Earlier this week we traveled to Chicago to catch up with Jeff Miller in his bowling-alley turned furniture-making magic castle.
When we arrived at Jeff's he was busy ripping some styrofoam on the sliding table saw, packing up a couple cherry side tables for a customer in Las Vegas. I commented that I hoped he'd built the chairs in the winter. He replied "I never thought about the humidity levels out there". And you know what? He doesn't need to. Jeff could fit a piston-tight drawer in January, ship it off to Da Nang in July and never get a call back. He's that good.
So when we walked up to Jeff's FORP bench, it was not unexpected when our jaws fell to the floor like a cold steak. But they fell nonetheless.
First off, Jeff departed from the Plate 11 bench a bit by incorporating a wagon vise and a row of square dogs. Jeff has probably installed more Benchcrafted Tail Vises than anyone we know, so its no surprise that his wooden wagon vise shares some features with our vise.
The dog block is tapped to receive the 1-3/4" X 3-1/2 tpi left-hand screw. To install the block into its cavity, Jeff milled some wide rabbets into both the front laminate and the front edge of the rear top section to receive the block, which in turn has rabbets that engage the rabbets in the top. The block slides up from below, stops against the upper rabbets, then two rails are slipped into the lower rabbets in the block and screwed into the top from the inside. The components are massive, which lends great stability to the entire vise. I was shocked when I operated the vise. I felt no resistance along the entire travel of the vise. It was frictionless. And it was wonderful.
The head of the screw itself is fastened to the end cap via a steel two-piece garter that resides in a counterbore behind the shoulder of the screw's head. Jeff tapped the garter for machine screws, the whole assembly goes in from the outside, while the screws pull the garter tight from the inside face of the end cap. When the vise is assembled, there are no visible fasteners, and the garter is completely hidden. If Roubo had designed a wooden wagon vise, this would be it.
The vise hardware was made by Lake Erie Toolworks and smith Peter Ross.
The leg vise is beautifully and meticulously crafted. Jeff played his cards right and waited until winter to fit the forged ring, and many of the other critical elements on the bench.
Jeff fit his leg vise garter perfectly. It slips in and out without friction, and tightens up sweetly as you insert the last quarter inch.
Jeff's bench was truly inspirational to behold. One of the finest benches I've ever seen.
It was a great morning spent in Jeff's shop, reminiscing about FORP almost a year ago now. We're looking forward to getting together again next year to do it all over again. Yes, it's official, FORP II is a go. We've got the wood, and we've got the go ahead from Wyatt Childs. He's thrilled to be hosting the event again. The same group of people will be gathering in Barnesville, GA to make more incredible benches from this incredible material. Myself, Jeff Miller, Raney Nelson, Chris Schwarz, and Don Williams, all have agreed to return.
Please don't send us emails at this time asking for more details. We simply don't have them. We will be posting the official announcement early this fall, and will give advanced warning before we do so. As with last time, it will be first come, first served.