I spent most of this weekend on my knees, and it had nothing to do with a lengthy visit to Chicago’s Hopleaf gastropub or the large cooler of Julius Echter wheat beer that a reader brought to us.
Instead, I spent most of the weekend on my knobby knees at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event in Chicago for three reasons. One: To demonstrate how to use winding sticks about a dozen times during two days. (I think some of the attendees were just trying to get a look down my shirt.) Second: To try out a new Lie-Nielsen rip panel saw on a makeshift sawbench cobbled out of a shipping crate. And third: To examine every single speck of the new Benchcrafted leg vise on Jameel Abraham’s traveling workbench.
Let’s start with the vise because lots of people bent over this weekend to see how it works. The beauty of the vise is that it is so smooth and quick. Thanks to two rubber wheels on the vise’s parallel guide and a Delrin bushing, the vise glides , nay floats , in and out. It’s about as fast as a quick-release vise. And when you spin the 8″ round handwheel the jaw closes tight enough on your work to immobilize it. You don’t have to crank the wheel at all.
Other details: The rubber wheels on the parallel guide run on ball bearings, and the jaw opens to 10″ , more than enough.
Jameel of Benchcrafted is planning on putting it into production soon; he already has some orders from this show. He said it should cost a bit less than his wagon vise hardware, which costs $350 and is dang well worth it. Yes I ordered one. No, I haven’t yet told my wife, Lucy (Hi sweetie! Sorry!).
The vise will include everything but the wood and the pin for the parallel guide. Jameel was showing the vise on a new traveling bench, which he was sharing at the show with plane maker Ron Brese of Brese Planes.
Ron’s extremely nice and fairly priced infills (which I’ve written about for the Fine Tool Journal) were sitting out all weekend so you could give them a test drive. They were all set up and ready to go. In addition to his smoothing planes, Ron also was showing a new miter plane he’d built using ebonized walnut as the infill. The plane was doing its thing on a nice miter shooting board. I gave it a test drive and became very worried about my wallet.
Not to be outdone, the Lie-Nielsen folks were showing a bunch of new products, including their drawbore pins (which I review in the next issue of Woodworking Magazine), a new DVD on design from George Walker (more on that later this week) and the production version of the company’s tongue-and-groove plane and panel saws (both of which are now shipping).
The tongue-and-groove plane is sweet. Lie-Nielsen has really nailed the form and fixed the problems with the original Stanley. I ordered one a few weeks ago (my personal attempt to stimulate the economy) and will have a full report this week or next.
The panel saw is also nice. After getting a gander at it last weekend, I was itching to give it a test drive. The Lie-Nielsen folks had the rip-tooth version with them and it worked well. Deneb Puchalski (said Poo-hall-ski) with Lie-Nielsen said the saw I tested had not been taper-ground and it didn’t have its etch, so I’m going to hold off on the details until I get my hands on a production version.
The event was held at the shop of furniture maker and woodworking instructor Jeff Miller. While the shop is fantastic, it is exceeded by its occupant. Jeff’s work is extraordinary. He makes wood do things that wood doesn’t like to do. And his mastery of curved and compound joinery is humbling. Add to all that the fact that Jeff is low-key and as friendly as they come. I spent some time prodding him to write for us. We’ll see what happens.
After spending the weekend on my feet and knees, however, I’m ready to spend an evening on my back. Starting now.
– Christopher Schwarz