vises) in the United States. For demonstration purposes we've filled the stamped brand with white enamel. Vises will be supplied with unfilled brands. We like the minimalist look (we're not big fans of overt branding) of the unfilled lines, but if you'd like to fill your's, by all means feel free. We simply painted on the white enamel, let it set for about a minute, then wiped it off with a paper towel wrapped tight around a cork block. We wet the towel slightly with lacquer thinner to remove any surface film. Below is an unfilled example.
All parts of the vise (except the nut, mounting screw, handwheel and bearing plates) are finished in hot black oxide and oiled. Your vise parts will arrive wrapped in paper and oily. You should remove most of the oil before you begin building your vise. Use a paper towel and a little mineral spirits. It's okay to leave the parts a little oily.
The Benchcrafted Carver's Vise is available in kit form only. That is, the metal parts pictured above. You will need to build the vise around the metal parts. It is an enormously satisfying build, much like building a great bench, without all the heavy lifting. It's also a great project for a special piece of wood you've been holding onto.
For those who don't have any of that special wood, we have a limited number of 16/4, mixed rift and quartersawn American beech billets that we are offering along with the vise components. This is excellent quality beech, and is completely traditional for tool making. Wood being wood, we can't guarantee the blanks, or accept returns on these. The vise pictured above was made with the same wood we're offering. The blanks will vary slightly in width. Each billet will provide more than enough wood to build one complete vise.
Benchcrafted Carver's Vise (hardware components only): $379 plus shipping
Benchcrafted Carver's Vise (hardware components) & Beech Billet: $439 plus shipping
Vices will go on sale at 10am (CST), Friday May 24. You can place an order through our store page.
If you're attending Handworks, we'll also have vises (and beech billets) at the event.
Measured drawings and construction notes will be available for free download in the next few weeks.
Unlike our other products, this is a limited run. When they are gone, we may or may not make them again. We won't have a page on our website about this vise. This blog post is it. If you want one, again be sure to check the store page on the May 24th after 10am. Refresh your browser if you don't see the carver's vise on the page.
Carvings generously provided by Louis Bois and Andrew Lunn.