Friday, January 30, 2015

Matt's Carving Vise

Matt O'Neill did a nice job on his Carver's Vise. Here are some pics.

We may do another run of these, but it all depends on demand. If you'd like to buy one, keep an eye on the blog, if we get enough requests we'll announce it here.

For what its worth, my carver's vise is parked more or less permanently at the back left corner of the bench at all times, directly opposite my Glide. It never gets in the way, and comes in quite handy for close detail work.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tru-Oil. Here's Your Chance

If you hate Amazon, you're living in denial.

This is a great price for any finish. If you don't use much finish at a time, decant the Tru Oil into smaller bottles, and keep them sealed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why You Should Be Using Tru-Oil

When asked what may favorite finish is, I usually respond "shellac".

But that's not entirely true. While shellac is my favorite finishing material, due to its endless list of pluses, my absolute favorite finish to apply and touch is Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil.

I've been using the stuff for about twelve years now, and I consider it one of the absolute best finishes you can use, for nearly anything. I know that sounds like a lot of fluff, but it really is the case.

If you like French polish, but don't like some of the quirks of the finish (keep that pad moving now!) then you should try Tru-Oil. It's sort of the French polish for the lazy. So maybe we should call it.....well, French polish.

Anyway. Here's a quick rundown of my sequence.

If you don't sand, polish the wood surface with your finest smoothing plane until it gleams in the sunlight. If you can't plane, sharpen a card scraper to perfection and made the surface as smooth as you can. If you (can) sand, work progressively through the grits until you reach 1000. Yes, 1000. Then go over the entire surface with 0000 steel wool. Liberon brand. Wipe it down with a rag soaked in mineral spirits to get all the dust off.

Cut a square out of an old t-shirt about the size of a playing card, then ball that up inside another piece of the same size (like making a small French polish pad) dribble a dime size puddle of Tru-Oil onto the pad, tap it off onto a scrap of wood to distribute the finish, then in smooth, even strokes wipe the finish onto the wood. The goal is to get as thin a coat on as possible. Do not leave any sags or runs, or pools. Thin coats is the key.

Let that coat dry for a couple three hours. If its humid it might take longer. Feel the surface. If there are any rough spots, carefully and lightly sand with 1000 grit. Repeat the application described above. With thin coats like this, you can apply three coats a day unless you shop is humid. One first thing in the am, one after lunch, and one before bed.

When I finish furniture with this method, I usually do six coats (so, two days or so) then sand back with 1000 grit a bit more aggressively  (use a lubricant like mineral spirits) to level the finish. Even though you put it on super thin, there are always a few areas that will be heavier. Then I'll do six more coats or until I'm satisfied with the evenness and sheen level. The final coats will have a semi-gloss to gloss sheen.

With open pore woods, like walnut, the pores will remain open using the thin coats technique, but without a built-up area around each pore like you would get with a brushed finish.

If you keep the coats thin, you can control sheen by simply stopping when you achieve what you're after. The more coats, the shinier it will get. Designed for finishing gun stocks, this is a very durable finish that will last under fairly hard use. It's a favorite finish for guitar makers as well, and those see some pretty hard use.

The very last step is to let the finish cure for about a week. If I want to knock back the sheen a little I rub with 0000 steel wool, very lightly, then apply a tiny bit of lemon oil and burnish with a piece of burlap or coarse fabric. The resultant finish has beautiful clarity, which allows the luster of the wood to shine, and if feels like silk to the touch.

Right now I'm letting the last coat of Tru-Oil cure on the lid of my case for sharp tools. This is by far the most difficult part of finishing for me. That seemingly endless wait before you get to see the finished piece assembled for the first time.

Give Tru-Oil a try. I think it might become your new favorite finish that doesn't rhyme with shellac.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ramon's Roubo

Hey Benchcrafted......I discovered your amazing vises (after very little searching actually) and ordered sometime in February 2014. What an incredible build....I am in love with this workbench....truly a fantastic design with the best-in-the-world hardware.

