Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Return to Chicago- Hand Tool Event

In about three week Benchcrafted returns to Chicago for the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event April 20-21.

We missed last year's event, and are really looking forward to seeing all our friends and fellow enthusiasts at Jeff's Miller's shop again.

This year promises to be memorable. We like this event because it combines some of the best exhibitors and attendees in one place. And one of those attendees we always like to see is Carl Bilderback, and old-school carpenter who almost always shows up with a new technique to teach us greenhorns. That's Carl showing Chris Schwarz some rope right there. 

Here's the lineup (besides us and L-N):

Raney Nelson makes a mean infill plane.

The guys with the fancy (and incredibly ergonomic) turnscrews.

If you don't know about Kevin's work (and who doesn't?) click the link.

If you don't know about Chris Schwa....oh nevermind.

Ask Jeff Miller to demo his human-powered tenoning jig. It's incredible.

Make sure to stop by and see what we're bringing too. Oh, and free donuts at Raney's bench.

Contact Cement For Suede

What glue should I use to glue the suede to the jaws of my Glide/Tail/Moxon vise?

The answer is: contact cement.

Why? The suede will eventually wear out with use. It will take a while, but it will happen. And if you use yellow glue, the suede could be difficult to remove. Contact cement forms a rubbery film on the smooth wood, and to remove the suede you simply lift a corner and peel it off. Then rub the remaining rubbery spots off with your finger. Contact cement is more than strong enough to hold suede.

We like to use the DAP brand nonflammable cement. We buy ours at Menards, but Home Depot and other such stores should carry it. It doesn't melt your brain like the flammable stuff. In fact, you don't even need a respirator to use it. It has about the same amount of odor as latex paint. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Precise Work and MicroBrewed Furniture

Dovetailed box of oak and spalted beech by David Barron

I don't think I'm alone when I say much of modern furniture is designed with visible examples of precise craftsmanship as a statement of rejection of modern, mass-produced wares designed with profit as the driving force.

For me personally, two elements combine to make this statement powerfully: refined design, and wood selection.

Yes, furniture at the big stores is made of wood. But no thought past the bottom line goes into its selection. The furniture is designed around the machines, most often in a laughable manner: the Mission-style square peg glued into a round hole, with visible adhesive oozing out the four corners is perhaps the best example of furniture-making laziness and apathy.

Some may argue that we need huge factories cranking out junk to supply the larger population. But I would argue that point. As my friend and fellow craftsman Chris Schwarz likes to point out, not long ago we had only a handful of beers to choose from in America. All the same style beer to boot. Now there is a micro-brewery within a short drive of anyone. Does it work? Yes, new breweries are still popping up. There are hundreds of them. Could this work with furniture? Absolutely. All we need to do is keep making fine things and getting it into the hands of modern people who, like many of us, have forgotten what real things are. To that end, I make furniture for my extended family, and friends, and also for myself. And I try to promote hand-made items as much as I can.

But here's one key element that I've found makes this possible. Keep things simple. And that's where this idea keys in so well with today's tastes. People like modern furniture. The relatively simple and quick construction methods these pieces call for frees us up as craftsmen to focus on nailing the proportions and selecting the perfect wood.

Take David Barron's box above. An extremely simple piece, yet it oozes authenticity. No carving, no curves, no ornament. The design of the box itself makes this piece relatively quick and easy to build, but the proportions and meticulously intentional wood selection set this box apart from anything you'd remotely see in a furniture store. David's tool chest below is also a perfect example. A parlor trick? Maybe, but only to those who have been reared on factory pieces with tolerances of guaranteed slop.

Next time you're with friends who buy furniture from a chain store, show them something like David's box and ask them if they'd rather have something real like this in their home, something to cherish for several lifetimes, or poseur furniture.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Three Best Woodworking Vises

"...Benchcrafted, a family company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa makes the three best woodworking vises I have ever used. And, just to be clear, Benchcrafted makes only three vises."

Chris Schwarz
in the Fine Tool Journal, Winter 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Winter Smoother - Done

A couple weeks ago I put the final coat of finish on the wood components of the Winter Smoother.

Instead of the usual french polish, I decided to try something new. I first sealed the wood with shellac to provide a barrier, then I padded on about seven whisper-thin coats of Tru-Oil over about three days. A week cure, and a light rubout with 0000 Liberon wool, a little wax, and I had the finish I was after: rich and deep to bring out the color of the wood and satiny and silky for a great feel. This finish does not have the chatoyance and depth that shellac provides. It has a more rudimentary appeal. And I think it goes well with this plane.

The plane performs extremely well, as do all of the Brese planes. In a short while, this plane will get shipped off to its new owner, a friend of mine who more than has it coming. Bon Appetit, Gaston.

Here is a short video slideshow of the Winter Smoother. Make sure you enlarge it, it's in HD.

Follow this link for a slideshow of the stills.