Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Right Amount Of Precision

We often field questions about the accuracy required to install our vises, or the precision required when building a bench. More often than not the assumption is that you need to get your wood perfect down to the last thousandth of an inch. Or something aligned dead on. But the one that makes us smile the most is the one where folks think that vise jaws need to close like two components of the international space station mating up together for the first time in zero gravity.

The truth is, precision can screw things up. When speaking of how vises hold wood, we like accuracy. And what I mean by that is that the vise grabs and holds the wood perfectly every time. What we aren't looking for here is precision. In other words, the jaws of a vise should have some amount of free rotational movement. This accomplishes two thing. It keeps the mechanism moving freely, and it allows the jaw or chop to conform to the shape of the workpiece.

To achieve this, we machine our vises accurately (they all perform consistently), but only build precision where needed. Some of our customers complain that their chop rotates horizontally after installing their vise. They assume the chop is supposed to close perfectly parallel with the front edge of the bench and not rotate, but be stiff, like a Record-style vise. But that precision is a handicap. It restricts movement, and all but guarantees that the vise will work stiffly. Yes, we work mostly with parallel-faced stock, but occasionally we need to hold other shapes too. But if the chop is left free to rotate a bit, it will naturally seat against flat stock and hold it fast, and also hold tapered work.

To illustrate, this week we're building some staked furniture and working some tapered octagonal legs for a small reading desk. The Glide, with its intentional imprecision has been perfect for this. These legs taper from 2-5/8" to 1-5/8" over 28".

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Paring Skraper now on Store page

Our new Paring Skraper which we introduced at Handworks and blogged about here is now available on our store page here.

Get em' while you can!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Frank Does It Again

Watch Frank Strazza's tour of his Split Top Roubo bench we posted about a few weeks ago. Nice work Frank! And wow, what a beautiful little corner to work in. We love it.

Monday, June 15, 2015

All Better Now

This is for the profusely apologetic and honorable gentleman at Handworks 2015 who proved that my chest lid stay was indeed poorly designed. I never moved the stay hole so the lid gets propped slightly closed instead of slightly open. The stay got knocked out, the lid swung back, the hinges ripped out taking a strip of spruce along with it.

The fix was easy. We ripped off the busted wood (it was too shredded to glue back in place) glued on a new strip and touched up the paint. About 30 minutes of work, total. And we didn't loose a single autograph. EA's chest is as good as new.

So, thoughtful gentleman, wherever you are, special thanks to you for fessing up, and more for reassuring us that woodworkers are far and away very honorable folks.

And yes, we did move the stay hole, so now the chest lid will slam shut if it gets knocked.

Monday, June 8, 2015

And then there were 6 and er.....4 also

Down to our last six La Forge Royale Miter Jack kits.  We very likely will not do another run of these so this is your last chance as they are.  These can be ordered directly from our Store page. SOLD OUT

We are also down to our last four holdfasts.  We will do more of these, but never sure when that will be.  To order, send an email to and include your shipping address. We'll send you an invoice to pay. Simple as that. For more info on our holdfasts, see this.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Limited Run Mag-Bloks

Back when cocobolo wasn't on the CITES list, a couple times a year we'd do a batch of One-of-a-Kind Mag-Bloks, in various sizes.  We'd also do any other exotics we could get our hands on that we're interesting.

We've not done that for some time, we simply don't have the time.  What we do have the time for though are slightly less exotic woods, in standard sizes in limited runs.

What we have now are, as pictured top to bottom, Wenge, Quartered Oak, Bocote & Padauk.

Unlike in the past when we've posted individual photos of each blok, mostly for character and grain reference, these species are all fairly consistent in variation so we're not going to do that.

Prices are, plus shipping:

12":  $41.00
18":  $54.00

Quartered Oak
12":  $35.00
18":  $48.00

12":  $48.00
18":  $60.00

12":  $38.00
18":  $51.00

We have a handful of each of these.  To order, send an email to and include your shipping address. We'll send you an invoice to pay. Simple as that.  ALL SOLD OUT.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Enlarge Your Holes With Cheap Tools

Two reason you may need to enlarge existing holes in your workbench.

1. You're upgrading to forged holdfasts (like our's, or those by Peter Ross or other smiths) that require a 1" hole.

2. You're benchtop is too thick for standard (e.g. Gramercy) holdfasts to get a grip, and you need to open up the bottom portion of the hole.

There are  piloted counterbores designed for metalworking that will get the job done, but they are expensive (close to $100) and you'll likely only need them once. We've had customers chuck up a 1" twist bit only to chew up their bench, ruin the hole entirely, and twist their wrist off in the process. Using twist bits to enlarge holes in a handheld drill is very dangerous. These bits are designed for drilling metal in a vise or other movement-restricted scenario. One can use a Forstner or Owl bit guided by an auxiliary board with a hole drilled in it to help the bit get started, but the process is a bit fussy, although it works well, especially with the Owl bit (the long shaft helps it run straight.) Routers can also be used, but, well, routers.

So here's a cheap and easy way to enlarge holes with tools you can get at even the worst hardware store. You probably already have 3/4" dowel and a 1" spade bit already kicking around your shop.

Here's the process for making the piloted spade bit.

First, drill a 3/4 hole dead center in a scrap block, stick the dowel in the hole, then run the block over the table saw to kerf the end of the dowel. If you don't have a table saw, cut two kerfs by hand, and pop out the web in between.

My blade was a tad wider than my spade bit, so I shimmed the kerf with (what else) masking tape. I also ground the spur point down on the bit so it would fit deeply in the kerf.

Chuck the bit into a drill, put a little epoxy in the kerf, and slide the dowel onto the bit. Center it up by eye, then turn the drill on slow and watch the dowel to make sure its spinning on center. Once you get it centered up and straight on the bit's axis, walk away. After the epoxy cures, the tool is finished.

You can use the bit to enlarge the front portion of a hole (counterbore) then if you want to make the entire hole larger, finish up with a 1" drill bit. I like the Owl bits for this. Forstners work too, but it's difficult to keep the hole straight with their short profile. Use the piloted spade bit to get as deep as you can. When using the spade bit, back out frequently to clear chips since the paddles won't pull chips out of the cut.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

La Forge Miter Jack-Sketchup Drawing Update

Thanks to an attentive customer we discovered a couple missing parts in the Sketchup drawing for the La Forge Royale Miter Jack.

First, the fixed jaw runners were missing from the exploded view. We've added those to the drawing, along with the red, grain-direction arrows.

Second, the runners for the half-miter jaw were missing entirely. We've added those to both the assembled jack and the exploded one.

On the original jack, the runners were simply attached to the half miter jaw with small brads. It's a good idea on the other jaws too, in case they need to be removed for maintenance or repair.

To download the latest SU drawing, click here.

Video Tour of My Tool Chest

Schwarz just posted a neat little video on the chest he and I built together earlier this year. Take a look at his blog over at Popular Woodworking Magazine where the chest will be featured in a two-part article beginning in the next issue.