Monday, April 28, 2014

Classic Leg Vise - Available Now

The Classic Leg Vise is now available to purchase on our store page.

The web page for the Classic is here.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

May 2015 - Start Planning Now

We've been itching to write this blog post for quite a while now.

Handworks: Woodworking Tools and Traditions will happen again on May 15-16 2015 in Amana, Iowa.

It's no secret at this point that we got the ball rolling for Handworks 2013, and due to all the great companies and people that participated, the groundwork for doing another one was basically laid out right after the first event. But we don't like to toot our own horn here. No question, Handworks 2013 was what it was because of everyone involved. We simply knew about a neat old barn, in a neat old place. The rest sort of happened on its own.

For those who didn't attend the first one, Handworks is more or less a woodworking get-together for us die-hard fans of handwork and the tools and people that go along with it. Handworks doesn't make a dime on the event, and the donation box covers extras like equipment rental, getting some signs printed, and website hosting. 100% of anything that's left gets donated to charity. The exhibitors all pitch in to rent the barn for the weekend, and they all get to Handworks on their own dime. They also don't pay a lick of fees to be at Handworks. The idea is to get as many of the top hand tool makers and teachers together as easily as possible. Handworks 2015 will be no different.

Here's a basic rundown of what to expect at Handworks 2015.

Green Wood Barn

Festhalle Barn. Same as 2013. The best hand tool manufacturers, teachers and advocates under one roof.

Green Wood Barn. Just across the way from the Festhalle Barn is what the locals call the "Market Barn". Shortly after the utopian height of Amana, the local farmers would gather here and sell their produce, hence the name. Nowadays it's still used for this, and also other events. At Handworks 2015 this area will be populated by green woodworking experts and a handful of other demonstrators like Blacksmith/Whitesmith Peter Ross, Carl Swensson (who will be demonstrating coopering), chairmaker Peter Galbert, Don Weber, Jarrod Stonedahl, plus some others. The Green Wood Barn is just a stone's throw from the Festhalle, about a city block down the street.

New Faces. In addition to the new folks at the Green Wood Barn, there will also be some new faces in the Festhalle. From the U.K. David Barron and Phil Edwards, from Australia, Chris Vesper, and we're especially delighted to welcome from Ireland, Daniel and Sally Shaw-Smith of the 1970's and 80's Irish TV Series "Hands" (If you're new to Hands, click here.) And a few folks that had planned to be at Handworks 2013, but had to cancel due to last-minute conflicts: Patrick Leach, Ron and Linda Hock and Konrad Sauer.

Studley. At Handworks 2013 we got an insider's view of the Studley Tool Chest and Workbench. If you were there, you remember Narayan's slideshow. You could hear a pin drop in the barn. This time, Don Williams, of The Barn on White Run is organizing an exhibit of both the Studley Tool Chest and Workbench in nearby Cedar Rapids, IA. Yes, the tool chest and bench will be on display the same weekend. Don was so thrilled with Handworks 2013 that he thought it only made sense to schedule his exhibit on the same weekend as Handworks 2015. You don't need us to explain what a fantastic opportunity this is. As someone who's seen the chest, I wouldn't miss this opportunity. In fact, I'm looking forward to seeing it for the second time. More info at

And there will be a Saturday morning presentation in the Festhalle Barn as well, just like last time.

More info at the Handworks website:

If you'd like to see some pics from Handworks 2013, here's a bunch, courtesy of the tireless Jeff Burks.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vise hardware outside the USA - another new dealer and future plans

We are happy to announce that we now have a UK dealer for our vise hardware.  For many of you who send us so many emails asking for shipping quotes from overseas, this will come as welcome news.  

Please head over to the CHT website and take a look.

Our next market is going to be down under.  We're shooting for sometime in the fall.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Temple Of Studley

If woodworking ever rose to the level of religion, there would be mini-versions of the Studley Tool Chest hanging behind the cash register of every ethnic grocery store this side of the Meditteranean.

I don't have a relationship with my tools. But if I did, I would build a temple for them. And that's what Henry Studley did with his tools. He built a sacred space for these objects and enshrined them within, replete with the same sort of embellishments and details that one sees in the great European cathedrals. Gothic arches, turned columns, delicately carved finials, inlays of precious materials, symbolism. An attention to detail that causes one to marvel.

I don't know much about Studley's background, or what type of person he was. But what is obvious from his chest is that he felt a connection with his craft that few, if any of us will ever experience. Is this a good thing? I don't know. For me, I have a different relationship with woodworking and tools. For me they are simply a means to an end. Not an end in and of themselves. At first glance, Studley's chest looks like the latter. But as an object of human skill and creativity, as an expression of his skill as a piano maker, perhaps this does reflect the creative energies of the divine that lurk within all of us. In that light, I have nothing but respect for Studley's creation. If you ever have the opportunity to see the chest, do not miss it.

