Thursday, August 29, 2013

Benchcrafted In Bronze

In celebration of our 7th anniversary we're happy to announce our commemorative handwheels, cast in bronze. Why 7th you ask? Well, there is a bronze foundry just up the road from us, and we just couldn't wait another three years. So we dropped off our patterns a few months ago, and told them to let the gold flow. 

We did these purely for fun, so we're more or less pricing the bronze component at our cost, plus a couple tanks of gas to and from the foundry. 

We only have a handful of these (less than 20 of each) and no plans to make more.

Pricing is as follows:  ALL SOLD OUT

     Bronze Glide with Crisscross Solo: $522

     Bronze Glide with Crisscross Retro: $562

     Bronze Tail Vise: $417

     Bronze Benchmaker's Package (Crisscross Solo): $980

     Bronze Benchmaker's Package (Crisscross Retro): $1020

Right now these aren't on our store page. To order, you must send an email to stating what you'd like, along with your shipping address, and we'll send you an invoice. If you want to purchase other Benchcrafted stuff, make sure you let us know. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The French Oak Plate 11 Bench: Finished

On a late night last week I walked slowly from my office to the shop carrying the final piece of my French Oak Plate 11-style workbench: the letterpress-printed-on-hand-made-paper label made by Wesley Tanner. It was a bittersweet moment, and at the same time entirely satisfying.

What started almost three years ago ended as I pasted the label onto the underside of my bench, guarded by a layer of shellac to prevent the oak's tannins from feeding on the paper over the rest of the century (and perhaps beyond.)

As the FORP drew to a close last month, and during the final days of my own bench's completion, I spent a lot of time thinking about why I wanted to build this bench, and why we as a company would choose to organize an event centered around an object that promotes or incorporates virtually none of our own products, and certainly not visibly. We never second-guessed our motivations, but from a business standpoint there were some moments of head scratching. But moments after I had pasted the label onto the wood, shut the shop lights off, letting my eyes adjust to the moonlight pouring through the window and washing over the benchtop, I knew we had done the right thing. This bench was a tribute to Roubo, his incredible dedication to the craft, and the great legacy that he left us through L'Art du Menuisier. Without Roubo's elemental bench and its influence, Benchcrafted vises would not exist. This bench will forever be a source of inspiration for everything we do from here on out at Benchcrafted. We tip our hats to M. Roubo.

Here are some details of my finished bench.

Material: French Oak

Length: 110"

Width: 17-3/4"

Height: 34" (2" lower than my main Roubo)

Top Thickness: 5-1/2"

Top surface: flattened by hand, final traversing pass for texture with cambered iron.

Finish: One light coat of oil-varnish (Minwax Antique Oil)

Ironwork: Peter Ross

Workholding: holdfast and hole layout, planing stop and leg vise directly from Plate 11. Leg Vise threading and tapping by Nick Dombrowski, Lake Erie Toolworks. Crisscross mechanism by us.

I've already used my bench a few times to make some bench hooks from some of the French oak offcuts. The toothed planing stop, which I've never had on a bench before, has been a real surprise. For repetitive work, it it lightning fast. I will likely install one on my other Roubo bench from 2008.

One thing I will take away from this project that I doubt I'll ever get a chance to repeat. The camaraderie that I experienced with the other FORP participants. That is something I'll always be reminded of when using this bench.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Carver's Vises...Only A Few Left

Just a couple months after releasing the Benchcrafted Carver's Vise, we are nearly sold out. We just have a handful left. With our queue of new items in the works, we won't get to another run of these anytime soon.

In addition to being a lot of fun to build, the vise is very handy for working smaller parts up close, and for getting at all sides of a part. Something that a typical face vise really struggles with. We love to use the vise for drawknife and spokeshave work when we don't feel like sitting at a shavehorse. If you don't have a shavehorse, you can build chairs with this vise.

The real beauty of the vise is in the mounting system. You can grab the vise, mount it to your bench and be ready for work in ten seconds. Removing the vise takes five seconds. These number aren't exaggerated. Watch the video.

To read more about the vise, click here.

To order a Carver's Vise, visit our Store Page.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Drilling Like A Pansy

Yes, I wimped out, and left the brace and bit alone for this. Heck, I even left alone my 1/2" DeWalt and auger bit (which is one of the incredible Japanese Owl bits from Traditional Woodworker.) I couldn't resist using one of my favorite machines, the restored 1970's Powermatic 20" drill press. The bit is one of the Colt Maxi-Cuts with extender.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Oldest Roubo Bench Photograph


In the year leading up to the FORP I did quite a bit of research into the Plate 11 bench. Thanks to the internet, I can access libraries from Chicago to Paris, and all sorts of private collections with an online presence as well. And while I'm no Jeff Burks, I have unearthed some real gems that get my heart rate up late at night.

As I amass my photographic database of historic Plate 11 benches, the game soon morphs into finding the oldest picture of the bench. So far, this is my best. This is the Paris workshop of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor and designer of the Statue of Liberty. Circa 1870's, just 30 or so years after the first photographs (daguerreotypes) were made.

