Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Benchmaker's Apprentice: Vise Prep & Harware Installation

Now we are getting into the real important stuff, vises! I marked out the through mortise for my parallel guide on Glide Leg Vise.

Then, I just went over to the mortiser and cut it out.

With the mortiser already set up with some guides and tape marks, I simply flipped the piece over and finished the mortise from the other side.

Then I simply marked out a hole for the bench screw to go. If you can see in the top left corner of this photo, I marked out where my tenon on the leg would go before measuring and drilling this hole. You can also see the repercussions of not marking and measuring first from the odd looking top part of the mortise there... some filling had to be done...maybe?

Now I moved on to get ready to install some bench hardware.

Now I take a square and transfer the center of the bolt all the way to the surface of the board.
Marking the hole for the barrel nut can be tricky. If the hole was just a little bit off, the barrel nut hole can be off by a lot.

I line up my ruler and eyed it so that the ruler was as close to parallel as possible. Looking at the light between the ruler and the bolt, I try to move it so the light is distributed perfectly, that tells me that it is perfectly parallel. Then just mark all the way down the ruler.

Then I marked where the end of my bolt would be.

And, finally, the center of the nut.

Now just to drill that hole.

And we have a perfect fit!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jeff Miller's New Chairmaking Blog

For those who follow the Benchcrafted blog, you know that usually attend the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Jeff Miller's shop in Chicago. Sadly, due to some scheduling conflicts we won't be able to make it this year.

Jeff has become a good friend over that past few years, and each time we visit we look forward to trying out Jeff's latest creation.

I personally have been thinking about building some chairs since I finished a large dining table last year. So checking Jeff's new blog ( will be right at the top of my routine.

Thanks, Jeff for going to the effort in providing this great resource.

If you've never been to Jeff's shop, here's a little video we shot last year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garage sale time!

Well, this isn't exactly the purpose of this blog.....but watcha gonna does?

We've got a couple tech items that need to go and we know some of you are chompin' at the bit to get them :-)

Selling our minty HFS100 Video camera. Complete in the original box. $899+ new.

Extras: includes additional extended genuine Canon BP-827 battery. This is about double the capacity of the stock battery. Easily gets 3 hrs, and often close to 4 hrs of additional record time. These are a ridiculous $116+ new. This one has had very little use.

So that's a total retail $1015.00 on the low end

Will take $725.00 shipped free in CONUS via PayPal personal/gift. Add 3% for regular PayPal.

This is the same camera we've used for all our most recent videos.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Benchmaker's Apprentice: Drawbore Pins!

Well, here we are again, drilling more holes in wood. Right here I was marking the holes for where the pins go, the drawbore pins that hold the tenons in and reinforce the hold...A LOT.

Of course, the long rails use knock-down vice hardware, so I marked a hole here for the hole where the bolt inserts.

When drilling these holes, it is a good idea to throw a piece of wood in the mortise space to reduce the chance of blow-out.

So, all of our holes are done. Now all we need are some pins to fill those holes with.

Now here's something really fun! Making pins. I took a piece of ash with the straightest grain I could find and cut it up into pieces that are about 3" long and just over 3/8" square.

Using this simple jig, I took 4-5 passes with a plane on each side.

When done, the result is this octagon shape. If it a hexagon, something's wrong.

Then it's just over to the sander to get one end sanded down to a blunt point.

I just pound it straight through the pin making tool. This is a Lie-Nielsen dowel plate.

I use the next pin to push the other pin through as to not pound the hammer into the dowel plate and ruin it.

After pounding through the plate.

The final count should be sixteen for this bench. I made one or two extra for good measure, and to be politically correct.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Benchcrafted FAQ-Now Online

We've spent the last few weeks preparing an extensive FAQ for Benchcrafted products. We get lots of questions about our products that are either not readily available, or are buried in the website or blog.

And sometimes we're a bit backed up on email. Hopefully the new FAQ will get you the info you need more efficiently.

The FAQ link is at the top of list at the right side of the blog.

And in the interest of making this post something other than "totally boring", here are a couple pics (courtesy Jeff Burks) from the Toolmaker's Dinner at last year's WIA Conference. That's me, Ellis Walentine and Frank Klausz talking over Benchcrafted vises. I'll never forget Frank's words about the Glide, "I love this vise!"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Make Your Leg Vise Even Better

No vise is perfect. There, I said it. Hard as it is to admit, even our vises don't excel in every area, just 99.999% of areas. If someone knows of a vise that does it all, please call me and we'll both patent it, count our $100's in one of those casino-style machines and shove off for the Bahamas in our new yacht.

Until then, here's a great way to make your Glide even more effortless.

A few weeks ago I was working with stock of several various thicknesses. This is where a leg vise isn't so quick. But it's a rare occurrence, one that happens infrequently, and thus, rare. So to make life easier I rooted through my shop junk drawer and remembered that right-to-left self-adhesive flexible rule that I mis-ordered a few years ago. It wasn't worth the shipping to return it, so into the boneyard it went.

I almost always know the thickness of the stock I'm working, so I thought, "why not make life easier by getting some of those numbers onto the parallel guide?"

So I placed the metal ruler onto the top edge of the parallel guide. Now I could position the chop right at the thickness of my stock, and insert the pin in the hole closest to the leg. Perfect! No thinking involved, no trial and error. Dial in the chop, position the pin, spin the wheel and away you go.

The metal ruler wasn't in place for long before I realized I had to do this right. The thing looked cheesy. Plus, it was right-to-left so the numbers were upside down. Dang, even after rescuing the thing its still worthless.

Out came Grandpa's number punch set and the edge of a card scraper. I set in the graduations with a light tap on the scraper after laying out the scale with a pencil. I didn't go nuts here, some of the graduations are a little off. We're not shooting for Starrett tolerances here. The nearest 1/4" is plenty good enough. Darken the incised lines and numbers with a fine-tip Sharpie.

To set the pin, advance the vise until the number corresponding to the thickness of your stock meets the front of the  leg. In this case, 1".

Now place your pin in the hole nearest the leg, or the hole just inside the mortise. Both will work, but you'll find what works best with your vise. That's it. No trial-and-error required. Quick, and effortless.

To figure out where to begin laying out the scale on the parallel guide, get a board of a known thickness (1" is a good size, but any thickness will work) and place the pin in the parallel guide for that thickness. Clamp it up to confirm your pin position. If its good, reach down with a pencil and draw a line across the top edge of the parallel guide where it enters the leg. This will be your 1" line on your scale (or 2", or whatever thickness piece you clamped). Now you can layout the rest of the scale from this 1" mark.

Try it. It took me less time to do this than to write this blog post.

Just for the Halibut!

A bit off topic here but certainly interesting. One of our Mag-Blok dealers (Hocho - covers all of Scandinavia) also happens to be an avid woodworker and spear fisherman. Asger Andersen, pictured here, makes hand built spearguns.

His last mahogany project speared a 10 kg cod and a 27 kg Halibut in Norway this summer. Wow!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Benchmaker's Apprentice: Cutting Tenons

Nothing better to start the new year with that cutting tenons!

When you use the table saw to cut your tenons, it is only necessary to mark one piece, of course, because your fence will already be set.

Once all the edges are sawed, I go over to the band saw and cut off the rest of the material. Who the heck is that dufus in the picture?

After a little planing, we have ourselves a fine group of tenons for our bench.