Plate 11 Workbench To Debut New Benchcrafted Leg Vise At WIA!

Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

BenchCrafted just released some awesome new hardware and Plate 11 Workbench will have it at Woodworking In America!

It seems Jameel and the rest of the family over at BenchCrafted have always got something new in the works. The latest innovation to hit the market is the new Glide Leg Vise.

This vise has several great new features. The most obvious change is the new look. BenchCrafted has moved the knob from the face of the handwheel to the outside edge and added two extra knobs. The three knobs spaced evenly around the outside edge give the vise the look of a small ships wheel. The new design reduces the profile of vise, which addresses the only thing I could ever find to complain about in previous versions. The new look also means there’s always a knob between 10:00 and 2:00, which makes using the vise even more convenient.

They’ve also outfitted the new Glide with a double-lead screw. This vise is fast! Twice as fast as the original, and I’d put it up against a quick-release any day. I can quickly and easily move it through its full range of motion with one spin. I regularly work on bench legs that measure 5″ x 3″ and having the ability to rotate the leg 90 degrees in the vise with nothing more than two flicks of the wrist is incredibly convenient. The action of the vise is so smooth, the first few times I did this, I found that the wheel was still spinning away from the bench when I reached to tighten it back onto the leg. I actually had to teach myself to spin the wheel with less effort.

As a bench builder I found the vise easier to install than the original glide (as long as you have a drill press or an expansive bit for your brace). They’ve switched the acetal bushing that gets recessed into the front of the leg from square to round, which means less chopping by hand if you own the aforementioned tools. The screws that mount the nut to the back of leg and the acetal bushing into its recess now have slotted heads, which will please the purists out there. I don’t particularly care for slotted screws in general (probably because I don’t own a decent screwdriver), but the black blended in nicely with the bushing, so I used them there. For the nut I scrounged up something a little shinier that I could drive with a cordless.

The largest consideration you have to keep in mind when installing the new Glide in your bench is the height of the screw (I alluded to this in my previous post). The new knobs add to the diameter of the wheel, which means you’ve really got to make sure the screw is far enough below the top of the bench. I’d recommend a minimum of 7″, but 8″ or more would be better. I failed to take this into account on my first install and I’ll be building a new bench base because of it.

The vise is more expensive than the current Glide, by about $40, but they’re also coming out with a non-machined version that will function exactly the same and look more like their Moxon vise handwheels. This version will be less expensive than the current Glide, by about $30. You can confirm pricing on the BenchCrafted website here.

If you’d like to see this new vise in action, I’ve been working feverishly for the last month (seriously, I was pretty sick) to complete a pair of Split-Top Roubo’s to bring to this year’s WIA Conference. This first is complete and was made to order for Chris at Sterling Tool Works. He’ll be demonstrating his tools, the bench, and the new hardware in his booth. The second bench is still in process here at my shop, but it will be available to try out and purchase in my booth at the show. Both workbenches will be outfitted with the new Glide!

If you’d like to see photos from the build you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @MarkBuildsIt. There’s already a video on my Instagram account, though the edge of the handwheel is covered in “protective tape” to disguise the new design. I’ll be posting a new video with knobs installed soon.

Come by and see us at Woodworking In America!

Compounding Errors and A Benchmaker’s Tale of Woe

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Techniques | 0 comments

My first mistake was working while I was sick. I’ve had a succession of three summer colds with no more than two or three healthy days between them. When I have a cold my ability to plan for the future drops to almost nothing. This is not a good frame of mind to work in when you’re designing a bench in a style you’ve never built before (Split-Top Roubo), for an imaginary customer (this is a spec bench), incorporating hardware you’ve never used before (damn you barrel bolts!).

When I build a custom bench I ask my customer all sorts of questions about how the bench will be used, where it will be used and what hardware they might want. I use the answers to these more general questions to generate a very specific set of design parameters, from the height at the bench top right down to the clearance under the rails. When I build an unsold bench I try to use a design that will appeal to as many potential customers as possible while still creating something highly functional for the end user.

This led to my second mistake. Typically I make the clearance under the rails of my benches around 3-4″ high. This gives you the ability to hook a toe under the rail during a vigorous planing session when you need a little extra leverage. On this spec bench I decided to make the clearance 5″ so that a shorter customer could cut the legs down and still get their toes under the bench.

