Monday, February 29, 2016

You Asked For It-The Benchcrafted Swing Seat

We've been a bit inundated the past few days about whether or not we're going to produce a swing seat for workbenches, after Chris Schwarz posted about his recently.

Believe it or not, this has been on our to-do list for about 5 years. Back then the industrial-look craze was gaining momentum and we watched closely as vintage cafeteria tables were popping up at chic restaurants in big cities and health-food markets in our area. Soon after a few companies started casting their own. Once we saw the prices, we laughed, then decided it was time to make our's.

These seats were used is prisons, school cafeterias, soda fountains, telephone booths, drafting tables, elevators. Illinois vise manufacturer Richards Wilcox made their own that they outfitted on benches sold by the company. The company is still in business, but like a lot of companies, they make completely different stuff now, like industrial door hardware. Sort of like Greenlee. Once know for their hollow chisel mortisers, they now make electrician's tools. Most people don't know their company logo is still the end-view of a hollow chisel.

We've got a couple swing-seat designs in the bag already, but still need to prototype and work out a few kinks. Plus, we're going to try our best to make this a reasonably priced item. $500 is just insane. There's virtually no machine work on these. Castings are still pretty inexpensive, and being woodworkers, well, we can all make our own seats by golly! We're not marketing these to Greenwich Village sushi bars. We're making them for us, dang it.

Please don't bother asking when they will be ready. We've got some other stuff already in the pipeline that we need to finish. Hopefully though we'll have something before 2016 is over.

Watch William Ng Make Condor Tails

William Ng recently outfitted his entire school with new benches featuring our hardware. William produced this video showing how he set up for making a production run of Condor tails for the end caps. This is similar to the technique we use, but a little more production oriented. If you've got a bunch to make, or just enjoy using machines, William's method is excellent. It's a fun watch too, William's got a good sense of humor.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What We're Working on in 2016

Its been a couple years since we came out with a new product. Here's everything we're working on, and hoping to produce in 2016. We're a small company, but we've got lots of ideas for new tools. Cranking out new stuff isn't difficult. But nailing it is. And we won't make something unless we've put our guts into it, and make sure its something we'd be delighted with in our own shop.

First up, the Etau.

Funny name, great vise. Here's why. The etau (which simply means "vise" in French) is a bit like the carver's vise we produced as a limited run in 2013, but is more versatile and handy since it can be clamped to almost any bench or table in just a few seconds. It's a great high vise, and a great portable vise. We wrote about the vise almost three years ago when we produced a one-off for the Handworks event in Amana. Since then, that prototype has seen a fair amount of use in the Benchcrafted test shop, and for the past year it's been mounted on one corner of planemaker Ron Brese's shop, where he uses the etau to shape plane totes and accomplish lots of other close work that the etau is well-suited for. If you've never used a vise the raises work to chest height, you will love the etau.

Right now we're working out a few minor bugs and tweaking the design to make this vise really sweet. It will incorporate some features from the carver's vise, and some from our Classic Leg Vise. The etau will be a regular item, not a limited run like the carver's vise. We think it's just about the perfect auxiliary vise for doing close work that requires more control. Let's not forget the cool factor. This thing looks great hanging out at the back corner of your bench.

One thing we're not 100% on. The name. "Etau" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. We'll get this sorted eventually.

The Benchcrafted Planing Stop

This is something that's been cooking on the back burner for a while. But our upcoming set of Classic Workbench Plans forced us to kick this little guy to the front of the line.

The Benchcrafted planing stop is a dirt simple thing. Could you make one in your own shop during an episode of Magnum P.I.? Of course. But we're hoping to make this one cheap enough that you can spend that hour making the wood parts and chopping a big mortise in your bench instead. Right now the only commercial planing stops available are made by blacksmiths. Those are quite nice (and we recommend them) but we needed one of our design for the Classic workbench. Obviously it will work with other benches too.

Figuring out a way hold a planing stop securely to the wood block without it eventually wiggling loose or rotating was pretty easy. We borrowed the idea from our own barrel nuts. Doubling up the bolts prevents the stop from rotating, and keeps it securely cinched down.

These are just about to go into production and should be ready to purchase by the time the tulips start emerging.

M Series Moxon Vise

Sorry, we don't have any pictures of these yet, since we haven't made any. We've long wanted to do a run of fully machined Moxon vises, not only because they would look outstanding, but also because we've have a few requests for them. These will use the same fully machined handwheel as our Tail Vise M vise, only machined to run on the acme screws of the Moxon vise. We can imagine a Moxon M made with rosewood or richly finished mahogany. Maybe a little overkill, but we can't resist. These won't be cheap since our M series handwheels take forever and a day to machine to a high level. And there are two of them. Expect these to be a little less than double the price of a standard Moxon.

These won't be a regular item, but only a one-time run. And this will likely be the first item we make where we take pre-orders before we do the run. If you're interested, drop a note in the comments section. It will help us gauge how many we produce.

Classic Workbench Plans

Read about these here.