Saturday, December 26, 2009

Roll Out The Barrel Nuts, New Stuff!

Our latest product is the Benchcrafted Barrel Nut.

Our Benchcrafted Split Top Roubo Bench is built with a knockdown base featuring these new fasteners. These are so nice we thought we'd offer them in solo form. They will work for making really sturdy knockdown joints in benches, shop furniture and even in modern furniture.

The Barrel nuts are made from solid steel. They are a few thou under 1" diameter so they fit easily in a 1" diameter hole. Zinc-plated to resist rust, they are 2-1/8" long and are tapped to receive a 1/2-13 bolt. They are designed to work with 1-3/4" stock (thinner or thicker stock will work--you just have to space things correctly), so when the bolt is centered on the thickness of the stock the nut protrudes past the inside face of the rail, exposing the V-groove grip so you can assemble the joint without tools. You hold the nut in one hand, insert it in the hole, and adjust it while turning the bolt head with your other hand. You can easily feel when the bolt starts threading into nut. Grab a socket wrench and finish the assembly. Easy!

Getting the hole for the bolt to line up with the Barrel nut hole is easy. Here's the procedure.

1. Layout center lines and center points for the bolt and the Barrel nut locations on the leg and rail. Drill the hole for the Barrel nut, making sure not to drill clear through the rail. You can drill clear through, but it looks nicer from the outside of the rail if you make a blind hole.

2. Using a drill press, drill a countersink (if desired) for the bolt head and washer, then drill clear through the leg with a 1/2" bit. The hole will blow out on the bottom side, but it doesn't matter, it will be hidden inside the mortise.

3. Assemble the mortise and tenon and clamp the joint together. Using the hole in the leg as a guide, place your bit inside the hole and drill into the end of the rail. We use a hand brace and auger bit for its long length, but a power drill and hex-shank auger bit will work too. Drill as deep as you can.

4. Disassemble the joint and extend the bolt hole to the Barrel Nut hole if need be. These are long holes, and getting them dead straight is not easy, since the bit tends to follow the grain. We make life easier and simply enlarge the hole in the rail to 9/16 or even 5/8. It doesn't affect the strength of the rail much, and it makes installing the hardware effortless.

Four Benchcrafted Barrel Nuts, with four, 8" hex-head bolts and washers is $40. These are also available as part of our Benchmaker's Package, pictured above (minus vises).

The Benchcrafted Skraper is also now finally available!

We've made a few subtle improvements to the tool since we first offered these earlier this year at the Woodworking in America Events. Most notably, the blade is a tad longer than the previous
version and offers a little more versatility in use. We've also branded the handle with our name and logo. This will be more durable than the dome label we used on the previous version. Price is $34.

An update about vise availability. We've been a bit behind over the holidays and we apologize for any delay in vise orders. We've had to push our lead time to 4-6 weeks, but that won't last too much longer. We just finished up a batch of vises this week and should be ready to begin shipping orders the first full week in January.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, and we wish everyone a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jim Tolpin's Split Top Roubo

A month ago we posted about Jim Tolpin's Split-Top Roubo build.

A couple days ago Jim emailed us with news that he had finished his bench! And what a beauty it turned out to be. Jim's bench was a collaborative effort. As we were finalizing the Split-Top Roubo plans, Jim graciously accepted the role of guinea pig. We sent Jim rough sketches of the bench along with the final versions as we finished them. We built the top (in hard maple) while Jim prepared the base, made from locally cut douglas fir. (Jim's bench is a great example of using materials that are common to your area.) We installed the Benchcrafted Tail Vise and Jim installed the Glide Leg Vise. The Glide's chop (hard maple), parallel guide (quartersawn white oak) and deadman (hard maple) were milled to rough dimensions and sent along with the top to Jim's shop in Port Townsend, WA.

Once the base was finished the tops were joined to it and flattened by hand.

Jim customized some aspects of the Split-Top Roubo to tailor it to his own needs.

Jim installed a Frank Klausz-style flip stop at the right end of the bench.

Jim also milled a pocket in the back of the Glide's chop to hide the roller bracket. This makes for a clean look at the front of the bench.

Jim also included a wide rail at the rear of the bench to further discourage any racking. When we first saw Jim's base we thought there was only one way to make the bench more rigid. Bolt the tops directly to an old Sequoia stump!

