Until a few years ago I had never heard of nor seen a leg vise. The buzz around leg vises, in particular the Benchcrafted Glide Leg Vise, has been growing over the past few years. This is likely in response to Oprah, errr Schwarz and his penchant for workbenches and accessories. I chose to go with the vise screw from Lee Valley and build the rest of the leg vise parts myself. This do-it-yourself thing is good on some levels (financial for one) but not so great when you get an idea into your head that won’t go away.
Chris Schwarz has been regaling the community with the benefits of a Croix de St Pierre, or St Peter’s Cross and its incorporation into a leg vise. I was intrigued by the mechanics of this and wanted to pursue making one myself just to see what was involved. I experimented. I used steel L bar, which wasn’t at a true right angle and still has the ability flex quite a bit. Into the scrap bin that went. I tried steel box tubing. I actually got quite a bit of success playing with this on some scraps, using the already purchased vise screw. So why does it not appear below in the pictures? I found other points of failure. I used hinges to hold the bars to the chop and leg, only to find that they were neither strong enough to not buckle under the pressure nor was pine a good substrate for the screws that held them in place. The other setback was how the pine (which is what my base is made of) allowed the bars to compress the leg enough to put the whole mechanism out of square. (more…)
The lady asked, “Where’s the beef?” I’ve got your beefy goodness right here under my workbench. The base is built from 6″x6″ pine and it’s every bit as beefy as it looks in the pictures. I knew I wanted to make the base as hefty as possible (going with the Workbench commandments). The best I could find that was both reasonably priced and reasonably dry was some pine timbers from the lumber mill that had been there for “a few years” according to the lumberyard assistant.
There really isn’t a whole lot to say about this part, so this is going to be pretty short. In the last post I added the tail vise to the front slab, which more or less finishes it off. The rear slab is a solid chunk of maple, which I had already planed flat. All that really remained for this was to clean up the sides of the slab. I actually thought this was going to be harder than it turned out to be. I did the majority of the work with my jack plane, getting the edges square to the surface of the slab. The rest was just final cleanup with my #6 jointer. In all, both sides took me somewhere on the order of 1/2 hour to clean up.
The front slab is all laminated up and the end caps in place, the next step is to install the tail vise (which I describe building in this blog post). Installing the guide plate onto the slab requires a couple of extra steps. First, there is a bolt head protruding out the back of the plate to hold the nut for the vise screw, so we need to make a recess for this. Second, the rails protrude a little as they wrap themselves around the guide plate, so a channel needs to be cut out to allow them to move freely. Oh…and my bench isn’t thick enough, so I had to glue on another 3/4″ piece to allow me to screw the guide plate onto something.
With the tail vise assembled I can now finalize the endcaps on the front slab and install the half blind dovetailed front strip into the slab. I depart from what most people do for endcaps because I am wanting to build up a few more inched in length. I double up the end caps to achieve this. If I had thought it through a little more up front, I would have shopped around for longer boards to make up the front slab. In the end, this works fine for me and I don’t think there is any significant downside.
While working on my workbench, I was at the point where I needed to plane the surfaces of the two slabs. These are roughly 11 1/2″x4″ slabs. One is 6′ long, the other 7′ long. Which is to say, they’re crazy heavy and awkward and cumbersome and pure madness to handle on one’s own. So, naturally, I decided to try it! My biggest challenge was going to be handling the boards on the outfeed side. Before I go there, you’ll need to understand how my planing system is set up.
Ok, it doesn’t have to be L-shaped, but mine is. The style of vise is similar to the one on Frank Klausz’s bench. I like these vises despite what has been written about them. I know that I risk having my vise sag or lift, we’ll see. I picked up the tail vise hardware from Lee Valley and was surprised to not find instructions. I was not alone, I found quite a few complaints about this. Apparently Lee Valley recommends using Frank’s design in The Workbench book…which I don’t have. No problem, I like a good puzzle. I did find a good detailed article in the March/April 2003 issue of Fine Woodworking. Read that article for some really good details…or read my simplified version.
