Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Are You A User Or A Program?

The question arises from a simple idea. Do you feel like less of a woodworker if you follow a set of plans?

Or more accurately, do you feel like awkward when building a project that you didn't design? I used to, until I started developing plans for others to follow. That changed how I view plans. When I follow a plan, I immediately feel like a neophyte. And it's not because the project is necessarily complex, but rather I seem to slip into the mode of program versus user. I assume everything has been figured out for me, and all I need to do is the bidding of Master Control. We all need a Dumont to help us gain access to Master Control and break free of the bond that plans and cutlists can impose on us. 

Here's what I do when I follow a plan. Before I cut wood, before I even order wood, I study the plan, nearly memorize the plan to the point that I know and understand every aspect of the project. Doing this, I make the plan my own project. It becomes my design, in effect. Nobody is holding my hand or a conductor's wand. I am in charge. I am the conductor. It's not a fun process though. It takes discipline. But so does developing your own idea. The beauty of following a plan is that you can be assured (if you trust the source) that many of the mistakes have already been worked out. 

The plans we're developing for the Classic Workbench will reflect this philosophy. There will of course be schematics of the bench, like our Split Top Roubo, but there will also be succinct construction notes that will tell you the why of the design, not just the how. We want this design to become your's. 

Some may question why we're releasing a bench design that doesn't include more of our products (like a wagon vise) and will cost about half of what it costs to build a Split Top Roubo. It's a valid question. And here's the answer. We're in this for the craft first. And we think if you're just getting into the craft, you should have the option to build a sweet bench with Benchcrafted functionality without emptying your wallet. This is that bench. If you've got the means, go all the way with our Glide and Tail Vise packages. But if you're just dipping your toes in, and you want to sample the wares without that little nagging in the back of your mind, the Classic is the bench to build. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Excuse Me, I Spelched

When I build a laminated benchtop I joint the faces and edges of every laminate. It's much easier to build flatness into a massive slab than make it flat later.

Nevertheless, there is always some minor plane work to be done after the glue cures. And its entirely across the width of the benchtop. In fact, if you joint your top laminates like I do, the bench will end up totally flat along its length, meaning you only have to traverse across the top to clean up it, taking perpendicular strokes as you march from one end of the top to the other. This top took four light passes to clean up.

Spelching can be a problem when planing directly across the long axis of wood fibers where they are unsupported at the back edge of the bench top. The preventative medicine is a chamfer. But sometimes even it fails.

Today I tore a chunk from the back arris of this bench in an area with reversing grain. The chamfer wasn't strong enough medicine, and a stronger chamfer would provide no cure, so surgery was required.

To begin the procedure, first prep the area with an application of router. I made this as small as possible so as to make an inconspicuous scar. Yes, it didn't quite get the entire wound. I can live with some scarring.

Next, layout the incision with a combo square and pare away the errant flesh to a 45 degree angle at the extents of the injury site.

Now prepare some donor tissue using material of the same species and origin. Dress the surface of the donor tissue with a smooth plane so its flat, then miter the ends precisely to length to match the shape of the scarred host area.

Check the fit of the patch and prepare and apply the adhesive medium.

Apply the clamping apparatus and allow the newly grafted tissue to assimilate to the host body overnight.

Retire to the physician's lounge, crack open the Taylor Rye, then unmold (for the first time) your Death Star Ice Cube Ball and realize in disappointment that the designers were far too stingy on the greebling, and by the time it hits the glass, what little greebling there is, along with the too-shallow concavity of the Superlaser Focus Lens is melted away.

Once the site has healed the clamping apparatus can be removed, and any excess scar tissue removed by planing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Visit England, Build A Moxon Vise

This fall you can join Derek Jones at West Dean College in West Sussex England for a class in building a set of bench appliances, with our Moxon Vise as the center of the course.

You'll build a rebated bench hook, a shooting board and dovetail alignment board, in addition to building a beautifully dovetailed Moxon Vise.

The hardware for the course is being provided through our friends at the only Benchcrafted dealership in the U.K., Classic Hand Tools.

For futher details on the course, click here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Idea Behind The Classic Workbench

This week we're building the new Benchcrafted Classic Workbench, both in the virtual world, and in reality.

For several years we've been keen on designing a more approachable bench for new enthusiasts, or those who prefer the raw simplicity of a smaller, stripped down bench. We also wanted to produce something around our Classic Leg Vise, which deserves a bench of its own!

Continuing on the design and functional aesthetic of the Classic Leg Vise, this bench will strongly echo the workbenches from the late 19th and early 20th century French vocational schools, colonial territories, and those offered by the La Forge Royale company.

For those with a Split Top Roubo, the Classic will  make an excellent, economical second bench.

The bench features only one vise for now. The Classic Leg Vise with Crisscross Solo. To round out the workholding, a planing stop and holdfasts are used for face work.

The bench uses only one type of joint. The easy to make half-lap mortise and tenon. We use this joint during the French Oak Roubo Project to joint the rails to the legs, with a single 5/8" drawbored peg. The top of this bench is joined to the base with the same joint.

This won't be a knock-down bench, so the hardware cost will be minimal. We're trying our hardest to design this bench to be affordable, easy to build, and perform to a high standard.