Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crisscross Update

This week at Benchcrafted we're busy doing two things. Finishing up the new version of our Split Top Roubo, and packing Crisscrosses.

Next week we begin shipping Crisscrosses, and we couldn't be more excited. It's been about seven months since we announced our version of the St. Peter's Cross, and many years of wondering and speculating about the mechanism.

In the next couple weeks we'll be updating the website with a new Crisscross page, as well as our new, updated Split Top Roubo bench.

What's new about the Split Top Roubo? Not much. We basically needed a current version with all our latest vises installed (and new end cap barrel nuts) to photograph for the website. We'll be tweaking a couple minor issues with the plans (and eventually adding drawings for the Glide Crisscross within the plans) and shooting some video of the bench, something we didn't do when we released the first Split Top Roubo four years ago.

This bench was built in rock maple with all of our latest vises (with new handwheels), including one of the production models of the Crisscross with our Glide leg vise. Although there is a price difference versus the original Glide ($40), the Crisscross upgrade is completely worth it. As soon as I can snatch some free time, I'm going to retrofit my personal bench with a Crisscross.

We'll also be posting complete Crisscross installation instructions shortly.

Friday, November 23, 2012

HANDS: not to be missed

Observant readers will note that this is indeed a re-post from last year.  We'd like to reiterate however that our ultimate goal is not profit but the proliferation of this series.  We simply feel that there are few in any hand work oriented endeavor who wouldn't greatly enjoy this series and support the maker's in doing so.

BLACK FRIDAY: We now have the the entire set on sale for $169.00!

While hand tools and hand work in general have taken an enormous back seat since the Industrial Revolution, there has and probably always will be a strong and dedicated cadre of craftsmen and artisans that will exist both out of necessity and desire, mostly out of necessity.  Hopefully more out of necessity, because while desire, fervor and zeal can be good things, nothing produces results like necessity, the mother of invention.  While we've not always been tool makers, we are deeply steeped in this spirit of necessity.  

It's a shame that so many things are lost.  A lot of what we lose is because of youth.  As we age we gain an appreciation for the mundane, which in turn turns to an appreciation for simpler things.  Mundanity is under appreciated.  It's also eschewed by the young.  They don't know theyr'e doing it, much as we didn't or don't, but it's being done all the same.  The funny thing is that a lot of the world lives day to day in the mundane, perfectly happy, because they aren't wrapped up in distraction.  In fact most of the world doesn't have the luxury of distraction.  Necessity again.

In the light of what is lost, going to be lost or maybe can be saved, we are very happy to announce the addition of this set of videos to our website.  As many of you know, we don't typically sell anything we don't produce, but these were too hard to ignore.   We simply cannot overemphasize the importance of these videos.  I only wish there were more.  The videos are perfectly produced with very little embellishment, even the narration is reserved and well placed, not distracting.  Anyone who has even a passing interest in hand crafts, will not be disappointed in this treasure.

Take 10 minutes and watch the preview video we've put together.  These simple videos are enthralling, so much so that they were requested in our household by our 6 & 8 year olds every evening until we had watched all 37 videos!  The real mastery of these videos is that they are presented so well that they make some subjects that we're not typically as interested in just as enticing as those we are.  We found ourselves enthralled as much or more by the silk, book binding and pottery segments,  as we did by the woodworking segments..........if not more so! 

David and Sally Shaw-Smith made HANDS, a unique, multi-award winning series of thirty-seven documentaries on Irish crafts for Irish television (RTÉ, Raidió Teilifís Éireann [Radio && Television of Ireland]). Capturing the final years of traditional rural and urban life in Ireland, during the seventies and eighties. They travelled the length and breadth of the country recording these personal and revealing films. As much about the life of the individuals, as the crafts they practised.

We're offering this unique set at a special price until December 25th, after that it's goes back to it's normal price.  See more details here.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday

We will have something.......tomorrow!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Treat For Tool Nuts

For several years we offered Gramercy Holdfasts as part of our Benchmaker's Package. Although we don't offer them anymore as part of that package, we are still huge fans of them. And suffice it to say we're still huge fans (and customers) of Tools For Working Wood in Brooklyn, NY.

Joel, Tim, Ben, Chrystal (I'm sure I'm forgetting someone) have put together a simply wonderful gift for not only us die-hard handtool woodworkers, but also for us tool junkies as well.

Take a look at the what the good folks at TFWW have put together. They call it "Modern Edge Tools"

For fans of the old Popular Mechanics magazines of the 1950's, this will be right up your alley. I'm a child of the 70's, but this was a real fun read. A real work of graphic art as well.

