Monday, December 31, 2012

Crisscross customers - feedback please

We've been shipping out Crisscross orders for a few weeks now.  As many of you know by now, for most of those orders, we've opted to ship via USPS Flat Rate.  This accomplishes a few things; obviously a flat rate which tends to be considerably cheaper than variable UPS rates, quicker shipping since there is no calculation on our part which in turn takes time and typically fast delivery times (USPS Priority is usually a day or more faster than ground UPS and includes Saturdays).

What we'd like to know from our customers is how those shipments are faring.  We're guessing that it's going well since we've had no real comments or emails on the subject.  Our only real concern is the condition of these packages when they arrive.  The Flat Rate boxes are nice, but not terribly robust.  That said, we pack them well and we typically do some additional taping to beef them up a bit.  Furthermore, the Crisscross itself is packed in a good quality box within the shipping box.  Finally, it's not exactly petit fours we're shipping here, cast iron tends to be pretty tough!

A short comment left below would be appreciated.  Again, we can only assume that these are working out pretty well.  One thing we don't need to verify, we know our customers appreciate cheaper shipping!

Video: Crisscross Retro Install

On my way out of the Benchcrafted warehouse last Friday, just as I was punching out (right!), I grabbed a Crisscross Retro and headed home. I guess that's one of the advantages of working at Benchcrafted. I can dip into stock anytime, never pay for anything, and walk out feeling like a guilt-free burgler.

In reality, I rarely do this. My bench at home still has the original Benchcrafted Tail Vise in it. The very first one. I still use it almost every day. I did put a new handwheel on it, but that's because we accidentally machined the logo on one small handwheel and one large handwheel upside down. I took those cosmetically-challenged parts and put them to use instead of tossing them back in the furnace. That's why the logo on the handwheel above is upside down. It's also why the handwheels is dark. This is the handwheel I used to demonstrate cold bluing.

You also might notice that I linished the logo in the center of the hub. I did this because it looks nice. It's easy to do with a small sanding block and 120 grit paper. It also looks nice on our standard handwheels, as seen here.

In the video I use a roughing end mill designed for machining aluminum to rout the Crisscross mortise. Spiral upcut router bits are widely available, but I don't much like them. They have a very aggressive cutting geometry, and although they remove material fairly well, this geometry doesn't mingle with tearout-prone woods. It also sacrifices something that I really like when routing: control. The roughing end mill is a three flute, center cutting (so it can be plunged) tool that eats wood like no tomorrow. The serrated flutes break up chips so you can move more rapidly through the cut, and take much more material per pass. The geometry of the tool gives great control. Grain direction is almost non-existent, and you never feel like the router is going to take off on you. The solid carbide bit also features a zirconium coating for durability. The bit does not leave a smooth finish however because of the serrated flutes. The finish is very similar to what a toothing plane or scraper would leave. For the Crisscross mortise its fine. If you'd like to try out this bit, I source it from the same place I get super bit: Carbide Cutting Tools Part # 14740. Carbide Cutting Tools is an old-school machine shop. No online ordering. Pick up the phone and call Frank. He'll be glad to take your order.

A word about the Glide Crisscross, which I now have on my personal bench at home. Saturday I retrofitted the Crisscross to my bench, and the next day (yesterday) I started building a six board chest using the new vise. Although we've been testing the Crisscross in various benches and vises for several months, this is the first project I've actually worked on using a Glide Crisscross in MY bench, working in real time on an actual project. My mind was free to concentrate on the project itself, and not on testing vises. It's been said before by many traditional leg-vise users, "I don't mind the pin". Well, I can now confidently say that not having a pin has changed how I work. Mind you, I enjoy using our vises, but when I'm building furniture, I want all my concentration to go into the creative process. I don't want to think about anything but the wood, and that includes vises, planes, chisels, tools, the heater, whatever. Fussing with things kills my rhythm, as I expect it does others. The Glide Crisscross is the best thing that has happened to my Roubo bench,

I tried to cover just about everything in the following video. If you have any questions, please post them below.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Crisscross Video

Here's a short video we shot a few weeks ago showing the Crisscross in action. Once again, the Crisscross works with any leg vise hardware, not just ours, although its particularly sweet with a Glide.

Hopefully this weekend I'll finally get to retrofit my personal bench with a Crisscross. I'll try to take some pics and video to further illustrate the process.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Glide Crisscross Acetal Bushing--Modification

If you are retrofitting a Glide leg vise with a Crisscross, you may need the latest version of our acetal bushing.