Jim reports the base is made completely by hand:

"All the framework is air-dried Douglas fir, harvested here on the Olympic Peninsula. Some of it was old growth--very high density. No glue, no fastenings (except for some traditional square nails driven in to hold cleat for bottom boards (which were held in hand-cut rabbets)). All joinery hand cut, tenons are secured with draw bore white oak pegs. All dimensioning and surfacing done with hand planes. The finished height came out at 32-in...just right for me for most planing tasks, and it turns out just right for light duty crosscutting using the flip stop and a small panel saw. The legs are 5 1/2-in. square. Overall a fun (and somewhat aerobic!) project.

Thanks for your part in making it happen!


Jim teaches hand-tool centric woodworking at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in Port Townsend, WA.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holtzapffels and Roubos

This past October several students at Kelly Mehler's School of Woodworking gathered to build the Holtzapffel bench featured in the Autumn 2007 issue of Woodworking Magazine. The plans call for a Record-style cast iron vise for use in the tail vise position, but several students opted to upgrade to the Benchcrafted Tail Vise. Kelly also installed our tail vise in his own Holtzapffel bench at the school. Here are some photos of the class, and the happy students installing their vises. Take note that due to time constraints some students opted for a bolted-on end cap using captive nuts. This is a quick, strong way to build the end cap if you're pressed for time.

Lastly, take a look at the latest Roubo bench produced by Richard Maguire, this one featuring both Benchcrafted vises. Beautiful old-school benches!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Split-Top Roubo Plans--Now Available

What more can I say? The Benchcrafted Split-Top Roubo plans are finally done! We're absolutely thrilled to be able to offer these incredibly detailed plans that incorporate our vises. Draftsman Louis Bois and the Benchcrafted crew spent many many days (and some long nights) getting these plans completed in time for the Christmas season. We've already sent out some vises that are headed for that magical place under the Tannenbaum, so for those wishing for something special this season you'll have to be content with the awesome Split-Top Roubo plans. We're a bit backed up on vise orders after we received Best New Tool in the December issue of Popular Woodworking. Nevertheless, we think our handsome, old-school cardboard tube stuffed with rolled prints will make a great Christmas gift.

We started drafting these plans back in August after we took this bench to the Woodworking In America Conference in St. Charles, IL. Everybody loved the bench, and when we told them we weren't taking orders for benches just yet, the next question was, "so when do the plans come out?" Well, we're tickled to say, right now!

Stray over to the Plans Page and take a look.

We're also offering Benchmakers Packages with everything you need to build the bench except wood.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


First off, Happy Thanksgiving! We love this holiday for all the obvious reasons, and of course for the more meaningful ones, like showing appreciation for things and more importantly, people. But instead of writing a big mushy paragraph that you'll probably just skim over, I'll cut right to the chase. Thanks for supporting Benchcrafted and buying our products over the past year! We appreciate your patronage!


The new Benchcrafted Split-Top Roubo Bench plans are officially done! Draftsman and CAD wizard Louis Bois has done a phenomenal job. The plans are over 40 pages long! Lest you think we went overboard with the minutiae--(we do like overkill when it comes to benches)--here's what the plans will include:

- 15 pages of 8.5" x 11" measured drawings in printable pdf format with exploded views of the base and tops, as well as 3-d views of the vises and other parts. The measured drawings make it easy to see exactly how the bench is designed, but also how the Benchcrafted vises fit in.

- 25+ pages detailing the construction process, history of the design, construction notes and techniques, and pictures of the completed bench in maple.

- 3-d E-drawing of the complete bench with vises. This CAD drawing can be rotated and viewed from any angle. You can even make parts invisible or transparent to see exactly how the joinery works or the vises are installed. The e-drawings software you'll need to download to view the 3-d drawing is available for free from SolidWorks. A Sketchup version may be available at a later date.

- 20" x 30" large-format prints of the measured drawings, showing the details in larger format for easier viewing away from a computer. Printed on 20-lb. bond paper and shipped rolled (nobody liked creases!)

- Both Benchcrafted Glide Leg Vise and Tail Vise installation instructions will be included for convenience (they are also free to download from the website)

Originally we had planned to offer the plans in DVD form. Instead, we've decided to make the video portion of the plans completely free! We've started a YouTube channel and have already posted some content. These videos will be directly linked on the new bench plans page (look for this in a week or so), and we'll be adding new videos in the coming weeks.

If you're on our notification list, expect an email in a week or so announcing the availability of the plans.