I just wanted to thank you and your team for all the effort and hard work that you all obviously put into creating the ultimate workbench.  I've sent some pics of mine.....completed in 74 hours (literally a few here and there,
six hours at the most at one time)  The bench is made of Wormy Maple and Bubinga with an Ash and Bubinga tool chest (not part of the 74 hours)

Thanks again....I could not be more pleased with a company like
Benchcrafted.....simply,  extraordinary......ciao, Ramon.

You can see more of Ramon's work at his website:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Building The La Forge Royale Miter Jack- Part 7

The screw handle gets made from a chunk of hard maple. The original looks like oak to me, so make your's from oak if you want. This doesn't get a ton of stress, so maple is fine. The orginal octagonal mortise was cut with a large drill, then pared. I cut mine on my scroll saw (since it was handy) and only had to do a little paring for a sweet fit on the screw's octagonal shaft. 

Cut out the handle on the bandsaw, refine the surfaces, then round the arrises. I used a belt sander, and a trim router with a bearing guided roundover bit. The original handle has more of a bullnose profile around the edge, but I was itching to finish this today, so I took the lazy way out.

It doesn't much matter if you fit the handle perfectly, it won't stay perfect unless your shop is the same humidity year round.

 Now is a good time to drill and install the 3/8" dowel on the end of the fixed jaw. This allows you to store the jack on its end without it tipping over.

Okay. The base. This is a tricky piece. But I think I've got a decent sequence here to make it relatively painless. I don't think he has a blog post up yet, but Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks just finished his jack earlier this week, and he opted for a different style base. Check his blog in the near future.

I'm calling this the "square" pocket since it's made while the base is still square. I set up the drill press with a fence and forstner bit to get rid of most the waste.

Then I came in from the other side with the same setup to get rid of even more waste. I overlap my plunges to get as flat a wall as possible.

Cut the blocky waste piece as much as possible with a backsaw.

Then pop out the waste piece with a mallet whack. The little web that remains gets chopped out.

The square pocket is then chopped and pared to the layout lines. The original base was made pretty quickly, so I didn't fuss here trying to get perfect surfaces. 

Next, cut the big ogee on the bandsaw. Yes, I still need to change my blade.

Then refine the surfaces. I used a spindle sander, a round plane, scraper, and sandpaper.

With all those steps done, you can cut the miter. A 10" table saw won't be able to do it in one pass. I wouldn't do it that way anyway, for safety reasons.

Saw the rest of the miter off by hand, staying away from the finished surface.

Refine the surface with a long plane. I so love having a row of dogs on my bench. Makes holding stuff like this child's play.

Then I chamfer the edges of the square pocket.

Set the base down on the mitered edge. The angled pocket is now in the perfect position for drilling out the waste, just like in the square pocket.

 I set the fence and start drilling right on the arris. If you do this, go slow at first until the bit makes enough of a hole to keep itself jigged in place. I use overlapping holes, and reset the fence once.

 Don't drill to full depth unless you don't mind seeing the holes left from the center spur.

If that bothers you, stop short, saw some kerfs at an angle, bang out the waste and pare the pocket to final shape. It's going to be tricky holding onto the base as you chop. Just slog through.

 With the pocket pared to shape (again, I didn't waste any time making it pretty, but just chopped as aggressively as I could to get it done quick) round the arrises of the pocket with slicing cuts from a long paring chisel. The original has distinct facets here, so I made mine the same way.

The groove pin can finally be driven into place. I used the same support block as before.

Before screwing the base to the body, I made the little half-moon cutout in the end of the base. This helps you gain access to the hook when engaging the half-miter jaw.

I would recommend you finish your jack with a coat or two of tung oil, BLO, or my favorite Minwax Antique Oil. The runners and moving parts should also get a light of wax to keep them running smoothly. 

After the finish on mine dries, I'll do a post on the different ways the jack can be used. 

Once again, we still have a few jack kits left if you'd like to build one. Price is $198. Details on our store page.

