Monday, September 1, 2014

Now In Stock - The New Glide and More.

Here at Benchcrafted we're always tweaking our designs to make them as sweet as we can. Of course the dilemma in all this is that we risk slighting past customers when we change a product. Here's how we see it. Our past offerings were the best we had to offer at the time. There are companies out there (big ones usually) where planned obsolescence is part of day to day business. Not us. Here, we design and build for the long run, but now and then we get ideas that are genuine improvements and we can't sit on them. Our motivation is to make great stuff, and share it with our fellow woodworkers.

About a year ago we started experimenting with a Glide Leg Vise in our test shop. I've always been intrigued by ship's wheels, and the ergonomics and physical dynamics of why they work. A large wheel gives lots of leverage, and the handles provide an efficient way for a human  to transfer their energy into turning the wheel. If the wheel were without handles, one would have to grip a rather thick section of wheel and use enormous amount of energy just maintaining that grip. My Northfield 16" jointer adjusts by means of a large cast iron ship's wheel. I can rotate it with a single finger on one of eight handles as it moves hundreds of pound of cast iron.

We had a reject bronze Glide wheel from a previous run so we drilled and tapped the rim of the wheel to accept six of our rosewood (now Dymondwood) knobs. We were immediately struck by the improved ergonomics of this arrangement. Spinning the handwheel for gross adjustments was simply of matter of flicking one of the knobs. The wheel, as usual, would spin for several revolutions. We also noticed another improvement. With no knob mounted to the front of the wheel, the entire vise was lower profile--no more bumping a leg into the knob or catching a pocket as you walk by. With knobs oriented symmetrically about the perimeter, the wheel was also balanced, allowing it to spin more smoothly.

But as cool as the six-knob bronze ship's wheel looked (batten down the hatches!) and functioned, we found a problem. Six knobs was three knobs too many, so we removed every other knob. Bingo. This placed a knob at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock or any point in between. In other words, there was always a knob within easy reach at the top of the vise. Perfect.

But we weren't finished. On the heels of releasing the Classic Leg Vise we decided to swap out the standard single-lead screw (that we've always used on the Glide) for the double-lead screw we use on the Classic. The results? A turbo-charged Glide. One revolution of the wheel now yields 1/2" of travel, vs. 1/4" of the previous Glide. And there's no change in the feel of how the vise holds, due to the effect of the larger lever when adjusting the vise with the knobs (I still grab the rim from time to time.)

The Glide M features our fully-machined cast iron handwheel that is designed, cast, and machined entirely in the USA. The handwheel is outfitted with three Dymondwood knobs turned and finished to a high level in the USA, and mounted with our proprietary fasteners. The Glide M automatically includes a Crisscross mechanism (choose Solo or Retro.)

Price is $439 with a Crisscross Solo, and $479 with a Crisscross Retro.

With the added costs of the additional components, we weren't comfortable with the higher price of the Glide M.

The Glide C features a cast-iron handwheel that we're leaving un-machined to save on cost. The wheel has the same weight and feel in use as the machined Glide M wheel. Both vises perform identically. The difference is entirely cosmetic.

The Glide C uses acrylic-infused Beech knobs. The combination of the un-machined wheel and the Beech knobs not only mean a less expensive vise, but also a more traditional look. I have a Glide C on my ash Roubo bench at the moment. I love the look.

In case you're wondering, we do have a Tail Vise C in the works, so you'll be able to completely outfit your bench with matching vises. And yes, the Tail Vise C will also cost less than the current Tail Vise (which will become the Tail Vise M.)

A word on the infused Beech knobs. These are incredibly tough. They are as durable as solid acrylic, but with the feel and look of wood. They won't split or move. If you know the infused mallets made by Dave Jeske of Blue Spruce toolworks, these knobs are the same. In fact, Dave turns all of our vise knobs from the same stuff. They are impeccable in every way.

Price is $369 with a Crisscross Solo ($40 less than the previous "Glide Crisscross"), and $409 with a Crisscross Retro.

Retrofitting your bench with a Glide M or Glide C

The Glide M and Glide C components are not interchangeable with previous versions of the Glide. We've never encouraged upgrading parts of our vises anyway, since that relegates the obsolete parts to the recycle bin. To us it makes more sense to sell your current vise, give it to a friend, donate it to a school, or hang it on your mantle as a piece of industrial art (okay, maybe that's going too far).

If you do upgrade to a Glide M or C, and you currently have a Glide and Crisscross installed in your bench, you'll have to attach the new nut, patch your square acetal bushing mortise and cut a new, round mortise for the round acetal bushing. The existing tapped holes on your chop should work just fine with the Glide M or C.

We'll be uploading the new installation instruction (see our downloads page) for the Glide M/C which also include the Crisscross instructions. We're constantly revising and improving our instructions to make your installs as smooth as possible.

Split Top Roubo Workbench Plans

Its been about two years since we did away with the Split Top Roubo's parallel guide and replaced it with a Crisscross. Unfortunately we haven't had a chance update the STR plans to reflect this.Yes, we've been lax on this and it has caused a bit of confusion. Apologies. We do address the changes in the Glide installation instructions, and the STR Construction notes (both of which have been recently updated to further emphasize the changes.) The bad news is we lost our hard drive that contained the plans as we were updating them, and believe it or not, we also lost two backup drives as well. Computers! The good news is we're back on task and working diligently to get the plans totally updated as soon as possible. They will be better than ever.

See our stuff at WIA in two weeks

We had hoped to return to WIA this year, but the location and timing unfortunately did not work out for us. Maybe next year. However, if you're planning on attending WIA, Plate 11 Bench Company will have one of their benches outfitted with a Glide M, as will the Sterling Tool Works booth. If you're in the market for a finely made bench, Mark Hicks does excellent work and will build you a complete bench, or furnish you with a kit of parts ready to assemble. And Chris Kuehn's Saddle Tail is hands down the best dovetail marker I've ever used. Crisp and precise machining, beautifully made. I have the whole set, including the leather holster.

You can order a Glide M now through our Store page. The Glide C is still in production and will be ready to ship in 3-4 weeks. Watch for an announcement here in the next couple weeks. Tail Vise C's are also still in production and will be ready to purchase, we estimate in a couple months.

Later this fall, Glides will be also available through several of our dealers.

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