We began shipping ALL Glide leg vises with this new bushing some months ago. If you have a Glide from about mid-summer 2012, you should already have the new bushing. You're good to go if retrofitting a Crisscross.

But for those of you with older Glides (before summer 2012) you will have the original acetal bushing.

Here's how to tell the difference:

This is an original acetal bushing. The central hole is a true circle, just a few thousandths larger than the vise's acme screw.

This is the new, current version of the acetal bushing. We've kept the hole the same width as the original, but enlarged the height of the hole equally above and below the screw. When designing the Crisscross Glide we found that a bit of extra clearance above and below the screw allowed the vise to work more smoothly. You should realize that we always shoot for "ultimate" smoothness with our vises. With the new version bushing installed the Glide Crisscross works even smoother than the original Glide. We can give the handwheel a hearty spin and it will keep going for up to 15 revolutions. This is a neat parlor trick, but its also a good barometer for what's possible when you get your Glide Crisscross installed to its potential. We have customers who have experienced the same.

If you have an original acetal bushing and would like to modify it like the new version, its easy. Here's how:

Take your original bushing and remove material from the upper and lower half of the hole (the areas in red). Do not remove any material from the width of the hole, keeping about 5/16" in the middle area untouched. This middle area is all that's necessary to stabilize the screw. The areas where you remove material should never touch the screw, once installed. The ideal tool for this job is a spindle sander. You can also use a rat tail rasp or file, or sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. Acetal works easily.

This is the quickest and cheapest way to get yourself the new bushing. We will sell you a new bushing if you like (even though we think it'd be silly), they are $20 including shipping. But right now all our bushing inventory is earmarked for Glides, so your best bet would be to modify.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Update to the website

Well it's taken too long but we should have an updated version of the website up and running before noon CST today.

Make sure you refresh your pages, especially if you don't have your browser set to automatically do so.

Highlights? We've actually added a Crisscross page (shocker!), made some pretty big changes to a few of the other pages and redone some of the navigation.  After several requests we've also added Gift Certificates to the order page (all the way at the bottom.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shaker Benchmaker's Package Hardware Kit

We're making a change to our Shaker Benchmaker's Package. We will no longer offer the complete package. This means if you wish to build the Benchcrafted Shaker Bench, you'll need to purchase three items separately: Glide Leg Vise, Tail Vise, and Shaker Plans. It's the hardware kit that we're in fact discontinuing. We have a fair amount of customers who end up using different hardware, or configure their bases differently such that the included hinges and fasteners don't always work. So to send out these kits is rather wasteful, and frankly, silly. You should assemble your hardware kit for the configuration you choose.

Our Shaker Plans are of course still available. We will be updating the construction notes (available for free anytime from our downloads page) with a complete list of the hardware needed to build the bench exactly from the plans, and where to get it. Then anyone making changes can go from there and source their own particular kit from these sellers. In the meantime, here's a list with links of everything in the hardware kit:

Shaker Benchmaker's Hardware Kit:

3" H-hinge (four pair req.)
These are the hinges to hang the four front doors. We use Acorn brand hinges. A good source for these is Historic Housefitters. Item #433-3.

4" H-hinge (one pair req.)
These are the two hinges to hang the leg vise access door. We use Acorn brand hinges. A good source for these is Historic Housefitters. Item #434-3.

Another source for H hinges is Horton Brasses. They have excellent quality brass hinges, as well as hand-forged. More expensive than the machine-made Acorn brand hinges, but exquisite quality.

1/2" X 6" Lag Screw (five req.)
Used to attach the end cap to the benchtop.

We use Spax brand, which are widely available. They are properly heat treated and have deep, crisp threads. You can use hardware or big-box store lags, but they are low quality, soft, with blunt, shallow threads. You can get Spax lags individually at Menards stores (upper midwest) better contractor supply houses, Fastenal, and online at places like McFeely's. 
Square head, black oxide lag bolts would also look nice here. Available from Blacksmith Bolt.

