Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chicago Next Week

April 9 and 10 the Lie-Nielsen Toolworks Hand Tool Event happens again at Jeff Miller's shop in Chicago. Pertinent details here.

If you've never been to a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event you should try hard to make it to this one if you're within reasonable driving distance. Here's why.

Ever wanted to visit Lie-Nielsen's factory showroom in Maine? Now is your chance. Throughout the year the L-N folks ship their mobile showroom throughout North America and set up shop in great venues from custom furniture shops like Jeff's, to lumberyards and woodworking schools. The event is staffed with the people who make, design and use the tools. Large displays featuring step-by-step photos and multiple video screens show the manufacturing process in great detail.

But here's the best part. You can treat the tools, benches and wood like they were you're own. Picking up a tool and trying it out is encouraged.

And if that wasn't reason enough, the other draws include demonstrations by Christopher Schwarz of Popular Woodworking Magazine, John Economaki of Bridge City Toolworks, and Ron Brese, planemaker. Oh yeah, we'll be there too!

Ron Brese will be bringing his newest tool to this event, a stainless steel panel size plane from his all-new line of non-infill planes.

Yet another reason to attend this event is for the sheer pleasure of sitting in one of Jeff Miller's chairs. Last year I sat in Jeff's Cantata chair and I melted. Time stopped. I forgot where I was. When I got up I felt like I'd known Jeff my entire life and that he'd made the chair specifically for me. It's also pretty nice to look at.

But of course the real reason we're coming to Chicago:

See you at Jeff's. (or Al's!)

Photos by Benchcrafted and Cian Perez.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lead Times

Lead times for vises has been 5-6 weeks for a couple months now. For those anxious to get a vise, we are on target for those times. If you're order is at six weeks today, we should be shipping your package the first half of this week. We're hoping to trim that lead time back by a significant margin in the coming weeks, but for now it will remain at 5-6 weeks. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Brese SS Panel Plane in Pictures

Just finished shooting Ron Brese's new Stainless Steel Panel plane. See full size images and a larger gallery of our photo work here.

All photos copyright Benchcrafted.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Effortless Workholding Meets Effortless Planing

This week we're thinking about getting ready for the upcoming Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event next month in Chicago. We share a bench at this event with Brese Plane. And we happen to have the latest version of Ron's stainless steel panel plane on the travel bench. I've had the pleasure of working with Ron on some aspects of this plane, and testing it in a real shop environment over the past few weeks. Ron's made some tweaks to the panel plane design since I tested the first version last year, and amazingly enough, this plane is even better than that previous version. I've also been experimenting with some new honing techniques and processes that are yielding some amazing results. This version of Ron's panel plane has provided the finest hand plane experience I've ever had. I happen to have a camcorder in the shop yesterday, so I couldn't resist taking this footage. Nothing but wood (maple), the plane, and forward motion here. No chipbreakers, no magic, and definitely no dryer sheets!

Click the full-screen icon and select "HD" for the best picture.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ordering Lumber

Dear Benchcrafted,
I am interested in making a bench but I want to know what my total cost is going to be. How much lumber, and what size will I need? Is maple the best? white oak? I am not certain. Thank you! Jesse

When we wrote the instructions for our bench plans we intentionally omitted a cut list. Why? We think they detach the woodworker from developing a feel for the project. In our view, you should build the bench from the measured drawings and develop your own strategy for getting the necessary parts from the stock you have available to you, and according to how you work. Some may have access to 12/4 or even 16/4 lumber. This would make the top much quicker to build, as well as the legs. On the other hand, we've build this bench using 6/4 lumber for the top. We've also built this bench using only 8/4 lumber for all parts, and that's what we recommend in the instructions. That thickness is widely available. As for what species to use, that's not something we can make an out-and-out recommendation on. There are many fine woods you can build this bench from. Ash, hard maple, soft maple, yellow pine, douglas fir, beech, etc. You must decide what to use based on how much effort you want to put into building the bench, and perhaps how much you want to spend. Hard maple is expensive in the northwest, but much cheaper in the Great Lakes area. Don't discount the labor difference between using hard maple or ash vs. douglas fir. If you've never built a project of this size, you will remember the process for the rest of your life if you use hard maple or ash. If you are relatively new to woodworking we will recommend a wood. Soft maple. It's widely available, inexpensive (about the price of poplar) and easily worked. It makes a great Split-Top Roubo.

For further information, here is an excerpt from our Split-Top Roubo instructions.

· Choosing wood ·

The prototype for this bench was built using soft maple. We think this is an ideal wood for benches. It’s easy to work, heavy enough, stiff enough, inexpensive and readily available. However, we also have built benches from hard maple and ash. These are all excellent woods. Hard maple, although expensive in many areas, is the traditional choice. The abundance and low cost of ash have made it a popular choice lately. It’s stiffer than hard maple and it makes a very beautiful and functional bench. Softwoods like yellow pine and douglas fir are also considerations. These are probably the least expensive choices, but not everyone likes the idea of a softwood bench. The dimensions of this bench mean its going to stay put regardless of species, so using a softwood might make sense--it has some “give” in the top surface, meaning that its less likely to damage a hardwood project part than a harder bench. Beech, if you have it in your area, is also an excellent choice. No matter what wood you choose, get it in the shop and let it rest for a bit before starting the bench.

· Ordering lumber ·

You’re going to need about 150 board feet of rough 8/4 lumber for the bench. If you’re able to pick through the lumber at your local yard, try to find boards for the top that are either around 5” wide or at least 10” wide. This is usually enough to straight-line rip and joint the boards for the top. If you end up with a bunch of boards around 6” or 7”, you’ll end up with a lot of waste when you rip the boards for the top, and you might find yourself short on stock as the project moves along. When we build this bench we order 200 board feet of 8/4 stock, straight-line ripped and skip planed. We do have some leftover, but this comes in handy for building accessories and other projects. The best way however is to make up a rough list of what you need from the measured drawings and pick through the stack at the yard for the best boards.