Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Travel Bench Part 5

After gluing the two top sections I proceeded to layout and mill the pieces that would comprise the dog hole strip and final front laminate. This requires some careful layout since the position of the dog hole strip is determined by how much capacity the Benchcrafted tail vise will have. I'm installing the two tail vises on this bench for maximum capacity. The overhang at the vise end of the bench will be 17", not including the end cap.

I carefully layed out the location of the dog hole strip (at the right) and the dog block (at left). I did this directly on the top of the bench to avoid any errors. I then transferred the locations directly to the dog hole strip.

I use a notched spreader, the type used for spreading adhesive on the back of vinyl base moulding, for spreading glue. It's a cheap stamped plastic thing, but I've been using it for months and it's still going strong. I also mill my laminates to within 3/32" of final thickness (4") and use three biscuits (see the mark above, there's a biscuit in there) to keep the laminate aligned during gluing. The biscuits makes for a stress free, slide free glue-ups, and the spreader gives me the perfect amount of glue. This is the ideal amount of squeeze-out. After about an hour in the clamps I can pop these little beads off with a scraper and the surface is flat. The more accurate I build the top, the less flattening I have to do later.

The two top sections glued up, minus the front laminates and end caps. The slot for the tail vise is 17" long. The two lines at the near end of the top represent the tenon for the end cap.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Travel Bench Part 4

I milled the stock for the two top sections in a couple hours this weekend and proceeded to prep the joints with a jointer plane. My planer snipes a bit, and the Shelix cutterhead doesn't leave a good enough finish for a glue joint, at least in my view. It only takes a little time to tweak each joint for a perfect glue line. And for a bench that sees pounding and racking, I think its a good idea to make the joinery as stout and sound as my abilities allow. The soft maple planes easily, but it's still hard work to prep the edges of the top laminates. Using my 8' Roubo bench is a joy for tasks like this. Especially since the top boards are 74" long.

I aim for dead tight joints in the top that close with hand pressure only. I don't like to glue stress into a top, but a little concave bow, especially on the outer laminates doesn't bother me if I can close it tight with hand pressure.

This is one half of the top, minus dog hole strip and front laminate, ready for assembly. It's about 10" wide.

The two end sections of the base will be drawbored together, and will form the base via knockdown joints with the long rails.

The tenons here are 1" long. I routed the slot and access for the nut. It's large enough to accomodate a box wrench. The ideal fastener here would be a large square nut, which would eliminate the need for a washer or wrench for assembly. I'm a bit pressed for time on this bench, so I didn't have time to source any.

The short rails join the front and rear legs with drawbored tenons.

Here the offset can be seen. I offset them by 3/32" or so. For some reason these look a bit too offset in the pics. I guess I'll have to whittle the tapered ends of the peg a bit more.

I dusted off my brace and bits for boring some holdfast holes. I don't have a power tool capable of drilling these holes. I guess a spade bit and electric drill would work, but I can be more precise with a brace and bit.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Travel Bench Part 3

After cutting the mortises in the legs I cut the tenons on the ends of the rails and fit them all. I like to use a tenoning jig on the table saw for milling large tenons. But I always cut them a tad thick then fit them by hand with a shoulder plane. This gives me the exact fit I want without having to fuss with precise settings on power equipment. It takes about the same amount of time, but I'd much rather spend that time working at the bench than feeding workpieces through a machine. This bench is 24" shorter than my Roubo. The final length will be 72". The base is also trimmed down a bit to save on weight. The legs are 3" x 5-1/8". The legs on my Roubo are 5-3/8" square.

Travel Bench Part 2

Mortising the legs on my Jet benchtop mortiser requires some slight modifications to get the 5-1/8" wide legs under the chisel. The maximum capacity with the head raised to it's limit is somewhere around 4-3/4" with a 1/2" chisel installed. The first thing I did was remove the mdf table that's screwed to the mortiser's base. I've already removed it in this picture--the bench leg is resting directly on the casting.

I also removed the roll pin at the top of the column. This allows the head to raise up enough to get the workpiece under the chisel. I also disengaged the hydraulic shock which keeps the head in a raised position. It was also limiting the upward movement of the head. I did have to be aware of the weight of the head while doing this operation, since the head would not stay in the raised position after finishing a mortise, but rather bottom out at the depth rod setting.

Finally, the leg was too thick to allow the hold-down to engage its rod. Flipping the hold down over solved the problem.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Travel Bench Part 1

It doesn't take a bench to build a bench, but building a bench on a nice bench is nice.

My Roubo bench is coming in quite handy for building Benchcrafted's travel bench. Having a massive, flat surface with huge clamping capabilities and lots of real estate makes for almost effortless work.

This bench will be made from soft maple. I wouldn't necessarily choose this wood for a longish Roubo top, where the stiffness of the top is of great importance (due to the lack of upper rails). But for smaller Roubo-style tops which don't need to bridge such a large span, this wood is ideal. It's plenty stiff enough actually for most benches. According to Chris Schwarz's book on workbenches, it's stiffer than European Beech, a common bench wood. It's a creamy white color if you select out some of the browner boards (I didn't bother), and it's about as hard as cherry. It also works very easily, a bit easier than mild-grained cherry. It's nothing like it's rock-hard cousin Hard Maple. It's an excellent wood for bench building. And the price (I paid less than $2 a board foot for skip-planed and straight-lined 8/4 s&b) in my area is right.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sneak Preview! and Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events

No, we're not building miniature woodworking vises.

That's actually our Tail Vise on the left. And on the right? Well, you'll just have to check back in a few weeks to find out!

You can also stop by Jeff Miller Handcrafted Furniture in Chicago on May 1 and 2 if you're in the area. We'll be participating in a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Miller's shop that weekend.

For more info, bookmark this page: Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events

We'll post more specific info as the date gets closer.

One more thing. We'll have a brand new bench on site outfitted with our vises.

Monday, March 9, 2009


Matt Vanderlist, of Matt's Basement Workshop Podcast and Woodtalk Online sent us this link for Shannon Roger's video podcast of him unboxing his Benchcrafted Tail Vise. We think it's worth a look. Thanks Matt and Shannon!

Unboxing the Benchcrafted Tail Vise

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wagon Vises At Work

Last fall we debuted the Benchcrafted Tail Vise.

Since then we've shipped vises to everyone from beginning woodworkers building their first bench, to woodworking schools and seasoned professionals. We received glowing reviews from the likes of Chris Schwarz of Popular Woodworking (check out his review here) who put one in his own Roubo bench (the very bench that started a huge rebirth of this bench style), and infill plane maker Ron Brese of Brese Plane.

After a few months, the Benchcrafted Tail Vise is starting to pop up in benches across the country and around the world (yes, our tail vise has gone as far as Japan!).

One such place to see one of our vises at work is the Renaissance Woodworker blog, written by Shannon Rogers of Rogers Fine Woodworking. Shannon is building a Roubo bench featuring our tail vise. (that's one of his massive Ash bench legs above). We're looking forward to seeing Shannon's completed bench.

We've put out a call for submissions for vise customers' bench projects. Please send us pictures and commentary, blog or forum posts about your project featuring the Benchcrafted Tail Vise. Every submission gets a 10% discount on your next order. And that includes vises.