Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dovetailed Chest in Birdseye Maple

I finally finished the chest from this post and had a chance to get some pictures taken last week.

The Bridge City Jointmaker Pro performed flawlessly for cutting the dovetails in this chest. After assembly the joints planed up flawlessly.

The one thing I'm not happy about is the selection of the front boards. Viewed from one end, the joint blends, but from the other end the upper board appears lighter and the joint between upper and lower boards becomes too distinct. And I spent a lot of time choosing these boards. I guess I needed to spend some more.

The chest is finished with several coats of Minwax Antique Oil, hand rubbed with 600 grit paper after the first couple coats. It's silky to the touch. I didn't build the finish to perfect uniformity. I didn't want to chest to look pristine. Hardware from Horton Brasses and Whitechapel Ltd.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Benchcrafted Moxon Vise

Last year Christopher Schwarz resurrected Joseph Moxon’s double-screw vise described in Moxon's 17th c. book “The Art of Joinery.” He covered it at his blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine and later published an article in the magazine itself. The vise took off and woodworkers started building Moxon vises left and right.

But not long after the article came out we began hearing from people moaning about wood threading kits, their tricky setup and the tendency for wood screws to swell tight in their holes, and asking what we were going to do about it. 

Then our wheels started turning, so to speak. 

After a bunch of prototypes (I won't share the first version, it was a mutt of a vise) we hit on something that works great, looks cool, and is fun to use, whether you're clamping wood or not. And its fast. 

Here's what makes our Moxon unique. We like vises to focus all their potential power and precision on actually holding your work. That makes workholding easy. So like our Glide and Tail Vise, which are not weighed down by their own mass, the Benchcrafted Moxon works on a similar principle. The screws on the Moxon do not move. Instead, the precision rolled acme screws are bolted to the fixed jaw and we've tapped the cast iron handwheels for the 3/4" diameter acme screws (a time-consuming and labor intensive process.) Since the screws do not rotate inside the movable jaw, there is no friction to slow the operation of the vise. If you like how our Glide Leg Vise works, you're going to love the Moxon. Spin the wheel and start working. You don't need to adjust both wheels to hold work. Set one, then use the other to open and close the vise. The suede-lined jaw completes the tenacious grip.

The Moxon vise can be attached to your bench with two F-clamps, between dogs (your dogs need to be spaced close to the front for this to work), or with two Gramercy (or other) holdfasts.

We're offering Moxon vises both as complete vises (a little assembly required) or hardware only--everything but wood. With the latter, you can build several sizes, or different vise configurations, like a benchtop bench. We're so excited about this new vise that we're offering our first run immediately, which we expect to go quick. The first run vises will start shipping August 15. After the first run is out, we'll immediately begin another run. You can place an order anytime.

For more info, visit the Benchcrafted Moxon Vise page.

You can also download complete Moxon Vise plans and instructions, for free, from our downloads page.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why Build The Shaker Bench?

Last week we released our Shaker Bench Plans at the Lie-Nielsen 30th anniversary open house. We received lots of questions about the plans, but mostly "which bench should I build".

That's a fair question. Here goes.

Unlike some huge corporations that have a whole set of people to come up with new ways to make money, just for profit's sake, we work in the opposite way. That is, most of our products are the direct result of customer requests, or products that grew from other products we produce.

We're not about to offer bench plans for every conceivable bench configuration, just so we can sell you a set of vises. The bench design must work, and fulfill the principles set our by our favorite bench scientist, Christopher Schwarz. The kitchen door test must pass muster here (If you're unfamiliar with this concept, read this book) and our Shaker bench does it well.

We're also not going to argue the merits of the Shaker bench design. All those Shaker craftsman who build the great communities can speak for themselves. Although dead, their words are loud.

So why choose the Shaker over the Split Top Roubo?

The Roubo is a massive bench. Just moving the tops and leg sections, once joined, is an act of physical exertion. It's a demanding build. The Shaker bench on the other hand is built up from lighter parts to make a final monolithic structure. It's easier to build since you're working initially with lighter components.Once you're done, the Shaker bench is like working on a giant wooden cube. Filled with tools (or empty) its solid as a rock.

