Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Split-Top Roubo/Tail Vise--Front Laminate Thickness

Just got a question from a customer about the front laminate width for their Tail Vise install. They want to make it 1-3/4" instead of the 1-1/2" the templates and plans call for. This works fine. The important thing to consider is the placement of the template when laying out the tail vise position on the end cap. The template MUST be placed so the left edge of the slot in the bench lines up with the left edge of the slot in the template. This guarantees the sliding plate assembly will be positioned properly within the slot. Get this wrong and bad things will happen.

-The hole in the sliding plate for the dog hole could end up under your front laminate.

-The vise screw could end up partially in the slot.

-The hole in the sliding plate could end up within the cavity the nut rides in, which also means your front guide rail will be floating under the slot.

All bad things. So take a look at the drawing and see where the critical fixed point is--the left of the slot. So if you make a front laminate more than 1-1/2"  just imagine that it grows wider from a fixed point at the left edge of the slot and you will be fine.

Shaker Bench First Look

This past couple weeks we've been building our prototype Shaker-style bench, based on the bench that we built with Ron Brese earlier this year. Ron's design was popular enough at several woodworking events this year that we've decided to draw up a set of plans based on his bench. That way, if you'd like to build a bench like Ron's, with Benchcrafted vises, the task will be made quicker and more enjoyable with our excellent plans.

We've scaled down Ron's bench from 8' to 7' to accommodate the typical small shop, and we think the proportions are such that this bench still has the "long" look of typical Shaker benches. Of course most folks think of the Hancock bench, with its bowling-alley-on-cabinet look. We wanted to capture some of that feel with this bench design. Tough to do with a bench that's about half as long as the Hancock bench.

There are a couple cool features about this design that I'd like to mention. The Glide hardware is completely enclosed within its own section of the cabinet base. This makes for a very clean look on the outside. No roller brackets are visible. And since the rear section of the leg vise, the "leg", is fastened to the cabinet from inside, there are no visible fasteners on it either. We think this meshes nicely with the Shaker aesthetic. Along those lines we're also fitting this bench with our prototype hand wheels. No chrome on these. Just the warm, understated look of the raw cast iron.

We built the cabinet using readily available home-center (USA-made, don't waste your money on the Chinese stuff) birch plywood and 5/4 poplar, which we milled down to 1". The cabinet is constructed using glued and screwed butt joints. You might wonder if this is strong enough for a bench. We think it is.

Once the numerous cabinet elements are glued and joined, the entire structure becomes one solid, rigid mass. Plus, the face frame is constructed with half-lap joints, and at 1" thick, this provides plenty of strength. The back of the cabinet is made from one piece of ply, instead of the lapped pine boards on Ron's bench. This adds a whole lot of rigidity to the base. We've also added some traditional cut nails to the mix for strength and a classic look. We recently acquired a Festool track saw and used it for cutting the plywood base parts of the cabinet. The joints coming off the saw are so smooth, straight, and clean that the glue joints we were getting looked like they came off a finely-tuned jointer plane. This no doubt adds to the strength of the joints. But if you'd like to build your cabinet with dadoes, tongue-and-groove, biscuits, dominoes, or some other method, we won't call the joinery police. As with our Split-Top Roubo plans, we encourage builders to adjust their bench to their needs. Which is another reason we don't include a cut list with the plans. By including the main dimensions of the parts, you are free to add length or width to suit your joinery methods and tools.

As we move closer to finalizing the plans, we'll make some comments about the differences between this bench and our Split-Top Roubo. While both benches offer excellent workholding, there are some differences that we'd like to point out. You also don't need to be an Olympic power-lifter to build the Shaker bench. It's a much more manageable build, and it also uses less material, and less-expensive material.

Unfortunately, we won't have the plans ready for the Woodworking In America Conference. But we will have this bench at our booth. The Brese Plane booth is right next to our's, and Ron will be bringing his bench as well. If you are in the Cincinnati area October 1-2, please stop by and see us. Admission is only $7 to the best woodworking tool (hand tools especially) show this year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

V.2 Tail Vise--New Instructions Now Available

After a delay in preparing revised instruction for the V.2 Tail Vise since we revised it last April, they are now available for download on the Tail Vise page. Or directly at this link.

The instructions cover both the original Benchcrafted Tail Vise, and the new V.2. Pictures in color apply to the original and/or the V.2, with several detail shots (in black-and-white to make them easy to spot) that apply only to the V.2. We also cover the changes the V.2 presents within the text portion of the instructions.

Templates are also now included at the end of the instructions for your convenience.

We're also including a detailed drawing of the dog block and sliding plate assembly, taken directly from our Split-Top Roubo plans.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Fellow Toolmakers

In the past couple years we've had the chance to befriend a number of fellow tookmakers. These relationships have not only enriched our respective endeavors, but our lives as well.

I'd like to mention a couple of them in this post. 

First off is Raney Nelson of the Daed Toolworks. Raney is not only a past customer (he built a great bench with Benchcrafted vises) but also a friend. Raney lives in New Jersey with his with wife and kids, and makes beautiful and functional infill planes. If you like miter planes, or strike box planes keep an eye on Raney's work. He's also making more familiar types like coffin smoothers and panels. But we're particularly keen on seeing some of his new miter planes that he has in the works (you can catch a sneek peek of some in the pics above and below).

The other toolmaker is Matt Bickford. Matt's a relatively new planemaker, specializing in wood moulding planes. Although we haven't met Matt in person, we had a chance to correspond a bit and throw a little business his way earlier this year (the funding for which came by way of an article I wrote for Popular Woodworking Magazine--but more on that later). I picked up a composite set of planes for use in my own personal shop. I've always wanted a set of hollows and rounds for producing "real" molding profiles. Plus, I'll do anything to keep my router shelved! Matt's work is beautiful. The planes are made of cherry and the irons are produced by Lie-Nielsen. So far I'm quite pleased with Matt's work. I'm fairly new to this type of plane, but it's always nice to get a tool that is literally ready to go out of the box. Matt's planes showed up perfectly honed. Matt's website is: M.S. Bickford.

Raney and Matt will be exhibiting their tools this fall at the Woodworking In America Conference in Cincinnati October 1-2. We'll be there too.