I’ve been following along watching a few people build their benches as part of The Woodwhisperer Guild Build and decided to take a stab at doing my own detailed SketchUp plan for my bench. I was pleasantly surprised to find the process of building a bench in SketchUp highlighted a lot of errors in my design. I’m quite glad that I avoided finding this during the building process…but these were a rather painful lesson in using SketchUp. C’est la vie…it’s all good, I know more about SketchUp than I did before…just enough to make me dangerous without making
Interested in woodworking? It’s “Get Woodworking Week!” Thinking you should take the leap and start collecting…err..buying the tools you need? Here’s a little primer on getting started in woodworking and what you REALLY need to know to fit in to the woodworking world. (more…)
The bench I’m planning to build is the offspring of a number of benches. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on, sometimes over and over and over…just call me slow on the uptake. This all started with WIA 2010 where I saw the different benches used in the demonstrations during lectures as well as the benches in the marketplace. I realized that I was not going to transition to a hybrid or hand tool woodworker with the bench I currently had. Since that time, I’ve seen many more benches (click here for slideshow of the benches at NEWWS last year), scoured blogs for details of workbench builds and drawn several different bench styles.
I’m not saying this just for me, look around the blogosphere and you’ll find plenty of buzz about workbenches. Chris Schwarz, ever the woodworking barometer, has moved on past workbenches but has provided a great starting place for those of us currently suffering from workbench envy and repeated cursing at our current workbench that breaks almost every rule in the book…or books as it were. Why is there some much buzz right now? I think it’s because we’re all playing catch up to those who are proudly reaping the benefits of a great bench. I am.
If you happen to find yourself driving around in central Ontario, in the area just south of Algonquin Park, you absolutely must make the trek to the Haliburton Forest. I’m fortunate enough that this is about 1/2 hour drive from my parents’ cottage, so we visit from time to time.
So, what’s so great about this place? This is a privately owned, actively logged, multi-use forest. As a woodworker it’s pretty easy to limit my interest in the wood that I use at the point of purchase. I can go a step further and consider whether or not the wood is local or imported, FSC certified, reclaimed and so on but it still leaves a lot out of the picture. (more…)
…especially when I can turn it into a woodworking project. This has oft been my downfall as my cramped garage will attest to. My wife, Gwen, is an enabler when it comes to this, she has a knack for “finding” things that are just useful enough that it’s kind of hard to dismiss and discard them (me for instance). The fact that I have a dominant gene inherited from both of my Scottish parents that demands frugality is possibly part of the problem as well. (more…)
A few months ago Dyami Plotke of The Penultimate Woodshop blog mentioned to me that the Northeastern Woodworkers Association Show was being held in Saratoga Springs, NY on the last weekend of March. This is one of the great benefits of meeting up with other bloggers at WIA, you find out about stuff like this. But wait, there’s more! Not only was the show on, but Dyami’s Dad (Doug) was hosting a dinner in his newly built workshop a short drive away in Greenwich (pronounced Green-witch…not Gren-itch).
Fast forward to a March 25th and Mike Lehikoinen (of the Novice Wood Ramblings and Antero’s Urban Wood Designs) and I were on the road to Saratoga Springs. The drive from Toronto ended up being 7-8 hours (with stops to alleviate this crazy back pain I’ve got from a herniated disc…thank you Canadian winter!) I won’t go on too much about the pitfalls of trusting a GPS device, but sufficed to say that the Appalachians are beautiful, the deer and wind farms are plentiful and people are not! We got there with only one close call with a daring deer.
Ok, so not strictly a woodworking post, but what the heck. As I crawl through the masses of photos and videos from our trip this Christmas, I see the pitfalls of digital media. How on earth will I ever get through it all and put it into a format where I’ll actually use it? Maybe I need to create a home-movie/picture blog just to keep track of it all.
The main point of the trip was to get some time away from it all with the family, including my parents, which was great. We can endlessly count our blessings that trips like this are possible, we are very fortunate. Ok, ok, ok…what would a vacation be without at least a little woodworking content? I have become ‘one of those people’ who is preoccupied with things like furniture, picture frames, mouldings and trimwork when visiting a place where something of greater significance is meant to be the focal point. I know you understand me, even if no else does.
Just a quick note to wish all of you a very happy holiday season. This year has been a blast from a woodworking point of view.
