Friday, March 21, 2014

Drawsharp FAQ

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, we changed the way we package Drawsharps. It seems some folks are having a bit of difficulty using the double stick tape to adhere their diamond pads. So we've added some content to the FAQ to address this issue. We apologize if you've ruined your tape, but the fix is really quick and easy, and in fact is the same method you'll be instructed to use if you've purchased a Rehab Kit. We're posting the FAQ below.

∙ I ruined the double stick tape as I was attaching the diamond pads, what do I do?
Glue the diamond pads directly onto the sleeves using gel CA (Super) glue, or contact cement. A couple dots per pad is sufficient. The super glue can be a tad messy if you over apply it. Contact cement is a more relaxed approach. You don't need to specifically use double-stick tape, we simply package it with the Drawsharp for the customer's convenience. If you have a Rehab kit, we instruct customers to install the four diamond pads the same way.

To see a video on how to properly apply the diamond pads with double stick tape, see here

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Benchcrafted In Europe

We had no idea that Germans could be so fun.

But before you accuse us of uncharitable characterizations, know that we're half German. Our maternal side of the family hails from Bremen and Nienburg, where our ancestors did two things. Two things most necessary for human happiness. Brewing and Butchery. Our great-grandfather Rudolph Beckmann emigrated to Iowa in the early part of the 20th c. and brought his trade with him. That's him pictured below (upper left) among his fellow brethren at the meeting of the Nienburg Brotherhood of Butchers, ca. 1907. Just an apprentice at the time, I bet he looked forward to the day he got to pose with a sixty liter glass of Schwarzbier (get a load of that!) Our brewing ancestors stayed in Germany, perhaps because they knew Americans only drank pale lager at the time, and shortly thereafter, saw fit to make beer illegal altogether. 

So its with no small sense of satisfaction that Benchcrafted is now available in Germany through Dieter Schmid's Fine Tools.

Fine Tools carries our full line of vises and will ship throughout Europe.

For those looking to build our Split Top Roubo in Europe or wherever the metric system is used, Fine Tools now offers a free set of metric plans (in German, and soon in English) along with building techniques and instructions. German woodworker Guido Henn has produced a set of videos for Fine Tools showing installation details for the Glide Crisscross and Tail Vise, as well as an overview of the bench. Nice work, Guido.

Our current 20x30 prints of the Split Top Roubo are also available from Fine Tools for those building with the imperial system.

Further details on Benchcrafted's products at Fine Tools can be found here. 

High Vise For Sale

We have altogether too many vises lying around. Until we get a showroom, we'd feel better if these devices were making furniture in someone's shop.

This high vise features suede-lined hard maple jaws, a Crisscross Retro (raw iron), and a 2tpi Big Wood Vise (now defunct) ash bench screw with ebony garter. All wood parts finished with a couple coats of oil. High vises are simply awesome for doing chest-height detail work.

$340 plus actual shipping. Update: SOLD

To order, email with your full contact info.

You can see this vise in action below. Its at the 1:34 mark.

The Benchcrafted Glide and Crisscross from Benchcrafted on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Classic Leg Vise Research

We spent hundreds of hours developing our Classic Leg Vise, which includes lots of time researching historic forms.

Most of our research takes the form of hunting down early photographs, which appear in everything from vintage tool catalogs to postcards. We also keep our eye out for ancient workbenches in modern contexts, like Ebay, auction catalogs, and lifestyle magazines. The latter is our favorite source, purely for the entertainment factor. Our image collection of bastardized benches is enough to make any woodworker cringe.

But now and then we stumble on a real gem, like the picture above from a school for disabled  veterans.

One thing we found interesting. It seems shortly after Roubo's time, and the advance of the industrial revolution, that at least in France (and its colonies in North Africa like Algeria and Tunisia) the vast majority of extant benches featured metal vise screws, not wood. Why fewer wood screws? I think in a school or commercial setting, the metal screws were probably viewed as more durable, and with mass production coming into play, they could be made quickly and cheaply.

French leg vise screws invariably feature a metal hub and handle. English and American versions almost always use a cast "T" with sliding wood handle. We chose the French version to allow our handle to center up repeatably and reliably (this is nearly impossible with wood) and also because the cast "T" version is already available from other tool makers such as Lie-Nielsen.

We've uploaded some of our research images here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Excuses and Opportunities

First, the excuses. We had hoped to release the Classic Leg Vise last week. Obviously that didn't happen. We were in the middle of machining a large run of Crisscross arms when we discovered a problem. This run of Crisscross arms was destined for Classics, but a small error in our molds meant that hundreds of arms had to be melted down and repoured. The cope and drag were shifted just enough to make the machining impossible. So back into the pot they went. We hope to have Classics ready for sale by the end of this month. For those who are chomping at the bit, trust me, it will be worth it. I've been using one in my own shop for that past couple weeks in a high vise. I'm hooked.

And now the opportunity. Since day one we've always used Cocobolo rosewood for all our vise knobs. Recently the wood was placed on the CITES Appendix II list. Supply is already getting short, and the price has doubled as well. We didn't want to raise prices for the sake of the knob, but we also didn't want to eliminate the look and cache that the rosewood provides.

But before I go further, let me mention a couple downsides to using Cocobolo.

Moisture content. It can be all over the map. Waiting for rosewood to dry is sort of like waiting for a drought in the Louisiana bayou. Wet wood shrinks, and when you're trying to put a metal screw into a piece of shrinking wood, things get tight. We usually have to ream some of our knobs so they spin freely on the screw. We also know that some of our customers have to do that as well. Hey, its wood after all, but we want to do better.

We tried a few options. Indian rosewood (same problems as cocobolo), Impregnated maple (too light colored), even transparent aluminum (too expensive). In the end we settled on a material that was at the absolute bottom of our list: DymondWood.

Yes, that ghastly multi-colored birch plywood-based, resin-impregnated, clown-barf abomination that we've all seen on too many amateur knife-maker's blades.

But we discovered that it doesn't all look like that. DymondWood "Rosewood Burgundy" is remarkably close to cocobolo. And it offers a big advantage over rosewood (aside from being made from a super abundant wood-birch), and that is stability. With its resin-impregnated, multi-ply structure, it basically functions like plastic. It won't shrink on the knob, and won't crack either (not that we've ever had a knob crack, to our knowledge). It also feels exactly like a cocobolo knob in your hand.

So in the next week or so, we'll start shipping vises with our new DymondWood knob. I doubt anyone will even notice. In fact, we passed around two knobs this week here, and only one person picked out the DymondWood instantly. Everyone else had to look close.

One of the knobs below is cocobolo, one is DymondWood.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Case For The Sliding Leg Vise

We've written before about our general disdain for the sliding leg vise. In short, they offer very little added functionality, besides just plain getting in the way.

But last week customer Julio Alonso sent us pics of his short bench equipped with a sliding leg vise, and we're changing our tune.

Juilo's shop is tiny, and his bench is necessarily short. So it often has to serve double duty. In this case we think a sliding, and more specifically, a removable leg vise makes lots of sense. Need to mount a Moxon vise for dovetailing? No problem. Lift the leg vise off and swap it out with a Moxon.

Here's a short video of Julio's vise.