Bench Builder's Package

We are also working on a bench builder's package which will include everything you need to build the Split-Top Roubo except wood, for a special price. The package will tentatively include:

- Benchcrafted Tail Vise
- Benchcrafted Glide Leg Vise
- Split-Top Roubo Plans
- Benchcrafted Barrel Nuts knockdown base hardware
- End cap hardware
- Two Gramercy holdfasts

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jim's Bench

This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting Jim Tolpin at the Woodworking In America Design Conference in St. Charles, Il.

Wait, let me back up a decade or so. I'm mostly a self-taught woodworker. Just after high-school, and a short stint at a local University (where I studied Russian, High-school algebra and Mortal Kombat--no, not the Asian martial art--the video game) I started getting seriously into woodworking, and with the help of the local public library, I started reading everything I could on the subject. My favorite's were by far the "Techniques" books by Taunton. Essentially back issues of Fine Woodworking arranged by subject and bound into a hardcover book. But it was Jim's approach to cabinetmaking that eventually led to me building two complete kitchens, one for for my own home, and another for my brother and his family. Jim's "Toolboxes" was on the bench when I built my first wall hung tool cabinet.

So when I met Jim it was a bit of a strange experience. Almost like meeting a celebrity (I met Jerry Lewis in a Las Vegas health club once, and that was not as much fun as meeting Jim) But as soon as I shook Jim's hand all the awkwardness went away. Jim's soft-spoken style and mellow demeanor appealed to me immediately, and we had a great conversation during a short lull in his busy schedule that weekend.

It turns out that the author of "Table Saw Magic" has taken a decidedly non-powered turn in his woodworking the past few years. As a co-founder of the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in Washington State, Jim teaches hand-tool centric woodworking, focusing on the joy and practicality of using hand tools for the home shop furniture maker. His approach makes a lot of sense, especially nowadays. I'm referring here to the blossoming of top-notch hand-tool manufacturers in the past decade or so. For the first time since well before World War II, fine hand tools are being manufactured once again and made available to the general public. This presents an excellent opportunity for woodworking enthusiasts to set up shops void of the majority of noisy, dusty, dangerous and expensive machines. Replacing them instead with hand tools produced with modern technology and processes that in most cases render them far superior to even the finest tools produced during the height of hand tool production of the past. Tools which give the traditional experience of woodworking and connect the woodworker with the material in a way which far surpasses the experience of simply running wood through a machine. Surface finish, joint quality and the overall aesthetic produced by hand tools can surpass those produced by a machine. I would challenge anyone to disagree that a few passes of a razor-sharp hand plane, accompanied with that satisfying sound and shimmering, slick surface is a far better experience than donning the dust mask and ear-muffs and firing up the vacuum and random-orbit sander.

In fact, Jim told me at WIA that he's sold off most of his stationary machinery and portable power tools and set up a hand-tool centric shop instead. And this is where Benchcrafted came into the conversation. As Jim analyzed our Split-Top Roubo he came to the conclusion that this would be the bench for his home shop. So he and I developed a collaborative plan where Benchcrafted would supply the two finished tops complete with the Benchcrafted Tail Vise and he would build the base in Port Townsend, installing the Glide as he finished the base. As work progressed, I couldn't help but be reminded of the work on the International Space Station, where different elements were manufactured in various countries then assembled in space for the first time. Okay, we're talking some slightly looser tolerances here. It made sense though, especially since hard maple is quite expensive in the northwest (Jim wanted hard maple tops) and as such, Jim has easy access to massive Douglas Fir timbers, with which he is building the base. The base parts on Jim's bench are not laminated. They are all cut from solid timbers and will be joined with drawbored mortise and tenons. With the hard maple Glide chop and deadman contrasting with the warm glow of the fir, this is going to be a gorgeous bench. Not that we care about the looks of a bench, we're all about the function (yeah, right!)

Jim tells me he has some pretty exciting things planned for this bench and the shop it will reside in. I for one will be eagerly awaiting what develops from Jim's endeavors. Being one of the most successful woodworking authors, I don't think he's going to disappoint.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


In the process of sending our bench specs to Louis Bois, the draftsman preparing our bench plans, I made a quick drawing of the bench dog, specifying ash be used for the spring portion of the dog. I neglected to specify the species for the dog itself (not that it matters), so Louis took some liberty and chose a material for the dog on his own. I couldn't help but chuckle when I opened his email. Louis is a whiz with CAD software, and this quick image is basic stuff, but for a CAD dummy like me, I can't help but me impressed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Win Win

This week marks two exciting events here at Benchcrafted.