The Roubo has no storage, aside from the single shelf in the base structure. The Shaker has storage (dust free) in spades.

You can use holdfasts with the Roubo. You can use use holdfasts with our Shaker bench too. You'll need to lop off some of the shank, but you'll still get a few inches of capacity. More than enough for almost all work. 

The Shaker bench has a beautiful aesthetic. Yes, we've all heard the arguments about great craftsmen building incredible furniture on a hollow core door and a couple sawhorses. But if you were interested in that "bench" you wouldn't be reading this. I've been building furniture professionally for most of my adult life, and I am still inspired by a beautiful workbench. Would you rather work in a dark concrete sweat shop, or a spacious timber-frame filled with natural light?

You need to add storage to your shop. Yes, you could build a bank of floor cabinets, but why not build them with a robust top and vises? You'll have your storage, and a second bench to boot. See the picture at the top of the post? That's the 14-foot Shaker bench at Mt. Lebanon, (zoom in and check out the dog holes and tail vise) loaded with storage and sporting two vises (the face vise has been removed, it fits in that square mortise at the left). See what I mean? Awesome.

So what's the final conclusion? It mostly boils down to aesthetics. There are some functionality differences, but nothing that makes one bench light-years better than the other. I have a Roubo in my personal shop. When I have the space and time, I'll be adding this Shaker bench to my shop for it's looks and storage potential.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rosewood Handwheel Knobs

When we moved from chrome-plated hand wheels to our satin iron wheels, we changed the thread for attaching the rosewood knobs we supply with vises. This left us with some orphan knobs.

I've tried my hardest to replace all the handwheels knobs on my machinery with rosewood (yes, people think I'm nuts when they see these in my shop) but I've used up as many as I can. So as we make room for our new Moxon vise, we're clearing out some shelf space.

The 1 3/8" dia. knobs have a 3/8-16 stud. Once you install them, the rosewood will spin free. The fastener is chrome-plated.

We have a limited number of these knobs, so first come, first serve.

Price is $22 per knob, including priority mail shipping. To purchase, drop us an email and we'll tell you how to pay. When we sell out, we'll post an update here. If you don't hear back from us by email, it means we've sold out.


We also have some of these knobs WITHOUT fasteners. Same specs. They use a 1 3/4" shoulder bolt with 1/2" shank, available at most hardware stores. Price is $18 per knob, including priority mail shipping. To purchase, drop us an email and we'll tell you how to pay. When we sell out, we'll post an update here. If you don't hear back from us by email, it means we've sold out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More New Stuff, Skraper Update

After many requests over the past couple years we're finally offering the hardware to make the roller brackets from our Glide Leg Vise.

Paired with a T-handle metal bench screw, or a wooden bench screw,  a pair of roller brackets will make your leg vise spin freely. It's a nice upgrade that makes any leg vise move effortlessly.

The kit includes everything you need to make two brackets, except wood.

Download the templates for making the bracket HERE.

The bracket hardware costs $39, and all the components are made in the USA. The rollers are top-quality industrial-grade casters with ball-bearing hubs. The metal parts have a black finish and look very traditional in context.

If your chop goes all the way to the floor, you'll need to do some slicing and dicing to allow enough room for the roller bracket to mount below the parallel guide. If you love wood screws, this is a perfect way to improve their function for just a few bucks.

You can order the kit on our Order page.

We'll start shipping these next week, after we return from the Lie-Nielsen Open House this weekend. 


Chris Schwarz recently blogged about our Skraper. Naturally this put a severe dent in our inventory. Actually, it put more like a hole in our inventory.

We sold out within an hour.

We're about half way through the next run, and expect to ship about middle of next week for those of you who are waiting.Thanks for your patience.

Tomorrow we head east to Warren, ME. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by L-N Toolworks and say hello.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shaker Bench Plans--Now Available

After almost a year, our Shaker bench plans are finally ready.