Especially in the bench on the right the holdfast, tool rack (ratalier) and leg vise can be clearly seen.

If you have found earlier, please drop me a line.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Drawer Is Hung

Yesterday I worked all day, but my bench was on my mind the entire time. I have to say, I haven't been this excited about a bench since I built my first Roubo some years ago. Why? I don't quite know. My gut tells me its because I got this one started with 19 other like-minded woodworkers.The memories of the FORP will be with me I imagine until I'm too old to remember my name.

But my mind tells me its because this bench is a sort of core symbol of the craft. Yes, the hand plane or hand saw is the ubiquitous image for us, but I never had that connection with either of those tools. I did have that glorious moment when I made my first gossamer shaving on my own, but I never saw the tool itself as a symbol of the spirit of woodworking. For me, its the bench.

So what it is about Roubo's Plate 11 bench? Romance. Pure and simple. Is it functional? Absolutely, and obviously. Will I put my other Roubo, outfitted with Benchcrafted vises out by the curb? Are you kidding? I will never give up my Glide Crisscross or Tail Vise voluntarily, I honestly could not work happily without either of those. But does that mean I need them for every operation? Nope. Does that mean that some days I want to make something entirely on my Plate 11 bench, even at the cost of perhaps less efficient workholding? Definitely. Am I tired of asking and answering my own questions? You bet.

Here's what I did for the past few evenings before I could hold my eyelids open another second. I built the drawer. 

The 16' RouBo Childs Bench In Action

Ron Brese has posted some video of Bo Child's 16' Roubo built at the FORP last month.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Just Little Stuff Now

This weekend I pushed hard to get this bench to a stage where it can live in its new spot in my shop.

First up was cutting the leg tenons flush to the top, then flattening the top. Somehow it had developed an 1/8" hump right in the middle of its 110" length. Crud. I was not in the mood to remove that much material by hand. We took it off on the 16" Northfield. I had to remove the guard to make the cut, and then plane off a couple inch band that the 16" cutterhead couldn't get, but it was quicker and easier than shoving my #5 for an hour. Did it come off the jointer flat? Well, mostly. I still had to take about three traversing passes down the top to get it as flat as I wanted. I left the plane tracks on the top and called it done. I don't have a toothing plane, so this texture will work for me.

The shelf boards went in next, and then I installed the leg vise. My plan was to wait until winter to install the iron ring ferrule on the screw hub, but I couldn't wait. My screw is quite dry right now (my shop is climate controlled) and I fit the ring very tightly. I don't expect it to change much this winter. 

What can I say about the leg vise? I like it. It's not as quick and easy as our Glide, but I knew it wouldn't be. I wanted this bench to be as much like Plate 11 as possible. I did cave and install a Crisscross Solo instead of using Roubo's loose piece of wood at the bottom as a pivot for the chop. I knew that would annoy me to no end. The Crisscross works flawlessly, and I wouldn't trade it.

At the FORP, I didn't get to pick most of my bench parts until all had selected theirs. A couple of my legs are pretty gnarly (I don't mind, I like the character). But when it came to the leg vise chop, something I'd be looking at quite frequently, I'd sifted through the pile and found a nice one. I wasn't quite sure how nice at the time, but after getting it milled up and wiping a bit of thinner on, I was sure. I resawed about 1" off the face of the stock (16/4 was far too thick for the 2-1/2" chop) and was surprised at how stable this stock is. No movement off the bandsaw. Impressive especially for an unbalanced cut. I will have to resaw the off cut again and make a bookmatched panel for a wall cabinet or the like.

Next up, the planing stop, drawer, and tool rack. I'm not installing my label until I have my holdfast holes drilled.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Top Is On

Today I rose early and walked out to my shop eagerly hoping to get this bench assembled before quitting time at 4pm. Thanks to the help from the Benchcrafted Customer Service team, I was able to get the top lowered onto the legs rather easily.

I was lucky in that the three remaining legs fit quite well on the first test fit. One was a tad loose for my tastes, so I glued on a thin strip of veneer to take up the slack. Figures, the first one was the best, which never happens of course. I've cut lots of large dovetails before, but never in this configuration. After making all the angled cuts and nailing only one of them (my saw is too small, with too fine a tooth pattern which left a hump in each cut) I came to the conclusion that I would have been more pleased with my joints had I cut away from the knife line, then pared the rest. Wetting the end grain of this oak, and using my Imai paring chisel (thanks again Raney) right in my knife lines made relatively easy work of getting the end grain dovetails dead flat. My sawing skills aren't bad, but I like the control the chisel gives.

I also got the base drawbored together using pairs of 7/16" pegs. I had a little hiccup when I discovered my Lie-Nielsen dowel plate goes from 3/8 to 1/2. Luckily I had a piece of 0-1 tool steel from Ron Brese in my scrap bin. I drilled a 7/16 hole, lapped the face on my oilstone, and was making pegs in short order.

Next up, the leg vise.