Thursday, April 23, 2009

The New Benchcrafted "Glide" Leg Vise

I'm very excited to finally announce our latest product, the Benchcrafted Glide leg vise. Pictured above is the prototype of the vise, on the travel bench we just finished for some upcoming shows next month:

Benchcrafted at Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Chicago May 1-2

Benchcrafted at Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Popular Woodworking Magazine, Cincinnati May 16-17

The vise utilizes a unique system of two opposing ball-bearing roller brackets that completely support the weight of the vise's moving jaw (chop) by trapping the vise's parallel guide between the rollers. The system is completely adjustable, and very simple to build, install, and maintain. With the weight of the jaw completely removed from the vise's screw, the vise is free to function without any added friction or stress. The jaw literally can glide in and out with a spin of the handwheel.

The handwheel itself is an 8" diameter chromed cast-iron wheel with incredible mass. This mass, also supported by the roller system, helps to quickly move the jaw to accomodate different workpiece thicknesses, as well as provide momentum to tighten the screw with minimal human effort. The roller system is so effective, that with a generous spin of the handwheel the vise will continue to advance or retract without additional effort, up to about 7 revolutions. This makes gross adjustments quick and easy, negating the need for a quick-release.

With the addition of suede leather to the inside faces of the vise, the handwheel can simply be spun up to the workpiece and that's it. In most cases, little or no further advancement of the handwheel is necessary.

This vise incorporates the same American-made precision rolled-thread acme screw used on our Benchcrafted Tail Vise. It's extremely smooth and accurate. The vise's handwheel is outfitted with a turned rosewood handle.

Please stop by these upcoming shows to check out the the new Glide leg vise and our awesome Tail Vise. The travel bench we just finished will be at the shows, and it's also outfitted with two of our Tail Vises, a right hand and left hand version. We'll also have a full array of fine planes and hand tools to test out the new vises with.

We'll have more info at the shows on pre-production pricing and delivery times for the new vise.

In the meantime, take a look at the following video to see the new vise in action.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dog Block Update

We're in the process of updating the installation instructions for the Benchcrafted Tail Vise. The updated version will include some new photos and some refinements to the installation process which will make it quicker and easier. In the meantime, here's one small thing about the vise that has changed that will affect how the dog block mounts to the sliding plate assembly. It's pretty easy to figure out, but we thought we'd post some pics while we're finalizing the new instructions.

We've slightly changed the orientation of the acme nut on the sliding plate. One of the cap screws now falls partially within the dog block. The solution is an easy one. You use a forstner bit to drill a partial hole where the cap screw meets the back edge of the block. That's it. It's a 2 minute operation. It affects no other aspect of vise function or installation.

One other note of interest. We'll be revealing our latest product here on the blog towards the end of the week.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Travel Bench Part 8

Can't really hold a 6' board vertically, so I had to come up with a quick and easy way of cutting the tails for the front laminate. An angled sliding fence was the answer.

To cut the other angle I just moved the jig's stop block to the other end of the fence.

I cut the shoulders on a table saw crosscut sled and finished up with a backsaw.

I rabbeted the tails so I had a nice shoulder for laying out the pins. I used a router with offset base for this.

I clamped the front laminate into position and checked the width of the slot for parallel.

Then marked the end cap to length.

After cutting the end cap to length clamped a scrap the same thickness as the tails between the dog hole strip and the front laminate and positioned everything for marking the pins.

I scribed lightly all around the tails.

I routed out most of the waste.

Then pared the rest.

The fit was decent, but I did have to glue in some thin wedges at the end grain to make it cosmetically attractive.

I laid out the end template on the end cap and marked the center points for the flange screws and clearance hole for the vise screw.

I drilled them out on the drill press.

I mount the screw to the end cap with regular nuts (not the nylon lock nuts that are provided with the vise) for quick removal, and check the rough alignment. I also make sure the sliding plate assembly completely clears the cavity its entire length. Looks good. At this point I removed the end cap and glued the front portion of the tenon, then reinstalled the end cap permanently with lock nuts. I then glued the front laminate in place, gluing the dovetails to the end cap.

Once the top is completely assembled I begin the vise installation. I lay the rails on the bench bottom and check for a little side-to-side play in the plate. I don't want it to bind. I then mark the location of the rails with a sharp pencil. I like to position the rails so the first screw falls in the end cap. This makes for a strong connection. The first screw in the front rail also falls in the dovetail, further locking this joint together.

This is the left hand vise.

I route the mortises for the guide rails. My top is right at 4", so the mortise is 1/4" deep.

I remount the screw and test the action. It's smooth. Sometimes the guides are out of parallel in the horizontal plane if the router didn't cut a consistent depth, or dust or chips get trapped. Cleaning out the mortise is the solution, or adding some thin paper shims.

With the plate about half way down the cavity, I can lift up and slide out the guide rails without having to remove the screw.

Once everything looks good I marked for pilot holes with a center punch directly through the guide rails, then mounted the vise.

The tops are virtually complete.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Travel Bench Part 7

Here's a view of the vise end of the tops with the cavity complete.

This is the cavity for the "lefty" side of the bench.

These are the two end caps showing the layout for the mortise. The mortise is curved on one end to match the cavity profile on the top's tenon. The mortise is about 3/16" longer than the tenon, at the square end (the back edge of the top) to allow the top to move. I milled the mortise with a plunge router and fence. The mortise about 1/16" deeper than the length of the tenon to allow the end cap to seat nicely on the tenon shoulder.

Testing the fit of the end cap.

Good fit. The end cap has not been cut to length yet.

It's important that the shoulder on the show side be tight. I don't worry about the shoulder fitting perfectly on the bottom. It should seat against the top nicely, but cosmetic issues are not important underneath.

Both end caps fit to their tops.

Here I'm placing the front laminate in position, fitting it to the dog hole strip, and preparing for laying out the dovetails that join the front laminate to the end cap.

Before cutting the dovetails on the front laminate I drilled for the bolt and captive nut that joins the end cap to the top. The holes in the endcap are a bit oversized to allow the top to move. I used 3/8" x 5" bolts. I also counterbored for decorative plugs that will cover the bolt heads.

View of the underside of the top showing the mortises for the captive nuts.

With both end caps bolted in place I began the layout for the dovetails. The joint between the dog hole strip and the front laminate has already been fit. I slide the end of the front laminate into the inside face of the end cap and after making sure the slot for the dog block is parallel, I mark the end cap for length.

I lay out the dovetails on the end of the front laminate.

Here's the joint compared to the original on my Ash Roubo bench. The dimensions are the same.

I've seen some bench end caps and vises with really skinny half-pins at the top of the joint. Some tapering to as thin as 1/8". I like the look of skinny pins, but I never understood why on a bench. Leaving only 1/8" of material here means that less than 1/8" of an inch can be removed from the top of the bench before compromising this joint. I prefer to leave more material here for this reason. This is about 5/8".