Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Excuses and Opportunities


First, the excuses. We had hoped to release the Classic Leg Vise last week. Obviously that didn't happen. We were in the middle of machining a large run of Crisscross arms when we discovered a problem. This run of Crisscross arms was destined for Classics, but a small error in our molds meant that hundreds of arms had to be melted down and repoured. The cope and drag were shifted just enough to make the machining impossible. So back into the pot they went. We hope to have Classics ready for sale by the end of this month. For those who are chomping at the bit, trust me, it will be worth it. I've been using one in my own shop for that past couple weeks in a high vise. I'm hooked.

And now the opportunity. Since day one we've always used Cocobolo rosewood for all our vise knobs. Recently the wood was placed on the CITES Appendix II list. Supply is already getting short, and the price has doubled as well. We didn't want to raise prices for the sake of the knob, but we also didn't want to eliminate the look and cache that the rosewood provides.

But before I go further, let me mention a couple downsides to using Cocobolo.

Moisture content. It can be all over the map. Waiting for rosewood to dry is sort of like waiting for a drought in the Louisiana bayou. Wet wood shrinks, and when you're trying to put a metal screw into a piece of shrinking wood, things get tight. We usually have to ream some of our knobs so they spin freely on the screw. We also know that some of our customers have to do that as well. Hey, its wood after all, but we want to do better.

We tried a few options. Indian rosewood (same problems as cocobolo), Impregnated maple (too light colored), even transparent aluminum (too expensive). In the end we settled on a material that was at the absolute bottom of our list: DymondWood.

Yes, that ghastly multi-colored birch plywood-based, resin-impregnated, clown-barf abomination that we've all seen on too many amateur knife-maker's blades.

But we discovered that it doesn't all look like that. DymondWood "Rosewood Burgundy" is remarkably close to cocobolo. And it offers a big advantage over rosewood (aside from being made from a super abundant wood-birch), and that is stability. With its resin-impregnated, multi-ply structure, it basically functions like plastic. It won't shrink on the knob, and won't crack either (not that we've ever had a knob crack, to our knowledge). It also feels exactly like a cocobolo knob in your hand.

So in the next week or so, we'll start shipping vises with our new DymondWood knob. I doubt anyone will even notice. In fact, we passed around two knobs this week here, and only one person picked out the DymondWood instantly. Everyone else had to look close.

One of the knobs below is cocobolo, one is DymondWood.












20 comments:

  1. I appreciate the transparent aluminum/Star Trek reference. Thanks for that!
    Dave

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  2. For those of us who are already well-equipped with a wide assortment of benchcrafted wares, what mental-gymnastics can we do to justify purchasing the classic leg vise? Giant sized carving vise? Leg vise on each leg of the bench? Gotta think of something...

    - Matt

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    1. If your married, build a bench for your wife. If you have kids, build a bench just for them. If your single, use your "need " for another bench to justify the purchase. (And no one I know ever says they couldn't use another bench.)

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    2. That's easy, Matt. Build an auxiliary high vise. I have one mounted on an older bench and use it constantly for detail work. Stuff you want to do at chest height. It's just perfect for that. Heck, that's a high vise in the old ad above.

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    3. To clarify, pic of how you chose to mount it to the bench. Thanks.

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    4. But that's what (plan on) using the carvers vise for! I suppose that isn't quite at chest height. Maybe I can build one and use it to hold open my copy of "L’Art Du Menuisier" (peasant's-edition, of course, not the gilded version) at eye level.

      Or I could build a dedicated joinery bench, but would require a larger garage... .

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    5. See our Crisscross page. A block mounted behind the vise is held between dogs. Holdfast at the bottom. A longer block could be held directly to the bench with clamps if you dont have dogs.

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    6. (Head slap to forehead and a big "D'OH!". I was looking for that pic in the blog prior to asking and I never thought to look at the actual crisscross page for it. Maybe my wife is right and I am losing my marbles. Thanks

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  3. I've thought of turning knobs made of hard maple to match my bench. Have you ever thought of offering a choice of wood for the knobs?

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    Replies
    1. We thought about it a couple times, but its an inventory nightmare.

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  4. Will Lee Valley be carrying these vices?

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  5. Forty two inches high? Have you let Mr. Schwarz know that 38" is now too low based on the historical record above?

    Dittos on the transparent aluminum reference.

    I have what may be a very stupid question, and my ignorance about foundry work will shine through, but how come the previous runs of the crisscross didn't exhibit the same error. Is the crisscross one for the classic a bit different from the original? Again, I claim ignorance.

    Lastly, will the classic be available without the Crisscross?

    Thanks,
    Patrick

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    1. Our molds are made on an automatic machine (not a "squeezer"), and sometimes things can get out of whack. And no, the Crisscross is not different for the Classic.

      Yes, it will be available ala carte.

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  6. Sorry to hear about the setback. If it postpones selling out and retiring, your loss is our gain!

    BTW, I see a lot of vintage leg vises with the static jaw just like your vintage illustration in the blog shows. How were these double-jawed vises mounted and used? Certainly not flush, coplanar to the side of bench as we like them, right? I have a vintage wood screw leg vise that reportedly came off an Amish bench I'm going to retrofit onto a temporary bench (my permanent bench will sport your criss cross). It has the static jaw. I'm debating removing the static leg but curious how it was mounted originally.

    Any insight appreciated.

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  7. The ones I've seen were either let in, or scabbed on. If its a high vise, there isn't much purpose in the leg portion being flush with the front of the bench, since its high.

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  8. Nice solution Jameel, I about choked on my coffee when I read Dymondwood but I must say the results speak for themselves. Very cool alternative and necessary because that appendix II listing has been coming for a long time and was actually levied a bit late in the game so I don't see that product coming back any time soon.

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