Last year at Handworks I was invited by Don Williams to aid him in examining the hand wheel-equipped vises of Studley's bench, in hopes of someday producing a small run of these unique, and rare vises. Examining the two vises we discovered a number of new clues as to their history and construction. Incidentally, of the 18 or so extant vises, no two are alike, although several share an overall similarity in design. No patent records have been found, and only one historical photograph of a piano maker's shop featuring the vise has been found.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Leach

The vises themselves are quite interesting. They almost all feature a sliding "drawer and box" construction, either with a tongue and groove keying the box to the drawer, or a sliding dovetail with gibs (like a powered jointer bed.)  In the case of the Studley vises, the machined surfaces of the castings were shaped, not cut with a rotary tool. If you're not familiar with a metal shaper, its not like the woodworking machine of the same name. It's also known as a metal planer. The distinctive marks made by the shaper are easy to identify. They leave straight lines rather than circular.

One of the vises we examined had the number 6 stamped on several parts. Look close.
What did this mean? It could have been a way to identify parts that belong to a particular vise, or perhaps it was a serial number. Studley's vise in the tail vise position is the only one we know of with a metal dog dovetailed into the jaw itself. Because of this I always assumed Studley retrofitted the dog on his particular vise. But if that's the case, why would he bother stamping the "6" into the dog?
The dog fits sweetly into the jaw and receives its tension via a brass slug and spring. It's quite nice.

Once we'd examined the vises in their natural position, we pulled the bench away from the wall and flipped the top over to get a closer look at each vise's undercarriage. We were talking about the solid mahogany top and how heavy it was when we took a closer look into one of the holes that key the top onto the base via a dowel. The top is in fact veneered. We couldn't determine the core species. Don thought perhaps oak. Honestly, it was too difficult to tell.

With the top belly up, I got a closer look at Studley's dogs. I've always been fascinated by these. And now I know exactly how they work. The dogs fit very well in their holes. Not too sloppy, not tight. Just right. The brass spring keeps the dog peeking out of its hole at a given height. The brass tongue screwed to the underside of the top provides a stop against the groove in the base of each dog, preventing them from falling out.

Once the bosses arrived we were forced to wrap up our investigation. One minute I was wearing white gloves and examining an historical artifact with "The Don", to unloading strange pieces of foam rubber from the back of Narayan's turbo encabulator-equipped Volvo man wagon. Paddle shifters are pretty cool, but I didn't know you could get a bluetooth tranny on these. Shifting while texting is so convenient.

The remainder of the day was spent much like a photo shoot here at Benchcrafted. Holding umbrellas in odd positions, bracing the tripod against my body so as not to cause permanent damage, advising the photographers on white balance and proper emulsion techniques, all the while keeping the chimping to a minimum.

The room the chest resides in is quite non-descript. Yet the space has a certain energy. Perhaps even a metaphysical quality. Studley's shrine of tooldom brings out the most interesting, almost cult-like behavior.

At one point Schwarz appeared before chest bearing a large gold disc in his left hand. He assumed a sort of meditatively empty stare, and while averting his eyes from directly looking at the chest, aimed the gold disc at the shrine.

As the golden light washed over the surface, a genie emerged from the chest and took over the entire operation. For the remainder of the day, I did everything the genie asked, in exchange for one wish at the end of the day.

Shooting the empty chest requires removal of all the tools. I gladly sat by and watched the magic happen.

The first tools to come out were the planes, among which was the transitional Stanley jack plane, with rosewood body. I've never seen or heard of one of these before (I'm no Stanley expert), and Don tells me he's never heard of another. It wasn't a rework by Studley. It's stamped "Stanley..." at the toe.

As tools emerged, I was able to observe some of Studley's trick joinery. Sweet little dovetails. These are tiny.

I had a few moments to get really close to the chest and examine a few of the more well-known elements, like the iconic dividers-and-square. I'd love to post these, but they are not Studley-worthy. Wait until Don's book by LAP comes out, which will be full of the best pictures of every living detail of the chest and its tools. And in case you're wondering, I didn't touch the chest, or any of the tools inside. I had no good reason to, so why risk it?

As Don and Chris removed tools, I realized there was just too much to take in. I wanted to look at every tool, especially Studley's own shop made tools. I just couldn't do it all in the time I had. That's why I'm looking forward to the book. Viewing the chest as a complete piece (tools in place) was awesome. Really. It's like looking into the mechanism of a fine watch.

The empty chest is also something. It gives a chance to really examine the detail that Studley put into the supports, apart from the clever arrangement. I've read about this on Schwarz's blog, many of the ebony supports feature a tiny little cove scratched into the edge of the support, especially the ebony pieces. It gives the entire piece a sparkle as they catch the light. It's beautiful.

One of the highlights of my visit was being able to compare our fully machined handwheels with their inspiration. The Studley handwheels are so sweet. They are more or less perfect. I have no doubt that Studley spent a lot of time working his wheels by hand to achieve such a level of finish. They are beautiful to see and touch. Real works of industrial art.

For a few short moments I felt like I owned this stuff. U can't touch this.

As I said my goodbyes to The Don, shook the hand of the owner, and gave Schwarz a big bear hug, I turned to the genie, reminding him of my hours of unflinching servitude throughout the day, and his promise of granting me one wish. A big grin spread across his face from ear to ear, a twinkle of light sparkled in his eye, and with a deep, satisfying laugh my wish was granted.