Hats off to the TFWW crew. Given what they've been through the past few weeks, I'm going to be doing a lot of my Christmas shopping at TFWW. You should too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Video-Routing Dog Holes

This week at Benchcrafted we're building a Split Top Roubo for a long-overdue website update. We need to take some fresh pics of the STR with our new handwheels, and the Crisscross. We're also taking the opportunity to shoot some video of a few aspects of the build that we'd thought potential builders would find useful. 

First up is a video on how we cut square bench dog holes. You might be surprised how many folks think these are done with a chisel and mallet. They are actually milled into the side of the dog hole board (strip), capped with a thin piece, then glued to the rest of the top.

Getting all that wood out of the way is not easy. Even for machines. Okay, a dado head and a sliding table saw is simply the best way to do it, but not everyone has access to a machine like that. The next best route, ahem, is a router. 

Here's how we get excellent results, without burning or blowout, efficiently and safely. (You might want to read this post before you read this one further, we've been over some of this before.)

First we lay out every dog hole and draw its extents clearly with a pencil. Then we mark a big X where each hole goes. Once you get rolling and moving the template around its very easy to mess up locations. The big X really helps. 

Then we use a square and marking knife to scribe across the grain at each hole, on the top edge and bottom edge of the dog strip. This helps prevent blowout from the router, and makes a really clean, crisp opening. Don't skip this step, although we say its sort-of optional in that older post. Ignore that. 

We use two routers. The first one uses a template guide that keeps the bit about 1/8" away from the template. This is a hogging cut, but requires care to execute. It get lots of material out of the way so the second router can work at ease and make a fine cut without a lot of load.

The other line of defense in eliminating blowout is to use climb cuts--that's when you move the router in the same direction the bit it rotating. It's dangerous if you're unfamiliar with the technique, so read up and practice if you're uneasy. Two of the four arrises in each hole are favorable for anti-climb ("regular" against-the-rotation) cutting, and two require climb cutting (anti-climb cutting would blowout the unsupported grain). If this all sounds confusing, just keep this in mind. When riding the template (with both router setups) you ALWAYS take a cut by entering from the outside and moving INTO the hole. NEVER route by entering from one end, then riding the template out the other end--you'll blow out. Entering in an anti-climb cut, you'll need to move away from the template about 2/3 of the way through the cut, exit, then re-enter the same side--you'll now be climb cutting. DO NOT start routing with a climb cut. By beginning each side anti-climb and routing away almost all of the material, you leave little chance for the router to "bite" when you re-enter for the climb cut, since there isn't much material left to bite. 

Here's the final line of defence against blowout. It's a cutter I call "super bit". A machinist friend gave me this bit some time ago when it became too dull to do quality milling in metal. Its a solid carbide, four flute, center cutting end mill. And it is simply amazing. A couple months ago I took this bit to Kelly Mehler's School of Woodworking to teach a class on building workbenches. This bit saved the class. I bet we milled close to 100 mortises with it, in hard maple. I still have not sharpened the bit. I just  clean it. That's it. The cutter is 1/2" diameter and the smooth shank is exactly the same diameter as the cutting diameter. So I use the smooth portion of the shank as a bearing. It's the best pattern bit I've ever used.

The cutting geometry of the bit allows it to cut wood, especially hard, dense, figured wood, with virtually no regard to grain direction. It will cut end grain maple and leave a silky-smooth surface in its wake. It is in a word, awesome. Make sure you click on the image below and appreciate the quality of cut in this hard maple.

  And finally, here is the video.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Moxon Update

Some of you may have noticed a long lead time for Moxon Vises. We apologize for that.

Earlier this year we retooled our Moxon handwheel and created a new foundry pattern so the handwheels on the Moxon vise feature the same design as our Tail vise and Glide leg vise.

We thought we'd planned well in advance of the change, and didn't expect any delays. But then we experienced a perfect storm of hiccups. The patternmaker made a mistake. Then we poured a test mould. The draft on the center hub needed tweeking, so back to the patternmaker. Then due to another goof, the pattern sat in limbo for a week. During that week one of the foundry's furnaces went down. And parts had to be manufactured to fix it. By the time the pattern finally found its way to the foundry, the other furnace had broken down! If I wasn't already bald, I would have pulled all my hair out.

Here's the good news. Yesterday I personally drove a ton (literally) of Moxon handwheel castings from our foundry to our machine shop. And by the end of next week we should be boxing up our new Moxon vises with the updated handwheels. That is, if another perfect storm doesn't blow in.

Have a good weekend! And thanks for your patience.