In the December issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine we've been chosen by the magazine editors as recipients of the 2009 Best New Tool for our Benchcrafted Tail Vise, along with 11 other winners. Thanks to the folks at PopWW for selecting us, we consider it a great honor to be among the other winners. We recommend picking up a copy of the magazine at your local outlet to read about the other winners, plus two special articles about two woodworking giants who passed away this year, Sam Maloof and James Krenov. It's a great issue.

The other bit of exciting news? Our bench plans are finally nearing completion. These plans have been in the works for several months and we couldn't be more pleased with how the plans are shaping up.

These plans are very comprehensive and will include every detail required for a smooth "effortless" build. So far the plans are over 9 pages! This is not a complex bench, but we thought it prudent to include all the nitty-gritty to make the project as fun and rewarding as possible.

If you'd like to receive an email when the plans are ready, please drop us a line at

We may also have our new knockdown bench hardware ready by Christmastime. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event: Indianapolis

Angie and Alex
(back turned) of Lie-Nielsen setting up.

Well, as usual we had a great time last weekend at the Indianapolis Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event. We're always happy to meet new people. But were mostly grateful to the L-N team for hosting these events. These are real grass roots type shows with no pressure but lots of potential for learning and talking woodworking and tools.

Every show we've been to has been a positive experience and we look forward to many years of doing these if possible.
The turn out at this show wasn't as large as some we've been to but then again Indianapolis was the smallest metro area by a long shot we've attended. That doesn't mean it wasn't as much fun or as beneficial as the others though.

Crowded house.

Andrew Lunn of Eccentric Toolworks. He's telling this potential customer how he likes to be called Andy but no one will listen.

Thin crosscut competition. Chris Schwarz, Megan Fitzpatrick, Andy Lunn, Joshua VanderPlaats, John Hoffman & John Abraham.

Kevin Glen-Drake of Glen-Drake Toolworks.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Benchcrafted in Indiana

Next weekend we're joining Lie-Nielsen for one of their Hand Tool Events in Indianapolis. Details can be found at the Lie-Nielsen website. Click this link for times and address.

There are some great presenters at this particular event. We've had the pleasure of spending time with the following folks.

Chris Schwarz, in addition to being editor of two of the best woodworking magazines in print, is also extremely well-versed in the foundations of hand-tool woodworking. Crowds always gather around Chris at these events, not only because of his knowledge, but also because he's a great teacher and just plain fun to watch. His enthusiasm will get in your veins.

George Walker specializes in furniture design. The interesting thing about Walker is that he won't show you how to design in a particular style, although he can do that. George shows you how every piece of good furniture is based on the classical Greek orders. His video produced by Lie-Nielsen is fascinating. I highly recommend it.

Kevin Glen-Drake. Kevin has a great article in the November issue of Popular Woodworking magazine. He's an authority on woodturning and he also makes the best wheel marking gauge on the market, right here in the U.S. of A. We first met Kevin at Woodworking in America last year.

Eccentric Toolworks. Check out Andrew Lunn's incredible handsaws. Ever wished you could get the thin-kerf performance of a Japanese saw in a western saw format? I have a Lunn saw on order.

Folks from the Marc Adams school will also be present. Marc Adams is the largest woodworking school in the country, and located just south of Indianapolis.

For more info see Chris Schwarz's blog post here and here.

Unfortunately, we sold out of Skrapers at Woodworking in America. But we will have one to try in Indianapolis, and we will be taking orders.

We'll also have a sign-up sheet for our new bench plans, featuring both of our vises. The plans are done, and should be available very soon.

We'll be bringing our travel bench outfitted with three Benchcrafted vises for folks to try. We'll also be bringing our backup travel bench, pictured above.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WIA Philadelphia Wrap-up

The Benchcrafted crew has returned after a whirlwind tour of Pennsylvania! 6 days and 2350 miles later we're beat, but happy. We have to say that the show was rewarding in multiple ways. As usual, we were fortunate to see many old friends and also make some new ones. Just a short journal here to document some of the happenings.

We started out from Eastern Iowa mid-morning Tuesday September 29th. Our first hurdle was loading our 15 passenger van. It was a daunting task to load everything, most notably our 8 ft. 500 lb. Ash Roubo with dual Glides. What a bear! We also brought our 6 ft. Travel Roubo, various display tables and other accouterments. It was a load. Finally we put about 12 lbs. of chips and nuts in to accompany the beer (this we put in a VERY accessible location, after all we'd be picking up Bob Zajicek the next day). We drove 7.5 hours to Toledo, OH the first day without a hitch.