5/16" X 3 1/2" Lag Screw (six req.)
Used to attach the benchtop to the cabinet base (four), and for the roller bracket mounting block (two). The latter two are not required if you're using a Glide Crisscross.
Sources,  see above 

5/16" X 4" flat head cap screws (five req.)
These machine screws are used to attach the deadman rail to the front of the cabinet. Available from industrial supply houses like Grainger and Fastenal (both found in all major cities) and well-stocked hardware stores such as Ace. Also available from Bolt Depot. You can also use different fasteners for this application, like lag bolts. Square head, black oxide lag bolts would look nice here. Available from Blacksmith Bolt.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Crisscross Instructions Now Available

You can now download the complete installation instructions and measured drawings for the Benchcrafted Crisscross.

As always, instructions for all our vises are available free, anytime, on our downloads page.

The instructions include detailed, step by step instructions for fitting a Crisscross Solo or Retro to new benches (where you can work on the leg on its own) or for retrofitting where the leg may be permanently joined to the rest of the bench. We also include comprehensive measured drawings for the necessary mortise and hole locations.

If you're installing a Glide Crisscross we've included a special section within the Crisscross instructions, since the majority of the Glide Crisscross install is in the Crisscross itself. Glides with the Crisscross should install much faster than the original Glide with its parallel guide, leg mortise, and roller brackets.

The instructions also include information on how to install the Crisscross in our Split Top Roubo, including measured drawings of the front rail joinery, which is different with the Crisscross. 

Camil's Roubo

 A year ago we shared Camil Milincu's Moxon build. This time around it's Camil's Roubo in Beech with twin tail vises.

Have a look at Camil's build gallery for all the details. We especially like Camil's nameplate. How did you do that Camil? Awesome work!

"Thanks again for the hardware, support and the "nudge" to evolve. I'm sure that if it was not for your bench hardware, I would have missed all this experience. Best regards, Camil"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Crisscrosses Shipping, Bench Classes

Last week we began shipping Crisscrosses to customers. I'm proud to say that we were a couple days early this time!

One of the first persons to order a Crisscross was Jeff Miller. It was at Jeff's shop during a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event that we first announced the new Crisscross and Jeff was quick on the draw when we opened ordering a few weeks ago. Jeff received his two Crisscrosses on Friday and installed them over the weekend in two benches he had ready and waiting. He says they are running sweetly.

We've been receiving numerous emails lately about whether we're going to be offering a bench class somewhere next year. Right now the answer is maybe. I can't be specific, but we're trying to arrange something very unique. It definitely won't be for everyone, and it may not even happen. It's too early to say for sure. This is all the info I have at the moment.

If you are looking to build a Roubo bench in 2013, Jeff Miller is once again offering two classes to build the bench that is on the cover of the current issue of Fine Woodworking's Tools and Shops issue. We can't recommend a better place to build a bench in 2013. Jeff has perhaps installed more of our vises than anyone except us. So you can be assured of a great experience and a great bench.

As promised, we also built a leg vise last week using a wood screw and a Crisscross Retro. And it works great. We don't make wood screws, but there is a certain appeal to wood screws on a traditional bench. And now with the addition of the Crisscross, they are simply awesome. Here's why. Wood screws are fast, but like any vise (metal or wood) they also have mass, so any gravitational pull is going to slow them down, and make them feel not so nice. The Crisscross counters gravity by floating the chop and screw, so all you feel when you turn the handle is the screw in the nut-- no downward force at all. Much like a leg vise with roller brackets (like our Glide), only better since you don't have to move the pin. So you get the speed and charm of wood, without the choppy gravitationally-challenged action you typically see. We love it. Incidentally, we used an ash screw from Big Wood Vise for this apparatus (we turned our own handle.)

We didn't have a dedicated bench to put this in, so we built a high leg vise that clamps to any bench. These taller leg vises are great for detail work. You can get the work right up next to your chest and get great control. I've had a similar version in the shop for a few months now and I find myself heading for it quite regularly. If you want to build one like it, we recommend using a wood screw with the Crisscross, since the vise will be lighter and easier to store. You can of course use a Glide, but for an accessory vise its going to be heavy, and a tad pricey for occasional use. Go with a wood screw.

Follow the Crisscross installation instructions, which we'll have up on our downloads page in a day or two.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

French Oak

Late 1700's. The Palace of Versailles. Trees are planted. Roubo and Jefferson walk the grounds, and perhaps exchange a few words with the gardeners.

2000. A huge windstorm throttles France, trees are uprooted, sawed, and set aside to dry.

2012. The wood arrives in America, and (perhaps fatefully) falls into the hands of Roubo enthusiasts.