Photos of the plaid gorilla by Narayan Nayar. Digital effects by Harry Toopay Studios. All other photos by your's truly.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Classic Leg Vise-Pricing and Availability

First off, an apology.

We've missed our release date on this one by more than a couple months. And we know that's frustrating. We make about 99% of this vise from scratch. The rest we source from folks who know how to make certain things better than us. Like wood screws. We ordered the wrong ones. One tiny part held us up. Next time we'll try to keep quiet until everything is really ready (not so easy when you're making something exciting.)

Good, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about the Classic!

Here are the specs:

• Fully machined from steel components
• 2-3/16” diameter hub with integral spring plunger, Parkerized finish
• 15” handle assembly with central v-groove and leather shock washers, Parkerized finish
• 3-½” diameter flange, Parkerized finish
• Roll-threaded steel acme screw, 1” diameter with 4 tpi pitch, double lead (2 tpi equivalent, or ½” travel per turn) 16” of thread behind the flange
• 9” capacity typical installations
• 2-½” diameter one-piece acme nut
• Suede leather jaw liner included (for 8” wide chops)
• Designed and made entirely in the USA
• Includes everything you need to build the vise, except wood

Double-lead Thread
Most modern vises use a single lead acme thread. Depending on pitch, these can function slowly, but with precision and control, or more quickly. Screw pitch and travel should be matched to the vise’s purpose. Fast isn’t necessarily better. Tapping and threading metal for double-lead screws is risky and costly, as the thread is very aggressive, and massive amounts of material must be removed. Our screw is roll-threaded. That means its basically squished into shape under enormous pressure. The result is a stronger thread with a polished, smooth finish.

Face vises are generally used for a relatively narrow range of thicknesses, but when used in wider positions, the convenience of opening the jaws quickly and efficiently is a plus. Ergonomics can accomplish this, as with the massive handwheel of our Glide Leg Vise, or speed, as in the case of the Classic, which uses a double-lead acme screw. The Classic moves as fast as typical wooden vise screws, ½” of travel per turn.

Radiused Hub and Flange
The mating surfaces of the flange and hub are machined to a 5” radius. This allows the parts to nest together and distribute clamping pressure over a wider area, especially when holding slightly non-parallel work.

Balanced Handle
The sliding handle is machined with a v-groove detent centered along its length. This detent engages with a stainless steel spring plunger in the center of the hub, allowing one to quickly center the handle and thus balance it to spin rapidly for quick, gross adjustments. In most cases, one can leave the handle centered after holding your workpiece. The spring plunger tension is adjustable. A tighter setting makes it easier and quicker to center up the handle, but may inhibit the handle from sliding as freely. There is a sweet spot that allows quick engaging with the spring plunger, and free sliding simultaneously. The plunger can be completely disengaged if desired. The spring plunger also allows repositioning of the handle so it’s not interfering with your work or your body. Leather shock washers further refine the handle’s function.

Parkerized Finish
The Classic is made from machined steel, but we wanted it to have the look of darkly patinated forged hardware. To get close to this (and not break the bank) we Parkerized the handle, hub and flange. Commonly used on high quality hunting rifles, Parkerizing (or Manganese Phosphate) is a process which darkens the raw steel, which is first sandblasted, while also providing wear resistance and lubricity. The process is more expensive than black oxide, yielding a more durable surface with an attractive dull black-gray look. A rub down with fine steel wood and a coat of light oil helps give the parts a vintage look, further lubricate, and provide excellent corrosion protection. See our installation instructions for further details.

The Crisscross
The Classic is designed to be used with the Benchcrafted Crisscross for best function. The Crisscross completely supports the weight of the Classic hardware and a wooden chop while completely eliminating the need to adjust a pin (parallel guide). With proper installation, the Classic with Crisscross operates with virtually zero friction. 


Classic Crisscross Solo $294
Best choice if you’re building a new bench, or building a stand-alone high vise for use as a bench appliance. Includes the Classic Leg Vise hardware and a Crisscross Solo.

Classic Crisscross Retro $334
Choose this if you’re retrofitting the Classic (w/ Crisscross) to an existing bench, or if you’d rather install the Retro’s mounting brackets instead of drilling deep holes for Solo mounting pins (see installation instructions for more differences between the Retro and Solo installs.)

Includes the Classic Leg Vise hardware and a Crisscross Retro.

Classic Solo Benchmaker's Package: $704
Our usual Benchmaker's Package, only with a Classic Crisscross Solo instead of a Glide Crisscross Solo.

Classic Retro Benchmaker's Package: $744 
Our usual Benchmaker's Package, only with a Classic Crisscross Retro instead of a Glide Crisscross Retro.
Classic Leg Vise Hardware Only (no Crisscross) $195
Choose this if you’re building a leg vise with a traditional parallel guide. Examples include: extremely low benches (that can’t accommodate a Crisscross), angled leg vises and face vises as found on English-style benches, twin-screw vises, traditional all-wood tail vises (Continental benches) or vises of your own design. 


The Classic Leg Vise will be available for purchase on our store page beginning on Monday, April 28, and will ship at the same time.