The next day, Wednesday, we drove approximately 10 hours to arrive at the Philadelphia airport in time to pick up Ron Brese of Brese Planes and Bob Zajicek of Czeck Edge, our partners in crime. We packed em' in and headed for the Valley Forge Convention Center. The hotel was nice, but doubly so because we scored the rooms at the venue for half the going rate thanks to Hotwire. It also afforded us the convenience of being able to attend the show each day without driving anywhere. It's hard to beat staying at the venue.

Thursday morning we were the first ones on the show floor to set up. We knew ahead of time that Andrew Lunn of Eccentric Toolworks was right next to our double wide booth. Luckily Andrew wasn't there yet which opened an opportunity for a practical joke. Andrew's a great guy but a bit slow on the uptake. We quickly removed the provided venue sign from his booth and replaced it with this one.

We got quite a chuckle out of it but no so much as we did after we found out from Andrew that he thought it was a legitimate mistake on the hotel's part and proceeded to take it to the front desk to sort it all out! There weren't many people at the show that weren't talking about the Harbor Freight booth.

After setting up we jumped in the van for a day trip to the Winterthur DuPont estate. The estate was impressive to say the least, covering over 1000 acres, down from it's original 2500. It was at one time a full working, self-sustaining farm estate providing for all it's own needs with the exception of sugar and tobacco. The main building houses room after room of authentic period furniture, each room encompassing a specific period or style.

Bob Z. meditating on the natural beauty at Winterthur estate.

90 year old Redwood, already over 100 ft. tall!

Much of the estate contained vast amounts of hand laid rock walls. Very impressive and beautiful.

Vintage Shaker sideboard.

One of the many themed rooms. This was an 18th Century room containing several period pieces from the Federal style. Much of the china was owned and used by George Washington. Ron Brese & Jameel Abraham admiring on the right.

Steins designed and made by none other than Paul Revere!

Oriental room. Chock full of Chippendale.

Three-story spiral staircase.

Atrium. Bob Z., John (jr.), Ron B., Jameel A., guide.

Family room. Despite the sheer vastitude (yes, that is a word...) of this place, most of the rooms were meant as mere "walk throughs" simply for looking. This is one of the rooms that was actually used by the family. We were told they had some ripping good times in here. Certainly looks warm, cozy and inviting...not stiff or formal at all. This room just screams "Pinata"!

The show. We were happy as usual to be across from the Lie-Nielsen booth. We're huge LN fans, not just because of the tools but because of the people. They run a tight ship, treat people right and everyone walks away from that booth with a positive experience.

Thomas Lie-Nielsen giving a look at our new bench Skraper.

Being next to Andrew Lunn from Eccentric Toolworks was also a great boon. Andrew is an extremely affable fellow, someone we had corresponded with, but never met. He's also a VERY funny guy. We can say that we'd be dissapointed to not have the opportunity to share space with Andrew again.

Jameel, Roy Underhill & Andrew Lunn. Photo thanks to JoeMac.

Roy giving Andrew's dovetail saw a try on our 500 lb. Roubo. He liked them both!
Photo thanks to JoeMac.

A quick shot of the new Brese Panel Plane.

Another great bunch of guys were Dan and Kyle of DL Barrett & sons & Ed Paik of Medallion Toolworks. Fantastic products, the Barretts make world class plow planes and Ed makes beautiful saws. The best part is they are a bunch of good-natured cut-ups, even for a group from the great white North, eh'.

Ed Paik, Jameel, Dan Barrett, Kyle Barrett, Raney Nelson.

A stunning Barrett plow plane.

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention some others at the show. We didn't take as many pics as we would have liked but we were really happy to see our friends Ron Hock & his wife Linda Rosengarten of Hock Tools. They are simply great people and we always look forward to seeing them. Unfortunately we missed getting some good shots of Konrad Sauer's infills.

L-R: Andrew Lunn, Ed Paik, Bob Zajicek, Jameel Abraham, Kyle Barrett, Gary Blum, Ron Hock, Dave Jeske, Dan Barrett, John Economaki, John Abraham (jr.), Ron Brese, Fr. John Abraham. Photo courtesy of Tony Augruso.

In fact it's too bad we have to rely on these shows for everyone to get together, being separated as we are by typically great distances. People like George Walker, Christopher Schwarz, Megan Fitzpatrick, Angie Kopacek, Alex and the whole L-N crew and many others we are pleased to see.

Special thanks to the entire staff of Popular Woodworking Magazine for putting so much effort into making WIA the special event that it has turned out to be. We look forward to the next WIA and hope to participate in it.