Thursday, July 29, 2010

Roubo In Hi Res

I've spent the last few months poring over hi-res images of Roubo's L'Art Du Menuisier. What's fascinating about these books is the sheer vastitude of content that Roubo covered. Everything from basic geometry to the workings of Venetian (or is it Parisian?) blinds. There's even a detailed drawing for a collapsible, portable bed. And that doesn't even include the tools.

Like many interested in traditional woodwork, I'd love to have an original copy of Roubo's "L'Art Du Menuisier". Unfortunately, they are quite expensive.

Until I find a set at a local French estate sale, my best source for these incredible engravings is the New York Public Library's Digital Gallery. There are 107 plates available for viewing. Make sure you click on the "zoom" button at the bottom of the image. I thought the handwritten notes in French were a nice touch.

I'm looking forward to reading Roubo's work in English, soon to be published in a modern translation by those well-versed in traditional woodwork. If you have an interest in Roubo, make sure you stay abreast of the developments with this translation and publishing project here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Milling Dog Holes And Other Questions

Here's another round of customer questions that we thought we'd share.

Q: I have been reviewing my bench plans and I had a question. Do you have a suggestion on how to produce the jig you have made for routing the dogholes? Is this jig ever going to be made for sale? Also is it a bad idea to create the recess for the tailvise during lamination? Geez more then one question sorry, when are the V2 tailvise instructions going to be maid available?

A: Below are some pics and notes about the jig we use for routing dog holes. And no, we won't be making one for sale. You can make on in your shop in about 30 minutes. It's a good idea to create the tail vise cavity during the top build. Or at least most it. If you can't easily make it spot on while building, just "leave out" most of it, then take it to final dimensions with a plunge router (or chisel and mallet). The V.2 Tail Vise instructions are almost done and we will hopefully post them this week. Stay tuned to the blog for this announcement.

The dog holes are routed into the side of the dog hole strip before it is laminated to the rest of the top. The are routed into the "back side" of the strip, that's why they are leaning the "wrong" way in the above picture. To make the jig, layout the dog hole actual size on a piece of 1/2" plywood, but shift it down 3/4" from the top edge of the ply (this is to account for the fence thickness). Cut the dog hole "out" from the plywood. I use a miter saw to establish the 2-degree angle cuts, then followup with the band saw to cut the step into the left side of the jig where the head of the dog will rest. Now separate the halves the width of the dog hole and screw a 3/4" x 1-1/4" hardwood fence to the underside of the jig, flush the back edge. This will position the dog hole correctly from the top of the dog strip. Make the fence a bit longer than the entire jig so you have something for the clamps to hold onto.

Rout the dog hole with a pattern (top-bearing) bit. You'll cut into the fence a bit at the top, just make sure you don't cut completely through, or you'll ruin the fence. You'll have to make the cut at full depth for the bearing to engage. If you have two routers you can make the cut in a couple passes. Fit the first router with a template guide and spiral upcut bit and make a hogging cut (I did this in the above pic--there's about 1/8" of waste remaining) leaving just a little waste to be removed with the pattern bit. This eases wear on the pattern bit and reduces burning too. Keep in mind that at the top left corner and the bottom right corner your router will want to blow out grain as it exits the cut. I move the bit almost to the corner, then swing out and back to make a climb cut to reduce blowout. You can also scribe these areas deeply with a knife before routing to further eliminate blowout. But if you're careful and attentive (and confident!) with the router, the climb cut just at the end is sufficient.

Once you've done one, reposition the jig and do the rest. Be careful with the dog strip once you've routed all the holes. It will still be heavy, but fragile. It will want to flop around. Also, when you glue the dog strip to the rest of the top, make sure you put glue on the dog strip only! And don't go overboard here. Cleaning glue out of dog holes is no fun. Well, actually it can be with a new product we're working on. But more about that some other time.

Q: I joyously received my vise last week and sat down to install it today and it appears I have a left handed version. I'm skeptical that I ordered it wrong but that's not out of the realm of possibility. I'm attaching a picture (see below) to make sure I'm not crazy. Maybe this just got put in the wrong box?

A: Pictured is a right-hand vise. For shipping purposes we install the sliding plate assembly on the screw in the reverse position. Just unthread it from the screw, flip it around, then thread it on from the other side of the nut. That's it.

Q: Hello, I am just about to get started on my Roubo bench. I have been reading and watching everything I can about the project. I am sure as I move forward there will be many questions for me to find answers to, but one thing looks off to my eye. Is there a reason that the Gap Stop is not the same length as the bench top?

A: Thanks for the (not dumb) question. Here's the no-nonsense reason the gap stop is shorter than the workbench. When I built the prototype those were the longest boards I had on hand. I quickly realized that a longer one wasn't necessary. If you want it to reach the end of one of the tops (for example, when crosscutting), just slide it down. You can also make the gap stop the entire length if you want, but if you build it to the plans, you'll save some weight and that makes it easier to lift out and reposition if you like. The gap stop in the plans is just a starting point. You can make your's to suit your work.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Greene and Greene Essence

For those who appreciate the designs of Charles and Henry Greene, I'd like to share a source for their original architectural records. While there are a few images here of furniture, I think the architectural drawings and interior photographs are a great source for inspiration whether you build in this style or not. I've never built anything in the G&G style, but I have a great appreciation for excellence in any field, especially nowadays when visual appeal is weighted more towards commercial interests than intellectual.