The compounding errors began to pile up at this point. The higher rail raised the location of the barrel bolts. Had I been working with a clear head I would have realized the barrel bolts were going to interfere with the criss-cross. I may have been running a fever or maybe it was the 105 degree heat, but I shrugged this off and simply raised the location of the criss cross and thus the location of the screw. As I completed the layout I discovered the screw would pass directly through the center of the top rail. No problem. I’ll just make a new leg and a new rail.

At this point the third cold was still not going away so I finally made a trip to the doctor and came home with some antibiotics. I had to step away from the bench for a few days to prepare for a large show, so as the drugs did their work, the bench was out of sight and out of mind. Yesterday I got a few precious hours in the shop and was able to join up one end of the base, the one with the new leg. It really looked great.

This morning I got up at 4:30 and drove 8 hours to the show and, with my freshly cleared head, thought about the bench and the mistakes I had made during its construction. I should have drawn in all the parts. I should have visualized how they all fit together. I should have gone to the doctor sooner.

Then my heart sank. I should have realized that raising the screw was going to put the handwheel nearly flush with the top of the bench!

If this was my bench I would plug holes and drill new ones. I would laminate stock onto the front rail and move the barrel bolts back. I would solve the problems and fix the parts.I would make do and still have a great bench.

But this isn’t my bench. It’s your bench and it has to be pristine. So tomorrow I’ll call my lumber supplier and order up a few more pieces of 16/4 maple. When the show ends next week and I get back to the shop, I’ll break down that stock and get to work on a new base.

I’ll finish your bench and it will be pristine! See you a WIA!

Hardware Sources for Roorkee Chairs

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Projects, Reviews, Roorkees | 0 comments

IMG_3510Since posting photos of my Roorkee Builds I’ve had a few people ask me where to find the brass and other specialty hardware for the chairs. Some of it was easy to find and some of it took much more work than I expected we’ll start with the easy stuff.

- Nuts, Bolts and Screws: You can find this stuff anywhere. My two favorite choices are my local Ace Hardware Store or I stripped off the zinc and oiled all the steel on the first pair of chairs, but I wasn’t happy with the color so I tried a baked flax oil finish suggested by Jameel over at BenchCrafted. Due to the small size of my parts, I was able to get good results with three rounds in my countertop toaster oven at a baking time of 1 hour each. I DID NOT bake the lock nut. If you apply light coats there will be minimal smoke. I was much happier with the look of this finish.

The brass fittings that allow you to tension the arms (they will stretch… a lot) consist of a threaded insert and a knurled brass knob. Here’s where you can get them:

1/4-20 x 1″ Knurled Thumb Screw in brass –  – As you can see from the photo, I’ll have a little polishing to do. I don’t really care for the pattern on the head of the knob, so I sand it off.  NOTE: they have a $10 minimum order value to ship, so if you’re not ordering a lot of these parts you might want to consider picking up your brass screws and finishing washers here too.

EZ Lok Knife Thread Wood Insert in Brass – - I bought my original supply of knobs from this supplier too, but they were out of stock when I came back for more. Make sure the internal threads match the ones on your knobs. You can get your screws and finishing washers here as well, but their warehouse had a  hard time getting the sizes right.

There are a few things to keep in mind when you install these inserts. The knife threads have a tendency to lift the grain of the wood when they first begin to cut and they require a good deal of torque to install.  My miserable excuse for a screw driver mangled the first piece I tried to install, so I decided to change tactics. I put together a hardware set consisting of a short bolt with threads to match the insert, a pair of nuts locked together on the nut, and a washer with the smooth face toward the insert. I use two nuts because occasionally the insert grabs the bolt and I have to unlock the nuts to back the bolt out.  The washer protects the brass and presses any lifted grain on the face of the leg back into position as you drive the insert home.

The buckles are a 3/4″ Bridle Buckle from Tandy in solid brass. I’m pretty happy with these, except for the price. The next time I build I’m going to give a shot. Their 1210 Buckle seems to be a pretty close substitute.

The last piece of hardware was much harder to find than I expected. I got nothing but blank stares when I went into my local Grainger asking for Ball Studs. After explaining what I wanted in detail and pulling up photos from the Lost Art Press Blog we were still unable to find them. I tried the Auto parts store next and thought I would suffer the same fate. Auto parts databases are sorted by make, model, year, etc, so if you don’t have a a really experienced person at the counter, you’re out of luck. My counter guy was experienced enough to know who to call and we found what I needed. It was categorized as a Lift Support. Since then I’ve done a little research and found a site called that seems to have all the options you would need. I used a smaller ball diameter than recommended, and it worked out fine, but if you plan to double up the leather on your arms, you should probably go with the 13mm stud. I used the Baked Flax finish on this part as well.