Reason #1 Why You Should Come To Handworks 2015


After working for the better part of the last two months on my own case for sharp tools, I have a completely different view of Studley's chest. The man was an animal. I don't mean a lion, or a tiger, or even a Tasmanian devil of woodworking. He was a mythological woodworking beast. If Studley was Greek, and ancient, he would be Daedalus, or a Cockatrice. Or both. A god of skillful craftsmanship that can kill you with a look.

I saw Studley's chest and bench. And I lived.

As I worked the lid of my case for sharp tools, I tasted, albeit briefly, of Studley's obsession with perfection, both in design and execution. Although not built in the same style, or using the same materials, I constantly was called back to the gothic arches, the flawlessly inlaid pearl, the crisp fair chamfers, the silver retaining levers, the subtle fluting of ebony spheres. And I realized that no one, to my knowledge, has reached the level of Studley's tool chest in over a century since Studley's passing. If you're out there, and have somehow completely squashed your ego, let us know. Both about your work, and your incredible self-control.

I've made difficult projects before. Three-dimensional stuff with inlay, incredibly fine fretwork in bone and ivory, geometric parquetry, chicken ala king. But something about this chest lid gave me a new found respect and admiration for Studley. His chest isn't simply an incredible piece of woodworking. Its a look into the human mind. A glimpse of the creative energy that has its origins in something beyond this world, beyond science, beyond a lump of fat between our ears, beyond our capacity for explanation.

I realized that the Studley chest isn't about woodworking. It isn't about Henry Studley. It's not even about the tools. It's about us. People. About the incredible capabilities that lie deep within us, that we're only just slightly aware of. Studley's chest is a germ of creativity that sprouted into something that we can all participate in.

If you want to harvest a seed from Studley's garden, I suggest you do everything humanly possible to get yourself to Cedar Rapids on the weekend of May 16, where the Studley tool chest and workbench will be on display, likely for the last time in all our lives.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Case For Sharp Tools Pt. 2

In my case for sharp tools will reside this set of dividers, hand forged by blacksmith Seth Gould, and which was gifted to me recently. But before I talk about the dividers, a little back story.

Some months ago Raney Nelson of Daed Toolworks posted about his forging hammer by Gould. Not wanted to be left out of the picture once Seth got too busy, I put my order in earlier this fall. But not for a forging hammer. I wanted a hammer, of 375 gram weight, for driving chisels and cut nails. I've been using a mass-produced Japanese hammer, which I like, but I wanted something with a little more charm. I've admired Seth's work since Raney first pointed me to his website.

I asked Seth to make my hammer very plain. I'm increasingly attracted to simple looking tools, so I didn't want an overt amount of file work on the tool. Just enough to put it above a basic workaday design. The head is square in profile, with file work only on the top arrises. The faces are both slightly crowned, which works well for driving chisels and traditional cut nails (or wire nails). One thing I never liked about my Japanese hammer were the two different faces. I would use the crowned side for driving nails, but was always annoyed by having to remember which side was crowned when driving nails flush. The flat face does not work for that, but a crowned face works for both nails and chisels just fine.

I told Seth that I wanted my handle to be like Raney's forging hammer, that is, with a charred ebonized finish. I've been experimenting with this finish a bit on my own lately, and for certain things, it is incredible. You can more or less ebonize the surface in just a couple minutes, and it has the added benefit of somewhat hardening and burnishing the surface as well. It's very earthy and natural. Wondering about finishing larger pieces of furniture using this technique, I stumbled on this video:

The aspect I like most about Seth's work is the the thoughtful use of textures. These dividers look as though they jumped off the pages of Smith's Key, or A Pattern Book Of Tools And Household Goods. They look exactly like an engraver's plate come to life.

Here are more elements from my case for sharp tools. If you've not done double bevel marquetry, what are you waiting for? Dust off your scrollsaw, mount a jewelers blade, and make flawless inlay. It's a fun and easy technique.