The Architectural Records of the Greene brothers at Columbia University. You might want to download the ExpressView Plug-In to see the images in higher resolution.

Also check out the Greene and Greene Virtual Archive for more.

Next week I'll post a link for viewing hi-resolution plates from the records of another master.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More on the horizon - One-of-a-Kinds

We never lack for inquires where our One-of-a-Kind Mag-Bloks are concerned. It's been about 3 months since the last batch (too long, we know!). Cocobolo and Birdseye Maple in this batch.

Anyway, the next batch goes up on Monday the 26th at 9am CST. Same rules as always, shoot us an email with the blok(s) you'd like and we'll send an invoice. As usual, first come first serve.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hollywood Engraving

We've been looking for a classic, yet unique way to brand the few benches we take commissions for.

We considered a brass or bronze medallion (and we may still do that), but that's a fairly common way to brand a bench. We wanted something different.

I've always like the looks of old engravings. The French monumental works of the 18th century (Diderot, Roubo, etc.) as well some of the tool catalogs from the 19th and early 20th century are chock full of these wonderful works of technical art.

So I sat down one evening and sketched out an "engraved-style" Split-Top Roubo. I had Roubo's German-style bench engraving on the desk beside me for inspiration.

Now to get this drawing onto the bench some way.

Laser engravers have exploded in popularity over the past decade. And so have the number of cheesy trophy shops that use these devices, and, in my opinion, have somewhat stereotyped anything engraved with a laser. Granite tombstones, picture frames, you name it. Every time I see something laser engraved I think "that's been laser engraved", before I even consider the subject matter (usually a trophy buck bounding over a fallen tree, hey its Iowa!). So why not use the laser engraver to duplicate, of all things, an engraving! It just might look "right" instead of contrived.

I also wanted an ivory look to our brand. Something other than metal. I happened to have picked up some rather nice holly recently, and thought I'd give this a try. Holly's characterless grain and white, creamy color was just what I was looking for. (I also tried some ivory Micarta, with poor results). The laser engraver not only did a nice job, but also imparted a beautiful sepia-tone to the medallion, reminiscent of an old photograph. Perfect. We inlaid the medallion into the Glide's chop, just a tad below the surface. It should hold up nicely here, since this area never sees much action.

We're still debating on whether or not to keep this brand, but so far we really like it. Your comments are welcome.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Steve's Roubo

Last year at the Woodworking In America conference in Valley Forge, PA we received an order for a bench from someone who deserves special mention.

This person is Steve Quehl.

Steve owns the Woodcraft store in Atlanta, GA. That may not sound like a particularly interesting piece of information, as there are many Woodcraft stores all across the United States. But what makes Steve's store unique is Steve himself. He's a ravenously passionate woodworker, and absolutely dedicated to furthering and elevating the craft. A staunch hand-tool enthusiast, he is equally skilled in bringing fine tools and teachers to the Atlanta area as he is in executing those skills. Steve regularly brings in the heavy-hitters in the modern woodworking community for classes, lectures and demos. Christopher Schwarz, Brian Boggs, Rob Cosman, Kelly Mehler just to name a few. And Steve doesn't stop there. He also regularly attends classes in order to further his own skill (I've seen his work, its absolutely top notch) and to better understand the needs of his clientele at Woodcraft Atlanta.

Steve's store is unique in another way. He loves to showcase the best in hand tools from modern manufacturers. He carries planes from Lie-Nielsen and Ron Brese, layout tools from Czeck Edge, Chris Vesper, Glen-Drake and others. Woodcraft Atlanta is also a Benchcrafted dealer. Having such great taste in hand tools, it's no wonder that Steve came to Benchcrafted for a top-notch handcrafted bench. Thanks, Steve for choosing us.

Steve wanted a solid-top Roubo-style bench with massive elements, made of ash. So when we designed this bench we looked back at Roubo's tome and took some cues from the original engraving regarding the base elements. In a previous entry we discussed the leg dimensions for the bench. We're quite pleased with the result. This bench is rigid as you'd ever need it to be and then some. The bench is 1/4" shy of 8' long, 25" wide and 37" high (Steve is a tall guy). Right now we're not sure exactly how much it weighs, but we're estimating somewhere north of 450 pounds. The bench uses Benchcrafted Barrel Nuts and knocks down into two drawbored end leg assemblies, two long stretchers and the top, which keys onto the legs with four massive tenons. Four Spax lag screws hold the top to the base, although they are not needed, they make it easier to move the bench without the top lifting off the base.

Steve had a couple special requests for the bench. He wanted a tool holder, ala Roubo, placed at the back corner for holding frequently-used tools. We build the holder to remove easily. We drilled and tapped the back edge of the bench for 5/16" flat-head machine screws and applied some gun bluing and light oil to these and all the other fasteners on the bench for a classic look. The tool holder is set 1/4" below the top for clearance.

The outer slot is for storing the planing stop (seen clamped in the leg vise above). We first saw this style planing stop in Chris Schwarz's book on Workbenches and we love it. If you don't have one on your bench, we recommend you make one. It's super simple and really speeds up your work.

We made Steve's from a wide piece of quartersawn white oak, it's just under 1/4" thin.

The photos above are while the bench is still "in the white". That's a luthier's term that refers to an unfinished instrument. After all, a bench is an instrument for creating beautiful pieces of furniture.

A Fine Bench

We'll let these pictures speak for themselves.

Jim Kirkpatrick did a wonderful job with his Benchmaker's Package.

Enjoy it for many years, Jim.