- Mark Hicks

Tool Review: Wood Owl Tri-Augers – Nail Chipper vs. Ultra Smooth

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 in Reviews | 0 comments

Freshly Sharpened Nail Chipper (left) vs. Fresh-out-of-the-tube Ultra Smooth (right)

Freshly Sharpened Nail Chipper (left) vs. Fresh-out-of-the-tube Ultra Smooth (right)

Several weeks ago my friends over at Time Warp Tool Works asked me to write up a comparison of the two Wood Owl Augers I use when I build workbenches for my customers. I’ve been working my way through a backlog that built up while I was hauling benches all around the midwest to Lie-Nielson’s Hand Tool Events, so it’s taken way too long to get it done (sorry Garth).

I build my benches out of 16/4 Silver maple, so that’s what I used for this review. I suspect the performance of the bits in harder woods like Hard Maple, Ash or Oak would pretty much be the same.

Let’s start with the similarities…

Both bits hog through material like butter, provided your drill is big enough. The lead screw does an excellent job of pulling the auger through the work. In fact, the first time I used one, I made the mistake of stopping the bit to clear chips. The lead screw was so securely anchored, the drill was yanked from my hands. Since then I’ve found the 7-1/2″ auger clears chips pretty effectively in material up to 5″  thick, but if you have to stop, hold on tight! If you let either bit pull itself through the work, they’ll both stop cutting when the lead screw clears the exit face of your material. If you’re in the habit of backing the bit out and finishing the hole from the other side you’ll be able to do so.

Using the right method, both bits will make a pretty clean exit from the work. On the right side of each photo above you can see the blowout caused by pushing the bit all the way through the cut until it cleared the back of the work. The left side of each photo shows the result when I let the lead screw pull the bit till it stopped and applied light pressure to finish the cut.

The entry face and inside of the holes illustrate the biggest differences between the bits. The spurs on the Ultra-Smooth bored a cleaner entry and a much smoother hole. If you’re only going to use one of these bits to hog waste out of really big mortises, you could save a few bucks and go with the Nail Chipper, but I find myself leaving the Ultra Smooth bit chucked into the drill from mortise hogging to dog hole drilling.

If you’re thinking of drilling dog holes, or any 3/4″ hole that needs to be dead square to the face, I recommend getting the Ultra Smooth Auger Bit as part of the EasyDog Hole Kit for thick benches. This kit, made by Time Warp Tool Works, includes a companion 3/4″ plunge router bit to start the hole straight and square, instructions on making an alignment jig for your router, and a dozen of their incredible Ash Bench Dogs. We sell them on our Accessories page. If all you want is the auger bit, I recommend buying them from  Traditional Woodworker.


Visit Chicago… Take home a workbench

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Events | 0 comments

If you’ve been wanting a new work bench, but you don’t have the time, energy or back to build one, come see us at the Lie-Nielson Hand Tool Event this weekend at Jeff Miller’s place in Chicago.

We’ve put together a Plate 11 Workbench package you won’t find anywhere else.


This bench comes complete with a leg vise from Lake Erie Toolworks that’s tapped directly into the leg. We’re also throwing in a reproduction Roubo Plate 11 iron package hand forged by Peter Ross.

Here are the details:
Dimensions – 84″L x 23″D x 34-1/2″H (can be cut down to 32-1/2″)
Material – 16/4 Silver Maple… includes Curly Maple Deadman
Approximate Weight: 275lbs
Reproduction Plate 11 Holdfast – 1″ Shank by Peter Ross
Reproduction Plate 11 Planing Stop by Peter Ross
Premium Leg Vise with Vintage Finish Garter by Lake Erie Toolworks

Price – Loaded in your vehicle: $4500

A rising tide floats all boats.

Posted by on Jan 18, 2014 in Events | 0 comments

Maybe it has something to do with being raised in the desert of Southern California, but this is not an expression I heard much growing up. I’ve been using it a lot lately, though, and its all because of a man named Thomas Lie-Nielson. Thomas not only believes this expression, he lives it to the extent I never imagined. You all know he’s a hand tool maker from Maine, and you probably know he holds Hand Tool Events across the US and Canada. What you may not know is that Lie-Nielson uses these events to promote the use of all hand tools, not just his hand tools.