Last week, draftsman extraordinaire Louis Bois and I pored over the umpteenth iteration of the prints to make sure everything was accurate and clearly understandable. I think we're darn close on both counts. Louis is a perfectionist. If a certain line weight is off, he can't let it slide. Not even a little. So these plans have taken longer than we anticipated. But they have been worth the wait. We're extremely pleased with Louis' work.

This set of plans posed some challenges. How do you illustrate the carcase construction in a clear, easy to follow manner? Louis and I went back and forth over this for a couple weeks before our ideas met. While writing the instructional text for the plans I included pictures of the carcase construction at each major step. And that's when Louis' mind clicked.


Louis and I are about the same age, and both grew up immersed in Lego building. So our minds, thousands of miles apart, were on the same page.

Show each step of the carcase, with each consecutive step adding parts to the previous step. This way the builder would see exactly in what order to build, and where every part goes.

We grayed out the previous steps' parts, leaving the parts to be added in black. Easy peasy.

For these plans we're adding a page at the end in full color, printed on a spiffy new Océ Colorwave 600 large-format printer. Our printer just installed this machine last week. It uses wax-based toner pearls (think crayons) that leave a lovely sheen in the color. In fact, as I write this these pages are being printed off.

The last page of the plans will feature some gorgeous 3-d renderings from Louis that not only look incredible, but also help explain how the bench goes together. Right now I'm wondering what some of the old Shakers would think of this? I think they would embrace it. It's efficient, simple, and beautiful.

The Shaker Bench Plans are $36, including shipping anywhere in the USA and Canada. You'll receive the construction notes PDF (35 pages) which includes written instructions and building techniques, along with the 3d E-drawing file within 24 hours of ordering, by email. The E-drawing is a CAD file that lets you see the bench on your computer in full 3-d (you need software, but its a free and easy download. Less than five  minutes, tops.) You can move the bench, take it apart, make parts transparent or hidden, even measure each part. It's a nice way to explore the bench away from the large prints. Then later in the mail you'll receive six pages of 20x30 prints rolled in a cardboard tube. Plans will start shipping July 19.

We're also offering Benchmaker's Packages for the Shaker bench. You get both vises, complete plans, and hardware to build the Shaker Bench. Everything you need except wood (and some common fasteners.)  You save $42 if you buy the package. Lead times for Benchmaker's Packages are dependant on vise lead times. Right now that's about 4 weeks.

To preview the construction notes, download the first six pages HERE.

And since I know some of you will wonder, the background on the construction notes cover page was taken from this 1920's photograph of a Shaker workshop at Mt. Lebanon, New York. The beautifully-crafted lathe is particularly nice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Thank you, Doug. And congratulations. The bench looks fantastic.


I received the Benchmakers package late 2010 and started construction mid
January this year. The bench was finished on June 19, 2011. It is
constructed of Hard Maple except for the shelving which is Douglas fir. Two
coats of 50/50 mix linseed oil and mineral spirits for the finish.
My compliments to you on the quality of the hardware, plans , notes etc.
Your blog is a tremendous resource which facilitates the build. Also gleaned
quite a bit of info from the Festool forum. The functionality and
workholding characteristics of this bench have exceeded my expectations.
This is the bench I have been looking and waiting for, thanks for helping to
make that happen.
Happy Fourth of July.
Doug T.
Calgary, Ab

Monday, July 4, 2011


Machines: Fail

Yesterday I stopped by an antique show and this caught my eye. 

This is an English apothecary chest in mahogany from the early 1800's. I knew immediately that it was something special.

When I opened the 3" tail drawer a fine set of skinny-pin half blind dovetails were presented. Quite obviously this was not made by mechanized process. It was made by a man-machine.

I reached in and extracted the tray, made from 1/8" solid mahogany, and joined with diminutive delicate dovetails. Then the craftmanship of the man machine filled the space where I was standing.

At the front of the tray the sides are joined with through and mitered dovetails. The entire joint is mitered such that only the end grain of the pins shows. As such:

The back of the tray is joined with another variation of a mitered dovetail. This time the full tail is kept whole, the half tails being mitered.

People enjoyed less before mass production. Or did they?