A few highlights:
- finally finishing the marble tower
- starting this blog
- joining The Woodwhisperer Guild and The Hand Tool School
- attending WIA
- meeting so many like minded woodworkers throughout the year
- building my first hand plane
Last but not least
- realizing that having pretty much all the power tools I need doesn’t mean I’m done shopping…hand tools have found new ways to open my mind and my wallet.
I’ll be incommunicado for a couple of weeks while I try to recharge my own batteries in preparation for a whole new year of excitement and new experiences.
Thank you all for following along and participating in my online adventures.
Have a happy and safe holiday and cheers to a new year of woodworking!
As long as there are home renovations and sanding of wood to be done, workshop dust control will continue to be a problem for me. My battle against dust has a long and varied history and I expect it will continue to evolve along with my ever changing approach to woodworking.
Before I can really get into designing the workbench, I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to establish the location first. The reason this makes a big difference is that the workbench will either be integrated into my main outfeed bench (as it currently is) or it will be an independent bench entirely. Ya, ya, I just made life a whole lot more complicated. In fact, this is dangerously close to becoming a discussion about workshop layout in general. I’ll try to rein myself in and not drift too far off topic.
For this post, I want to focus on where the workbench will be and that in turn will help me to determine if I leverage one of the existing lab benches as a base, or build a workbench on its own. Trust me, I’ll show you some drawings and it will all make sense.
This is my workbench as it stands today. I accept that my workbench has no resemblence whatsoever to anything you will find in a book by Chris Schwarz or Scott Landis. This bench has evolved over time and is now approaching the point of needing to evolve again in order to support my ever changing woodworking behaviour. This will be the first in a series of posts about how I plan to evolve my workbench, the actual changes that take place and my experiences with the workbench throughout the process.
Since I started woodworking, I’ve found my tool addiction has changed from time to time. Lately I’ve found myself torn between getting more premium hand tools, making my own tools and looking for bargain ‘old users’ in flea markets/etc. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the smell of new power tools, but more and more I’m justifying the cost of a good hand tool. Years ago this would have been ludicrous…$80 for a chisel? I can get 10 for $5 at the bargain store! How little I knew….or, how much I’ve been pulled to the dark side.
So…where are you in your journey through tool addiction?
I’ve gotten onto two kicks recently. The first is making tools from scratch or from kits (since I’m lazy), the second being developing my hand tool skills. So it was appropriate that signing up for Shannon Rogers’ (The Renaissance Woodworker) Virtual Hand Tool School led to our first assignment delivering on both of these.
This first assignment is intended to build skills in planing down some rough stock to a flat, co-planar board as well as some basic chisel technique. I won’t delve too much into the details of ‘how’ you do these things (join us at school if you want to learn it first hand…it is worth it) but I will talk about my personal take on the experience.
This weekend, I received a gift I cannot put a price on. I was given a carver’s woodcarving kit. This is not something you purchase at Lee Valley, Woodcraft or Lie-Nielsen. This is a carving set built up over time by a person of simple means with a passion for woodcarving.
A bit of history. I have a neighbour, in his 80′s who along with his ‘girlfriend’ (also in her 80′s, a very cute story for another time perhaps) who have adopted my family as their own (figuratively). For many years he did a lot of woodworking, building rocking horses and framed mirrors which he sold at fairs. His girlfriend did a lot of woodburning and woodcarving. Along with her husband, they were key members of the Ontario Woodcarvers. We visit back and forth and talk often about woodworking.
A quick pass with the band saw and I had the final shape of the plane ready for a quick bit of sanding. The sanding process involved cleaning up the bandsaw marks, flattening the sides as they were slightly uneven. The sole needed a quick pass with sandpaper, while holding the plane up against a square block of wood.
While at Woodworking In America, I had the pleasure of talking with Ron Hock for a bit. While I was most impressed with his $1 wooden planes (balsawood with wings) I was equally impressed by the kits he had for a shoulder plane and a Krenov style plane. I ended up buying both…ok, you got me, I bought the balsawood plane too.
I explained to Ron that I was new to tools without tails and he handed me a small wooden plane and encouraged me to try it. It felt awesome to hold and having played a bit with metal body planes I was surprised at how much more you can finesse a wooden plane. That was when he told me that the plane I was using (my first wooden plane experience) was a Krenov plane….made by Krenov himself. Not bad for a first experience.