To that end he invites builders, authors, and other small tool makers as special guest demonstrators to appear at his shows. At an event in Atlanta you can compare the feel and performance of one of his incredible Bronze #4 Smoothing Planes to a beautiful Wood Bodied Plane, hand sculpted by Scott Meek. In Portland you can decide if you prefer the balance of a LN Hornbeam Handled Socket Chisel or a Socket and Tang Chisel with a resin Infused Curly Maple Handle from Blue Spruce Toolworks. If you’re like me, you’ll end up wanting all of this stuff and eventually owning some if it.

At WIA this year I had the distinct honor of being invited to show my bench kits at his Hand Tool events. We currently plan to demonstrate at three shows… Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Chicago. I’ll be traveling with a fully fitted Plate 11 Workbench and my personal kit of tools for you try. Whether you’re new to hand tools or a seasoned woodworker this is the perfect opportunity to try some of the best made tools in America from some of the most knowledgable experts around. We’ll all have a great weekend as the hand tool tide continues to come in!

Old Thresher’s – Final Day

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Events, Urban Timbers | 0 comments

Day four was a pretty eventful day on the sales floor, so not much work got done at the bench.

I spent day five bouncing back and forth between our display and the Steam Engine Powered Sawmill waiting for my walnut log to be milled. We got some photos and a bit of video when it finally got under way. Enjoy!





Laying out the sides of the Dutch Tool Chest “By Hand & Eye”

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Techniques | 0 comments

Last week when I was getting ready for Old Thresher’s Reunion I made a mental note to use the shop’s miter saw to make a 30-60-90 triangle out of some scrap ply to use as a marking jig or batten to saw the sides of the chest at 30 degrees. I lost track of that note and found myself without a jig or a protractor to layout the sides.

My recent read of “By Hand & Eye” came to mind and gave me a simple, dependable method to accomplish the layout.

Measure the distance from the square bottom edge to the top of the side.


Mark a square line from the back edge at least as far as you can spread your biggest pair of dividers or compass.


Use your dividers to scribe, or your compass to mark a 90 degree arc from the line to the back edge of the tool chest.


Adjust the dividers to approximately one third of length of the arc and step it along the arc.




If you over-shoot, simply adjust the compass by about one third of the amount you over-shot. If you came up short add about a third. Re-step the dividers and adjust as necessary until your last step hits the back edge of the board. You’ve successfully divided 90 degrees into three equal parts. Go back to the line, make one step and you’ve got 30 degrees.


All you have left to do is extend a line from your first mark through the point you just found and you’ve got a 30 degree line to cut.


Enjoy your tool chest!

Old Thresher’s – Day 3 – Logs and Dovetails

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Events, Urban Timbers | 0 comments

What a great day! I’ve been horse trading all week for some logs to mill into slabs and the first one arrived this morning. It’s a good looking 30″ x 10′ walnut that was salvaged by a local lawn and tree service.


At the bench today we spent a lot of time talking, but we still managed to get the sides dovetailed to the bottom.


People had to stop and watch as Jessie chopped her first dovetails.


It was a lot of fun to watch her drive home that first joint… She’s visibly anxious at first, but that changes pretty quickly. So glad we got it on film!

And the result…


Old Thresher’s – Day 2 – 108 Heat Index

Posted by on Aug 31, 2013 in Events | 0 comments

Day two was another productive day. Many of our old friends stopped by to visit and some to shop. We were pretty productive at the bench today too, if you measure productivity in shavings on the floor.

We started the day cutting and clearing dados in a piece of scrap that would be become a much needed tool rack for the back side of the bench. Yes, there are easier ways to accomplish this but it was perfect practice for the dados we’ll need to cut for the shelf in the Dutch Tool Chest.

After that I attempted to true and flatten the boards for the sides and bottom of the chest. I currently am terrible at this task, but I could see progress from the first board to the third. All the boards were equally twisted, but the thinnest corner of the first board was much thinner than the thinnest spot on the last one. I started out with 7/8″ material and was shooting for 3/4″ and ended up about a 1/16 shy. Oh well, it’ll still hold tools. By the time I trued up one edge of the boards and removed a little tear out on the other edge I ended up with 11″ wide boards. I don’t think being 1/4″ narrow is going to cause me any storage issues.

Next I realized I had no tool or jig with me to layout the 30 degree angle for the top of the chest, but I figured it out (thanks to “By Hand & Eye”… more on that in another post) and made the cuts on the sides. After that I pulled out a Stanley 45 and cut the rabbet on the bottom of the sides to prepare for cutting my tails. So I ended the day with three relatively smooth, flat boards and a nice new tool rack. Tomorrow I can cut some dovetails and “Get to the Chopping!!!”


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