Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mid Summer Update - Hi Vise

Right now the giant fireball is roaring outside and the heat index is 116. But our test shop window air conditioner (circa 1995!) is pulling overtime and keeping it a crisp 68 degrees. In this environment of extremes the first production version of our new Hi Vise was born.

First off, we've decided to ditch the French name and stick with something simple. Hi Vise. It's a mix of sappy happy greeting and functional description. Besides, when you work at Benchcrafted you end up saying Crisscross, Glide, and Moxon about a bazillion times a day. I'm not saying "ehtoe" any more than I have to (apologies, Mr. Punchinello.)

Okay, we still can't be 100% on this, but here's a solid ballpark. This shouldn't change much, but don't hold us to that. When we began developing this vise we touted it as having nearly all the functionality of our carver's vise, plus a couple distinct advantages over the carver's vise. That vise cost $379. The Hi Vise base model (no mounting hardware) should come in somewhere around $165, and the deluxe model (mounting hardware included) should add about $75. We're trying some new processes with this vise that give a more worn-in look such as wheelabrating. Combining this technique with precision milled surfaces makes for a sweet classic look. Our mini Crosscross arms (see above) use this process.

Base Model
The difference between the base model and deluxe model is in the mounting. The base model can be mounted in a variety of ways depending on how you build the vise. So far our favorite way is to build a bracket into the rear leg that slips down into the jaws of our Benchcrafted Tail Vise. This thing is so rock solid in this configuration you'd think the vise was part of the bench. And it mounts and dismounts nearly instantly.

Another way to mount the vise is with a simple stick of wood across the back of the rear leg. Dirt simple and quick, you can hold this vise down to your bench with a pair of holdfasts or a couple clamps. Both of these mounting blocks are attached to the rear leg of the vise with two 5/16" flat head cap screws--the mounting bracket is tapped to receive these machine threads--a technique we've long recommended.

Typical builds will yield about 5-1/2" between the jaws at full extension.

You may notice a new material lining the jaws on this vise. For some time we've experienced increasing difficulty sourcing suede on a regular basis. The problem isn't so much supply, as there are plenty of cow hides out there, but rather finding a supplier who is consistent and wants to do business. Must just be the industry. So we've looked for other options. And we found it in an unlikely place. Over the winter we've been fixing up our '69 Volkswagen Beetle and even went so far as to rebuild the engine from scratch. When we opened the gasket kit we found this corky-looking material that seemed to grip to any surface. After a fair amount of research we've sourced this material--a blend of natural cork and natural rubber, chopped up and reformed under great pressure into a dense roll of grippy material that's sliced--rotary veneer-style--into 3/32" sheets of grabby goodness. The good thing is, it's less expensive than suede and the supply is much more reliable. As a result we'll also be offering this material, which we're tempted to call Crubber, as an item on its own so you can buy it and line your other vises or clamp heads. It should also work on holdfast pads, although we haven't tested that yet.

Look for the Hi Vise to be available this fall.

And in case you were curious about the outcome of our little VW engine experience....